The Good Old Days in the Fourth Ward
"It was ordinary," says May Flannery McAndrews of her anything but ordinary childhood in Depression-era Greenwich. At eighty-three May is the oldest of the four Flannery siblings and the acknowledged matriarch of the clan. "I can't see that my childhood was any different than any of the other kids in the neighborhood," she says. "We were all the same, but it was happy. We did with little things, small pleasures and hard work. Although I guess in one sense it's remarkable that my brothers and sister and I are all still alive."
"It was sleeping in that unheated attic," says Bill, the baby of the family at seventy-nine. "It made us healthy. I know we never got colds, and I don't remember us ever getting shots." He laughs and adds, "This is a tough generation." They are known as the Greatest Generation now, although Bill jokes that maybe they should be called the Last Generation, since, as he points out, "There's not another one older than us, is there?" The four Flannerys — May, Eileen, John (called Coog) and Bill — were shaped by the excoriating poverty of the Depression, the fierce work ethic of their immigrant parents and by five years of world war. They're practical and plainspoken and funny, and at the root of their humor and the unspoken sense, always, that you take whatever life hands you and keep going, is their upbringing in the Fourth Ward. The Fourth Ward is a National Register Historic District that includes Williams Street, Northfield Street, Sherwood Place and Church Street and is the oldest moderate-income neighborhood in Greenwich. It was settled between 1836 and 1925 and was the nucleus of the town's Irish and African-American populations.