Rob Hastie was a security representative at Perkins from 1981-2021. Eleven of those early years were spent living in May Cottage on campus where he had direct contact with students. Hastie had a number of family members that worked at Perkins. Hastie’s later years were spent as a night watchman, or “overnighter”. He was working April 18, 2013, the night that the shootout with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing suspects took place in Watertown. Hastie retired after almost exactly 40 years on the job.
This interview is a digitized copy of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Perkins School for the Blind. The interview was conducted on April 23, 2021, by Jen Hale.
This oral history transcript may be quoted if cited. A preferred citation is provided. The interview may not be published in full except with the permission of the Perkins School for the Blind. For permission please contact [email protected].
Hastie, Rob. “Rob Hastie oral history interview conducted by Jen Hale,” 2021-04-21, Perkins Archives Oral History Project, AG176-2021-06, Perkins School for the Blind Archives.
Jennifer Hale: Today is April 23, 2021. This is Jen Hale. I’m here with Rob Hastie, a security representative at Perkins School for the Blind. We are conducting this interview virtually on Zoom because of COVID19 restrictions. Rob, are you OK with me recording this conversation?
Rob Hastie: I am, absolutely.
Hale: Fantastic. I guess, let’s start with, what is your current role at Perkins?
Hastie: I have been a security guard for all the 40 years that I’ve been here. For 11 years, in addition, I’ve lived under the 26-hour room and board agreement in May Cottage, from 1982 to– spring of 1982 to the spring of 1993. So during that time, I also had direct interaction with the students of May Cottage and secondary services at that time.
Hale: So what was that like, the interactions with the students and living on Perkins? Or at Perkins.
Hastie: I’m very grateful that I did it. Perkins at the time was much more residential than it is now. Partly, of course, from COVID. It was at the beginning of what would be termed mainstreaming. In that, Perkins was struggling to make sure that it had kids, because it was the beginning of– I don’t to say the end– but where Perkins would start people from kindergarten. And they would go all the way to high school, and that was beginning to slowly taper off at that time.
So I’m grateful, because I worked with kids that had been in lower school, and had come up from the ranks as it were. And some kids I worked with for eight, nine, 10 years. You know, they went all through their school from 13 until graduation. So that was really neat. You really get– it’s much more family, when you know a kid for that many years. They come back in September. They’re there except for vacations, all the time. They all know each other. It’s very family, much more so than if a kid stayed here two or three years.
And the staff, there’s still a fair number of longevity staff here. But just out of how today, more and more people don’t stay in jobs for forever like me. Most people it seems, younger people are used to like, they’re here in their job for two or three years, and off they go. That’s something that Perkins, to me, misses, because that was something that Perkins really offered.
And when I would talk to parents, mostly speaking as a guard, parents sometimes would come at, say, 11 or 12 o’clock. They came from wherever state. And they would bring their child, and they would stay in a guest house before they would go to a cottage. So I’d be the one bringing them to the guest house, or whatever, and I would talk. And after a while, not to pat myself on the back, I would very often say, oh, I’ve been here whatever it was, 20, 25, 30 years.
And many times, almost identically, people would say more or less the same thing, Yeah, I heard people stay here a long time. I like that. And that was important to them. And that was one of the reasons why I would say that. And I would say that, Oh yeah, I know teachers that have been here for years and stuff. And that was very reassuring to the parents. It was something they really were looking for, for their kid, the experience that Perkins was offering.
I know it’s harder, just in terms of the times, for any place to keep people 20, 30, et cetera years. And I hope that Perkins– I know that they’re doing their best to adapt and to change with the times and stuff. But having been here at that time, living with the kids in that environment, where the staff and everyone knew each other. They would know each other for years.
And you’d know that Billy was upset, because you know that he’s had the hots for Cindy for the last five years. Now Cindy’s going out with Joe. You know and stuff, things that would be family, in a manner of speaking. But we would know that because, we’d see him being upset. He’s not saying anything, but we know because we’ve known him for so long, and vise versa. And so on.
So that that’s what I would recollect a lot of, besides a lot of friends at the time. At that time, of course, I was a young man. I started when I was 25–
Hale: What year did you start?
Hastie: I was 25 when I started.
Hale: But what was the year that you started?
Hastie: May of 1981. So 40 years, almost precisely. I’ll be retiring, from the point of view of Perkins School, May 28. In 2021. So almost exactly 40 years later.
Hale: How did you come to Perkins? What led you here?
Hastie: Well I’ve had a number of family members that worked here. At that time, my great aunt, my grandmother’s sister Ruthie, Ruth Karcher, who only died a few years ago at age 95, and lived on Pequossette Street. And out of her 95, 93 of those years was in that house.
But I’ve had other relatives, Linda Olson, who was in the Volunteer Department, until very recently, is a cousin of mine. Second cousin. She’s actually my dad’s cousin. But I’ll say we’re about the same age. She’d never allow me to say her actual age. But we’re about the same age. So we grew up basically as cousins. Her dad worked here. Her mom worked here. Another one of the great aunts worked here. So it was a family thing. So when I was looking for work, my mom mentioned, Oh, by the way, you know you have connections over at Perkins School.
And I applied. And I had been a guard at another business, called Infrared Industries in Waltham. So I had guard experience. They were looking for guards. At that time– I was hired– Mr Woodcock was the director, and Tom Lewis was the head of facilities. So he’s the gentleman that hired me.
And what, three and half years later, whenever it was, Mr Woodcock left. And many of the people that were with him also left. And that included Tom Lewis. So while things are up in the air, before Bill Schmidt became head of facilities– and he was a great guy– I was actually, or we, were under Kevin Lessard, when Kevin Lessard was acting director.
So for a time, for I think several months, we were actually under the director’s office, and Kevin was my boss. So that was a pleasure for a bit. He was always a great guy. I’d love to talk about him. He was– I mean no reflection on any of the other directors or presidents, but Kevin, for a lot of people I think, was very, very special.
Hale: What made him special to you?
