1935 - 1942


In 1935, the depression was in full force.  My Aunt Gert, my father’s sister had been laid off from work in the mill and she had used up all her savings. (No unemployment checks in those days.)  So Aunt Rose suggested to my parents a solution.  If we could find a bigger house, Aunt Gert could move in with us.  Since Aunt Gert had no income, Aunt Rose would pay any expenses until Gert went to work again. My parents agreed and the house hunting began.



312 Durfee Street


Banks had a lot of foreclosures at that time and my parent checked on one.  I remember that it was a very rainy day with thunder and lighting.  The house was full of cobwebs and dirty.  It felt haunted.  It had been empty two years so you can see how ones imagination could run away with you.  The bank was very eager to have it rented.  They offered to clean the house thoroughly and do any repairs that were necessary and all we had to do was move in. They did all that and more,. They had to put in a new furnace and they would still build some kitchen cabinets that my mother requested. (Years later my father bought the house.)


The previous owners must have had servants who cooked in the basement.  The food was delivered to the first floor on a dumb waiter, which is a hand-operated box on pulleys, inside a wall.  The dumb waiter was still there.  It was a big house with kitchen, pantry and double parlors with beautiful decorated plaster ceilings.  There was also a separate sitting room on the first floor and a curving stairway to the second floor.  The bathroom and four bedrooms were on the second floor.  You could go up a short stairway to a widow’s watch on the roof.  The view from there of the harbor and the Taunton River was fantastic. The Old Fall River Line cruise ships could be seen docked at the pier.  So everyone was eager to move to 312 Durfee Street.


My folks lived there for almost 50 years.  And I enjoyed living there for several reasons.  It was only 2 minutes from high school and downtown was only a ten-minute walk.  Also, my bedroom was the one with the view of the harbor, the best view of all the bedrooms.




School was something I always enjoyed.  I went to public school for kindergarten and first grade.  Second to eighth grades were at St. Patrick’s.  They always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a  “Coffee Supper”, which consisted of two nights of Buffet Style Dinner and a School Play.  Every one looked forward to it, and since it came in the middle of Lent, it was a break in the fasting or giving up for Lent.  The women did all the cooking and the nuns did all the teaching of the children who took part in the plays.  My first play was in “The Wedding of the Painted Doll” and I was Red Riding Hood.  My mother made my costume consisting of a red dress and a red hood.  I still can remember part of the song after all these years.  I have a picture of the cast still.  I had to carry a basket of fruit and the boys were all so friendly.  Fruit was very expensive so I had to make sure no one stole some.



Boys looking from  my window


The girls that went to St. Patrick’s stayed close friends until we all graduated from high school.  Some went on the college and others to work.  Mary Sweeney became a Dietitian at Durfee High and Grace Dunn became a teacher.  Geraldine became a Nurse for the city, and Connie, Marie and I all went to work.  Mary, Grace and Geraldine never married.  Marie had eight children; her first one became a nun.  Connie had four boys.  One friend Margaret Corbett went to a private high school and we lost track of one another. The last time I saw her was at my father’s funeral coming out of church.  She looked just like I remember her.  I was hoping she would phone so we could get together, but she never did.  She had married and I never knew her married name.



Growing up I had a problem with asthma and before I went to high school, my parents thought I should see the doctor.  After he examined me, he told my father that if I started to have too many attacks, he would okay my quitting school.  That I didn’t want, so I was very careful not too overdo, and I did manage to get along very well.  Then when we moved, it was only two minutes from school instead of a trolley ride and fifteen-minute walk.  I finished high school and graduated in 1937.  It was the 50th year celebration for BMC Durfee High School so that class was pretty special.  The school was a beautiful classic building and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1987. There was talk of destroying the building because it was so old, but they didn’t.  It is now a courthouse.  The city of Fall River did destroy other buildings, which they should have kept.  In fact, they destroyed all of Main Street and City Hall. Then they constructed a freeway through the center of town and built the City Hall over it.


During my sophomore year, I started to work at J.J. Newberrys Dept. Store part time.  I stayed there on permanent status after I graduated since jobs were difficult to find.  As a sales clerk, I had to wait on customers as they came to the counter, total the sales in your head  (no calculators) and ring it up on the register.  The salesgirl had to keep the counters full of merchandise.  All the clerks were friendly and we enjoyed our work. I left in 1942 because I was getting married and believe it or not, Newberrys did not hire married women.


The Fagan Clan

Remark from Dorrie:

The dress my mother is wearing I still have hanging in my closet today (2011)! My Grandpa is on the far right, my grandma (obviously) in the back middle. The 3 other guys are my mom's brothers.




updated: 20.11.2011