On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
1961 was a good year for the city, but a bad year for me. Mayor Harold W. Wells was running the city with help from Aldermen McKenna, McCarthy, Travaline, Burke and Moynihan. Dad, after holding down three jobs for years, bought the family home off of College Ave. Somerville, along with the rest of the world, was grooving to songs like Hit The Road Jack, Calendar Girl, Where the Boys Are and Michael Row The Boat Ashore. On television we were watching I Love Lucy, 77 Sunset Strip, The Real McCoy’s, and The Donna Reed Show, mostly in black and white.
As an eight year old I had only known one house, one neighborhood, one backyard, and one group of friends. I even had a “best friend” named Tommy who lived next door. When the subject of moving was brought up it was terrifying to me. The “new” house meant the end of life as I knew it. The only comforting thing was that we would all stay in the same school. That “sister” school on the Somerville / Medford line. The one with the stern and quite often mean nuns. Some consolation, huh? Lose the comforting familiar home, friends, and neighborhood, but keep the strict school with the mean teachers. Boy, what a deal! All of a sudden any feelings of security for an eight-year-old kid were shot.
We moved into the new house and, in one word, it was creepy. It was like going into a haunted house. It was almost like being sent to jail. Why were we being punished like this? Why were our parents taking us from our safe place? Soon my aunts and uncles and even my grandfather formed a crew and started painting, patching, and stripping wallpaper. I remember my grandpa mixing spackle and smilingly offering it to me saying in broken English, “Ice-a-cream!” Soon all but one room in the house was freshly painted and papered.
Now came the part of trying to fit in as the new kids on the block. There were a couple of bullies both male and female, but somehow we eventually fit it. Not only did my aunts and uncles help with the big move, but my cousin even pitched in. He took care of the bully problem for me without raising a fist. He merely invited the bully to a friendly “wrestling” match and that was that. After a few friendly full nelsons, a co-co butt, and a couple of headlocks, the problem was solved. The bully who my mother nicknamed “ Jerko” never bothered us again. The same cousin even gave me my first pair of black leather engineer boots and a thick black leather belt, which were extremely cool for that era. I will forever be indebted to him for sticking up for us.
Me and my sister who was one year older, and my five-year-old brother tried to get used to the new house. The distance between the old house on Pearson Avenue near Ball Square and the new house on Hall Avenue outside Davis Square was not that far. To us it seemed like miles.
My brother and I shared a bedroom and my sister got her own room. The room in the back of the house remained unpainted, dank, and very scary until it was transformed into my sister’s room three years later. That room is now my kid’s band room.
I have lived in the house since 1961. This is our 50th anniversary. I finally escaped from the sister school and attended Western Junior High for one year and then the high school. The wall in the backyard made out of broken hunks of the old Davis Square sidewalk is still standing. I take good care of my mother’s dogwood tree and the cherry blossom tree we planted for my sister. I still over decorate for holidays.
The sunny little sewing room on the street side has gone through three transformations since the 60’s. When we moved in it was a teenager’s private hang out room, with a phone and walls plastered with photos of Elvis and other teen idols of the day. Then from 1961 until 1994, it was my father’s watch repair room. We still have several nun’s watches from the 60’s that he never got around to fixing…ha-ha! For the last 16 years it has housed two computers and a home recording studio. It’s my favorite room in the house.
So what started as a scary and frightening situation turned out okay. 50 years in the same house. And the good news? In another 50 years it will be paid for…again…maybe.