What’s Happening on Main Streets

By Ellen Walker With Contributors Eric Alden, Gar Chiang and Toni Ann Komst; Special to the Gazette

As we enter 2020 and the new decade, it time to reflect on the past from an individual perspective.  To that end, some of the Mission Hill Main Streets Board members, who were or are residents, have contributed their memories to this months’ story. 

Here are their stories and MHMS thanks Eric, Gar and Toni Ann, for the trip down memory lane.  Enjoy!

From Eric: “I think the biggest difference is obviously the make-up of the neighborhood. Growing up here in the 70’s and 80’s meant there were large families with lots of kids. Every triple decker had multiple families in it, many who had been in the area for years.

With the number of families (and kids) in the area we were able to support a lot of neighborhood activities such as the ability to field a dozen little league teams or to have a very active softball league with numerous teams made up of all local dads.  Throughout the 80’s, we had a large event at McLaughlin Field (top of the hill softball fields) called “The Mission Hill Fair.”  This event is one of my fondest memories as it seemed like every resident of Mission Hill was there. The fair incorporated the Mission Hill Road Race on the same day. This event brought everyone together for the race, live music, food, rides and games. This event was circled on everyone’s calendar and could not be missed.

The Hill is obviously a different place now and is still a great place for those that live here. Every neighborhood in history has gone through some type of renaissance and Mission Hill is no different. The sign of a great neighborhood is when folks still want to live there or open a business there.  I hear many old timers from the hill reminisce about “the good ole days” and I always reply with the following…in 30 years the folks that live here now will call these the good ole days.”

From Gar: “Mission Hill was a welcoming place when I first moved here in 1967.  My fondest memories were eating meals at my Irish American friends’ home – potatoes cooked in so many ways!  This was a real special treat to a Chinese kid who was used to noodles or rice every day.  They were my friends – and still are today.  We used to hang at the street corner of South Huntington Avenue and played in Brookline parks where the Mission Football Team also practiced.

None of our families lived in a house or had a yard to play in so we would meet at the park.   Our parents all had ordinary jobs and we went to public schools.  Later, we all went on to graduate from universities and achieved our parents dreams of better jobs.  In the summer of 1969, sixteen of us went to Woodstock Music Festival in a rented van.  Many of our group ended up in the photo on the front cover of the Woodstock album.   By the way, none of us saw any naked women during the three-day festival – they were only in the movie!  

I am the only one from my group who is living in Mission Hill, but I don’t feel alone.   Thinking about the good old days and my friends, I feel surrounded by the community spirit and friendship.   Mission Hill has a special place in my heart.”  

From Toni Ann: “We lived here from 1959-1971 on Kempton Street and Shepard Avenue, where everybody knew each other.  We never locked our doors. Neighbors played the role of parents when the parent/parents weren’t around.  Coming from an interracial family, Mission Hill and the South End were the only places mixed families could live without harassment back then.

Leon’s’ Drugstore at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Fenwood Road is where I’d buy my mother her Christmas gifts … mostly Evening in Paris perfume for a quarter.  She would buy our lunches at Leon’s’ and hand it to us at recess across the street at the Farragut School. Recess was an important part of our days and in the summer, the school yard was used for kids’ summer activities and they served free lunch. On summer nights everyone would be sitting on the stoops – kids and adults – when it was too hot to stay inside. 

Other memories include sledding down Frawley Street with a lookout for cars and trolleys on Huntington, fruit trees in almost all the back yards, especially around the Baptist hospital, and walking over to the Muddy River to catch turtles and frogs. Also, taking the trolly for a free swim at the Boston Common with a free transfer back to the Hill, Church every Sunday at Mission, donuts across the street, catechism every Friday and confession every Saturday.

Thank goodness for people like Theresa and Anna Parks and others who fought back to keep affordable housing, where Mission Park is now located.  I came back to the Hill in 1998. Still here, not leaving.  Love this place!”

Moving back to the present, MHMS wants to thank all our local businesses who continue to rise to the occasion by keeping their sidewalks clean, clear and safe for everyone here in Mission Hill!  Though we have not had a typical snowy winter, the blustery winds and cold have created challenges of their own.  Mission Hill Main Streets looks at this when we consider selecting its annual “Golden Broom Award” recipient.

Mission Hill Main Streets was honored to be voted as Community Organization of the Year by Mission Hill Gazette readers.  Thank you all for your continued support.

Wishing a Happy New Year to our Chinese neighbors and friends!  This is the year of the Rat, which symbolizes agility, fertility and flexibility.   Congratulation to all those who were born in 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, etc.     

Remember to visit our website (www.missionhillmainstreet.com), like us on Facebook and find us on Distrx mobile app (Mission Hill District).

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift which is why we call it the present. “

Bill Keane

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