Smelling the Past

There are only two Woonsocket’s in the United States. Woonsocket, RI was first, established in 1888. The other, Woonsocket, SD, was named by its superintendent of railroads who had originally come from Woonsocket, RI.

The first inhabitants of what is today the city of Woonsocket were Eastland woodland Indians – mainly Nipmucs, Wampanoaags and Narragansetts.

By the mid-nineteenth century, Woonsocket had grown to become one of the largest textile manufacturing centers in the United States.

The first free public library in Rhode Island was located there.

The above info I got from Wikipedia.

I was born in Woonsocket , R.I. I have fond memories of Woonsocket, but not especially fond memories of where I went to school–Mt. St. Frances. It is now some kind of a health care center. My sister, Barbara, and I went on a tour of Woonsocket a few years ago, when I could drive without getting a panic attack. We drove by all the houses we had lived in and all the schools we went to. We both went to Mt. St Frances, which was actually part orphanage.. We weren’t orphans but it was a Catholic school so that’s where we went. My mother was an avid Catholic, though she went through some changes as she grew older: Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, etc.

I remember when my sister and I visited the place it was all locked up. But the big door to the old school had a big keyhole. My sister and I kept taking turns smelling through the keyhole. The place smelled just like it did when we were kids. It overwhelmed us. It was such a unique smell. I wish I could describe it, but for a few seconds it brought us back in time. My sister is six years older than I and has a better memory of the place. What I do remember is hating being there.300px-sisters_daughters_of_mary_roman_catholic_singing.jpg I would always cry to my teacher that I had to go see my sister and they would have to interrupt her class for me to get c0mfort from her so I could get through the day. I actually flunked the first grade because I missed so many days of school. The problem was no one in my family knew I was missing school. I would go to school in the morning and then when we had to get in a straight line to go to lunch, I would make sure I was last in line. I would slowly back out the door, run across the street into the woods and feed my bologna sandwich to a Collie. He got to know me and would wait for me.collie_rough.jpg Actually he would wait for my lunch. I would then hang out there until school was over. I didn’t get caught doing that for a long time. Nuns aren’t very observant. They pray too much.

I would also fake sickness. I would have to go the the main entrance where there was a phone and a nun who would let me call my parents to come get me. Once they sent my grandfather. He passed away when I was about 20 years old and in all that time I think he only talked to me once. He walked into our house handed me a quarter, something he’d never done before. Actually I’m not even sure if he talked to me. He may not have.grampa.jpg

The above picture is my grandmother, my father, my grandfather (I was always a little afraid of him) my mother, and her mother. It was my parent’s wedding day.

If I remember correctly and my sister will correct me if I haven’t (Only because she’s older and remembers more. Wait, isn’t it if you’re younger you remember more.) Now I don’t remember what I was going to write. Seriously I don’t freakin remember. I have to think.light-bulb.jpg

Oh, I do remember. My Sin perfume-my mother used to wear it. I don’t know if they make it anymore. But why would a Catholic wear a perfume called My Sin?mysin19521.jpg I really want to smell it. I can almost smell it in my mind. But mind smelling and really smelling something are two different things.

And when I think about it I hate the smell of bologna.bologna_apartments1.jpg

I’d eat Spam before I would ever eat Bologna again. It probably killed that poor Collie I used to feed it too.


95 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 21:10:03

    I vividly remember the smell of Mt. St. Francis–a combination of floor wax, incense, paper and starch. The nuns smelled papery and starchy. I always wondered how often they actually bathed. Did they take off all their clothes and get in a tub? I doubt it. I read somewhere nuns took sponge baths and kept on their chemise while they bathed–this was so they wouldn’t have to look at their naked bodies. Good grief.

    I’m pretty sure they still make My Sin. I think the Vermont Country Store sells it. It was a floral powdery scent.


  2. Life With Buck
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:42:37

    Schools hang on to their smell, I’m convinced of this. I’ve had to go into my old schools for various reasons over the years (Christmas fairs, open house or whatever) and my kids’ schools also, and they all still smell the same. I think little kid sweat is mingled in there, too.

    My church as a kid had a really unique smell. I wish I could describe it as well as Barbara can describe the smell of nuns. We didn’t have incense, or candles. It was an old building and the majority of members were really old with a lot of money. The air was dead, stale, and smelled of stagnant perfume and aftershave. Is that the smell of old money? I’ve always equated it that way.

    I love bologna and I still buy it — not often, but when I’m looking for a comforting lunch that reminds me of being a kid. I’ll myself a bologna and cheese sandwich on white bread with mayo, chips and a pickle, and maybe some Campbells soup to got with it. Then after lunch I lay on the couch and put on a DVD of old Bugs Bunny cartoons to fall asleep to. I have to do that sometimes to remind myself that my parents were once okay, because their last 25 or so years on earth were really unacceptable in my opinion.

    Also — Like you, I never went to school, either. I hated it and I don’t know why. I had lots of friends, it wasn’t terribly hard or anything. I just hated having to do what I was told. That really burned my ass.


  3. Life With Buck
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:44:13

    I wish I could edit myself here. After I hit “Submit Comment” I always see copy editing mistakes. And I’m a copy editor. Bleh (the sound of utter disgust with oneself).


  4. moonbeammcqueen
    Dec 05, 2007 @ 23:48:30

    Your memories about school are adorable– especially feeding your bologna sandwiches with the collie.


  5. moonbeammcqueen
    Dec 05, 2007 @ 23:48:46

    oops– TO the collie!


  6. Sarah
    Feb 13, 2008 @ 19:58:53

    Wooniville being “talked” about besides by me…wow! Mt. St. Frances is a Nursing Home now. My FMIL works there.


