Senator Edward Brooke and My Beginning!

This photo of then Attorney General Edward W. Brooke is one of my favorites from his victorious campaign to become the first elected African American Senator in the US Senate. It was taken during the Columbus Day Parade in East Boston in 1966.

It all began for me in May of 1966. I was finishing up a one year course in photography at the “Franklin Institute of Boston” in Boston’s South End.  I had been chasing fires and accidents for many years and a couple of years before this my father said to me “you are there why not take photos” and he got me a camera.

I had a great experience at the school and my instructor would be Morris Miller a wonderful knowledgeable photographer from Revere who just happened to be a contemporary of my parent’s, one of my Cub Scout leaders and I went to school with his children.  This was an unexpected plus when I reported to class the first day as we had no idea he had signed on to teach.

He nurtured a class full of great people through the fundamentals of photography and I finally learned what depth of field was and how to stop action.  Before this course I hate to think about how much I did not know.

In May of 1966 a representative  (I only remember his first name, Bob) of the advertising agency working with Attorney General Edward Brooke’s campaign to win the US Senate seat being vacated by retiring long time US Senator Leverett Saltonstall. He came to the school looking for a photographer to travel with then Attorney General Edward Brooke taking pictures of him wherever he went and whatever he was doing.

After several interviews with many of my classmates I got the job.  It helped I had a darkroom at home and I told Bob I was used to getting up in the middle of the night and keeping weird hours.  I am sure there were a lot of other influences like knowing the right people and having great potential.

My first day on the job in May of “66” I went to a meeting of Republican Women at a hotel in Boston.  I took many rolls of film and my main assignment was to be there when Mr. Brooke shook hands with anyone and whoever was traveling with me would take their name and I would give them the roll of film number and negative number.

I went home after a long day of several events, stayed up most of the night into the early morning hours and had 100 or so pictures ready to be signed at the Brooke Campaign Headquarters the next morning. They were very impressed.

I knew nothing about politics but knew how to take pictures, keep my mouth shut and do whatever was requested.  It was a great 8 months.  I traveled the state from east to west, north and south and met people who really believed in Brooke and his campaign.  I had my first legal drink at age 21 with staffers at a Holiday Inn somewhere in the State and I ordered a Tom Collins. I also had my first Martini with the group.

In better times, Senator Brooke with President Nixon in Boston, mid 1970s.

It was a great time for a naïve 21 year old.  I saw how the real news photographers worked and met many national network correspondents.  In the Fall of 66 my immediate boss Joe McMahon and another Assistant Attorney General Bill Hayden drove down to Washington.  We met at midnight at the Beacon Hill Headquarters and I drove Joe’s Mustang for the next 8 hours to the Capitol of the United States. I think we had the top down all the way.

During that visit which as an endorsement and fund raising event the future Senator met with Richard Nixon, who was in-between an elected office, eventually becoming the President of the United States, Everett Dirksen, US Senator from Illinois, Howard Baker a US Senator from Tennessee and eventual Chief Of Staff for President Ronald Reagan.  Baker it turned out was a real camera buff although I did not know it at the time and I met several other elected officials  whose names I forget.  These were the news makers and I got to take photos of them and shake their hands.

It was a great beginning, exciting, adventurous and the chance to meet folks I would have never met without this opportunity.

Mr. Brooke was a warm, charismatic man whose personality and smile were all winners.  He was the man of the hour and defeated his opponent Endicott “Chubb” Peabody a former Governor of Massachusetts by hundreds of thousands of votes.  In an unofficial pool amongst the staff it was Mr. Brooke’s wife Remigia who won the pool.

After the campaign was over his public relations person Gerry Sadow got me interviews at the three Boston papers, The Boston Herald-Traveler, Boston Globe and the Record American.  I met with the chief photographers at the three newspapers and only Myer Ostroff the Record American’s Chief saw my potential and hired me.

I had a year’s probationary period and my first day on the job 44 years ago as of this writing, November 22, 1966 I wore a suit and tie. I walked into the Record American at their original office at 5 Winthrop Square in Downtown Boston and waited outside the photo lab on the third floor for someone to let me into the labs.

Morris Ostroff, the Chief Photographer’s older brother let me in. He was a short man who always was smoking a long cigar.  He introduced himself to me and said follow me. We went down the corridor to the printing labs there were 5 of them, handed me a sponge and an apron and told me to please clean up the lab, the start of my illustrious career.

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