Jane Peckham Cabot
1930 – 2017
Exhibit Text from 2020 Special Exhibition
Essay by Katrin Weare
Jane Cabot, or, as I knew her, JJ, was my great-grandmother. I only knew her during her later years of life, but my grandparents knew her, so I consulted them.
JJ was born on the 17 of April, 1930. Her parents (my great-great grandparents!) were Rufus Peckham and Theodora Wilbur. She was born and raised a Little Compton-er.
She went to private school for first grade to third grade, and Wilbur McMahon from fourth to twelfth. Then she went to Rhode Island University and graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1951. While in college she would come home on the weekends and holidays to work on White Rock Farm.
She met her husband, Nelson Cabot Sr (back then just Nelson Cabot). He was her next-door neighbor. They married in 1957.
My grandfather, Nelson Cabot Jr, was born in 1959. He was her only child.
Now we can get to the part I know (with some gaps filled in by my grandparents)!
I know that JJ was the Little Compton town council president. I heard one main story about this. She would always complain about the town politics, until one day, Nelson Sr, told her to run for town council if she was going to complain. So she did! She started on the Budget Committee in 1966. She was elected to the Town Council in 1970, and became the Council President in 1974. She worked in this position for 26 years. She finally retired in November of 2002. During her time on the Town Council, she helped guide the town through events small and large, including the Tricentennial Celebration, a new town dock and the construction and dedication of the Public Safety Complex. Even after she retired from the Council, she started her own transportation company, Cabot Family LLC, in 2003 to 2012. JJ continued to serve the town as a Committee member until 2014.
I knew my great-grandmother in her later years, and when I was little my brother and I drew pictures for her. When she got Alzheimer’s disease, she remembered my brother and I because we had drawn and signed pictures all over her house. JJ might not be alive anymore, but I will always remember her.
Based on an interview with my grandparents, April 2020.
Written by: Katrin Weare, Grade 5 – Wilbur & McMahon School
Essay by Carolyn Montgomery
Jane was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, on April 17, l930 to Theodora Millicent and Rufus Brightman Peckham. Grandparents were Daniel Wilbour and Hannah B. (Sowle) Wilbour. Her uncle Daniel farmed the small dairy farm on land on the east side of West Main Road; land on the west side was taken by the US. Government to establish Fort Church during WWII.
In 1930 her parents built a home on the Peckham farm at 221 West Main Road. They continued to live at the homestead but on weekends went to the new home for Sunday dinner (as told to me by my parents). Eventually they lived in the new house until her mother passed away.
Jane always told the story that she was out playing in the yard at her grandparent’s home when a man stopped by and asked her father why not send Jane to the private school in Tiverton (which was located on the Beattie farm). He agreed. She went to this school until Grade 5 when she entered the J. F. Wilbur school. She was an honor roll student and graduated from high school in 1947. She loved sports and participated in basketball, soccer and softball. There was no gymnasium at school so we were bused to Fort Church to use their basketball court and other times we practiced in the second level of the Newton barn. She followed the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants. However, in later years she enjoyed the N.E. Patriots.
Jane graduated from URI with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics in 1951. While in college, she helped at the farm weekends and summers; when her father became unable to work they had to depend on hiring local men until she graduated. From that time she gave up a possible career in math and ran White Rock Farm until about 1960; the farm then was rented to Alexander Tripp and later to Donald Tripp.
Jane married Nelson Cabot, a neighbor, on December 17th 1957. A son, Nelson (Rusty) Cabot, Jr. was born in 1959. Nelson, Sr., a carpenter, died suddenly in December 1970. She worked at the L.C. Post Office as a Window Clerk until 1969. The family enjoyed trips with their camper to northern states many times.
Jane’s mother’s health began to fail and required constant care. She died in 1968.
Jane became interested in politics and served on the Budget Committee and Town Council as Vice President and President for 30 years. She served on the R. I. League of Cities and Towns. November 7, 2002 was named Jane Cabot Day by the Governor of R.I. She dedicated her life to service of her community.
In 1990 she formed a successful transportation business to airports and medical appointments until her health began to fail.
She built a home down by the river on the farm in 1995. In 2002 lightning struck and it was so badly damaged, she had to move out until it was livable.
Jane took up game of playing golf and she and I would go to the Windmill Golf Course in Warren, R.I. on Mondays. Since both of us started the game late in life, neither of us would win a prize, but we had a nice time together those days and stopped for lunch before returning home. She didn’t like to lose the game. She insisted that she would drive wherever we went.
She definitely had opinions and it was difficult to change her mind. Jane could always be seen in jeans and collared shirts; if it was a formal affair, she wore a modest skirt and top. Very often her shopping was mail ordered to Sears Roebuck.
Jane sold the development rights to part of the farm to the L.C. Agricultural Trust in 2012. Upon retirement from the U.S. Air Force, Rusty continues to farm White Rock Farm.
She died on December 12, 2017 at home and is survived by her son, Nelson, Jr, daughter-in-law, Erin; two grandchildren, Jane Elisabeth Weare and Nelson Cabot III, and two great-grandchildren, Katrin and Joseph Weare.
She is buried with her parents in the Wilbour Cemetery on West Main Road in Little Compton, R.I.
Oral History Transcription
Jane Cabot – Oral History 2014
Interviewed by Marjory O’Toole for the Little Compton Historical Society
MOT : Thank you very much for coming. You are the my first one.
MOT: Yes, We are just getting started
JPC: Going to school in Little Compton?
JPC: First off I should tell you that I didn’t start school in Little Compton until fifth grade. When I was about three and a half. This is what I am told, I don’t remember what happened, we lived until I was 8 years old down where my mother grew up. My father had built the other house for us all to move into, but my mother wanted to stay with her mother for a short time. Until I was about 8 years old we lived down on Ft. Church. The government had taken FT. Church in 1938 and that is when we moved up. Where the entrance to what used to be the barracks and stuff, You probably don’t remember that, but where you go down in back of FT Church now where the fence is, the big old house that I have a picture of sitting out in front here, was there. That belonged to my mother’s family. Wilb O U R, they spelled it. So we lived down there. And then my father was taken sick and couldn’t drive and in fact he had convulsions, high blood pressure in ’38 and lived into the ’60’s, I guess. No, ’59 he died. Once he was born….Can’t even remember that now. Haven’t thought about him for a while. So we lived down there for the first 8 years of my life and came up to the house that I grew up in, (that my granddaughter and her husband have now) on Sundays. Spent Sundays, My mother cooked Sunday’s dinner up there and everything else so we could live in the new house. But we didn’t actually move into it to sleep and live until I was eight years old.
MOT: Now so I understand. When you say the new house,, which house is that? Is that the house you lived in as an adult?
JPC: I grew up in it. The house…you know where the barn is?
JPC: Come out of the barnyard and turn right. The next house up on the right is the house I grew up in.
My son owns now.
MOT: O.K. Who would have lived in it when I was a girl? I’m thinking the Mudd’s house?
JPC: Yes, We rented it. When I grew up and married Nelson and moved next door, I rented that. So the Mudd’s house is where I grew up.
MOT: So it is a nice colonial, fairly close to the street.
JPC: Built in 1930, the year I was born.
MOT: Interesting. It looks old. You could have told me that was an older home. Nicely done.
JPC: It’s still in great shape. It was built very well.
MOT: And your granddaughter is staying there now.
