Archer and Della Tripp
Archer and Della Tripp were interviewed by Mary Giles on October 5, 1976. They spoke about their childhoods and Archer’s many jobs.
Archer – I was born here in 1911 on Drift Road. I lived there the first three years of my life, then we moved to Cornell Road. Well, I started school from Cornell, the first school I went to what was known as the West Side, but I just went there to visit. It’s no longer there. Then, the first school I really attended was at Westport Point.
When you were a child, did you have enough things to do that you weren’t bored?
Oh, I always had enough to do. I didn’t have any playmates ‘cause I was seven years younger than my sister. There were no other children around me within half a mile on Cornell Road. You could count the houses that were there when I was a boy on your fingers.
I made up baseball to play by myself. It (Cornell) was a dirt road then, no macadam then. There was a slight hill by my home and there were a lot of stones in the gravel road, so I’d go out there and I’d take a stick and throw the stones up in the air and hit them in the woods. I had to do that because there was no one to play with. On a rainy day, my mother always found something for me to do. She’d keep me busy.
My father was quite a man; my father, he was something to look up to, he set the example. He was a contractor; he could dig a cistern and stone it up, he could build a wall, he could do anything. In those days, you had to do everything to get by. He was a good carpenter.
You’ve gone through several wars and several depressions.
We didn’t have an automobile when I was born; we used to walk. Well, I didn’t walk to school. They used to have, not a bus but a truck, that would take them, but I used to have to walk from where I lived to the Main Road. We used to walk everywhere, never thought anything of walking. My mother used to like to go to church at Westport Point. They used to have services at night in those days. We’d walk down to the Westport Point services at night and then walk back again. These services were on both Sunday morning and Sunday evening. They had a prayer meeting on Thursday too, but it was a little too much to walk, it was a long trip just to go to prayer meeting. When it was cold weather, we did it just the same. Sometimes, if we were lucky, we got a ride part way home because Nason Macomber had a car, and he would give us a ride part way home. He lived on the Main Road in the big white house right across from where Bill Healy lives now. I can remember it was a Buick, and it was a touring car and I used to sit on the floor. Anyone who was coming back, he picked up. ‘Course he had his own family to bring back.
I went to the Westport Point School for the first grade. Then there was the First World War and my father left Westport for Fall River and he worked in the Crowingshield Shipyard and we were there during the last end of the War, and we were there during the ‘Flu’ like they’re taking about now, this “Swine Flu.’ My father had it and I had an uncle who was working in the same shipyard and his wife and all four of them had it. I was only eight and I used to go over and take a list of what they wanted from the store and go to the store and bring it back to them. The store was Clemmings Grocery Store. I walked. We lived on Winthrop Street in Fall River, and they lived down on Globe Street and I’d go down and get their order and leave it on the porch. You couldn’t go in because you didn’t want to get the germs. They all survived, but they all were very, very sick.
I don’t think that I’m even going to have the shots (for regular flue and Swine Flue being given at Town Hall).
I went to the George B. Stone School for a year when we were in Fall River, and then I came back to Westport on the Cornell Road. We were only there a short time when my father went to work for John Wilbur down at Westport Harbor, so we moved down there to the ‘Ditch’ house, it’s right down there where the Herrings come in. We lived there for two years and I can remember going out Herringing, and I was only just a little kid, but I’d put on boots, they were red rubber boots, and they came up about to here. I always managed to go over the top.
‘Course the Fields boys, like Albert Fields, the plumber, and he had a brother, Donald, and one, Raymond, and their father was Joe Field and he was a lobsterman, and he got lost, they never knew what happened. They just found the hatch of his boat. They think that he got run into by a steamer or something like that.
All his children were small when he was lost, but I can remember I was out there with my father and the Herring Run, and he came around about half past eight and he said, ‘Well, boy,’ he always called me “Boy’ because his name was Archer too. So when he said, ‘Well, Boy, it’s time to go in and go to bed’ and I said, ‘Gee, Pa, can’t I stay a little longer?’ Joe Fields spoke up and said, ‘I’ll look out for him Archer’ and boy, I stayed out. It was 1:00 o’clock. My home was just about 75 feet across the street, you know. We got a basket and he was on one side and I was on the other, just a regular bushel basket. I can remember, I got 161 (Herring) and I got 2 cents a piece for them.
Then I went to the Acoaxet School at Westport Harbor. Everett Coggeshall lives there now in the old schoolhouse. They sold it and he bought it and made it into a home. The winter that we were there at Westport Harbor was 1919 and that was a real cold winter. The first teacher I had down there was Mrs. Gleason, and the second teacher I had I only had for about three months, and then Milton Earle. That’s the first time he started teaching down there, he started right down there. There was such a difference when he started teaching; they had so much trouble with Mrs. Gleason. The older boys, they’d put her out the window and she couldn’t do anything with them, so when Mr. Earle came, it was so different. He had such a good relationship, and he played games and you enjoyed going to school.
