Hill Happenings

By Mossy Martin

About 200 people attended the farewell celebration for Father Phillip Dabney last month at Cedars of Lebanon Hall in Jamaica Plain.

The beloved Fr. Dabney is leaving Mission Church after 12 years for a new assignment in Washington, D.C.

I am honored to call Fr. Dabney my friend, and I will miss him, but there was only a tinge of sadness on this night, as joy and love permeated the Hall.

A touching moment occurred when the Gately family – Paula, Karen and Jimmy – joined Fr. Dabney on stage, as Fr. Dabney sang “Danny Boy.” The great priest substituted the name, “Jimmy” instead of Danny, and he managed to complete the Irish ballad, despite being mauled with hugs from a smiling Jimmy Gately.

One afternoon a few years ago, a friend of mine met Fr. Dabney for the first time in the Mission Bar & Grill. After the introductions my friend confided to the priest that he would be undergoing cancer surgery the next day at 5:30 p.m. at the Brigham and Women’s. The next morning, Fr. Dabney met my friend in front of the hospital, and he accompanied him inside, offering comfort until a few minutes before surgery. My friend said, “He stayed with me until the doctors finally asked him to leave.” All is well, and the surgery was successful.

At the event it was a pleasure meeting Wayne Burke, a former legendary hockey player, who grew up on Sachem Street. Burke, still youthful looking at 75, attended Mission High in the early ‘60s, but Mission Hill didn’t have a hockey program, so Wayne transferred to JP High, where he achieved All-Scholastic honors in the sport he loved.

Happy 79th birthday (July 22) to famous Roxbury singer, Illanga Scott, who played in the pop-soul vocal group, The G-Clefs. The G-Clefs consisted of five Roxbury men, Illanga and his three brothers, Teddy Scott, Chris Scott, Tim Scott and childhood friend, Ray Gipson. It’s always nice to see Illanga when he stops in Mike’s Donuts and he looks great. Illanga, the lone surviving G-Clef, still lives in Roxbury and performs every year in the Urban Nutcracker at the Shubert Theater.

The group was discovered in the early ‘50s by scout, Ray Gold when they were playing in Roxbury churches. They named their band “The Bobolinks,” but their mother persuaded them to “drop that bird name.” They would often practice in the local project hallways because of the pleasant sounding acoustics.

In 1953, The G-Clefs debut at the “Rollerway,” a skating parlor that was converted into a dance hall in Revere. In 1956, they recorded “Ka Ding Dong,” which was the first Boston rock & roll song to chart nationally. They performed at the Strand Theater in Dorchester and often at the “Beachball” in Revere.

According to a few old-timers, the Beachball was the place where Mission Hill folks would frequent on Saturday nights. I’m told there were occasionally brawls erupting on those nights, perhaps because of the rowdy Mission Hill influence.

In 1967, they recorded a live album at the Beachball called “The G-Clefs on Stage.” Later, as their prominence grew, they played several times at the Apollo Theater in New York, sharing the spotlight with renowned groups, including “The 5 Satins,” “The Del Vikings” and “The Orlons.”

If you’re in Mike’s Donuts, say hello to the famous G-Clef.  Illanga is easy to spot, a handsome, dark-skinned man who exudes grace and dignity.

Happy birthday to Deirdre” De De” (Lawless) Casey on Aug. 21. De De has been a nurse at the excellent New England Baptist Hospital since the early ‘70s, and she is still looking good. A Mission High School 1968 graduate, De De was on the famous ’68 Mission High cheerleading team. That cheerleading squad made it to the State finals cheerleading competition, and I fondly recall hitchhiking with friends to Providence College to watch them compete.

It was nice meeting Boston City Council candidate, Jennifer Nassour at Mike’s Donuts last week. Nassour, is running for the District 8 seat, which includes Mission Hill. The astute candidate was introduced to me by Jackie Harrington and Mission Grammar School principal, Ali Dutson, a.k.a. Cyndi Lauper. Nassour is on the right track with those two noble citizens supporting her candidacy.

A tip of the hat to Heather Cooper Foley, who was recently promoted to vice president of CentiMark, a national roofing contractor company. She is the daughter of former Mission High School football great Wally Foley, who grew up on Burney Street.

This is the 50th year of the Boston Neighborhood Basketball League, and I stopped bwy the Tobin Gym last week where the Mission Hill games are played. The gym looks terrific since renovations and all spruced up. I played the first year in the BNLB when the games were outdoors up the Hill, and it was fun. There were many superb players,  including Charley Kelly and Ray Simons. Reminiscing with John Toner about the BNLB, we recalled the unusual team names. John played for the “Blarney Stoned” and player-coach Bill Mulvey called his team the “Honkey Cats.”

Condolences to the family of Raymond Payne, who passed away last week. I remember Ray from the old days at Ellies Donut Shop (across from Mission Church next door to the current Mike’s Donuts). Ray was smooth and a sharp-dresser, but more importantly, he was a good guy.

Don’t forget, the Mission hill Road Race is Sept. 28 at Kevin Fitzgerald Park at 9:30 a.m., with the walkers starting a half-hour earlier.

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