At age 92, Bertrand Lavoie began sending a series of emails to various family members recalling his life story. He wrote of growing up in Newmarket during the 1920s - 1940s; his marriage to Muriel Beairsto in 1942 and their life together in NH, PA , Florida and Texas; of her struggle with alzheimers and subsequent death in 2002; and of his life in a Pennsylvania nursing home.
His niece Mary Jane McCord compiled all his extensive emails to various family members in date/time format as he wrote them. She forwarded a copy to the New Market Historical Society. She writes: “…Despite a limited education and no literary training, this man was a gifted writer.”
In reading his messages, his distinctive voice captures recollections of family life which are comical, moving, and rich in detail. In one email he said that he planned to write his memories so that his great grandchildren will know him. He has succeeded in doing just that. Mary Jane adds that ”His memories are his gift, his legacy to his grandchildren and to the rest of us, his family. Some stories are heartbreaking, some are funny, but all are rare, precious insights into his family’s history”.
Bert Lavoie died October 15, 2013 at age 96. With the family’s permission, the Historical Society is pleased to share excerpts of “Uncle Bert’s Memoirs”. The excerpts presented here are grouped by topic, and pertain to his life in Newmarket. Bert’s experiences of growing up poor, working hard on the farm and in the mills, learning new skills and changing occupations to achieve financial stability for his family are typical of many families in town. What is not typical, is while in his nineties he was able to document vivid memories of times long past and pinpoint with such clarity “just how it was in Newmarket.”
The photos accompanying the text are courtesy of Mary Jane McCord and Jeff Keyser, members of the greater Lavoie family. The text is as he wrote it, with little editing.
[*] refers to my editing notations —- John Carmichael, New Market Historical Society.
Monday, April 19, 2010
I have a great week end coming up as on April 25 I will be 93 years old and I am very happy to be that old. My youngest son Bruce and his wife Janet are taking me out for a steak dinner. I have been here for 5 years and have not had a good steak dinner in all these years. I think they have to cook all their steaks well done and they are no more than 1/4 inch thick and they remind you of shoe leather.
It is not very warm today I wonder what the Farmers are doing as they can’t get any plants in yet.
Another reason that i’m glad to be 93 that when I was 13 years old I fell from the top of the barn to the floor and the board that broke hit me on my left Kidney. Later I told my Mother “Ma, I peed and its all red ” she brought me to Manchester Hospital where they took my Kidney away and I remember the Dr. [*] saying that if I don’t drink beer I can live to be 21.
P.S I drank more than my share of beer when I was a youg lad. UNCLE BERT
[*] The Doctor was Dr. Zenon A. Lavoie of Sacred Heart Hospital, Bert’s uncle. Due to this injury Bert was classified as 4F during WW II and went to work at Portsmouth Navy Shipyard.
I never knew any thing about my Father’s parents. They never came down from Canada. About 70 years ago my Sister Bea traced the Lavoie tree many years before the computer age. If I remember right this is what she told us, during the french revelotion there was a family by the name of Lavorex ( hope I spelled it right ). They were Scientists in a town in the South of France along the Atlantic ocean. They were making Gun powder to fight France. When they heard that the army was coming for them they changed their name to Lavoie and fled to Canada. So before the Lavoie there was Lavorex.
I did know my Mother’s parents. When they lived in Durhamside I use to go there and play on the large rocks near their home. Later when they moved in with Aunt Leader, Every Thanksgiving all the Uncles and Aunts and they kids met there on that one day, Great big feast at noon, and card games after.
My Grand Fathers name wa Wilford D’Elpe Pariseau And Grand Mother’s was Roselie [*] Wilfred D. Pariseau b.1859, d. 1940 m. Rosalie Hevey b.1858, d.1941. At one time they must of lived in Biddeford Maine, because my mother was born in that town. My Grand Father was proud of his middle name D’Elpe, he said that it was connected with Royalty (What Royalty I don’t know).
[*] Louis P. Lavoie b.1868, d.1941
I remember one time he showed me on a map where he came from and as the best I can remember it was not a City but a lot of woods just North of the St.Laurence river.
My father was a man of many talents. He was a great Musician, he could play any musical instrument that was made, I remember when he took me to where he was a security guard, and he had a uniform. He painted houses and he papered walls, I was told that at one time he sold Ice Cream with a push cart. The part that I can’t understand is how come he was such a great violinist. His brother was a famous Physician in the Sacred Heart Hospital in Manchester N H. My Father told me one time that he migrated down to the states the last year before you had to be naturalized.
(written December 1, 2011 )—
I imagine you must know that Pa lost his left leg, but you may not of heard how.
Pa was a house painter inside and out side a house. One time he was painting the outside of a house he had a Scafful that was about 12 feet long and it had wheels that ran against the house. As he was lowering the scafful a wheel hit a window sill. He pushed the scafful away to lower it, and as he did that he had a Corn on his toe and it hurt him bad, so he took off his shoe and used an old dirty knife and cut the Corn off.
A few days later his foot turned black from Gangrene and to save his life they had to cut off his left leg above the knee. I can remember watching him play his Violin and using the Bow to hit his toe that was not there. Someone knew of a Service man that lost a leg the same height that pa did, so he gave Pa his old false Leg. Pa could walk with it but not too good. He did not paint houses any more but still did Paper Hanging and he got me to be his helper.
He would cut the paper and put paste on it and I would hang it. After he died I inhirited all the Wall paper equipment and did a lot of work with it. I don’t remember what happened to all that stuff. I did Wallpaper work in Newmarket but the old houses did not have straight walls and most people wanted stripe wallpaper. But one good thing came from doing that, I was wallpapering a bed room for the Beairsto’s and that was how I met my future wife Muriel. And in fact today is December 1 and that is her birthday.
It was about 1942 and I was working in the Rockingham Shoe Shop. I got home And was living at the corner of Rail Road and Main Street in Newmarket.
When I got home my Father was on the back porch in great pain I asked him if he wanted to go to the Hospital and see his brother who was a doctor. My Father said yes, so I told him I would change into clean clothes and will be right back. We started off and at Epping I had to stop the car because he got sick. I asked him if he wanted me to to stop again for a tonic. He said yes, but he couldn’t drink it if it was too cold.
