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.
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.
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.
November 22, 1966, first day on the job, my job for life.
Reported at 7 am for an 8 o’clock shift, Morris Ostroff, the man in charge of the lab, comes in at 8 smoking a cigar as long as he is tall.
Morris hands me an apron, sponge and states, “follow me.” It is my job to keep the 5 wet darkrooms clean, make sure the chemicals are fresh and bring Morris’ daily play of numbers to his bookie. I learned how to play the numbers in more ways than I already played it.
It is three years after the assassination of JFK and I hear the story of how the paper put out a extra edition of the shooting and when the paper hit the streets the headline was okay but the first editions did not have the story inside the paper. It was corrected quickly.
Less than a month on the job I had my first big story, 8 dead after a gasoline tanker and a commuter rail train collide on the Everett/Chelsea line. I owned the paper and resentment for my 24/7 work habits irked my fellow photographers. Nothing has changed 45 plus years later. Won my first contest with the page one photo.
During the turbulent 60s there was always something to cover. We had hurricanes, blizzards, nor’easters, flooding and any other havoc weather could play.
There was draft card burnings, the Pentagon Papers with Daniel Ellsberg at the Boston federal building along with many anti Vietnam War demonstrations which many times led to riots.
Martin Luther King’s assassination and the reactions of the Boston people. Bobby Kennedy’s murder with coverage locally and nationally.
William Randolph Hearst, Jr., dropping in to use the phones while on a visit to one of his children attending a Boston school. He told the city desk he was not there if anyone was looking for him, especially his wife. Long before cell phones were even thought of.
Working with Sam Cohen the sports editor who in his reporting days walked out of a Jack Dempsey press conference at the old Boston Garden after Dempsey made an anti-Semitic remark. Cohen also held out the great Ray Lussier photo of Bobby Orr scoring the winning goal to win the Stanley Cup to get an extra day of newspaper purchasing for souvenirs.
Red Sox “Impossible Dream” 1967, got them to the World Series!
Listening to overnight city editor John Bishop talk about the executions he covered at Cherry Hill Prison in Charlestown.
Morris Ostroff telling how he stood outside the prison with his 4/5 graphic camera and flash powder waiting for the hearse with the bodies of Saco and Vanzetti.
Watching copy editor, Eddy Gray reading and pasting the wire copy of the Sharon Tate murder in August of 1969. Tate was married to Roman Polanski whose saga is still being played out and her murderer Charles Manson is still in a California Prison.
Hippies in the Boston Common with the marijuana smokers blowing the weed smoke in everybody’s face including the cops.
BPD used to send in their TPF squads with riot sticks and canines and thankfully the dog that was running behind me just missed as I could hear the growling and managed to keep him inches away from losing part of my butt.
I had the same thing happen in Methuen, MA covering the floods along the Merrimack River. I walked into a backyard and saw the doghouse and a chain laced inside it. I knew to start running and the only thing that saved me was the chain was shorter than my footsteps were long. Just think, twice I beat the nickname half ass instead of ass—-. I covered all types of crime when crime ruled the pages of the local newspapers and I didn’t get beat often.
While covering Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick fatal car crash in 1969 I stayed at the Harborside Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard ate steak and eggs for breakfast and lobster and steak for dinner and I only had to sign for it.
I was sent down there for 1 day and ended up staying for ten. I learned how to wash my clothes in a sink till my parents put some clothes for me on an airplane.
Martha’s Vineyard was the last place I drank vodka as on a Saturday afternoon starting around 4 pm I started drinking Bloody Mary’s with the best celery stalks ever, laid down at six and was for the most part paralyzed for 24 hours. Of course, at six the paper was looking for my photos which I did not have till I dragged myself down to the ferry dock and captured the page one image.
One of the funnier incidents in the building was when I set up a very nosy photographer. We all knew he was reading our mail and or notes in our little cubby mailboxes in the photo department. I put a note on my mailbox addressed to me and taped it to the opening. I left enough of an opening so he could read it. My note was to him and I wrote things about his snooping calling him, well, I cannot repeat it. Best part was he could not say anything.
I did the same thing at Channel Five when another photographer I worked with liked checking all our mailboxes. We have a seniority shift pick at the station thus I worked evenings for many years. To get him I put a note in my mailbox directed to the news director Emily Rooney, thanking her for putting me in a better shift. I said, “I am sure this will be upsetting to this photographer, but I appreciated it. Within a day the photographer went in complaining and of course Emily did not know what he was talking about. In this case the photographer came up to me and admitted, “You got me!”
