East Cambridge Oral History Book
All in the Same Boat: Twentieth-Century Stories of East Cambridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts is now available at the Cambridge Historical Commission office (831 Massachusetts Avenue) and in several local bookstores. The price is $22.00 per copy; payment can be made by check or cash. Additionally, the book can be ordered by mail.
Download order form and instructions.
EAST CAMBRIDGE ORAL HISTORY BOOK IS PUBLISHED
Contact Person: Sarah Boyer, Tel: 617/349-6171; TTY: 617/349/6112; email@example.com
The Cambridge Historical Commission announces the publication of:
in the Same Boat:
Twentieth-Century Stories of East Cambridge
The book is the final product of a 4-year oral history project sponsored by the city of Cambridge to record the stories of first generation Americans whose parents immigrated to America in the late 19th and early 20th century, to present a picture of the diverse cultures that coexisted in East Cambridge during the 20th century, and to discuss the social, economic, and political changes of this rapidly evolving neighborhood.
TWENTIETH-CENTURY STORIES OF EAST CAMBRIDGE:
When you read the following excerpts from the book, ask yourself what do you remember about your childhood neighborhood? How has your life been influenced by the places you’ve lived?
In the mid nineteenth century, Ireland’s Great Famine forced thousands of Irish into ships bound for America. Many landed in Boston and eventually made their way to East Cambridge, where they were hired by the glass companies to perform mostly unskilled work. Virginia Hurley discussed the story of her great-great-grandfather immigrating to the New World:
1837 Richard and his son, Joseph, who was only six years old, came from
Ireland. The Morans were glassworkers for the New England glassworks. Some
were gaffers or management…. The Morans were employed by New England
Glass from 1839 to 1888… Richard’s family lived on many streets
in East Cambridge, including Cambridge and Charles streets…Artisans
who were making as much as nine to twelve dollars a week built their own
homes, and a lot of intermarriages took place among glassblowers or glassworkers’
Italian, Polish, and Portuguese (mainly from the Azorean archipelago) immigrants, seeking relief from poverty and persecution in their homelands, followed. Many of them lived in the North and West Ends of Boston until they, too, crossed the river to East Cambridge. Darleen Bonislawski told of her great-grandfather making the move:
the early 1900s, Luigi wanted to get out of the North End because it was
getting too congested. He thought that Cambridge was a little less crowded,
a better place to raise the family, and they could walk from East Cambridge
over to the North End to visit. In 1920 Luigi bought Dr. Noonan’s
house at 62 Fifth Street for seven thousand dollars.."
Marcessia Gelowtsky and her sister, Stefanie Gelowtsky Falzone recalled the story of their paternal grandparents, Michael and Anna Jalowecki, leaving Poland for the United States and establishing a residence on Seventh Street:
grandparents…immigrated to East Cambridge about 1916 and managed
to buy a house on Seventh Street. We are the third generation in this
house…. All the bricks in our Seventh Street yard were laid by Grandpa,
who was a bricklayer. And seventy-plus years later, the red tea rosebush
that still blooms every June is the one my grandmother planted when they
bought the house."
Immigrants brought their language, culture, and customs to their new homes and established institutions in the community as well. Mary Rogers talked about the strict rules of courtship prevalent in the Portuguese community:
[Manuel Rogers] lived here in East Cambridge…. I was about fourteen
when I met him…We had feelings for each other right away. In the beginning,
we had a chaperone, my younger sister, Rose, who went with me all the time.
If Manny came up to the house, we’d stay in the parlor and talk, but
there was always somebody in and out."
Mary Dayton reminisced about the interactions and relationships between people from diverse ethnic groups:
remember when a neighbor got sick, my mother would make Portuguese soup
and send it over there with a loaf of homemade bread…. The lady who
lived under us, Mrs. Beraldi, came over as a young bride from the North
End…. She was Italian and taught my mother Italian cooking. My mother,
in turn, taught her how to make pork roasts and Portuguese soup. Mrs. Privitera
made wonderful Italian cookies and brought them over to us. My mother was
a seamstress, and she sewed for all the neighbors. Mrs. Medeiros didn’t
speak English very well. She brought us fish and polenta. My mother sent
me over to her, and I’d take her up to Korenthal’s to buy clothes."
East Cambridge, like all communities, felt the impact of national events such as Prohibition, the Depression, and World War II. Ingenious methods were used to circumvent Prohibition and Cambridge’s No License Law. In many cases, the sales of homemade brew kept a family afloat during extremely difficult times. The book’s title, All in the Same Boat, originates from “We were all in the same boat,” an expression invariably used by participants like Lucia Gigante to describe their living situation during and after the Depression:
worked everywhere…Sometimes he got laid off. Sometimes we stood in
line for milk in the Depression…If we had to go to the commissary,
we felt embarrassed, but we had to do it. Mama stayed home all the time,
and she made her own bread. If the bread got stale, she made a meal out
of it. She boiled water and put salt, bread, and eaten eggs in. It was very
moist, like a soup."
During the war, the community contributed to the war effort at home, especially at the East End Union. Their wartime newsletter, distributed to servicemen and women, reported on the whereabouts of their friends in far-flung battle locations:
Joe Sottile writes from Italy that he will be only too glad to look up Pat’s
relatives in Gaeta when he reaches it. He heartily agrees with Tim Ford
about the dismal nights on Spring Street and Fifth. He sends his regards
to all the Bulldogs and wants to hear from all of them…"
"Hi-Boys," March 1944, East End Union
The war became a watershed event; its aftermath brought veterans and others new opportunities to purchase homes in the suburbs and leave a declining industrial environment behind. Daniel Ford recalled the day he left East Cambridge for the North Shore:
told the landlady [we were moving] to Billerica, and there were tears, big
time, on both sides. It was hard. It was a good move, but the feeling about
East Cambridge is still there."
From the early 1960s to the present, the development of a hi-tech environment in Kendall Square and the subsequent gentrification of East Cambridge have rapidly changed the community’s residential character. Joe Travers lamented the changes he’s seen in a lifetime in the neighborhood:
never thought I was going to see the time come when you sometimes don’t
know your next-door neighbor. I knew this street like the back of my hand.
I’d go from my house to the park, and I knew everybody…. After
the ‘60s, the neighborhood completely changed. "
Now immigrants from Brazil, Haiti, China, Japan, and Central and South America live next door to old-timers, who are now third and fourth generation descendants. Bob Salines, whose family has owned Pugliese’s, the neighborhood bar, since the early 1930s, gave his perspective on the community:
don’t like the prejudiced talk about the newcomers from other countries.
We all came from somewhere; nobody came from East Cambridge. Maybe I was
born here, but my roots are in Gaeta, Italy…My idea of East Cambridge
is people helping people."
Tim Toomey, Jr., Cambridge City Councillor and state representative from the 26th district, who grew up on Spring Street, echoed the sentiments of many recent and longtime residents:
this older generation passes away, what happens? Hopefully, some of the
new people will help make it a real neighborhood. I wouldn’t trade
East Cambridge for any other place in the world. I had just a great upbringing,
with great, lifelong friends, good values, and loyalty. It’s a great
place to be, and I hope it remains that way in the long term for the generations
Tim Toomey, Jr.
HERE ARE YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT THE BOOK: