Episode 13: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo with Janina Transcription

This is the Swampscott Library’s Librarians by the Sea podcast, where we share our love of a good book with you. I’m your host, Julie Travers.

Julie: Hi everyone, and welcome to the Librarians by the Sea podcast. Today we have an interview with Janina, who we’ve had on the podcast before. She’s a reference librarian here at the Swampscott Library, and she’s the new leader of an anti-racism book group that we’ve started at the library. Their first meeting was last week, and they read White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo.

So first, I just kind of wanted to ask you about why you were inspired to start an anti-racism book group?

Janina: It was after the murder of George Floyd, and anti-racism is something that I’ve always been passionate about, but I admit to being lazy, and I own my white privilege of being able to be lazy, and not fighting the good fight for our Black brothers and sisters, and I felt that with the surge of awareness that happened after George Floyd, I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to step in and try to educate my fellow white people and gather people of like mind to fight the good fight.

Julie: Nice. And did you get a lot of people for your first time, or was it popular?

Janina: I got a lot of signups, but there weren’t a lot of people that actually ended up coming, and I think they – for some reason, I don’t think that they thought it was a book group, I think they thought I was giving a presentation. So, I mean, we managed to have a perfectly lovely conversation anyway, and an informative one, so it was kind of nice to be able to come together with some people and discuss some of the issues, because they were things like white privilege that some had never heard of before.

Julie: Mm. So now, getting into the book a little bit, would you just mind giving an overview about what the book is about for those that haven’t read it?

Janina: Sure.  So the book is about how white people address racism, or how they don’t address racism. And it’s not just racism as in, “Oh, that person is racist, but I’m not.” It’s – she’s basically talking about in the book, that everyone is racist, and that they, in some way, whether they’re aware of it or not, uphold racist ideas and ideals – such as policies that we might not know that we are part of, that uphold racism. Our school systems, for example, is a good example of that. You know, we have what we call the “good” neighborhoods, quote-unquote, and the “bad” neighborhoods, quote-unquote; and in the “bad” neighborhoods, those are where the poorer schools are. But we don’t let anybody into our, quote-unquote, “good” neighborhoods. So there are systems of oppression that are in place that we can either uphold, or just – or we’re just not aware of it; we’re just completely ignorant to it.

Julie: Mm. So I know at the beginning of the episode you mentioned that you had a desire to learn about some of these issues yourself. Were there any issues in the book or ideas presented in the book that you didn’t know about and were shocked by?

Janina: Well, I think the first thing that struck me was the entire concept that racism it’s not just – when people think of racism, they think of the Ku Klux Klan, they think of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. And it’s not just that. They think of the extreme acts, but they don’t think of the everyday microaggressions that white people can uphold, such as ideas like redlining; and, like I mentioned before, our education system; and environmental racism is a thing, where, in poorer neighborhoods, there might be – might have more difficulty with getting clean air, or clean resources like water; whereas in affluent neighborhoods where, you know, the richer people live, you have cleaner air, more open spaces. So there’s a disparity. And so just saying that “I’m not racist,” in some way, you’re holding an implicit bias. And the idea is to look inside yourself and recognize what those implicit biases are, and then work through them. Because we all have them, whether we are aware of them consciously or not.

Julie: When you were talking about environmental racism, that inaccess to clean air and clean water, I’m sure that’s come to a head recently with the pandemic, and the way that some communities are affected, which is something that we discussed on another episode of this podcast, with Nia Keith.

Janina: And, like – because a lot of – there’s more Black people that are dying of Covid because they are needed in the workforce, because of whatever their situation is – so there’s a lot of Black people that are out in the workforce that are exposed to the virus more often than not, more often than white people, so they’re dying at a higher rate than white people are, and that’s a real problem.

Julie: Mm.

So I just kind of wanted to ask you about some terms that are being thrown around often now on the news, on social media, that come up in this book, and I’m wondering if you could just sort of explain what they mean.

So the title of the book, White Fragility – what is white fragility?

Janina: White fragility is the defensiveness that happens when a white person is called out on their racism, and they immediately either dissolve into tears, or they get defensive and shut the conversation completely down.

Julie: What is systemic racism?

Janina: So systemic racism are things that are built into the fabric of our society, such as redlining. And redlining is – they would redline certain areas in a town or a city, like, “Oh, these are the lower-income areas, the areas that people will not move into,” and typically it was because there were people of color that lived there.

So – and also, if a Black family moved into those areas, there was what they called white flight, so they would have all of these people that would, all these white people that would move out of those cities, or those little areas, because they didn’t want their – they thought that the value of their house that would go down because Black people lived there, and plus, because they were racist and thought, you know, “Oh, that means danger.”

So the redlined neighborhoods were considered the, quote-unquote, “bad” neighborhoods, and the other neighborhoods are allowed to be affluent and had money poured into them, but the redlined neighborhoods did not. So their education systems failed, the businesses didn’t do so well; so there was a downturn in their, in that city’s structure of – you know, and clean air, and clean water, and all those things.

So that’s, that is part of systemic racism. It’s something that’s built into the society, that we are not always aware of, but we see it in our media, we see it in the things that we consume. With our books, there’s always, always white characters that we’ve seen. I mean, I can count on one hand how many times as a kid I read a book with a Black person on the cover or in the story.

Julie: Mm. Yeah, going back to redlining, I had just watched the – it’s a Netflix series called Explained; it’s a documentary series, and in each episode they explain a different idea or thing – and the one I recently watched was on the racial wealth gap, and they did a really good job about explaining redlining, which, I’m embarrassed, I just didn’t learn much about in school. It’s not something that gets taught, so I didn’t know that much about it. And they do a really good job, sort of explaining why it exists, and how much wealth gets accumulated through owning property, and why that goes hand-in-hand. So, thank you.

Janina: And they also made it very difficult – I read an article, and it was about reparations, and they interviewed some people, some Black people who were trying to get houses, like in the ’50s and the ’60s, and how differently they were treated in [order to be] able to get mortgages over their white counterparts. They were charged astronomical amounts and not given any leeway at all; if you were even a minute late, then you were either kicked out or charged an additional fee – whereas their white counterparts did not have that kind of problem. So they were definitely trying to, like, push these people out of living where they were because they just wanted to – they didn’t want them there. So it was a way of extorting money from them, and also trying to push them out.

Julie: Yeah, and as you explained before, so much of the opportunities that you’re given, or the privilege that you come into this world with, come from where you live or where you grew up, or, you know, all of those things, so –

I also wanted to ask you what it means when somebody calls you a racist, because your first gut instinct is to be embarrassed, you know, in dismay, so what – what does that mean?

Janina: Well, according to what I read in White Fragility, being called a racist is not saying, “Oh, you’re part of the KKK.” It’s implicit biases that you have, that you haven’t acknowledged, or worked through, for whatever reason. So being called a racist is not something that we can actually escape from in our society, because it’s something that has been so baked into everything around us that we’ve consumed, in even our – I mean, when we were in school, I was taught that the civil rights movement happened, and it was all over: like, everybody was equal, everything changed, and everything was better. And that’s not how it happened at all, and we’re seeing that reverberating through today. We’re seeing what happened after slavery was ended, that those polices that were put in place after to imprison Black people – incarcerate them to keep them in slavery and to keep them making money for the white people – you see that reverberating out through today.

So nothing really has changed a lot. Things have gotten, quote-unquote, “better,” but there are still severe issues in our policies and in our society that show us that we are still living in a racist society, and to say that we’re not is to be kind of blind to it.

So I think when somebody calls you a racist, it’s saying, “You have some implicit biases, and maybe you don’t realize that you’re upholding something that is racist, but you are, whether you realize it or not.” So it’s kind of like, you know, they talk about being ‘woke’ – well, it’s like being able to open up your eyes and say, “Holy crap, like, I do uphold it in some way,” or, “I am participating in it in some way.” That doesn’t mean you can’t dismantle it; that doesn’t mean you can’t be an ally. You still can. And I think the work comes when you realize, “Yeah, I’ve lived in this society, I’m a racist, I own it” – and then you work forward to change it.

Julie: And probably knowing when you’re going to mess up, or, if you do mess up, it’s not the end-all, be-all the work that you’re, you know, passionate about.

Janina: Right. And she talks about that a lot too, and other things that I’ve read, they talk about that: you’re going to get called out, you’re going to be told that you’re being racist or you’ve said something racist. And part of white fragility is, when you’re told that, that you shut down the conversation by crying, and making it about you, or feeling guilty, and making it about you again, and not addressing the issues.

So it’s kind of like – you have to kind of become accepting of the fact that you’re going to get called out, and then accept the fact that you can sit back and sit with it and just try to understand what the other person is saying, and where you feel that maybe they, that they’re right – that, “Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have said that; that was insensitive, and now I know why.” So use that as a learning experience.

Julie: It’s kind of a good life lesson too, and not – you know, just within this work, but it’s something that people can learn.

Janina: The Buddhists have been telling us that for years. Sit with it, sit with it, you know?

Julie: That’s good – we’re finally getting somewhere!

Janina: Right.

Julie: So, I wanted to ask you your opinions on the book, and why you chose it for the first book group that you ran, and why in general it’s a good reading choice now.

Janina: I chose it because I felt that when we talk about racism, we have a really hard time with the conversation, because we are uncomfortable, we don’t know what to say, we’re afraid to say certain things – like, even as I’m talking, I’m thinking, “Did that sound racist? Did that sound racist?” You know?

And I think the problem that white people have is that they’re so afraid to say the wrong thing that they stop the conversation before it can even begin. But until we really start having these conversations, nothing is going to change. So we really need to start having them.

And I also feel that sometimes white people feel like they need to be coddled a little bit, that you need to approach it in a gentle way of, “Now, don’t get offended, but” – you know – and sometimes I feel like people need to be, maybe, shocked a little bit out of that, and White Fragility, I feel, is definitely in your face. Like, it can be uncomfortable – I think it’s uncomfortable for some people to read. I have found that a lot of people have had problems with reading the book because of how in-your-face it is, and I think that it can cause some uncomfortable feelings if there are issues that you haven’t addressed, or that you are afraid to own or don’t want to own.

And so I chose that one to kind of like – “Ok, we’re going to get real serious real fast.”

Julie: Get ready!

Janina: Here we go!

Julie: What about other books that you’ve either started, or thought about taking as next steps, on the subject that you think people would get a lot out of?

Janina: Well, I can say that we are partnering with SURE, which is Swampscott Unites, Respects, and Embraces. So we at the library, we’re partnering with SURE to do – we picked three books that we’re going to read as a town. And those three books are Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson; How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, who is in B.U. right now, having just started the antiracism research department; and also – we haven’t picked the fiction yet. We’re doing a biography, we’re doing a nonfiction, and we’re going to do a fiction.

Julie: Nice!

Janina: And we haven’t picked the fiction yet. So we wanted to give people a variety of books to read. And we – and for my personal suggestions, I’ve just started reading How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. I listened to him speak the other night, and he’s absolutely fantastic, and I would love to get him for the library.

And So You Want to Talk About Race is another good one, and Stamped From the Beginning. There’s two versions: there’s Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, and there’s the YA version, which is just called Stamped, and is written by Jason Reynolds.

And Stamped I find really interesting, because it takes us to the beginning of racism back in, like, the 1400s, and carries us through to present day and the policies that were put in place and how slavery came to be, how Irish people became white, and how race was even just something that came about in that time. You know, it wasn’t something that was pervasive. To be ‘white,’ that was something that was socially constructed.

So I recommend those books. Also The New Jim Crow, which is a book that I also want to read, that’s on my to-read list.

Julie: Nice. Now, I just wanted to ask you what people can do generally to help the Black Lives Matter movement – I mean, I know reading and joining book groups like this is a good place to start, but what about, more generally, would you suggest?

Janina: I would suggest finding groups in your area. There’s a Progressive Massachusetts group that I know exists, and there’s some groups that are called, like, Indivisible Westford, Indivisible Lowell, or Progressive Lowell. There’s different ones, there’s probably different chapters, in different towns, in your town, and my suggestion would be to check them out, see what they’re doing. I know that right now the vote is a very big deal, and people are pushing for that. Also police reform is huge right now, and today, actually, I just sent off a letter from Progressive Massachusetts to my representatives about the police reform bill to pass it.

There’s also a group called SURJ, which is Showing Up for Racial Justice, and that’s usually led by white people, but they partner with – the whole point of the white groups that are pushing for racial justice, is they usually partner with Black-led groups to kind of show them the way. So they’re not leading the charge, but they’re helping the charge, and I think that’s important, because the Black-led groups need our help and they need our support.

You could also look up Black Lives Matter online; there’s movement for Black Lives Matter; there’s so much. I’ve done a ton of research and I keep coming across different things. Swing Left is another one – yeah, there’s a lot. There’s a SURJ chapter in Andover, where I live; there’s one in Boston, as well; so –

And there’s also places where you can donate for the bail funds for protesters who are being arrested so that they have a means to get out. So there’s tons – if you do your research, there are tons. And on our Black Lives Matter page, I’ve put those resources, as well, and places you can either join, volunteer, or donate to.

Julie: I’ll be sure to link that in the description of this episode so that everybody has an opportunity to see that, but I think it’s cool that you mentioned so much about working within groups in your community. I think it’s a good way to expand your own horizons, and sort of get a feel for what’s actually going on in your community.

So, thank you!

Janina: You’re welcome. Thank you!

Episode 11: A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler with Laurie & Alyce Transcript

This is the Swampscott Library’s Librarians by the Sea podcast, where we share our love of a good book with you. I’m your host, Julie Travers.

Julie: Today I’m here with Laurie Souza, who is a reference librarian; and Alyce Deveau, who is the director; again. We’ve had them both on the podcast before, and all three of us have read the new novel A Good Neighborhood, which is by Therese Anne Fowler. She’s written a couple of other popular books recently in the last couple of years, including Z, which is a novel about Zelda Fitzgerald, and then another one – I think it was called Well-Behaved Woman, maybe?

Laurie: Yes. Yeah, I have a hold on that; I was hoping to get that at some point.

Julie: Yeah, I’ve read both of those and they were really good. This is different from those; those other two that she’s written in the past were historical fiction. Both take place in the 20th century. This is a present-day novel, and it is about two families that live in a neighborhood called Oak Knoll in North Carolina, and it’s the story of what happens to them over the course of, probably just a summer, I think.

So, to start off, would each of you mind giving me, sort of your general impressions of the book? What did you think about it?

Alyce: I liked it. I think it’s flawed, but I did like it. I enjoyed reading it; it kept my attention, I didn’t get bored through it, and I read it right to the end; and I did enjoy it, with some reservations.

Julie: Mm-hmm.

Laurie: I would say just about what Alyce said. I did have some problems with the book, especially with the character Brad, but in general it did capture my attention. I wanted to go back because I did care about a couple of the characters, and – so it was a book that I was kind of excited at the end of the day to sit down and read. But I wouldn’t say – I think it definitely has, I think it’s definitely flawed. But I’m a sucker for good characters; so it did pull me in, I have to say. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say I’d give it a 6.5, 7.

Alyce: I’d say seven.

Laurie: Yeah, seven.

Julie: Yeah, so it got a lot of buzz, which is, you know, probably one of the reasons why I wanted to read it; and a couple starred reviews, so that was good. I agree with both of you – I liked the idea of the novel, I thought it was a good premise, but I thought maybe the way she executed it wasn’t quite the way I wished it had gone. And I said this when we started, but I think maybe I wish it was a different author who had told the story, instead of her, just because her writing style kind of grated on me at times.

Laurie: Yeah, I was a little confused about the narrator. I mean, I know the narrator’s supposed to be the neighborhood, the neighbors, talking, but sometimes that threw me off a little bit. You know, I wasn’t sure who I was listening to, who was speaking to me. And I don’t – as a device, I don’t know how well that well that worked, to be honest.

