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Malden Musings: Frank ‘Red’ Harris Remembered

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By Peter Levine


Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to… Red Harris, at times, is all but forgotten except for those of us who care about keeping our glorious Malden sports history alive. Frank “Red” Harris is (really) “All About Malden,” proudly graduating Malden Catholic after winning a state football title in 1965. He hails from Edgeworth. Don’t they all?! A proud flag waving Edgeworthian in a long line of exceptional athletes that came out of Ward 2. That famous 1965 M.C. football team went undefeated, winning the Catholic League Championship and becoming the Class B Co-Champs with outstanding players, such as Red, Steve Wishoski, Neil Hurley and Dickie Cullen. This was just the beginning of Red’s fabulous football career.

His fame would grow when he went off to Boston College to play ball. Red set just about every B.C. passing record during his three varsity football seasons at the Heights, establishing standards that stood for more than a decade until another local guy, 1984 Heisman Trophy winner (Natick boy) Doug Flutie, personally rewrote B.C.’s football record book. Frank helped Joe Yukica’s Eagles become an Eastern football powerhouse from 1968-1970: going 19-9, completing 366 passes for 4,555 yards and 44 touchdowns. How ’bout that!

Red was named co-captain his senior year, and in an interview years later he fondly recalled beating Army in 1970 at Alumni Stadium, 21-13: “I remember that score very well, because I had a running touchdown on a bootleg play that day. I didn’t have many running touchdowns in my career, as we had Fred Willis and a few others who took care of the running stuff.”

Drafted by the Detroit Lions after graduating B.C., Red played behind Greg Landry (all-Pro in 1971) and Bill Munson as a taxi squad player. Taxi squad players were paid $500 a week for a 14-week season; total pay for the year: $7,000. After three years he decided to try Canadian football with the Edmonton Eskimos of the C.F.L. An early season injury stopped Red’s football career in its tracks.

Red joined the ranks of the Boston College football immortals after his terrific varsity career on Chestnut Hill. Many B.C. football fans still remember him for his stellar play. Red recalls that “growing up in Malden, playing for M.C. and then at B.C., it’s amazing how many people still remember me.” “It really makes me proud. Things went awfully well for me at B.C. and Boston College has always been a big part of my life.”

Malden and Edgeworth are very proud to call you our own, Red!

It is said in “Malden Musings”…

  • Kudos to Mayor Christenson, Cemetery Director Chris Rosa, Veterans’ Services Director Kevin Jarvis and his assistant Martha Ferratusco, Robby Santo and his bang-up crew at Garrick-Santo Landscape and former Cemetery Director Jimmy Cahill for the outstanding job they did at the Forestdale Cemetery for the Memorial Day Remembrance. Well played, ladies and gentlemen! You made Malden proud, once again! Thank you!
  • Tommy Feagley passed on May 5. Tom departed after “dedicating his life to making the world a better place through spreading peace and adding color.” How wonderful to be remembered like this. Just my humble opinion but just think about this for a brief moment: If each of us strived to live through Tom’s philosophy (even if it’s just once in a while) – how much better off we’d be!?
  • Terrestrial radio will never be the same again with the loss of WJIB’s Bob Bitner – another pure human soul who brought happiness into our lives through the joy of music. Also, his PSAs and prerecorded political commentary, forgetaboutit! Insert smiley face.
  • Three years gone, oh my! Time surely does fly… “Damn it! It just isn’t fair. You were invincible, Jimmy! You loved life too much not to be here with us any longer. That voice! That smile! That hair! Those fists of fury for such a gentle man. The way you took over a room, whether you meant to or not. That sense of humor – throw in that accent! Forgetaboutit! We loved you very much, Jimmy. Everybody did. Edgeworth grieves for the extra-large hole that you leave in our lives. It is with extremely heavy heart that I share the loss of the last of the “stand-up guys” – often imitated, never duplicated – Jimmy the “Prince of Pearl Street” Palermo. We’ll meet again someday, big guy. We’ll have a cold one and maybe you can make us one of those extra-long sausage subs you were so famous for at 3 in the morning. Rest in peace, friend.
  • Speaking of the Memorial Day celebration at Forestdale Cemetery… New memorials to honor veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were unveiled. One, fittingly, portrayed the sacrifice and service that women have bravely contributed going back to the Revolutionary War. ’Bout time! Good job, Malden! Also unveiled was a new memorial in honor of Lance Corporal Edward M. Garvin, who was K.I.A. in Iraq on October 4, 2006. Edward’s sister and son were in attendance, making this day very special.
  • Spotted at the Forestdale Cemetery that morning was an abundance of birdlife but not one coyote sighting! Thank goodness.

