Mary C. Lawrence
Also Present: Sarah Lawrence, daughter

Interviewer: Michael and Carrie Kline
Date: November 4, 2015
Place of Interview: Trustee's Room of the Concord Free Public Library, Concord, Mass.
Transcriptionist: Adept Word Management, Houston, Tex.

Click here for audio. Audio file is in .mp3 format.

Mary C. LawrenceMichael Kline: 00:00:00 My name is Michael Kline, and I'm here with Carrie Kline in the Trustee's Room of the Concord Free Public Library. And it's a beautiful early afternoon this afternoon in Concord, a lovely fall day. And I wonder, please, if you would introduce yourself, say "my name is"—

Mary C. Lawrence: Right. My name is Mary Lawrence.

MK: And we never ask people their age, but maybe you'd tell us your date of birth.

MCL: April 25, 1919. I'm an old one. (laughs) But I'll be ninety—seven—I'm ninety—six and a half, or ninety—six and three—quarters—December, January, February, March—so I'll be ninety—seven. Everybody says, "Don't say you're ninety—seven."

MK: Not yet.

MCL: Not yet. But I feel like it sometimes. And I still—I do all my housework and cooking and mowing the lawn and gardens. And I love it. And that's what keeps me going actually. But, one by one, all my friends have succumbed, which makes it hard.

MK: Yeah.

MCL: But other than that, why, life goes on. I came here as a bride, out Monument Street, my husband being a son of a farm. They had a grant from the King and had a hundred acres, so consequently they wanted us to come back to Concord. So we came back, and they gave us an acre of land. And we built a house. And we're still on that plot of land. But that's the—oh, I'm sorry. And I made it in Concord. I was terribly lonesome at first. And there were only five houses beyond my house—or our house—to the Carlisle line. And look at them today. There were only a few cars that went down the street, but you knew everybody. You knew everyone that went down the street or up, but now it's all houses—very different—and very discouraging for older people, I think, who've been here a long time. You'd walk down the Milldam, and it'd take you an hour to get through it. You'd know so many people. And today you walk down, there isn't a soul you know. So I was really young.

MK: What do you feel like talking about today?

MCL: 00:03:18 Anything at all. What would you like me to?

MK: Well, tell us about your people and where you were raised.

MCL: I came from the Finger Lakes region of New York. My mother and father were both British.

MK: Their names?

MCL: Was Cottrell, C—o—t—t—r—e—l—l. And my mother came from Somerset, and my father came from Bristol. And of course marrying into Yankees was very difficult. Mr. Lawrence took me down to the bridge when I was first here, and he said, "I want to show you where American history started." And I listened very attentively. And I said, "You're correct, except my people didn't hide behind stone walls. They marched over the bridge." He didn't like that. (laughs)

MK: Your people, meaning the English soldiers?

MCL: Yes. Yeah. And I was the first group to be born over in America. But my mom and dad both were British, and all our relatives were over there. I haven't ever been over there, but I think my children have. And mom, of course, has gone back a number of times. And it was very difficult at first, but I volunteered in everything I could find here, the hospital, the Girl Scouts. And my husband was Boy Scout leader. And I volunteered everyplace, and I got to know people. And it made it a little easier. I used to push the baby carriage from way up Monument Street all the way down to meet my husband when he came around the square on his way home, and then we'd ride back home. But I got to know all the people and had a great time meeting them, and still doing it.

MK: And your husband's name?

MCL: Was Raymond Brown Lawrence.

MK: Spell—spell it?

MCL: Raymond Brown, B—r—o—w—n, Lawrence, L—a—w—r—e—n—c—e. And of course his—I think his family came in 1722 on the—still on the same land. And—well, now it's down my—our acre that we have. But it—it's been nice. The Milldam used to have—at One Main Street—I'm trying to think of the name of the people—Patanelli—had a grocery store at One Main Street. And then of course we knew the Vanderhoofs. Their family was an old family here. They were friendly with the Lawrences. And next was—the five and ten—or Colton's was in there first. And then after that was Peter McCone's little shop. And I think his name was Ming—Chinese laundry. And he and his family lived in the place where Vassel's—the jewelry shop—is now. And they—the whole family—I think they had two children. And they lived in that little place over the Concord River—or the river Milldam that went through there. And they had—they had a bed place, I suppose, but that's where they lived, in the back room next to Anderson's store. And then the next one was the bank. That was where the robbery was.

