MEET: DOROTHY R. G. CURTIS, ACTIVE SENIOR
Thursday, August 26, 2004
One of Westport's most senior citizens, Dorothy R. G. Curtis is always looking to the future.
Dorothy Robbins Gifford Curtis will turn 94 years old in December. As a child, she moved about many times with her family and even attended three different schools in first grade. Her father was an entrepreneur, often moving the family from place to place as he became involved in business deals.
She lived in Wollaston, Cape Cod, and Attleboro before moving here when she was about 12 years old. Mrs. Curtis has traveled widely and has been abroad, but she always returned to Westport. She lives on Main Road in the house her father bought in 1923.
WESTPORT: "A friend of my father's introduced him to Westport. One day my father drove my mother and me to this house on Main Road and said 'How do you like the view?' He had already bought the house."
AMENITIES: "The house had no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, but a great view all the way to the Sakonnet islands and Cuttyhunk."
GRAMMAR SCHOOL: "I walked down to a small schoolhouse on Westport Point. It had two rooms, one for the first three grades, the other for the next four grades. There was one teacher for each room. Fewer children attended the upper grades then because they were often needed on the farm."
HIGH SCHOOL: "We climbed onto the back of John Fisher's truck to get to school and sat on two benches, which were not fixed to the floor. If you were careful you wouldn't end up on the floor when the truck turned a corner. There were 13 students in my high school class."
STUDIES: "I attended Bradford College for two years then studied fabric design at Pratt Institute in New York City for three years. I received a diploma from each school. Mother lived with me in New York. Respectable girls did not live alone then."
DESIGN THIEVES: "After finishing at Pratt, I started to pedal my designs. I went to one company and showed the boss two of my fabric designs. He said, 'Just a minute' and went into a back room. He returned and said, 'We can't use these.' Two months later, I saw my designs, with just enough changed to make them legal, on the shelves at Macys. I was steaming mad."
MARRIAGE: "One summer while I was shopping at a roadside stand on Main Road, I heard a voice say, 'I've been looking all over for you!' It was my former Westport High School teacher, Norman Gifford. I told him, 'Well, you can find me in the phone book.' By Thanksgiving, we were married. We were married for about 20 years before he died. Before we were married, he had several careers, including the secret service in World War I. He learned to speak German so well he had no trace of an accent."
SECOND MARRIAGE: "Some years after Norman died, Mahlon Curtis's wife died. I'd known her since high school because she was one grade ahead of me. And I knew Mahlon because he did some work on our house on Main Road. After the funeral, we became friends and soon after we got married. He died about 20 years later. My first marriage was nice, my second was lovely, we melded together so well."
INTERESTS: "I've written a column called "Chimney Cupboard" for the Westport News, which has long been out of business. Subjects were what ever I pleased, commentaries on local and national news, history - it wasn't "ha ha" writing. I'm writing a collection of stories about real local people and events. I had work in the Westport Art Group show this year and sold some there last year."
CHANGES: "Too many houses are being built. Cars go by my house at top speed. Westport was back country when we came here in 1923. I don't know of anyone who wants to see it citified. I will say, though, that the newcomers who have moved in near me are a real joy, very helpful."
BY PAUL TAMBURELLO