Commentary: Growing Up in the North End Not All Positive

I’ve heard that former North End residents are sending in their opinion as to what it was like growing up there years ago as opposed to some of the awful things that are currently occurring. (Letters From Longtime North End Residents Lament Noise and Quality of Life Problems, 12/16/2012)

I was born in 1949 and moved from the North End in 1989.

I do remember more of a police presence when I was a child, as police would walk their “beat” back then.

The very best thing about growing up there were some friends I made that are still my friends.

However, I have some very bad and sad memories. The following is a portion of what I choose to share:

Not much for kids to do; we had playgrounds and two clubs. I used to go to the North End Union after school.

When I was 11 yrs old, while standing on my doorstep, a teenage boy walking by looked at me and made a very obscene gesture.

Prejudice against black people was rampant. I witnessed a car driven by a black person with black passengers overturned on Salem Street by a group of North End young men.

Drug addicts (late teen boys) would ask me and my girlfriend (we were about 15 or 16)to obtain paregoric for them at drugstores.

Myself and a couple of friends were shot at on Atlantic Ave by someone in a passing car; no one got hurt.

I saw a young man dying on Salem St; he had been stabbed; he was not from the North End. He did not make it. I saw his blood on the street the next day.

Much older men (some knew my Dad) tried to seduce me when I was 15 yrs old.

Basically, I never cared much for the North End and I certainly had no attachment to it back then nor at present. I truly wish my parents had moved away in the 50s. However, I am thankful for my cherished friends.

Linda Orsini (Maiden name: Termine)

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29 Replies to “Commentary: Growing Up in the North End Not All Positive

  1. I agree with Ms. Termine about growing up in the
    North End, but it was still the safest place to live in the City.
    We had 2 social clubs for neighborhood kids and
    about 5 or so playgrounds.
    I remember fist fights taking place after dances because
    of other kids who attended our dances that were not
    from the No. End, stabbings and even murders, BUT
    we were not dealing with what we are dealing with
    today. The people living in the No. End today have no
    respect for the Elderly, people were not urinating of
    rooftops, they were not having sex in buildings where
    feet were hanging out of doorways, and they certainly
    were not fist fighting with our Police or throwing beer
    bottles off of rooftops at our Police.
    We did not need the Police Protection we need now
    because the Gangsters that lived in the area were our
    protection. There were plenty of young girls who sat
    and drank with these gangsters in lounges and after
    hour places, and let me add, it was not by force, these
    young woman chose to be around these guys. I know
    because I witness these women socializing and drinking
    with these men. I am sure their parents didn’t know or
    would approve of their daughters sitting with these men,
    but they did it anyway. The No. End just like any other
    neighborhood had it’s problems, but these are not the
    problems that plague the No. End today. There were
    plenty of families that left the No. End and most of them
    wish they could live here again, but it is far too expensive.

    1. We all know peeing on sidewalks or rooftops are not

      worse than stabbings. You don’t have to be a Brain

      Surgeon to figure that out. You are missing the point.

  2. Truth Seeker wrote, “I remember fist fights…, stabbings and even murders, BUT we were not dealing with what we are dealing with today.”

    That may be the most ridiculous comment I have ever read on this site.

  3. who woulda thought that neighborhoods change along with their residents? from irish to jewish to italian to yuppie/college-kid and eventually something else. enough with the whining about how things aren’t the way they used to be; no sh!t and thank g-d they aren’t!

  4. I find it hilarious that “they” always reference that one incident of someone peeing off a roof and the beer bottle incident. I think these events were either at the same party or at least with in the same article within a two week timespan. Regardless those single events have been extrapolated into something that is a pervasive issue. Is the North End loud? Yes. Are there people drunk on the streets doing stupid stuff on the weekends? Yes. Is it completely to blame on the college/yuppy crowd. No. Absolutely not (this is your argument don’t deny it).

    In fact I almost started filming a few incidents this past weekend of a group of 50 year old plus people who seemed to live here that were acting completely out of control yelling on Salem Street (Epcot lane for you non-yuppies).

    Its the same argument on here all the time. The neighborhood has changed, and in some ways for the better. There are issues, but there are issues in every single neighborhood in this city. I believe the north end is one of the safest in the City, so please just deal with the fact that the neighborhood won’t be like 1960 anymore. Blunt I know, but its a fact.

  5. We all know the Neighborhood isn’t the way it use to be, and
    about thanking God for that, I don’t think so.

    I have lived in the No. End for years and have attended
    Sunday mass and I have never heard a priest speak
    out about how bad things have gotten down here.

    Father’s Day of 2010 or 11 one of our Priest spoke out
    regarding how out of control the Neighborhood is.

    You don’t have to believe me or have any regard for
    the e mails that residents & past resident sent in
    regarding the Neighborhood, just ask our Clergy what
    they have been subjected to in the past years.

