4th of July of Somerville Yesteryear

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By Arthur Moore
Another from my brother Richard. This would be Park Street late 50’s, early 60’s.

4th of July
Back in the day, we had a tradition, a 4th of July block party. It was quite the thing too. All the families got together and the party was on! Everyone contributed something and as far as I remember the Borgasano’s made lasagna; June Courtney worked at the Star Market meat department and brought t-bone steaks, and in those days steaks were a rare thing indeed.

Others brought salad, burgers, dogs, rolls, desserts, watermelon. We even carted a stereo outside for music. Lights were strung; decorations, balloons, chairs and tables were brought from everywhere. Trash barrels were new or really clean because that’s where the beer was put on ice and coolers were filled with soda. This all took place in the Borgasano-Mullaney back yard. Since there was no fence separating the two, it made quite the space for the event.

About mid-afternoon it began, the food started arriving, the grills started heating up, and the wonderful smells began filling the air. Mr. Borgasano had a special affinity for Louis Prima and Keeley Smith, while my dad, Bill Courtney, Charlie Levine, and Paul Whealan leaned toward Mitch Miller and the gang. So the music was playing and the food was being served in an orderly fashion, and the party kicked into second gear.

We ate like there was no tomorrow, sampling every offering that was put out in front of us. Once we were sated and the meal cleaned, the drinking, singing, and card playing began and continued well into the night. It was the one occasion where there was no bedtime, and 3 am was pretty much the norm.

Beer was consumed in mass quantities with chips, pretzels, dips, and the adult males relied on us to bring them their beers. We, as kids, tried to get as much as we could into us, so we would fetch the beers for them and have our own glass and demand payment in beer. We only got a little from doing the chore but it added up over the course of the evening.

Late into the night the party rolled on, music blasting and all the people singing; it didn’t matter how good or bad your voice was. You sang anyway. We were the neighborhood, and we owned northern Park Street and nobody questioned the noise or the time.

What the hell, everyone was there. Someone was playing an electric guitar at one point but I don’t know who. There had to be at least 30 of us out there; heck there was 8 in our family alone. Mr Mullaney may have made an appearance; I don’t really remember. He was usually drunk approximately 365 days a year and every once in a while he would show up at our house to borrow a few bucks.

Once he tried to pat one of us kids on the head. It was a friendly gesture, but our dog Shep took offense to that and promptly grabbed his wrist with a snarl and a growl. He didn’t bite him but he did let him know you just didn’t do that. If I remember right Mr. Borgasano played guitar too and Paul Whelan played the piano. I don’t know how many times they sang those same damn songs over and over again at every single party but it was a lot. Sometimes the parties were in the Courtney’s cellar which was fixed up for such events, with the same net results. I remember Smokey, the Courtney’s black cat was around and usually hanging on Kenny’s neck for lack of a better place to be.

On and on the party went until the wee hours and then finally breaking up; the food put away and the beer gone. But if it was a nice evening with no rain, the rest just stayed there until the next day when it would begin again. Later in the month when vacations started the parents would all go to the dog track or we would get together and go to Revere for Chinese food, the best ever!

Other trips were to Pleasure Island, Wingaersheek Beach, and up to my grandmother’s house in Boxford right up the road from Spot Pond. Harold Parker State park was another place for get togethers. We would pile into the station wagons and off we would go.

The one I always enjoyed the most was going to Mr. Harrigan’s cottage in Rockport. We would take some Garden Court Pizza with us and hit the road, usually in October, for the three day weekend. We walked down to the center of town which was quite the haul and visit Tuck’s candy store for some bark chocolate and watched them make salt water taffy on the machines. It was heaven. But the July 4th parties were some of the best times ever. Today you are lucky to know your neighbor’s names. Back then you knew everyone on the darn street.

2 thoughts on “4th of July of Somerville Yesteryear”

  1. You took me back to a time that has unfortunately disappeared; and with it, memories that our young folks will never experience.

    1. They will never know what it was like. Just us old folks and the good ol days. We can only go back in our memories and sadly have to live in the present with all it’s problems. The friendships and neighbors we had were worth so much to us. Instead of becoming more civilized we have gone backwards. I post my brother’s versions as he went through the trouble of writing them and I don’t want to show him up in case he reads this. It was great.

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