A Recent Invasion of Boston
Cabbages & Kings
Curiosity-seekers they were mostly. They had heard about it in advance--"an unprecedented invasion of traditionally-Democratic South Boston" the newspapers called it--and so on the way home from shopping or school they stopped to wait by the bunting and the band-stand in front of Cabit's Pharmacy. Traditionally Democratic, but as the red-faced little man wearing a Dever button said: "Oh, I'll listen to this young man, for that's what a voter should do, but I do not think I shall change." The old man he was talking to nodded and said "Yes, we should listen to them too." Then the two men looked at each other's Dever buttons and smiled.
At 4:45 there were sirens at the end of the street and a truck bearing a replica of the State House came down Broadway. On the back of the truck, shouting into a microphone, was Roger A. Moore '53, patriarch of the Harvard Young Republican Club. He was extolling the virtues of Senator Nixon. The Senator, along with his wife and state Republican moguls, followed the State House to the speaker's platform in a lush new convertible.
"Nice car," said one of the old men. "Isn't it, though," said his friend, "but his wife is not so handsome after all. She is a bit thin-featured, I would say." The women in the crowd murmured about the candidate's dark good looks.
She was clutching a two-page spread of photographs, cut carefully from the Saturday Evening Post, a red-faced woman in a fading gray coat pushing close to the barrier. She held up the double sheet. "Pat and Dick," she said. "I'm going to get it autographed." The wind caught the papers, "Dick Nixon: I Say He's a Wonderful Guy, by Pat Nixon," they said. "Somebody told me that he doesn't give autographs but I don't believe it. He'll give me one. I'm the only Republian in South Boston, almost. That's because I wasn't born here. There's twenty-six Republicans out of 800 voters in this ward. I'm a poll watcher, and I cherish each Republican vote. I'll tell Dick that," she said. "He'll give me that autograph."
Nixon got up on the platform where he was introduced by Senator Lodge. The vice-presidential candidate looked about the crowd from one side to another, quickly moving his eyes back and forth. There had been rumors of a Democratic Demonstration, and cops were all over the square, even on the roofs of the little grey stores.
The crowd stood quietly while Nixon talked about how glad he was to be in Boston, "The cradle of our great Constitution." Then his voice rose and grew stronger. "I'm asking you to vote, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans." He pointed to a group of ten-year olds standing by the police barriers in front of the platform and waving placards. "The real issue of this campaign," he said, "is whether these boys will have to fight against unholy communist aggression when they are 17 or 18." The crowd shouted encouragement.
Some of the signs said "SOUTHIE'S FOR YOU DICK" and some "KEEP PUNCHING TO KEEP OUT ISMS," each with a bold "Donated" printed prominently beneath its message. There were about fifteen of the signs; the boys had picked them up in front of the Barber Shop and then walked over to stand in two orderly rows flanking the police barrier. There was a little boy leaning on the barrier. He turned to one of the boys with the signs. "How much they givin' ya?" "Dunno. They ain't payin' us 'til after." The little boy looked over towards the barber shop. "Any left?" "Dunno. Wyn'cha go look?" The little boy started to brush through the crowd, then stopped and looked at the bigger boy. "You from 'round here?" "Nah," said the bigger boy. "Eighth street." "Why you here?" "I'm carryin' a sign." "Ya figger you'll get paid?" "Better," said the bigger boy, and he held the sign a little higher and faced up towards the platform.
Nixon went on talking about "the Red threat to America." A young man in a shabby blue suit shouted "Pour it on, Dick." The Senator said there was danger that "our precious liberties might be snatched away from us by a clever underground conspiracy." The crowd grew restless and began watching a fight between two little kids. "Stop that noise, young ones," said an elderly woman, "and let the man say his words." Then a tomato landed to the right of the speakers' platform, and the police turned about and went hustling through the crowd.
When it was all over only a few people applauded, but those few cheered and clapped wildly. The crowd broke up quickly and traffic began moving again. Nixon and the other Republicans hopped down off the platform and made their way through the crowd. The men and women moved aside respectfully, but one man shouted "How's about some of that $18,000." The heckler was told to shut up.
The man with the Dever pin watched the police take the barriers apart and push them into their paddy wagon. "Damn good speaker," he said. "And damn decent. Makes a good impression. And a very courteous crowd, too. It's good that they gave him a hearing. He's a nice young man. Last time one like that came down here, it was Coolidge. They threw rocks. And then this Lodge's father was down once too. A very distinguished old gentleman. It's good to let people hear for themselves. I'm very glad they didn't throw rocks."
Nixon got into the new convertible along with Lodge and Congressman Joseph Martin. "Martin, Barton and Fish," someone shouted. Martin smiled and shook hands with a little girl. People pressed closer to the car, but before they could get to Nixon the convertible started moving. It was followed by another which contained some more Harvard Young Republicans who were laughing and waving Ike banners. The people turned away and began walking back home. It was almost time for supper.
The barriers were down and the paddy wagon gone, and they had folded up the band's chairs and stacked them in front of Cabit's Pharmacy. The streetlights went on, and traffic began to move along Broadway again. The woman in the gray coat took her Saturday Evening Post pages and folded them carefully into her handbag. "Didn't she have a nice smile? She looked so proud of him. And weren't those children darling? They didn't move once while he was talking." She smiled and pointed to her handbag. "It's too bad they had to rush them off like that. He would've given me that autograph stare."