  7. joanharvest
    Feb 14, 2008 @ 01:15:10

    I remember that school as if it were yesterday. It was actually 52 years ago that I went there along with my sister. I haven’t been to Woonsocket in a long time. I would like to visit again to see how it has changed.


    • rhonda
      Mar 20, 2013 @ 09:46:45

      i went there in the 70’s. Do you remember me? Rhonda.


    • Kate Davis
      Jul 12, 2020 @ 13:16:17

      My name is Kate but in those days I was called Kathy. The school and boarding school was an experience one doesn’t forget. I think it’s very difficult to being institutionalized at 5 however the times were different.


  8. betme
    Feb 15, 2008 @ 08:58:29

    Joan ~ Your mother is very pretty. Reading your post has me nostalgic for a simpler time. Isn’t our sense of smell the strongest memory trigger? My Grandma used to wear Roses Roses by Avon. I remember it was so heavy.

    I would have fed the bologna to a dog as well. Isn’t it the same stuff that hotdogs are made out of, just a different shape. Bologna= raw hotdogs.

    Wendy ~ I make a peanut butter and honey sandwich every once in a while for the same reason.


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  10. c
    Jun 13, 2008 @ 14:48:30

    i went to Catholic School and church.
    Nuns must’ve changed through the years because my nuns had eyes in the backs of their heads, rulers in their hands and boogery tissues crammed up their sleeves.

    i got a top notch education but felt guilty all the time and you’re right- that Catholic guilt is a doozy.

    i love this post on smell. The smell of garlic reminds me of a horrible man. The smell in tobacco shops reminds me of my grandfather and his pipe. Lemon oil reminds me of my childhood church, gingerale my great-aunt Mary…

    Also, i think it’s cute that you fed a collie in the woods instead of going to school. In first grade! Crafty little girl. 🙂


  11. teeni
    Jun 13, 2008 @ 15:07:02

    Too funny. I’d love to chat with you sometime about all this stuff – I didn’t even go to a Catholic School but I have that same type of guilt complex that they give you. LOL. It’s amazing how many memories and how strong they are when a smell brings them back to you. 🙂


  12. odette
    Jun 14, 2008 @ 10:44:33

    your mother is very beautiful on her wedding day picture. 🙂


  13. witchypoo
    Jun 14, 2008 @ 11:10:20

    The school smell I remember is a green coloured sweeping compound. I really liked that smell.


  14. joanharvest
    Jun 14, 2008 @ 19:23:57

    It is amazing about how smell can affect you. I still remember that collie. You don’t see collie’s much anymore. My aunt had one too.

    When we moved once, I ended up in another Catholic school and my sister by this time was in a Catholic high school. One of the teachers slapped her across the face. My Dad went to the school and took my sister out and would never let her go there again. She went to public school after that.

    @ teeni
    I was just talking to my sister on the phone and we were talking about the guilt thing. She, of course, has it too. You know me, I’m always willing to talk.


    Oh Thank you Odette. I love that picture because it is the only picture in existence with my parents and all my grandparents together. My mother’s father passed away when she was younger.

    @ witchypoo
    My sister left the first comment on here accurately describing our school smell of floor wax, incense, paper and starch. I wonder what the green compound was?


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  16. Алевтина Артемовна
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 17:23:59

    Приветствую Вас. Вот меня, как консультанта из Белорусии, беспокоит вопрос о отношении к нам, так сказать к тем, кто только начинает свою карьеру… Поговаривают, что в других странах в дни праздников, консультантов поздравляют, дарят что-то ценное, а не обходятся банальной открыткой, как это делается у нас… Ведь это же воистину и приятно и понимаешь, что тебя хоть капельку, но уважают. Расскажите, как у Вас с этим?


  17. carole katz
    Apr 12, 2012 @ 15:57:00

    I was looking for information about Mt. St. Francis Orphanage in Woonsocket, R.I.
    I lived in the orphanage about 70 years ago along with my two sisters. My father and mother were divorced, my mother had to have surgery so she had my father and his mother tke care of us while she recuperated. After one night at his house it was too much for his mother so the next day he took us to St Vincent De Paul. I am not sure what happened and how soon we were sent to Mt. St. Francis. I do not have any family left to find out anything. All these many years ago and all while we were growing up no one would talk about us being in the orphanage.

    My mother took us out of the orphanage when I was 13. I was about 5 or 6 when we entered St Vincent De Paul. I have very fond memories of the school, living conditions etc. The Nuns were my hero’s, they taught us so much. If anyone knows how I can learn more about Mt. St. Francis I would be ever so grateful Thank you


    • joanharvest
      Apr 12, 2012 @ 20:21:04

      I was there in 1955-56 which would be about 57 years ago. We probably just missed each other. I love hearing how the nuns were your heroes. I was there for 1st grade and my teacher wasn’t a nun. Her name was Miss Doris. My second grade teacher was possibly Mother Mary Alfred but I could be wrong. I also went to St. Cecilia’s in Pawtucket. I might be getting the sisters’ names mixed up but I am sure of Miss Doris. I adored her. I have a few memories of the playground and if I remember correctly we didn’t play with the children who lived there. I’ll ask my sister. She might remember more. She’s 6 years older than I am. I do remember seeing the living quarters for the children just once. I think I remember rows of beds and even some cribs. I do remember liking most of the nuns though a remember being afraid of them too.

      My parents owned a grocery store on Manville road at the time. It was called Stan & Betty’s. It was right in front of the Peter Pan ice cream co.


