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Arthur Pierce

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  Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce. I need to remember the name of 26-year-old Arthur Pierce. I would like Malden to remember the name of 26-year-old Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce was a member of the 803rd Engineer Battalion involved in fighting on the Bataan peninsula. Arthur Pierce survived the 65-mile-long Bataan Death March during fighting in World War II only to die of disease/malnutrition at age 26 as a Japanese POW in 1942. The remains of Army PFC Arthur Pierce of Malden, Mass., were unceremoniously buried in a communal grave in that far away land but according to The Boston Globe – through the miracle of science – were recently identified with mitochondrial DNA analysis. Arthur Pierce is coming home. Praise the deity of your choice. According to those same reports, in the near future, he’ll be celebrated before being laid to rest in Augusta, Maine. Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce. Arthur Pierce.

  This just in… At times I do go on when it comes to Edgeworth. Hey, you spend 60 years of your life in the same neighborhood, that’s what happens! It all started 60 years ago… gotcha! You thought I was going down that well-worn Edgeworth memory lane path again, didn’t ya?! Well, I won’t bore you and take you there (yet), but I will print an email I received from a kindred soul named Marilyn Day. She contacted me shortly after I wrote my 1977 Edgeworth Reunion article. The article touched her. Her email touched me. I made an emotional connection with Marilyn and her sister that could only be made by growing up in that little piece of real estate tucked away in the corner of a place called Malden, Mass.

  It’s a feeling handed down from generation to generation to generation; to those of us who ran those very same streets. To those of us who helped a compadre, or their parents, drive into Chelsea or Everett in early spring for fertilizer for the backyard tomato crop. To those creatures of the night who had their first Schlitz at Little Pearl or Devir Park or behind Johnny Hartigan’s Quonset Hut on Thacher, or behind the Gas Tanks. To those of us who stood in awe during the Saint Rocco Feast at Devir Park while the fireworks exploded overhead – drowning out the sounds of the Joe Sica Orchestra playing on the Bandstand. To those of us who bought their French Bread for Sunday dinner at DiPietro’s, freshly killed chickens at Freddy’s Market or ground beef for the meatballs at Forgione’s Market. To those of us who helped a parent or grandparent drive into the Chelsea Produce Market in early spring in search of that perfect grape for the homemade wine. To those of us who sat in a worn-down wooden booth – with jukebox and tablecloth – at the Stadium or the Highland or the Rosebud or Mike’s or DeMarco’s or Tricca’s or Brandano’s or Maher’s or the Gold Star Cafe. To those mothers who shared recipes with each other handed down through the family. To those of us who went to the Emerson when it was an old wooden fire trap to the “brand-new” brick and mortar that still stands today. It’s an emotion handed down with the passage of time: a feeling capturing the zeitgeist of that era. An old Jewish prayer goes something like this, “as long as we live, those memories will also live; for they are now part of us; as we remember them.”

  Okay, enough with this long-winded, meandering diatribe. A letter from Ms. Day:

  “My sister and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your recent article. It brought back so many memories! Our father, Arthur Cuscuna, was front and center in the photo. He knew every inch of Edgeworth (the center of his universe) and for that matter, most of Malden.

  “Even though he moved to Saugus in 1952 when I was born, my father never really left Malden. That was where his heart remained until he passed away in 2005. Lifelong friendships and many ‘haunts’ were the draw. My mother, sister and I knew that if he was not at home in the evening or weekends, he was somewhere in Malden!

  “Your style of writing made it so easy to appreciate the complexity and simplicity of the times. Your digressions brought back memories of a different kind. Most of our family on both sides lived in Malden, so we spent the majority of our childhood holidays and special occasions there. My mother was a Todisco from Linden. All four grandparents came from Italy in the early 1900’s.

  “Mr. Levine, thank you for the wonderful walk down memory lane. Recalling the names, the places and the flavor of being a Maldonian conjured warm feelings and hearty laughs.

  “I hope you enjoy the feedback. Sincerely, Marilyn Day.”

  I enjoyed your feedback a great deal, Ms. Day.

  As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – Willie Barron received a full basketball scholarship to Western State College in Colorado, receiving his bachelor’s in 1966. Then came Boston State College for his master’s in education in 1979. He was drafted by the Celts, but injuries curtailed his hoop career. He was a 2014 inductee into the Golden Tornado Club Sports Hall of Fame. He passed away in March of 2023 as the best basketball player who ever laced up Chuck’s in Malden – the undisputed G.O.A.T. In between all this, he was a remarkable man.

  Arthur Boyle Jr. knows Malden sports, especially basketball. Arthur’s dad Arthur Sr. coached Willie at Malden High School. I spoke with Arthur. I will speak with him again soon:

  “My family and I were saddened to hear of the passing of a legend and the measuring stick for all MHS basketball players. Past and present. His 1600 plus points in only 3 varsity years with no 3-point line will forever be the standard. His 42-point game was, for several years, the record for MHS basketball. It was later broken by then Jr. guard Billy Hanifan who tallied 47 pts in a 76-74 OT win at Quincy (43 in regulation / no 3 pointers here either). For a year or two the record for points in a quarter was held by Bobby Hyde and Billy Hanifan with 17 each. Bill eclipsed that with eighteen points against Chelsea or Revere.

  “About 5 years ago while cleaning out a storage area of my mother’s, I found Willie’s MHS blue and gold basketball jersey number 25, and I mailed it to him with a note of how much my father enjoyed coaching him. I also mentioned that granted, he was a high school superstar for sure, but my dad was most pleased with Willie as a gentleman and a good sportsman.

  “I also recall my dad allowing the players to choose their team captains and it virtually always went to a deserving senior but went to Willie (as a junior) along with, I believe, Al Barriss (another great MHS hoop name along with brothers Dave and Richie).

  “Malden has a great history that I’m glad to see being continued by guys like Kenny Mazonson, your brother Joe, Gipper Nally to name a few that I’m familiar with. As I said, if you’re looking for deep dive into Willie’s career, I suggest contacting Peter Carroll. He would be a great resource as he remembers Mac Singleton, Buddy Arthur, John Keats and so many others of that era. I remember the Hanifan years a bit clearer because to borrow a quote from Canadian broadcaster Gordon Sinclair ‘I was there, I saw it.’

  “Back to Willie. He was on the radar screen of Red Auerbach the Celtics coach at the time, but in those days, there was no ‘one and done’ and Willie ended up, I believe, at Colorado and eventually went on to teach in the Malden Public Schools. God bless Willie Barron.”

  Postscript 1: Speaking of Buddy Arthur, thank you to Louise Arthur (Buddy’s lovely wife) for bringing Arthur Pierce to my attention.

  Postscript 2: Breaking news… Saint Rocco Feast (don’t call it a “Festival”!) VIP and MVP recipient many years running – City of Malden Animal Control Officer Kevin Alkins – reports that this year’s extravaganza might be the “best of the best.” He says the entertainment is, once again, spectacular! And the homemade Italian food will be outstanding, as usual. He says to me, “If the good Lord’s willing, and the creek don’t rise” the dates will be August 11 through the 13th. Big Kev gave me an insider’s look at the entertainment schedule: Beatlejuice make their triumphant return on Friday night; fan favorites Wildfire will return for a Saturday night performance with Steve Savio’s “Sea Breeze”; and Billy Joel Tribute Band “Heart Attack Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack” return on Sunday. Thanks for the update, Big Dog!

  Peter is a longtime Malden resident and a regular contributor to The Malden Advocate. He can be reached at PeteL39@aol.com for comments, compliments or criticisms.

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