Southie is My Hometown: A Small View Into Its Something Extra

Castle IslandYesterday I wrote how the media had vilified South Boston over the years. Despite the evidence otherwise it cruelly portrays the people in that small section of the city as being a uniform barrel full of bigots.

Those who do it are usually people who have little connection with Southie people. Some may have lived there for a bit but have no roots there. They have not had the opportunity to grow up there among many relatives and friends and realize that within every family the beliefs and ideas span a wide spectrum. They are unaware of the loyalty many from that area feel toward each other.

Those loyalties last for a lifetime. I’ve recently heard from one of the Gaughans who lived in Old Harbor with me who I had not heard from in eons who spoke about others we knew from there and the good times we had as kids. I’ve told how a court officer named Gasher was giving me the old brush off when I went in to visit a judge on the Supreme Judicial Court. Then when I called him by his nickname and told him I lived in Old Harbor he couldn’t do enough for me. That’s how it works if you come from Southie where you can call in chips that are sixty years old and it is all done with a smile.

One of my best memories of Southie is its relationship with its high school football team something that you normally would see in Texas. At one time in the 1930s into the 1950s it had a coach named Steve White. I’ve seen photographs of him and it looked like he could hardly see but he was a great coach.

Southie was made up of many blue-collar workers, firemen, policemen, utility company, factory workers (Gillette) and laborers who back in those BO days (before overtime) were not paid much more than a minimum wage. Especially the cops because they were still mindful of the 1919 Boston police strike where most of them got canned. So budgets were often tight especially with the large Irish families. It was a town where every dime mattered yet, when Coach White needed a car it got together and purchase a new one for him.

In early December 1950 almost 1000 people showed up at the East Newton Street Armory to honor him. Steve White had graduated from Dorchester High School and get this, from Princeton University.  He became a professional baseball player. He started at Southie as a coach of football, baseball and track in 1926. He had eight undefeated football teams. My father played football under him (as did Bill Carr and Doc Tynan mentioned yesterday) and was “general chairman of the banquet committee” that held the fete.

In January 1955 at age 70 Steve was given a tribute by 1300 people on occasion of his retirement after 29 years as coach.  An article about the event underneath a photograph of my father and Coach White read: “A check for nearly $2000 [$18,000 in today’s dollars] was presented the 70-year-old gentleman by Matt Connolly, President of the South Boston Alumni Association.” The article told how White was given a plaques with a bronze stick on it. It symbolized the one which Steve “good-naturedly chased his athletes around the practice field.”

About his  retirement Steve, who owned a 20 acres chicken farm in Stoughton, said, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I’m just an ordinary guy. I just did my job.” 

Steve refused to named an all-star team of players. The article noted “Some of the outstanding players Steve had at South Boston were . . . Matt [my dad] and MIke [my uncle] Connolly, Billy Carr, . . . Doc Tyner (sic) . . . Tom Joe and Tom Pat Sullivan, Dick Lucas, Jimmy Lydon, Paul Lombard, “the greatest blocker I’ve ever had . . . that’s only the beginning of the list.” The Sullivans played in the same backfield at the same time.

Asked about his job he said: “O, I’ve enjoyed it very much all the years at South Boston. I’ve enjoyed the rivalry with East Boston. [Those gamed drew more than 7,000 fans, were played at Braves Field and Fenway Park. After his final East Boston game on Thanksgiving the East Boston players carried him off the field.] And I’ve enjoyed all the boys at South Boston. You know, South Boston boys seem to have something the other boys don’t have. I don’t know what to call it. It’s just something extra.

Is it because the people from South Boston have that “something extra” that infuriates the media and compels it to tear them down?

 

 

14 thoughts on “Southie is My Hometown: A Small View Into Its Something Extra

    1. Ahhh …SOUTHIE REDUX … From the mercurial Sage of Savin Hill Matt Connolly. Last year at Parade time I distinctly remember you were grousing about the smell of stale beer and incessant tinny repetitions of SOUTHIE IS MY HOMETOWN blaring from all quarters. But, today is a different day. And that is fine. In his book THE LONGEST SILENCE writer Thomas McGuane, amongst many wild and transluscent pearls of word and life craft, has a passage about an old man in his front porch rocker staring into ” the abyss. ” McGuane writes that no seashore view covetous
      tenant of ocean frontage ever exercised as much possession of their view as this old man ; abyss frontage is available anywhere, to anyone, not just the Southie upwardly mobile arrivistes.

