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Friday, July 31, 1942
in What's New In Town
W. J. Sidis
Legend has it that, some two hundred years ago, one Tom Walker, a pauper who lost his wife, suddenly amazed everybody by opening a loan office in Boston. The general explanation was that, in return for the devil's having disposed of Walker's wife and showing him where Captain Kidd's treasure was buried on the Brighton marshes, Walker had sold his soul to the devil. Walker, presumably, kept a Bible at hand in his office, just in case the devil should come for him. One time, during an argument with a customer, he swore, inviting Satan to take him if he had a farthing. And the invitation was accepted, Walker's Bible not being handy at the moment. Nothing was ever again seen of Walker, and the pine grove in Brighton near the marshes burned down. Walker's treasure chest, when opened, contained only ashes. The Harvard Business School now occupies the site of Walker's old shack. But nobody can say if Kidd's treasure is anywhere in the neighborhood. The moral? Probably it is: Don't swear.
Even on the retreat to "horse-and-buggy" days that is currently taking place, Boston still leads. The variety of "livery services" featuring horse-drawn cabs is much more plentiful here than elsewhere. And, incidentally, most of the vehicles now in use for the purpose were never used as cabs in the old days—many of the old victorias were the private carriages of rich residents once upon a time. Recently one of the pictorial weeklies ran a series of pictures on Boston's horse-cabs, showing photos of the cabs lined up awaiting passengers at Trinity Place Station. Can any Bostonian tell us just what is wrong in that picture?
Some of Greater Boston's municipalities are called cities, and some are entitled towns as their official designation. The distinction is not merely a matter of size or rank; it is a question of the form of government. A "town" in Massachusetts is governed by a town meeting, which was originally a meeting of all the town's voters; now, in most metropolitan towns, the town meeting consists of a large number (usually 240) of representatives as voting members, besides which any registered voter is entitled to the privilege of the floor. The voters also send in, in advance, the business to be taken up by a town meeting. And, while cities usually have one man as executive head (the mayor), towns ordinarily have a committee (board of selectmen).
Boston is the only important city on the North Atlantic seaboard that has acquired new territory during the 20th century. The last annexations by some large Atlantic coast cities were: New York, 1898; Washington, 1870; Boston, 1912.
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