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Miss Seminatore’s fowl past

You may remember Miss Seminatore as a strict 4th grade teacher and no-nonsense librarian at Memorial School. Well, today we’re going on a field trip to the 1940s, before Memorial School existed. We’re visiting her childhood home at Maple Knoll Turkey Farm, on Bedford St. near St. Malachy Parish.

Every morning, on their way to work, men would pull up to the farmhouse, knock on the door and order a chicken, or a turkey, or a rabbit, for pick-up later on the way home. Fresh meat for dinner! Answering the door was young Marie Seminatore. It was her job to essentially catch dinner for her customers. She had to know her inventory. If a customer wanted a 20-lb turkey, he wouldn’t want to pay for a 25-lb turkey. So Marie had to stalk and catch the right bird.

Ever try to catch a bird? It’s not easy. “The one you wanted was always the farthest one away, and the other ones would cover for them,” she says. “Listen, those animals weren’t stupid.” Once caught, it was time to “dress” the bird for the customer. “My mother and I took the bird to the barn cellar, hung it upside down, opened the beak, stuck a knife into it and killed it. When they die, they loosen their feathers. I’d pull the feathers off, cut off the head, pull out the organs. There was a bucket underneath to catch the blood.” The finished “dressed” bird would go into a paper bag and wait in the refrigerator for the returning customer.

Maple Knoll Turkey Farm inventory, Burlington MA
Maple Knoll Turkey Farm inventory, Burlington MA

That’s how Marie put herself through college — by selling and catching dinner meat. She graduated State Teachers’ College in Lowell, then got her master’s at UMass Boston. Her father, Gerald, had a barber shop at the corner of Skilton Lane and Cambridge Street. He was the de facto town barber but wasn’t much of a farmer. That dirty work was left to his wife Christina and their eight children — six girls and two boys. Marie was the oldest.

Let’s back up even further. Before settling in Burlington, the Seminatores lived at the exact location of Olsen Cadillac in Woburn’s Four Corners area. In 1944, they found a big ol’ house in Burlington that was better-suited for a big family. In fact, this Burlington house was a former inn and had served as a “poor house.” It had a very choppy floor plan with a bunch of teensy bedrooms of identical dimensions.

The move to Burlington could be considered a migration. The family used the car to haul 1,000 cans of food over multiple trips. Gerald moved a mother and baby horse himself, by riding the mare and letting the colt naturally follow. His summation of that journey became family folklore: “We saw four cars along the way.” Such was the traffic density at the time: four cars (and zero traffic lights) from Woburn Four Corners to the Seminatore home at 82 Bedford Street. At the time, it was number 5. Yes, it was only the fifth house on the street starting from Simonds Park.

Sometimes in winter, all six girls would shovel snow together. The sight of a big building and a bunch of girls outside suggested it was a school, so bakery and milk trucks would pull over. The drivers would ask the Seminatore girls if their “headmistress” was interested in stocking up. 

Alas, the Seminatore homestead is gone now. After Gerald’s death almost 40 years ago, the town bought the farm and farmhouse from the Seminatore children, demolished the house and created Pine Haven Cemetery. The barn remains and now serves as the cemetery chapel. Cemetery crews use the barn’s basement for storage — the same basement that functioned as Marie’s slaughterhouse.

 

Seminatore house, Cambridge Street Burlington MA
The Seminatore house was a former “almshouse,” a shelter for the poor.

 

The house and barn, c. 1970

 

The barn is the cemetery chapel today.

14 thoughts on “Miss Seminatore’s fowl past Leave a comment

  1. My brother worked on that farm shovelin…. We lived behind there on University. I played in those woods for years. Chased the bats at night. Skated on the ponds behind the farms. Fun – until a warm day came it was smelly. Wow- Brian Annunziata

  2. Interesting story. I guess that they were my family’s completion. My grandfather’s hobby was chickens (we moved to the house in Burlington when he came to live with us after he retired) and we sold eggs at 78 Lexington St from 1952 through the end of the 60’s. I went off to college in 62 so only sold them when I was home.

  3. With the exception of feeling for those poor chickens in the basement, I really enjoyed story. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for sharing! However, is it true that up until Pine Haven was built that the Seminatore’s still resided in the house on the edge of Pine Haven and then they finally accepted the offer to turn the house over to the builders? At the time the house was purchased some of the Seminaries still resided in the home. Is that accurate?

  5. I took riding lessons there when I was 14! I remember the teacher was a Mr. Mello. The horses were Bouncy, Jay Note, and Faith Ann. Fell off Faith Ann and knocked the wind out of me, but Mr. Mello made me get right back up on her!!!!!

  6. Uncle Gerry died in 1979. You might be thinking of his daughter, Geraldine/Sister Christine who died in 1998. I am the daughter of Gerry’s younger brother, John (Woburn CPA), My brothers John, Albert and I lived on Blanchard Rd 1946-61.in the home my grandfather, Albert Grover. restored in 1920, now Corporate128 Thank you, Marie, for your help in my getting a Burlington Library card when I stayed with mother, Bea Grover Simpson, in her final years, 1999-2004. The BPL Children’s area was mother’s favorite place to engage with children and come across old friends from her 80 years in Burlington. Cousins Marie and Barbara are the last of Gerry and Christine’s family living on Bedford St; Loretta, their youngest, lives in Laconia, NH. Thanks for this article and I look forward to more Burlington Retro ‘KNews”

    • Nancy, thank you for your input. Do you have any old Burlington images, even if they’re not related to this story?

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