A Conversation with Garnett Long of Allston
William P. Marchione

William Marchione (W.M).: What else do you remember about Allston in the 1930s, Garnett?

Garnett Long (G.L.).: Well, a lot of rich people lived here back then. St. Lukes was a very prominent church. That's where most of the rich people went. It was Episcopal. A lot of the wealthy people lived around the Chester and Reedsdale Street area near St. Luke's. And a lot of rich people lived near the [Allston] Congregational Church on Parkvale and Quint Avenues. I think the three biggest churches in town were the Brighton and Allston Congregational Churches and the Brighton Avenue Baptist Church. Of course we [the Hill Memorial Baptist Church on North Harvard Street] were an offshoot of the Brighton Avenue Baptist Church. We were the only Protestant church on [the northern side] of the tracks.

W.M.: Do you remember any other churches being in the neighborhood?

G.L.: Yes, there was another little church that people hardly know anything about, St. John's Finnish Lutheran Church on Cleveland Street [formerly Clevemont Street]. We used to play ball in the little field there. The church would have suppers and we'd always get something to eat there. There were a lot of Finnish people that used to live here. There was another place as well that I always thought was a church. You know where the Twin Donuts is? Well, there used to be a little temple there. My father used to call it the Scenic Temple, but I don't know why. [ed. note:The building in question appears in a 1925 street atlas as "Temple Hall". It was located at 521 Cambridge Street, and belonged to the Finnish Workingmen's Association.]

W.M.: Can you tell us about any other local landmarks?

G.L.: We also used to go into Odd Fellow's Hall. That was a huge building.

W.M.: Where was it located?

G.L.: In back of the Twin Donuts where the Store 24 and the used auto business are today. There were stores underneath Odd Fellows Hall. It was a monstrous building that went up almost to Everett Street on the North Beacon Street side.

W.M.: Now how did they use Odd Fellows Hall?

G.L.: I don't know. I was only in there a couple of times. Once we had a Christmas party there. Maybe they had meetings there at night, but I didn't pay attention to that. I would imagine the Odd Fellows held their meetings there. The Odd Fellows used to be big, something like the Knights of Columbus are now.

W.M.: Did it have an elaborate interior?

G L.: It was kind of fancy. It wasn't like a cathedral, but it was big and monstrous. You used to have to go upstairs to get to the hall. They rented the downstairs to stores to make money.

W.M.: Where did your family do its shopping when you were young?

G.L.: Mohegan's Market on Harvard Avenue, mostly. The sign is still up in the parking lot, behind the APAC office. None of the old stores on Harvard Avenue are left. Friday and Saturday nights were the big shopping nights. Everybody shopped up there. The cars angle parked right on the avenue. But there weren't that many cars. When I lived on Cambridge Street we used to walk up. We could take a shortcut through Craftsman or Mechanics Street, which was in back of the present fire station.

W.M.: Were there delivery trucks that came to your door to deliver goods?

G.L.: No, you had to go out and buy things. I never remember getting a delivery for anything. But, I do remember, that when I got out of high school I used to work for the Economy Grocery Store over here on the corner [Franklin and Alcott Streets], and we used to deliver orders. We had a little two-wheel push cart with a wheel on the front for deliveries. We used to deliver all over the place.

W.M.: How old were you at that point?

G.L.: I was eighteen or nineteen. I had just finished high school, about 1938 or 1939. I earned eighteen dollars a week. That was good money back then. Then fellows used to come down who drove cabs, Allston Cab, which was located on the corner of Harvard and Commonwealth Avenues, in the basement. And one of them said, you can make more than eighteen dollars a week. Do you want to drive a cab? And they hired me. What an improvement. With them I was making fifty or sixty dollars a week.

W.M.: That was a lot of money back then.

G.L.: I was like a millionaire. Then I got drafted! That was the end of the parade.

W.M.: How did your family get by during the Great Depression?

G.L.: We were always Republicans. The WPA [The Works Progress Administration] used to build these walls around all the playgrounds. When Roosevelt became President 1933, my father got a job with the WPA making about $26 a week. He had a hard time getting a job because he was a Republican. But eventually, a lady named Brosnahan, who lived up on Quint Avenue, got my father a job. She also got my brother into a CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] camp too. The WPA built walls, and my father was a carpenter. I suppose they needed carpenters to build the frames for the walls.

W.M.: A lot of those WPA walls are still doing service at this point.

G.L.: I see them all around. There are still some up a McKinney's Playground, and at Smith's playground we have one all the way around, and at Ringer Playground from Commonwealth Avenue up, and also on Gordon Street.

W.M..: They employed some excellent craftsmen.

G.L.: Yes, and the walls are still solid!

W.M..: How do you feel about the schooling that you got here in Allston-Brighton?

G.L.: When I went in the army, they considered the Boston schools the highest rated academic schools in the country, and would automatically screen you for OCS [Officers Candidate School]. I loved Brighton High School. As a matter of fact, all my kids graduated from Brighton High School. And later, I was really involved in the school. My son Glen was on the track team. He ran his last two years without losing a race. I was also involved as a parent during the desegregation controversy.

W.M.: Did you consider going on to college?

G.L.: When I got out of the army, I went to Suffolk University. I was going to teach history. I went two years to Suffolk. I filled in one day in South Boston. That discouraged me! Then one day I was waiting for the mail out in front of my house. When the mailman came by he said, “Long, they’re looking for help over at the post office.” When I showed up, they gave me a mail bag, and directions to pick up mail. The boss also gave me a sheet of instructions and said, “Study this sheet. Tomorrow come in at nine. When you learn the scheme for pitching mail, you can begin coming in at six.” Well, the next morning I showed up at six a.m., and they put me to work pitching mail. When the boss showed up a little later he said, “I told you to come in at nine.” “Leave him alone,” one of the clerks said, “he throws mail faster than anybody I ever saw.” “But he's not looking at the numbers.” “That's alright, he throws by name!” You see, at that time I didn't have to look at the addresses, because I knew where everybody in Allston lived. Of course, you can’t do that now.

W.M.: That’s for sure.

G.L.: I said to myself, “Gee, this sure beats teaching!” I think teachers were making about $1500 or $1600 dollars a year. The pay was miserable. When I started in the post office I got $1,700 a year. But I loved delivering mail! And, you know, I’d still be working today, if management weren’t so stupid.

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