These neighborhoods are bucking the trend. They set aside devices to make real connections.

Buying News Arlington Natick Newton
. —Nick Lu for The Boston Globe

Once upon a time, kids played outside until sunset. Neighbors chatted over picket fences. There were quaint events like Tupperware parties. It all sounds so antiquated now in an era when kids are overbooked with after-school activities, parents work long hours and pull into their driveways after dark, and social media is more exciting than mingling over plastic ware.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, just 28 percent of suburbanites claim to know all or most of their neighbors. Of that group, less than half report having a face-to-face conversation with a neighbor during the week.

But some Boston-area neighborhoods buck this trend.

Take, for example, the “Hogs’’ . . .

No, they’re not Harley-Davidson fans or barbecue pit-masters.

They’re a tightknit group of families who live in Natick’s Strawberry Hill Road area, off Route 135. There’s only one way in and out of the neighborhood, via University Drive, which gives it a private feel.

“Everyone knows everyone’s car. If we see a strange car, someone’s looking out the window,’’ said Rick Canty, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2003.

Not to say the group is snooty: They’re so inclusive, in fact, that they made headlines in 2016 after vandals targeted one of their own. Cari and Lauri Ryding had hung a gay pride flag outside their house after the Orlando massacre. They returned from vacation to find the flag missing and their home coated in eggs. In response, local kids delivered rainbow flags house by house, which promptly went up around the neighborhood.

“I think we set an example here for the rest of the world. Say, ‘hi.’ Ask how people are doing and listen. You don’t have to agree with their politics or religious affiliation, but they’re a person, just like you,’’ Lauri Ryding said.

The neighborhood is warm and welcoming, she said. “We just had 109 trick-or-treaters. You see people walk their dogs every day. You won’t believe it until you experience it.’’

The “Hog’’ nickname comes from a beloved “Hill Open Golfers’’ tournament the neighbors have played every September at Juniper Hill Golf Course in Northborough since the late ’80s.

Today, Canty helps to keep the momentum alive. In the past, neighbors would hand out fliers touting the festivities at the base of the neighborhood on Marathon Monday. These days, Canty uses a “Hog’’ Facebook group. But some things never change: It’s a treasured way for the neighborhood to reconnect.

A trophy — topped with a golden pig — travels from home to home every year, and there’s a plaque that lists the winners’ names. Losers write their names on a traveling toilet seat. Canty meticulously pairs golf teams via a spreadsheet, with one rule: neighborhood residents only.

After the tournament, there’s always an after-party at someone’s house. Nothing too fancy: booze in a cooler, pizza, snacks, sometimes live music.

“We’ve had some crazy parties,’’ Canty said, laughing. “When I moved in, I got wind of this and [thought], Oh, my gosh! I’m home! This is the best place ever.’’

Is it luck that drew these neighbors together? Fate? While many people do buy into the neighborhood via word of mouth, eager for a warm welcome and a ready-made social life, residents also say that Natick has remained a down-to-earth bastion with similarly styled, relatively affordable housing stock that keeps people grounded, golfers or not.

“The houses were built in the 1960s. Not McMansions. There’s nobody trying to outdo one another,’’ Ryding said. “It’s ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.’ ’’


Kelwyn Manor in East Arlington is a tidy subdivision off Lake Street with well-tended lawns and prim Colonials and Capes overlooking Spy Pond. Streets have elegant etched signs. Outside, kids ride bikes or frolic at the playground. You can almost hear casseroles sliding into ovens.

Appearances aren’t deceiving. The eight-street neighborhood has its own nonprofit association, complete with bylaws and a social committee. The association celebrates its 75th anniversary next year.

A welcoming coordinator delivers a basket to newcomers with a plant, cookies, and a neighborhood directory. There’s Kelwyn Cares, a monthly food drive for the Arlington Food Pantry. More than 60 homes participate. Last spring, a neighbor hosted a Kelwyn History Tea to reach out to older neighbors and educate newer ones. A “Good Cheer’’ committee is mandated in the 1944 bylaws.

Holly Rossi heads the association’s social committee, responsible for activities such as a September “homecoming’’ potluck supper, a Halloween parade and party, a holiday caroling stroll with multifaith songs, an Easter Egg hunt, Friday picnics in the park, and a summer movie series.

Traditions have ebbed and flowed over the years, Rossi said, but things are on the upswing thanks to an influx of new families. When Rossi moved to Kelwyn Manor in 2009, she noticed an appetite for community-building and heard from older neighbors that things had quieted down during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2014, she and a few other families revived the Halloween party. It was a hit: Nearly 200 people showed up for chili, games, and pizza.

Now she tries to reach out to older neighbors who remember Kelwyn Manor in its heyday. Celebrations are intergenerational: The Halloween party draws a range of ages, and people bring novels and cookbooks to a “book swap’’ table. Potlucks unite young and old.

At the annual Easter Egg hunt, the neighborhood chipped in for a bunny costume — donned by Rossi’s Jewish husband. He arrived, fully attired, in a pedi-cab that another neighbor had purchased for her elderly mother.

“This ballooned thing comes around the corner to the park, and the kids went nuts. And the adults couldn’t believe it,’’ she said.


Often, like Rossi, you luck into a neighborhood after buying. But when Martha Bixby wrote a personalized offer letter for her Newton Highlands home, she got one back from the sellers: Not only did they accept her family’s offer, they wanted her to know about the longtime Hyde Street block party every summer and progressive dinner every winter.

She attended the block party four days after moving in. In January, there’s the progressive dinner, ongoing since 2002. Invites go out on a neighborhood listserv, with new residents like Bixby quickly added when they arrive.

“This isn’t a nosy neighborhood, but we all know each other. When someone moves in, we go over to say hello,’’ said Susan Opdyke, one of the coordinators and a resident for 41 years.

At the block party, “Everyone brings a lot of food . . . They bring their best food. People have pride in their food and want to look good to everyone else,’’ she said with a laugh. Young families mingle with older residents, some of whom are nearly 100.

Then, on a Saturday in January, families gather for the progressive dinner from 5:30 until 9 p.m. (held at a reasonable hour to accommodate older folks or parents with babies).

Two families host each course: appetizer, entrée, dessert. Older groups are carefully paired with newcomers for each course to allow for maximum mingling at different homes.

“If a 30-year-old sits down with a 90-year-old, you think, Hey, that person is really cool, even though I wouldn’t have said more than hello [before]. It changes how the neighborhood feels when you know everybody. And the people here are wonderful. They have interesting stories, they’ve done fascinating things, and they’re great people,’’ Opdyke said.

The houses aren’t modern. They don’t have the bells and whistles of newer construction, she said, but once someone arrives on Hyde Street, they almost always stay.

Kara Baskin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on twitter at @kcbaskin. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design —at Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @globehomes.