On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte
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If you look around Somerville you will still see some grand old brick structures that used to be elementary schools. The Brown, on Willow Ave., which was built in 1900, is the last one still actually being used as a school. Some of them have been converted into condos, such as The Lowe School on Morrison Ave. and the Carr School on Atherton.
This week I am going to revisit The Bingham School that was on Lowell Street between Medford and Vernon Streets opposite Wilton. I feel closeness to The Bingham School because a lot of my friends attended, plus my grandfather Giuseppe (Joe) Del Ponte was a custodian there. One of my friends was a student there, and her mother actually owned a condo in the complex that replaced it. S. Lester Ralph was Mayor back in 1974 when the Bingham School, which was built in 1886, was ordered closed due to structural defects. The structure may be gone, but the memories of The Bingham School live on.
Most of these recollections are from friends of mine who are now in their early 50’s and 60’s. Many of the former students still live in Somerville. They are random memories that I have strung together as a tribute to another lost ‘Villen treasure.
A friend shares this: “I remember lining up outside by grade and then they (the teachers) walked you through the basement to your room. I also remember when there was a fire drill being scared to go down the rod iron stairs because I could see through the steps.” “Lottie’s was the little store where a lot of us Bingham students went for penny candy. I think it was near Richardson St.” Someone my age (around 59) who attended told me that Bingham girls were not allowed to wear pants or slacks at the Bingham at one time. I’m not sure when that rule ended. There was also a cool shortcut on Franey Road (behind Trum Field) that the kids from around the Cedar St. area used. Do you remember a little fruit store nearby where Yola and her sister worked? Sometimes they gave the kids free apples and peaches.
Another friend tells us, “When Miss Mackey came, my dad never missed a PTA meeting because she was a former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader.” Fact or fiction? Someone remembers that, “Miss Malloy taught the fifth grade and I think she used to wash and iron her money, and also iron her cheese sandwiches.” I heard this from more than one former student! This next story is a little scary. “I was in the office just before the entire ceiling light came crashing down and almost killed me. The very next day the school was condemned and closed and we were all sent to other schools.” After the Bingham School close its doors forever, the 329 students were bused to other schools including the aforementioned Brown.
Here are some more Bingham School teachers’ names that my friends remembered. Mrs. Laidlaw, Mrs. Sullivan, Mrs. Dwyer, Mr. Buckley (The Principal who always wore a bow tie), Miss Driscoll, Miss Correy, Miss Wiggins, Miss Albania, Mr. McDonald, Miss Crowley, and Miss Ricci.
Fond and happy memories of their old red brick school include the smell of mimeograph machine copies, playing punch ball and kick ball in the school yard at recess with their friends, and milk money being 15 cents a week. And to this day no one can actually confirm whether or not there was a spanking machine in the principal’s office of the old Bingham School.