Thursday, July 16, 2009


Most of my most vivid memories of summer as a kid are those involving the years we
lived in the Dorchester section of Boston. We moved there when I was 8 years old
and left just before I turned 14. I can divide those years into two periods based on
the apartments we lived in at the time.

The first place was at 101 Capen St in a neighborhood mostly made up of triple-decker
apartment buildings. There weren't many open spaces nearby so like generations of city
kids before us, we adapted. We played stick ball in the long alleys between the buildings,
or maybe banged a "pinky" rubber ball against the front steps of a porch to play "Three
Flies Out". Sometimes we played basketball in the schoolyard of the Frank V. Thompson
up the street, but there was mostly a tough, older crowd up there so we didn't go there
that often.

Sometimes we walked over to the Morton Theater to catch a movie, or better yet,
the Oriental Theater in Mattapan Square, where the inside looked like a Chinese palace,
with statues of Buddhas in wall niches. I don't know what fascinated me more, the glowing
green eyes of the statues or the "clouds" that seemed to float across the ceiling overhead.
I saw "Around the World in 8o Days" and "Hercules" at the Oriental!

Evenings, parents and kids would sit on the front steps of the apartment building and wait
for the ice cream man. His name was "Westy" and he had a great gimmick: he'd have each
kid guess what number between 1 and 10 he was thinking of, and if you guessed it right, you
got your ice cream free. The "Drumstick" Ice cream cones were my favorites.

It was while we were living on Capen Street that I played Little League baseball in the
league run by St. Matthew's. My friend Barry played in the Dorchester Little League and had
a real uniform and cleats, while the Catholic League teams just had tee shirts and a baseball
cap. I was on the St. Matthew's Dodgers for two years and we wore bright golden tee's and Dodger Blue caps.

And of course I spent a lot of time reading books from the Codman Square library.

We moved up to Evans St when I was 11 or 12. It was only a few blocks way from our
old neighborhood but it was different. For one thing, there was a big empty lot across
the street where the old Robert Swan School has burned down, and there was a lot of
sandlot baseball played there. We'd form up teams and send the two youngest kids,
the Martinellis, down to the grocery store on Milton Avenue to buy us Royal Crown
Colas and Devil Dogs. Our only worry was that one of the better hitters might hit a
flyball across the street and crack the windshield of some parked car.

I'd learned to ride a bike (with my Mom's help *cough* )before we'd left the Capen St
apartment and part of my summer days were now taken up with paper routes. I delivered
several Boston newspaper at some point or another while I lived there, including the old
Boston Herald, the Boston Record, and the Globe. One of the more memorable routes
involved riding my bike over past Franklin Field to the VFW Parkway projects. I also
was delivering papers during the "Boston Strangler" days and I recall how nervous
the female customers were when I knocked on their doors to collect money on
Fridays until they caught Albert De Salvo.

Of course, the bike gave me more mobility so I was now visiting three branch libraries
every week and borrowing 18-24 books a week and the the comic books and baseball cards
I smuggled into the house inside my "paperboy" bag!

And there were the trips "up home" to Maine, and visits out at the cottage at Hough's
Neck to swim.

One summer tradition that continued even after we moved out of Boston down
here to Abington on the South Shore. We had no air conditioning, and on a really hot night,
we'd all get into the car and Dad would drive around for a few hours. Sometimes we'd stop at
a Howard Johnson's for an ice cream if it was early enough. If it was later, we might end up
driving to Wollaston Beach or someplace else near the water where it was cool. In Abington,
that drive would usually take us to a beach in Plymouth.

There were good summers in Abington as well but for me, whenever I think about my
childhood summers, it's those years in Dorchester that spring first to mind.

Written for the 76th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy

1 comment:

M. Diane Rogers said...

What good memories from summer days! So much it seemed for us to do then. Great description of the Oriental theatre - lucky kid to have gone there!