Alyce: At first I thought it was the author who was being the narrator.

Laurie: Yeah.

Julie: Yeah.

Alyce: That she was narrating it to someone who’s reading – you know, as an unbiased observer, but then I thought it had to be the neighbors in the neighborhood, or some neighbor in the neighborhood, or whatever.

I didn’t like in the beginning being told it’s a tragedy.

Laurie: Yeah, I didn’t either.

Alyce: It’s one of the first things – I don’t need someone to tell me that I’m going to read a tragedy!

Julie: Right.

Alyce: And I found that a little aggravating, like, “In case you people are not aware, this is a tragedy.” I felt like it was almost insulting the reader.

Laurie: Yeah, I didn’t want to start off that way. Then it causes a tension for me in the rest of the reading, like, what’s really gonna happen?

Alyce: Yeah.

Laurie: – something bad is going to happen, and it’s probably not going to happen to the person that, the character, I care about – so, yeah, I was like, I didn’t really need that at the beginning. I agree.

Julie: Yeah. So what you guys are referring to is that at the very beginning, we find out that there’s a funeral for somebody, and we don’t know who it’s for, but for the rest of the book we’re sort of wondering, “When does this funeral come into play?” Because it must come in at some point, but it’s not.

Laurie: Right. You know, I heard that the narrator was considered the Greek chorus of tragedy, that’s what she was trying to – that’s how it was described in some of the reviews. And I thought, “Oh, I hadn’t really thought of it that way,” but that kind of made sense.

Julie: Yeah. I thought that having the narrator be a group of people was almost – it was sort of ominous. It gave the novel kind of, like, an ominous, sort of foreboding, tone. Maybe that’s just, even because you knew that there was a tragedy coming; but yeah, I felt like it was all eyes on this situation at all times, and that was also kind of scary, too.

What about some of the flaws that you both mentioned at the beginning of the episode? What do you think those flaws are; do you want to drill into that a little?

Laurie: Well, I was a little confused by the development of Brad. That character confused me, because I started off thinking one thing, and then it just seemed to have – his character just seems to have gone to an extreme, and I don’t quite know how that happened. Plus, he was – he made you uncomfortable because of his desire for whatever for his daughter, his affection for his stepdaughter. But he got so ugly at the end, and I was – I don’t know, it kind of caught me by surprise a little bit, like I didn’t see the development of it. So I kind of felt that was a flaw. The narrator knocked me off a little bit. Those are the only two, like, the big ones that I can think of.

Julie: Mm.

Alyce: I agree. I don’t think Brad was developed correctly.

Laurie: No.

Alyce: I think in the beginning he didn’t seem as bad. He seemed a little creepy, not evil…

Laurie: Yeah, something was off.

Alyce: I did read in one of the reviews that they didn’t like it because she named him Whitman, which could’ve been seen as ‘white man.’

Laurie: Oh, I didn’t even…

Alyce: And I didn’t even think of that myself.

Laurie: I didn’t even think of that; no, didn’t catch that at all.

Alyce: Because he was the ostentatious white man in the neighborhood.

Laurie: Yeah.

Alyce: But I don’t know. I didn’t like the development of that character. I did like the development of Xavier. I really felt she did a fairly good job with the development of that character.

Laurie: Very much so. I felt like I got to know him.

Alyce: Me too, and I liked the way she developed him.

Laurie: Mm-hmm.

Julie: Yeah, so just for context about the story – just in case people haven’t read it yet, because it is pretty new – there is a white family – the character Brad is part of the, is the dad of the family, Brad Whitman – and he has a wife, Julia; and she has a daughter, Juniper, from a previous relationship; and then the two of them, Brad and Julia, have a daughter together whose name is Lily. So there’s four white family members that live next door to a single Black mother whose name is Valerie, and her son, who is about Juniper’s age, his name is Xavier. And he’s a really talented guitarist; he’s headed to a private music school in the fall for college. So, yeah, it’s kind of about their relationship. It starts with a lawsuit about, over a tree that is in the back of Valerie’s property, that she is extremely attached to, and develops into this other, bigger, issue that comes up between them.

Alyce: I did think it was kind of clever the way – Valerie is attached to the tree in her yard. She loved the tree, and Brad and his wife love their tree, Juniper. I thought that was kind of cute, the way she used trees as kind of a symbol in both families.

Laurie: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah.

Alyce: I found that interesting.

Laurie: Was there a reason why she named her Juniper? Because it’s a conifer, right, so it always has leaves –

Alyce: Ever-growing –

Laurie: It’s an evergreen.

Julie: So, I know we started talking a little bit about the characters, but what did you think about the characters?

Alyce: Well, as I said, I really liked Xavier. I really liked him. I felt like he was really believable. I could relate to the mother. She was proud of him – Valerie – and I think she had a pride in the fact that they had kind of made themselves. She was a self-made woman, and bringing up a son alone, and in an awkward situation where her son was half-white, half-Black, and in an area in North Carolina where segregation still is alive and well, even though it isn’t. I liked her. I liked him, too.

Julie: Yeah, part of the New York Times review that came out recently – she talked about how the characters were kind of – either good, or they were bad. Particularly, like, Xavier and his mother were considered ‘good’ people, and Brad was considered a ‘bad’ person, even though – I agree with you both that the jump between him being, kind of like a pseudo-celebrity in this small town who drives a Maserati, to suddenly being a pedophile, is kind of a big leap that the author made.

Laurie: Yeah, and that was – it seemed like a little bit of a jump, because she had really – he seemed to rescue them. You know, he refers to her as, his wife as, the “the rescue wife,” and I think – that’s kind of what it is, maybe, because I saw them as, ‘he was rescuing them,’ and then suddenly he’s a pedophile. And I just – it seemed like such a jump for me, you know?

Alyce: Yeah.

Julie: Yeah. I also thought it was strange the way that the author would sometimes compare Xavier to Brad in many different situations. I don’t know if either of you remember that?

Laurie: No, I don’t remember that.

Alyce: Well – yeah, I don’t remember that.

Laurie: No.

Julie: Sometimes she would just – I think one time, she said that both were kind of all-or-nothing type guys, and I, as a reader, I was like, “Why are we comparing an 18-year-old boy to this grown man

Laurie: Their intensity, you mean, like –

Julie: Yeah. And I just didn’t see why we had to compare, until –

Laurie: The intensity about them?

Julie: Yeah, until…

Laurie: Yeah, I didn’t notice that.

Alyce: I didn’t either. Yeah, I didn’t either.

Julie: This book has a – it deals with a lot of issues.

Laurie: Yep.

Julie: Throughout the course of the book, one of the issues that they deal with extensively is the role of gender. So what did you think about that in particular? I think there’s a lot to say about what the Whitman view of – for Juniper was, and what they thought would make her best life. Did you have any feelings about that?

Laurie: That was like a stomach-turner, calling her JuniPure and the whole purity promise or pact, I forget what it’s called, that was just – oh. That turned my stomach, really, that they would tell a girl that her worth is in her purity. And then encouraging her to – ‘you don’t need to go to college; you just need to find a husband to take care of you.’ I just – I guess from, you know, being in Massachusetts – does that really still happen? I’m sure it does, but I just – it seems so foreign to me, you know?

Julie: Yeah.

Alyce: And Valerie was just the opposite, where she was just the woman supporting the family – had a boyfriend, had had a husband – you know what I mean, like, she was, like, totally different. Their ideas of what the roles of women were, were almost two totally different things in each home.

Laurie: Which, you know, Julia was a survivor herself. She was a single mom until Juniper was 10, right, so –

Alyce: But she bought into Brad.

Laurie: Well, he rescued her.

Alyce: He rescued her.

Laurie: Do they imply that somehow Julia was kind of on the hunt for a man to take care of her? Isn’t that somehow implied about her?

Alyce: Yeah.

Julie: What do you think of all the flashbacks in the novel? To, like, Julia’s past, Brad’s past, Valerie’s past – you know, everybody’s past was in the book.

Alyce: Well, I think it was her way of developing the character.

Laurie: Not very well!

Alyce: But not very…

Laurie: Brad was very vague. I didn’t understand how he came from that to what he – I didn’t understand that.

Julie: Yeah. I thought – so, two-thirds of the book is just, basically, flashbacks on each of the characters, and then the last third of the book is where it gets interesting, and I felt like we could’ve maybe switched that, the weight that she placed on those people, but…

Laurie: Oh…

Alyce: Yeah. I do think it helped to, to get a better picture of how Valerie was and where she came from – the white husband who died; you know, like, it wasn’t ‘just’ a single Black mother with a child; you know, that type of thing. She had a ‘normal,’ if you would, ‘normal’ life that kind of fell apart when her husband died. I think it helped with her, but I don’t think it helped with Julia and Brad, the flashbacks.

Laurie: No. I had a connection to Valerie, definitely, and I think that’s because, you know, the love she has for her son and also for the plants – for the tree. I mean, she loves that tree. I can understand that, loving a tree. That tree represented a lot. It was – it represented a lot in her life. That’s the tree she hugged when she was mourning her husband, and, you know, feeling overwhelmed by being a single mother. I could see how she wanted for that child – that tree was like her child. It was like that tree had – that tree had deep roots where it was, and it’s like she had deep roots in that neighborhood, too. She was like the oak tree in the neighborhood, too.

Julie: So the book is called A Good Neighborhood. What makes a neighborhood good, or bad, to you?

Alyce: Well, the people who live in it, for one thing; the care of the homes, for another; and a feeling of security. I think that would be my three things to make me feel I was in a good neighborhood.

Laurie: I think a good neighborhood was, it was the connection the neighbors had with each other, and how caring they were. I really liked – I liked how they described Valerie. You know, she – they, neighbors took care of each other. They didn’t always like each other, necessarily; they weren’t perfect; not everyone got along; you know, there were a couple of characters in the group, like the book group, and stuff. But I think they did care and support for each other; and I think for that, it was a good neighborhood. I think Brad looked at it differently – he looked at the location as a good neighborhood – but for them, I think it was their connection.

Julie: Yeah, I really liked the scene of all of them at the book club…

Laurie: Yeah, and they fought, and they disagreed, you know, rolling their eyes at each other, but they were friends – they were neighbors, they were good neighbors – and they cared about each other.

Alyce: And I liked when Julia tried to fit in by bringing pâté de foie gras – I mean…

Laurie: I know.

Alyce: And I felt bad for her.

Laurie: I felt bad for her too.

Alyce: I felt bad for her, when she arrived with pâté de foie gras.

Laurie: Yeah. She was looking to fit in.

Alyce: Not exactly what we serve at a book group at the library.

Julie: No!

Laurie: And she was grateful for what she had. She couldn’t believe the house she lived in. She spent many years living just the opposite of that, and she made it pretty clear that she felt very grateful for that.

Julie: Yeah. I liked the scenes that she was written about in. I liked her as a character, actually, until things got ugly; but, yeah, I felt like she had a serious journey to get there, and she made use of it.

Laurie: And she seems to turn around at the end – I mean, I think Brad told a good story, and I think it was easy enough to believe it without really asking too many questions, you know, about what really happened.

Alyce: Talk about twisting the facts to fit what you want it to fit, you know, and – he did a good job.

Julie: Yeah, he did.

Alyce: Handling it, if you would.

Laurie: If you didn’t know what happened, and then he came and you listened to his story, it was pretty convincing.

Alyce: Oh, right. He did a really good job.

Laurie: Yeah. It was very stress – I thought the ending was very stressful.

Alyce: Yeah.

Julie: Mm-hmm.

Alyce: I was just saying, you told me to read it – you had read it, and I read it because you had recommended it, and I do think it would be a good book group book.

Julie: Yes.

Alyce: There are tons of things in that book to talk about. All of the issues that they had, I think would be a  great book group book. I think it would be a book that not everyone would love, which is really a good book group book.

Laurie: That’s a good book! That’s a good book club book. There’s a lot to discuss.

Julie: Even just the ending I thought was really, really shocking, and there would be a lot to discuss.

Laurie: Yeah. I kind of saw it coming, and it broke my heart, you know, and that’s when I was like, turning the pages quickly. I had a sense, when she went away for the weekend and he lied – he didn’t say that he had received that phone call from the lawyer – I kind of knew, you know? That broke my heart.

Alyce: It was a heart-rending tragedy.

Laurie: It really was, yeah.

Alyce: Yeah, it really was – even though from the beginning you knew it was a tragedy.

Julie: Mm-hmm.

Laurie: But it – oh, I don’t want to give the ending away, but –

Alyce: No, no. I think people should read it – I think it’s a book well worth reading.

Laurie: I don’t know how much of a tragedy it would’ve been if it was, maybe, another character. You know?

Julie: Yeah, I agree, I think that everybody should read it and could read it. What did you guys think about – I don’t know if anybody else picked up on this, but she put her acknowledgments at the beginning of the book, and most of the acknowledgments are just her saying that felt like she had to tell the story because she had been – it had already been formed in her mind; but she was hesitant to tell it because she would have to tell the story of two Black characters as the main characters, and she is a white author. Did you catch the acknowledgments, or read the acknowledgements? I don’t usually, but I just, it was at the very beginning. 

Laurie: Yeah, I don’t think I did.

Alyce: I didn’t

I did read in a review, though, one of the reviews, they asked her why she felt she was qualified to do that, and she said you do a lot of research before you try to write. So she must have felt she was. 

Alyce: Yeah.

Laurie: Yeah, I read that too. Some people don’t think she pulled it off.

Alyce: Yeah.

Julie: Right. I mean, I think that was her way of trying to get, like, out in front of any criticism that she was going to face, because there is so much –

Alyce: Oh, right.

Julie: – backlash that authors face, if they – you know, if they ever make a mistake that a Black author wouldn’t have made in the same situations.

Laurie: Yep.

Alyce: She covered herself right from the start.

Julie: Yeah. And I think it was her just trying to overcompensate for some of those issues, by just going, like, kind of too hard. She just tried to span the board, I think, way too much. 

Laurie: Do you mean, like, through Valerie – you mean, through the character of Valerie and Valerie’s beliefs, you mean?

Julie: Maybe hers, but, I mean, she hit climate change through Valerie, she hit the idea, you know, gender roles and feminism. I mean, there was just, like, –

Laurie: Corruption, corruption –

Alyce: Right.

Julie: Not that any of those issues are not important to address, but I…

Laurie: No, you’re right. She touched upon them – maybe not appropriately, either.

Julie: I feel like she was just kind of, maybe…

Alyce: I don’t know if she’d really love this review of her book!

Julie: I’m sorry! I did like it, I liked the story, but…

Laurie: I think it’s definitely worth reading and then, you know, discussing it with somebody, because I –

Alyce: Discussing it – I think it’s definitely a book you have to talk about after you read it.

Laurie: I agree.

Alyce: That’s kind of why we’re doing this, because I wanted to see what other people thought of it, you know? I wanted to talk about it.

Laurie: Well, thank you, Julie.

Alyce: Thank you very much.

Julie: Yeah, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Alyce: Alright.

Laurie: Alright.

Alyce: Bye!

Laurie: Bye, guys!

Learning Series – Swampscott Fish House, Interview with Lou Gallo Transcript

Susan: Hello! This is the Librarians by the Sea podcast, presented by the Swampscott Public Library. Today’s topic will be the Swampscott Fish House. I’m Susan Conner, and today I’m talking with Lou Gallo. Lou Gallo has been an associate of the Swampscott Historical Commission, and I know him better because he’s been the moderator of the Swampscott History Buffs group that has met at the library every month for more years than I can count. Welcome to our podcast – thanks for joining us, Lou!

Lou: Oh, you’re welcome. It’s not that bad!

