Friday, August 04, 2006

5 July, 1955

Dear Folks—

Before I forget, please tender my formal apologies to grandpa & Aunt Thyra for not sending them a card from Boston, but I didn’t buy a single card in Boston—the one you got was from Nantasket. I bought three—all of the roller coaster, since Nantasket has nothing else to offer—but only had time to dash off one to you. The other two I stuck in my hind pocket & sat on, neatly shaping them to the contours of my behind. I then took them out of my pocket & placed them in my lap, where I would be sure to remember then. I lost them somewhere between Quincy & South Weymouth.

Boston, we are told, is the land of the broadened "a"’s, the home of the baked bean & the stuffed shirt. The Boston I saw was somewhat different—it was a little girl crouching in the dirty-grey sand of a littered beach, digging stones out of the sand with a popsicle stick; it was a beach pavilion with old-fashioned summer concerts played by a pleasing band that was heavy on woodwinds instead of the usual brass. It was a very tiny little girl & an even tinier black puppy, chasing one another across the floor.

Ah, but the Pilgrim influence is still present, if somewhat overshadowed. I saw two perfect pilgrims—even to look at them would bring back grade school memories. Both of them I encountered, at different times, on the subway. The first was a young girl of about eighteen. She had rosy cheeks, dark hair & eyes, & was strikingly pretty, though not in a beauty-contest way. She wore a crisp white dress with green flower designs, & sat feet together, hands folded in her lap, & seemed very well poised.

The second was an older woman of about forty-five. She wore a stylish black-&-white check dress with a white collar & black belt. She also had black shoes and a small black hat vaguely resemblent of a man’s straw hat. A strand of hair kept falling over her forehead, which she would push away with her elbow-length black gloves. Her face was hardened, but not hard--& she looked very proper but not stuffy. She, like the young girl, sat very straight, without looking uncomfortable, & with her feet together. On the same car sat three girls in their mid-twenties.

Each wore tight, high-necked pullover sweaters & some type of pants that were neither dungarees nor slacks nor lounging pajamas but a combination of all three. Each also wore a pair of sandals, & carried huge shoulder-bag purses. One of them would have been quite attractive, if her light brown hair had not been so long and flozzy. I might have guessed their profession, but I didn’t try.

Boston also has the Commons, which is a forty-acre park in the center of the city—it’s pride & joy during the day, but at night is the outdoor hotel for the city’s bums, the rendezvous for its lovers, & off limits to servicemen after ten p.m. A corner of it, near a graveyard that dates back to 1703, can compare proudly to Chicago’s Bughouse Square. It is here that the mental degenerates can go & amuse themselves at the expense of some harmless old women religious fanatics. Here they can show off their rapier wit, & lash out at a world they cringe from in the daylight. Each city has its zoo—it is a great pity that there are far more animals outside the cages than in.

And then there is the historic Boston—the site of the Boston massacre, a circle of stones directly in front of an old British government building, with the Lion & the Unicorn, the British coat of arms, atop the two story, red brick structure. The circle is also exactly in the center of a busy thoroughfare, & were the scene to be suddenly re-enacted, several more Bostonians would die by taxicabs than by British bullets. There is Paul Revere’s home, a small, grey frame building scarred by countless engravings of tourists eager to show the world that they were there. It stands in the heart of a clustered Italian neighborhood, if not slum. Feniual Hall, the cradle of democracy where the Boston tea party was planned, now houses, among other things, a fish market & a florist.. Nothing happened on Bunker Hill—the Bunker Hill monument & the battle it commemorates are on Breed’s Hill.

But for all the disillusion, there is a certain intangible dignity and flavor of the past about these spots. They somehow seem to stand apart, even aloof, from the modern jungle that surrounds them.

The Old North Church, which is just now having its famous steeple replaced, is an island of the past—here the country’s first organ is still played—Paul Revere’s descendants still come to sit in the high, box-like white pews, so built because there was formerly no heat in the church during the winter—you brought a foot-warmer, shut the door of the pew to keep out the drafts, & peered over the edge of the walls at the minister. Some 1100 Bostonians are buried beneath the aisles & pews of that church. Even today, there is no electricity—the only light being furnished by candles from the heavy iron chandeliers. Time is told by a two-hundred-year-old clock made in England by hand for the phenomenal price of (modern equivalent) $2.68.

Boston is surrounded. by innumerable villages & small towns, most of them showing definite British influence, such as Dorchester, & Framingham. There are countless West This-&-that’s South Such-&-so’s. There is Weymouth, Weymouth Landing, & South Weymouth.

So, my parents, you have the ten cent guided tour of Boston & its environs. I could go on indefinitely, but time & paper are growing short. More next time. Until then, I am


P.S. Mother, keep one hand on the phone ready to cancel reservations. But I might make it yet .
Postcard of The World’s Most Famous Roller Coaster in Paragon Park, Nantasket Beach, Mass. Postmarked Nantasket Beach, Mass, July 4 (?) 1955

Dere Folks

At the moment I am in Nantucket. I have ridden on the thing on the card.
I do not like it in Nantucket. I want to go to Boston. I am going to Boston
Boston is a big town. There are many people here. Most of them are dead. Some of them just look that way.

It rained yesterday. It is hot today.

Your loving son,

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