Oral History: David A. Mittell
The following interview with David A. Mittell was conducted by Charlie Rosenberg on May 16, 2004. David A. Mittell grew up on Prince Street in Jamaica Plain. He attended the Agassiz School and Roxbury Latin. He is a 1939 graduate of Harvard University. Mr. Mittell is a retired executive of Davenport Peters, the oldest American continually operating lumber wholesaler. He is a member of the board of trustees of the Plimoth Plantation and Roxbury Latin High School.
DM: Doctor Arthur Nicholson Broughton delivered me at the Faulkner Hospital January 22, 1918. He took mother and me to the hospital in his sleigh. He lived on Eliot Street. He later had an office at 319 Longwood Avenue. A fine man, he was a combined psychiatrist, psychologist, gynecologist, and obstetrician, and everything else. He was a great big bull of a man who drove Buicks with 2002 on them, very fast. We lived there on Newsome Park until May 1923 when my parents bought the last of the three Seaverns' houses. The original Seaverns house was located in the old Boy Scout building which is now a health clinic on the corner of Prince Street, Orchard Street, and Centre Street. It was one of those beautiful south Caribbean houses a story and a half with Gothic windows, as I remember it, and that's where the superintendent of the Arnold Arboretum lived. Behind it was the gray mansard-roofed house on Orchard Street, the back of which came right out into Prince Street. Then there was an open lot, and our small shingle-style house was built by one of the Seaverns. It's still there, 35 Prince Street. My parents remodeled it to the neo-colonial which I would have done at the time, but I wouldn't do today. But they had a wonderful time doing it.
At that time Weld Park started directly at the end of Centre Street, and it had a six-decker, as I recall, a three-decker and a two-decker and there was a wood lot right there. The changes of the Arborway in the 1930's obliterated Weld Park, but it was there at that stage of the game. So you virtually could say that we lived right next to the Arboretum.
My parents did not have live-in help, but had a variety of people coming in to do the washing on Tuesdays, the ironing on Wednesdays, and cleaning on Thursdays. Out of this came a marvelous little red-headed Cockney lady by the name of Helen Harrison whose husband was a British Naval enlisted man. She had survived the big explosion in Halifax in 1919, and her daughter had survived but the daughter was very badly burned. I've always been fascinated about that explosion ever since because of Mrs. Harrison's telling us about it. There are marvelous books about it which anybody can get. Dr. Broughton went up with the Harvard doctors and saved lots of lives there because they had a major snowstorm and no windows or heat for two days.
Mother was a stay-at-home person all her life. Father was a vice-president and a minor stockholder of a company on Magazine Street in Roxbury at 100, called the E. Van Noorden Company. It was started by a gentleman from Terre Haute, Indiana who came to Boston to make his fortune after the 1873 Boston fire as a tin knocker or shop metalworker, and he made this fortune. This became the biggest of the sheet metal companies, so he was quite successful.
Father, Carl L. Mittell, Jr. was born in Jamaica Plain in the big square building on Boylston Street, on the corner of Chestnut Avenue, the southwest corner. Father was brought up at 29 Wyman Street. His father worked for Colonel Pfaff, the right-hand man, and when Colonel Pfaff had to go off with Teddy Roosevelt in 1898 to Cuba, my grandfather had to keep the brewery going while he was gone for three or four months. The Pfaff Brewery was where the college is on Columbus Avenue now, and the mansion is up on Parker Street if anybody wanted to have a look at it. Father went to Mechanic Arts High School which is where the Prudential Center is now, right on the railroad tracks, and did not take his admission to M.I.T. because his father had died, and that's how he eventually got with the Van Noorden Company.
Mother came from New York, and they met in Plymouth in the 1890's, and some ten or twelve years later they were married and came here. They first lived at the Robinwood, a high-class boardinghouse, one of the very big houses on Robinwood Avenue. A lot of young marrieds lived there, and, my oldest cousin lived there as a small child. Apparently this is what people did before they took an apartment or a house. Then they'd move out, and that's when my parents moved to Eliot Street.