Well, talking about the winters. He (Milton Earle) walked from the Point across the river, not all the time, but it was frozen part of the time, and he’d walk across. We’d burn wood and George Brayton, he lived over on Howland Road, he came through the woods with his oxen and half a cord of wood on a sled, right over the top of the stonewalls. The crust was so hard that the oxen, sled and wood could come right over the top of the stonewalls. That’s how cold it was that year, and I remember, that’s the first Christmas they gave me an air rifle, and so many birds died that winter. I remember, because in the field to the South of the house, there were a lot of weeds and a lot of birds came there for the seeds and you could find them on the ground. They just starved to death. I didn’t feel like going to try to shoot one after I saw them. In those days we had bluebirds everywhere.
We have a lot more raccoons now than we used to and Possums. Possums are something that’s come in the last ten or twelve years. We always had foxes.
There used to be a lot of squteage (weak fish), and we used to go eeling with a light. Never saw bass, not like they are today; not as many bluefish as today. They always had lobsters. Father used to go fishing. He had a sailboat, no motor. He used to go fishing under sail power and he’s come into Westport Harbor and clean the fish and take them around to the summer people at the Harbor and sell the fish and he’d always have a big pair of oars.
After I went to the Harbor School, I came back to Westport Point again, and I stayed there ‘til 7th grade. They had eight grades. From there I went to the Milton Earle School. It was the High School then and when I went there, he was the Principal. I went there in the 8th grade. I can remember the first day I went there; he put me in the junior room, that was for the 7th grade, and I said, ‘I’m not supposed to be here, I’m in the 8th grade,’ and he said, ‘You’ll stay where I put yuh.’ Boy, he was really tough. I didn’t have to stay there. I suppose he looked and then he put me in the 8th grade where I belonged.
After I graduated from High School, Milton Earle became Superintendent of Schools, and I think Norman Gifford was there for my senior year.
Milton Earle went to Durfee, and then he went to Brown after. He played football for Durfee, so he was down there all the time shouting and, the first football team they had they didn’t even have uniforms. They didn’t even have regular pants, no helmets or anything, and yet the kids didn’t really get hurt. They played Vocational, just a scrimmage, and they played in the ‘Four Acre Lot’ we called it then, in Central Village, that big lot just north of the fire station. All the stones and everything were in it then. Of course, they had them taken out after.
Della – And they built in bases. I went to school there too. I went at the same time as Archer. I used to watch him play baseball. I was born here in Westport too, on Drift Road. I didn’t know Archer ‘til we went to the High School in the 8th grade.
Archer – I knew her before that though. She was in a play at the Grange Hall, grammar school, children’s day, and she was dancing around and I said to my mother, ‘You see that girl with the curls way down. I’m going to marry her.
Della – He always says that, but I really wonder.
Archer – I did. And I never saw her again for a long time. She made headlines; she was in the paper. When they came to steal the wine from your celebration.
Della – That was during prohibition when they had rum running.
Archer – During those days, the only thing that kept the people going around here was the rum running. Only a few got arrested. They had the Federal Men around and they arrested some. They never had to serve time or anything. They had to pay a fine. I don’t think I should tell. One ought to read Fred Healy’s article that will give you an idea.
An awful lot of people were involved, not directly. They might rent their barn or their cellar so the liquor could be stored there and they got paid for that, so much a case. Fred Healy should be taped because a 100 years from now, that aspect of Westport history will be very interesting.
They would have a man who was going to receive this liquor, then they would hire a man who would be there when the liquor came in, and after it was unloaded and everything, this man who would be there would pay the men right then for the work and then after it was stored, if they had to leave it a certain length of time, he would pay them, and it would all come right down the chain. When all this was going on, I was 19 years old.
I worked for the Dartmouth and Westport Lobster Company in Padanarum, and down at Westport Point the boats used to come in with the lobsters. They used to keep them in crates in the water. Then it belonged to Charles H. Gifford. He went to Padanarum and started that market there. He died and they had a corporation called the ‘Dartmouth and Westport Fish Company.’ So that then they had the place at Westport Point too, and they had a man that worked there. In fact, Harold Wood, who was Principal of the High School, worked there for a few years for them.
I used to have to go to Boston to take the lobsters to Boston. So this morning I came with a truck to come down to pick up the lobsters to go to Boston, and when I drove down on the dock, this fellow came out with a light and a revolver and stuck it right into my stomach and said, ‘Hold it right there.’ Then he looked and said, ‘Oh, they’re lobsters. Pull over here ‘til we get unloaded.’ They were unloading their rum. That gave me a thrill when they stuck that revolver right in there!
