November 29, 2017

A Trip Back In Time

by Steve W

I was born in New York City and moved to Los Angeles when I was six years old. Before they were married, my parents both lived in the Bronx with their respective parents, my grandparents. Based on those early years, as well as several trips back to visit family, I have some memories of the homes of both sets of grandparents.

We had an extra day in our travels between Boston and Philadelphia, so we used it to visit the Bronx and see if we could find my grandparents' homes. Both sets of grandparents emigrated form Russia and lived in these apartments for many years. I remembered the cross streets of my mother's parents, Dora and Ben, and remembered the street name of my father's parents, Yussel (Joseph) and Punia (Pauline). With that info, we set out to find the old neighborhoods.

First, we went to Dora and Ben's apartment building on Barnes Avenue, at the corner of Allerton Avenue.

My grandparents lived on the third floor in a corner apartment. On the ground level in those days were retail stores, including what at the time was called a "candy store", a small store with a soda fountain and other miscellaneous items for sale. I recall sitting at the counter having chocolate malts with my mother. Down the street was a movie theater that cost five cents for admission. It was few blocks from the "L", the elevated train line.

As we drove up to the corner, I immediately recognized the building, although the neighborhood had changed quite a bit. When my grandparents lived there, it was mostly Jewish and Italian families, so the word "deli" had a specific meaning. But like many older parts of cities, this was now a very mixed neighborhood, with Latinos, Asians, and Middle Easterners, and a deli was any place that sold pre-packaged sandwiches. The candy store on the corner was now a pharmacy. We got out and walked around a bit, taking some photos to show my sister, but other than the building and the basic street layout, none of the stores were familiar. Not too surprising, given it had been 50 years since I was last there.

We then set out for to the other end of the Bronx, on the west side of Bronx Park. As we were driving, I seemed to recall the sights and the route driving through the park. We located 3150 Rochambeau Avenue and parked illegally (like everyone else in NY).

My grandparents lived on the eighth floor, with their living room window facing the back of the building overlooking Bainbridge Avenue. Once, when I was there on a visit in the mid 1960s, my father and I stood out on Bainbridge Avenue and he told me that, when he would come home from work, he would stand on the street, whistle loudly, and my grandmother would come to the window. He also did this when he returned from the Army in the late 1940s. I didn't believe him, so he proceeded to whistle and I'll be damned if my grandmother didn't come to the window!

At the front of the building was a decorative gate with the street address. On the facade of the building itself, there was what seemed to be Indian decor surrounding the front door and windows. These embellishments weren't there during my grandparents' time.

From the outside peeking through the front door, I could see into the foyer with the same elaborate tile floors that I remembered.

It was not surprising that the makeup of the neighborhood had changed, as neither of these neighborhoods was what you would call middle class in the 1940s and 50s, but, like so many areas of our inner cities, time had taken its toll.

I'm glad I went back to the Bronx, just to remember some good times I had as a child and to think back fondly on the times I spent with my grandparents.

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November 25, 2017

The Boston Area - Part III

by Steve W

Due to our extended stay in the Boston area in early to mid-October, we got to explore the surrounding communities and sights. While driving around without any particular place to go, we stumbled upon Walden Pond, made famous by writer Henry David Thoreau, who lived on the shore for several years in a very small cabin, a replica of which is on the property.

Unlike Thoreau, we are not moving into a tiny house.

The pond itself is very tranquil and a great place to commune with nature and view the Fall leaves, just starting to turn colors.

The locals call the tourists "leaf peepers", a term that, the sign notwithstanding, is not exactly meant as a compliment.

Not really.
 We saw a few people swimming across the pond and one man "pretending" to fish.

He's not fooling anyone!
A few days later, we visited the town of Concord, site of the "Shot Heard 'Round The World" that began the Revolutionary War in 1775. Warned by Paul Revere, William Dawes and others, the Colonial militia was waiting for the British at the Old North Bridge, site of the first battle between the Colonists and the British Army.

Now called Minuteman National Park, there are monuments to both sides of the conflict, and actors dressed in costume who act as guides.

In town were sites from the pre-war days, such as churches, hotels, and meeting halls, as well as a cemetery (the Old Burying Ground) with tombstones of some who died in the Revolutionary War.

Still in operation today.

We decided to go to Salem, home of the famous witch trials and the setting for "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

As we were there shortly before Halloween, many of the women wore the pointed witch's hats we are all used to seeing. We went to the Peabody Essex Art Museum, which had an exhibit on horror movies with memorabilia from the collection of Kirk Hammett, guitarist for Metallica.

We visited the Salem Witch Trail Memorial, where there were stones listing the "witches" who were hanged, including eight who were hanged on the same day, September 22, 1692.

One of many hanged that day.

As with many New England towns, there was a cemetery with tombstones dating back hundreds of years. On a more whimsical note, there is also a statue of (almost) everyone's favorite witch, Samantha Stevens, as portrayed by Elizabeth Montgomery on the TV show "Bewitched".

