Robert Keenan

NARRATOR: Robert Keenan



DATE: November 1st

INTERVIEWER: This is an oral history interview for November first with Robert Keenan. Make sure this is working. Okay, put it right in the middle there. What do you want to talk about first, the Nobadear[sp?] Way or the hardware store?

KEENAN: I think Nobadear Way is-- While we're on the subject, it's kind of an interesting subject, inasmuch as it was one of the first panelized construction outfits in the country, really.

INTERVIEWER: What do you mean by panelized?

KEENAN: Well, this fellow that ____ back during the war--


KEENAN: Yeah. --came up with this--with a panel that had plywood and aluminum, and in between the two was insulation. And he built the ____ Air Force Base. He provided all of the building for that panelized building. And after the war he provided this panelized construction for building not only ____, but quite a few other places--military places. But after the war he had this factory, and he had this ability to build panels. But he hadn't, you know--nobody to sell it to. So he decided to try a residential bit. And so he made these panels at his factory in Danbury, Connecticut, and ship them up here. And there's 12 houses in this development are--were all originally panelized. He had put together like two foot--two foot by eight paneling--whatever. The outside walls had aluminum on the outside of the plywood. And when-- That was the military type construction, because aluminum was the outside finish.


KEENAN: So he sent the panels up here. Of course they wanted to put shingles on the outside walls. So they turned the panels around, and the aluminum was on the inside, on the outside walls. The only problem with that was that, if you wanted to hang a picture like in the living room, you'd hit the nail on the-- [Laughter] trying to get through the aluminum, and the nail would pop across the room. [Laughter] But they simply-- That's what the--where these houses came from, you know.


KEENAN: They were modified military--modified military type construction. But it was the original panelized construction. Now there's so much panelized construction. In fact, they ship them on the island much more sophisticated. They can slap a house together in, you know, two or three days.

INTERVIEWER: Sure! So these were some of the first prefab houses?

KEENAN: These were-- Yeah, basically.


KEENAN: These were first, you know, and then it didn't work out so well for Mac. He got in trouble with the government, I guess. I don't know. And so he backed out of it and shut down. And other people picked up his panelized construction idea. And it's a big thing all over the country now. But everybody in this-- Just about every house in this unit, you know, had modified the original houses to some extent. But that's where these houses came from.
And he also had an idea which I thought was great. You don't see much of it anymore. And that's the horseshoe entrance. Instead of having what they have now, you drive in one street, go around a circle and come out. He established a horseshoe arrangement here, which makes it just fantastic for the children riding their bikes or whatever, or playing. And that's the reason why we moved here, because it was a great place for children to play.

INTERVIEWER: And you all moved here in '61?

KEENAN: Sixty-five.

INTERVIEWER: Sixty-five. And how many kids were in the neighborhood?

KEENAN: At that point there were 28 children.


KEENAN: Today there's-- As they all grew up and moved away, it-- But they're starting-- A few are starting back. Now we have four small children in the neighborhood, and hopefully there'll be five one day.

INTERVIEWER: We hope so! [Laughter] So, the airport was already here, then, when the houses were built?

KEENAN: Yeah. The airport was built during the-- The basic idea of the airport was during the second world war, and it had Navy-- We had military down here, and it was used as a military field, actually. It was basically constructed by the government.

INTERVIEWER: The airport was?

KEENAN: Yeah and used primarily for military purposes. But that's basically the origin of the airport. Before that it was a-- I'm sure it was-- I'm sure it was nothing but a grass strip that, you know, local planes used to land and take off. And then when the military came in-- And there was a big presence of military out here during the wars-- They turned it into a--the airport that you see today, not necessarily buildings, but the runways and so forth. And it's kind of interesting living here for--since 1965. The airport never really bothered us, you know. It's small planes and it never bothered us. But ever since the new golf course opened up and--

INTERVIEWER: Nantucket Golf Course?

