Retired City Clerk Michael Matarazzo spoke to an audience about the history of Everett on Wednesday afternoon, July 11.
Matarazzo has taken an intent interest in the City of Everett’s history, becoming Everett’s local historian, collecting artifacts, and working in conjunction with the Everett Public Libraries to preserve the city’s past. Matarazzo presented a slideshow at the Connolly Center, primarily focusing on fun facts and local characters since the city’s origins in 1892.
Dale Palma, who works as the director of the Council on Aging in Everett, introduced Matarazzo to the audience, despite him being recognized by most residents in attendance.
“Michael Matarazzo is former city clerk but he’s also the city’s unofficial, official Everett historian. If you ask Michael any question you want about the city of Everett, he can tell you,” said Palma.
Matarazzo said the discussion would not be a typical, boring historical talk, but rather provided some basic context for the foundation on which Everett was founded.
“We’ll start off with a little bit of history. We were out of Charlestown. We think that Charlestown is that little bit of land over there across the river, but in 1630, when they say Charlestown, it included Malden, Medford, Melrose, Everett, Woburn, Burlington, Winchester, Wilmington, Stoneham, Somerville, and parts of Cambridge, Reading, and Wakefield. That was considered Charlestown. So when they say we were part of Charlestown, it was far more than that itty-bitty enclave over there now. We, of course, broke away from Charlestown with Malden.”
In 1670, Native Americans that inhabited today’s Everett were wiped out by an unidentified disease. While the majority of Natives shifted to Medford, the few remaining in Everett resided where the Exxon tanks currently stand.
“Malden made it difficult for Everett to breakaway due to Everett owning the harbor, but Everett eventually got their way. One of the reasons Everett was settled so late was because they had a barrier with the river intersecting between Everett and Boston,” Matarazzo described.
Today, Everett residents are accustomed to being in such close vicinity to the major city, but years ago, it required an expensive ferry to cross the Mystic River. Eventually, a private bridge was built to connect the two, but it came with a toll. Over time, the barriers were broken, resulting in the easy access Everett is familiar with today.
After providing a brief context for Everett’s geographical history and origins, Matarazzo proceeded to detail some of the quirky stories and anecdotes relating to Everett residents throughout the years. To mention a few, Everett was home to the prettiest child in America in 1920, the heaviest child in 1922 (275 lb. at age 12), and the kid with the most freckles in 1966.
These tidbits would make blurbs in newspapers across the nation, far beyond Everett.
In 1902, Robert Jenkins became President of the Board of Alderman. Jenkins passed away in the midst of the swearing in ceremony, and therefore, never actually got to serve his role despite gaining the title. The story grabbed the attention of Americans across the United States.
In 1910, President William Taft visited Everett, and thus far, has been the only sitting President to visit. Meanwhile, John E. Lawton was the first person drafted into WWII was also from – you guessed it – the City of Everett.
In the 1920s, the circus walked several elephants across the bridge to get to the banks of Everett where the elephants could bathe and wade in the water. This wasn’t Everett’s only encounter with circus animals. In 1946, Nena the monkey escaped from the circus in Charlestown and made her way to the Adam’s School in Everett, which still functions today.
Nena made her way into the ventilation system, and peered out at students, whose teacher thought they were playing a prank when they described a monkey in the classroom.
Needless to say, Everett was a hub for many milestones and stories. Matarazzo is in the process of finalizing his book, “They Came From Everett,” which details the accomplishments, quirks, and odd facts about Everett residents.