Monday, February 3, 2014

Charlie Nickerson (52 Ancestors - #4)

In the explanatory text of "Getting to Know You", it mentions that I'm definitely receiving help from family and friends with writing. It was a wonderful surprise to receive a full history of my Uncle Charlie from his daughter Gail (Nickerson) Handrahan this morning. My family grew up visiting all my Uncles and we spent many Christmases, Easters and 4th of Julys at twinkle eyes Uncle "Chucka's" home running around his huge back yard and climbing the two massive pine trees when we weren't supposed to! Of course Aunt Doris did all the fussing with delectable food and I'm still always happy to visit Aunt Doris today. Well let's get to it and see what Gail has to say about her beloved dad...

Charles Savol Nickerson, Jr., my dad, was born on August 20, 1922; the oldest son of Charles Savol Nickerson, Sr. and Caroline (O’Meara) Nickerson.  Charlie had three brothers, and a sister, Audrey who sadly died of pneumonia at age two. Since the family lived with Caroline’s parents for some years after they were married, Charlie shared a room with his Uncle Joe O’Meara, Caroline’s younger brother.  This became the foundation for a life-long friendship between the two.

Weather permitting Uncle Joe, Charlie, Sr., Charlie Jr. and Charlie’s brothers:  Bill and Joe would play baseball every Saturday in the dusty field near their house. Their youngest brother, Dick, who was 13 years younger than Charlie, Jr. was only a toddler if there at all during these years.   After their game Charlie and Uncle Joe, as he was always referred to, even though they were somewhat close in age, would take the trolley car into a Boston hospital so that they could both receive treatment for their asthma and then ride home again for dinner.  Finn and Haddie (a favorite of Charlie Sr.’s and a recipe he brought from his native Canada) might be waiting on the back of the stove, or if they were early enough a snack of fried bologna.  Mayonnaise sandwiches were reserved for school lunches.

In 1922 radio had first come to the White House with only a handful of stations broadcasting.  No one had even heard of television.  The papers were full of stories about the sharp shooter, Annie Oakley, Babe Ruth and a man called Walt Disney who had just started his first film company.

Twelve-year-old Charlie won a scholarship to Boys Latin, only attending for a short time as Charlie, Sr. and Caroline moved their family often, finally settling in the Dorchester Lower Mills.  It was here, that Charlie and his brothers would tinker with their cars in the driveway and wash the engine or other parts in Caroline’s (Carrie’s) big soapstone sink.
House at 10 Churchill - Lower Mills, Dorchester (recent photo)

House where Charlie lived in 1937 - 126 Chestnut Ave, JP
Or another time having seen the new “television” in a store window, Charlie Sr. and Jr. gathered all the necessities to build one of their own.  After their first success they went on to build more for other family members.

Charlie, Jr. worked for Bakers Chocolate and then as an intern at an engineering firm before enlisting at age 17 in the Navy to serve in World War II on the USS John Rodgers.  Soon after brother Joe enlisted in the Army and Bill, the Navy; all three serving their country at the same time.  Dick would later enlist and serve in Germany.
Charlie in his Navy uniform
USS John Rodgers (Wikipedia photo)
Charlie trained as a radio man on a destroyer attached to the admiral’s fleet.  Duty was in the Pacific Theatre before ending with a sail into the Sea of Japan.  Soon after he was discharged, he returned home and met Doris Mannett on a blind date; 3 years later they were married and 2 years after that their only child, Gail, was born.
Doris Mannett
Family was the center of Charlie and Doris’ life.  Weekends were spent with Nick and Carrie sleeping over in Weymouth.  Saturday night the rest of the brothers and their families would arrive,  there would be card games or plays written and acted out starring characters such as Tex or silhouetted on a sheet with a light shining on them to depict an operation in progress.  Every holiday would bring all the Nickerson brothers and their families together.   And as the family grew, Christmas dinner would be served seated around the pool table that had been covered with the best linen tablecloths and silver in the downstairs playroom.
Forefront - Cousin Lisa, Aunt Doris and Cousin Rick - 1974 Christmas
Uncle Joe and Auntie Phil sitting at the pool table set with nice linens for Christmas, 1974
In later years Sundays were always spent with Uncle Joe O’Meara, his wife, Gladys and their children, Joe, Gerry and Jim.  Wednesdays would be dinner with Dick, his wife, Harriet and their children, Karen and Richard.
Charlie Nickerson as a groomsman in his brother Dick's 1963 wedding
Charlie was an avid Red Sox fan and worked as a bartender in the press booth at Fenway Park where Curt Gowdie was an announcer.  He never missed a game and would sit in the living room watching on tv, volume turned down with a radio to his ear to listen to that commentary and always, a book open in his lap.  One of his many hobbies included collecting baseball cards with twin grandsons, Sean and Greg.

Charlie passed away July 1, 2008 after battling COPD for more than 15 years and was buried in the National Cemetery in Bourne, MA.  His wife, Doris, still lives in the same house that they bought together on March 1, 1953.  Still in the neighborhood are five other original owners or their families.
Charles grave at the National Cemetery in Bourne, MA
If he were here today, my dad would be pleased to see multi-generations of families, helping one another even living together to save for their future.  After all at one time he had a brand new car which he drove to work one morning.  That night he came home with two not-so-new cars, one for himself and one for his brother whose car had completely broken down.  He never thought to mention his new plan to Doris …… who later totally understood and supported his reasoning.
Left to Right - Brothers Charlie, Dick, Bill, Karen and Joe - 1984
And if I could ask my dad one more question, it would be:  For 50 years you carried a picture in your wallet of 3 year old me sitting on Santa’s lap …. Did you always show only that to anyone who asked to see a picture of your daughter?  Actually, I think I already know the answer to that!

Note: After re-reading Gail's story about her dad, I actually got quite teary thinking how much I missed the Wednesday dinners and all the family gatherings. Uncle Chuck wrote notes about his family genealogy prior to his death and it really put me on the track to finding his great grandfather Richard O'Meara. If he were still here today I would definitely ask him to tell me more about his years in the Navy and to pick his brain about his parents and Annie Cremmins!!

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