Sarah Bullock Desjardins
Thirty-Two Years at the Post Office
I worked at the post office for thirty-two years. I would say [I started in] ’74-’75. I retired eight years ago. Everything was a lot busier. There was a lot of mail. That has changed, with fax and emails and everything. A lot was going on there. I had always been a summer person. Now I was a year-round person and I got to know the people in the village of Adamsville—more as people—than kind of local characters. I got to know these people and the old-timers, and they were just a wonderful group. I was very nervous when I started out, and they were very kind and patient. It was lovely. I had a couple of kids at the time, and I think my rent was seventy-five dollars a month. I was just going to be there until my boys were old enough to both be in school full time. But I never left!
My father was introduced to Adamsville by Ralph Blanchard who was a professor of English at Brown. They had this very nice old home up on Coldbrook Hill. Dad came down with him one day and said, “This is for me.” He had grown up summers in Little Compton. He liked Westport, Adamsville. It was a lot less social, more low-key. The Acoaxet Club was a lot smaller than Sakonnet.
The Blanchards were interesting people. Ralph had been engaged to a French woman who had a chateau in France and died in the war, and he married her sister Monette. Monette worked at the Athenaeum in Providence, a very bright, intelligent, small woman. Her mother was still living, Madame LaCaze, and she was like a little bird dressed in black sitting next to Monette, whenever we went up on Coldbrook Hill and had Cambric Tea, went through their beautiful garden. We, the little kids, had to say, “Bonjour Madame!” That was our French, and she’d twitter on with something else and we had no idea what she was talking about. I mentioned the fireplace. There is probably the largest—best old cooking, baking, you could do anything in it, you could stand in it upright—fireplace in the area. You would see [Monette] driving around in a huge blue sedan, barely able to see over the steering wheel, and everybody was in fear and trembling. One day she did miss one of the curves going down Coldbrook Hill going toward Adamsville, but she survived. Monette always pronounced it Adamsveeeel.
The Adamsville House
[My dad bought the Adamsville House, in the mid to late forties.] I was born in ’41, my sister is three years younger and my mother had just gotten her potty-trained. There was only the outhouse, and she un-potty-trained herself because she was always afraid something was going to pop up and bite her on the fanny. The place had been a duck farm owned by the Gifford family. There were three duck houses, the outhouse, the shed, and then the main house. It was fully furnished to the point where the matriarch’s nightie, Annie Gifford’s nightie, was hanging in the closet. It was like they up and left.
My father and I would come down on a winter day, and it was a big deal getting here. This was real country, no Braga Bridge, no Route 88. It was not easy getting to Adamsville. [It would take] a couple of hours. We would come down to check on the place. We would stop at Simmons’ and I remember Dad would buy me a comic book for like a quarter, and old Hap Simmons, big guy, would be sitting in his rocking chair next to the potbellied stove.
It was a very innocent summer. We were more geared to activities at the Harbor than at the Point. It was all around sailing, swimming, tennis. I was much too young for golf; that was for old people. We would go to the dances at the Acoaxet Club with our parents. It was totally multigenerational. You would get the number of your parents’ bottle of booze—they had no liquor license so everybody brought their own bottle—and start ordering drinks off your parents’ bottles. Tom Moran’s mother and father would come, and she would always say she was drinking iced tea, Mary Moran, who was an absolute riot, but we knew better.
Saint John Hart
We always called him Saint John. His wife was ill and a lot of his time was taken up taking care of her. He hung in there, and he took care of her along with doing his haying. He planted hay all over, anybody that had an empty field, and this still goes on. He had his little greenhouse which I’ve painted a couple of times, full of things he had started. You’d go there in the spring for your plants. Of course he did Gray’s Grist Mill. He was an old man, but God, you could see his upper body was so strong. He had these huge hands, and he would come in and pay for postage and pull out this great wad of change. He always had exact change for whatever he needed to buy at the post office. And he would change the grinding wheel. I mean I don’t know how the man did it, but somehow he did it, and always with the best attitude. Everybody loved him!
And loved his daughter Millie, I was very friendly with her. Leonard Waite, her husband, took me for a tour through Gray’s Store and the residence attached where they lived, which was such an honor for me. Nothing had been changed. These were people that took care of their neighbors. There was no welfare system of course. It was country, it was remote. He showed me, down in the basement, the birdhouses that were made by a disabled son of a neighbor of theirs. They would put him to work making birdhouses. We went upstairs, the place was chock-a-block with furniture which eventually they had a big auction. He showed me Millie’s bedroom where she had scarlet fever and would look out of the window onto the pond with all of the kids skating and couldn’t go because she was sick. I wish I had had [a tape recorder] at the time because you really got a feel for Adamsville and the people through the residence attached to Gray’s Store. It was an honor. They were great people. Millie would come in on Saturday mornings which was my usual stint, 8:30 to 12:30 for thirty-two years, with her grandson Jonah, who inherited the store on the death his father Grayton quite recently. And he’d ring the bell on the counter. That was a big joke. They’d be on their way to a movie, or she was taking him to baseball practice. The grandmother and the grandson off for a day of fun and games, enjoying each other, happy. It always made me feel much better, whatever I was doing.
Based on an oral history interview with Sarah Bullock Desjardins.
First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.