I stopped at a Road Side stand and he drank the tonic down He said he felt better. I took the bottle back to the stand and when I got back to the car my father was still.
I thought he was dead but I was hopeing he was unconscious. I drove very fast hopeing that a Cop would see me and I could get his help, but no Cop saw us.
I drove to the hospital. I ran inside and a man came back with me. He looked at my father and He told me what I already knew. My Father was dead. When I got home I had to tell my Mother that Pa was dead.
That was not an easy thing to do. UNCLE BERT
[*] Medora D. Pariseau b.1882, d.1948
One lesson I learned very early in life was — When I was a young boy living in Rockingham Junction I was up a little early one morning and I went in Lillian’s bedroom and saw some pennies on the dresser and took some. I thought that I had gotten away with it. The next morning I went back, but this time Lillian was just making believe that she was sleeping and told Ma. You can bet I got a good spanking and learned a good lesson.
When there was a bad Thunder storm Mother would sit in her rocking chair and we had to kneel down besides her and say the Rosary over and over till the storm went away. Mother did the Laundry every Monday in the kitchen sink. Scrub them all by hand. My mother had long hair tied up into a bun on top of her head. A lot of times she would sit in her chair, and I would pick out the hair pins, and comb her hair 500 times, I did that many times. And I remember that Ma could write letters with either hand. When any of us did the wrong thing, She would get Pa’s Razor strap and give us a good spanking, Ma often used that on us. One day it was gone. Either Roger or Leo hid it, Pa looked for a few days for it, when it was found we all got a taste of the strap again.
I will always remember what a great cook she was, all on that big black cast iron kitchen stove. She would make Flap Jacks on the lids of the stove, we would put Molasses on them. My Mother use to make Molasses candy. I think that she woud make that a lot of times when one of us had a cold. It was a great thrill to be the one to pull the candy till it was the right color. She would let us drop some in new snow to harden (Good Eating)
When I lived in Rockingham in the 1920s close to the Rail Road, Many mornings when we got up a Hobo would be sleeping on the Kitchen floor. Ma never locked the door, and she always fed them and the Hobo would offer to cut fire wood. I was told that Hobo’s had a mark that told other Hobo’s where to get free food. There must of been a mark on our house. Many mornings a hobo put put wood in the stove and the kitchen was warm by the time that I got up and he was gone.
In the summer over the windows my Mother had lace curtains to keep out the flys, but the flys still got in. One day my Mother had Lillian and Roger and Leo and I start in the furthest room and wave a towel over our head and chase the flys to the next room. Then from there to the kitchen. then out the kitchen door. You could not fool those flys, as the next day they were back. UNCLE BERT.
I grew up on a old farm in Rockingham Junction N H and the only heat we had was the kitchen stove and a Pot Belly stove in the front room. One cold January day in 1927 the Nuns kept me after school and I had to walk home. It was a cold moonless night, no snow just below freezing weather And when I got home my Mother said “Your Father has gone to the wood lot to get some Fire Wood and he should be home by now. Do you think you could go and see why he is so late?” I said “sure I know where that wood lot is” As I was a 10 year old boy I went about a mile up a dirt road and came to an open fence so I knew Pa was still in there. As I was walking down a slight incline I could make out a load of wood and I saw Pa on his knees on the ground my heart jumped and i shouted Pa whats wrong. Pa was swearing in French at the horse and said ” This horse wont pull this load up this hill” Then he said “If you want a ride home jump up on the seat” I got up on the seat and pulled the horse blanket up to my neck as it was colder up on the seat.
And then Pa got on besides me and took the Rains and slapped them on the Horses rump and said Git up Sparky Git up and the horse pulled us up the slight grade. When we got outside of the gate I jumped down and closed the gate and when I got back on the seat I asked him, Pa what did you do to make Sparky pull us home?
And he told me that he had to find a small hunk of frozen turf and he put it in Sparky’s mouth And while Sparky was trying to figure out what he had in his mouth he forgot the load. Pa was born in Canada and that is some thing he must of learned when he was a young man.
Our house had a lot of rooms, one room off of the living room was very big and the bedroom just over that room was my bed room. Roger and Donald slept in one bed, and Leo and I slept in the other bed. In the kitchen was a big closet and a burlap bag was hanging there for rags. One day I went by it with a candle, the bag made a puff and was on fire. Mother jumped in and thrue the bag on the kitchen floor and put out the fire.
(photo: Medora Lavoie & children: from left- Anita, Bertrand, Medora, Leo, Louis, Roger & Lillian (holding the doll)
There also was a big stove that she cooked all the meals on and there was a large table with a long bench where us kids sat to eat.
We also had a galvanized tub that we would bring in for our Saturday night bath. Roger would bath first, than Leo, and I was the youngest so I was the last, all in the same water. I remember the towel I used had a big hole in it.
Later on Walter Hanson Bought a new tub for his house and gave us the old one. This one was made of wood with a big wooden cover, so it was put near the sink. We could heat water on the stove and get cold water right from the sink, when it was not in use the cover was put on top.
I can remember in the winter when the wind would blow hard we had to put the chairs in different places to hold the lanolium in place. The front of the house was banked up, but the other side had a long porch and that was where the wind came in. One time Father put some ashes on the bank of the side of the house, but some of the ashes were still hot and the house caught fire.
There was no bathroom in the house when you had to go it was in the wagon shed - a two holer, one small hole and one larger. In the summer time you could see big spiders in it, and in the winter time that wooden seat was very cold. You did what you had to do as fast as you could. In the hall between the bed rooms was a large pail with rags on the edges so if you had to go during the night you went there. I had to sleep with my brother Leo untill the day I got married. Roger and Donald slept in the same bed for many years. We never thought any thing about it as we always did it that way.
Walter Toot lived about 3000 feet away and he had 2 Daughters. One winter night Roger and Leo ran naked through the snow to Walter Toots house and back. I went to the window to watch.