MK: 00:08:04 The robbery?

MCL: Well, that was back in—I've forgotten what they—a man by horse and wagon robbed the place and went to Sudbury. And he finally got caught. But that was the bank next to Anderson's.

Sarah Lawrence: Where FootStock is.

MCL: It's a shoe store or something now.

SL: It used to be a bank.

MCL: And—a lot of changes. I knew a lot of the people of Concord Academy who lived there before Concord Academy got some of the houses and just put together—all together, which—

SL: Tell them under what circumstances the bank was robbed, what time of day.

MCL: It was at noon, during the lunch hour. And the—I got his book home. While the bankers were at lunch, he got his horse and wagon and robbed the bank and went to Sudbury. He got caught of course. But that was all during the lunch hour. (laughs) Funny things. And then of course all the lovely fruit shops on the Milldam—there were two—one next to Richardson's, and then one where Mary Curtis is today. And then you went on down the street, and there was—

SL: Start at the Wright Tavern. Start at the Wright Tavern.

MCL: Oh, at the Wright Tavern. They had a Treadway Inn there during—I think 1940—something—

Carrie Kline: A what?

MCL: At the Wright Tavern.

MK: They had a—?

MCL: A Treadway Inn—

MK: Oh.

MCL: An eating place. It was great but didn't last long. Of course that's owned by the First Parish, the Wright Tavern. In fact, they had our church—which is the Trinitarian Church—had a gift shop—

CK: Which one?

SL: 00:10:40 Trinitarian Congregational.

MCL: Trinitarian over on—by the Post Office. And they had a gift shop. And I was instrumental in getting the Wright Tavern—we had a gift shop in there. It was great. And finally the Wright—or the First Parish—took it back. They didn't want to rent it out anymore. They still—they do now of course. But it was lovely. We had a gift shop there for years.

SL: Town and tourist kind of things and blankets. And you could get replicas of candlesticks.

MK: Can you tell us your name?

SL: Sarah Lawrence.

MK: Sarah Lawrence. And you are?

SL: Mary's daughter.

MK: Okay. And you were saying again, please?

SL: If I remember correctly, the gift shop had sort of Revolutionary War kind of gifts and postcards that you could get, maps, candlesticks—

MCL: That was—

SL: Different—

MCL: Yes, and then—

SL: And then upstairs—

MCL: Many lovely things. And it was all for missions I think. They gave all that money to the missions. And let's see. What else? Oh, the Elks organization were next to the Wright Tavern on the south side of Main Street. And they had—their place was upstairs there. And then they moved it over to West Concord, to—

SL: Baker Avenue.

MCL: Baker Ave—Baker Avenue. And that was one. And then Mr. Jensen was a shoe store man. He had a shoe store. Next will be where the real estate people are. And then as you come up the Milldam, there would be an eating place, and I can't think of their name. And then Mary Curtis. And then they had a shoe store. And then of course first—Richardson's Drug Store—

SL: Which closed—

MCL: Was wherever the luggage place is on the corner. You had two—two apothecaries, Richardson's and Snoll's. Of course that turned into the toy shop.

MK: 00:13:48 You could get a lunch at Richardson's, would you say?

MCL: They had a soda fountain in there that you could get sodas but never a lunch. And they had a market to get food on Walden Street where—oh, the name of the—

SL: Tuttle Livery? Tuttle?

MCL: No, it was—oh, lordy, I'm thinking of—well, anyway, his name was Joe Viscariello—no, his brother ran that one. And he had a store in there. And I was a young bride. My mother from England always made English plum pudding. So I thought I'd be smart and attempt to make English plum puddings for Christmas. I think it was the first or second year that I was down here. So I went down to Frank—Frank Viscariello—who ran the store. And I ordered a dozen eggs, gallon of milk. And I kept ordering all this stuff. And Frank said to me, "Mary, what are you going to make?" And I said, "English plum puddings." He says, "It's going to be the biggest darn cake I've ever seen." Well, I came home, and I didn't have anything big enough to dump all the food in. So I went up to my mother—in—law and asked her if she had anything. She gave me her biggest bowl, which didn't even begin to take it. So she said, "We have a wash boiler." I said, "Let's try that." So we put it in there, and I mixed it up. And then I had to find places to put it in bowls and coffee tins and so forth and steam it for X hours. So of course I had to go up and down Monument Street and say, "Can I steam three or four puddings on your stove?" Well, I had a Cushman Baker that used to be my baker. And he of course had all the customers coming down the street. He says, "What the Henry are you cooking?" And I said, "Why?" He said, "Every house I come in, they've got puddings on their stove—Mary Lawrence's doing. Mary Lawrence." So anyway, I got them made. Everybody got a Christmas plum pudding that year. And I called my mother. I said, "Mama, I never had places enough to put the foolish puddings on." "Well," she said, "you simpleton. Didn't you know that was for the hotel?"—the recipe. (laughter) I said, "No. You never would let us cook." And so consequently I know I felt that I was different when I first came here. Believe me, I was. (laughs) But I enjoyed it. I've outlived all of them, so I must have done something wrong or else the Lord doesn't want me yet. That's all I can think of, because every time I go visit somebody, the next day they're gone. But I keep going.