KEENAN: Nantucket Golf Course. Of course you have these huge corporate jets flying in here so they can play around the golf--play around the golf, and the corporate jet comes and picks them up, and off they go. And during the summer, from, oh, five o'clock--four-thirty to five o'clock, till--oh, for two or three hours we have to close the windows. You can't hear anything with all the jets taking off over here. And I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the corporate game of golf.

INTERVIEWER: Definitely.

KEENAN: But previous to this--to that, it always never bothered anybody in this neighborhood.

INTERVIEWER: The jet engines are really, really loud.

KEENAN: Yeah. You would think, you know, just the reverse until you experience it, that these little planes would be a lot noisier than a sophisticated jet engine, but it's not true.

INTERVIEWER: Can you ever smell the fumes from the jet engines?

KEENAN: Not really. We don't pick it up over here. We're far enough away that-- But when you get--walk over near the airport, it's this warm, you certainly could pick it up.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. But you don't hear many of them in the wintertime, do you, with the corporate jets?

KEENAN: No, no.

INTERVIEWER: I guess not playing golf, are they?

KEENAN: [Laughter] No. Every once in a while, you know-- But I'm sure that the jets you hear now ____, you have people coming in--well, tourist groups coming in. And they'll spend a day, and--you know, a chartered jet, and they do Nantucket, and then they take off. And I'm sure that if the golf course is still open, that they're still playing golf out there, so-- But nothing like in the summer.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. So, before you moved here to Nobadear Way or during--when you came to the-- What year did you come to the island?

KEENAN: Sixty-five.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, so you moved here the same time. Okay, so this is the only house you've had on Nantucket, where you've lived?

KEENAN: Yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: So, during that time--in '65, tell me about the hardware store, when you started that.

KEENAN: Well, basically it belonged to Roberta--my wife's father.

KEENAN: Her grandfather started the whole thing back-- And I think it was 1921.

INTERVIEWER: And what was the name of the hardware store?

KEENAN: Originally it was W.P. Hardy and Son, and then it was changed to Hardy's Inc. when it was incorporated. But her grandfather started it 'way back in 1921. But it wasn't really a hardware store back then. It was a paint store, and then it-- Then as time went on-- They had a paint crew--a big paint crew. Then as time went on, it took on other things to sell, like they used to sell boat engines. And they had a--one--the first tackle shop on the island and--


KEENAN: --pet supplies and wallpaper, linoleum, and of course paint. And then, as-- And I think it was 1967 when Walter Donahue[sp?] bought out Island Service Lumber Company and, of course, got rid of the hardware store that they had and all the lumber and so forth and built that building for the A&P.


KEENAN: The A&P was in the building that we're in now, and when they moved out, we moved up from what is now Clare Murray's on South Water Street. We moved from there up to this building. I think that was-- I think it was 1967.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So you were in the building that Clare Murray was in, and then you moved to the location where the A&P is now, or is it the other way around?

KEENAN: No, we were in the building that Clare Murray is in now, and the A&P was in the building that we moved into. When they-- When Walter Donahue--or they had-- When Walter Donahue built the building for the A&P where they are now, then they moved out of that building, and we moved in. We moved up from the smaller building in South Water Street to where the A&P was around the corner.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, got you!

KEENAN: The building that--Clare Murray's building as you see it now is not the same as it was when we were in it. The building, when we were in it, came out to the street, and there was quite a bit more to the building.

INTERVIEWER: Were you part of the Atlanta Cafe property, as well? I guess it would have been Size Green Coffee Pot then?

KEENAN: Well, it was right next door to it.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, so Size was there then?

KEENAN: Yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So the building came out to the street?

KEENAN: The old building, yeah. And then when Donahue bought that building, they tore the front part of it off. So now it sits back from the street. So when we moved into this building-- I don't know how many square feet that building had, but it was nothing compared to the building that we moved into, the former A&P building. It-- That building had 6,000 square feet--the A&P building.


