Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Stream of Legacies, Halibut Point, 1938

A one-per-decade series of glimpses, 1860-1960

A coterie of well-heeled, talented Victorian ladies established summer studios at the base of Woodbury Hill, across the street from Folly Cove.

Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements and student
Photo probably by Ellen Day Hale
Sandy Bay Historical Society
Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements and Ellen Day Hale built adjacent houses in Folly Cove, straddling the Rockport-Gloucester line. They had collaborated on an article about the granite industry for Harpers Weekly in 1885, authored by Miss Hale and with an etching by Miss Clements.
"The Derrick," 1885
Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements etching
Sandy Bay Historical Society
They employed local families in meeting the necessities of life. Miss Clements in particular was encouraging to bright youngsters, among them Albert Seppala of Sunnyside Farm and the sons of Pastor Ronka, the Finnish minister in Lanesville. She thought she saw something special in Mary Pucci from a homestead up on Gott Avenue, Halibut Point.
Last year I had the opportunity to talk with Mary about Miss Clements' influence, among other topics. Shortly afterward Mary Pucci Couchman, retired pediatrician, passed away. I take pleasure in imagining this 1938 meeting between the two of them, attended by Miss Clements' Irish maid Lizzie.
M  Hello, Lizzie!
L    Welcome to 'Thickets,' dear. That's Miss Clements' name for the house. She's expecting you in the garden. Let's go right on through to the terrace.
Interior of 'Thickets'
Sandy Bay Historical Society
M  Thank you, Lizzie.
L    Miss Clements asked me to bring out some of her home-made yogurt with berries. Would that suit you? You know, she and Miss Hale brought the culture back from one of their travels abroad. They hid it in their bandeaux when they crossed the borders.
M   I'd like to try it.
Rose trellis on 'Thickets'
Sandy Bay Historical Society
L    Here we are. Miss Clements, Mary Pucci is here.
C    How nice to see you, Mary. Let's sit over here at the table. I see you brought the book.
Leather-bound La Gerusalemme Liberata, 1856 ed.,
in the hand of Mary Pucci Couchman, 2014
M   Yes, my parents were glad to have you see it. It's an heirloom. It belonged to my great-grandfather. La Gerusalemme Liberata means Jerusalem Delivered. It's one of the great epic poems in Italian, from the Renaissance period. Torquato Tasso completed it in 1581.
C    Have you read it yourself?
M   I'm working on it. Sometimes we read it all together at home. It's actually in Tuscan, which my parents say is the purest dialect in Italy and produced its highest literature. Florence is there, and Lucca near our family home in Mutigliano.
C    I'm glad you're proud of that, and that you're keeping up the language.
M   We have lots of Italian families here in our neighborhood, but hardly any of the others speak Tuscan. Antone Balzarini - who operates the farm at Halibut Point, and came from Lombardy which has a lot of French and German influence - used to ask his kids to listen to me speak 'pure' Italian. See here, the book is inscribed by my great-grandfather. 
Sebastian Pucci, of Mutigliano
C    That was your father's grandfather?
M   Yes. He was the bailiff to a landowner, an overseer of the pastures. The shepherds would be out in the hills for a long time. They would stop by the house on their way out, to borrow this book. My great-grandmother would lend it to them. They would read it out in the hills. Sometimes it got wet.
C    Then your father brought it here?
Emilio Pucci, Halibut Point
Family photo
M   Yes. He came here to work in the quarries, then at the Tool Company, then in landscaping. He grafts fruit trees at our place across from the Gott House. He has a huge garden.
Mary Pucci on left
with Phoebe and Howard McLellan
on the steps of the Gott House, 1929
C    Did you know that, before you were born, we - that is my friend, Miss Stephenson - purchased your family's house on Folly Cove? See there, right across the street? We named it 'Gaviotta' which means 'seagull' in Portuguese. We use it for a guest cottage.
View from 'Gaviotta' c. 1938
Hale/Clements photo, Sandy Bay Historical Society
M   I did hear about that. My mother thought the cottage was too drafty in the winter time. She threatened to go back to Italy. Now, with Mussolini in power, she says she's glad she didn't. 
C    Mary, you seem to know a great deal about the world. You're planning to go to college, aren't you?
M   Yes, I want to study nursing at Simmons College. 
C    That's wonderful. Miss Stephenson and I want to help you do that. We want to help you with tuition. We've looked into your records and are sure that you will be successful. All we ask is that you make the most of it. Now here comes Lizzie with a little treat for us. 
M   Oh, Miss Clements, thank you. My parents will be so relieved. I won't let you down. 
*  *  *
Inscription from Gabrielle Clements to Mary Pucci, 1943
Upon graduation from Simmons and bound for the Yale University School of Medicine, Mary received from Miss Clements a leather-bound set of The Divine Comedy, Tuscan author Dante Alighieri's masterwork of literature.

The four volumes of The Divine Comedy, 1893 ed.

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