Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Free Spirit?

I have written about my most elusive female ancestor, my great grandmother, Lois Green, once before. She always struck me as a free spirit. That's independent, but lacking responsibility.

I have never been certain that Lois Green was her name. My grandfather spelled his name Greene; she spelled her name Green. Family lore holds there was an argument and my Grandfather changed the spelling of his last name by adding an "e." The reasons why have been many and varied. A feud with his brother? We'll never know. Those with the answers are long gone.

On my Grandfather's social security application he lists his mother as Lula Morangue, not Lois. Lula/Lois evaded the census and her family for most of her life, or so the story goes. It is whispered family lore that she deserted her husband and three children in California to become a madam in a brothel in New Orleans. (Lula rather sounds like the name of a madam, doesn't it?) I have nothing to confirm this, it is just a story. I also know there were hard feelings between Lois and her son, but that could have been for any number of reasons.

I have one small scrap of her colorful life, the following piece of a newspaper article and the photos of her boat building achievement. A boat she built in her backyard in just twelve months. I can't even clean my office in that amount of time, so I marvel that she accomplished this task. Not only that, but it didn't sink when they put it in the water.

The Dream

April 11, 1936
Society Page
Newspaper Unknown

Built By A Woman, Home Made Cruiser Was Launched Today
At Freeport

Boat Started Last July in Gladiola Bed, Is Complete

A streamlined double cabin cruiser, built in Mrs. Lois Green’s back
yard at South Bay avenue and Cedar street, Freeport, largely by
Mrs. Green, for her son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. E.M.
Green, was slid into Freeport Bay at Lake’s shipyard this morning.

Early on July 1 of last year, Mrs. Green started building the boat.
In those early preparations she was assisted by her son and a friend.

Only Woman Builder

Yachtsmen, ship builders, cameramen and writers visited the back
yard to see the boat a woman was building, the only woman-built
boat on Long Island according to their knowledge. They agree the
cruiser is a remarkable piece of craftsmanship.

Besides the labors of an experienced boat builder, who assisted
Mrs. Green last summer, the boat has been mainly built by
Mrs. Green, her son, and a friend, Ben Armstrong.

She is proud of her achievement, but explains she became a bit
bored with the trying details completed in her home during the
winter, such as polishing, painting and assembling a thousand
knick knacks that went into the cruiser.

But it was a lovely job and lots of fun, built out of doors
practically in a gladiola’s bed,” she says.


Mahogany Planking

Constructed of mahogany, the ____ foot cruiser is an impressive
sight in white hull and pea-green topside. Four bunks in the cabin
will be covered with beige and green checked upholstery.

In telling of the kitchen which has both an alcohol and coal
cookstove, and a monel fitted sink, Mrs. Green went into raptures.

“I’d like to have a little, new house, like this boat – so dainty and
compact,” she said. The colors of beige and green are carried out in the

Although the name of “LoElla” a contraction of Mrs. Green’s first
name Lois and the name of her daughter-in-law, Ella has been
suggested for the boat Mrs. Green... (the rest of the newspaper article
can not be read).

While we don’t have the rest of the newspaper article to tell us what
my great grandmother thought about that name, this photograph
shows that the cruiser was registered as “Dream, Freeport, N.Y.”

A Fine Boat, A Fine Accomplishment!
One Fine Woman!



Blogger wendy said...

I don't know anyone who has built a boat from scratch - but in 12 months? Sounds like maybe she had more secrets than she was willing to share with the government!

July 2, 2008 at 5:31 AM  
Blogger Lidian said...

What a fascinating great grandmother you have - and certainly independent!

We go out to lunch every summer with relatives on LI, and always go to a restaurant in Freeport - and usually sit at a table overlooking the bay. I will think of your great grandmother next time we are there.

July 2, 2008 at 12:48 PM  

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