JPC: Max Gray, a guy who lived on Willow Avenue used to walk to work because he never had a car. He had a dinner pail. He was the carpenter in town. He built it with help. You could go pick him up or he would walk to work. He lived on Willow Avenue, where Truebloods were, that house. So that’s where I grew up until I got married and moved next door. That’s where my granddaughter lives with her family.
MOT: Who built your married home? Did you and your husband build that or was that already….
JPC: No, part of that was there. He and his first wife added on to it. It was part of the Newton place. ….J. Edward Newton owned that whole farm. Nelson and Lib built the mud room and the garage as it comes out, but the other basic part of the house had been there for many years. I don’t remember exactly now how old it is. We lived in there then I built my new house in 1995.
MOT: And your name is Jane Peckham Cabot.
JPC: Jane Wilbour Peckham Cabot. I go by Jane P. Cabot.
MOT: And Peckham….Wilbour has the “our”?
MOT: And your Mom was Theodora Wilbour?
JPC: Theodora Millikin Wilbour.
MOT: And your Dad was ?
JPC: Rufus Brightman Peckham
MOT: O.K. And then your husband was?
JPC: Nelson Cabot
[5:48] phone call
MOT: So you started to tell me, you lived at FT. Church until you were 8. [6:30]
JPC: Yes, in that area in the old house, Let’s look at the picture, here. Maybe I don’t have it, maybe I have it. No I don’t have it in this book. I had it in the other book.
MOT: I scanned it and we actually put it in Janet’s book. I’m pretty sure.
JPC: Yes, I think you did. With my Grandmother sitting out on the backstep.
MOT: I don’t remember a person. We used it as an example of the government taking over private homes. So they took it in ’38 and still allowed you to live there? Or no?
JPC: No, that’s when we …my mother…see I was born in 1930 and we lived there until they took the place and then we had to move. That’s when my mother and brother ..built that little house across the street for my brother. Who owns it now? It used to be the Episcopal Minister. But I can’t think.
It’s a little cape cod thing across the street just to the left before you get to FT Church. It was there because that was the Wilbour Farm on both sides of the road. And then Lester Wilbour lived just below on the other side, so where Quoquonset Lane is actually on Lester Wilbour’s place and not on our place. You can still go way down in back. If you come in where our place used to be, you can turn and go this way, you can still go down to the marsh way down there and everything. That people are living down there.
MOT: So what did you do for school up until 8 years?
JPC: Well, Apparently when I was walking out in the yard with my father at three, little under four years old, so I’m told. He had me by the hand. A man drove by and stopped. He informed my father that he and his wife were starting a private school in Tiverton. And they were looking.. it could be from pre-kindergarten and up. as I say, I wasn’t four then I think. It was up on the Beaty farm in Tiverton. You remember where my aunt , the old house on the right hand side of the road. It was an old house. The Roses lived on the right had side. Well anyway the Beaty…if you are going up to Nanaquaket the split, the Beatys owned the place, lived there on the left. It was a working farm but they hired people to. They were going to start there they had rented a house there, an old stone house. He and his wife were teachers and they were going to start their own private school. They were taking them anywhere from three and a half years old up to where… Did my father want to send me? I have been told over the years that I was the apple of my father’s eye, so he immediately said, “Yes”. So, I began going to that School with the Braytons and the Atwaters and a few others. And I played with Betsy Brayton was a little bit older than me..Betsy Dawson. We were typical 2 rough and tumble tomboys. They would be looking for us in their yard. The old Brayton place, the Dawson Place, just across from this one. There were tall pine trees. We weren’t very old but we climbed to the top of those pine trees one day. Everybody was hollering, “Where are you?” Looking for us. All of a sudden we hollered from up there. Well, I guess that gave everybody a heart attack. We were told to get down….. But that was some of the stuff that we got into, the two of us. I always told everybody that it was her that thought of all these things. But anyway. Where were we. Go ahead ask your questions.
MOT: So you were going to the nursery school up in Tiverton?
MOT: Which Atwaters?
JPC: Well, Nunnie Byers. She is a couple of years older than I am. Betsy was a year or two older too. They were my age. They lived up on the old Nanaquaket Road, not the Main Road. They lived up on that corner, I don’t know if you have ever been there. If you are coming back from Fall River and take the bridge and go up to get on that road Right at the corner where you turn this way there is a great big beautiful house there that the Attwaters used to own. So, I went with the Atwaters and I don’t know who else. I guess there were some people from Fall River that signed up for this kindergarten school. And I went there until I was through fourth grade. And then they decided they were going to close it down. Then I entered Wilbur School in fifth grade. My teacher was Vida Sylvia who was a relative on the Peckham side, I think.
MOT: Do you recall the name of the school in Tiverton? Or the teachers?
JPC: Well it was the Pierce’s. The son, and he is older than I am so I don’t know if he is still alive or not. The daughter was my age. She got married and went out west. We kept up Christmases. If she would come she would stop in. I saw her two years ago. I didn’t see her last year. But David Pierce who was older lived in Swansea I think. He grew up around here. And he I don’t know where the Pierces lived before they died, the ones that ran the school. David Pierce has got to be about ninety now, if he is still alive. And I did not hear from Joan last year when she was here from Illinois. So I don’t know if she came or what. She used to call when she was here and we would try to get together for coffee or something. [14:17]
MOT: That’s what I would have said. Was it nice? Do you remember enjoying school?
JPC: Oh, yes, yes. I remember, getting….. I don’t know what you call it. I thought it was funny to put a pin under Joan Pierce when she sat down. Her mother and father weren’t very happy about that. How can you remember those silly things? I never did that again.
MOT: No, I bet not. So how did you feel having to switch schools?
JPC: I don’t remember feeling too bad about it or anything. It was just a fact. You had to do it. I remember some of the boys teased me for a while because I was new and they could keep after me. But that stopped. I wasn’t… today I would have hauled off and whacked them. But I don’t think I did that back then. And so I had Vida Sylvia, Miss MacFarlane, Miss Shea. All those other people that I have seen looking through this again, as I was growing up and going through high school. I don’t have any bad memories of high school or going to school anywhere or anywhere. I’m sure there were a few like the boys teasing me that I didn’t like.
MOT: I think you said Vida Silvia was your fifth grade teacher. Did she transition and become a high school teacher later on?
JPC: She was not a young woman. Or I didn’t think she was a young woman then. She was a relative somehow on my father’s side and I would have to look that up. Len Sylvia was the senator, he was her husband. You don’t remember, but your parents would remember when he was the senator from Little Compton. We had a senator then.. she had been a teacher for many years. Miss MacFarlane, there was a bunch of teachers from Fall River. Miss Sunderland, who was the second grade teacher. I don’t know if any of these names sound familiar to you, but your parents. Miss Sunderland had the car. They drove, they had six people in that car driving from Fall River that were coming to teach in Little Compton. Miss MacFarlane, Mr. Hutchins, who was a knock out guy. Some one said to me in ……., this book or one of the other books has a picture..World War II was going on then. I have a picture of this Navy officer in with the teachers, Wilbur School teachers. I said that was Mr. Hutchins because he got called into the service. I couldn’t forget him because he was a knockout. Some body said “How do you remember his name?” I said, “No problem.”
MOT: At that time Little Compton had a full high school. [17:51]
JPC: Full high school. First through high school… No kindergarten, no anything like that.
MOT: How, What did people think about the high school, Was it a quality high school? Were the kids coming from Tiverton at that time?
JPC: Yes. Yes, some kids…South Tiverton came down here and North Tiverton went to Fall River. Sam Flores, you remember him?
MOT: Well his wife, I think. Mary Sam?