      Was born in Fields Corner, not Southie, but spent a bir more time living there , thirteen years, than you did. My mother waa a Cardinal Crushing H S. graduate, my parents met at the parade when mom was 16 and Dad not much older. My older brother was born when the new bride was just seventeen. Such is the nature of conception and imagination in South Boston and other, places. My earliest memories are of Castle Island. My Son, John Sheehan McDonald, was born and I raised him, myself alone, in Southie. He attended St. Augustine’s and St. Peter”s during our rime there. I was shot in Southie, and, shot in Southie. I have good memories and not as good memories, but few sentimental and maudlin memories of, or illusions about, Southie. It is a peninsula. Its inhabitants were wonderfully and at the same time, terribly, in the old magnificent sense of terribly, peninsular in nature. There was Boston. And then there was this whole orher separate town with its own rules and its own, very unique, Constabulary, Southie.

      You and your immediate family moved out when you were ten as I understand it. Not everyone got out. Some wanted to stay. Others just could not get out. Old Tom was such a one. He was a grizzled and crewcut ex-longshoreman, a Southie native ,with all vaunted roots and family ties , who , because of alcoholism, became a black sheep. He would stem out in front of Store 24 on West Broadway at the time I worked the night shift there. My wife and I lived directly across the street in the Kirley Building, next to Johnny Hardware and his crazy Latvian ex-Nazi guard Dad’s hardware store. I liked Tom. He was a seaworthy type character hellbent on confronting the abyss on terms he had wilfully chosen. He may have been a little off his rocker, but he certainly was not in a rocker, nor would he ever have cared to be in one. I would feed him, letting him heat up Dinty Moore beef stew on the store microwave, and a couple of times we let him take a shower and regain some clean semblance of a restored dignity, across the street. I knew that the local kids hassled him. The last time I saw Tom, this old man, for he was an old man, but incorrigible, and incorrigibly harmless in his ways, was on a hot Summer afternoon. He was striding, strong, but hurt, right pasr my place on West Broadway , heading towards Boston. He was quietly whimpering. He was an old man with a gash dead center in the back of his head where the neighborhood rats had come up behind him and crowned him. There were many in Southie who would fight square up and with courage. Ir had its share of back shooters as well. Like other neighborhoods , such as Savin Hill, as I am sure you can attest. I dig Southie though. I always did well over there, and had people watching my back. So, to all lifelong South Boston people, and, others, I wish a Happy Saint Patrick”a , and every Other, Day! 🙂

      1. ★ Mom was a Cardinal * Cushing H.S. graduate …not ” Cardinal ‘ Crushing ‘ ” …tho that is a Freudian slip I will wear like a winding sheet with great amusement until the Second Coming 🙂

        ★ Happy St. Patrick’s Day

          1. It is sui generis, born of itself, or himself in this case. His sketch of the small Irish town he stayed in awhile, struck by its shop, Tom McGuane’s Dry Goods , Kilmallock I recollect, is the type as he describes ” where no light was turned on until it was firmly established that a customer was present.” Proprietor Tom McGuane, no relation, and his Mrs. and two beautiful daughters ” lived in the back of the store in Immaculate austerity and that air of of an impending joke that is many people’s favorite part of Irish life. ” That is exceptional writing!

            His story about Sakonnet and the Lemon Fish Gargantuan he paid ten cents a pop as a twelve year old to see, several times, on an enterprising fish mongers bed of ice in a large glassed in cart, and then seeing its ribbed skeleton in the same, now dessicated cart. unmoved, for forty years is … mystical. He is a Transcendentalist . God is immanent in Nature for him. His silvery catch and release trout are silvery angelic votaries in the streamcraft of life, personal and universal. But this is the didactic take on McGuane. You have read this book. I am reading it. He has angled us each up out of the deep hatching pool apparently. And we feel the better for it, methinks. He is really technical about fly-fishing and streams, and trout, and hackle and tackle and rigging and baiting, but I just read along, have learned more about his ” mothball fleet of sport anglers ” than ever I expected. I had just finished reading up to the principal essay …The Longest Silence …the collection was named after, a couple hours ago. I am saving it for my post hip straddle stretching and will settle in with it shortly.

