... years before I ever heard of Melrose, I had watched the Marathon ...
1940s When my family lived in Everett we were invited to visit friends in
Brookline to see the Marathon run by. They lived in a city house with a wrap-
around porch. We all sat outdoors waiting for the time when we would walk to the
corner to cheer for the runners. I had not yet begun school so I probably was
five. To wile away the time, the grownups started asking me to spell words. Being
a wordy type of child, I was doing amazingly well. Someone decided to stump me
with onion and I spelled it correctly. I vaguely remember this story, but it
comes down to us in family lore.
I do remember the race very clearly. Everyone was excited waiting for a man named
Clarence (DeMar, of course). He had won the Boston Marathon seven times, the last
win being ten years before. Finally he came running by all alone, wearing white
shorts and a white undershirt. But he had an honor guard of the loudest
motorcycles I had ever heard. Everyone teased me because I stuck my fingers in my
ears. Years later I learned that Clarence DeMar was given support by the American
Legion of Melrose.
1950s Eighteen years later I moved to Holliston. Whenever someone asks me where
it is located, I always say next to Hopkington where the Boston Marathon starts.
Everyone can relate to this. The race was always run on Patriots Day, April 19th, no
matter what day of the week it fell on. My brother-in-law who lived in Wellesley was
born on that day. So each year we celebrated his birthday by watching hundreds of men
run through town in their underwear.
1960s We never missed finding a spot on the Marathon route to cheer the
runners. However we never drove to Hopkinton to watch the race begin. The roads in
and out of town were closed at 6:30 am allowing only the buses from Boston
carrying the runners to enter. Our favorite spot was across from Dennison
Manufacturing in Framingham. The runners were still bunched up at this point and
people were giving the participants water and sliced oranges. Where you parked
your car was determined by your plans for later in the day. You could not drive
across Route 135 until the runners had moved on to Natick.
1970s and 1980s By now Patriots Day had become a Monday holiday and the
beginning of spring school vacation. Our family would go to the race, cheer for
the runners especially those from our town, and then leave for a camping trip on
the Cape Cod Canal. Those who had enjoyed the long weekend had to leave Scusset
State Park and we, who had the week off, could claim their empty sites.
1990s By this time we had purchased an rv. We would park in a parking lot, make
breakfast and watch the race in comfort. People got used to our being there and
would stop by to say Hi or to borrow something like paper towels, a pair of
scissors or bandaids. One year the Budweiser distributor brought a huge inflatable
beer can for advertisement. His electric cord was nowhere nearly long enough so
he borrowed ours. We claimed it at the adjacent liquor store the next day.
2000s The television coverage got better and better as the press trucks and
camera lenses presented the runners close-up-and-personal. The broadcasters gave
background information on the elite racers and kept us up on how the races were
progressing. The awarding of the four traditional laurel wreathes immediately
after crossing the finish line gave each winner instant fame. Thousands of people
finished with television cameras recording them whether they were there for the
win or running for charitable fundraising. And I could enjoy the race from the
comfort of my favorite chair, never considering the weather, but still feeling
part of the event.
2013 Today we are reeling from the bombings at the finish line of the Boston
Marathon. The efforts of the athletes and the support of the crowds will be
remembered through a screen of smoke and chaos. I am keeping this message in mind
that Mr. Fred Rogers received from his mother when you see something scary in the
news, look for the helpers. The first responders in Boston did not fail to inspire us
and we will be cheering again and again. We will not be held hostage to an evil act.
Our hearts go out to those who will forever bear the scars of this day.
May 3, 2013