Townie Tidbits

Remembering the people’s

firehouse takeover

›I›m sure many more protests will be planned.»

Jay Farris,

Boston Globe , April 25,1981

“If we tell when, they’ll (the police) will be ready for us.”

Nancy McCaffrey

Thirty one years ago right now, I was probably hanging out inside the occupied Winthrop Street firehouse and holding the Engine 50 hostage during a month-ling siege by about twenty-five or so community activists who did not want Engine 50 removed from the town or the firehouse closed.

It all began on April 8 when word quickly spread around the town that City Hall was about to remove Engine 50 and Engine 36 from Charlestown. A number of folks mostly women decided to take over the firehouse before City Hall could get into it and drive off with our apparatus.

  At the other end of Charlestown, the city was able to take away Engine 36. Looking back, I regret that happened but we only had so many people to go around and we made our Alamo stance at 50 because it also meant the firehouse›s closing too. Priorities had to be made and made quickly.

I recently found an old yellowing Boston Globe news story concerning one of our many protest marches into Downtown Boston over the High Bridge. We never told anyone where we were going and we would  always be driving Sgt. Dan Harrington fro up on the Hill bananas.

  A quote in the Boston Globe on April 25, 1981 highlighted pone of our protest marches on the previous day.»

 The Globe wrote, «Charlestown residents who blocked rush hour traffic yesterday morning on a bridge linking  that neighborhood to downtown Boston said they plan to repeat their protest against recent police and fire station closings.”

The Boston Globe estimated the crowd at 60 demonstrators blocking the Charlestown end of the bridge for ninety minutes at rush hour. We did this action over and over again just to let City Hall know we meant business.

 We held the firehouse captive until May 8 or May 10. A one month siege that ended up with Engine 50 getting reactivated and the firehouse re-opened.

 Many of those folks who were part of this historical moment in Charlestown›s life have passed but many others are still here and remember that sometimes actions speak louder than words.

  I can also remember that year›s Bunker Hill Day Parade when the Peoples Firehouse #2 brigade much in it like conquering heroes. The year 1981 was a great year for Charlestown because we stood up, spoke out, marched and got our firehouse and apparatus back. Today, Engine 50 could be long ago history and the Winthrop Street firehouse just another luxury condo. It isn’t so because we made a statement 34 years ago that government was out business. Either we run it or it runs us.

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