For fun, I went hunting and to dances at the Grange Hall. We got married in 1933 right in the midst of the Depression. We got married on Tuesday; I lost my job on Friday. I did odd jobs; Della was just at home. Years ago I used to work at Allens at Horseneck. ‘Course we didn’t have a car. When we got married, I was working for the lobster company. We had a car the first year we were married; we had the Essex, but I never got enough money to register it again, the cheese box.
We went to live in the Brook house. The Brook house is the three-story house right near Nason Macomber’s, down in the hollow, right near the hill, just the next house south of Bill Healy’s. We had a garden and we canned. I hadn’t saved much money. I only got $18.00 a week; you couldn’t save much money on that.
Della – My father used to go by and he’d leave a couple of quarts of milk in the mail box down at the Point, then old Walter Cornell would come up sometimes with a quart of milk. Our refrigerator was the well; we’d put the milk and butter and stuff like that down the well to keep it.
And, in the wintertime, most of the rooms were iceboxes. We didn’t have wood; we just had a stove for cooking and an oil stove. We only lived in a couple of rooms.
Archer – I shot a deer one fall during deer season, and I hung it in the front room and there was a window there, and one across the corner and I put a board across the corner and hung the deer, and we just cut off what we wanted. It was that cold. We had no heat, it kept frozen just like a refrigerator, and that was really good too, that deer.
Della – And there was a brook down at the bottom of the property there where we used to catch trout.
Archer – Della used to make bread. Carl Wood had a little store right at Central Village where the Post Office is now. I worked for him about three months while we were living at the Brook house. I used to have his truck to come home with because otherwise we used to walk everywhere we went.
Della – We didn’t go very far. We used to walk up to Cornell Road to see his Mother and Father.
Archer – We used to go through the woods, it was nearer through the woods.
Della – And we didn’t have electricity. They hadn’t bothered to wire the house because they wanted to sell it. So we had oil lamps.
Archer – We lived there three years, then we went to New Jersey. When I went down there, I went to work in a kennel. I worked there six years. I liked that.
Della – Do you remember reading about Mrs. Dodge? That’s who he worked for. She had millions and she left a lot of it to the dogs.
Archer – Then the war started. I didn’t go because they wouldn’t take me because my arm wouldn’t straighten out from when it had been broken.
Della – You went into defense work.
Archer – Mrs. Dodge, who had the kennels, she wouldn’t raise your pay or anything and I couldn’t even buy a defense bond. When I first went down there, the salary was good and we had a nice home, but when the war came and things started going up, she wouldn’t raise your salary or anything, so I gave her my notice and that’s when I started welding.
Della – Madison, New Jersey.
Archer – And she sent her manager down, oh, a dozen times, to try to get me to come back and take over. She raised the price and everything else, but I never did go back.
I welded, sub-contract, LSDs and mufflers for PT boats. It was a sub-contract to Dalton Locomotive in Philadelphia. Once I got so I knew what I was going, once I found out, I really enjoyed it, and we used to work nights. There were two or three fellows there, and we’d always take a shower before we went home and we’d sing barber sharp. Anyone could do that welding. It doesn’t take strength, just a steady hand.
I stayed there two years, then Lynwood Potter started a welding business next to his house and then we built that building where Al Lees is now. Of course, he’s added on to it, it’s about three times as large as it used to be.
I can remember when William (Bill) Whalen had the market at the Wharf. Gasoline sold in 5-gallon cans and no pumps. At first everybody drew it from a 100-gallon tank into cans.
Della – When Bert Brownell had the pumps; he had a garage right where the Post Office is in Central Village.
Archer – All the pumps, they had them down at Adamsville too, all the pumps had to be cranked by hand. You’d go around once and that was a gallon. They didn’t start getting regular pumps; they couldn’t have until we started to get electricity, until maybe 1920.
Della – No, it was before that. I remember they had petitions; everybody signed petitions to get electricity down on Drift Road. It was before 1920.
Archer – Well, they didn’t down on Cornell Road. Good Lord! I was in high school before we got it down there. You didn’t vote for it, it didn’t go through the Town Hall. You had to pay the electric light company. You’d have to get enough people together to pay for the poles for an area, and if you got enough, the light company would put it (pole) down. Same way with the telephone. Everett Dunham had his own house and he owned the Brook house too, and he put his own private line in up to his house and down to the Brook house.
When I lived at the Harbor, they got their water by windmills. That water system at the Harbor was made of wood, cypress. It went to all the summerhouses. You could hear them going down to the Harbor. There was one (windmill) down at Brayton Morton’s that’s the Davis place. There was one down there.
Interviewer – What did you think about the summer people?
Archer – When I was little, I was in awe of them. The Dexters, they were nice boys. I used to go and get quahogs and sell them for 50 cents a peck. No oysters in the West River, all in the East River. I got 18 cents a pound for round eels and 20 cents a pound for split eels.
If I could change Westport? I’d have had this zoning law going sooner, so there would not be so many people.