Edith Manchester Peckham
I can remember as a child I used to stay with my grandparents on River Road. We moved down here when I was about seven because my father grew up there, and he wanted to come back. I can remember hearing the bootlegger trucks going up the Bootlegger Road, up to Manny [Avila’s,] in the middle of the night. He had booze everywhere up there I guess. [The boats] only came in at night, and I was a really young kid. All I remember is hearing those trucks go up what we called the Bootlegger’s Road. It’s over in the back here and it came out on Mullen Hill Road, and then they would go down John Dyer Road to Avila’s. It was quite a show!
Living at Manny Avila’s
Manny Avila converted his cookhouse to rental apartments. We lived there, I guess, for about a year or so. I was married then. People would have died for that kitchen. He had all the counters stainless steel and tile everywhere. I had a spaniel, kept digging up the yard, and I used to say to Manny, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with that dog,” and he said, “Ah, that’s all right, give the landscapers something to do!” But he did a beautiful job on the house, and he was a great landlord.
We used to go ice skating on that pond. There were two huge ice houses there. [They were] next to that garage, across from Gray’s Store. There’s a couple of flat places, those were two big ice houses. We’d get so upset because they’d go in there and cut all the ice out and store them in the ice houses there. They used to pack [the ice] in straw and it would last all summer. Across from the ice houses, in to the north of the store, there was another big building. That was kind of a barn, and part of it was an ice house, but in the corner of it was the barbershop. Jack Jean had that, and he moved up the hill, on the top of Coldbrook. Then they tore down those ice houses. When refrigeration came in they didn’t need them anymore. Sometimes, when they had the mill going, it would empty the pond right out and you’d have to wait for the pond to fill up again.
Philip Wheeler, who was a second cousin or something, he used to go into Manchester’s every night and do the books. He was a big man with white hair. He was a great guy. Every afternoon, he’d go in there, and he’d do all the day’s books. Walter Cook used to run the store, because Abraham had died, and Debbie and Lizzie had Walter run the store for them. He used to live in that house in front of The Barn restaurant, the gray house. Walter lived in that with his whole family. He had quite a crew in there. He did that for years, until Debbie and Lizzie died.
Lizzie and Debbie Manchester
They lived in that house next to McKinnon’s and there’s a glass porch there. Debbie was missing a leg but she had this nurse, Swailsie, and she used to sit on that porch all day long. Lizzie, she dressed like a man, had a man’s haircut, and she used to walk through the village with this hound dog, trailing along behind her. They owned the store. Then when Lizzie and Debbie died, it went to Alice Tripp, who was the nearest relative and Bordie Tripp [her husband,] who ran Bojuma Farm. [Alice] had him go in. He went up and ran the store. By that time, Walter had retired. They took that house and made it into two apartments, and the town didn’t like that. But it was quite a village.
Bordie [Tripp], he was a character in himself. He was a wonderful person. They used to carry S.S. Pierce. All these women from Little Compton used to come over here to get their stuff from S.S. Pierce. I was in there one day, and some lady came in, I never forgot it, she was looking for something. Bordie said, “I don’t know. It’s in here somewhere, go push some of those cans around. See if you can find it.”
The Dunning Notices
[Bordie Tripp] sold the store to David Morse. Bordie told me, he said when he took over that store, I told him, he had to have six months in cash available, because all these people came in from Little Compton, and they charged everything. I used to charge stuff because by that time I had moved from Gray’s over to Manchester’s, and you’d get your bill. Well, the people in Little Compton would only pay their bill when their dividend checks came in. So Bordie knew that, and he knew he was always going to get his money. But he said you have to have enough cash to carry you through until it comes. I’ll never forget, the first month when he took it over, I got my bill on the first of the month, which we always did. The tenth of the month, I got a dunning notice, and everybody in Little Compton got a dunning notice, and the next month, David Morse didn’t have any business. That was the end of the store. That was literally the end of it.
The Sound of Music is a Beautiful Story
Rupert von Trapp used to take care of my kids, and he always made it the last stop on his rounds so he could sit down and have a beer with my husband when he came to see the kids. He was a nice guy. He always used to say, “The Sound of Music is a beautiful story, but it’s not all true.” He says, “First of all, I was the oldest one. There wasn’t a girl that was the oldest one.” He said, “It is true we got out across the mountains,” but he says, other than that, “It’s a beautiful story.”
We’ve Been Around for a While
My great-great-grandfather, Abraham, he and his wife Lydia Shaw bought this house in 1830 from the Richmond family and my father, my grandfather, and my great-grandmother were all born in it. We grew up there, and my children grew up there. So, we’ve been around for a while. But they originally came from Little Compton. So we always associated ourselves more with Little Compton than Westport.
Based on an oral history interview with Edith Manchester Peckham.
First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.