Last week I enjoyed conversing with George Salah, a fascinating man who celebrated his 92nd birthday on Oct. 25. George, who lives in Brookline, grew up in Mission Hill on Whitney Street. He graduated from English High School in 1940 and served in the Navy during World War II.
I listened to George spin entertaining yarns at Flann O’Brien’s about the old Hill days. George, whose sharp mind and agility belie his age, was the commander of the Mission Hill Post 327 in the early 1960s. He has done tremendous work, volunteering his time with veteran organizations. George was honored as veteran of the year in Brookline and he was recently recognized by the state House of Representatives for his dedication to his fellow veterans.
George’s friend, Charley Kelly, who is also a World War II veteran from Mission Hill, tells me George was quite the athlete, playing football for the Mission Hill Bulldogs in the Boston Park League in the early 1940s. George was also an amateur boxer who fought at the old Boston Arena.
George was in the construction business and a gifted designer. It was George and his colleagues who built the Mission Hill Legion Post in 1960. Before the Post was constructed, Dave O’Connor Funeral Parlor was on that block before moving to St. Alphonsus Street and Tremont Street. Dave “Okie” O’Connor , incidentally, was a beloved Mission Hill man who would have been 91 on Nov. 9. Besides running the O’Connor Funeral Parlor, Dave was the state representative from Mission Hill from 1951 until 1970.
It was great seeing the Mission Hill folks reunite for the annual Mission Hill Road Race last month. There were several Fitzgeralds and MacDougals at the race, and other familiar runners, including Jack O’Neill, Jim “Rabbit” Ryan, Rob Martin and his 71-year-old uncle, Dan Martin. “Big Jim” Moynihan, who organized the initial Mission Hill Road Race in 1980, was also at Fitzgerald Park, where the race begins and ends.
A tip of the hat to Pat Flaherty, who organized the race, and to her volunteers for a job well done. After the race many folks went to the Mission Bar and Grill for fine food and drink. Absent from the race was avid runner Tom Killilea. The 79-year-old athlete was nursing a minor leg ailment, but he promises to be back next year. Killilea has been referred to as the John Kelley of the Mission Hill Road Race. Kelley was the famous Boston runner who ran 64 Boston Marathons, completing his last Marathon run at age 84 in 2004. Years ago, many Mission Hill folks, including myself, would gather at Kenmore Square to watch the finish of the Boston Marathon. One race, after about five hours, my friend Bill Mullin was approached by a reporter. Bill told the reporter, “I’m waiting for two runners to finish, John Kelley and “Big Jim” Moynihan. Big Jim, from Mission Hill at Tobin Court, completed six Boston Marathons.
Pearl Yusuf says hello to her Hill friends. Pearl currently resides in Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico. Pearl lived in Mission Hill for many years when she was assistant curator at the Franklin Park Zoo.
Good luck to the new owners of the Puddingstone Tavern on Tremont Street, which opened last month. The bar, previously The Crossing, is aptly named because of the puddingstone rocks from the “ledge,” currently Fitzgerald Park.
Locals Dan Martin and Joe Gillis were terrific in the Stoneham Doubles Handball Tournament, finishing in second place last month at the L.A. Fitness Club in Stoneham. Mission Hill native Mike Killion also participated in the tournament, which featured the best handball players in the state.