Townie Tidbits

By Sal Giarratania


I still remember quite clearly what happened on Saturday afternoon, June 17, 1972 when nine firefighters perished when a wall collapsed after a fire at the Hotel Vendome was extinguished. Firefighters had spent three hours fighting the four-hour blaze and all the victimes were trapped under the debris after a beam crumbled.

On the day before Father›s Day and the day before the annual Charlestown’s Bunker Hill Day Parade, this fire took the lives of more Boston firefighters than any other in Boston firefighting history.

At the time the building crumbled, I was still working behind the counter at the City Spa Cafeteria in the South End’s Worcester Square. I was 24 years old and had just graduated from Boston State.

I also remember the Mass said at the Cathedral right down the street and watched in sadness as the longest line of funeral cars passed by. Hearst after hearst, families after families. They all rode down passed Boston City Hospital, took a left on Massachusetts, headed to I-93 and then broke their separate ways.

It is still so difficult to think of the enormity of that sad Saturday afternoon when that tragedy struck. When everything looks like it is over, it was only just beginning.

I remember going to the parade the following morning knowing what had just happened. People in Charlestown were strong then and remain so today. We watched the parade that year with less cheering. The fire had hit Charlestown personally. We all knew many of those guys. They weren’t names, they were real live people, they were our friends who were not with us at the parade.

After all these years, the memory of the Vendome fire lives on. Today we can cheer at the parade again but there will always be a sense of loss as the at photo of the crumbled hotel lives on in the collective memories of all who were alive on Saturday, June 17, 1972.



If you haven’t had your full of this year’s Bunker Hill Day parade photos, you can go to BostonCityPaper.Org, June 17 issue. Who knows you still might be in one of my photos.



Shown below is a look at a restored 1980 Pontiac Trans Am that has been owned by Steve Obey, owner of O.B.’s Diner in North Quincy since he was only 19 years old. He loves this car and says he has had a longer relationship with it than his own wife. However, he did make it clear, he would never trade it in either.

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