Going to the Boston Marathon is like going to Disney. Everyone is smiling and laughing except maybe the runners till they cool down. I am not going to let the sad events surrounding the 117th running of the Boston Marathon take away from the wonderful memories I have of covering it since 1967.
At the Boston Record American it was huge. There were a lot of photographers assigned. In 1967 women were not allowed to run, nor was there a wheelchair-sanctioned race. The crowds and amount of runners paled to what it has become today.
We covered the beginning, the Wellesley College coeds at their water tables, Heartbreak Hill in Newton, the finish line and the medical tent. One photographer was assigned to the photographer’s truck, which was usually a beat up flat bed truck. At least once the photographers had to get off the truck and push it out of the way. Many runners complained about the fumes from the truck. I never got that assignment.
Back then the Prudential Insurance was the sponsor so the race ended on the strip in front of the Prudential Tower. As the race would come down Commonwealth Avenue the runners would take the right on Gloucester Street and the truck would go straight down Commonwealth Avenue. At the finish line there were several photographers. A Boston motorcycle cop, Gene Lee, a great athlete himself would be assigned to grab our film of the finish and race it to our office in downtown Boston. Page One would be a photo of the winner. I worked the lab for my first Marathon.
The wire services set up a darkroom in a school right near the start of the race, which always began at noon. They would have a photo on the wires within ten minutes for the afternoon papers. I worked the lab for my first race. Katherine Switzer a college student registered for the race as K.V. Switzer and got a number. When Jock Semple a BAA race official saw K.V. was a woman he jumped into the start of the race and tried to wrestle her out. Ms. Switzer had put her hair up to disguise herself. Other runners blocked Semple from throwing her out. Don Robinson of UPI was the only photographer to get the shots. That caused quite a bit of grief for our photographer who was on the truck. Back then we did it ourselves. It was not a good thing to see a credit, which read AP or UPI photo. It would be five more years before woman were sanctioned.
My first outside coverage was in 1968. I was assigned to the starting line. I was given a Polaroid Camera, a stepladder, one of the wire services portable transmitters and instructed to find someone who would let me use their home phone to transmit the start of the race. I would only have one chance to get the photo, as Polaroid’s were not fast. I did get it and it was Page One.
I also had to get some feature photos of runners and bring back some stories to go with the photos. It was a lot of fun. I helped people taking photos of each other sometimes grabbing their cameras to take the photos so both the shooter and subject could be together. One year I met this couple, both UMass Amherst students who were going to run the race together. They told me they were inseparable. Within a year of the race they would be killed in a car crash. Although they were not married they were buried together. Because of my photos we covered the story.
I covered the finish many times. There was no yellow tape and I could roam wherever I wanted. I was at the finish line when the first wheelchair race was sanctioned. I had a shot of two runners racing for the 3rd & 4th position with one of them falling before he crossed the line.
Patty Lyons Catalano, a local favorite who everyone thought would win the Boston Marathon in 1981 was beaten by Alison Roe. It was unexpected. I was at the finish line when Patty was greeted by her sisters and the disappointment of not winning the race.
In 1982 I went into TV. The Boston Marathon was a huge event back then. We arrived in Hopkinton around 6:am the Sunday before the Monday race with thousands of feet of cable. It was at least a 12-hour day with many cameras being set up. We would be live through the early morning show on Monday, then the start and throughout the race. The only time I got in front of the runners is when I rode shotgun while John Premack ran the camera for live coverage of the race from a small pickup truck.
There were some funny times. Bill Rodgers a local race favorite would win the race four times. I went to his Melrose home one race morning then followed him to Hopkinton. There was a crew from Japan doing the same thing. We were driving west on the Mass Pike when the Japanese crew decided to pull up along side the Rodgers’ car to get shots, only problem Rodger’s car got off the ramp at Route 495 and they ended up going further west missing the exit. It was a very funny moment.
Johnny Kelly the elder who won the race twice and finished second seven times ran his 61st and last race in 1992. I was almost home when the phone rang. Joe Roche on the assignment desk for Channel Five realized at 630:pm we had no one at the finish line for Johnny Kelly. I raced back and got Johnny finishing the race and collapsing into his wife’s arms.
After many years of coverage I got some seniority and took the April school vacation week off to spend time with my family. It meant not covering the race but being able to watch it. We went to Newton, at the beginning of Heart Break Hill where a very festive group was watching.
Forty six years after my first Marathon, April 15, 2013 it all changed. I was sitting at the South Bay Mall at 2:50pm when I heard a Boston Police Officer screaming for multiple ambulances to Boylston Street he had 40–50 people injured.
At first I thought he said 71 Boylston Street which is down by the Boston Common. I figured a moving vehicle hit the people. Then it changed to 671 Boylston Street and I knew it was something to do with the Marathon, but I still thought a vehicle had struck the people.
Then it happened, someone said on one of the channels I was listening to it was an explosion, a bomb went off. I was yelling into the two-way radio to the station and trying to get around traffic through the South End of Boston to the explosion area. I got lucky and got behind some fire command cars and police cruisers. I shut the radios off, as I only wanted to concentrate on getting there safely. I knew we had crews at the medical tent. I figured we would be all set where the explosion took place.
I tried to park where I could see the top of the Prudential Tower where one of our receive sites for microwave was anchored. I knew I might have to feed tape or go live with my vehicle. When I finally parked on the island in the middle of Huntington Avenue I was very excited. I opened the trunk area to get my equipment out, had to change mic batteries as I forgot to shut it off the last time I used it and continued to shake. I knew my daughter Hannah was in Boston, but I also knew she should not be in this area.
Then my cell phone rang, it was Hannah and I lost it. I screamed at her “get the fuck out of the City,” and I said it several times. I was so happy to hear her voice.
I got my shit together and started to shoot video. Many were crying, scared and wondering what to do as the police were urging them to keep moving and get out of the area. I talked to some eyewitnesses, got video of lots of people hugging and crying. I got a shot of one injured runner.
I was never able to get into the explosion area. The police shut it down very quickly. I stayed on Huntington Avenue till 8:pm. I heard a call the police were going to a high-rise apartment building two streets form Revere Beach. There were several police departments there including, FBI, ATF, MSP, Homeland Security. They were there because at the Brigham & Woman’s Hospital there was an injured man who became a person of interest. He lives in this building. Finally after 11:pm the investigators left and I got to go home. At 2:30am the phone rang and I was asked to go back to Revere. There were some Tweets the investigation was continuing. I drove back, looked around, nothing and went home. I got another hour of sleep and went back to work.
Two days after the blast, on Wednesday, Jack Harper and I interviewed one of the “heroes” of the blast Tracy Munroe. She tearfully told us how she and her family left the area right after the blast. Then she knew she had to go back to help and ran back. She saw the Richards’ family. Martin Richards an eight year old was dead at the scene. She picked up his six year old sister, Jane and held her in her arms. She asked her name, said comforting words and held her until medical people came to help her. Jane lost one of her legs and her mother has a severe brain injury from the blast.
As Jack and I listened we both became teary eyed. After the interview I told her she reminded me of the teacher from Newtown, Kaitlin Roid who told her students as she hid them and listened to the gunshots, “I need you to know that I love you all very much, I thought that was the last thing they were ever going to hear. I thought we were all going to die.” She said she did not want the last sounds they heard to be gunfire.
Thursday after the explosion was calm until after ten that night. I received a call saying a police officer had been shot near MIT. I called it in and tried to go back to sleep. Just after 1:am, Nancy Bent on the desk called to get me going yelling cops are being shot at, bombs are being thrown and one of the suspects was dead.
I raced to Watertown where I would spend the next 16 hours. There were thousands of cops racing around from one lead to the next. The area was pretty much shut down and with all the vehicles racing around I decided to pull over so I would not get hit by one of them.
Around 4:pm my eyes were starting to close and I went home. My wife Debbie woke me up when the announcement came the second suspect was trapped in a boat in someone’s backyard. We watched until the press conference and the official announcement he had been captured and transferred to the hospital.
As a professional newsperson I am disappointed I did not get any compelling video but happy to have been a part of the coverage. I sat out Newtown and the Blizzard of 2013, due to an injury. I am glad I got to cover this awful event.
I am proud to say I work for the best local television station in the Country, WCVB-TV. We have a great team who worked many days and long hours together during this tragic event. We shared our grief and anxiety. Only WBZ-TV continues to cover the Boston Marathon locally. Several years ago it was decided not to cover the race live. From a business stand point it did not work anymore. It will be interesting to see what the stations and networks do next year.
