In the Neighborhood
Fred Blizard - Nine decades later, Fred still remembers the first talking movie he ever saw, at the Rialto Theater in Roslindale. It was a Class B sort of movie, as he describes it, about a girl who moved to the city and met a man who everyone thought was a villain but who turned out to be a decent enough guy. The last line of the film, “don’t forget your friends in New York,” shouted from the man to the woman from the back of a train is somehow still embedded in his memory after all these years.
The first political figure he looked up to was James Michael Curley, who became the mayor of Boston in 1914, a year after Fred was born. He was corrupt—everyone knew—but he was corrupt like Robin Hood. He skimmed money from the rich, who even back in those days seemed to dominate Boston from their Beacon Hill mansions, and gave back to families like his. Curley actually lived an apartment in Fred’s neighborhood, and Fred felt like he was one of them.
His first apartment in Boston was a triple decker in the working-class neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. Fred’s mother did her best to support them on the tips she made as a waitress, but there was no such thing as welfare or a social safety net back then so they’d often struggle to get by, relying on some of their more established family members to help them out. They moved around throughout the city, to triple-deckers in Roslindale and back to Jamaica Plain again. Much later, once he’d made some money of his own and a nice office job, he was able to buy a ranch house out in the suburbs for $12,000.
He despised his first job out of high school, though he stayed in it for two years because the pay was good and work was hard to find during the Depression. He was an investigator for the commuter rail on the North Shore. He would pose as a passenger, but his real job was to keep an eye on the conductors, making sure they didn’t try to steal from the company. One day he spotted one of the conductors, a young man about his age, slipping every 10th bill or so into his pocket instead of the company billfold. He reported the man to his boss and soon he stopped seeing him on the trains. He would feel sick to his stomach when he worked on the job, both because he was nervous he would get caught and because he felt like he was betraying folks he knew. Growing up in Jamaica Plain, he had the idea that “nobody likes a squealer” instilled in him from a young age.
The first job he really enjoyed was his position as a ticket-taker at the newly opened Suffolk Downs in 1935. The racetrack had been farmland before, and the first year it opened they still gardened in the center of the track. He loved the chaos of racing at that time, before computers, when a team of mathematicians would get together in smoke-filled rooms and figure out the odds for each horse. The excitement was palpable and the money flowed. He made 10 dollars a day there, which was 10 times what he’d made at other jobs.
He didn’t get his first car until 1950, and it was a pile of garbage on wheels—a heavily used Plymouth four door. The car broke down half a dozen times. Twice, he had to pull over to the side of 128 and change a flat. Later, he bought a Nash Rambler from the original Ernie Boch’s dealership in Norwood.
He met his first love at a blowout party on a battleship. He was working at the shipyard at the time, and when the crew finished repairing the boats damaged in the Pacific, they would sometimes get together on the deck and celebrate with some heavy drinking. She had come up with a friend of his and they hit it off right away. After chatting with her at the party he asked his friend if she might be interested in going out with him, and he was thrilled when she said that yes, she might. Not too much later, they were married with three kids. She was the smartest person he ever knew. She had four degrees with a focus on public health administration and she worked in a high-profile role with the state government. He would sometimes wonder to himself how the hell a person like that could ever have fallen for a guy like him.
a wedding photo on display at Fred's birthday party
For Fred’s 107th birthday, the staff at our facility threw an impressive party. The event was attended by most of the residents of our facility, members of Fred’s family, some “local big shots,” as Fred put it, and a couple former Patriots players. Fred was seated at the center of a long table, in the place of honor, posing with six of the Patriots massive Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Local news cameras filmed as a crowd of residents approached him to wish him happy birthday.
former Patriots player Vernon Crawford
former Patriots player Joe Andruzzi
who is a 3 time Super Bowl winner
Fred's letter carrier who delivered his mail for years when he resided in Norwood
One resident greeted him by saying, "You’re the best man in the world Fred.”
Another gave him a kiss on the head and a pat on the shoulder.
It was the first day of his 107th year, and it seemed to have started off on a pretty high note.
The Blizard family wishes to thank all the good people of Norwood Hospital, Walpole Healthcare, and the Newton Visiting Angels, who provided outstanding care for many years, thus helping Fred to live independently until the last days of his life.