SL: Tell them about the—is it the oil of niter?

MCL: Oh.

MK: The oil of—?

SL: Niter.

MCL: The oil of—

MK: Spell it?

SL: N—I—T—

MCL: Spirits of niter.

SL: 00:17:44 Spirits of niter.

MCL: And when I came first, my older daughter who is fourteen and a half years older than Sarah—

MK: And her name is—?

SL: Nancy.

MCL: Her name is Nancy Damon. And anyway, she had a tummy ache. So I went down to Snoll's, and I said to—Bob Fletcher was the pharmacist—and I said, "Bob, have you got any"—they thought I was different because I made a lot of fun of everything. And I said, "Have you got any spirits of niter?" He says, "Good God, lady." He said, "That's a drug." I says, "Well, my mother always gave us two drops." And I said, "It cured everything." "Well," he says, "I'll look out the back." And he went out, and he got a bottle—a little tiny bottle covered with dust. But every time I'd go in there, somebody would say, "You're the one that got the drugs off of the back shelf." (laughs) But I tried to get into everything and do everything correct.

MK: So the spirit of niter was—?

MCL: Spirit of niter.

MK: It was some kind of narcotic or—?

MCL: Oh, very much so. I didn't know it. My mother didn't know it. She just gave it to us. So that's probably what's wrong with me today. (laughs)

MK: Well, do you remember the effects that it had on you?

MCL: You'd go to sleep. And you'd wake up, and you wouldn't have any tummy ache. But that's all I know. So anyway, what else did I do? Oh, I—Halloween—for Halloween, I—Ramie came home from Norwood where he had—he was a metallurgist and chemist. And he had his lab down there. And when he came home, I said, "Hurry and eat your dinner. We're going Halloweening." He said, "We don't do that here." I says, "We sure do." Nobody did at that time. So I had—I had collected costumes all my life. So I got costumes for he and for Nancy and myself. And we went over to the Woodman's.

MK: To the—?

MCL: Woodmans, across the street. Joycie Woodman, you know, downstairs? She worked down there. And they had a little red '38 Ford. And when we got over to Woodmans dressed up, they came to the door and said, "What are you people doing?" I said, "We're going Halloweening. Do you want to go?" "Oh, it looks like fun." So we got costumes for them, put them in the back of the truck, and went down the street. We got to Funkhouser's. Funkhouser says, "That looks like fun." By the time we got halfway down Monument Street—we got as far as the Bemis's, I think—it was almost nine o'clock. And John and Charlotte hollering from upstairs, "It looks like fun, but we're in bed." (laughs) And I went to the Chief of Police. He said, "I don't know who's in the group, but Mary Lawrence is, I know." (laughs) But we—that—I made fun of everything and tried to.

MK: 00:21:28 Make fun?

MCL: To make it fun.

MK: Oh.

MCL: And I think I succeeded because I've got two healthy children who I think like me. I'm not sure. (laughs)

MK: She seems to.

MCL: Yeah. Yeah. And I volunteered. I volunteered at the hospital twenty—five years.

MK: What did you do as a volunteer there?

MCL: I worked—

MK: And what twenty—five years was it? When did you start?

