Emma Hart was interviewed by Mary Giles in the fall of 1976. She spoke of her late husband’s boat building passion.
Emma, I am Mary Giles and I’m a member of the Bi-Centennial Exhibition Committee. I’ve come because we want to learn all we can of your life and your husband’s work here on Cornell Road.
As he worked here at the corner of Adamsville and Cornell Road, he was so friendly and his work was so interesting, that people stopped to visit with him, and almost everyone in town knew him.
Tell me, did you people always live here in Westport?
No, I came from South Carver, and when we were first married, we lived there. When we first came from there, we lived in Westport for a little while, and then we went to Somerville. We lived there for 12 or 13 years after Carver. We were married in Providence where Mr. Hart was general maintenance man for the ‘Direct Importing Company.
He was born in Westport; I don’t know how he happened to come back.
First – let me think for a moment. We came here from Somerville in 1921, and when we he first came here, he was doing dairy work for a while, then in 1923, no it was 1924, it was then that he started building boats.
We lived first on Cornell Road when he started building, then we moved to Adamsville Road, and he built boats there until two years before he passed away.
Yes, he built boats all that time. It will be two years the 21st of November (1975) when he passed away. He retired about four years ago, about 1971. I know that Dick Paull loved the boat he built for him. He gave him a big tip – or Lucia did.
Everybody he built for, thought it was just the best boat.
Please tell of some of the other boats he built.
Well, he built one for Hugh Morton and he (Hugh Morton) could never get over this. And, well – he built one for the Palmers.
The Paulls were so pleased, I get a Christmas card every year, they were so pleased.
Well, he built well over a thousand boats. He built one for John Whipple and he built one for Mrs. Butts of Padanaram. Of course, they were all from 24 to 42 feet.
‘Course its hard for me to remember so good. When you get to be 82, then you’ll begin to forget.
When we first came here, we lived on the river on Cornell, then up by the High School (Central Village) for one year, the down to Adamsville Corner Road, where he stayed the rest of the time.
Did you see the article in the Magazine (Yankee)? – a big article with my picture and his picture and the boat yard on it. 1948 I think it was.
We had big rowboats, skiffs – several sailboats.
For the Bi-Centennial I’m trying to find out about wildflowers in Westport. Were there many here? What kinds?
Well, most of them I didn’t know the names of – I like the common kind. I like wood violets the best. They grew along the road when we went up Cape way. We transplanted many of them, but they didn’t grow. The soil wasn’t just right.
When we first moved here, we had a beautiful dog, some called him a shepherd, but he really was a police dog. He was seventeen years old in January when he passed away, and we felt pretty bad about it.
When we first came here, we didn’t have electricity, we used kerosene lamps and we had a gas Aladdin’s Lantern – they called it. It was made with a mantle – a gas lantern at first. That was in 1926. Then we put in electric lamps about 1929 or 1930, with all the batteries to run it, but we still had the outside privy.
For water, we had a well drilled that we put in abut six years ago. Well, we had a dug well on Adamsville Road before that, until 1968 or 1969.
In 1938, I think, the hurricane took one willow tree, which was near the cesspool, not the well. Otherwise, the 1938 hurricane didn’t do too much damage. It lifted the garage off its foundation and took some of the roof, but that was about all.
Then I was very lucky (in the hurricane). Fortunately I just got over the bridge, when the big wave hit. There’s a story that goes with that, I was working with Marguerite Manchester over on Horseneck in a restaurant, and we went to clean up, pardon me, I can remember I said, ‘Let’s go swimming,’ and she said, ‘Let’s clean up the kitchen first.’ I said, ‘No swimming, no clean.’ Well, we went back and forth like that, and she said finally, ‘Let’s not do anything, let’s go home.’ And we did, and just got over the bridge when the big wave struck. She said to me, ‘It’s a good thing we came home.’
Marguerite Manchester lived at the Point opposite the Methodist Church. We were great friends – almost 30 years.
If we had stayed to clean, that would have been the end – I was driving the car.