KEENAN: And, of course, the people that bought it from us and divided it up into six shops-- It's approximately 1,000 square feet per shop.


KEENAN: But that's part of the reason why it's difficult to run a hardware store where you have everything you can think of, because you're carrying tremendous inventory, and it-- For about six months of the year it just sits on the shelf. ____ you work your tail off ____ everything out the door, and then about two months you just about break even, and then six months you lose money! [Laughter] So-- Except for the-- And it makes sense for--like dividing that building up into six shops. Now in each shop the materials are, of course, pretty high priced. I'm not of the quality of materials. But you have-- I'm sure that most of the shops ____ owner or part of the owner's family that, you know, operate it. If they want to be open one day, they're open one day, and so forth.
It-- In today's world, it makes more sense than-- Like we were sitting in 6,000 square feet with, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandize sitting on the shelf for--all winter, when you're paying payroll. You overhead continues, you know? You can't-- Like we had the Benjamin Moore paint line. Well, you can't-- You have to have the year 'round staff when you have something like that, because the people assisting the customer have to know what they're talking about. When we get into something like paint, the people have to know how to mix it. There's a lot to it. Well, you can't pick up somebody off the street and bring then in and do it. It's a-- You have to have a year 'round staff, which is a very costly thing.

INTERVIEWER: And they have to be skilled, as well, sounds like.

KEENAN: Right. So when you have the year 'round staff, you have all kinds of expenses with the benefits and so forth and vacation and all that stuff that, for the most part, businesses that operate just part of the year don't have to carry.


KEENAN: But I'm sure that these shops that close up, I'm sure they're not paying health benefits and giving their people vacation time.

INTERVIEWER: That's exactly right. A lot of people's staff leave the island completely in the winter months.


INTERVIEWER: So the building that you're talking about, is that the one now where there's a luggage store? And it's Lily of Pulitzer--if I pronounced it correctly? And then there's some sort of antique art store--Penash[sp?], I think?

KEENAN: Yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, so that's the building that we're talking about--got you!

KEENAN: And there's one unit in back of that building. And The Juice Guys are in the building on Easy Street, behind that building. But between The Juice Guys and the main building there's a shop that's part of that building.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So when your hardware store was there, you had all that? You had that whole space just for hardware stuff?

KEENAN: We had-- Yeah, yeah. It's-- Well, it's practically a block, except for the building The Juice Guys are in, it's the only building there is.

INTERVIEWER: It's a big space. And you had that up through '95?

KEENAN: No, we sold in '96.


KEENAN: Yeah. Basically, the ____ reason that we decided to get out of it was that we found Roberta had the brain tumor. We, family wise, had no one to take over, so we decided to get out of it. And we sold the building.

INTERVIEWER: Was that hard to do--let go of it after all that time?

KEENAN: Yeah, well--

INTERVIEWER: Or were you ready to shut the door?

KEENAN: [Laughter] Well, after that many years you get a little tired. But it's one of those things that it--finding out that Roberta had a brain tumor to be operated on, it was-- It just made it easier to get rid of the building so I wouldn't have to think about it and worry about it, and I could take care of her for whatever was coming up.


KEENAN: And that's the way it worked out from-- She was operated on in ninety--October of '96 for the first time for brain tumor, and she got out of that fairly well. She was driving and playing golf and ____ spring of '97. But then she found out in-- I don't know if you want me to tell--

INTERVIEWER: Well, that's-- It's up to you.

KEENAN: She got a-- In '97--summer of '97 that she had another brain tumor. She was operated on again in September of '97. But she came out of that pretty much paralyzed on the right side. But through all this I was happy that I didn't have the business and the building to be concerned with.


KEENAN: So I could put-- My total 24-hour attention I could put on Roberta. That's-- I mean, that's how it--why it didn't break my heart to get rid of it. [Chuckle]

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, because you had something bigger to attend to.

