Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


March 14, 2013

Andover stories column

This is the first of two parts.

Andover’s ABC (A Better Chance) program is entering its 46th year at Andover High. It provides equal educational opportunity for exceptional disadvantaged students. Andover’s ABC students are accepted as part of the community without second thoughts. It hasn’t always been that way. ABC’s beginnings were far from simple.

In 1956 students who lived less then one mile from Andover High School walked to school. The speed limit on Elm Street was 20 mph. All Andover telephone numbers began with GR5 (Greenleaf5). Hundreds of engineers and scientists moved their families to Andover and surrounding towns in the years following 1956 when Bell Telephone Laboratories and the Western Electric Company completed their massive facilities in North Andover. Within six years more than 10,000 were employed at the site. Raytheon also expanded.

The increased population drew more doctors, lawyers, dentists and retailers. The new families began to make an impact in their communities. Andover’s first nursery school opened at the Free Christian Church in 1958, the result of efforts by two young mothers, Elaine Viehmann and Connie Durham. They hired Bernice Warshaw who directed it for more than 20 years. Foreign student programs were initiated in 1963 when a Bell Laboratories engineer, Bob Klie, organized Andover’s American Field Service (AFS) chapter. Horace Seldon, minister of Free Church, resigned to found Community Change, an organization dedicated to assisting Boston area communities in addressing racial discrimination.

Back then, Jewish families who sought homes in Andover were shown properties in small selected areas. There were no, or at least very few, blacks seeking homes. Awareness of discrimination grew in the white community as men like Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King made headlines and appeared on magazine covers. The civil rights movement blossomed. Voices spoke out in Andover pulpits. The liberal minded began to respond to the call for equal opportunity for minorities. Members of younger families, many of them from Andover’s religious communities, became proactive.

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