JPC: Well, that was the mother of the Sam Flores that was my age. He was a year younger, but he skipped a grade. He and I were the 2 smartest but I didn’t come close to him let’s put it that way. We tried the college tests back then and you had to take a test to get into college. I wanted to go to URI. I had never been away from home before, but I wanted to go. My father said, “If you want to go we’ll send you.” I don’t think my mother was too happy, but anyway. And Sam. We took what they called the Merit Scholarship test and they may still have those too. And he came in in the top 3% of everybody and I came in, I think, it was the top 10% of everybody. He was really a brain. He lived in NY. He got out of Little Compton as fast as he could. I didn’t want to leave Little Compton, and he stayed in NY and he was gay. He lived in New York, and he had a partner for many years. He came back once a year to see his mother, so I don’t know if you remember him. He used to walk Swamp Road like as if he was a monk or something in a daze.
MOT: No, I don’t.
JPC: He and Tony Marion used to be very friendly. They were together all the time. Everybody in the class liked him. There was nothing about he was odd or..anything. We just…everybody liked everybody else as far as I know.
MOT: Did it ever occur to you that a young man could be gay at that time? Or you just come to realize it later on?
JPC: Well, I knew he was…Yes, I think we knew a little bit. We never used the word “gay” I mean, gay was somebody that was happy. But, I don’t think his father was happy. I heard that. He came back to visit his mother and when his father was still alive he had to visit him too. As I say, he and Tony Marion were kind of best friends in our class. So..
MOT: I just imagine that would have been very hard.
JPC: Well, Gay never meant homosexual to me back then. If you were gay you were GAY!
M : Yes, but to be homosexual in a small community.
JPC: I don’t know how many people looked at it that way back then. I wasn’t..certainly in the forefront like it is now.
MOT: He wasn’t mistreated?
JPC: Not To my knowledge was he ever mistreated. He wanted to get out and go to New York which was maybe he knew he would blend in better or have more friends. And his intellect had something to do with it too. I think he wrote plays and stuff like that. I don’t know what he did to support himself. But he supported himself. Obviously.
MOT: Did he end up going to URI?
JPC: No, He went to Brown University I think.
MOT:And how about you?
MOT: You went to URI did the four years and graduated [22:48]
JPC: I went to URI. Yea, he went to Brown. And then went to New York. I went to URI and had lots of friends over there. Lived over there. Have friends that come see me now that live different places. So I enjoyed URI. It was a culture shock the first year. I didn’t know how I could schedule classes. They had Saturday classes Back then my freshman year I had Saturday classes in the morning.. It was a place you couldn’t get to. If you took a train to Providence you didn’t get home until night. You couldn’t go until noontime and didn’t get home until Saturday night. And my mother wanted me to come home to go shopping, because she was taking care of my father at the time. I’d come home, change my clothes, hop in the old ’37 Packard and go off with her list of stuff to go shopping. So it wasn’t a rest weekend. But I was home doing it. I was leading to something else, but I can’t remember it now.
MOT: Tell me more about the culture shock the first year. What was new?
JPC: Well, Actually, I lived in the dorm I had a roommate the first year that came from Cranston, who was very nice. She has since died. She died a few years ago. And she and I were friendly. She ended up going in a sorority but I didn’t. We stayed friends. She would come to visit with me on weekends with me sometime. There was another girl named Betty Broadhurst (?) lived across the hall. She loved to come to Little Compton with me. She was the class or two ahead of me. She had a eye problem, she had a brother that was blind she couldn’t see very good. I kept up with her too, but I think she has died now too. A lot of these people I sent Christmas Cards to for years. I just blended in. you had to, what else were you going to do? Sit in your room?
MOT: What did you study?
JPC: I was a mathematician major. At the end of my four years ..what was the name of that electrical company? Not Narragansett but one of the big electrical firms, offered me a job as an engineers helper and I turned it down because I was needed at home to run the farm. At the time, I think I was little upset, but I have never been sorry since But I have my mathematics degree with a minor in political science. So I did something with that.
MOT: Yes you did. I’ll bet the mathematics helped a lot with the budget for the town. You know, just your ability to understand..
JPC: Well, certainly I can understand more than some of these councils and other stuff that’s got their towns in….all because of politics and the vote instead of what’s best and what isn’t. I had one of the policemen say, when all of this was going on a year ago, he said, “Thank God for you”. I used to argue with them, “No, You aren’t getting that”. They used to laugh. The police were easy to..of course I knew them all, I knew them as kids growing up. They used to come in and say in negotiations…”It’s going to be, NO,No,No,No”. And I’d say, “ Yes,yes, yes, yes it is” And I had one of the policemen say…I don’t know, something came up, and I said, “Are you thankful for me?” “Yes,” he goes. [27:10]
I don’t know, I haven’t looked at it lately, but I think our pension system that we set up for ourselves is in pretty good shape in Little Compton.
MOT: We should mention, just for the sake of the recording, that you were Town Council President. From what year to what year?
JPC: From 1970 to 2002 with 1992 out. I wasn’t on the town council that.. actually I was on the town council 1970 to1990. And from 1990 to 2002 which is 30 years. For 24 of those years I was Council President., 2 of those years I was vice-president.
MOT: A lot for the town, And this is all unpaid. [28:10]
JPC: In the end you got a stipend. But not enough to.. At one point I was getting Blue Cross/Blue Shield but then somebody didn’t think that was right. I would have been happy with just that, way back then.
MOT: Because you had the farm. So that was your career, you ran the family farm and then you served the town all those years. And you have one son..
JPC: I have one son. The family farm is now in the last year, let see. No last year the year before. 2012 we started inheritance planning so that he would be able to keep everything. The farm is now Cabot Family LLC. We put it in last year sometime. We put it in portions so he and his wife and his two children and me, so that hopefully they won’t lose it to the IRS through my grandchildren.
MOT: How many acres is the farm?
JPC: Well, It’s a hundred. It was hundred and twenty when I was running it. Because the strip south of where I grew up belongs to my cousin who is building that house across the street now. And so that was all run as one farm of 120 acres. So there’s 105 acres all together on the farm. 100 maybe because the 2 houses, the farmhouse that father grew up in where my son and his wife live in now and the one I grew up in where my granddaughter and her family live in are on separate lots.
MOT: Is your son’s house the one that I think of as Alec Tripp’s house?
JPC: Everyone says that. It’s funny.
MOT: He was there a long time.
JPC: I added it up the other day….yes a long time. So everyone thinks of it as Alec Tripp’s house. “You mean Tripp’s house”.
MOT: I think even as a child I knew it was your farm, your house, and he was like the farm manager.
JPC: Well , everybody..when we were farming we had a farm manager too. Even when I was running the farm, we had a more imported helper that was there all the time and somebody else came in if we needed it or something. But that was always part of their salary, to have a house to live in. Frank Fagundes was one of them and Mary. I don’t know if you remember Frank and Mary. Mary was Jesse Sylvia’s sister up on East Road in Tiverton. My father , it was always families, Fagundes, Arrudas and… Mary Fagundes, I was looking at old pictures in my old picture book. On the porch sitting at their house. Mary was just a teenager when she married Frank. They liked to go to Carnivals and everything else. But my mother wasn’t about to take me to a carnival so Mary and Frank took me to all the carnivals with them. So I thought that was wonderful. There used to be lots of carnivals in Fall River. I don’t know if you remember them probably. You go up 5-corners at Globe street and you went off to the left. Down behind those mills there used to be at least one that come in every year. [32.13]
MOT: So as a young girl on the farm what was your morning like before you went to Wilbur School. Did you just get up and go to school? Did you have chores? What were you expected to do?