It was 1925 or 1926, On our farm in Rockingham we has a small stream running through our farm and it went under the Rail Road. My brother Roger set a trap near the water, before the School bus came Roger checked on the trap and saw a skunk in the trap. He came home and told Leo about the skunk. Leo must of felt pity on the skunk and went to set it free from the trap, of course the skunk lifted its tail and hit Leo with it’s defence. Leo came running and got on the bus and every kid Hollard LEO, GET OFF GET OFF. Mother had to bury all his clothes.
I lived in the house on Ash Swamp Road from 1917 to 1934 at Rockingham Jct. I remember playing in the dirt about 12 feet from the kitchen and there was two big flat boulders with a crack in them and I could see a underground room. It was not for rain water because in them years we never had rain gutters. Also in the basement there was a big iron ring in the wall. I was told at one time that the house was a underground railroad for slaves. We did not have a light in the basement and never had a flash light but I bet today if some one could look close under the kitchen there must be a tunnel to that under ground room. It could be filled in but if a person should look close??? Who knows?
Many years ago the Bridge in New Fields use to swing around to let the Barge go to Exeter and when it was swong open we use to like to run and jump in the River. The river was very swift at that point and after you jumpt you had to swim fast to grab hold of the Pier. One day Leo and I and two girls and two good looking boys were there. The good looking girl did not know how to swim but her sister could swim. The good looking Girl would hold on to the Pier and let the swift water pull her body in the water. One time she lost her grip and she hollered HELP HELP and her sister dove in to save her, But her sister kept pulling her under water. The two boys dove in and saved the good looking one and left the other to drown. Leo dove in and saved the girl and I dove in and followed him to shore. The two boys were touching the good looking girl untill they saw Leo and I near them. Uncle BERT
(written April 27, 2010)
One day in 1927 I had nothing to do so I went in the kitchen and said to my Mother ” Ma, I” and she interupted me and said I am busy making bread. A little later I came back and again she and said “said I am busy ” The third time I came in she had just put the bread on the shelf above the stove and said “All right what do you want?” I said I have nothing to do. So she said to me “Why don’t you write a diary” I said how do you do that? She told me that every night I should write what I did that day and to keep it a secret from my Brothers and Sisters. I did not have any paper but Mom gave me a few pieces of scrap paper.
June 21 Mom told me to get a gallon of milk from Ben Reed. I always liked to go to his farm as he was so fat in the front and she was so fat in the back I wondered how the bed could hold them.
June 22 Junior Philbrick and I went to Walters brook to swim I don’t know how to swim but one side of the pond is all blue clay and I like to play in it and then get in the water to wash it off.
June 23 Junior was here again today so we went back to brook I was playing in the clay when a big boy came to me and asked if I knew how to swim when I said no he grabbed me and dove in the water than let me go and said you better swim now. I did swim.
June 24 It rained today so I played in the barn. June 26 Junior and me went to Newfields to swim and we found a big board and took it to the river and we sat on it and let the tide bring us almost to Exeter and when the tide turned we came back to where we started .
June 27 I played in the sand most all day.
June 28 is Saturday and that is Bath tub night Roger is the oldest so he got to use the water first then it was Leo turn and when he got done it was my time Donald is just a baby so he got washed in a tub in the sink.
June 29 We went to church in Newfields Pa drove the horse wagon.
June 30 I went to Sam Joys on ash swamp road to help him weed his Strawberry garden he gave me 20 cents and I gave the money to Ma.
July 1 I walked the train trackes to find coal and met a hobo and I brought him home and gave him a egg to see him eat it from the egg shell.
July 3 I went to Walters brook again. My bathing suite itches so bad that I put it on just before I get in the water I was getting in it hiding in some bushes and a older boy asked me if I knew what those bushes were? and he said they were Poison Ivy I said what is that? and he said When you start itching you will find out.
July 4 I learned to dive today at first I landed on my belly and got a lot of water in my nose, After supper Pa took us to Portsmouth as he had to play in the town band and before we came home he bought us all a Hot Dog.
July 5 Leo and I went to Newfields to swim where the curent is very fast . The Graham sisters were there, the cute one does not know how to swim so she holds on to the pier and lets the current take her body out in the water her sister knows how to swim so just like that she lost her hold on the pier and hollerd Help Help and her sister dove in to help her but she kept pulling her sister under the water.. Two boys dove in and saved the cute one who could swim So Leo dove in and saved the homely one We talked about it all the way home.
July 6 I like to climb trees as long as I can hold on to another branch and I can jump up and down and have fun.
July 7 there is a horse watering trough across the street and I saw a car pull up to it with a lot of steam coming from it so I went to watch him and he told me to get back as it might blow up as it is a Stanly Steemer.
July 8 I went to the spring behind the barn to get a cold drink of water my foot slipped and got my shoe and one leg all wet and had to come home and get dry shoes.
July 9 Leo took me to see the spring at Ben Reeds farm but it is down hill and it pumps water up hill to his house. I could hear a Swishing sound as the water pushed itself up hill. Ma took us all into the living room and gave us each a towel and we all waved it at the same time and drove all the flys into the next room and we did it again and drove them into the kitchen then we drove them out the kitchen door.
July 10 I told MA that I needed more paper„ and she said What do you need more paper for? I told her that I was writing a Diary and she forgot that she told me to write a diary and she said that she has no more paper. BERT
Every growing boy should have a big barn to play in. When I was growing up in New Hampshire my Parents had a farm with a big barn. They had no money to buy me toys but I found many hours of fun playing in the barn.
This was a big barn with a Hay Loft. In the Hay Loft there were big rafters spaning across the second floor of the barn and when the barn was filled with Hay we made tunnels under these rafters. We would spend many hours crawling through these tunnels. There was a Tack room where all the harness were kept. We would take down from a large wooden peg a saddle and put it on a saw horse and ride all over the west killing Indians, We had to make sure to put the saddle back where we found it or else.