MCL: Well, I retired when I went and worked for the Town Hall as registrar. I retired—went there is '79, so it was right after I came here that I went to work at the hospital. And I worked with—oh, Lee. And I worked with—in the coffee shop—and had fun. And then I finally, when my husband retired, got him to work up there. He was in fire prevention, so the hospital needed somebody like that to check all the doors and fire doors and this and that. He enjoyed it. He got a friend of his, and the two of them were working outside of the coffee shop one day. They wore little red coats, the men did. And some lady came in, and she was, "What are those two elderly men doing out there?" "Oh," I said, "they're patients from the sixth floor." That was the nut ward. And I said, "They let them loose for a while." And she walked around them, and Ramie said to me, "What did you tell that lady?" I told him what. (laughs) But he worked there quite a while. And then he worked for—he was head of Civil Defense here in Concord. And he was head of the Battery here in Concord.

MK: Civil Defense?

MCL: Yeah. He worked over at the Post Office—he was Civil Defense Director of Concord.

MK: During the second World War or—?

MCL: No, afterwards.

MK: Oh, afterwards.

MCL: Yeah.

SL: Um—hm. That would be in the eighties?

MCL: 00:24:00 Yeah.

SL: In the 1980s. And he went down and sort of cleaned out the stores and the closets and things down there. They had apparently stores from—cannons and things—from World War II or the Korean conflict that they just squirreled away. And so he took inventory and fired all that and sort of brought—got a telephone system in there and—

MCL: He did a lot of volunteering.

SL: He did chemistry with his—he got his degree from Tufts in 1935 in chemical engineering. And then—why don't you tell them how you and dad met?

MCL: Oh. I was a dental nurse, and my uncle was head of the International Harvester company and opened the La Croix works over in France. Anyway, he came on, and he said, "I want you to come to work at the Harvester company. All of the Cottrells have always worked at the Harvester. So I said, "No, I'm very happy where I am." He said, "No, I want you to come down there." So I said to the doctor that I worked for, "I'll come back on Saturday and Sunday. We can do the work that we have to do at the hospital and so forth. But I'm going to go to work at the Harvester." And so I did. I worked for the industrial relations manager. And the first day, Raymond, my husband, who left—after Tufts went to work at the Harvester company out in Chicago. But he didn't like it out there, never liked the Chicago area, and he wanted to come back closer to New England. So every time he would drive from Chicago back to Concord, he would stop in Auburn, my hometown, and go down to the Harvester. And Jimmy Grant was the superintendent. And he'd ask Jimmy, if there was ever an opening in the lab, would he let him know? And the same year that I left Dr. Burkhart's to go to work at the Harvester company, there was an opening in the lab. And Ramie went to work there. They gave him the job. And so he came over to my office and turned over my wastebasket and sat down and started to chat. And after he left, I said to one of the girls, "There's the guy I'm going to marry." And we did.

MK: Now, what in the world did that conversation consist of that made you come to that conclusion?

MCL: Just—just being himself attracted me. I'm a fatalist, I guess, because how would anyone—how would I meet him, being in Auburn, he from New England coming from Chicago back and forth? But my family being Harvester people, it just all clicked. So I'm really a fatalist in regard to life. Don't you believe me? (laughs)

MK: Well, I'm trying to think. Fatalist sounds—

SL: No coincidences.

MCL: It's on the books before you go on.

SL: No coincidences.

MK: 00:28:10 Oh, no coincidences. Okay.

MCL: Yeah.

MK: So meeting him was something you were supposed to do.

MCL: Evidently. Evidently.

MK: Because—and you knew that as soon as you talked for a few minutes.

MCL: First thing. And it was very—of course war years. They wouldn't release him to go to war because of his position in the lab. We were doing military cowlings for aircraft and halftracks for—they changed over all of the Harvester farm equipment—to make the farm equipment—they changed it to make military.

MK: So you a sort of a Rosie the Riveter?

MCL: No, I was a secretary to the industrial relations manager.

MK: Oh, okay.

MCL: We had a lot of them there.

SL: And my father was in the foundry.

MCL: In the foundry, you had to walk through—oh, it was so dark. It was the closest to hell I ever wanted to get, because the fire would come down—drop down out of—but afterwards I'd skip through all the hard cores where it was dark. And afterwards the foundry men would see me run through there, and they'd say, "She must have seen a rat." The rats would breed in there because the cores that they poured machinery parts into had some kind of a meal in it, and the rats would get in of course and eat that stuff. But—interesting, factory work. I'd never been in a factory before, and it was interesting. I enjoyed it. And I made it down here, and I enjoyed it down here. And I'm still going on down here. (laughs)

SL: Nineteen forty—seven.