On Saturday nights we used to set up a wood plank between two chairs and have a feast of Chinese food from the House of Roy in Chinatown.
The Christmas Eve that photographer Carroll Myett lite himself on fire using rubbery cement to seal his falling apart shoes.
Then of course there was the great photographer Gene Dixon who had gotten from the joke store these little plastic shaped molds, which looked like dog poop. Usually on Saturdays when the bosses left he would plant them around the building for the custodian Frank to find. Then one Saturday night Frank saw what he thought was one of Gene’s toys, reach down to scoop it with his hands and you know the rest, Gene had brought his dog to work that night.
When we moved to 300 Harrison Avenue in Boston’s South End I don’t think anyone regretted the move. A newer building, parking, air conditioning and a chance to compete with a bigger staff.
At our new building we had a much larger newsroom, more offices for different departments and more enlargers to print our pictures.
We were now a broadsheet newspaper for almost 10 years and the bigger the paper the more copy we needed, very exciting.
For me, this building is packed with memories also, but with an escalator instead of a shaky elevator. Wow when I think of the old elevator at 5 Winthrop Square, scary.
There was the day I was pulling out from the front of the building and struck a young kid on a bike. He was not injured but his bike suffered fatal injuries. I gave him $100.00 and took him and the bike home to his parents.
At the old building, I also had a commuter end up on my hood after the sun’s glare blinded me. He was also not injured and would not even let me buy him a cup of coffee. He must have been jay walking.
Tom Sullivan, our Saturday city editor, running down to the photo department yelling place crash at Logan “everybody go!” It was a cargo plane, which crashed, and six dead.
The same Tom Sullivan standing there in his pajamas after the editor of the paper had called looking for him before his shift ended and he had to come in from home to answer the phone the next time Sam Bornstein, the editor called.
Eddie Gray the copy editor, lighting the wastebasket on fire as he flipped his cigar ashes as he edited copy.
Editor Sam Bornstein, yelling at a copy person because he did not get the cream cheese spread on his bagel.
How many times did I run out of the newsroom, down the steps to jump in my car racing to a story, including the fire escape collapse? Probably always looking foolish but it worked for me.
I worked with the best news people there was in Boston starting with the old rewrite system when reporters called in their stories and someone was there to rewrite it for our many editions. As the years went on there were more reporters writing their own copy.
I could list so many great news people but I know I would leave some out so I will take a pass.
Ed. Note: I was motivated to write this after Joe Fitzgerald, long time writer, both sports and news of the Herald did a remembrance of 300 Harrison Avenue after they moved to that office building I mention. A lot of the people and incidents I mention have a more in-depth story in my other blogs.
Link to Joe Fitzgerald column:
In the last 12 years I have covered the funeral of six Worcester Firefighters. Five of the six died at the Cold Storage Warehouse fire on December 6, 1999 and the sixth one was last week, just two days after the 12th anniversary of that awful fatal fire. Six firefighters died in the Cold Storage fire in 1999 and I would have covered all of them except one of the funerals was on Saturday. I was the pool for most or all of them due to my connections with the Boston Fire Department who helped set up their services in 1999. For this funeral they assisted and brought their ramp for placing the casket on top of a piece of apparatus and for the attendants to carry it into the church and the gravesite.
I am always reminded from a speech Boston Firefighters Local 718 President Neal Santangelo gave many years ago as he addressed the new firefighters at their swearing in. He said, “We will help you to be safe and in the end we will bury you.” I thought that day how scary for the new Jakes, who have not even been to a real fire and were already receiving notice of the reality of the job.
This funeral was no different than the many I have covered through the years, not just in Worcester but many of the cities and towns around our coverage area. Many memories of firefighter funerals stick out in my mind. In 1972, when the Vendome Hotel Collapsed killing 8 Boston Firefighters, I can remember covering the funeral with all the caskets lined up at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End. In Clinton, the wife of a firefighter killed in the line of duty, wearing her somber black dress, coming down the steps of the Church on that freezing cold day with her husband’s charred helmet in her hands. In Stoughton, the same thing, another helmet being clutched tightly in the hands of a firefighter.
Coming back to last week in Worcester, I watched the helmet of fallen firefighter Jon Davies being carried by his partner on the Rescue, Brain Carroll, who was also caught in the collapse. He escaped serious injury after being pulled from the rubble after being trapped for at least 45 minutes. He spent less than 48 hours in the hospital. How pained he must have been as he followed the fire truck with the casket of Davies being brought to his final resting place. He might have been wondering why Jon and not me and his eulogy certainly expressed the emotions he was going through.