KEENAN: Right, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Well, did Roberta help in the store, or she maintained the home fires and you--

KEENAN: No, she-- Roberta worked at the store when we first came. When we first took over, she set up the bookkeeping. The bookkeeping was kind of--well, not the best. She set up bookkeeping system, got that all straightened out. And she also used to work the cash registers. And every year she did the--took physical inventory and--

INTERVIEWER: That must have taken all winter to do inventory for all that stuff!

KEENAN: No, we did it in two or three days.


KEENAN: Yeah, well, she used to get a crew of women together, and they'd go in, and they did it. The first of November they would go in and inventory the whole place. It was--she had her own crew to do it. And they had their own system. It was-- They did a good job.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah? She must have been pretty organized to be able to pull that off.

KEENAN: Very, yeah. She was very organized.

INTERVIEWER: And what were you doing when she had her crew doing inventory?

KEENAN: I probably was some place drinking beer.

INTERVIEWER: [Laughter] Well, it's a good thing you had Roberta down there to hold down the fort!

KEENAN: No, I used to get out and leave them alone so that, you know, I wouldn't in any way interfere with the operation, because Roberta had it down to a real system.

INTERVIEWER: So, did you leave voluntarily, or did she throw you out?

KEENAN: [Chuckle] Well, I left voluntarily, but it was before she threw me out!

INTERVIEWER: [Laughter] Well, it definitely sounds like she knew what she was doing out there. Had she worked there as a child as well, since it was her family's hardware store?

KEENAN: No. When she was a child, of course, it wasn't-- It was down the street.


KEENAN: It was-- And she used to, I'm sure, do ____. But I'd spent time in ____. But I don't-- But, you know, she never really put all that much time in it. Well, she went to school in-- She went away to high school. She went to Dean Academy. So she wasn't here--and then Boston University.

INTERVIEWER: And where did you meet her?

KEENAN: In Ridgefield, Connecticut.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Was she going to school there?

KEENAN: No, she was down there visiting--well, the guy that built these houses.


KEENAN: Yeah. He had a factory in Danbury, Connecticut. And I lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, which is just southeast of Danbury. And he had bought a house in Ridgefield, and they used to-- He and his family used to spend winters in Ridgefield, and then, of course, come out and spend summers up here. But Roberta was down visiting him in Ridgefield, and that's where I met her.

INTERVIEWER: Well, you know, that's the typical Nantucket love story, where a native has to go off island to find his or her partner and then drag them back to the island! [Laughter]

KEENAN: Yeah. [Laughter] Yeah, well, it's pretty much typical--like most high school classes. There aren't too many male and female that graduate and get married--I mean, to each other, from the same class. I mean-- [Chuckle]

INTERVIEWER: That's true.

KEENAN: But that's true all over.

INTERVIEWER: Well, tell me about downtown Nantucket, then, when you got your--the hardware store down there, and you and Roberta were down there. Back in the sixties and seventies what was downtown like?

KEENAN: Well, I don't know. Everybody complains about the traffic and so forth today. But of course there are a lot more cars today. But I don't think the problems are an awful lot different today than they were back when we first moved here.


KEENAN: One of the big differences is that when, you know, Labor Day came back then, it was like somebody pulled a shade! [Laughter] It was all over! So, from that point until June, it was-- You know, it was mostly-- People you ran into downtown were people that lived here. But now, of course, you have something here--different things to extend the season. And the restaurants and everything stays open. But back then they really shut down Labor Day. [Chuckle]

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, just rolled up the carpet?


INTERVIEWER: But you all stayed open year 'round?

KEENAN: Yeah. I used to think that, you know, in January and February you wouldn't see very many people. Then I realized why. A third of the people--of the local population--just about a third went to Florida for the winter. A third, of course, would--were living here, and the other third were up in the hospital drying out.

INTERVIEWER: I've heard that about the alcoholism up here. Is there truth to that?

KEENAN: Oh, I don't know if it's any worse than any place else, or it was. But, of course, back then the money was very tight. And so it was difficult to--for the average family to get on and off the island. It was expensive.