      • vivian lussier latham
        May 30, 2015 @ 13:48:18

        Hi Joan, my name is vivian lussier,I was at Mt ST Francis 54 55 56 57 We worn a navy blue jumper white shirt and red bow tie. My mom had cancer and couldn’t care for me So I was put there I did kindergarden there started 1st grade made my first communion there then they decided I was not old enough to e in first grade and put me back in kindergarden. when I went the nuns wore white habits. the only nun I remember was sister Bibian I think the house mother was miss Lillian I remember the apple jelly sandwiches and a bottle of white milk.We all sat in front of our lockers and the step.that was my happiest memory.I had the measels there and had to drink some awful tasting OJ lol. stayed in bedfor days .our dorm was on the top floor. large room with all these toddler beds all lined up. WE all had a nite stand by the bed..I wet the bed a few time or more. sister made me sit on commode all nite as a punishment. I could go on. I had one girl friend Betty don’t remember last name. My dad would come get me on the weekend and she would come home with me. I remember going to mass . breakfast in the dinning room . we had a pink pool and the boys had a blue. I don’t remember going to classes I did take piano lessons did tap ballet, tap I really liked I better stop now my email is If any of this is familiar to you.


        • Kate Davis
          Jul 12, 2020 @ 13:07:47

          Yes, I though I was writing it myself. I spent summers there I remember swimming after Let’s Make a Deal. I remember bathing caps and a very bad ear infection.
          I remember being picked up by my Dad and dropped off every Sunday night, which I would cry, Sister Bibian would comfort.


  18. maureenpowers
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 18:27:59

    My mother was sent to the orphanage after her father died, around 1939 or so. Thanks for sharing your experiences for it is hard to find out anything about it.


  19. Louise Caplette
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 09:37:08

    Thanks,Maureen forgetting me onto this blog. I remember so much from those years in the orphanage. I was only 3 but remember the trama of being abandoned by my mother. I was the youngest one there at the time so I was treated fairly well. The nuns couldn’t get me to sleep at night so they let my sister come to put me to sleep. She was twelve at the time but it created for me more of a mother daughter bond which lasted for me into my adult life. As for the comment about nuns bathing in a chemise, they probably did. As young as I was they bathed me in a hospital gown and would tell me to wash my ” private parts” they did everything else. I could go on & on but I’ll quit for now. The years I was there were 1941-1944 then I went to St.joseph’s Orphanage in Fall River Mass.


    • joanharvest
      Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:34:44

      I would like to hear more stories about the school from you. Did your sister go on to St. Joseph’s with you? Thank goodness you had her with you. That’s interesting about how they bathed you. I only saw where the orphans slept once but I never forgot it. I remember feeling so sad for them.


    • maureenpowers
      Jun 18, 2012 @ 15:39:10

      Auntie Lou thanks for sharing your story. Which sister was with you?
      Share more of your story, I would love to hear it.


    • maureenpowers
      Jun 18, 2012 @ 15:40:06

      share more, would love to hear about it.


    • Terry Corr
      Jan 26, 2023 @ 17:32:55

      I believe you may have been at St Francis the sometime as my father and his brothers (Andre, Horace, and Anatole. Their last name was Belhumeur (their aunt later adopted them and the last name was changed to Carey.


  20. Louise Caplette
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 08:53:27

    Joan, I don’t know which orphanage you’re interested in so I’ll start with Mt.St. Francis. Maureen, Terry was the one who took care of me. Lucille & georgette were there also but I never saw them because we were separated by age groups. The only times we saw each other was when my mother came on visiting day(Sundays). That only happened about six times in all the years I was institutionalized (about 5-6 years). Georgette came down with spinal meningitis there and I didn’t get to see her for about a year. The nuns had Terry disinfect all the beds in that dormitory which had to be at least 100 .
    I have to go right now. My sewing machine is working overtime with the wedding this weekend but I have a lot more as long as you’re interested.


    • amanda seaton
      Sep 17, 2012 @ 18:50:20

      Louise, hello my mother was at the orphanage you are speaking of she wants to know if you remember her. Her name lucille Gagnon would you please get back with me I would appreciate it so much thank you


    • carol august
      Dec 05, 2012 @ 12:51:54

      hi name is carol mom ,aunt and uncle were in the orphanage in the 40’s…I have stories and info I would love to share ..I visited there with mom when I was 10..and am now 64 and searching my past ..hope u respond..carol


      • joanharvest
        Dec 05, 2012 @ 21:04:02

        Carol, My sister and I went to school there from 1955 to about 1958. I would love to hear your stories and any info you have on the school. Do you have any photos?


        • carol august
          Dec 06, 2012 @ 11:17:55

 none of the era when my mom was there ….she told us stories of how they seperated her brother from the 2 sisters ..put him on the farm ..they saw each other thru a fence now and then ..then one day they sent him away and they found out years later he ended up in onieda ny on a farm as a farmhand …how tragic ..but they all connected years later..