Here is a link to compelling audio of the first 20 minutes after the explosion. The commanding office Yankee C2 is Dan Linsky of the Boston Police Department. Notice how calm and organized he is.
Here is the link to Diane Sawyer’s interview with Kaitlin Roig a couple of months after Newtown.
It began on a great Sunday, no Patriots game to watch till Monday night, time to get our Christmas tree and maybe if it was dry enough set it up in the house. Big plans that all went to an immobilizer.
The tree was up and lots of our decorations were brought out for decorating the house. My task was to get the extended spout water can. An easy task, check both sheds and find it. It was in the back shed and I walked up the little ramp, no more than 2 feet high and almost level as it is extended so the slop is not that steep.
Coming back down I slipped, tried to catch my balance, put my instincts in place and tried to brake myself. Problem is it was like racing down the street on your bike, pressing the front brakes and going over the handlebars. I don’t have handlebars so instead my left quad tendon snapped sending over and out in excruciating pain ravaging through my body.
It was the worst pain I have ever had and once before I had a similar incident but that time it was an Achilles tendon. This time I went down screaming yelling for help but of course it is winter and the windows and doors were shut and my family could not hear me. After what seemed like a long time I thought I was having a heart attack and the pain continued. I reached for my cell phone in my sweatpants pocket and for once I did not have it with me. I carry it everywhere and if it were waterproof I would have it in the shower with me.
Luckily my neighbors Gerda and Don Pasquarello did hear me. Don an emergency room doctor at Beverly Hospital hopped over a fence and checked to see if I was having a heart attack. He was relieved to hear it was only my leg as he thought he was about to start chest compressions.
After surgery last Tuesday I am on crutches and in an immobilizer for at least a month, then I go to a smaller brace, physical therapy and hopefully full repair in the next few months.
Surgery is not new to me as I had my tonsils out when I was around two in my house and was operated on in a high chair. I can still remember the group of medical people coming in the house, me in my pajamas and then one of them opening a can and telling me to take a whiff. I screamed, jumped up and down and then woke up blowing bubbles. The only thing I could eat was ice cream for several weeks.
My association with physical pain began when I was a little kid as my appendix would kick up every once in a while and I would have severe stomach pains. My stomach pain went away after I had emergency surgery at age 14, four days before my freshman prom. My date came by to see me in the hospital as another friend of ours date got sick so those two got together.
The closest I ever came to being a jock was when I went to a couple of practices for the freshman football team. I was jogging around the field when stepped in a hole and cracked a bone in my ankle. That big NFL contract was left on the field at the Garfield Junior High in Revere.
From there is was sort of clear sailing till 1978 when I was playing racquetball and something snapped. I went down and almost out while my friend John Premack massaged the area and the severe pain subsided. I spent most of the Blizzard of 78 in a full cast, with a bent right leg and I used crutches to get around for 8 weeks then a walking cast for 5 weeks. Only thing funny about that is I was in my walking cast on route 93 for a tanker explosion when the cast got wet from the foam and I had to go to the surgeon to have it rebuilt. He was not happy but he admired my determination.
I got out in the blizzard one night as Chip Hoar the public relations person for his National Guard unit came to my house to take me and my camera out to see the damage. Of course I was like dead weight and they had to drag me through the snow to put me in the back of the army truck and take me around. We went to Hull to see the damage on Nantasket Beach then we went to a three-alarm fire on Dorchester Avenue in Boston. I had brought a portable scanner with me so we knew more than we were assigned to know.
After that there was 4 hernias, wisdom teeth and of course some other foolish issues your body develops.
I am so lucky as I have my awesome wife Debbie taking care of me with the help of my physical therapy daughter Molly watching every step I take and my RN daughter Hannah helping me with my medication.
A reminder to my readers, don’t go anywhere without your phone. You don’t have to answer it but it will be there in case of an emergency.
Thankfully all of my surgeries and illnesses have only been inconveniences and I will be back out there chasing news or whatever else this old body can do next year and hopefully for many more to come.
For most people life is short no matter how long you live. Hopefully, along the way you meet certain people who make your life better and will always remain in your memories.
I first met Kirby in 1978 when I was sitting at home with a cast up to my butt after having my Achilles tendon reattached from a racquetball injury. The best man at my wedding, John Premack, brought him by my Roslindale apartment while checking in on me. I remember Kirby telling me a few years later he saw this fat guy walking around on crutches and wondered how I could have ever won two Pulitzers.
Kirby began as a “lumper,” which meant working with the photographers and carrying their tripod and lights, basically the photographer’s bitch. He didn’t mind as he had big plans for himself. He was just working his way around to the front of the camera and he went onto become one of Boston’s premier reporters. I began working with him in 1983, when I switched from the newspaper to TV news.
Kirby became one of my favorite reporters to work with along Martha Raddatz (formerly Bradlee), Susan Wornick, and Jack Harper. There have been many others I enjoyed working with but if forced to choose those 4 were my favorites. Kirby was especially fun as he was smart and always willing to go with discovery as discovery is what made him as good as it got.
Although he did not like spot news the way I do, he learned to go with the flow. One day we were in Medford on a story when I heard on the scanner a child was shot in Lynn. The last place Kirby wanted to go to would be this story but he sucked it up and did a great job.
Another time when we were looking for something to cover we ended up in Revere for several hours as an armed man was barricaded behind a door in an apartment building. Those were the days when I knew most of the Revere cops and Kirby and I were on the 3rd floor just outside of the apartment where negotiations went on. My camera batteries did not last long and Kirby had to keep going down from the third floor to my car and get fresh batteries and tapes for me. He kept a straight face and ended up doing about a 4-minute piece of the incident. In the end Captain Bill Gannon got onto the man’s apartment from an outside deck by climbing from one apartment to the next and charging into the apartment and capturing the man. The suspect had a rifle, which could have taken us all out. The piece sang and was compelling from beginning to end.
Then there was the time Kirby had kidney stones and he researched procedures for treatment and we found ourselves with him in a tub of water at the MGH getting sonic blasts into his body while I filmed it all. Kirby was shy so getting in and out on camera in his bathing suit was probably harder to do then bare the pain of the stones.
He was so shy and when we would be in an elevator in a building I would go to work and introduce him to all the people in the elevator. Boy, did he hate that but I loved doing it.
He loved politics and especially loved going to Boston City Hall where he covered 3 Mayors of Boston (I have covered 4 as John Collins was still in office when I started).
He used the video of Kevin White running across the Boston Common so often it wore out the emulsion of the tape.
When Ray Flynn was resigning as Mayor to become Ambassador to the Vatican he stood on City Hall Plaza and said in his live shot “Elvis has left the building!” Oh, the bosses did not like that one.Flynn leaving office wasn’t a bad thing for his favorite Mayor, Mayor Forever, Tom Menino, with whom he had a special relationship. During one awful winter in the early 90s when people could not get out of their houses or drive down the streets of Boston we did a story on snow plowing in the City. It was the year the Globe compared the snow level to a Celtics basketball player’s height when measuring the inches of snow. We went to the Mayor’s home area in Readville and Kirby climbed up to the top of at least a 15-foot snow pile and did his stand-up. We then went to City hall to ask Mayor Menino what grade does the Mayor think he got that winter on clearing the streets of Boston. Mayor Menino looked at Kirby and gave his very humble opinion, “A minus,” with his great big smile.
In his own words he dared to call Dapper O’Neil a racist and to call Whacko Hurley, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Czar, a Whacko. Don’t think Dapper wouldn’t call him out every time he saw him after that, yelling “Hey Perkins” in his very loud obnoxious voice! Kirby smiled and ignored him.
When I was on my popcorn binge (one big bag a day) he would occasional buy me one just so he could poke fun at me. One day he went into a coffee shop to get himself a beverage and when he came back I had already finished the bag of popcorn. He could not believe I could have eaten this bag so quickly so I told him I spilled it by mistake. He believed me, I think. From then I was known as the popcorn man to his daughter Alexis.
Deep down, he was really a West Coast hippie from the ‘60s. He loved to tell people how he lived in his Volkswagen bus while going to school at UCLA. Boy, did he hate snowstorms and cold weather, but he loved the fact that snowstorms meant he could wear his college sweatshirt. His winter gloves came out as soon as the leaves began falling. Colored leaves meant warmer clothes for Kirby.
His father in-law Andy Rooney, a long time holder of New York Giants season tickets, would invite Kirby to a game every year and every year Kirby would dread how cold he was going to be. I took him to Hilton’s Tent City where he bought the warmest boots he could find but of course he left them home when he drove down to New York for the game.
