Attractive Combo: St. Peter’s Center, Corcoran Memoir

“IT WAS A SATURDAY MORNING in September 1944. The whole family was home except for my older brothers Jack and Leo. Jack was in the Army; Leo was in the Navy.

I was an eight-year-old bouncing a pimpleball off Mr. Bradford’s stone steps at 12 Jerome St., which stood right across from our house at the corner of Cushing Avenue and Jerome on Jones Hill in the Upham’s Corner section of Dorchester, Massachusetts. My sister Bernadette was outside, too, sitting on the lawn with two friends.

The top of Jerome Street was like the top of a ski slope – you could see all the way down to Hancock Street, a main thoroughfare that ran from Kane Square and emptied into Uphams Corner. If you looked straight down the hill, you saw where the Hancock trolley stopped maybe 500 yards away. As I tossed the ball, the trolley arrived. When it pulled away, I saw a soldier – not an uncommon sight in those days – standing on the sidewalk about to cross the street. I threw the ball against the steps and glanced back again. It was then, as the soldier started up the hill, that I saw the limp. I knew at that instant it had to be Jack, my brother Jack.

“It’s Jack! It’s Jack!” I flew into the house shouting. Next thing, family members and neighbors were pouring out into the street. By the time Jack reached the house, the place was in complete bedlam. It was uncontrollable joy – a joy like none I have ever experienced before or since.”

– From “Wasn’t That a Time!” by Joseph E. Corcoran

Dorchester native Joe Corcoran, a principal in the Corcoran Jennison Companies, the local firm that owns Bayside Expo and the Keystone Apartments, among other developments, has authored a book about his life growing up in Dorchester. He was born and raised on Cushing Avenue in Uphams Corner, the youngest son in a large family who grew up in St. Peter’s parish in the Depression years and during World War II.

Subtitled “A Corcoran Family Memoir 1925-50,” the memoir, he says, is intended as his personal family history for his children, their children, and the extended Corcoran family. It is, he writes, “one Irish immigrant family’s story, framed in a world that was larger and more complex than any of us could have known at the time we were living it.”

The lovingly told story has been very well received by family members and friends, and now Joe has taken the extra step of offering copies of his book in return for a donation to the St. Peter’s Teen Center in his childhood parish in Dorchester’s Meeting House Hill. The center, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Campaign for Catholic Schools (CCS), will be the beneficiary of a event this month.

The CCS office describes the Teen Center as “an ecumenical after-school program for teens in Dorchester that is saving lives. … Located in the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood, it offers a safe environment for after-school academics, nutrition, and recreation for area young people ages 12-19.  There are about 250 teen members and about 150 or so are there on any given day.”  It has been open since 2001 and is operated by Catholic Charities of Greater Boston.

“We are ‘launching’ this effort at a reception on May 14 being co-hosted by the Campaign for Catholic Schools/Jack Connors Jr. (Chairman) and the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)/Carolyn Lynch (Trustee),” says CCS Development chief Patricia Kelleher Bartram. “For a gift of $125 to the Campaign for Catholic Schools (CCS) for the Teen Center, one will receive an autographed copy of Joe’s book. In addition to the actual dollars raised through ‘purchase’ of the book, we are hoping to identify some new folks who may themselves have Dorchester roots who would be willing to help us/get involved.  This is why, in part, we have partnered with NEHGS on this effort. 

“Since they’re in the business of family history research, they may be able to bring to this some people from their membership ranks who have Dorchester roots.  Conversely, they are delighted to bring to their facility a group of people who otherwise may not know of the great variety of family history research resources they have.  So hopefully it’s a win-win for both organizations.”

The reception is planned for this Thursday evening, May 14, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 99 Newbury St., Boston. Requested donation is $125 per person. And if you’re reading this after that time, there’s plenty of time to contribute, by call 617-262-5600, andrea_marchessault@rcab.org, or visit campaignforcatholicschools.org/corcoranbookevent.