This farm also had a lot of Apple trees on it. Balwin apples my Father would take to the Cider Mill and bring home many gallons of cider. But the Mac Apples were so good that Pa had a trap door in the barn and he put a thick layer of hay in it, then put lots of Mac apples in there then add a lot more hay on top of the apples. In the winter when we would have company I would take them to the barn to play and after playing for a couple of hours we would work up a big appetite , then I would open the trap door and we would each have a apple. Now talk about something good just take a bite of that apple and the cold juice would run down your chin, while eating that you were in Heaven as they tasted so good.
I had a cousin Herb Philbrick that had a uncle that had a cottage at the Beach, When his Parents said ” Get ready as we are going to Uncle Herberts Cottage” Herb would make such a fuss saying ” I don’t want to go I want to go down to the farm” Of course Ma would always say ” drop him off.”
Every barn had lots of big old Spider Webs. I would look at that big Spider as he was watching his Web and I would walk up to a big fly and get behind it and swing my hand behind the fly and catch him and then fling him into the spiders web. That old spider woud go fast and roll the fly into a ball of webbing .
Up on top of the barn is a Cupalo and if you crawled across those large timbers that went from one side to the other side you could come right under the Cupalo. The sides would all be covered with Pigeon poo, but we would go through it to one side and we could crawl up into the Cupalo. No one could see us but we could look to the East we could see the top of a Rail Road Tressel about a half mile away. But to me it looked like a hundred miles away, Looking to the North I could see he top of a Church Steeple, Looking towards the West I could see Cattle grazzing in a hay field. Looking to the South I could see the Railroad and watch the trains. I could see all this and no one culd see me.
(Medora, Erlene, Bert, & Donald with Pal the dog, photo courtesy Anita Stockwell & Jeff Keyser)
There is a small stream on our farm and I explored every inch of this stream. At one place there is a big flat rock that I use to sit on and watch the fishes swim by. I remember one time a older guy told me how he could catch a fish by hand by tickling it on it’s stomack . So one day I was on that big rock and saw a big Trout laying in the sun sleeping, so I took off my coat and layed down on that rock and stuck my hand in that cold water and very slowly I came up under that fish. And as soon as I touched it it swam away. Then I figured that that guy told me a fish story.
Pa also had a big strawbery garden, And the second year the strawberrys were so nice and big, I sure ate my share of them. At that time it was during the great depression and Pa, had chickens and when ever Ma said we have nothing to eat, Pa would take a wire that had a hook on one end and he would catch a hen and he would feel under it and tell if it was still laying eggs. And if not he would kill it and we would eat chicken. It was hard to beat that during those hard times. I also watched big Rats walking right pass me as if they owned the place. In the barn Pa had wagons and sleighs for me to play on, so that is why I say that every boy should have a barn to play in.
We had a cow Bossy, and Bossy stayed in a ten foot square room in the barn The only time she was tied up was milking time she could walk around in her room and do what ever a cow wants to do. One night my Father told Roger and Leo that when I get home tomorow night I want Bossy’s stall cleaned. Roger and Leo put it off till the last moment before Father got home. They cleaned the stall and then Bossy lifted her tail, Roger grabed a shovel and held it under Bossy’s tail and Leo took another shovel. When Roger had a shovel full he ran to the window and Leo had his shovel under Bossy’s tail, and the stall was clean when Father got home.
I just remembered my Brother ROGER. He must of been 20 years old and had a big dump truck. One day when I was about 15 years old he brought me to a Gravel Pit. In those days Gravel or Sand was free. He told me to throw one shovel of Gravel at a time and the truck would fill up. We did that and he sold a load of Gravel. I dont remember if I ever told you that Roger v was the first person Killed on Cape Canavaral Florida. When they started to build the base Roger was operating a Bull Dozer to clear the land. He knocked down a tree and the roots came up behind him and Killed him. UNCLE BERT.
This afternoon we had some kids singing Jingle Bells riding in an open sleigh. I wonder how many people know what’s a open sleigh?? I do. I remember back in 1925 when my Father took me to Church in an open sleigh. Ma heated a brick and that was the only thing that kept my feet warm. When we got to Church, if I remember right the Church did not have a heater and the Priest told us that it was to cold and sent us back home. We were so poor that one Christmas all I got was a pair of my pants with a new patch on it. But the New Years were best. We all went to Aunt Leaders[*] home in Newmarket. Grand Father and Grand Mother were there. Us kids ate at a small table but loved it.
[*] Medora’s sister Leda ran a Dry and Fancy Goods store —Marie Leda Pariseau (b.1880, d.1966) m.1901 to Apollinaire Garneau (b.1877, d.1930 ) They lived 187 Main Street at corner of Kittredge Square.
In 1924 there were not many cars and if it snowed there were no cars. One year we had a big snow storm and we were stuck in the house for 3 days. My oldest Brother Louie had to climb out a bed room window to get a shovel from the barn to clear the snow from the kitchen door so that we could get to the Back House (as the pail in the house that we used for a toilet was full). A few days later I heard a lot of shouting and saw a lot of men with shovels clearing the snow on the street so a 4-horse team pulling a big wooden snow plow …. A truck with a snow plow was not invented yet. UNCLE BERT.
LIFE IN NEWMARKET
Today I want to tell you about Newmarket N H the town where I was brought up in. Newmarket had a Fresh Water river and a Salt Water river I bet you cant find many towns that have that. I have done a lot of swimming in both Waters. When I lived there in 1944 there were 2.500 people now I hear that there are many more. I joined the Fire Company and we had two old fire trucks. I remember one house fire that after we used up what little water we had we had to take out as much furniture as we could than stand there and watch the house burn down. Then the town bought a new Fire truck (seagrave was the kind of Fire truck) it was a Pumper and we saved a lot of homes Durham ( the University of New Hampshire often called us for help to put out house fires.
One time we had a forest fire on Bay Road as we were going to it we came to a stop when two men were running behind 6 horses and they shouted ”Turn around and get out”. Just by luck we had stopped near a small streem. Our chief told me to take one length of hose and to protect our Fire Truck he told two other Fire Men to take the hose and to stop the fire before it got to a big home. One man can not handle a Fire Hose, it would back lash and throw you down. There was a ladder on the side of the Fire Truck and I took the Nozzel and hooked it to the ladder and I watered all the trees and brush and stopped the fire from coming close to the fire truck. 3 days later I came back and all the woods were burned except where I watered it down and that spot was nice and green. I Have been a Volunteer Fire man all my Life.
