Month: July 2013

More flea marketing

On Sunday, Jack came up again for more adventures at the Hollis Flea Market.

Green ladies' Corona typewriter

Green ladies’ Corona typewriter

Newsreel: MacArthur - Manila Bombed

Newsreel: MacArthur – Manila Bombed

Clock. And some kind of wave frequency device Tim and Jack investigated.

Clock. And some kind of wave frequency device Tim and Jack investigated.

Cool dress. Waaaay too small for me.

Cool dress. Waaaay too small for me.

Zenith Cobramatic radio and turntable. An impressive amount of bakelite, that.

Zenith Cobra-matic radio and turntable. An impressive amount of bakelite, that.

Music geek note: The cover of The Cramps “Blues Fix” features a photo of Poison Ivy listening to records on a Cobra-matic.

The needle housing is shaped like a snake's head, complete with a little eye.

The needle housing is shaped like a snake’s head, complete with a little eye.

Love the font on the name of this Toastswell.

Love the font on the name of this Toastswell.

Tim bought a record player full of tubes for $5. It makes an awesome warm humming crackling sound when plugged in. He’s not entirely sure what he’s going to do with it yet.

I got a very cool leather jacket for $8, but I’m not ready to share photos yet. Watch for a fall outfit post.

There were some vendors with a ton of old magazine covers and photos of ’40s actresses as well….something to look for again next time!


The last of the Dupuis girls

On Friday, the last of my grandmother’s sisters died…Aunty Mary. She was 95. She’s the third from the left in the photo below–my grandmother is second from the right.

Dupuis sisters

The Dupuis sisters surround their mother, Sarah. From left: Doris, Evelyn, Mary, Adeline, Alice, Norma, Eleanor.

While I wasn’t as close to Aunty Mary as I was to several of my other great aunts, I enjoyed visiting her. She was a tough cookie disguised as a cupcake, a tiny little thing with a quick smile. Who shoveled her own driveway her whole life, because she could. She was part of a seniors bowling league where she played every week – even right after she had a toe amputated. When her partners didn’t believe she’d lost a toe, she whipped off her shoe to show them.

Sometimes she’d tell me things about the family I didn’t know. When I got interested in genealogy and started researching my grandmother’s family, I had a tough time finding out where my great-grandfather was buried. Then Aunty Mary told me and my mother that when her father died in 1925, leaving his pregnant wife with 7 girls under the age of 12 to care for, there was no money for a headstone. The cemetery manager took pity on the widow and allowed her to bury her husband in a family plot with his parents, with no marker.

In the late 1970s or early ’80s, Aunty Mary had breast cancer. One day when my mom, my cousin Becky and I were visiting her, she told us that her hair fell out doing chemotherapy leaving her “bald all over the top of my head – just like a man.” She unexpectedly lifted her wig to show us. The three of us had no clue how to react.

Mary had a twin sister, Adeline (nicknamed Red)–as you can see in the photo above, the two didn’t look much alike. Mary and Doris married brothers Ernest and Edward Gagne. Mary and Ernie married in 1935, when my grandmother was only 12. She had five kids and worked at New Departure from 1945-1975. I think that’s part of the reason why we saw more of some of my other great-aunts, who were closer in age to Norma or had fewer children than Mary and could therefore get out of the house more easily. (Although most of the sisters worked at New Departure at some point and probably saw each other frequently at work).

In November 1949, Mary and Norma crossed paths in the delivery room at the hospital…my grandmother had just delivered her daughter Shirley; Mary was on the way in to have her son Lenny. For some reason, they were convinced that one sister would have a boy and the other would have a girl. When Aunty Mary told us about it, she said, “On my way in, I saw Norma coming out and told the nurse to stop, that was my sister…I asked what she had and she said she had a girl. I told her I wanted the girl!” (She got a girl the next time.)

Sometime before 1946, when both my grandmother and Aunty Doll got married, someone wrote this poem about the seven sisters.

Poem: Lucky Seven

Poem: Lucky Seven

While it’s certainly not great literature, it’s sweet that someone was so taken with the sisters that he wrote this poem to try to capture their personalities. I’m grateful that I had the chance to meet all seven sisters and see their zany dynamic.

Six of the sisters with their Aunt Clara. From left: Norma, Adeline, Clara, Evelyn, Mary, Alice, Eleanor. Probably taken around 1985.

Six of the sisters with their Aunt Clara. From left: Norma, Adeline, Clara, Evelyn, Mary, Alice, Eleanor. Probably taken around 1985.

Mourning Memere

Matchbook pin-up

Elsie smiling for the troops – this photo went on the cover of matchbooks for soldiers during WWII. The photographer? Larry, the man she married decades later.

A few weeks ago, we lost my kind-of step grandmother. I went to Connecticut for her wake and the funeral mass, which left me feeling helpless for a few days, watching so many people I care about grieving, knowing there’s nothing I can do or say to help. But Elsie was a strong woman with a great faith… In a letter she wrote for one of her sons to read at her service, she told all of us to leave our pain and sorrow at the altar, because God can bear it better than we can. While I’m not a deeply religious person, I am very spiritual, and appreciate her intentions. In that vein, I thought I’d post about some of the things that struck me most about her life.

She was born in Frenchville, Maine in 1927, one of the youngest of 20 children. Yes: 20. Frenchville is a small town right on the Canadian border. When Elsie was 13, the family moved to Lewiston. Elsie once told my mother that when they moved, she was afraid to go out alone because all the houses looked the same and she was afraid she wouldn’t remember which one she lived in.

Elsie and Richard's wedding

Elsie and Richard’s wedding

She married Richard Bernaiche and moved to Connecticut, where they had seven children: Reggie, Rick, Gene, Arlene, Sheryl, Joe, and Normand. My mom’s brother Norman married Sheryl, and I first knew Memere as my cousins’ other grandmother. When I’d stay at Aunt Sheryl & Uncle Norman’s to visit Carina, Robin and Brandon, Memere was often at the house, playing cards. She never learned to shuffle and would just spread the cards all over the table to mix them up.

I never met Memere’s first husband. In 1979, she married Larry Anctil – he had a crush on her when they were in high school. Years later, they connected on a cruise ship, where their friends and siblings had sort of set them up. Pepere worshipped her. He was a kind, gentle, Renaissance man who sang, gardened, played organ, made stained glass, cooked, and painted.

Elsie at bat!

Elsie at bat!

When my mom began dating Reggie, I saw even more of Memere and Pepere. I remember going to visit them in Lewiston. Eventually they moved back to Connecticut and lived with my mom and Reggie for a while before moving into a condo in Cheshire. They moved back in while Aunt Sheryl and Uncle Norman built an addition onto their house with an in-law apartment for them.

What else can I say about Memere? She had sparkling gray eyes and a great smile. She had an incredible faith that helped her survive pancreatic cancer, one of the nastier ones. She was just always there. She enjoyed life, but wasn’t afraid of death. I hope I can have that attitude when it’s my time to go.

Thank you to Carina for the photos.


At the beach...

At the beach…

Hey, sailor...

Hey, sailor…

Great smile.

Great smile.