    We still have violence, we still have drug deals, and we
    still have trash & broken bottles all over the entire
    Neighborhood. The No. End was considered a Slum
    when I was growing up, but residents cleaned there
    properties with bleach and certainly didn’t step into
    dog crap outside there doors. I do not see God behind
    this at all.

  6. What the neighborhood was, how people behaved, etc. are not the problems of today. Times have changed; this has always been a working class neighborhood. Until recent years, the North End was a place for families to get a start in the city, small apartments, crowded streets, and the noise that comes when living in close quarters.

    I personally found the aggravations of the past more justifiable. After all, it was an affordable place to raise a family, close to where the jobs where with plenty of schools, playgrounds, a nice swimming pool, skating rink, baseball field, etc.

    The North End is not changing alone, our nation is changing. Our education system is failing our children, politicians are taking advantage of the people who elect them, and greed has put a price tag on how and with whom we live.

    The reason why the newcomers have such bad manners is because of bad parenting, a federally run school system that has striped them of our customs, traditions, faith and moral guidance and a mediocre higher education system where the final metamorphosis of our young citizens is completed without any reference to respect for others, where our freedoms begin and end and how to be a good neighbor and citizen.

    To add to the problem, laws are not enforced. Our police department, full of good intentions, is trying to educate these people with pamphlets on how to be a good neighbor, a failing enterprise in my opinion. Enforcing the law would be a good start. If you break the law there should be consequences. Our young citizens know they can get away with it.

    The unfortunate consequences are a lot more serious. Although we live in a much wealthier community, we have more petty crime. Although we live surrounded by “College Students” we seem to be surrounded by some of the most ignorant people of our times. Although we have a history of drug abuse and crime, no one seems to be learning from the sad lessons of the past. Although our community is full of young professionals, there is nothing professional about the way they act.

    The problem lies with in all of us; do you want to live in a better neighborhood?
    Being a better neighbor is a good start.

    1. very well said! it is true that being a better neighbor is a good start and this is something that we ALL should consider.

  7. Very well said Jorge, Thank You !! We all have to keep a level head about this problem, and maybe then we will bring this neighborhood back to THAT~~~~~A NEIGHBORHOOD !!!!!
    I am a believer in You have to give a little~~~To get a little !!

    I would really love to hear the other side of the coin~~~~
    If there is anyone out there that could explain why you think that someone that has been bothered or woken up during the night shouldn’t call the police, to report it ??? Please tell us your side of the story !!! Believe me~~if a 90year old man or woman gets crazy and acts up making noise late at night, they should be reported !!! This problem has NOTHING to do with age !!!!! AND these VERY SAME people would have a problem if they were disturbed while they were sleeping ! So~~let’s all stick together dealing with this same problem ???

      1. Let me bring up the crime the insults abuse constantly from my own kind if people, I came from Italy when I was 9 lived in Hyde Park but I was in the north end just about every day then we moved on top of di Carlos furniture went to Michelangelo school (bilingual program ) worked at dello sport cafe Pompeo and as I refer I grew up @ tge Italian cantina this was in the 70s and the point that I want to make is that every single day one way or other I would be picked insulted called greaser, and many times when I used to get a sub @ beninatis my food was taking away from me by a Fricking wise guy! I will tell today still year 2016 I can feel and sense it that there are some residents that think that they are beeter than you, but not today, I feel invincible and I appreciate American peoole,

  8. Linda’s experience growing up in the North End was typical of what many women experienced. It’s hard to imagine but life on the streets of the North End fifty years ago was rough and many families couldn’t wait to leave tor the leafy surburbs of Somerville or Medford. My family stayed because my fathers business was here and he was “connected”.
    I remember Linda’s family very well and they were wonderful people. Her father, Marco and his wife Sue. Eddie and Jennie, the grandparents and all her aunts and uncles. I hope Linda will also remember the closeness of the neighborhood and the special joy of having so many family and friends within a few blocks.
    Racism and sexism were rampant at that time not only in the North End but throughout society. Thank God things are different now.

  9. Re: Growing up in the North End

    Many young women were involved with married men, gangsters, wannabe gangsters, drug addicts, or just really bad characters back then. I think that NONE of their parents would have liked to have seen this side of them.

    Regarding gangsters “protecting” the residents, they certainly may have, but, mostly what they did was to protect themselves, e.g., keeping law enforcement at bay.

    When one is living amonst such an element, sometimes it’s like the old saying, “if you can’t beat them, join them”.

    I NEVER forget where I came from. I treasure the good friends I’ve made. I do have some fond memories; going to our excellent Public Library; attending St. Anthony’s and St. John’s and then JBHS where I learned from great teachers; had fun and made so many dear friends; some of whom have passed away, so very young–I think of them every day.

    Yes, like so many others, I DO regret involvement with some not so nice people and engaging in certain activities. I do adhere to th fact that some older males tried to corrupt underage girls.

    Drugs are never ending, in the North End or elsewhere, whether it’s recreational pot or prescription meds.

