Hill Happenings

The back room of McCarthy’s Tavern in 1958 (before Curtin’s Tavern and currently Puddingstone Tavern.)
Courtesy Photo by George McLean

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, may we pause and reflect back on the many who lost their lives in the line of duty for our country. A walk up the hill to the Mission Hill ball fields brings a somber reminder of the fallen. McLaughlin Park is named after Lt. Joe D. McLaughlin, a 1936 Mission High School graduate, who grew up on Calumet Street and who was killed in World War ll.

McLaughlin was a terrific football player for Mission and so beloved that, “The little kids would wait for him after practice to carry his helmet and shoulder pads,” recalled John Clifford, who is also a Mission High man (1943) and a World War ll veteran. After Mission High, Joe McLaughlin attended Boston College and upon graduation he enlisted in the Navy. Serving on a PT Boat he was killed in action. McLaughlin Park was constructed in 1931 and named in honor of this great man in 1950.

Fifty yards down on Parker Hill Avenue, Killilea Playground is named after Franny Killilea, who was killed in Vietnam in 1966. I knew Franny from playing basketball with him at the Tobin Courts and he was a beautiful guy. The Killilea Club football team was named in Franny’s honor and I’m proud to say I played for that great organization.

I often think of John Moreau, who was my friend and Mission High classmate. I often heard the story of how John caught a homerun, hit by Carl Yastrzemski during the magical 1967 Red Sox season. Just a few years later on Jan.29, 1970 John was killed in South Vietnam after just 17 days of his arrival there.

To the knucklehead who swiped the John Walsh Veterans Memorial sign at Pontiac and Cherokee Street, please return it. You will be forgiven, as you were probably drunk or perhaps your name is also John Walsh and the sign looks cool on your wall. Do the right thing.

Condolence to the family of Carol DeGiacomo, who passed away on May 5. Carol, from Mission Hill, who worked as a waitress at Copley Plaza, was a lovely woman. Prior to her illness Carol would often stop in Mike’s Donuts to chat with the ladies. Donations in Carol’s memory may be made to the Mission Church Restoration Fund.

I was saddened to hear that Karyn Parks recently passed away. Karyn was quiet with a dignified demeanor. I would often see Karyn around the Mission Park area and she would greet me with her pleasant hello. Karyn will be dearly missed.

Happy Birthday to Avon (June 18), a nice Mission Hill woman who works at the local Stop & Shop. When I shop there I always go to Avon’s counter for a chuckle. Last week she told me I was going bananas, as she bagged my bananas.

Kudos to nurse, Jeanne Cassio from Mission Hill, for her service award of 35 years at the New England Baptist Hospital. Nurses are the best. Rex Tayag also received a Service Award for his 40 years of medical work at the N.E.B.H. Rex, in his younger years was an energetic player-coach in the Mission Hill Softball League.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized sports gambling, gambling briefly replaced politics as the topic of conversation at Mikes Donuts. I doubt if this state could run a profitable sports betting emporium. The profit margin in Las Vegas, where bookmaking is legal and similar illegal gambling sites is small, unlike the Massachusetts State lottery, where the state can afford their bloated bureaucracy.

A $100 football bettor who loses pays $110. The extra $10 is commonly known as the “vigorish” or “vig”. The vig is critical to the bookies, as the winners of the same game collect $100. Back in the old days there was a bookie in almost every Mission Hill pub. The patrons loved to bet the horses and the daily number. The numbers game was popular because you could bet as little as a nickel and the winning number was the four numbers from the Mutual Races, which was posted on the front page of the old Record American. The Massachusetts State lottery came into existence in 1971, which hampered the bookies who operated the numbers game and shortly thereafter the illegal numbers game was extinct. If you are a gambler, remember what the wise man said, “Bet with your head, not over your head.”

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