JPC: Most of the time when I was younger, I got up and went to school. But as I got older and took on more of the responsibility on the farm especially after I got out of college, but even in the summer time…But that wouldn’t be before I went to school. I don’t remember. I worked on the farm when I got home from school when I was in high school. But I don’t remember, maybe I got up… I mean I got up at 4:30 if I was going to milk the cows. Cause I liked to get them over and done with and come back and have breakfast and then you went out in the fields and you were done farming, not at 8:00 at night but at 5:30 or 6. That was a better schedule for me. Than others. But I don’t remember all the details when I was in high school. I think at one point. Well actually probably it would have been from 1940 on because after the war was over in 45, Frank Fagundes, Frank Arruda, Jesse those were the 3 main ones. Jesse Sylvia. All had exemptions from the service because they were working on a farm. After the war was over in August of 45 they all quit. So even though they had been good employees they were going on to something bigger and better in Fall River. So that left it to me to do a lot of the work. Those last 2…
MOT: You were about 16 in 1945?
JPC: 15. Yea. Born in 1930 [34:30]
I used to get up sometimes and have to do some stuff but I don’t remember it bothering me that much or I would remember it better. It was just a fact of life.
JPC: No boy in the family so I was it.
MOT: And no sense of, “Well Jane shouldn’t do this because she’s a girl”. You just did it because it had to be done.
JPC: Yes it was, I don’t know, I was the one running the farm.
MOT: I remember visiting my grandparent’s farm and they would really protect me from certain ….I was little, but I couldn’t do this and I couldn’t do that.
JPC: No, they didn’t protect me even when it came to breeding the cows either.
MOT: So there’s your biology class right there.
MOT: How would you get to Wilbur School? [35:33]
JPC: Bus. Louis Rogers was our bus driver. most of the time. Other times there were other people. I look at these kids now being picked up right in front of their house. Being protected so. All of us, the Corys that lived up where the Gavins live, and Albert lived in what used to be his parent’s house, and Normy and Janice (before they moved to Tiverton) and me at the house I grew up in. Everybody had to be at the end of Peckham Road and they all got picked up at one stop.
MOT: Was it just the one bus for the whole town?
JPC: No I don’t think so. Probably 2 One that went north and one that went south? We were the southern route.
MOT: You don’t recall the name of the other bus driver, do you?
JPC: No. Louis kept the buses at his house. There were other bus drivers. I don’t know, if it comes to me I’ll let you know but I seem can’t think of it now.
MOT: And this was a real bus. Because I believe early on they had something called a “Jitney”? That was sort of open on the sides? But you had a real bus?
JPC: I don’t ever remember a jitney.
MOT: I think that was more Carlton’s time. There’s one picture of it. It was more jeep like. Like a long jeep. And I think there was canvas on the sides that they lifted up.
JPC: Was this a World War 2 surplus thing?
MOT: No, It was pre-World War 2. I believe it was the first form of transportation ….
JPC: No, I don’t remember that at all. Carlton was 13 years older than I was.
MOT: That’s a significant difference there. So you just had what we would think of even today as a school bus.
JPC: I think there was 2 bus routes, 2 bus routes
MOT: And same Home..You’d just be dropped at the top of Peckham Road.
JPC: Yes, I walked. Unless it was really raining or something.”
MOT: Then he’d take pity on you?
JPC: Well Maybe, I don’t quite remember what happened. It could be that we sat in somebody’s car. Or something.
MOT: So, The cafeteria was apparently added on to the school at a certain point?
JPC: Yes, We had a cafeteria down in the basement. I guess it is now in the basement. It was somewhere near where it is now. But there was a cafeteria. I can’t remember too much about it, but there was a cafeteria.
MOT: And then at a certain point while you were there the new cafeteria was added? Or was that
JPC: That’s on this side where you can drive down by the school now? I think that was added after I got out of school.
MOT: Jane Thurston was there when it was added.
JPC: Well, she is two or three years younger than I.
MOT: Maybe you just missed it then.
JPC: I think she is, I’m trying to think. Because Carolyn is my age. 15 days older so I keep telling her she is the old lady Barbie was two grades behind us but I don’t think she is quite 2 years younger. and Jane is maybe 3 years younger than that.
MOT: The lunches used to be really good.
JPC: I never had trouble with food. So don’t ask me. If it is food I eat it.
MOT: Would you bring lunch from home or would you buy it there?
JPC: I’d buy it every day I was allowed to buy it.
MOT: Do you remember the cost or some of your favorites?
JPC: 15 cents. Probably, That stands out in my mind.
MOT: That probably included your milk.
JPC: It could have been more but I don’t know why that came right to mind.
MOT: Were there dishes that you especially loved?
MOT: Were there certain lunches that you loved or were happy that they were serving that day?
JPC: I was just happy I didn’t have to be bothered with a lunch bag carrying around. I used to have lunch boxes. Oh, and Jesse Sylvia that worked for us, that lived on East Road in Tiverton. He was quite an artist and his lunch boxes were scraped out with a knife with pictures. So I had him draw on my lunch boxes and I’m not sure if I have any left up in the attic or not but I saved them for along time.
MOT: That’s neat. I would love to put one in the exhibit if you have any of them now.
JPC: I, well, if you don’t hear from me. Make a little note I’ll put it in my pocket and I’m not sure. I was up there last night getting this but I may have not kept them. Cause I had.. one was a regular man’s lunch box that he drew on and the other was one of those little up that had a thermos bottle in it. And I think they are up there somewhere, but I am not sure. [41:19]
MOT: So who was your favorite adult at Wilbur School?
JPC: I don’t know. I liked the teachers and I liked .. I don’t know as I had a particular favorite one. In fact, Carolyn and Mary Gomes and I…I don’t know if Esther Rosa, the four of us used to hang around together all the time. Every once in a while we would find out Where one of these teachers lived and we’d go up to Fall River and land at their door. I think it used to upset them terribly, you know, “What do I do with these kids now?”
MOT: How old were you when you were doing that?
JPC: Well I was driving. Although My mother was pretty strict, but I was driving around town when I was 15 because my father wasn’t able to drive. He had high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and every once in a while he would have a convulsion so he wasn’t allowed to drive. And I took him everywhere that he wanted to go. Arthur Snell was the police chief and I used to wave at him when I went by and no body cared back then. I couldn’t wait to get my license at 16 so I could go everywhere I wanted. When I think of it now, as tough as she was she would let me take the car and the kids to Fall River to the movies, my friends. I guess she wasn’t a bitchy old mother after all. I used to think at the time….
MOT: So you would just show up on their door step and
JPC: Yes. We wouldn’t stay. We’d just show up and say, “Hi” and …I don’t think we’d stay. I don’t know if Carolyn remembers that or not. I still now when I’m coming up Plymouth avenue up that hill there just the thought comes in my head ..Oh Lyon Street. That is where Miss Shea used to live. You know that kind of stuff, which is foolish, but [43:36]
MOT: So for the ’38 hurricane you were still going to school in Tiverton?
JPC: Yes, and we were still living down in the old house. You’ve got a picture in there. There is a picture that I have, I can’t remember if it is in there, of my grandmother sitting out back and me and one of them I have shows me with my grandmother.
MOT: I think we used one maybe of just the house.