          • Terry Corr
            Jan 26, 2023 @ 17:39:21

            Hello Carol,
            My father and his brothers were there in the 40’s. Dad didn’t talk much about their time there, but what he did tell us was not nice. Some of the nuns were mean – not all – but some. My mom found it hard to believe that the nuns could be so mean, until she met a women who also spent time there and she told my mom to believe every story he told. So sad

  21. carol august
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 11:19:29

    how about you..were th nuns good to you .or mean??? was it a good school…


    • joanharvest
      Dec 12, 2012 @ 23:15:38

      I was there for the 1st grade which I had to repeat because I ran away so often. After a couple of months the second time around they put me into the second grade. I had Miss Doris for First grade. She was one of the orphans who grew up and stayed to teach. I really liked her. I had Mother Mary Alfred for the second grade and she scared me. I would run to my sister’s class (she was in 7th grade) and bang on her classroom door and just cry and cry. We did not live at the school. We lived at home with our parents but I did not acclimate to school in general very well. In second grade I would try pretend to be sick and insist on calling home and my Mom would come and get me. I remember once going upstairs to where the babies slept and I saw a row of cribs. That frightened me too. We then moved to Pawtucket and I went to St. Cecelia’s school which I also didn’t like and was there for third grade and half of the fourth. We then moved to Cumberland and stayed where I finally attended public school and stayed there until I graduated from high school. My sister has more memories of the school since she was older. I will have to ask her again what she thought of the teachers. If I remember correctly her 7th grade teacher was told her that her brain was like an empty wastepaper basket.


      • carol august
        Dec 13, 2012 @ 11:56:36

        hi joan….the stories my mom told were never of cruel nuns ..she was very normal
        and loving ..she got out of the school @ 16 and went into the navy at 18 in the late 40’s and her job was packing parachutes…she learned to speak english in the navy..her nic name was “Frenchey”..she and her sister spoke french all the time when they got together …sounds like u were a hard kid to handle …did u like high school …lol


  22. carol august
    Dec 13, 2012 @ 11:59:15

    does anyone know if the old records still exsist from the 40’s ..would love to get copies of my mother,aunt and uncle’s files…they are all passed and am trying to put a family history thing together


  23. Dennis Lesieur
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 19:29:04

    Having Googled Mt. St. Francis I ended up at this website. I had a chuckle when I read JoanHarvest’s comments about her fears of the sisters and sadness of seeing the beds and cribs.
    I have a feeling we knew each other and may have been in the same classes back in the fifties.
    I along with my younger brother, Jerry, was a resident of Mt St Francis. It has been so many years since so my memory of whom the sisters or teachers were are lost.
    We entered the orphanage around 1952 or 1953. I stayed there until 1958 and went immediately from there to St. Aloysius.
    I do not ever recall being mistreated by the sisters and have many happy memories. I remember the damage done by hurricane Carol to the Pine trees on the property. I remember when they built the swimming pool. I remember not having the $ .50 to go see the 10 Commandments when it was playing at the Stadium downtown Woonsocket. I remember that an outsider paid my way. ( Louise LeDuc?)
    I remember making my 1st communion.
    I could bore you all and go on and on but I won’t. I am happy to just remember when and wish I could still speak the french I was raised with when I was there.
    If anyone remembers me or my brother Jerry feel free to drop us a line.


  24. joanharvest
    Jan 20, 2013 @ 21:12:59

    Hi Dennis!
    Thanks for stopping by. We probably were in school together. I had Miss Doris for First grade and Mother Mary Alfred for Second grade.
    I think it’s wonderful that you have some good memories of Mt. St. Francis. I saw my first movie at the Stadium Theater. I also remember Hurricane Carol. My Mom and Dad had a grocery store on Manville Road. It was called Stan and Betty’s (I think). I remember looking out the door of the store at the wind. A traveler came by and spent the worst of the hurricane in the store with us. My Mom was convinced that he was a famous actor but we never did find out if he really was. I also made My First Communion at.Mt. St. Francis.
    How old were you and your brother when you were there? I used to be able to speak some French when I lived in Woonsocket. My grandmother couldn’t speak English so we had to learn. I hardly remember how to speak it now. My Mom had 11 sisters and brothers who were also born in Woonsocket. Their last name was LeMay.
    I would love to hear any more stories that you have about those days.


  25. Dennis Lesieur
    Jan 30, 2013 @ 20:27:45

    Hi Joan,
    Weird thing is I remember so many minor things about being there but for some reason I cannot remember any of the sisters by name.
    I was about 4 or 5 years old when I arrived to the orphanage with my younger brother who is 1 and 1/2 years younger than me. We left there in 1958 when I was 10 years old.
    I know I graduated from kindergarten since I remember the blue cap and gown I wore.
    I had a friend whom I never forgot named Lucian Fontaine. I believe he had a sister named Rita. I hope he does not get upset if I use his name. I am not sure of proper online etiquette.
    There we so many other residents there that I have a hard time remembering their names.

    I remember the following things as clearly as it happened yesterday:

    Building tents in the summer time with blankets along a wall and having other kids tossing rocks down on us.

    Going to Our Lady of the Martyrs ?? carnival every summer.

    Going to Spring Lake yearly.

    Watching TV for the 1st time on a tiny TV that took for ever to warm up.

    Lining up in the auditorium to get our polio shots and vaccination shots.
    Was I happy when they came out with the sugar cube.

    Speaking of the auditorium we used to put on shows and plays to the public. I remember one of the sisters teaching use how to tap dance. She took great pride in how well we learned all out steps.
    One routine we had involved us wearing a costume to look like a clock and dance to a song I think called the clock song. I still hum it to myself every now and then.

    It was a different time back them. People were more appreciative of acts of kindness and did not find fault in everything that came there way. I remember going to the Children’s Hospital in Boston to put on shows for the poor kids who had contacted polio.
    We would tap dance our brains out while those kids lay in their iron lungs watching us. Today you would not get away with doing such a thing but back then it was the thought and kindness of trying to entertain that was what was important.
    I do not know how the kids felt about it but for us we was trying to cheer them up.
    We appeared several times on the Salty Brine Show.

    I know what you mean when you talk about large families. Some of the kids came from families with 15 and 17 kids. I think about and wonder how the parents managed in the days before the government had their hand outs.

