By 1965 my family had left Salem Street and was living over my father’s tavern at 3 Lewis Street. Tarquino Gilardi, one of the guys who hung out in the tavern, renovated the first floor for us and for the first time we had an apartment with heat and hot water.
East of Hanover Street was where all the Sicilians lived and I was now faced with the prospect of making new friends. I started hanging out in Mazza’s Pool Hall on Short Prince Street and met up with a great group of guys, Joe Cat, Bozo, John Sergi, Vito Aluia, Sal Caccia, Joe Bono and many others who were the children of the Sicilian fishermen. The abandoned wharves along Atlantic Avenue were our playground. We speared eels and snagged herring in the summer, caught smelts in the winter and fished for crabs with gurry from the fish companies on Atlantic Avenue.
We had a club under the charred timbers of Union Wharf which we called the “Burnt Wharf” because of the fire in the early 1950’s. We swam naked from the granite wharf foundation but never in August when moon jelly fish filled the harbor. It really was a terrific place to grow up, not always safe but an awful lot of fun. There was one fellow we called Lenny the Clam who occasionally came around but we avoided him because of the bizarre things he did with stray dogs and cats under the wharf.
By this time the working waterfront was gone and rumbles of re-development were in the air. The fishing fleet had moved on, the smaller boats to Gloucester and the big draggers to Northern Avenue. The produce warehouses were relocated to Widett Circle in South Boston and the packing companies on Fulton Street were dispersed to other parts of the area. The BRA had plans to tear down many of the old warehouses along Fulton and Commercial Streets and build modern mid-rise housing but neighborhood opposition caused them to change their minds.
I had just bought a Japanese camera (Minolta) and I experimented with it by taking pictures of the waterfront I knew. I thought I had lost those pictures but my daughter recently found them and Matt has allowed me to share them. These pictures show the waterfront fifty years ago, before it was re-developed. I hope you enjoy them.
Quick quiz: At the end of T Wharf was a restaurant. Does anyone remember it’s name?
Nicholas Dello Russo is a lifelong North Ender and columnist. Often using vintage photographs, Nick tells the stories of growing up in the North End along with its culture and traditions. It was a time when the apartments were so small that residents were always on the streets enjoying “Life on the Corner.” Read more of Nick’s columns.