[On Mashapaug Pond]
I grew up down the street further and we used to come up here and fish and we’d build rafts and you know and once in awhile we’d swipe a set of sheets off a clothesline and make sailing rafts and everything like that and go swimming and everything else in there so it was a rec place.
[So you said it used to be a small neighborhood, what is it now, that neighborhood?]
Slum [laughs] there's no other nice way to put it. But there's still mansions back here that the people from Gorham and Textron built. There's some beautiful homes in there...Crystal chandeliers, hardwood floors, butler's pantries, they were beautiful beautiful pieces of work. I watched them build this house across the street, this green house, and it's just kind of slapping them together, if they last 50 years they're going to be lucky. But there's been a lot of new house building around here. That one there, the big white one down the street here is new and it's a couple on this street and a couple over there, so you know. And they're all single-family houses, in that building, and the few three tenement houses you see around here are, like Savi’s family next door, this big white one over here is all family. Background of the neighborhood.
[Do you know a lot of the neighbors you have around here?]
Kennedy: Yeah. Yeah. So that's what's good. And it's like the United Nations: S is Cambodian, I think they're American I mean born in America but Spanish background, they across the street, there's Spanish over there, there's more Cambodians over here. But the thing is if anyone needs a hand with anything, you got to just go next door. Same thing with him over there [points] and you really get to know the different cultures like S and his wife over here, they take their shoes off at the door and come in. You go over to his apartment, you see all the shoes up in the hallway. Now he's constantly working around the house and, but not the sons, the sons don't help him because you know what the son's job is? Education. You go into the first room in the house and it's plastic, you don't need any wallpaper, it's plastic, with every diploma from preschool all through colleges and everything - that's their job. So but also in their culture, they, well he died since then but the wife's parents lived with them, too. So they get the education so they can take care of the parents later on in life. It's different.
[Different from how it used to be or…?]
I don't know how it was here before, but I mean it gets to expose you to different cultures and different...But you know the problem too is a lot of them come from these countries that really don't want to get involved in anything. Especially the ones from any Latin American countries, you don't want to get involved with anything, you don't want to hear that knock on the door in the middle of the night. I know S over here, the Cambodian family, they vote but anything other than that, no, they don't want to hear it, because they grew up with that fear, you know? [aside, talks to cat]
[So talking back a little bit about the neighborhood you grew up in, is it, you just talked about this neighborhood currently. What was that neighborhood like? What kind of people were around?]
Well I'll tell you what it was like, unfortunately, alright, very Puritanical, there isn't another word that comes to mind. We had one guy at Halloween, we would go to his house first, C and B, and she worked at the local grocery store and she was the cashier and I don't know what he did but every Halloween you went to his house first, you took one pillowcase and then he'd take all of the furniture out of the living room and set up folding tables and not them little candy bars we have now, big full size candy bars! And you go home and dump that one off and then go out with another pillowcase. But you know what he found, though? C and B weren’t married. They were ostracized after that. Nobody would speak to them, they had to move out because they weren't legitimately married, they were what do they call it back then? Oh living in sin, living in sin.
...But it was a good neighborhood. If you cut across somebody's lawn or something like that, you may as well go home now, because your old man already knew about it, somebody would call them and tell them and "hey your kid's running across my lawn" so it was like that. Very very everybody knew everybody. And I assume everybody knew everybody's business too, I don't know, I was too young then.
[What about growing up near Mashapaug Pond? How has that changed over time? You said you used to do fishing and rafting?]
Yeah, yeah, well they never had all the signs up there that they have now. Wear gloves, wear boots, do not take fish home, they've got caution signs in I think at least two different languages, and entrance to it is pretty well restricted but I mean you walk right down there anyway. And it’s like when they were going to build a school down here and everyone was up in arms about it, well we're going to put a fence around it. Let me see, kids, water, a fence, so where is the part that's going to stop them? That's not going to stop them. You got to wear gloves now and obviously the fish aren't edible but there are some monsters that grow out there! And they actually still, they stock that pond with I think it's perch or pickerel. I don't know why, it's beyond me. But I see the Asians come up from Roger Williams Park which is right down the street, bringing home all the German carp. And all those ponds in there are spring fed by under here and then through the other one by Twin Oaks, I forget the name now.
...So anyway, at the turn of the last century, that was a big recreational place. They had swimming races there and swimming lessons, meets, they had sailboat rentals and canoe rentals and everything, everything. And then they build Gorham's and all of a sudden the water started turning green, going home and stuff like that. And that was originally built for Rhode Island School of Design
[The Gorham building?]
Yeah, to teach them, the silversmiths. So back there in those days they thought nothing of just dumping it into the water. Just another train of thought, that pulled right out of the station.
[On a skating accident]
...And there was one...who was skating and fell through and so they sent police divers out fully covered, fully fully fully, not an ounce of skin or anything showing anywhere, with the gloves, and they found two 55-gallon drums under there and they rolled them over to see if he got pinned under there, nothing under there. I saw the police report and they were out of work for I believe it was five days because they had some bizarre rashes and stuff like that, lumps growing all over them.
[You were talking about Adelaide Avenue and the people who had gotten sick. gotten sick. What happened?]
Well they seemed to have, let's put it that way, they seemed to have a higher rate of cancer there. Like I said, those houses all look the same so maybe they were part of the crew that was working in Gorham's, and maybe the leakage underneath. I think it might even come as far as here because in my backyard it's all green. I'm not a gardener, I'm not an agricultural major, but after 6 or 7 years of trying to plant grass and using everything under the sun including chanting out there under the full moon, 3 quarters of it looks beautiful, almost like a golf course, one quarter of it, nada. It's like a desert out there. Nothing grows in that one spot, that one section.
[Why do you think that is?]
I don't know, I wonder if there's a possibility of another underground stream that runs this way. I can't remember what kind of luck my father had with it but even then when they were over here I didn't visit that often. Just nothing will grow. You go to all these different garden stores and stuff like that and do this and do this and I followed the directions and everything. Out here I had, boy I better watch myself here, I'm talking about my rosebushes in the front, I've got cats for pets, I sew [laughs] I haven't had a decent date in ages, but anyway I got some beautiful beautiful beautiful rose bushes out here, yellow and pink, they grew up to the tops of the windows, full bloom like this, and every once in awhile give them a snip, and start learning out there what to do, everything grows out there, nothing in the back.