    I spoke mainly french and when I left St. Francis and went to St Aloysius I had a hard time understanding English. Having been an alter boy at St. Francis the sisters at St. Aloysius would laugh at my Latin at Mass. They said I had a french accent even when I would speak Latin.

    Well I said it before and I will say it again, it was not an ideal childhood for use kids back then but if I think about the alternative to the orphanage I had it very very good. I will always be grateful to the Church and the Sisters who took care of us.


  26. Dennis Lesieur
    Jan 30, 2013 @ 20:33:26

    BTW Joan,
    The sisters were Missionary Sisters of Mary, and wore white habits.


    • joanharvest
      Feb 03, 2013 @ 19:24:06

      I just loved reading this. My sister also attended school there. She is 6 years older than me and I’m sure can remember more. She will also love reading this. I am going to look through my Mom’s old photos to see if I can find any of the school.


  27. Dennis Lesieur
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 09:03:44

    oops, I mean’t to say the sisters were Franciscan Sisters and wore white habits


  28. Nancy Alcoser
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 01:22:55

    My Mother and her sister were there many years sometime around 1930 until maybe 1937.Yvette Lamoureux and Stella. Would love to hear more. Mom was very negative on life there. Very strict. Always made me sad to hear her stories. Any info would be so appreciated.


  29. abby alwyd
    Nov 23, 2014 @ 10:56:50

    I am currently here at trinity,thats the new name for st.Francis.its nursing and rehab now.we have heard its haunted by children who died in a fire here.the pool has been filled in and at least one floor is gone.does anyone know about the fire?I can’t find anything on was supposed to have been a lightning strike.
    The story goes that both orphanage and school closed after the fire.which was not the first lightning strike.


  30. claire morin griffin
    Dec 10, 2014 @ 22:56:28

    Hello everyone. I was just reading all of your comments, especially the ones that concern Mt. St. Francis Orphanage. My mother Theresa Morin used to work with the sisters at the orphanage for about 10 years. She took care of many of the children there. I was about four or five when I could really understand so that would have been around 1966-1967. We fostered two boys from there. We lived directly across the street on St. Francis St. across from the priests house.


    • joanharvest
      May 25, 2015 @ 23:22:27

      I was definitely there in 1955 and part of ’56. I was in first grade in ’55. I had Miss Doris for a teacher. She wasn’t a nun. My sister was there too. I think she was in the 7th grade. I’ll have to ask her which teacher she had. I think I had Mother Mary Alfred for 2nd grade. Unfortunately, my memory is bad. I don’t remember any kids. We lived on Manville Road and owned a grocery store right in front of Peter Pan ice cream co. It was called Stan and Betty’s I think. Again I’ll have to ask my sister for the exact name. I would love to hear any other stories you have. Where do you live now?


      • Richard DeVuyst
        May 28, 2015 @ 21:33:26

        Hi Joan: I live in a suburb of Kansas City. A little town called Stilwell , Kansas. If you have a Face Book page you can go to the Mt St Francis site as one of the past day students set up a page . I believe you need to be invited to it as it is private. If I find you on Face book I will invite you into the group. We just had out first Mt St Francis reunion last Sept at Wrights Farm Restaurant. 35 of us showed up it was such a blast as many of us lost touch with each other after 8th grade. I will look for you on Facebook and get you in the group. What was your name when you attended Mt S
        t Francis?


      • Richard DeVuyst
        May 28, 2015 @ 21:58:55

        Joan I can’t find you on Facebookso I can’t invite you to the Mt ST Francis group. Do you have an email address other than this blog?


      • Jean Marie Larocque Van Over
        Dec 14, 2018 @ 12:59:27

        My name is Jean Marie Larocque. I too went to Mt St Francis at the age of three. I had Miss Doris in first and I agree sh was really sweet. Sister Donald was our 3rd grade teacher, Sister Rita was the 4th grade and Sister Findoca Hnot sure of spellingJ. She was probably my favorite of all. I was part of the Mt. St. Francis trio with Mary Theresa Toye and Betty Ann Dakin. We use to tap and twirl the baton and the nuns would make all our costumes. Stayed there from 51/52 till 1959. I remember the large rooms we slept in, chapel everyday and a lot of the things other people havE posted. I also had Sister Bibian and Miss Lillian. Someof the things that happened there have stayed with me all my life nd I’m 70. I probably could go on and on. If anyone was there with me please get in touch with me. Email is


  31. Richard DeVuyst
    May 24, 2015 @ 17:53:13

    I found this blog by doing a google search for Mt St Francis. I was a day student there from 1955 to 1963. That period encompassed grades Kindergarten thru 8th grade.
    My name is Richard DeVuyst. My mother was a devout Cathilic so we (my brotheres and I) all went to Mt St Francis as it was the only Catholic elementary school in the area. We walked to school every day as mom didn’t drive and the only car we had at the time was driven by dad to work. My father owned a restaurant on Hamlet Ave next to thr French Worsted Mill called Roger’s Restaurant. We lived “down the hill” next to St Agaths’s Church. I remember every class, every teacher, just about every kid, I went to school with. I also did my First Communion there. I was a good student and never got into any trouble except 5th grade with Sister Fyndoca and that is a story all by itself. I am not sure if this an active blog or not as there has not been a posting in over 6 months so I will stop my story here us less I get a response that someone out there is actively monitoring this blog.


  32. Sandra rousseau
    Aug 01, 2015 @ 21:22:06

    My name is Sandra Rousseau and I went to st Vincent’s home in Fall River in 1956 and left in 1967 I would love to find people who were there also . I don’t know of any blogs for st Vincent’s .Can any one help me with this.


