Sadie “Sally” V. Farrissey Murphy
1909 – 1973
My mom, Sadie V. Farrissey, was born on January 18, 1909 in Fall River, Massachusetts. She was the third child of Sarah J. (Mills) and Andrew J. Farrissey. Mom attended Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Elementary School in Fall River along with her classmate and friend Katherine B. McMahon, through eighth grade. Yes, one and the same person who shares the name of Wilbur/McMahon School. Mom continued onto business school for two additional years. Upon completion, she took a position with the Atwater Coal Company in Fall River as a bookkeeper for about 20 years.
During this time, she married my dad, a seaman, Cornelius G. (George) Murphy, so named because he was born to Irish immigrants on February 22, thus sharing his birthday with our first President, George Washington, a fact which made my grandmother, Johanna Harrington Murphy, very proud. My dad’s legacy was sealed in fate upon taking his first breath. During the first several years of their marriage, Mom and Dad moved from Fall River to Portsmouth, RI, where they built a home in Island Park that was partially destroyed in the September 1938 hurricane by a tidal wave that surged up the Sakonnet River crashing onto the low-lying Island Park district.
Shortly thereafter Sally, or “Sal”, and George moved to Newport where my dad who had served in the Merchant Marine during World War I, was summoned by the Navy to captain ferryboat service from the naval base to the nearby torpedo station during World War II. It was during this period that Dad met and befriended a Little Compton native named Harold Simmons. Dad and Harold rapidly became fast friends. Overtime, Mom had evolved into a genteel career woman of the age in the business world, as she was childless for her first fifteen years of marriage. That is—until I was born in 1944 and three years later my sister, Jo-Ann, in 1947. Meanwhile, Harold made my parents “an offer they couldn’t refuse” to purchase a nine acre parcel of land on the corner of Peckham Road and Long Highway for 100 dollars an acre. Thus my family became residents of Little Compton henceforth.
I recall Mom relating that my grandmother was horrified that my dad had moved us to such a godforsaken, backwoods and undeveloped frontier town located in the middle of nowhere. Shortly after this move in early 1947, Jo-Ann was born; a baby boomer she was, as well as an official Little Compton native. Jo-Ann and I enjoyed a happy childhood growing up in Little Compton and attending J.F. Wilbur School where we both made lifelong friends to this day. Unfortunately my sister, Jo-Ann (Murphy) Wetzel, passed in 2014. She was co-owner of Old Stone Orchard, a local apple orchard and farm located on Adamsville Hill.
Country life was indeed a new experience for my parents both having been raised in the metropolis of Fall River, Mass. Dad after all, having spent most of his adult life at sea, shooting the stars and mastering meteorology by interpreting and processing the interaction of wind direction coupled with relative air pressure (a seaman’s very survival depended upon acquiring those skills). As a child, I often recall my dad watching Nancy Byers, circa 1950’s on Channel 10 TV, forecast weather and his commenting, after a few disparaging remarks, that she literally did not know what she was talking about. “That’s impossible!” he would say. He then ambled over to the kitchen window to view our neighbor’s (Jeff Brooks) weather vane posed high atop a pole in the front yard. After some analysis and calculation, as we awaited his prediction, he presented his conclusions to us. Amazingly, he was always right!!
Country life indeed presented a whole new list of challenges, no city plumbing, no mass transit, unpaved roads, etc.; but also, new adventures. Effectively exploring their newly discovered agricultural skills, Dad and Mom planted huge gardens, that my sister and I were allowed to weed. Dad also tried his hand at raising livestock, chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs, etc. Mom bought a huge pressure cooker, Dad a giant chest freezer. Mom canned everything. Mom a genuinely sweet, kind and cultured city lady, also became skillful at chopping the heads off chickens. Had to get it right the first time too! See, my heavily tattooed, hairy-chested seaman father just couldn’t do it.
Mom also needed to learn to drive to get around town. Our neighbor, Chet Wilkie of Chet’s gas station around the corner, taught my mom to drive. Dad said he had to be crazy to take that on. But he did and Mom drove us all over town to South Shore Beach, even Adamsville to pick up my grandmother who would take the Cozy Corner bus from “The City.” On one particular occasion, I recall performing in a school play in elementary school and a blizzard was swooping down upon us. Mom was determined to get to school to see me, regardless. She flagged down a snowplow and hitched a ride to school. I was thoroughly delighted that she made it and we all safely returned home on the school bus. That wouldn’t happen today. Too many liability issues to consider.
Eventually, in the early 1950’s, Mom took a position with the state-run School Lunch Program at Wilbur School. She worked under a lovely lady named Inez Wildes, for whom my mom always had the deepest respect and admiration. She always referred to her as “Mrs. Wildes.” Soon after Mrs Wildes retired, my mom assumed her position. As I recall Mom’s co-workers at the time included Jane Camara, Dosey Blades, Virginia Rogers, Eleanor Carroll and later Imelda Chretien and Rose Lewis, all townspeople. I believe that Rose Lewis baked all the breads and rolls. Oh yes, they prepped all their food from scratch back in those days. No prepackaged processed foods back then. They even peeled their own potatoes, real mashed potatoes, etc. Eleanor was the head pastry chef. Real homemade clam chowder became one of my mom’s signature dishes. Mom especially loved and enjoyed the children. She loved pleasing them and making them happy. They were her children away from home, and her mission was to please them by preparing good food with the same TLC that she invested in her own family at the dinner table. She often had stories to share of her encounters with her school kids. She was loved and appreciated by both students and school staff as well.
The State created and controlled the menu. I especially recall the delightful chocolate cake. However, the welsh rabbit was never a big hit. One of the biggest hits was ‘turkey day.’ They actually roasted several large, whole turkeys, deboned and fricasseed them. That meal always sold out. Mom continued to prep tasty meals for Wilbur School for 20 years, retiring in the early 1970’s. Throughout this timeframe, she also joined the cook staff at the Sakonnet Golf Club during the summer months when school was closed. That’s another story for another time. Unfortunately, she passed away within less than two years after retirement.
Mary V. Murphy Pacheco, Daughter