Celebrating 70 years on Garfield Avenue

Bob Borden has a love of Chelsea

Bob Borden has been a resident of Garfield Avenue for 70 years.

“I came from Pearl Street in 1951 to Garfield Avenue when my mother and father bought the house for $14,500 – it’s a two-family house with a lot of land,” recalled Borden.

Bob, now 75, is the proud son of Robert Borden and Angela Borden.

“My father got on the Chelsea Fire Department in 1951 and my mother was the first person to work for the Sears and Roebuck catalog store on Broadway, Chelsea, right next to the Shawmut Bank,” recalled Borden.

Bob and his wife, Virginia (Mario) Borden, purchased their house on Garfield Avenue for $28,500.

A retired licensed builder, he once held the position of general manager of Montvale Plaza, Stoneham.

Attended five Chelsea Schools

“I went to every single school in Chelsea,” said Meola with a bit of exaggeration in his tone. “I started at Shurtleff because I lived on Pearl Street near Katz Bakery – I went to sleep and woke up smelling the delicious Katz’ bagels.

“Then I went to Williams before we moved to Garfield Avenue. I went to the Prattville School, Carter School, Chelsea High School and graduated in 1962,” said Borden, who also recalled playing baseball in the Chelsea Little League.

“I played catcher, right field, and pitcher for the Washington Senators. John Lepito was on my team. He went on to become a big football star in the City of Chelsea. He used to live on Garfield Avenue, too.”

One of Bob’s neighbors in Prattville was Adrean Freede Abrams, daughter of Joseph and Shirley (Madow) Freede. Bob and Adrean also high school classmates.

“I graduated with Adrean,” said Borden. “I felt so bad when she passed away. There are really no words to say about how she got sick and left us too soon. She was a wonderful woman with a tremendous personality. I used to see in Chelsea and at all our class reunions.”

Service in Vietnam

Bob Borden enlisted in 1962 and became a Green Beret, serving in the United States Army Airborne during the Vietnam War.

He remembered one story that was uplifting to his fellow soldiers during their time fighting in Vietnam.

“We were in the middle of the fields in Vietnam and all of sudden one of our Army helicopters starts coming down to land,” said Borden. “One of the soldiers starts yelling out, ‘We’re looking for a Borden, we’re looking for a Borden.’ 

“I said, ‘here I am,’ and they say, ‘here, we have a special delivery for you.’ “It was from Chelsea City Clerk John Dalis – he had sent me a ballot to vote in the election,” said Borden. “They had me go into the helicopter and fill out the ballot. They had never seen anything like that before.”

A member of the Board of Aldermen

Bob Borden served in Chelsea government. “I was the last Ward 5 Alderman on the last Board of Aldermen before Chelsea went to a City Council,” said Bob, whose cousins, the late Mabel Borden Meola and Carl Meola also served as Ward 5 aldermen in Chelsea.  “I remember when I decided to run for Mayor, they threw out the mayor’s race and Chelsea went into receivership.”

Borden’s newest project: a hidden speed limit sign

Though he is no longer an alderman, he continues to be a leader in the community and always has the best interests of his neighborhood in mind. whether it be shoveling snow from the sidewalks, trying to get motorists to slow down on Garfield, or helping out others during difficult times such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Meola’s current focus is on a new speed limit sign that stands near the intersection of Garfield Avenue and Exeter Street. As Meola pointed out, there is a new tree blocking the sign.

“This a new tree that has been planted and it’s absolutely beautiful,” said Borden. “But the tree is now blocking the speed limit sign and the people driving down Garfield [toward Revere] can’t see it.

Borden said the tree came first followed by the speed limit sign. “There was no speed limit sign when they planted the tree and there was no sign for the crosswalk. Now with a crosswalk sign and a tree, you cannot see the speed limit sign. We now have a double visual impediment.”

Which is a problem, Meola says, on the wide and busy straightaway where drivers tend to pick up speed in both directions. “It’s like a speedway here,” said Borden.

He believes the speed limit sign falls under the umbrella of the state.

“I understand the state put the speed limit sign,” said Meola. “I think they should move the tree because it’s a lot of work to take down the speed limit sign.”

Bob Meola, a man who has loved this city for a long time and won’t be moving away soon if ever, pledged that he would keep his neighbors updated on the situation. 

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