Lewis Hine caption: Clerinda Norrin, said 11 years old and helps sister spin in Glenallen Mill. Winchendon, Mass. September 3, 1911.
On my first trip to Winchendon, on September 24, 2008, I brought along my camera and a binder with all 40 of Hine’s photos and captions. This photo was especially intriguing to me. I wondered if the house was still there. I drove into town early in the morning and camped out at the town clerk’s office, checking birth, marriage and death records. I figured out that the girl identified by Hine as Clerinda Norrin was actually Clarinda Morin. I showed Clarinda’s photo to the town clerk, and she told me the house might be the one in Winchendon Springs directly across from the Springs Mill.
I drove over there. It looked like a good guess. At the corner of Glenallan St. and Maple St., the white house had pillars and a similar porch. I knocked on the door, and a man answered. He was interested as soon as I showed him the photo; but as we walked around, we concluded it was not the right house. He couldn’t suggest any other houses.
I walked over to the mill, camera in hand, and an older man out in his yard asked what I was looking for. I showed him the photo, and he said, “Oh, that house is down on Maple Street, about a half-mile towards town.”
Five minutes later, I headed in that direction and spotted it on the left side of the road. I was sure I had a match. There was a car in the driveway, so I parked and knocked on the door. A lady came out, and when I showed her the photo, she said, “Oh my goodness, that’s my house. It’s been in my family for three generations.”
She identified herself as Dawn Turski, and told me it was the last mill house built by the Whites, the family who owned the Springs Mill and the Glenallan Mill. We found the spot where Hine had taken the photo, exactly 97 years and 21 days before. I placed the photo on the ground, looked down at it, adjusted my camera and took the photo again. It was a weird experience, especially since the house hadn’t changed all that much.
Later that day, I noticed another photo of Clarinda. This time, she was standing by a road. I found the spot, also on Maple Street, and repeated the process of taking a new picture (see both photos below).
Lewis Hine caption: Clerinda Norrin, Said 11 years old and helps sister spin in Glenallen Mill. Location: Winchendon, Massachusetts, September 1911.
Both photos of Clarinda were taken on a Sunday, which explains why she was dressed up. It is interesting to note that in the first photo (previous page), her hair is down and mussed up, and her brother’s tie is crooked, indicating that they probably had already been to Mass. The church, Immaculate Heart of Mary, was about a one-and-a-half mile walk from the house on Maple Street. In the second photo, her hair is up and done neatly, indicating that she was either on her way to Mass, or was heading home.
The day after I met Dawn Turski at her Maple Street house, she called to tell me that she had walked through Calvary Cemetery and found Clarinda’s gravestone. She died, as Clarinda LaRochelle, on March 3, 1995, at the age of 95. Subsequent research on my next visit showed that she married William Joseph Gamache on April 7, 1926, but he died in 1935. Later she married Lawrence R. LaRochelle. I found Clarinda’s obituary, and that led me to her son, Lawrence, who lives in nearby Fitchburg. He was very surprised to see the Lewis Hine photos of his mother.
Based on genealogical data on the Internet for the United States and Canada, several newspaper articles and obituaries, and records at the Winchendon Town Hall and public library, I was able to string together quite a bit of Clarinda’s family history. My interview with her son filled in some of the other details of her life.
This is the house where Clarinda was apparently living in 1911. It is next door to the house where she was standing in the yard when Lewis Hine photographed her. She was probably visiting her neighbors after church. The houses are very similar in style.
Clarinda Morin was born in Winchendon on February 24, 1900, the daughter of Maxime and Zenaide (Pelletier) Morin. They married in Quebec in 1884. It was Maxime’s second marriage, having previously been married to Exilda Rheaume, with whom he had at least four children. Maxime and Zenaide came to Winchendon about 1892. He had been a farmer, but he went to work as a dyer in one of the White Brothers cotton mills. In 1900, the family had seven children living with them, three from the second marriage, Clarinda being the youngest.
In the 1910 census, their address is listed at 66 Glenallan Street, which is just a short walk from the Glenallan Mill. Maxime died in 1917. In 1920, Zenaide is living at 363 Maple Street, with three children, including Clarinda, who is a spooler in the mill. In 1930, Clarinda is living in Winchendon with her husband, William Gamache, and her mother, who would die eight years later at the age of 78. William works at Alaska Freezer, a Winchendon company that makes ice cream freezers. In 1939, four years after William died, Clarinda, now married to Lawrence LaRochelle (date not confirmed), gave birth to her only child, also Lawrence.
Edited interview with Lawrence LaRochelle (LL), son of Clarinda Morin. Interview conducted by Joe Manning (JM) on April 22, 2009.
