The town of Medfield has undergone a tremendous change from its past. Medfield Day is a relatively recent development. In the early 1960s, the town was undergoing a different kind of celebration, something more attuned to a rite of passage.
Boston in the 1960s had a changing population, as people from the south and other parts of the United States were moving to New England. However, unemployment started to rise, as well as crime and the widespread use of drugs and alcohol.
Parents of young teenagers were apprehensive about letting their children grow up in the city. They began to move in droves to the suburbs. Medfield was a welcome mecca in the midst of the countryside. The town had an excellent, near stellar school system admired by surrounding towns. And the town had also escaped the usual trappings of fast food chains and risqué night life.
Medfield was just a sleepy hollow in the middle of nowhere, between Podunk and Slippery Rock. It was a bedroom community, where people went to work during the day and came home to sleep at night. Crime was low and jobs were available. The only vice kids had was smoking cigarettes and occasionally getting drunk on beer, purchased at the local package stores. Drag races back then were in vogue, and although dangerous, few people actually got hurt. The schools were filled because parents made sure their kids attended.
There were the local hangouts where teenagers would go to meet and talk and brag about their latest exploits. If they congregated on a public place, the police soon came by to run them off…to a different gathering place. The most likely place would be the soda fountain at the Maguire Drug Store, located at the corner of Main and North Streets. At least they were spending their money. Outside, on that corner, the local gangs stood with their jackets open, even in the cold weather.
Back in the early 1960s, there was one local tough kid, who had recently moved from Hyde Park. His name was Joey Carvalho. He wore the emblematic black leather motorcycle jacket to signify his identity. His parents were of Portuguese descent. He had shiny, slicked-back, black hair that was definitely in style for his following and times. Combed back on the sides and front, he had the big wave of a pompadour. He wore blue jeans, a thick, black turtleneck…and of course black engineer boots with small buckles on the outer sides.
Joey was definitely a rock and roller and looked sleek and cool, like one of the teenagers from the movie Blackboard Jungle. He looked tough, and he was tough. He attended Medfield High until his 17th birthday and then promptly quit. High school just wasn’t for Joey Carvalho. He wanted to work on cars. He was well on his way to his chosen profession, and his apprenticeship started the day after he quit high school. Yet, he still had time to hang out on the street corners, enhancing his social life.
Joey Carvalho had made a reputation for himself, with his smooth, olive complexion, the shiny combed black hair and his Brando-esque wild animal look. He also had a perpetual and engaging grin on his face, with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. He possessed an air of assured self-confidence that set him apart from his peers. He was elusive, enigmatic…and a handsome rebel. He was also a man-child who was driven, much like the cars he speedily operated. Above all, Joey was self-motivated and confident; he knew what he wanted and how to achieve it.
Meanwhile on the other side of the town was another similar and passionate young rebel named Michael Horgan. Michael was guts and grit all the way. He was from a large Irish-American family. He was always ready for a fight and never one to back down, no matter what the odds. He grew up and lived in a large house on North Street that was close to the center of Medfield. It was located where the Rockland Trust Bank is today. He had five siblings, and was the second oldest of the children. Michael’s ferocity and disposition were so intense that the other kids in his family called him Mad Dog. Michael was born to fight, to rumble; he was a two-fisted fighter who was not above resorting to kicking or even biting. He had a cocky swagger, and his upper physique was powerfully built, with muscular arms, shoulders, and chest.
There was a saying in those days, that if you fought one Horgan, you fought them all. Michael’s younger twin brothers were sometimes bullied and the victims of bigger, stronger kids. Not to worry! Michael would make things fair by watching out for them.
Michael Horgan excelled in his shop classes at Medfield High. His passion was sheet metals and arc welding: a rugged iron worker’s trade. The blue-white burning welder’s torch symbolized his fiery disposition, as well as predicted his chosen profession. He lived hard and made no excuses for his behavior. You could either take him or leave him. If you did, then it was on his terms.
As Michael was not much different than some of his peers, he felt the need to prove how tough he was, and the best way to do that when provoked, was to challenge an instigator to a fight. For Michael, it was the bravado and courage that counted, no matter how blinding his emotions could sometimes be.
Michael Horgan seemed to perceive Joey Carvalho as an outsider whom he looked at with suspicion. There was no trust or communication between them, and the two became enemies. Carvalho was the newcomer – young and ambitious, spit and polish all the way, a hustler trying to make a buck. He had escaped the projects and tenement houses of the inner city. He had been transported into this country setting of Medfield, after all those tedious nights of driving around in his ’57 Chevy with a girlfriend. He would no longer have to only dream of getting anywhere, even if only to the vacant, dim and dusty streets of promise that a town like Medfield could offer.