The daily ritual those years of getting food was a lot of fun. I can hear my mother picking up the telephone and calling, "0-0-3-2," and saying, "Mr. Oakes, what's nice today?" And he'd say, "What do you want, Mrs. Mittell?" "Well, I thought I'd like a small broiler. Are they nice today?" "Yes, they are." "Well, why don't you send two of them up Mr. Oakes?" Oakes had the butcher shop on the corner of Thomas Street and Centre Street, the out-of-town corner, and that is where the work was done. Then Mother would call Robert Seaver & Son, the ancient grocery store where the liquor store is today, still in relatively the same building, and she'd give an order. Very often Connolly would be delivering the order with horse and team, just as we were getting out of the Agassiz School and we little urchins would jump up on the tailgate and get a ride home.
There was a stable in back of those stores between Thomas Street and Burroughs Street where the parking lot is now essentially. This was behind the school, the grammar school that I attended, which was the Agassiz School which had a primary school which was built about 1860 - and in the 1890's, fourth grade through eighth grade - a wonderful school, wonderful teachers, some tough, some of them had to be tough to handle some of the rougher kids who came to that school from all over Jamaica Plain. I don't regret it.
My older brother went to Miss Seeger's School on Eliot Street, which was about the fourth house on the right-hand side going away from the Pond. The house has been remodeled back to its original farmhouse style, but it has earlier been remodeled into an amazing neo-colonial. I have pictures of the graduating class at Miss Seeger's class in 1923, if anybody wants them, with names and so forth. It's said that Miss Seeger was either a sister or related to Alan Seeger, the famous World War I poet, the "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" poet. That school survived until 1936, when my brother's wife was the kindergarten teacher. It just died, I suppose, because of the Depression.
Mrs. Harrison came in among other people, and did the laundry on Tuesday and ironed on Wednesday, and cleaned on Thursday and Friday, and became a sitter for us whenever my parents had to go out. My aunt was in New York, and my grandmother was in New York, and so they did go off sometimes. This worked very well.
I think it's interesting to note that I was never allowed to have a haircut in Jamaica Plain, but was taken to the fancy place in the basement of the Hotel Vendome on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Dartmouth Street, where all the "nice" little boys got their hair cut. My father was a haircut snob, and he did the same thing every two weeks, and believed that a gentleman had to have proper grooming, and that the old "bowl over the head and clippers up to the bowl," which a lot of the kids at Agassiz School had, he didn't approve of at all.
I have to say that it's suggested that I should talk about clothing. We used to have woolen hats that could be worn without a woolen strap that came down and protected your face in the jaw. Other than that, I don't think there were great differences. We wore corduroy knickers, which always smelled unpleasant when it rained. And we had to have knickers. Actually I went to Roxbury Latin later, and the seventh grade boys were not allowed to wear long pants, and if one came in long pants, they got taken off and pulled up the flag pole. So it was knickers until eighth grade, at least at that school.
I walked all those years from Prince Street to the Agassiz School with my chum across the street, Jim McLaughlin. They were a wonderful family. Grandfather Cotter was a successful storekeeper, I believe, in Roxbury or Dorchester, and he was successful enough to build three wonderful two-deckers for his three daughters. One who lived on Spring Park Avenue, did not get a new three-decker. I remember seeing that little gentleman when he was about 95 in 1925 or 1926, and that family that he started has just done very well. The first generation, one of the sons became a doctor out of Boston Latin and Harvard and Harvard Medical School, and did a lot of remodeling in Jamaica Plain; he was the one who turned the gingerbread house on the corner of Elliott Street, opposite the church, opposite the Greenough House around on its side, and that's where he had his office. And he built those brick stores that are on the corner of Elliott Street and Centre Street. They were a fine family although there was great opposition to either his or somebody else buying the Loring-Greenough House in the 1920's, and tearing it down to build more stores. That's another story which has been recorded elsewhere.
For fun, we used skate at Jamaica Pond in the winter. Mayor Curley had to get the fire department to spray the crowd to get them off the ice one night of a carnival on Jamaica Pond when the temperature went up to 60 or 65, and it seemed unsafe to go on with the carnival. In those years, there was a hockey rink over by the Parkman Memorial, and Jamaica Plain High School, and some of the other schools practiced hockey there. Most of the skating was done to the east, if I have my direction correct, of the landing where the boats are. Beyond that, we pretty much amused ourselves.
