Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
This article first appeared in the July 16, 2008 edition of The Somerville News.
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
Well, we just lost another longtime family home on my street (near Davis Square). They had been here for over 50 years – both parents are deceased and the adult kids decided it was time to sell – they had been my neighbors for 48 years. I heard that the new owner is going to convert the two-family into condos, what an original idea!
Though I am sad to see the family leave, I stand to get something out of the deal – the common fence between our properties needs replacing – go get ‘em, Carli Fence! You know what they do when they perform a condo conversion. They’ll give the joint beautiful hardwood floors, except the kitchen and bath, which will receive some kind of extravagant tile. They’ll throw in central air conditioning, and divide the basement into equal storage stalls with chicken wire and locks. They’ll update all the systems. The kitchens will have shiny stainless steel appliances and marble counter tops. Then the price tag will be at least $450,000 each (location, location, location).
The first thing I will do is buy one of those bamboo curtains to put on my back porch so I don’t have to watch the emotional metamorphosis. It’s going to be noisy and dusty over there for a while that’s for sure. One neighbor sold her duplex for around $800,000 and they got nearly a million each for them after the conversion – I’m holding out.
What I am mostly sad about is that another family home that was up and running when we moved on the street in 1960 is gone. I know it’s the circle of life and all that stuff, but it still makes me a little blue. I think back to a time when the street was full of kids playing relieve-e-o, buck buck, and dodge ball. We had a mob of kids.
I can remember hearing the Beach Boys playing on a radio coming out of one of the older kids rooms. Sometimes we would all flock into someone’s yard, but we rarely left the street. Hall Avenue was a two way then, but it seemed like cars never came by. Mr. Pine, who lived across the street from us, worked for Drake’s Cakes and sometimes brought Ring Dings and Yankee Doodles home in his trunk for us kids. The O’Neal’s owned Alpine Tree and Landscape Company – when they were finished with a day of cutting, pruning and de-stumping, a convoy of trucks came by on the way back to the garage up the street. One family had six girls and one boy and another had five girls and one boy. We had three, and most had at least two. There were kids everywhere!
Summer vacation seemed to last longer back then, but the same thing always happened – we would find a really cool new activity three days before school started. One year it was making bows and arrows out of sticks, string and bottle caps. It was someone’s bright idea to bend the cap over the stick to make an arrowhead. We were inventive but not necessarily safe. We didn’t always get along great either. I seem to recall being called a certain derogatory Italian slur, which prompted a visit from my older cousin.
I remember sitting in my backyard playing Mr. Tambourine Man on guitars with my friends. When we could finally afford electric guitars one of my neighbors called the cops on us for being too loud. We called her Mrs. Rat lady. There was a rock group rehearsing on both ends of the street. The PJ Five up the top of the street, and the Mini-Squirts at our end.
It’s also been a plus having my godmother, Auntie Marie living on the street – she and my Uncle Carl have added a nice feeling of security for me over these many years. I can go up and down the street and remember each house and the families that lived there. There are only a few parents still in the homes. The grown kids come over to visit occasionally, and finally, sadly to pack up and sell. The list keeps growing.
So with the passing of another family home into history, I will as always cherish the memories. Occasionally, I would clear snow off my departing neighbors walk and the mother would make me the most delicious cookies ever. She use to give me an “atta boy Jim” when I was outside cleaning my trailer park of a yard, once a year. There was never anything but a friendly word between us. I miss the dodge ball, the cookies and the Ring Dings, but not as much as I will miss my neighbors and friends.