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~ Malden Musings ~ The Dana Brown Chronicles – Final Chapter

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By Peter Levine


Former MHS Principal Dana Brown (2002-2016) “ain’t walking through that door anytime soon” (unless you ask him nicely – insert smiley face), but he sure is killing it with his “Ferryway Green Chronicles”! His 12 years at 77 Salem St. put Malden High back on the map and jumpstarted a sort of educational renaissance in these here five square miles. Through hard work and a hands-on, commonsense approach, Dana made this center of learning a safe haven, where kids wanted to (and could) learn and – more importantly – grow as people into fine young engaging adults.

Always the voice of reason, Dana was all in, leading pragmatically from the heart doing what he felt was best for Malden and the “yoots” of Malden. It was the “trickle-down theory” of being a positive role model that actually trickled down. Lead by example: from Dana’s parents (Barbara and Fran) to their children to their children. That’s how the trickle-down theory really works. Dana gave it his best shot, lessons learned at the feet of giants. Ain’t no idle chatter or debate when Maldonians reflect on how he restored public confidence and pride back into his old alma mater.

All good things must come to an end, though. Here we have the final installment of the Dana Brown Chronicles:

“In 1979 a bunch of mostly Ferryway Green guys including [John] Stanasek, [Bruce] Vining, [Vance] Ferratusco, yours truly, [Joe] Bartoszewicz, [Johnny] Willcox and others would win the competitive Malden Men’s Recreational League championship in a great game against the vaunted West Siders who included George Miller, Dave McNary, Cliff Cioffi, etc. Who knew you could see the sun rise from Bell Rock Park as you exited the Eagles Club after a night of celebration!

“Some years later another MHS standout Eric Dannenberg would battle men and kids at the Green as he improved his game. Mitchell Cohen would often be with him, if they weren’t at the Y with the Conlon brothers, also Ferryway kids. Danny Patterson from Ashland St. and Stephen Prendable from Belmont St. played some good ball at the Ferryway. Back then it was all sports for all seasons.

“Bruce Vining would prove to be an exceptional high school athlete, in basketball but also in track where he held the MHS outdoor track record for longest javelin throw for many years. And in the ‘what could have been’ department, some of the old-timers always felt that George ‘Tommy’ Hoffman should have been destined for greatness. As a basketball guy I can tell you his ‘first step’ was as quick as anyone’s around. His release on his jumper was electric. Alas it never happened, and Tommy was taken from us in a tragic accident at an early age. Leslie Hume was another guy who played well whenever he was at the Green.

“Ferryway Green also served as a meeting place for the politically active youth of Malden. Malden’s youth, opposed to the Vietnam War, and many rules at MHS, used Ferryway Green as a meeting place on more than one occasion, before making the short walk up Ferry St. to Malden Square, wreaking havoc along the way, and clashing with police on at least one memorable occasion. I recall that Ferryway was also a place of romance. Handsome Gerald ‘Pick’ Perna and the gorgeous Stephanie Vuolo were regulars at the Green and are still married today! Bruce Vining and Stephanie Grande can be claimed by Ferryway Green and are still together almost 50 years later. Recently spotted, this power couple looks like they have aged gracefully and well!

“I would find out several years later that the Perna family and the DeCandia family (my wife’s family) were first cousins. The estimable Tony Perna got his start at Ferryway before moving on to bigger and better things. RIP.

“Of course, it was the 1960s and Ferryway had its share of young people experimenting with drugs. Looking back, from what I now know, heroin was used by some of the ‘older’ crew. Not everyone survived.

“When winter struck, Ferryway Green came alive with hockey and skating. I fondly recall the city flooding the park (along with other parks) and creating a rough sheet of ice where kids could skate or play pickup games. I particularly remember Joey ‘Cooch’ Cucinotta zooming around the ice. He could fly. Spotting him recently, he looks like he could still lace them up. Fit!

“Interestingly enough, hoop guys, like me, and Stanasek, and the Hallahans, could lace up the skates to compete when the park would flood. Others with Ferryway Green addresses were Timmy Buckley from Hillside Terrace and Dave LeBlanc from Upham St. who honed their skills in and around the Green and would become top notch MHS hockey players. Ferryway kids…Timmy’s sisters Cheryl and Denise knew where Ferryway Green was!

