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While some of what we have here in the Cambridge Room relates to the more distant past, we also collect contemporary archival materials to support out mission to document the many facets of the culture and history of Cambridge. I’ve been processing a number of the more recent additions to the collection, and it’s been enlightening to learn more about what was happening in Cambridge during periods that I lived through and remember well in other contexts.

One of these collections is the Sheli Wortis papers. Now retired, Wortis had a long career as an early childhood educator and educational administrator with the Cambridge Public Schools. She was particularly involved in ensuring that diverse viewpoints were incorporated into the Schools’ curricula and programs through her work with the Multicultural Coordinating Committee and Early Childhood Connections. She has also been active in many local causes and groups, and her papers are a rich source of information on some of the progressive organizations that have flourished in Cambridge from the 1970s to the present.

One of these was the Working Committee for the Cambridge Rainbow, later known as Cambridge Rainbow. It began in late 1988 as a series of informal meetings – originally just called “the Saturday group on Cambridge politics” – among friends discussing concerns they had about the political and cultural direction of the city. It soon grew into a strong progressive political action committee that was a force in Cambridge politics for a number of years. The Rainbow’s concerns included affordable housing, racial justice, and human rights and it backed a number of candidates who gained election to the Cambridge City Council or School Committee from the late 1980s through the 1990s. Several of their candidates were elected mayor of Cambridge, and one, E. Denise Simmons, is still on the City Council today. You may recognize a number of the names from the 1989 slate on this flyer advertising a benefit dance party held at the Cambridge Community Center, including former mayors Alice Wolf and Kenneth Reeves, and former mayor and current City Councilor E. Denise Simmons.

Flyer for 1989 Dance Party to benefit the Working Committee for the Cambridge Rainbow

Flyer advertising an October 1989 dance party at the Cambridge Community Center to benefit the Working Committee for the Cambridge Rainbow and its slate of City Council candidates

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Looking to give your Halloween celebration a vintage feel this year? An article in the November 13, 1909, issue of the Cambridge Sentinel describes a few “frolicsome” games for Halloween party “hostesses” (as this article appears in the “Woman’s World” section of the paper it assumes a woman at the helm). Read on to learn more about “Pumpkin Vine,” competitive chestnut roasting, and tips for decorating to make your party the envy of your neighbors.
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From Cambridge Sentinel, November 13, 1909, issue, available through the Cambridge Room’s Historic Cambridge Newspapers collection

(And for even more vintage fun, you’ll may also be amused by some other concerns of this edition of “Woman’s World,” including the “imminent suffragette war,” solving your housecleaning problems, and advice on basting, sending marriage announcement cards, and pleasing a man.)

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Trip to Castle Island, 1915, from the East End Union Collection (023) , Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections.

Cambridge’s East End Union is one of the oldest settlement houses in the Boston area.  The East End Union, founded in 1875, promoted outdoor activities like Fresh Air Week where their members – most of whom were recent immigrants – could take a respite from city living and working to enjoy the country.  Picnics were held in Newton (then considered rural) as were outings to Castle Island in Boston.  The photo above features some of the East End Union’s younger members enjoying an afternoon at the beach.

The East End Union is now called the East End House and is still very active in Cambridge.

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Actor Tony Curtis, 1965, Associated Press.

To answer last week’s challenge, the customers at Simeone’s must have been thrilled to be dining in the midst of Tony Curtis, who signed the place mat below.

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Enlarged image of Tony Curtis’ signature on Simeone’s Italian American Restaurant Place Mat.  

See the original here.

 

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Simeone’s Italian American Restaurant Place Mat from a recent Cambridge Room acquisition.

Simeone’s Italian American Restaurant was located at 21-29 Brookline Street in Cambridge.  The restaurant was known for drawing a celebrity or two.  The Kennedy family (both John and Ted) stopped by Simeone’s while on the campaign trail.  This recent acquisition features a place mat from the restaurant signed by a famous American actor.  Can anyone decipher whose signature it belongs to (upper right hand corner in pencil)?  Hint:  he’s not from Cambridge.  Bonus points for anyone who ordered a Simeone’s Venetian Sling.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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From the 1964 Annual School Report.

We love this photograph of Cambridge High Schools’ Driver’s Ed class.  We especially love that the car used came from Porter Chevrolet.  Does anyone have a great story from 1960s Driver’s Ed classes in Cambridge?  Does anyone remember Porter Chevrolet?  Better yet – did you (or your parents) buy a car from Porter Chevrolet?

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From the Annual Report of the School Committee and the Superintendent of Schools, 1954, p. 7.

We recently stumbled upon this photo spread of young women in the Cambridge Public Schools, “preparing for Marriage and Family Life.”  It’s from the 1954 Annual Report of the School Committee and Superintendent of Schools.  This is a really interesting example for anyone interested in the history of gender and education.

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