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 Fall 2010

My First Co-op

'The co-op program was what first attracted me to Antioch, not the “free love and communism” that relatives in Cincinnati warned my parents about.’

the lure of co-op was the total experience – challenges and adventure in a new city or even a different country. My first co-op job was at the Morgan Memorial bookstore in downtown Boston. Morgan Memorial was the original Goodwill Industries, founded in 1895 to help recent immigrants. The facility where I would be working provided job training for the mentally and physically handicapped.

Kathy Sidner, Candy George and Karen Pearl in January of 1963 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Kathy Sidner, Candy George and Karen Pearl in January of 1963 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Most winter-quarter co-ops started in January, but mine required being at work the day after Christmas. The two other girls I’d be living with, my roommate Kathy Sidner ’67 and Karen Pearl ’64 (Levy), wouldn’t arrive until after New Year’s Day. In the meantime I was staying at the YWCA until I found an apartment for us.

The big news in Boston in 1962 was the Boston Strangler who had killed seven women since June. Kathy was already scared because she would be coming back to our apartment late from her second shift job on the psych ward at Mass General. At home over the holidays in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, she had been bombarded with warnings about the big city. Her father had even supplied her with a pen-gun that shot tear gas.

After two nights of wandering around cold, dark Boston with my trusty map, I found a two-bedroom apartment in the Back Bay area. The grandparent-like couple who managed the large four-story brick building didn’t seem to mind that we wanted the apartment for only three months. I had planned to move in right away but they fussed so much about my being alone that I had agreed to wait until the weekend.

On Friday night after work, I took the Greyhound home to Springfield in western Massachusetts where my parents lived. They were going to lend us linens and kitchen utensils then drive me and the loot back to Boston on Sunday.

That Sunday morning my two younger sibs and I piled into the back seat of our yellow Buick, the trunk loaded with everything I’d need to set up housekeeping. A couple hours later we pulled up in front of 315 Huntington Ave. The building looked even bigger by daylight; it took up the entire block. My father asked me to stay in the car while he and Mother went inside to meet the building managers.

When my parents returned and got back into the car, my father turned around in the front seat and calmly said to me, “It’s entirely your decision whether or not you stay, but I want you to know that you have rented the apartment that was the scene of the most recent strangling.”

Through a series of coincidences, my parents had learned about the apartment’s recent history; it had been vacant since the murder. I don’t remember feeling scared, just irritated at the thought of having to start the apartment search all over again. We got on the turnpike and headed back to Springfield, the trunk of the car still full.

On New Year’s Day the Springfield Republican reported that strangling victim number eight had been found dead in her Back Bay apartment.

At 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 2, my parents and I again drove to Boston. After dropping me at Morgan Memorial, they started looking for apartments and met Kathy and Karen, one at the train station and the other at Logan Airport. By the end of the day when the four of them picked me up at work, our belongings had been moved into the second floor apartment of a single family house in Cambridge.

If co-op jobs were supposed to be “real world experiences,” I had already gotten my money’s worth the first time out.