South Boston: A Source of Pride

(1) South BostonI am not aware of any other section of the city that has a song dedicated to it other than South Boston with its “Southie is My Hometown.” That in itself should tell you the people from there are proud of having the connection with it.  Perhaps that is the reason so many others seem to have  disdain for it; an inveterate and ineradicable jealousy.

I talk about South Boston because of two items I read in the last week or so.

President Obama just named the new head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the one person who holds the highest position in America’s military. He is Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. I read this about him:

“Dunford, 59, joined the Marine Corps in 1977, following in the footsteps of his father, a Marine who served in Korea and later became a Boston police officer. Raised in South Boston and later Quincy, Massachusetts,  . . . He’s Irish Catholic, the same as the current chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey. . . . He earned the nickname “Fighting Joe” . . . . His selection as the nominee for chairman was hailed on the Marine Corps’ Facebook page with the customary Marine salute: “Ooh-Rah, Sir!” . . . He was #7 on Fortune magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” in 2014. The magazine quoted Dunford as saying that his first battalion commander told him the three rules to success. The first? Surround yourself with good people. “Over the years,” said Dunford, “I’ve forgotten the other two.”  (my emphasis)

The Dunfords are a typical South Boston family. His mother’s four brothers served in WWII. His grandfather fought in WWI probably with the Yankee Division “and those boys from South Boston [who] mopped up Germany.” His father served with the Marines in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Korea. His father is quoted as saying: “You graduated from South Boston High, and you went into the Marine Corps” 

Yet, that was not the item though that made me think of this subject.

My wife Maria goes to a local library where she sort books every week for an upcoming book sale. The other day she brought home a book titled “The Last Lion.” It is about Winston Churchill. I thanked her but told her I already had the book. She said she did not think so.

She was right. I did have a book with the same title. It turned out it was the second volume of a three-part series. The book she brought home is the third and final volume.

I looked at the cover. The authors were listed as William Manchester and Paul Reid. Manchester, like Dunford was a Marine. He wrote a compelling book about the Marines during WWII “Goodbye Darkness” that has always been a favorite of mine. William L. Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) said it did for WWII what Siegfried Sassoon (Memoirs of an Infantry Officer) did for WWI “bringing home the misery and horror of combat and what it is like to fight and be wounded and die in the hell and confusion and blood of modern battle.” 

Seeing Reid’s name, I wondered if Manchester was still alive. I checked and  saw he died in 2004. I learned that he had asked Reid to finish the book.

I read Reid’s introduction to understand how it turned out that Manchester arranged for this to be done. Near the end of his introduction, Reid, who is now living in North Carolina,  mentions five others who “long ago set in motion my role in this story.”

Two were the Reppuccis, his childhood neighbors in Winchester. The others were: “my sister Kathy, and my parents, Mary and Sam Reid, he a son of South Boston and the United States Naval Academy.” After identifying his father in that way, he told how his father believed Churchill’s motto was “never give in.” 

I paused after reading that. Obviously to mention in a  tome that his father was a son of South Boston showed his father had great pride in that. He passed it on to his son. It is a part of who they were. It is something special to the Reids as it is to the Dunfords.

Why is it?

9 thoughts on “South Boston: A Source of Pride

  1. Dunford’s a B C High guy, to boot. No question that his high school education has had a strong bearing on the man he has become.

    “Perhaps that is the reason so many others seem to have disdain for it; an inveterate and ineradicable jealousy.”

    I would think instead that many criticize South Boston for one (or more) of many reasons: they have lost sight of or are ignorant of the value of a brave combatant; they have lost sight of or are ignorant of the value of a strong military; they consider military efforts, achievements and victories ho-hum or low-brow (!); they are dyed-in-the-wool pacifists; they consider themselves “above” the “Southie rabble”, etc., etc.

    Sounds like the profile of many a Boston Globe subscriber.

    1. GOK:

      Good comment. I knew Dunford went to BC High. That also influenced him along with his Southie roots.

