When you lose a good friend, you try to remember all the good times, conversations and sentiments you shared. This is how I feel this week after the passing of Peter Looney. In Peter’s memory, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on why I consider, as did Peter, that Charlestown is the town we all love so well.
My heart fills with pride when I enter the town from the north and glance at the magnificent American flag waving in the wind on top of the Schrafft’s building in Sullivan Square. This feeling continues as I move up Bunker Hill Street and see the memorial dedicated to all the firefighters from Charlestown who gave their lives by protecting ours and I know why Father Mahoney calls them, “The bravest of the brave.”
The old Armory Building stands in silence, but still echoes with laughter and gaiety from the many “Night Before Banquets” held there, or the anxiety and heated feelings at meetings that took place regarding urban renewal. And the sounds of drums and horns that rattled the beams when the Majestic Knights Drum & Bugle Corps practiced. Or the stamping of feet by the drill teams going through their routines.
The Doherty Park on the left and St. Francis de Sales School on the right still carry the sounds of happy children from generation to generation of neighborhood families. But there at the top of Bunker Hill stands a landmark that can be seen for miles in every direction, certainly planned that way by the ever-growing Catholic population of 19th Century, the steeple of St. Francis de Sales Church.
Standing at this point, you have a 360 degree vantage point of the entire town, where I can almost see the whole winding route of the Bunker Hill Day Parade. Looking down toward Medford Street you remember the sight of and the many hours spent there on a sultry summer day. Later on there stood the that employed many neighbors. And if you looked to your left, back toward Schrafft’s, you can almost smell the chocolate penetrating the air again.
Look straight ahead and see Nanny Goat Hill, the Forty Flights, Hoods Milk, and remember the . Glancing to your left the Navy Yard sits beyond Hayes Square where another steeple situates St. Catherine’s Church, tucked in the arms of the housing development. Beyond, just a little further, is the Tobin Bridge that was supposed to give a free ride once it was paid for back in the 70s.
Traveling to the second highest point in the town, we are atop the , not literally, those days are behind me now. Standing at the feet of General Warren, on the sacred ground of this battle field, the sense of history rejuvenates my pride.
I can see the where Civil War troops “trained” and farmers’ markets, hydrant showers and, most recently, Flag Day ceremonies took place. Before me lays the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, one of the newest and most beautiful landmarks in the entire city.
Beneath that can be seen the roof of St. Mary’s Church and the award winning .
There are many other landmarks that could be mentioned, but landmarks, parks and houses don’t make a location a neighborhood. The reason why we love this town so well is because of the people and their ancestors who made a difference in our lives. It was the neighbor who brought you a freshly baked pie when she realized you had unexpected company, the corner store that allowed you to “put it on the cuff,” the old friend who dropped in on Christmas day, the mother with growing kids who brought the well cared for baby clothes to the new parents, the parish priest who knew everybody’s name, people who came to your aid when you thought all was lost.
These traditions continue. We might not have baked a pie, but many a supper is prepared for a sick friend or grieving family. We most likely don’t own a store, but we give to the and donate toward getting a . I could continue this forever. Charlestown is perhaps the most giving community -- anywhere.
We remember our fallen heroes and pay tribute to those who go unsung in their daily contributions. Volunteers teach the kids to play baseball, hockey, soccer, football, tennis, cheerleading, acting and swimming. Old classmates gather, holidays are celebrated, and fundraisers take place every weekend for many great causes that help the less fortunate, troubled or needy, proving that the generosity within this one square mile is unmatched in terms of dollars raised.
That’s why we are such a proud lot. Many, too many, old friends have left, only to return occasionally to relive the sense of community only found here. You don’t necessarily have to be born here anymore to become a “townie.” You are one by carrying on the old traditions of neighbor helping neighbor, day-by-day, person-to-person. Then you will truly know why this is the Town We Love So Well.