From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

            Over the years of watching television, you could find eras where different genres dominated. Today, we have crime shows of all types with many of them having a military or police connection (NCIS, FBI, Seal Team.) In the past, we had shows with a PI or police officer (Mannix, Rockford, Columbo) as the main character.

            Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, Westerns for both kids and adults dominated both the big and small screens. Man shows got their start on the radio, the Lone Ranger, and at the movies, the singing cowboys, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. There were so many: Hop Along Cassidy, Range Rider, Bat Masterson, Maverick and Gunsmoke, to name a few.

            Like today’s kids who dress up like superheroes or Star Wars characters complete with light sabers, it was common to see pint-sized cowboys and cowgirls with at least a hat and holstered six gun (if you were lucky, it was a cap pistol.) The old sandpit at my grandparents’ house was a perfect place to act out all kinds of western adventures.

            Now, for our Rochester connection to all of this. In Rochester, there were a variety of small markets where residents could shop for groceries without having to go to Wareham, Mattapoisett or Fairhaven. One of these was Bettencourt’s located beside today’s Lloyd’s Market at the corner of Hartley and Cushman Roads. The store was mentioned in an earlier article about the bench that was donated to the Museum.

            Manuel Bettencourt opened the store in the early 1900’s and operated it into the 1950’s. It was a convenient place to get anything from meat to penny candy. Recently, I was reminiscing with my cousin, Norene Hartley, about the store, and we agreed the best part was the porch. It was a raised wooden platform with a railing and looked like every sidewalk in every western town on TV.

            When we were old enough to walk from my grandparents’ on Snipatuit Rd., my sister, any available cousins and I would head down to the store. First, we would stop to say “Hi” to Aunt Nell at the Mill Office, and then we’d cross the street to Bettencourt’s and swagger “western style” down the porch. Our first stop would be the big red Coke machine. We’d reach in, grab a cold bottle and then use the bottle opener on the side to take off the cap before heading inside for that penny candy.

            The picture with this article is of my sister, Marion, and myself in our cowgirl regalia along with cousins, Norene and Phyllis Hartley who lived across the road from my grandparents.

            The Bettencourt sign is part of our display at the Rochester Historical Museum at 355 County Rd. We’re always open by appointment but will also try to be open Sundays in November from 1-3. It’s best to call 617-750-2818 or 508-295-8908 to double-check. It’s also a good time to do your Christmas shopping at our gift shop full of Rochester-themed clothing, books, hats and other items.

            Oh, yes, how many westerns can you remember?

By Connie Eshbach

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