Hastie: Well, besides just basic interaction, Kevin was kind of funny. He was up from the ranks. He had started here as a mobility teacher. And when I came, he was assistant director. And I don’t know if there was ever since then an assistant director, that particular title. He could be funny. He was very no-nonsense, but he was someone, because he knew the kids, you could always talk to him. But you knew who he was. It wasn’t like he was chummy. But you knew who he who he was.
But at the same time, the kids especially– he would call up– in those days, teachers and whatnot would go to different cottages for lunch. And it would usually be arranged. So secondary, most of the secondary teachers. So you’d have four tables, and most of them would be full. And you’d have, say, three staff. So one or two of the teachers would be assigned to any given table.
And Kevin would call up and say, Hey, I’d like to come over and have lunch with you guys. And it wasn’t like, Oh, God no, the director is coming. Everyone was happy, and the kids would be all excited. They’d be happy as a clam.
And he would come, he would be serving right with them. He would know the kids by name. And he would never be insulting, but he would be like, So Bill, I hear you’re doing well in math, or stuff like that. He’d be very positive with them, all the time. And the kids would be like, Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, hi, hi, Kevin, and he would allow them to use the first name. But he would always get to know them, and he always had attention to them. If something was going wrong, or something like that, he saw to it.
And at the same time, way back when, there was the old watering hole, the Galway Bay. And that would be another bit of story, as far as like the staff, at 11 o’clock, all kind of migrating down toward the square, where the Galway Bay was, just to have a refresher after work. And Kevin, on occasion, would go there. And he wasn’t a drunk or anything, but he’d go down there and have a beer. And I have no doubt he learned a lot more there than he ever did at any meeting, because people would talk to him. But again, he wasn’t chummy or anything like that, but he was friendly.
But he had his quirks. He didn’t like the color yellow, so there was no yellow caution anything. He didn’t like signs. So speaking as a guard, I learned that if you saw a car driving by, especially with someone looking older, probably a parent looking around trying to find a cottage, I made a point to get over there and, Hi, can I can help you? Yes, we’re looking for Brooks– Yep, I’ll get you right over there. For whatever reason, he just didn’t want prominent signs. As far as he was concerned, the signs that were on the buildings were plenty enough, as far as he was concerned.
When he would make certain decisions– again I was talking to Dave– an example would be through the walls. Inside the closes, the west close has walls. The east close does not. And there’s a story to that. Originally, of course, if you look at old archival photos, they both had the walls inside the closes. And they were degraded. They were falling apart. Kevin realized they had to be replaced.
So he went to the two programs, Deafblind in east close and Secondary in west close, and said, Do you want the walls back? West close decided, yes, we want the walls. Because the kids would be out there sitting. That was an important part of their lives, especially in summer, but any time. That’s where they socialized. They’d come out and socialize, sitting on the wall.
And the east close, perhaps because they didn’t do it as much, but at the time apparently they thought, Well you know we’d like it more open. So they decided against it. And Kevin told them, once they make that decision, that’s it. And he made sure they understood that. So west close had its wall put in. It’s really nice. East close looks at it and says, We kind of like to have the wall. Too late, eh, no way. That’s it, the decision is made. And thus, there’s no wall in east close.
He did that several times. We have gates that break apart the campus now, that segregate the campus as well. I don’t know if I’m using the proper word. That had been debated for quite a while, all the time that I had been there.
But what made the decision, at that time Lower School– there was no new Lower School, so there’s no loading area at the new Lower School location, in that parking lot, which didn’t exist at that time. So loading, especially on the weekends, was the front of the Howe Building, out of the lobby and going straight down the front of, at that time, Lower School. And because of that, there was a lot of traffic.
Now on Fridays, at that time, before I went permanently overnight, a lot of times on Friday afternoons, I was the person working as a guard. And you usually only had one guard. So you’d line up the buses and all that. But there was one gentleman who had this beat up box– skipping a word there– of this rusting station wagon. And he picked up a kid at a Lower School.
And I wasn’t there for this, I only hear tell, but I could picture it, he would drive-through, and he wasn’t like speeding, speeding, but certainly much faster than– because there’s a crosswalk right there, and we wanted people to drive really slow as they went in front of the Howe Building. And he would just putter his way right across to get to Lower School, and he wouldn’t care about people being there.
So Kevin Lessard’s smoking area was the bench. I still think that ought to be the memorial bench, the Kevin Lessard Memorial Bench, because that’s where he smoked. And he had a lot of his meetings there, with Jack Gleason and Eric Holterman It was like, a regular meeting spot under that tree. And Mike Collins, too, would be there.
But anyway, he was there, and this gentleman came sailing through. And Kevin, which I could imagine him doing, told him to slow down. And I guess the guy flipped them the bird, and I could just picture Kevin. He wouldn’t say a word. He’d just kind of quietly put a cigarette down, go into his office, find out who that guy worked for, call up that company, he’s never coming back. And, as far as I know, he never did come back.
But that settled the question for Kevin. And immediately thereafter, the gates– now, the permanent gates weren’t there, but he wanted something, so he put a couple of these long sawhorses. So you have to understand, at that time, that a lot of people drove through campus. The campus was a little different. The parking lot, especially on the east side, connected to the road. It didn’t connect to Beechwood Ave. In addition, neighbors would use it as the scenic route. So they would come in to just to drive through the campus. They would come in and drive all the way to Riverside Street, or vice versa. And I would see that two or three or more times a night. But it would happen during the day too.
And so when he put those up, it was immediately resented. So right away, people would get out of their cars take the sawhorse, and throw it to the side. So now, we started having a problem. So they started putting these bricks to weigh down the sawhorses, to make it more inconvenient. And at some point when they had enough bricks, it was inconvenient enough. So then what they did, they started driving around. So when you look especially, from the Lower School side, and the walk that’s going down to the Howe Building, and you see those rocks along the way. There’s a story to that. They started– here’s the sawhorse, and we put a couple of rocks, because they were going around like this. Well, they went down the walk, and went further, and they kept on putting rocks all the way to the end, finally. Because people would keep on doing that. They kept on going down the walk, to bypass this.
