Allston-Brighton Parade Founder Joe Hogan Speaks Out
The following is an excerpt from a taped interview conducted by local historian Bill Marchione with long-time Allston-Brighton community activist Joe Hogan.
Bill Marchione: Why don't we begin, Joe, with some background information. When did your family come to Allston-Brighton, and where did you grow up?
Joe Hogan: I grew up at the Fidelis Way Housing Project. We were one of the first families in there back in 1951. We lived there for nineteen years. We moved out in 1970, to Nonantum Street in Oak Square. I lived there with my parents until they passed on in 1980. I continued living in the Oak Square area until 1986, when I moved up to Brighton Center, to the top floor of the Rourke's Building. I was there from 1986 to 1999. When the building was sold, a few years back, I moved into an apartment on Foster Street, near St. John's Seminary, but I have since moved to Quincy with my fiancee, Phyllis Donovan. So I lived in Brighton for fifty-one years altogether.
BM: Tell us a little about your schooling.
JH: I went to St. Gabriel's Elementary School, went to Boston English, and graduated from there. I went on to UMass-Boston, graduating from there with their first class in 1970, then worked for a year in Boston City Councillor Joe Timilty's office, with Tom Menino, and in September of 1971, started at Suffolk Law School at night, graduating in June of 1975.
BM: So you've been practicing law how long?
JH: Twenty-six years altogether.
BM: Always here in the Allston-Brighton community?
JH: Pretty much so. About five months after graduating from law school, I went to work for a lawyer in Dorchester, very near the Ashmont Station---a very good experience. He had a lot of good cases. Then, in 1978, I went to work in the office of the Suffolk County District Attorney as an Assistant District Attorney. I was there for a short time. I then worked for the Boston School Department, as Counsel for Desegregation, from July of 1978 to January of 1980. It was after that that I established my law practice here in Brighton.
BM: How did you first become involved in the community, Joe? I remember that your brother John ran for State Senator in the early-1970s. Was that how you got involved?
JH: Yes, I got involved in John's campaign. He did very well here in Brighton, but the district also included Belmont, Waltham, and Cambridge. John won Brighton by two to one, he didn't do well in the other sections of the district. Later John went on to Harvard Business School. He's now working on Wall Street.
I got involved shortly after John's campaign in the Oak Square Civic Association.
We were active in opposing the closing of the Oak Square School, working with people like Charlie Vasiliades and Principal Ellen Murray. Then, following the death of my parents, in 1980, I was preoccupied with settling their estate and establishing my law practice. I practiced out of Jim Haroules' office, and I then went in with Connie Bletzer at 300 Market Street.
It was at that time, in 1983, that I ran for the office of District City Councillor. After that I continued my law office at 410 Washington Street, in the old Congregationalist Church Rectory, where I remained from 1984 to 1999, and then moved up to 353 Washington Street.
BM: Were you the President of the Oak Square Civic Association for a time?
JH: Yes, I was.
BM: What kind of issues did the Oak Square neighborhood face back then?
JH: The big issue in 1975 was a proposal to develop apartments on the Crittenden Hospital property. I think a similar proposal came up recently, and was again turned down. Also, the Oak Square School issue. The association had pretty regular meetings in the old Oak Square Bungalow. We always had a big group. Oak Square, as you know, was and still is a very active neighborhood.
BM: Now, turning to the current situation, what would you say are the principal problems facing Allston-Brighton today?
JH: Well, for one thing, the community seems to have lost a lot of its political clout. Going back to the mid-1980s, you'll recall, Allston-Brighton had a citywide City Councillor [Michael MCCormack]; we had the Suffolk County Sheriff [Bob Rufo] living here, and we had our Congressman [Joe Kennedy] as a resident, in addition to very active district representatives on the City Council and School Committee.
We had many commissioners and city officials who were local residents. That clout no longer exists. Now I think we're taken for granted. The city doesn't have to pay much attention to us because we don't turn out to vote in the numbers that other city neighborhoods do. There was a big brouhaha nine years ago when Bob Rufo ran for Mayor and his own own home town community didn't turn out to vote for him. I think that our Allston-Brighton civic organizations are not helping the problem by fighting amongst themselves. I also see the Tab, , attacking the BAIA. The problem with the Tab is that it's not of the community, it doesn't have a local office. We told them that when we met with Patrick Purcell last March, when the Herald was about to take over the paper. We asked them to establish an office in Brighton Center, or somewhere else in the community, so people could come in with news and talk to them directly. As matters stand, their office is miles away in Needham. Nothing has happened on that request.
In Flynn's time we had Ray Dooley out here [the Mayor's Chief of Staff], we had Lisa Chapnick here [head of the community schools]; we had Charlie Doyle with the municipal cable station; we had Pat McGuigan with Neighborhood Development. Flynn had a large organization of Allston-Brighton people and he cared deeply about this community. Allston-Brighton does not have the clout that Hyde Park, West Roxbury, South Boston, Roslindale have---the other areas of the city that vote heavily. I see this more clearly now that I'm living outside the community than I did when I was in the middle of it all.
BM: What are some of the other problems that the community faces?