The day of the incident reporter Kelly Tuthill and I set up at the Worcester Firefighter’s Memorial to watch and talk to people coming to pay their respects. We got a terrific interview from a high school friend of Davies who was in the area when he found out and stopped to say a prayer. The saddest one I saw was a woman who just hugged the memorial statue while crying. I had assumed it was someone from the families of the 1999 fire and her emotions had been stirred by the new death. I watched her for a few minutes not bringing my camera over, as I knew I could not tape the scene without putting the light on and upsetting her. I did go up and ask if I could help her and was told no thank you. Turns out she was the fiancée of the victim.
The wake itself was routine as the media set up across the street from the funeral home, shooting whatever was going on as folks walked into to give their condolences or maybe to say a prayer. Then the mood changed, at least for me. Deputy Chief Frank Diliddo came over right before our five o’clock live shot to tell us about an eleven-year-old boy, Jared Flanders who rode his bike to the wake to pay his respects. He was seen sitting in the third row and people were wondering who he was. He had come on his own, learned to put his tie on by reading instructions from a book, and said he wanted to be there because he really liked firefighters.
We interviewed the boy and strangely enough when reporters asked him if he wanted to be a firefighter he said it was third on his list, picking a lawyer first. He came to be the Worcester Fire Department’s goodwill person and the department treated him as well as would be expected. The police drove him home that night and next day he was a guest of the fire department, arriving in the scuba team truck to attend the services. The boy then got to march with the bagpipes band in the front row as the firefighters left the Church. There was saluting as the boy marched the route with them. It was a very uplifting moment in an otherwise very sad story.
My assignment was to cover the procession for Jack’s Harper’s pieces later in the show, as he was live during the church service. As usual, he did a great job during the live show, as I went up and down the streets trying to get video for him and stills for our website. I did very well; taking some good stills and getting some of the video, which was needed. Jack had a smorgasbord of video as our coverage was everywhere and he did a great job summarizing the service in his later pieces that day.
Jack alerted me the firefighter carrying the helmet was Firefighter Brian Carroll. I spent the next 20 minutes following the engine company with the casket on it looking for a clear shot of Carroll. I spotted the young boy marching, and then the apparatus and then Firefighter Carroll came into view holding the helmet.
At the end of firefighter services, a fire department member rings a very shiny bell. They ring 1–1, 1–1, then again 1–1, 1–1, the “all-out” signal to an alarm of fire. Sadly, on this day the “all-out” call was not to signify the end of a fire, but instead was a somber reminder that for Firefighter Jon Davies, the final “all-out” has been sounded.
Additional Information on the Worcester Six from December 6, 1999 from Robert Winston, Boston Fire District Chief, retired. A friend of mine from his BFD days.
Camaraderie Under Fire: A Remembrance of the Worcester Tragedy
It was December 3, 1999 when an abandoned cavernous warehouse was set afire by two homeless people who “lived” in the hulking structure. This was the Worcester Cold and Storage Warehouse that was located in the City of Worcester, Massachusetts. The scene of this fire was to become one of fiery collapse, death, heartache, heroism, and camaraderie under the most extreme firefighting conditions.
The homeless man made sexual advances to his girl friend and she had rebuffed his suggestions. He became angry and the two were arguing and throwing things. They were using candles for light and one of the lighted candles was knocked into a pile of debris that quickly ignited. The fire spread as the two squatters fled into the cold night air leaving the fire to grow into what would become one of the worst Line Of Duty (fire service) Deaths (LODD) in the history of the Worcester Fire Department.
Firefighters in many fire engines responded to the growing fire. More aid was called to the scene as it became obvious to the chief in charge that this was no routine fire-fight. Heavy smoke turned to visible flames as the fire ate through the nearly windowless ark of a structure. Inside were many firefighters straining to extinguish the flames. The interior was a maze of darkened rooms and corridors. Six floors of them! Debris was scattered everywhere adding to the difficulties of searching blindly to find the seat of the fire and being able to exit the building in a hurry if needed.
A number of Firefighters became disoriented in the smoke, heat and darkness. They radioed for help. Brother firefighters entered the burning building to try and rescue their now trapped comrades. Time after time these rugged firefighting veterans made dangerous and heroic attempts to find their colleagues. It was no use.
The fire had been eating away at the strength of the brick and wood edifice. It started to collapse. The fire chief in command ordered all firefighters to stop rescue attempts and to vacate the fire building. Six Worcester Firefighters would perish this night despite the Herculean efforts of a small army of firefighters. Recovery of their bodies would last for an arduous somber eight days and nights.