Do you remember when you first had a car?
When we first came, we had a car and one in Somerville, but in Carver I drove a horse and wagon to high school in bad weather, and rode a bike in good weather. Four others went with me in the wagon in Carver.
Let’s see. That was in 1905 because I was born in 1893 and went to high school when I was twelve years old. That’s my first year.
Cars weren’t very popular then. I guess we had a car after we came to Somerville. I used to drive a truck for my husband. He wouldn’t drive unless he was forced to.
Some people thought he had just one arm. He had two, but it was like this, when he was born, his arm was loose, and a doctor said to put it in a sling, and they put his arm in a sling for five years, and the ball and socket grew together.
He’d hold the nails – I wish you could have seen him work. Men used to come there and watch him and say, ‘I don’t believe it.’
No one could believe that he could put out the work he did. He’d make all his own patterns. If someone came in and wanted to use a certain plan, he did it, but usually he’d make all his own plans.
My grandson, Albert Cambra, is very bright, and so is my great grandson. He’s a genius. He’s only a junior in high school, but they say they can’t teach him any more up here. He’s been up to Harvard for six weeks. He got the ‘Harvard Book of the Year.’ He’s a smart boy. I don’t say it because he’s my grandson, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due.
Well, I’ve got another grandson who’s way up in electronics. He’s at Raytheon somewhere – yes, they’re all working.
Albert is one of the nicest.
After my husband died, he couldn’t wait ‘til I came to live over here with his family.
Of course I’ve had an awful lot of sickness – blackouts – but I’ve been fine since I’ve been over here.
Mrs. Hart, did you and your husband like to sail?
I didn’t sail, but Mr. Hart used to sail. It was funny. We took a boat in trade and we were going to row down the river and take this boat to this man, and he (Mr. Hart) said, ‘I’m not going to row down there. You take the truck down to Shorty Leaches and buy a motor, and that’s all we ever used that boat for. He didn’t have time. He couldn’t take the time.
You asked about food.
Well, we did our marketing in Fall River, the first year we had a garden, but after that we’d shop at the market. I’d got so used to the big markets, that I couldn’t shop here at the small ones.
I drove – we’d go about once a week, unless we needed supplies for his work.
You asked about fishing.
I never fished. Mr. Hart fished when he was a boy, up ‘til he was about 22. He’d take just what he could catch.
At this point, Albert Cambra, Mrs. Hart’s grandson came into the room after his work, co-owner of the Adamsville Garage on Adamsville Road.
Albert – I love to fish and so does my whole family. We fish for Bass, Blue Fish, and Herring for the roe. My kids like to fish and so does my wife, Dianne. We go anywhere from here to Marthas Vineyard. My boat would be my grandfather’s pet peeve – it’s fiberglass.
Mrs. Hart, ‘Oh, I remember a boat my husband made for Mr. Koalo over in Bristol. It was a 30 footer. And then we built one for a little bit of a fellow – scared to go over the bridge in Bristol, and we took it over for him. It was 27 feet. Oh! What was his name? I never thought I’d forget him. Well, he done us out of about $900, and since we were in Massachusetts and he was in Rhode Island, it would have cost more to sue him.
It’s especially bad, because my husband sold for almost nothing – for little or nothing. He was very reasonable, and if anyone owed him anything on one, he’d never ask for it. I’d have to ask for it.
Mrs. Hart, what did you do for fun?
Well, when we had free time, we’d take trips – to Canada, Nova Scotia, down to Key West and to Ohio. In Ohio we went to Youngstown, and a couple of the other places. That’s what we did, we took trips.
After work, when he came home in the evening (his work was right at home), he was so tired that he’d have supper and be ready for bed. Another thing, I think he loved to beat his grandson at checkers.
Albert says he doesn’t have much time for checkers now, or playing anything. I know he gets up at 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning, putters abut a bit, and gets ready to go to work.
Albert’s worked ever since he was two years old. If there was a big rock in the yard, I’d see him trying to move it.