By John Vining. So I’m listening to the radio and a song comes on that I liked, so I sing along in my best “American Idol” voice. As it ended the DJ says that the song came out in 1998. So I’m thinking that ’98 was not that long ago and the song is not that old. But wait a minute. That was actually 13 years ago. Holy crap, what happened to the ‘90’s? I try to recall what I was doing with my life in the ’90′s, and in turn the ’80′s, then ’70′s. All of a sudden it dawns on me that I can recap my life very quickly over a few very fast decades. I was born in ’67 (if you cannot do the math that makes me 44 years old now) which means at least the beginning of my life was in the ‘60’s. I was a kid in the ’70′s from age 3 to 13 years old, making it through elementary school and into junior high school. Fond memories of that time include belt-buckle bathing suits, plaid pants and big collars, feathered hair and a whole week off from school during the Blizzard of ’78 sledding down our street and jumping off the front porch of our house. Life was good then with three brothers and two sisters, plus all our neighborhood kids on the dead-end street playing Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, and the hundreds of kickball games and baseball games in the school yard.
The ’80′s had me finishing up Junior High School and entering High School in 1981 and getting me in and out of college by 1989. It was cool then to develop a love for basketball, to play drums in a band, to grow 2-3 inches over each summer, and become a man. The ’80′s were totally cool in my book. It feels like yesterday that I brought my TV out into my driveway so I could shoot hoops and watch the Celtics-Lakers NBA Championship games in June. Turning 21 and spending my weekends dancing at Narcissus in Kenmore Square was fun. Yes, I wore the thin leather tie and “Miami Vice” white sport coat. And yes I had a mullet, but for the record we never asked for a “mullet” at the hair salon. We simply told the hairdresser we wanted our hair “short on the sides, long in the back, spiked on the top”. Yup, we all had them. Then all of a sudden it was 1990, college was over, my basketball playing career was done, and the real world was looming. For some reason there were no jobs in the early ’90′s, but I was able to take my degree in architecture and land a job with a Boston-based architectural firm, Margulies & Associates.
So the ‘90’s brought me into the real world. I was lucky enough to live at home for a couple of years, work for the firm and save enough money for a down-payment on a two family house. It cost me $8,000 in closing costs, the mortgage interest rate was 9.25%, and I bought the house for $98,000. That was July of 1994. One month later I got up the nerve to introduce myself to a girl I had seen before on the train on my way to work. Yup, for the entire 1990’s I took the same Orange Line train every day into Boston. So it turns out this girl, Joanne, lives a few blocks away from my new house, and the rest was history. We dated, eventually she moved in with me, then we bought our own house and got married in 1997. Our first baby, Jessica, was born in ’98, and we approached the 2000’s hard and fast. The ‘90’s came and went, and the world was freaking out over “Y2K”. What is that you ask? It stands for “Year 2000”. As we entered the technology world no one knew what was going to happen when we changed over into a new century (going from “99” to “00” had a lot of IT folks unsure of what would happen). When I was young I used to say that when the year 2000 came I would be “wicked old” – 33.
We entered a new century, the 2000’s, and it was family-family-family. Baby #2, Daniel, came along in 2001, the dog came along, and from 2000-2010 it was simple: raise the kids from babies to junior high school, every now and again heading south to Florida for family vacations. Now THAT was really fast! All of a sudden it’s the next decade, the 2010’s. So what’s on the horizon for this decade? God willing we hope to see our kids make it through high school and college, us enjoying every second possible with them, and by the 2020’s you never know. Weddings, maybe even grand-kids! Then the 2030’s? Holy cow it’s retirement, hopefully. See what I mean? It doesn’t take long to recap the decades and think about the new ones coming up.
So yes, one song on the radio caused me to reflect: where did my life start, where is it now, and where will it go? I know one thing is for sure: I will enjoy it to the fullest. Funny thing is, we get so busy with family and going to work every day
that we sometimes neglect to think how much our job plays such a major role in our lives, how our lives and careers evolve together over time. That has certainly been the case for me and Margulies & Associates as we enter our 20th year together.
