Deborah Magnuski McCrave

Deborah Magnuski McCrave

Born 1947

Saturday was Shopping Day

I think that our parents really instilled in us the sense of taking care of yourself and working. We did develop a very good work ethic, all four of us. We all had some kind of job. The boys had paper routes, and my sister and I, we did different things, waitressing, babysitting. 

Saturday was shopping day. So we’d all pile in the car, and we’d go to Fall River. Every kid had their own money and every kid had in their mind what they were going to buy. If there was something that was more expensive than what they had, they would hold off until they got more money. It could be a pair of shoes. It could have been a dress or a shirt, a sweater. Whatever it was, we didn’t have to ask Mom and Dad for things that we wanted a lot of times. I think they instilled in us the sense that you were proud that you had your own money. 

We’d go to Arlan’s, Kerr Mills, Zayre’s, Grant’s or Woolworth’s. Sometimes they’d drop us off. They’d do their shopping and say, “Meet us at the Arlan’s clock,” at a certain time. Everybody would meet and then we’d go to the A&P and the New England Poultry Store. It was a regular outing. The treat was stopping at Dairy Dip and getting a cone. That was delicious, and it was so much fun because everybody was together. That was the thing that meant a lot to me.

We always had tagalongs, but we didn’t mind them coming at all. A lot of them, their parents really had to work, and some were single parents, and the only opportunity the kids get would be to come with us. That meant a lot, too. 

The Racetrack

In our yard we had a couple of old junky cars because my father was famous for buying things that were barely working. He was a mechanic and he knew how to fix a lot of things so he usually got them working pretty good. This time we had two Plymouths [1951] in our yard.

So we learned to drive a standard shift at an early age because when Ma was working and Dad was up at Grandma’s house—Grandma and Dad had a farm at her house, and it was right up the road—we were out there. We didn’t have a key, but we learned how to pop the clutch, put it in second gear, a bunch pushing in the back, and we got that car going. Actually, we had two. We had our own little racetrack there in the field. Of course, we made sure that we looked at the clock to see what time it was so that everything was back where it was supposed to be before anybody came home, because it was not just us four kids driving these cars. We had neighbor kids and everybody else in the world driving these cars. 

Gertrude Magnuski

My mother was a singer. She had the most beautiful voice. She was the head soloist over at the Congregational Church for years and years, but we missed out on a lot of her singing at church because we didn’t go to the same church. On Sunday mornings she had to do a lot of preparation for her thing at church. Whenever we did hear her singing hymns it was mostly at home because she would practice. There were certain songs that were just so good. She had her own method of playing the piano, and she’d be singing away, and we’d just sit there mesmerized. She not only sang in church, she sang for weddings, funerals, any kind of an occasion.  Miss McMahon had a going away party, and she sang, and Mrs. Ross sang, and somebody else sang, too, but I swear my mother had the best voice of them all. A lot of times she’d sing old forties and fifties songs, and so we all learned all those songs. We’d take rides down around the Harbor, because we used to love to go down there, and the whole time we’d be driving down there, we’d be singing away.

My mother always dressed up nice, and so we’d watch her get dressed when she was going to church. She’d put her beads on, and she’d always have a special pin for that day. She always was a pin collector. She always looked beautiful to us and she’d go off and do her thing. My father and mother decided that since her job was to be the singer at the church, that she couldn’t be interrupted with a bunch of kids. So they decided that we should go to Stone Church because it was right next door to my grandmother’s house, and my father would be at my grandmother’s house doing farm things. If we needed help for any reason all we had to do was walk next door.

My mother also wrote poetry. A lot of her poetry was family oriented. You knew who she wrote about, but if anybody else read it they wouldn’t know it was about her children. She really dearly loved her children. There were days, she’d be up in her room writing away, and we’d go up in her room, and we’d say “Ma, can you read us your poems?” She’d take out her book and we’d sit there for hours. She’d read all her poems, and we’d be, “That’s you she’s talking about.” She did give us a copy. She used to write, I don’t know if you call them sonnets but little short things. Right now, over at Acoaxet Chapel, because she used to love Acoaxet Chapel, there is a thing that she wrote, as far as I know it’s still there on the wall. It was about the little chapel on the side of the road.  Everybody loved it. The girls at the church made a song out of it. 

Henry Magnuski

My father had been in the service. He was an engineer, and he worked on airplanes. One time my mother and he moved to Texas but I guess my grandmother really wanted him to come back to help her with the farm. Sometimes I think that was a mistake and other times I don’t, because he could have gone further in his career. So he had many jobs when we were kids. They had the farm, and he worked as a night watchman. He worked in Warren, for [American Tourister.] Then he ended up working for R.E. Smith. He started off at Elbe File.

But he had the worst case of arthritis knobs. He’d go to work in the summertime to the printing place. He could hardly walk. He had knobs on his elbows, wrists, ankles and whatnot, but he went to work every day. When he came home from work a lot of times the boys would have to help him out of the car. If they weren’t home, sometimes he’d actually crawl from the car into the house.

Based on an oral history interview with Deborah Magnuski McCrave.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

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