Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Kennedys of Onset

Reading in the New Bedford Standard-Times about the Onset man who allegedly threatened to blow up the Kennedy compound reminded me of a story that ran in the Aug. 1, 1994 edition of the Cape Verdean weekly newspaper, back when I was covering Wareham for the Brockton Enterprise.

A front-page article about Onset's popularity in the years before and after World War II included this paragraph - "You would see summer visitors such as Joe and Rose Kennedy with their children walking from their apartment in Onset (near Point Independent Bridge) to swim in the beach in Onset (they had spent the summers in Onset before they moved to Hyannis.

Both Publisher Manuel Neves and Bertie Cruz used to sell papers in Onset and Publisher Neves always remembered Joe Kennedy as he used to give Neves 50 cents for two papers - a 28-cent tip which was big money in those days" (the article did not elaborate as to who Bertie Cruz was).

This is the only published account I have ever read that refers to the Kennedys spending time in Onset before buying the summer house in Hyannisport, which was in 1927 or 1928, depending on the source.
Soon after the story ran in the Cape Verdean, I tried to contact Manuel Neves to learn more and was told by his wife that he had died.

But Mr. Neves is not the only source putting the Kennedys in Onset prior to Hyannisport. I used to work at the old Christo's restaurant in Hyannis, now a Chinese restaurant on Center Street, with a delightful elderly Greek gentleman known to all as Uncle John. Many years earlier, Uncle John told me, he delivered fruit and vegetables to Joe Kennedy at a summer house outside Onset near the Bourne line.

I was fascinated by Uncle John's claim because the house was just a few doors from one eventually owned by my mother. But I also had my doubts, because the house owned by my mother had passed through our family for nearly a century and none of my elders ever mentioned the presence of the Kennedys, way back when, just a stroll down the cove.


At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me unlikely that Joe Kennedy would have summered at the Bourne end of Onset because that was the home of his family's political nemesis, Daniel Coakley. Coakley was the man responsible for ruining the political career of John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, Rose's father.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Mike Bradley said...

Much applause to you and your associates for the Cape Media Watch site.

In terms of Onset, re the Kennedy story, this is not surprising to me, even though I have no direct knowledge of it; my family owned a brick and cement products factory in Onset in the 1940's - Bradley Brothers Cement Products, Inc. - and at that time there were a number of Irish mingling with the upper-middle class Jewish folks who settled along the coastline near Onset Beach, since they were largely unable to buy land on the Cape itself during those days.

The story seems entirely plausible to me. I have pictures of my family and friends, a number of whom were successful Irish from Fairfield County in Connecticut,(where my family has roots dating back to the 700's),enjoying Onset Beach and it is a scene that could now be taken (absent the bathing suits of the time)on any upscale beach on Cape Cod.

Onset was a very different and interesting place in the years prior to Eisenhower.

Anyway, congrats!

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Jack said...

Perhaps it was Coakley's presence that kept Joe Kennedy from wanting to remain in Onset. I know just the house you're referring to; it's about 100 yards from the one my mother owned. When I met Martha Coakley after the Cape & Islands Democratic Council dinner in Hyannis this past April, I asked her if she was related to the Coakleys who owned the house and she said she wasn't.

At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now there's something I've always wanted to know: Whether Martha Coakley was a member of the Daniel Coakley clan. Thanks for the answer.

Dan Coakley was originally close to John Fitzgerald, even served as his commissioner of parks. However, Fitzgeral threw one of his loyalists under the bus to save his own ass, and Coakley turned on him. When James Michael Curley made his first run at the Boston mayoralty, Honey Fitz suddenly entered the race. Coakley gave Curley information that Honey Fitz had been fooling around with a cigarette girl named Toodles. Fitzgerald withdrew from the race.

25 years later Dan Coakley ran for some delegate post, but was beaten by Joseph Kennedy Jr. I believe it was Coakley's last election. Honey Fitz was overjoyed at the victory.

Somewhere on Walter's Cape Cod Today is a story I wrote about Coakley. He may have deleted it, but you should ask him to repost it.

-- Josh Albright

At 11:09 PM, Blogger Jack said...

I'll be sure to ask Walter about that, Josh. Great info that you posted. The delegate post you refer to must have been to the '40 Democratic convention, in Chicago I believe. Joe Kennedy Jr. went as a delegate for Mass. Honey Fitz was still alive and would have been thrilled to see his oldest grandson beat Coakley. It was Joe Jr.'s only venture into politics before he was killed in the war four years later.

At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By bringing up HoneyFitz, it stirred an old, vague memory that he or his family summered in Falmouth Heights around the turn of the century or early in the 20th century. I don't know where that memory came from, something I read or heard. Anything true about that?


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