“The split at Ferry and Walnut Streets provided options for travel to and from Ferryway Green. Heading toward Malden Square we always passed through Judson Square, an underrated square in Malden I might add. Before there was a Pasta Market there was the H&M Cake Box. The ‘M’ of the partnership, the Malatsky family, lived next door to us on Pratt St. when we first moved in. Diagonally across from H&M there was Blood’s Bakery with five cent apple and raspberry turnovers readily available on the walk home from high school or on the way to the Y. Dom the Barber was a mainstay in Judson Square, regaling everyone with great stories and always keeping his eyes and ears open, especially on sports scores! Great guy. The Do Re Lounge was part of Judson Square. Also in the square was the Nazarene Church which was lost in a horrific fire back in the 1970’s but rebuilt on Eastern Avenue and now home to the Malden Warming Center.

“In the United States in 1972, Federal Law Title IX was enacted. Two years later, at Ferryway Green, a local story was becoming a national one. Cathy MacMullin, of the Newland Street Projects, Lincoln Jr, High, MHS Hall of Fame, Director of the Malden Teen Center, that Cathy, was named a starter on the Lincoln Jr. High baseball team. This was not a consolation or gimmick. She was in the top nine. With no softball program for girls yet at the junior high schools there was only one alternative, now protected by law; let Mac play baseball. Groundbreaking, right here in Malden, at Ferryway Green. It wouldn’t stop there. Later that year, our baseball coach, Bill Carey would become sick, and biology teacher extraordinaire Avis Leabman, would be named interim coach, and manage her first game at Ferryway Green.”

Bravo! Dana put his heart and soul into these words (don’t he have great words?!). We felt it, Mr. Brown, wonderful job! Thank you! Here is my pledge of love: I will have Dana back in the future.

As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – relax, Maldonians, do not fret, DB’s not coming for your job (insert smiley face)! This is just 1,500 words that pays respect to and is a tribute for those living amongst us (right now) who deserve acknowledgement, in real time – while they’re still drinking coffee at Cornucopia, dining at All Season’s Table, eating raviolis at the Moose (excellent, btw) and still prowling the many sidelines and courtsides of Malden. With that said, the Dana Brown (aka “The Super Who Got Away”) interview:

  • Best-loved restaurant of yesteryear?

I loved going to Santoro Subs. We were banned from Signor Pizza. Riley’s was an after 2 a.m. place, and I chose to forget my encounters there. I was also blessed to work with all sorts of characters and lifelong friends at the Highland Cafe and at Henry’s. Both have a special place in my heart.

  • Malden athletes you expressed admiration for?

I was fortunate enough to be around Dave Barris, Terry Matthews, Peter Carroll, and others. They really fostered my love for coaching and for hoops. I also got to play with and cover guys like John Stanasek, Don Roach, Johnny Furlong and Shawn Brickman. All great athletes in their own right.

  • Best 4th of July memory?

  As the Ward 5 Councilor back in the 90’s, I loved watching the young people have a great time. It was a two-day event that brought the entire neighborhood together.

  • Most-liked bands?

  It was the 70’s, and we were all over the spectrum, from Tavares to the Cars to the Ramones, all in our backyard. It was a great time. All-time favorite: the Beatles.

  • Maldonians who most inspired you?

  My parents, Barbara and Fran Brown, long-term Malden Public School educators and great supporters of anything we wanted to do.

  • Foremost educators?

  Don Brunelli Jr. and Sr., Tom Cosgrove, Maureen Tighe, Tony Guarino, Arthur Boyle, Len Iovino, Nancy Finkelstein, John DiGiammarino, and Mrs. O’Donnell, my first-grade teacher. I could name many more.

  • Preferred sports coach?

  I loved my little league coaches, Ken Petraglia and Fran Roach. I played for the Browns! There were others, too numerous to mention here although Bob Rotondi deserves a shout out for his work. I still admire the man. My hoops coaches Jack Schlegel, Pete Carroll, and Billy Hanifan were great!

  • Malden politician you admired.

  I always thought Herbie Jackson was the man!

  • First concert?

  Not the first but certainly the most memorable, the Cars, Eddie Money, and the Beach Boys at a daylong concert at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Conn., accompanied by (Johnny) Cagno, (Anthony) Chiccuarelli, and others.

  • Noteworthy Malden Square experience from yesteryear?

  Fooling around with a bunch of guys “accidentally” pushing a friend through the window at Liggett’s Drugstore. We walked a little way and jumped on an MBTA bus just as the authorities arrived.

Postscript: The accompanying photo begs a caption. If you have one, send it to me.


—Peter is lifelong Malden, a regular contributor to the Malden Advocate and can be reached at PeteL39@aol.com for comments, compliments or criticisms.

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