Susan: I know. This should be a good talk today, I think. Well, let me start with – for those of us that did not grow up near an ocean, can you explain just what is a fish house?

Lou: Well, sure – well, I’ll take a shot at it, anyway. The term “the Fish House” is just a title. Technically, it’s a storage building for fisherman. It is also – I don’t know if it still is, but for many, many, many generations, it was only municipal fish house on the Eastern coast from Maine to the Mexican border. It was built in 1896 – I’ll get into why – and then in 1988 it was put on the National Register of Historic Places because of its uniqueness as a municipal building. A lot of towns have storage houses or fish houses, but they’re privately owned.

The reason of the fish houses – in the late 1800s, as people became very successful, especially in the Boston area, they wanted to come to the ocean for vacations: in the hot summers, get out of the city. Several hotels were built in the 1870s and early 1880s, and then after that, people started buying out big chunks of property to build summer homes on Gallloupes Point and Littles Point, you know.

Susan: It’s a beautiful area; definitely a beautiful area there. 

Lou: Yeah. But the problem is, coming down along the coast, once you got to, almost to the Lynn-Swampscott line, actually right along there, there were fish shacks all along there. And then once you got over to the other side, all along Fisherman’s Beach, where the parking lot is and even further down, there were literally shacks that they kept the equipment in, sometimes fish – dried fish, which, you haven’t lived till you’ve smelled them. 

Susan: Oh, boy.

Lou: So the town decided that – I think from pressure from some of these wealthier people and the owners of the hotels – that they needed to beautify the coast. So they took by eminent domain a lot of these little individual lots and built this fish building, the fish house, with all these lockers, so these people who had these small little shacks, or cottages, if you will, were guaranteed a locker in the building. And it is pretty much the way it is today, which is very, very beautiful, along the coast. So that’s kind of where it all started from, to kind of make the coast more beautiful.

Some of the nicer fish cottages that they actually lived in were moved inland along Puritan – it was Orient Street, but now Puritan Road – and down through there. Half a dozen of them still exist. Some have been expanded, but a couple of the really small ones are still there. I’m sure they go for a fortune now. 

Susan: They probably do.

Lou: Yeah. But that was why the Fish House was built. Architecturally, they didn’t want to just put up, you know, a block, so they hired this architect from Lynn. I can’t remember his name, but he designed the building – I think it’s thirty-six feet wide, but ninety feet long; I know it’s ninety feet long. The interesting thing is that the color of the Fish House right now is the color of the original Fish House. A few years later, they painted it a light brown. Then the next time it was painted, it was like a milk chocolate brown. And then I remember from my youth it being a darker brown with green doors, and then later with blue doors – I mean, it’s been this whole multiple-use, and cared-for, building. When the Historical Commission, in the ’80s, were getting ready to have it restored and were trying to find the colors, a couple of the doors into the lockers could not be opened all the way because of the paint buildup on them, so we managed to get one of the doors out, and it had like seven layers of paint on it – different colors, two or three inches wide.

Susan: Wow.

Lou: So we were able to trace it all the way back to the original building, which are the colors that it is now. 

Susan: Very cool.

Lou: Yeah, it was. For, oh, maybe fifteen years, twenty years, tops, at one time it was painted red – which is what most people remember, because it was in the ’60s or ’70s, and it was red before we changed it to the color that it is now. It didn’t go over that big; people liked it red. That’s around the same time that the pier was built.

Anyway, the fishermen used it for storing their gear and stuff. I don’t think that there’s any fishermen left – I think Mr. Grimes was the last of the real fishermen, net fishermen. There’s lobstermen in there now, and recreational boat people now. The last of the fishermen – and when I say fishermen I’m talking about drop lines and nets – they kind of either went up to Gloucester or Newbury, because they now go out to the Grand Banks more than this. When I was a kid you could catch a, sometimes you could catch a haddock knee-deep in water. Now if you caught a haddock out in Nahant Bay, you’d make the front page of The Item, because it’s been so overfished and polluted. So the fishermen have moved out, and there’s a couple of lobstermen still around. And I’ve always made a distinction between the two. So, like I said, they would store gear and stuff like that. Lots of times, the lobster traps would be stacked, because they were wood then, where the parking lot is now. And the dories on the beach. So that’s pretty much what it is and why it is, probably more than any other reason. 

Susan: Sure. It’s definitely something unique to Swampscott. 

Lou: Yeah. Well, Swampscott was a very small town, and they were only maybe twenty-five, thirty years old from – it was Ward One of Lynn until it separated in 1852 under the influence of some very successful large property owners and beach people, hotel people, so their influence through all of this – breaking away from Lynn, becoming an independent town, and then cleaning up the coastline, if you will, because then you had these enormous hotels and huge summer estates, and people traveling to get to it had to go by all these shacks and drying racks and stuff like that. 

Susan: Interesting. Do you know any stories about some of the gentlemen who were actually fishermen at the time? What was it like to be a fisherman in their heyday?

Lou: It was tough. I’m not that old that I can remember; I knew a couple of them by sight and name, but not so much. We have records of – the dory was used along with what they called the pinky, which was kind of a fat two-masted schooner, first, before they became more sleek, and they were the ones they would take out to the sea, and then they’d get in the dories and go out with drop lines fishing. 

There is one story, I don’t remember the man’s name, but the guy from the other dory saw this giant shark jump into his boat. The boat, the shark, and the fisherman were never seen again, and he may well have been the first recorded death by shark; which is not something you want to be proud of, but I remember that story. 

I remember, when I was a kid my grandmother would give me Thursday night’s Item and a dollar, and I’d go sit down on the east end of Fisherman’s Beach waiting for one of the fisherman to come in, and I would go get a haddock or whatever the fish was. And they would gut it, clean it, wrap it in the paper, and I’d bring it home, and that was Friday night’s supper. 

Susan: Oh, very good! 

Lou: One time, this guy cut the head off, and I brought it home, and my grandmother was very upset with me, and said “How do I know it’s fresh?” I said, “It was flapping on the bottom of the boat!”

Susan: That’s pretty fresh!

Lou: Yeah, still pretty fresh. But she wanted it to make a fish chowder or something. 

But Lucky Williams was a very successful fisherman and a lobsterman for many, many years. Some of the characters that hung around the fish house, I knew they were friendly with my uncle. Some lived in the neighborhood. But the Martins were another big family of fishermen; the Houghtons; and like I said, they were fishermen, then some of them turned to lobsters, especially because the hotels and stuff wanted them. And then over the years that has also changed and become more out to sea and commercialized than individuals. I guess they’re hurting right now. So like I said, the agreement with the town is that they would be professional fishermen. And I remember one time, probably in the ’60s or ’70s, when they were starting to rent them out to individuals for recreation, they wanted to check their taxes to see what their – because a couple of them were oil truck deliverers during the winter, so were they full-time fishermen, or were they part-time fishermen? So who was entitled to – there was a long list of people waiting for a locker, so they were trying to figure out who was eligible first, because the agreement was that full-time fishermen would have first preference. In fact, I don’t think that’s even an issue anymore, because I think – and some of them are shared by two or three people now. So that’s about it. 

Susan: Alright, that makes sense. Well, you mentioned one possible first with the shark attack; that’s a little scary. But I understand there are a few other firsts for Swampscott. I’ve heard that there was a gentleman named Ebeneezer Phillips, who was the first person of European background to learn how to dry fish, and then he went on to sell it?

Lou: Yes, indeed. He was very friendly with a bunch of Native Americans who spent the summer here doing exactly that before they went inland to shelter for the winter, and he started doing that, having fishermen do it. I don’t know if he ever did it himself. But eventually, he had a big, big area on Peaches Point in Marblehead, which is a very exclusive neighborhood now, was wide open and nothing around. So they had huge racks of drying fish; I can’t imagine what the smell was like. He built his house halfway up on Greenwood Avenue – if you go up Greenwood Avenue and then take the little curve around, the house is still there. It’s got a house or two in front of it now, but before it had nothing in front of it except sky and ocean, and he could sit on his porch and watch ships coming in and out of Boston Harbor with – he knew when they were due or when they were leaving, so he could keep his eyes tack of it. Eventually he donated the land for the high school on Greenwood Avenue, which is now condos for sale. He became a, he was one of the first millionaires in town. He owned tons and tons of acres and areas of land. And part of his family is the Cook family, which also had the stone quarry. So they were very enormous land barons, if you will, and successful business people. And he was one. 

Another first was the invention of the lobster trap. I can’t remember his name, Thorndike, I think, or was he the dory – one or the other. But the guy who invented the lobster trap, they kind of laughed at it at first because lobsters were so plentiful. You could literally go down into the rocky areas, like on Whale’s Beach, near Lincoln House Point, any rocky area, and literally pick them up by hand. You didn’t need a trap to catch them. Now you do; you’re lucky if you get any. 

Susan: Sure, exactly. 

Lou: But he invented the lobster trap, and obviously it took off, and then several generations – not generations, several decades – later, it was improved – more net and less slats. The original ones were trapezoids, because out here in the bay it’s mostly sand, so the round-top ones, which is the most famous ones now, if the current took it, they’d start spinning, and God knows where they’d end up. But the flat ones would sit flat – you know, the bottoms were flatter than the top, and the trapezoid shape. 

And then of course, the famous Swampscott dory. Every once in a while, we still get a request, mostly from Asia, for plans on how to build a wooden Swampscott dory. The last time I remember has got to be ten or twelve years ago – because, of course, probably everything’s online now, on the computer – but then they weren’t, and we had a request from Taiwan for instructions on how to build a Swampscott dory.

Those three things, or two things, in one person, a real first. Maybe the fourth is the unfortunate passing of the fisherman. 

Susan: Sure; yeah. 

Lou: Yeah. So fishing has been a major, major part of the town. There was a – I forget the term; I remember my uncle telling me it, a thousand years ago – in the morning they’d start on the top of the hill, the fishermen, to get ready to go out, and they’d walk down to whoever’s house on the crew, and knock three times on the window and yell – I can’t remember what they’d yell – to get up and get going, because they wanted to take off, out to sea. 

Susan: It’s their signal.

Lou: Yeah, it was a custom that I remember him telling me about. And like I said, the crews – we have information in the library, some books that have records of who, and what they caught, and how much – even in the anniversary, 150th anniversary book, I did a – I don’t even know what you’d call it, but it’s a log of events, and a lot of them in there are, ‘So and so brought in 14,000 pounds of herring’ – not herring, but stripers, or cod, or whatever.

Susan: That was a lot of hard work. 

Lou: Oh, very hard. Oh, yeah, absolutely. And the irony of it is that most of the pictures that we have of old fishermen sitting around the Fish House are all dressed in suits with ties.  

Susan: They knew the picture was being taken, maybe. 

Lou: Evidently. There’s very few of them actually working. We have some – they used to have, when they were fishing, before, when the nets were still – I don’t know if they were cotton – thread, they would bring them in, and then they had these spinning racks that they would stretch the nets out and spin them on it so that they could air dry, because otherwise they’d rot, I guess. And we have pictures of those, of putting them on, and repairing nets. I can remember him.

He had this special, it wasn’t really a needle, but to weave and repair nets. And I can remember seeing him sitting on Fisherman’s Beach, repairing his nets or someone’s nets. I always found it fascinating. But like I said, the fishing industry is pretty much gone in Swampscott, other than recreational. Lobstering is even a lot less than it used to be. That’s pretty much where we’re at.  

Susan: Yeah. It shows that fishing was a really big part of Swampscott history.

Lou: Oh, absolutely. 

Susan: Over time.

Lou: Oh, yeah.

Susan: You touched a little bit on what’s being done with the Fish House today. There’s not as many commercial fisherman, or people around?

Lou: Yeah, I’m not even sure – there’s maybe one or two; I don’t really know. The second floor of the Fish House, which was an enormous open area originally, on the ocean end, which has now got a little wing, it’s now got a balcony out there, it had a big slot – if you see a real old picture of the Fish House, it had a flat edge and this big open – not big open, but a tall, thin opening, and they could drag or pull sails up through there to dry, hang and dry, up on that floor. 

Susan: Keep it out of the weather?

Lou: Yeah. That ended with the advent of motorboats. Then it became, I think in 1933, the Yacht Club took over the second floor, and still is there. 

Susan: Ok, nice. 

Lou: And then the third floor, which is technically, would be considered a widow’s walk, which is where the flagpole is, I think that’s – or it used to be if you go up there; I haven’t seen anybody up there in many, many – actually, it needs to be repaired right now. But like I said, the second floor became the Swampscott Yacht Club, and I think they eventually took over the entire second floor. For a long time they only had a little more than half. So that’s pretty much the way it’s used today. 

Susan: Well, it’s certainly nice that it’s a central point for Swampscott residents – you know, the building looks nice, and it’s a community place for the town. 

Lou: Yeah. They hold events there and in the parking lot. I don’t know if they have the splash… I forget what they call it. 

Susan: The polar bear plunge?

Lou: The polar bear plunge, yeah. The Fourth of July they used to hold a ‘bang and go back’ race, a boat race. They’d all line up; they’d have to go full throttle out until they heard the cannon go off, then turn around and come back as fast as they could. The first one back won the trophy. 

Susan: Alright!

Lou: I’m not sure they do that; I don’t think they’ve done that for many, many years; but they did for a long time. It’s kind of funny. 

Susan: Very good. Well, thank you. Those are some very stories. We’re all proud of our town, but it’s nice to hear some of these firsts, and things that Swampscott can be known for and be proud of. 

Lou: Yeah. 

Susan: So I appreciate all the stories.

Lou: Well, I’m glad.

Susan: Yes, it’s worked out very well.

Lou: This is the kind of bull sessions that we have at the History Buffs, and it triggers the memories of a lot of the people who come, and we learn more about different events, you know, as opposed to hard-nosed, boring history. It becomes more fun and interesting. So hopefully, we’ll get back to doing that again. We’ve done it for twenty-three years. 

Susan: Well, I hope we’ll continue on, you all. I definitely want to put a shout-out, if anyone else is interested in discussing Swampscott history, it’s a very good group of people that meets on the first Friday of every month at ten o’clock, and we should, as soon as the library is able to open back up to the public, the History Buffs will be right there again on the first Friday at ten. So we’re looking forward to that again. 

Lou: Right, and hopefully the historical society is going to start – well, we do have lectures at the library on Saturdays upstairs, and we have a few ideas of people willing to do a program for that. That usually comes with slides and pictures. Again, one of these days, hopefully we will be doing them again.

Susan: Very good. We’re looking forward to that. Well, I will wrap up. 

Lou: Well, be well. 

Susan: Very good. Take care of yourself. Thank you to the listeners for joining us, and we’ll talk again sometime. 

Lou: Anytime. Take care.

Susan: Thank you. Bye!

Lou: Bye!

Learning Series – Era of the Summer Estates, Interview with Mary Cassidy

Susan: Hello! Thank you for joining us today on the Librarians by the Sea podcast. I’m Susan Conner, and I’m the Assistant Director of the Swampscott Public Library. Today we’re going to discuss another highlight in Swampscott history, the summer estates. I’m very happy to have with me today Mary Cassidy, whom you’ll remember from our last podcast, the New Ocean House. Mary is the past president of the Swampscott Historical Society, she served on the Swampscott Historical Commission for many years, she was chairperson of the Train Depot Exterior Restoration Committee, and she was active with the recent restoration of Andrews Chapel. Thank you for coming and joining me today, Mary. 

Mary: I’m very happy to be here.

Susan: Alright, let’s start today with what led you to research this time in Swampscott’s history. What interested you?