  33. Sandra rousseau
    Sep 09, 2015 @ 00:24:55

    I love reading all the entries .i would like to know if any one knows any one who might know any one from st. Vincent’s home in Fall River Ma. Please lot me know .


  34. dennis Lesieur
    Nov 22, 2015 @ 18:15:49

    Feel free to ad as many memories as you wish. I enjoy reading them and hopefully they will jog my memory too


  35. Mysterious Gypsy Queen
    Mar 06, 2016 @ 00:10:59

    It’s so funny coming to a site that speaks to the “good old days” at Mount St. Francis. I attended kindergarten through fourth grade (1958-1963) as a day student. My brother, two years younger, also attended until 1963 when we both transferred to St. Joseph’s on Mendon Rd. Speaking of Doris the first grade teacher turns out that she is my godmother! The eighth grade teacher is my aunt Jeanne! I lived in Cumberland Hill on the Cumberland / Woonsocket town line next to “Shacktown” (actually Oak Grove). My dad would drive me to school everyday in his pickup truck (most days I cried while driving there). My aunt Jeanne would bring me home after school. While waiting to go home I remember playing (banging) the xylophone in my aunt’s classroom. My first day at MSF was most traumatic. I remember crying and walking up the very big stairs with Mother Superior where kindergarten was, which I believe was immediately to the right at the top of the stairs). I was wearing my favorite red shoes and Mother Superior told me that I was not allowed to wear red shoes anymore and stop crying. Then she opened the BIG DOOR where Mrs. Rouleau (I think) the kindergarten teacher snatched me and whisked to my desk with the ink well. I remember once being being hit with a ruler on the hand by my godmother Doris. I don’t remember why but I do remember that I was very good at winning Bingo and collecting prizes in first grade. I thought the second grade teacher was Sister Timothy but I could be wrong. I do know receiving a certificate for excellent penmanship in second grade. I think penmanship is a lost art nowadays since I don’t think kids these days know how to write in cursive. Third grade teacher was Sister Donald (old with moles on her face and somewhat hunchback). She would always get mad at me on those days I would come in late because my dad being a big space program buff would make us watch every Mercury rocket launch on TV which usually occurred around 9-10 am. My dad always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, even an astronaut. In fourth grade (I believe Sister Rene) I remember bringing a show n’ tell – a radio telescope that I made from my brother’s erector set to make the tower then dismantling a spinning top and using the inner perforated plastic disc as the receiving collector mounted at the top of the tower with a small piece of a clothing hanger in the center as the antenna. I never did become an astronaut but I did become a nuclear engineer. Instead of outer space, I went inner space – lol! Years later I found out having thought I was born in Attleboro turned out to be Montreal and adopted more or less (long story). Makes me wonder if there is more with my attending Mount St. Francis during the early years. Well enough for now. I enjoyed the brief trip through Memory Lane. .


    • joanharvest
      Feb 24, 2017 @ 19:55:09

      I don’t know when you posted this but I just found it today. Amazing that you were related to Miss Doris. I’m going to let my sister read your post because she has a better memory of that time than I do. She was 6 years older than me.


  36. Kathy Masiello
    Feb 24, 2017 @ 13:01:17

    Hello Joan! Hello everyone! Hello Claire Morin Griffin!

    claire morin griffin’s post is only one who mentioned the years I was there. 1966-67ish. I would Love any memories and pictures from that time… from anyone!!

    My name is Kathy an I was at that school/orphanage somewhere between the years 1965/67 I think. I was very young, about 4-6 years old. I was in the orphanage part. I attended school during the day an went back to the orphanage part at night. I, too, hated it! My parents just dropped me off there one day. No explanation, no anything. It was devastating!! Those were different times for sure! I cried an cried!
    I remember in the playground they had one of those round gadgets that just spins an many kids could be on it at the same time. You used one foot to make it go around. Lol! I remember also being alone on the playground an being terribly Sad!! I also recall always contemplating a break-out in my little mind. One day, I succeeded! Sort of! Lol! I got on a bus one day that took the school kids home. It took a while before they realized that I didn’t belong on it. After that, my parents brought me home. I don’t know if it was time to get me or if my little escape caused it, but I didn’t care!
    So…In the orphanage part, I remember being brought upstairs to a little bed with a night stand. It had a little basin inside. An they put these white pajamas on me that had what I thought was a boys print. It may have been horses, trees maybe cowboys?? Idk! I remember thinking it was for boys an was upset about it. I remember standing there crying an not knowing what or where I was supposed to do or be. An older girl was very nice an comforted me. No one else was up there in that big room of beds at the time. I remember rows an rows of beds an night stands, wooden creaky floors. I felt so lost an lonesome. I thought my parents just didn’t want me anymore. Devastating! Anyway, I remember nightly suppers at a big dining table, dimmed lights, an they did sing alongs after dinner.
    As far as the nuns, I don’t remember anything bad, I was just a little lost an devastated girl who wanted to go home.

    Sorry that my thoughts are all over the place. I just wrote as it came to mind.

    I did go home an was only there because my dad had to work an my mom was hospitalized for a while. I later went to Holy Trinity school in Central Falls for 2 yrs. Then I went over to St Mathieu’s in Central Falls an graduated 8 th grade.


    • joanharvest
      Feb 24, 2017 @ 19:49:14

      That must have been so scary for such a little girl. I am so glad you got back to your parents. I only was in the room with the beds once. I’m remembering something from 60 years ago but you describe it as I remember it. I also remember that round thing in the playground. I would never go on it.


