Scavenger in Southie

Literally finding 100 new reasons to love South Boston.

Real World Scavenger Hunt – Running History Lessons

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This is a guest blog post by my husband, Erik. Erik runs every morning in Southie around Joe Moakley Park. One day I took a walk down there and met him while he was doing situps on the turf. I told him I was finding all sorts of fun facts about Southie on my walk based on a map by the South Boston Historical Society, and he told me about runs he frequently did while in school at West Point.

Schools with deep and long histories have often institutionalized ways of making those stories stay alive. My alma matter has a week-long “orientation” called Fish Camp where new students go just to learn about the history of Texas A&M. It almost becomes a badge of honor to be able to recite stats and histories of statues, parks, and other buildings on campus.

Have a Southie story to share? Email me at scavengerinsouthie@gmail.com & check out photos I took on walks in Southie this week on flickr.

But first, here’s Erik’s story:

The Long Gray Run

USMA Cadet Chapel

USMA Cadet Chapel

One of the most fascinating attributes of our United States Military Academies is the massive amount of history that seems to leak out of every spot on campus. It is bound to happen when the men and women that graduate from these instituitions go on, as the marketing campaign from West Point said in the late 90’s, to “make much of the history that they teach.” Part of the education for every West Point cadet is to familiarize themselves with the history of their campus through the study of a nifty little handheld guide named “Bugle Notes.” In fact you get tested on it and you can’t actually finish your first summer at the Academy with out reciting everything in that little book to your squad leader (a cadet who is about to enter their third year.)

USMA Great Chain

USMA Great Chain that spanned the Hudson River to keep the British out

One of the ways that Squad Leaders help their fledging “new cadets” learn all of the information that is jam packed into that little book is by taking them on history runs around campus. With West Point’s beautiful scenery on the banks of the Hudson River and nearly vertical climbs on some trails (you can get from sea level to 1500 feet in less than a mile in some places) there is an awesome opportunity to combine history with physical fitness. On these runs I got to see some pretty neat parts of American history including the “Great Chain” that spanned the Hudson to keep the British from sailing upriver from 1776-1782; a statue of GEN George S. Patton Jr., with his stars and calvary insignia melted into the artwork, facing towards the library on campus because he seemingly could never find it while in school (it took him five years to graduate because he said at one point “he didn’t know where the library was”); and the magnificent Cadet Chapel with the gothic revival architecture that makes it stick out so beautifully.

USMA Gen Patton Statue

General Patton Statue at West Point

While you do get a great work out and the chance to learn some very interesting things the most important part of the run is being with your team and being the community. It is easy to confine yourself to a daily race track of going to meals, class, and the gym and never get out and experience the community of Army families that surrounds the immediate campus grounds. If it were not for those runs I actually would have probably gotten lost if I tried to go to the mall or the grocery store that was on post. Looking back I am extremely thankful that my squad leaders took the time to take us on those runs that got us out and about because I might have been to lazy or scared to do it on my own.

Have you ever taken a history walk throughout South Boston? What places or traditions do Southie visitors need to know about? What places instill pride in you? Leave a note in the comments below. 

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