Sharing the Wealth
Although hard working, their wealth provided the brothers some leisure time together. There was a closeness within the families. Sundays were spent attending mass then visiting each others' homes and the homes of elderly aunts: Aunt Kate and Aunt Tess down on Wallace Street, Aunt Eliza Dowd on Watchung who the children referred to by her humourous maiden name "Eliza Sidebottom". Charlie Dowd is remembered extra fondly by his nieces and nephews, one commenting that he has always loved the smell of cigars because it reminds him so much of kind Uncle Charlie. He always treated everyone special. Another cousin recalls as a child at vacation in Spring Lake, Uncle Tom approached him saying, "I have a prize for you" then produced a huge lollipop from behind his back. Aunt Margaret would greet visiting young nieces and nephews with enthusiastic kisses and hugs at her front door. She always acknowledged children, offering candy or whatever might make them happy.
Now increasingly prosperous, the Dowds were not content to keep their wealth to themselves. Charlie Dowd was especially well known for acts of kindness and his generosity. Many years later, his daughter's car was hit by another driver - a young mother who could not afford to pay for the damages. Charlie took pity on the young family when he visited their home. He not only paid for the damage to both cars, but bought their little boy a new bicycle as well. Another favorite story told is that, as a matter of policy, whenever Ms. Gillespie informed Charlie that renters at Watchung Avenue (or some other property) were behind in their rent - Charlie, assuming the family was having a difficult time, would have a load of coal delivered to their door so they could at least keep warm in the winter.
Margaret Dowd was also legendary within the family for her generosity. Stories are told how, upon entering his home, Tom would pass a down-and-out stranger walking out, wearing one of his nice suits or carrying a stack of his clothes out in his arms. He would complain to Margaret but she would shush him, arguing that he was smart and could always make more money. Tom wasn't heartless either however. During the depression, he had the chicken coop on the property cleaned out and installed bunk beds to provide anyone a needed a place to sleep. Tom seldom turned down anyone who came to him looking for work - so there were always plenty of people around their house doing odd jobs and being fed.
Margaret Dowd had a special soft spot for children and orphans. One story about her involves either a small girl or boy selling newspapers on a Newark street corner. Margaret would have her driver stop, then she would get out of the car and buy-up the entire stack of papers from the astonished child. In another version of the story, Margaret not only buys all the papers, but whisks the child off to Bambergers department store to buy Christmas for him and his family. Margaret also gave parties for orphans, hoping to bring some happiness to their lives.
Perhaps recalling her own difficult childhood, Margaret appears to have reveled in the opportunity to assist others including her own relatives. She visited her cousins, the Folkners, Duffs and Soccers in Oxford, and the Cloughseys in Paterson and Jersey City. These cousins were also guests in Margaret's home in Livingston. At the start of the summer holiday, Margaret would send a car to Paterson to retrieve her young cousin Jack Burke (son of Katherine Cloughssey Burke), to accompany the Dowds on their vacation. She would send a car to Jersey City to pick up young John and Edward Cloughsey, grandsons of her Uncle Edward. Margaret's own children were her world and she was devoted to them. Perhaps to excess, she wanted their childhood to be much happier than her own had been. Margaret was especially enthusiastic about holidays and would hire decorators to "deck the halls" in her home to make each season extra special. Her parties are recalled by the cousins as magnificent affairs - "balloons dropping from the ceilings" and every single child getting gifts. One party was referred to in a Newark Evening News article:
Newark Evening News, Friday, November 23 1923
Woman Hurt in Auto Collision While On Way To Party For Son
Mrs. Dowd and her two smaller boys, Paul and David, going to the club yesterday at 5 o'clock barley missed being seriously hurt when their enclosed car was in a collision on High Street, Orange. The Chauffer, as well as a nurse girl who was sharing the front seat were hurt when struck by glass. Mrs. Dowd who sustained a broken thumb and the children who were merely shaken up were taken to the home of Mr. And Mrs. Edward J. Dillon of High Street to rest before continuing their trip. The other car in the collision was owned by David S. Walton of Llewellyn Park.
The Dowds were especially charitable when it came to their religion. The legacy of their Uncle Rev. John Francis Dowd was still strong in the family. A cousin, Sister Loretta Austin McCloskey was principal of Holy Name Parochial School in West Orange. Nuns and priests always had a friend with the Dowds. Margaret often sent "buckets of food" to the nuns' home. Charlie would send a car once a week to take them on their errands, driving them into New York City or wherever they needed to go. Priests were regular guests at Tom Dowd's dinner table. Tom and Margaret sponsored at least one young priest, paying his way through the seminary. Father O'Conner, a family friend, stabled his prized horse in Tom's barn at no charge. Tom and Margaret were supporters of St. Philemenas church in Livingston, donating $1,090 [$5,450] to the building fund and sponsoring a fund raising dinner and dance. Charlie Dowd was a chief benefactor to Our Lady of Lourdes parish school.