With that, we twitched our noses and moved on to another location!

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November 21, 2017


by Rosemary

Boston's Freedom Trail is a walking tour that passes several historically significant sites. The trail is conveniently marked with a red brick line along the sidewalk. It is possible to join a paid tour, but we were fine with an inexpensive brochure from the visitor center and a free online guide.

Follow the red brick road.

The tour starts at Boston Common, America's oldest city park.

The Massachusetts State House was built in 1798, on land once owned by John Hancock. Its original wooden dome was leaky, so in 1802 Paul Revere's company covered it with copper. The dome was painted various colors at various times, and eventually covered in gold leaf, which was painted over in black as a safety measure during World War II. It was regilded with 23k gold in 1997.

Across from the State House is an 11-foot-high memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment. This was a Civil War voluntary infantry unit made up of African American soldiers, led by Colonel Shaw, who was white, and who died in action. Sergeant William H. Carney of this regiment was the first African American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

When we first arrived in New England, I was struck by how many old cemeteries we saw, seemingly everywhere. Of course, these are old cities; people have been dying here for hundreds of years. During our time in the Boston area, we visited several graveyards of historical interest.

The Granary Burying Ground was established in 1660. Benjamin Franklin's parents are buried here (Ben is in Philadelphia), as are Paul Revere, John Hancock, and many other notables of the Revolution, along with thousands of other citizens.

A costumed guide
explains the details.

Boston's old City Hall is an example of "adaptive re-use", the repurposing of old sites as a way of conserving them. This old building now houses a variety of businesses, including an upscale restaurant.

Boston's old state house is next to the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre. The building is now a history museum, and is notable for its interesting and fanciful decorations.

The neighborhood around Paul Revere's house is now known as "Little Italy".

The Old North Church (below) is Boston's oldest surviving church, and is famous as the location where two lanterns were hung in April 1775 as a signal to the people of Charleston, warning them that the redcoats were coming. A plaque mounted on the steeple commemorates this event.

This statue by Cyrus Edwin Dallin depicting Paul Revere on his midnight ride stands within view of the Old North Church.

The Boston Irish Famine Memorial is a group of monuments and sculptures by Robert Shure commemorating the history of Irish immigrants who came to America to escape the Great Famine in the mid-19th century.

This 1856 statue of Benjamin Franklin, by Richard Saltonstall Greenough, stands outside the old city hall building. Last year, it fell over in a windstorm, and Ben's head cracked the sidewalk.

This statue of Samuel Adams stands behind Faneuil Hall. Erected in 1880, it was the work of Anne Whitney.

One of the newest public sculptures in town is "Poe Returning to Boston", by Stefanie Rocknak, unveiled in 2014 near Boston Common. It portrays the writer stalking across the corner, carrying a briefcase containing a human heart and a raven.

While we were in the Boston area, we had the opportunity to explore several of the surrounding communities, as described in both the previous and next posts.

Note: We were here in October.

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November 17, 2017

"By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea"

by Steve W

For reasons beyond our control, we were in the Boston area longer than anticipated. Because of that, however, we were able to stay in different parts of the surrounding communities and spend some time exploring the various aspects of what that part of the country has to offer. This post will focus on some of the places and sights along shores of bays and the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the places we stayed was Hull, a small seaside community east of the city. We rented a small house near Hingham Bay. From our deck, we got some incredible views of sunsets over the water.

A few miles away was the beach community of Nantasket. Given the time of year, many of the businesses were closed, as the season was over, but the beaches were open, as were a few restaurants on a restricted schedule.

It was a cold day, but someone decided to take a swim!
We drove out to the end of the peninsula and saw (from a distance) some large houses on Spinnaker Island, a private community accessible only by bridge.

Ah, to have an ocean view means living right on top of your neighbor.
Hingham was the "larger" town in the area, and we did some food shopping and ate dinner there a couple of times.

One day, we decided to drive down to Cape Cod and Provincetown (or "P Town", as the locals call it).

We had a chance to walk around town and saw a monument to the Mayflower Compact, an agreement signed upon the arrival of the first pilgrims in 1620, which was the first written framework of government in the new British colonies.

The signing of the covenant.
Drives along the coastline gave us some beautiful views. We stopped at Herring Cove Beach

and Newcomb Hollow Beach, named after some of Rosemary's distant relatives who had lived in the area.

We are used to sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, but having the sun set behind you offers some unique views of the clouds over the ocean to the east.

Some of the signs on the beach were very informative, with examples in the nearby ocean.

It says that sharks prey on seals and not to swim with the seals.

If swimming near seals, you don't have to be faster than the shark, just faster than the seals. Which you won't be!
As we were leaving Hull on our last day, we encountered a flock of wild turkeys roaming the streets. Apparently, these wild birds can be a problem in Massachusetts, sometimes becoming aggressive and destructive.

My second favorite type of Wild Turkey.
After leaving Hull, we moved inland and explored some other areas around Boston, to be discussed in an upcoming post.

Note: We were here during the first part of October.

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