Friday, December 31, 2010


My father, William "Bill" Henry Haynes, had left the U.S. Navy (submarine service) and was working as a machinist at Morse Twist Drill in New Bedford, Massachusetts when I was born in 1949. My mother, Juanita, was a housewife. I came home to my first house which was owned by my cape verdean grandparents, Maria and Joao Antao (John Anthony) Santos. The house was located at 144 Purchase Street in the "south end" of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

During the same time period, my Step-grandfather, Wesley Obery Midder, and my aunt Alice (Alice Horner), who was my dad's sister, were working at the BLOCK SHOP, a toy store in my father's hometown, New Haven, Connecticut. My grandmother, Dora "Jane" Kelly Knight Lee Haynes Midder, had also worked there for a short time. (Grandma Jane also worked, as a domestic servant, for the cultural historian Rollin Osterweiss (who wrote the definitive history of New Haven)). Wes was in charge of stock at the Block Shop and Aunt Alice was the secretary but also had some management duties. Prior to marrying my mom and moving to New Bedford, my father also had an association with the Block Shop. He had worked there stocking toys either before or after his tour with the Navy.

The Block Shop was a wonderland for any child. The store, which was owned by a woman named Ruth Fallgatter*, was located in (what I remember to have looked like) an old red schoolhouse. It was next door to Stone Business College at 58 Wall Street. There were three floors stocked to the rafters with every conceivable type of toy**. My Aunt Alice was partly responsible for the sale of Madame Alexander dolls. My little life, consequently, was littered with Madame Alexander dolls in their trademark blue boxes with little pink roses.

Yale University was close to, if not directly across the street from, the Block Shop. In fact, the University pretty much took up the entire center of the town.

*The Social Security Death Index reveals that Ruth Fallgatter was born on March 12, 1912. She died in February, 1971. Her social security card was issued in Connecticut. Her death zip code was 06517 - which was Hamden/New Haven/Whitneyville, Connecticut.

** The 1950 Block Shop Catalog describes the building as having six rooms.