History Chair Joan O’Brien as a child

Ms. O’Brien

“When there were rules, I broke them regularly,” Ms. O’Brien said with a smile as she recalled her childhood. “We had a lot of freedom as kids…we could kind of do whatever we wanted.” Growing up, Ms. O’Brien was a lot more self-conscious than she is now. She had aspirations to take part in a school musical, but remembers being too afraid to audition.

Ms. O’Brien has fond memories of playing for long hours and disappearing to go ride a bike or have fun with friends. Periodically she sees a companion from childhood and he reminds her of their adventures together.

“We used to go down by this river in Providence… it was a pretty sketchy place, we weren’t really supposed to be down there. There was this new bridge across the river and we used to climb up across the bridge and walk out underneath… The farther out you go the higher up and more dangerous it is,” she said. Ms. O’Brien also recollects climbing in through the basement window of houses that were being developed on the old farm land near her home. She and her friends used to walk around inside when no one was home and then climb out again without leaving a trace.

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