Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mary Jane (52 Ancestors - #7)

Mary Jane (Shaw) Shaw was born to John Thomas and Ellen (Meehan) Shaw on September 15, 1887. She was obviously very beloved as you can tell by the fond memories and loving way my brother-law, James (Chip) Bruynell tells us her story...

John, Mary Jane and Mary

Nanny, we pronounced it “Nah’-nee”, was born in a sleepy quintessential fishing village known as Little Heart’s Ease on Newfoundland’s Coast. Most villagers eked out a living there fishing the bountiful waters known as the Grand Banks.

Soon after marrying James Shaw (December 30th, 1909), Mary Jane and James, with their two sons Ronald and Anthony emigrated to the U.S. and settled in the predominately Irish Catholic neighborhood of South Boston known as “Southie” to those who took up residence there. James embarked on a trade as a carpenter while Nanny lovingly raised a family of three boys and one girl. John and Mary rounded out the family and were born as U.S. citizens. (Mary Jane naturalized on December 8th, 1952).
James and Mary Jane Shaw (1949)
They lived on the upper end of G Street historically known as Dorchester Heights even though it was located in “Southie”.  Nanny loved her Romany rye bread and could venture down to Doc’s one block away at the bottom of the hill for staples for her kitchen.  Sundays were a special day on G Street for “Sunday Dinner”. Her favorite meal to prepare was a boiled dinner consisting of either a daisy roll or smoked shoulder with carrots and potatoes with pot liquor on the side.
James and Mary Jane (1949)
In October, 1951, while working at his shop, James suddenly died of a heart attack. Mary, the youngest of the family, was already 7 months pregnant with their first grandchild and unfortunately James would never get to share that joy with Mary Jane.

Nanny was deeply religious. Every night at precisely 6:40, she would brew herself a cup of either Tetley or Lipton tea, butter a piece of toasted Romany rye bread and take a position at the kitchen table where an old style radio with a rotary tuner would be preset to her favorite and only station. Sitting around the table with whomever was staying or visiting, all were fervently glued to the radio as the familiar scratchy drawling voice of Richard Cardinal Cushing, a very predominant figure in Boston, would intone the Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary. There were to be absolutely no diversions to be undertaken until the last “Amen”. Bedtime prayer time would follow for any of the grandchildren present. The prayers typically would begin with a litany of “God bless … where they would list individually all those near and dear to them. On one occasion, the first and last of its kind, Nanny became a little upset when one of the grandchildren concluded his prayer with “God bless Sparky and Spooky”, the family household pet dog and cat. That was one of those religious taboos.
James (Chip) Bruynell with his beloved grandmother, Mary Jane (about 1957)
Nanny eventually moved to Chickatawbut Street in Dorchester where she shared a duplex with her daughter Mary and husband Kenneth and their five children. This was very advantageous for the grandchildren because they knew that she made a habit of “spoiling” them. Nanny always had a cache of nickels on hand and she doled them out like she meted out her prayers on those she loved. Back in the day, one could go to Ike’s and buy a candy bar for 5 cents. There were extra bonuses for those who would do her grocery shopping which usually consisted of a loaf of her favorite bread and a quart of milk to go with her tea. Both of these items could be purchased for under 60 cents.

Nanny possessed the benevolence of a saint and the patience of Job. Her three sons would often visit her. They were all considered “Masters of Tease” no doubt a Shaw trait passed down even to this day. Ron, the oldest, was the best at it. With him it came as second nature. On one particular occasion after Nanny had made sure that at Sunday dinner everyone was served, she would, at last, sit down to enjoy the meal after “Grace” had been said. She was still donning her apron in case she had to refill a serving dish besides kitchen duties were never concluded until the last dish was dried and put away. Ron made an excuse to momentarily excuse himself from the table and on his way back, unbeknownst to Nanny, stealthily sneaked behind her chair, unfastened her apron strings, and reattached them snuggly to the chair. It wasn’t until sometime later when she tried to get up to refill a platter that she discovered that she wasn’t going anywhere easily unless the chair was attached to her butt. Flustered, she would reprimand any of her sons if the occasion warranted with a phrase she would use quite often and you knew it was coming. On that and any occasion she would say, “Ron, ye ain’t got a grain of sense in that head of yours”. Nanny still had a trace of that “Newfie” accent and was very accustomed to the local vernacular which she never lost despite her years here.

When Mary and Ken needed a well-deserved break from the kids and decided to go out for an early night, Nanny would always come over and sit with the kids and made sure they were behaving. Rewards were always more predominant than admonitions.
Mary Jane's Prayer Card
Nanny’s health soon began to deteriorate. She became increasingly unsteady on her feet and her memory was starting to fade. On one summer morning shortly after rising for breakfast she finally succumbed. It was that day that the angels sang and she went peacefully and lovingly to her maker to whom she always remained faithful.

Note: If Nanny was alive today I would ask her about her parents. She also had a daughter Madeline who died young while in Newfoundland who I would like to know what happened to her.

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