The Savin Hill Reunion: A Trip Back In Time

In the latter part of this month, the day after Thanksgiving to be precise, there will be a Savin Hill reunion. I’ve purchased my ticket a couple of weeks ago. It is number 254. There are supposed to be only 300 tickets that will be offered for sale. It seems that it may be a sell out, or as we used to say when I lived there, 13,909. That number of course needs no explanation to anyone who grew up in the Boston area back in those old days.

I’m not much for reunions but I try not to miss the Savin Hill ones which come at helter-skelter intervals about every so often when some few get it in their heads that they’d like to get together with some others. I heard about this one from my male siblings whose friends are the ones putting it on. I figure there won’t be too many more because the Savin Hill of our youth has gone with the wind.

I believe at one time our neighborhood reunion was called the St. William’s reunion. That was pretty much was another way of saying Savin Hill. So much of the life growing up in Savin Hill surrounded that church.

Anyone remember St. William’s championship band? It marched in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day. I was 14 years old at the time. I was not in the band but my friends were. I convinced my folks to let me go with it. My one main memory is going into a diner-type restaurant with some friends and ordering Salisbury Steak. We expected T-bone steaks. When they brought out hamburgers we really felt cheated.

Growing up In Dorchester we identified ourselves by the parishes we lived in as well as the secular name. Because the boundaries of Savin Hill were never clear especially on the opposite side of “over the bridge” where the church was located my memory is that it was the parish’s boundaries that made one from Savin Hill.

St. William closed in 2004. It was merged with St. Margaret. I believe MRM closed the year earlier. The combined church was given a different name. Even at this late date there are more Dorchester Catholic church closings in the offing  according to the article as the winds of change blow across the area in great part caused by disappearance of Catholic parishioners. Also blown away it seems to me, although that might have happened even earlier than the church closing, was the esprit de corps that once existed there. That it existed is why there can be a reunion so many years afterwards.

The name Savin comes from the Savin trees that used to grace the hill at a place we called the woods. I haven’t been there for years but there is a plaque at the bottom of the hill, pictured above, which notes that area used to be called Rock Hill. Here’s a little history of the area. How much of it is true is anyone’s guess. One part is somewhat misleading. It says: “Savin Hill’s population for most of the 20th century consisted primarily of white middle- and working-class families, most prominently Irish-Americans.” True there may have been many Irish-Americans but there was such a mixture of kids from other ethnic backgrounds Italian, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, German, Swedish, Scottish, English, etc that one really is reaching to suggest it was mainly Irish. When we hung around with each other the backgrounds melted into insignificance. A more apt description would have been “most prominently Catholics of European backgrounds.”

I pretty much lost a close association with many friends from the neighborhood sometime after I was in law school and married a foreigner (someone not from the area).  On occasion I’d run into one or the other and it was like picking up the conversation as if it happened a couple of days earlier. I still stayed in contact with some. I will be going to the shindig with two of them. I’m hoping to see some people who I haven’t seen in decades although my experience at my college reunion was learning that some I had hoped to run into had gone on.

I’ll temper my expectations. I’ll be pleased if I see any of the old guys. As far as the old gals are concerned, they usually don’t show up. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, as one of my friends said after a reunion that took place about 25 years ago: “the guys didn’t age at all but the women really did.”  I hadn’t noticed that to be the case. This time, if any of the old-time gals show up, I’ll try to be more observant to see who has aged the best.









12 thoughts on “The Savin Hill Reunion: A Trip Back In Time

  1. Bill:

    Look who your great raconteurship has tossed back up on our gleaming golden shingle. Really enjoyed all of that.

    Where’s the Gang, John ?

    Rocky would ask .

    Well …It’s not like there’s a Roster and a Roll Call every morning .

  2. I was baptized at St. William’s.
    My grandfather grew up on Buttonwood & Crescent Ave after moving “up” from D St. and Old Colony Ave in Southie. Used to tell me a funny story about when he came back from Guadalcanal & Australia & New Zealand with the First Division Marines after WWII…gone for four years and strolls into Vaughan’s on Dot Ave ….old-timers obliviously glued to the same barstools telling the same old stories…”Jeez, Frankie, good to see ya,….haven’t been in for a few months…” He got a kick out of that.

