The Savin Hill Reunion: A Night To Remember: 1 of 4

I wrote about the Savin Hill Reunion noting it was likely to sell out the 300 tickets I had been told were available. I said it would be a 13,909 crowd. Truth be told it was like that but assume Bobby Orr was skating and it was the final game to decide who would win the Stanley Cup and figure hundreds more would have managed by hook or crook or fire escape doors to gain entrance then that is the type of crowd that appeared for the reunion.

I’m told they cut off the ticket sales at 500 but when I went looking for Billy H____ at table 48, sadly I didn’t find him, it seemed there were many more tables beyond 48. Figure with ten people at a table then you have to conclude the 500 figure was an underestimate. I’m not even counting those who gained entrance surreptitiously which would not be surprising since old habits die hard.

I arrived about a half hour late. There were no parking spots at Florian Hall or across the street. I went to a large lot kitty corner to the right as you look out and hoped for the best. It was clear the old neighborhood had turned out in force.

As mentioned these were not regular events. If I said they happened every dozen years I’d be exaggerating. The crowd that was there was mostly of the Savin Hill of the Fifties or Sixties. You’re reading about a gathering of people most of whom knew each other from over fifty years ago. Some, of course, remained in contact, but others, like me, were venturing back with the hope they may still recognize friends not seen in over sixty years.

Our tables were assigned to us. I was at number 11. So were the three people I got tickets for along with others I had been in contact over the years. My fears of being embarrassed for not remembering people were not eased until I was told to put on a name tag.  I might forget the face but surely the name I’d remember, or at least I thought.

The formal part of the night started off with a priest saying the grace, “Bless us O’Lord and these . . . .” You knew it was a heavily Irish gathering when the letter O is added to the name Lord. Not all follow that custom. Some still say, “Bless us McLord . . . .”

Then someone started singing. I didn’t recognize the words but people started standing up or as the headmaster at Roxbury Latin the late Reverend Tony Jarvis would say “uprising.”  The words being sung were the intro to the song “God Bless America.” For those unaware of them like me, they are:

“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:”

I never knew it was considered a prayer. I never knew we were supposed to stand during it. I always associated it with standing around a friend playing the piano after we all had a few beers or in some joint where the beer flowed freely from pitchers and it was included among other of the songs we used to sing, like forgive us, “Dixie.”

After that we remained standing. A recording of the National Anthem started to play. I didn’t see anyone kneeling. I really didn’t look or expect it. It wasn’t the night for recriminations.

The best part of the reunion for me was meeting people I hadn’t seen for decades and engaging with them. Long forgotten memories came back. Sitting and talking to Billy M____  I recalled seeing him walking by across the street from my Belfort Street home dressed sharply in his Army paratrooper uniform, his shiny boots, and some type braid from his shoulder. Some other guy came by and said: “Hey Bill, the Berlin Airlift.” I knew he was too young for that so the reference eluded me. However, it did remind me that Bill served with the Army in Germany where he was the middle weight boxing champion. Billy was a good fighter both in the ring and out.

(continued tomorrow)

 

9 thoughts on “The Savin Hill Reunion: A Night To Remember: 1 of 4

  1. Why be forgiven for Dixie ? …Were you a slaveholder? Thank goodness those white Union bastards, largley, prevailed in that war. I wish I was in the land of the free and the home of those not so ashamed of who they are that they have to apologize for a history over which they have no control as well as immutable characteristics, like being a certain race, that they also exercise no control over . Kick back at these ideologues who have you genuflecting at every PC Station of the Lost . You are the despised guest at the Diversity Banquet . Stop embarrassing yourself .

  2. Thankyou,Thankyou,Thankyou.

    Although an outsider,I have always been aware of real” city kids”.

    You’re essays are most personal and soulful.

    Now living in the South,I have a more open take on Dixie.

    A war amongst Brothers lingers 150 years later everywhere and it saddens me.

    Long ago,I competed against Charlotte Bunker at football and at age 14 a Dorchester
    Native named Kelley in the city championship 40 yard dash at the Newton Street Armory.
    Coming from West Roxbury I shocked certain ethnic groups with a victory ,almost a record.
    Wonderful memories of youth.
    Love Boston,but cold overwhelming.
    Had factory at Walter Baker back in the early 80’s.have a shamrock on my tooshie.

    Aye!

  3. You are absolutely right, Matt. The S. H. Reunion was amazing, remarkable. So many old friends, great friends from a distant but unforgettable past. One friend remarked as the evening came to a close,”See you guys at the next reunion in ten years”. I doubt many of us will still be around then. But we can hope.

  4. I’m amazed. I can’t imagine people who lived near Codman Square, where I grew up in Dorchester, organizing such a gathering. This would have been worth a good feature story in the Globe or Herald.

    I think Matt’s “Dixie” remark was just a harmless passing reference to his boyhood in Dorchester, not a declaration of political correctness.

  5. The reunion was priceless and beautiful . . .so many lifelong friends, many I’ve known since Kindergarten, . . .what a blessing . . .what fun , , ,and all the beautiful girls we grew up, great to see again, still beautiful . . .what a great unique neighborhood to grow up . . .and what great times, the post-war 59s, the 60s, 70s, 80s, . . . .so many great memories . . .friendships, family, tried and true over decades, through thick and thin . . . .

    I finally agree with DAN C . . .singing Dixie, which we did and do, is a good memory . . .so many friends and family from the South . .. so many great folks we met in the Service or in traveling around the country . . .my wife was born in DC and raised in southern Maryland. . .and many of our family and friends were from Virginia, and parts south

    Old Times there are not forgotten . . .and old times in Savin Hill are not forgotten . . .we are grateful for all those great families and friends . . .

  6. Great reunion, Many thanks to Roger, Bob, Dan, Mike , Jimmy and Bevvy for putting it together. Whoever said the guys aged better than the girls was mistaken. Some of those girls were beautiful at 20 and are still striking today. We must have played a thousand basket ball, tag football, stickballl and softball games with our friends. It was a great neighborhood and the perfect time to grow up there. 2. Some of the top minds in the gambling field were present as well. 500 dignitaries were invited and 500 attended.

  7. It was heartening to see the Connolly male foursome shoulder to shoulder with not a reference to anything political, simply joy to be among all those that precede us and helped us on our way and those that followed continuing the same fealty that we hold close.

    Plenty of Hutchies, Ryans, Maddens, Whites, and the O’Sheas and a myriad of others- too many to mention. We were truly blessed. A certain symmetry characterized this tribe. In my family the ties with the Connollys mirrored the experience of many others. My cousins Eddie and Russell were friend with you Matt; my brother Bob could not have had a better friend than Jim; I have shared a bond with Neil (Sammy) and Bill for over sixty years. These are not ties of philosophy, politics or faith, but they could not be stronger.

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