Mary: Well, several years ago I read a book called The Era of the Summer Estates: Swampscott, Massachusetts, 1870-1940, and it was written by Dorothy Anderson. And I became fascinated with the topic. Dorothy was a yearlong resident – a lifelong resident – of Swampscott, and interestingly enough, because she lived on the estates herself, her information is very firsthand. She gave the publishing rights for this book to the Swampscott Historical Society. So the first printing sold out, and there’s been a second printing, so the Historical Society is selling this particular book; but I know you have this book in the library, Susan.

Susan: We do.

Mary: So it’s a valuable piece of information. Let me tell you a little bit about Dorothy herself. She was born on December 8, 1908, and her father, Nils Anderson, was first-generation from Denmark, and he secured a position as estate manager and chauffeur for Elisha Cobb, whose estate, Wavecrest, was on Northstone Road – and interestingly enough, it is still there on Northstone Road. He later worked for Andrew Preston at his estate, called The Arches. And Dorothy’s mother was from Sweden, and she worked as a lady’s maid in these estates. So they were given housing on the estates in Swampscott during the summer, and they were given an apartment in Boston when their employers returned to the city for the winter. She attended Swampscott schools and attended Boston schools during the winter. She got her master’s degree from Boston University and taught English at Belmont High. She was very active in the town as a town meeting member, but most importantly, in 1985, she published The Era of Summer Estates in Swampscott, and the Swampscott Historical Society is very privileged to be the recipient of the original typed and hand-edited document of this book. She died in Swampscott at 89, but her knowledge of life on the estates in this town was firsthand. Because she was a young girl, she played with the Cobb children in and around the house and played with their friends on other estates, and then she would accompany her father, the chauffeur, when he had to pick up or deliver materials to these houses, so she was very familiar with the estates herself, but she also did extensive research into the background history of the estate owners and their homes, and without this book, this information about this colorful and and unique period in Swampscott’s history would be probably lost and forgotten, as this is the main source of this information. So we owe a great debt of gratitude to Dorothy Anderson.

Susan: It’s so nice to know that we have this information really firsthand, that she knew that.

Mary: Yes, it is. 

Susan: Thank you. Where were some of these estates? Just in driving around, I think I see some really lovely houses, but where were these estates located?

Mary: Well, Susan, you wouldn’t see them, because most of them have been demolished and the estate areas, the acres, have been put into smaller lots where houses have been built. Dorothy primarily describes the estates which were located in the Phillips Beach area of the town. This included the points extending to the right of Puritan Road as we head towards Marblehead, and the other area that she describes is the Beach Bluff area, which is mainly Atlantic Avenue – and the homes were on the left side of Atlantic Avenue heading to Marblehead, very few of them on the right side, so those estates on the left had this large, long, expansive view of the marshes and the ocean. 

But there also were a few in the center of the town, and one of the most famous ones was called Elmwood. As you know, we have an Elmwood Road right by our town hall. Well, this is where this summer home was built. It was built by Enoch Reddington Mudge, and in 1843 – so that’s, again, before the town was actually a town, and before, long before, the Civil War – he purchased 130 acres above King’s Beach. And he built a Gothic stone summer cottage – it was called a cottage – with tree-lined drives, and fountains, and magnificent gardens. And so this house was located right about where the lovely white Congregational church sits on Monument Avenue. After his death, his daughter deeded these acres to the Swampscott Land Trust, and they subdivided the property into lots designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, so this is now what we call our Olmsted area. But now homes in the Olmsted area, keep in mind, these were not summer estates; these were year-round homes, including Elihu Thomson’s home, so it isn’t really included when we talk about the era of the summer estates. But anyway, the first one was this Elmwood, right in the center of town. 

There was another, called Beechley, and this is about where the gazebo is on the park, on the monument area, and this was built for Mr. Isaac W. Chick, and later he built one closer to the water for his son. So those two houses were called the Chick Estate, and they were there for many, many years. After the family stopped coming, they kept the buildings there, so many of us of an older generation remember seeing those two houses there before it became a park and a playground with the gazebo. 

There also was another one behind Mission on the Bay or what we call Anthony’s Pier 4, there was a street that went down to that cliff, and there was a lovely one called Cliff House, and it was, again, right on the edge of the cliff, overlooking the water. So those were the three main summer estates in the center. The others were, definitely, as I said earlier, along Puritan Road, to the right, those cliffs that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean, and then along Atlantic Avenue itself.

Susan: Can you tell us who were some of the prominent families that lived on these? I know you mentioned Elihu Thomson; who were some of the people that lived on these estates?

Mary: Well, Dorothy divides them into two categories: the advantaged, and the self-made men. Most of those who built estates in Swampscott were from the Boston area, and the business that they were involved in encompassed banking and investments, insurance, leather manufacturers, wool and cotton merchants – well, just too many here to list. But I would like to tell you some of the businesses you’ll recognize. For example, the owner of the United Shoe Machinery Company – this is what we now call the Cummings Center in Beverly, that large, large building – the owner of the United Shoe Machinery Company lived in Swampscott. Also the founder of the Federal National Bank of Boston; PaineWebber and Company, a brokerage firm, the founder and owner of that lived in Swampscott; the owner of Gillette safety razor; the United Fruit Company. The United Fruit Company is an important one because before that time, people had to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables, but that company was the company that began to bring fruits and vegetables from South America and other parts of the country up to New England, so people could finally have strawberries in the fall, or bananas year-round, and so it was a very, very important company. And the owner of that company lived in Swampscott. The owner of Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company. And then there were many department store owners. Department stores, as you probably know, would be very, very new in this time and age. Before that there were individual stores – a dry goods merchant, etc. – but at the turn of the century, department stores came into vogue, and the owners of R. H. Stearns lived in Swampscott; Mr. White of White’s Department Store in Boston; the owner of Gilchrist’s, that was the Isemans; Jordan Marsh, the manager; William Filene’s son; John H. Pray, which was a very important furniture store at that time, the owner lived in Swampscott; the owner of Schrafft’s Candy; the owner of Stickney and Poor Spice; and of course, the co-founder of the General Electric. But all of these were very well-known and important, CEOs, we would call them these days, that lived here in Swampscott. 

Susan: That is an impressive list of people who’ve lived here that – it’s been a great place to live for a long time! What can you tell us about some of these houses? I know I’ve seen pictures of a few –

Mary: I would love to. There are so many that I can only talk about a few. But if we take a walk, an imaginary walk, up along Puritan Road, the first right that we would come to would be Lincoln House Point, and this was named after the famous hotel, the Lincoln House, built in the 1860s. Many years later, in 1911, a beautiful stucco building with a bright red roof, called Greengate, was built on that point. And actually that building has been purchased, and it is now as we speak being developed into condominiums, but the lovely thing is that they did keep the exterior of the building. You used to be able to see, from Lynn as you came along the boulevard, or if you walked along Fisherman’s Beach, you could look over and see that house, which was just a magnificent view for us to see in Swampscott. 

Walking along, we come to – Galloupes Point was important, because it was one of the first areas where summer homes were built. And there was a building called Strodehurst, which was purchased by – which was built by Charles Galloupe in 1864. And he called it a ‘cottage,’ but it had forty rooms, so I don’t think you would call that a cottage these days. And it was built on the edge of the cliff, with outstanding views of the Atlantic. Then his daughter married Dr. Mixter, and they had four sons and they built a home for each of their sons on Galloupes Point, so these all had beautiful views. 

And then later, at the very tip of the point, a Dr. Lodge acquired John’s Field from one of the Phillips families, and he built a summer estate there. But this was at that time on Galloupes Point, and he wanted his own private road that went down to Puritan Road. And so he built a road and he edged it with these lovely, I they’re called, tupelo trees. They’re no longer there. And he called that, and it is now called still, Tupelo Road. So it was only one estate there, and it had this beautiful long, winding drive. But now there are many, many homes on Tupelo Road. 

And then we come to the Gale Estate, and this one had quite a house. It was called Graystone Hall, and it was built in 1916 for Herbert E. Gale. He was a shoe manufacturer and later a banker. It was built on seventeen acres, which then encompassed what is now all of Gale Road. And the bottom half of the house was made completely of fieldstone. Italian stone bases were brought over from Italy to achieve the massive stonework for the lower portion of the house. Many of Swampscott’s citizens, whose ancestry is Italian, can trace their family back to these Italian craftsmen. There was a three-story barn housing cows and horses, a poultry house, a greenhouse, and a vegetable garden with a farmer’s cottage. There was a milkroom. This was a term which was used for a room which was built over a stream, and it kept not only milk, but other items, cold before they were brought up to the house – keep in mind, this is before refrigeration. Along with the beautiful mansion, there was a sport house for games and dances, a putting green, [and] a seven-car garage with a three-story chauffeur’s cottage attached. There were two apple orchards [and] cultivated raspberry and blackberry patches. The chauffeur’s cottage was an able cottage for his entire family to live. There was also a gatehouse to ensure privacy, and the lovely stone gate is still standing at the entrance of Gale Road. So I advise our listeners, and you, Susan, to drive down and look at that lovely stone gate at the entrance of Gale Road. It is recorded that there were eight maids, one butler, two chauffeurs, and eight gardeners employed there at a given time. So I call it Swampscott’s Downton Abbey.

Susan: Oh, absolutely! 

Mary: Then we go along to Little’s Point, and this was an important part of our history, too. The first house was called Blythe’s Wood, and it was built in 1847 – keep in mind how early that was – by James L. Little. And then his son became a famous architect, his name was Arthur D. Little, and he built several other houses on the point. Shingleside was the name of one, Red Gables, another, The Orchards, another, Grasshead, another – all of these estates, by the way, had lovely names. Dorothy lists sixty-three estates in Swampscott, each with its own name at that time. But Arthur D. Little’s masterpiece was White Court, and this put him on the map, as they say. Many architectural digests and magazines praised him for this particular piece of architecture. Unfortunately, it has been demolished and condos are going to go into that area. But as you can see, this is why that point is called Little’s Point, because at one time the only houses there were built by Arthur D. Little. He actually started a famous style of architecture which was called shingleside, and it was recognized by wood shingles because they proved practical on the seacoast. And there were sloping roofs, and there were towers, and there were turrets. So when you look at a lot of these houses, you will recognize, by a little turret or a tower, or the uneven roofline, that this is what they call shingleside architecture. 

So those are the main ones from the Puritan Road area, but then along Atlantic Avenue there was another, very famous one, and this is the one called The Arches, and it was built in 1904 by Andrew W. Preston – so we know that we had Preston Beach Hotel and we had Preston Beach, well, it was all named after this fellow who built The Arches. It was a magnificent estate. It was located on the left side of Atlantic Avenue heading toward Marblehead. So right about the middle of Atlantic Avenue all the way to Beach Bluff Road was where this estate was. Remember that there would be no houses to the right of the road, so there was a distant but spectacular view of the marshes and the beach. And Dorothy Anderson’s father did work for Mr. Preston at The Arches also, so she was very, very familiar with that beautiful building. And again, it was another Downton Abbey. I think there were thirteen people in service at that house. Many, many gardeners; beautiful. Actually, the Preston estate extended from Phillips Avenue to Beach Bluff Avenue. And there are now over 138 large homes on what was once just the property of one home, The Arches. So you can just imagine what that was like.

Susan: Impressive. Well, that is an amazing number of houses, and they sound fantastic. Can you tell us what some of the residents of these houses did while they were here in Swampscott? What did they do during their summers?

Mary: Well, actually I imagine it was quite a social time, but one of the important things was the railroad that came to Swampscott. This allowed the gentlemen a great convenience to go daily to their businesses in Boston. Before that they would not have been able to make a day trip there. But anyway, they could travel to their Boston offices in the morning and be back by five for cocktails on the veranda. And this railroad actually extended to Phillips Beach; there was a station on Phillips Beach; and to Beach Bluff; there was a station at Beach Bluff. And it’s interesting to note that the people – the men, or the families, who lived along that line paid for the dwellings, the depot buildings, when they were built. So, I think, just for their own convenience they had the railroad come down to Phillips Beach and Beach Bluff. 

But I think gardening was a very important part of the life of the estate dwellers. I think because they lived, in the winter, in the city and had very little area in which to garden, when they came to their summer homes they went all out. Dorothy tells us that these ladies, the summer estate ladies, spent their money on gardening with enthusiasm and confidence. So, all of the houses had greenhouses, because they grew their plants from seeds. They couldn’t go to a nursery as we do and buy annuals or perennials and bushes, so they grew their flowers and plants from seed in their own greenhouses. And they had a main gardener, and then they had – that gardener probably had four or five men working under him all the time. So a group of these ladies, estate ladies, they met to organize the Swampscott Garden Club on June 24, 1924, and this has become the Garden Club of Swampscott, which is still operating today. And these women would get together and discuss their plants, the types of roses, or whatever that they – and they would exchange information on fertilization, etc. And then they also founded another club, called the Gardeners’ Club, and they had their head gardeners meet and exchange ideas. So they were very interested in their gardens, and the use of greenhouses to supplement their plantings was very common. But it was the expertise of the gardeners – these full-time, year-round career workers, who were responsible for the sumptuous grounds. Many were first-generation immigrants from Scandinavia, Ireland, and Italy, and in most cases they remained employed by the family for many, many years. They worked twelve months a year to beautify the grounds on these estates – and these estates, keep in mind, were inhabited for only three months of the year. So gardening was a very big hobby. 

And then the other was horseback riding and horses. Most of the early summer estates, when they were planned, stables were included, always on separate lots. We have a few of the original stables and carriage houses still left in Swampscott. These stables usually provided comfortable living accommodations for the coachmen who drove and cared for the horses. If you can imagine it, Atlantic Avenue was at that time just a dirt road, and organized races would often take place. Horses and horse-drawn carriages would race from the beginning of the road, now where it branches off to Humphrey Street, to the Marblehead line. And participants for the races came from as far away as Beverly, Hamilton, and Wenham. So these estate dwellers were very happy to have thoroughbred horses, beautiful animals. They were very proud of them as they drove in their carriages around town. So, of course, later, when there were automobiles, the first automobiles in Swampscott were – these estate dwellers had lovely, lovely automobiles, and the horse racing time had pretty much ended at that time. 

Another nice event that they had in those days were ballroom – balls and parties. Most of the houses, the entire length of the house was a ballroom. Sometimes they had a separate building for parties and balls, but I do have a happy memory: one time I was interviewing Mrs. Wilkinson, who lived at Blythe’s Wood, and we were going to have her house on a house tour, I believe, so she was telling stories of those days, and she said one of her happiest memories was – she was at boarding school in Boston, and her chauffeur, her family chauffeur, would come to pick her up, and some of her friends who were also at boarding school in Boston, to bring them back to the estates. And they would be excited talking about the different balls and parties that would occur over the summer, and what they were going to wear, and in which house they were going to take place. And she said, “Oh, that was just such a happy memory,” and I just loved hearing her tell about that.

Susan: It sounds like girls today talking about going to prom – you know, everybody’s happy. Oh, lovely! What eventually came about, what brought about the demise of this wonderful era of the summer estates?

Mary: Well, I think the heyday of this coastal paradise was really short-lived. The downfall of this grand lifestyle, which once presumed to go on forever, was in fact largely complete after merely two or three generations. And one of the reasons was progressive tax legislation. In 1913 the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed; this is our income tax amendment. And until that – before that time, I think the saying is, “The rich got rich, and the poor got poorer.” But they found a way to tax people evenly, fairly, and so this was a big change to the American way of life that these people knew, and it certainly put an end to what was termed ‘The Gilded Age.’ 

Another reason was, at that time there was economic depression – the stock market crash of 1929 and the depression era of the ’30s. Many of these people owned the businesses that crashed in the stock market; many were bankers and investors; and also, many of their own businesses suffered during the Depression. So this was difficult for them. And then, of course, there were some that neither one of these things really affected, but when they died, when they passed on, their children and grandchildren did not want to continue that lifestyle. They had automobiles, they could travel, they could actually go up in airplanes; they didn’t want to come to a home, a big, big, home on the edge of the ocean, for the entire summer. So that just wasn’t their preference. And so those houses sat – many of them sat and sat for years, empty, just deteriorating. 

