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Annual Pope's Hill Meeting

“I love to hear the Mocking Bird that sits up in my tree.
I wonder why he sings so much, or if he sings to me.
He sits up on a branch so high, so he can fly away,
But I know that he likes it there, and there he wants to stay.”
“Ode to a Mocking Bird” by Rita Hestand

In our neighborhood we are fortunate to have two mockingbirds. We love listening to the different types of calls the birds are able to make. One likes one of the bushes in our side yard so he is there quite often. He does not, however, like our outdoor cat, Louie. Instead of imitating other bird calls, he hisses loudly at Louie. Louie is so passive that he ignores the bird completely. We are also delighted to have several cardinals in our area. They are very vocal during the day. I think that there are more birds around this year than in any recent year.

The April 28 meeting of the Pope’s Hill Association was unusual and terrific. We started out with Treasurer Judy Burke’s report. Then Police Community Service Officer Dennis Rorie came to the microphone. He told us that, on Apr. 25, an employee of Lambert’s was attacked and robbed on his way home from work, near the Murphy School. The man had just been paid. The thugs ran up Pope’s Hill St., and then along Houghton St. On May 7, shots were fired on Westglow St. Two white males in their 20’s, robbed the Hess Gas Station on Gallivan Blvd. last month. Six youths ran through a store on Gallivan Blvd, snatching items. The store had a video camera and the faces of the kids are as plain as day.

When Office Rorie was asked about the census takers, he told us that these workers will have proper ID’s. They will never ask for your Social Security Number and will never ask to go inside your home. When asked if the Bike Unit will be on the streets this summer, Dennis said, “No, because the Police Dept. is strapped for cash.”

After Dennis finished his Police Report, PHNA President Phil Carver spoke about Jack O’Connor, who passed away on Apr. 23. Jack was a lawyer, graduating from B.C.’s Law School. Jack had been treasurer for the Pope’s Hill Association for many years. In the last five or six years, he had served as a senior advisor to the association.
Jack was also very active in St. Ann’s Parish. Phil mentioned Carolyn, Jack’s wonderful wife of 52 years. Phil asked that a moment of silence be observed in Jack’s memory. The membership then voted to give a donation to the Memorial Fund at St. Ann’s in Jack’s memory. Pres. Phil also said that a tree would be planted in Jack’s beloved Ireland in his memory.

City Councillor Maureen Feeney then came to the microphone for the unusual part of the meeting. It was her honor to introduce former Senator and former President of UMass Bill Bulger, who was the guest speaker at the meeting. She first mentioned that the City Council had adjourned early out of respect for the memory of Jack O’Connor. She said that Pres. Bulger had served in the Mass. House of Representatives for four terms. As a senator, he served as President of the Senate from 1978 to 1996, having the longest tenure in that position. He also served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Boston Public Library.

Pres. Bulger then came to the microphone. He told members that he was the father of nine children and the grandfather of 33. He mentioned that he, over the years, has had problems with the print media. He said, “The Boston Globe is the Boston Herald--with verbs.” (We all chuckled.) Pres. Bulger then began to speak about James Michael Curley, who is the subject of his new book. Curley was a great orator, born in Boston in 1874. He served as Mayor of Boston four times. In those years, the Mayor could not succeed himself so Curley was elected in 1913, 1921, 1929, and 1945. He was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1935. He was denied a place in the Mass. delegation to the Democratic National Convention since he was for F.D.R., and the others were for Alfred Smith. He was then chosen as a delegate from Puerto Rico in 1932. His support for FDR was a major factor in FDR’s winning the presidential nomination. (Curley ultimately pulled away from FDR because the President would not appoint him ambassador to Ireland.)

