July 20,1963


This is my mother and my best friend, Nora O’Hearn nee Cronin. At this point in her life, she had no idea what lay in store for her. She’s gone now, and what she’s lived through has gone with her. I am filled with remorse for all I put her through, but I feel her love every day.

I’m up very early this morning on account of Johnny Silva. I haven’t seen or heard from him in years but in my dream last night I could smell his breath. He said he was sorry for ratting on me in July of 1963. He wanted to hang out again. We were buds, remember?

Johnny moved in across the street when I was 12. He was 13. We bonded immediately. He had an older brother Ronny, and a younger sister Franny. A miserable step father and very cranky mother. What a bitch.

Ronny was such a sexual deviant he had to have his crank operated on from stroking himself into a coma. He always wanted to go over to the Tufts University girl’s dorms and peak in the windows. His nickname was “Crinkles” cause he would get so excited he would hug himself and scrunch his face up. Hence: Crinkles. That was one sick boy.

Johnny was a scam a day. He always had it going on. His step father, Chester, was a rotten bastard who hated everyone and everything. He especially hated Johnny, who did not spring from his loins, and reminded Johnny of that fact every day.

Johnny came up my backstairs one night and said he needed my help. We had to get into his garage and pop the trunk on Chester’s ’61 Nash Rambler and get a brief case out of there.

We waited until 11:00 pm and jumped the fence from the back of the house. He popped the trunk and sure as hell, there was the brief case. We went down the railroad tracks and smashed it open. I had no idea what was in there but Johnny did.

Chester was the treasurer of the local B&M Railroad union and Johnny overheard him tell his wife Ethel about the $65.00 worth of union dues in the trunk. Chester’s life was now not worth a plug nickel and Johnny couldn’t have cared less. I thought, what a strange family.

Chester barely survived his job and his life after the disclosure that the money was gone. He had to have protection for months while Johnny and I went to Revere Beach Amusement Park every day.

A few weeks later, Johnny shows up at the park with a ’56 white Buick convertible with the top down and the Marcels’ “Blue Moon” turned all the way up. I was blown away. We weren’t even old enough to get a license. My heart was pounding as I jumped into the passenger side and Johnny burned rubber all the way up Paulina street. Coolness.

I rode around with him all that day and night and was looking forward to Johnny showing up the next day. Maybe pick up a few chicks?

Johnny never showed up but the cops did.

They brought me down to the station and charged me with “using a motor vehicle without permission”, well, that certainly sounded benign to me. Using, how cute and harmless. Now, I had been in lots of trouble before and I know the drill. “You guys got nothin’ on me. I never stole no car.” And technically, I didn’t.

So they kept me most of the afternoon in a holding cell, hoping I’d have a nervous breakdown and spill the beans. After six hours I might have, but I was more afraid of my father than the whole police force armed with guns and billy clubs.

Jail wasn’t incarceration when it came to my father, it was protection. The trouble for me right now was, I had no beans to spill. I hadn’t seen Johnny and had no idea what might have happened to him.

So they bring me upstairs, book me and tell me to sit in this small room. There was a wanted posted for some guy who had escaped or was on the run. It was Rocco Balliro, a badder dude there never was.

Seems Johnny boy got caught riding around with a kid named Frank Di Gregorio and they did what comes naturally to every kid in Somerville when you are picked up by the cops, offer up an O’Hearn.

Oh, this was the deal of the century. “If you give us an O’Hearn, you guys will get probation at most. Start talking.” And they did. They blamed me for everything except hiding Rocco Balliro. This was just too delicious for the Somerville P.D. to pass up.

They have me for about 6 hours by now, my mother is downstairs and the cops are losing their patience with me cause I’m still James Cagney and I ain’t talkin’ and I ain’t squealin’.

So they tell me Johnny and Frank told them everything. “You stole the car and talked them into riding around with you.”

I laughed my ass off at that desperate attempt. They aren’t going to beat me (yet) cause my mother’s in the building. So I take a few jabs at their technique and tell them to “get real.”

I’m thinking this is a laugh riot and can’t wait to tell the gang down at the King of Pizza in Davis Square what a tough guy I was and how I handled those coppers.

Until Johnny walked in. He was handcuffed with his head down. Surely this rat bastard wasn’t going to blame this one on me. No way.


He said “C’mon Bobby, tell the truth, you stole that car and picked us up. You told us it was your car and we didn’t know anything.”

For once, I was speechless. I couldn’t believe Johnny would have the balls to concoct a load of bullshit like that. I underestimated my best friend. My first lesson in bad choices. My mother would always say “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”

I take a run at him but the cops are all over me. I’m exploding with righteous indignation. I’m screaming at him, telling him I’ll kill him and his whole family. I’ll tell Chester you stole his money. Now I’m restrained and they return Johnny to his cell.

I am crying in frustration. I don’t need this shit right now. I’m already on probation in Arlington, Cambridge and Somerville. I’ve already done a week in detention at the Youth Service Board in Roslindale and got a huge whiff of what the underbelly of society had in store for me.

What I saw and experienced there will never leave me. It was a state run facility, need I say more?

There was a violence and a cruelty there I had never seen before, except for Dear Old Dad on a Friday night, but that was, you know, a family matter. In a sick sort of way.