(Bert has been a member of the Mongomery County PA Volunteer Fire Police for over 50 years For many years Bert was on the Lower Providence Fire Company where he held the rank of Fire Police Captain for 12 years. Bert was a electrician and many times the Fire Chief would call on him to cut the electric to make it safe for the Firemen to put the fire out. In 1960 he served on the Police Department working the midnight shift.)
More about Newmarket N H I did a lot of swimming and one day a man came to my house and said that he lost his Fishing Pole and he wanted me to find it. He took me out in his boat and said it fell around here I dived down and could not see it, I came up and took a gulp of air and went down again this time I fond it.
That fresh water was a moving streem and it didn’t go over the top of the dam as it got close to the dam it went to one side and went down a shute to a watering wheel which turned a generator and made Electricity. The Power Company owned it. From there it went into the Salt Water river.
And the Smelts would swim in the Fresh water. A Smelt is a small fish about ten inches long and very good to eat. I was an Electrician and when I wired a house I had to go to the Power house to get a Meter Base and then the Power House would inspect my wiring and put a Meter on the house. So I was one of the few people that went in the Power Company’s room. I would go in and get a Fish Net that was on a pole and go out the back door to the Salt Water river and I would get a pail of Smelts in no time and my Mother fed us Smelts. Muriel was not even my girl friend at that time but I use to bring her Mother a pail of smelts. That Salt water river had a 6 foot tide and when the tide was high a Tug Boat would come in towing a Barge full of Coal and tie up to a wharf so that the mill could use it. TheTug Boat could not get back till the tide was high again and would have to stay there for 12 hours. UNCLE BERT
[*] The story of the Rockingham Ballroom, located next to the Rockingham Country Club on Ash Swamp Road, began with Erban Fellows, a young lawyer who bought the golf course in 1933. By spring 1934, Fellows started construction of the Rockingham Ballroom and in August 1934, doors officially opened.
I remember our first move. We moved from our house to Walter Hanson’s house in Rockingham Junction. Roger, Leo and I had a flat light wagon and we made a lot of trips with all our furnature on it. No Horse just us three pulling the wagon. When we moved to Walter Hanson’s house it had a indoor bath room. I had never saw one before. Then when they made a Golf Course out of that land, we had to move to Newmarket New Village. New Village use to be a Company built home for the Mill Workers . When we lived there a neighbor’s dog barked all night, the next night Roger went out. No more barking dog. I dont remember why but we moved to Main & Railroad St. in Newmarket. The house on the right just before the Rail Road Bridge. I was caught in the attic that became full of smoke and I could not find the stairs. I thought I was going to die. Another Fireman called me and said follow my voice. Boy was I glad to hear him
When the Rockingham Golf Course first opened, the Club house was near the Ball Room. Another boy about my age and I worked behind the counter as Soda Jerkers, and on Saturday dance night we were very busy. The rest of the week we took care of Golf Players. One time I mentioned to him that my house key was the same kind of key that opened the door to where we worked. One day I was home on my hand and knees washing the kitchen floor and two Detectives knocked on the door and wanted to talk to me. I had to sit in their car while they questioned me. It seams that some one with a key stole a lot of stuff from the Club House they wanted to know where I hit it. After a while they decided that I did not do the crime.
In 1936 Miss America was a French girl from Manchester N H. I was working at the dance hall in Rockingham. She was the guess star and came down with her Mother. My Mother was there with her Mother and was talking about going to Church next morning in Newmarket. I thought that they were going to sleep at our house but they decided to go back to Manchester. I asked her for a autograph picure and she told me to bend over and she laid her picture on my back to sign it .. Boy I was sweating. This is a true story and I have no idea why I just remembered it.
When I was a teenager and was living in Rockingham we had a dog named BUSTER. We had him for years. The farm where we lived was bought by a man and made into the Rockingham Country Club, and we had to move to Newmarket in New Village. So we let our neighbor Walter Hanson keep Buster. A couple of years later I was on Main Street and saw Walter’s pick up truck and Buster was sitting proudly in it. I walked over and greeted Buster. He turned to me and snarled at me. He forgot who I was. So a dog does forget.
Rockingham Junction was a very important place where the Rail Road went North and South and East and West So the operator in the Rail Road Station was a very important man with about 8 Telegrafts going all the time. Things quieted down after six P M. At one time Walter Hansen was a very good Telegraft man So after he retired he often spent time at the Rail Road Junction. Walter and his dog Buster were there one night and I heard him say to the Operator that Buster knew three languages. He told the operator that I will tell him to Wag his tail in Polish. So Walter said Swiggim Swagin Buster, and as soon as the dog heard his name he wagged his tail. Then he made up some different words and as soon as the dog heard his name he wagged his tail. A true story. UNCLE BERT
I never did like to go to school. At first I went to the Catholic School and I spent two years in the first grade, because If I remember right, half of the day was in French and the other half in English. If anyone spoke to me in French I would answer in English. I stayed in that school for four years, than went to the public schools.
When I first started school we had to walk, as we went to the Catholic school And the school bus was not permitted to pick anybody up but public school kids, A few years later they changed the law, and we rode the school bus. You would get in the bus from a door in the back of the bus, no door on the side. The bus had a wooden bench on both sides of the bus. No heater for cold weather.
When I was in the 7th grade we had a spelling bee, and when you misspelled a word, you sat down, When I missed spelled a word I sat down in the chair right there were I was standing, The Teacher got mad, made me go to the Principals office, he made me go into a dark closet, And i think he forgot me. Would you believe that the first person to open that door and look me right in the face was my brother Leo, We were both surprised.