JH: I think they all stem from our political weakness. I don't think we're getting anything done. I'm not very optimistic, to be frank. I'd like to see something implemented that Brian McLaughlin talked about ten years or so ago. We have more media outlets in Allston-Brighton than in any other part of the city---WPAX just opened where the Ground Round used to be on Soldiers Field Road; WBZ radio and WBZ TV; Station 38 on the Birmigham Parkway; Channel 2, etc., etc., and the radio stations at Brighton Landing---there are about five of them there. We've never done anything through the media outlets whereby they would act together for the benefit of the community. We make absolutely no use of these resources at all.
There's is also an unfortunate lack of unity in the community that weakens us. Every group has its own turf. That's natural to a degree. There are turf wars everywhere. But it's a particular problem here. In my opinion the Allston-Brighton Parade is the one thing that brings this community together without any controversy whatsoever.
BM: Well, let's talk about the parade. You're best known, Joe, as the founder and principal organizer of the annual Allston-Brighton Parade. Give us a little bit of history here. Where did the parade idea come from?
JH: Good question. When I worked for Timilty way back in the 70s, I didn't know that parades existed in other parts of Boston---in Hyde Park and West Roxbury, for example. All I knew about was the St. Patrick's and Columbus Day parades---the ethnic parades. Then when I ran for District City Councilor here in 1983, I proposed running a parade in Allston-Brighton. And frankly, I never thought it was going to happen! We didn't know what in God's name we were doing, the first time, we really didn't. On September 9, 1984 I stood there on the Malvern Street Soccer Field not knowing what the hell I was doing, or how to put the thing on the street---and it just happened, and from that point on it has just progressed. The recent November 4 Parade was awesome. It was on cable TV---the best yet, very broad participation. We had Fats Pellegrini from Newton put in a third of the parade. It brings everybody together, creates a good feeling.
BM: Getting back to the origins of the parade, did you draw on the experience of any other communities in planning the first parade?
JH: Yes, as I said when I ran for office in 1983, I proposed this idea, fully expecting to get elected, and when I didn't, I thought the idea was dead, but there was a fellow who called me in April of 1984, a Black fellow who'd worked in Mel King's mayoral campaign, and we met at the Pizzeria Uno to have lunch and talk about this thing. He said,"You've gotta do that parade!" And I said, "Did you see the election results? I lost!" To which he shot back, "That doesn't mean anything!" Well, my first question to him was, "Are you going to help?," and he told me he was about to move to Philadelphia!
But, anyway, I moved ahead with the idea. We had meetings everywhere. I think we started at the Brighton Congregational Church. The late Maurice Sullivan joined us. He was very helpful to us---the Sullivans have always been very helpful. Aramis Camps was there (Campy), Judy Bracken was with me, my brother Bill, Manny Fernandes, and others who are no longer involved, and it came off. It was the worst day of my life, but it came off. Mayor Flynn's people were wonderful. Getting back to the question, "Did you get any help?," we got help from Domenic D'Ambrosio and Amy Domenici and people from the Mayor's office, Rosemary Sansone, etc., they helped us put on that first parade. And it turned out magnificent.
But, as I said, I wasn't at all confident as we approached the date. I remember at one point in August I turned to my brother Bill and said, "This is not going to happen. This thing is going to fall apart on September 9." You get these cold feet. I was ready to abandon the idea. And then I talked it over with Judy and the others, and everone said, "No, it will work itself out," and it did. And from that point on it was much easier.
The parade has grown into something to which people really look forward. When we had to postpone the 2001 parade because of the September 11 attacks (it was supposed to take place five days later), many people called to urge us to reschedule. And the politicians were really supportive. It was Steve Tolman who recommended doing it two days before the City elections, pointing out that the politicians would love it. And it was the biggest one we ever had! We never went this late before, but as I say, it was really well done. And we had a lot of groups participate this time that never had before---Fats Pellegrini, the North End Band, the Sons of Italy from Haverhill. We can't get these groups as early as September, the high school bands, for example. They're not usually back in school long enough to participate. This year we had high school bands from Southbridge, Salem, and several other communities---really good bands.
I do enjoy it. I complain about it every year, and what have you, but it's now in a pattern---we have it all lined up on a computer and it's a lot easier than it was years ago. But I do enjoy it. I especially enjoyed commenting on the groups on cable this time around.
BM: How much did this year's parade cost, Joe, and where did the money come from?
JH: It costs $25,000. The money came from the city, from corporate donors---New Balance Shoes and Harold Brown were particularly generous. Most of the money has to be raised from private donations.
BM: What can be done to improve the parade in future years?
JH: Well, publicity has been a problem. Publicity was especially important this year because we had to to reschedule. As a result lots of people didn't know that the parade was taking place. The Tab hasn't given us as much attention as we'd like, especially in the issue preceding the parade. What I was hoping for this year---and they said it was going to happen, but it didn't, were that banners would be placed on light poles on the main streets publicizing the parade. We could put those up in August.of next year, announcing "Allston-Brighton Parade---Sunday, September 15, 2002," and virtually everyone would know. It would be a constant reminder to people. That's something for us to work toward for the next parade.
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