KEENAN: And money was scarce. And the people that went to Florida, for the most part--the younger part of the population would--went down and worked in Florida in the hotels and restaurants and whatever--golf clubs.
They-- One thing when we moved here in 1965-- Of course, Nantucket was one of the last places to pick up economically in the country. The rest of the country started to ____ forward economically, but Nantucket was behind. When we moved here, it was -- Of course, pay scale was totally different than it is today.


KEENAN: But you didn't pay $300,000 for a house, either, you know. The house--

INTERVIEWER: Well, 800 now, if the paper-- Last week they said the average home--you know, average thing what it is, was $815,000!

KEENAN: Well, see, I can't-- I can't quite buy the way they do their averaging, because they figure in Pinsky's[sp?] and all these multimillion dollar places, and then divide it up. But I don't think the average home is up in that category.


KEENAN: So a house that you might-- Something you might pay $300,000 for today, you could probably buy back then for-- Well, we paid $18,500 originally for this house.

INTERVIEWER: Really? In '65?

KEENAN: Yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Wow! Well, at least you're going to get your money back if you ever sell!

KEENAN: [Laughter] Yeah! But of course we've put quite a bit of money into the house since then. But when we first moved here, Hardy's had a pretty good size paint crew. In fact they just-- Donahue--Walter Donahue had bought the Jerry Coffin house, the Hunter house, and the White Elephant, and had reconditioned and repainted and so forth those three houses. And Hardy's paint crew did all the work on them. And so they were quite a crew.


KEENAN: But the foreman of the paint crew was making a buck 75 an hour! [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: You're kidding! In '65?



KEENAN: And, you know, you compare that today-- I have no idea what the foreman of a paint crew would get today, but probably more like 25 or 30, 35 bucks an hour.

INTERVIEWER: Definitely!

KEENAN: So things are some-- You know, in a way they're relative. So you pay a lot more for a house today, but you make a lot more money.


KEENAN: So anybody paying, you know, like $20,000 for a house back then was struggling, because they weren't making much money to begin with. That was like $800,000, you know? It was only 20, but you worked your butt off to support it!

INTERVIEWER: Exactly. What did a lot of people do in the winter months here before the economy took off?

KEENAN: Well, of course back then they had-- Most of your working people in just about every trade scalloped--spent the winter scalloping. And of course a lot fished--went out on fishing boats. And that's pretty much it, because there wasn't-- There really wasn't much for them to do. And they-- You know, I suppose they-- The people that worked in restaurants or rooming houses or whatever, went on unemployment in the wintertime, a lot of them that couldn't scallop of fish, you know. And then, like we said earlier, a lot of the people went down to Florida and worked down there in winter and then came back in the summer and worked up here.

INTERVIEWER: How much did you have to increase your staff in the summer months?

KEENAN: Well, ____ carry a basic staff, you know, your ____. In the summer we used to hire 15-16--temporary help. But, you know, most of that was students that left in late August and September. I know the last three years we depended totally on the young Irish people that came over here--Irish students. If it wasn't for them, I don't know what I would have done, because there just wasn't any capable Americans. [Chuckle] I'm trying to--

INTERVIEWER: Trying to be diplomatic? [laughter]

KEENAN: Well, unfortunately on Nantucket you have-- And this has always been true. You have young people come down here that summer here, and they have wealthy families that own property. So they're here basically to have a good time. And unfortunately they-- [Change to Side B of Tape]

INTERVIEWER: So, we were talking about local kids hooking up with some of the summer kids.

KEENAN: Yeah, so they-- One of the local kids would spend the summer, for the most part, having a good time with the off-island kids. When these young Irish people-- I'm sure they had a good--a lot of them had a good--lot of them had good times, but one thing they had was, they knew how to work. They had the work ethic. And when they came to work, even if they might be hung over, they worked. And, like I said, the last three years that we were in business I just thought it was fantastic--these young Irish kids that were so-- Most of them have a tremendous sense of humor and--but know how to work and really did a wonderful job ____.

