In Her Words: Shirley's Story


Shirley's Story

In Her Words
Candid profiles of strength told by the women of Northbridge

Throughout the month of March we have collaborated to celebrate Women’s History Month and the rich history of the amazing women living in our communities. Their candid stories are brimming over with love, happiness, passion, family values and the markings of individuals who have truly lived well and loved life.

Shirley’s Story (Resident of Stafford Hill)

What is your name?

What are the names of your parents and brothers and sisters?
My mother and father were Alice and Romeo and my brother is Kenneth.

How did your parents choose your name? Does it have a special meaning? Did you have any nicknames?
I have no idea how my name was chosen, my mother wanted to wanted to name me Buella. My name doesn’t have any special meaning and I don’t recall any nicknames.

When and where were you born?
I was born in Pascoag, Rhode Island in 1926.

What kind of things did your family do together when you were young?
My father played all kinds of games with me, frequently board games and card games. My mother made me practice acrobats all the time because of my talents.

What did you love to do with your friends?
We lived on a country road where there was an ice house that we used to love to climb in and on. When we would hear the horses coming down the road, we were fearful we’d get locked in.

What schools did you attend? What were your favorite subjects?
I was in Rhode Island all through my school years. I began performing at the age of 3 and by 9 I had learned my whole act. I performed all through my schools years. I never excelled in school and had no special interests. I didn’t like math but liked the others well enough.

If married, what is/was your spouses name? How did they propose?
My husbands name was Sual and he was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t recall a formal proposal, just Saul saying, “let’s get married.”

What are your children’s names?
I have three children, Jane, Ken and Bob.

What are some special memories you have about your children?
I adored my children and they brought me the most happiness I’ve had in my life. I have wonderful memories. All I ever wanted was a life away from show business and my children and home brought me the most joy.

Where have you lived?
In Rhode Island then while performing, all over the world including Europe. I never lived anywhere permanently until Saul and myself knew of a house in Natick that we went to see, we bought it with cash. In show business it was hard to get credit or loans, so we saved our money and with a small baby in tow, bought a house and lived there for 55-60 years and it was the happiest time of my life, being settled with a home and family.

Have you had jobs? What did you do?
Besides performing and not having developed any other skills, when I settled down with my family and the kids were in school I worked at Marriot Hop Shops as a hostess and LOVED it! I loved the socialization without having to be the “star”. The managers were a lot of fun.

What are your hidden talents?
I learned to knit when performing and had time to kill in dressing rooms and wanted to learn how to knit. My husband and I bought a book and he helped me to learn.

What did you do to get through the difficult time in your life?
No real difficult times as I was booked constantly and worked all the time. I felt I was very lucky.

Do you have holiday traditions? What do you do for the holidays?
I get together with my children and family for the major holidays.

What are some of your favorite things?
Socializing, TV and BEING HERE at Stafford Hill. I love it here, the people, the interactions. Being settled down was the most important thing to me in life. I never had many favorite things, except my home life and children. There was no time for a pet in my traveling life. I do have expensive taste in my favorite foods: lobster, shrimp and filet mignon.

What are some personal experiences that have especially touched your heart?
Having my children.

What are your favorite things to do now?
Socializing here at Stafford Hill, I will try everything and anything and even if I don’t like it that much, I will participate. I just love it here! When I first moved here I told my daughter that I’d be calling in two days to tell her I want to come home, but instead, I called her in two days and said I want to stay here!

What do you hope for your children and grandchildren?
For my children, that they were educated and that they are settled, happily married.

What is your biggest piece of advice?
I try not to give advice. I don’t feel that I was smart enough to be giving anyone else advice.

Sum up your personality in one word...
Fun! I love everyone who works and lives here.