Looking forward and backward to the fall holidays

As Thanksgiving arrives and we all think about turkeys, it’s hard to ignore the ongoing shock value of seeing wild bands of gobblers traipsing through the west side of Dorchester causing havoc, threatening people and just being downright odd on a daily basis.

Even though turkeys became more common here a while ago, one can just never get used to seeing them in the same way as a squirrel or a Blue Jay. On this side of the neighborhood, there are two prominent herds of troublemakers. One group seems to be based around Melville Avenue and Codman Square, while another finds a base out of Mother’s Rest Park and the WOW neighborhood – with Dorchester Court House apparently neutral ground. Mostly they wander around the sidewalks, and I’ve actually seen them walking shoulder-to-shoulder, or, um…wing-to-wing, up Washington Street in Codman Square - forcing people into the street to circumvent their potential rage.

But imagine my utter shock one morning earlier this month when I saw a roving band of these beasts waiting intently outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken near Four Corners staring at the picture of a bucket of spicy extra crispy. They seemed to be waiting for the place to open up.

What was their plan? You really can’t ask them, and if you could, the temperament of this motley crew would be such that I don’t think they’d tell you. They might even bite you.

Just to be funny and to respect the irony of turkeys in November staring at a bucket of fast-food chicken, I yelled at them, “I cry fowl!” They turned and gobbled in my direction – seemingly in protest of my comment!

There’s just no adequate description of the layers of irony that unfold when one sees turkeys so intently interested in Colonel Sanders. But quite frankly, I would think the neighborhood marauders need as many feathered allies as they can get in November. In just a few short days, we’ll all be sitting down around the dining room table, and we won’t be eating chicken.

Even more ironic, I think about our neighborhood ancestors, who would have looked at us in disbelief as we paid for and brought home 16-pound frozen balls of so-called turkey when just outside the door were a half-dozen gobbling menaces ripe for the taking. My how Dorchester now, is different from Dorchester then.

REFLECTING ON HALLOWEEN

Sadly, this past Halloween was probably my last trip on the trick-or-treat circuit in Dorchester, with my last child probably aging out.

The Halloween game on the west side of Washington is a strange one. No one over here really visits to trick-or-treat, even with the light on. We’re always armed with candy, but few ever come by to claim it – but that’s okay with me! Some have told me it’s because of the large West Indian presence in the neighborhood and the nearly-unanimous dislike of Halloween and magic in that culture. It’s not such a joke to them, I’m told.

That doesn’t mean no one here celebrates; it only means those that celebrate cross Washington Street to Melville Park. As long as I’ve been around, hordes of candy-seeking kids and young adults head from the west side of the neighborhood to Melville Park. It’s a tradition that came long before me and one I was initiated into many years ago. They tend to give the best candy over there, provided you get there early enough, and we always tend to see our neighbors there. So why not just stay closer to home?

It’s a Dot thing, I guess.

VETERANS DAY

This past Veterans Day and the marking of the end of fighting in World War I – pared with my daughter studying a unit on World War I – brought a renewed interest to solving neighborhood mystery – that being the story of Scott C. Campbell.

For years upon years I’ve walked by his Hero Square sign daily, and wondered what his story was all about. On Veterans Day I took some time to do a little research, and after some roadblocks, I found out more than I previously knew. I find it amazing the heroes that rose up to fight for our freedom in such a brutal land war as was World War I.

Campbell was actually from my own street and lived a block down on the odd side. I don’t know how old he was, but it seems he was sent over to Europe with the famed Yankee Division (the namesake of the Rt. 128 highway) in the spring of 1918. He served under the belligerent, but popular, General Clearance Edwards – who was the founder of the National Guard and until recently had a middle school named after him in Charlestown. Campbell was part of a world-changing stretch of battles in the summer of 1918. In fact, from my research, it was his group of soldiers on July 17, 18, and 19 that surprisingly drove the Germans backward at Chateau Thierry in France – thus changing the landscape of the war and the future of the world. It was largely considered to be an apex moment toward victory on the Western Front.

Campbell was killed on July 18, 1918 by a piece of shrapnel that hit him while he was on that battlefield. It is amazing to know that someone from my street stood up so long ago and showed life-sacrificing personal bravery in a seminal moment worldwide. I’m sure he walked past my house on occasion when he was younger and probably went to the school across the street in his formative years. The dedication of his Hero Square 100 years ago in 1921 brought out “thousands,” according to the Boston Post.

Now, his house down the street is long gone, probably one of the many that burnt down and never got replaced in the 1970s and 1980s. It was replaced about 10 years ago by a new affordable housing duplex. In today’s neighborhood, no one remembers Scott C. Campbell and I don’t know any living relative who would know him.

Time marches on, and it seems so hard to believe that we forget bravery, loyalty and sacrificed youth in the passage of years, but we do. However, but for a short time this past Veterans Day, Scott C. Campbell once again became known on this street to at least a few of his neighbors.

NEWS ’COPTER NONSENSE

The shooting of three Boston Police officers just down the street this month, and the police shooting of the man that shot them after hours of harrowing negotiations and neighborhood disruption, was a traumatic event for young, middle-aged and elderly. Nothing positive comes out of such things when the neighborhood blows up like a war zone and you feel like you need to hole up in the cellar for a day. It cannot be avoided on this side of the neighborhood at times, but one thing that can be avoided are the relentless news ’copters. While the event unfolded all day, the ’copters converged early in the afternoon – at least five of them directly over the house. By 7 p.m. they were still there, flying low, just a few hundred feet above children trying to do homework and feel normal in a neighborhood that doesn’t always feel that way. It’s time for a pool ’copter system – like is done in courtrooms - especially in neighborhoods like Dorchester where they sometimes send them out two or three times a week. Maybe only one can go over and they can share the images. There also needs to be a time limit for them to hover. It has become excessive, frequent and only intensifies the existing trauma for everyone.

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