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Marguerite Morgan Fox - Oral History

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Growing up in Fall River, MA in the early 1900’s.

Interview with Marguerite Fox (b.1909) recorded by her son, J. Gary Fox

Fall River selections abstracted from tape recordings taken during 1980, 1982, and 1984


G. What I want to do Mom is to tape some of your recollections of Fall River, Mass.

G. When were you born?

M. Aug 4, 1909.

G. How many in your family?

M. Three brothers, and my father and mother.

G. And the brother’s names were?

M. Daniel, Raymond, and John.

G. And your mother's name was?

M. Margaret (Margaret Timlin) and my father's name was John.

G. And they came from?

M. My mother came from England - Haslingden and my mother was born in Massachusetts.

G. When did they come over?

M. My mother was quite young, I guess, about 8 years old when she came over.


G. I am interested in the type and size of your school in Fall River.

M. It went to eighth grade in those days. Just one - first, second, third up to eight.

G. You had separate classes for each?

M. Oh yes.

G. Were they pretty good teachers?

M. Oh, very good, very good.

G. What size classes?

M. Oh, forty kids, I guess.

G. That's a big size class. Was high school the furthest you went or did they go on to college?

M. If they wanted to become a teacher they went to Normal School for teaching.

G. What grade did you achieve in Fall River?

M. I went to one year of high school.

(Note: She graduated from Fowler Grammar School in 1924.)

G. How old were you went you started to work?

M. I was fourteen when I started working.

G. In the Mill.

M. Yes, the Mill

D. What's a mill?

M. Where they weave cloth.

G. Why did you start working.

M. Because all my friends were working and I thought I 'd be smart and go to work too.

     stopped going to high school. My mother was very opposed to that, she didn't want that at    


G. What was the name of the high school.

M. B.M.C. Durfee.

G. What time did you have to be at grammar school?

M. We had to be in school at 8:30 A.M. We got out of school at eleven and then we had to go

     back to school at 12:30 P.M. until 3 P.M.

G. What did you do in school? What kind of day was it? What kind of teachers did you have?

M. We had very nice teachers

G. They didn't beat you...hit your hands?

M. A couple of them would hit the children. They would take them into their office...they had a

     big  pointer...like a ruler ... and they would hit the kids over the knuckles....you could hear the

     kids yelling.

G. They had discipline?

M. They had discipline their own way.

G. Did you walk to school?

M. Oh, I walked to school, since we were only from here to the white house. (Points outside to

     a nearby house.)       

G. You were close to the town then.

M. Yes, yes.

G. You really didn't have much time to relax?

M. No, on my lunch hour from school, when we had that one hour off, I used to deliver people's

     meals in the mill. I used to get 35 cents a week. I went to the people's homes and they give

     me the dinner pail...and the dinner pail had so many sections, and I delivered them.

G. How many pails could you carry then?

M. I could only carry two, otherwise you would spill it. Because I did once, I dropped it all over

     the gravel, I  put it all back in, and delivered it to my customer and ran like heck home.

G. How old were you when you were doing that.

M. About 11.

G. What did you do with the money you got?

M. I guess I gave it to my mother, we didn't get any money.

G. Did you get any allowance?

M. No!

Family Life

G. You told me about your aunt. You had to live with her?

M. No, we had what is now called apartments. In those days it would have been flats.

G. And you helped to clean the yard up because they owned the flat?

M. They owned the house and they owned all the property.

G. And your aunt's name was? What you have to do?

M. Aunt Kate. (Catherine Timlin Connell) You picked all the rotten fruit off the ground. You

     picked potato bugs off the potatoes in the summertime or whenever it was time to pick

     them. You swept the yard up... she used to tell us that the King and Queen was coming so

     that we’d clean up...

G. The what was coming?

M. The King and Queen from England.

G. Nice person.

M. And we'd believe it! I used to help prepare her clothes when she got the button-wash back

     on a Monday, so she could go to the movies. She had three sons and they did nothing but

     sit … and they went to college … and they wouldn't even open the door for you.

G. Why did you do that for her?

M. Because it was my aunt, my mother's sister, so you did these things.

G. And she didn't give you anything in return?

M. (Laughs) Well maybe she'd give you a piece of stale cake once in a while…something like

     that. (Mocking tone) "Ill give you a piece of rotten fruit with a worm coming out of it." I'm

     telling you this is the truth!

