It was the summer of ’62. I had just finished BC High, and was hoping to hang out for the summer, prior to college. A good friend had keys to his mother’s car, and together we cruised down Route 3 to the Cape, driving along Route 132 into Hyannis, while keeping an eye out for “summer help wanted” signs. It was already the second week in June, and, of course, all the summer jobs were filled. So we returned home, our dreams of idyllic days on the beach summarily dashed.
My Aunt Kate, who spent much of her life looking out for her ten nieces and nephews, asked what I planned to do with those two and a half months until Labor Day: “Why don’t you go up to Beacon Street and offer to help Eddie McCormack get elected,” she asked me. So up I went, and by day’s end I had signed on to work for the summer in a statewide political campaign for the US Senate - in a Democratic primary campaign, against Ted Kennedy.
Those were heady days, working with a group of other like-minded young students. Somehow, the Young Democrats club at Harvard had signed on to support McCormack, and our team consisted of a brash young Harvard junior named Barney Frank, a graduating senior named Harry Green, who eventually became a federal judge, Kevin Moloney, the son of the then-chairman of the Boston Public Library, and several young women from Regis and Emmanuel.
We students had great fun that summer as the campaign became our lives, seven days a week. When I walked my first parade route on Bunker Hill Day, I learned to stay 50 paces ahead of our candidate, and every 20 feet or so one of us would exclaim, “Look! There’s Eddie McCormack!” while encouraging the parade watchers to join in our excitement and applause.
The McCormack campaign headquarters were in a closed-down department store on Tremont Street across from Boston Common, right next to another property that housed Kennedy’s campaign, chaired by the estimable former Charlestown legislator Gerard Doherty. We were always on the lookout for the young Ted Kennedy, and years later Gerard told me his chief task that summer was to shelter his candidate from the students next door. “He can do more for Massachusetts” was the Kennedy campaign slogan.
The campaign that year became known as “Teddy vs. Eddie,” and it drew national attention. I was assigned to McCormack’s press office, and would intersect with members of the Washington press corps when they visited Boston. I remember meeting with John Chancellor, then an NBC reporter, and for two days I was assigned to drive the legendary Stewart Alsop around the campaign trail. Pretty heady assignment for this 18 year old!
I was in the building at Southie High when McCormack told his opponent, “If your name were Edward Moore your candidacy would be a joke.” That night, five of us commandeered the phones to call the Jerry Williams radio talk show, and in the early going, Eddie was out-polling Teddy 5-0!
As with all campaign workers, the McCormack team held steadfast to the belief that our candidate was the better choice. Privately, we printed a pair of bumpers stickers: “I Back Jack,” said the one, “But Teddy isn’t Ready” said the other. That was 53 years ago, and I was a young man.
My aunt was always the giver of good advice, and I will always cherish her counsel that early summer day. But she also gave me some other words of advice, and one of the most telling was, “Eddie, keep your mouth shut until you know what you’re talking about.”
I can admit now, after all these years, that I was just a tad off, that summer of 1962. Ted Kennedy really did do more for Massachusetts. Even Aunt Kate of blessed memory would concur that at last I know what I’m talking about.