So in that year 1990, fresh out of college, I was fortunate enough to get a job at Margulies & Associates in Boston. At the time there were seven employees and I was thrown into the mix measuring buildings and sharpening my pencil at the drafting table. I was 23 and the company just turned 3 years old. For me personally, it was exciting to have my first job in the city and I loved it. I actually worked for about two weeks before I even met the boss, Marc Margulies. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was working for a special person who was open-minded and understanding of his employees. After a few months on the job I found myself in a situation where I could become a high school varsity basketball coach (my passion for the sport transitioned smoothly from playing to coaching), and it would mean leaving work early during the winter months. Marc embraced the idea, and it became clear that he welcomed employees from all different backgrounds and with many different interests (in fact, Marc and the entire firm walked down the street to the Boston Garden to witness our Lynnfield High School team win their first-ever state championship in 2000). At the time I was excited to put my degree in Architectural Engineering to good use, and from day one I could sense that the folks at Margulies would not only be cool co-workers but also long-time friends. Who would have thought that 20 years later I still love coming into the city to work and I still fly out of the office during the winter to coach basketball. And boy, a lot has changed in the firm throughout these 20 years, for sure.
To sound like an old man I will describe how we did our jobs back then. Yes, we did everything with pencil and paper.
There were no computers near our drafting tables. The computer age was entering our world but did not yet play a big role in our personal or working lives. We did not have a voicemail phone system in the office. There were no such things as cell phones or email or the internet (GASP!). We actually called someone if we needed to discuss things, we wrote letters and mailed them. We sent out drawings to printing places and mailed them to our clients. And there were no digital cameras, we took pictures and brought them to get developed. This was a time when the whole firm ate lunch together in the lunch room and when someone called for you our manager would write the message down on a pink piece of “message” paper and put it in our mailbox.
But it didn’t take long for our technology world to grow very quickly, and as a result so did the company. It was in the 1990’s that computer-aided drafting (CAD) really came into play, and the firm’s philosophy was simple: use the latest and greatest technology to create a better product for our clients, in less time. I remember the days when I would take my hand-drawn floor plans, stick them to foam core, and build entire models by hand. The model of the building was the only way for a client to see the finish product three dimensionally. Man, I really loved building those.
New technology was popping up everywhere. One program called “squiggle” enabled us to print out a computer-drawn floor plan in a way that made the lines look like they were drawn by hand. You could pick different line styles like “felt-tip pen on a napkin”. It was cool, but I certainly preferred the artistic ability of doing it myself. And when it came to measuring a building, we went from having to use two people holding each end of a tape measure to one person being able to measure an entire building with a single laser measuring device. The firm stayed on top of things and upgraded software continually in order to stay on top of the latest trends that made the firm better.
And with the growth of technology so did the firm grow. We moved from Lincoln Street to Congress Street to the top floor of the Peabody Office Furniture Building, overlooking the expressway and South Station. Everything started booming. Many of us got married and started families, the firm expanded to as many as 52 people, and the company portfolio expanded even further. Margulies & Associates very quickly became one of the top up and coming firms, labeled Boston’s third largest interior design firm in 2008. The firm also went from Margulies & Associates to Margulies Perruzzi Architects in 2008, and moved a few blocks down Congress Street to the Children’s Museum building. But prior to moving, the firm was fortunate enough to witness first hand significant changes throughout the City of Boston. Over the 18 year period of 1990-2008, not only did I grow along with the company, we saw a city transformed, and I have the pictures to prove it.
Growing up just north of the City of Boston meant that we could go into town very quickly. I recall my mother dropping off my brother and me off at the Prudential Center and we would rollerskate everywhere. And I remember carrying that same brother on my back to go to the old “Jack’s Drum Shop” on Boylston Street. We took the train and got off at the Common one summer day. Who knew that Boylston Street was so long, and we ended up walking the entire length of it to the Fens – a little far for a 12-year-old carrying a 5-year-old on his back!
I was fortunate to get my architectural degree from Wentworth Institute in Boston, allowing many of us to really enjoy the city, and during the late 80’s it was sweet for me to be able to jump off the train after basketball practice to head over to the Garden. I would grab a scalper on the street and pay $10 for an $8 obstructed view seat just to get into the building. And how lucky was I that I found a seat at center court, a few rows up from the floor, which was always empty? Seems a season ticket holder didn’t attend much. I have pictures of Larry Bird covering Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, all the greats.