D. Did you believe her after the King and Queen didn't come?

M. Laughs. Well, I did until I got to a certain age and I didn't believe her any more. Well it was

     my mother's fault for letting us do it. Well, it was my Aunt, my mother's sister and you had to

     do those things.

G. Didn't you put long hours in cleaning up her house for her?

M. Yes, she had a piano she was going to give me someday. I'm still waiting for it. She's been

     dead I don't  know how many years. I'm still waiting for the piano. She had a beautiful piano.

G. But you didn't play the piano.

M. I took lessons … I took piano lessons.

G. I didn't realize that. How many lessons did you have?

M. I don't remember. I thought I was too smart to take more so I don't know one note from

    another. And Uncle Roy took guitar.

Note: Discussion about her father, John Morgan.

G. What did he desire? Did he have any ambition or anything he wanted to do?

M. No, I don't think so. He never… a person never talked to us about these things. They never

     said you had to do this, you had to go school, you had to do this, you had to get a better job

     or anything. You did...what was available for you, that’s all. … you had no choice, I guess.

G. What was your father’s hobbies?

M. Didn't have any as far as I know.

G. Any interests, sports..?

M. Not that I remember. He used to tell us stories at night.

G. Really.

G. Was he home most of the nights?

M. Oh, no, when he wasn't away, he was always at home. We used to play cards and he used

     to tell us stories. He used to make up these stories about the poor boy who had no money

     and he came to New York and made good. He was very good to his parents and all these

     crazy things. He used to lay down and we'd almost sit on top of his head, staring into his

     eyes as he told the stories. And it was interesting and our mouths would be open. It was

      before we went to bed...the three of us… two boys and me.

G. What did you do for entertainment...just the movies?

M. We'd go to the movies once a week - it cost fifteen cents and you'd get a nickel for candy.

G. That was it?

M. Yes.

M. Just the movies... and once in a while you'd have a party and go to the party.

G. What kinds of movies.

M. Funny movies, Charley Chaplin..

G. Did your father play with the boys and yourself.

M. Oh, yes, yes.

G. Did you have any cars?

M. Cars? We didn't own a car, but my Aunt had a car. (Catherine Connell)

G. How did you get around then?

M. Well you walked! My house to the city was a mile and that's where the stores were...and if

     you wanted to buy anything you walked down there. My Aunt used to pass us in the car, toot

     the horn and wave to us when she was going that way.

G. She wouldn't give you a ride though?

M. No.

G. You must of had games to play.

M. You could play jump rope, tag, hide-go-seek.

G. What time did you get into bed then?

M. Oh, we had to be in the house as soon as the lights went on in the streets.

G. Did you have electricity in the house?

M. Yes, we did later on. When I was younger we didn't.

G. Did you have gas stoves or coal stoves?

M. We had coal stoves and we also had gas stoves.

G. What was your mother like? (Margaret Timlin Morgan)

M. She was a very pleasant.. very good looking woman. She had red hair.

G. What did you do in the winter time?

M. We used to go skating in the park. We used to skate and sleigh ride down the hills...all the

     way down, then you had to walk back up that hill again. And it was a lot of fun, the boys used

     to make snowmen and they last us all winter.  

G. Because of the cold.

M. When you walked in the snow, the snow accumulated, so you'd go down up to your hips.

G. What kind of heating?

M. We used to have stoves... coal… then my mother used to have those bricks, those red

     bricks. She’d put them in the oven to get hot and then wrap them in a little cloth and she'd

     stick them in the bed to keep our feet warm.

G. You had no heat at night?

M. No, just those stoves … bricks.

G. Why?

M. Because there was no heat through the house at all. Just in the daytime. At night the fire

     went out. I remember getting up in the morning, my mother would light the stove early, open

     the oven door, and we used to sit there… stick our feet in the oven to get warm. It was a

     coal stove.  We use to get bread and put a lot of butter on  it and stick the bread in the oven.

     And we made toast out of it. The butter would melt right through... it was delicious.

G. Did you get the flavor of the coal in there too?

M. No, not from the oven.

G. What about washing, how often did you have to wash?

M. My mother used to wash, I guess, everyday. They used to send the laundry out once a

     week, the personal things you would do yourself.