      • Kate Davis
        Jul 12, 2020 @ 12:54:52

        I was there from 64-67 I must have been awful because I was put in bathroom stalls often or on a little chair that I actually feel asleep on one night. I would not dare to get off that chair. Night time punishments were handed out to me. I didn’t get along with the second grade teacher so if she put a bad mark on a behavior card I knew it was going to be a late night.


        • John Guevremont
          Jul 12, 2020 @ 19:22:52

          Must have been Sr. Cerelia – she was a terror!

          On Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 6:47 PM Whatever I think wrote:

          > Kate Davis commented: “I was there from 64-67 I must have been awful > because I was put in bathroom stalls often or on a little chair that I > actually feel asleep on one night. I would not dare to get off that chair. > Night time punishments were handed out to me. I didn’t get al” >


      • Kate David
        Jul 12, 2020 @ 12:57:24

        I can still remember all the different beds it was the most confusing time and even to this day I not sure what the truth of why I was there.


      • Gary
        Apr 16, 2021 @ 11:53:30

        I was there at age 3 around 1954. And remember the row of beds with the night stand.


  37. My blog
    Jul 08, 2017 @ 09:52:03

    I really appreciated your article. I’m not one to ever comment, but I
    felt really compelled to this time. I shared this on my facebook and
    bookmarked your blog!


  38. Pam
    Apr 02, 2019 @ 21:18:09

    Hi Joan and Denis and Mysterious and everyone!

    Thank you so much for sharing on this blog. I am the daughter of Barbara Hope French who lived at Mt Saint Francis in the 30s until she was 15 (around 1945). She had many memories she shared, mostly good, some quite sad. She was very thankful for the Franciscan nuns and seriously considered becoming a nun; the lessons she learned there she used her whole life. She spoke fluent French and was called “Frenchy” by more than a few. She learned bookkeeping, cooking, sewing, singing, penmanship (Palmer Method), gardening, tap dancing … and she made very good grades in mathematics, English, and Latin. She was wonderful with children of all ages, at church, at school and with neighborhood kids.

    One memory she shared was when she first arrived she was only able to keep one of her dolls, the rest were given to others.

    She remembered fire drills, she was requested to pick up two or three babies from their cribs and bring them out with her onto the lawn.

    She remembers getting angry when another girl picked on a younger weaker one and she took that girl and pinned her to the ground. She was sent to the mother superior for this (as it was reported that she was the bully since she had the upper hand) and her braids were cut off short as a punishment.

    My mother had the most beautiful handwriting, and she made an effort to teach me. She used her whole arm to make the letters, not just from the wrist…consistent concentric ovals. But she said that if a student was left handed, the nuns would slap their hand with a ruler to insist that they used their right hand to write with.

    She was invited to go to the Catskill Mountains on retreats with some of the nuns some summers, then nun had birds eating from her hand. She showed mom how to splint a wing to repair a bird’s wing and then to care for the bird in a cage until the bird could be released back in to the wild. My mom was good with nursing other wild critters and knew all kinds of remedies for different ailments that she passed on to me and many Girl Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, and Boy Scouts.

    She remembers raising funds by making crafts for bazaars. She could knit and crochet amazingly fast.

    She kept some of the traditions she learned from the nuns. She built a “creche” using postal wrap that was colored with crayons made into a rocky looking backdrop for the nativity, to which she added lights. She made a huge tray of cookies, pies, and fruitcakes that she would bring to the “shut ins” like the mentally handicapped children that lived at the Ladd School in Exeter, RI.

    She could make beds like a nurse, folding the sheet under like a hospital bed so tightly that a quarter could bounce.


    • joanharvest
      Apr 02, 2019 @ 22:22:05

      Wow! I’m so happy your Mom shared these memories with you and that you shared them here. Thank you.


    • Dennis Lesieur
      Apr 03, 2019 @ 08:03:47

      Thank you Pam for sharing your Mom’s experiences.
      Although there was a 20 years difference between our stays at the Mount it seems as though time stood still. The sisters were just the same as to how they treated us children and ran the orphanage 20 years later.
      Thanks for the good memories


    • Gina
      Jan 21, 2022 @ 14:55:36

      Does your mother remember a Evelyn Labonte?


  39. John Guevremont
    Aug 16, 2019 @ 12:42:26


    My name is John Guevremont. I went to Mt. St. Francis from kindergarten to Grade 5, when the school closed. My teachers were: K- Sr. Mary Godlin, Grade 1 Sr. Athelene (my favorite), Grade 2 Sr. Cerelia (a terror), Grade 3 Sr. Bartholomew, Grade 4 Sr. Rene and sometimes Sr. Timothy, Grade 5 Mrs. Dorothy Downey, I had also Sr. Bibien for French. My older sister Jo-Ann had Sr. Paul in Grade 6. Sr. Donald worked the snack cart in the cafeteria. My brother David and my sisters Lisa and Jane also went to MSF. Sr. Theonus (sp?) was principal (Mother Superior).


  40. Rebekah Acevedo
    Feb 06, 2020 @ 11:53:49

    My mother, uncle and aunt were in Mt. St Francis as orphans from 1941 (?)-1948-49(?)
    Carol, Raymond and Joan Denomey. The names in this blog ring so familiar with different stories. My mother remembers only speaking french to the nuns and having a tough time adjusting when she was removed in the late 40’s.
    Are there records to touch? Photos to see? The family is aging and the stories are fading with their memories. I would love to preserve the small family history that is left.


    • Rebekah Acevedo
      Nov 11, 2020 @ 16:24:32

      Also, Irene Vaudrain was her mother. Any info on connecting with living relatives would be helpful.


