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From: Janet Ross
To: Richard Whitney
Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 7:14 PM
Subject: Fw: Pictures
 

Hi Dick:

My brother Rog, in Woodstock, recently had a reunion with some old friends from Ballard Court.  He sent me some pics and said I could send them on to you if you would like to see them.

The big picture is Peter Renaud, Roger Bedard, David Carragher, Harry Renaud, Ronald Cronin, and in front Jeffrey Kokoszka.  All from Ballard Court 50 plus years ago.

The black and white ones are:  top left, Teddy Wilman and David Carragher, bottom left, (front right) David Carragher, (back left) David's sister, Patty, top right, Patty Carragher, bottom right, Teddy Wilman and David Carragher.


Good view of West Street and school, and Ballard Court building where my family lived..

Anyway, thought you might be interested in seeing these.

All the Best,
 Janet Ross (Bedard)
janetcrross1@earthlink.net
 
 

7 BALLARD COURT – YEARS FROM THE PAST – BEDARD FAMILY

My brother Roger Bedard of Woodstock sent me an article in The Southbridge News by Kathleen Fournier, “Memories of a Childhood in Southbridge”.  I enjoyed it very much.  I recognized more than a few names from her article, and also went to 8th grade at Wells High School as she did.  I still have the graduation program and would love to hear from some of those ‘kids’ who attended with me.  The article prompted me to write of my hometown also, but from the perspective of life at Ballard Court, now no more, except in memories.  I apologize for any names mispelled.

Ballard Court, in Southbridge Globe area in 1945 was a place you lived if you were poor.  Some who lived there were a bit better off than others, but overall, it was a place for those struggling financially.  7 Ballard Court was my family’s home (father, Richard Bedard, mother, Leonie Descoteaux Bedard and brothers Richard, David, and Roger) from 1943 until 1957.  The buildings were old and worn down, faulty electrical lines were tricky and dangerous and structural problems abounded.  The problems only got worse until it was all torn down in the 80s, with Mr. Libera being the last hold out.  I don’t intend to fault the owners, who like everyone else, had gone through a lot in those years.  It was just a different time.  I remember fondly Ray Beauregard, (who owned a furniture store on Hamilton Street) picking up the weekly rent, ($7 by 1957) and always giving me a ride in the back of his truck to the edge of the court.  That was a real treat for a kid who rarely got to go for a ride, as a car was a luxury we did not have.  The previous owner was Mr. Forest, who my brother Roger remembers as a nice man, who planted a grapevine in between the Polish Hall and the court.  We picked Concord grapes from it for years and Ma would make jelly from the ones we didn’t devour.  Even though the rent was low, it was still hard to come up with as my father (who was an excellent tool and die worker) was ill for several years and couldn’t work steady, finally dying of cancer in 1949.

Ballard Court was the finest place to grow up, in spite of the rundown structures, which were simply a disguise for the many treasures hidden from view.  The foremost treasure were the people who lived there.  My mother, left with four children 15 years and under, had an amazing faith and love of God, which enabled her to carry on for her children’s sake.  Her example and love has stayed with us throughout our lives.  She had a love of our Catholic French background, saw to it that we attended Mass, and she prayed the Rosary every day and read the Bible.  She did her parenting job very well.  She took pride in either wallpapering or painting one room each year, always trying to make our home nicer, even though she was ill much of the time.  My mother loved morning glories and had them growing to the second story.  She did all the vegetable and flower gardening, baking, canning, sewing, mending, etc., and cleaned house for others as well to make ends meet.  Many times she shared what we had to eat for supper with someone in the neighborhood, not hesitant to send it off telling us she would fix us something else.  “They need it more”, she would say.  She could make a half pound of meat turn into the most delectable stew you could ever hope for.  She never turned away anybody who needed help, nor any stray animal who came our way that may be hurt or hungry.

There were many neighbors who had similar admirable qualities, good people, having come from hard times after the depression, although of course, to me, none quite like my own mother.  Most all the neighbors seemed to come together in both joys and sorrows alike.  There was a common joy when a baby was born and great sadness when someone died.  I especially remember  the deaths of Mr. Farquar, and the Cronin’s father.  Mr. Cronin died a few years after my dad, and the children, Ronnie and Kiki (Cornelia) stayed with us while arrangements were made.  Many languages were spoken and everyone seemed to know just enough French, Polish, Italian, or whatever was needed to communicate as many of the older people primarily spoke their mother tongue.  Of course, we kids knew all the ‘wrong’ words which we flung about good naturedly.  It was great sharing the different cultures.  I always enjoyed the variety.

