4.15.2006

Old School

Borderline talked with Miss Waltham 1937 recently. She was Borderline's neighbor until last year, but moved away to live with relatives. We still keep in touch.

The phone conversation started with Easter greetings, but turned to schools, a great concern of Borderline's family. Miss Waltham had attended Waltham public schools in the 1920s, and remembers a very different setup than what our neighborhood has now. Kids from Kindergarten to grade 3 attended a small school located where McDonald Playground on Newton Street is now. It was a cramped school with no yard (but some trees on the southern edge, a few of which are still standing). For fourth grade, the kids went to the school on High Street and Lowell (where the Peter Gilmore Playground is now located) that Borderline's barber also attended. Waltham High on School Street was much smaller; in fact Miss Waltham remembers that when she attended in the 1930s they had to stagger attendence so some kids went in the morning, and others in the afternoon.

This unusual attendence requirement freed up part of Miss Waltham's day, and she filled it with a clerk's job at a local textiles plant that handled piecework. She remembers her interview, the manager said she would only hire her if she continued with school -- "'cause in those days if you waved money in front of young people they'd want to give up school. It was the Depression!"

She did stick with school, and worked on payroll. She remembers the workers, all girls a little older than her. By this time, they weren't first generation Americans. They were the children of immigrants. They loved to dance during lunch (someone brought in phonograph records, apparently) and treated Miss Waltham like a little sister.

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