My father was on a baseball team called the Eliots, which won the city championship in 1897, if I have the year right. They beat everybody. They beat all the high schools and all the club teams. Their pitcher, Otto Deiniger, went up to the big leagues; and the catcher, (I think his name was Devine), went up to the New England league. The first base man was Harry Fitzsimmons, who became an orthopedic physician, lived on Centre Street near Aldworth Street. One of them became a funeral director down halfway to Plymouth on old 128. I've told you about Father. Deiniger's brother, I think, went up to the New England league, but that was a lot of fun.
But I was not allowed to go to the Carolina Avenue playground in the 1920's because it was a little too rough for a little boy from around the Pond. I did go my last year at Agassiz School and went down for one afternoon, and then the next year I went to West Roxbury, to Roxbury Latin School which is an independent school as everybody knows. But a lot of my friends did go to Jamaica Plain High School. Some other friends went to Boston Latin School which was as great in the 1920's and '30s, as it is today, in educating kids.
I was a tennis player. My father helped start the Loring-Greenough Tennis Club with that one court about 1923 or '24, when the Noanett Club, I believe, which was on Dunster Road was confiscated for private houses. Father went to Mr. Greenough and asked if they fixed up the court, could they use it. The club is still active today.
At home, for entertainment, Father was very musical. He had something like eight or ten songs published. Piano songs with words published between 1900 and 1925. I have copies of these. "Let Me Live in a House by the Side of the Road" was one of them. So he was on the piano, and of course, early on we did get a radio - not a very good one, but we did get a radio and we could listen to the Army-Navy game if we wanted to, and did - and listened to "Amos and Andy" and some of those soap opera programs that were on in the evening. Everything went silent - ours was in the dining room and everything went silent, and everybody listened to these programs. They were somewhat more innocent than what we have today.
As far as theaters were concerned, there was the Jamaica Theater in Hyde Square, but again I wasn't allowed to go to that. (I did get to the old Howard a few times when we were quite a little older). Mr. English, who lived in the big house, the red-roofed house on the corner of Prince and Centre and the Arborway, had a chauffeur, and his name was Dennis McNamara. "Denny" would take me and the younger son, Milton. I remember seeing the first talking movie. I can't remember the name of it, but it was at the old Metropolitan Theater, which is now the Wang Theater; and Denny drove us in a long Packard limousine. The Englishes were very generous this way. They were the ones who bought the Seaverns estate. Mr. English was the one who tore down the original, beautiful little white house that was there. He held it for two or three years, and nothing happened. Of course, once that happened all those houses from Centre Street to our house went in there. I suppose there are ten or twelve houses on what was on Professor Sargent's original nursery. There was a grass place there for growing flowers and various things like that, and all the vegetables there. They just moved it up Centre Street, and I think it's just been moved again further up Centre Street.
Summers, we went to the Cape Playhouse. And of course, we went to Chatham summers, which is on the elbow of Cape Cod, and we did go to the Cape Playhouse which started in the mid-'20s, and of course, the Orpheum Theater in Chatham showed silent movies. We used to go once a week when the movie changed, but in the city we didn't do it as much. I will have to put in here a colorful episode which happened in Chatham. My grandmother used to board in downtown Chatham. She was deaf and she loved the silent movies, because they didn't give her any trouble. She went in one night and in the mid-'20s when bobbed hair had just come. And a young lady in front of her - a lady, I say - combed her hair back toward my grandmother, and my 75 year old grandmother tapped her on the shoulder, and said, "Please don't do that. I don't want them on me."
First we went to Plymouth to the old Hotel Pilgrim, which has been torn down on the bluff on Warren Avenue. But about 1923, we went to a much smaller hotel in North Chatham, and for the next 15 years, we either rented a house there, or stayed in the Old Harbor Inn which was run by Rufus Nickerson, who is a direct descendent of William Nickerson, who was given Chatham in 1660 or something like that. It was a great experience.