The call went out across the New England region for assistance to respond to Worcester. Many emergency and non-emergency personnel turned out to help. They came by the hundreds to stand with and work with their brother and sister firefighters until the difficult and honorable task of recovery was completed.
The City of Boston Fire Department immediately sent personnel and equipment to the tragic scene. I was one of the many that were sent. My role was one of the safety operational sector chiefs. Those of us that were assigned that task would check for safety issues, look for hazards and prevent any further injuries or deaths. Prior to our arrival at the warehouse fire tragedy, we were given a briefing that included specific instructions and alerted us that the Worcester Firefighters were under severe emotional stress. We were told that tempers may be short and to use tact and to be sensitive to the raw emotions being experienced by the Worcester Firefighters.
It was the second night of the eight nights of recovery operations. The warehouse roof, floors and two exterior walls had fallen and were now huge piles of smoldering debris. The danger of additional structural collapse and of firefighters falling through burned out floors haunted us. The safety officers were kept busy and were vigilant. Injury or worse was at every step.
As I was surveying a section of the building I noticed that a Worcester Fire Lieutenant was standing in a very dangerous location. Debris was loosely dangling above him. I approached the man to warn him of the situation. He was a tall lean guy. Much taller than I. His face was black with soot and his eyes were red and swollen. He looked very tired and tense. I tried to warn him, as delicately as I could, that he was in a dangerous spot. What we were cautioned about prior to our arrival at this fire was about to happen. The Lieutenant became angry with me and got in my face. He didn’t care what rank I was or that I was looking out for his safety. Angry emotion packed words were hurled at me. I tried to reason with him to no avail. A Worcester Chief Officer was standing nearby and saw and heard what was happening. He immediately positioned himself between the lieutenant and myself and defused what could have become an ugly situation. I explained the reason why I had tried to talk to his lieutenant and then I pointed upwards to the hanging debris. The chief understood, apologized to me and assured me that he’d talk to his lieutenant. We both knew and understood how tempers can flare under the unprecedented stressful circumstances that we were all caught up in.
Eight days had passed since the fire began. I had returned to the scene and was again assigned as a safety operational sector chief. The pile of smoldering debris that was once this old warehouse had been reduced in size and fully extinguished. Five of Worcester’s Bravest had been recovered. One was still buried somewhere in the remaining mounds of twisted steel, burned wood and bricks. As I surveyed the scene I noticed the lieutenant that I had the earlier encounter with. He was searching some rubble. I inquired about him and was told that he had been at the scene from the fire’s start and had refused to go home for eight days and nights.
The cold day turned into a very cold and windy December night as recovery operations continued for the last firefighter. Firefighter Paul Brotherton’s body was located under one of the many mounds of bricks and charred wood. His precise and somber removal from the debris will be a picture in my mind’s eye that I will never forget.
It was so cold and dark and quiet as Firefighter Brotherton’s body was taken away in an ambulance. The sad task of recovery was finally over that night. The healing could begin.
There was a large crowd of people standing quietly beyond the yellow safety tape that surrounded the ruins. Hundreds of firefighters formed two parallel lines leading from the destroyed building out to the crowd of onlookers. The Worcester Firefighters climbed down from the piles of debris and slowly walked between the two rows of firefighters who had come from other fire departments. As the Worcester Firefighters passed by us we saluted them, applauded them, shook their hands and some gave hugs. One by one they filed through the rows. A walk of honor and consolation.
I barely recognized the lieutenant whom I encountered days before. It was his height that caused me to look harder at him than at his brothers. His face was now gaunt, blackened and the eyes were red and sunken. We looked at each other. He recognized me and stopped walking. It was more like a slow shuffle. I shook his hand first. Then the lieutenant literally collapsed into my arms. We embraced each other as only firefighters can do at a time like this and he began to sob. Even through our heavy wet protective firefighter’s gear he felt frail and unsteady. Tears stained our faces as we looked at each other. Unbelievably this exhausted weary fire lieutenant apologized to me. I was sort of…stunned. I told him that it was okay, gave him my condolences for his losses and hugged the man again. I watched him as he walked away shoulder to shoulder with his comrades.
I never saw the man again. I have thought of him from time to time when the memory of the Worcester Tragedy comes back to me or when I see the word “camaraderie.”
Robert M. Winston
Boston District Fire Chief-Retired
43 plus years later I received two emails about a photo I took in 1968. Probably my favorite welcome home photo. It was before huge gates rolled to the planes or the plane came to the terminal to unload its passengers. It was when you could stand on the tarmac and it could be bitter cold but the warmth of watching what was happening in front of you warmed you up better than a hot tub.