I got one for you about Newmarket High School. I was a Sophmore and we had a mid Season test. I studied hard. I wanted to get a 100 on it no 95 but a 100. On Monday the Principal came into give us the test, The papers were passed out, and we were given a certain amount of time to finish. I know that I had every one right, except The year of the Spanish American War. I knew just where it was in my history book, I did not dare to see where the Principal was, so I opened up my desk, took the book and Rifeled the pages till I saw the date. Just than a big hand came over my shoulder crushed up the paper, and he said get out of this school We don’t want you here. That ended my Schooling
I did not graduate from Newmarket High School, but was in the hall when others graduated. It was some time around 1936, and at Graduation time the Music Teacher played the piano. One boy knew how to play the Drums and the Local Barber came and played the Violin, and that is the music that the Graduates marched up on the stage to get their Deplomers.
(photo of Bert with Bert Jr. and Bruce in PA)
Years later I was working in Reading Pa. and one night we were in town and a lot of people were gathering on the sidewalk and I asked someone what was going on, and I was told that a parade was coming. So we waited and I saw some grade school kids playing instruments. I had never knew kids could do that. Bert jr must have been 8 years old and Bruce was only 6 years old. So I got a music teacher and the two boys learned to play the Sax. The teacher had to write music for Bruce as he could not reach some of the keys. Later on Bert joined a Rock band and when he got drafted they asked him what he did for a living and he told them he played in a band. So they have him a test and he passed — they put him in the Army Band. He had it made as he never had to do K P, just play in the Band. When Bruce was in High School he played a solo Sax on the stage. Bert still plays his Sax. I don’t think Bruce does. UNCLE BERT
When I got kicked out of school in I left Newmarket High school in 1939, I went home and told Ma and she said what are you going to do? I said i’m going to get a job.
I went to the Rockingham Shoe Factory and got a job as a Block Cutter, the hardest job there was. There was 4 of us Cutting scrap leather with a Die and Mallet. That first day when I got home I was really pooped. The next morning I could hardly move I hurt all over, But I stood it out, Worked hard, when I started there were four of us. I worked hard and pretty soon just another guy and I did all the work, I even came in at night to get all my work done. Some weeks I made $15.00 and gave Ma $12.00 and many weeks that was all we lived on.
About 1938 I went to Dover N H than went North East to a town in Maine I dont remember the name but we went in this building where they had Boxing. I went back the next week and a man told me that if you nock out the other guy you get $10.00, If it comes to a draw you get nothing. I came back next week and fought to a draw. The last time I was there I had to fight this small Polish kid. Every time I opened my eyes there was a Glove in my eye. I turned my back to him and raised my arms in the air and said I GIVE UP. I never went back.
World War II broke out, if you were not in the armed forces you were told to get a job to help fight the war. I got on in the Portsmith Navy Yard, they put me in the Black smith shop. I was just a young kid, but they put me onwith a gang. When they took this large piece of iron out of the furnace, we stood ina circle and the black smith held a chisel and we had to strike it with out missing beat. It was very hard. After work when I sat in the bus to come home, I would hear other people say I only Changed one light bulb on this shift. That use to make me mad.
When the war ended I heard of an opening in Dover’s Electrical Union. I had to take a 5 year apprentiship and every 3 months I had to take a test and I passed every one with my minimal education. So I think I was very lucky, I bet you cant do that today.
One day I heard that Fred Lavalle was looking for some help I got the job, Fred was carefull not to let you learn too much, I think he was afraid that you would start up your own business and take some of his business. After I was with him over a year I heard that there was a big job in Berlin N.H. and they needed men. My brother Louie and I went there and we got a job, I had left my family back in Newmarket, so I found a place for us, and one night after work I went to pick up my family. On that same night there was a union meeting, and all the new men had to take a test, Louie passed it in no time, and they asked him where I was, aand he told them where I had gone, but said that I was as good as he was. And they took his word for it. I never had to take a test, and I have stayed in the union all the rest of my working days. I now have my 50 year pin and very proud of it. UNCLE BERT.
One day [*] While employed by Fred Lavallee we had to wire the PAROCHIAL school to put in Electric Clocks and I saw the Janitor of the school and I told him that I went to this school and could I have the first grade clock? He said “Why don’t you take the second grade clock because that clock strikes the hour.” I kept that clock for many years as I lived in different parts of the country. When ever I found a nice clean feather I would take the face off the clock and oil it good. That clock kept perfect time for years. One day I was visiting my inlaws and I heard that they made a Museum out of the old Stone School in Newmarket. So the next time I came back for a visit I called the name that was on the door of the School and told him that I had an old clock with the name of SISTERS CLOCKS on the back and that I would like to give it to the museum. He told me to bring it in the next day at Two oclock. When I got there he had a Newspaper guy there and they took a picture of me giving the clock. If I remember right that clock was the best thing in that Museum. I dont remember the year. UNCLE BERT. [ *]That would have been after 1966 .
My wife Muriel’s grandfather came from England with a lot of people that got into a fight with Catholic’s and they went to Prince Edwards Island Canada. Muriel’s father was born in P E and brought up to hate Catholics. He became a Carpenter as there was no work on P E I, in 1935 he came to Haverhill Mass and found work. Then he went back to bring his family down. Muriels room was seported from another room with only a blanket. When she was 15 years old, she heard her parents talking, Her father said we are moving down to the states, Her Mother said, But there are a lot of Catholic kids down there, And he said, Don’t worry I will never let them near a Catholic.
[*] George K. Beairsto b.1898, d. 1952 m. Mildred Powell b.1901, d.1999
Muriel was the oldest, then Keith, & Florence,& Jack’ & Mildred,& Betty, Her Mother also adopted Jackie and Loraine. Muriel, Keith, Florence, & Jack were all born in Prince Edward Island Canada. The others were born in New Hampshire.
[*]When the Beairsto family later moved from Haverill to Newmarket, George and Keith got a job in a shoe shop.
When I was working at the shoe factory I met this guy Keith and we use to play poker with cigarettes. We could buy some brands for 15 cents and one time I told him that I like to play Bridge, he said that his parents played bridge also. So I went to his house to play bridge, I use to see three teen age girls reading. And the next time they would be gone to bed, this happened every time.
My Father had a wall papering kit, and Keith’s father heard that I had that, and he asked me if I woud paper the bed rooms in his house. So I did, and I was in one of the bed rooms when one of his daughters came into get her coat, I asked her where she was going and she said out. I said how come you never go out with me? And she said you never asked me. So I did Ask her….