MCL: Pardon?

SL: Nineteen forty—seven you moved in—down here.

MCL: Yeah. Yeah. Sarah—

SL: Nancy.

MCL: Nancy was nine months old—ten months old.

MK: 00:30:40 When you first moved to Monument place?

MCL: Right. Right. Right. Oh, I thought the end of the world going up my little street. Ah, I kept saying to myself, what have I done? It was a different life, but I made it. They were so quiet—farmlands—they were very kind to me. But I tried to keep busy, into functions, and enjoyed it. I worked all over the place.

SL: Tell them about your Honored Citizen Award.

MCL: Oh, yeah. They—they came—the town came up, when they were going to make us Honored Citizens, but it was mixed emotions. My Ramie had just come from the doctor and found out he had cancer, and—which was—he conquered. And so we had our pajamas on. A knock came at the door, and it was the Celebrations Committee to tell us they had made us Honored Citizens for the year 1987, and—which was a great honor. And—well, all we did was volunteer all our lives here. I mean, Ramie was a Scout master. He was on every—the Celebrations Committee. He was on—what other one was he on that—?

SL: Everything.

MCL: He was on a lot of—a lot of Civil Defense—oh, he was—well, they had the riot at the prison. I've forgotten what year it was. But he was on the town committee for something. Anyway, he got called out and had to climb over the wall at MCI because they had set a fire. He was on the Fire Department too—volunteered. And the inmates had set a fire inside the prison. And these volunteers had to go up and over the wall, down the other side. And a state trooper said to Ramie, as he's going up, "Hang on to your hat because we're shooting anybody that hasn't got a hat on." (laughs) He said, "Holding a hose and holding my hat was a little difficult." But they quelled the riot anyway. And I've forgotten what year that was. But we were into everything.

MK: He sounds like he was very courageous.

MCL: Very much so. Very much so. And he was Commissioner of Boy Scouts, both here in Concord and Carlisle. And I was a Scout leader and captain of the Girl Scouts. And he was in the hospitals, and I was in the hospital. And he was Civil Defense. He was on the first Volunteer Fire Department too. And they had a little old truck that they'd keep going. There were only four of them: Webster—I'm taxing my mind now—but we seemed to enjoy life. If you're going to make it, you might as well go in with both feet. I mean, I could have sat behind the walls and done nothing, but I enjoyed doing things. And I—when—I talked this friend of mine, who lived up the street, into working at the Town Hall to do all the registration. We—we would go, at that time, door to door and take information for voting. But then it got a little dangerous because we'd get into situations where they felt it was no longer safe to go door to door. And so we'd have to send it from the Town Hall—send them out.

SL: 00:35:55 Why don't you tell them a few stories?

MCL: Oh, they told me not to tell some of them.

SL: You don't have to mention names.

MCL: I think that's the funniest. (laughs) We would take turns driving. And Ruthie would go one day, and I would go the next day. And we were up in—that place in West Concord—

SL: Conantum?

MCL: No.

SL: Green—

MCL: Jimmy DiGiovanni's—on Laws Brook Road.

SL: Oh—

MCL: Wedgewood Common.

SL: Wedgewood Common.

MCL: And we would take turns driving. So Ruthie had her car. And I went one side of the street; she went the other. Cold—oh, Lord, God, it was cold. And so I went to all the doors I had to, got back to the car—she had it locked up. And I got colder and colder. And finally she came out, and I said, "Ruthie, where have you been?" Oh, she—"This poor little old lady was lonesome. And she said, ‘Can you have tea with me?'" I said, "I'm standing out here freezing!" And these are a few things that we—that we'd get into—very different things.

And—she's itching for me to tell this one. It was another section of town, and it was eight—something in the morning. And I could hear someone inside, so I said, "I'm not going to go back again tonight." So I kept banging and banging, fully expecting to see somebody come to the door. Well, finally somebody came to the door—a naked man. And I went, "Oops!" And he said, "I work nights. I just got to bed." I said, "This will only take a minute of your time." (laughs) I got that—then—oh, we had funny stories that we'd get into. One lady said to me, "Don't"—after she said, "Come in"—I opened the door, and a dog ran through my legs. So I put all my stuff down, and I'm chasing the dog. And Ruth was across the street, chatting with some lady. And she says, "Who's that lady?" "Oh," Ruth said, "that's my partner. She must have let a dog out." (laughs) But we had fun doing it.

