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Dan The Man

We called him that in high school. After all, he was bigger than most men even though he was still a teen. Was he the tallest boy in our class? I think so. I know I had to look up to him and I was the tallest girl.  We know he was strong. Not bench press or beat up people strong but the kind of guy who worked as a landscaper for years. He had kind eyes. You can see from this very old photo from elementary school.

I knew Dan best from childhood because he lived two doors down from our funny farm/musical theatre enclave. He was “Danny” back then.  My first memory of the Goodwins is going to The Swan Boats on the train with Danny, his sister Lee, my sisters and our mothers. This was back before we had cars and  before it was cooties to hang around with girls. The Goodwins had a stucco house which I thought was fascinating, also a hole in the ground with a lid to put their garbage in. They also had a basement with an old fashioned toliet which had the tank on the top and a pull chain. The toliet bowl looked rusty and was a little scary. Their yard had a stone barbeque with a chimney and forsythia bushes we used for hideouts. For some reason we were  compelled to drop pennies into the pipe fence around our yard, like a community savings bank.

I soon relied of Danny and “Chuck” (Harry) Samolchuk for all my activities.  We raced Hot Wheels on the fence between the Samolchuks and the Nickersons on Lincoln Street. We rode bikes up and down the Burgess’s long driveway on Norwood Ave with the rest of the kids under the watchful eyes of all of our mothers.  Mr. Samolchuk called us all in to their TV room to see the men walk  on the moon. I thought I was a boy back then so Chuck, Dan and I, we arranged to have our own Apollo mission. My sister Beth was outfitted with an aluminum pan space helmet, placed in a refrigerator box on top of the Samolchuk’s picnic table then we pushed her off for splash down into the grass. I chose the two boys as allies against my sisters until  I discovered alas I was also a girl and began playing games like “which Beatle do you want to marry?” I was shut out of the boy’s club forever. Lee and I wrote a puppet show in crayon which I still have. It starred Lambchops and that blue dog. I’m sure Dan attended along with absolutely everyone we knew. I know my sister Beth did as she flushed our cellar toliet during a scene and stole the show

Dan was an integral part of our neighborhood gang when we put our sexes aside.  He and Lee were in charge of the Rex Trailer Carnival for Muscular Dystrophy which took place on Goodwin Acres. By this time the Petersons had moved in around the block and I think Wayne was involved in too.I got to lead people to the haunted house which was in our cellar and included Shirley George who would jump out of the storm center and frighten the younger kids. I was surprised to find that The Goodwin, Theriault and Peterson houses all had the same floor plan. They all had a breakfast nook, no fair! Here’s a photo of a birthday party at Cullinane ranch, Dan is at the left. It’s probably my birthday due to the brown leaves. Note my sister Ruth in the play pen!

Our gang

As we got a little older the summer evenings were spent playing kick the can with the can forever placed in the clearing between the Goodwin and Burgess properties. It really was thrilling to rescue the captives and set them free. It was the closest I ever felt to being a knight with my horse being my own legs. We discovered flashlight tag and theatre was a naturally progression from dress up.

Dan was not in our dress up/theatre group although Lisa Kadra was. Lisa got us to cross the street from The Goodwin’s to the rope swing  across the gullyon Filias Circle. This was the beginning of risk taking and impressing the opposite sex. The Filias boys were older and very handsome. We didn’t see them much. We gradually moved to riding our 3 speed bikes around the oval at the high school hundreds of times a week and playing kickball with the Majenski boys across the street from their house.  We would bike down the hill by the high school (which we thought was enormous) until the streetlights came on or until you heard Lucille Goodwin call out “Danny, Lee time to come home.” By now The Vrattos family had moved in as summer residents. They went to school in Boston and were lots of fun. I wanted to get to know them better but I was shy. Luckily they liked theatre too. Because we were tall, Dan and I were always asked to take part in “chicken fights” over on the high school field where the parents couldn’t see. My mother however could smell these events a mile away and was thinking about concussions and disfigurements on a daily basis with three gigantic girls on her hands. I think I only did chicken fights once.

In the winter we would toboggan, sled or use flying saucers down that same hill which is now a new entrance to the high school. I remember when the new edition was built and we thought that was great with a drama room. Now they have an air conditioned stage! I think the Goodwins actually went skiing in the winter because they had relatives in Vermont. Dan’s dad also made a skating rink in their backyard which I thought was fabulous. At that point I had lost my dad and wished I had one.

