Every year around this time I remember a great story from my newspaper days. It was Christmas Eve Day a Saturday and we were all working for the Sunday Advertiser (name of the Sunday paper.) It was in the late 60s, before we moved from our 5 Winthrop Square, downtown Boston location to the Herald’s current location in Boston’s South End.
The Photo Department was on the third floor about 75 feet from the newsroom so whatever we did out there was not heard or seen by bosses. We had our own space.
It was a cold and snowy day and one of our premier photographers, Carroll Myett was assigned to get a page one Christmas photo and Carroll was up for the challenge. He began celebrating early so he was eager to go and go he did. He came back twice first with photos of Boston Common with the various Christmas ornaments blanketed with snow. Then he went out to get the big prize a Santa which he knew would be page one.
Where did he go? He went to the Boston Globe’s downtown office on the corner of Washington and School Streets, where Santa was doing his thing. He came back with a great photo of Santa his arms in the air, bells ringing in his hand and you could almost hear the HO, HO, Ho in his smile. It was a wonderful photo and only the few of us in the photo department knew it was the Globe’s Santa which made it more fun and Carroll was really enjoying himself.
Carroll turned the print in and then came back to the department. Still very happy, laughing, joking and then he looked at his beat up shoes and realized his soles were hanging off the bottoms of both of his shoes. He went down to the art department and came back with a jar of rubber cement with the big brush full of glue sticking in it and began spreading it on his shoes and soles to hopefully get the two pieces to stick together.
At that time in the photo office there were photographers Gene Dixon, John Landers Jr., Dick Thomson, Carroll and me. Then all of a sudden Carroll takes out a match and lights it intending to heat the rubber cement to bond the two pieces.
Gene Dixon screamed “don’t” but it was too late and heavy fire was erupting from Myett’s shoes. John Landers moved fast picked Carroll up by the ankles dropping him like a wrestler drops his opponent and pulled his shoes off. Then he ran the burning shoes over to the print washer about 10 feet away and dropped them in the water extinguishing the blaze and saving Carroll and probably the building.
Carroll’s celebrating was over and he left humbled, alive, with soaking wet shoes and made his way down to South Station for his bus. It was certainly an eye-opener for us all and as you can tell I haven’t forgotten it yet.
Carroll Myett was a very competitive man. He hated to get beat and would do anything to get the best photo no matter if the competition was on his own team.
On another Saturday there was a jail break at the Charles Street Jail on lower Beacon Hill near the Mass General Hospital. I raced down to the scene. I did not know that Carroll who was in the company cruiser was already there.
I was trying to figure out what was happening and when I looked down Fruit Street there was Carroll at the other end. I started running down the street and Carroll was flaying his arms in the air trying to warn me to watch out. I knew the guards were running around with their guns out and he made me think they were going to start firing from the gun towers on the wall. Trust me I thought my safety was in danger and I tried to get out of the way and off that street. The scene seemed to be under control and a few minutes later I left as I knew Carroll had it covered.
When I got back to the office later in the day Carroll was getting his print ready for the editors I realized why he was shooing me away, he did not want me to take a shot of a jail guard with his rifle ready and his foot on the prisoner after his capture which he had made.
Myett was like that and he was great at what he did but let no one get in his way. After a knee injury took him out of the cruiser he worked on the assignment desk and always took good care of me.
He died tragically in a boating accident near Minot Light off the coast of Scituate in the mid 70s. The small boat he was in capsized and from what a survivor said he hung onto the overturned boat for hours but the rescue did not happen for him.