INTERVIEWER: What were some of the other businesses that were downtown that aren't there now--some of the--like service--like there's two drug stores are still there and the banks.

KEENAN: Yeah. Well, of course, you had the Five and Ten.

INTERVIEWER: Where was the Five and Ten?

KEENAN: It's where-- I can't think of the name of that store. It's on Easy Street right in the corner. It's a clothing store and got some things that were--across from the A&P parking lot. It's behind the Sea Grill.

INTERVIEWER: Behind the Sea Grill?

KEENAN: Yeah, on--across Easy Street.


KEENAN: They're re-shingling it now, just in case you've been by it, you would know the ____.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Because Easy Street is where?

KEENAN: It's behind it. It's the one that you head down to the boat--

INTERVIEWER: Okay, okay. I get Easy and Broad Street. So down Easy Street. Trying to think of the clothing stores down that way. But closer to downtown, though? Is that were you're talking about.

KEENAN: Well, you know-- Yeah, well, if you go down to Main Street, just keep going down Main Street, and it's--

INTERVIEWER: Is it the Eagle Outfit or the place next door to where the new--the current A&P is?

KEENAN: No. If you go down Main Street--

INTERVIEWER: I know where you're talking about! It's Island Pursuit!

KEENAN: Right, that's it. Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, got you. So Island Pursuit was the Five and Ten.

KEENAN: Five and Ten, yeah.


KEENAN: Yeah, they did a good job, but just reached a point that, you know, they couldn't sell nickel and dime stuff and handle the overhead. But that's pretty much the way it's gone with whatever service type activities that were downtown. Well, a hardware store basically-- No matter where you go, you're not going to find in--oh, a busy tourist section of the towns. It's going to be out of town.


KEENAN: It's a commodity type operation. And tourists aren't going to spend any money in there. In fact, we had shifted. The last two years we had shifted quite a bit of our inventory toward tourists oriented things, because we would have, I don't know, probably thousands of tourists come through the store. And they just wonder around and walk out empty handed.

INTERVIEWER: That's not good!

KEENAN: [Laughter] So we finally started bringing in merchandise-- We brought in quite a bit of merchandise to appeal to these people.

INTERVIEWER: Like grills and outdoor water stuff, or-- ?

KEENAN: No, these are the--tourists don't buy that stuff.


KEENAN: More knickknack type stuff--oh, like cards, you know. If you go--if you travel some place, you know, you're not going to pick up hardware or anything like that. But you're going to pick up something to send back to some friends and relatives.

INTERVIEWER: Got you! Like souvenirs and remembrance--mementos. Okay.

KEENAN: Yeah, so we brought in quite a bit of that stuff. And that helped out. But it reached the point that the merchandise that we had basically--hardware and Benjamin Moore paint--from, well, the first of July until the first of September, the people that would buy it couldn't get to us. They couldn't park.

INTERVIEWER: That's a problem.

KEENAN: So we were, you know-- That really killed us, because the people that we needed couldn't reach us--couldn't get to us to buy what they wanted. So-- And that got worse--the parking got worse until-- And that's one reason we gave up the Benjamin Moore paint. We're going to-- We were going to open up a shop out of town, but then we decided against it, you know--decided to go toward the tourist oriented merchandise. But we found that the bus system that was set up the last two or three years we were in business--last couple of years we were in business--made a tremendous difference in parking downtown.



INTERVIEWER: That's good to hear! Was it better--the difference was?

KEENAN: Yeah, Mmm hmmm. Yeah, it reached a point that-- I couldn't believe it that a lot of people that I knew told me that they were riding the bus into town because, you know, it was so hard to park and everything. So that eliminated a car, not that they were coming necessarily to our store, but it eliminated a car in town. And the last couple of years we were in business got, during the summer, you could pull up beside the store and park there. And it was a tremendous change.

INTERVIEWER: It makes a difference, definitely.