So ultimately, they knew they had to comply with fire regulations. It had to be a gate that works, that when there was a fire alarm, the gates automatically opened. And so they finally had a design for that. And so on. They finally got it to work and stuff like that. And ultimately, in the end, it’s like the neighbors basically forgot that they used to do this. And so nowadays, we just don’t have traffic really anymore, except for occasional maintenance vehicles and stuff like that. But when you see those rocks, I remember practically each one of them being put there.
But, anyway, so Kevin would do that. The other, I’ll say, story as far as that goes, we used to have water bottles. I don’t remember if it was a Belmont Springs or the other springs. And so the truck would come each day. It was a big thing, a contract. They’d be loading all these five gallon things, and they would come and they would load them all.
And, again, a truck, a truck driver apparently was driving a little fast, and Kevin asked him to slow down. And apparently, he also, the driver also flipped him the bird. And Kevin did the exact same thing. He called up whichever’s springs it was. That’s it. He wanted them out the next day. Come here, get all your stuff. Go on. And I’m sure they were horrified. But that’s what he did. And then they later put in the reverse osmosis, or whatever those filter units are, that are now all over campus for the water fountains, or the cups. So that’s where that came from.
Hale: I’m wondering when you permanently went to the overnight, what that was like.
Hastie: When Kevin– well, we wanted it for a long time. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked shifts like that, where you work overnight, then you work whatever. And when you’re bouncing like that, it’s very hard.
Tom Lewis was a little strange that way. For whatever reason, he did not want permanent shifts, and he wouldn’t even let us like two weeks in advance know what our shifts were. For whatever reason, that’s what he wanted. So each week, we would find out, OK you got this shift, this shift. Now eventually, it kind of sort of settled to the point where most of the time I would work, say, Friday evening, and then Saturday morning. That was a common one for me at the time, but I usually did, say, three overnights at that time. But we were all pushing for regular shifts.
When Mr Lessard became our boss, that’s one of the first things we proposed to him. And he agreed. So we ultimately had the overnight, which in my case was Sunday through Thursday, and at that time, it was 11:00 to 7:00. Then we had a 3:00 to 11:00. And we had a 4:00 to midnight. And there was no day-shift at that time, the Monday through Friday day-shift, but there were days on weekends.
So the idea was– because in those days a lot more people moonlighted– [CLEARS THROAT] Excuse me. –where people would work full time, Monday through Friday, and they’d look for extra work. So the idea was that you’d have two shifts, so a day shift Saturday, Sunday; the evening shift Saturday, Sunday; and the overnight shift Saturday, Sunday. And that would be offered, mostly for moonlighters. And for a time, that more or less worked.
Eventually, we had some guards that needed flexibility, where they weren’t doing regular shifts. They would work part weekend and part during the week. And slowly, the shifts began to form around that. So in the end, I became the only regular, kind of grandfathered, but I was the Monday through well, at that time, Sunday through Thursday. And then, several years ago, about five or six years ago now, we changed it Monday through Friday, which honestly I like a lot better.
But prior to that I’d worked overnight at a company called Infrared Industries, and before that I used to work nights at Burger King. Not overnight, but I worked late nights. And when I sat down to think, when was the last time I regularly slept at night for an entire year, was high school. I’ve just always preferred nights.
I’ll say as an overnighter, and you’ll see it at Perkins with the awake overnights, if you like it, you tend to stay here. A lot of the overnights have been here almost as long as me. Steve Waterhouse has been here almost as long as me. A number of the overnights in Lower School have been here for decades. Even Sumetra, who is over in Secondary, she’s been here 10 years. If you like the shift, you tend to stay.
But it’s a sacrifice, if you have a family. I’ve been married now for more than 25 years. And all during that time, five nights a week, more or less as a rule, my wife is home alone. And that’s something that it’s a sacrifice on the part of your spouse. And when I talk to other people about that, as I get ready to retire– one of the guards here was offered that job, but he’s married and has a child. And ultimately, in his family, they agreed that, hmm, we’ll stick with what we have. And I understand that.
If someone likes nights– I mean, I don’t imagine someone doing 40 years again. I wouldn’t condemn them to that. But I mean, Paul’s been here 20, Paul Beauchemin and he may be here a while longer. Who knows how long? And he lives here, too. I always thought that, for a long time I thought, I’d be the only live-in guard ever, ever, ever. But he’s been living here now for a fair number of years.
Hale: What are some of your most memorable stories from working here, I guess either early on or now?
Hastie: Well, I’ll tell you some of the stories that I’ve already said. One of the stories that I consider important, because it’s a very sweet memory, in, it must have been ’82, maybe the summer of ’81, I’ve actually lost track, Ray Charles performed here. And he performed in front of the Howe Building, where the playground is. So they put a stage there, and they had the seats on the lawn. And they used Bradlee as the dressing room for he, and his band, and The Raelettes And the story is much more about The Raelettes than it is about him.
So at that time, if you looked at Lower School, between the cottages was not enclosed like it is now. So if you’re looking between Bradlee and Glover, now there’s a laundry and an office, where that used to be open and where you cut through. But that was open, and that was the portico. And you can see it when you look, and you can see the brickwork like this, the old arches where they filled in.
When Ray Charles and the group came, The Raelettes, and as I recall, there were three of them, very, very sweet. And they came out prior to the concert, in their duds and dungarees, and they were having a smoke. And they just were with us for like an hour. And I mean I wish I could honestly remember what we spoke about. And it was probably about six or seven staff, not just me, and them. And they were– we just enjoyed each other’s company.
And they were as enamored, not enamored, but they were like, Oh, we think this is great, you guys work with kids that are blind, blah, blah, blah, and all this stuff. They were as amazed with us, as it were, as we were with them. They’re like, oh, yeah we’re just singers, you know, kind of thing. So the time came, and I remember them saying, oh, it’s time for us to get ready. I hope you guys enjoy the show, and all that stuff.
