Posts Tagged ‘Newton’

PostHeaderIcon Nina considers her day while sitting in a rose garden.

rosesThe day had been hot and long, certainly she was not used to dancing, not used to being touched. Nina assumed that in most places dancers were gloved even on hot days, but for the last three years no one had bought new gloves. There were simply none available since the non-importation agreements – made with such passion in town meeting. Now here they were at a wedding — bare-handed. Non-importation agreements were fine until there was something one needed, like gloves.

Nina slipped back out of the long windows toward the rose garden. She found a bench in the flowers and gratefully sat. Her legs felt weak, she felt flushed and her heart was beating in a most uncomfortable manner. She blamed the dancing, but sitting there in the warm June sun, she grudgingly admitted that Alex, her intrepid rescuer, was the culprit. She had sworn off men so many years ago. Vowed never to marry again. She assured herself she was safe because of her short marriage, and that there was no time or room in her life for such discomfort – physical or emotional. It was good she would leave, and that he would go back to Cambridge. Chances were, this time she really would never see him again.

She concentrated on the beautiful garden. In the warm dry weather the flowers had bloomed early and now waited, suspended in glorious splendor, their petals so far open they nearly drooped. A few had already stopped trying to hold on, and masses of color littered the nearby ground. It was clear from the empty stems, that those flowers that had been fresh and pretty this morning, had been cut for the ceremony, or the party here at the house. She scooped a handful of pale purple and yellow petals into her hands and breathed in the heady scent.

Roses reminded her of that day John and his sisters had taken them all out to hear the latest preacher, a red Indian with a booming voice. They had sat near the host’s house and their rose garden, facing into the field – along with hundreds of other people. It was so unlike her father’s church. There had been no mention of theology, or of readings or careful translation of the bible, such as he and other ministers did. No this man preached of finding Jesus through one’s heart not one’s head. It had seemed alien at the time, but spoke to her now with so many changes whirling around her.

She had been proud that day when her young husband left to fight for Great Britain and the King against their Catholic enemy, the French. She realized after his death that she had never really understood, her heart had not understood that he should go and fight in a war which had ended in Europe and for which the treaty had already been signed.

It was different this time. This unnatural civil war, as the newspapers called it, seemed inevitable. Just as she had moved from her parent’s home; forge her own life, with marriage, child, and an early widowhood, so America was ready to be accepted as a full member of the Empire with rights equal to all Englishmen. That Parliament did not agree, would not grant them membership or a vote, even though the colonies were important members of the mercantile world and consumers of British made goods, rankled.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about Alex flirting with her, making her feel things she would rather ignore, but she could not help be proud that someone who was a friend of sorts, was engaged in routing the British Army out of Boston.

PostHeaderIcon A Coal-Chute Victory

Newton Corner bell

Bell at center of Newton Corner, now at Turnpike Exit 17.

I live in an old house in Newton Corner. The village label, Newton Corner, is actually incorrect, it’s Newton, plain and simple. But, folks in the other villages, West Newton, Newtonville, Newton Centre, don’t want there to be a ‘Newton’ so we obligingly tack on the word corner. The Corner part of it comes from a bar. A tavern run by a fellow named Angier. The spot where he had this tavern was a major crossroad from north, south, east and west and came to be known as Angier’s Corner. I guess after taverns were no longer the most important landmarks in town, the name was changed to Newton’s Corner and in time Newton Corner. The post office, and tax collector just call it Newton.

As I said, it is an old house (by American standards), built around 1820, somewhere on Washington or Richardson Streets. In 1890 a decision was made to lower the train tracks on the Boston-Worcester-Albany line that parallels today’s Massachusetts turnpike, and residents were allowed to move their houses a few blocks north. That’s how my house ended up catty-cornered on its lot, and slightly crooked on its foundation.

The house used to be a side by side two-family with coal stoves in the diningroom and livingroom of each. These would heat the bedrooms upstairs as well. To accommodate this coal a long chute was built down the center of the basement.

The chute had two walls about a foot apart, with openings to shovel out the coal to bring up to the stoves. I’m not sure how the coal was delivered, but I imagine through one of the basement windows. When we bought the house in 1986, one of the first things we did was to take down this double wall that divided the basement, so along with the asbestos-covered pipes we removed from down there, and the tar and paint we scraped off to the stairs, we cut the old wood and swept up coal and lead paint. On one piece of the wall was an interesting chalk picture. The word Victory with the Morse code for V colored within that letter. It is the only thing we saved from that project.

Victory on basement wallboard

Here is how I imagine the Victory came to be:

The basement windows had been painted black since December 8, 1941, but Jimmy didn’t mind. Not only was he safe from Germans and Japanese who might want to bomb a town where so many MIT engineers lived, but the neighbors wouldn’t know when he was up all night working on his ham radio. He’d been twelve when the war started; there were days when he hoped it would last long enough for him to join, but not when his mother got that frightened and worried look in her eye.

Now he was fifteen, almost sixteen, and had come to believe that the war had gone on long enough. His father had introduced him to ham radio, before he left for Europe, when he was ten. And there wasn’t an afternoon that he wasn’t buying parts for that radio or tinkering with it somehow. Nights were when he would listen to transmissions from vessels off the nearby coast and pass on interesting things to radio partners further inland.

 That was how our Jimmy came to be listening one night in April 1945. The news wasn’t public yet, he probably got it two or three minutes before NBC, CBS or ABC broadcast it, but when it came over his ham radio in the little two-family in Newton Corner, Jimmy picked up a piece of chalk, the only thing he had at hand, and quickly wrote the word that came across his radio… ‘Victory’. Then Jimmy ran upstairs to wake his mother.