Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
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I have a pretty big birthday coming up this month. As a matter of fact, most of my childhood friends are also turning…the same age this year. Oh what the hell…the big 6-0. Wow!
I’m glad to say that I have spent all of those years in Somerville. When I was a kid, a train rumbled through Davis Square. There was a guy that pushed a knife-sharpening cart around the streets, and a fruit seller in a small jeep with a bell. Dogs ran around unleashed and no one picked up after them. No one picked through your trash for bottles and cans either.
Hoodsies were passed out by politicians on the Fourth of July. I attended sister school when the nuns still wore their menacing habits. Penny candy was a penny. Summer vacations lasted longer. We drank Zarex and Fizzies. Our dress pants were always too baggy and itchy. The coolers we took to Norembega Park and Revere Beach were made of metal and we brought baloney sandwiches wrapped in tin foil or baggies.
Dad’s huge tank of a car had no A/C or seat belts but the radio played oldies. We went to the YMCA day camp and remember a guy named Brownie. One of the day trips was to Hoods Cherry Hill Farm.
We bought goldfish birds and turtles at Grants and Woolworths. We swam with our friends at Foss Park and Dilboy. We built buggies and go-carts using wheels from shopping carts. We put together model airplanes, cars, super heroes and movie monsters. Some of us left the cover off of the glue a little too long. We had bikes with fat tires and we stuck baseball cards and balloons in the spokes with clothespins.
All four grandparents were still in our lives. Mom and Betty Crocker made our birthday cake and invited our friends and cousins to our party. We played with Slinkys, Hula Hoops and YoYos.
We were warned by our sophomore homeroom teacher that high school was going to fly by. Boy did it! When we started high school there were still some wooden desks with ink well holes in them. Some of our elementary schools are now condos, and others are just memories. The buses had thick comfortable padded seats.
We got an allowance of 50 cents a week. Our parents saved S&H Green Stamps. We bought our first color TV set at Lechmere Sales in Cambridge. We loved JFK, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and mourned John’s senseless murder. It was our first tastes of tragedy. We loved the Beatles and mourned John’s death. We saw a house move from Highland Ave. to Powder House Boulevard. We saw Friendly’s turn into a bank, and Hostess become a nursing home.
We found buyers to get us liquor. We became old enough to drink legally and it did some of us in. We became hippies and experimented with strange stuff and it ruined some of our lives. We went to Woodstock. We went to war and some didn’t come home. We will never forget them.
Powder House Park went from a tough teenage hangout to unleashed yuppie puppies running amuck. I still see kids I went to The Western Junior High School with. It’s great to see them. The High School reunions are getting smaller.
I say I grew up in Somerville but I still feel like a kid…until I look in the mirror. I am looking forward to keeping on growing up. I’m still happy to be still kicking. Still kicking in the Ville. Happy birthday to all of my friends…the class of 1971 who are, or have already turned 60 years old. Here’s to many more years of enjoying living in Somerville.