KEENAN: Yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: So there was you guys, the drug stores, the five and ten--Five and Dime. What were some of the other things? Were there ever any doctors' offices downtown, or dentists or things like that during your days down there?

KEENAN: Yeah, there was a dentist office on Center Street. Yeah, that was probably when I first came here, but I've kind of forgotten.

INTERVIEWER: Well, nobody remembers their dentist. That's not a pleasant memory. [Laughter]

KEENAN: And had a doctor's office up on Main Street.

INTERVIEWER: What about barber shops?

KEENAN: There was a barber shop, yeah.


KEENAN: It's a tea shop, now--____ Teas.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, that was the barber shop on-- Was that Water Street or Fulton Street?

KEENAN: Yeah. No, on Main Street.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, ____ teas. Oh, I know where you're talking about. Okay, okay, before you get to the Chamber of Commerce building.

KEENAN: Yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: I know where you're talking about now, okay. So that was the barber shop--interesting. So at one point downtown Nantucket was more of a traditional downtown, in that the locals could get their services down there, in that they had probably good cheap places to eat, like Size[sp?], and the hardware store--

KEENAN: Yeah, and there was a place up on Main Street. I forget what they called it-- Well, I guess--

INTERVIEWER: And the Dreamland is still there. Was that--that was around, too?

KEENAN: Yeah, yeah. And of course you had Donovan[sp?]. Basically at the bottom of Main Street you had the lumber yard.

INTERVIEWER: And the lumber yard was where the A&P is now?



KEENAN: It was called Island Service Lumber. And you had more oil storage tanks and so forth down in that area.

INTERVIEWER: That's right, that's right.

KEENAN: That-- I'm just trying to think of what was at the top of that area, but it just doesn't come to me.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Well, the lumber yard probably took a lot of space.

KEENAN: Oh, yeah--the whole parking lot, which was--that is now a parking lot-- You know, that was basically the lumber yard. And their hardware store was where the A&P is now, or the A&P building.

INTERVIEWER: One other thing I'd like to ask you about. And if this is a subject area that you're not comfortable with, let me know. Roberta had spent some time at Our Island Home? Is that right?

KEENAN: Yeah, Mmm hmmm.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me something about that--about your experience with that place. I've heard a lot of positive things about them.

KEENAN: Well, you don't really-- Nobody really knows goes on within a place like that, because you have no reason to be there, you know. You don't walk through the front door just to find out what's going on.

INTERVIEWER: Sure. The only people involved with that place are the people who have loved ones there.

KEENAN: Exactly. So I-- When it reached the point that Berta lost all control of her right leg, and I could no longer handle it, you know, something had to happen. And it just so happened that a bed opened up down there. But after she went in, and I went in and saw what went on, I thought, "My God! This is like--" I couldn't have asked for something nicer than the people! It was just so fantastic!


KEENAN: And it was a tremendous relief, because you get 24-hour professional care, and those people just did a fantastic job! They do a fantastic job!

INTERVIEWER: Has that building always been-- I don't know if you call it the nursing home or convalescents' home or-- ?

KEENAN: The-- I forget when that was built, but--

INTERVIEWER: Was it there when you came to the island?



KEENAN: It was-- What they do down there now-- I don't know how involved it was as a nursing type home, but the building next to it--that other building down there, that's-- They used to call it the Poor People's Home. And that's where the elderly people went. And then they constructed the Island Home as we see it now. That has been constructed since I've been here.


KEENAN: But that's, you know, they've done a-- It's just a beautiful spot. And I think that when we're fortunate in as much as it's, in part, a town-run facility, so that, for the most part--as far as I know--the employees are town employees, and of course benefit as a town employee.

INTERVIEWER: Does it look like a hospital on the inside, or does it look more like a house on the inside?

KEENAN: No, it's very-- It doesn't look like a hospital on the inside, you know.