So the show happened, and Ray Charles was terrific. I don’t know if you remember the song, “Busted,” which is one of his hits, but it’s a song that gets the audience going. And I do remember that. But he had his other hits, too. And he was out there for like an hour and a half, or whatever it was. It was a great concert.
And then he came down offstage, and into the Bradlee, and like 10 minutes later, off went the limo. The Raelettes stayed and they came back out again in their duds. And we must have talked, and again it was like a group of us, for, I want to say, a couple of hours. They just– again, it was just like so pleasant. They told us stories that, I’m paraphrasing, but I remember stories about their travels and stuff. We just communicated. It was like sharing stories.
And that to me was one of the sweetest things, because to me at that time, here I am like 25, they were as close at that time as I had ever been to someone who I would have thought of as famous. And to see them as normal people, and that they were regular and stuff like that. And they had been terrific. When they were up there, they were dazzling. They’re beautiful and all this stuff, and of course great voices. And there they are just being regular people. Then they left.
And ever since then, I mean if this ever got back to them, I don’t imagine they’re going to remember me from a hole in the wall. But I’d like to think that they remember that. On the other hand, I imagine that they were friendly like that all the time. I didn’t have the impression that they weren’t like that. I think that they were just very friendly girls, or ladies, at the time. I hope that they have long since become grandmothers, and God bless them. They were really neat.
But that’s one of my favorite stories. Another, I’ll tell my ghost story.
Hale: I was hoping for one of those.
Hastie: OK. So I’m a horse’s mouth. Way back in– it was early in my career, ’81, ’82. Now, at that time, Pat Kirk, who was a good friend of mine, had become like within– She came like in November. I came in May. She came in November, as head of what’s now the BTBL, the regional library. And she was head for 20 years. And we were good friends for all that time. So I mention that, because there’s a caveat to my story which we’ll get to.
But up and above the lobby is the Thorndike Room. At that time, it’s just the staff lounge, and that’s where, as guards, we stayed between rounds, at that time. Which, it’s actually a good place, because you’re central, the windows, you could hear things. And I freely admit, 4 o’clock in the morning, those comfy chairs, really deadly. And I had nodded off. And I heard this voice, and I felt this. And it was, Rob, Rob. And I looked up, and I can still see it, a blue half body. And the way how I would always describe it to people, if you’ve seen the Disney movie “Pinocchio,” and the blue fairy, that translucent blue, that’s what she was.
So I’m looking at her, and I’m pinching. I’m awake, I’m awake. And she faded. She just looked at me, and it was not scary. There was nothing scary about it at all. And she faded, just like a television tube. And I watched it. It seemed like it took a while, and it became this dot. And that was it. And I remember, I got up thinking, There must be some reason she woke me up. And I got up and did probably one of the better rounds ever in my life.
Now, I later learned that Pat Kirk was there. Now, the conundrum I have with that– And I have no doubt, if Pat says she was there, she was there. But she herself also said that I didn’t acknowledge her. I think she remembers that I got up kind of like in a daze and headed out. I know I would have recognized her voice. We were friends. And I’m pretty sure I would have recognized her. But at the same time, I know she would have done that. She would have come to me and she would have, Rob, Rob. She would have woken me up. So all I can explain is exactly what happened, and that’s exactly what happened.
Now, a couple of– it was very shortly thereafter, I’ll say a couple of weeks thereafter, there was a woman. She was from South America. And I want to say Guatemala, but I don’t remember anymore. And in those days, what they used to call teacher trainees. And she, as a lot of South American people are, very Catholic and so on. And she would go to the chapel, and have like a prayer session there. So as far as I know, she did not know what happened to me, but she had an experience that she described.
She was sitting there, and she looked at the entryway, and she saw what she described as a blue girl. And the girl looked at her, and turned, and left. And the woman immediately knew that this was strange, that this was not– she knew she’d seen something. And she ran to see where the girl went. And if you’re in the Howe Building, at I’ll say late hours, not wee hours, you can hear things. You can hear people, it’s echoey. And she didn’t hear a thing. It was dead silent.
So I consider, myself, those two– I’ll call them authentic, partly because it was my own experience, and partly because I saw no reason, as I recall, I didn’t think of the woman as someone who would exaggerate or anything. So others, over the years, have said that they’ve had experiences. I can’t vouch for them. I’ll say that other people have said that, Oh yeah, I’ve seen this or that.
I do know, speaking as someone who’s haunted the Howe Building for many, many years, you could have funny noises. If the wind is blowing, doors can slam shut. If you– you’d have to be in a certain circumstance. If you’re ever in the Howe Building, in the wee hours, or I’ll say at night, and if you’re upstairs, and you’re looking down one of the wing corridors, the doors at the end, with their windows, can be very, very reflective, especially if you’re backlit. So if you’re walking down the corridor and you’re backlit, way down there you can see your reflection, kind of like a silhouette.
And several people have freaked out, because they saw this thing moving, not realizing it was them. So I got to know that, thankfully, myself personally, because I’d see that every now and then, of course. But I’ll consider that my ghost story. I have no doubt of the genuineness of it, but like I said, there’s a bit of a conundrum there, slash caveat. But I am pretty sure that something was there.
Another story– I can give you a couple stories about the tower. And way back when, and it was not just me, guards and other people with keys would bring tours, especially in the wee hours, up to the top of the tower. And this is an exciting thing, especially when you’re young. It’s a good way to impress other young ladies and all that stuff. So you’d arrange, after work, say 10:30, 11 o’clock, and get them all together, and kind of sneak into the Howe Building and so on. And by the way, if you start at the bottom, at Dwight Hall, and you go all the way to the top, it’s 172 steps, just in case you need to know.
And so you’d get up there, and it’s a nice view. Well, this one particular evening, or night– And you have to understand that the tower, in particular the bell floor, is an echo chamber. If you are outside, you might not hear the words, but you could be at the track, or on the other side, where the Pappas Greenhouse is. And the greenhouse wasn’t there at the time. And if someone was in there, you would hear something. Even if they were whispering, you would hear something. It’s that echoey. It’s designed that way.
