Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Mission Church Grammar School Rehabbed for Harvard
Double shifts of workers are sandblasting the interior brick walls of the 122-year-old Mission Church Grammar School on Smith Street. According to a worker on site, who requested anonymity, rehab of the building is scheduled to be completed by February when the Harvard School of Public Health Operations Department will lease part of it.
The building has been vacant for about six or seven years, according to 84-year-old John Clifford, a lifelong Mission Hill resident, who attended the grammar school from 1931-1939.
According to Clifford, prior to the recent vacancy the school was home to a city of Boston grammar school for six or seven years and prior to that, was a temporary home to the Boston Latin School while it was being renovated.
The Grammar School is sandwiched between St. Alphonsius Hall, a former recreation center and auditorium, and what was at one time a convent, lodging 44 nuns for the school. Neither of those buildings is at this time being rehabbed.
Clifford remembers being part of a class of 56 children in the grammar school which enrolled up to 2000 students in its heyday.
"There were seven rows of eight sections," he said, "with boys on one side and girls on the other. I didn't mind. It was satisfaction. We got homework every night."
For Clifford and his classmates, school started each day with Mass at 7:30. They'd walk home at 8 for breakfast and come back to school from 9 -noon. At noon they walked home for lunch and then school continued from 1 -3 p.m. After school, they'd change clothes and go "up the hill" to the park to play football or kick the bar, a game involving kicking, not a bar, but a bicycle tire.
Asked if he'd miss the school and the history it represented Clifford said, "People who went to school there and graduated from there are the history, not the goddamned building, not the bricks and mortar, to my way of thinking."