There were the Malo’s, the Calcutts, the McKay’s, Mr. Farquar and sister Beana, the Carraghers, the Lamothes, the Libera’s, (whose grandchildren I played with), the Lemiere’s (related to Partlows), the Wilmans, children Bobby and Teddy, the Smith’s, (cousins of Arsenaults) of whom Patty was my hero.  She was older than me, told great stories and I thought she knew everything.  There was Sammy and Lucky Petrelli, and Patti Ashe and her mother (my brother Rog says she was the prettiest girl in town).  In the little house across from the Polish Hall was Mrs. Carney, a dear little lady who always let me pick from her yard all the violets and buttercups I wanted for my mother.  She also had the most beautiful lilac tree.  She used to give me and Jeffrey Kokoszka a piece of chocolate almost every day on the way to Pleasant St. School.  She eventually got too old to take care of herself and was sent off somewhere and her home was taken down which made more parking space.  There were the Bednarz’s who lived in the middle house, (daughter Carol was my friend), who I believe were related to the Hmieolowski’s, who also lived close by on Main Street.  There was Mrs. Waskowitz, who was a good friend of my mother.  On the Main Street side and not officially part of Ballard Court, but a great part of our lives, were the Kokoszka’s, the Polish man who lived on the corner who was always building bird houses and windmills, Chitika, the Cronin’s, the Martel’s, then after them the Renaud’s, (daughter Diane was a great little friend), whose grandmother also lived with them, and I think was the heart of that family.  Great woman.  Then there were the Dupree’s, the Lord’s, and George LaFleche and family.  When I look at the area now, I can hardly believe that all those people fit there.

In the summer we had a common garden in the middle of the court.  Everyone planted and people shared what they grew.  It was also a great place to dig for worms to sell to Bill’s Bait Shop on Hamilton Street.  Good way for kids to make a few pennies, to spend at Juror’s market.  There was a real family atmosphere in that everyone seemed to really care what happened to the others.  In the winter time everyone pitched in to shovel the snow out and in the hot summer nights many of us could be found on the backyard porches near Big Pond trying to keep cool, kids running all over the place trying to scare one another, looking at the stars, listening to stories from the grown ups, and sharing koolaid, and popcorn.  Great people, great memories!

There were so many kids around, you would have to find time to be bored.  Games of hide and seek and kick the can were endless.  We also had the water, Big Pond, at least until the flood in 55 occurred, at which time we found out how much garbage was dumped into it, but didn’t know that when we enjoyed jumping off of Big Rock, and swimming and fishing in it.  We ate a lot of pan fried kivers, whatever kind of fish that is, I don’t know.  Never heard of it again after leaving Massachusetts for California.  We went on seemingly never-ending walks on the many paths in the woods.  We picked blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, crab apples, rubarb, and wild strawberries.  Ma canned 85 quarts of blueberries one year.  We enjoyed seeing all the animals that lived in those woods that would often “visit” the back yard.  Bobcats, fox, racoons, etc. The boys in the neighborhood, including brother Roger, enjoyed the frequent battles that boys typically like to get into.  Roger used to spend hours with his little sister sitting on the wall at Main Street, describing every black or dark green car that passed.  I think they were all black or green in those days.  They all looked the same to me but he knew the names of each one.

If this wasn’t enough to keep a kid busy and happy, there was also the Polish Hall.  In the parking lot in back of the Hall we kids organized and played countless baseball games, and had just as much fun and probably more than professional little league teams. Every wedding was an occasion for us to attend and we were always welcome.  My brother Roger, with his blonde hair and blue eyes could easily pass for being Polish himself.  We spent a lot of time at weddings, and when there were parties of any kind the Polish people always welcomed us and gave us Perogies, Gulumkies, clams, and lobster, whatever was being served.  Then there were the Saturday night dances that were so much fun.  When I got to be 7 or 8, I was allowed to go with friends, usually with one nickel for a dance ticket.  The rest of the time I just loved watching the others dance.  There was nothing more thrilling than to hear the music start playing those great polkas and I couldn’t wait to get there.

We never had a new bike or even one that had brakes, people used to bring used toys for Christmas presents.  I got a one eyed doll one year that I thought was the best present ever.  What a child’s imagination can do with a one eyed doll, let me tell you, is amazing.   She became my instant patient and I spent hours taking care of her and wondering about how she must have become injured.  The Lion’s Club put on a Christmas dinner for the poor kids in town.  We attended many times.  Sometimes the only Christmas gifts Ma could afford were new socks, or some simple item.  She always felt bad not to give us more, but we were always happy with what we got, because we had the most important thing, love.  Poor is not a bad word and I am not ashamed to remember that we were.

When we left Ballard Court in 1957 to ‘move up’ to Proulx Avenue, it was the end of my childhood and a wonderful part of my life that I hated to leave behind.  My mother kept in touch with many people from Ballard Court her whole life, which wasn’t easy after our move to California in 1961.  I also have retained friendships established there, with Patty Smith (Fournier), along with two other close friends from the Globe, Carol Smith (Stanhope) and Bernice Alger.  True friends, all three of them.  My brother Dave died three years ago, but my brothers Richard and Roger still keep in touch with friends they made at Ballard Court and Roger still visits the old area regularly and gives the nickel tour to anyone who will give him the time.

My mother prayed for years to have just a little house.  That prayer was answered in San Diego where she spent the last 21 years of her life.  After her death in 1982, I remained in the house, raised my daughter and am still there.

Janet Ross (Bedard)
janetcrross1@earthlink.net

A special Tree on Ballard Court

Added below is a 1952 US geological Map of Southbridge center showing West Street School and Ballard Court area.


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