I saw a guy named Mr. Chandler pick up a small kid three feet off the ground, head butt him and drop him, out cold. For nothing.

There was about 15 of us kids that came in that day. We were standing in the rec room that first afternoon when I heard a gym whistle and the sound of heavy sneakers running into the room from my right.

There were about six of them and I can name every one. They all wore sweat shirts, khakis and whistles. There was instant fear and mass confusion. Mayhem.

All at once that sickening thud of fist meeting soft flesh commenced. Head butted semi-conscious kids were scattered everywhere. Grown men were kneeling on top of pinned victims, punching until they tired. Just a little reminder to let you know who’s boss. Devastating, was what it was.

One of them was Don Allard, a second string quarter back for the Boston Patriots. I think he got demoted to the equivalent of a football farm team. The Boston City Sweepers.

There was also a Neandethal named O’Hanion, from Watertown, who sometime during the 70’s ran for public office and won. I couldn’t believe it. They were nothing more than fucking animals, really.

The carnage was deliberate and effective. I shook myself to sleep that night. Nice work fellas, I hope you all got cancer.

Now, back at the police station, I really have to convince someone that Johnny is a liar and I did not steal that car. I conveniently left out the part where I was riding around listening to the Marcels. So we’re at a stalemate. They need me to admit to my crime so they can go back to looking for Rocco Balliro.

I can still smell the Youth Service Board, the dirty kids, the weirdos, some murderers and those “Sirs,” or guards. They will have to shoot me before I make that trip back to Roslindale again. That is, if I can help it.

So now it’s six o’clock and I’m pretty sure my father knows by now. He has to. Probably came home to no wife and a bunch of blabbermouths and is dying to kill something. Me.

After almost a full day of lying, crying and dying, some big shot with a fresh white shirt and a tie pushes me into his office and sits me down. He says “OK, Bobby, let’s clear this up. Johnny Silva and Frank Di Gregorio say you stole that car. “I know Silva is a lying bastard and Frankie won’t stop crying long enough to get a straight story out of him, so I’m gonna ask you once and once only, did you steal that car?”

I swear on my mother’s soul that I didn’t. He studies me for a while and says “I believe you, sign this and go home with your mother.”

Oh, the relief. There is justice in this world. I still have to deal with my father, and burning down Johnny Siva’s house can wait. Right now, I can breath. A little.

Two weeks later I get a summons to appear at Somerville District Court. Huh? I’m thinking they must just want me as a witness against Johnny Silva. Maybe even crybaby Frank.

It was a Saturday, July 20,1963. Somerville District Juvenile court. Saturday was when my father made his overtime to feed his kids. My mother says don’t say anything, just be out of the house by 6:00 am. Which I was. Irish mothers, there is nothing on the planet like them. God bless you, Nora.

I show up to court late. I see his car on Walnut St, so I know my mother must have sprung the summons on him. When they called my name I wasn’t present yet, so they issue a warrant for my arrest, move to the next case and my father needs to get over to work to get that overtime.

When I get in the building, the clerk of courts told me I had better get up those stairs before the session ends or there will be a manhunt. Imagine, me and Rocco, on the run.

So on the stairs, between floors, who do I run into? Papa. He’s got me now. There’s no one in our immediate vicinity, and I’m trapped. So he takes the opportunity to quietly dispatch me using both fists, his shoes and the city supplied radiator that was right there.

He was always extremely efficient and inflicted maximum damage in under a minute. I am so injured as to be incoherent. I don’t even know where I am anymore. I’m barely conscious and reeling.

I crawl away and head into the court chambers and yell “present.”

Judge Robert De Marco, was a crook if there ever was one. We paid him off in cash once to get my brother off a serious charge, thanks to Household Finance. There were fifty witnesses but $300.00 made them all go away. As did my brother, a few months later on an unrelated charge.

De Marco quickly brought my case up and read the charges. First he said “what happened to this kid?” Why is he in this bloody condition? One of the cops whispered in his ear and he nodded like he understood and got back to the business at hand.

The arresting officer, McCue, who was actually also my neighbor, said I had admitted to taking the car and there were two witnesses against me. I begin to act out and start defending myself. It was all to no avail.

What I thought I signed that day with that very understanding, sharp dressed detective, who I thought believed me, was not a release, it was a confession. A full confession and then some. I never even read it.

They sentenced me or I should say committed me. (When you’re a juvenile you become a ward of the state indefinitely,) They brought me downstairs to a holding cell where I could hear my father asking the jailer in a kind of pleading tone if he could have a few minute with me in the cell, “alone.”

Sorry Dad, you’re gonna have to wait almost a year before you can “chastise” me for your loss of overtime. He was upset because I started crying out of frustration when they were reading off the sentence. He said, “You should have gone like a man, you lousy bastard.”

Later that day, as they were shaving my head in Roslindale, I was sickened by the damage I saw inflicted on my face and asked the poor excuse for a barber to go easy over the freshly applied lumps on my head.

I started plotting my revenge against the system and these two rats but it was never to be and life went on.

Frankie died a few years later from a drug over dose and Johnny went out in the 80’s from AIDS. Seems he would go “up the river” later and he would rather accommodate his cell mates in prison than take a beating.

Case closed.



Please note: I welcome comments that are offensive, illogical or off-topic from readers in all states of consciousness.

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