Lucy Giarle’s North End roots run deep| From Alumni Notes | By Katie Koch (CAS'09, COM'09)
Lucy Giarle, who has lived in the same North End apartment for almost all of her ninety-four years, checks out her BU yearbook. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky
Old-timers who bemoan the fading Italian-American culture of Boston’s North End haven’t met Lucy Giarle. Giarle (SED’37) has lived in the same one-bedroom apartment, with exposed brick walls and charming views of the neighborhood, for most of her ninety-four years.
Near the turn of the previous century, Giarle’s Italian immigrant grandfather, a marble cutter, noticed the building’s architectural details; he liked it so much he bought it, she says. Her father, who was six when he came from Italy, grew up in the building on Prince Street, and Giarle was born there.
Giarle matriculated at BU with the encouragement of her Girl Scout troop leader. BU, then located around Copley Square, was one of few local universities to be fully coeducational.
“I had no trouble getting in because I had all A’s,” she says. She studied commercial education and enjoyed the Newman Club, now the Newman Center.
She taught briefly after graduating, then moved to Washington, D.C., for almost five years. World War II started shortly after, and she began working for the war effort translating prisoner-of-war letters. It was her only time away from Prince Street. She returned after the war ended and began a career as an accountant at Blue Cross Blue Shield.
With the exception of her stint in Washington, Giarle and her sister Fannie have lived together all their lives. The two are still active, although their weekly trips to Boston’s Haymarket — always on foot, as neither drives — were cut short when Fannie broke her back last year.
They spend lots of time talking to, and visiting, their eighteen nieces and nephews and their many children, whose pictures cover their small second-floor walkup. They’ve never had a desire to leave the North End. “We have everything we need right here,” Giarle says.
She remembers when rent in the building was $22 a month and utilities were something of a luxury. In 1915, the year Giarle was born, some families would use their bathtubs to store firewood during the long winters, she says.
The rent has certainly changed — it’s now $1,800, plus utilities — and so has the neighborhood.
“It’s all college kids now,” Giarle says, “but they’re very nice.”