David and Rita Rozinha
David and Rita Rozinha were interviewed by Anne Kennison on May 14, 1976. They spoke about their childhoods and Westport’s fishing and farming industries.
You’ve lived in Westport a long time?
David – I was born here and have lived here all my life, 61 years (1976). It’s changed a lot, of course. At this end of town down here, it used to be all farms. Now, it’s all built up. They were mostly dairy farms, dairy and poultry and hogs. At one time, there was quite a lot of fishing, but it died out. I think there’s more now than there was just a few years ago. Boats are bigger. I’ve fished a lot, but not on a commercial basis. Way back, during the Depression, there’d be thirty to forty men, who would make their living at fishing. Now there’s some, but they just don’t seem to grow…(tape fades).
Do you think it’s because of pollution, or have people taken too many out?
I don’t think they were taking too many out, because in my estimation, shell fishing is like cultivating a garden; the more you stir them up, the better it is for them. The last time I went clamming, this particular bed I went to, there must have been six out of ten that were dead, just died of old age.
I’ve caught Bass, Tautog. Fishing seems to me to be funny. Some years, they’ll be plentiful, and then they disappear. Squeteague and Cuttlefish used to be plentiful here, then they were gone for about 30 years, and now they’re coming back. Eels are terrific.
Have your family always lived here too?
My parents were born in Portugal. They came over on a sailboat and settled in Fall River. My mother’s folks started farming. I grew up on another farm down here at Westport Point that was her folks.’ The land is really fertile, but it’s stony. After school, all summer long, I worked; I had certain chores to do. My older brothers took care of the cows, and I used to take care of the horses. We sold milk and we sold eggs. The milk was picked up at the farm.
We’d swim every chance we’d get, late in the afternoon, all summer long. As long as I can remember, there was always a summer colony.
How long have you lived here?
Rita – Oh, I came here when I was in high school, just for a summer job. I went back and finished high school, then I came back here to work, and married Dave and I’ve been here ever since. There are many changes. We used to walk down John Reed Road, which is part of the new highway now. We’d walk down there (to the beach), and then all the way home and think nothing of it, just take a walk. People didn’t have so many cars. Most of us walked. We didn’t have a car. There was a big gang of us.
David – For years my father used to go shopping in Fall River, and he did the shopping for a week or two weeks. He’d buy flour by the 100-pound bag and sugar that way. He’d buy a whole leg of beef. We used to kill a pig now and then, sometimes two pigs. Everybody had their own smokehouses. They’d use a hen house or small chicken house or something.
Westport’s grown so much in the last five or ten years.
David – It’s the same all over. People want to get out into the country. That’s what makes it awfully hard for the town, the growth – growth of schools, school costs. I went to the Milton Earle School that was high school then.
Now I work for the Highway Department. You ask about old Westport stories. Well, some of these old fishermen would get together and talk and tell interesting stories. And then they had a lot of clambakes. There used to be one here, right at Hix Bridge. There used to be a terrifically big clambake house, you know the red house at Hix Bridge- well, directly across.
You ask about the hurricane (1938). Well, my mother and I went down to see it, and then we came back home, and my sister said she’d like to see the beach, and on the way down, the spray came up so far, it stalled the car. My brothers, who were working near there, came over and towed me home, and when I got home, one of my hen houses was blown out. We had to catch all the hens and put them in a box. We went to go back down to the Point, and the road was under water, just in that short time. We stayed there watching the boats break away from the dock. The old Yacht Club was just about where it is now. It stayed and stayed, because it was pinned down. The dance floor was pinned down to these piers, and it held until the pressure got so great it popped up in the air like a rocket and came down, and went to pieces like a matchbox. On East Beach, there was a row of houses on both sides of the road. In fact, there was one down there made all of stone, a big house with 30 or 40 rooms in it – a mansion. There used to be a Catholic Church down there at East Beach. And, there was a store, a post office and a gas station. There was a big dance hall, a bowling alley, and a hotel. They didn’t expect it (the hurricane) ‘cause one man down there, he had store…(Fades).
I remember some of the old sea captains down at the Point, Captain Manchester, Captain Sowle. After whaling, most of them retired, some of them got small boats for fishing. Oh, there’s quite a history in this little town. The whalers used to go out and they’d go over to the Islands there, Cape Verde Islands, and go whaling and bring the whales in here and sell them.
