Richard Goolsky's 1940's Jamaica Plain (Part 5)
Jamaica Plain People
Back in the 1940s, the city and the schools kept us kids pretty occupied during school vacation. While the parents were planting Victory Gardens such as the big one on the Jamaicaway at Daisy Field, the city provided small plots for kids, and supplied the seeds, tools, and the teachers to show us how to grow vegetables. They had about an acre of land on Paul Gore Street for us to plant. Everything we grew we took home.
The easiest crop to grow was Swiss Chard and to this day I still don’t eat that stuff. We got by all summer long eating Devil Dogs, Whoopee Pies and Spuckies (that’s what we called a submarine sandwich back then).
Lou Perini was a local builder who also owned the Boston Braves at the time. The Sox were the top draw back then and the Braves were lucky to get a couple of thousand fans a game, so in order to swell the attendance, Perrini and the city started the “Knot Hole Gang” and we got in for free. The only cost was five cents each way on the streetcar to Braves Field on Gaffney Street off Commonwealth Ave.
We got that much easily enough by picking up bottles. We got two cents deposit back on the small bottles and a nickel on the large tonic bottles. Now you know I grew up in Boston; we didn’t call it pop or soda, but rather tonic.
Now the Braves weren’t a bad team; they won the pennant in 1948 but lost to the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. A couple of the players lived in Jamaica Plain at the Beaufort Apartments, on Centre Street: Alvin Dark the shortstop, and Eddie Stankey, the second baseman.
In those days a major league ballplayer was a touchable person. You could talk to them on the street and they shopped at the same stores we did. Oh, we thought they were rich. Our folk’s salary was around three thousand bucks a year while these guys were pulling in about seven grand. How times have changed! These days Pedro Martinez makes seven G’s a pitch.
Of course the most famous citizen of Jamaica Plain at that time was
James Michael Curley who lived on the corner of Moraine Street and the Jamaicaway. Curley had been both Governor of Massachusetts and Mayor of the City of Boston.
The “Irish Robin Hood”, Curley took from the rich and gave seventy percent to the poor. In his later years I sometimes drove him home from the barbershop. He used to get his hair cut in Hyde Square. I would hang out at Mary and Angelo’s bowling alley and poolroom downstairs. When he was finished, the barber would yell down to see if anybody would drive Curley home. He always gave me a few bucks for a tip. He was a politician to the end. He died in 1958.
John Collins was another Boston mayor from Jamaica Plain. Collins held office from 1960 to 1968. He lived on Myrtle Street across from the Mohican Market on the corner of Centre and Green Streets.
Lastly, another local boy, Maurice Tobin, was born in nearby Roxbury’s Mission Hill neighborhood in 1901. In 1937 he defeated Curley in the race for mayor. Tobin defeated Curley again in 1941 and in 1944. He served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1944 to 1946. The Tobin Bridge was renamed in his honor although some locals still call it the Mystic River Bridge.
Richard Goolsky can be reached at 912 Canvasback Rd., Rio Rancho, NM 87124 or by e-mail to: RDGOOL1@peoplepc.com