D. Did you have many clothes?

M. I thought I had enough clothes… not compared to what they have today...these kids.

G. What did they do when you dated boys? Did they have to chaperon you?

M. I didn't date boys in Fall River.

G. Was Dad your first date?

M. Yes, yes.

G. Did your parents ever travel outside Fall River?

M. Oh, no. My father worked on the trains.

G. But your Mother never went....?

M. One of these summer resorts... just for the day. We used to go once in a while.

G. Did you ride a horse when you were younger.

M. Oh, no.

G. It was very urban then?

M. We had trolley cars and we had busses. Every hour on the hour they used to come. And we

     didn't live far from Newport, Rhode Island.

G. What was the cost of a bus ride then?

M. A nickel. You could go from one end of the town to the other for a nickel.. you'd get a.


G. Were the Uncles popular with the girls? (Raymond, John, and Roy Morgan) They were

     handsome when they were younger.

M. Uncle Roy was. But in those days... boys and girls.... you’d say ' Hello' to them because you

     knew their mothers and their mothers knew your mother.

G. That was about all then?

M. Yes.

G. When did you get the first radio and what happened with it?

M. We used to have what was called a crystal set in those days. The had a crystal.. and you

     touched it and you could listen to a station.

G. And you could only hear close up? Only one person could listen?

M. Yes, it was a New York station.

Parents Work

G. What did your father do?

M. He was a called a mule...he worked for the railroad.

G. What kind of job was that?

M. A brakeman's job. Brakeman.

G. That was pretty good, they paid pretty well didn't they?

M. Gee, I don't remember, I guess so.

G. Was that like middle-class living then?

M. Well, in those days it didn't seem one way or the other unless you had a lot of money... you

     lived. But  middle-class, I guess... just normal...I don't know.

G. Your father always had a job as a brakeman?

M. No, later on he worked in a mill.

G. Did your mother ever work?

M. Oh, yes, she worked too. She was a weaver in a mill. She worked with the weaving

     machines. I don't know exactly what she did...she inspected to make sure that no marks

     were on the materials that came  out.

G. Was that hard work?

M. You had to be careful you didn't get your fingers caught in the shuttle as it went back and

     forth like this ... it was a shuttle...it went back and forth with the threads.

G. You never had an accident?

M. No, no.

G. Any friends have accidents?

M. No.

Working in the Mills

G. You went into the Mills?

M. Yes.

G. What kind of mills were they?

M. Cotton mills.

G. You enjoyed those did you?

M. (Laughs). We didn't know any better those days. I didn't enjoy it really - it was a sweatshop.

G. How many hours did you have to work in those?

M. From seven to five at night.

G. How many days a week? What did you get paid?

M. Five...Six. Seven dollars a week!

G. And your brothers... did they work in the mills?

M. Just my brother Roy.

G. Why didn't the other brothers?

M. They went to high school, then we moved to New York.

G. But if you dropped out … if you didn't go to high school, you had to work in the mills then?

M. You had to go to continuation school...you had....well you couldn't get a job .. you had to be

     in the mills.

G. Seven to five.... you actually started at seven? (note: 10 hour days)

M. Definitely.

G. You had to get up at five o'clock?

M. We had to walk over a mile to work.

G. What kind of a lunchtime did you have?

M. I guess we had an hour... I'm not sure ... it seemed like a long time in those days.

G. And what kind of monies did they give you.

M. Seven dollars a week.

G. Was that a good wage for then?

M. Well, it was a regular wage, I guess. I guess if you did other work, in other departments,

     how long you were there, it depended, you get more money. Salaries were very low. Cost of

     living was low.

G. After you got home at five, then what did you have to do?

M. I'd get home quarter to six, six o'clock.

G. Because of the walk? Then you had to do what?

M. Make supper, did dish  es. Sometimes we went out, sat on the corner, talking to the girls.. `

     at nine o'clock you had to be in the house.

G. Then you went to bed, started up again?

M. Yes.

G. What happened on Sunday, that was the day of rest?

M. Oh, I used to bake cakes and help my mother.

G. Was that for extra money?

M. (Laughs) No! Because they liked my cake!

G. And you mother worked also.

M. She did some part time in the mill … weaver… for a little while when I was younger.

G. What kinds of jobs in the mill... could you describe the kind of day you had?

M. I was called "drawing in girl". You had to draw threads through the looms. It's hard to

     explain, it's really hard to explain...but that was a better job in the place.

G. It wasn't as hard a labor, you’d have to be more dexterous to pull it through?

M. No, you had a needle, you had to pull it and get it right because it had to go through

     a loom after that.

End of Tapes

Click on Fall River for brief history

Map of location of Morgan home on Ash Street   Map