Cambridge Street 1947
Image courtesy of the
Cambride Historical Commission

Jean Raymond

Full transcript

Where did your family come from?

My mother came from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It was a little town called Abram’s River. My dad came from Digby, Nova Scotia. My dad lived in Maine for a while before he met my mom. I had an aunt living on Otis St. She had a boarding house and my dad had a room there. As a result my mother met my father that way. It was my mom’s sister. Most of my mother’s family lived in Abram’s River, Nova Scotia. Most of them came to this country, as they got older. They came here to work. My mother did that too. She was a cook. She and my aunt used to cook in Boston. It was a donut place. My mother and aunt would make the donuts there. I don’t remember the name. They didn’t work there for very long. It used to be on Tremont St. It was of course long before I was born. When my parents married, they lived in East Cambridge. They got married in Boston at St. Cecilia Church. I don’t know where they lived before they bought the house on Thorndike St. I think they bought the house in 1925; a year after my brother was born. I still live in the same house, all 75 years. When my mom and dad died, the house was deeded over to me. My sister was actually born in the house. I have two sisters and two brothers. All there is left is a brother and myself. We all went to school here at Sacred Heart. I did 12 years at Sacred Heart. My brothers and sister went to Cambridge High and Latin and Rindge. The three older ones did that. My brothers went into the service and my sister didn’t get married until her thirties. We all went to Sacred Heart and were very active in the church. My brothers were altar boys. They were also in the Boy Scouts. One brother became a leader at some point. I joined the Girl Scouts. I did that for a few years until I was in my freshman year of high school. I joined the Girls Glee Club. As a result, two friends and I were asked to be part of a show. I think it was called Teen Time. They had a weekly show. We had the opportunity to perform. We only did it for one year, one season. It was fun to do. We had to rehearse every Thursday and Saturday. I think we were in our first year of high school. Other than that, we always sang in the church choir. I play the piano and as I got older, I would play at some of the services.

Being part of Teen Time, did that make you a celebrity at school?

Yes I guess, in a way. The show was only on during the summer. Naturally family watched it. It had to go by word of mouth but I’m not even sure the kids knew it existed unless you told them. A couple of times people on the street recognized you from television. That was part of growing up here. The biggest thing I remember about growing up here is the community. It was the friendliest neighborhood you could want to be in. All our neighbors on the street were our friends. In the summer, we would always meet in the morning and play in the street. We would always play ball. Instead of a bat, we used our hand. We used a soft ball. We didn’t want to break any windows. We would make up our bases on the street. In those days there were no cars. You could do that easily. We all came from big families. I was the only one growing up in my family. My brothers and sister were 8-10 years older than me. I grew up more or less on my own. I had lots of friends and all our neighbors. We just chummed around together and had fun. We would play hide-and-seek and other things. I was more of a tomboy growing up. I remember climbing fences. Those were the days you could go into somebody’s yard. We would be playing a game and just climb fences and go into someone’s yard. We never got yelled at except for one person. I remember he had peach trees in his yard. We weren’t after the peaches but maybe some other kids were. I remember my mother telling me not to go into other peoples’ yards. I would always telling her they don’t mind but she would just ask me how I would like it if they ran through my yard. We had a lot of laughs. It was a fun time growing up. Everyone knew each other in the neighborhood. Even if your friends went to public school, you still knew them. To me it was the best time to grow up. It was a fun time. I have no regrets. There were some gangs. There would be a gang from that street or this street and a gang from our area. There would be times you would attempt to meet. I don’t know what you call them but whip trees. You would take the leaves off the branch and it would be like a whip. We would go around threatening the other gangs. Like I said, I was more of a tomboy when I was younger. The neighborhood was always very friendly. One woman I remember in particular. When she came home from work, we would meet her halfway and walk her the rest of the way home. She always gave us coins or candy. We didn’t have the toys the kids have today and all those electronics. I don’t think we even had a portable radio. We made our own fun. We did a lot with our church. I was a member of the East End Union. That’s where we had our Girl Scout meetings. I went to cooking class there. When they had their board meetings, the girl scouts were asked to serve. We learned the proper way to serve food. It was a good education for all of us and we had fun.