So there I am, and I remember, I’ll say I made the mistake of– and, as I recall, it was like four or five people. And I remember there were two people in front of me. And it was the girl that was in the lead, and she’s the one with the flashlight. Now, if you look at the tower, there’s louvers. And you can kind of peekaboo there. So you can actually see there’s a light, and sometimes you can see that. So anyway, as you get into the tower, it’s like a metal pole, and the stairs go winding around like that. So the longest part is the bell floor up to the roof, and that’s about the height of a tree. That’s like 75 feet, 60 to 75 feet. It’s long, and it’s a little scary.
So we were going up, and we’re about halfway, and you hear this [MIMICS BIRD WINGS FLAPPING]. In those days, we had a lot of pigeons in there. And this girl starts screaming, A bat, a bat! I’m like, No, no, no, no, no, it’s not a bat. It’s a pigeon. A bat, a bat! And she’s screaming. Half of Watertown has to know that there’s a bat in the belfry. And meanwhile, the flashlight’s going like this.
So if you were outside, you would hear this girl screaming about a bat, and perhaps someone trying to quiet her down, and the light peeking out, like this out of the tower, like ever so briefly. And it only lasted, I’m sure, 30 or 40 seconds before we were trundling back down. That would have been a moment in someone’s life if they were outside.
We used to go up there with some regularity. I don’t know if you’ll ever have the chance to go up there. The edifice on the top is lead sheathed. That edifice you see that’s kind of gray, that’s a metal sheet thing. And because it’s lead, it’s very soft. So people, including myself, would go up there, and you could use a key, and you can sign your name and a date. So you go up there, and I recall maybe 1914, ’15. Some very early people that would be up there. And some names I recognized. If I looked up there now, I’d be like, oh, yeah, Clyde Ellis or someone like that. It’s something that people would do up there.
So I know at one point, they were thinking of trying to remove it, because it’s cantilevered up there. There’s no bracing, and that’s one of the reasons why they don’t want people up there now. It’s that, somewhat– If you’re there, it’s a little springy. And I’d like to think it will never collapse. I mean it was built very strongly, but it is a very heavy item. They actually thought of having a helicopter remove it. And it turned out that it was too heavy. They couldn’t get a helicopter to do it. It’s that heavy.
Hastie: In the end, I mean, I know people still do get up there. I haven’t been up there in decades, and it’s certainly a great view. A couple of times I was up there speaking with Pat Kirk once, just to watch the 4th of July, and that’s a treat because it’s everywhere. You can see Boston in the distance. In those days, you could see Waltham, and you’d see about five or six all around you, and so you could kind of go over here, and you’d see a display in the distance. Waltham was pretty close. And most of them, to some degree, you could here. You could actually even hear Boston. It would take a while. You’d see a flash. And boom. But you can see that. It was quite a thing to do in those far off days.
Then, I’ll talk about the bell ringers. Now, it’s like the National bell ringer society, whatever they are. I don’t recall their actual name. When Mr. Woodcock was the director, he had apparently given them Carte Blanche. He gave them a key, and my first experience, and it might have been the first time they were there, because I knew nothing about them. I was working in an evening, and I imagine it was a weekend, and all of a sudden, the bells are going nuts. And what they would do, is something called chain ringing. We’re not talking jingle bells. They’re not doing songs. There’s eight bells on that floor, and the reason why they’re so interested, is that the only ones in this country that were cast in England from a particular bell manufacturer, we’re the only ones they have.
So this bell ringing society is really interested in our bells. So if you go to Dwight Hall in the balcony, and then you see a door. You go up a few stairs, and inside there is the organ pipe room, which is no longer in use. The organ pipes for the organ of the chapel. The organ pipes for Dwight Hall are behind the stage of Dwight Hall. So they’re kind of in disrepair, and then you see this thing that looks like a closet, and that’s the beginning of the stairway up. And it’s closed. And if you look up– and it’s high. It’s like, I’ll say, almost 20 feet or better. You look up, and there’s a trap door. And it’s like eight or nine feet square anyway.
So I remember going up there wondering, what’s going on? And they were told not to do this, I might add. The bells have ropes, and the ropes have loops, and they were putting their foot in the loops, and doing the Quasimodo. So that means they’re ringing really hard. When you’re using your weight, it is completely deafening, especially when all the bells are going. If you’re on campus and you hear the Westminster chime, all that is the Clapper being brought to the bell. And it’s quietly loud. I mean, the whole campus can hear the Bing bong, bong, bong. That’s nothing that’s nothing in comparison to eight bells on their wheels being rung hard.
If you’re in the Howe Building, you couldn’t hear me. You just couldn’t, and so the first time I thought they were teenagers. I got an officer. We went up there, and I remember, we got up there, and whoever was in charge was like– and we did, and it turned out they really were legit. So for the next, I’ll say, couple of years maybe, we had to endure this. Speaking as someone who lived on campus. And I can recollect several times, it would be a nice day, like a Saturday or Sunday, about 10:00. It’s sunny. This is going to be a great day, and they started in a certain fashion.
So you’d hear this like Bing, bang, bong, bong. And words not fit to print would come out and not just my mouth, I might add. And they would ring for three hours. That was their normal session of chain ringing. This is just all eight bells like it’s the end of World War III, and it’s brutal if you live on campus. Maybe Watertown’s Square might enjoy it, but if you’re anywhere near it, it’s just awful. Unless you really like the bells.
So we were doing this for a while. And Kevin Lessard, of course, lived on campus. He lived at that time was, what is the Hunter House, which is right by the track, but toward Beachwood Ave, the smaller house. And he hated it. So when he became acting director, when Mr. Woodcock left– and Mr. Woodcock had also done a lot of renting on campus. We had various groups that– including some large groups– that would rent portions of the campus. So that was one of their ways of making money, et cetera, et cetera. So we were getting kind of used to that. Some of the renting groups are great. Some of them, not so good.
