Skip to content

50 years ago this month, January edition

Drug education? A barroom brawl.

Audience members at a School Committee meeting almost came to blows over a drug education plan. “I’ll put you through the window!” That’s what Rita McGinness said to Joan Ghio, before the chairman Howard Bettison called a 10-minute recess to cool things down.

How did this escalate? A small group of Francis Wyman Junior High students and teachers had just returned from a New York drug rehab called Odyssey House. They went there to get ideas for Burlington schools. Simple enough.

The new drug education program would involve the physical education department and officer Thorstensen from Burlington PD as an advisor. Part of the curriculum would involve watching a film called “Narcotics — Why Not” and also hearing from fellow students who had visited Odyssey House. Simple enough.

Margaret Matarazzo from Winnmere stood up at the School Committee meeting and objected on the grounds that children shouldn’t be teaching children. She said taxpayers paid for professional teachers, not children. School Superintendent Herman Dunseith kept his cool and explained that the students had been sent to Odyssey House with School Committee approval, so they could relay what they had learned. Assistant Superintendent Thomas Michaels turned it up a notch: “As an educator, I personally resent the face that at the request of one parent, the School Committee would even consider postponing the program, thereby showing a lack of confidence in our staff.”

Joan Ghio from Dearborn Road stood and applauded Michaels. Then the gloves came off. People started yelling and threatening.

Meanwhile, during the same month 50 years ago:

Drug hot line

Sex education? Fire and brimstone.

At the State House, a group of Burlington parents joined like-minded envoys from other towns looking to ban sex eduction from public schools. The bill was filed by Boston Councilor Frederic C. Langone. A big proponent of the bill was Rev. Paul MacVittie of Chelmsford. He said sex courses “hurt our children in various ways” and can do “irreparable” harm, because they are “indoctrination rather than education” and “cause more problems than they solve.” A principal witness was Mary Langone from Burlington, who called sex education an “invasion of privacy.”

Rev. Robert E. Burns from Boston said, “You cannot teach sex without religion, and you can’t teach religion in the public schools.” Some materials used in sex education courses couldn’t be read “in a mixed gathering,” he added. Some descriptions in the books put the “pleasures attendant with sex in the same category (for his children) as football games or ice cream soda.” The introduction sex education without “morality” makes it a “special project of the devil.”

Meanwhile, during the same month 50 years ago:

K of C sex education talk Burlington MA

If you think things have changed in Massachusetts, read this article and its comment section. Sex education is still contentious in this state.

Now let’s talk about something really filthy. Two houses in Beaverbrook Road, numbers 2 and 6, were flooded with raw sewage when a town pumping station failed and the backup system also failed during a power outage. Selectman Jack Kilmartin: “Someone goofed” in the design of the pumping at the intersection of Beaverbrook and Wilmington Road. “Obviously the safety systems were not built in.” The town put the Perkins and Simes families on hotels while their basements were cleared.

Sewage backup Beaverbrook Rd

Towne House, on Cambridge Street at the Woburn border, was nearing completion 50 years ago this month. It is now Bickford’s Grille. The whole area was once Ray Farm, the namesake of Ray Avenue.

Jean M. Souza of 31 Lexington Street (left) is engaged to Daniel Roberson Jr. of Wakefield. Melva Jean DeMone of 94 Lexington Street (right) is engaged to Carnig Izmirian of New Bedford.


Cherry & Webb customer Paula Benard

Memorial School third grade students building a city, Burlington MA
Memorial School third grade students building a city at the Museum Of Science in Boston.


One thought on “50 years ago this month, January edition Leave a comment

  1. My father was part of the Drug Abuse Task Force. Every Tuesday night he would come home and lecture us on the negative effects of drugs and what would happen if you did drugs. Thanks for the memory!

Leave a Reply