Richard Goolsky's 1940's Jamaica Plain (Part 2)

I Remember When

By Richard Goolsky

Here’s to the kids I grew up with. In each others’ eyes we’ll stay forever young. Most of us parted ways when we were twenty-one or so. Some had nicknames, some not. There was Bobby (Cupcake), Sully, Hawkeye, Danny, Frankie (Happy Tooth; braces weren’t an option in a working class neighborhood.) I can’t forget Muzzy, Chuck and Scully and Sonny. Jeez, I think the cast of Westside Story ripped us off. My name is Richard Goolsky and I grew up in the “block” at 41 Mozart Street and lived there from 1942 until 1958.

Jamaica Plain really hadn’t changed much from the 1880’s until after the Korean War in the 1950’s. Times weren’t stable for those seventy-some-odd years. First there was World War I, followed by the Great Depression, which lasted through the thirties. Then World War II came, so the surroundings stayed nearly the same through the first half of the Twentieth Century.

A lot of people came to Jamaica Plain from Germany in the late 1800’s to work in the breweries. There were still two breweries operating in the 1940’s. The Haffenreffer Brewery off Boylston Street made Pickwick Ale. We called it the poor man’s whiskey. A quart of it, and you were on your way.

The other brewery was the Croft Brewery at Heath and Terrace Streets. They also made a couple of potent brews, Croft Cream Ale and another god-awful concoction called Gamecock Ale. Living between these two, and high up on the third floor, I thought that the natural smell of Jamaica Plain was malt, barley and hops. The names of some of the streets reflect the German influence: Mozart, Dresden, Minden, Germania, Schiller and Hoffman Streets. On Amory Street near Jackson Square there was a German Social Club, The Arbiter.

Growing up in Jamaica Plain in the 1940’s, our lives were mostly confined to a six or seven block area. We hung out around the John Holland Playground on Mozart Street. It was named after a World War I vet who was killed in the war. I went back to Jamaica Plain this year for the first time since the early 1960’s and found a school on what was the playground, and the Lowell School, which was on the corner of Centre and Mozart, was razed. A playground is now on the site. Progress?

Most of the kids’ lives revolved around playgrounds. Jefferson Field, also known as the “Ledge”, would encompass Day and Heath Streets and the Hyde Square area. On the other end there were the Green and Carolina Street playgrounds. The kids around Parker Street and Bromley Park and Bickford Street had the playground on top of Parker Hill. Shared by all was Daisy Field off the Jamaica Way. I guess the kids around Eggleston Square had Franklin Park.

We had a sort of unwritten pecking order about hanging in different places in the neighborhood. When we reached around thirteen, we moved to the “Busy Bee Spa” on the corner at Centre and Wyman Streets. Five cent cokes, and six plays for a quarter on the Juke Box. The dividing line between the two police stations that serviced the area was right around there so if we didn’t move fast enough when the cops told us to get off of the corner, we had a choice of getting a kick in the seat of the pants by either “Hubba Hubba” Davenport from Station Thirteen on Seaverns Avenue or Cornelius Mahoney from Station Ten in Roxbury Crossing. Back in those days the cops used to keep their shoes shined by kicking us in the rear, for no apparent reason.

Around the age of seventeen the next move was to hang around Hanley’s Drug Store on the corner of Centre and Gay Head Streets. I bet that if the doorway next to the drug store hasn’t been remodeled, you can still see some names carved into the moldings from the 1940’s. During the early 1940’s that corner was kind of deserted after the eighteen-year-old kids went off to war. I guess it’s OK to name some of them. Mishey Murphy, Harold and his brother Richie Fahey, Mal Maloney, Jackie Curren, Eddie Smith, and Doodie Gallager were from the Mozart/Preising Street area.

To show how things revolve, after the vets were mustered out of the service, most returned to the playground on Mozart Street. They were eligible to collect money from the government. I don’t remember the official name of the program, but they called it the 9/20 Club. That meant that they could collect nine bucks a week for twenty weeks. Most played stickball at the playground until the dough ran out. Seems like it takes about ten years to circle the block up Bolster Street to Wyman and down Centre and back to the playground again.

Richard Goolsky can be reached at 912 Canvasback Rd., Rio Rancho, NM 87124 or by e-mail to: RDGOOL1 [at]

Reprinted by permission from the November 2002 JP Bulletin.