Everyone worked in the city and I expected to do the same. What I did not expect was how the city of Boston was going to change from the time I first started working here in 1990 to now. One of the first major changes I noted was the construction of the underground parking garage at Post Office Square. Once the park was complete at street level it became an oasis in the middle of the city. All of us at Margulies & Associates were able to walk a couple of blocks to the park and sit on the lawn to eat lunch. The park was like a beach, though everyone was dressed in formal attire, where bodies were sprawled on the lawn. In fact, in the summer of 1993 I was a 26 year old, often enjoying my nights out on the town with friends, and I would end up catching up on some sleep on that manicured lawn of Post Office Square during lunchtime, with a woman playing a harp under the trellis. And a couple years later, Joanne (yup, that same girl I met on the Orange Line) and her co-worker and I would have lunch in the park every chance we could. That park is exactly the same, a lunch-time haven for many folks, now 18 years later.
As much as this new park in the middle of the financial district gave life to the city, there were some other changes being made, one that saw a landmark demolished: The Boston Garden. During the decade of the 1990’s we experienced difficult times when it came to our beloved sports teams. There were no championships for the faithful fans of our Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox or Patriots. The last big city celebration was in 1986 when the Celtics won their 16th NBA Championship, and the team gathered at City Hall Plaza to speak and show off the trophy to a packed crowd. There was no such thing as a “rolling rally” back then. At the time none of us could have predicted what was in store for us in the 2000’s – seven championships in 11 years?!
The Boston Garden was a special place for me beginning in my junior high school days, when I went to numerous rock concerts with my sister. I was an 8th grader attending concerts like REO Speedwagon, Fleetwood Mac, The J. Geils Band, Rush, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, and STYX, to name a few. And back then smoking was allowed in public buildings, and The Garden was absolutely filled with smoke.
In my college years during the eighties I ventured out to watch my beloved Celtics, spending ten bucks for that obstructed view seat I mentioned above. And for the record an obstructed view seat is exactly that: a seat that has a column directly in front of it, blocking your view of the rink or basketball court. A few times I was seen on TV when I was in the crowd cheering on the Celtics, getting my face on camera when they showed game highlights during the sports segments of the news.
One of my favorite memories of the Garden happened in 1988. Not only did I get into the building for $10 off a scalper, on this particular night I got up the nerve to make my way down to the floor. Back then security was not very tight, and folks could walk down to the edge of the court during warm-ups or at halftime to get up close and personal to the players. TV never did give you an idea of how big these basketball players were. Nowadays security is so tight you can’t get near the court. But on this particular night I not only made it down to the floor, I actually walked along with the cameramen and photographers and sat directly on the court itself, just out of bounds. I could stretch my leg out and touch in-bounds with my foot if I wanted. A photographer asked me who I was but I didn’t hear him and he did not ask any other questions. All of a sudden the Detroit Pistons come out with Bill Laimbeer leading the way into their pre-game warm-ups. Oh my God I can’t believe the game is going to start and I found my way onto the court! Well, my joy was short-lived when after about 5 minutes of game action a police officer asked for my press pass. “Sorry kid, get back to your seat”. Best part of the story? More than 20 years later I’m in a sub shop in Andover with my wife and kids and I spot one of those long historical photographs of the Boston Garden. What game is it? You guessed it: the Detroit Pistons at The Boston Celtics, 1988. And sure enough I can be seen in the poster sitting on the court. I ordered the photo online and hung it up in my basement. Great view of my mullet.
So it was a sad time some nine years later, when in 1997 the Boston Garden was scheduled to be demolished.
When the Boston Garden was being torn down commuters from the north got a bird’s eye view as they traveled on Route 93. Traveling on the upper deck, well above ground level, we passed the Boston Garden. And the cool part, if you call it that, was that they demolished half the building, enabling passers-by on the highway to see into the building. It was like they sliced half the building away, allowing all to see inside. All those yellow seats, but now the interior was riddled with spray paint as kids snuck in and left their marks. It was the end of an era.