Hi Stanley, No you don’t know me but I am the wife of the soldier you photographed back in 1968 at Logan Airport. “Welcome Home My Son” was the caption that made the front page of the Record American. Just want to say Thank You for the memories!! Although the newspaper is quite old we still show it to our grandkids all the time. You we’re one hell of a guy then and I’m sure you still are. Thank You and God bless you. Donna Lovetere
Hi Stanley, my name is Tom Lovetere and I just wanted to let you know that I am one of the stories you wrote about and photographed that had a happy ending. I am the soldier that you were allowed out on the tarmac at Logan on March 6th 1968.That was one of the happiest times of my life to see my mother and my seven brothers waiting for me. I couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around her so she would finally know that her youngest son, her baby was all right and finally home. My mom cherished that photo and the memory you gave her for the rest of her life. She received many phone calls and letters for years after from veterans and families of veterans from all wars about that photo and the look on her face. I still have some of the old newspapers but they are falling apart from the years gone by. My mom passed away 26 years ago but I will always remember the joy you brought her from your photos.
The East Boston family had called the Record American city desk to tell us the family would be there to welcome Tom’s arrival from Vietnam and back during that conflict not all of the home comings were of a happy nature. For 45 years I have covered some very joyous homecomings and then there are the others. From watching tears of joy to just watching tears of pain. This is one of my better ones and these emails make the memories of that day even better.
Gasoline tankers, terrible danger, deafening explosions and many times tragic deaths. As I review the many I have covered, seven at today’s count. I know of two which resulted in a death or severe injury. The worst one being my first big story in 1966, a month after I began at the Record American (referenced in a another blog on this site “my first major tradgedy, 8 DOA”) and now this one on July 23, 2011.
My first call for the incident came from my friend Alan who is a freelance photographer for the Lynn Item. He is up all night listening to the scanners. While mine are running the problem is with our room air conditioner on and my hard of hearing ears I was having a problem hearing the radios which are running next to my side of the bed the extra help is needed. Thankfully I get it.
Alan said a tractor trailer flipped over in either Saugus or Revere as both police departments were yakking about it. He said they were saying Essex Street. I immediately knew in my dazed state of wakeup it was Essex Street in Saugus. I thought he meant a large tractor trailer and the saddle tanks had caught fire not realizing for a minute or two it was a gasoline tanker.
I got up slid down the pole (only kidding) got dressed quickly (my clothes and equipment are always ready) but at my age I have to make a pit stop before I get going and then I have this thing about brushing my teeth so that took another minute. Unless my destination is within a couple of minutes of my house and the extra minute or two is going to be too costly I stop for these chores.
I made great time getting there, no real traffic and knowing the area of Route One and listening to the radios I thought I could sneak around the road blocks through the Square One Mall parking lot and it worked. I also knew the police would not have all their resources in place to block off everything so soon. A few minutes later I might have had problems getting as close as I did.
So there it was, a tanker on its side, flames shooting 60 plus feet in the air and explosive thunder from the ignitions of the fuel taking place, great TV which was the only thing I was thinking about not knowing at this time a life has been lost and another person severely burned. That knowledge would put a damper on the excitement I was enjoying as I had kicked butt with my images.
I was standing in the southbound lane of Route One and the truck was less than 30–40 yards in front of me. I wished once again I had brought my tripod but carrying my still camera, a 22 pound plus video camera, two phones, extra batteries was enough. It was sweltering out there from the summer temperatures, with the humidity very high and add to that the heat from the fire; the tripod stays in the car. There was also the thought of additional explosions and having to run for cover. Less is better sometimes. Yes I am second guessing myself because the tripod would have meant steadier video but when the competition is far behind it doesn’t really matter. I envy those who can carry everything.
After spending a long time on the southbound side I ventured over to another angle closer to the tanker. I was concerned if I left where I was I might lose the great spot I had but I needed other angles. The funny part of this is I kept hearing explosions but the shots I was making of the burning fuel did not show any big blasts. I realized these explosions were taking place about 1500 to 2000 feet behind the fire well into the residential areas of Saugus where a house and other structures caught fire after the fuel floated down an adjacent stream.
After getting these shots I walked back to my original location saw a ranking trooper and asked if I could go north in the south and then go south in the north lanes as I needed to be on the other side. I was told “Stanley you have been around long enough, be careful and if you get stopped tell them I said it was okay.” I got to the other side and began trudging up and down the ramp complex to get what I needed. During all of this I was putting the video camera down and capturing great still images with my digital camera. I guess I don’t know how to use my IPhone camera as I could not get a really good shot of the fire with it or maybe the shutter of the IPhone is too slow to stop the action?
