To provide a summer of healthy outdoor life for boys whose parents cannot afford it.
Teach self reliance.
To broaden the boys’ provincial horizon.
To teach the basic principles involved in earning a living and managing money.
by Nicholas S. DiMasi
The sun rises above the peaks of the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire in the town of Bethlehem. It shines its light on the two dormitory buildings housing the seventy boys who live there. The thirteen year old boy sleeping in the lower bunk of a two bunk bed cubicle opens his eyes. He climbs out of bed and, immediately, starts making his bed with hospital corners, straight and stiff. The bed is so tightly made, that you can bounce a nickel on it. He proceeds to the bathroom and shower room to do his morning ablutions. There are at least twenty five sinks to choose from, and, of course a shower room that can hold fifteen at a time. After returning to his bunk, he puts on the uniform: blue hat, grey jersey with the name of the caddy camp, grey kaki pants. Now, he steps out in front of the buildings of the camp, to gather with the other seventy boys forming a circle around the flagpole. As the American flag is raised, he stands at attention, removes his hat with his right hand and holds it at the left shoulder, his hand being over his heart.
Then he and the other boys recite the following:
“The day returns and brings its petty rounds of irritating concerns and duties. Help us to play the man. Help us to perform our duties and responsibilities with laughter and kind faces. And in the end, bring us to our resting beds, weary and content”.
He then proceeds to the squad to which he has been assigned to for the week, whether working in the kitchen, the dining room, cleaning the bathrooms, or sweeping the dormitories. After the work, and after breakfast, he walks the one mile to the links, and awaits his turn to be assigned to a golfer. He caddies eighteen holes, and then returns to the camp for lunch. In the afternoon, he repeats the process and caddies another eighteen holes. After supper, he will either use the hotel pool to swim, compete in sports at the camp, walk to town for a movie, or return to the links to play golf until sunset, depending on which day of the week it is.
Late at night, he returns to his bunk. He is weary but content. He has performed his duties very well today. He has played the man.
Life on the Corner: Shaw House
By Nicholas Dello Russo, originally published on North End Waterfront
e live in an era, and in a country, where the government provides a wide range of social and educational services for its citizens. Newly arrived immigrants can obtain housing, food, a monthly stipend and even an education in their native language all paid for by the Federal and State governments. But imagine you were someone coming to America a hundred or so years ago. The only safety net our grandparents had was their family, friends (paesani) and their ability to do the back breaking work relegated to poor immigrants. Health insurance and welfare were unknown in the North End. My parents never had health insurance nor did I until I started college. I remember how strange it felt knowing that if I got sick someone else would pay for it.
Back then public charities were funded by wealthy private citizens who had a social conscience. We in the North End were very fortunate to have a settlement house/social services agency founded by one of the greatest of Boston philanthropists, Pauline Agassiz Shaw. That institution was the North Bennet Street Industrial School.
Pauline Agassiz was the daughter of the noted Harvard Naturalist, Louis Agassiz. When she married Quincy Adams Shaw at the age of nineteen, she became one of the wealthiest women in America. She used her resources to help the poor people of Boston, especially children. For several years, she personally funded 31 free kindergartens. Mrs. Shaw’s portrait hung in the main lobby of the NBSIS, no doubt keeping a watchful eye on all the people who benefited from her gift to the North End.
As a child I spent most of my time at the North End Union because it was right around the corner from my parent’s flat and my mother was secretary to the director, Mr. Frank L. Havey. I joined the NBSIS when I was about eleven years old because my pal Bernie Bamonte was a member and he told me how great it was. Boy, was Bernie right.
Both the North End Union and the NBSIS had after school play groups. At the NEU the play group was held in Hubbard Hall and was ruled over by Mrs. Martha Blum. Mrs. Blum broached no nonsense and children were expected to act with proper decorum. Shaw house at the NBSIS was very different. The head social worker there was John T. Dexter, Mr “D”, aided by Mario DeLeo and later Sam Rimini. Mr.”D” was a classic, taciturn Yankee and he led Shaw house not by intimidation but by example. Always a gentleman and impeccably dressed in a white shirt, bow tie and Glen plaid suit, “D” treated all us boys with calmness and respect. He taught us to communicate with each other not with our fists but with words. Who knew?
Along with Bernie Bamonte and Anthony Cortese I spent a weekend at D’s farm in Wolcott, Vermont where we learned that electric cow fences really packed a wallop, skunks liked out houses and pasture patties were slippery. We couldn’t wait to get back to the safety of the North End.
Pauline Shaw started the after school play group, named Shaw House, to give children a safe place to go while their parents were still at work. Being out on the streets after school was dangerous (but fun) and it supposedly kept us out of the pool halls and gambling clubs so common in the North End. Several generations of North End boys literally grew up in Shaw House and much of the success any of us achieved was due to the vision and generosity of this remarkable woman and the wonderful social workers who oversaw Shaw House, Mr. “D”, Mario, Sammy and, of course, “Uncle Fred” Carangelo.
Sadly, Shaw House no longer exists. The children’s program was transferred to the old bath house (Nazzaro Center) where Pauline Shaw’s work is still being carried out by Patty Tanzo, John Romano and Carl Ameno. North End children are still in good hands.