Inside the modest, nine-room, brick-and-slate, Philadelphia- style duplex residence of Mike and Kitty Dukakis, it takes some time before clues surface that this is the home of the daughter of late Boston Pops icon Harry Ellis Dickson and a former Massachusetts governor who was the 1988 Democratic nominee for president. Far more noticeable are the countless photos of their three adult children and six grandchildren; several crammed bookcases; an eclectic art collection; and modest pieces of furniture, many of which were inherited from their parents.
Eventually you see the signed photos of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip presented during their 1976 visit to Boston; a replica of an early MBTA trolley, symbolizing Dukakis’s renowned use of the T in lieu of a car; a glass-enclosed Geisha presented by the Japanese government; and photos of Dickson with fellow maestros John Williams, Seiji Ozawa, and Keith Lockhart. Nothing hints at Dukakis’s run for the presidency.
The Dukakises, married 42 years and still calling each other ‘‘sweety’’ in nearly every sentence — including the many times they challenge one another’s facts — moved to their quaint home near Coolidge Corner in 1971 from the other half of this 1875 Victorian, purchased in 1963 with barely enough for the $3,000 down payment, he recalls.
‘‘Never ever move next door,’’ says Kitty, 68, ‘‘because you want to do it all yourself.’’
‘‘We said we’d never move again,’’ adds Mike, 71.
Indeed, they haven’t, and although they are ‘‘one of the originals’’ in the neighborhood, they love it as much as ever and are devoted to Brookline, where each was raised.
Inside the house, little has been updated. The decor is simple and largely traditional, and some of the upstairs rugs date to the 1970s, when shags were popular. The only renovation is a bathroom for Kitty on the third floor, complete with modern tiling and a spa.
The rooms are modest in size, except for the living room, which features a large pastel rug and a pale pink couch that sits just behind a 50-year-old oak coffee table from his recently deceased mother’s home. Off to the side is a maple desk that was Dickson’s. Behind the couch in a wildly sunny bay window, a variety of flourishing houseplants hang in such an interesting fashion they resemble a sculpture.
‘‘Kitty’s the flower person; I’m the veggie person,’’ Mike says, referencing the garden he planted out front ‘‘the year lettuce went to a buck a head.’’ He asked the neighbors in the duplex if they minded his digging up the front yard. When they agreed, he planted tomatoes, cucumbers, and raspberries that thrived better than ever this summer, he says. He tried lettuce but stopped long ago. ‘‘Greeks do not use lettuce,’’ he says of his heritage, explaining that their nightly salad is made with ‘‘onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe olives, and feta cheese.’’ He, in fact, is resident chef. ‘‘If I want to eat, I’ve got to cook,’’ he says, teasing his wife.
Although he enjoys cooking ‘‘a ton of stuff,’’ making bread is his true delight, ever since a friend loaned him a breadmaker 15 years ago. ‘‘We woke up the next morning to the smell of bread, and I said, ‘We have to get one.’ ’’ The legendary King of Frugal proudly announces he ignored the popular $350 model at Williams Sonoma and found one for $129. He hasn’t purchased bread since and makes two to three loaves a week, favoring Portuguese and Anadama.
The stained and tired-looking bread machine sits on the counter of the couple’s fire-engine-red kitchen. The color was Kitty’s preference; her husband chose a rich Caribbean orange for the bedroom. The rest of the home’s walls are white, dotted with largely inexpensive, but nonetheless precious, pieces of Greek art and masks, tapestries from their travels, photographs and sketches from their parents’ homes, and art of all kinds from refugee organizations and other causes with which Kitty has worked for 25 years.
These days, Kitty is heading a fundraiser for a dialysis unit to be named after her father at the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, and publishing a book about her experiences with electric shock therapy. The former governor teaches political science at Northeastern University and is visiting professor of public policy studies at UCLA in Westwood, Calif., where, during the winter months, the couple live, always happy to return home to their beloved Brookline each spring.