Opinion

When Ted came to town

Lynn residents thrive on politics and the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy always set off a ripple of excitement when he came to town, especially when he was attending community-wide events such as the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King breakfast.

Kennedy showed up in full form at the 1994 breakfast held at the former Nandee's Manor on Market Street. Stepping up to the podium, he told the crowd that in addition to attending the breakfast to hear "some of the finest music and singing in Massachusetts," he had come to Lynn that January morning to stay on Buzzy Barton's good side.

Ever attuned to political details and personalities defining Democratic bastions like Lynn, Kennedy went on to make a joking reference to a boyhood scuffle between the late Patrick J. McManus, who was the city's mayor in 1994, and Barton, who dispatched McManus with a single punch.

"If I didn't get here," Kennedy told the crowd, "Virginia Barton (Barton's mother) said her son, Buzzy, was going to do to me what he did to the mayor."

Former Item reporter Tom Dalton chronicled how Kennedy, with the timing of a consummate politician, waited for the applause and laughter to die down before feigning fear and turning to Buzzy to say, "We're all children of God."

"Before leaving, Kennedy posed with Barton at the door and, in the tradition of a boxing match, held Barton's right arm high in the air," wrote Dalton.

This year's 33rd annual King breakfast will be Monday from 8-11 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus, 177 Lynnfield St. The keynote speaker is Lynn school superintendent, Dr. Patrick Tutwiler.

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Speaking of Kennedy, an informed source told a funny story about former Mayor Thomas P. Costin Jr., who knew Kennedy and his brothers. During his tenure as postmaster, Costin kicked off a large meeting by reminding his secretary to interrupt the proceedings "if Ted called." Someone in the meeting who was unaware of Costin's background scoffed at the suggestion the famous senator might make a personal call to Costin until the phone rang during the meeting and, in fact, it was Ted on the other end of the line.

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Look at any old building in Lynn and you can almost see the layers of history wrapped around it. A good example is the building on Liberty and Washington streets with its classical architecture where the Lynn shelter and My Brother's Table serve the less fortunate.

The old Post Office Building, as it once was called, was used before World War II as a Naval Reserve Armory. In 1948, the Navy announced the building would become a Marine Corps Reserve Armory.

The building served as a base for Marine Corps Reserve engineer squadrons and community focal point. In 1950, with fighting in Korea looming over the country, "thousands lined downtown streets," according to a Daily Evening Item article, to send 213 members of the 15th Engineer Company off to Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"Tear stained and red eyed were many of the wives and mothers who surged forward when their sons or husbands came within reaching distance," the story read.

It was the expansion of the Vietnam War that saw the Marine Corps Reserve double its presence in the postal building from 132 to 264 Marines assigned to the 2nd Engineer Squadron commanded by Major J. Warren Cassidy Jr.

By 1969 the building was a Marine Reserve training center and in May of that year, the 120 Marines assigned to it were transferred to the South Shore. Their heritage lives on through the great examples set by Sgt. Mjr. Ken Oswald and the English High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Semper Fidelis.

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