Curley and Tom Curley (no relation) were caught taking a Civil Service exam for friends and spent 60 days at Charles St. Jail. (J.M. Curley never received anything for taking the exam.) Bulger also interspersed his talk with several jokes that made everyone laugh. One had to do with a woman going up Croagh Patrick on her knees as Penance. When he mentioned that Croagh Patrick was in County Mayo, several people in the audience joined me in clapping for Mayo. Pres. Bulger also had a number of his Curley books available for purchase at the meeting. I was fortunate to be able to get three books for gifts, which Pres. Bulger then autographed. When I had a chance to speak with Mr. Bulger, I told him a Curley story that affected my family. My grandfather worked for the Boston Water Dept. While he and his fellow workers were working at a site in Boston, Mayor Curley dropped by. He asked the men where the supervisor was. The men told him there was no supervisor at the site. Curley then asked, “Which of you has the most children?” My grandfather raised his hand. “You’re the supervisor,“ said Curley.

Of course, being the supervisor meant more money in Grandpa’s pay.
I knew a few more stories that showed why the ordinary people loved Mayor Curley. My uncle-in-law Tip lost his father when he was very young. Tip’s mother had great financial difficulty with so many children. They didn’t even have a lamp in their home. Mayor Curley found this out and sent them a lamp. That was always “Mayor Curley’s lamp.” My cousins Margie, Janet, and Bobby, as little kids, often walked around Jamaica Plain with their mother and father. One Sunday, while they were walking ahead of their parents, the kids kept finding coins on the ground. My aunt and uncle knew that the kids were following Mayor Curley, who was dropping the coins for the kids to find. My uncle Bob also had a Mayor Curley story. One winter’s day, he and his buddies were coasting down Chestnut Ave., all the way to Boylston St., in Jamaica Plain. Men from the city came and spread sand over the street. The kids were so upset that they went to Mayor Curley’s home and picketed. The Mayor came out and asked each of the kids what was wrong. He took their names and said that they really should not have protested the sanding. He even visited their homes. Within a short time, however, the city workers were seen sweeping the sand from Chestnut Ave. so the kids could coast once again. That was Mayor Curley!

Bulger also mentioned a saying attributed to the Roman philosopher Seneca, which he loved to quote: “Loyalty is the holiest good in the human heart.” Congressman John “Joe” Moakley thought the saying was an excellent one and used it in his speeches. It ended up that the saying was attributed to Moakley, rather than back to Seneca. Pres. Bulger spent some time after the Pope’s Hill meeting was over, chatting with members. All of Bulger’s books about Curley that were available for sale at the meeting were sold very quickly.

For those of you who get up very early in the morning: New England Cable News has just begun an early morning news broadcast, beginning at 4:30 a.m. each weekday morning. The anchors are Mike Nikitas and Karen Swensen. I watched it several days last week and was delighted to get the info on the Water Ban so early in the day, just when I was starting to make breakfast. (NECN is on Ch. 6 on Boston’s Comcast Cable System.) I understand that WBZ-TV started its early morning news at 4:30 a.m. right after New England Cable News started theirs.

I was sorry to hear of the death of Mark O’Malley on May 10. Mark was the brother of my friend Winnie O’Malley. Mark was also the father of our daughter Jeanne’s dear friend from their days at Mount St. Joseph Academy, Anne “Annie O” (O’Malley) Valeri. Our family sends its sympathy to Mark’s children, especially to his daughter “Annie O,” and to his siblings, especially to his sister Winnie.

I am always happy to see what WGBH, Ch. 2, has in store for us. On Memorial Weekend’s Sunday, May 30, the National Symphony Orchestra will perform on Ch. 2 at 8 p.m. The concert honors the service and sacrifice of the men and women in uniform, their families at home, and all those who have given their lives for our country. The hosts will be Gary Sinise and Joe Mantega. It sounds like we should tape that program to watch again. Then, sometime in June, there will be a program called “Carole King and James Taylor, Live at the Troubadour.” That sounds positively wonderful. I love both singers. As soon as I find out the date it will be shown, I will put it in this column.

Here is a terrific Chinese proverb: “Failure lies not in falling down. Failure lies in not getting up.”