"The story of Ruby Benson Brown"
by Lois Lincoln Brown Winter
I have felt for many years that I ought to write of my mother's life so that you can fully appreciate her and her sacrifices. I can never talk about her because I start to cry which is very stupid but it is the case. I am ashamed that I never fully appreciated her, nor did I ever tell her she had done a good job. She was not one to tell us she loved us, but I know she did. You kids remember that she noticed your pimples, your weight, hair or some such thing. She didn't have much tact. However for what is worth, let me begin.
She was born April 17, 1894. I think she was a favorite of her mother and was given piano lessons and apparently was quite good. I remember Aunt Sylvia saying once that mother never had to do the dishes of other work that would hurt her hands. Sibling rivalry!!
She married my father when she was 18 and had 6 children in 9 years. My father worked all the time, but he never sent out bills, therefore no money came in. I am sure my mother nagged him and the more she nagged the more stubborn he became. Not a pleasant situation.
When my brother, Harold, died, she left my father and moved to Bryantville in 1922 or 1923. To support us she sold Larkin products,. I don;t know whether they were household products or clothing . Dad was supposed to give her $5.00 a week per child, but rarely did because he was so mad at her for leaving . He was a nice person in his own way, but held a grudge a long time. I feel sure in later years he felt he had neglected us. Water under the bridge.
Mother was 29 years old at this time. Harold was born in 1913, Elsie 1914 , Bud 1915, Florence 1916 , Lois 1919 and Doris 1921.
In 1924 we moved to Lakeville where mother had.a convenience store. Bud was caught behind the store once smoking a concob cigarette or something.
I am not too sure of the exact year we moved, but I think our next move was to Foxboro where she found out about the Boston Children's Hospital and was able to get help for Doris who was very lame. Somewhere in here Florence and I went to live with our dad and Grandma and Grandpa Brown in Hanson. We went to a one room school house and I did the first and second grade in one year. Florence did the third grade. This building is now the Hanson Historical Museum.
Our next move was to Norwood . We must have lived here several year for she had a business of gladiolas (peeling bulbs on the dark cellar stairs) Ha Ha. Elsie graduated from high school in Norwood. I remember being in a Camp Fire Girls troop and also going to the library. Mother took in boarders, I am assuming that it was during the summer when parents needed babysitting. This is speculating. We kids were not much help to her I am afraid. Young and foolish we ate all the peanut butter, made eggnog and other such unnecessary things while she was out trying to make a living for us. Oh well.
Around 1932, we moved to Wrentham. She was now about 44 years old. Think of this and wonder if you could have done as much way back then. I am sure she could have been on welfare, but that was not an option. Grandma Benson helped out some buying clothes for us sometimes. Our winter coats came from second-hand stores. At one time Aunt Sylvia wanted to adopt me. That also was not an option.
Since Elsie was out of high school she answered a job for a housekeeper for a family. This was for Ralph whom she later married. He was widowed with 4 children.
I heard over the year from Bud and Florence that Dad would be outside the school yard once in awhile and once gave Bud a bike, I think. I don t remember much about the early years. While we were in Foxbore a student died of polio and everything he had touched was burned. I also remember being lonesome and climbing a tree in the woods and staying a long time. Doris, in the meantime, had several operations, casts, etc. She was carried to the school bus and I guess she went to school that way. I had to sleep with Doris and if I touched her she would cry to our mother that I had hurt her operation and I would get a beating. Once after one beating I got under the bed and was a long time there.
In Wrentham mother had lots of chickens. Growing them from the eggs and incubating them etc. When the pullets were ready for sale men from R.I. would come. She would have them marked so they would know which ones they were to take, but they always cheated her. A woman in business in those days was the pits. Every time she wanted to move and buy a house she had to go to her brother, Uncle Ed, to have him sign for her. She had a large route and we kids would go with her to help deliver. She also had a stand out front where she sold eggs and flowers.
I have told you of her work, etc. But can you understand how she must have been lonesome. You who have husbands and a partner must know how hard it was. Of course we kids never gave it a thought back then. It was just the way it was. She used to take me to a tavern once in awhile to have a drink (soft) and she would dance with some of the men.
Bud, Florence , Lois and Doris graduated from Wrentham High. Bud worked for the WPA for a year or two to pay real estate taxes. We always had food to eat, but money was scarce for taxes etc. Bud went to a church camp and came home wanting to be a minister which was great.
After working for the WPA, Bud went to Gordon College of Theology and Missions (In Wenham, MA). He then talked me into going. I went for one year , going in with Bud and driving his station wagon back to Wrentham where I worked in the Corner store ice cream shop in the afternoons. I was dating you faather by this time and when he asked me if I really wanted to back to Gordon the next year I decided I would rather marry him. Before Gordon, I went to a secretarial school in Boston where my mother knew the owner. I took the bus to Boston, walked across the common to Beacon street. I didn't study much and a friend and I would skip school and go to the movies. Oh what a waste of time. When I discovered that Mother could not pay the school tuition I quit and went to work for Uncle Charlie. I have gotten off the story of my mother but it is all linked I guess.
We always worked hard, she had hired men to help with the farm in Wrentham. I guess I never thought that my mother was really interested in me. I now realize she was so darn busy trying to keep the bill collectors at bay she didn't have time to give to us. On rare occasions she would sit at the piano and we would sing. Rare. When I was to be married and Bob had gone to Miami I wanted to have a going away party or friends wanted to give me one -not sure which way. I asked Aunt May if we could use her home. My mother was very hurt about this and said that she thought it should be at our house. In my ignorance I assumed she wouldn't care. Anyway we had a good party and the rest is history .
This is rather rambling, but I do want you to appreciate her sacrifices even if she wasn't easy to get along with. I never got along with her that well either, but in retrospect I do have to admire her guts and hard work and the fact that she kept us together. In her first years of mariage she had 30 piano students.
Additional Comments from daughter, Doris Brown.
Thanksgiveing dinner often consisted of Turkey and stuffing, winter squash, winter turnips, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, mince and pumpkin pie, Ruby made green tomatoa mincemeat and put up in jars in the cellar. They had a big black oil stove with two burners and a water reservoir. It got the oven nice and hot.
Ruby played the piano in silent movie theater.
Florence was asked by photographer, Anthony F. "Tony" Petrillo if she would like to take over his studio in New York City. He was a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. She accepted the offer. Tony's photo is at right.