We had to go to New York because my aunt and her family were there, and Mother's cousins were there. We went to New York by train or by car. It was pretty painful to go by car, but we did it. It was a long, long, long, painful trip for little boys. We went down the old inland roads, and it was a six-hour trip or a five and a half hour trip. We'd go down through Stafford Springs and through Hartford, and then on down to the coast - down through Windsor and New Haven, but we did it. It worked not too badly. Father always drove Buicks, except for the first one which was an Oldsmobile, and it was such a clunker that he swore he'd never drive it again if he could get it home from Plymouth one day. His friends were driving Buicks, and he drove Buicks until the Depression when he deteriorated to a new Ford, but it wasn't that bad.
We should talk a little about the Depression, because this was a pretty terrible, terrible, terrible time. We were very lucky. The Company that father was with had been very conservative and were able to keep going during the Depression. While income was cut down to something like 60% of what it had been, and it bought a lot in the 1930's. But this was a very frightening time. Mother called Thomas Campbell, who was the rector of St. John's Church where Father was a vestryman, and said, "Mr. Campbell, there is a poor family in our church." "Yes! The name is Stoltz, and they live down in a three-decker on Washington Street about two houses from the old Boston Elevator storage yard there." So Mother got up a Thanksgiving basket, turkey, everything for three children. Husband was up in Rutland in the tubercular sanitarium because he was gassed in World War I. We went down there in a long Buick which still had a 124-inch wheel base as I remember it, with all the fixings on it. We went up one empty floor, and a second empty floor, and on the top floor was this poor woman with three small children, and delivered this basket. I can honestly say I did smell poverty - there just was no question about it, it was frightening, and this was 1933, I guess, when I was 15. It was a terrible time. In Father's company, the superintendents went back to "tin knocking" - they had about six or seven superintendents, they went back to just being "tin knockers." The tin knocker made a $1.37 and a half cents during the Depression, and that doesn't sound like much, but it fed the family. And they were very lucky when they could be employed, which wasn't all the time.
Mother never learned to drive a car. She tried and she smashed one up in Chatham in 1929, so we always used the streetcars. She preferred down South Huntington Avenue, and in town that way. When I got freedom enough at 12 or 13, to do this, we much preferred to walk down to Green Street and take the rattler in, which was much quicker. But I do remember those streetcars, including the one that went up over the hill in Roxbury across Columbus Avenue, and into Dudley Street. You changed there for the elevated rattler.
CR: The rattler is the old Orange Line, the elevated?
DM: That is correct.
CR: Do you remember what the fare was?
DM: Ten cents. Now, the five-and-dime store that was always there, and next door to - and you know, that was fun, on the corner of Seaverns Avenue and Centre Street. Next to it was my brother's wife's grandfather's drugstore, a "Rexall Store." Next to that was Schafer, as I recall it was Shafer's eyeglasses store, and then it was the Jairis, Caliope Jairis was in my kindergarten, and she vomited the first day of school. This is a clear memory that I have of Mr. Kelly, the custodian, coming in and cleaning it up.
CR: Do you recall the businesses that closed during the depression?
DM: Let me just think - well, of course, Father's big Buick was bought from a Buick agency, which was in one of Dr. Cotter's stores there, on the corner of Eliot Street. I would think that most of the small merchants managed to keep going in the Depression. I just happened to be looking at an old Roxbury Latin magazine the other day, and here was Rose's Corset and Gift Shop which was in the Jamaica Pond Garage Building, which is directly opposite Burroughs Street. You know, Shea the Florist was there next to Seaver's grocery store. There was a German fellow who sold guppies and gold fish on the corner of Thomas Street.
You know, one thing that we must remember that old town hall on Thomas Street which was torn down for the parking lot was sort of everything. I believe it was originally a high school; then it was a veterans' building. I remember I had to register for the draft there in 1940, and it was kind of a handsome old building. Yumont had a hardware store on the corner of Burroughs Street across from Roger's Drugstore which everybody knew.
Mr. Rooney had a shoe store just toward the monument from Roger's Drugstore. Beyond Yumont's was another hardware store down beyond the fire station, Harvey's Hardware store. I mentioned Salisbury's Drugstores. It seems to me there was sort of a general dry good store in the old Masonic building on the in-town corner of Seaverns Avenue.
Down beyond Green Street, there was a man who had an automobile repair and paint shop, and he painted one of my Model A Fords.
