Sheila Greene Kauffmann
Greene with an E
I grew up as a Greene, and as my grandfather would always say, Greene with an “e.” I grew up right next door to the liquor store. In fact, a lot of people will still say, “Oh, that’s Sheila Greene, you know, from the package store?”
My grandfather, Herman Greene, actually built the liquor store. At one time, he and my grandmother, Elizabeth, lived in the house along with my grandfather’s parents. I also know that next door, my grandfather’s cousin, Roger Almy, and his wife Polly lived there. We used to go over there as kids, and we could always count on them to have a drawer full of gum.
We Didn’t Worry
Some of the things I remember about growing up, are things like being able to bike all over the neighborhood. And when I say bike around the neighborhood, we used to do that regularly and freely. We didn’t really have to worry, at least in that time it didn’t seem like we had anything to worry about, except what time we were supposed to be home, which was usually when it got dark, or when Mrs. Halleck rang her bell. Then we would check in and then, often head back out.
We used to like to go to all the local stores for penny candy, like Simmons’ when Gracie Simmons and Jimmy worked in there, and then Waite’s Store. We used to call it Leonard Waite’s, even though it’s known as Gray’s to most people. Grayton Waite’s father used to work in there when we were kids. So we would go in there, and one of my friends, Bonnie Morse, used to charge an awful lot. Her grandmother had a charge. I just thought that was the coolest thing that she was able to go in there and get whatever she wanted, and charge it to her grandmother.
We used to go crabbing in Westport, not too far from the ball field. We used to do things that a lot of people haven’t really heard of, and I used to call it “bottle digging.” Essentially, we would go to a couple different locations. One of my friends used to like to do it with me, Steve Pettine, and we would go, and we would just dig in the dirt, and we would find these really cool bottles. Some really tiny and some kind of medium-sized, but they happen to be Doctor White bottles, which a lot of people are familiar with. At one time we had quite a few of them, but I don’t know what happened to all of them. I imagine they got thrown out, but it was really fun. I’m surprised I never became an archeologist because I liked it so much.
We also used to ride dirt bikes. We used to ride them in the field behind my mother’s house. My father, Cyrus Greene, had quite a collection of motorcycles and dirt bikes at one time. We used to play baseball in the field behind my mother’s house, with the neighbors, the Oliveira’s, and Mike Cook, and the Hallecks. I remember making fudge with Debbie McKivergan.
A lot of these are things that all kids do, or many kids do, but I think it was just different in that it was just a lot more carefree. We used to think nothing of hopping in the back of my father’s pick-up truck, and going to the store to get ice cream, or taking a ride to the beach, or whatever it may be, but for the most part we’re a lot more careful about those things now.
[Living in a village] made a huge difference. Between the Hallecks that lived next door, there was Hope and Billy, Heather and Heidi; and the McKivergans, there was David and Debbie; and all the Oliveiras, Debby, Gilly, Donna, Doug, Susan, Jeff and Greg; and then Mike Cook, and then others that used to come, and either because they were friends with, or related to, or wanted to get in on the action, whatever it may be. We used to have a lot of fun, playing baseball and kickball, and riding bikes around, dirt bikes. We would make up games. We’d play kick the can, “break” all kinds of things, and have a lot of fun. We were outside all of the time.
[At school] we definitely blended in, but I think as a group we were much closer out of school, than in school. I have a feeling that some people were probably a little envious of us because we did have so much going on. We were always busy, doing things with other friends. I think as we got older, some of us remained friends, and still are in contact now, and of course with Facebook it’s made it so much easier to keep in touch with certain people, even if it’s just saying hello every once in a while.
So we had a different experience growing up, because we were able to see each other so often which meant we were pretty involved in each other’s lives. We often knew a lot of the intimate details of other people’s lives, because we spent so much time together. That had its positives, and its negatives, but I think, at that time, it made us a very tight-knit group.
I think, probably like many small towns, as children we had bonds, and again an awareness in each other’s lives, probably beyond what most children would have. That was somewhat of a protective factor, because as we all know, growing up is difficult, and every family has its problems and issues and challenges. It helped us, I think, to be able to talk to each other about those things, and to also be able to forget about those things and just be kids. Because we were allowed that freedom to just be kids, and not be in isolation, having to deal with certain things.
It’s just wonderful to be able to have had a childhood where we could spend so much time just playing. And it wasn’t a lot of structured play. We made up our own games, and activities. It wasn’t like it is now where there is, often, one family going from a soccer game, to a baseball game, to gymnastics. It was very, very different. Getting together to just rake a pile of leaves, and jump in the pile of leaves, was something we would spend all day doing. Or building a fort, somewhere behind my mother’s house, and it would be an all-day thing, and that would lead to the next weekend, and it wasn’t structured by adults. As my Aunt Trudy has said, “I can’t think of a better place to grow up.”
Based on an oral history interview with Sheila Greene Kauffmann.
First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.