JPC: I was still there and I was terrified. Because the cupola, the big cupola on the barn across the street. That blew off. I saw that. Somebody left the gate open. Betsy Dawson and myself, I had a ¾ horse and she and I had been riding horseback that day. And the gate got left open. My mother was screaming because we left the gate open. The wind was blowing so hard and I was terrified because I saw the cupola go flying off the barn and it was after dark sirens going down the street, going to the point because the point was flooded completely and they were trying to save lives, which I didn’t understand at the time. And the next day was just as calm and beautiful as could be. So I went around with my uncle down by the marsh and saw how the stuff had washed up on the marsh and everything. Just damage you know, you couldn’t believe it. All the damage that was done. Now the big storms, it still washes across the point there by the yacht club. And I don’t think people…from way back then how tough hurricanes. I see people, hear people “ hurricane is coming, good we can see hurricanes”. I say, ‘You can see my share of hurricanes if you want”. I don’t care if I never see a hurricane or high winds again.
MOT: When you say “marsh” do you mean Briggs Marsh?
JPC: Yes. Cause our land on the east side of the road used to go right down to the marsh and come out on one of the beaches there.
MOT: And your uncle was who?
JPC: Daniel Wilbour.
MOT: So this was his house that we
JPC: Yes, it was Daniel Wilbour’s for a number of generations. Daniel, I only remember my uncle, because my grandfather had died. Yes, this one is the one that was taken over by….that’s my grandmother sitting there but I’m not sure. Yes, this was the house that until I was 8 years old I stayed in. And the barn was right across the road here. There’s a picture of that barn, with cows in front of it. I don’t know if it is in here or not. No, that is my class book so it must be in the other book that you’ve got.
MOT: So you didn’t get trapped at school. The school had nothing to do with the hurricane.
JPC: No, It was what September 21st? No, I think we may have been picked up at noontime that day by the chauffeur of the Braytons. Or maybe it was in the afternoon. But he came and dropped us and they went right home then. I think the wind might have been blowing then, but that is all I remember about it.
MOT: Tell me about what kind of impact the war had on school.
JPC: On school? I thought the was pretty nice because we had a bunch of soldiers around there. One of the scrapbooks you have must have a picture of Private Miller standing guard there? We had Miller and Private Brewer that used to come up for Sunday dinners quite often. Sometimes, other, my mother used to have some of the soldiers up for Sunday dinners. And I remember, I think it was Brewer, it was one of them. I’ve still got the shells and the casing. He had some 80 caliber shells that still had the powder in them. 50 caliber shells, I’ve got these upstairs in the attic saved. But, he said “Come on let’s go, I’ll show you how to fix these so they won’t harm” and I was maybe 12, 13, maybe 14. because they left here in ’44. I think. So maybe I was 14. He took a pair of pliers, he took the shell out of the top of the casing, dumped the powder on the ground, jammed the shell back in and said, “There, play with that. Nothing is going to hurt you.” As I say this they are up in the attic now that I have saved them. So when a soldier came to dinner I would try to find out from him what I could find out. I was too young for them to be interested in me. 13-14. I was just a kid that they could show things to.
MOT: One teacher got drafted. Was it Mr. Hutchinson?
JPC: Yes, I have a picture of him uniform. [50:00]
MOT: I know the school participated in drives and war related efforts, do you remember participating in any of them?
JPC: Yes, we got stripes for collecting newspapers. I think that was connected to the school. I was interested in getting all these stripes. I’ve got soldiers hats, and stuff, not the big visor hat but the other kind. It was newspaper drives that we were basically involved in. I can’t think of toomany other things…
MOT: War Bonds?
JPC: Oh, Yes, I don’t know if it was once a week. It wasn’t every day. They would sell stamps. When you got enough stamps you got a war bond.
MOT: And they would sell them right at school. The teachers would sell them, or the secretary or?
JPC: Ask Carolyn or somebody else my age, they should..they may remember. I remember buying stamps. You had a little stamp book and when you got enough stamps you got a war bond. In fact I had war bonds for many years that I kept. And they grew a little bit. I don’t have any now because I turned them all in.
MOT: Were there physical education classes at school? [51:36]
JPC: Most of them were outside playing base ball or doing something like that but, during the war years, after the soldiers moved out 44 or 45 we were allowed to use the gym down at Ft Church. Which I think is still there. You go through the big gates. We used to be bussed down there and we would do johnny jump ups what ever you call them. All this Kind of physical stuff.
MOT: That’s fascinating. That’s a big effort to bus the kids. Was there a specific gym teacher?
JPC: Yes, there was a teacher that taught gym, but I can’t remember if it was specific and I can’t remember a name. If I go through my teacher book I might be able to….. Fred Love was one of the ones that did it too. But I’m not sure he did. It might have been Miss Shea that did it too. Poor Miss Shea. She was a wonderful woman but.. the boys especially cause she was a knock out, they used to give her a hard time. Some of us gave her a hard time . She’d get so mad she’d stamp her foot. You’re bringing back lots of memories!
MOT: That’s good. So about how old was Miss Shea? Was she in her twenties.
JPC: Yes, I think so, Not too much older that some of the boys.
MOT: That’s a hard
JPC: And Just out of college and Miss McMahon, Boy, nobody fooled with her. She would turn around and give you a swack, she was pretty tough.
MOT: Tell me more about Miss McMahon. [53:43]
JPC: Well, she was a good teacher. I didn’t dislike her, but there was no fooling or anything in her classrooms. I tell you. I think she made a good principal, a good superintendent. But other than that. Everyone knew she was the boss. Where some of these others they… Oh, and Vida Sylvia and Miss MacFarlane were the same way. 5th and 6th grade. But some of these that just got out of college the boys weren’t too much younger. They had a little bit of a hard time I think. Mr. Pirri was a good teacher who finally taught more than music and typing but not much more than that.
MOT: Was that Lou Pieri’s father?
JPC: No, no. He was from Bristol. P-I-R-R-I It was.
MOT: So Miss McMahon started as a teacher?
JPC: Oh, yes.
MOT: So what was her subject?
JPC: Social Studies/ history All the time I was in school she was the teacher. I don’t quite know when she… She was the superintendent when Rusty was there. Rusty only went through 8th grade there. I think she was still the superintendent then.
MOT: I think she was the superintendent through my first grade. And I was born in 67 and add 6 to that so maybe 72/73 she retired. I think she and Miss Almy went about the same time.
JPC: Yes, you are right. Lois Almy was not the first grade teacher when I first started. She was still teaching in Tiverton. There was a Miss Westgate. There was a second grade teacher, I can’t remember her name, but she was somebody from out of town, I think. Oh, maybe Miss Sunderland was the second grade teacher, And Miss Westgate was the first grade.
MOT: One class for each grade.
MOT: And about how many students in each class.
JPC: Well, In Dick Rogers class he was the only boy so I think there was about 11 kids in that. But in my class there was 16. Some of them got up to 20, 21. In my class there were 8 boys and 8 girls.
MOT: My class there were 60 of us.
JPC: 60 of you?!
MOT: There were 30 in each class.
JPC: Boy, that was a population growth in Little Compton.
MOT: Each was 30 which wouldn’t be allowed now.
MOT: So you showed me a picture of your field trip. Biology field trip [56:56]
so field trips took place. Tell me a little about the field trips.
JPC: Miss Foley used to take us on them. She liked to walk and we walked Commons Lane and see what we could find and just look. And then I think we used to go off in the bus some, but I don’t remember that much.
MOT: What about your class trip?
