The story behind ‘Originally from Dorchester’

An original O.F.D. bumper sticker by Steve Cosmopulos.

“Growing up in Dorchester has to be like growing up no place else on earth. Although some of the old gang has moved to other cities and other states, no one ever really leaves. Because no matter how much time and distance we put between ourselves and Fields Corner or Codman Square, the memories - the sights, the sounds, the smells - remain fresh and vivid. The task of calling those memories back and recording them on paper brings many of them back into sharp focus.”

– Steve Cosmopulos, O.F.D., in 1985.

Stavros (Steve) Cosmopulos was born in Dorchester in 1927 and created the concept of Originally from Dorchester (OFD). Stavros had a long and storied career in advertising. He worked at agencies in Detroit, New York, Boston, and Palm Beach, and in 1968 he joined with three partners to form the soon-to-be mega-agency Hill, Holliday, Connors & Cosmopulos.

Steve stayed there a short time, and later the agency name was truncated to Hill Holliday. He moved on to creative posts elsewhere, including at Arnold Advertising, and the founding of the Cosmopulos, Crowley and Daly agency. He stayed close with his longtime friend Jack Connors, and in semi-retirement Steve had an office next to Connors’s in the John Hancock tower.

When my wife Mary Casey Forry and I first had the idea to start-up a community newspaper in Dorchester in the spring of 1983, I turned to Steve for advice. He was excited about the possibilities and helped design layouts and a logo for our paper.

Cosmo was always ready and willing to lend a mentoring hand to younger people with dreams of their own, and my family was among the many who benefited from his wise counsel. He always was working on a new idea, a new concept, and his enthusiasm was infectious.

Steve called me one day and told me he wanted to form an organization he called “Originally From Dorchester.” He was proud of his Dot roots and he wanted to show it. He bemoaned the fact that all too many people who had grown up as kids here on Dot’s streets and now lived elsewhere, were slow to acknowledge where they came from. They grew up in Dot, he said, but now they had landed somewhere else “with revised resumes.”

Steve’s expression “Originally From Dorchester” first appeared in public in a June 1985 issue of the Dorchester Reporter in an essay where he unveiled the formation of OFD.

“I’ve invented (if that’s the right word) an organization that I think might be a put-down of that kind of bologna, and an opportunity to declare to the world that we are proud to be from Dorchester (including the lucky ones that are still there – S.F.D.),” he wrote. “The organization is called O.F.D., Originally From Dorchester. On these pages is a copy of the colorful O.F.D. certificate, which includes the rules and qualifications topped off with our very own crest…”

Steve recalled his childhood living in an apartment on Brent Street, playing at Wainwright Park, and going to elementary school at the Elbridge Smith School on Dot Ave., now the site of the Henderson Inclusion School.

“On a beautiful spring day, I remember looking up and seeing a dirigible. Does anyone remember if that was the Zeppelin? It was about 1936-37… The top of the subway tunnel between Shawmut and Ashmont was like a street for kids only, with no cars. When they tarred the top, kids always chewed the soft tar because ‘kid mythology’ said that it kept your teeth clean. It’s a wonder we didn’t die.”

The expression has taken root, minus the periods. Reports came in of OFD bumper stickers showing up on vehicles all over the region. One Savin Hill resident said last week that he spotted the bright yellow OFD symbol posted on a car while he drove on a vacation trip to Florida. And on social media, two Facebook groups have formed, boasting together more than 17,000 members. Look up the letters online, and you can find they also stand for “One Fine Day.”

At boston.gov, the City of Boston’s official website, our neighborhood is described this way: “The largest neighborhood in Boston is also one of the most diverse. Long-time residents mingle together with new immigrants from Vietnam, Cape Verde, Ireland, and many other countries. This wonderful mix of residents from all cultures and backgrounds makes it an incredibly vibrant place to live, work, and spend time. Former residents can often be seen and heard claiming to be “OFD” — Originally From Dorchester.

Over the years, the Reporter has published scores of stories about OFDers, SFDers, and, more recently, DBCers – Dorchester by Choice. Steve stayed connected with a lifetime subscription to the Reporter until he died in 2012, his life’s work done.

He was a true Dorchester original. And he would have been delighted to know that his OFD concept has left an indelible legacy.

Ed Forry is the publisher emeritus of the Reporter.

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