He used to carry cash all the time going to the bank on Monday’s and filling his wallet with what he needed. You must remember it was already the late 80s and everyone had a debit card to get their cash out of a machine when needed. It took him a while but I showed him what he could do and he no longer needed to cash that check once a week.
He was a great barbeque man and got me sway from using lighter fluid to start my charcoals and bought me my first “kettle” for heating the coals. He told me he used to throw in different woods for flavor on top of his charcoals and even used to eat his salads after the meal, European style. I never could understand that.
Governor Mario Cuomo was rumored to be running for President of the U.S. and Kirby and I got on the road for a three-hour ride to Albany, NY. We walked in during the middle of a press conference the Governor was holding. Cuomo looked up and Kirby said “We are here from Boston to see if you are going to run for President!” Cuomo looked at him and started discussing the Red Sox of which Kirby was a big fan. All the other reporters just sat and watched. Cuomo, by the way, did not discuss anything doing with running for President. Kirby could talk to anyone intelligently.
A Red Sox fan he was and he loved Mo Vaughn. He was his favorite, knew all of his statistics and the statistics of most of everyone else on the team. He used to bet his colleague Jack Harper who was a big Baltimore fan every year on something to do with the two teams.
We had this gig called “Car Five,” it was about Kirby letting me drive where I wanted, listen to the radios and Kirby looking for interesting stuff. We were on Dudley Street in Roxbury when he saw an apartment complex with sneakers hanging from the power lines. Next thing I know we were out of the car talking with the neighbors, making a great story. Shortly after the story, the City cleaned up their junkyard back yard and we were off to the next one.
Another day he sees a hut in Dorchester and this man half clothed sort of drunk and the conversation begins. Another great story, another Car Five in the books.
Our best one though was Mrs. Penta. We took one of our many rides to my old haunts in Revere. We were driving around my old neighborhood and I see this woman, Mrs. Penta. Kirby says “stop the car” and the conversation begins. We walked around the neighborhood with her, came back to her house on another day and then we did this outstanding piece of where I grew up and what the neighborhood had become. It was everyone’s favorite Car Five.
We had a rhythm the way we worked. He had the mic in his hand and I could just circle him with the camera. I knew what he wanted and he knew what I was going to do. It was like magic and he took whatever I shot it made it wonderful TV. No matter whom he worked with he never complained about the video. He would just get into the editing booth and make it come together. His ego if he had one never got in the way.
Kirby loved to use compelling video multiple times in a story. If it was good he might use it two, even three times, something you don’t see anymore. He told me when he was in an editing booth he wanted to grab the audio pot away from the editor and blast the video so when it came into people’s homes and there was important sound their TVs would vibrate.
He tried to help me with my English and my eating habits. Sometimes the English lessons worked. He told me his father in-law Andy Rooney and I had one thing in common; we both ate fast. He would lecture me on eating slower so I would not be as hungry and I could lose weight. I am still trying both and losing the battle.
When he and the family moved to Connecticut he began living at Susan Wornick’s house several days during the week. He would not have her do his laundry so he brought it to a Laundromat near the station. Every so often he would call me and say “I cannot get there to take it out of the dryer.” So there I was grabbing his dried clothes for him to wear.
When his mother was in a nursing home late in her life Kirby would call her everyday, tell her how much he loved her. I loved hearing the conversation.
He loved doing homework with is daughter Alexis and having a barbeque dinner ready for Emily when she got home from work.
He was really about discovery, thus the A+ series was born. He loved going into schools and sharing the stories of high school seniors, who achieved in the midst of adversity. He brought out the best in them and they made him feel good about what he was doing. He would have been a great teacher and it is fitting that the A+ Scholarship Fund is his legacy.
The day he died, I had seen him as he was leaving work for another tennis match at a tournament he was in. He told me he was doing great and would be playing in a final.
The next morning I was walking my dogs on West Beach in Beverly and as usual carrying my two-way radio when my colleague Warren Doolin called me around 6am to tell me Kirby might be mortally ill. I went to the hospital to see him. He was lying on the bed on life support. Emily talked to him and told him his friend Stanley was here to see him and, unfortunately, there was no response we could see. I can only hope he got the message.
His father died when he was around 14 and his daughter Lexie was 14 when he died.
At his memorial, his mother in-law Marge said when Emily took him home for the first time she had never seen such a beautiful specimen of a man and not to let him get a way.
He was a wonderful man, friend, articulate, handsome, loving and never too big for his britches. He got me and I miss him and he will always be a part of my memories.
I loved that man.
A Note From Kirby’s Wife, Emily Rooney, who is host/executive editor of Greater Boston, WGBH-TV.
Kirby started A+ in the mid 90’s as a way of recognizing kids who overcame extreme odds to excel academically. While Kirby considered himself to be a “jock” he believed too much emphasis and credit was lavished upon kids who perform well in athletics as opposed to the classroom. It means a great deal to me that the scholarship was started and continues in his name now 15 years after his death. The kids are inspiring and I owe a debt of gratitude to all the CH5 people who have worked on this feature, especially David Brown.
To read more about The Kirby Perkins A+ Scholarship Fund please visit the website below:
A note from Mayor Thomas Menino:
Statement of Mayor Thomas M. Menino
Kirby Perkins A Plus Scholarship Fund Event
November 13, 2012
I want to thank all of the family and friends of the late Kirby Perkins for gathering tonight to support the scholarship fund that bears his name. In particular I want to thanks Emily Rooney and the entire Scholarship Committee for the good work you have already done awarding over 186 thousand dollars among 74 students since 1998. And thank you to Bill Fine and WCVB for hosting this event tonight and promoting the A Plus Scholarship and the student recipients on air.
Kirby was much more than a first class reporter; he was one of my closest friends. He loved politics just like I do. He was a “people person” much like I am. And his skills with email were the same as mine: nonexistent.
Seriously though, Kirby gave me some very good advice early on in my career. He told me to take the issues seriously, but not to take myself all that seriously. He told me that self-deprecation was often the best response for many situations especially at the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. And he was right, on this and so much more.
I’m sure you all could tell similar stories of how Kirby helped you. Kirby meant so much to all of you and so much to this city. That is why we must build up the Kirby Perkins A Plus Scholarship Fund. So it can continue to help young people obtain that all important college degree, and so our city and the people living here always know what a special person Kirby was.
I thank you all for your generous contributions so far. But I ask you to dig a little deeper and to go a little further. That is what Kirby would have done for any of us, so let’s all do it for the scholarship that honors his legacy.
Since the tragic yet fascinating story on the news November 21, 2010 about Delvonte Tinsdale a 16 year old who is believed to have stowed away in the wheel well of a plane from Charlotte, North Carolina and falling to his death over the down of Milton, Massachusetts I have been thinking about my experiences at Logan Airport.
As a kid growing up in Revere, the planes were on a landing path over our house. Sometimes we thought the plane was coming for dinner. There was also a small airport in Revere we visited as a family to watch the planes landing and taking off.
Once in a while when my friends had nothing to do we would get on the train and go to Logan to watch the big planes coming and going. In those days you could watch people getting on and off the planes on the tarmac from a roof top balcony. I was there with my good friend Peter Tegan many years ago when Elizabeth Taylor landed. It was just after she left Eddie Fisher for Richard Burton while filming “Cleopatra.” To say the least, most of the people watching were not complimentary to her when she walked the tarmac although I doubt she could hear what was being shouted from where we were.
The first plane crash at Logan I remember had to be in the early 60s. The plane went off the runway into Winthrop Harbor; that stretch of water between Logan and Winthrop. Gene Dixon, one of the great photographers I worked with, told the story of hearing the first call and following a Boston Police Cruiser through the Summer Tunnel (there was only one tunnel in those days and it was two-way coming and going from Boston to East Boston). The cruiser was not sure the best access and went up and down the inlet streets of Winthrop and ended up on Dix Street where former Governor Edward King lived. It was a good access point from that side of the tragedy and Gene took whatever photos he could make from that distance. In high school after the crash one of my teachers, Mr. Millerick, talked about the crash and complained how many rubber-neckers there were trying to get a glimpse of the incident. Truth be known even back then had I been able to get there I would have been there.
When the Boston Fire Department struck fire box 612 you knew it could be something as that was the fire box number for crashes at Logan. There was a crash in the late ‘70s when an airplane coming in for a landing in the fog hit the retaining wall on Runway 33 Left, breaking apart on impact and bursting into flames. The day that happened I was doing an interview in Newton at the home of a widow whose husband had been shot through one of their windows as he watched TV. I was with Ed Corsetti (best crime reporter of his era) and we had no idea about the crash. We left the interview and turned on the AM radio to hear about it. It happened just before noon.
