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~ Malden Musings ~ The Dana Brown Chronicles

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By Peter Levine


It is said in “Malden Musings”…

He’s Dana Brown, and we are not. In some circles, he’s known as the “last honest man” (well, in my circle, anyway!). You may know him as the former beloved (by most, anyway, insert smiley face) principal at Malden High School aka the “Super Who Got Away,” or one of the most dedicated and committed voices behind Malden Overcoming Addiction, or maybe as the MHS inspirational girls head basketball coach guiding them through their mid-90s resurgence with some of the most successful girls’ hoop years since those great teams from the 1970s, or maybe you just know him as Marie’s loving husband.

Regardless. I know you know him. I know Dana as that relentlessly scrappy kid on the hoop courts at Amerige and Devir Park; the kid you wanted on your team at the “Old Y” if you wanted to stay on the court; the dirt dawg who haunted every softball diamond in Malden seemingly seven days a week seemingly in every league, for every team (at times, much to Marie’s chagrin, insert another smiley face?). I also know him as one of the only guys (besides my brother Joe) who could get me off my recliner on a Saturday afternoon for a road trip to Rhode Island to watch a college football game. I also know him as a stand-up guy; somebody I am privileged to call friend.

With that said, I asked Dana if he would put pen to paper and make me look good by searching that very large brain of his and contributing his fondest recollections on his first love, Ferryway Green (Marie is a very close second, btw). See, he loved my article a few months back on Ferryway but insisted that somebody who actually hung out there should write about it. Point taken, my friend.

Dana wrote his opus on Ferryway – a delightful look back at a wonderful time in his life (and ours). It’ll be presented in two parts. So, here ya go, Malden, Part 1 of the Dana Brown Ferryway Green Chronicles:

“Please understand that my window of observation is a small one, 15-20 years tops, from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s, with a little more added about the new school controversy in the 1990s. These are my memories, and some may or may not be actually connected to reality! I’m hoping this segment will spur others to write more, comment more, and share their own fabulous stories about that unique space formerly known as Ferryway Green.

“Let me start by saying I could write an entire story just about the ‘characters’ of Ferryway Green, including Ricky Salmon, who along with one of his dogs ‘Balls,’ traversed the neighborhood by bike, at all hours of the day and night. The man was brilliant, certainly eccentric for his time. Someone is sure to add to this. Other older ‘guys’ I remember from the Green days included Paul Collier and the Willis kid. Barry Worcester could be found there often. Surrettes, Paglicias? I seem to remember these names as well. As it turns out these ‘men’ and some women weren’t that much older than me at the time, in some cases just 4-5 years, but I was just a boy…my family had moved from 191 Newland Street to Pratt Street when I was 6. I transferred from the Daniels School to the Belmont School. Dribbling down Pratt Street, winding around Leland Street, 3-4 minutes tops, I would be at the hoop court at the Ferryway.

“Ferryway Green sits in a significant area within Malden’s neighborhoods. At 150 Cross Street it is among the closest parks to Malden High School and Malden Square. I still call it the ‘Square’ and always will, but I digress. Did you also know that for many years, on many maps, Hitchings Field is scrawled across anything to do with Ferryway Green. Will have to research that name more…and then again, the plaque at the corner of Cross and Ferry is in honor of Moses Kotler, MD. 1896-1934. Erected by the Jewish War Veterans in 1936. At the time John Devir was the mayor, and members of the Parks Commission included among others, Louis Newman…who the park is named after…hmm…I’ll have to dig in even further.

“The Ferryway School, a Malden Public K-8 school now owns the 150 Cross Street address, and don’t think for a moment that everyone is over it. When the City of Malden submitted the plan to the State to build a school at the site of the park, which included plans to increase park square footage in Malden, right down the street as a matter of fact, it didn’t matter. For some the new Lincoln Commons would never take the place of the beloved Ferryway Green. At least one protester chained himself to a tree when the work commenced. To this day neighbors talk about the ‘taking’ of Ferryway Green. The loss was more than just about cutting down some trees. The large and lush trees, which wrapped around the park on Walnut, Cross, and Ferry Streets symbolized a past that was rich in history, diverse in its inhabitants and a home for many. This is where many of us grew up.

“For decades Ferryway Green was juxtaposed between Belmont School and the Lincoln Elementary School/Lincoln Jr. High complex. Daniels Elementary School wasn’t that far away. Malden High School, down the street. Unlike other parks that sit in one neighborhood, the Green was really a crossover meeting place, as it literally sat in both Wards 1 and 7 and was a stone’s throw from parts of Ward 4; it attracted the kids and adults directly abutting the park as well as kids from Belmont Hill to Newland Street. Harvard Street Park youth would sometimes venture to Ferryway for good hoop competition and vice versa. Rogers, Rogers, and Rogers could play with anybody.

“Never really ‘owned’ by one neighborhood, unlike Edgeworth’s Devir Park or Linden’s Hunting Field (Linden Park), Ferryway Green was Malden’s ‘everyman’ park. Think of it as a Grand Central Station of sorts. From here everyone and everything branched out to the rest of the city. An entire crew of guys like Ploumbidis and Moriarty and Berry et al and the Bellavia Brothers from Main Street, Fran, Steve, and Bobby lived with one foot in each world. Ferryway Green could claim them, but they were really Belmont Yard kids, another story for another day. Others from Belmont Hill like Mike Atwater who played for Bob Rotundi’s Knights or Eddy Thompson or the Nuttall brothers could claim Ferryway Green as their home, at least geographically. All played their Babe Ruth baseball games there.

“Sitting officially in the Faulkner section of Malden, it was surrounded by immigrants as Malden welcomed all in the early to mid-1900s. It is also a five-hundred-yard walk up Walnut Street or Ferry Street to Everett. Not many Everett youth ventured this way back then. To the west stood Belmont Hill, to the east Suffolk Square. People from all those neighborhoods considered the Ferryway Green home, or at least a place to play, hang out or party. ‘You can get there from here.’”

The Dana Brown Lovefest/Chronicles will continue with Part 2 in the following weeks.

As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – in 1986 I took public transportation into Harvard Square and at the Harvard Book Store purchased a 1st edition hardcover copy of “A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr.” It’s been read cover to cover since and is somewhat dog eared but is still on the top shelf of my bookcase. I revisit it from time to time but always on that special day in January, MLK’s birthday. I go directly to page 289 on that date and have another go at his epic 1963 essay “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” His “open letter” to eight “liberal” clergymen from Alabama who disagreed with his methods is a wonder to behold. Inspiring, breathtaking prose culminating in this dagger of a closing paragraph: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Postscript: As if I wasn’t already broken up enough leaving Weir’s Funeral Home after spending time at the late, great Ernie LeBlanc’s wake, I run into Pat McDonnell and his singing bagpipe in front. Pat was wailing away gracefully honoring the life and times of our pal Ernie as only a skillfully mournful bagpiper can. Malden grieves the deep loss of Ernie LeBlanc. Yes Ernie, life carries on but do not fret – our love and our memories of you will always be with us. Actually, Dave Angelo just told me a wicked awesome story of one night in Malden that still has me smiling.

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