When I asked Muriel to marry me, I bought her a ring and she showed it to her sisters and Mother. And when her Father came in from work she held her arms under the table and every one was very quiet so he knew that some thing was wrong and when he asked why was every one so quiet they all looked at Muriel and he looked at her and said why are you holding your arms under the table? So she showed him her ring. He got mad and told her to get up from the table and do not come back. The rest of the family talked to him and he let her come back.
When I told my Mother that I was going to marry Muriel she said “Why don’t you find a good French Catholic girl? I don’t like Muriel.” Muriel and I got married [*] 1942 in the Catholic Church in Newmarket. [*] Bert’s mother as well as the Beairstos refused to attend the ceremony. I had my sister Bea and Herby Philbrick with us. So that is a very good reason that I like Bea, as she was the only family member that stood up with me. In 1942 when we got home from our Honey Moon Muriel got up and made me some Coffee it was very weak Coffee and I told her “tomorrow morning put more Coffee Grounds in the Pot”. The next morning the Coffee was so strong it could hardly be poured, so I said: “Dear you just stay in bed and I will make the Coffee.” I thought to my self, Boy is she dumb. She never had to get up first again. Then I started to wonder, She never had to get up first. Who is dumb?
At that time I was a 24 year old guy and pretty handy and could do a lot so I did win him over, and after a long time he did except me into their Family. Muriel was my wife for 63 years so we both did pretty good for her being a Protestant and me being a Catholic. UNCLE BERT
[FaceBook FAMILY page, posted by Bea’s son Leo Geoffrion, January 5, 2012. Leo wrote: “The Star theater in Newmarket played a major role in our family (the Geoffrions). Father designed the markee and was the projectionist while Mother sold tickets.”]
Bert wrote: I was just thinking about when I was a 20 year old boyI got a job as Usher in the Newmarket theater where your Dad was running the projectors. And after the Movie started I often went up in the Projection room and watched your Dad. There were two Projectors and a Movie came in more than one reel, and your Dad had to look at one reel while the movie was showing. He had to make sure that the last place that had those films rewinded them. I don’t remember how long I worked there. Out doors in front of the Theater, over the entrance with lights on it I forgot what it’s called Markee?? When I got married in 1942 we went to New York City for our Honemoon. There were more lights in Newmarket than on Times Square as during the war N Y C was in a black out.
Here is a true story. In 1946 I bought my first home on Epping Road in Newmarket. I bought the old Ralph Haines house at an auction. A 10 acre farm for $2,500.00. The house and barn was on one side of Epping Road across the road was a two door garage. There was no electric and no water in the house. They got their drinking water from a spring a across the road. There was 4 acres on the side where the house was and 6 acres on the other side of the road. A river ran next to the barn and Newmarket got it’s drinking water from it. Since then I forgot the name of the river. On the house side the river ran smooth and on the other side there were big boulders in the river and the state would stock it with trout every year. I was just learning Electrical Skills, so I got Electricity and put it in the house, then I had to dig a Well.
In 1946 $5.00 was a lot of money, but I had to hire a guy that could find water. I don’t remember the mans name but I paid him $5.00 to find water in the back yard He had to use a Divining rod made from a tree on my property He found water and said It is less than 20 feet under ground. I dug down to 18 feet and found water, I bought a water pump and piped water to the house Than I had water at the kitchen sink and made a Bath Room from a closet. Bert jr was only two years old and I bought a Toilet and thinking that Bert may do something to it so I turned it upside down. When the time came to use the toilet it woud flush water but no solids. I took the toilet out and with a mirror, I saw that he put one of his toy wooden blocks in it and when the block got wet it swelled up. It was one hard job to get that block out.
The river on the house side was a nice wide river and I cleaned the brush at one place and after a days work I would dive in the water then soap up, then dive in to rinse off. You could not stay in the water very long because Blood suckers would get on you. On the other side of the road was six acres of woods, and I walked over every inch. In the middle of the woods was a Brook (a small stream) And I saw quite a lot of big Trouts — some just laying in the sun, others just being lazy doing nothing.
Many years before there was a Priest in Newmarket that liked to go Trout Fishing and he used to fish that Brook. Other fishmen in respect of the Priest never fished in that brook . That brook was called Father McCoie. No idea who made up that name. One day My Nephew Louis came to me during fishing season and said” Uncle Bert I want to catch some fish Where should I go?” So I took him to that brook and told him to tell no one about this place. He caught a lot of big Trouts and as he walked past other fishmen, they saw his catch. I had never told any one about that Brook, So I wonder how Louie knew to ask me. Louis is still a great Fly Fishman. Uncle BERT
In 1947 on a cold January night my wife had a hard day with the Boys - one was teething and the other just wanted to cry. At last she got them both to sleep. The bed room was next to the kitchen and the only heat for the bed room was from the kitchen stove. So I sat in the living room next to the stove studing up for a electrical test that was coming up.
Out side the street made a slight S curve and at the end of the S curve is a old wooden bridge, and when a car would cross the bridge it made a rumble sound. And as I was studying I heard a car go pass and I heard the sound as it started to cross the bridge. All of a sudden I started to think that I did not hear the car cross all the way across, so I got my flash light and looked at the bridge and the bridge was still there but I could not see the railing. So I got my coat on and ran to the bridge and saw a car upside down with the front on the banking of the river.
So I ran down and could see some one trying to break the glass to get out. The first side that I tried there was a large boulder at the side of the door so I went to the other side but I had to break some ice away before I could get the door open. The guy was wet, so I brought him to my house and I told my wife to stay in the bed room as I had a naked man in the kitchen, and I gave him some dry clothes to put on. Then I called the Police and when the Cop came he could smell booze on the guy and said “Have you been drinking?” And the guy said “No this man just gave me a drink to settle my nerves” The cop never asked me. By then it was after 1 in the morning and I never did finish reading my test.
My sister Anita always did more than her share in bringing us kids up, and after we grew up, she still helped us a lot. One year after I was married and lived on Epping road My car broke down and beyond repair. Anita gave me her Chevy. When she moved to California, Erlene followed her and she took care of Erlene also.