I did what I had to do, left the scene, drove to Revere where I could feed my video(I have a microwave transmitter in my company vehicle but I need line of site for a couple of receive sites in Boston and or Needham) for the Eye Opener show. In the meantime the office had sent a reporter, John Atwater, a satellite truck and two more photographers; it was like we struck a third alarm while the fire department struck 8 alarms. We kicked butt, live on the highway throughout our show and we had the video to back up the talk. We were walking the walk and talking the talk.
I reflected the rest of the day about the other tanker fires I have covered in my 45 years as a news photographer. The first one I covered was about 40 plus years earlier and less than a mile from where we were. It was also northbound on Route One and I remember the fire fighters chasing rolling streams of burning gasoline down the highway but I don’t remember any structures burning or injuries.
Another one was on route 93 northbound in the Reading area in 1978. I was wearing a walking cast after surgery for an Achilles tendon rupture. I had a plastic material boot on it to protect it from water and there I was on the highway dodging burning gasoline and water so my plaster cast would not melt.
In Methuen one weekend morning a tanker blew up at a neighborhood gas station but his time the gasoline was contained in a blown-up piece of the tanker burning as if it was in a barbeque pit. After the initial explosion it just burned straight up for a couple of hours. For the most part the fire department protected the exposures and let it burn itself out.
A couple of years ago I got a call on a Saturday morning from Matt Wilder the morning producer who heard the explosion outside of the Channel Five Studios in Needham, on Route 128/95. He looked out the window, saw the large loom up and called me. How frustrating it was as I knew no matter how fast I could get there it would not be fast enough as 40 miles can only be covered in no less than 30 plus minutes. As I was circling 128, watching the large funnel cloud of smoke and I knew when I got there it would be dissipated. When I did finally get there I was directed off the exit ramp. I walked down a parallel street, followed the hose lines and eventually talked my way onto the highway. It ended up being okay as I was the only one who was able to talk to the lucky uninjured driver about what happened.
I think the biggest story of a tanker rollover and explosion was the one in Everett a couple of winters ago. I was lying in bed wide awake around 3AM and heard a trooper call in saying a tanker had just exploded at the route 99 overpass/rotary in Everett. This location overlooked an elderly residential apartment building and houses.
I had to pass the scene I was at Saturday to get to this inferno. Down Route One straight up Route 99 wondering where the roadblocks would be hoping it was close enough to the scene to be able to do my job. I was able to work my way around several obstacles, ran through the snow covered streets. My video showed what a great job the cops and firefighters were doing to help residents evacuate their homes. There was one funny happening as Everett Police were helping the elderly from their residence, pushing wheelchairs and trying to keep everyone calm one woman said to me “this reminds me of the war years in London when I used to be taken to a shelter when the bombings started.” I asked her “when was the last time she had been up this late” and she smiled at me.
Below are links to great stories and photos done for my station WCVB-TV,
After working news for the last 45 years and covering all too many funerals at the beautiful Cathedral of The Holy Cross Church in Boston’s South End, I really got to see the full splendor of it recently attending my nephew’s wedding.
I knew it was going to be fun when Aunt Kit said to me on the way into the ceremony she will follow my lead as to when to stand-up and when to kneel. I looked at her and said I doubt that, you better watch what everyone else does like me as I am also not a Catholic.
The night even got better when we found metered parking spaces outside one of the most beautiful wedding receptions I had ever been to at the Copley Fairmount, even if I had to wait till 6:pm for the meters to no longer be active.
Father William Russell (no, not the basketball player) delivered the homily for the wedding ceremony which brought smiles and laughter to all of us. After we left the church I went up to him and told him what a great (I had to ask him what they called that part of the ceremony and he even spelled it out for me) homilies he delivered. When I told him I would be blogging about this event and asked for his email address so I could forward it to him his response was “I don’t even know how to turn a computer on,” lucky him.
His homilies had some great quotes regarding how the 29 year old bride had been able to stay single so long and said; “If I had been a younger man and in a different line of work Laura would have been spoken for already but I think Christopher (the groom) was well worth the wait.”
Then he said marriage is about compromise not always 50/50, sometimes 90/10 as he told stories about his parents. His father loved to watch Sunday football on TV. His mother, knowing this, put a Cross on top of the TV to remind him to lift his eyes to God at least on the commercials and he left it there to appease her.
