Hill Happenings

Several Mission Hill folks gathered at Twin Rivers Casino in Rhode Island on Dec. 16, watching the Patriots lose to the Steelers. Twin Rivers now has sports betting and the sports book line stretched for more than 50 yards with bettors using both fists to plunk down money on the Patriots, who were favored by three points. I didn’t bet the game, but fortunately my buddy changed his mind minutes before kickoff and bet $200 on the Steelers. As I wrote last month, don’t count on luck from the rabbit’s foot, but on this day, you also couldn’t count on Tom Brady.

Walking by Parker Street recently I took a peek at the old Mission High School building on Alleghany Street and thoughts from yesteryear germinated in my head. I graduated from Mission High 51 years ago and it was a wonderful place to get an education. My first two years at Mission the Xaverian Brothers taught us and they were excellent mentors. As a 13-year-old freshman, I vividly recall Brother Joseph explaining the word extortion: “It’s a Latin derivative that means taking something illegally,” said Brother Joe, while making a squeezing motion with his hands.

We had a small class at Mission, which closed in 1991, but we had several high achievers, including my closest friends, Bill Mullin and George Rollins. Bill earned a scholarship to Harvard and he became prominent in the real estate mortgage industry. Rollins graduated from West Point and he served for 28 years in the Army, retiring as a Colonel.

Unfortunately, after my sophomore year the Xaverian Brothers packed their bags and departed their Parker Street home, opting for greener pastures at the brand new Xaverian High School in Westwood. My last two years I was taught by the dedicated nuns and several lay teachers, but it was never the same upon the departure of the Brothers.

Another negative thing occurred that year, as the football program was cancelled during my sophomore year after two games because of a lack of players. Mission High’s population had dwindled, as did most Catholic schools in the city. Weighing about 120 pounds, I wasn’t on the football team that year. The last game was a 0-0 tie against Our Lady’s of Newton after which, Father Forrest and other school administers decided to throw in the towel after the roster dwindled to 16 healthy bodies. It was a gloomy atmosphere at the school for weeks and I recall the sad faces of the football players, including Richy Bath, Tommy McCarthy and the great quarterback, Dan Breen, who put their hearts into Mission High football.

By my senior year we were yearning to play football, but with no school team we opted to play in the Boston Park League and we named the team the Mission Club. We competed against much older players in South Boston, Dorchester, and Roxbury on dirt fields sprinkled with rocks. Of course we would have preferred to play on manicured grassy fields before big crowds and pretty high school cheerleaders, but at least we were playing football.

A quiet night of enjoying a few beers with my brother, Dan Martin, last week at Flann O’Brien’s was enlivened, thanks to the charming Miller Lite promotion ladies, Marlee and Amanda. Dan had the luck of the Irish, as his name was drawn in the raffle, winning a nice (although somewhat loud) Miller Lite sweater. The personable young ladies also sent us a couple of beers on the house. Of course the beers were Miller Lite, instead of my usual Coors Light. The free Miller Lite tasted better than the previous Coors Light that I purchased.

The demolition of the Knights of Columbus on Tremont Street last week brought back some pleasant memories. Back in the 1950s, my cousin, Jimmy Kelly, (my mother was a Kelly) a locally famous Irish music player, who was a banjo player, often performed at the K of C. The last several decades Bobby Healey has done a terrific job with the Knights, raising funds for numerous charities. I was a member of the K of C in the early 1970s and it was a wonderful organization. A fringe benefit of the yearly membership fee was the nominal price of the bottled beer, which was 25 cents and no bartender to tip. The beer came out of one of those old-fashioned coke machines after you put in your quarter.

Billy Geoghegan, who coached in the Mission Hill Little League for many years, passed away last month. Billy was dedicated to the kids and he loved the Little League. When the league needed an umpire, Billy donned the mask and shin guards and got behind the plate. It was captivating watching Billy, who was 6-foot-5, call the balls and strikes. He would diligently crouch down behind the diminutive batters to get a close look at the pitches.

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