I have written, as you know, a long report on Miss Margaret Souther. Those of us who grew up on the Pond side of Jamaica Plain went to her dancing school. So I'll not go into detail, but I think this sort of indicates that Jamaica Plain was divided into three parts. There were the big estates up on Moss Hill and over toward the Brookline line. Then there was the flat land area from May Street through to Lockstead Avenue, all those streets, all those lovely streets like Burroughs Street and Eliot Street and Myrtle Street and so forth. Then there was a real line; Centre Street sort of divided the more well-to-do people on the Pond side from the poorer people on the other side.
By the time that I came along, it would be my impression that the German area which grew up substantially in the 1880's and 1890's and 1910's had been pretty much taken over by more Irish families. Certainly this was true of the area towards Forest Hills and toward Green Street, and let's say, the area from around St. Thomas Aquinas down to Our Lady of Lourdes and Blessed Sacrament. So there really was a division. Jimmy Graham used to stand out on the corner of Burroughs Street and let all of the kids, who lived on that side of Centre Street, get safely across the street. He did this for 30 or 40 years, and did it rather successfully. I don't think that there were any accidents there.
But there was a real division. Some of these kids were real poor in the public schools. Some of them were pretty tough, but the teachers were able to handle them. And of course a lot of them went on and went to Boston Latin or Mechanic Arts or Boston English High School, and had very successful careers. But it really was a divided town, and it is today but not as much. It seems to me it's come together much more.
I met my wife in 1939 at a party in Scituate. While I went to all the parties at Eliot Hall and so forth and so on, nothing really took until then, until I met Mary Louise. We were married in 1941. We did not go to dancing spots, although my brother and his bride went to Totem Pole Ballroom out in Auburndale. It died after Word War II.
As far as musicians were concerned, my brother inherited some of my father's musical skills - not to the degree that Father had it, because Father had absolute pitch. He wrote quite a few songs for yacht club shows and so forth. As a result of this, my brother and I were given a portable Victrola. In the late '20s, he was the one who first discovered Bing Crosby when he was still with the Rhythm Boys, with Paul Whiteman out in California; and he was the one who discovered Glen Gray and The Casa Loma orchestra. Both of these led up to the big bands that came in the late '30s and during World War II.
Another place that my brother used to go that I didn't was the Hotel Brunswick on the corner of Clarendon Street and Huntington Avenue - had a room downstairs. I don't remember the name of it, but they had music there. He and his bride-to-be (seven years later) used to go in there often. I would say he had a more typical Jamaica Plain youth and growing up than I did. I sort of got attracted out of town.
There weren't many good restaurants, or any that I can think of. There was Mamigon's and it seems to me there was another small one somewhere there on Centre Street between Thomas Street and Burroughs Street. But we would get in a car and go to a restaurant over in Newton at the New England Peabody Home. They did this to make money for taking care of their crippled children. That was another place we'd go. We'd used to go to another place in Newton, Madame Vineo. (I never saw it written so I'm guessing.) But we also used to go to Sunday dinners sometimes at The Elms, which was a great Victorian building where the Rectory of the Congregational Church is, on the corner of Elm Street, but this was just a good boardinghouse, and so we'd go there. We used to go in town to the Hotel Canterbury which is on Charlesgate West at Newbury Street. We used to go the Boston City Club where Father was an active member and on committees. This was up behind the State house on Ashburton Place, I believe.
We did go out to dinner most Sundays. We'd go as far as Norwood. There was a restaurant in Norwood that we used to go to. There was one in West Roxbury in the old tavern that was there, which has been torn down to build a new library. But we didn't go very often in Jamaica Plain except for The Elms, and I would have to say that - and my parents did not like Mamigon's at that stage of the game - right on Centre Street. I think it's still there. It's across from - halfway between Thomas Street and Burroughs Street.
CR: Not one of the taverns?
DM: Yes, the one like Costello's. My parents were old, so they didn't get into World War I. Father was 37 in 1917, and had children. When I was a little boy there was a Bridle Path that came from downtown, out the Jamaicaway, out the Riverway, out the Arborway into Franklin Park. Some of my older Bostonian acquaintances tell me that their fathers and grandfathers used to take horses from downtown and ride out there. If you look carefully at the Arborway today, you can see that there is one very wide centerpiece, and that's where the Bridle Path went.
