From JFK race to Obama win, Crawford’s ‘Norm’ hangs in: Pharmacist 50-year fixture in St. Mark’s neighborhood

When Norman Kinan first reported to work at Crawford’s Drug Store on the southeast corner of Dorchester Avenue and St. Mark’s Road, John F. Kennedy was on his way to the White House, Foster Furcolo was governor of Massachusetts, John F. Collins was mayor of Boston , and there were five priests, monsignored by the lordly Patrick J. Lydon, residing in the parish rectory across the street and serving one of the most active congregations in the Boston archdiocese.

Crawford’s was the anchor of a busy block back then. Running down to Semont Road were solid, long-term establishments like the Matthew L. Ring Insurance agency, Mildred’s Card Shop, a First National Store, Wilda John’s salon, and a bakery. Across the street were a much-used launderette, Steve the cobbler’s shop, Benny Shwom’s Five & Ten Cent store and a coffee shop, one of many to occupy that location.

Time passed, and Crawford’s moved across the street, displacing the launderette. Today the block is home to Charlie’s Pizza and Chicken, a nail design shop, a wireless outlet store, a Food Mart, a Chinese restaurant, Brenda’s Flower Shop and an unrented storefront where Crawford’s used to be. Across the street next to Norman’s pharmacy are a gift shop, the Dot 2 Dot Café, and a Perfect Cuts barber shop.

Different names and different faces mark the scene today, and the rectory, where Father Dan Finn is pastor, is no longer bursting with priests. But Norman Kinan’s one-block neighborhood remains a busy place where consumer goods can be had for the walking.

The pharmacist declined to talk about his 50 years on the block, saying several times that he was “too busy” to spend any time talking about the past, but his neighbors and friends in St. Mark’s Parish did find the time to honor a man who has stayed true to his working roots by holding a reception for him on May 16.

Mayor Menino opened up the festivities by presenting Norm with a citation of dedication while thanking him and his family for his constancy and remarking how it the small businesses that help make and define a neighborhood. City Councilor Maureen Feeney added her thanks and best wishes for continued success and announced that the Boston City Council had proclaimed May 16, 2010, “Norm Kinan Day.”

State Rep. Marty Walsh spoke of his personal experiences with Crawford Drug and how important it is to have a local business that knows its neighbors. He also presented Norm with a citation signed by the members of the Massachusetts House. A longtime parishioner, Marie Ruka, spoke of Norm’s dedication to the youth of the neighborhood and their years of friendship. And Father Finn thanked Norm for being such a good neighbor, a faithful friend, and an asset to the St. Mark’s community, then presented him with a beautiful clock as a “thank you” from the parish. (The clock’s chimes play the same melody as the old St. Mark bells.)

For their part, Norm and his family offered a hearty thanks to all who were involved in the day, saying they look forward to many more years of service in the community.

Judy Greeley contributed to this report.