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Dirty Old Kenmore's King

Posted by Jim Botticelli  October 5, 2013 03:29 PM

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Thumbnail image for Mr.ButchAndrew Anderson.jpg
Mr. Butch reigned over Kenmore Square
Photo by Andrew Anderson

"What differences does it make to the dead and the homeless how the mad destruction is wrought?" ... Mahatma Gandhi (paraphrased)

He won the Neighborhood Character award year after year in the Phoenix. A seemingly eternal presence in the Kenmore Square of Dirty Old Boston, Mr. Butch was immediately recognizable to the multitudes who hung out in and passed through the area on a daily basis. Whether panhandling, polishing off a tall boy, or puffing something mysterious, the ageless dreadlocked Butch (Harold Madison, Jr.) became more than another homeless street wanderer. Between his ready smile and sad faraway eyes, he endeared himself to the area's population and was sometimes called the Mayor of Kenmore Square. Often seen ranting rhythmically to no one special, it was understood that Mr. Butch lived in his own parameters and that those parameters were not easily understood. But for the most part they were accepted.
Photo by David Henry

It came in the late 90's. Like Scollay Square and the West End before it, Kenmore Square, it was decided, was no country for old hoi polloi. Self destruction, it was headed for self destruction, as demolition man began ripping out Everyman cultural icons to make way for the Rich and Beautiful. Authorities were pushin' too hard on Mr. Butch so he skedaddled for a new spot to chill in Allston around Harvard and Comm. This apparently was satisfactory for about seven years or so. But one late night, while riding motor scooter, Mr. Butch died in a collision with a tree. He was 56 years old, a 30 year street veteran at the time.
Photo by David Henry
In Mr. Butch's own words, "You got to be articulate every day and keep going on strong and straight and use your heart and all your might and all your weight and all your power. Do what you can, make it last for many hour, 'cause once you're dead, you're done, you don't come back," he rapped, pausing before adding, "Yeah."

Thanks to Brian Marquard and the Boston Globe for quote and some information
Thanks to Andrew Anderson and David Henry for photographs
Be sure to like Dirty Old Boston on Facebook. Watch for the book Dirty Old Boston

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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