            Mainly, you asked, Abe, I like that McGuane understands and desires solitude as a necessary condition for merging with the Divine, as do I . And through his writing I learned just last night of OUR LADY OF THE ROCKIES.
            A good Heads Up! 🙂

        1. As do you, Matt. You were born and have strong roots there. It is its own place and has always been. Many Spirits inhabit it. Thankyou!

  1. What you are talking about is community. I moved to rural Maine five years ago after living my adult life in downtown Boston. One thing has stood out as a difference between living in the two places. When you ask about someone you have met in Boston, you first learn where they work, where they went to school [college mostly] and where away they are from. Here the first thing you hear is about their parents and grandparents and the traits they have inherited. Only then do you get to the individual.

    This latter is more in tune to Nature. Our lives are like leaves, they last but a summer. The tree lives on. South Boston was your tree. It is an experience that is fading. Count yourself lucky to have lived before the woodsman called Progress came with his chainsaw.

  2. Hello Matt, great blogs. They bring back so many memories. Growing up in the Project we could, after school, cross over to the Park to watch Southie’s Football Practices. Coach White did chase players trying to get a point across. It was all good natured and well received by everyone. On a Saturday or Sunday, over in the Park (McNeary), there would be 6 or 7 Neighbor Football Games in progress with two Duffle Bags standing in for Goal Post. The Strandways vs the Aces, the Mercers vs Saints, The Mullins vs Mohawks, the Shannon’s vs the Shamrocks, the Excalibers vs the Red Wings. On a Sunday you would go to the Stadium and Watch the Chippies play the Saunders Post. Thank you for stirring up those fond memories of a Bye Gone Era. Keep up the good work and Happy Saint Patrick’s Week to all. Slainte

  3. Southie is the only neighborhood I know that had it’s own song: “Southie is My Hometown.”
    Perhaps someone would post the lyrics, all verses please. I think it was written in the 1920s; The second verse was about Mickey Perkins (the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in WWI) and those kids “who won a great victory.”
    Here’s how it began:
    “I had an argument the other night,
    with a guy from Oscaloo . . .

    2. Pride and Patriotism were neighborhood characteristics for many decades. There’s a WWII memorial with 225 names on it, a Korean War memorial with 20 names, and a Vietnam War memorial with 25 names on it. During Vietnam, I’d read, Southie lost more men per-capita than any other neighborhood in America, except Porterville, CA and a town in West Virginia. The Dorchester Vietnam Memorial has 79 names of men who sacrificed all.

    3. Southie was not exempt from the social ills of the ’60s onward; for example, drugs plagued it and most neighborhoods (worse today than ever); and Southie too is far more yuppified today than ever.

    4. Speaking of drugs, I saw that during the 60s-70s (heroin epidemic), overdose deaths claimed one in 100,000; during the 80s (crack cocaine epidemic) overdose deaths claimed two in 100,000; today (opiod epidemic (heroin, fentanyl, oxys et al.)) overdose deaths claim ten in 100,000.

    5. I was born in Southie, but Savvy (Savin Hill, Dorchester) is my hometown, another great neighborhood, chock full of goodness and great people: All-Americans!

  4. Great post. Is a barrel full of bigots the same as a basket of deplorables? The people from Southie , Eastie, Charlestown and Dorchester were routinely smeared by the media during the busing experiment. The residents of Savin Hill were all portrayed as racists during the T Station episode. Everyone from Southie was a bigot while the St Pats parade case was being litigated. The local press is slanted, biased, sour, angry,peevish and lying. John Adams noted this 200 years ago. Nothing has changed. 2. Is President Trump getting the same defamatory treatment from the media that Southie endured? He has to realize that the deep state, the media and academia are the enemies of his Administration and act accordingly. 3. Sinn Fein and the Nationalists won half the seats in N. Ireland. What does that portend? Is unification in the offing? Will Scotland and N. Ireland bolt the UK to stay in the EU? Could the left win the Korean elections and end our involvement there? HAPPY ST. PATRICK.s DAY

  5. I was born down on “A” Street,
    Raised up on “B Street,
    Southie is my hometown;
    There is something about it,
    Permit me to shout it,
    It is tops for miles around;
    We have doctors and flappers,
    Preachers and scrappers,
    Men from the Old County down;
    They will take you & break you,
    But they’ll never forsake you;
    For Southie is my hometown.

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