MK: You were doing a survey of sorts?

SL: The town sent—

MCL: We had to—you have to have a list of everyone who votes in Concord. And we went to every door in Concord and got information regarding what party, this, that, and so forth. We did that for—from '79 to '80—well, more than that, because—twenty—five years I got that plaque.

SL: Um—hm.

MCL: 00:39:20 So that's the story of my life.

MK: Did your volunteer work every take you on to any town committees for the town of Concord?

MCL: Oh, yeah.

SL: Republican—?

MCL: Oh, I was—yes, Republican Committee. But I'm trying to think what else.

CK: What did that one entail?

SL: What did the Republican—?

MCL: Oh, Wes Young was head of that. I went to the convention in '87 for Ronald Reagan.

SL: No, that was 1980.

MCL: Huh?

SL: Eighty.

MCL: Well, close enough (laughs)—out in Detroit and went there. That was very interesting.

MK: To support Ronald Reagan?

MCL: Yep. I was a Republican—

SL: She was an alternate delegate.

MCL: Still am—fighting battle in Massachusetts, but I still keep going.

SL: You were an alternate delegate—

MCL: Yeah.

SL: For the actual Massachusetts Republicans.

MCL: 00:40:34 Yeah. And—oh, I've been on committees. And Ramie of course was on so many. He was on the Board of Health and on Celebrations and Battery when—

SL: Tell them about the Concord Independent Battery.

MCL: When Ramie was captain of that, it was—no, Harvey Wheeler was captain when we had an unfortunate accident. Billy Anderson had his hand blown off. And they banned the Battery. In fact, many on committees said they did not want any more guns in Concord. But that is an organization that—in 1804—and still have the same guns—

SL: Cannon—

MCL: —that were at Doric Hall in the State House. And they had one on either side. But they got them back to Concord. So they're housed on the gun house. In fact, when Sarah was born and Harvey Wheeler, who was captain, his wife and I were having children. I had Sarah and she had—we call him Gun House, because we built the gun house that year. And we were both active in that type of thing.

SL: The Battery has two cannons that were forged, and they have fired it every presidential—

MCL: Inauguration.

SL: Inauguration and funeral—

MCL: Of presidents.

SL: Since—

MCL: In fact, in 1975 King Carl Gustaf, who then was just a boy—

SL: Of Sweden—King of Sweden.

MCL: He's King of Sweden. And he came to Concord. And the ambas—or the—Wendell Gustafson, who's crazy in the head, or was—he had been Swedish—

SL: Consulate.

MCL: Ambassador like—had the King there, and he invited us over. So we knew him before he married. And he was very, very gracious. And we had a big banquet down 128 for the King. And now of course he's in papers all the time. He's elderly. But we met him.

SL: King Carl and Queen Silvia.

MCL: Lady Silvia, yeah.

SL: Lady Silvia.

MCL: Yeah, very much so. But anything else you would like to know?

SL: Winston Churchill visiting the Laughlins—Winston Churchill.

MCL: 00:44:06 Oh, yes. The Laughlins who—Rebecca and Henry Laughlin—he owned Houghton Mifflin. And she was a—an owner of Wells Fargo—one of them. They were very poor. (laughter) They bought their land from the Lawrences. I think it was thirty—five acres. They wanted some land, so Raymond's father sold them—I think it was fifteen or twenty acres—more than that—thirty—four. Anyway, they used to come out weekends and put up a stepladder and get the best view that they could find to build their house. And so they started the construction, and it was the 1938 hurricane. And after that, the whole landscape up there was changed completely. But the Laughlins were very funny. As wealthy as they were, they used to come in and chat and sit with us and talk and so forth. And they had—I've forgotten exactly the year—but Lady Churchill was having a birthday. And so Mr. Laughlin had written Winston Churchill's memoirs through Houghton Mifflin Publishing. And that's why he—they had Sir Winston and Lady Churchill there. And we knew—we knew all the help of course. But Clarence Nelson butled that night at the Laughlins, and Sir Winston and Lady Churchill were there. And Sir Winston said, "Clarence, I want you to go out and get a bottle of"—I think he drank scotch—"scotch and three glasses." And Clarence said, "Sir Winston, three? Just you and Mr. Laughlin?" "No, I want one for you." And so he poured a glass of whatever for Clarence, the butler there. I mean, he was—they were there. And then Anthony Eden had an operation, and he recuped out to the Laughlins. And I'm out by the dooryard working in the dirt. And Mrs. Laughlin came out, and she says, "Mary, this is Sir Anthony Eden, one of your mother and father's countrymen." And I looked like an urchin, working in the dirt. But they were very kind. They were very kind to us. And they would drop in and chat. So that's the story of my life. Have I gone on and on too much?

