Whitey and Julia


By reminiscing Emmet

I tried. God knows I tried.
According to my Roslindale High School math, it was far, far cheaper to read the Boston Globe online than paying $27 a week for the seven issues at Fowlie’s Overpriced Emporium in Camden. I think it is $13 a week to read the paper on line. You do the math.
But the Boston news is so compelling these days that I buy the paper, and continue the online subscription. Apparently, that’s why I never have any money.
Let’s face it; the James “Whitey” Bulger trial is the most interesting story in decades. He was always a folk hero when I was growing up in bucolic West Roxbury. He kept the drugs out of “Southie,” you know. Well, according to a parade of witnesses Bulger, (brother of the State Senate President) was hip-deep in the drug trade. Oh, he also killed 19 people, the prosecution says.
Of course I had to read everything about the 1982 gangland slaying of Brian Halloran. It seems the corrupt FBI told Bulger that Halloran was giving away “Whitey’s” secrets. (I told you it was interesting.) So Whitey, Kevin “Two” Weeks and an unidentified co-murderer waited for Halloran to leave a Boston waterfront bar. Halloran went down in the proverbial hail of bullets along with one Michael Donohue, who committed the crime of giving Halloran a ride home.
“There was a lot of people there, they were diving, running around, they were screaming,” Weeks said on the witness stand. “Jim Bulger just started shooting at him. Brian Halloran went down, and Jim Bulger just kept shooting. His body was bouncing on the ground. I was involved in a double homicide, so I knew there was no getting out. I knew I was really in,” he said.
We always looked for information about that particular murder, since it took place across Atlantic Ave. from my sainted mother’s favorite restaurant, Jimmy’s Harborside. You had to know Julia. If the machine guns started up in the middle of her fin ‘n hattie, she would have gone out to the street and yelled at Bulger “Hey! I’m eating here!”
In the middle of all of this they dug up the Boston Strangler, to see if they could pin one more murder on his memory. Albert De Salvo confessed to 11 murders, and then recanted. Just kidding, he said. He ended up in Walpole prison, anyway for a string of burglaries. He sold “chokers” in the prison store until someone stabbed him to death over some prison slight.
I had to read every word.
It was Dec. 5, 1962 and one of the rare evenings spent in Boston’s Northeastern University library. The traditional library quiet was interrupted by the screams of every siren in every police car in the city roaring down Huntington Ave. Fire trucks, too. I could hardly read my economics text book. It seemed that police had discovered the Strangler’s latest victim, Sophie Clark, only 20. Most of the victims were elderly. The library quickly emptied to watch the police watch the police. That was the end of Samuelson for the evening.
For your information police said De Salvo’s DNA matched that taken from the victim. For your information on that date in 1962, a dozen eggs costs 96 cents, a quart of milk 52 cents, a loaf of bread 21 cents, a gallon of gas 30 cents, a postage stamp 5 cents.
You can’t read this stuff on line. You have to hold the paper in your two grubby hands.
If you grew up in West Roxbury and had a bike (mine was a J. C. Higgins festooned with stolen reflectors) you spent summer day at magnificent Havey Beach, on the banks of the exceedingly filthy Charles River. What did we know?It was the fabulous 50’s. We knew that the water was the color of aging urine but it was nice and cool. I remember that kids would take the MTA from across the city to swim at Havey. Then we started hearing the words “polluted” and “Polio” and we found other, cleaner places to swim.
I noted in a recent Globe edition that people were swimming in the vaguely cleaner Charles for the first time in 50 years. In an event sponsored by the Charles River Conservancy, seven pioneers took the plunge near the famous Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. This is not to say that waters have become pristine, just less polluted than before.
“It’s orange,” one woman yelled as she looked down at her body in the water, which faded to black somewhere around the thighs. “We look orange.” A man on the dock said it was more like beef broth. Renata von Tscharner, the head of the conservancy, said she preferred to describe it as a tea.
But since 1995, when the EPA gave the water quality a grade of D, the health of the river has improved dramatically, rising to a B in 2011, and now meeting the state standards for swimming most days of the summer. The bottom of the river remains a toxic mess, however.
When I was a dashing, young college student I took a coed out on the river in a rented sailboat. It was so hot that I dropped my hand in the water to wash my face. The look of horror on my date’s face illustrated that the relationship would not get very far. I believe she suggested a tetanus shot.
The news kept coming and I bought more and more $2 Globe editions. It was much too good for online reading.
I know, I should either drop the digital access to the Globe or stop buying the paper. It makes economic sense, of course. But you know I won’t.
Not until “Whitey’s” trial is over.