KEENAN: No, they've made sure that while you've got people sitting in wheelchairs, you know, that's all you do for them as long as they're awake and-- No, they've done a good job on the inside. And one thing about it, like when Roberta went down there-- When I was taking care of her at home, she was in a wheelchair. And she-- But she couldn't move around the house, because we have wall-to-wall carpet in all the rest of the house.


KEENAN: And she couldn't use-- Well, she couldn't use the wheelchair, but she was paralyzed. She only had one hand--the left hand. She was paralyzed in the right side. So she used to sit here and watch that TV all day. And it was all, you know-- Well, some of her friends would come around to see her, but for the most part she sat. And that was her day--watching TV. And then when she went down there, of course it's set up for wheelchairs. And she was-- They got her out of bed and of course she was in the wheelchair. But then she could wheel herself around, or somebody would wheel her around the place. And like if you went down to the north end, you looked out over the harbor. It's a beautiful view!

INTERVIEWER: I've always wondered what the view is from that building.

KEENAN: Absolutely beautiful!

INTERVIEWER: Yeah? Because there's nothing obstructing their view, right, there? They're not right on the water, but there's nothing between them and the water.

KEENAN: Right, yeah. Yeah, they're not too far from the water.


KEENAN: But it's an absolutely beautiful view. And so, instead of, you know, her or it could be anybody else sitting in their house doing nothing, seeing nobody, down there she knew a lot of the patients. And those patients, it was-- Their friends or families would come in to see them. And, of course, Berta would know them, so there was a--you know, such a tremendous connection!

INTERVIEWER: Absolutely!

KEENAN: And she, you know, constantly was in touch with somebody. So the day-- There was more to the day than just sitting staring at the TV. Now, that's a great place! I hope I am never in that kind of condition that I have to be in a place like that, but if it ever happens, that's where I want to be.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah? Well, write it down somewhere, and I'll keep that in mind. [Laughter] I'll come see you.

KEENAN: Well, the people down there have, you know, a sense of humor. They-- Well, I'm sure they don't become emotionally involved with the patients, but they act like they're involved with them, you know? That they're their best friends and so forth.

INTERVIEWER: Well, I guess one of the advantages of living in a small place like this that was isolated somewhat at one time and having Roberta growing up here and then worked here all those years, she did probably know a lot of people.

KEENAN: Yeah, that's right.

INTERVIEWER: And it wasn't like-- I had an Aunt who was in a nursing home temporarily. But she was there for about two years. And it happened to be in one that was rather far from home, and she didn't know anyone, except for when we went to visit her.

KEENAN: Yeah, that's the way it is most any place you go.

INTERVIEWER: Absolutely.

KEENAN: You're right, she did-- Nantucket being such a small community, especially for back years ago when, you know, there wasn't that much population on the island in the wintertime, you got to know just about everybody on the island and their off spring, and so forth.

INTERVIEWER: Absolutely.

KEENAN: So it's like one big family, basically.

INTERVIEWER: Well, it's good to know that paid off for her later on.

KEENAN: Yeah, right.

INTERVIEWER: She was down there having pleasant conversation during the day and not depending on the television.

KEENAN: Oh, yeah. But even the people that are there-- Like there was a woman who was never-- I mean, she never spent much time in Nantucket, but anyhow she got into the nursing home. But, you know, she had just as much attention as everybody else. Yeah, it's a fantastic place with just fantastic people!

INTERVIEWER: Well, that's good to know that, because that's a trying time when you have somebody there.

KEENAN: Yeah, Gail Ellis runs a-- You know, they had a nurse there, and she knows what she's doing.

INTERVIEWER: Gail Ellis? Is that her name?

KEENAN: Yeah. She does an excellent job--excellent job! What else you want to know? [Chuckle]

INTERVIEWER: I think that was pretty much--a lot. We covered the neighborhood, talked about the hardware store and downtown, and we got a bonus by talking about Our Island Home, which I had not planned about.

KEENAN: Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: So I will go and turn this off.

[End of Interview]