As a college student, my daughter lived along Boylston in Boston in one in a row of old apartment buildings. The woodwork was thick with paint, the walls were peeling, the plumbing leaked. The floors were stained, and the sink was rusty. One night she had to stay up to bail water from the tub because it wouldn’t drain nor would the tub faucet stop leaking.
From her windows on the back of her building, my daughter could look into Fenway Park baseball stadium. Her blinds couldn’t block the glow of the lights, and she heard the roar of the crowd at every game the Red Sox played — this was 2007, a year when the Red Sox won the World Series, so there was a lot of roaring. Every home game was sold out. The streets were jammed. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a baseball fan…..
Still, her neighborhood did have one glorious aspect. The front of her building faced the Fenway Victory Gardens. I appreciated the gardens more than she did. She rushed past them to and from her classes at the Berklee College of Music. The weather was usually bad. She’d heard rumors about the strange activities along the fens that bordered the gardens to the east, some of which we saw for ourselves. Men strode back and forth, hands in their pockets, along the tall rushes. Here and there, short paths had been beaten into the rushes. “They find bodies there,” she said.
I loved the gardens, which I could appreciate as a summer-time tourist and a gardener myself. I wasn’t in a rush and no one bothered me as I wandered the paths, while gardeners worked quietly in their plots. On some of the narrower paths, I stepped over used condoms and cigarette butts, which hinted at the different kind of visitor the gardens attracted at night.
The Fenway Victory Gardens represent the nation’s last remaining of the original victory gardens created nationwide during World War II, according to its website. www.fenwayvictorygardens.com During World War II, because of the needs of the troops in Europe and the Pacific, there was rationing and shortages for those on the home front. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for Americans to grow more vegetables. The City of Boston established 49 acres, including the Boston Common and the Public Gardens, as “victory gardens” for citizens to grow vegetables and herbs.
The Fenway gardens are on seven acres of the Fens, one of six Boston Parklands designated as the historic “Emerald Necklace” by celebrated landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead in the 1800s. The gardens have more than 500 plots, each about fifteen by twenty-five feet. More information is on the website listed above.