He then told us how after dinner every night he and his five sibling brothers were sent out of the room and the doors would shut while his mother and father would discuss their day. The boys would stand at the crack of the door trying to listen to their conversation. One that he always remembers was when his mother said to his father “why don’t you say you love me?” His father answered “I do.” She asked “do what” and he answered “what you just asked me.” This went back and forth several times till he said the words “I love you,” which made his mother very happy. Everything Father Russell said was warm, fuzzy and brought a warm feeling to the bride and groom along with the guests.
I have listened to and covered Cardinals giving memorial masses, beautiful Christmas ceremonies and even Cardinal’s wakes. But the homilies I heard from Father Bill Russell made the church seem all the more beautiful.
On our way to the church which I had not been in for many years, I repeatedly told my girls how I had seen Richard Cardinal Cushing’s hat raised to the rafters for his funeral celebration in 1970. The Cardinal’s dying was huge in Boston as he was loved by all. Well maybe not all as some of the veteran reporters who had to cover him were not too pleased sometimes as when dealing with the Cardinal it was his way or the highway.
Sitting there looking at the three cardinals hats (I don’t know who the other two hats belong to which hang from the ceiling over the altar) made me think back to the many times I covered Cardinal Cushing. I always believed he knew I was not a Catholic as I never knelt to kiss the ring on his hand but we did shake hands.
I was at the press conference in the late 60s at his residence on Commonwealth Avenue near Boston College, (who now owns the property) when he announced he had cancer. We all thought there was some kind of illness he was suffering from but until he told us it was a mystery. I was with reporter Ollie Brennan who had himself a Page One story that day. Ollie went on from us to join the Globe as their TV critic.
Thinking about Cardinal Cushing brings back a couple of funny memories. Jack Wharton, a veteran reporter (and one the most wonderful reporters I ever worked with), was told to call “The Cush” and see how he was. He had missed a couple of masses and there was concern about his health. The Cardinal answered the phone and when Jack asked him how he was as many of the paper’s readers had inquired the Cardinal very gruffly said “if my parishioners want to know how I feel tell them to call me themselves!” Next day the Record American printed his phone number with his message.
When Cushing died I spent a lot of time at the Cathedral and watched the nuns sewing the material on to his hat so it could be raised to the rafters. I watched it being put in place (haven’t located the negatives yet). The wake lasted a couple of days and photographer Gene Dixon had the day shift of sitting in a pew waiting for photo opportunities.
He came back with two great stories. The Cardinal had a huge ring or two on his fingers and some of the people kept touching and pulling them. Gene thought some of these people wanted to steal the ring off his fingers. Officials ended up sewing his arm sleeve to his jacket so his hand could not be raised. The other story was Gene had his two-way radio on and it started to squawk loudly, so loudly Gene said “I thought he was going to jump out if the box!” Who knows how true these stories are but they certainly bring a smile to my face.
At his burial in Hanover, Massachusetts at St. Collette’s School colleague Mike Andersen squeezed himself right next to the gravesite and had a very moving photo of the casket being lowered into the ground.
The Cardinals replacement was Archbishop Humberto Medeiros, who arrived from Brownsville Texas to Logan Airport. He was escorted through the throngs of media by Boston police and lead cop was the same cop who led the Boston Bruins onto the ice at Boston Garden for every game back in that era. He was a big friendly guy but this day he had in his hands a large rectangular object like a 16/20 print to keep us back. It worked as we only got just so close but with a great view for our photos.
Medeiros became Cardinal Medeiros during his time in Boston and on a Saturday in September of 1983 I covered his death. On that Saturday, Jack Harper and I went to Saint Columbkille’s Church which was near Saint Elizabeth’s hospital to cover the goings on.
We all covered his funeral and I was sent to Fall River his hometown for the burial. He was loved in Fall River and through it all his family was as gracious as he was.
Then came Archbishop Bernard Francis Law who knew how to play to the media. He arrived shortly after St. Ambrose Church burned down on Adams Street in Dorchester, January 1983. He went to the Church with a lot of fanfare to help the people grieve over their loss promising to help with the rebuilding of the structure. He played softball with other archdiocese priests against Boston Police. It was called “The Law vs. The Police.” It became an annual event at Town Field in Dorchester. The police usually won.
In 1985 he became a Cardinal. When the Church sex scandal broke in Boston around 2002 he was at the center of it under great criticism of how he handled it or maybe how he did not handle it. I took video of him as he arrived at the court house for his deposition. He was none to happy to see us, and protested our presence. He came up through garage elevators to avoid the media. Advantage us!