Also, I think, the loss of help. After World War I, the people who fought in World War I came back, [and] they did not want to be someone’s butler or lady’s maid; they wanted to have their own jobs or their own businesses, and so it was very difficult at that time to get help. Many people were able to, but it wasn’t as easy as it had been before the war. And this continued into the ’30s, very much so. 

Also, I think, there was the rise of the middle class, the demand for land on which to build single-family homes. These estates took up acres and acres of land, so when they were sold, they were sold off, they were subdivided, and they were subdivided into many, many houselots. If you were to drive up Gale Road, for example, now – when I first told you about it, it was the entire area was just made for the Gale family, and now there are many, many homes on all of those streets. So I think that all of these reasons added to the demise of that lifestyle. So most of the homes were demolished; we still have some in our town, but not many – especially now, in the era of condos. So many of these estates can be demolished and this area made for condo-dwellers, or, hopefully, if the exterior is kept, at least you keep the look of the building and then inside could be the condos, but the exterior really saves the look of a wonderful summer estate. So that era in our town is definitely gone. But again, let me just reiterate that without that book, we really would know very, very little about this time in Swampscott’s history. 

Susan: It’s so impressive that she took the time and effort to write all of her memories down and leave that as a legacy for all the rest of us to enjoy. And I guess life does move on, eras change, but it’s so fun to have a glimpse of what life was like in such a different era.

Mary: It is.

Susan: Oh, thank you so much for sharing this with us today, Mary. I’m enjoying having heard about it and getting little glimpses of Swampscott of yesteryear. 

Well, take care – thank you so much for joining me!

Mary: Thank you!

Susan: And we’ll say goodbye then – 

Mary: Goodbye.

Susan: Bye.

Interview with sports journalist, Ian Thomsen Transcription

Today on the podcast I have an interview with journalist Ian Thomsen. For the last three decades, he has been writing about sports in America and around the world for The Boston Globe, The National Sports Daily, the International Herald Tribune, Sports Illustrated, and NBA.com. Ian now works as a writer at Northeastern University’s news outlet and lives in Swampscott. On today’s episode, we discuss his background in sports journalism, his book, which is titled The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA, and the future of the NBA given our current situation. Enjoy!

Julie: Hello! 

Ian: Hi, Julie?

Julie: Yes, hi, how are you?

Ian: Good. How are you?

Julie: Good. Thanks for doing this, I appreciate it.

Ian: Oh, no, yeah.

Julie: And I just finished your book, like 20 minutes ago, so that – 

Ian: Oh, that was nice of you!

Julie: Yeah, of course, I – so, as a disclosure, I’m not – I don’t follow basketball; but I really liked your book. I thought it was exciting. 

Ian: That’s – I appreciate that, and a lot of people don’t read it before they talk to you, you know, so that was very nice. Thanks. 

Julie: Yeah, no problem. So just to start, I’m wondering if you could just take us through your career path and how you got your start and how you ended up here?

Ian: Yeah, that’s one of those questions you don’t know where to start, right?

Julie: Right.

Ian: But I got into journalism just because when you’re a teenager you can’t think of anything else better to do. I remember sitting with my mom and she was saying – when I was in high school and trying to figure out where to go to college – and she’d say “Well, what do you want to do?” And I’d say, “Well, I don’t know.” – “Well, do you want to try this?” – “No.” – “What about that?” – “No.” – “What about –” She’d say, “What about journalism?” I’d say, “Well, that would be ok,” because I was working for the student newspaper and all of that. So you just sort of back into it. 

Both of my parents were immigrants from Europe; my dad’s from Denmark and my mom’s from Scotland. I was almost the first person from either side of the family to go to college, so everything was just a mystery trying to figure out how to navigate college and what to do with your life, the whole process, sort of. So I applied to Northwestern University, which was one of the top journalism schools. I think I got in because at the time we were living in Mobile, Alabama, and I might’ve been the only person applying to Northwestern from Mobile, Alabama. And then I did all the internships and everything in college, worked for the student newspaper. I was doing a lot of sports because that’s what I liked, and if I was going to do something for free I might as well do something I liked. While I was at Northwestern, the football team, which was in the Big Ten conference, they lost every game from the second week of my freshman [year] until midway through my senior year. They set the all-time record for losing in NCAA football; they were the worst team in the history of football. And I was covering the team, so that – so people got to see what I was doing a lot more than if they’d won a couple of games, you know? So in a strange way, that – I hate to say it, but their misery helped me. And then I had an internship with The Boston Globe. And there was another intern there – she was a news intern, her name was Jackie MacMullan, [and] we hit it off, we became best friends that summer – The Globe hired us both after the internship. I had another year of college to go. 

So that was my first job, working for The Globe. The first thing they had me cover was Boston College – so this was, we’re talking way back, you know, this is like 1983 – they put me onto covering Boston College football and Doug Flutie was the quarterback, so my first two years on the job were covering Doug Flutie’s final two years, and he won the Heisman Trophy, and it was a big story. 

And from there, at the end of the ’80s, a new newspaper was being started up by Frank Deford, who was the biggest sportswriter in America. The newspaper was called The National Sports Daily. And this was before the internet existed, and the idea was to put a national newspaper out there that would be available in every city. So they went around and hired all these sportswriters from around the country to work for it. It lasted 17 months and lost all this money; it was a spectacular disaster. People really liked it, but it lost a lot of money. So now I was out of a job, early ’90s. 

I moved to Europe to work for the International Herald Tribune. They were looking for a sportswriter to live in Europe, so I lived for three years in Paris, three years in London. I married my girlfriend from Winthrop, Mass., we moved over, we had our kids over there; my daughter was born in Paris, my son was born in London. And I traveled all over the world writing about sports. I could go wherever I wanted, write whatever I wanted – it’s the greatest job ever. 

And then at the end of the ’90s, ESPN was starting the magazine, so they offered me a job; they wanted me to move back and work for them. Sports Illustrated hired me basically to keep me from working for them. So I took the job with Sports Illustrated and moved back here. You can live – when you worked for Sports Illustrated back then, you can live wherever you wanted, so I lived in Boston, which is where I’d been before and where my wife is from. So we moved to Swampscott, I was with Sports Illustrated for 16 years, most of it covering the NBA, and it was while I was working for Sports Illustrated that I started working on this book. 

So, I wish I could say that was the short answer to your question, but that’s what happened.

Julie: No, it’s all good information. And I think your focus is mostly on basketball. Why?

Ian: Well, what happened was, with this particular thing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which has a big office in Boston, one of their editors, Susan Canavan, called me up. And I’d met her before, but she called me up around early 2011 and said, “Would you be interested in writing a book for us? We’d like to have a book on LeBron James and the controversy that he’s been involved in.” Because the book revolves around this: that in the summer of 2010, when LeBron was in his mid-20s and he’s a big star but he hasn’t won a championship, he went on television, he created a TV, live TV special, for himself, on which he would announce when he was going to go play, and that’s when 

and said “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat.” He had been seen as the next Michael Jordan before this whole fiasco, and it came off so badly, [as] such an act of entitlement, that people hated him, and he became the most hated athlete in America all of a sudden that year. And so Houghton Mifflin, they wanted a book on that. So I agreed to do it, so I started working on that for them while I was covering the NBA for Sports Illustrated. And I’d been doing the NBA for Sports Illustrated for the previous decade. That had become my specialty. Before that I’d done every kind of sport, all around the world, obviously, and this was – for that decade leading up to the book, I’d been solely an NBA person, which was good. I liked covering the NBA. If I had to cover one league, that would be the one I would want to do. When I was with The Globe in the ’80s, they used to put me onto the Celtics as their third or fourth or fifth guy covering the Celtics. And so I got to cover all three of the Magic Johnson–Larry Bird finals, which are the pinnacle of that sport. So I always liked the NBA. I did a lot of basketball when I lived in Europe, which gave me good perspective and which really helped play into the way I approached doing this book. 

Julie: Yeah, so what’s it like – for people that don’t know, like me – to be at those games, or at the bigger games? Do you attend them now, or is it mostly something you do remotely in terms of covering? 

Ian: Well, back then – you know, it’s changed a lot – I just used to take it for granted in the ’80s and the ’90s and even the early 2000s. If I would go to a game, I’d be sitting courtside, so I would have the best seat in the house, working for whichever place I was working for, whether it was The Globe, or The National, or Sports Illustrated. You’d have the seat that is no longer available to us because those seats are so expensive now; they sell them for thousands and thousands of dollars per game. So this was something you kind of learn the hard way. I remember the first time I was sent to cover the Celtics, I was probably 23 years old, and I was going to be writing the game story, and I was just so nervous. And I remember Dan Shaughnessy, who’s still with The Globe, telling me telling me how to do it: “Go into the locker room before the game, go into the Celtics locker room, because you have to write a notebook before the game starts.” He recommended I try talking to Robert Parish about about something that was going on at the time, and I remember going in to talk to Robert Parish, he was the center of the Celtics, and he was just – he could see how nervous I was, and he was just so kind. And I could see him laughing at how nervous I was and everything, but he answered my questions for me and helped me out, and I remember just having no clue on how to do this. I was used to watch – I watched hundreds, thousands, of games. But how do you actually break it down and turn it into a story, which is often completely different from what you saw, in a way? It’s a different kind of – you tell a different kind of story than the story that you saw playing out on on the court.

Julie: Right.

Ian: And I didn’t know how to do that. But basically, when you do cover games, you go. You go there. The locker rooms are open before the game; it’s no longer valid during this pandemic, but you go in and try to find the people you need to talk to, to help you with the stories you’re working on, before the game. Coaches are available before the game; [you can] talk to them in the hallway outside the locker room, usually. And you go have dinner. They have a press room and they’ll serve you dinner before; you pay five bucks for it. 

And you go out to the court, set up your laptop, take notes on your laptop, write some stuff during the time outs and times in between the game. During the game you figure out what you want to write about, figure out what the story is. By the time the game ends you want to have a strategy on what you’re going to talk to people about. And I really appreciate you asking me this question. No one’s ever asked me before. 

After you figure out your strategy – “I’m gonna talk to–” back then, when I would have been covering the Celtics a lot, let’s say, “I want to talk to Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, [and] Rajon Rondo for a certain story I’m doing; then I’ll go across the hallway to the visitors’ locker room and see what LeBron James has to say about it, get something from the opposing coach.” You have to get all of this done quickly because the players and the coaches are only available for a few minutes. And it’s often crowded around them; you have to make sure you get your question in to cover what you need. 

And then you go back and sit down to write it, and then write it really fast. And I used to listen to really loud music at times when I didn’t have energy, to try to, like, thump me awake, and it was funny, I read years ago – Stephen King, the author, listens to heavy metal music in his office up in Maine when he writes. And I’m not a house music kind of person, but I used to listen to house music to try to get me going.

Julie: It was probably late in the night at that point. 

Ian: Yeah, especially during the playoffs, like, if you’re at an NBA finals game, the game starts after nine o’clock at night. And back then at Sports Illustrated, working for our website, si.com, they needed to have everything in by two a.m. because they were going to go home. So you didn’t want to keep them staying late. So if a game started at – a finals game started at after nine p.m., maybe it ends at midnight – and so now from midnight until two, you have to go talk to everybody, get your thoughts together, and write a thousand words. 

Julie: Wow.

Ian: Yeah. But if you’ve been doing it a long time, it’s not overwhelming, but you just know you’re gonna have to really, really work hard at it, and sort of approach it the way the players approach a game: you have to be really up, you have to be really ready, positive, ambitious – all of that. And you have to have all good feelings going for you; you can’t be negative about it. 

Julie: Mm-hmm. Yeah, wow, I can imagine that’s really intense – both for you, and for the players, after doing this big physical activity for hours, and then having to put their own thoughts together.

Ian: You know, I’ve always wondered about that – that’s a really great question, I’ve always wondered about that with players, how they – if they’re really into something and then, just like that, snapping the fingers, they need to turn it off and be able to step back and put it into perspective. And a lot of times I find myself thinking, “They’re so much better at it than I would be.” But again, they’ve been doing it a long time. If you’re a player in the NBA, that means you were probably a great player going back to when you were eight years old, and you just get used to the attention, and you get used to people asking you questions, you get used to being held accountable to good behavior, behaving well in public. 

Julie: Right.

Ian: So I think that’s part of it. You know what’s interesting, if you think about the differences between the sports – the NFL players, the NFL is like a militaristic kind of league, and they have a code to the way they are: it’s very violent, and you play hurt, and play under this kind of military guise. Baseball, the role models for baseball players – there aren’t a lot of guys who went to college in baseball, you know. There’s a lot of sign in with a pro baseball team straight out of high school, and so who are your role models? But if you’re an NBA player, if you want to be a great NBA player, who do you look up to? Guys like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, they grew up looking to Michael Jordan as their example, and they wanted to be like him. You always picture him wearing a suit and a tie and being very well-spoken in his TV interviews or after a game, and carrying himself in a very high-minded kind of way, and I think that’s how a lot of the basketball players want to be. Larry Bird came to the Celtics and was called “The Hick from French Lick.” He didn’t – he was rough around the edges, but somebody said to me once that he thought Larry Bird came to the NBA and said, “I want to be like Julius Erving,” who carried him – who was a star and he won the – Julius Erving had a lot in common with Michael Jordan and the way he carried himself, and so I just think that each generation in the NBA, they grow up wanting to be like Michael Jordan or Julius Erving or somebody that carries themself really well. They have great role models in the NBA.

Julie: Yeah, that kind of reminds me of a question that I wanted to ask you about. I thought it was interesting in your book – now I’m sort of moving into talking about your book a little bit – you talk about the different generations of basketball stars that everybody, even I, who don’t follow the sport, know – and how this, the generation that was coming up, that’s about – that the focus is on in this book, like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, had a sense of, sort of, entitlement. Do you think that’s changed, now that we’re ten years out from that situation? What are the characteristics of the big players right now, would you say?

Ian: Yeah, that’s a – you know, you’re making me think, Julie, when you think about the impact, just to try to explain where I’m coming from – the impact that the Great Depression had on people that lived through it or grew up in it, and how it formed them. They were focused on saving their money, and preparing for disasters, and not being able to count on the future, and all that kind of stuff. Well, David Stern, who was the commissioner of the NBA forever and ever, and took over as commissioner basically at the same time Michael Jordan came into the league, but had been around the NBA for years before that, David Stern was kind of like a Depression era baby in terms of the NBA. When David Stern came to the NBA it was a struggling league. In the 1970s there was talk that it was gonna go out of business. There were predictions that it could never do well because there were too many black players, and the racist elements in America would never go for a league of black stars. So he came into the NBA and he built his career in the NBA with this kind of Depression-era outlook, that “Look, we’re just trying to stay alive and let’s try to build something here.” What the NBA has become he never could’ve imagined. It’s beyond him. What it has become is now taken for granted as reality by all these players who knew nothing about the NBA’s past, knew nothing about all – that it almost went out of business in the ’70s. Michael Jordan knew all about that. Michael Jordan, when he came into the NBA, it wasn’t anything like the league he helped it turn into. So I think even he looks at this generation of players and sees the entitlement, and sees that ‘they take for granted what I had to earn’ – I would think that’s how he looks at them. 