But the demolition of the Boston Garden was nothing compared to the biggest construction project in our country’s history about to start: The Big Dig.
It so happened that the time I started working in the City was the time the Big Dig got underway. The funding was approved in 1987, and the tunnel digging began in the fall of 1991. While that underwater tunnel digging was going on we were still driving down 93 and cruising on the upper decks floating above ground. Strange now to think that back then we would drive down an exit ramp to land at the Haymarket T Station or exit the High Street ramp which wrapped high above ground around One International Place. Or the other option was to drive on the street level, under the expressway, all the while trying to avoid all those steel columns.
Without question the upper deck divided the city, making it very difficult for pedestrian access from the financial district or government center to the waterfront. For the most part the financial district and waterfront adjacent to it was simply a place to work. Zip into the city to work and zip out to go home was what we did.
After the underwater tunnels were complete it was amazing to see the construction, right outside our office windows in the Peabody Office Furniture building, on the corner of Congress and Pearl Streets. Boy, we had a lot of noisy meetings in our conference room with the hammering sounds vibrating the building and dozens upon dozens of cranes high in the sky outside. To see the tremendous holes in the ground, with tiny men way down below, was a sight to see.
That’s why I felt it was my obligation to take photos of as much as I possibly could, so that I could prove to my grandchildren what the city was like “back in the day”. The excavation was amazing, and my brother Ken and I would love to bring our bicycles into the city and bike all around the construction site on Sunday mornings. The coolest thing we ever did was bike into one of the new highway tunnels underground before they were open to the public. We would find an exit ramp to bring us up to the surface, only to find a ceiling at the top of the ramp – they had not yet broken through! And we were daring enough to climb the scaffolding atop the Zakim Bridge as it was under construction – what a view! During this time, the 1990’s, the city became detour after detour with closed roads and winding turns every where you went. But we all lived through it, we all knew exactly where we could and could not go, and it became a way of life. But the best part of the Big Dig was yet to come, as we entered the 2000’s: the removal of the upper deck once the underground highway was complete. I knew the city was going to change dramatically, so I made sure to take photos at every turn, before all that steel was gone for good.
With every piece of steel that was removed came a little more sunshine hitting the ground. I loved it.
When the steel was removed between the Haymarket T station and the North End it was a glorious sight. All of a sudden the city seemed to grow in size, with so much more blue sky to see. And the people came. The new large walkways now connected Faneuil Hall to the waterfront. New parks were installed, new fountains everywhere , and the people came in masses! It is so cool to now leave the city with new lawns everywhere and endless activity that seemed to bring the city to life.
Furthermore, the boom of residential construction along the waterfront and along Atlantic Avenue brought new residents to the city. Sidewalks not only included commuters going from their offices to the T, they also carried joggers, dog-walkers, and mom and dads biking with their kids. Not only is it a place to work, many folks call the city home. I now take the kids into the city and we bike along the greenway and swim in the fountains.
So just like that a song on the radio prompted me to think about where I’ve been, where I am now, how I’ve grown as a person over these last few decades, how I’ve grown alongside Margulies Perruzzi Architects, and how I’ve witnessed a city transformed. I can’t help but feel truly blessed. I made it through the ‘70’s and ‘80’s as a youngster and became a husband and family man in the ‘90’s and 2000’s. And as we enter the 2010’s I’m so excited to watch my children become young adults, I’m so excited for another 20 years at Margulies Perruzzi Architects, and I look forward to enjoying the City of Boston much more as it continues to transform and evolve. And I have to remember to keep my camera with me, to show my grandkids what it was like “back in the day” to go to those rolling rallies. Before you know it, it will be another 20 years and we will reminisce and look back at the photos of Chara holding the Stanley Cup.
Tags: American Idol, Architects Boston, Architectural Firms Boston, Big Dig, Boston, Boston Garden, Celtics, history of Boston, Interior Design Firms Boston, John Vining, Margulies Perruzzi Architects, MPA, Rose Kennedy Greenway, Stanley Cup, upper deck