Leslie Deschene

Leslie Deschene

Born 1946

Leslie Deschene. Portrait by Serena Parente Charlebois of Serena’s Studio.

The Corner Stores

I would have to say your little corner stores were the most important thing in your whole village.There were four stores. [Gray’s, Manchester’s, Simmons’ and the fourth was] on Crandall Road. Where the little bridge is, right across. It was run by Joe Silva. That was Freddie Silva’s father.

It’s almost something you can’t describe. The people were such characters. You can’t really just sit here and describe the looks of one and another. Everybody that came in at night was animated. No arguments, nothing like that, everything was a joke.

They treated us wonderful. I mean every night we went to the store [my father, my brother and I], and actually we were the only two kids there. My mother would have a list, because I don’t think she did much shopping. She didn’t have a license.

Oh, my God, Young Walter Wilbur used to put my brother Tom in a huge box and drag him around the store, I mean for hours and hours. I think he drove everybody nuts. They were so good to us, used to buy us chips. Just plain nice, Hap [Simmons] making us laugh.

[Ed Cook] had the right personality for a store. Course they had the loafing room in the back with the stove in the middle, that’s where most of the men used to go and talk. I think a lot of people went through there. That wood on those benches was very worn. One thing I want to mention about Gray’s store is the cheese, because the cheese was the best at Gray’s store.  Now you can get that cheese at Sid Wainer’s in New Bedford. Cave-Aged Cheddar. No substitute.

I think the stores were a very important factor to everybody, for all kinds of reasons. Could be called your psychiatrist. Could be great for just jokes, and just on and on, very important.

Visiting Marion Hart

When we went to the store at night, a lot of nights we’d say we wanted to stay outside on the porch, and my father would say, “Don’t go bother Marion.” That’s Marion and John [Hart] in the back. And as soon as he went in the store we’d go to Marion’s door, and we’d go in there, and God, we’d visit for a long time. My father, he’d be in the store talking, and we’d stay in there with her. And of course, all these people were great cooks.

The Mantons

LCHS Note: The Mantons in Pottersville were one of Little Compton’s very few African American families. Henry Manton was born in North Carolina and was the first of the family to arrive in Little Compton. The births of his children were recorded in town between 1886 and 1901. His descendants lived in Little Compton through the mid-late twentieth century.

The Woods and the Mantons, they used to come to the store shopping. Well, their uncle used to come to the store, Gray’s Store. He rode a bike. Very tall man, thick, thick glasses, but he had a way of talking like a southern Baptist minister maybe. And he used to go in to Gray’s Store and tell stories. The last one I heard was that he was looking at the moon through a telescope and it was actually made of green cheese, you know. But he was very descriptive about things and serious, and that voice. And both me and my father would just go and—with our mouths open, listening to this story. He was a storyteller! According to that book of Little Compton births and deaths, they lived here from—forever.

Selling May Baskets in Simmons’ Store

Grace Simmons’ sister told me how to do this, but we took the cardboard ice cream containers, and did your fancy crepe paper all around there with a handle and you made flowers out of the crepe paper and put them on there. Now, you could probably fill that little basket up for five dollars. It would be brimming over. But today, I don’t think you could fill it for twenty! So you would fill that up with all kinds of goodies, it could be candy and cookies, maybe seeds, or whatever you wanted to put in there, and you would leave that outside somebody’s door that you liked. Knock on the door, and of course, we would go hide. That person would come out and collect their May Basket. I don’t know what it was all about really. It was just a tradition and I haven’t heard about it for years

Dr. King and his Sister 

Well his sister lived there too, she had an antique store in the barn in the back. Oh boy, some beautiful, beautiful stuff and also in Dr. King’s house. Oh, talk about cut glass, and all kinds of antiques. Tiffany lamps, and all that—huge Tiffany lamp over the table. Oh the whole place, all antiques. Gorgeous.

[Miss King] took a liking to me and used to take me around. I don’t even know where we went, but she’d bring me to her little shop over at the barn, I just used to love to look at all those antiques, and the cut glass and saucers and the plates, oh my God, beautiful, beautiful stuff.

My mother was kind of close with [Dr. King,] she used to go on some calls with him, if he needed a nurse-type of person. And his brother was very friendly with our aunt. I don’t know if you’d call it dating. I guess it was just sort of a [family-type] relationship.

Chester Gray

He used to go down to [the post office] very early in the morning. He’d go by Grace Simmons’ house, and he’d whistle his way like he did, right outside her bedroom window. Boy, that used to gripe her! And he could predict the weather.

Based on a oral history interview with Leslie Deschene.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

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