Gene Dixon once again was on the incident and he told the story of being on the Boston Commons with other photographers and hearing the Boston Globe desk calling their photographer on their two-way radio telling him about the crash. Gene left immediately raced to Logan, got through the gate and took a couple of quick photos and left so he could make our evening paper’s noonish deadline. As he told it, he raced to the scene, took a few photos and raced back to the paper. As he was driving through the Dewey Square Tunnel (now the Liberty Tunnel) the transmission on his car gave out. He jumped out of his car and hoofed it the rest of the way, probably about a mile, but he got in on time to grab Page One of the paper. He got a hundred dollar bonus and it cost him about a thousand dollars for the repair. The money really did not matter as it gave him something to joke about on such an awful story.
There was one survivor; a soldier by the name of Leopold Chinard from the Portsmouth, New Hampshire area. He died several months later as he was burned over most of his body. Kevin Cole was also at the scene and had some great images of a terrible crash. I got stuck taking photos of families lining up outside the South End Morgue to view the bodies for identification.
The night the infamous World Airlines Plane skidded off the runaway after an ice storm Gene Dixon was once again the first one there, raced out on the runway and got a great Page One photo. I was home in Roslindale taking a nap about 6:30 PM with the radios blaring in the background and I must have been counting the box as I remember lying there and saying to myself 612 and jumped out of bed and started heading for Logan. It was very slippery going and when I came down the ramp to the Tunnel I skidded over a lane or two before I made my entrance. By the time I got there I only went to the gate the plane was assigned to. I photographed the passengers as they came back to the gate via a bus.
There are two incidents that I was personally involved in and one of them was a Saturday in the late ‘70s. It was about 11am and I had just walked out of the photo department office to go to the newsroom when Tom Sullivan, the City Editor came running down yelling “everyone out, everyone out there is a plane crash at Logan!” I took off running down the stairs and racing to the scene. I was really moving and almost missed the ramp to the Xway North to take me to the Tunnel and Logan. In those days all there was blocking us from the runways at the South Gate was a sign and a guard. My friend from Channel Seven, Richie Suskin, and I arrived at the same time after racing to the scene. We whizzed past him so fast we must have made his head spin.
FYI, if you did that now a days you would hit a barricade and if you made it through that someone would probably shoot you.
We raced out to where a cargo plane was burning, trying to keep up with the fire apparatus racing to the scene. No one was bothering us, as everyone was too busy trying to save lives. When we got there, I watched Richie go to one side of the crash, being pursued by a State Trooper who was at the scene. I took many photos as the access was great, then got back in my car and followed an ambulance out since I knew they were in contact with the tower making it safe to cross the runways. All the other photographers were eventually brought out there by a Mass Port bus.
There is one more runway experience I remember very well. It was a weekday and box 612 was struck. All the media raced to the south gate to wait for the Mass Port bus. The bus would take us out to where there was a plane on the end of the runway. A plane had an engine fire and had aborted take off.
I knew my good friend Billy Noonan, a Boston Firefighter, was working and since he was the photographer with the arson squad he would be going to the scene. I said to a couple of the photographers, “In a few minutes there will be a little red car with its red lights on coming to this gate and I will be getting in it.” They just laughed at me. Next thing they saw was me with my thumb out and the car stopping and taking me to the scene. I got a really good photo showing the Mass Port ladder up, the plane with the escape slides deployed and the city of Boston in the background. It was a great photo of the incident.
A while later the bus with the rest of the photographers showed up. Everyone started taking photos but by then the ladder had been taken down and it was just a plane on the runway. Dick Hurwitz the AP Chief Photographer saw me and thought I had come on the second bus and was gleeful to tell me how happy he was to have gotten there before me. I laughed and said to him “take a look at tomorrow’s paper and remember what you just said.” I kicked butt with my photo.
FYI, recently the family of Delvonte Tinsdale filed suit against Charlotte, Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and US Airways.
Rollie Oxton, Pulitzer Prize Winner, my hero, mentor, friend and I got to work with him at the old Record American where I started in this business. Rollie was the King of his era. He cruised the streets of Boston for parts of 3 decades, always there when it happened.
Recently I made contact with his son David, the head of the art department at the Governor Dummer School in Byfield, MA. We have exchanged emails and now I get a chance to display some of his great images and talk about my hero.
When I was a kid growing up outside of Boston (Revere) and newspapers were an important staple of our lives, I got to see Rollie’s photos all the time. I would look at newspaper and daydream about being able to stay up all night and chase policemen, firefighters and be where the action was, just like him. Once when I was with my father riding in downtown Boston I saw him cruising wearing his trademark hat. I was thrilled to have gotten a glimpse of him.
In 1966 I got to join the paper where Rollie worked. He was a God in the industry. If Danny Sheehan of the Globe was Captain Midnight, Rollie was King Midnight. Globe people might disagree with me but I think Rollie almost always had the best pictures. They were great work friends and great competitors. Everyone knew and liked him. He knew them all, police, firefighters, pimps, prostitutes and a lot of the street people. Sometimes when I got to work his overnight shift driving around in the marked company car people would yell out “where is Rollie?”
Most of the other news photographers were in awe of him and everyone had a Rollie story about his greatness. Ollie Noonan, Jr., another great Boston photographer who died in Vietnam in a helicopter crash while working for AP had a great Rollie story. Ollie was working the overnight shift for the Globe and responded to a building fire on Commonwealth Ave., in the Back Bay. There was fire showing and a woman was on a balcony waiting to be rescued. He looked around and no Rollie. Wow, he thought he was finally going to beat the Master. Then the fire department throws their ladder to rescue the woman and who is standing next to him, Rollie. It just did not happen unless Rollie was there.
When I began Rollie was using a Mamiflex 120mm film camera. A machine shop had set up an adapter on the side of his camera, which gave he a toothpick like handle to maneuver. This handle would snap into grooves on the adapter. Each groove was representative of focus feet for the lens as most of the photographers from the 4/5 era zoned focused never focusing through the viewfinder. It must have worked, as his images were sharp as a tack.
He took so many great news photos, and he could do anything there was to do with the camera but his best stuff was breaking news. The day after the terrible Sherry Biltmore Hotel fire in 1963 he had a wrap around photo on the cover of the paper showing multiple ladders up to the building and people being rescued while others had their hands out the windows hoping to be saved. The Sherry Biltmore Hotel was at 150 Mass Ave approximately where the Berklee College of Music now stands.
I haunted him, begging to be able to ride with him and like myself he would rather be by himself. I was relentless in my request and started showing up on Wednesday and Saturday nights hoping to ride with him. Sometimes he would let me in the car and other times he would say “not tonight.”
One Sunday morning we were cruising through the Back Bay near Hereford Street with me babbling and Rollie listening to the radios when he yells out Royce Road, Royce Road, I think it is in Brighton but please look it up.
We were there in about 8 minutes; Rollie jumps out of the car, circles the parameter as I am still trying to get a shot and says lets go. I did not think he took a good photo but next day there it is a great shot of the body in front of the police cruisers headlights.
In the late 50s or early 60s, Rollie was assigned to take some photos of the homeless and street people hanging around the Boston Common. He took a photo of a person supposedly drunk on a park bench with empty bottles of liquor around her. Albert “Dapper” O’Neil a local politician found out the photo might have been set up and took on the Record American. He set up at their Winthrop Square building in downtown Boston. Dapper had a car with signs and a megaphone standing in the middle of the Square shouting out nasty’s about the paper.
I worked the photo lab for many years on Saturday morning and brought him in a coffee every week. One Saturday I walked in around 730 and told him there was a big fire on Tremont Street, the C. Crawford Hollidge Department Store was fully involved. It was opposite the Boston Common, he cursed as he ran out knowing he had been by there shortly before he came to the office. He must have been at the fire ten minutes, took a couple of photos, came back and owned page one.
One night after some civil unrest in the City I was assigned to ride with him so he would not be alone. We were driving around the South End and someone made a derogatory remark to him. Rollie got out of the car and had a conversation with the man as I stayed in my seat thinking we were going to get shot or something. He feared nothing.
Later in the overnight there was a fire in Roxbury. We both went and my photos sucked. I was tired and shot nothing of any interest. He took a couple of his images and put my name on the caption sheet so I would not look foolish.
