WBZ Christmas on Boston Common

Here’s a note that came in from Proud Podcast Participant Len Segal, who was with me during one Christmas Eve broadcast on WBZ in Boston. “We were on the air live from Boston Common… which is a park right in the middle of the city. Every Christmas, they put lights on every tree. It’s not spectacular, like the big tree at Rock Center in New York…but it’s beautiful, and quiet — a perfect place for Christmas lovers. Len’s note says, “You asked listeners to write to you with their personal thoughts on ‘what Christmas means,’ and you were struck by how much your listeners opened up their hearts in those letters. You decided to read the letters with the mic outside the studio trailer with the people who had come to see the broadcast. Your producer had a fit at the thought of you going into the crowd live, because of the possibility of some drunk yelling something naughty, but you over ruled him and did it anyway. I found a metal sanitation barrel which we needed, because after you read the letters you were going to burn them as a sign of respect, and to warm the crowd a little. Every one was standing around holding hands as you read the letters. I’m Jewish, but it was a wonderful thing to remember… that spirit of goodwill that makes Christmas.”

Right Len, and thanks. That’s a story I got from you. So now it’s my turn. I remember a little more of the story… although I’m not going to swear everything I remember is accurate after all this time. I was on the air from 8pm to Midnight. I planned on reading the letters about 11:45. I mentioned that on the air, and invited people to drop in. By 9PM we had a pretty good crowd. By 10, the crowd was in the hundreds. By 11 PM there was a traffic problem on Charles Street… just outside the park. Remember, this was a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t have permission from anybody including the police department or the radio station to do this. By 11:30, there must have been a thousand people gathered around, and the cops had some extra troops out trying to untangle traffic.

I figured I was in trouble. But one of the cops came over, saw what was going on, smiled, and just wished me Merry Christmas. Then some of the artists from the Unicorn Coffee House up the block came by. As I recall it was Tom Rush, Jose Feliciano, Jamie Brockett and Mitch Kertzman. At quarter to twelve, I took the mic outside and started reading the letters, and burning them. I consider that a sign of respect for something you can’t keep but is too precious to throw way. We had a pretty good bonfire going… and as if on cue… a slow snowfall started… and just before midnight, we all sang “Silent Night” together. Have you ever heard a thousand people sing “Silent Night”, while they’re standing close enough together to keep warm by a Christmas Eve bonfire in the snow? Maybe you were there. If so, thank you. It was a long time ago. But I’ll never forget it. Never.”

Published on February 20, 2013