For this new generation of players, I’d think it’s very liberating that they don’t – they can’t imagine a time that the NBA is going to be anything less than what it is right now, which is a league that, before the pandemic, was going to be earning nine billion dollars worldwide and is popular in every country around the world; games are shown everywhere and players are known everywhere. Again, none of that existed way back when, so they take all of that for granted. How they are going to react to this particular time in which we find ourselves now is going to be really interesting to me. This is the biggest crisis that all of us are facing in all sorts of ways, and it’s no different for sports. These leagues that owe billions of dollars in salaries and have billions of dollars of responsibilities with TV networks, they’re unable to meet any of those responsibilities right now; they can’t play. And when they do play, are there going to be fans at the games, and what’s the money going to be like, and are people going to need sports, they’re going to want sports as much, coming out of this pandemic, down the road, as they do now? This is a real crisis, and it’s going to require some leadership from everybody in sports. And it’s going to be interesting to see – for me to see, for all of us to see – these basketball players who just came in expecting, “Ok, if I’m a great player I’m gonna make 30 million dollars a year, and that’s just what comes with it” – how are they going to react? And this is their Depression moment. 

Julie: Right. Yeah, I think one thing that really surprised me was the amount of money that – I mean, everybody knows that sports players make a ton of money – but the added endorsement deals that they get on top of that were pretty astounding to hear about, I think, or to read about in your book.

Ian: Yeah. As much money as they make on the court, the great ones make multiples of that off it. Michael Jordan has made over a billion dollars now from his basketball career, but all of the stuff that he’s been able to build off the court – but it’s all from basketball. And LeBron James, if he’s making, say, 30 million on the court, he’s making two times, maybe more that, that off the court, from his endorsements. Kobe Bryant, not quite as much, back in his time, but similar. So yeah, the amount of money is unbelieveable, and that’s all part of this marketplace that’s now being threatened by the pandemic. 

Julie: Right. So to go back to your book a little bit, what was the research process like for writing it? I know you mentioned that somebody came to you with the idea, but was it already something you were thinking about at the time, or did you have to give it more thought when they brought it to you?

Ian: You know, this was really hard, because they wanted a book about a guy who was in transition. So LeBron James had gone from this guy who was seen as a savior for the NBA, who was now being regarded as a villain. And his change in status was casting a shadow on the whole league. When Michael Jordan was really popular and was winning championships, the NBA looked better because of Michael Jordan. The same thing – Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, they illuminated the league. And now LeBron was casting a shadow on the league – as the best player. Was he going to be a villain for his whole life? If he was, then, “Why are we even bothering to write a book about him, because no one’s going to buy a book about someone they hate?” So I was in this position of trying to report a story without knowing what the outcome was. You know, the beginning, middle, and end – I didn’t know what the end was, and I was just in the middle of it. So I had hoped to give them the book – they asked me in 2011 to do it and they wanted it by 2012, and I fully expected to give it to them by then, but I couldn’t because I didn’t know what I was writing to. I didn’t know what the outcome was; I didn’t know how it was going to end; and I wanted it to end in a way that it would hold up, that it would be timeless. You don’t want to write a book that’s got a shelf life that’s very short after it comes out. Because what if I write a book that says, “This guy’s a villain,” and makes it look like he’s always going to be a villain, and then all of a sudden he’s a hero, or people love him again – well, it was a waste of time. So I ended up needing years of – I had to wait it out, basically, and I had to wait it out until LeBron moved back to Cleveland and then won the championship, and when he won the championship finally, with Cleveland, a few years later, I said to myself, “Ok, now we can go forward with this; now I know what the ending is.”

As far as the reporting, I just kept doing the same kind of reporting I was doing at the time for Sports Illustrated, except whenever I thought I found a character that would be important to the book, I would arrange an interview with that person and tell them, “It’s for this book I’m doing,” and it would be a lot more in-depth than what I was usually doing. And so I would set up those things along the way, which really worked out well, because I was traveling a lot for Sports Illustrated and so I would just make extra time to make sure I could talk to this person if I happened to be in their city, or if they were coming to Boston, then I would set something up to talk to them when they were here. But yeah, it worked very well with the job I was doing at the time. 

Julie: Mm. Yeah, I was going to ask you about those interviews. I’m sure they were pretty extensive, because there’s so many details about each of the, quote-unquote, “characters” in the book. Did you get any feedback from those people that were involved with it – did they read it?

Ian: I haven’t talked a lot to them since. Doc Rivers told me he liked it very much, and he has bought the book and sent it to people, to other coaches. It’s very much a coaches’ book, because of the influence of Doc Rivers on it, and also Pat Riley, who was running the Miami Heat. Pat Riley’s one of the great coaches in the history of the NBA. He was the Lakers coach, the Los Angeles Lakers coach, in the 1980s, so he was Magic Johnson’s coach. And towards the end of this, it wasn’t until after LeBron won his championship in Cleveland that I finally convinced Pat to talk to me, and it went from zero to sixty. I wasn’t able to get him to talk to me at all. All of a sudden he was really opening up to me, and we spoke for nine hours for the book, which was a lot, and I got a lot of out of it. So I know he liked it, and I know Dirk Nowitzki liked it; he asked for some extra copies to share with his family. And, you know, it was well-received from people in my business. I think they can see how much work went into it. There is a lot of detail. I felt personally that I’d made this very extensive investment in writing about basketball throughout my career, and I really wanted to do the best I could to come up with something lasting from that. I didn’t want it to just all be in vain, kind of. I wanted to have something that would endure just a little bit. I don’t know if this does, but that was the goal, and so that’s why I put so much into it. 

Julie: Mm-hmm. Also, I found the book to be extremely descriptive, and even I, as somebody who doesn’t know much about it, could follow exactly what was going on. But I’m sure that also people who are fans of basketball, tried-and-true, would get a lot out of the book, obviously. Was it difficult to balance between writing for an audience that doesn’t know, who might pick this up just out of curiosity, or somebody who’s been involved with this for decades, as you have? 

Ian: Yeah, thanks for asking that. This is where my time in Europe really helped me. When I went to work for the International Herald Tribune in my early 30s, it was the world’s largest newspaper. It was based in Paris and it went to literally every country around the world, six days a week. It was written in English. It was co-owned by The New York Times and The Washington Post. So basically that newspaper would draw the best stories out of The Times and The Post every day, it would condense them, and then they would hire a few people like me to fill in the cracks of things that weren’t being covered by The New York Times and The Washington Post. So they had me write about sports around the world. They had Suzy Menkes, one of the top fashion writers in the world, she was with the International Herald Tribune to cover the fashion industry from Paris. Those kinds of people. So there were only a few of us as writers, reporters, columnists, whatever, working in Paris for them. And when I came over, the editor – his name was John Vinocur, he was a legend with The New York Times, a legendary writer with The New York Times – and he explained to me the point of view of writing for the world’s largest newspaper. He said, “You have to write for everybody.” So you have to write – if I go to write a sports story, I have to write it so that people who know everything about it are happy with it, and the people who know nothing about it will still want to read it and get something out of it. So it had to truly be universal. So if I was covering a rugby match in England – and I didn’t know anything about rugby, but I had to write about it – I had to write so that the English or the French would say, “Yeah, ok, I’m glad I read this,” but then someone in Indonesia, who didn’t know anything about rugby, would still find the human element in it and be able to get something out of it. So by describing what goes on in the game, but describing it in real-world terms, as if it’s something happening in your kitchen or someone running down the street, so that everyone can relate to it, that’s one way to do it. But then also just looking for the spiritual side of everything – why does, what drives people to do what they do, how do they react to triumph, how do they react to incredible disappointment. If last time they were in a championship game, they blew it, how did they overcome those memories to win it next time? Those kinds of stories, you focused on those, and that was the same kind of point of view I tried to bring to this book.

Julie: Mm-hmm. I think it worked. How was the process of writing a full book different from the type of writing that you usually do? 

Ian: For most of my career I was the long-form – they call it long form now; they used to call them takeouts back then – they had me writing the long stories for as long as I can remember. When I was 25, The Globe sent me down to a small town in Pennsylvania to write a story about these two high-school football players who were twins, and they were the running backs – one was the tailback, one was the fullback –and they won the state championship, the first-ever state championship, for their town. And then they were on a recruiting trip after the season, and one of them – they got into a car accident, and one of them was killed. It was a terrible, tragic story, and so they had me write that story, and it ran in The Boston Globe at 6000 words, which meant it – it was on the front page of the sports section, and when you opened up the paper, it took up two full pages of type. But it won the national award for the best sports story of the year. And that was when I was 25, so that was what I was always hired to do. At the Herald Tribune they didn’t run the long stories, they didn’t have room for them, but at Sports Illustrated they did, and at The National Sports Daily that’s what I did. So I was sort of on that track. And then I started doing the book and I realized I still had no idea. As much as I thought I knew about writing long, I still had no idea on how to do it. And I just had to keep writing and rewriting and rewriting. And it didn’t make it any better that I didn’t know what the ending was going to be. And so I – if I got – if I was being paid per word for this book, for every word I typed while trying to write this thing, it’s way, way, way less than one penny per word; I just kept writing and writing and writing. It was harrowing. And it’s part of why, right now, I am of no mind to write another book, at the moment.

Julie: Right. Yeah, even the chapters were kind of articles, or long-form articles, in themselves; was that intentional? I don’t know if that was – I mean, obviously it’s a whole story that leads up to the final games, but was it intentional that each of the chapters was sort of a different main character?

Ian: Yeah, it’s a great observation. It’s probably because that’s how I’d been geared to think of it, but I think also because each of the subjects in the basketball world is really important for basketball fans, for people who love the sport. So Isaiah Thomas – the old Isaiah Thomas from the Detroit Pistons in the 1980s – he opened up to me and told me stories of his childhood that he’d never shared before, and then seeing things from his perspective helped give you a better understanding of why LeBron James was acting the way he was acting. So that’s probably why I structured it that way. Another was with Joey Crawford, who was the NBA’s biggest referee at the time, the most controversial referee, and being able to have a lot of time with him and have him break down an NBA finals game with me – which he’d never done before, which the league had never allowed to have happen before; they usually don’t let you talk to the referees. That was worthy of its own chapter, and again, it gave you more insight into the larger story. 

Julie: Mm-hmm. So going back to something you just briefly touched on a little while ago – just going into our current pandemic, how has your job changed as a result of it?

Ian: Well, right now actually I’m not writing about sports so much. I may get back into it, but I’m working at Northeastern University right now as a writer. They have a news service at Northeastern, and actually it’s doing really well. It’s run by a guy, David Filipov, who’s won a couple of Pulitzer Prizes with The Boston Globe, and he was the Moscow bureau chief at The Washington Post. He’s from Boston. He quit the Post, moved back home, and he’s running this news site at Northeastern, and it’s done so well that it was a semi-finalist or a finalist in the recent Webby Awards, up there with The Wall Street Journal and other places, other mainstream places. So I’m one of their writers, and I write about sports sometimes, but I write a lot that isn’t about sports – just larger issues; I write about the pandemic, whatever is going on. And I’ve really enjoyed that; it’s been a really nice change of pace after so many years of writing about sports. As I watch my former colleagues in sports deal with this pandemic, it makes me all the more relieved that I’m not at this very moment doing what they do, because there’s just nothing for them to do, and so there’s – right now there’s a whole lot of coverage of ‘the way things used to be,’ ‘who was the greatest team of all time,’ ‘this happened to me, so-and-so, such-and-such time ago,’ because there is no news coming out of the leagues, out of sports, right now. Everyone’s just waiting for it to start up again. I find myself still trying to think of a way to continue to write about sports on my own terms, and we’ll see if I can come up with something, and if I can’t – even if I did, I would do it in conjunction with what I’m doing now at Northeastern, because I’m very happy with what I’m doing right now. It’s been a really welcome change of pace for me.

Julie: Yeah, that’s great. I’m sure you’re still a fan of basketball.

Ian: Yeah, I watch everything – yeah, not just basketball. You know, I’m one of these – it can be hard to watch a game with me, because I’ll be watching a game with my wife, Maureen, and I’ll pause and tell her a story about this guy or that guy, or “This is not what you think, this guy is really not a good guy at all, blah blah blah,” and then I’m always interrupting to give backstories to things. So I’m still very much into it. 

Julie: So what do you see in terms of professional basketball in the coming weeks, or months, or even next season? Do you have any feelings about that?

Ian: Well, I’m very skeptical that they’re going to play again this summer. They’re hoping to be able to resume their season in some form and to be able to have a championship, but they’re trying to predict a future that’s unpredictable. So all these predictions of the NBA coming back, say in June, to play again and have their playoffs throughout the summer, that’s based on things improving. But the fact is, we – as you and I are talking right now, we have no idea, really, where the pandemic is, because we just aren’t testing in our country; our government has not come up with tests for us. We’re the greatest country in the world and we can’t focus on putting out millions and millions of simple tests that would enable us to know where we stand with the virus. And until we have the tests, how can anybody imagine being able to put a business like the NBA back on the stage? If things get worse, now that we’re opening back up again, and there’s still a dearth of tests, how are people gonna feel if the NBA’s gobbling up all these tests so that they can play basketball games? I just think there’s so many questions. I hope it comes back. I can see a way that it would come back, but I don’t believe anybody that tells me it is going to come back; I just – I will believe it when I see it. And if it does come back, that is awesome. That means we’re doing better; we’re on top of this to the extent that we can allow a league like the NBA to have the tests that it needs and the resources it needs to come back. That would be amazing. But I just find myself being too skeptical to imagine that it will be so right now. 

Julie: Mm. Yeah, I think probably the most difficult part of this is the unknown, and if there are predictions like that, I always find myself asking, “Oh, how do they know, and what do they think?” – you know – “What do they know that we don’t know?” So I guess, yeah, we can be hopeful, but we’ll see how it goes.

Ian: Yeah, I think what they’re doing is they are making plans that are written in very soft pencil and they can be put into effect if things improve or things slow down, but it’s not like they have control over their own future right now. They just don’t. They’re at the mercy of larger forces. And so if those larger forces enable them to play again, awesome. I hope it happens. But I don’t think they are planning – they are hoping to resume the season, but I do not think they are planning to, because they cannot make such plans; it’s impossible for them to make them. 

Julie: So just as a final question, usually on the podcast I’ll interview other librarians about anything that they’re either reading or watching for enjoyment. Are you reading anything that you’re enjoying right now, or do you have time to read? I know you’re still working pretty hard, but… 

Ian: Right now, working at Northeastern, I get free tuition – free classes. So I’m working towards a master’s, which will enable me to teach. Hopefully I’ll be graduating a year from now, but right now one of the classes I’m taking is, basically it’s the fundamentals of art, and it’s helping – my major is in digital communications, and this is providing me a foundation on art and how art’s used for the internet. And it’s the fundamentals of art. I have to write – at my age, I have to write a term paper! And so I chose Leonardo da Vinci as my subject because I was woefully versed on him. And I’m reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo, and I just love it. It’s fascinating, and it makes me want to read his other biographies – I don’t know how interested I am in reading about Steve Jobs, but this is just beautiful. And he was an amazing guy, very much a self-made man, probably did as well as he did because he did not have a formal education – everything he learned he learned on his own, and so he made his own way forward. I’m really liking it, and so I recommend that, totally.

Julie: Yeah, I’m sure people – I’m sure we have it at the library. 

Ian: Yeah. What are you reading?

Julie: Well, I just finished your book. But also, I have – Elizabeth Gilbert, who is the woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love and City of Girls, she’s got some nonfiction, some fiction – she wrote a book that I’m still working my way into. It’s called The Signature of All Things. So I’ll try that out next. 

Ian: Do you read two or three books at a time, or do you just stick to one?

Julie: I used to a lot more. Now with limited time, I can really only focus on one at a time. 

Well, thank you so much for talking to me. I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but I learned a lot about basketball, and I appreciate that.

Ian: Well, Julie, I really appreciate this. It was great talking to you. And thank you for reading the book. A lot of interviewers don’t have time to read it, and you could really tell the difference talking to them. So thank you, it’s been a real pleasure doing this with you. Thanks very much.

