Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Settling In, The Early Years!

Left to right: Joseph, Gloria, Alice, John holding Judith
The family settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and would reside at 90 Davis Street in the spring of 1920. They lived on the middle floor and mother was born in the middle bedroom of a three decker tenement house. Sponsored to America by Manole Moniz, grandfather's brother. Manole is listed on the ship's manifest as their sponsor and his brother. Grandparents along with the  three oldest children were listed as able to read and write, a great accomplishment for that time. It was also noted that they were of good health. Judging by the birth dates of  children to follow I do believe grandmother was pregnant with baby Joseph, who would pass in his thirteen month, at the time of the crossing.

Gaze upon the beautiful children pictured above, how very precious! If God be in the details my grandmother was filled with the Glory of God! She made her own patterns, utilizing any kind of paper, placing the paper against the children's small bodies. The fabric was purchased from the avenue fabric store named, The Arabian's, a clever male proprietor who spoke fluent French and Portuguese, assisted with each sale. 

The family received WPA from time to time, which was public assistance. Grandfather, collected a small sum when he was laid off from his factory job as a bobbin filler at the Nashawena Mills, he had been a police officer on the Island of Madeira. The WPA would provide fabric sacks filled with flour, after making her own bread, grandmother would wash and use the sacks to fashion the children's underwear. Nothing went to waste and nothing taken for granted. The girls dresses were hand embroidered by grandmother as she was trained in the fine art of Madeira Embroidery Work. She had been a servant to the wealthy, working at the famous, Reid Palace Hotel in Funchal, Madeira. By the looks of the children pictured above I would say they came from great material wealth! There were six children born in America to my grandparents for a total of seven. Grandfather had seven with his first wife, six had survived. Two remained in Madeira and would migrate years later. 

John the oldest of the second seven was born in Madeira, and arrived here at the age of one, followed by Joseph who passed at thirteen months, followed by another Joseph, Maria Gloria, Maria Alice, Maria Judith and Elvira Antonia, would follow. Elvira (Vera) was born a year later and is not pictured in the photo above. There were two Joseph's, two Gloria's and recently I learned two Vera's. Do you think maybe they just ran out of names or was this some sort of tribute to the children that had passed? Maria Viera, as listed on the ship's manifest, the oldest of the fourteen is listed as Maria Vera, on her birth certificate. The girls, all except one were named Maria and luckily for the rest of us went by their middle names. The deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was the inspiration for their names, It was the custom of the time. 

I can't even imagine a moment of free time for either grandparent. A plot of land was shared and farmed, fruits and vegetables were always in abundance. The most perfect specimens were sold to the local grocer for extra cash. A swing was erected for the younger children, hanging from the sturdiest of grape vines, while the older siblings helped with the farm's many chores. It was a five mile walk to the farm and a daily family event. Grandmother, pushed the younger two girls in a wicker carriage, while grandfather and the boys towed a hand built wooden wagon. Blemished produce were consumed by the family, always carefully washed and prepared. The family, years later would purchase an acre and a half of land on Marbourough Street, to farm alone. Grandfather would greet the incoming fishing boats where their catch was shared with the needy before it was sold to local fish markets. Wine, moonshine and root beer were also produced by the family. The quality of the wine was gauged by the moon and held up to it's light to assure purity. By today's standards they ate better than most of us would like to admit to on a daily basis. Odd carpentry jobs and stone work were also performed by grandfather to support his family during lean times. If this was considered poverty, sign me up! Such wealth in family values and work ethic were instilled, a proud and noble people they were! What lessons for all of us to hold dear and pass along. Sunday afternoons held a few spare moments for grandfather, fully dressed in his Sunday best, he would play his mandolin after a large Sunday feast, while singing to the children. The mandolin is now displayed at the Madeira Museum, in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

As the children grew grandmother would eventually find work and secured a job at Colonial Textile making and pressing pajamas. She is pictured below on the far left. As the textile industry was slowly diminishing, work became scarce and the family would relocate to California. Grandfather, traveled first to find work and secure housing, which he did at 1421 Alviso Street, Santa Clara. Grandmother and the six younger children would drive cross county along with family friends, Jean and Jenny Picard. In a large moving truck, they drove three thousand miles to seek yet another new life. Fruit was purchased along the way, an abundance of peanut butter was consumed and they slept on mattresses placed in the back of the truck. My mom says she was about eight years of age at that time. It is hard to confirm accurate timelines, this would have made it about 1931 as she was born in 1923, yet they are listed in the 1930 census as living in New Bedford? She may have been a little older than she remembers. The older siblings, Maria Vera, Ralph, Mario and Henry had already moved to California some time in the late twenties where they remained for the rest of their lives. 
Grandfather and his younger family, would stay in California for two years, work was scarce there as well, picking fruit the only job grandfather would encounter. They moved back to New Bedford, Massachusetts, a train ride cross country, provided by the government, was their mode of transportation. Back to the same floor, three tenement house, where family remained for several more years, moving to Earle Street, New Bedford, sometime later. The family pet Tilou, a grungy old cat, greeted the family upon their return, cared for by the neighbors during their absence. 
A very large religious feast and festival is celebrated each year in New Bedford, called The Feast Of The Blessed Sacrament, it is deep in tradition and folklore and the family would save for months to buy new clothes for the children to attend. It was a very happy time for them and we still attend the feast to this day. It is held the first weekend in August every year. It is said that 300,000 people attend during the four day event. The food is incredible, traditional dance and entertainment the highlights. My mom will be in attendance this year, it will be her 88th time, a deep sense of pride goes along with this tradition for me, my roots defined.
Life was as good as could be expected for the time, they were living the American dream and never, ever, would they give up, not even for a moment! 
Colonial Textile: Grand-mother far left

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