CK: No. Maybe we should take a little rest and then—

SL: Take a little rest?

MCL: Oh, sure.


MK: You say your mother booked passage on the—

MCL: Right.

MK: Tell us the whole story.

MCL: Well, my mother was the eldest of five children. And her mother had died. And her father was in a wheelchair, crippled. And they owned a pub on the River Axe in England. And Mama used to say she'd have to help her dad. He could organize things, you know, even though he was in a wheelchair. And she said they had a door that opened onto the River Axe. And she hated drinking. And these men, she said, would get drunk. They had cups with their names on it that they put over the big fireplace and then use that all the time. So she said, "I'd get so tired that I'd open the door, and they'd fall in the river." I said, "Mama, didn't they drown?" "I don't know. I never checked," she says. (laughs)

But she was—after her father died—they had the five children. There were five in my mother's family. And each one had to go to a school to learn a trade. One was a nurse. And my mother was a cheese maker. And she went to work learning how to make cheese. And she worked on the Duke of Kent's estate for years, making cheese. And then she wanted to come to America. And so she booked passage on the Titanic. And she was to leave March—whatever it was. And at the last minute, they said, "Anne, we're going to release you. You've got a contract. We won't release you." "Well," she said, "I'm going to go to America." But by the time she got sanction to leave, the Titanic was booked. And so many times, she'd have us three children, that she had at that time, and she'd say, "Oh! How I wish I'd taken the Titanic! I'd be a mermaid now." (laughs) But she came to America. And she made it—married, had a family. Tragically my dad committed suicide. And she was strong, though. She had four children. She was so strong. But she made it. And that's what I hope—I've got some of her—right. We used to—she used to say, "You children are not going to go over and sleep over at anyone's house. They can all come to here and do what you—play Ping-Pong." We'd put leaves in the dining room table and play Ping—Pong on it. Or we'd make taffy, and the floor would be so sticky. And after the kids would all leave, she'd say, "Now, you scrub that kitchen floor." And the kids would all be outside looking in the window at me, teasing me about having to wash the floor. (laughs) But they all loved her. Some of them would—she always served them apple dumplings. They were like lead balls: applies with a pastry, steamed. And one boy, Addie Ginnity, used to say, "Fan"—they always called her Grandma Fan—"Fan, if I ever get to England, we're going to use those apple dumplings as fodder for the Germans." (laughs) And where did he go? He went to England. And my mother had given him all of her relatives' addresses so they could stay in England. They said, "Guess what we had for dessert—apple dumplings." (laughs)

MK: Heavy ones, huh?

MCL: Yeah. Yeah. But she was a good—she was very good to let us have fun.

MK: How old were you when your father died?

MCL: Fifteen. My brother was six. I was fifteen. My sister Eunice was seventeen, and my sister Esther was eighteen. And she'd have fun. She'd have all the kids. We'd have—she'd just let us have them at our house. And she'd—well, she was lots of fun, wasn't she?

SL: Um—hm.

MCL: But—

SL: Why don't you tell about maybe your wedding?

MCL: Oh, that was the craziest thing.

MK: What?

SL: What year?

MCL: Nineteen forty—

SL: Three.

