and Carl Arrives


1952 - 1953


Not knowing how long he would be there, I went back to Fall River.  My father was able to get a Federal Housing Apt for me, but it was being painted and would not be ready for a few days. Which was okay, until the next morning when a l8-wheeler pulled up on Durfee Street with our furniture. Pop called his friend and he said that they could deliver the furniture, but to put it in the middle of the room so the men could paint around it.  Then the driver wanted to know if there was somebody he could hire to help him, so Van was elected.  It was a few days before we were able to settle in the old barracks.  They were put up during the war on a baseball field named Abbots Court.  I was on the second floor and my neighbor was a boy who had been a classmate at St. Patrick’s.  He worked for the railroad and his wife Rita taught driving lessons.  They had 2 boys.  So knowing someone there made it easy to adjust.


Van came home when he had a weekend off.  He liked what he was doing but it was hard and dangerous.  Then, it happened, he was diving in New York Harbor in the heavy hard hat diving outfit.  He was near the bottom and something moved and he was pinned and could not move.  His air and communication hoses were okay, so while they tried to free him, he could breath okay and they kept talking to him. They finally freed him after 13 hours and he was given a medical check to be sure he was okay.  He came home for a few days to recoup some, then went back to pick up some new orders. He contracted a severe case of claustrophobia and couldn’t dive anymore.  He couldn’t go into elevators or tunnels for years to come.  It took him a long time to get over that accident.


His orders did come and he was assigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Wasp CVA-18, in the Atlantic fleet and he spent the next months at sea on maneuvers in the Atlantic Ocean. In April I had Bob registered at Slade School for Kindergarten.  I found out that my old science teacher from high school was the principal.  He was still rough and tough and treated me like his student instead of the mother of a student.   Later on, I received a note concerning Bob’s behavior, so I had to visit the principal’s office.  It seems that Bob was trespassing on the First Grade playground and that was a big NO-NO.  His personality didn’t get him that job, he didn’t have any.


Sometime late February 1952, the ships were on maneuvers one dark night and the Wasp collided with the USS Hobson, a destroyer, and the Hobson went down after being cut in two by the bow of the Wasp.  One sailor was on deck to get some air and when the accident happened, a radio antenna came by and he grabbed it and swung on to the hangar deck of the Wasp.  Many lives were lost.  The Wasp crept back to Hoboken and they took the bow of another carrier that was in the shipyard and put it on the Wasp.  Van had weekends off since they were in a shipyard. Soon after Van sailed on a Med Cruise, I found out that I was pregnant with Carl.

Dorrie turns 2 years, Feb. 1952

Dorrie was almost three years old now.  I had to take her to the doctors because she didn’t want to eat anything, not even candy.  Found out that she was anemic and I had to force feed her and that was quite a job, but I managed to do it.  After that, she decided she liked food and you couldn’t fill her up!  I also told the doctor that she wasn’t talking yet, that she and her brother seem to have their own language.  That was the problem, the doctor said, “ Just tell your son that he isn’t allowed to talk for her any more.”  She finally gave in and started to talk and then she never shut up.


One widowed neighbor that lived on the same floor often took Dorrie for the day to visit her family in New Bedford.  She’d dress her up cute and fix her hair.  I think Eileen liked to pretend that she was her daughter.  It was a big help to me after Carl came along.


Carl was born December 3, 1952 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Newport, RI.  That was just 3 days after Van was out to sea on the USS Midway CVA-41.  He had been transferred from the Wasp when they arrived back in the US at Jacksonville, FL.  It wasn’t long after when Van was promoted to Chief Bos’n Mate.  That was an added bonus.  While on the Wasp and the Midway, he went to Europe several times and to Holland where he visited his cousins and his Grandmother.  He made two trips, one in 1950 and one in 1952 and saw his Grandmother  again before she passed away.  His cousin, Diet, who was about 18 at the time worked near the airport and when he would go to pick her up, her co-workers thought he was an Admiral or some high ranking person with all the stripes and ribbons he had to wear on his uniform.

Christmas was spent with the family that year, but in 1953, we received news from the Housing Office that the buildings we were living in were going to be torn down.  The neighborhood wanted their ball field back. Here we go again, another move.  Carl was just 7 weeks old when we were finally out of the barracks.   We were one of the last to move. Everyone around us had left and it being January and no heat coming from the apartments on either side and down below made things a little cool.  Finally our notice came, and Mom and Pop went with me to see the new apartment.  The apartment he showed me was on a steep hill.  The view was great, you could see over all the houses and the riverfront.  I couldn’t see climbing all those stairs with little ones and my asthma condition.  When I told the manager, he said, “You have solved my problem.” and he took me to an apartment across the street.  He said that the woman didn’t like it because it was on the ground floor and she wanted to be upstairs.  Same layout as the other one, but no view of the river and also no stairs.  So we switched apartments, and I was ready to move.  Mom and I did a lot of packing in boxes and when Pop came over at night, he would bring them to the new apartment.  I would empty the boxes and bring them back to fill again.  By the time the movers came with the heavy pieces, it didn’t take long to get the beds made, etc. and I was soon settled in my new apartment at Pleasant View.

