23 Conant Street

 
Capeside Condominium

“The bonus of growing up on Conant Street was the best,” Miriam (Martin) Collinson (b 1942) wrote in the 2010 Provincetown Portuguese Festival Booklet. “It was a real Portuguese neighborhood. Many families had members of different generations living together in the same household.” And that was certainly true at No. 23, which had been purchased in 1903 for $700 by Collinson’s grandparents, Manuel Martin (±1873-1940) and Amelia Martin (±1874-1937), who are pictured at left. Both were born in São Miguel. She came to the United States when she was 17. He arrived in Provincetown when he was 27, where he continued fishing, as he had in the Azores. Amelia, The Advocate reported, was “noted for her skill in needlework and made beautiful lace, quilts, rugs and other handiwork for her home.”

The Martin brood included Georgianna Martin, Jenny (Martin) Holbrook, Sister Mary Alonzo and Raymond A. Martin (±1913-1975), Miriam’s father, who was born in this house. In 1938, Raymond married Rose Rombeiro Enos (±1910-2007), of 30 Montello Street, who then joined her in-laws at 23 Conant, where Miriam, too, was born, delivered by a midwife named Angie Prada. Miriam’s brother, Stephen R. Martin, who was born seven years later, took the more modern route of coming into the world at Cape Cod Hospital.

Raymond was a carpenter by day, but the fishery was in his blood — and the family needed whatever income it could get. “My dad would go bass fishing at night on the Back Shore and at Wood End,” Miriam wrote, “and when I woke up many summer mornings, our lawn would be covered with 40-50 pound striped bass, which he would sell for extra money.” Rose was in charge of renting the family bedrooms to tourists during summers, doing business as Martin’s Homestead. She also took in laundry. Unlike other Provincetown homemakers, however, Rose had as her second family the illustrious Arctic explorer Donald Baxter MacMillan and his wife Miriam Look MacMillan, at 473 Commercial Street, for whom she was cook, housekeeper and friend. (“Rose Martin, 97,” The Banner, 5 July 2007.)

 
The children would do their part, too, Miriam recalled. “Early in the morning or after dinner, we would go blueberrying and sell them to the Bonnie Doone Restaurant [35 Bradford Street] for 25 cents a quart to make money to go to the Carnival. We had to make sure the berries were clear of all green stems, or the quart would be turned back with no pay. We also painted seaclam shells and rocks, and sold them them on the corner of Conant and Bradford Streets.” She also recalled diving off Town Pier for the entertainment of tourists, and the remuneration of the young tribe.

She paints a picture of a world in which children had considerable latitude to move around their neighborhood — not that they would be caught dead in the East End, mind you — but were always under someone’s watchful eyes. “After school, we would never come home to emptiness,” Miriam wrote. “There would always be someone there to greet us and ask about our day. If a parent stepped out, there would be a note on the door telling us to go to Tia Lena’s for tea and cookies or Madrinha Christy’s for flippers, malasada or mace biscuits. I had my own little teacup at my aunt’s house that is still in the family. Aunts were our mentors, passing on the skills of crocheting, sewing and other handicrafts.”

Miriam worked for years as a stenographer and secretary in the Provincetown Police Department. In 1965 [?], her husband Robert E. Collison purchased a large tract of land between Route 6 and the Cape Cod National Seashore, east of Race Point Road, and opened the Dunes’ Edge Campground, which she continues to own and run [?]. She now lives much closer to the campground. No. 23 became a five-unit condo in 1991.

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