Vol. III No. 20 10/15/2022
Growing up in Stockbridge
by John Beacco
Although born in Manhattan at St. Vincent's hospital, my early life revolved around Park Street, Stockbridge.
Grandfather Natale immigrated from Campone, Italy — a tiny village at the base of the Austrian Alps — and ended up in Stockbridge on Goodrich Street.
My Dad was the 4th child, and along with older brother Bill, developed a successful construction business after WWII. As I think back on those early days, our house on Park Street was perfect for a young boy to grow up in and thrive.
The Plain School was an easy jog over Laurel Hill which, after school, provided the perfect place to play cowboys and Indians or hide and seek. In the winter, sledding from 'the roots' behind the school was risky though fun as long as we didn't end up hitting the rear of the school. Recreation Park, known as 'the ball field' allowed me to play baseball and shag for the older boys. In the 6th grade, I was 6'2" and never taken for a younger boy.
Everyone knew one another on the street — the Rathburns, the Mackens, the Stewarts, the Woods, the Bodnars and Nobles. Every summer, the Wilken family would arrive. As the only black family, they experienced racial stuff from the ignorant whites. However, because they were excellent athletes, Warren and Bobby eventually reached acceptance with only the occasional verbal miscue. I remember calling Bobby a dumb "N#$$*@".
He beat me so that I yelled, "I take it back."
We became good friends until he died years later in a car accident. Living on Park Street was pretty routine and calm, but then Charlie Monroe would arrive.
Charlie was in his mid-50's with snow colored hair combed down to his shoulders. He rode a broken-down bike with a basket in front, his crosscut saw carefully placed in it. I remember a smudged bag in the basket beneath the saw. It was always there although I didn't know that until much later.
He always ended up at our house. My Mom would give him coffee and toast with grape jelly. He was a gentle and kind guy — always willing to help in any way.
Freda and Bill Macken had twins and lived on the third floor of a boarding house owned by Bill's father. Charlie would insist on carrying the twins up the stairs. If my bike needed fixing, there was always time to fix it. I didn't know it at the time, but I loved Charlie.
Before, he left, he always told me, "Ginino, got diamonds in the woods, but have to get drunk to find 'em." Finally, I figured out what was in the smudged bag.
Daddy Long Legs. Photo: Lionel Delevingne