MCL: Three. And—of course war years. Everybody had gone to the church. I had two girls as my attendants, and they lived right next—across the street. So Mama says, "Mrs. O'Donnell is going to stay at the house while we're at the church." Okay. So we're all upstairs, the three of us, getting dressed. We come down—no car. I wanted my father to give me away of course, and he had just died that year before. So I said I wanted my uncle from France, and he couldn't come. So I said, "I won't have anyone." Well, of course they made it in—no—forgot about me, about the car, and all the rest, because of course we didn't have a car during the war. So I came down the stairs, and I said to Mrs. O'Donnell—I says, "Where's the car for us?" "Oh, glory be to God," she says, "we forgot you. Don't worry." I said, "Everybody in the neighborhood has gone to the wedding. Nobody's around." So they called a taxi, and this kid came up—three girls with the dresses stuffed in this taxi. And he went—instead of going on the correct side of the street, he's on the other side. I said, "We can't walk across a motor thoroughfare in the middle of the day in these outfits." "Oh, well, I'll go down through town." So he went all the way down through town, turned around, and he came back and then let us out. And I had my florist and ladies that were going to make sure we were all right. By this time, it's almost an hour later. And so we finally get into the front of the church, but it was the time of the elm beetles. And my veil and my dress—I was covered in beetles—all three of us. (laughs) In fact, the florist who brought all the flowers was picking them off of me and my skirt and in my—and so finally, the man I had to sing, he said, "We went through the repertoire of songs three times before." (laughs) So I'm walking down the aisle, and my mother—of course sitting in the front seat, ready to give me away—she said, "Where have you been?!" I said, "You didn't leave a car!" "Oh," she said, "we forgot you!" That's all she said. I could've killed her, right there in the church. (laughs)

MK: And which church was it?

MCL: St. Peter's Church in Auburn, New York—beautiful church—long, long aisle. Oh, I've had some historic times in my life. Oh, that—show them that one of the—

MK: Is that the beetles? (laughs)

SL: Yeah.

MCL: There's my lovely husband.

MK: Ah. Is that you?

MCL: (laughs) Yeah. Why do you say, "Is that you?"

MK: Now, wait a minute. I want to look more. Oh my goodness.

MCL: That was a long time—that was ninety years ago.

MK: And this is—?

SL: That was my dad's college picture from Tufts.

MCL: That's me.

MK: Your graduation picture?

SL: From high school.

MK: Wow.

CK: Let me see.

MK: Carrie wants to see them.

CK: Oh, nice high school.

SL: That's her high school picture.

CK: But you were not out of—were you just out of high school when you married? No.

SL: No. You were twenty—four when you got married.

MCL: I was an old lady. I was twenty—four.

CK: Right. You were already working.

MK: See what happens when I touch one of these?

CK: Don't delete.

SL: You can't delete.

CK: If you could send some of these to Leslie to accompany the interview, that'd be wonderful.

SL: Oh, I'd love it.

MCL: So you see? You can survive with bad things that happen.

MK: Yeah, but how do you remember ninety—seven years' worth? How do you remember all this?

SL: She remembers who she sat next to in school, down the street, all the names of the people.

MCL: Everybody asks me that.

MK: That's a lot of remembering to do.

MCL: Not in my brain. (laughs) No. I don't find that—in fact, I get exasperated with some of my friends because they sit there like lumps of cheese. And I said, "You know, you ought to get up and go out on the porch. You ought to do this." "Oh, no, it's too cold." "God," I said, "I'm out shoveling snow at twenty below zero." (laughs) I keep going. That's my aunt. She was a hundred.

SL: She lived to be a hundred—and my mother and me and my daughter and my newborn son at the time, who is now going to be thirty.

MK: Wow.

SL: That was a couple of years ago.

CK: You all wear well. (laughs)

MK: Oh, yeah, I'll hope you'll share these pictures with the—

SL: Sure.

MK: Special Collection.

SL: With Leslie—she's a peach.

MCL: Who's that?

SL: With Leslie, who worked with Joycie, down in the archives.

MCL: Oh, yes. Yes, very much, very much.

MK: Well, is there anything else that you'd like to tack on to this?

MCL: No, I have no idea what you want to know. I mean—

MK: Only what you want to tell.

MCL: There's not much else to do. I've told you most everything. Ramie and I've had a good life. I miss him terribly. But I've got my kids. That's a plus. And I've got my grandchildren. That's a plus. And I've got my great—grandchildren. That's a plus.

MK: Any great—greats yet?

MCL: Not yet.

SL: Not yet. The great—granddaughter is fifteen.

MCL: Fifteen.

SL: And—

MCL: Nicky is—

SL: Nicky is twelve.

MCL: Twelve, yeah.

SL: And I'm not a grandmother yet—not yet. I'm too young to be a grandmother.

MCL: Now, where do you people come from?

SL: West Virginia.

MK: West Virginia.

MCL: Oh, that—you live there?

MK: Oh, yeah.

MCL: Oh, great. I love Virginia—Charlottesville—

End of audio.

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Text, image and audio mounted 18 March 2016 -- rcwh.