When I could not find work in Newmarket I got a job in Scenetticet ( Spelled wrong I bet) N Y and came home on week ends. One weekend 5 year old Bert Jr said DADY why dont you put wheels on the house and take us with you. That gave me the idea to buy a House Trailer. I sold my home for $5.000.00 doubled the money I paid for it and that paid for our Trailer home. We lived many years in that trailer Home. UNCLE BERT.
wtitten April 28, 2010
I first noticed Aunt Muriel forgeting things. The first thing I noticed was when I handed her her Purse and it felt so heavy. When I had a chance to look into her purse it had a lot of change, And the next time that we went shoping she bought some thing that cost only $ 1.39 and she gave them 2 one dollar bills, so I figured that she must of forgotten how to make change.
One day I walked in from the tool shed and she was standing in front of the stove in the kitchen and I thought that she was getting the meal cooked. A half hour later i came back in and she was still standing in front of the stove, I asked her if she wanted me to get dinner, and she said yes. From that point on she gradually got worse.
She always liked doing Cross Word books the kind where you find a word and circle it. She would spend a half hour looking at one word with out finding it. I started taking care of her 36 hours a day. I would play solitare a lot while she would be sitting on the couch and one day I got tired of cards and bought a Computer and I taught myself how to use a computer.
One day as I was walking pass the guest bath room I could smell Urin and I just thought that she forgot to flush the toilet so I flushed it, A short time later I walked by and again it smelled the same then I noticed that the waste basket was filled with used toilet paper so I took the waste basket away. Then I found that she hid the used paper in different places, so I locked the door and she did the same thing in the Master bath.
I had to do every thing for her and I remembered that she always shaved any hair that she saw on her arm or legs. Our home had two Bath rooms one was the guest bath room and the other the Master Bath room and the Master Bath room had a big walk in shower and I would give her a shower than have her sit on the toilet and I would shave her arms and legs after that I would try to fix her hair which I could never do right.
One night I woke up and she was not in bed with me I found her on the couch in the living room. As I was going to her I stepped on a puddle in the midde of the middle floor, she must of had to go but forgot where the Bath Room was and just went on the floor.
I took care of her untill she had a stroke and forgot how to walk. I could not lift her so I had her admitted into a Hospital for 3 days than got her into a Nursing home. The first night in the Nursing home they gave her a Bath and Stole her Rings from her finger and they made her wear a diaper and it took her a long time to learn how to wear the diaper. When she was admitted into the Nursing Home I cleaned out her closet and dresser and found a lot of candy that she had hidden from me.
One day I was visiting her on her Birthday and she did not know me. I started crying and could not drive home untill the tears stopped.
Every other day I would go and see her and take her out doors and talk to her but she had that look on her face that she had no idea who i was. Then she had another stroke and was like a vegetable plant. They had to turn her every two hours and put a tube in her stomach to feed her. I would visit her and talk to her over and over, then I had to go to my car and cry. One day as I was besides her bed, her Doctor came in and I told him that this was killing me. He said “Tell the Nurse to pull the feeding tube out of her stomach.” After ten days without food or water she was dying, so I asked if they had a Priest to give her the last rights. When I got a phone call at three in the morning and was told that she was not breathing. A great weight was lifted off of me. But for a long time I felt that I killed my wife as I was the one that told them to pull the tube.
We were married for 62 wonderful years and any one that could put up with me all those years had to be a special person. UNCLE BERT
written May 3, 2010 6:21 PM
Let me tell you of the crazy thing I did today. Here where I live, on your birthday they tie a big gas filled Happy birthday to your chair and 3 smaller ballons and before desert the whole staff and all 4 waitress comes to your table with a small Birthday cake with one candle and they all sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU. And you make a wish and blow the candle out. The small ballons must be cheaper ones as they lasted only 2 days but the bigger one has been on the ceiling for a week and I’m getting tired of it. So today I wrote a small note saying (i’m a lonely 93 year old man, write me and I will answer you) I Skotch taped it to the ballon and went out in the parking lot where there were no trees and let it go, I wonder if I will ever hear from some one? CRAZY HEY ? UNCLE BERT
Bertrand “Bert” Lavorie passed away at the age of 96 years on Oct. 15, 2013 at the Walnut Woods senior living center in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. He was born in Manchester, New Hampshire on April 25, 1917.
He survived his late wife, Muriel A. Lavoie, and is himself survived by his sons, Bruce, from Allentown, and Bert, Jr., from Collegeville. He is also survived by his granddaughters Tracey Robinson from Schwenksville, Terri Valinote from Gilbertsville and Michele Stawawczyk from Pittsburgh, as well as seven great-grandchildren.
He was a life-long member of the Lower Providence Fire Company and the Montgomery County Fire Police. An electrician, Lavorie built and wired 8 Habitat for Humanity Homes in Texas, where he moved after his retirement. He later moved to Walnut Woods in Boyertown…. burial will occur later at Limerick Garden of Memories.
[*] at his death, among his papers at the nursing home, his sons found the following:
My Fathers name was Phillip Louis Lavoie, he was known as Phillip Lavoie
My Mothers name was Medora She was known as Dora Lavoie
My oldest brother was Louis known as Louie
Than came Anita, & Lillian, & Beatrice & Robert,& Leo, & I & Donald and the last was Erlene.
There were more Brothers and Sisters, but some were still born, and others died at an early age.
I was born in Manchester N.H. on April 25 1917 on East River Road. My parents moved to Rockingham Junction when I was very young.
Bert and his wife Harriet have two Daughters Terri and Tracey and he has four Grand children He still lives in Collegeville Pa.
Son Bruce and his wife Janet Retired in 1997 from Bell Telephone They both took an early retirement. He is 51 years old and they have a home now in Hilton Head S.C. They have a Daughter Michelle who lives in Pitsburgh P.A. and she has one child That makes me a Great grand Father Five times.
(photo: Muriel and Bert with their sons Bruce born in 1946 and Bert Jr.born in 1944)
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