So Kevin definitely did not like them. So when he became acting director, most of them were gone. One of the few that he allowed at that time was a square dance group, and they had been terrific. They would bring their own trash barrels, they brought their own little band. They cleaned up after themselves, and so on. So they would come usually like in the late morning of like a Saturday or Sunday.
So I was working, and I knew them by then. Hey Bill, what’s going on? Blah, blah, blah, and all that. Got them all set up. And this is in Dwight Hall. So now, I walk out the front of the house building, and I look, and I see the guy who I know is the head bell ringer, and I went right over to him and I’m like, I’ve got renter’s. And he completely ignored me, as if I–
Anyway, so he’s like– and he turns around, and there’s two carloads empty. He’s like, over here. And off they come, and he’s going on and on about the bells, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. He goes in, and not there long thereafter, off go the bells. And I remember that the square dance group tried heroically for maybe 5 minutes. And you had to give up. There’s nothing you could do. I mean, you couldn’t hear anything. So they left.
And Kevin– and as I said, he was my boss at that point– called me up, and he was like, why did you let him in? And I was like, I didn’t let him. They had a key, which he did not know. He did not know the had their own key. So we both knew that they were going to go on for three hours. And so we agreed, and to meet in the museum area, and he said, just point out to me the guy that has the key, or something like that.
So three hours, more or less, and Kevin was there. We shot the breeze a few minutes. And we knew how they ended, so if we heard that, then we’d hear them trundling down the stairs, and here comes the group, the guy in the lead, going on and on still about the bells. And I must have looked like a pointer dog.
And Kevin went right over to him, and I can almost still quote him. He was like, my name is Kevin Lessard. I’m the acting director. I understand you have a key. I’d like to have it back please. And the guy is in shock. And it was like– and after he got the key back, he had to. And in those days, I was actually sworn in. I mean, if worse comes to worse, I had a badge at that time, believe it or not. And if he needed to, he could have used that. But after a few moments of shock, the guy gave him the key, and basically, Kevin said, don’t call us. We’ll call you. And that was that.
So fast forward 20, 25 years. I guess it was like 25 years, and Mr. Rothstein is now the president. And I didn’t know this until then, that apparently, almost constantly, this group tries to contact the director’s office or whoever to come back. And as long as anyone– certainly when Kevin Lessard was here, that ain’t happening. But now with Steve, and apparently, they said, if you let us ring the bells, will lubricate them, we’ll maintain them, and that appealed to Steve.
So he gave them permission. So now, they’re all excited. And on their website, at long last, 25 years, we’re going back to Perkins, blah, blah, blah, blah. So as it turned out, it was either my 25th or my 30th year, and they had the get together at Hallowell House at that same time. And I knew Steve anyway, because he’d work late nights. We’d talk. And I told them, do you know what they’re going to do? And they hadn’t told them. He’s thinking jingle bells. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. And I explained to him, chain ringing. And I told him, they’re going to do it for a long time. I told him what I told you, and I also said that if you have any doubts, call Kevin Lessard.
So he then, apparently, called them back, and they– Yeah. And they said, we’ll only do it for an hour. And I’m sure I’m not the only one that thought this, but I tried to get back to Mr. Rothstein that, well, remember. They’re going to have a whole bunch of people from around the country showing up for this. There’s no way they’re going to do it for an hour. I’m thinking 30, 40, or more people, all of whom are going to want to ring these bells. You just can’t do it an hour. They’re all going to want to– if nothing else. So in the end, they didn’t do it.
So with hindsight, in other words, I’ll offer as a thought. And with perhaps a little bit of kindness in my thinking. If everyone understood what was about to happen, if Perkins made it an event. Here come the National bell ringers, whatever. I don’t remember the names. They’re going to chain ring for three hours, or whatever. It will probably be 3 hours. Once every five years maybe, you don’t drive people nuts, and maybe make it a media event or something. I can see possibly, and make sure that not only everyone knows, but there’s no one working. Because I remember one time, they did it when Perkins was doing it an audit. And that was awful.
And you know who might remember that? Barry in payroll. He might remember that, because I think he was working. And if he was, then he’ll remember when they were– he might remember the bell ringers anyway, but he might remember a time when they were doing an audit that– I felt bad for him, because they are in the business office, and– But as I said, I’ll be kind to them. I imagine they have a dartboard with my face on it in their office here. And he said, he’s gone as long last.
So another story I’ll say, is that I was the guard working when we had the Tsarnaev brothers shoot out. So I consider that historically significant. So event wise, from my point of view, and of course the week prior, they had the bombing. So I have a lot of friends in Watertown police, because we’ve had a detail here for a long time, and most of them I know.
So that particular evening, we had a detail till midnight. And I remember– he was a young guy. I don’t remember who he was. I don’t remember his name. And so I relieved him, took his keys, says, hey, you have a good night. I don’t think he was working late. I think he was getting off at 12:00.
And so this is a Thursday night, Friday morning, the end. It’s literally right around the same time. The end of April vacation. And so, at that point, I remember talking to Lena Ivers, who was over smoking in the smoking area by the How building on the west side. There’s those benches there. And she was with someone else, but I don’t recall who. And a friendly, how is it going? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then, I went into the whole building to do my round. So I was in the building maybe 10 minutes, or whatever it was. I came out of the building on the West side. And three things happened at the same. Time
At that time, we had an on person fire radio, and I am hearing on it a call for an ambulance to a location. Now, I hear this all the time, and you could tell a distinct difference in the voice. In other words, it wasn’t just a normal call. You knew right away, something was wrong. At the same time, Chris Underwood, who is the AEC, called me up, and said, Ron. Do you know what’s going on? And, no, I don’t. And he said, well, there’s apparently a shooting in Watertown, and you need to lock down. We had one group. We had the Outreach program in the Northeast building in the North Tower, and so I needed to go over there to lock them down.