JM: What did you think of the photos of your mother?
LL: I was glad to get them. I never had any pictures of her at that age.
JM: Did you know that your mother worked at the Glenallan Mill when she was a little girl?
LL: No, but it sounds familiar. She might have mentioned it at some point. It didn’t surprise me.
JM: Did you know that your mother was married to William Gamache before she was married to your father?
LL: Yes. He died, I think of cancer. They didn’t have any children.
JM: When were you born?
LL: 1939. My mother was 39 then.
JM: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
LL: I only had one half-brother and one half-sister. My father was married before. I don’t even know if they are still alive. My half-brother was 15 years older than me.
JM: Did your mother work while you were growing up?
LL: She owned and ran a bar and roadside café, her and her sister Mary Boucher, in Spring Village. It was on 446 Maple Street. There was no liquor served, just beer and wine, and they had food. It was called the Pine Grove Café. There were some large pine trees there at that time, so that’s how it got the name. They had bought the building. Aunt Mary and her husband, Uncle Louis, and my mother and I lived in the upstairs apartment.
JM: When did she open up the café?
LL: When I was about one year old, so about 1940 or 1941. They had it for 15 years. And then she went to work in the mill. We lived in Ayer (Mass.) for a while. My father was a railroad engineer, not driving the trains, but maintaining the tracks. That was about 1942 to 1945. So maybe my aunt was running the café by herself then, I don’t know.
JM: Why did you come back to Winchendon?
LL: She split up with my father. I don’t think he came back with us. They divorced and she didn’t marry again. I don’t have any recollections of my father at all. My mother went back to running the café.
JM: Did you help your mother in the café?
LL: No. But sometimes I would go down on Saturday at midnight and shut off the juke box. And then I’d go in Sunday mornings, turn it back on, and crawl underneath the booths to look for change. They sold the café and the liquor license when I was 15 years old, but they kept the building, and my mother continued to live upstairs. She got a job at Ray Plastics, which was in the Springs Mill. She also worked at the hospital as a ward maid.
JM: Did you graduate from high school?
LL: No. I quit my sophomore year.
JM: What did your mother think about you leaving school?
LL: She said, ‘You’re going to go to work. You’re not going to just hang around.’ I joined the Navy. That was about 1957. When I got out three years later, I came back to Winchendon and worked at a couple of fabric mills there. Then I went to work in Fitchburg for 10 years at Independent Lock. I lived in Gardner for about 10 years.
JM: How long did your mother continue to work?
LL: I don’t remember when she retired.
JM: She lived until she was 95. What did she do the rest of her life?
LL: She still lived at 446 Maple. She finally went to a nursing home in Fitchburg. She had some nieces who lived in Fitchburg.
JM: When did you last live in Winchendon?
LL: About five years ago. I lived in housing for the elderly and disabled.
JM: I know Eric White, the son of the last White to own the mills. He said you and he were friends when you grew up.
LL: Yes, Eric was one of my best friends. I remember one time, when no one was living in the White castle (Marchmont, former home of the White family), we sneaked in. We climbed a tree, Eric and I, and got up on the roof. There was a hatch, and we went through there and got to see the inside. Then we went out the door.
JM: What did people think about the Whites back then?
LL: That was when they had sold the mill and they weren’t a dynasty anymore. I didn’t think of Eric as part of that, he was just a friend.
JM: Have you ever been married?
LL: I was married for a little while, but it didn’t work out. I’m sort of a recluse. Even when I was in school and in the Navy, I didn’t hang around with too many people. I had some friends in Winchendon, and we used to go to (Boston) Red Sox games and (Boston) Celtics games.
JM: What was your mother like?
LL: She was very independent. She didn’t have to have a husband, like some women who get married because they need someone to take care of them. She could take care of herself.
JM: Did she socialize a lot with friends?
LL: Not a lot. When she worked at the mill and the hospital, she just worked and came home. My Aunt Mary took care of the house.
JM: Did you have a close relationship with your mother?
LL: Not really. It wasn’t a lot of love and hugging and stuff like that. Some people are just like that. We used to go to places like Whalom Park and the Springfield fair (Big E in West Springfield, Mass.). I miss my mother. She was someone I could go and talk to.
I remember that she and Aunt Mary threw a big party at the Pine Grove for the soldiers and sailors when they came back from WWII. And we had passes for the railroad, because my father worked for them. We’d go to Fitchburg and shop in the clothing stores. I was the best dressed kid in Winchendon. My mother was well dressed, too.
When she was a girl, she sold soap. You know how, in them days, you went around and sold something, and if you sold enough, you got a prize? She won a doll. She donated it to the library in Winchendon a few years ago.
*Story published in 2009.