  3. I lived 8 years in the DC, Virginia and Maryland area, and my wife, Carol Lucille, was bon in DC and raised in Oxon Hill, Maryland . .Oxon Hill on the Potomac, just over the bridge from Alexandria . .I lived in all three places, DC, Oxon Hill, Alexandria, and Arlington, Falls Church, VA, and Greenbelt, MD and elsewhere, travelled to 42 states and 10 European countries and loved Spring Break in Florida (Ft Lauderdale) . . .I could go on . . .Travels with Billy C . . .I’d take 2 weeks, fly somewhere, rent a car, and travel . . .did that for @ 10 years in a row, saw a bit of everything from British Columbia, to Lousianna Bayou, from Duluth Minnesoto to Payson Arizona (rodeo) to Florida Keys and visited F.Scott Fitzgerald’s house outside Oxford, Mississippi, Elvis Presley’s House, in Tupelo (I think it was) and Ernest Hemingway’s house in the last Key . .Key West . .lots of cats . . .met F. Scott Fitzgerald’s granddaughter in a bookstore in Denver, Colorado . .she was on a ladder, reaching for a book . . .

    Like I said, Savin Hill was a great neighborhood to grow up in . . .lifelong friends . . played Christian Rock for a few years with Bob Mancini in Westwood and Medfield . . . .and have kept relatively close to many kindergarted and grammar school friends through various organizations and through a few phone contacts and occasional meetings for coffee or at sporting events . . .Roger Croke . . .Paul Hutch . . .Dan Ryan . . .Paul Walkowski on and off over the years

    Been many places . . . .Boston, I love that muddy water, Boston, shipping up to Boston, Boston, I was born down on A Street, raiseup on B street . .close . . .BOSTON IF MY HOMETOWN AND MY FAVORITE PLACE INT HE UNIVERSE . . .


  4. Forget the spelling and grammatical errors. Play it like it is. Play on. Wing it. Feel free. Ad lib. Have fun. Share. Forgive yourself 7 times 70 times. No matter how many times you get knocked down or fall down, just keep on getting up. Share your stories honestly. Be kind. Being kind also minds fighting the bullies (physical bullies and intellectual bullies like in the MSM and amongst the power abusing FEDs and POLs.); being kind also minds fighting the character assassins and mudslingers (like Howie Carr, Mr. Cur, Mr. Smear Artist, Mr. Schadenefruede who laughs at others suffferings and mocks the dead and like the the two-faced Kevin Cullen who repeats serial killers calumnies as if they were gospel. Being kind means fighting the good fight, like Billy Jenkins, and Billy Salter, and Bob Mancini, and Teddy Ryan and Bobby Sullivan and Jack Hutchinson, and Matt Connolly, and Billy O’Shea, and Billy Madden and Bobby Rumboli, and all the stand-up, two-fisted guys we grew up with in Savin Hill did and do . . .till death due us in . . .and all those pretty girls in Savin Hill stood by our side and some lead us, like Mary McCarthy, nurse extrordinaire who dedicated her life to helping others . . .and all the nurses, docs(Eddie Hutch), social workers, teachers (Eddie Conley) poets (Bunzo Bonetti, Franny Mahoney) and so many more good men and good women who led the way . . ., the Nuns and Priests, none perfect, but they sacrificed all to serve us,, they had HEART, GUTS.

    Fathe McMahon who knocked down that bully with one punch . . .I witnessed it . . .Miss Timony, our second grade teacher at the Motley who had taught Paul Morrison’s grandmother. . .she played 78rpm OPERA records for her second grade students’ edification . . .and all the coaches, Jimmy Cotter,

    Give me ten men who are stout hearted men and I’ll soon give you ten thousand more . . . .

    God bless America . . .My next short story, in progress, titled Spiritual Glue, begins, “A miracle. America.”

    It’ll be finished soon . . .eventually . . .God willing!

    Or as they say down South, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.”

