Nancy Arruda Oliveira

Nancy Arruda Oliveira

Born 1942

Nancy Arruda Oliveira. Portrait by Serena Parente Charlebois of Serena’s studio.

Fifty Kids – 1970s

I had seven children. The Hallecks had five, the Rosinha’s had six, and the McKivergans had four. Moving down the street, the Cooks had six, the von Trapps had six, the Governos had five, and the Morses had five. The Guays had five, the McKinnons had seven, and the Corys had four.  Those were the bigger families in Adamsville.

It was the best place to raise children. It’s a beautiful village. My kids enjoyed it. They had so many children to play with. There were over fifty kids at the time. We’d have one person call another and ask, “You want to get a ball game together?” And very shortly, you could go down the ball field and they’d all be playing. They also played in the field above us. Winter sledding down Adamsville Hill would have someone at the top of the hill warning kids about cars coming down the hill. Another person would be at the second corner and another down at the bottom. It was a free-for-all, but I don’t remember anyone ever getting hurt.

The Delivery Men – 1950s

Even before I lived in the village I had a connection because my mother would have groceries delivered by Ernest Simmons whose father, Fred Simmons, started Simmons’ Store. A phone call in the morning and your groceries were delivered. Sanford’s Meat Market was down near Gray’s Store, and I think they also delivered.

Ernest would always come in, talk with my mother a bit and was never in a hurry. The meat market deliveries would come in the white wrapping, marked what they were and how many pounds in each order. Ernest Simmons was nice and my mother always appreciated the company, plus she got our groceries.

Adamsville Historical Association

Betty [Moriarty] spearheaded the lamp project when she owned Manchester’s. Vivian and John Belko were new to the village and lived down on the Harbor Road. Both were very interested in restoration and history. Vivian originated the book on Adamsville families and Betty put together the idea of the lamps.  There were fund raisers and people donated lamps in memory of loved ones. It was a big project because there were many lamps installed. I don’t remember how much money was raised but the project was completed. The Belkos did much of the book, but Betty was the lamp lady. The Association was a non-profit organization and everyone involved worked tirelessly to see it to completion.

The Fire

I was at work and my son, Greg, who had been a bartender there, called me, “Ma, you’ll never guess, I’m watching Manchester’s burn down.” I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. He again said, “Ma, I’m standing in the parking lot and the restaurant is burning down.” He said people were going in and out of the building before it became too dangerous, I guess, trying to salvage different artifacts and whatever they could, especially from the bar area. There wasn’t much anyone could do. When I came home that night, you couldn’t go near it as it was still burning. What a loss. The end. Sad for the owners, for those who worked there, and for all their customers. It was a great place. The camaraderie, especially in the bar area where you knew the regular customers who went there right up until the end. The restaurant was such a historic building, having also been a general store.

Gracie

Gracie’s father was Fred Simmons of F.A. Simmons store. She had a brother, Ernest. She had worked at the phone company for years. When Ernest passed away [she took over] the store. She was a woman of her own kind, I mean, she was Gracie. When we used to go in, there was a stove in the middle of the store, and she would be sitting in a rocking chair nearby, almost always reading. She had never been married and lived in the house next door. She was always nice to me, however, she didn’t like children and the children did not like her. She was extremely good to me after my first husband passed away. She let me have my charge account there and pay when I was able to. But she was something. Bright red nail polish, spike heels, lipstick on all the time. Always dressed nicely and always with a cigarette in her mouth. She was iconic.

Nothing mechanical about her. She would rip off the side panels of the cigarette cartons and each day she’d write down everybody’s charges for the day. So if I bought stuff, I had a sheet, somebody else had a sheet, etc. At night she’d go into her house and put the charges in a ledger book, all by hand, to the penny and never made a mistake.

The Toilet Paper Tree

I don’t really know who started it. It’s planted on the little island in front of my house, but I always thought it was our tree. When it started, I was mortified, but then it was kind of cute. The state would come by with their cherry picker and they would remove all that toilet paper. If it rained during the night the state had an awful time. I used to say to the kids, “You’re going to have to climb up there, take care of it all.” But eventually it would blow away.

Then a hurricane took the tree down. The state planted another one and the tradition continued. By the time all that group of kids grew up and moved on, people would start asking me, “Why don’t we have the toilet paper tree anymore?”  I think the kids grew up, perhaps they were bored of it, I don’t know.  But people loved it. My daughter-in-law took a picture of the first tree, just before the hurricane took it and gave it to me as a surprise gift. It’s beautiful. Then, many years later my grandson came down on Halloween and put a little paper around the bottom of the tree to make me happy. Everybody still today, asks, “Are you anywhere near that toilet paper tree?”

Mrs. Longfield

When my son Gil was in high school he used to do the welding of a little piece of the lamps that Mrs. Longfield made. That was the only part of the lamp she could not do herself. She forged those lamps after her husband passed away. There was a shed in the back where they made the lamps, and they had a beautiful display in the little shop next to their house. The Longfields were well known for their wrought iron work. When she passed, her son Eugene continued to make them. So you can still get a lamp made by a Longfield!

Based on an oral history interview with Nancy Arruda Oliveira.

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

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