OF SOUTHIE (AND DORCHESTER) NICKNAMES

South Boston writer and all-around good guy Brian Wallace recently made a Facebook post about the nicknames on characters that, over the course of his baby-boomer life span, populated Southie’s streets. The Irish are famous for their nicknames. In Dorchester, among us Irish-American Bostonians, we had “Pickles”, “Tarps”, “Sniffles” — the list goes on. Of Southie nicknames, Brian wrote….

You know you are from Southie when you know the last names of Injun, Emo, Tuffy, Snuffy, Snoopy, Weed, Peaches. Mocha, Tumac, Wacko, Libby, Ace, Bunzo, Hun Bun, Mucka Ducka Doo,Satch, Killer, Lep, Scoop, Wacky Jacky, Juggie, Puffy, Chicken Head, Chinky, Shoo Shoo, Shoes, Boob, Dada, Doodie, Todda,, Maury, Fingers, Hokey, Dudso, Hooker, Tiny, Brother, Champ, Burger, Pecker, Dodo, Porka, Bulky, Bull,Tinker, Yaka, Rardy, Bunka, Noonie, Duba, Jabber, Sleepy, Dukie Part 2 tomorrow.

I’m waiting for Part 2 — but I reminded Brian about a nicknamed soul I met during my initial year at Gate of Heaven High School on East 4th Street, back around ’61-’62. He was “Scratch” Scarcella. Yes, Italian rather than Irish. As it happens, I couldn’t tell you his real first name — not to this day. And I met him only once, when “Gatey” freshmen played “Gatey” 8th-graders in football. (Yeah, schools always have nicknames, too.) Scratch, a very tough kid and great athelete showing great promise early on, came crashing through the line and I, playing defense at that moment, grabbed him around the hips and proceeded to be dragged about ten yards. It probably took a couple of other guys to stop him. But beyond his early physical and athletic prowess, Scratch was notable for his quiet, humble decency. You saw that in him even when he was so young. He went on to have a high school career as a football player and boxer. He was not a bully at a time when Southie and Gatie were full of bullies. That’s what made a welcomed impression on me. The genuine tough guys are never bullies.

Brian, as it happens, said he did a story on Scratch recently for some publication. I hope to get a link. Scratch is still with us. He doesn’t know me from Adam but I’m happy to pay tribute to him here.

TAMPA’S LOST GRAVES

The Tampa Bay Times — formerly the St. Petersburg Times —  has lately been doing a great service for regional Florida history –and for humanity. It is joined in this effort by the Hillsborough County School District and, unfailingly, all of official Tampa Bay as it learns of the project.

I’ll repeat the lead paragraph of a story in the November 25th edition by Times staff writer Paul Guzzo:

The Hillsborough County School District on Wednesday announced that 145 graves had been found beneath largely vacant land on a corner of the King High School campus. Continue reading “TAMPA’S LOST GRAVES”

A Continental Summer

I. The Attic Window

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One day, an early summer’s day, I set out across the sea — on a Norwegian freighter, no less, bound for Europe. This fulfilled a youthful yearning born of a view out an attic window.

It was a small window in our small house, gray and modest, sitting on a small fenced-off rise above our neighbors below on Salina Road. The view was of the sea — though just a small blue wedge, barely visible over the McIntyre’s green two-story house and the three-decker that, over time, had been home to people like Mrs. Baylion and Jimmy Kinally and Freddie Ferguson. It was mostly a harbor view and bay view: Boston Harbor and Dorchester Bay. Small waters in the grand scheme of things. But that was sea water out there, no less enticing to the embryonic imagination of a would-be Balboa; the blue threshold to the deep ocean of legend — of vast ships and fabulous creatures. A boy of eight or nine would see it that way. I was that boy. Continue reading “A Continental Summer”