Oral Histories - East Cambridge Childhoods

In 2009, we interviewed four individuals about their experiences as children in Cambridge. We wanted to document their experiences and use the opportunity of looking back at one’s childhood to draw out memories of Cambridge in a different time and reflect on how the city has changed.

The people selected were individuals who had grown up, at least partially, in East Cambridge. The questions were written, interviews conducted, and tapes transcribed by Michelle Freitas as a part of an internship with the Cambridge Historical Society.

Fred Fantini

Fred Fantini was born in Cambridge in 1949. He is a member of the Cambridge School Committee.

Among his childhood memories:

“In those days like I said my mother would wake us up at 7am and we would be gone for the day. Our street was loaded with kids. I would go up to the Cambridge Common and play baseball from 8am till suppertime. In those days you weren’t really worried about being kidnapped or anything like that. You knew everyone and everyone knew the “twins”. We had a whole wide city that was our family. People kept an eye on us and reported back regularly to my mother and father.”

Dr. Candy Maddalo

Candy Maddalo’s grandparents moved from Palermo, Sicily to East Cambridge. Her father was the first generation here. He worked in the Court House Barbershop from 1951 until he passed away in 2002.

Among her childhood memories:

“[My father’s barbershop] 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.”

Dan Percoco

Dan Percoco was born at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge in 1942. His parents were born in Cambridge, and his grandparents came from Italy. Among his childhood memories:

“There used to be a prison down by the courthouse and we used to race our bikes down there. We would look under the gate and see all the prisoners’ feet walking around the yard. We would play out in the street. We played hopscotch, tag, the color game, marbles, badminton, and stuff like that. In those days there weren’t a lot of cars around. The streets were empty and when you did see a car, it was a big thing.”

Jean Raymond

Jean Raymond has lived in the same house on Thorndike Street in Cambridge for 75 years. Her parents were both born in Nova Scotia.

Among her childhood memories:

“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.”

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