Julie: Yeah, excellent! 

Learning Series: Family Law with Sherry Smith Transcription

Susan: Hello, and welcome to the Librarians by the Sea podcast, hosted by, you got it, the librarians of the Swampscott Public Library. My name is Susan Conner, and today I am taking the podcast in a little different direction. Instead of discussing a really good book, I am going to speak with local attorney Sherry Smith, who specializes in family law. Today, she will focus on issues of domestic violence, child support, child custody, and visitation rights. Getting help from the courts can be challenging, even without the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ms. Smith will give you some information and resources which may make the process easier. Some of the resources that Ms. Smith mentions are listed on the library website. Go to https://www.swampscottlibrary.org and click on the Town News tab. That will give you a list. You may need to scroll down, but the list of links is listed there. Sherry, thank you for joining me today on the Librarians by the Sea podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself before you start your presentation?

Sherry: Sure. Well, welcome to family law basics. Again, my name is Sherry Smith, and a big thank you to Swampscott Library for offering this opportunity to talk with you about this important subject. I’ve been working with domestic violence victims both at Essex County District’s Attorney’s office for 20 years, and now at Greater Boston Legal Services, where I’ve been for 17 years. I’m so happy to join with you in sharing what I’ve learned, and I hope to answer some of the questions you may have about restraining orders and family law as it relates to children, and getting help in general and during the Covid crisis. This overview will be about a half hour, maybe a bit over, and there will be some time for questions from Susan. 

When you hear an opinion from me, it’s my opinion; it’s not the opinion of Swampscott Library, or Greater Boston Legal Services, where I now work, and it’s not meant to take the place of your own attorney’s advice. The links which Susan mentioned give you excellent, excellent information and give you a lot of help on these issues and much more – food banks, housing, and how to apply for unemployment and many other subjects. The two that relate most to the North shore are Northeast Legal Services, where possibly you could get representation, especially for low-income persons, and lots of other information. But it’s worth a try to call even if you’re not low-income. You may be able to get some information. And HAWC. HAWC is a shelter for domestic violence victims, but again, they offer much, much more. And those two websites are offered, in addition to where I work, Greater Boston Legal Services, GBLS, Mass Law Reform, and Mass.gov. 

Please do not worry that you have to copy down and remember everything I say, or if after my presentation you feel confused and overwhelmed. This is to be expected. The links are there to be looked at, taking your own time. Of course the assumes that you have a computer to do this or a phone to do this. The courts, like many other things, are a rapidly changing landscape, and these links will also be changing. 

A little bit about access to the courts during the Covid crisis. The already-existing order regarding the closing of the courts has been extended to June 1, 2020. What does this mean? Well, all courts are open for business, but all courts except for a few exceptions have the doors closed to the public. So the business is being done remotely, by phone, fax, mail, email, etc. This makes the process much more difficult to navigate. Before you could walk into the court and ask questions, and many courts had programs for walk-in attorneys to help you. But the links will help with this. Try calling the courts first, and if not successful, you can call the Covid helpline, with is 833-91COURT. 

However – important – restraining orders in probate court are considered emergencies. They’re also emergencies in district court, but at least in probate court, it appears to us that the way the new order is worded means that a person wanting to obtain a restraining order has an emergency. [They] could go inside the court, knock on the door, and get inside – this is for probate court – where she will able to get the forms and fill them out to get a restraining order. 

A few words about criminal law and civil law. A criminal case is where someone is charged with a crime. Civil cases are all kinds, and here is where we’re concerned with restraining orders and paternity and divorce cases. Restraining orders are civil, but violation of the restraining order is criminal. 

What is a plaintiff? A plaintiff is a party in a civil case, but in a criminal case, it’s the Commonwealth versus the defendant, and the victim is not a party in a criminal case. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have rights, but she is not a party. 

What is a counterclaim? That means the defendant in a civil case can also ask the court for what he or she wants. So if one person took the divorce out and said, “I want A, B, C,” that doesn’t mean the other party, the defendant, can’t say, “Well, I’m filing a counterclaim, and I want C, D, F, and G.” 

It’s important to remember – to think about how judges decide cases whenever you’re going to file anything in court. There are three things that the judges consider. 

  1. One is case law. Case law is where there was a trial or a decision by a judge, and one party is not happy with the result, and they appeal to the supreme judicial court, or the appeals court, and these decisions are written up, and the judges all over can look at these decisions and decide whether or not they apply to the facts of this case. So that’s number one. 
  2. The second is statute. You’ll hear me talk about a 209A. And that’s the restraining order statute. 
  3. The third thing that judges decide is the facts of the case. So they apply the facts of the case to the case law and the statutes. Why is that important to you? Because you want to think about – what is the judge interested in when you’re filing anything in court.

Where do you go to get a restraining order in Essex County? You can go to Lawrence or Salem probate court. At the moment, it’s my understanding that only the Salem probate court is open for business and all cases are in Salem, but that could easily change or easily have already changed. So you can go to probate court, or any of the district courts. They’re located in Salem, Newburyport, Haverhill, Lawrence, and Ipswich. However, if the court is not open, you could get an emergency restraining order through a police station. Before Covid, it was only good for 24 hours or when the courts then opened, the next day the court opened. But now, because of the crisis, a judge can issue this order for as much as 10 days. It could be less, but it’s as much as 10 days. By the next date, whatever it is, the person obtaining the restraining order will have to get another hearing at the courthouse; they’ll have to apply all over again.

209A, again, refers to the statute for restraining orders, and it’s civil, I said, but it has criminal consequences if they’re violated. What does that mean? Well, if the order says, “Stay 100 yards away from the plaintiff,” the defendant is supposed to stay 100 yards away. The order is civil. But if the defendant comes within 100 yards of the plaintiff, then she can call the police and a criminal complaint could issue. 

The relationship needed for a 209A is a family relationship – currently married, formerly married, not married but related by blood or marriage, parents of one or more children, and that has been extended to include if a grandparent might be caring for a child, and the grandparent could take out a case against the father or mother. Not related but living in the same household. Formerly members of the same household. Are or were in a dating or engagement relationship. So essentially you need a family relationship in order to get a 209A restraining order. 

What are the orders which a judge can make? 

No abuse. This doesn’t only mean physical abuse. It also means threats or putting in fear. 

No contact. That’s by writing, by phone, or other [form], directly, or even through another person, as in leaving a message with a mutual friend, and the defendant says “Tell her that…” – well, that’s a violation of a restraining order. 

A court can also order the defendant to stay a certain number of yards away from the plaintiff. 

Leave and stay away from the residence of the plaintiff. Stay away from the workplace of the plaintiff. Stay away from the plaintiff’s school. And any of these addresses can be ordered not to appear on the order. 

You can also get child support through a restraining order. But violation of the order is not criminal. It’s only enforceable through contempt. 

It makes many things criminal which would not otherwise be. If someone gets a phone call from someone, or goes by someone else’s house or shows up at someone’s workplace, these wouldn’t be criminally enforceable acts, but if there’s a restraining order prohibiting these acts, then the person doing these acts could end up having a criminal complaint against them. 

A restraining order can also protect children by granting custody to the person asking for the restraining order, the plaintiff. Restraining order can order the defendant to stay away from the children and no contact with the children. Visitation, however, is only – a court can only order no visitation in probate court, not in district court. Of course, if the district court has ordered the defendant to stay away from the children, that’s essentially saying the defendant can’t have any contact. 

What will judges consider in custody and visitation issues? Both in restraining order cases, and in what I’m also going to talk about later, in paternity and divorce cases, the court is interested in the same things. Who has been the child’s primary caretaker? Who has the child lived with? What has been the involvement of the Department of Children and Families? What dangers would affect parenting ability, things like alcoholism and drug abuse? What has historically been the pattern for visitation? A judge will tend to preserve the status quo, will want to say, “You know what, this has been going on, the father’s had visits from Friday evening till Sunday afternoon for a long time, and I want to go ahead and leave that in place because it’s best for the children to have stability.” However, if there’s a reason not to preserve the status quo, there’s a reason to change the visits. And that often happens in a restraining order situation, where the situation is really chaotic and even dangerous for the children. So the safety of the child and/or the custodial parent is a reason to change the status quo. 

What is not important, again, it’s important to think about what judges will look at: the statute, the case law, and the facts of the case. It is not important whether or not the defendant is paying child support. It’s a very separate issue. Yes, you can obtain child support, but whether or not at the moment of the granting of the restraining order the defendant is paying is not important. In domestic violence situations, both the probate court restraining order cases and probate court custody and visitation situations, what can I ask for? Overnights, vacations, holidays? Well, in domestic violence cases, you can ask for supervised visits, and you can ask that they be at a visitation center or something else. Or, pick-up and drop-off can be structured for safety. Pick-up and drop-off at a police station. Again, we’re in Covid times and all of this has got to be considered with those issues in mind. Oftentimes people have orders which say that the visits are to be in a public place for the protection of the children and the person filing for the restraining order, but that may not be possible to do visits at a mall or even a police station. 

How to file for an emergency restraining order. Do I need an attorney? The 209A statute was meant to be user-friendly. It was designed, and the courts expect, that it is not necessary to have an attorney. Does an attorney help? Absolutely. So, where can I get legal advice if I can’t hire an attorney? Well, you could try HAWC. HAWC has attorneys who may be able to take your calls and give you advice and talk to you about how to present your case and also about safety planning – where are the shelters that are available, what do I do if I can’t shelter. During the Covid crisis, the restraining orders are still considered an emergency hearing, and you should get a hearing the same day that you start the process, but it is a good idea to start the process early in the morning, because the process takes some time. I’ll give you the process in normal times, but you need to ask the court how it’s being adapted to Covid. Some people think it’s fast, but it’s just not. 

There are online-fillable forms for restraining orders. When Covid is over and there are hearings inside the court, if you have children, don’t bring them to court. You could be there for hours. This is really hard on kids. Even all day. Also, the children are not allowed in the courtroom, unless possibly infants, and that’s so they won’t hear what’s being said. The court feels it’s extremely important to keep children away from these parent issues, not involve them with the court issues. Thirdly, if the child comes to court, even an infant, the child will become – I guarantee – or I can’t guarantee, but it’s likely – that the child will become a push-pull with the parents. It’s possible that the father of the child could tell the children, “Come with me.” It could be a real mess with the children in the middle, and again, the courts want to keep the children away from this court process and away from being in the middle of the conflict between the parents. 

Service of the defendant. The defendant needs to know that this case is happening. It’s not [given] by you. Unlike paternity and divorce cases, you have no responsibility with respect to giving notice to the other party. And in fact, it’s not a good idea for you to have any contact with the other party. Service is by the police department. How do they know where to go? By the address that you gave the court. What if you don’t have the address, especially with this Covid situation? That is tough. And this person, the defendant, may not be working, so it’s possible the defendant may not be able to be served at work. There’s a thing, however, called alternative service. If no possibility of serving the defendant is available, alternative service is possible, if you ask the court and the court grants it. What does this mean? Leaving the document at the last known address. Again, it’s fact-sensitive. 

What papers have to be filled out? You fill out a complaint, which is what you’re asking for, and other papers. And what you’re asking for has to do with what I told you are the things that the restraining order can give, that a judge can order – no abuse, no contact, stay away from the children, those things. 

Again, just going back to the service – if he’s not served, you will need to come back to court with your possibly or probably a virtual hearing, a telephone hearing, possibly several times, until some kind of service is done. 

So again, going back to the papers that have to be filled out – the affidavit is extremely important. The affidavit is why you need a restraining order. Note the defendant will be given a copy of anything you give to the court. So, ask the court – how can you keep your address secret, how can you keep your phone number secret, if the defendant doesn’t have these? How can you keep your work address secret, and your school address secret? Don’t write those on the papers. The court can tell you how you can keep those secrets. Again, the defendant will have a copy of the affidavit. 

What should go in the affidavit? Again, consider how judges make decisions. What is important in the affidavit is: what has the defendant done to make the plaintiff afraid? Let me repeat that. What has the defendant done to make the plaintiff afraid? After the papers have been submitted dot the judge, you go before the judge and the judge decides to grant or not to grant the restraining order, and then it’s scheduled for a ten-day hearing. And that’s the chance for the defendant to be served with a complaint, and we talked about the service. The police make the service. At the ten-day hearing, that’s the opportunity for both parties to state what they want to happen, and for the judge to talk about visits. 

Moving on, where do you go for child support custody and visitation? Probate court. Stop. Wait. Consider. Do I want to take out a case in probate and family court? If there hasn’t been any cases ever filed in probate and family court – again, I’m talking about paternity or child support or a divorce – then the decisions are up to the parties. Once a case is taken out in court, the decisions – the parties can say what they want, but the decision is made by the judge. Right now, hearings are for emergency matters only, in person; and emergency matters only, probably by telephone also, except for the initial restraining order in probate court, until at least June 1, 2020. The courts are open, but courthouses are closed to the public. If you get an emergency hearing, it will be a telephone hearing. 

What is an emergency hearing? Again, restraining orders are an emergency. But child support, it is our experience that child support is just not considered an emergency. Well, what should I do? Should I wait until after Covid to file anything? If you wait, then your case could take a long lot longer to go through the court. As it is, cases are being put over until after the already-scheduled cases – in other words, there are already cases scheduled on a given day, and the courts have been reluctant to pile on more cases on top of the ones that were already scheduled. So it could take many months, so the earlier you file, the shorter period of time it will take. 

In both paternity and divorce cases, service is necessary, and it’s generally by a sheriff or a constable. 

With child support, the Department of Revenue plays a very big role. The Department of Revenue is capable of taking out a case for child support, but the person wanting the child support is not the plaintiff – it’s the Department of Revenue that’s the plaintiff. However, they can initiate a case against the defendant for child support, and they’re now taking applications for service even during Covid, and they can file a complaint, even during Covid. DOR has attorneys who go into court, and if the person seeking support, again, if the person [who] is seeking support is there, they’re not the plaintiff, it’s the Department of Revenue attorneys who will be speaking, however the plaintiff will be there in court and will respond to any kind of issues. 

It’s not income-dependent. Anyone can make an application for services. Even if you’re high-income, the Department of Revenue can do it. 

Should I hire an attorney, or use the Department of Revenue? In Suffolk County, where I practice, Department of Revenue days, DOR days, are big. There are lines all over the courthouse. So you don’t get the individual attention that you would get in your case. But on the positive side, for a person seeking child support, DOR has access to the big computer. They can find income if the defendant is working under his own social security number. They can find other things – bank accounts, etc. 

Whatever you decide – attorney or no attorney, DOR-initiated or not – unless you reach an agreement, collection and enforcement will be through DOR, and by wage withholding, if possible. What does that mean? The Department of Revenue will do the collection. If it’s by wage withholding, that means that the defendant will never see that money – it will come directly out of his paycheck. If that’s not possible, the defendant has to go and pay through the Department of Revenue, which means that the person seeking child support never has to get involved with collecting the child support, and DOR will keep a record of how many payments have been made and what payments have been made. However, the Department of Revenue will not get involved unless you make an application for services. So even if you get a child support order yourself or through an attorney and the order says DOR will collect it, you have to make an application for services. So once again, this may be a little confusing. DOR could get involved in the start by taking out the complaint, or, if the complaint is taken out by your attorney or you, DOR is still probably going to be involved with the collection. 

How is child support and enforced? Financial statements are filled out by the parents. And then there’s a formula. However, the courts have the ability to deviate from the formula. That’s how child support is established. And it’s enforced by contempt. Contempt means that one party says the other party didn’t follow a court order, and the court can sanction that other party in various ways. 