As I said earlier, Connolly from Seaver's grocery store used to deliver our groceries with a horse and team, and Oakes would do the same. Then, of course, I would suppose the early 1930's, the horses were basically gone. There was still a stable on Orchard Street right in back of our house, two or three houses over, between there and Aldworth Street. And there was one down on Williams Street -until 1990 or 1995. But gradually, gradually it turned to automobiles, and of course, we of the automobile age couldn't wait to get our hands on a car.
My first car was a well worn out 1929 Ford two-door, painted blue, that my brother had pretty well taken the good wear of. That lasted about six months, and for $50 more I got a nice blue touring car, a 1929. That lasted about eight months, and for about $25 more with a trade-in, I found one of the '25 convertibles in West Roxbury. That lasted a year, and then I found a perfectly wonderful roadster one that had been owned by an old man. It only had 10,000 miles on it, and that was a little more money. That got me through two or three years of college, before I swapped it in Scituate for a green 1932. But you had to have at least - I had to have a car in any case.
CR: Did you have a job during high school?
DM: No, no, I was spoiled. I did not work during high school. No, I had a lot of fun. I learned how to play tennis better - bang the ball against the back wall of our cement garage, and Father was a member of the Longwood Cricket Club. We used to go over and watch the great players in the 1920's, and '30s, and '40s. So I could emulate Tilden or Richards on the court, I hope. But that was a lot of fun. We were lucky that we did - if you looked in that garage, you'd still see a target that my brother painted up there; and I painted a net up there. I spent hours out there, hitting tennis balls.
CR: Some of the other boys and girls of your age, were they working?
DM: In general, they didn't work. My playmates on Prince Street, the McLaughlins went to Eleventh Avenue in Scituate. The Englishes had a big house at Second and Cliff in Scituate. The Faunces who lived, until 1928, over on the Arborway had a wonderful place on Hatherly Road in Scituate. So when we were in the city in the summer, I virtually had no playmates. The Witherells up the street had a family preserve in Ossippee, New Hampshire. These are just some of the ones that I can think of quickly that went elsewhere. I would say that the people who lived in that part of Jamaica Plain, mainly single houses, a few two-families, went somewhere in the summer - Green Harbor, or Fieldston, in Marshfield, or further down the Cape.
CR: You had mentioned that the Plath family lived down the street from you on Prince Street. Did you know the family?
DM: I've done quite a little research on Sylvia Plath because my daughter is a poetess in her own right, and it terribly interested in Plath. I've watched programs on Channel 2 on this. We've documented it pretty well that she lived on the first floor of the Crosbys' house at 24 Prince Street. But now this was in the early '30s, and the late '30s, I was as Roxbury Latin and gone all day long. Then I was at college and gone all week long, so I was not that aware of what was going on at the house diagonally across the street. We took time to go out and find the house that she lived in in Wellesley Fells, which is the far part of Wellesley just before you get into Natick because we had a house there in the early '40s, and we knew that area quite well. We identified that house, and she was there for quite a while. But she definitely, definitely, apparently was in the Crosby house.
Mrs. Crosby was another one of the Cotter's daughters, and she had two daughters and two sons. The oldest son, Tom, became a stockbroker, and was the oldest man rowing in the Head of the Charles before he died at the age of 93 or 94 a few years ago. The youngest boy, Joe, was a bit of a lively person, shall we say. He drove a Model T Ford that he parked in the yard. He had more touchdowns for Harvard in football than anybody else. They both went to Boston Latin and Harvard. Joe married a girl from out in Natick or out that way, and he moved out of Jamaica Plain. But he was a lot of fun, and a very, very, very good athlete. But that was the house, the Crosbys' house was the one that Sylvia Plath lived in on the first floor.
CR: When you drive or walk down Centre Street today, what strikes you?
DM: Not much, it looks so much the same - well, you know, the names of the stores are different. The signs are fancier and more flamboyant, but it still has the same feeling. Basically, I would say that my walking or riding a bicycle down Centre Street usually went as far as St. John's Street because one of my Roxbury Latin classmates lived at 28 St. John's Street. So I was down there quite a bit. But it still has pretty much the same feeling.
