Audrey Mae SpencerSpencer Historical CemeteryHenry Straight / William Spencer Family Cemetery
Vaughn Historical CemeterySpencers of East Greenwich, RI
Life in Anthony (Coventry)
13 November 2002

Heather: When did you begin reading?

Sketched by Audrey, Geraniums on the windowsill

Audrey: When I was 10 years old, I belonged to the Anthony Library Association. We had an old fashioned desk with an opening down (pull down) desktop and the bottom of the desk had books. Mother (Mary Jane Vaughn Spencer) was a great reader. She would sit in the rocking chair by the window and see who was coming in the back of the house. She had geraniums on the windowsill in back of the washing machine and they looked so beautiful. She would have my father’s supper ready and (she would) jump up when she saw him coming home.

Before bed, we would all have crackers and milk. Still that’s all I eat (crackers and milk) and I dip a spoon in the jelly.

13 November 2002

Heather: How did you get to the Anthony Library building?

Postcard of Audrey and her mother standing in front of their home on Washington Street in Coventry, RI

Audrey: The trolley train went by the front yard (at 742 Washington Street). You could not park a car there because of the trolley. Two houses down was the stop for the Trolley. The trolley went from Knotty Oak to Arctic and turned around and came back. Maisie, I and her mother went to Rocky Point on the trolley car. The side was opened in summer. The gate was closed so the people would not fall out. My mother did not care much for walking around.

My Mother was as tall as Aunt Edith (Audrey’s older sister). I was taller.

Heather: Mother, in those days, a tall woman was not considered as pretty as a shorter woman. But you were pretty. You just happened to get the tall gene. Your mother and your sister didn’t. That is why you did not think you were pretty. You were pretty, but you were tall. Standing next to your mother and Edith, you are a head taller than them, but still you were much shorter than Grampa. I could never understand why you said you were not pretty. Now I know why!

5 February 2003

Heather: Did you work in the kitchen with your mother?

Unknown Friend on left with Audrey Mae Spencer on the right

Audrey: I can’t remember working in the kitchen with mother. I was the only one there. I was a child. I liked raw potatoes dipped in vinegar. I would just sit around coloring. Every Christmas I got a new batch of crayons and a coloring book. I had to make it last a whole year.

I had a nice childhood on the farm. I had to entertain myself. I would play with Elsie Miller. Every once in a while, my Mother would visit her Mother. Elsie and I would run around the stonewall of historical cemetery No. 9. We had sticks that we pretended were guns. We’d shoot the cow flops and pretend they were soldiers.

 

5 February 2003

Heather: How old were you when you were in combat?

12 February 2003

Heather: Your parents cared for your father’s parents at the end of their lives. You and Dad cared for your father at the end of his life. I remember when I was in Columbia, Missouri and you called me to tell me that grandpa* had died and then you cried. My heart went out to you. You were so sad but wanted to be brave. You were trying not to show your tremendous sadness. Grandpa lived with you and Dad for some time before he died.

Tall man unknown and John Johnson Spencer

Audrey: John Johnson Spencer, my grandfather, walked and got along. He died in our house at 742 Washington St., Coventry. My father bought the house in Coventry when he sold the Spencer homestead on Middle Road in East Greenwich. I was twelve years old when we moved from the farm.

*Grandpa is Wm. J.B. Spencer, Audrey’s father.
20 July 2003

Heather: Good, I’ll call every Saturday morning as I do not work on Saturdays and we can talk until your hand gets tired. I used to enjoy hearing Grampa(William J.B. Spencer) talk about the olden days. Tell me something about your childhood.

MaryJane Vaughn Spencer

Audrey: My mother (MaryJane [née Vaughn] Spencer) always drank tea. We always had tea. There was a white dish with a handle always sitting on top of the stove with the tea. It was not a teapot. It always had tea in it, however. I never knew what coffee was until I was married. Dad’s folks drank coffee. I liked coffee. I thought it was good.

Mother had an old wooden box that played the records—the round plate record. She would put the needle on the record. The handle had a needle on the edge. Mother played the song “Yama Yama Man” and it scared me to death. I was a quiet kid. I never talked with anybody, not even to Aunt Mandy.

20 July 2003

Heather: I never heard of that song. I’ll check with Chuck to see if he knows it. What do you remember about Aunt Edith in your childhood?

 

Mary Jane Vaughn Spencer and her first daughter, Edith Anna

Audrey: She was so much older than I was. Her teddy bear was “Prince”. The most beautiful doll was “Princess”. Edith had a beautiful doll that was put together with string inside it. I was not supposed to touch it. As soon as Edith got in the car (or horse and buggy, I can’t remember which) to leave for Providence, I ran to get the doll in a little black trunk. The doll had clothes and I would dress and undress it—very carefully and I never got caught. Edith named her old rag doll, Cinderella Angelina Rachel Maude Portia Elizabeth. Everyone cut out rag dolls themselves. I don’t think we could buy them. Rag dolls were the size of a pillowcase. The arms went out straight and were stuffed with cotton. The doll’s lips were black—penciled in. I don’t remember dolls with yellow hair or red lips. That would come later. I played with Cinderella. I remember my phone number. It was 70J4. When they first began, the numbers were shorter.

20 December 2003

H: What was your mother like?

Aunt Mandy, Aunt Rachael, MaryJane Vaughn Spencer and child Edith Anna

She always had a nose in a book. She more or less educated herself. We had an old fashioned locked desk where there were two or three shelves full of books. I remember the one room schoolhouses. They were like little boxes over the hill.

Aunt Mandy was a teacher. Bible was her lesson. Aunt Mandy was the ancestor that saved post cards. I have two handled baskets here with post cards. I was going to college when Aunt Mandy died. You go straight down toward East Greenwich and that was where Aunt Mandy’s house was. The house is gone now.

10 January 2004

Heather: Happy New Year!

Audrey: Crystal brought a Chicken Little Teddy Bear. I have a bunny with a green dress (little green lady)  and Mr. and Mrs. Long eared bunny. I have a long skinny lady made from folding napkins. Martin made it. He is smart at doing such. Momma and Poppa, the lady and gent, they get to sit on the edge of my chair. My phone sits in my chair also. The window is loaded with things that come to me. Theo Groves is still here now. I met her when she first came in.

It is cold outside now and the ground is speckled with snow. My ankles and feet are fine now. My ankles were loose, but now they are tight with these new socks. I can stand up and walk well with my ankles and legs hitched tight now. When I was little, I walked home from school. Yes, John Johnson Spencer, (my grandfather), he walked good. He walked well. Aunt Edith was close to Anna Maria, (her grandmother). When Anna Maria died, Edith went daily to her grave for a long time. I remember Anna Maria’s casket. We used to have the casket in the home. I remember my mother standing near the casket.

10 January 2004

Heather: What do you remember about your family house on 742 Washington Street in Coventry?

Spencer, Dawn, Douglas, Heather, Deardra and Vaughn MacDonald

Audrey: The front door was never used. It was just to look at. It was beautiful. I can always see that front door of that big house. That door was beautiful. Grampa (William J.B. Spencer) sold the homestead in East Greenwich and we bought the house in Coventry with the money.

I lived there since I was twelve years old until I married and we moved to a small house. We went back to live at 742 Washington Street until we bought the house on East Greenwich Avenue in West Warwick. You (Heather) were nine months old when we moved.

I got by. I had the children there. I was making up things all the time. We would go out and play and pick daisies. The field was full of daisies. But I enjoyed you kids. It was all I needed—my seven masterpieces as I call you.

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