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?

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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?

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

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?

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

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. 

Read more Learning Series: Family Law with Sherry Smith Transcription

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!

Mary:

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!