JPC: Our class trip we went to NY. Some went to Washington, DC at some point, but we went to NY and we had the option. We went down on the train, we stayed. Miss Shea went and stayed with the girls and Mr. Leonard went and supervised the boys. We had an option if our parents would pay for it we could fly back. And there were not too many but some of us. I was always interested in airplanes and flying but my mother was always scared to death of them. So I still don’t know how she signed the slip..maybe my father signed it and said, “Have fun”. But I was, maybe there was one other girl, maybe that was Mary Gomes, I can’t remember right now. Maybe there were 5 or 6 of us that flew out of 16. Took us to the airport, Kennedy or LaGuardia back then put us on the plane and went back to get on the train. We landed at TF Green and waited for them to come in on the train to come and pick us up.
MOT: What a great experience. I assume that it was a first plane ride for all of you?
JPC:Well it was the first one for me, I know that. It probably was for the others. I don’t know if there was another girl or what, but there was a handful of us that flew up. Ask Carolyn some of this stuff and see if she remembers. And I was thrilled. And I don’t think I had another plane ride for quite a few years after that.
MOT: Tell me about some of the things that you did in NY.
JPC: Well, I remember getting up in the middle of the night, some of us that were….after everyone else had gone to bed. I don’t remember who went with me, but there was more than me and I put on my raincoat over my pajamas and going out and walking the streets of NY. You can’t do that now days, I don’t think. And then coming back in and going back to bed.
MOT: Who did you say, Miss Shea? I’ll bet Miss Shea didn’t know that you did that.
JPC: No, I don’t think so. And I don’t know how we got out, because I think she slept in the…..Maybe she didn’t. Maybe I wasn’t sleeping in the same room with her. There were let’s see, 8 girls so there was 9 so we divided up the rooms into three rooms. Miss Shea slept with somebody but I’m not sure who.
MOT: The ones that didn’t go out.
JPC: Maybe or maybe she kept her eyes closed. Maybe she thought she’d better.
MOT: You had to do a lot of fund raising for that trip?
JPC: We..when you were a senior and even your junior prom..all of your dances paid pretty much for the trip for the kids. We would sell tickets for the dances and I think we had to put a little in, I don’t know about the ones that couldn’t afford to put a little bit in. Yes all dances which we had, I have all the tickets in here. Were fund raisers for our senior trip.
MOT: I find it interesting that the dances were open to community members.
JPC: Yes. As Far as I know…we went out selling tickets. We tried to sell as many as we could and some people would buy them and never use them.
MOT: So there were grown up people enjoying your dances.
JPC: I don’t remember too many, Maybe they would just buy tickets and ..but they could come as far as I know. It wasn’t just for the students because we were looking to make money. And if we just had students we wouldn’t have made much money.
MOT: And these were big deal. These dances were big deals. Like the girls were very ornately dressed and the boys would wear suits. Would girls go get a new dress for each dance?
JPC: I don’t remember getting a new dress, but we had to, you know, …I hated it back then I couldn’t wear jeans anywhere except on the farm. Martha says maybe it would be a good time. Maybe you’ve seen that picture.. we went shopping in Fall River and my mother dragging me along by the hand. Martha saw it one time and she started laughing like you wouldn’t believe. She said, “Boy, that looks like a happy little kid.” Mother all dressed up in a hat, and me with my dress on. Woman’s liberation was great for me. [1:03:34]
MOT: Did you have recess?
JPC: Yes. We had recess. When you got in 7th grade that was a big deal because 7th grade kids, especially those that had boyfriends, I didn’t but any way. Instead of playing on the playground or in the tennis court we were allowed to walk hand-in-hand around the school. Or Not hand-in-hand, I don’t remember that, but we could walk around the school. That was our exercise. As long as we got exercise. So we walked around on the cement….
MOT: Around the outside of the school. Oh, isn’t that funny. So the boy friends and girl friends would walk together.
JPC: Yes, Especially when they got to high school. I don’t know that many younger ones were, but 11th 12th grade were still there when I was there would be walking around school. Joe Couto, I don’t know if you remember him, but he was a great athlete and the girls fell all over him. And he was a nice guy too.
MOT: There were a lot of 18 year old marriages in town at that time. And even….
JPC: And Joe Couto graduating with a Portuguese man graduating was really different. He was a tremendous athlete too, I think in this day and age he would have gone a long way.
MOT: If Joe Couto was unusual to graduate, what were most of the Portuguese boys doing? [1:05:22]
JPC: I don’t know if he was unusual, because Joe Rocha graduated with me you know some of the others. In fact we had 8 boys and 8 girls even followed right through and graduated. Joe Rocha and there must have been other Portuguese boys in there too. I can’t remember, Sam Flores and so..God I can’t remember the names of the kids that graduated with me. Oh, John Kneeland, Wilbur Nickerson. Sam Flores. Who else.
MOT: Was it hard for the boys to go all the way through? Particular the farm boys.?
JPC: Well, Wilbur Nickerson wasn’t a farm boy, Sam Flores, I don’t think did a bit of work on the farm. Clement Lake came from Adamsville. So did John Kneeland. John Wordell may have lived on a farm, but I don’t think he ever did a bit of work on the farm. I don’t know.. There was Joe that certainly worked on the farm. But his parents, I guess he went with us on trips and that kind of stuff and so..They weren’t told they had to stay home or anything. I always said I milked cows before and after school sometimes. Because there was no boy in my family. I didn’t mind doing it. I loved to be outside on the farm. We even had horses until World War II was over. And then we got rid of them. They were in the barn by the road and there was no water in that, so each day you had to take them out and take them to the watering thing, which was back where the big barn was. I had to do that. And then when we were on-loading hay before baling. The guys that were on-loading we had one of those forks that you stuck in the hay and then a horse pulled it out and then a guy inside tripped it up in the hay mow so it could be spread around. They used to throw me up on the horse and said “Steer the horse. The horse knows what he is doing, but you stay on there and hold on to the reins. At the end after the thing is tripped, turn him around and bring him back” As a kid I used to do that. One day I remember, my father bought a new horse over in Adamsville. And he took me, I don’t remember how old I was, I only know that when I got home I had the sorest bottom that you ever saw, it was raw. He put me on the horse, he followed me in the car. He said, “Ride this horse home”….from Adamsville. And I did.
MOT: How many hours did it take?
J : I don’t know. Two or three maybe more because I didn’t run him or anything. I can remember it to this day. And being so sore I could hardly walk, but it healed up.
MOT: We’ve just finished the Adamsville project. Did Adamsville feel like a part of the community? A separate place,? Did you get to Adamsville? [1:09:21]
JPC: I get very upset when people think of it as a special place. It is a section of town like Sakonnet, but it’s Little Compton. And I don’t know, they were a close knit group some of them and the kids always had a little place to play there. I don’t know. To me it’s part of Little Compton and we are all part of Little Compton. Just like people that live down to Sakonnet Point and where ever else.
MOT: More like a neighborhood within the larger community.
JPC: I don’t know how they feel about it now.
MOT: It varied by person, because I always ask the question. And we had people who said, “Little Compton people, literally, turned their back on me when they found out we lived in Adamsville.
JPC: I find that hard to believe.
MOT: Except that the person who said it is a believable person. So I was quite surprised too.
JPC: Is she a jerk?
MOT: No, She is a lovely woman and she felt very looked down upon when she went to school functions.
JPC: Not my age.
MOT: No, I think she is a little younger than you.
JPC: I don’t know. I don’t think we ever looked down on anybody. In fact, I felt envious of the fact that they seemed to be playing together out on the field and they didn’t have to walk all over the devil to find a..or drive or get your parents to drive you.
