Thomas Gilbert

Tile image

Age when this tile was made: 12

Where did you live when you made this tile?

40 Corinthian Rd., behind Hodgekins park

Where do you live now?

Weston Manor apartments, just past Teele Square.

Do you consider Somerville your hometown? Yes

What is your earliest Somerville memory?

It was when i was in Headstart program on Morrison Ave behind the old Baptist church. Mr. Sullivan was my first headstart teacher. I remember having rest time there and playing with different toys. One of my friends there was Joe Tully.

How would you describe Somerville in the 1980s?

One of the things that really changed Somerville was the Red Line. When that came in, that's when everything dramatically improved. In 1980, 81, Davis Square was nothing but a bar town. Barroom brawls and fights. The only place I would go to in Davis Square was Used Sound, the place that Robert Mahoney ran. It was a stereo shop. I'd always go there, or Dente's, the barber shop, and Ann Marie's Barber Shop. And there was a TV repair place, I used to go there once in a while to see what that guy was doing with the tubes and all that stuff. Those are the good memories I have of Davis Square. But as far as Davis Square itself, I really wouldn't roam around too much because there were just too many barrooms there at the time. It just wasn't a really cool place for a 13 or a 14-year-old to be hanging around.

How would you describe Somerville today?

The way I'd describe it today, its very pleasant, very upscale, more like what Harvard Square was like in the '70s and '80s. It's a cool place to hang out now. You've got your coffee shops and a lot of people socializing, there's a lot more community now, as far as it being a safe place to walk and not fear that you're going to be robbed for your wallet or something like that. It's a much safer place now than it used to be.

How has Somerville changed?

I think Somerville has changed a lot, for the better, definitely, by miles. To see Davis Square now, you wouldn't think it was the same place as back in '81.

There's more college students there too. If you have people opening up businesses and people going to college, its positive activity rather than negative activity. Its more of a happy place to be. I think its benefited everybody, that it's flipped around. The only drawback is the incredibly high rents that some working class people can afford to pay. That's a pity, but as far as the other things, there's more positives than negatives. But if you want to live in a safe neighborhood, you should have to be priced out by a landlord, that isn't right.

As far as how its generally changed, I think the Red Line gets lots of credit, because its made people more mobile and able to simply hop on the train and go from one place to another, where back in the old days it was more secluded with just that freight line that used to run through Davis Square and having buses that were always stuck in traffic. It was a lot more polluted back then. I think the Red Line has caused a lot more positives, though people like to say the negatives.

What I get furious about sometimes, when people start talking about the Green Line extension, you go to some of these meetings, and some people say "Well, not in my neighborhood, its going to bring in people I don't want, and this and that." It makes me angry because the proof is in the pudding. If you look at Davis Square, it has made a big difference with the Red Line coming in through there, and its a lot more positive change than any kind of negative change. I think, if the same thing happens to West Medford, it will be kind of the same thing. It will bring in more commerce, more business, a more happening place, a happy place to live, as opposed to people not getting out and not being community-friendly.