    Although I don’t recall anyone urinating off a roof top, I do remember people urinating in doorways; my parents/grandparents throwing bleach on the outside steps; I also recall picking up beer cans and litter on the steps.

    As far as racial prejudice, I don;t think it’s a problem in the North End now since, as back then, there ARE no black families living there (unless they are quite prosperous and live on the waterfront). I recall a black man being hung over a roof ledge by his feet; it may have been Fleet St. Perhaps I am very wrong and there has been an influx of black people who have moved to the North End.

    Some folks need to get beyond their grievances and DO something else beside complain about every little issue. This is life.


  10. All this talk about the growing up in the North End was in another time, it is not what this is about.

    Let us get back to the subject we are trying to address.
    I want to know where Steve, me, ben, diane, and “Dino” grew up. I want to know why they feel peeing off the roof and keeping your neighbors up all night is OK.

    I want to know what you do for a living and why you moved to this neighborhood.

    Let us know about you, as most of you, walk around with your heads down and never look anyone is their face.

    Now that we are having this discussion, maybe we can mend fences but only if we know something about you…Patricia

    1. I did not read Diane’s comment fully, when I read it again I understood her comment was about Jorge Mendoza and not with Steve, ben and the guys from Epcot. Sorry Diane. Pia

    2. I never said it was ok Patricia, in fact its totally inappropriate, and I have never done nor never will do anything like that in my life. My point was that if you read all of these threads people reference that single event and extrapolate that into a much larger issue.

      1. Dino, I have heard of 2 roof incidents in one year. One on North Margin St and another on North St. No matter how many times it doesn’t make it right. As far as the noisy partys and drunken young people it is every weekend starting from Friday to Saturday nights. It is difficult to maintain a normal life if your sleep is disturbed on weekends because of loud music and screaming voices. Please understand we all like a good time but not at your neighbors expense. Patricia

  11. Thank you so much to Jorge, Janet, Patricia, Diane and
    Gualione, for taking the time out of your busy lives to
    explain what is taking place in our neighborhood today.

    May you all have a Happy, Healthy New Year.

  12. I am so happy that people are speaking out about the
    present times in the North End.

    The other stories sounded very self-centered and it
    sounded like the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.’

    All of us that live in the North End, we are trying to make
    this a better place for people of all ages, and hopefully
    with these ordinances that have been passed, we will be

    This is a quality of life issue we are fighting down here,
    not a personal issue.

  13. Linda’s posts are a poignant reminder of how little women were valued in the North End culture of fifty years ago.
    In the late 1930’s a young Harvard graduate student named William Foote Whyte lived in the North End for a year and used his observations as the basis for his thesis. His book, Street Corner Society, was a landmark in observational Sociology. I read it in high school and it opened my eyes to so much of what I experienced. Whyte discussed corner boys, college boys and wise guys but he totally neglected 50% of the people, viz. women. He did this because women weren’t valued except for sex. Their role was to have babies, cook, clean and not ask any questions.
    In order to survive young women either had to get married early, 18 was a common age, or buy into the wise guy life style. Girls like Linda who were pretty were easy targets for older males. But times have changed and the eighteen year old girl who liked hanging around with plunks isn’t the mature woman who goes to weekly Mass up in Essex County. Just be thankful our daughters and grand daughters will have a different life.

    1. Gualione you are so right, but all of us had choices and
      I had a lot of pretty friends, but everyone has a choice,
      and people only get away with what you allow them to
      get away with. Plenty of us were in the company of these
      undesirables, but if you know they were hurting people,
      or killing them, or prejudice and any or all of these things
      bothered you, there was a choice to be made and you
      didn’t have to socialize with these people.
      There were plenty of young girls who went out seeking
      these characters, regardless whether they were
      married, cold blooded killers, , drug dealers or thieves,, and the other
      pretty girls stayed as far away from these people as
      possible. Alot of these women didn’t even socialize in
      the North End, and the only way they knew about
      these characters were through the newspapers.

  14. hey patricia,

    i grew up in worcester but moved to boston in 2008 and the north end in summer 2011 after i could afford to purchase my own home. i am a typical “problem-case;” a successful professional in his late-20s with an unending respect and love for this community. i live on copp’s hill so it’s not quite so abrasive as it closer to dowtown, but i do my best to walk with my head high and greet all the paisan-curmudgeons who dismiss my presence without even knowing me.

    as i said in my first post; neighborhoods change and people change. both young/recent arrivals and older/life-long residents need to learn to RESPECT EACH OTHER.

    1. ben, Thank you for telling us who you are, I am sure if you continue to be respectful and friendly to people you see everyday they will notice you and should you have a problem they be there for you. That is what we do in this neighborhood, it is sad that some young people that moved here have made it difficult for you and others to make friends with us, it was never that way. This is why I feel we need this conversation so that we know that there are young people here solely to make a life for themselves. We can all change our attitudes only if we get to understand each other. Hope to meet you in Cafe Italia sometime. Patricia

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