MOT: No, that’s true too. And I think it flip-flopped. Betty Hathaway felt very privileged to live in Adamsville. And felt like it was a great place because it has all the stores. And then other people…I guess Mr Love would tell the kids “O.K. Everyone going back to the Valley of Sin line up here”.
JPC: Yes, That was funny. It was a fun thing. It sounds like something he would do.
MOT: So there’s something there.
JPC: But I don’t think it was meant derogatory. Everybody called it the Valley of Sin. And there may have been something that happened back then.
MOT: Punishment, How were the kids punished at school? [1:12:21]
Not that you ever got punished.
JPC: I got punished when we ran away from school that day up at the private school. I was going..maybe it was Betsy. I was going to take them up Nanaquaket Road. We went out the back door and they missed us and they came looking ..Boy. I don’t remember how even we got punished. I know I got punished at home. I got whacked pretty hard on my rear end.
MOT: Were the teachers giving out physical punishment?
JPC: Rulers, Knuckles. A little bit. I don’t remember anyone getting….but if they were doing something and a teacher came by with a ruler, boy, you felt it on your knuckles. But nothing….
MOT: So mild physical punishment at school.
JPC: Yes, I don’t remember any…no you had to go sit in the superintendent’s office if you had done something wrong. So that showed everybody. But sometimes it was a badge of…..instead of a punishment.
MOT: Who was the principal when you were there?
JPC: Miss McMahon was the principal and Mr. Leonard was the superintendent. Who was the principal when Miss McMahon was Superintendent? I can’t remember. It was after I got out of school, because Mr. Leonard was the superintendent when I graduated. And Raymond Peckham was chairman of the school Committee, even though he sent all his kids off to private school. And he couldn’t hand them their diploma. When he handed me my diploma everybody clapped because it was a Peckham to a Peckham.
MOT: You have no memory of Josephine F. Wilbur? She was way before your time. [1:16:07]
JPC: She lived on Swamp Road. Wasn’t she the one that lived on Swamp Road in the old house there?
Somebody lived there.
MOT: That old house that got knocked down at the corner?
JPC: Yes. Set back a little . If you went Swamp Road from West Main Road it was on the left there.
MOT: Well, that was Sarah Soule Wilbour, and Charles Edwin Wilber. Their/ His daughter Theodora. And Theodora had Carlton knock the building down.
JPC: O.K. Yes, and my mother must have been named after those, because she was Theodora Wilbour.
MOT: Yes, that’s true.
JPC: Theodora lived in New York didn’t she?
MOT: I completely understand that the one-room school houses were closed by the time you came around, but I wonder if you have absorbed any stories about the one-room school houses?
JPC: No, but I have pictures of the one that is by Barbara Montgomery’s that show my father and his brothers in the pictures.
MOT: Oh, that I would love to copy is you don’t mind.
JPC: Yes, It must have been in the book that I gave you the first time.
MOT: You think so? But I would have focused on Sakonnet Point that time. Not the school.
JPC: I just looked at them the other day and showed them to my grandchildren. Granddaughter, so I know I still have it. It’s my old Scrapbook Picture Book not my ones nearer to the time. I think. I have it.
MOT: Great Any time in the next three months.
JPC: My father and his brothers stand out because, Jim who I can’t remember because he was killed in a gravel bank slide in ’26 or ’27 when he and my father were up on Windmill Hill on the Almy place getting… But they stand out, because they are dressed up and they are bigger than anybody else in the picture. So, Yea I’ve got that somewhere.
MOT: Is it a postcard or is it a photograph?
JPC: It may be a postcard.
MOT: Because I might have it so rather than have you go through a lot of effort. Before you leave I’ll check my computer.
JPC: You may have taken pictures of that and stuff that I have given you.
MOT: We’ll double-check because I don’t want to make extra work for you. So the school house near Carolyn Montgomery still stands. The stone one on Long Highway still stands. The tax collector’s office still stands. Jeff Brady’s little house that he rents, that was Richard Bixby’s house ..
JPC: Was that a school house?
MOT: Richard Bixby’s dad turned a school house into the family home. So that one still stands. We’ve got Peaked Top, of course it’s a reproduction. Shelley Bowen was telling me that there’s a school house, the Shaw Road school house that’s in her neighbor’s back yard. And that’s strange because I just read something about that one burning down or something. So I’ll have to investigate that.
JPC: You mean on Shaw Road? And who owns it..? [1:19:56]
MOT: Nobody that I know. I think it is like a new person in town.
JPC: It is a man and a wife that rents a small house there?
MOT: I don’t know. They would be west of Margaret Manning and Shelley Bowen and Sean Bowen.
JPC: They live further down Shaw Road.
MOT: They live across from Eleanor Simons. Shelley lives across from Eleanor Simons. This school house is supposed to be a shed in the backyard of this couples house. You know, Like over the
JPC: Is it Karchis??
MOT: I don’t know. If that is a remaining school house I’d would just love to know. It would be interesting to document that.
JPC: I’ll write a little note for me. Look, It’s Shaw Road School house. Well, the Karchis’ bought that big house. You go down South of Commons Road, turn right and then left. What road is that? That’s not Shaw Road, Shaw Road is further down.
MOT: Shaw Road is Eleanor Simons and then Briggs Beach.
MOT: Oh, and the other School House that still exists is Pottersville. That was turned into some sort of house for Faith Wilbur. So quite a few of them are still standing.
JPC: Yes Pottersville I remember it being talked about being there. If you go by Catherine Snell‘s and up. You go straight it is right on the corner, there? Or is it across the road? Where Faith lives?
MOT: I think,where Faith lives. I think she is in a bigger house, and just west of her is a smaller house, and I think it is the smaller house.
JPC: Could be.
MOT: I think it would be fun for us to mark all of them with a sign like we did in….
JPC: Years ago when I was growing up They had they had these signs up, these little historical signs with brass plates on them. That people finally started scooping those out and there was a lot of places. Then they gave up on it I guess.
MOT: I think there’s one out, there’s one out in the corn crib. All of those date back to 1936 when the state had a centennial.
JPC: Well it could have been that, and it could have been the WPA giving people work.
MOT: Oh, Yes, that’s true too.
JPC: because a lot of stuff was done back then. Public Works Administration or whatever they called it.
MOT: Let me see what else I have on my list here. [1:22:54]
There was a kindergarten in the Methodist church. Avis ..somebody.. ran it. Richard Bixby is going to be telling me about it.
JPC: Kindergarten in the Methodist Church, yes. I remember that. Did he tell you what year? Because I don’t think Rusty was in that, but there was a kindergarten there. A privately run kindergarten. The Methodist Church stood right at….yea. My mind’s kind of a blank.
MOT: I think Rusty is way too young to attend that.
JPC: What years did they say?
MOT: Well I think Richard attended it, I’m not sure how old Richard is.
JPC: Oh, Richard is older than Rusty I think
MOT: Oh, yes
JPC: Rusty was born in ’59. So he is 54..
MOT: Richard Bixby has got to be in his 70’s
JPC: Yes I can remember that, but I can’t remember too much about it. As I said, I wasn’t there.
MOT: You didn’t have personal…..