The morning after the Guilded Cage explosion January of 1966, on Boylston Street in Boston’s “Combat Zone” he came into the office at the end of his overnight shift and the editor, Sam Bornstein asked him if he had anything good and Rollie replied no. He printed one photo, an overall of the destruction; another wrap around and Sam could not believe Rollie said he did not have anything very good.
Rollie did not get excited over many of his photos but the one of Paul Stanley rescuing a woman from the Charles River really turned him on and another one where several Boston Cops captured a suspect with their guns drawn from the opposite side of a fence he enjoyed.
On another occasion he comes back from his shift and prints a photo of a car fire on the Xway but this time he had the car exploding and people including firefighters running from the wreckage. He left a short caption and went home. As soon as the editors saw it they were on the phone to him asking for more information, he was so humble about his skills.
In the late 60s there was a short-lived riot on Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury. It began with the taking over of a couple of welfare offices and ended with a group of angry folks running down Blue Hill Ave from Grove Hall destroying many mom and pop business who never recovered. Rollie was asked to start his shift early incase something happened and of course it did not happen till he got there.
He also knew how to make nice feature photos and got many good sunrise photos around Castle Island of morning fishermen. He worked Sundays so he did many Easter Sunrise Services. Another beautiful photo he made was a pushcart person moving his equipment into place early one morning. He knew how to use whatever light there was or they wasn’t. He could do it all.
Rollie had made a picture of his oldest daughter Louise in front of the fireplace at Christmas time when she was very young. A beautifully lite photo with the Xmas stocking hanging and the fireplace going. The funny thing about this photo it resurfaced every dozen or so years with a different name around Christmas time and always got a great display.
After Rollie retired I would see him and his wife at the Dunkin Donut at Bell’s Circle in Revere. It was a real treat for me and I hope for him. He died in 1984. Rollie is buried in the cemetery opposite the Nahant Police Station. He must still be listening to police calls.
His son David added some history for this blog and many photos of which I hope are properly displayed, as he was the best.
My father served in the US Army during WWII and was in both Europe and Japan. He was a member of the photo corps. While in Japan, he had his own Jeep and it had the words Marion Louise written on the side (the first names of my mother and oldest sister). My father died in October 1984. He was 73. He was born and grew up in Chelsea. He only attended school until the 6th grade. His father died that year, and he went out to work to help support his mother.
Please visit David’s website and Rollie’s grandson Timothy’s websites.
Following are several more photos and memories of Rollie. This blog was written with wonderful thoughts and memories.
A couple of weeks ago on my way into Boston to begin my shift I received a call from a source telling me somewhere in the City there was cemetery vandalism. The source knew the names of two streets but he was not sure of which cemetery.
He gave me the names of Birch & Fairview Streets in Police District Five and since I used to live nearby just outside of Roslindale Square I thought it was going to be easy to find. Problem was I could not find any police looking around and the only cemetery I knew of was in the Peter’s Hill section of the Arnold Arboretum. It as an old cemetery not used anymore but I drove where I should not have and checked it out. There was nothing there and BPD Info Services had not gotten any paperwork on it so I moved on to other assignments.
Here is where things get funny in what I do. I was sent to the Readville section of Boston to cover a story about the unauthorized use of a City fire hydrant to fill a pool with water. I was with reporter Rhondella Richardson and we were not having much luck in advancing the story. As we were leaving the area I noticed a cemetery and the sign on it read “Fairview Cemetery.” BINGO, this must be the place I was looking for several hours earlier. We drove through the cemetery till I saw one of the maintenance men and I asked if there had been any vandalism. He pointed me up a hill and said you cannot miss it.
He was correct, there was a monument originally erected in 1908 to commemorate the local heroes of the Civil War. It was a beautiful piece of bronze, which the vandals had knocked off its pedestal. The story itself is common nowadays but either way it was a terrible abuse of an historical monument.
Then last week I was visiting the Market Basket in Chelsea, MA., a local supermarket and as I was leaving (with an unneeded desert) there was this young boy probably around three, going out the electronic doors almost getting into the parking lot traffic. I looked around, yelled out who belongs to this kid and got no response.
I really did not know what to do. I was afraid to go up and grab the kid thinking some parent would see me near him and you know what happens next. From about 15 feet I called the kid and told him to follow me. He obviously knew to stay away from strangers and I knew to stay away from him. I sort of coaxed him into the front of the store signaling for a front end attendant from the store to come over.
A very nice young man took the kid by the hand to take him to the courtesy desk. On the way there a worker looked around and was able to spot what appeared to be his grandmother who had realized after at least 5 minutes she was missing her grandson. All ended up okay as she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to her. I think he got the message.
Then Friday, same week I went to Malden, MA on a call about multiple bee stings. I was thinking if multiple people were stung it could be a story. I got there about 20 minutes later. The Cataldo Ambulance was parked and I saw the two medical people from the ambulance walking around the forested park and I thought they were still looking for victims.
Then I noticed a young boy probably ten or so sitting on the grass near the ambulance, holding a dog and crying his eyes out. I thought he was just hurting from the stings. There was an adult watching over him and I asked him if he was alright and all he could say is his other dog was lost, begging us to please find his dog, between awful sobs. It brought tears to my eyes as I know what it is like to be missing a pet.
He described the dog to me, a medium sized brown and white dog sort of like the one he was holding onto but different color and a little bigger. I started driving around and when I got to the complete opposite side of the park I saw three people holding on to a brown and white dog. I was so excited, got out of the car and asked if they just found it.
The nicest woman told me she found the scared and bee stung dog, called the local PD and got no help. I told her the little boy who lost it was up the other end and I raced back to get him. They were so happy and I brought one of the brothers back with me to get the dog. In the meantime the boys’ mother showed up, very upset and when she realized all was well she just walked around thanking everyone who helped.
It was a nice ending to a story that could have ended very different. Crazy things when you are cruising around.
Growing up in Revere in the 50s and 60s I was friendly with a lot of cops. Most of them never had to unholster their weapon. Probably a good thing as regular target practice was not a regular practice.
It was a hot summer day, July 4th I think, around 1980, no traffic, sun shining, about 8 in the morning. I was driving down Columbia Road on the way to the office. Columbia Road separates Roxbury and Dorchester sometimes it can be a dicey area. I looked up the street to the corner of Columbia Road and Quincy Street and saw this group of 3 or 4 teenagers flipping what I thought was a football. I smiled to myself thinking, “what fun.”
Then I saw a distraught young woman standing outside of her car crying and screaming and I knew it wasn’t a football they were tossing. Yep, it was her pocketbook going from hand to hand. I put the pedal to the metal in my “Vet” (not really I had a 1975 Buick Skylark) and began the pursuit for the bad guys. I activated my siren burglar alarm so they might think I was a cop and went flying after them.
At one point I could have crushed one of the perps against one of the pillars from the railroad bridge we were going under, but thankfully I had the presence of mind not to. The group ran into a big park trying to get away.
I pulled up on the sidewalk jumped out of my car and assumed the position I saw cops do on TV, crouched down using my car as a shield. I was ready to make my capture but first I had to catch them. I reached onto my belt, grabbed my pager and made believe I had a gun. I yelled, “HALT OR I’ll SHOOT”!
My mind was racing and thinking what am I going to do if they do stop?
BANG, I mean BANG a gun went off! “WTF, was that?” I was shocked; I knew I did not shoot anything and I thought I must be in a movie and even looked at my fingers, wondering how this happened.
Did I have some mysterious powers? I was looking to see if there was smoke coming out of my fingers like watching an old cowboy movie where you could see the smoke coming out the barrel of a weapon just discharged.
Still mystified, I looked around and to my right was a tow truck with the driver out on the side of his truck and his 45-caliber pistol in the air, which he just fired. Then he runs after the kids, picks up a large rock and throws it at them, hitting one of them in the back.
I was still in shock wondering what would have happened had he struck the thieves? I have no idea if he fired at them or in the air to scare them. I looked at him, waved and left, still shaking. I would guess he returned the pocketbook to the woman after he retrieved it when they dropped it.
I continued to the office, told several people in the newsroom the story and had them laughing. Next day in the photo lab wall was a photo of the Cisco Kid, with his sombrero on, his bands of bullets hanging from his shoulders and a picture of me inserted instead of Cisco’s face. It was really funny.
But being there for gun arrests was very unusual back then. Cops did not pull guns out frequently. I can tell you there were many news photographers who never got pictures of a gun arrest. I have been very lucky that way.
My first gun arrest was a few blocks from the office when we were downtown. I got to the capture of a robbery suspect at the corner of Devonshire and Milk Streets and they had the suspect over a car. All of a sudden, one of the cops lifted the gun up and I got the shot. Could I have yelled show me the gun? I forget. Page one though.