There was no one who didn’t like Dan. I would have liked to have been better friends with him but I had lots of competition. Dan got the theatre bug eventually and I remember he and Alex Nahatis  being two of my biggest fans in school plays. I would go out on stage and I could see them over by that enormous green monster of a light machine stage right at The Memorial School. They would be all smiles when I got laughs and laughing themselves which gave me confidence. I remember the time my vacuum cleaner caught fire in No, No, Nanette. I don’t think it was supposed to. Dan and Alex pulled it off the stage and out of my hands by the cord so it looked like the thing had a life of its own.

By high school I had developed a crush on Dan. We were in all the same classes. He was smart and tall, smart enough to stay away from me because I was desperately lonely and a loner. Dan was more of a people person, he, Don Chounaird, Jim Oker, Chris Crowley, Craig Geary, Rick O’Brien, Jim Maroney were always up to something. I joined the math club to be around them. I joined the student government.  I hoped Dan might ask me to the prom but since I was not a dater in high school I knew this wasn’t going to happen. At least he went with another tall gal, Kathy Kelly. I believe Dan and the Super Techa guys were responsible for our really cool graduation set.

After graduation I saw Lee lots more, Dan lots less. Sometimes we would intersect at 7 Central or later in Salem on Pickering Wharf when I had a boyfriend who lived near there. I had a good conversation with Dan at The Elliot Chambers Memorial Fire Anniversary event organized by Jim Maroney. We talked about both having  issues with anxiety and getting help for that. We caught up about our families and were looking forward to the 30th high school reunion.

You never know when you’re not going to see someone again. I kind of knew after last reunion I might not see Dan as he wasn’t well. He was a smart guy but none of us are able to outsmart our lease on life. He was a sweet man, a quiet man, who seemed to love being part of the gang.  I envied him that as I am still a loner. We may have our 35th high school reunion without him but I hope we can all get together after this life for a game of kick the can or a bike ride in the sky. Dan can start working on the set for our reunion while he’s waiting for us.


About polarflares

My head is so big because it has so many holes and air gets in.

20 responses »

  1. Thank you Joan for remembering Dan, for teaching us so much about him and for evoking the Lincoln Street neighborhood.

    • RH, long time no see. Perhaps at the next reunion although as I remember you, Kathy Kiley and I are the most far flung of the Manchester diaspora. It’s sad that death brings people together but it’s also natural. The elementary school photo of Dan was taken from a group photo which has a precious picture of you. Also kind eyes.

  2. Nice memories of Dan. Thank you.

    • Debbie, although your name was not in the post, you know you were there in every adventure.:)

      • Joan,
        Dan the Man…all the stories, all the memories, have made me cry on this Friday night in Seattle. As only you could do, you gave us Danny and Dan – the guy who loved to hang out, listen to music, laugh, and spin the beach. I’m so sad for Trish, and cannot wait to hug her. See you in July, Joan. We’ll sing “Teach Your Children Well.” And “America the Beautiful.” And maybe even “Oh When the Saints Come Marching In.” Love, Gael

      • There will no doubt be more tears at our reunion. Also singing, “And we poor sailors were swinging in the tops, while the landlubbers lie down below…”

  3. Joan – how wonderful; I think you captured Dan ‘just right’.

    • Thank you for all your efforts to get the last reunion together. It’s a joy to see so many of us doing well. While I was looking for photos of Dan I also came up with a few of Peter Vasepoli, another quiet man who slipped away. They both were kind men. Sometimes I wonder I wonder if they are more vulnerable, but maybe it’s just that I find it more distressing to lose them.

  4. Thank you Joan for bringing joyful tears to my eyes. Dan was a sweet man. When he passed away the other night I thought of you and Dan at the Elliott Chambers Fire Memorial. Three of my beloved classmates, you, Rick O’Brien and Dan Goodwin were there to support me as we were remembering 15 lost souls who died in a horrific fire on July 4, 1984. I will forever cherish this memory.

    I will treasure the last years I spent with Dan. His gentle voice, sparkling eyes and kind smile. He carried so much on his big shoulders in his last months. Dan’s strength through his illness gave me hope for my weakness… and because of Dan Goodwin I am stronger and a kinder soul.

    Last summer when a group of us got together at Al’s Cafe Dan had to leave early due to not feeling well. He did his best to show up as long as he could and be part of our gathering. He showed me a picture on the wall of him with Steve Rodier and two other friends at the Super Bowl in New Orleans when the Patriots picked up their first Championship in 2004. The wide smile on his face when he spoke of the trip to New Orleans. I’m so glad he got to go.