Horgan, on the other hand, was all brawn and grit. He too was looking for a way out of the sometimes maze-like boredom of a small town. He found some satisfaction on the football field of the Medfield Warriors. His salvation would eventually come in a few years when he would proudly enlist in the United States Marine Corps. It would be this establishment that would build his character to that of the few, the proud, the Marines.
Michael Horgan wanted to force the issue with his enemy, and so he did by challenging Joey Carvalho to a fight. Of course, Carvalho accepted, without even missing a beat. This would be no ordinary back alley confrontation. It was decided that the fight would take place at the sand pits that were located near Adams Street.
The sand pits of Medfield were conveniently located near the town dump, an open landscape full of trash. Next to the dump were open sewer pits, chemically treated to keep down the odor.
Welcome to the amphitheater, a modern day Roman Coliseum. Pick your seat, sit down anywhere that’s comfortable, assuming that the sand is firm. The fight was to start at 4 pm on a weekday afternoon after high school classes were finished for the day. This allowed enough time to accommodate the numerous friends of both combatants. Everyone knew that they were about to experience a good fight. For each fighter, this was a rivalry that would achieve a rite of passage for both of them. The face-off would silence the critics who despised and were jealous of Carvalho. Horgan was just trying to live up to everyone’s expectations. Only one fighter was supposed to emerge victorious.
With that, Horgan began the verbal taunting. Then with both hands up and his chin down, Carvalho threw a powerful left jab, followed with a stunning right hook. Horgan was suddenly no longer cocky, thinking he had a good fight plan until he got punched in the mouth. He tried to return punches, but Carvalho was just too fast for him. Many of his punches were either missing their mark or of little consequence. Horgan wanted a street fight where he could grapple and seize Carvalho firmly in his vice-grip hands and then crush him, throwing him to the ground.
Carvalho was able to move with the graceful skill and agility of a matador who cleverly avoids the thrust of a dangerous angry bull. In this scenario, he was side stepping the frustrated Horgan, who lunged forward in vain.
Michael had met his match. Carvalho had always known how to box, having learned on those mean streets of Hyde Park. Horgan was still game enough with the fight fairly even. But he had taken and given enough pain for one day. Both were tired and reluctantly decided to call it quits while acknowledging a new-found respect for each other.
On the surface, one would think that the small town of Medfield was perhaps split by ethnic divisions. That was not really the case as the town was considered to be a melting pot of many nationalities. The two young men were merely products of their culture and the times in which they lived.
While looking back, the two were perceived as rebels against society. They seemed to be fighting for more than just pride. Perhaps they wanted the devotion and the allegiance of the crowd and maybe it was for our souls. As each of the two were practically idols, they had a following of many who adored them. It was the devotion of those young people that was caught up in the crossfire. It was the differences of the two in this shared private grudge that had finally spilled into the open. The paradox of all this was that both could have resolved their impasse by understanding each other and the world extending beyond Medfield. Their encounter would serve as a foreshadow of a prophesy yet to be lived.
As time went went on, Joey Carvalho returned to school and earned his high school diploma. Along the way, he became a skilled mechanic and successful businessman. At first, with nothing to sustain him, he started out as a back yard mechanic, fixing his own car and then working on the cars of friends. With the cash that he earned from those jobs, he invested in new tools and equipment. Before he knew it, he had become an entrepreneur and soon afterward bought his own auto body. With a growing clientele, his business eventually earned him the mark of excellence. Remarkably, he was drawing upon his mercantile heritage. He had bought into the American Dream and was cruising along.
Michael Horgan went into the service. His past no longer hindered him, and the bitterness had passed him by years ago. While on leave from the Marine Corps in the late 1960s, he came back to Medfield to see his mom and dad, brothers and sister. While a crowd gathered to talk with him, he told everyone about Vietnam and the war going on overseas. His military experience brought him into combat in exotic places like Da Nang and Saigon. He struggled to just stay alive during the Tet Offensive. He now truly knew the meaning of horror, because he had survived right in the middle of it, nations raging in conflict on the other side of the world.
Michael finished his tour of duty in Southeast Asia and received his honorable discharge. He came back to Medfield to live in peace and quiet. However, he felt lost in a time zone, discovered loneliness and joined the counter culture. He grew shoulder length hair, bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle, chilled out and longed to ride off into the sunset. But not before first becoming a good friend of Joey Carvalho.
The town of Medfield continues to have a prosperous future and a beloved heritage in the past. What previously had taken place in history was merely like an ancient drama. Now on the modern streets we see a defining point as the old Medfield was a microcosm of our world, drawn to a close with a new one proudly ushered in.