By Nicholas DeBlasio
A Boston native, Caroline White-Nockleby[/caption] White-Nockleby first discovered The West End Museum during her commute to the Museum of Science, where she was working to get high school students involved in science programs. As a former American Studies major with a strong interest in family and local history, she couldn’t help but enter the Museum to learn more. That encounter led to the birth of the Share Your Story project, for which Caroline is the volunteer coordinator.
Once inside the Museum, her curiosity drew her into a conversation with Resource Development and Membership Volunteer Mike Wyson. Despite having grown up in Boston, Caroline—like so many in the City—didn’t know about what happened to the West End in the 1950s. Mike’s telling of the story of urban renewal left her stunned. She couldn’t believe that such a big piece of Boston’s local history and culture had been destroyed, and such a large population displaced. Considering her background and the magnitude of the narrative, Caroline set about pursuing a plan to preserve the memories of former West Enders.
“Personally,” says Caroline, “I am really interested in getting to know people—both the volunteers at the Museum and the different people that lived in the West End—as a result of the project. I’ve already gotten to meet so many interesting people with different backgrounds and experiences through this. I’m interested in preserving the experiences of living in a community like the West End and then having to leave it, and I’m excited at those interviews being shared with their families, friends and generations to come.”
This is hardly Caroline’s first experience with such an initiative. While an undergraduate, she conducted interviews with citizens in Western Massachusetts who had been affected by contaminated groundwater. She collected their testimonies in a paper about the residents’ fight for clean water and got her school involved with that effort. This past spring, she interviewed high school students who had participated in Museum of Science programs. She recorded their feedback about the educational experiences with the goal of gauging the impact on their lives and development.
In advance of the Share Your Story Social at The West End Museum on Saturday, September 16, Caroline has done audio recordings with some former West Enders. Joe Greenberg, Bob Andrews, and sisters Anna Conley and Marie Yacubovich (maiden name Skotniczny) have already shared their stories. Caroline says she kept the interviews casual to “let them determine what was most important.” It was particularly interesting, she said, to see how different elements of the old neighborhood stood out for different individuals based on their ethnic background, cultural traditions, how old they were at the time of urban renewal, and at what stage of demolition they were forced to leave. She is very much looking forward to gathering and preserving many more stories of “the greatest neighborhood this side of heaven.”
If you’re interested in sharing your story, please join your fellow West Enders at the Share Your Story Social. If you’re not able to attend, you story can still be heard. Please click here.