  5. I could not imagine a better neighborhood, better childhood, teenage years, then hanging around the barrooms, first Joyce & Keane’s (J&K) and Moakley’s when were late teens, early twenties, then both became run by the three Connors brothers I knew Big Billy, Eddie and Jimmy (close my age) . . .my future wife and I stayed and at for free at Eddie’s cottage (with Stephie Feeney) in Falmouth . . .Eddie cooked breakfasts . . .I remember the great softball teams and tag rush . . .basbetball down the courts , , ,and swimming with the bathing beauties on Savie Beach . . .and mostly the Great Rock *& Roll Music when J&K became Bulldog’s Lounge and Golden Joe Baker direct from Las Vegas put on weekend afternoon shows . . .and Connors Tavern, which replaced Moakley, and all the guys hanging out Cheen, Cahill, Tuck, Rema, Chet, Shoes, Dave, Kevin . . .so many more lost to the blue beyond . . .the snow faintly falling and falling faintly over all of us throughout the universe

    and yes it was Predominantly Catholic of European descent, but their Protestant and Jews, too . . .among the prettiest girls were those half Irish, half Jewish . . .among the toughest fighters were those half Italian half Polish . . .so many were mixed . . .and there was the Chinese Family on Sydney Street and the Asian families than ran the Asia . . .and just across Pleasant Street (where the KofC was), the periphery of Savin Hill, from Morrissey Blvd to Pleasant St and Sawyer Ave, where one of the prettiest girls lived Maureen Corcoran, was Uphams Corner where there were Latino Kids (Jimmy Costello wrestled a tough Latino outside Bird Street Gym) and black kids we played basketball against at Vine St gym, and at Ceylon Street Park the late great Danny Costello, perhaps the best fighter I knew, broke up a fight between a black kid and white kid . . .and there were five black kids standing there and twenty white kids . . .and when Danny said, “That’s it. The Fights over” No one countermanded men. Danny had pure courage. He wouldn’t let the fight go on, when one man had already clearly one.
    THE POINT IS GROWING UP IN SAVIN HILL, GOING TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS TIL EIGHT GRADE (MOTLEY, THEN BLS) THEN 4 YEARS AT BC HIGH PLAYING SPORTS AGAINS THE KIDS FROM ENGLISH, TRADE, TECH, ETC, AND WANDERING DOWN THE COMBAT ZONE FREQUENTLY, AND PLAYING CYO/YMCA BASKETBALL IN ALL PARTS OF THE CITY, AND GOING TO BOXING MATCHES, AND FIST FIGHTS AT DANCES AND CLUBS, AND HANGING OUT EVERYWHERE, we made friends with girls and guys, young men and young women, and as adults with men and women of every race, religion, ethnic group, and orientation, political persuasion, opinion and musical proclivities . . .especially at the Teddy Bear Lounge in Park Square, with Law Vegas Review, with the Sax Player being the Barber from Andrew Square and they had a Hammond B-3 Organ, and a great drummer, and the Las Vegas Review girls were from West Roxbury and Revere and Quincy and Dorchester and Southie . . .

    Like I said, it was a great neighborhood to grow up in, and a great time to be alive, even with sex, drugs, rock & roll, beer, the Vietnam War, and St. Williams Marching Band under the direction of Dom Bianculi (U.S. Army Drill Instruction) and Doctor Silverman of the New England Conservatory, and while all this happened the Frank Comerford Club 16 and under YMCA Championship Basketball Team in 1960 consisted of six young men (ages 14, 15, 16) Dan Ryan, captain, coach and spiritual.moral leader and best player, Bob Mancini, Pat Cahalane, Bob Simonin, Neal Connolly and your truly, Billy C, just another Savin Hill Billy . . .

  6. I think my kids and their friends may be the last group that were the beneficiaries of that great mix. When we grew up there were some people who had some money, others who were up against it, and everyone else in the middle. A perfect recipe for a successful community. Gone now. (Modest but comfortable 2-family house? 1 million.)

  7. For those not knowing the 13,909 reference:

    On a DNA genealogy web site, a distant DNA cousin mentioned that he had ancestors from Dorchester. When I asked him which parish, he said that he was unsure. His ancestors worshiped at First Parish Church in Dorchester before moving westward of Worcester. They returned as refugees for a few years in 1675 at the outbreak of King Philip’s War before moving westward again:

  8. Thanks , Matt. Reading this brought to mind friends from Savin Hill I knew in the 50s and 60s. Whether they are still with us or have gone on ahead, I prefer the memories and would not want to try to recreate those days.

  9. Say hello to the Foleys,The Horrigans and the Kelley’s.
    Unfortunately or ?.,I was born at the Faulkner and lived in West Roxbury where our snow and rubbish was always picked up first.


    Kevin White for one.

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