And at the same time, and I don’t know if they could ever reproduce it, if you’re on the West side coming out, you’re looking, there’s the Pappas greenhouse, and beyond that, is mass turnpike. Blue lights roaring on the turnpike heading to Watertown. Blue lights on the River Road below, and it was a low cast, like a low code cover.
I won’t say foggy, but it was low. It was like a light show. This dazzling blue flashing lights above you, and this is all going on at the same time. So, all right. And I hightailed it over to the outreach program. They had already started getting them up onto the second floor. So we get them up to the second floor, close shades and whatnot. And I still really didn’t know what was going on.
But they had a TV on. So at that moment, I watched the TV, and do you remember the TV coverage at that time?
Hastie: If you remember, there was this shot that they had, where you saw the taillights of the cruisers. They were just arriving, and you heard the shots in the background. And that’s the first thing I saw, and my heart just completely sank, because the first thing I thought of is, who do I know? I was like– I was horrified.
So meanwhile, and it’s funny. You can find yourself really focused when you’ve got something to do. So I knew I had to get back on campus, and start basically telling people. So I made sure that the outreach was settled, and I came back out, and I went over to Secondary, and speaking of Miss Ivers there, I went over to her room, knocked on her door, and she didn’t know at the time.
I said, you’ve got to stay in place. I said, if you have a TV, you’ll see. And she immediately put the TV on, and she’s like– Whatever. It’s all right. Just shelter in place. And then, I remember. I came out, and there was a gentleman in Brooks, who was like, whoa, what’s going on? I said, just stay there, and I remember there was a young woman. And I don’t remember who. I’m sure she’s come and gone as it were, but she was running from the lot, and she lived in Brooks, and she was running.
And that’s all right. That’s all right. Just get in. You’ll be OK. And then, I went over to lower school. New Lower School was brand new at the time, and I remember seeing one person in the lot, and I remember they did not know, when I told them the same thing. Shelter in place, and go. And Meanwhile, Mr. Rothstein, who was in the Middle East at the time, called me. It’s like 15 minutes after the incident, and he calls me. He’s already heard about it, and so he asked me what I was doing, and all that. I told him. And he told me his wife had lived in the Farrell House. And his wife was there. And he said, she already knows. She’s sheltering in place.
And Margie Carney was house-sitting in the Hunt House at that time. So I made sure– I didn’t knock on the door. I saw that the lights were out, but I made sure that they were OK. Then I called in the gentleman that I had just relieved, Steve Smith, and he came back, and we sheltered in place with them at outreach for several hours, and you’d watch on whatever thing on the phone, and it would say, oh, that’s a report of this. And all of a sudden you hear this– cars going in that direction, and then you’d hear “voom, voom” in the other direction.
As the morning came on, we went out. And my concern– I had called the Police Department, and I’d asked them. And they said, well, we’re pretty sure we have it cordoned. We’re pretty sure you guys are all right. And I said, well, if I see anything, of course, I’ll let you guys know. But my concern was that if he had made it here, it would have been very tempting. I mean, because A, it’s mostly empty at that time. It was vacation, and if you come on campus, it’s kind of woodsy, and there’s basement doors. And I knew that those would be very tempting. And if he figured that out, if he banged a window and he got in, and if he started exploring, he could find his way maybe to the tunnels et cetera.
In other words, he could really get lost in there. So I certainly had concern of that, as well as, I thought maybe hide in the dumpster, or whatever. But I found myself going through my head, OK. What am I going to do with this young guy? I didn’t know if he was armed or not. So I went through that several times. The police helicopter went by. And I remember I had a coat, but it had a badge. I was [INAUDIBLE] so they saw me. I could have taken my hat off, and I would have done the same thing.
But in the end, of course, later in the morning, the gentleman– and I don’t recall his name. He wasn’t here that long, but he was a really good guy. Relieved us, or came at 7, and he had been an MP. He’d been a military policeman, so you know I was glad to have him there, because now it’s like, OK. This professional’s here. And around 10:00, when it looked like they had surrounded him– I don’t know if you recall, there was a point where they were surrounding a house, that I thought, OK. It looks like they have him, and I knew I was probably going to come back that night anyway, so it’s in good hands, I’ve got two guards here, and I went home.
And oh, by the way, my wife is horrified. I called her at like 5 AM. And I was like, honey. Turn on the TV. I’m OK. And 10 minutes later, here comes the call. Are you all right? Yes, honey, I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. And she must have called me– she wanted to know like every couple of hours how I was. But I went home, and as it turned out, of course, ultimately, before I had to go back in, they caught Mr. Tsarnaev.
That’s what happened here at Perkins School for the Blind at that point.
Hale: Wow. Is there anything else that you want to talk about?
Hastie: You give me a few minutes, Jen.
Hale: OK. I mean, it’s been an hour, so you can call it quits by all means. I’d just like to ask that at the end, we can always do part two. We can always pick up at another time too. I don’t want to wear you out. I really wanted a ghost story, and I wanted Marathon bombing.
Hale: And I mean, those were the highlights. And I love– personal experience it’s so important to documenting, I think, Perkins’ history in particular. So I really appreciate it.
Hastie: I’ll give you one more story. I can think of one more good story. It’s my Mrs. Robinson story, speaking of Pat Kirk Now, Pat was a wonderful lady. And the first thing I’ll say, is we never became lovers, but we became great friends. She was about 10 years older than me, but very statuesque. In fact, she I understand that she had once been a runway model, but very, very bright. She went to school at Princeton as a librarian, and stuff like that. So she was really well qualified to come to school. And we used to love to talk. We loved intelligent talk. We could do that all the time.
So before I lived here, when I first came here, there was a year that I lived with my parents in Waltham. And at that time, I was doing a fair amount of short shifting, where I’d work the evening Friday, and then come in Saturday morning. Now I could– It’s Waltham, so it’s not really bad, but Pat lived on campus. Now, the apartment that she lived in no longer exists. In health services, the entire first floor is now health services. At that time, health services were smaller, and the East side was actually an apartment. It was walled off, and she had a small apartment. It had a bedroom, a little tiny kitchenette, a little living room. It was a small little apartment.
