Address: Richmond, VA

Growing up in a small New England town:

We moved to Narragansett in 1961 from San Diego, CA, when I was only 5. The story of this small town was influenced by the generation I grew up in. The 60’s and 70’s were very different than the small towns of today. In our town, we didn’t have a high school for our graduation in 1972, and we were bused out to 4 different schools, leaving behind all the kids we grew up with from kindergarten. Later, I read that our class had the highest dropout rate in the history of Narragansett and the surrounding towns.

My friends and I had to hitchhike to Wakefield to go bowling at Old Mountain Lanes, which had the only movie theater. Bob would take the three of us, Debbie, Joyce, and I, to the movies every Saturday and drop us off with a dollar for popcorn or candy while he went to the bar across the street. I remember getting a dollar’s worth of penny candy just inside the front door after the movie. Yes, kids in the bar…We did it all the time. I was raised in all those bars. Narragansett had at least 5 bars within a 4-block radius, which I never understood as a child, but my mother, Grace, and father, Bob, had plenty to choose from to get drunk almost daily.

The small stores on the beachfront were colorful and busy, and right across the 2-lane road was the seawall. There were a couple of stores I remember well: McCollough’s Market, Desanto’s Pharmacy, where I used to get ice cream at the soda jerk, Bernice’s, which had the best burgers in town and a nice pool table, and the Surf Shop, which had the cutest guys in town.

In this particular town, we had the beach, which was free, unlike beach access now. My friends and I spent many days on the beach with our transistor radios and Del’s lemonade in the parking lot, as we had to stay out of the house until dark. In those days, our parents didn’t want to see us until we had to come into the house for dinner or to make a quick sandwich. If we needed water, we drank from the hose. Of course, we had to do all our chores first; mine was cutting the grass with a manual wooden mower, dishes, and floors.

In the winter, we had just as much fun with mounds of snow piled up on the street corners to build our forts and walk to school six blocks on the sidewalks covered high with snow. We didn’t have snow days like they do today, and the only reason you missed school was if you were dying. Bob was very strict about that, considering he only had a 9th-grade education. Our school days were so long that you came home at dusk. There were no weaklings in our day. On the weekends, after clearing our path to the porch, we all met at the skating area on the bridle path next to the school. The boys would make paths in the snow so we could skate, and there was always a fire next to the pond.

The effects of childhood abandonment in adulthood


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