He was a kid from Hyde Park who never left the neighborhood, but Tom Menino sure went places.
“I never dreamed I would end up here. Mayor of Boston during its best years,” Menino said.
Born at Christmastime in 1942, Menino grew up in the 1400 block of Hyde Park Avenue, his childhood home is still in the family. He lived with his parents on the first floor and extended family lived upstairs.
His dad Carl was a foreman at the Westinghouse Plant.
Menino always told people he learned the value of loyalty and hard work from his father. But he said his mother was his greatest influence. She is the one that taught him to care for those who are less fortunate.
“In his young days, as my friend, he was a true friend. He was a true friend, always loyal. He was happy go lucky,” Dennis DiMarzio said.
DiMarzio grew up with Menino, they served as best man in each other’s wedding. He lived right across the street from the future mayor.
They went to a Catholic elementary school called St. Rafael’s. His difficulty with speech always there.
The tongue-tied boy was always the quiet one. In his book he wrote “the nuns encouraged kids who didn’t need encouragement. Me? I got the stick.”
DiMarzio remembers when Menino spilled ink on newly cleaned desks in the eighth grade and the nun got out the stick.
“She was whacking him. And he was saying ‘but sister. It’s washable blue.’ Of course the rest of us were roaring laughing, because were saying ‘are you crazy saying something like that’ but that was him.”
In fourth grade DiMarzio was home sick from school for several Months, but Menino was there to bring him his work every day.
“That was Tommy Menino, that’s the kind of person he was who cared about his friends,” DiMarzio said.
In 1960, when Menino was 18, he skipped school to catch John. F. Kennedy speaking at Faneuil Hall. That’s when he got hooked on politics.
More than 30 years later, he would speak at Faneuil Hall, the same building where he went to see Kennedy’s election night speech.
“I am a first Italian-American to hold this office. Am I proud of that? You bet I am,” Menino said that night.