I had a streak of about six-gun arrests in less than six months back then. It started in Peabody when reporter Bob Keeley and I were driving back to Boston and on the State Police radio I heard a BOLO about an armed robbery. Within a minute or two a cruiser spotted the truck about a mile in front of us.
We raced to the scene. The cop ordered the driver out by gunpoint and I took many photos. I had taken some really good photos and Bob ended up doing a story on the capture. Works out the suspect did not rob anyone and I don’t remember if any charges were filed. He reportedly mistakenly left a gas station without paying for gas.
During that streak I was cruising down Washington Street in what used to be called the combat zone (Washington and Beach Streets) when an incident happened and there I was taking photos of another gun arrest.
There was also the time there was a bolo for a person wanted for a stabbing or something like that as I was coming to work on my Friday morning midnight shift. All of a sudden the MDC police (now combined with State Police) spotted the wanted vehicle and chased it from the other side of Boston to about 100 feet of where I was parked.
As I was running over, the cop got out of his cruiser, gun drawn yelling for the perp to put his hands up. I ran over yelling “photographer, flash going off” as I did not want the cop to think it was a flash from a gun.
Another thing most news people don’t get to hear is the sound of gunfire and I have been at those incidents also. The scariest one was on Boston’s Fenway. I was in the Kenmore Square area when the call came in for an armed robbery on Jersey Street, near Fenway Park. It was at one of those mom and pop markets. Boston Police Office Gene O’Neil was shot at and the window of the store was blown out from the gunfire. He was not hit but it brought scores of cops and cruisers to the area.
The chase ended up on the Fenway and maybe 25 or more cops surrounded the area and there was one shot fired, then there was scores of “POP, POP, POP” sounds. It sounded like everyone with a gun was firing it. I hid behind a wall on the overpass next to a cop who stood behind his cruiser. I remember when his dispatchers called asking if he needed more help he told them “no” thinking any more cops there and who knows who will get shot.
The perp was not captured but in the spring a body of a man believed to be the suspect was found in the Muddy River where he had been chased and fired upon.
But sometimes I do use my common sense. I was working the overnight shift and there was a call for a suspect wanted for something in Brighton. BPD had him cornered in a backyard behind a building at the intersection of Commonwealth and Brighton Avenue, called Packard Square. I ran down the side of the building towards the backyard and all of a sudden a shot was fired in the backyard. I turned around and ran back to street and instead took the shot of the perp being put into the wagon. Common sense kicked it!
Yes, there it is my name is up in lights, daylights that is and don’t think I don’t love it.
I have always been a Red Sox fan. I probably went to my first game before I started remembering all that I remember. My father was a big sports fan and it trickled down to me. He used to love to go to Bruins and Red Sox games. The Celtics came to Boston long after he was a teenager so he did not see as many of those games. I remember him taking me to afternoon Celtics game; coming home and then he would take my mother and go back to the Garden to see the Bruins at night. Since he worked most weekends, it was a big deal if he was off on a Sunday. My parents especially liked when the Montreal Canadians were playing as the fans would sing French songs and the Garden would be in a festive mood.
We grew up with family all around our neighborhood and my Uncle Jack Burnim, a real Red Sox fan, would go to a Sox game every chance he had and many times offered to take me with him. The only problem with going with him is if you were with him you had to eat a hot dog almost every inning and lots of popcorn too (to mix in all the Fenway tastes). To hear his grandson, Judge David Lowy, tell the story, after a while it became torture to eat so much junk food.
Jack took us to many games; one being the Memorial Day game against the Yankees in 1961, the year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. I just Googled the box score and although I remembered all the home runs by Mantle and Maris I did not remember Bill “Moose” Skowrun’s 2 homers along with Yogi Berra hitting one that day. Mantle had 2 home runs that game, his #12 and 13 of the still-early season, and Maris hit 2 home runs, bringing his total so-far to 11. Both were well on their way to challenge Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in one season. Since that season, my standard for judging whether someone was going to break Babe Ruth’s years’ record of 60 in a season has been if the person has reached 11 or 13 homers by Memorial Day like Mantle and Maris did that year.
When I think about how mesmerized I was by Mark McGuire’s quest to break Maris’ record only to find out it was tainted; it still pisses me off. Such a big deal breaking it, but really not a big deal. That is what asterisks are for. I think most people in 1961 were rooting for Mickey Mantle to beat out Maris for Ruth’s record but an injury late in the season took him out of the running. According to the movie “61” about the chase, Mantle was rooting for Maris to pull the feat off anyway.
Going to Fenway Park was an easy task when you grew up in Revere. When there was nothing to do you could always hop on the train at Revere Beach Station, ride to Government Center (it was called Scollay Square back then) transfer or walk to get to Park Street Station and then get the trolley to Kenmore Square. You had to make sure you got the right trolley otherwise you ended up in never, never land somewhere off of Huntington Avenue and no one from Revere would know where they were.
Of course you probably would not have walked from Scollay Square, as it would have been another fee of a nickel to get back on a train at a different stop. Those trolleys were great back then; you would rock and roll all the way there. The old cars were shaky, crowded and not air-conditioned. Can you imagine a non air-conditioned train after spending the day in the hot sun at Fenway, not fun! After a day game we would go to the Kenmore Hotel to the little ice cream parlor and get a delicious Sundae (and I mean delicious) costing a quarter.
Any night a crew of us hanging around in the 50s and 60s could go to Fenway watch Dick Raddatz mow them down along with the other 10,000 people who may be in attendance. Jim Piersal, a long time Red Sox center fielder, visited our local grocery store, Arthur’s Creamery, while endorsing a chocolate drink and, yes, I got his autograph.
Tom Yawkey was probably the only reason the Red Sox stayed in Boston with the small crowds in attendance. It all changed in 1967, the “Impossible Dream Year” when sellouts became normal business. Back then, there were no playoffs, you were the best team in baseball in your league or you ended your season when the season ended. With the two number one teams playing the World Series you got the best of the best, at least supposedly.
Dick Williams showed up as manager in 1967 and things just came together. I did not cover any of the games as a photographer but I had a press pass and could go to any game I wanted and sit in the photographer’s box. I did not take as much advantage of the perk as I should have. This was before the photographer’s box next to their dugout. Everything was shot from above or you floated around looking for an aisle seat. A big treat going to a game with the press pass was to be able to eat in the press lunchroom, where there was delicious food and it was free. A tip of $1.00 was the standard and where could you eat as much as you want of good food for a buck.
The weekend the Red Sox won the pennant in 1967 everyone was working. I was in the lab at the paper. We were playing the Minnesota Twins and had to win both Saturday and Sunday’s game while one of the other teams in the league lost. I was very busy with many rolls of film being shipped in to make our many editions. Then it was over, the Sox won and John Landers had a great photo of Jim Lonborg being carried off the field on his teammate’s shoulders after beating the great pitcher Dean Chance in what you could call a non-playoff, playoff game, winner take all.
I went with photographer Kevin Cole to St. Louis for the World Series that year. I never got to the park as I worked out of the St. Louis Post Dispatch doing all of Kevin’s lab work and transmitting over 60 photos back to Boston to be used in our editions. Kevin did his usual great job catching all the action.
Earlier in the season Lonborg got engaged and the hunt for his fiancé was on and I was on the chase. There I was at Fenway Park looking for his fiancé, not knowing where to look, all of a sudden a car pulls up by the player’s entrance, Lonborg gets out of the car and she was driving. Very graciously, she held up her hand to display her ring. I probably yelled out asking her to hold up her hand, thankfully I knew which hand the ring was on and if you were driving the left hand is on the window side. Lonborg did not marry this woman, and went on to be a South Shore area dentist. I have never seen him again in person.
When Ken “Hawk” Harrelson (now the Chicago White Sox announcer) had his cast removed from leg injury I was at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital and asked him to throw the cast away for the camera. He was a very media savvy athlete. Harrelson came to the Red Sox during their Pennant drive to replace the injured Tony Conigliaro.
In the Conigliaro era there was always something going on. Whatever he did we did. There was the night he got into a car accident in Somerville and was taken to the hospital. Then I was covering his younger brother Richie playing football for Swampscott High School and the whole Conigliaro family was there. I was assigned to show everyone. I was taking some photos of the family and Tony came playfully charging at me like he was going to tackle me. Of course, I wasn’t sure whether or not he would throw me to the ground so I moved out of the way. I met his brother Billy several times as he was in high school with a friend of mine from Swampscott, Susan Feldman.