You ask about organizations. Well, I belong to the Portuguese America Civic League. That’s about the only group I belong to. We run dances and whist parties and stuff like that. Some of the people I grew up with are leaders in the town, Charles Costa for instance.
There are fewer farms now, but the ones that are here, are bigger. Down there (at the farm) we had 26-27 milk cows; they only have five today. Some farmers would have 75 to 100 cows. That man with the big barn on the Main Road (Santos), he does that all alone, except for his young sons.
Years ago, there was a strain of swine here; in those days they were raising pigs mostly for pork. Now they want bigger hogs. Before they used to fatten them, push them fat. Today, they feed them different grains. There used to be several slaughter houses in town; now, I guess there’s only one, Wood’s, right in back of the Fire Station and the lobster place.
There used to be three grocery stores at the Point when I was a kid. There was the Point Market that’s in operation now, and then south of it used to be one where the Post Office is. That’s the fifth location for the Post Office that I can remember. Amber Columbia used to have a store and post office right next to where the Meads live now. And, I think the Post Office was in the northeast corner of the Meads’ house at one time. There used to be a big grocery store right across from Tony’s store (Point Market). That man has gas pumps where Raposa’s store is. Where the Post Office is now, there used to be a stable. There was a horse dealer there.
The Pacquachuck Inn was a ship’s supply house and a sail loft. I never remember when that was in operation. There was Laura’s Restaurant; they made the front to look like a houseboat. That was directly south of where that parking lot is now. Leach’s outboard motor place went across the street against Laura’s building (in the hurricane) and Laura’s was washed out to the river.
When I was a little child, we used to go up to the top of our lane and sit there in the sun and count cars. If 400 cars went by in a day, that was big. Now 400 cars would come by in fifteen minutes.
The beaches were Plant’s, directly over the old bridge, then there was Hutchinson’s and there was Allen’s down at the other end. They used to charge for parking. At one time, it was $1.00 to park and get in the bathhouse. Milton Earle and John Baker got together and built their bathhouses. People didn’t want the State to come in and take over the beaches. I think the Town was lax. I think the Town should have taken them themselves. The property down at the end (of Horseneck Beach) was given to the Town. That used to belong to Cherry and Webb. There were big houses there. Louis Henry Howe, who was President Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary, had a couple.
Interviewer to Rita – Did you like it here when you first came?
Rita – What I liked about it was all the beaches and water. I came from Acushnet, and there wasn’t water there. When I first came here, all I could see was fog, and then the sun same out, and there was all that beautiful ocean. Oh! I though it was great. I really like Westport. I was working, you know where Miss Ellis’ house is, a family used to rent that, and I was in high school, and I came here and took care of the children for the summer. Then, I went back to school again. One thing I remember, when I used to walk around Westport in the summer, if you went down to the Point, it was loaded with people walking around. People would all go down to watch the boats come in and see what they caught. The summer people too. There’s nothing happening now. There’s no fun.
David – The summer people and the year-round people got along pretty well. One woman said, ‘The local people have the beach all year round, so I don’t see why they can’t let us have it in the summertime.’
Rita – I think what happens is that the summer people are here for fun, they’re on vacation, and the local people just go about their daily routines.
We never heard of any robberies or anything like that. We never locked our doors.
The old wooded bridge was right there (at the foot of the Main Road), and you’d just take a walk over the bridge to get to the beach.
David – About the rum running, everyone knew about it, even the police knew it. There was no money for people to live on, so it was actually keeping the town. The crime that was associated with it was from hijackers.
There was the WPA and there wasn’t any work. It seems as though it hit everybody, you just couldn’t stop it. We had the dairy farm down there and the dairies wouldn’t take the milk, they’d just take so much. They had quotas. They said they would pay for just so much and take the rest for surplus. My father said, ‘you won’t take my milk. If you can only take so much, then I’m going to feed the pigs with the rest.’ The farmers just got by, by the skin of their teeth. A lot of them went out. It helped out a lot when the summer people came, because a lot of people got work taking care of their houses.
The mills up at the North (Westport) were owned by the Traffords. That was their big stone mansion we were talking about. They had quite a set-up there. You see, they owned the store, the gas station, and they owned the houses. The people owned them (Traffords) all the money they made. It worked beautifully for them; they’d pay the people the money (in wages) and get it all back again. They had two mills, one up by Lincoln Park and the other where Hoyt Manufacturing Company is. Most of the people in Westport worked in the mills in Fall River and New Bedford, the cotton mills.