The Masonic building on the corner of Seaverns Avenue has been remodeled, and probably got aluminum siding on it. So it doesn't look the way it did in the 1920's. It had businesses in the downstairs, and the Masonic Hall upstairs. The other thing that I think would interest anybody who might be listening to this is that I lived through the period when the First National stores were founded by Michael O'Keeffe. You know, I can remember some stores on Centre Street, and I can remember O'Keeffe stores, and Ames stores.
Michael O'Keeffe was a business genius. He lived in the stucco house on the corner of Pond Street, the inbound corner of Pond Street, at the boat landing on the Jamaicaway. Three of his four boys went to Roxbury Latin, so I knew this family quite well. He was the genius who had the first supermarket, and he was a widower and had six children, I believe. It's interesting that I think we've had 12 or 13 O'Keeffes at Roxbury Latin since Adrian first came. This was a very, very interesting family. He was very, very successful, but he did put together the first supermarket.
Of course my family was Republican, and of course, the powers that be in Boston were Democrats, and this was always a fight. In my third grade year at Agassiz School, my classmate Nichols' father, Malcolm Nichols, was elected Mayor of Boston, and came into our third grade the next day in a Chesterfield and a Derby. We were pretty proud, although I learned later that the powers that be behind who was going to be mayor decided that he was the one who was going to be mayor.
When I was a little boy in Jamaica Plain in the 1920's, automobiles were still a relatively new item and people either used public transportation or went with a horse and carriage. My friend Tom Downes' family lived on Forest Hills Street in that lovely house halfway up the hill from Morton Street. He told me that he and his brother were taken by Malone Keene from the Arborway Garage on South Street (opposite the big apartment building there) near the Arborway. They went to Miss Seegar's School on Eliot Street and were delivered behind the horse every day.
Soon, however, the automobile took over and Mr. Malone kept the Arborway Garage and stored cars there. Pat Keene was with him and later took over Keene's Garage which was behind the present fire station on Centre Street opposite Thomas Street. Further down the street was the Jamaica Pond Garage in the very big brick building opposite Burroughs Street. One entered it through a tunnel between two stores. The tunnel has since been closed since it no longer was being used as a garage.
Sol, and I never knew his last name, ran that garage. I don't know if he owned it. There was a fellow by the name of Giles Barney, who came from a somewhat well-to-do family, worked full-time in one of those garages.
The automobile came before private garages, so if one wanted one's car housed in the winter, one had to rent a space in one of these garages.
John Malone was a handsome, blond fellow in my grades at the Agassiz School at that time on the corner of Brewer and Burroughs Street. John Malone lived on Brewer Street.
By the 1920's people started building their own garages. Prefabricated garages from companies like Brooks-Skinner Company in Milton became the easiest way to do it. Soon the need for these big public garages existed no longer and they then converted into other useful purposes.
Jamaica Plain, being located as it is, had the same juxtaposition to the Boston hospitals as Pill Hill in Brookline so it was a popular area for doctors to reside. As I recall, there was a doctor down on Centre Street opposite about where the Mary E. Curley School is, and he operated out of his house there. There was another doctor, as I recall, his name was Broderick who lived in a Victorian house or a shingle-style house on the right side of South Street going toward Roslindale beyond Sedgwick Street. I think he probably had a very large practice in that area.
Dr. Francis Balch lived in a Balch house way up on the top of Moss Hill. I believe he was the Chief of Medicine at the Faulkner Hospital in the 1920's.
As I said, Dr. Arthur Nicholson Broughton had a house and an office two houses toward Jamaica Pond from 44 Eliot Street. He picked Mother (and me) up in his sleigh and took us to Faulkner Hospital in a snowstorm and I was born the next morning. He was a wonderful genial man - besides being a general practitioner, he was a gynecologist, obstetrician, and psychologist all in one.
His brother, named Dr. Henry, I believe, lived and practiced in the Beaufort Road apartments.
Dr. Solomon lived on Lockstead Avenue. He was head of the Massachusetts Mental Hospital on Francis Street.