I had a wonderful 16th summer up in Rockport, Massachusetts. I was a candy clerk
at Tuck’s Pharmacy where my Great Uncle George and his wife Great Aunt Dorothy lived
upstairs. I simply called my great uncle, “Uncle George” and my great aunt, “Aunt Dot.”
My other house mate was Great Aunt Marie. She was much younger than the couple
mentioned. She was 16 years older than my mother! I will tell you that my mother was
42 and so, Aunt Marie was 58 years old. She was a former beauty queen!
Aunt Marie and I were the best of pals when I was off work and she was off work from
her job at Gorton’s Fish Factory. She would come in singing and greet me. I sometimes
would leave her a note that I went off with my friend, JoEllen, who lived in Rockport and
was in her senior year in high school. We would sometimes go to a nearby quarry or one of
the many wonderful beaches along the coast.
Aunt Marie would take a lemon from the refrigerator and cut it in half. She kept the other half
for the next day. She used 1/4 of the lemon to add to her sweetened tea, the other half to scrub
her hands and cuticles daily. “This ritual,” she told me, “started when I was married to your
Uncle Pete.” My antenna went up and I waited patiently for her to tell me about him. My Mom
had filled me in on some of the details but I wanted my Aunt Marie’s “embellishments!”
My Mom had always been enchanted by my Aunt Marie and now, I had become so attached to
her and enjoyed her stories! Everywhere we went, even as far as Gloucester, everyone knew my
Aunt Marie. She had won, in her twenties, the crown title of “Miss Cape Ann.” She had also gone
on to be in the running for Miss Massachusetts! She was one of thirty finalists but never made it to
the ‘real finals of that beauty pageant.’ I am not sure if they stopped at twenty contestants on the stage
or if her memory of the numbers had faded. This would have been in the days of radio shows!
But there, in all its glory, was a huge almost 3 foot tall silver Trophy in her special antique curio cabinet
with the leaded glass doors!
I was waiting for her love story first and her pageant story second!
Aunt Marie got a misty eyed look over her face when she mentioned Uncle Pete. She usually was silent
about him. She said that he had been sitting at a diner in Gloucester, a typewriter propped right on the
table, eating scrambled eggs, toast and bacon. He had a jaunty hat on his head and looked so rugged
and handsome that while Aunt Marie was chatting to her good friend, Elizabeth, she tried to catch his
“I raised my voice just a little octave higher and louder, trying to still sound sweet and genteel.”
(This is true, my dear Aunt Marie almost sounded British at times, not the typical New Englander!
She had come over as a baby when my Grandpa Mattson had come over as a teenager from Sweden
with their whole family. His accent was entirely different from Aunt Marie’s.)
Anyway, she stopped rubbing the lemon on her fingers and took her shoes off. She got a wash cloth,
filled the sink up with bubbles and hot water, then came back to the bed where I was perched. Aunt
Marie was so sentimental and she was not looking sad while she told this tale. She proceeded to wash
her feet and add a thick lotion to them, along with a pair of white cotton socks, telling me her story.
“Your Uncle Pete stopped typing to hear my voice, I could just tell I was getting his attention and making
I inquired with anticipation, “What were you wearing, Aunt Marie?”
This is an important fact if you are a young woman of 16 years old and have seen the beautiful wardrobe of
a “legend” in your personal life. I always coveted some of Aunt Marie’s fancy clothes and told her often that
she had a closet that would compare to a movie star. I had already been in high school drama for 2 years
and felt that her style and grace equaled many movie stars! If you saw her when I was 22, 6 years later, you
would not believe she was 64! She is in many of my first wedding pictures because the photographer just loved
My Aunt Marie walked over to the closet and brought out a pretty light mint green filmy blouse (she had auburn
hair like my mother’s with green eyes: this would be so perfect to bring the eyes out!) and showed me a flared
skirt that was a pastel floral one, it reached below her knees.
She said, “I had my hair back from my face with a pink scarf so while we drove around the countryside that day,
Elizabeth was the driver, I didn’t have my hair go haywire!”
I gave a little sigh, said, “That was a perfect outfit! It would compare to Audrey Hepburn’s in “Roman Holiday!”
Well, finally she got to the details of when Pete got up and leaned over the booth from behind her head. She said,
“I always wondered if he was being coy about his looking at Elizabeth while he chatted with us!”
His conversation revolved around “What had they been up to this fine Saturday morning?” along with,
“What were your plans for the afternoon?” and finally, “Are you two beautiful women going to the dance tonight
at the square in Rockport, by any chance?”
Each time they answered, “Not much” or “We don’t have any plans.”
But, my Aunt Marie being born gutsy, burst out at the last question, “Only if you will meet us by Tuck’s Pharmacy!”
Pete answered, “Why certainly! I could pay for you gals’ ice cream sundaes, if you like!”
She continued to tell her love story about the much older newspaper journalist who asked her to “live in sin!”
She also said, “No, thanks!”
She did manage to get a proposal after only 2 months of dating and handholding with no romance allowed.
Aunt Marie has told me that she was proposed to and asked to live with at least 25 men over the course of her
life up until this conversation!
When they married, she moved into his large house and she helped him to rent some of the rooms. She would
cook when she got off work and clean on weekends. She said that her habit of singing in the morning and also,
at bedtime were, “some of Pete’s favorite moments. He would grab me around the waist and swing me around to
the music on the radio. If it were a slow song, we would just sway back and forth. He would make me swoon all
Aunt Marie told me that Uncle Pete was a “creative type” and had been around the world, she felt fortunate to have
him as her husband. She did not fuss over his drinking every night whiskey ‘straight up’ nor did she get upset that
he went downhill earlier than she would have liked. She felt the compensation of having been “well loved” made
up for his “sickness.” He died only ten years after they married. They never had children nor did she ever consider
another marriage proposal again.
(The pharmacy although run by Uncle George Tuck as the pharmacist, his brother Roger made candy and ice
cream for which I have met people who remember how delicious those treats were. By the time I worked there, in
the summer of 1972, the soda fountain no longer existed but I sold candy there behind the glass cases. Of course,
the ice cream was there when Aunt Marie met and was courted by Uncle Pete. It also was there when WWII ended
in Europe and Mom was serving up the lots of celebratory ice cream cones then.)