Carl with Grandma Fagan

Dorrie and Carl

Dorrie and Bob

One of the first things I had to do was to get Bob transferred from Slade School to St. Joseph’s.  I had to see my old “favorite” teacher again.  No sooner did I ask for a transfer then he was telling me off again.  Why didn’t I phone and they could have had it ready. For about 15 minutes, he yakked at me and I let him because I knew that I wouldn’t have to see him ever again.  I still can’t figure out how they ever promoted him to principal. 


Then, I went to St. Joseph’s and the principal was so cordial and so understanding.  She would like to take Bob but Sister already had 51 students in her class.  So we went to talk to Sister, who was somewhat hesitant about accepting Bob.  Bob and Sister had a little chat and Sister had him read to her, which he did.  Then Sister said she would take him and I was pleased.  Later, I found out there was a school just down the hill and around the corner from where we lived and within walking distance.  To go to St. Joe’s, he had to ride the bus.


One daily routine was to pick Bob up after school every day.  I would have a car full of kids and, if Carl would start crying, the kids all knew they had to sing “How Much Is That Doggy In the Window”.  Carl would stop crying immediately.  And every night, after their bath, the kids would pick out a book and I would read to them.  It used to be one book, and then it started to be two books.  When it reached three books, I decided it was time to quit.

The whole family

We had lots of snow that winter. Besides being confined to the house, there were always diapers to wash and hang on the clothesline.  First, you dress warmly and second you wear mittens.  The diapers freeze the minute you hang them, and they are stiff as a board when you take them down.  With no such thing as a dryer, what else can you do.  You finish drying them in the house.  Who thought there would be such a thing as Pampers?  We lived through it for many generations.

Bob and the snow

Bob and Dorrie had the Chicken Pox and Carl was 2 months old and not doing so well.  I was going to take him to the clinic at Newport but when I saw all that snow, I changed my mind.  I call Dr. Sullivan and he came to the house.  He never did say what was wrong with Carl, but gave him a shot and he was well in no time.  He never caught the Chicken Pox, Measles or anything.  Dr. Sullivan was a County Doctor also and he asked if I had reported the Chicken Pox.  I told him that I had called the Newport Navy Clinic and they told me what to do.  It was the law then that Chicken Pox, Measles or any childhood disease had to be reported.

It was time for me to get an inspection ticket on the car.  I went to the dealer and he happened to be an old schoolmate.  When he saw that the car I was driving was a coupe and had only two doors, he suggested that I get this other car that was just traded.  It was a 1950 four door Ford. I agreed if he could keep the payments low enough, I would buy it. This was 1953. I wrote to Van and told him that I had bought a car and gave him all the details.  He didn’t receive that letter until a long time later, and couldn’t imagine what I was taking about in my next letter to him.  I somehow never mentioned the car, but said that I hoped he wouldn’t be angry and upset.  Well, he was upset, because he didn’t know what I had done.  He finally received the first letter, so he was relieved that it was only about a car.

That summer Van had leave and his mother was at Lake Wallkill, so we decided to visit her.  She never did get to see the children very often.  Since Carl was only 9 months old, we decided to leave him with my parents.  They said he cried all the time we were gone.  Poor Mom.  We called the minute we got home and before we even got settled in, Mom and Pop were at the door.  Carl was so happy to be home.  He never was a problem when Mom took care of him when she stayed at my place, when I went on errands or when I had to stay in the hospital.


In late September, I had a very bad spell of asthma.  Pop would bring Mom to the house and she would stay all day with me.  Bob would get up and make breakfast for Carl and Dorrie and get his lunch and himself ready for school before Grandma would arrive.


Carl would be in his playpen and one day he took his first step.  He was only nine months old.  I wasn’t getting any better, so Auntie and Pop drove me to Naval Hospital at Newport.  They kept me there about 10 days.  I was better but still having trouble breathing somewhat when I came home.  Finally the medicine worked. The holidays came and went when Van wrote that he received news of a transfer for shore duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This was our first family overseas assignment and I knew it that the weather was warm there, so I was excited to have a new adventure.

Easter 1954

Diet and Van in Holland, 1952




updated: 20.11.2011