A decades-long tradition that accompanies the annual Dot Day celebrations on Auckland Street in Savin Hill will continue this year despite the cancellation of Sunday’s parade and most of the usual holiday activities that accompany it.
During the week before Dot Day, kids ages 12 and under who live on the street compete for the chance to paint their design on a fire hydrant in front of Eileen Boyle’s house. Boyle, the chair of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association and organizer of the competition said that at first she wasn’t sure she would be able to host the competition this year while keeping to social distancing.
“I was trying to decide whether to distribute the hydrant prints so the kids can draw, or to use last year’s second-place winner,” she said. In the end, she distributed them “because all these kids are home and it will give them something to do.”
Boyle personally delivers blank hydrant prints to each kid’s house on Auckland, leaving a set of instructions on how to color a unique design on the front and back silhouette. Some years, Boyle has a specific theme the young participants must adhere to.
“In the year after 9/11, and then again right after the 2015 Boston Marathon bombing, a lot of the kids’ submissions were very patriotic,” she said. “So at times, the designs really reflect what’s going on in the city and the country, and it’s a way to pay homage as neighbors.”
After the Boyles round up each year’s submission, they gather with parents and seniors on the street to collectively select the winning drawing.
“In years past we had a bunch of the adults and older neighbors on the street voting on the winners. It was a really nice opportunity to pull the seniors into the event with the kids,” she said.
“For a period of time [former City Councillor] Maureen Feeney would have an ice cream truck come down during our Dot Day parties, and all of the kids would be so excited to get free ice cream,” said Boyle. Those were like the peak years when we had so many kids on the street.”
She noted with a laugh that “We’ve had some small problems over the years. The first year we painted it, Public Works came right out and painted it over black. So, I had to paint it white again and get the winner back over here to repaint it.”
The issues were smoothed out though, she noted: “Apparently Joe [Boyle] and [the late] Joe Chaisson went into City Hall and got permission 25 years ago.”
As long as the neighbors follow the city’s guidelines, the event is a go this year. “The top has to be a bright color,” said Boyle. “Everybody on the street loves it and I would like to see it happen across the city. It would be so much fun if the city could put out guidelines to make sure you don’t paint in between the grooves so that the fire department can unscrew the access knobs.”
She added: “A lot of people that don’t live on the street and are just passing by laugh hysterically about it. I’ve sat here and just enjoyed people commenting on it. I would love to see other neighborhoods do it. We could have almost like a competition across the city.”
“This year I’ll have to be a little more cautious because we have to keep a six-foot distance,” said Boyle. “I’m hoping that whoever the parents of the winner are can chip in and help out, and they usually do.”
On Sunday, kids won’t running back after the parade on Dorchester Ave ends to find Auckland Street blocked off and filled with neighbors and friends enjoying cookouts and games. But they will be able to watch, while socially distancing of course, as this year’s contest winner paints his or her design on the hydrant in front of the Boyles’ house.