THE VIEW FROM THOMPSON SQUARE
On this past Monday, I met up with Julie Hall is spearheaded today’s Engine 50 Birthday Party at at the Monument. Engine Company #50 has been in operation since July 26, 1918, at 9 a.m. sharp. The firehouse at Winthrop Street now being remodeled is the oldest firehouse in the City of Boston. The guys from Engine 50 drove down to talk with Julie too about plans for today’s event at 11:00 am.
I will have much more to say about Engine 50 Day in Charlestown next week. If you’re reading this Thursday morning, I hope the sky is blue and sunny too. We don’t need any rain to mar this important day in Charlestown history.
The meeting about Engine 50 began shortly after 4 p.m. but I was there in Thompson Square a couple of hours early. First, to the library and then to Starbucks. I was going to sit inside but between the too cold A.C. and the lack of seats, I stayed outside in the outdoor seating with plenty of empty seats.
The day got better the closer to 4 pm and I just sat there nursing my caffe latte grand size with skim milk and a touch of whipped cream. I starting watching the cars driving by and all the people rushing back and forth in front of me on the sidewalk. This little piece of empty real estate is plenty dog friendly too. I met a new friend named “Brady” I suspect his first name is Tom, but he wasn’t talking since he was an English Bulldog or maybe French I can’t remember. He was cute and he seemed pretty friendly toward me.
As I said, it was a lazy day for me as are many of my days since retirement. People passing by say Hi and I say Hi to them too. Lots of young mothers and dads too pushing baby carriages along Thompson Square. I remember when this spot was the U.S. Post Office back in the day before the Bunker Hill Mall popped up. Next door on my right was Wily Funeral Home. My mother grew up with Danny Wiley and I did many wakes there for family dead as a boy. Today, everybody in that rowhouse is alive and well but looking at the bay windows, I could imagine the caskets right there behind the curtains. The folks who rent the place probably have no idea, dead people lived there, huh?
Next store to that was the First National supermarket at the corner where my dad often sent me to buy his cigarettes. Back then, he gave me a quarter and I got to keep the penny change. No one got carded. Across the Square was Tilkins Shoe Store where 7-Eleven is now. In the middle of the Square was Thompson Square Station up in the air above Main Street. The Main Street El ran above Main Street about 30 feet or so up covering the sunlight from all of Main Street. It wasn’t until about May or June of 1975 that Main Street first saw sunlight for the first time.
If I look over to the Bunker Hill Mall, I can see John Boyle O’Reilly Park which came about in 1981 and since it and those flying flags have become part of Charlestown’s history now. So much has changed along Main Street as it has for all of Charlestown, among them sadly rents and home prices. I still remember those tiny box houses on Pearl Street heading up to Bunker Hill Street. Back in 1970, one of them was on the market for $9,900 , YES I said $9,900. About 30 or so years back, on sale for $125,000. TODAY? Only God I assume can afford to buy that place.
Sitting in Thompson Square. today, I can only wonder how Charlestown will continue to change in the days to come. Lots of people back 40 years ago were afraid of gentrification. Much changed. Some for the good but plenty not that good. How will Charlestown change by mid-century is anyone’s guess. If you have any guesses, let me know.
I have always believed that Charlestown will always survive as it always has. Generation after generation of peoples have called Charlestown their home because it is a special place with special people who care about their community like no other place.
Keeping Charlestown alive is in its motto: “A trust transmitted to its future.” We all journey through life and those who take their journey in Charlestown take it seriously. We pass on to the next generation what was passed on to us. It’s a culture thing and it comes with a fighting spirit.