    When he left that night he gave me a big hug and said, “I love you Jim”.

    “I love you too Dan” I’ll miss you. Yes… you are, “Dan the Man”

    Jim Maroney

    • Thank you for doing your part to help people remember folks who can’t speak for themselves. If I had my way, the poorest people, those who struggle to take care of themselves would live in the best housing we have. How we take care of our elderly, our children, our disabled folks reflects who we are as a society. Thank you also for being a good friend to Dan. This is the biggest gift you can give to anyone.

  5. Joan I loved your stories. I think everyone in Manchester back then had similar stories just different players. We had the Keatings seven girls, my cousins the Marshalls with 6 kids,the Singletons,The Brookes and me and my 3 sisters all on Crafts court or Pine street. Then further down Pine st. more families-Doanes,More Singletons,Linda Gibson. If you went to Pleasant we had the Mitchells,Blazaks,Hillers,Natalonis and more. Walker’s road had the Frenches,Chounards,Snows,Charltons, Coons. So many families so close but I went all over town to Willworths,Paseks,Rick O’briens,Ganley’s, Bonney’s,Hope and Faiths,Liz Weld,Kiki Taron,The Fieldses, Lisa Tosi’s etc… this is all just rambling old friends and places. Now I think I will go find my yearbook and have a good cry.All these lost friends and suddenly feeling so alone-back surgery 2 days ago and being stuck in the house doesn’t help. Please let me know when any plans for Dan are made.

    • You are a social butterfly, no wonder you feel so poorly being stuck in the house. It’s good you don’t live in Alaska. The snow has covered my chain link fence. the streets are unplowed and no one will be going out tonight unless it’s a pretty good party they’ll be missing!I guess New England can be like that too. I remember walking alone around Manchester year after year until I had enough. Now I walk around alone in Anchorage.

      • Joan, I am no social butterfly! I work and shuttle my daughters place to place. The rest of the time I am home alone.I work private duty in someones home so I meet no one at work.I like you are a loner. I just am not as content with it as you seem. My kids are 19 and 16 and only the 16 year old lives at home.I am lonely now so I dread her natural progression on to college. We raise them to achieve this but I am not ready. I need a life of my own. Right now it is all based on my kids.Loneliness and depression are not good friends but they are all I have right now.So glad you wrote about Dan the Man. The service was wonderful and the legion after was a great time remembering and just seeing old friends.Thank you for your lovely tribute.Enjoy your snow,I cold never live there.

      • I guess I just remember you being a happy extrovert but perhaps that’s how people remember me as well. the happiness is in there just waiting to come out. Come to the reunion!

  6. Joanie,

    Thank you for your kind words about Dan. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and never made you feel not as smart as him, as he shared his wisdom without fanfare.
    They say life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel;
    I truly think that if you do both, life can be even more painful.
    Dan was both brilliant and empathic, and, by that, showed many of us how we should be, as
    opposed to who we were. Once again, without fanfare, and by his example.
    Requiescat In Pace, dear friend.

  7. Debby Mitchell Johnson

    You have shared some treasured memories, thanks for taking me back to an earlier time in Manchester. We all knew each other like family then. I’ll be missing Dan along with everyone else in our class and in town.
    Debby Mitchell Johnson

  8. Now that I’m getting on in age, I hear of people passing away. The general sense of loss is balanced by the thought that nobody gets out alive – wattaya gonna do? Figure out why? But philosophy did me no good when I heard about Dan leaving us. Dan was my friend. My very close friend who I loved so much. I cried like a baby, then I wished him well on the other side.

    Dan taught me how to drive a manual transmission car, courtesy of his mom’s green Vega. We were avid candlestick bowlers, competing every Friday and Saturday to best Jim, Tom, Authur, and the Daltons. Then there was Frisbee and tennis at the high school for hours on end and into the wee hours – such fun times. Oh, yes, and then there was Math club. So glad you joined us on that adventure. Thanks for bringing back such foundational memories in your post, Joan. We are largely defined by our experiences – and as such, we all owe Dan, one awesome man.

    • Ha, I still can’t drive a stick as my sister in law can testify to after our Greek Island trip. I’m glad you guys had so much fun together, really the measurement of our lives is our joy in being, sharing, growing and we did lots of that didn’t we? That’s what I try to remember now, keep being, keep sharing, keep growing as if I was going through this all for the 1st time instead of for the 52nd time. Maybe I’ll get something out of this long strange trip. Hope to see you and Elaine at the reunion.


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