      JRC posted about the memorials he walks by on Castle Island to the guys from Southie who died in the wars of this country. That too, as you indicated, goes into the dislike of Southie because of the anti-military feelings of those who don’t serve or have no one in their family serving. You put it better than I did but I agree fully that they exalt their positions and look down on others, at least until the danger strikes home.

  2. Hello Matt, Saturday I took my walk around Castle Island in South Boston. First I passed our World War Two Memorial where 250 names of local kids who gave their lives fighting tyranny. Many of the names are of families I grew up with. One name is of my uncle Jimmy. Further on my walk I passed by the our Korean War Memorial is located. There one will see 50 names of local Southie young men lost their lives. So thank you for that “pat on the back” for our Community. We are so often maligned by others at the slightest provocation. SLAINTE .

    1. JRC:

      Nice comment. I understand there is also a memorial to the guys who served in Vietnam and it was the first one every dedicated in the country. It is time for Southie to stop being the punching bag of the people who want to put it down.

      There was an article in the Globe today about the demise of sports franchises. A guy names Stephen Greyser from MIT was asked about the Patriots. He said: “The almost universal disdain for the Patriots and Tom Brady has its roots in a general phenomenon of popular people and entities who elicit either jealousy or hatred,” That is pretty much what I wanted to say about people who are hung up on Southie: just hearing anything about it “elicits either jealously or hatred.

  3. What do all these people have in common?

    General George W. Casey, Boston College High School Class of 1966:

    http://www.bchigh.edu/podium/default.aspx?t=204&id=538028
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Casey,_Jr.

    General Joseph Francis Dunford, Jr,, Boston College High School Class of 1973:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Dunford

    General Joseph P. Hoar, USMC, Commander, U.S. Central Command:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_P._Hoar

    Also two Medal of Honor recipients among the alumni:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_College_High_School
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_G._Kelley
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_T._O%27Callahan

    Michael Sullivan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and Acting Head of the BATFE, Boston College High School Class of 1972:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Sullivan_%28U.S._Attorney%29

    What are the odds that two Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would not be service academy graduated, but would be graduates of the same high school separated by seven years on their dates of graduation?

    1. Ed:

      You left out Brigadier General John Brickley USMC who was a classmate of mine at BC High. He played end on the football team and then erred going off to Holy Cross.

      You reminded me of another guy from BC High; he didn’t graduate from there but he was the football coach, Charlie McCoy who happened to be from Southie. Here’s a story about him. http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/obituaries/articles/2009/12/03/rev_charles_mccoy_pastor_coach_and_war_hero/ He won the bronze star as a priest in Vietnam serving as a Navy chaplain with the Marines. As a 17 year old freshman he was put in to quarterback the Boston College team when the regular quarterback got injured. He is quoted as saying: “What did I know? Being from South Boston, first of all, I was a wise guy. And, second of all, you don’t worry about a thing.’

  4. Matt:
    I grew up in Dorchester, but my aunt lived in Southie. We visited often. It was a safe, friendly neighborhood. Much more so than Dorchester ….

    1. Dan:

      I think most people would have had the same experience that you had. If you read the Boston media and believed how it portrayed Southie you’d think the opposite.

  5. The media will always put out a story that not only sells but has the promise of future sales. The Bulger story is a perfect example. The real story for most people of South Boston is family, education, neighborhood, ethic background, hard work,church, faith and desire for a better future for your children and grandchildren. My aunt who was a nun and lived in the D street projects and taught at the neighborhood center across from Cardinal Cushing High loved her neighborhood and city. As the years turned into decades they all noticed the so called gentrification of the neighborhood but felt it still retained its roots. The Dorchester Heights neighborhood and the view from the church remind me that the area was a big part of the American revolution and I think the so called fighting spirit of Southie literally runs in peoples blood.I like where I live now and enjoyed living in Florida but I will always be from the Boston,Massachusetts area which to me is America at its best.

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