Dr. Candy Maddalo

Full Transcript

Where did your family come from?

My grandparents came from Palermo, Sicily. They moved to Cambridge. My father was the first generation here.

What did your parents and grandparents do here?

My father’s father was a barber. All the boys in his family were barbers. The girls just did factory work at the Fenton Shoe. They worked at the shoe factory. A couple of her sisters cleaned the courthouses.

The barbershop was always here. My grandfather worked here as well as on Third St. He didn’t speak English. He only spoke Italian but he had all sorts of nationalities coming in for haircuts. He was very tiny. He would stand on a stool to cut people’s hair. He was 4’ 8”.

What was the name of the barbershop?

It was the Court House Barbershop. I don’t know what my grandfather’s was called. I know my father worked in the barbershop from 1951 until he passed away in 2002.

What did the neighborhood look like when you were young?

It was factory town. We had canals and just tons of factories. It didn’t look like it does today. We only had Lechmere Sales and a liquor store down the street and no mall. When I was a kid, people would refer to this area as “Tobacco Road”. I never really knew what that is supposed to mean. No one wanted to live on this side of the tracks from Ninth St to First St. It was not considered a wealthy or well-to-do area when I was growing up. I think it mostly had to do with the factories.

Do you remember the names of the factories?

 Well there was Fenton Shoe. There was Squire’s, the pig factory that burned down when I was a kid. There was the salami factory and the curtain factory. That was called Corona Curtain. There was the sub shop, Ray’s Sub. It was just a factory town mostly. 

Did a lot of people move out of the neighborhood over the years?

When I was growing up, you were born here, you grew up here, you raised your kids here, and your kids stayed here. Somewhere along the line it changed. When the factories started closing, they shut down the canals and they put the mall there. The area started to become too expensive. The families that were born and raised here couldn’t stay here anymore. They had to move out. If your parents owned something, then they passed it on to their children. That’s why I’m still here. It’s not as close of a neighborhood as it used to be.

Did you spend time in your father’s barbershop?

Every Sunday we had to help clean the barbershop. It was fun. We washed down the mirrors and put the chemicals in the bottles of the hairspray. During the week we weren’t allowed to go in there too much because it was mostly all guys. Between the conversations the men would have and the swearing we weren’t allowed in there too much. As I got older when I walked into the barbershop the swearing would stop and have polite conversation until I left. Little did they know that this building was built in 1880 and you can hear everything. So if they got really loud in the barbershop I would have to run down there and say tell them I could hear them swearing.

What did your mother do?

My mother had two jobs. She worked at a bakery on Sixth St and Cambridge and at Holy Ghost Hospital, which is now called Youville. She worked in the kitchen as a supervisor. Back then you didn’t need a big degree. They figured if she raised 4 kids then she could supervise people in the kitchen. Her two sisters worked there as well. My mother worked more in the cafeteria while her sister was in the kitchen. Her other sister supervised the LPNs when they had the nursing school there. She would supervise the students and stay in the dorms. When I was in high school, I cleaned the nuns’ quarters at the Holy Ghost Hospital when they ran the school there.

How often was your father’s barbershop open?

It was open six days a week from 6 in the morning to 6 at night. He was there all the time as well as his brother. Downstairs in the barbershop if you needed to know anything about this neighborhood, that was the place to go. If you had a question of what was going on, you would go to the barbershop. A lot of deals from East Cambridge Savings bank would get done in the barbershop. Then the papers would get signed in the banks. It was a great meeting place. That was one thing I really missed when he passed away. If someone told me something, I could run downstairs to verify it. A lot of people tell me they miss that about the barbershop. There is no place to go for information, to hang out, or to talk to people. There is no meeting ground that is neutral. A lot of people were hanging out, but not getting their hair cut. So my father looked busy all the time. He kept his fees really low because the area was not wealthy when we were growing up. Even when he passed away, a haircut and shave was only $5 in 2002.

Did the neighborhood have a strong sense of community? Did you feel you were part of a specific group in the neighborhood? I mean, was East Cambridge different from other parts of Cambridge?

Yes it was. From Ninth St to First, it was a world of its own I think and if you went beyond that it seemed strange. People were very friendly. You could go anywhere. If you felt uncomfortable you could go to someone’s house. Everybody knew you. When I was growing up I remember it being a heavy Italian and Irish area. I remember when someone found out I was not Irish; they wouldn’t let me play with their children anymore because I was Italian. My parents didn’t care who we hung out with or who we played with as long as they were nice people. As we got older a lot of Portuguese people came in. They were on Charles and Hurley streets. That wasn’t so bad. My parents didn’t care about that but other people did. They wanted the Irish to stay with the Irish and the Italians stay with the Italians. Kids don’t care. If someone wanted to play with you, then you were willing to play. I do remember that family wouldn’t let me play with their daughter.

Did you have a television growing up?

Yes we had a little black and white. Back then you got 5 channels: 4, 5, 7, 56, and 38. When 25 came in, we thought we hit the lottery. We had certain TV hours. We watched TV together and you had to get up to change the channel. It was supervised so we watched Laurence Welk, Ed Sullivan and things like that. My uncle got a color TV when that came out and we would go to his house to watch Batman. Then we got an air conditioner. That was great too. It was the best thing we ever had. I swore when I grew up I would get a good job so I can get a washing machine and dryer, dishwasher, and an air conditioner in every room. That’s why I went to college. You know when you’re little you think of needing to go to college to get these things.

What did your family do for the 4th of July?

We walked down to the Sonesta before all that stuff was there. We watched the fireworks from the Sonesta area on the grass in front of the Charles River. When we were really little, Cambridge had its own fireworks. We would go to the Cambridge Common in Harvard Sq. They would take us by car. The whole city was there. They did away with that when I was a kid and now there are just the Boston fireworks.

I would love my kids to stay in East Cambridge but no one can afford to live here anymore. You can’t buy anything around here. It’s ridiculous for four walls. At one time it was difficult to practically give the house away. No one wanted to live down here because of rent control and everything was in really bad shape. Things needed to be repaired. My parents told me not to buy anything because of rent control and you wouldn’t get enough to pay your mortgage. I wish I did.

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Interviews were conducted by Michelle Freitas as a part of an internship with the Cambridge Historical Society over the spring semester of 2009. Copyright 2009 CHS. For additional information please contact the CHS office (617) 547-4252.