In acknowledgment of May as Jewish American Heritage Month, the West End Museum honored two exceptional former residents of the neigborhood.
Born on May 30, 1920, in Boston, Manuel “Manny” Brown, now 100 years old, was a World War II veteran who landed on Utah beach in Normandy 76 years ago on D-Day. He is a decorated hero who received the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, French Medal and Bronze Star.
Brown grew up in the West End at a number of locations on the North Slope with his parents and two sisters. As a child, he enjoyed his West End House community and fondly recalls sledding down (the then automobile-less) Beacon Hill. He played basketball, participated in the Thanksgiving Day Run, the Christmas Walk and numerous other West End House events.
Brown attended The English High School, as well as the West End House Camp as a camper from 1930 to 1942 and after the war as an alumnus. In high school, he worked at and around Fenway Park and Braves Field as a vendor.
He was a member of the West End House and lived in the neighborhood until 1946 when he married and moved to Brighton.
“Manny’s story is also extremely relevant today,” wrote Sebastian A. Belfanti, director of the West End Museum. “He exemplifies the experiences of those who, despite moving out of the neighborhood, continued to return for social events, in his case at the West End House. Especially now, with the threat of losing the West End House building, Manny’s memories of veteran’s meetings with JFK and a hundred or so others, playing basketball, and spending time with friends in and around the West End House are as relevant today as they’ve ever been.”
The second honoree was Annie Londonderry, who is considered to be the “world’s first international female sports star” because of her iconic bicycle ride around the world.
Born in Latvia in 1870 to Jewish parents, Levi and Beatrice Cohen, Londonderry (also known as Annie Cohen Kopchovsky) emigrated to the West End with her family in 1875. She married Max Kopchovsky, a peddler, and had three children by 1892, living in the West End’s tenements as a working-class family.
While the British man Thomas Stevens was the first person to ride across the U.S. and the world in 1884, Londonderry was determined to be the world’s first woman to achieve the same feat; she was hoping to settle a bet, and receive $10,000, if she could prove that women had physical capabilities equal to men. The Boston Journal reported after her journey that the crowd at the State House thought the bet was invented for publicity, however.
“We selected Annie because, after exploring her history as part of the Bicycling Legends of the West End exhibit, we were inspired by her resilience and achievement after her journey from Latvia to Boston,” Belfanti wrote. “We’re exited to share the story of the first female sports star, the fun and fascinating story of her globe-spanning ride, and her work empowering women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Added Belfanti : “Sharing the stories of the many, many people, of all ethnic backgrounds, who made the old West End such a special community, is paramount to maintaining the museum as a place where everyone, pre- or post-Urban Renewal residents and interested parties, came come to understand the value of this neighborhood, and the amazing depth of Boston history at large.