Eleanor Pauline Flores Simons
As a child growing up in Little Compton during the 1960’s & ’70’s, it seemed to me that Mom knew everybody in town … and as far as I could tell, everybody knew her! Mom lived in Little Compton for 84 years, and 74 of those years were in the same neighborhood. It was only during their first 10 years of marriage that Mom and Dad left the Grange Ave./Shaw Rd. corner of town and lived in a house on West Main Rd.
My grandparents, John Silveria Flores and Mary Fontes Flores, welcomed their fourth child, Eleanor Pauline Flores, into the world on August 20, 1924. Eleanor had two older brothers – John Jr., born in 1919, and Carlton, born in 1920. A third boy had been born before John Jr, but had only lived for one day.
The family lived at the southeast corner of Grange Avenue and Shaw Road. There are a couple of unofficial documents (like my grandfather’s handwritten records of the sale of various farm products) that claim the address of the homestead as “75 Grange Ave.” According to Mom, the “75” was an arbitrary number that her oldest brother John just randomly picked one day. It wasn’t until much later that houses in Little Compton were given house numbers.
My grandfather owned a large farm, which had belonged to his father, Manuel S. Flores. Manuel had come from the Azores to establish a life for his family in the United States. In 1899, he purchased the farm, consisting of land from the corner of Shaw Road and Grange Avenue, south on Grange Avenue to Quaker HIll Farm, for $500.00. My grandfather eventually inherited the farm from his father.
Mom and her brothers were the typical farm kids. The boys helped with the milking and tending of all the farm animals, land, etc. Mom would help in the house, and then each evening she would accompany her father on his evening deliveries of milk, cream, eggs, and produce. Deliveries included taking orders for the next day. There was a definite routine in daily life on the farm.
Mom had lovely memories of her school years at J.F. Wilbur School. She often spoke fondly of teachers Katherine McMahon, Janette Brimner, Nicholas Pirri, and Fred Hutchins. Mom enjoyed the operettas and chorus performances, her typing and shorthand classes, and especially enjoyed her Senior Year (1942) class trip to New York. The Class of ‘42 was small in number – only 13 students – but mighty in camaraderie! This class would meet for reunions every summer – not every five or ten years like other classes commonly do. I remember many a summer helping Mom make class reunion favors for these events. In the early years, the reunions would be held at various restaurants, but in later years the class members enjoyed taking turns hosting the event at their homes.
My father, Stanley Howard Simons, was born in Somerset, MA., the fourth child of nine children. His father, Antonio Simons, moved the family from Somerset to Bermuda during the Depression. Antonio had some family on the island, and hoped to better provide for his large family there. When WWII began, my father Stan moved back to Somerset just before his 21st birthday on August 9, 1940. Had he stayed in Bermuda and turned 21 on the island, which was a British territory, he would have had to fight for the British military in the war. Stanley did not want that to happen. His move back to the U.S. turned out to be a good choice for another reason: He met Eleanor Flores.
Mom and her family, along with many other families, enjoyed the weekly Portuguese dances called “Chamaritas”. It was something that their family looked forward to every week, traveling to Westport or Taunton to follow the popular Chamarita band. Mom used to tell me how great a dancer my grandfather was. She must have inherited her love of dancing from him.
It was at one of these Chamarita dances that Eleanor Flores met Stanley Simons. Mom was a Junior at J.F. Wilbur when they met. I’m not sure when Dad was drafted and joined the U.S. Army, but I know he was already serving at the time of Mom’s Senior Prom in May or June of 1942. Much of the romance was long distance, but after the war ended, they continued their courtship, and were married on October 12, 1948. After ten years of being childless, I came along in January 1959, followed three years later by my sister Dale. They were married for 47 years before Dad passed away in 1995.
Mom always worked in Little Compton, beginning with a job in the office of the supply department for the U.S. Engineers at Fort Church during WWII. After the war ended, she began working as a telephone operator at the telephone office on Meeting House Lane for at least ten years, and maybe as many as fifteen years. Mom always said that being an operator was her favorite job. She loved handling the switchboard! She did admit, though, that because the 3:00-11:00 PM shift was so slow – because, as she said, “People were in bed by 9:30” – she managed to knit quite a few sweaters and argyle socks!
Mom was the bookkeeper for Dad’s business – Stan’s Service Station – for the 25 years that the garage was in business. She also did the bookkeeping for Manchester and Harrington Garbage Removal for a number of years. Somewhere in the midst of all of these jobs, Mom also worked for a few years at the Post Office, when it was located across the street from Wilbur School.
Mom’s final job in Little Compton was as Assistant Tax Collector, from which she retired in 1992. I think she was destined for the tax collector’s office, given her numerous bookkeeping jobs over the years. I have a notebook journal full of information about my grandfather’s sales of milk, cream, eggs and other products from the farm. Family and neighbors who were Grampa’s customers each had several pages of documentation of these sales in the notebook. Much of the notation is in Mom’s handwriting, ca. 1945. When we were in the process of selling the Simons homestead in 2010, I was going through some family momentos with Mom, and we came across this farm bookkeeping journal. She was nostalgically paging through the notebook and commenting about many of the people whom she remembered. She tagged one of the pages, labeled “Mrs. Fox”, with the identifying note: “This lady taught Eleanor to swim.” I wonder if the milk and eggs were in exchange for the swim lessons!
Mom had quite an extensive social calendar in her later years in Little Compton. Monday nights were card games, hosted at a different home each week – George & Lorraine Goulart, Ginny Watt, Lil Quinn, and a few others were part of this group. The activities at the Little Compton Community Center – meetings, performances, presentations, etc. – were all listed on her calendar. Once a month she would get together for lunch with two other graduates of the Class of ‘42 – Gertrude Magnuski and Ruth Carter.
She would attend daily Mass at St. Catherine’s, and then join the crowd at Common’s Lunch for breakfast before heading to the Community Center (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, that is – those were the days that the Meal Site was open). Then there were family gatherings – both the Flores and Simons family birthdays and other celebrations always made the calendar. Mom was also a frequent traveler with the Senior Citizen groups of Little Compton, Tiverton, and Portsmouth, logging miles on trips to such locations as New Hampshire, Branson, MO (this trip featured a tribute to the Lawrence Welk Show performers, and was probably Mom’s favorite trip of all), and even a trip to the West Coast with stops in L.A., San Diego, and Lake Tahoe, among others.
Eleanor Flores Simons was always involved in her Little Compton community. She managed the Little Compton Community Center Meal Site for ten years. She was active in the Little Compton Senior Citizens group, serving as president for a number of years. She was a lector at St. Catherine’s Church. Probably her proudest involvement was that Eleanor was one of those interviewed for the oral history compilation “Jonnycakes and Cream – Oral Histories of Little Compton, R.I.”
I guess everybody did know Mom.