Jean A. Waters' on Arlington in the 1940s and 1950s

A story by Samuel Lieberman



I asked my grandmother, Jean A. Waters, about her youth, and specifically, what Arlington Massachusetts was like. 

"That's really kind of hard --

Arlington was probably like most medium, well it wasn't really a small town it was more a medium town. We lived at the east end of the town which bordered Somerville and Cambridge and there was kind of -- which was considered at that time probably a little bit of a poorer section than maybe up around Arlington Heights which was in the Western part and bordered Lexington and Winchester and I lived on a small street with five two family houses on each side of the street. When I first was very young the street was dirt, it wasn't paved -- it was a great place to grow up, it was a great neighborhood. There were all kinds of kids we played in the street, we could walk to a store as we got older. There were a couple of convenience stores nearby -- as we got even a little bit older we could walk over to Mass Ave and Arlington where there were grocery stores and bake shops and one of my earliest memories is during the war walking to a store called Kennedy's on Mass Ave, which was[sic]-- sold butter and eggs and it was during the war so there was rationing. And I can remember walking to that store with my mother when she bought butter. But it was a great town to grow up in -- I could walk to my grammar school, when I was in Junior High I could walk to Junior High, when I got to the high school I could walk -- well it was a long walk but I did it. The first year I took a bus most of the time but my Junior and Senior year I walked -- I met my friends and we walked to school and I walked home, and there was very little crime so you always felt safe. There was[sic].. there were no -- well, it lacked diversity. There were no Asian people that I can remember except a couple of Chinese laundries. There were no black people except as I got older there was one black family. So there was really not a lot of diversity. There were no Jewish people -- well there were some Jewish people in town because there were a couple of doctors that were Jewish. And I actually babysat for [one of their daughters] one time, and I can remember the little girl -- I can still remember her. I was up reading her a bedtime story and she asked me if I was Jewish, and I said no, and she said "nobody is", and I really wanted to cry. I felt so bad for her, she was a sweet little girl, and there were no other Jewish people in the town for her to know, which is sad. 

But it was a great place to grow up. I had a wonderful childhood -- I had a great young childhood and a great older childhood. I had great friends including some friends from high school who I'm still friendly with.

There were a few years when we didn't have a car, fortunately there was great public transportation so you could go almost anywhere -- you could easily get into Boston -- what we called Downtown. You never said you were going to Boston, you said you were going "in town". That's where you went when you were going to Jordan's or Filene's -- you were going in town. And that's where you went to do your Christmas shopping and that's where my mother took me to get my winter coats and my Easter outfits, which was not something I liked. I hated shopping when I was a kid, I hated shopping with my mother when I was a kid [laughing], cuz [sic] she loved to shop and I didn't. But you could get in there easily, we used to have relatives that lived in Dorchester -- my grandmother and grandfather -- and we took the bus there. I had relatives that lived in Roslindale, an aunt and uncle, and we took transportation there. You could go anywhere in Arlington, well if you lived over near the Belmont line or up near the Winchester line it was a little harder but if you lived any place within walking distance to Mass Ave. or Broadway you could get transportation. Easily. I mean, the bus stop was five minutes from my house."

[On World War II Memories]

"There's hardly anybody left alive who served in World War II, well, some of the younger ones who went in at the very end.

You have so much better access to what happened. I mean you could sit and watch the History Channel and learn just about every battle that took place and see films of it and everything, whereas you don't have that kind of stuff about the Civil War. It was not something we ever thought about really compared to World War II -- I mean, I can remember when it ended. I remember having to turn the lights out when they were doing a blackout [drill] and they used to have wardens that went around the neighborhood and I can remember one time being in the cellar on Hilton street with my mother and the woman upstairs. They had gone down cellar and were smoking cigarettes, and the warden knocked on the window of the cellar because he could see the lights of the cigarettes and wanted them to put the cigarettes out."

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 1940s,1950s,Arlington,childhood,Massachusetts,New England,World War II,WWII
  Arlington Massachusetts
~1940s - 1950s


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