In 1975, when Carleton Fisk hit is game winning home run against Cincinnati in the World Series I was in the photographer’s box shooting color film watching Fisk waving his home run ball fair. I ran out on the field with everyone else and it was fun. Still haven’t found those slides.
Bucky Dent hits his game winning 3 run homer and I was the floater for the one game playoff with the Yankees in 1978. I was walking around trying to get “different photos” for the later editions. I was behind the home plate screen taking photos of Mike Torrez pitching and keeping an eye on his wife Danielle who also behind the backstop. Dent came up to the plate and hit his blast and the Red Sox season was over. Danielle knew it also and I had this really good photo of her expression, which got a one column cut in the paper. The front-page headline the next day was this very, very, very small type, which said “Red Sox Lose” and you were not a baseball fan you would not have noticed. Sam Cohen our great sports editor always had great ideas to be different.
Of course there was Bill Lee, Red Sox pitcher; talk about someone who danced to his own drummer! Must have been a Wednesday night when he walked off the team or something like that as I was working and I was dispatched to his Belmont home to get a shot of him. I was in front of his house when he came jogging up the street. I stood there and took some photos of him arriving, followed him down the driveway and of course he knew I was taking his photo as he acknowledged my presence. Next week I heard from Jerry Buckley the Red Sox photographer back then that Lee had said he was stalked and I came out behind the bushes to get his photo. Two sides to a story, he was dancing as far as I was concerned.
When Oil Can Boyd (a Red Sox pitcher) flipped his lid so to speak reporter Ron Gollobin and I were sent to his Chelsea apartment trying to seek him out for whatever he wanted to say. It did not go to well. He came out the door, spotted us and took steps towards us. He was yelling at me flaying his arms and Gollobin stepped between us. He created a real photo opp. In that same era while honeymooning in Hawaii I bumped into the very friendly Dwight Evans and his wife vacationing there.
There were many sidebars through my years of Red Sox coverage. There were the 4 people murdered at Sammy White’s Bowling Alley, September 22, 1980 in Brighton. The former Red Sox catcher owned the alley. I was outside when the police investigation was taking place and got a photo of a distraught relative waiting for word from the Boston Police.
In 1986, Red Sox vs. the Mets for the World Series, everyone was excited. I was with reporter Susan Wornick, Neil Ungerlieder (now head of our internet site, “thebostonchannel.com) and Channel Five Berraneck Fellow, Rebecca Rowlings. We were doing a story about the prostitutes doing business in Boston. We pulled over on Washington Street near the former Wang Theatre to watch the end of the game, as my company car was equipped with a TV.
Neil who is a very big Red Sox fan commented, “the Red Sox are going to win a World Series!” We were very intent watching; knowing if they won our story would change to local celebrations. Then it happened, Bill Buckner missed the grounder to first in the tenth inning after the Red Sox were up 3 to 2 in games and everything unfolded. It was over, and all that was left was the Red Sox to try and recover the next night. We all know what happened after that, it took 18 more years to finally win a World Series bringing the total up to 86 years between championships.
I was at Fenway Park when the Red Sox came home in the early morning hours. In those days we were a welcome sight to the players and had good access to the bus and the players. Pitcher Bob “Steamer” Stanley one of the nicest athletics you could ever meet got off the bus and there was a fan yelling, “Bob you’re the best!” It was just after the ongoing controversy of whether he threw a wild pitch or the catcher Rich Gedman had a passed ball. Most think it was a passed ball but he took the hit graciously. A little name-dropping here, his daughter Kristin worked at Channel Five as a producer and I went to her wedding in 2010.
After that there was the time reporter Jack Harper and I went into the Red Sox dressing room, before yellow tape, when all you needed to do was show up at Fenway show your Fenway Pass and walk around including the locker room. We walked in and there were a couple of players sitting there (must have been after the “86” loss) including Jim Rice. Everyone knew Mr. Rice did not like the media back then. If looks could kill Jack and I would not be here now.
Today, I do very little Red Sox coverage although I was there in the 90s after they won the Pennant by beating the Angels in the playoffs, ran out on the field with everyone else to the pitcher’s mound for the celebration and got excellent video. I covered the local celebrations after they won the Series in 04 and 07 and hope they do it again while I am still working.
But my highlight of Fenway will always be getting my birthday wish up on the bleacher screen unless I ever get to throw out the first pitch and make a fool out of myself when I cannot reach the plate.
Each morning as I watch my 13-year-old dog Lily fading into the next phase of life I can only hope she will make it easy on me in the end. She is suffering from dementia. Yea, you think only humans have dementia, well you are incorrect. She is eating well and taking her business outside. It is her fogged, confused look, which is very painful to see.
I have always had a dog. Growing up we had our first family dog, Peachy, (imagine giving a pet that name now) a Fox Terrier. We bought her at Puppy Haven, a dog mill on Route One in Saugus. Funny thing, it was located about fifty feet from where Hooter’s now stands.
She was a great dog, only bit me once, then my father bit her. She never bit anyone again. She was also my best friend who died when I was about 13. One day we were all sitting on the front porch and I saw a rodent walking across the street. Peachy was off and running. Little did I know it was a rat? Peachy knew and practically jumped over a four-foot chain link fence to grab it, snap it up and down, till my father was able to corral our dog and take her home. I was always told that terriers were tough and she proved it.
When my daughter Molly was in elementary school we ended up with two white rats from her school project. Our pets only got to drool over them as they watched them in our rat aquarium. It was lots of fun holding them to clean their cage, ugh.
After that we had a Cocker Spaniel we called Sparky. He was crazy and kept taking off or should we say running away. Sparky had an ID on him so we would always go and retrieve him. He always ended up with families with kids. The last time he ran away my father saw how happy he was with a house full of kids. He went home, got Sparky’s bowl and dog food and said good-bye.
My next dog as a kid was Tammy, a Wirehair Terrier. What a great dog she was. She lived till I was in my late 20s. Once again my father had to take our dog to our vet Dr. Barry to take her out of her misery.
In 1975 I got my first dog as an adult. I had seen an old friend, Michael Weisberg walking a litter of Golden Retrievers on Revere Beach. I asked him about them and three months later I picked her up during the long Thanksgiving weekend. What fun! When I went to bed that night I looked down at her lying next to my bed and told her when she is ten, I will be 40.
I named her Glossy (like in pictures) and without her I would never have met my wonderful wife Debbie. I used to take Glossy to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain every morning. Glossy was a very smart dog and fell in love with a puppy named Abby. Lucky for me at the other end of the leash was Debbie. Now I am at the other end of her leash. What a find Glossy made.
We had to put up a kid’s gate to keep these two large dogs from sleeping in the bed with us. The day we took Glossy to the vet for her last visit we were so sad we went out and bought a new car. What the heck, we were sad, no kids and two jobs, why not soften the pain?
32 years and many pets later we still have too many pets. At one time we had four dogs, Abby, Glossy, Hobo and Candy. Hobo arrived at my door one fall afternoon and I could not shoo him away. About 4:30 that afternoon I got a call from someone at the Herald where I was working, telling me I had hit the bookie for $4730.00 on the daily number.
I went outside to see if that dog was still there, picked him up in my arms and gave him a big hug. Next day we went to the vet, found out he had heartworm. I gave the Vet a bunch of 50-dollar bills and asked Dr. Duka to try and cure him. He would and the wonderful dog we named Hobo was with us for many years.
The only problem with Hobo is when we had babies and they moved too fast he would attack, not bite but grab their pant legs or whatever they had on, it was like a dog chasing a car. He hated the baby walker as Molly used to buzz around the house with Hobo chasing after her.
When were able to keep the kids in a playpen Molly would share her bottle of milk with him. She hung the bottle out for him and he would grab onto the nipple, the same one she was drinking from. If we ever told anyone about that we probably would have been charged with child endangerment.
Then there was Candy, a Toy Poodle, who we got from my sister Renee after she moved into a complex that did not allow pets. Candy was 8 years old but lived till she was almost 17. Before kids Candy was Debbie’s baby. She would bark till Debbie carried her around in her arms. We owned a two family house at that time; both of us worked and one day our tenant said, “what are you going to do to keep that dog quiet?” I said, “nothing, we own the house,” and suggested they bring her to their apartment during the day.
Eventually I had put all four of them to “sleep,” in a 15-year span. My good friend Nat Whittemore once told me to bury your dog in your heart and get another one. We never have to rush to get another one, as we always seem to have multiple dogs.