That was the last time I saw him in person and then his resignation from the Boston Archdiocese in ‘02. I was told during his St. Ambrose Church visit years earlier he told my good friend and great photographer Stan Grossfeld of the Boston Globe he was going to win a Pulitzer and he was correct as Stan has won two. I did not mind he said that as I already had won a couple.
The Rest of The Story:
My friend and former colleague Mike Andersen updates me on his role with Cardninal Cushing.
To clarify my role in Cardinal Cushing’s funeral: The Cardinal had arranged for a mausoleum to be built on the grounds of St. Coletta’s in Hanover long before his death. The day before the funeral, Chief Photographer Myer Ostroff sent me to Hanover just to see what I could see. I found some workmen putting the finishing touches on the sarcophagus in which his casket would be entombed. I made a picture of them and we used it. The next day the entire staff was assigned to the funeral. Angela’s only job was to shoot Jackie Kennedy. Mine was to get inside the mausoleum and get a picture of the VIPs who would be permitted inside for a private farewell. There were two doors, one in front and one on the side near the back.. The back door was locked and there was a nun guarding the front. I think she had played linebacker at Notre Dame. Every time I made a move for the door, there she was. I brought along prints of the sarcophagus masons and given them each a print. One of them saw my plight and said he’d get me in. So he unlocked the back door and I went in. The only other person inside at that time was the Pilot photographer Phil Stack. He kept waving for me to get out. I just waved back and tucked myself into a corner in front where I hoped I wouldn’t be seen from the door. Fortunately the outside service ended about then and the VIPs, other Cardinals, the Kennedy family and probably others I didn’t know came trooping in. They filled this small building. I had a 20mm lens on a tripod and a long cable release so I could hold the camera way over my head and cover the entire room. Somebody at the office was able to identify most of the people and they ran two of my pictures full-page in the Record. I was the only secular photographer there, so we beat the Globe and Herald-Traveler six ways from Sunday, excuse the pun.
I had had an earlier incident with Cardinal Cushing. I came to Boston in 1969, the year of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Michael Collins, the third astronaut no-one remembers, was from Boston, so Cardinal Cushing was going to conduct a private Mass blessing Collins at Holy Cross Cathedral. I was assigned to cover it. I’m also not Catholic and had never even been in a Catholic Church before. I had also never seen a photographer in my Presbyterian Church. I don’t know if the Presbyterians are too dignified to permit photography or just so boring (we’re known, with good reason, as the “Frozen Chosen”) that no-one wants to take our picture. But other photographers were there, all taking pictures, so I started taking pictures too. I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I didn’t notice when the others set their cameras down. I was looking through the viewfinder with a telephoto lens and a tight shot of the Cardinal when he glared at me and said, “Stop taking pictures now! This is the HOLY part.”
I was at Fenway Park when the Eagle landed. The PA announcer came on the air between innings to announce that Americans were now safely on the surface of the moon. There was a moment of stunned silence. then loud applause, then someone began to sing. The next thing you knew 30,000 people were singing, spontaneously and a cappella, “God Bless America”. It was the most moving moment I’ve ever witnessed.
More of The Rest Of The Story:
I received a comment which fills in a lot of information on some of my information or lack of it from Attorney James C. Reilly. Mr. Reilly grew up in Newton, went to the University of Rochester and Duke Law. Mr. Reilly practices law in Birmingham, Alabama.
The three galleros hung from the rafters are for Cardinals O’Connell, Cushing and Medieros. William Henry Cardinal O’Connell’s and Richard James Cardinal Cushing’s galleros were presented to them by the Pope, Pius X and John XXIII respectively, as the “red hat” of a cardinal. The gallero was discontinued by Pope Paul VI and the “red hat” now given is the red biretta. Accordingly, Humberto Sousa Cardinal Medieros never received a gallero from the Pope. However, Cardinal O’Malley had a gallero made for Cardinal Medieros so that the tradition of hanging it in the cathedral could continue. The red gallero with 30 tassels is the heraldic device of a cardinal. A green gallero with 20 tassels is the symbol of an Archbishop and a green gallero with 12 tassels is the symbol for a bishop. Other colors and tassel numbers are also used as the heraldic device for priests (Black and 2), Monsignors (variations of black/amaranth, amaranth usually 6) etc.
BTW the picture of Cardinal Cushing does NOT show him “celebrating” Mass — most likely he is presiding, i.e., in attendance in his official capacity, as he is in choir dress and not wearing the chasuble of the priest saying Mass.