Moving on to custody and visitation and parenting time, both in divorce and paternity cases. There are two kinds of divorce, a 1A and a 1B. In a 1A, that’s when the parties have been able to cooperate on filing together, and also have a separation agreement that works out all the details of the divorce. A 1B is where the parties didn’t do that; one party files and the other party can answer. Paternity testing – and a paternity test can be done by the Department to Revenue, but not now; Covid is preventing that from happening – obviously the testing can determine paternity, which carries rights and responsibilities.

Probate court in Covid times. The court is open for telephone calls. Salem in particular – we had a training and the registrar for Salem stressed that the court is open for telephone calls, the filing of new cases and pleadings. A pleading is a motion which asks the court to do something. So you need not only a complaint, but also a motion. A complaint by itself only tells the court, “This is what I would like in the case,” but it doesn’t say, “Please do this now.” It’s best, again, not to wait, because if you file a new case, you could be waiting a long time, and if you file now, you’ll be taken before people file after. 

How to file for an emergency hearing which is not a restraining order in probate and family court. Again, you have to have an underlying case  – even if it’s an emergency, you have to have a complaint, divorce, paternity, or a guardianship. That complaint needs to be served, but you can also get, possibly, an emergency order, even without service. You need an affidavit to let the court know why it’s an emergency, and a motion to let the court know what it is you want. Recall how judges make decisions: case law, statutes, and the facts of the case. 

And include your telephone and email address – and again, if you need that address impounded, you need to do a motion to impound your address, and not include any kind of information about contacting you on any court papers, because all court papers have to be given to the defendant. 

What should I ask for? Well, I went over a little bit about visitation, custody. There are two types of custody – well, four – one is legal and one is physical. Physical is who the child lives with, and legal is who makes the decisions for the child. That includes religious decisions, and school decisions, and medical decisions – the big decisions, not what the child is going to wear on a particular day, that’s whoever the child is with; those are little decisions. So there’s joint physical custody, that’s when the child lives with both parents, and there’s sole physical custody, that’s when the child lives with one parent. There’s joint legal custody, where the parents divide their time with the children, the children live with both parents, and sole legal custody, where one person makes the decisions. 

How does the court decide? Remember, how courts make decisions – it depends on whether or not the parents have a history of being able to cooperate and communicate about decisions. And that goes for the decision about physical custody and legal custody. And the other thing, of course, that you can ask for, in both paternity and divorce cases, is child support. So that concludes my presentation; I’ll turn it over to Susan.

Susan: Thank you, Sherry. That was a very interesting talk, and I think you managed to cover an awful lot of subjects in a brief time. That was a very good overview for us, and I think that will be very, very helpful to people. Two things that I’d like to remind people: you mentioned several agencies, and the links to those helpful agencies are on the Swampscott Library website, https://www.swampscottlibrary.org, and click on the Town News tab, and scroll down. You’ll find them all listed there. The other thing that I thought was really good in your talk is that you mentioned that people are not alone in this process. There are agencies out there. They can listen to what you have to say. They have experience. This is what they do, they’ve seen a lot of people go through this, and they can be helpful. So feel free to look at these agencies, at the links. The HAWC, especially, in Salem. The Northeast Legal Services, that was important, the Greater Boston Legal Services, and even the Mass.gov, and the Massachusetts Law Reform. So you’ll see the links, and they’re very helpful people. So take advantage of that help; it makes sense.

I guess the one last thing is, Sherry, I have to say, I really miss seeing you and all of our other patrons coming into the library. I can’t wait for the library to reopen. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m really looking forward to it. So I will say, thank you to our listeners, thank you, Sherry Smith, for sharing all this information with us, and I’ll say goodbye for now.

Learning Series: Local History with Mary Cassidy Transcription

Susan: Hello, and welcome to the Librarians by the Sea Podcast. My name is Susan Conner, and I’m the assistant director here at the Swampscott Public Library. Today’s podcast is going to be all about the New Ocean House, which was a nationally-known resort hotel located right here in Swampscott. Today my guest is local resident Mary Cassidy, whom I’m sure many of you already know. Mary is a past president of the Swampscott Historical Society, she served on the Swampscott Historical Commission for many years, she was chairperson of the Train Depot Exterior Renovation Committee, and she was recently active with the restoration of Andrews Chapel. Thank you for joining me today, Mary.

Mary: Thank you very much, Susan, I’m happy to be here.

Susan: I understand that the new Ocean House was just an amazing place in its heyday, but tell me, why was a big hotel built in Swampscott?

Mary: Well, the history of the New Ocean House goes way back, as far back as 1835. Now keep in mind that’s before Swampscott was a town and before the Civil War. And it wasn’t on Puritan Road at all; the very first one was called the Ocean House and the story goes that the proprietor of a well-known restaurant in Boston was fishing one day off the Swampscott shore and he remarked as he passed by Phillips point – now I want to stop and say that the Phillips family owned everything from the Fish House all the way to Marblehead, and they had a large family and they had several farms, but it was all owned by the Phillips family, so all of those points were called the Phillips Point – and so he, it was where he passing by, then it was called Phillips Point, now we call it Galloupes point, because a family called Galloupe bought many acres and built a magnificent estate there, much later than this story begins. So he thought,

“This would make a fine summer resort,” and he bought nineteen acres from Farmer Phillips for $1600, and he built the first, what it was called, Ocean House. This was the first summer hotel on the mainland of the North Shore of Boston, so Swampscott has the right to say that we had the first summer resort. Soon after, there were 16 other small, what we could call inns nowadays, but small hotels in Swampscott, because people from Boston – not very far away, because this is the day before the automobiles – that people from Boston would see how beautiful this area was, and they would come and spend the entire summer. However, that hotel burned down in 1864, the Ocean House burned down. So another Ocean House was built on Puritan Road, directly across from the entrance to Whale’s Beach. And this Ocean House said in its brochure that it just wanted to have the most respectable and exclusive clientele. Nowadays we couldn’t say that in a brochure, but in those days they said that was exactly what they wanted. And that hotel burned down in 1882. So you may be wondering why they were burning down. Well, keep in mind there were no telephones and that the fire station was way on the other end of town. So if a wooden building had a major fire, you can be sure that it burned right down to the ground before help would come.

Susan: Wow… 

Mary: In those days, in those days. But in 1884, a firm owned by Ainsley built a hotel on the same property, and now they called it the New Ocean House. So this is the one we are most familiar with. And in 1902 there were extensive renovations totaling $100,000. Imagine $100,000 in 1902, what that would be today. The structure was five stories high and 450 feet long, and, it said, it was now “the most select summer hotel on the New England shore, having accommodations for 400 people.” And then in the brochure it said, “there are over 100 private baths.” So, what did the other 300 people do? And then it said, very proudly, “it is lighted throughout with electricity.” 

Susan: Oooh…

Mary: So this was in 1902. And then it also had a nine-hole golf course that extended all the way down to Humphrey Street. It was a par 3 but it was a nice golf course. It also had tennis courts and a billiard room. Then it had, an 8-story fireproof annex was built, and it had the children’s dining room, and I thought this was rather interesting, because the children were allowed in the main dining room only for dessert, or for special occasions, such as their birthdays.

Susan: Oh, my!


nanny or nursemaid; the hotel provided one to sit with the children and teach them proper table manners. There were also in the area four cottages, with six to twelve rooms each, available if guests wished for private accommodations. There was a cottage for the waitresses and another cottage for the cook and the crew and other workers. Interestingly enough, at that time there were not too many local people who worked there, because it was a seasonal business. The season was from May to Labor Day. So, I think that that’s pretty much the history of our New Ocean House.

Susan: That’s quite a story. What were some of the amenities that the hotel offered back in the day – what sort of things made it special? You said the golf course; that was good.

Mary: The heyday of the New Ocean House was in the early 1900s, 1920s, and 1930s. It filled 22 acres of land and employed 150 persons during the season, and it welcomed over 50,000 guests annually. The main lobby had a ballroom, a movie theatre, a barbershop, a beauty salon, a health clinic, a coffee shop, dentist, library, and card room. And then along the edges of the lobby there were several small shops, clothing shops, flowers, gifts, antiques, a candy shop, and there were daily newspaper from all over the country so that the clientele could read their own newspaper from as far away as California. There was also a cocktail lounge, a golf shop, a photography studio, and a dance studio. And the lower area, which was not open to the public, housed a bakery, a tailor, a fish market, a housekeeping center, laundry, a butcher shop, and a print shop. And the print shop not only published the daily menus, but also who was arriving at the hotel, so that if someone was famous was coming you were made aware of it, or someone from your area. So the New Ocean House was truly a self-contained city. 

Susan: Wow. You had me there when you said there was a candy shop in the lobby. (both laughing) I think that would’ve been my favorite! I like that.

Mary: Oh, one other thing I wanted to mention, too, about the garage, because automobiles were fairly new in the ’20s, and so there was a well-appointed garage on the premises where the automobiles could be cared for and stored, they could procure gasoline and be repaired, and there also were rooms for the chauffeurs at the garage. Also there were stables for horses. If you brought your own horse and wanted to go horseback riding, or if you wanted to rent a horse and go horseback riding, that was available, too, so I just wanted to add that.

Susan: That sounds like so much fun. Even a place where your chauffeur can stay, that’s fabulous. Were there large national events, were there big events held at the New Ocean House? I do know it was a nationally-known place. 

Mary: Yes, well, as early as 1941 President Roosevelt and his staff stayed at the hotel when he met with Winston Churchill off the coast to discuss the Atlantic Charter. And this was quite an exciting time for the inhabitants of the town, and many people went out in boats to get a closer look at history in the making. But it wasn’t really until the ’50s and ’60s, when it no longer was a hotel for people who wanted to come and stay for the summer, although some people did, but it was more of a national convention site, and so there were many, many national conventions that were held at the New Ocean House, bringing people from not only all over the country, but from all over the world. And this was mainly I would say in the ’50s and ’60s. 

Susan: Oh, interesting. It really was well known, then.

Mary: Yes.

Susan: Can you mention some of those – you mentioned President Roosevelt; that’s an impressive guest to be there – were there a few other famous people that you remember stayed there, that you’ve learned?

Mary: Well, the list of people who stayed at the New Ocean House is quite impressive. It includes Rudy Valée, who was a popular singer in the 1920s –

Susan: Oh, yes –

Mary: – and then President Calvin Coolidge, who came later to stay, to spend summers, at the White Court, he would stay at the hotel before that. Eleanor and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were guests, Herbert Hoover, Helen Keller, Babe Ruth, Tallulah Bankhead, Sinclair Lewis, Walter Brennan, Harpo Marx, Lucille Ball, Guy Lombardo. Here’s an interesting fact: Rev. Billy Graham held his first appearance as an evangelist at the hotel in 1925. And John F. Kennedy held his first major fundraiser for his campaign for senator at the New Ocean House, and there were many, many more, too numerous to mention. My sister tells the story that, in the ’50s, she was at the Boston College prom, which was held at the New Ocean House, and Frank Sinatra was appearing in another area – he was staying at the hotel, I believe, and appearing somewhere in Boston – and he came back to the hotel and entered the BC prom and sang for them, and she said that was something she’ll never forget.

Susan: Oh, yeah!

Mary: So there were many, many famous people who stayed at that hotel. 

Susan: Interesting; I love that. Well, can you tell us a little bit about the ending of the New Ocean House? I understand it had an unfortunate, but quite a spectacular ending.

Mary: Yes, indeed it did, Susan. Let’s see, it was on May 8, 1969, and it was one of the worst single-dwelling fires in Massachusetts history, and it destroyed this almost 100-year-old New Ocean House. The reservations clerk and the assistant to the general manager was the only employee in the main building. She called the Swampscott Fire Department at 9:53 p.m., when she smelled smoke and heard crackling to the left of the elevator opposite the front door. So the Swampscott Fire Chief Walter Champion stated that the fire seemed to have started in the extension in the back of the hotel. It quickly spread through the wood building and flames consumed the hotel within minutes after the firefighters arrived. The Beverly Times reported that at about 12:45 a.m., “the blaze took on the aspect of an inferno. Flames reached heights of better than 300 feet and were visible for hundreds of miles, literally turning night into day. Many people from town went down; spectators went down – in those days there was a horn system that blew when there was a major fire, and a lot of people had the paper in their home that told them what the number of bleeps on the horn were –

Susan: Oh, sure – 

Mary: – and so when they saw New Ocean House, everybody – not everybody, but a major, major amount of people in town went down, even though the fire started at 10 p.m., and were down there watching. As I was there my dad called and told me, “get in the car, we’re going down to see the New Ocean House.” So many people were at that fire. And the sad thing about it was that there had been a water break. Fire Department Captain James Champion stated that there was a private contracting firm installing sewerage lines along Gale Road – Gale Road is right off Puritan Road – and they failed to report a broken water main to the fire department. As a result, when the firemen arrived and connected their hoses to the nearby hydrants, the water pressure was minimal. Hundreds of feet of empty outstretched hose lay flattened near the entrance to the hotel due to lack of water. All the water, he said, had come from hydrants towards the Fish House and from Humphrey Street – as far away as Humphrey St. They tried to get water from the swimming pool in front, but it had been drained for the season –  

Susan: Oh – 

Mary: Yes, it had been opened up. And they then went to look at the ocean for water. But it was dead low tide. And as you know, at the New Ocean House Beach, when it’s low tide, it’s so far away that they couldn’t get that water, too. So it was as a very, very sad moment. But there were over 40 communities, from as far away as Gloucester and Boston, that sent equipment, and as many as 200 firefighters battled the fire. Several were treated for smoke inhalation. So that was the sad ending to the New Ocean House. But it really was the end of an era because the New Ocean House had an effect on the town. When these people would come for the summer, they would go and buy their things on Humphrey Street and use the businesses in the town, so they really made a difference to our town. And then even during convention time, they would really use and enjoy the town of Swampscott. So when that fire brought the New Ocean House to the ground, it was headlines in papers all over the country, because so many people knew of this hotel. We have copies at the historical society of the front page of newspapers in Chicago, California, all over the country, the front page, talking about the New Ocean House fire.

Susan: That is really something. And it was – it, and then its two predecessors – that really made Swampscott; that was a really big piece of Swampscott history, and people from that era really remember it. It’s sort of faded from our awareness right now, but I’m so glad you were able to share that story with us. It was just such a very different era. 

Mary: Well, you know there are so many people in town, Susan, who did not even know it existed. Because the only people, really, that would know would be the older people in our town. So newer residents coming in are not really aware of it. But I hope someday to have either a marker or something put down by the New Ocean House Beach that says “This is the site of the former New Ocean House Hotel.” Right now the only thing that is left of the hotel is a large white semicircular seating area. It’s called an exedra, and in those days it was where people would go to get out of the sun or the wind and just sit and talk, but it’s still there. It’s in terrible condition, and my hope is that we get funds from somewhere in town to have that repaired, and then maybe on the back of the exedra have a plaque that says it’s from the New Ocean House, because it’s a lovely little thing to see if you go by the park by new Ocean House Beach. That’s all that’s left of the beautiful, beautiful new Ocean House. 

Susan: That and our fantastic memories of it, of all the famous people that were there, and just the different era when things were a little more gracious.

Mary: Yes, every once in a while there’s a display in the town hall with many pictures. I think talking about the New Ocean House is one thing, but you really have to see it to see how beautiful this enormous white building was in our town. So sometimes they have a display, the Historical Society will put it in a display at the town hall, and there are many, many pictures of the New Ocean House.

Susan: Definitely have to look for that. Thank you so much. That sounds fabulous. I really think I would’ve enjoyed staying there. That was just great. 

Well, that wraps it up for today. Thank you, Mary, so much for sharing your stories with us. I appreciate your coming and chatting with me. And thank you also to the listeners. I hope you’ve enjoyed this talk as much as I have. So thank you, and we’ll say goodbye for now; goodbye!

Mary: Goodbye!