Do you remember any other factories?

My sisters worked at the candy factory for a short time. It was called something else before Necco. They also worked somewhere else where they made things for the war. There was a bookbindery where my brother worked nights putting himself through school. There was a place we used to go to get rolls and cakes. It was down on Binney St or Bent St. For 12 cents you get a bag of butter finger rolls and for 15 cents a bag of the pecan rolls. My girlfriend’s mom sent her down there and I went with her. When I brought a bag home for my mother, she gave me money so that when I knew I was going down there I would bring some back. Once a week we used to make the trip. You had to take a left on Bent St from Third St. When I was in high school and later, they didn’t exist anymore. You could go down there and see how they made frosted cakes. They had these big vats of frosting and they would lower the cake on a machine into the vat. It would come out dripping in frosting. The guy would ask us if we wanted to try some. We said no thank you unless you wanted to give us the cake. My sister worked for Carter Ink for a while. There was a diner down there that everyone went to. I think it was across from Carter Ink. I do remember going there after work and after bowling.

Where did you go bowling?

We used to go to Bowladrome in Central Sq. It burned down and we went to another one in Central Sq. That one wasn’t as good as Bowlhaven. We did bowl there for a while but I had to stop because my folks were older. They needed someone to be home with them. I used to bowl with a group from work; not mine but my girlfriend’s work. That was one of my favorite things to do besides the piano and singing. My two girlfriends and I used to sit on the steps and learn all the new songs. A lot of people would walk by and clap for us. My girlfriend’s father was a pianist and he used to play in a club in Somerville. We would go visit and sing songs. He thought it was great. In those days kids sat on their steps and nobody bothered us. We didn’t cause trouble; we just liked music. It was a fun thing to do. Who really does anything like that today? It’s a complete change of a neighborhood. I don’t even know my neighbors anymore. They are nice neighbors and I might invite them in for coffee but everyone is working. I’m retired so even though I’m around, I see that they are all working. They’re busy and they got things to do. I have a car so I drive everywhere so you can’t walk around and meet people.

You talked about going bowling and playing in the streets. Do you have any other favorite places you liked to visit? I know you mentioned a lot but there was bowling and the movies.

There used to be the Lechmere theater on Cambridge St. We were allowed to go to the movies there. We would frequent them every week. My family was in the habit of eating dinner earlier than my friends’ families. I always had to ask my mother if I could eat something quick before I would go. Sometimes I wasn’t allowed to go unless I returned the bottles. You would get 5 cents for the big bottles and 2 cents for the little ones. My siblings had to do that before me but my mother always told me how I hated to do that. Sometimes you had to go to more than one store. Not all stores took the same bottles. I would always ask my mother for money now to go to the movies and say I would do the bottles during the week. I was the youngest and my sister would say I would get away with a lot. In those days you had to bring the bottles back to the store to get your money. I mean I guess you do that today but you didn’t have people coming by to pick them up. Anyway, we went to the theater weekly. We would go Friday and Saturday night. If not Saturday, then Sunday. If we could get away with going all three days, we’d go.

Do you think East Cambridge is different from the rest of Cambridge? Do you think East Cambridge is unique?

We always had that the other side of the tracks is Cambridge and this side of the tracks is East Cambridge. We used to say that we are better than you are. That goes way back to when we were kids. We would say that we’re better because we’re from East Cambridge until someone put you in your place. I don’t think now we are aware of any distinction. As a kid growing up, there was a difference.

It was mentioned before, but is there less of a community now?

Yes definitely I think that’s the biggest thing I notice. A lot of people have scattered, a lot have moved out. I know people from church but I know less now and I have been here 75 years. I only know a couple of my neighbors but we made it a point to know each other. It’s a bit sad when you’re just two doors away and you don’t know them. The neighborhood has definitely changed. I do get the feeling that people are trying to make it closer. I think there are more children on my street than there has been for many years. I feel like more families are settling in. It’s very expensive though. You have to buy. There isn’t much renting and that’s probably the easiest way to come back.

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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.