MOT: When you were Town Council President were there major school issues that you had to deal with? [1:24:34]
JPC: No, I have …the school committee is pretty much in charge of the school, unless there is something like a building project or something. It kind of burns me up sometimes because the school gets away, the teachers get away with a lot of stuff with a school committee that they never would with a town council. They are given everything..there’s a lot of problems with all that is going on all over the state..they are given everything you can’t kind of fund. In fact I told you a while ago I had a policeman saying that he’s glad that I was the..he didn’t say bitch, but.. This was a couple of years ago when all of this started with the state, and the no funding. Everybody knows you can’t keep spending and not have the money coming in. But nobody cared because it was the votes they were looking for. But I don’t remember there being an awful lot of trouble with the school. I think sometimes the school in recent years, I don’t know about when I was..not back then I don’t remember it being that way because the unions weren’t strong back then. And what the school committee and the superintendent decided was pretty much….nobody was on the phone or racing in telling them, “Don’t you hurt my darling little kid who I am sure couldn’t have done what you say they did” Because some of these parents back then, especially the Portuguese parents were pretty tough. Their kids couldn’t act up in school. No, I don’t remember much of a problem then.
MOT: So as you were getting ready to come here today. I imagine you were thinking about some school stories. Thinking about your school.
JPC: No, That’s why I said I was hoping you’ve got some questions to ask. I went to school. I don’t have anything bad to say about my school experience anyway. I’m sure I wasn’t happy with some things but..
MOT: Certainly, pulling out the bad stuff is not our intention. How about do you have any favorite memories. Days that were really special or a project that was really meaningful to you?
JPC: It was a long time ago. Not really. I just, we just hung around eight boys and eight girls. That could be a hard mix, I remember the class before me, Francis Rogers class, Dorothy Sylvia’s class. You remember Victor Sylvia’s daughter, they lived on Willow Avenue. Dick Rogers was the only boy in the class with 7 or 8 girls. But Dick didn’t mind that I don’t think. I feel sorry, but I hear Dick’s wife’s not in good health, her memory is going.
MOT: Well, I heard that they moved to Tiverton
JPC: They moved to Tiverton, because they wanted to be nearer the doctors and the hospital. I never thought I would see Dick moving to Tiverton. But Ricky and Michael are both living in Tiverton. Somewhere up there around Sakonnet Vets. Somewhere. I mentioned it to somebody and they said, Joyce’s mind is going, so I don’t know, I guess you are closer to the doctors and stuff, but I don’t know how that’s going to help her with her mind. But nearer the kids and I hear that the one that was in Rusty’s class, the one that was on Swamp Road….
JPC: Yes, Beryl, She’s selling that and moving too. Is what I heard.
MOT: Tell me about the graduation ceremony
JPC: Well, your family came. I don’t think my father could some, but my mother was there and brought a friend that she knew. Miss Rooka from Tiverton whose father used to fix clocks. And my mother because she was interested in old things. Families and friends came. And you walked up on the stage when your name was called. And Raymond Peckham shook your hand and presented you with your diploma and you walked back again. I don’t think we went anywhere after graduation, I don’t know if there was refreshments there or not. I can’t remember maybe some of the more ….I don’t know what you call them…of the class went out to a party, but I don’t remember ever going to a party.
MOT: But you did wear caps and gowns?
MOT: You had graduation pictures taked in caps and gowns. So of the 16 kids in your class was it just the two of you that went to College?
JPC: There was Mary and Carolyn and Esther. And I don’t know about Ruth Dwelly. Mary, Carolyn and Esther all went to Commercial Secretary course for a year. Ruth Dwelly maybe got married. No, she was secretary some where too. Maybe she went to a secretary school too. And Nina, they all got jobs or went on to school for at least a year. Campbell, I think it was Campbell Business School in Fall River was very active then. I think, Mary Gomes, Carolyn Camara and Esther Rosa all went to that school. So they all furthered their education. Clement Lake went in the Air Force, Wilbur Nickerson went in the Navy. Sammy went in the Nav….no Sammy went to Brown before he went in the Navy, I think. So he spent sometime in the Navy. Maybe because he had to, I don’t know. Then he went to live in New York and write books or write something. Willbur Nickerson retired from the Navy. He made that his career. Herbie Mosher, I don’t know where he went or what he did. He went to live in New Hampshire or something. I don’t know what he did, but he used to come back around. John Wordell, I don’t know. He stayed around. Oh, he was a carpenter.
MOT: So they all lived productive lives.
JPC: Yes, as far as I know they all lived productive lives.
MOT: Very good. So is there something I have not asked you that I should?
JPC: Not that I know of
MOT: This summer as we have people coming here to see an exhibit on the schools. Our intention is to have way back to the seventeenth century when we have parents teaching children out of the Bible, school masters traveling to different homes, then the one-room schools, then the central school with a high school, no high school. We are going to try to follow that whole path. What’s the most important thing people should learn about the schools in Little Compton?
JPC: Well, even though we were a small town. I feel that the things I have been involved with they are quality schools. I went to URI and I wasn’t the brightest light bulb there but I made the honor roll over there. Coming from a small school here. It was quite an adjustment but, I was good at making friends, got along with my roommate and the people across the hall. Invited them to come to Little Compton for a weekend or in the summer. I still hear from some of those people, if they haven’t died. So, I don’t really know. I don’t know what it is like now, but up until the time I got not too involved in Little Compton schools, I thought that people that wanted to make something of themselves there a quality education that they could follow through and do it.
MOT: A good way to wrap it up. Unless you have more to say.
[Personal conversation about signing papers, Carlton Brownell, reunion, etc.]
Jane P. Cabot, 87 of Little Compton passed away Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at home surrounded by her family. She was wife of the late Nelson Cabot.
A lifelong Little Compton resident, Jane was born April 17, 1930 to Theodora and Rufus Peckham and grew up living and working on the family farm. Jane attended JF Wilbur School in Little Compton and subsequently the University of Rhode Island, graduating in 1951 with a degree in mathematics. She came home after graduation and ran the farm for a number of years before entering town political life in 1966 when she was elected to the Budget Committee. Jane was elected to Town Council in 1970, and became Council President in 1974, a position she filled for 26 years, finally retiring from the Council in Nov. 2002. She helped guide the town through events big and small, including the Tricentennial Celebration, a new town dock and the construction and dedication of the Public Safety Complex. Not one to settle down, after retiring from the Council, she started her own transportation company in 2003 and was fully employed with that endeavor until 2012. Jane also continued to serve the town as a Committee Member until 2014. The great loves her life included the family farm, the Town of Little Compton, her dogs, her Boston Red Sox and especially her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Survivors include her son Nelson “Rusty” Cabot, Jr. and his wife Erin of Little Compton; 2 grandchildren; and 2 great grandchildren.
Memorial Service to which relatives and friends are invited will be Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at the Little Compton United Congregational Church at 11 A.M.
Published by Potter Funeral Service.
Exhibit Text from 2020 Special Exhibition
Because of her father’s poor health, Jane Peckham ran the large family farm at the corner of West Main and Peckham Roads as a teenager, working before and after school and on college vacations. In an interview Jane said, “No boy in the family, so I was it….I hated it back then. I couldn’t wear jeans anywhere except on the farm.…Woman’s liberation was great for me.” After graduating from URI in mathematics, Jane returned to the farm and married her neighbor Nelson Cabot in 1957. They had one son who inherited his mom’s red hair and was called Rusty.
A family story says Jane complained so often about town politics her husband suggested she run. She won a spot on the Budget Committee in 1966 and progressed to the Town Council in 1970. She became Council President in 1974 and filled that position for 26 years, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes as an Independent. Jane admitted she could be tough, but always did what she thought best for the town. “Everybody knows you can’t keep spending and not have the money coming in.”
One thought on “Jane Peckham Cabot”
I remember a man once saying Jane is the smartest woman I know. Of course, he erred as she was likely smarter than many men also. However, she was also kind and wise and able to listen to the opinions of others, and also fair. A treasure for the town.
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