Richard Goolsky's 1940's Jamaica Plain (Part 4)
Some of the Other Guys
In the section of Jamaica Plain on the Roxbury line bounded by the train tracks and Centre, Heath and Bickford Streets, lived some of my friends that had fathers and uncles that were a little left of center with the law.
Most of them lived on Parker Street and Bromley Park. The Bromley-Heath housing project gobbled up these streets along with Albert Street when it was built in the late forties and early fifties. They called themselves The Parker Slobs. It was never meant in a derogatory way - the kids even wore the name like it was a badge of honor.
I’m sure some of you that are reading this will remember a few of the Parker Slobs. One of the girls, Toby, had a father who was kind of famous by any standard. While my dad had a regular job working at the Navy Yard in South Boston, Toby’s dad made his own hours. His name was Theodore Teddy Green. He was one of the most infamous bank robbers of the time.
After he was caught and did his time, he got a job selling used cars - sort of the same line of work. On the night of Jan. 17, 1950, a couple of the kids’ uncles did something that flashed on the news all over the country, if not the world: the Boston Brinks Robbery. At that time it was the biggest heist in the world. They got over 1.2 million in cash, with over another million in checks and bonds.
Knowing who the perpetrators were, and then proving it, was difficult. They probably would have gotten away with it if some of them hadn’t short-changed Specs O’Keefe out of his share of the loot. Later on Specs ratted the others out to the cops. Even then, it still took over seven years to wrap up the case.
The Centre Club, later known as the Irish Centre Club, on the Corner of Heath and Schilller Streets, was owned by one of the guys, Jazz Maffie. A few days after the robbery, the FBI and the Boston cops tore the inside of the club to pieces, but they found nothing. Jazz and Anthony Pino (they may have even been godfathers to my friends) were taken in and later released. They used to hang around Jackson Square a lot. The House of Murphy and the Napoli were a couple of the best known watering holes at the time, and we mustn’t forget the Cross Roads at Heath and New Heath Streets or MaGee’s Tavern, down the street from The Canada Dry bottling plant at the foot of Walden Street.
I almost forgot the Moxie (that soda that used to taste like rusty water) plant that took up the whole block of Heath, Bickford, and Parker Streets. For us kids there was the White House Baking Company on Parker. For ten cents you could buy a shopping bag full of day-old bread and cakes, I mean jelly rolls, spice cakes, and chocolate marshmallow rolls that you had to pay 29 or 39 cents for the day before.
But I digress. Back on the subject of robberies, another guy with roots in Jamaica Plain planned the Brinks job. Although he didn’t participate in the robbery itself, he had a lot to do with the planning. His name was Joe McGinnis and he owned a package goods store (a liquor store if you’re not from Boston), across the street from the Egleston Square Theater and next door to The Plainsman, a bar and grill. There was also a strip club next to it and upstairs from the theater; I’m not sure, but I think McGinnis owned it too. I think it was called the JA Club. I guess there’s a fine line at Egleston Square, some call it Roxbury, but I always considered from Atherton Street up past Forest Hills to be Jamaica Plain.
There are some famous people buried at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain including Eugene O’Neill, the famous playwright who wrote The Iceman Cometh; poet E.E. Cummings; abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison; General William Heath, killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and for whom Heath Street was named; and the inventor of the fountain pen, Lewis Edson Waterman. If you’re under fifty years old, you may not know what a fountain pen is.
Back to the born and bred Jamaica Plain guys. Not all of the locals were famous for being left of the law. Every time you take a bite of a Dole pineapple, think of James Drummond Dole, who is credited with establishing the Hawaiian pineapple industry. Dole was born right here in Jamaica Plain. There was a Jamaica Plain guy who “done good.”
Richard Goolsky can be reached at 912 Canvasback Rd., Rio Rancho, NM 87124 or by e-mail to: RDGOOL1@peoplepc.com
Reprinted with permission from the November 2002 JP Bulletin.