To the editor:
The Portuguese were the first large wave of European immigration to the United States, beginning in the 1870s.
They populated Gloucester’s Portagee Hill neighborhood. They brought their historic off-shore fishing skills, which greatly added to Gloucester’s prosperity. They were a major factor in the fish processing industry. There is a stairway from Friend Street to Main Street. It was built to serve, ease and shorten the walking time to the wharves. They built a beautiful church, Our Lady of Good Voyage. It is a nearly exact replica of the one in Madelena on their home island of Pico in the Azores. It is the heart of their community.
The renowned author Rudyard Kipling was so moved by the courage and devotion of the Portuguese fishermen to their families, their community and their church he wrote his novel “Captains Courageous” about them. Spencer Tracy wonderfully played the role of Manuel the tough, wise “Portagoosie” fisherman in the fabulous movie.
While the Portuguese community was busy doing all of this, they were at the same time discriminated against. Working hard to prove their American allegiance against this treatment, they disproportionately enlisted and had their sons enlist to fight in the World War I. And their losses were disproportionate as well.
My grandfather, William P. Goulart, and Joseph S. Mattos Jr. were first cousins. My great-grandfather, Capt. Antone Goulart, and Capt. Joseph Mattos Sr. married sisters. Antone owned the Mary P. Goulart, a knockabout fishing schooner. Joseph Sr. owned the schooner Joseph S. Mattos. They lived not a block apart, on The Hill.
William and Joseph Jr. grew up together, went to Sawyer School together, enlisted in Battery A together, and went off to the trenches of France together. William came home, suffering from what’s now recognized as PTSD. Joseph did not come home alive. He was killed in France.
Jeff Domingos, owner of a neighborhood store that provisioned their boats, interviewed by Linda Brayto, in her fabulous, “Spoken History of Gloucester” series recorded in the 1970s, reminisces about the early 20th century on Portagee Hill. He talks about how Portagee kids in those days who wanted to play baseball had to walk all the way to Stage Fort Park.
I’m sure Mr. Webster, who sold ice to their skippers and watched their kids skate and cut the ice on his pond, shared Mr. Kipling’s appreciation for the Portagee Hill community, their contributions and sacrifices when he donated “The Pond” for a playground.
I’m also sure the wise and appreciative city elders, who knew there was no place for Portuguese kids to play baseball, or anything else that required green space, took great pride in honoring Joseph S. Mattos’ name and the community and country he gave his life for in giving them, in Joseph’s name, a “field of their own.”