Rosemary Dailey Freeman, youngest child of James J. and Marie Theresa “Mayme” Geatley Dailey, was honored July 17, on her 90th birthday.
Some 75 family members gathered in the restored opera house on the third-floor of the McHugh-Dailey building for the afternoon party. There would have been more, Freeman said, but it was the middle of the week.
Photo albums depicting the history of the large outgoing family were strewn on one of the dozen tables that were set with tablecloths for the event. Pre-teen children congregated on the stage and mimicked performers entertaining the crowd.
They announced that they wanted to sing “Happy Birthday,” to Aunt Rosemary and Paul Freeman, her youngest son, tried to quiet the crowd.
Freeman and her only surviving sibling, Ann Dailey Noelker, sat in front of the stage while the youngsters belted out their song.
“It’s really quite something,” Freeman said.
Freeman and her nine siblings were born in the building and grew to adulthood there.
“There was always a lot going on,” Freeman said. “Mother was wonderful with children. She raised eight of her own siblings before marrying my dad and then she raised us.”
Because Bridget Barrett Geatley, Mayme’s mother, suffered from a heart condition for several years before her death, Mayme, the eldest child, assumed responsibility for caring for her mother and her three sisters and five brothers. She was 30 years old when she married James Dailey. The groom was 35.
“Mother kept everything going,” Freeman recalled. “At church she was part of the Christian Mother Organization and Queen’s Daughters. She was the first president. They held their first meeting here in this room.”
Although the third floor opera house had many uses, in Rosemary’s childhood her favorite memory is its years as the town roller skating rink.
Through the years the third floor served as the site of graduations and city board meetings, an artist studio and home of the short-lived Pacific Little Theater.
“I graduated from the eighth grade at St. Bridget’s Elementary School in this room.”
Living in a building that was so public had its perks but there was also a lot of work.
“We kids carried the coal up and the ashes down,” Freeman said.
Rosemary Dailey married Paul Freeman and the couple had three children, Joe, Suzanne and Paul. They lived in St. Louis where Paul worked at Anheuser-Busch and Rosemary worked at Monsanto Chemical Company. But Pacific was always home.
James J. Dailey and Lawrence McHugh constructed the three-story building at South First and Orleans streets, which the owners’ descendants refer to as “the brick,” to house their retail business. The second floor served as a residence for both families and the third floor was an opera house.