By Charles McGonagle
It was sometime around 1950 when I first became aware of them.
I guess that I was 10 years old, or so, and I was spending a good deal of my time at the old Charlestown Boys Club, my home away from home. They came in great numbers; topcoats draped over one arm, with soft hats in hand. Each wore a white shirt, a tie, and a smile. It was evident, even to a 10-year old, that they were at a place where they wanted to be, and not at a place where they had to be. They hugged, and they talked of old times and of families. Many were boyhood friends who had not seen each other for many years, while others were everyday acquaintances. It did not seem to matter. They were happy.
As I said earlier, I was about 10 years of age at the time, and they all seemed so very old. Each of them, after all, was over 50, even older than my parents at the time. They had a name. They were the Old Charlestown Schoolboys. I was so impressed, I vowed that night, even at my early age, that I would one day become one of them.
Today I am.
I very am proud of that.
A few years later, I saw my father wearing a bright smile, one that he always saved for special times. I saw an excitement in him that he seemed to reserve for special occasions, and I knew something out of the ordinary was about to take place.
“ I am an Old Charlestown Schoolboy now, and tonight I will share a few hours with old friends, some of whom I have not seen in years.”
The excitement that Dad experienced each year during the weeks leading up to the Schoolboy’s dinner was contagious. It helped, greatly, to build my own enthusiasm toward the organization.
To me he was “Dad.”
To most others he was simply “Mac.”
Because he spent all of his 92 years living in Charlestown, and most every day of his retirement years walking its streets, he was familiar to many throughout the neighborhood. His days as an Old Charlestown Schoolboy were very happy days, and I could easily detect his sadness when, in his late 80s, he had outlived many of his contemporaries and would no longer attend the annual event.
“All the kids are going there now,” he would say, and I guess that sounded a bit funny to me, but when the newer members were in their 50s and Dad was close to 90, many in attendance were in his eyes, in fact, really just kids.
First my Dad, and now myself, have always considered The Old Charlestown Schoolboys to be a very special organization. Lifetime membership is currently $25. When I first joined, I believe the cost was $10. This means that I have spent all of 40 cents a year to be a member of one of Charlestown’s oldest and finest groups. A nominal fee, which may change a wee bit from time to time due to inflation, is charged for the annual dinner that is held traditionally on the second Sunday of each May.
The Old Charlestown Schoolboys has now proudly been in existence for more than 100 years, and the names of many prominent local gentlemen have, and do, appear as officers or committee members as being a part of the organization.
Qualifications for membership are few and simple. A gentleman need only to be at least 50 years of age and at, one time or another, attended any one of the many schools in Charlestown. This, of course, includes both public and parochial schools.
There is no doubt that the face of education has changed over the past many years, but there is still a large number of former Charlestown schoolboys out there who are now eligible for membership who are either not aware of the organization’s existence or who, at least to this point, are not aware of the stature it holds in this Town’s history.
Any eligible gentleman interested in becoming a member of the Old Charlestown Schoolboys is urged to request an application from a current member or go online to the OCSA Facebook page. Fill out application with $25 and mail to Maurice Gillen, at P.O. Box 290375, Charlestown, MA 02129-0207.