Another day my mother in-law Barbara told us about a beautiful Standard Poodle named Vanilla, who needed a new home. What a handsome, smart dog. He loved the kids and us but developed a bad skin infection. So there I was bathing him in the bathtub at least twice a week.
Before that we adopted Cindy, a Greyhound, who could not catch the rabbit at the racetrack so instead she caught us at a weak moment. Sort of a nice dog, very fast, not exactly a lap dog. She also had terrible breath and we had to remove some of her rotted teeth. So Vanilla had a smelly body and Cindy had bad breath, no wonder other dogs did not want to play with us.
Somewhere in between cats and dogs my father got a parakeet. My father was sickly and wanted to make sure my mother had company after he passed on. His favorite desert was Twinkies (they are about to be gone also) thus she was named Twinkie. After my father died my mother gave us Twinkie. Whatever cats we had at that time lusted after Twinkie as did the dogs.
One day on my way to work Debbie called me to tell me Twinkie was gone, lying on the bottom of the cage. I raced home, grabbed her, a shovel and went out to the backyard. It took at least two weeks before either of the girls asked where Twinkie was.
I had seen a Shar Pei on the TV program NYPD Blue and fell in love with their wrinkles. I had hit the number again; actually I hit it three times that week, no not for a lot of money about $600.00 so the search was on. Many calls later I ended up at the southern tip of Rhode Island to bring home Sable. I brought her home and we put up a gate to keep her away from our babies. First night over the gate she goes to get to the kids. No problem she was just another baby girl in our house.
When Molly was six she convinced us to get a cat. The deal was if she would stop sucking her thumb for a month we would bring a cat into the house. His name was Jessie, (now called Lewis). Great first cat, had very little to do with us till we brought our second cat Pumpkin home.
Pumpkin knew about affection and Lewis learned from her. But of course Pumpkin never came out of our bedrooms as Vanilla cornered her one-day while trying to play and scared the heck out of her. Whenever she would hear the dogs bark she would hide under a bed. She usually slept with us, nuzzled against Debbie’s neck.
Sometime after Sable and Cindy were gone we all made our way back to Rhode Island to get another Shar Pei, our Lily. Lily liked to chase cats although now she doesn’t chase much of anything anymore. But it was constant effort to get her to leave them alone. Now that she has slowed down the cats like her
In another weak moment after Vanilla was gone we got Jack. Jack is a Golden Doodle, who loves everyone. Plays with the cats, used to wrestle with Lily every morning after breakfast and walks with me everyday.
Last year we lost Pumpkin. We woke up one morning and she could not get her head out of the water bowl, almost drowning. She had some kind of major body failure and once again I had to stand there and hold a pet while she was put to sleep.
Don’t worry we replaced her with two kittens who were not used to dogs or other cats. They were rescued from two different locations and ended up together at the shelter and had to be adopted together. We could not resist. We kept them in the family room with the doors closed to keep the other animals from them for almost four months. Another reason was to keep our dominant mean cat Sophie from torturing them. Oh yea, we got Sophie during another weak moment.
The good thing about Zoe and Chloe is our daughter Hannah is going to take them once she gets an apartment where she can have pets. Of course she will have to ask the cats if they want to go. Zoe and Chloe are still very shy although Zoe follows me everywhere and Chloe runs whenever she sees me. Lately she is letting me pat her but that is when I am going to feed her.
If there were a nursing home for dogs Lily would be in it. She already lives in assisted living. Every morning when I get up Jack and the cats greet me. I have to wake Lily up, shake her, and then make sure she watches me so she knows she is going out. She is stone deaf, I am only hard of hearing so I sort of know what she is going through. Then she forgets which way the door opens and is always in the way.
It doesn’t look like a good year for a couple of my pets. Most days I have to massage our 17-year-old cat Lewis’ hips as he drags himself around the house with his hindquarters dragging. Then Lilly is a state of confusion but continues to eat and play once she figures out where she is, but the confusion grows.
Painful to look at our aging pets then look in the mirror and realize I am aging along with them. No one ever said life was easy!
It all started for the cops around 5:30 pm when off duty Beverly Police Officer Jason Lantych was coming out of Starbucks and was confronted by an off duty Hamilton Sargent Kenneth Nagy. Hamilton is a neighboring town of Beverly. Sargent Nagy shot the Beverly Officer in the upper leg, described by some as the groin area, let your imagination run with that? Then the search was on.
If I was home I would have been maybe 3 minutes from the scene but my wife and I had just arrived at the Hale Street Tavern, on the other side of Beverly. We were meeting our friends Cindy and Paul Chasse for dinner. Before I got out of the car I decided to take my informational pager off my belt and leave it in the car. I figured I was on a personal day off and did not want to be bothered. What a mistake that was which I stated while we were having dinner when the calls kept coming in.
Then I got my first call as we were about to be seated. It was about a shooting at a Beverly Plaza, then another call, this time describing it as a bank robbery gone badly with a cop shooting the bad guy. Wrong information, except that a cop had done the shooting. One of the calls said it was a domestic between two cops. All of us at the table were letting our imagination run wild trying to figure out how it could be a domestic shooting between two male cops. Only the interest from everyone at the table because of the Beverly location sort of saved me from ruining dinner with my distractions.
The calls, texts, Nextel chirps kept coming in (thankfully for me) in spite of the looks my wife Debbie was giving me, I had to answer them. We find it rude when people are at a restaurant and talk on the phone, but this was about a cop shooting and at that time I did not know all the details.
For the next two hours I heard from several sources including the office calling several times. When one source told me it was cop on cop I really started wondering if I could just leave? I did that once before at a restaurant many years ago and there was no conversation in the house for a few days. That was also a cop shooting many years ago.
We did get to enjoy the meal and a great dessert as I kept wondering if I would be able to work the story after dinner. One call from Susan Griffin on the desk, after the suspect had been spotted in Beverly, wondered if I could just take Debbie and go?
It wasn’t over when we left and I left my wonderful wife off at home and sped to the scene. Once I was out and listening to the radios I kept thinking about some of the BOLOS on the suspect cop, one mentioning there was a suicide note. Would he return to the scene and do a suicide by cop? I had envisioned he would pull up, drive through the crime scene tape, get out of his car with his gun out and let it happen.
Reporter Sean Kelly told me he kept thinking the suspect would return as he was doing his live shot. Photographer Tim Devlin showed up with his bulletproof vest on, but he took it off as the night wore on. Our third photographer, David Buswell-Wible also thought he might return so we were unanimous in our thoughts.
Nothing was happening, no sightings just BOLOs on the car description and mentioning he was a cop, armed, dangerous and he had left a suicide note, which we could not confirm. Any cop who heard that must have thought he did not want to be the one to grant him his wish.
Then around 10:30 as all the TV crews had either done their ten o’clock live shots or were getting ready for their eleven, I heard a Beverly cop ask for the license plate again. After it was given he said, “he just pulled in behind the shooting scene, by the Garden City Pub!”
My adrenaline went wild I was in my car and moved it about 40 yards to where I should not have been which was about 40 feet from the car. Sean who got called by the office, said it was the fastest he ever jumped out of our NewStar Truck. He looked over and saw where my car was told the desk I might be in the cop’s lap.
I rolled down the car windows so when I got out hugging the car for protection I would be able to hear what the cops were saying from the radio traffic on my scanners. My phone rang several times from people listening to their scanners and I kept picking it up and hanging it up till I finally yelled, “leave me alone!” I had enough to do just trying to stay safe and be there for the finish.
It was chaotic as cops with their guns drawn circled the area and at first glance they did not see anyone in the car. More cops, more guns and cops screaming at me to get out from where I was. State Police had at Ieast ten heavily armed troopers in the back within seconds.
I got back in my car hoping no one would see me, shooting video through the window, as the perimeter got tighter. At one point he was thought to be on the railroad tracks, which backed up to where his car was. So they widened their search while I kept trying to keep up with everything going on. If there was to be a shootout I wanted it in my video.
I was so excited and yet tried to maintain some sort of calmness, keeping my camera running even when I was not shooting a specific scene. If there were gunshots going off I needed to hear them on my tape. I kept getting yelled at by cops and kept moving my position, thinking what am I nuts, I could be in the line of fire or worst yet in his line of fire. You know if he shot a cop, a newsman would be no problem!
Then it ended less than ten minutes later as someone took a closer look in the car. State Police said he was on a “Code Four,” which means dead. From the video I saw of the victim it appeared he put the driver’s seat back and pulled the trigger. Thankfully all we could see on Tim’s tape was his hands by his side sitting in the car as his upper torso was out of sight.
What a night and one I will not be forgetting anytime soon.