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Southbridge Recollections:

Growing up in Soutbhridge - Uncle Lenny Lemire, Eastford Road, a first kiss, and other recollections (both good and bad)

I was reading your Southbridge Memories page and was inspired to send in my short tale. I grew up mostly in Southbridge, on River Street and then Elm Street and finally Eastford Road.

My memories:

I was one of those ‘no-good’ dirt poor French kids that would be told to leave their shoes at home for the summer, saving them for school. And we’d roll up our jeans because they were last years and didn’t fit!

We fished with fishing line that the Barber guy gave us where Elm and Eastford Roads met. We’d use home made hooks that we made from heavy wire that Misel would save for us over on River Street. We’d dig up night crawlers during a mid-night rain at Mrs. Addington’s on Elm. We called them ‘throw-lines’. And we’d fish at Wells Pond, sometimes even sleeping overnight. It was a different era and the Grandparents enjoyed having us out of the house for a couple of days.

We were fascinated by the stories of the Protestant Church by kids like the Wetmores on Elm. It was like they lived in a whole different world! (They didn’t have to eat fish on Friday!)

We bothered the guys at the Elm Café for whatever we could get out of them and for discount coupons for the Saturday Matinee at the Strand. They were kind to us even though we had nothing!

I remember watching Rex Trailer Boom Town on WBZ. And the Air-raid tests on lazy weekend afternoons.

Oh and the blasts of the fire horns telling the firemen how serious the call out was and what section of town was in need of their services.

We’d explore the woods up on Chapin Street or behind the elementary school on Eastford Road.

The burger place with the wagon wheel way down Eastford Road (was that Eastford and Dennison?)

Running like the wind to get away from the Dumbrowski’s on Eastford Road! (Sometimes we just weren’t quick enough.)

We would sled down Williams Street hill running across Elm Street and end up in the Lamoines yard where Williams Street ended. When Mrs. Lamoine broke her hip going up icy Elm Street hill, she had to cut back on her normal routine of 2 a day masses at Notre Dame and I took upon helping her to the Polish Church every morning before school for 5 years. Father Gilrain made me an altar boy; usually there was just Father Gilrain, Mrs. Lamoine and me, but we never missed a service even when it snowed every one in. (Many a time I went to service with a snow shovel on one arm and Mrs. Lamoine on the other.)

There was a swampy area over by Caron Street where my Grandfather would send me out to gig frogs for him. The only time we were heroes to all of the Frenchmen was when we came home with a big bag of fat legged frogs for supper! (Oh, and a really fine beating from my Grandmother when I didn’t tell her about the dead frog in my pocket for a week before she did the washing.)

The Ice man from McKinstry’s who lost more and more customers until one day he was just gone.

Learning to kick a football or fly kites in the big field next to the laundry on Eastford Road.

The Sesquicentennial day and parade and the sparklers that came out that night.

The tool and dye place on Eastford road, my grandfather needed a job so badly that he convinced them to let him swipe away the blades between die strikes on the steel forge. Tough tough Frenchman, when he’d loose a finger he was only interested in when they’d let him back. When he lost his 5th they retired him, the hard way.

When I was 4 I got caught kissing a girl over on River Street (it was her idea.) Her father caught us and marched me up by ear to my Grandfather who knitted a brow at me and promised terrible revenge! But instead he carried me on his shoulder to various pubs and announced what I had done, and Frenchmen all over town cheered and bought him drinks until I had to help him home, we ended up sleeping in the old abandoned Barn on River Street because the only thing he truly feared in life was my Grandmother. “Tsee Boy, here looks good!”

There was a girl named Peggy! Smart, kind, beautiful, looked like a spring rose in the snow! I stood up for her once, and got to walk her home. I believe I was the first to carry her books for her. Was a more innocent time no kiss, no hand holding, but put a spring in my step that lasted 30 years. Her Father must have developed Doppler radar and he was successful at keeping as much distance between us as humanly possible. You gotta love the guy! (I hear she married well!)

My Uncle Lenny Lemire worked at the A.O. he got lucky and got a spot in the pre-war Navy. He sent all of his money home to his mother in Southbridge. So on the night of December 6th he could not go ashore with his buddies. At 8 a.m. the next day he was on the aft deck waiting to go to church services. The wave of planes overhead coincided with Marine Richard Fisk’s bugling in colors and must to have seemed like a fly over of fighters from Hickam Field, they had no way of telling as they were at attention and saluting. The first torpedo to strike any ship hit exactly where they were standing at attention. He was recovered a few days later and eventually was buried at the Punchbowl in Hawaii. My Uncle Clarence never lost the sadness in his eyes.

Everybody smoked, everybody drank. Harrington Memorial was where I was born and also where they submersed me in ice water to try and shock me out of a coma (regretfully my Mom apparently had a thing for child beating alcoholics.) No one ever came to visit. Harrington Memorial ate the bills.

My Cousin David lived down beside the market on Elm near Caron and we’d bend the fence by jumping it and we’d run and laugh and revel that we could leave his Sister’s so far behind us! He had red hair and his favorite thing to do was grin at you, he shared his toys with the poor kid that didn’t have any. When he was murdered it put a hole in our hearts.

After being wounded in the Marines, in that dazed half sleep; I’d dream I was back in home after a rain and I could almost see the kind pink haired principal from Eastford Road smiling at me.

Jerome  S.Larochelle

Thanks!

After reading this it seemed sad though, so if you don't post it I won't be offended! I loved the post about 'The List'!!! I was cheering for you, and emotionally going down, and then up, then down, and then up again, even though I knew how it came out!)

Lenny Lemire

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