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Another City upon a Hill

A New England Memoir

Joseph A. Conforti

Publication Year: 2013

This gripping memoir is both a personal story and a portrait of a distinctive New England place--Fall River, Massachusetts, once the cotton cloth capital of America. Growing up, Joseph Conforti's world was defined by rolling hills, granite mills, and forests of triple-deckers. Conforti, whose mother was Portuguese and whose father was Italian, recounts how he negotiated those identities in a city where ethnic heritage mattered. Paralleling his own account, Conforti shares the story of his family, three generations of Portuguese and Italians who made their way in this once-mighty textile city.

Published by: Tagus Press at UMass Dartmouth

Series: Portuguese in the Americas Series


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Title Page

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pp. 6-7


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pp. 8-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xii

This memoir is a personal story, but also, as the title suggests, it’s a story about a New England place. My Fall River, Massachusetts, was distinctive in ways that I try to convey to the reader. I am grateful to Frank Gaspar, who read a draft of this memoir and pointed out that the personal narrative...

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pp. 1-6

“I’m not going! I’m not going! I’m not going!” I screamed, as I fell to my knees and tears streamed down my cheeks. This outburst was not a stubborn child’s tantrum. I was a forty-two-year-old college professor with a family and a mortgage. For three nights running I had awakened with a...

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1 | Spindle City

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pp. 7-29

Too many stories about Fall River begin with Lizzie Borden, who has often seemed to own the franchise on the city’s history. It is more fruitful to start with the Quequechan River, at scarcely two miles long, one of the more modest but hardworking millstreams in all of industrial New...

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2 | Family Migrations

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pp. 30-52

My immigrant forebears and their children have long ago completed their journeys from dust to dust. It is too late to make amends for blithely skating by my family’s story for most of my life. Like Spindle City’s history, I grew up with only patchy knowledge of my grandparents’ ordeals: their...

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3 | Street and Tenement

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pp. 53-75

I spent the first ten years of my childhood at 61 Bowler Street in what had been my Portuguese grandparents’ final cold-water tenement after their nearly four decades of life together in Fall River. We could walk to the neighborhood Brown School in five minutes. This generations-old,...

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4 | “Up the Flint”

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pp. 76-101

After we packed up our things on my tenth birthday, we moved less than a quarter of a mile, but we crept closer to the heart of the Flint—Fall River’s Fall River. The largest and densest of the city’s mill villages, the Flint’s streets ran parallel to or at right angles from the Quequechan River....

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5 | Faith

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pp. 102-124

Catholics dwarfed other religious groups in my Fall River the way granite mills dominated the industrial landscape. The three-volume definitive history of the city, completed in 1946, reported that Fall River was 80 percent Catholic. Ten or fifteen years later, that number must have crept...


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pp. A-H

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6 | Aspirations

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pp. 125-151

The moment when I knew I wanted to attend B. M. C. Durfee High School and first dreamed of playing for its athletic teams remains a red-letter day of my childhood. It was Thanksgiving 1954, and I was two months shy of my tenth birthday. We were still living on Bowler Street, with our move...

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7 | Native Ground, Again

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pp. 152-172

I spent the summer after I graduated from Springfield reading, thinking, and chewing over what I might do next. My father must have wondered about the ten job offers that were supposed to be waiting for me after four years of effort. Instead, I was beholden to the federal government with no...

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8 | Leaving

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pp. 173-192

I lived in Fall River, at home, for three years after I graduated from Springfield. Then I moved twenty-five miles away to Cranston, just south of Providence. In retrospect, the distance was much less than that. Grey, grim, ethnic, Catholic Providence in the 1970s resembled Fall River. The...

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pp. 193-197

I had never visited the Fall River Historical Society, except to drop in to its Museum Shop to buy works of local history as I mused over writing this memoir. Such societies are important custodians of history, interpreters of the local past to adult visitors and school groups. I wanted to know if...

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A Note on Sources

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pp. 199-200

I consulted numerous books and newspaper articles for the more historical sections of this memoir, particularly the first chapter. Some of this material is available online at the Keeley Library (www.sailsinc.org/durfee/fulltext. htm). Philip T. Silvia Jr. has edited three invaluable collections of newspaper...


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pp. 201-202

E-ISBN-13: 9781933227573
E-ISBN-10: 1933227575
Print-ISBN-13: 9781933227566

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Portuguese in the Americas Series
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OCLC Number: 857077860
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Another City upon a Hill

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Subject Headings

  • Conforti, Joseph A.
  • Portuguese Americans -- Massachusetts -- Fall River.
  • Italian Americans -- Massachusetts -- Fall River.
  • Fall River (Mass.) -- Social conditions.
  • Fall River (Mass.) -- History.
  • Fall River (Mass.) -- Biography.
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