Observed the third Monday in April, Patriot’s Day commemorates the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord. On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere made his historic ride toward Lexington to warn patriots of the impending arrival of British troops in that area. Revere left the North End, headed through Charlestown, and took the inconspicuous route through what is now Somerville. He then travelled through nearby Medford and Arlington. Somerville, aka Charlestown beyond the neck, served as a key crossroads during the Revolution and several of its hills provided natural fortification in battle.
Each year on Patriot’s Day, a re-enactment of Revere’s ride takes place, usually with some descendent of Revere playing the starring role. A Somervillian feeling particularly patriotic can normally intercept Revere on Broadway in Winter Hill, between 10:30- 11:15AM on the morning in question. Foss Park is the most popular of viewing locations, given its proximity to both Dunkins and the occasional slush stand if weather is permitting. (Weather was permitting today.)
Not to be outdone, my family has its own traditional Revere vantage point at the fork of Broadway and Main Street, right before Main Street changes from Somerville to Medford. There’s a little island in front of the 391 Broadway Apartment complex with a couple of tiny Revolutionary monuments (see below). This little island is across the street from T&T Ocean Liquors (formerly Paul Revere Beverage) and the Spin Cycle Laundromat. For a very long time, the laundromat was the home of the M&S Police Supply store (short for Medford and Somerville I believe) and it had a picture of Paul Revere riding on the sign. I’m not sure if we go there because it’s a more intimate viewing experience of Revere, or simply just to be different, but my family has gathered at that spot for generations now. There are always a couple other random people there too and plenty of people sitting on their porches on Main Street.
So today, like always, my family gathered at the Broadway-Main Fork ready to see Paul. He was running a bit late, perhaps because of the unexpected heat. As a kid, I would get ridiculously giddy when I would see the flashing blue lights of the police motor brigade approaching, followed by the unfamiliar sound of horse hooves galloping on Somerville pavement. Today was no different.
While we were waiting, some nice old biddies slowly walked by, remarking, “I’m glad we aren’t the only ones waiting for Paul!” A few other guys drove by proclaiming, “Paul’s coming! Paul’s coming! Get ready!”. In fact, no one really mentioned the name Revere. When Paul finally arrived, he was greeted with the enthusiasm and familiarity of an old friend who had been missed all year. Paul’s the kind of guy Somerville wants to bump into and share an impromptu beer with. Everybody loves old Pauly. Poor Willy Dawes just can’t compete.
This year’s Revere was a pro. First of all, he was sober. Not even a rosy glow despite the heat. Secondly, he actually looked a lot like his ancestor. The phrase “real deal” was definitely tossed around by onlookers. Thirdly, this Pauly was engaging and friendly. Past Reveres have had varying degrees of composure and friendliness, with a Revere or two appearing “three sheets to the wind.” This Paul Revere briefly stopped in front of our group to say hi to the kids and of course, to let us know that, “The Regulars are coming up!” My mom couldn’t help but respond with a simple, “Hey I think we’re gonna win!!” Paul took it in stride and gave us all a smile and wave before galloping onward through the pits of Medford. You can’t help but miss the guy as soon as he turns to leave.
One Patriot’s Day many years ago, we actually tried to follow Revere all the way up to Lexington. We thought it would be exciting stalking Revere and evading the red coats. We hopped in our old battle axe jalopy and drove through towns that progressively grew less welcoming to our automobile. Turns out, following a dude on a horse and a bunch of staties on motorcycles is not fun. Also, no one was chasing us. You just seem crazy rolling down the windows, screaming “Kill the Brits! They’re after us!” when no one is behind you. Our historical pilgrimage ended up being more like a really long and frustrating traffic jam.
We learned that day that although Paul Revere is a good friend to us all, he’s best viewed once a year, from a distance, for a brief 20 seconds of historical magic.
See ya next year, Paul!
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