I don’t think all this building helps (the town) a lot. Now we’ve got a problem with sewage and schools and roads. I hate to see us get big. The one thing we have is this river. I love that river.
I always liked farming, but down there where we were, I just didn’t feel like taking over the farm. The farm’s still there. I still have a brother and sister there.
Westport is now a good town to work for; before it was awful. It’s hard for a small town like this, without much money to pay big wages, but on the other hand, people have to live. We tried to get more money, but they just wouldn’t listen to us. We’d go to the Finance Board and ask for money, and they’d say, ‘Schools cost money.’ I asked them if we were supposed to support the schools alone. The firemen kept getting raises, the police kept getting raises, and everybody kept getting raises. I don’t think any of us (Highway Department) wanted the union, but we had to in order to live.
We build the roads and maintain them. I don’t go out with the snow plow any more on cold winter nights. It used to be much colder, much more snow. Sometimes there would be nine to ten feet of snow by Sequira’s barn, and the same on Sodom Road.
Rita – I think the children are quite happy here. They have a good time riding their bicycles, and there’s a lot to do around home. There’s no town landing right here that the children can go down to. We could go across anybody’s property when I was a child, and they’d never say word.
In the thirties, property began to be more valuable. They’ve been trying to slow the growth, but can’t. Take Sodom Road, it was all wooded, and now it’s practically a town.
David – I don’t think they’ve cleared that much. In fact, a lot of it has gone back to woods that were cleared.
I think that earlier, the kids all had their chores to do, and they just didn’t have the time to get into trouble like they do today. The children say, ‘what are we going to do? We have nothing to do.’
Sam Boan used to be Chairman of the Board of Welfare here in town. Kids used to work on his potato farm I the summer times. Cheap labor then, didn’t have any power at all. You either worked, or you starved.
There was a small pond on the Crandall Road. There used to be millponds all over town. There was one over here on the Drift Road, and one at the Head of Westport, and one at Westport Factory. There’s one at Smith Mills in Dartmouth, and there used to be one down in back of Oscar Palmer’s, and one on Perry’s farm. On Perry’s farm, there was a sawmill and a gristmill; there on the side of the road, you can see some old foundations.
I lived at the Point, and before we had a car, I never did see the other end of town. I used to go to Fall River once in a while with my father, and that’s about all. He used to start off about 7 o’clock in the morning, and after his shopping, get back about 5 o’clock. Most of the time, we went over the Gifford Road to the Head of Westport, then the old New Bedford Road (Route 177). I worked on that road. Route 6 was just a streetcar line; there was no road there. Old County Road through the Head was the East-West road through Newport to Cape Cod. A lot of people here who wanted to go into Fall River or New Bedford would take the stage. The mailman had a stage – started with horse and wagon, and then changed to cars. At Lincoln Park, they’d take the trolley. On the trolley, you could go to Newport, Bristol, Rhode Island, and Providence. The trolley line was at the bottom, and the cars would go up overhead.
The Union Street Railway used to own Lincoln Park. At the north end of the parting lot at Lincoln Park, there used to be a car barn.
When I was young, the only road that was tarred was the Main Road.
About Westport, I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere else. I’ve not done much traveling outside the area. I was away for a while in a C.C.C. Camp. At one time, I thought I would like to be a forester, and I went to the C.C.C. Camp, and had a chance to go to school, but my father was in bed and dying at that time, so I stayed on the farm.
People here just didn’t want more business here, they wanted it to stay. They were happy the way they were. They didn’t want to pay more taxes. Once, at Town Meeting, in a recess, this fellow said, ‘I’ll fix this town; I’ll teach them how to live.’ I told him that people have this town the way it is ‘cause they want it that way. It could have grown more if they’d developed a water system. That’s the one thing that held back business.
Rita – I still think that Westport Point is one of the prettiest places in town. Remember the old house that stood right on the sidewalk where Mrs. Richards now lives? It was an old two-story house. They took it down when they built Richard’s present house. I used to lake to walk down to the Point. People didn’t think of jumping into a car all the time. I think that at one time, everybody knew everybody else. Up at St. John’s Church that we belong to, we used to know everybody there. There were two masses. Now there are five or six masses in the summertime. We used to walk from the Point up to St. John’s in Central Village. It was a long walk, eight miles up and back. The Parish House used to be the Town Hall. The Town Clerk had his office in his home; the treasurer had his (office) in his house, and so forth. (Tape ends suddenly).