Style and grace
If you grew up in Southie, most likely you knew Miss Harriet. She was the friendly, fashionable and sassy preschool teacher down the L. Touching hundreds of families’ lives, Harriet Sylvestri was the face of the City of Boston funded preschool- “Tiny Tots.” With style and grace, she taught the alphabet, sang songs and mixed in some dancing to 3 and 4 year-olds from 1978 to 2003. “I had so much fun with Tiny Tots. The kids were amazing and the families of South Boston were great,” says Harriet. After 38 years of dedicated service to the community of South Boston, Harriet has officially retired. On Tuesday, June 30, the neighborhood gathered to celebrate at the teen center at the Curley Recreation Center. After the Tiny Tots program ended in 2003, Harriet stayed on as a bookkeeper handling the payroll.
“As I watched Harriet leave our building last Tuesday, it struck me that she was still as lovely, caring and inspiring as the day I was sitting as a 16 year-old summer counselor and watched her walk in over 35 amazing years ago. I wish her all the joys now in life that she brought each day to the South Boston community as the incomparable “Miss Harriet,” says Barbara Caputo Kelly, BCYF Youth Worker.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Harriet ran a “finishing school” for young women in Boston. “I taught the class one afternoon a week in different neighborhoods,” says Harriet. “It was a modeling class and I taught them about things like posture, appearance, public speaking, and fashion. It was about building up the girls’ self-confidence to make them strong, young women.” The grand finale of the program was a fashion show that was held at City Hall. Local celebrities acted as judges and one of the lucky girls would win a scholarship to a modeling school.
Harriet was a professional dancer in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. She danced at local legendary nightclubs like The Latin Quarters, and Frolics and shared the stage with Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. When asked if she ever danced at the famous Southie nightclub Blinstrub’s, Harriet smiles and tells the story, “I auditioned there and made it but decided not to take the job. The dancer’s line captain was very strict and there were so many rules and regulations to work there that I decided I didn’t need the aggravation.”
Now enjoying retirement, Harriet looks back fondly on the families of South Boston. “I’ve taught some incredible kids that have turned into some pretty amazing adults. It’s so great to bump into them at the L and recognize them and reconnect,” says Harriet. As to what she’ll be doing, now that she’s no longer working. “Just living my life,” she says with a smile. We’ll bet she’ll be doing it with a spring in her step and with impeccable style.
We will miss you Miss Harriet!