  41. John Guevremont
    Feb 06, 2020 @ 17:42:07

    Hi – John Guevremont here. I went to MSF from ’63 until it closed. My teachers were Sr. Mary Godlin (K), Sr Athelene (1), Sr. Cerelia (2), Sr. Bartholomew (3), Sr. Rene (4), Mrs. Dorothy Downey (5). I had Sr. Bibien for French and Sr. Timothy as a sub. Sr Theonus (sp?) was the principal. Fr. Frappier was Chaplin. My older sister Jo-Ann and younger sisters Jane and Lisa and younger brother David also attended.


  42. Jean Marie Larocque Van Over
    Mar 19, 2020 @ 14:18:00

    Hi my name is Jean VanOver. I too was at Mt St. Francis during the early 50’s tilll 1959. I remember sr. Bibian and I too had Miss Doris for 1st grade, Sister Donald for 3rd grade and Sister Rene for 4th, and my favorite teacher was Sister Findooker (spelling is probably wrong) but she was my all time favorite. My parents were divorced and the judge thought it best if I went to live there. I was part of the Mt. St. Francis Trio with Mary Theresa Toye and Betty Ann Dakin. They would drive me into Woonsocket to take piano lesson with Mr.Horis Bission. I still have my fourth grade classroom picture. Does anyone remember the midget JeannetteTetreault that was there. I remember my bed was right opposite the nuns bedroom and at night when I couldn’t sleep I would look out the window and see the pool for the young ones. It’s funny some of the habits from my younger days there still haunt me and some cause my heart to smile. I’ll post more later.


    • Sheilah Pemberton
      Jul 09, 2020 @ 05:41:07

      Your memories are so simple to mine.


    • Dennis Lesieur
      Jul 09, 2020 @ 14:25:53

      Hi Jean Marie
      I never could remember any of the sisters names.
      When you mentioned Sr. Bibian a bell went of in my head. I know that name but I cannot remember what her role was pertaining to us children.
      I was there almost as long as you.


  43. Sheila h Pemberton
    Jul 09, 2020 @ 05:39:05

    At My St Francis from 1955 to 1957 one of the only 3 black children there.


    • Dennis Lesieur
      Sep 12, 2020 @ 17:26:02

      Hi Sheila
      Are you related to Gregory Pemberton? I remember him from St. Aloysius Home


      • Gary domingos
        Mar 22, 2021 @ 17:12:43

        Hi Dennis. My name is Gary Domingos. My brother is one year older. We were both there.


        • Dennis Lesieur
          Mar 22, 2021 @ 20:58:33

          Hi Gary, nice to hear from someone who was there at the same time as me.
          I am straining to remember you and I think your name rings a bell. I assume you remember me and could relate to my memories


          • Garydomingos
            Mar 30, 2021 @ 10:27:36

            Dennis. I’m not remembering you either. I believe the stress I was under while being there was blocked in order save my sanity. My brother was there also his name is Alan.

        • Gary domingos
          Mar 24, 2021 @ 10:23:12

          Does anyone remember Father Crapo?


  44. coolshay28
    Jul 10, 2020 @ 09:51:30

    When you mentioned Jeanette Tetreault I was transported back to Mt St Francis. Even at the age of three I remembered her. I also remember St Aloyuisis (Could never spell it)


  45. Peter Davis
    Jul 12, 2020 @ 12:40:38

    My wife was there on the orphanage side in 64 -66. She was barely 5 when she arrived and left shortly before her 8th birthday. She too hated and felt the strong hands of discipline from teachers and end of day punishments.


  46. John Guevremont
    Jul 12, 2020 @ 19:20:53

    I remember the song written for the closing of the school. We had to memorize it (this is 52vyears ago).

    God bless Mt. St. Francis, bless it again
    Our farewell so lovingly
    we offer today
    And may Mt. St. Francis
    resound forever in our sad lay!

    Today all your children gratefully thank you
    Dear Mother, and teachers, too.
    We wish you good-bye, and may God’ best blessing
    May God’s best blessing be your for e’er

    So farewell dear home of our earliest years
    Sweet mem’ries be in our joys and our tears.
    God bless Mt. St. Francis, and bless it again
    Our farewell so lovingly
    we offer today
    And may Mt. St. Francis
    resound forever in our sad lay!


  47. Gary domingos
    Mar 24, 2021 @ 10:15:58

    My brother Alan and I Gary lived there for 6 or 7 years. I remember the little pools. I remember I broke my left arm on the swings. My e-Mail is


  48. Garydomingos
    Mar 30, 2021 @ 10:24:36

    Please add me to the site. I was an orphan at a saint Francis and at saint aloysius.


    • Elizabeth
      Dec 18, 2022 @ 18:43:33

      Hi All, Nice to have validation of memories from a significant place few people remember as having even existed! My name is Elizabeth Coderre, and I am Cree-Metis. Went to Mt. St. Francis for kindergarten in 1964 or 65. Had Sr. Marie Bon Pasteur, who sent a note home to my parents saying I was a “chatter box.” Pretty funny considering I was an only child to aged parents and super shy. Remember the large, circular swing outside that many of us kids could sit on at once while it spun around with all our legs dangling down from the wooden bench in the air. Also remember my best friend Ruth at the time, and I getting to name a brand new baby orphan at recess one day when a nun called down to us from a window on the upper floor!


    • Dennis Lesieur
      Dec 18, 2022 @ 22:04:37

      Hey Gary,
      When were you there. Your name seems familiar. My brother and I were at St Francis up until 1958. And then we Went to St Aloysius. His name was Jerry


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