An Exclusive Club
I arrived in Little Compton in 1974, from somewhere totally out of Rhode Island. My husband and I both became teachers at Wilbur McMahon School. He being the physical education teacher K-8, and I became a substitute teacher for the first year that I was here, which gave me exposure to children in the whole Wilbur School. When we first came, Little Compton was someplace we didn’t know anything about. It wasn’t too long before we could see that all of the children were from Little Compton, but it was really obvious that there was a group of kids that were more city-like, a little bit wiser too. They were a close-knit group of kids who fit in well with the rest of the Little Compton kids, but they had something extra. It was their bonds within the Adamsville community. They’d come to school, a little bit more streetwise, is a good way describe it. Many of their families were very different than the families from the rest of Little Compton, more village families, not as countrified. It just stood out.
And we got to know the [Adamsville] kids better. One of the things I think happened was because there weren’t any late buses in Little Compton, for kids who were doing sports, we seemed to be the transportation to bring children home at first to Adamsville. Kids’ parents from the other part of town, it was easy for them to pick up their kids after school. Dave, my husband, always felt that nobody should not be allowed to play basketball or play soccer just because they couldn’t get a ride. So there were many times that we would be [the ride.] It seemed that a lot of the parents from Adamsville were working versus a lot of stay-at-home moms in the other part of town. So it seemed like they weren’t able to get all the way up there. Or maybe they had other children, I don’t know. But, we ended up down here a lot. We did a lot of dropping off, learning the families from Adamsville, probably a lot quicker than we learned some of the families in [Little Compton.]
The kids from [Adamsville] also seemed to have a lot more independence. It wasn’t that their parents didn’t care where they were or what they were doing, but many times we would bring someone home and their parents didn’t really know how they were going to get home. They just assumed that, yes, they would. There were some children down here who we ended up bringing home because they would ride their bikes all the way to Wilbur School so that they could stay after school. As the winter came I have recollections of one particular little boy who wasn’t little, he was thirteen or fourteen. He was one of those kids who didn’t want to ask for a ride home. He was very proud. He would ride his bike, and Dave would see his bike and throw the bike in the truck and ended up kind of bringing him home.
In the summers, the other kids we would see at the beaches and stuff, but those kids in Adamsville, they didn’t go. I think if they went to the beach, they went to the Westport beaches because that was more bike-able. And they didn’t seem to get involved in those town summer programs because they had a ball field. I think it was one of the places where kids could get together and play hide and seek. Kids could get together and ride their bikes. Kids could get together and do things without cars involved versus in the other part of town where things were much more spread out. A place within itself.
Those were first impressions. I’m not sure that it’s still the same. I retired a couple years ago, and I think I saw it less as time went on. It wasn’t clear to me in the last fifteen years of teaching—out of thirty-six—who was from Adamsville and who wasn’t. So I think that the people that moved to Adamsville became a little bit more Little Comptonish. I almost felt like it was an exclusive club when we first moved here. And you couldn’t go in it. You could go visit, but you went home and they stayed.
Halloween in Adamsville
The kids would come back and the tales that they would tell! Nothing serious, but it was just the image of “the village.” It got to the point when I had my own children, and all the other children, they wanted to go to Adamsville on Halloween because that’s where it was happening. That’s where the egg-throwing was the best. That’s where the toilet paper on the trees was almost allowed and accepted. It was almost a rite of passage. Carol Belair, this year, made a comment, “Where are all the bad boys of Adamsville? It used to be much more exciting when they were here.” And then made the comment that, “Oh, some of them came to my door as wonderful fathers.” Which was kind of nice.
Christmas Caroling I also have memories of kids coming back and talking about Christmas caroling. It was an Adamsville kind of thing. Grace McKivergan and her girls and her husband and probably, the von Trapps. I’m not sure who else was doing it but they would always tell tales of going Christmas caroling around Adamsville. There was one year that we were invited. Grace McKivergan had a group to her house first, and one year we were invited to come down. I was feeling a little bit like an outsider because we hadn’t done it before. It was one of the last years Grace did it before they moved away. But it was a wonderful feeling of, almost like a family down here. I think that was something that a lot of the other parts of town maybe had within their own neighborhoods, but not as large as this village had.
Based on an oral history interview with Diane MacGregor.
First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.