Rememberings of Preston Beach and the CIA during WWII


from Mrs. Mark Princi as told to Lis Horowitz in 1992

Mrs. Princi lived most of her adult life in Clifton and although her husband's job moved the family to Europe for twelve years, when it came time for his retirement, they knew they would return to Marblehead. "Once you've lived here, you want to come back." In fact their retirement home was on the same street as their home in 1941!

Every morning in summer, the neighborhood mothers strolled with their children down to Preston Beach. It was clean and white since the truck came every morning to clear the seaweed and rake the sand. There were lifeguards who gave swim instructions to the younger children from ten until noon. They set up an umbrella, a Red Cross flag and always had a safety kit close at hand. At lunchtime everyone would eat sandwiches brought from home. Then the children would return to their houses for a rest from noon til two. Sometimes during the rest hours the summer peoples' children would come by to knock on doors to play. They didn't know the rule of the neighborhood - it was quiet time for everyone.

In the afternoons, the older children had their swimming lessons. While not at the beach the children gathered at Hobbs House where attendants organized arts and crafts and games as well as Little League in the field outside. The Hobbs family donated the house, playground and park space to the community for the purpose of education and community affairs. Between the beach and the park and the playground, the children of Clifton were kept busy having fun all summer long. "It was a wonderful place to bring up children, " Mrs. Princi confirmed.

At this time, the CIA was a small group. Mrs. Princi and her husband Mark met with twenty or so neighbors also concerned with neighborhood activities. Many just wanted parking stickers in order to park in the CIA lot but others closely wateched the growth in Clifton especially the section along the present JCC which was an enormous swamp then. Most of the residents couldn't believe the land could be built on!

The streets above the Eveleth school near Rose Avenue were all fields until the 1940's. Behind the (now empty) convenient store on Humphrey Street (which has been a market, Blood Company of Lynn; a fruit store, and bakery, was a farm. The farmer went to Preston Beach with his wheelbarrow every day to get seaweed for his crops.

The Boston train came up to Clifton Station. It was a lifeline during the war. Mary Princi recalls the difficult relations with the summer people during those years. "We weren't too friendly because they all had cars and we had bicycles because of gas rationing. We saw them get all dolled up and drive to nice places like the Preston Beach Hotel, " she said, referring to the Swamscott resort which once stood where the modern house and the town houses are now. During the war, Preston Beach was patrolled by the army and all the houses were fitted with blackout shades, but there never were sightings of the enemy.

The CIA was the energy behind the annex added to the Glover School and then the Association went to Town Meeting to support the building of the Eveleth School. The CIA was always very involved with development on Humphrey Street. They wanted to keep it residential. They kept watch over stores which came into buiness there - or didn't - depending on the Association's support or objections.

Mary Princi remembers Clifton as a very friendly neighborhood filled with children. She remembers the summer people who came for the two warm months of the year and "almost begged" her for a place to stay.