Kevin White

Tile image

Age when this tile was made: 6, would turn 7 that summer.

Where did you live when you made this tile?

Simpson Ave, near Hodgkins Park between Teele & Davis

Where else have you lived in Somerville?

Lived on Woods Ave for 2 years in 2001-2003

Where do you live now?

I moved out of Somerville with my family in 96 or 97. Our house in Somerville needed some maintenance; financially, it was better for us (or so we thought) to sell the house rather than invest in repairs. I currently live in Medford, just over the Somerville line, near St. Clements.

Do you consider Somerville your hometown? Yes

What is your earliest Somerville memory?

Walking to Davis Square with my mother, brother and sister. Remember waiting for the train to go by (pre-subway) on our way to Marks, Gorin’s, FFC, etc. Even though I hated shopping, I remember thinking Gorin’s (Department store) was pretty cool. It was huge and you could play a mean game of hide and seek. If things worked out, we’d get to go to McDonalds. Also remember seeing Rocky and Jaws at Somerville Theatre though I fell asleep during Rocky. Going to the drugstore next door (now Mr. Crepe) after the show. Walking home past the Venice and into Tony’s (Hodgkins’ Spa) for milk and bread.

How would you describe Somerville in the 1980s?

Hard to explain something that you understood to be the norm. I think it was a great place to live and to grow up. I always felt safe and thought of ourselves as middle class. Loved playing wiffle ball with my brother and friends in the driveway and into the street. Didn’t think it was odd that we had to wait for the cars to drive by every 2-3 minutes (or the danger involved). Now I can appreciate why our next door neighbor couldn’t understand why we had to play in the driveway next to his house (and damaging his siding with foul balls) when we had the park down the street. My generation was part of the transition period I think. I remember the older kids in the neighborhood running its own baseball league one summer: Simpson Sox, Irving Indians etc. with shirts and everything. While I didn’t get to play with them, I definitely remember pick-up games of baseball down at Hodgkins, no adults running it or even present. That would have been around 82 or so. As I got older, the East Somerville Youth League, Little League and the summer Rec program were the things I looked forward to the most. To me, these institutions defined community.

How would you describe Somerville today?

Cooler in lot of ways and I guess better in most. I hope it doesn’t lose its soul as a working class community with a family focus. I’m concerned about the kids. Not just because of the obvious concerns regarding drugs and gangs. But I wish I saw the kids playing in the parks and in the courts. Of course, fewer kids everywhere get together without supervision, but even the numbers in the organized groups in Somerville are down (Little League, summer rec) etc. I now bring my own kids to the playground at Hodgkins and see that it is hugely popular which is encouraging but what are the older kids doing? Are there that fewer kids around?

How has Somerville changed?

Well, my old neighborhood certainly has. The T station was definitely beneficial but it did change the demographic. Young professionals displaced families and I would guess that the sense of community has been altered. It’s not necessarily a negative thing; just different. The Davis Square Live Journal and others demonstrate a new type of community than what I experienced as a kid. I love Davis Square as it is today. I’m only a mile away so my wife and I regularly walk the kids to Davis to grab an iced tea or a loaf of bread. We live directly along the proposed Green Line extension and despite the obvious concerns about noise/vibration etc I’m an advocate because I have seen the benefits in Davis Square. That being said, I still have a sense of nostalgia about Davis pre- Red Line and wonder if I’ll have similar thoughts about my current neighborhood after the Green Line comes in.

Memory of making this tile: I remember that they handed us a small piece of “drawing paper” and told us to draw a picture.  I swear that this took place over two days and I was absent on the second day.  That would explain the lack of color and the one arm on the child on the swing.  Or maybe it was a statement on being happy despite your limitations (see smile, sunshine).  Or maybe it’s just because I s*ck at drawing and still do.  I remember going to the studio on Vernon St a while later where they showed us how they were making the tiles from our drawings.  I remember thinking it was cool that my drawing was selected but now have no idea what they were thinking.  At some point, someone did some sort of documentary on this in Cambridge.  I remember being interviewed shortly after the station was built but have no idea what happened with that.