When summer fades into fall, I am reminded of the summers we spent in South Boston during the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
We had so many different experiences back then. How many of you remember the old truck that would visit the neighborhood with the amusement park ride (“The WHip”) in the back of it? It was dirty and I’m sure it wasn’t inspected very often – if at all. If it showed up in the neighborhood today, DSS would probably get involved if a parent allowed their child to get on the ride. How about the pony and carriage rides? The “old timer” would take us up and down the block for a quarter. Then we would escape for a week or two by joining “Day Camp”.
I always enjoyed the day camp that was run out of “The Ollie” which is now the South Boston Neighborhood House. The Tynan and Condon School had their own programs as well. When you went to day camp, there was a new adventure every day. We would visit different beaches, lakes, and parks in the area. Lunches were provided but seldom eaten (Many of us would bring our own sandwich or stop at Miller’s Market to pick up some goodies – Lemon Drops, Alexander the Grapes, and Red Hots). The lunches that were provided always seemed to get soggy from the melted ice in the coolers.
The councilors were all Southie teenagers (Cheryl, Steffan, and Chris, to name a few) that we thought were so much older than us but really weren’t. You have to hand it to them, they had their hands full with close to 40 kids and they never lost one of us (maybe temporarily but not permanently). The king of the day was always Chuck the bus driver. He would keep us in line and keep us entertained at the same time. The highlight of the day was whether or not he would drive down G Street Hill. We knew where every big bump in the road was located and we loved it when he hit them at full speed so we would bounce as high as we could out of our seats (Yes, no seat belts! They weren’t even an issue back then). The bus rides were always fun.
We would bring a “master blaster” and we would sing the latest songs. Rainy days provided us with a break from the sun. We would visit a movie theatre (usually on Cambridge Street by MGH) and then get ice cream sandwiches at the Sealtest Factory on the way home. We bonded with each other despite the inevitable teasing and flirting that took place and we protected each other from other camp kids who crossed the line. We developed friendships that have endured over all these the years. I’ll miss seeing the bus parked in front of the Ollie early on summer mornings ready to pick up the next generation of day campers.
I would like to thank all of the councilors who took care of us, not just at day camp but through all the programs that they provided over the years, from Mrs. Sances to Kathy Ahearn and everybody in between (too many to list).
Written by Gino Provenzano