As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – passage revisited and reworked, Why not Malden Square? Davis Square in Somerville was not always “home of the hipsters.” Central Square wasn’t always the coolest place in Cambridge to shop for Doc Martens and rare old blues records, or to drink perfectly poured pints. Have you driven through Charlestown lately? Not the Charlestown we knew growing up (right, Kevin Benner?)! How ’bout the Seaport District? Point being, if these once neglected and shabby neighborhoods can make that transformation, I can certainly envision Malden (Square) continuing its upward trajectory, swaggering its way to fame and fortune! It’s actually happening in real time. Right now! With “The Beast That Ate Pleasant Street” now part of our prehistoric past, the whole downtown area has started to bloom! New retail shops and restaurants have opened their doors and added a dynamic never before seen in Malden. Barney Kahn would be gobsmacked at 2023 Malden Square (ask Barbara Tolstrup or Arthur who Barney was)! Add to the mix our ever-improving school system, the multimillion dollar infrastructure betterment to the downtown streetscape (thank you, Senator Ed Markey and our state delegation), the “Dine in Malden, Taste the World” campaign that caught fire and was the envy of all our neighbors, and Mayor (Christenson’s) at all times forward-thinking administration – and we got a “perfect storm” unfolding. Let’s give the downtown merchants another huge “welcome back” this spring/summer. Drink, eat, shop locally and get your merry on in good old Malden Square! Future home of the hipsters!?

Postscript 1: With that said…from its humble beginnings Malden has been a working-class city. Residents (for the most part) with common sense; they worked hard, fought hard and (at times) enjoyed life (too) hard. Our roots – blue collar; that is why an overwhelming number of us vote so pragmatically when choosing elected officials. That is why we keep sending the likes of Ed Markey, Jason Lewis, Katherine Clark and Steve Ultrino back to the hill. Politicians who stand up for and give a voice to the proletariat (not the hardcore punk band out of Boston in the early 1980’s – insert smiley face). We have no tolerance for our elected officials’ grandstanding. We recognize a fraud and those who are self-aggrandizing from Robinson’s News to Oak Grove Variety to China Garden. We in Malden are fortunate to have been led through the years by such capable and trustworthy mayors, such as Gary Christenson, Richie Howard and before that (the best of them all) Ed Lucey. These days Craig Spadafora, Amanda Linehan, Carey McDonald, Peg Crowe, Chris Simonelli, Steve Winslow – to name but a few – have stepped up “bigly” and have rewarded Malden with hard work and dedication to the electorate. This year might see some changes in the political landscape. New faces have emerged, which is always a good thing – fresh perspectives and (hopefully) innovative new ideas can only mean good things for us who have called Malden home, both literally and figuratively. That is why it is important for us to continue this tradition and only elect committed officials whose sole purpose is to serve the interests of Maldonians. Peter, gingerly stepping off his soapbox…

Postscript 2: On June 2, I lit the Yahrzeit Memorial Candle for my grandfather Harry. As my father Solomon had done before me. A simple request to his children to keep the tradition alive. Fulfilled.

Postscript 3: Please take note: “The Beast That Ate Pleasant Street” is not to be confused with “The Beast That Ate Maplewood Square.” Insert smiley face, George (Warren)?


—Peter is a long-time 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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