Way back in the day, I went to college in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, which basically sits between Fall River and New Bedford. We would drive past Fall River, either on Route 195, or Route 24. I don’t think I ever went into Fall River proper when I was in school right near there.
Leaving Providence, I used Tour 6, which is Route 6 to travel to Fall River. Once I crossed back into Massachusetts, Seekonk reminded me of a Route 9 in Framingham. Lots of lights, lots of traffic, lots of stores. Luckily, this didn’t last long and by the time I entered Seekonk, I could see little ponds and more evidence of being on the coast. Route 6 East made a sweeping turn south into Fall River, where I was greeted by really large mills with the huge chimneys that were described in the Massachusetts Guide Book. Fall River sits surrounded by water on two sides. After an 18.7 mile ride, that took 44 minutes, I found a metered parking space on a little side street, and parked Sage. I quickly found 177 North Main Street, the Irbington, where my Grandfather had stayed on June 11, 12 and 13th, 1929. Like the Providence locations, I could find no information on the history of this building. In the Massachusetts Guide Book, it said that Fall River had “ten hotels; twenty-four lodging houses; three boarding houses.” (p.229). Based on some of what my Grandfather said in his letter, my guess is that this location was either a lodging or a rooming house, versus a hotel.
June 12, 1929 “I had been working in Newport Rhode Island today and upon arriving at the apartment, I walked into my box and woe to my eyes I did not see any mail. I asked Mrs. Allison, the woman who runs this place whether I had received any mail to-day. She told me to hold my horses until I got to my room and probably Iwould feel better. I looked upon my dresser and there you are, two large envelopes.”
Currently, this location is a home for those who are either homeless or fighting addiction. On the top of the building, was the word Peirce Building, which I did look up later to no avail. It looks like that perhaps at one time, there was a grocery type store also at this building.
These letters provided yet another glimpse at the work my Grandfather did as well as what he did in his non-working hours.
“The wallet has not been found anywhere, so I think I’m out of all that I had. I had been driving my car without a license or registration all day yesterday and today until I went to see the registrar of motor vehicles, stated my story and he gave me a duplicate of my license, which cost me a dollar. I told him a white lie when he asked me whether I had driven the car when I found that I had lost my license. I replied, “Of course not for that time I would probably had an accident.”
“Frank and I are going to a show tonight, the picture “Innocence of Paris”. I will make this sort of brief tonight, for Frank is impatient to go to the theater. Well I guess that I will have to bid you good-night for Frank over in the next room is pounding the wall, telling me to sign off.”
“Instead of going to see the Innocence of Paris, we went and saw “Gold Cherous”, an actual picture of th elate World’s War. There were a few battle scenes taken in the air, between the American Ace, Rickenbacker and a few Germans, say it was wonderful to see two master aviators go after each other in the air. It showed the entire battle until the German’s plane hit the ground and burn up, it also showed scenes taken on the battlefield.”
“It was very warm to-day out here in the sticks, as I call this city and also I had to get a window which was fifteen feet long and about seven feet deep, all enclosed, with the temperature at 97 degrees, honest I had a desire to take my shirt off and I would have if it would have been somewhere on a side street but it is in the heart of the city, South Main. I trolled at this window for four hours and let me tell you something, it was hot. I got into the window at ten and did not get out until a little after two, so you see it was a very large window. The manager claimed it was the best window he had ever had in that store, I thanked him of course.”
“Frank and I are going to take a ride to Newport beach tonight. Newport is only some odd 29 or 30 miles from here. We may go in for a swim and may not, it all depends how we feel when we reach there.”
What was really telling in one of my Grandfather’s letter was his description of Fall River:
“It has been quite warm to-day out here in this great mill town of our state, well practically all the mills are shut down and the people are out of work, so that makes business kind of hard to find. I called up Mr. Hall and told him how it was here and I suggested that we do straight window trimming for the week, he said O.K., so that is that.”
In the Massachusetts Guide Book (1937), it sated that “Fall River, by its very pre-eminence in cotton manufacture, has been the hardest hit of all New England mill cities through the combination of general business depression, the preference of modern women for rayon or silk to cotton, and the removal of may textile factories to the cheaper operating field of the South.” (p.231). It seemed like Fall River was already a city in decline in 1929. The population of Fall River was 117, 414 when this book was written; however in 2017, the population was 89420, which is a serious decrease. I felt when I walked around the North Main Street area, home to the library, multiple banks, some restaurants, that the streets were mainly deserted. There were many older brick buildings still standing on the narrow city streets. I wondered if having major highways diverting traffic from going through Fall River had an effect on its decrease in population and industry?
For my quest for another funky coffee shop, I did find one: The Pink Bean, which was located on 85 Purchase Street, had that cool vibe that I so love in a coffee shop. It had a great selection of drinks and breakfast and lunch items. I had a Iced Hibiscus Tea Refresher, which was fruity and delightful.
After spending 29 minutes in Fall River, I headed back to Sage when I spied a Gigi like Mini parked on the street. Thinking maybe it was Gigi, I looked closer. Not a convertible, but the same color! I left thinking about how these mill cities were so prosperous at one time and how could they re-invent themselves for this century.