And that’s where she was when she first came here. That’s where she resided. So we’d gotten to know each other a bit. And she said, well, if you work and stuff, you can come crash. And stuff like that. So here I am, 25. I’m pretty naive, I might add. And another guard, who’s older, and I’ll say, had a bit of the hots for her is like, you have no idea. What am I getting into?
And so I went over there, and we, again, shot the breeze until like 1 o’clock or whatever. And then she said, well, it’s time for bed. And then she went into her bedroom. And I’m like, does she want me to follow her? And I was so relieved, when she came out with the blanket and the pillow on the couch, and well, here you go, and all that stuff.
So later, I remember talking to her about it. She’s like, of course, if I didn’t know that you were harmless, I wouldn’t have let you in there. But like I said, Pat Kirk became a very good friend. She was a brilliant person. And so, Oh. OK. It’s just Dave. And I could go on a little bit about her. She did a lot for the school. She’s the one that actually, basically got the computers running, because prior to her, I don’t recall the nice librarians name. I’ll call her Miss McGillicuddy.
But she was just this nice old lady that had been here for years, and she was completely– she be like me. Completely unprepared for computerization. And the Library of Congress needed someone to get the computers going for the library, and so thus Pat Kirk, and then Kim Carlson, which Pat knew. Pat brought her over here, and Kim was her assistant for several years before Pat left and retired herself to the left cost, she would call it.
So I think it’s all right for now, and what I’ll do is, if I think of one or two things that are significant enough, first, I’ll let you– I’ll give you an email, and if you think, yeah. But that’s most of the stuff that I think would be–
Hale: This was wonderful. Thank you. I really, really, really appreciate all of this.
Hastie: Oh, you’re welcome.
Hale: This was everything that I wanted and more, so I really appreciate your time.
Hastie: Well, I like to think that 50 years from now, they’ll have an idea. Yes, people were- I mean, honestly, I can think of several couples. Pat McCall and his wife met here on campus. They were a couple of the couples I could think of and stuff. I mean, of course, there were lots of relationships that came and went. But like I said, it was very family here, and I hope for Perkins’ sake, as time goes on, that to some degree can be re-established. Because that was important to the staff, and honestly, to the kids.
And so, anyway, Jen. Thank you so– Oh, I actually can think of one more. I can think of one more. A couple of student stories, without mentioning students’ names, but I think they’re good lessons. One summer, it was the end of summer school, and the kid– I don’t actually recall his name anyway. And I used to work, of course, like I’d help with homework, and things like that as part of my 26 hour agreement. And I just remember he was a little bored, and I’ve always– I have a lot of eclectic interests. I have books on almost anything, and I’ve just always been like that.
So I remember asking him– there he is kind of doing homework and stuff, and you could just tell you can see the boredom meter as I recall. And I asked him, well, what do you really like? And he was really specific. He didn’t say astronomy or anything like that. He said, planetary geology, which is really specific. And I– hold that thought.
And I went upstairs to my room, and I came downstairs– if you remember the old Harvard coupe, which I used to love, I had recently purchased probably the textbook of the time titled Planetary Geology. And he was floored. He was completely floored that A, someone would actually have that kind of interest, and B, that this book existed.
I remember I gave it to him, and we read it out of it for a while and everything, and his attitude just completely changed. From being meh, to interested. And to me, the lesson, for something I always looked for with a student afterwards. And I’m not– I wasn’t qualified as a teacher or anything, but it’s something I would suggest to any teacher. That if you can find a quirk, something that a kid really likes, especially something off the wall, that’s such a tab for teaching. And it’s so sacred. Never use it against them. Never say, well, we’ll take that away. No. Don’t ever do that.
But as far as– it’s suddenly– you could use math. Here’s a kid that doesn’t like math. Let’s say, at the very least, when you can– I mean, you’re not applying it to the point of calculus, but you’re applying it to the point where he recognizes how important it is. And at that point, he can go from there. But at least it isn’t just useless junk to him anymore. And the same is true, really, with almost anything. Because all of a sudden, you’ve opened a little window to a person.
And if you’re able to keep that going, it’s something that– they may or may not ever become a planetary geologist or whatever, but it becomes what I would call a love. That for the rest of their life, it’s something that they’ll honestly, I hope, enjoy. They can always turn to achieve. Something either hobby or otherwise, but it’s something they can turn to. And I would always promote that.
And another one that I consider an honest lesson– and this is the last one, but now that I think of it, is an incident. I’ll call it, the most embarrassing moment of my life. But if I was talking to a mobility teacher or something in college, I could see it as an interesting lesson. In those days, kids sometimes had programs where they were given rewards for behavior. And most of the time, this was actually reasonably good. I had no problem with it, and it honestly could help a kid get some control. Hey, do this, or so on.
And , so this particular student lived next door to me. And because of that, on the two nights that I was obligated to be there, the students knew that I knew how well the student behaved. So the student was almost all the time saying, today earned my reward, and so. He did this all during the day. So we had a community experience thing, and we went to– at that time, Pharma City, which is now CVS And shampoo, whatever it is we got.
And I swear to God, two old ladies in front of us, and two ladies behind us. And I’m only going to imitate him slightly, because he was so excited. The students said, Rob, was I good in bed last night? I was good in bed last night, wasn’t I, Rob? How do you respond to that? I mean, I’m sure I was as red as all can be. And yeah. Yeah. You were fine last night. I mean, if it catches you off guard like that, no pun intended, it’s like, Oh. How do you deal with this? And I could see that as an interesting poser.
If someone’s going through training, mobility training, or something like that, as if they were doing that, a little surprise. I don’t know how they could set it up where it would work, but if you catch someone off guard like that, it’s something. How do you work that out without digging a hole?
And so, I would offer that as food for thought. It was, to my peers, when I would say that, they knew the student. And they’d be laughing hysterically because he could picture it. But at the same time, they all say the same thing. What would you say? So anyway, now I’m done.