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New Michael Bloomberg biography takes a few jabs at Medford

Posted by Your Town  October 12, 2009 02:22 PM

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A new biography of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg offers a few pointed observations of Medford, the city where Bloomberg spent much of his childhood.

In an excerpt posted on the New York Times website, author Joyce Purnick describes Medford as a bit too small townish to contain Bloomberg's ambition, and also takes note of a less than welcoming atmosphere for Jews in the 1940s.

"Medford was quiet and dull and Mike was bored,'' Purnick writes. "The place could not contain him. He wanted up and out and since that was not about to happen for a while, he turned into a contrarian who followed his own agenda.''

Bloomberg was born in Brighton. In 1945, the book says, Bloomberg'sparents had to devise a strategy to purchase their home on Ronaele Road because the seller would not sell it to a Jew.

Here is that excerpt:

"No Jews lived in the immediate neighborhood, very few anywhere in Medford. But everyone assumed that would change, including the Bloombergs, who resolved not to let residual anti-Semitism block their path. 'They weren't very happy,' Mrs. Bloomberg said of some neighbors. 'Our lawyer, George McLaughlin, who was Irish, bought the house and sold it to us. But nobody on the street was unpleasant to us.' And so they moved into the two-story, three-bedroom house — the slightly more expensive model because it came with a finished attic and basement.''

Another famous Medford resident also is quoted about the city:

"It was not a bad place, but a place you want to leave, to escape from," recalled the author Paul Theroux, a Medford native and casual Bloomberg friend. "I thought it would be death to stay there, that I would just be swallowed up. It was all right to grow up there, but to stay there? Fatal."

The book, Mike Bloomberg: Money, Politics, Power, was reviewed here and here.

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40 comments so far...
  1. I find it abhorrent that the Bloomberg family had to devise a strategy to buy a place in Medford because of anti-semitism. However, those days of discrimination based on religion are not over in the Boston area. Today Muslims have to deal with the discriminatory practices in upscale Boston suburbs which Jews like the Bloombergs dealt with in the 40's.

    Posted by dr. dan October 12, 09 04:07 PM
  1. I don't know what Medford was like when the Bloombergs moved there but I can tell you that today it is a welcoming and diverse community. Further, seems to me there is access to solid education opportunities and its proximity to Boston only enhances those opportunities. Certainly far from fatal.

    Posted by Michael D October 12, 09 04:07 PM
  1. Sounds about right.

    Posted by mike October 12, 09 04:08 PM
  1. The truth hurts.

    Posted by Nick Name October 12, 09 04:13 PM
  1. "jabs" at the Medford of the 40's? come on! what burb wasn't that way then...and sometimes now.

    Posted by cantstandya October 12, 09 04:24 PM
  1. I hope most people are not too offended, The Medford of 1950 is not the Medford of the 21st century. As for being too small for people with big plans. that applies to 99.9 % of American and the worlds towns and cities,

    Posted by BLOGGER October 12, 09 05:09 PM
  1. While I agree that Medford would be a place you are from rather then where you spend your life, I have to disagree about the prejudice in Medford.
    From my own experince it had little to do with race or religion than it had to do with people's inablity to accept anybody who was differant or if there was change in the City.
    Seemed as though many individuals felt that Medford must always remain stagnet. And the individual must be like everyone else.

    Posted by Pattie October 12, 09 06:23 PM
  1. I cant imagine too many towns/cities are as they were 50 years ago. I moved to Medford 10 years ago to find an indredible spot. Its a nice secret we stumbled upon.

    Posted by mr.mdm October 12, 09 06:28 PM
  1. I hope he never comes back!!!

    Posted by ghazmh October 12, 09 06:32 PM

    Posted by CHARLIE MURPHY October 12, 09 06:56 PM
  1. If the City of Medford is so bad, why does your mother still live there and attend Temple in Medford. Medford is proud to say that you are from our city and attended our schools. You should never be ashamed of where you came from because the City of Medford is not ashamed of you. But who knows that may change now.

    Posted by rich October 12, 09 07:10 PM
  1. Medford is and was a pit. Most of Massachussets is run down and in disrepair now.. The place is a toilet that needs to be flushed.

    Dr. Dan is a boob. FYI - I'm of Syrian desent before you go on a rambling zionist rant...

    Posted by The Truth October 12, 09 07:13 PM
  1. well i happen to live in medford and growing up in the 80s and early 90s was not much diffrent from the 21st century. and any small town wont usually come close in comparison to larger citys that are much more exciting.

    Posted by jdh October 12, 09 07:18 PM
  1. Go Mustangs!

    Posted by Mike Toomey October 12, 09 07:49 PM
  1. Right on, BLOGGER...

    Posted by roxy October 12, 09 07:53 PM

  1. Isn't this where they all break into a chorus of "New York, New York"?

    Posted by Rydal October 12, 09 08:01 PM
  1. What a spoiled cry-baby. NYC isn't big enough for Mikey either. So, LEAVE. If he can't get his way, he changes the rules (term limits, etc...........).

    So, go be King of Bermuda or King of the World! You are already have upset enough working class people with your arrogance. Go before you become a bigger baffoon. You make Rudi Guiliani look personable and efficient.

    Posted by peterr October 12, 09 08:12 PM
  1. I grew up in Medford in the 1950's and 60's (Irish-American) and attended junior high school and high school with many Jewish kids. There was also an active temple there, Temple Shalom, which is still there. Perhaps things were different in the 40's, but I didn't see problems in the 50's and 60's. There have been many successful people born and raised in Medford. And Medford has always had a wonderful middle-class black community in West Medford. Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg's memory is not that good or the biographer is trying to be a bit controversial. There is really no need to downgrade Medford.

    Posted by irish October 12, 09 08:14 PM
  1. I have lived in Medford since 11/1/1997 and love living here. I agree with poster 2

    Posted by JoAnne Turner October 12, 09 08:16 PM
  1. Can't speak for the 40's, but by the 70's, there was a large population of Jews in Medford. I knew a few of them, and they didn't seem to have any issues with Medford. Great place to grow up...

    South Meffa!

    Posted by ME October 12, 09 08:25 PM
  1. Charlie Murphy's comment (#10) was beautifully put and calmed me down a bit. I grew up in Medford and I love it to this day. This years graduating class had some of the brightest, if not THE brightest kids to ever exit Medford High....many of them to Ivy League schools. Bloomberg and Theroux sound like just what they are, arrogant, rich and snobby. Medford was a great place to grow up and my family and friends are now raising 3rd and 4th generations of good kids from the very same street. How sad that people really do forget where they came from. MORRISON PARK....MAGOUN PARK....

    Posted by RALS0401 October 12, 09 08:54 PM
  1. Michael who?

    Posted by Buhdayduh October 12, 09 08:56 PM
  1. I couldn't agree more with Bloomberg and Theroux. I also grew up in Medford and couldn't wait to get out. I moved all the way to Malden. Aaaah. What a relief.

    But seriously, has anyone heard Theroux being interviewed? What's with that phony English accent?

    Posted by Marky Mark October 12, 09 09:04 PM
  1. medford has B-boys....NYC does not.
    thank you

    Posted by john malloy October 12, 09 09:10 PM
  1. It's to bad Mike didn't grow up in MALDEN, he probably never wouldve left The only thing wrong with MALDEN is it sits next to Medford.

    Posted by MikeH October 12, 09 09:12 PM
  1. This is less about Bloomberg than it is about the editors of the paper and website thinking that a sociological comment about Medford which could have been said of any suburb of any metropolitan area in the 40's will rile the locals. Cheap stuff by small minded "professionals".

    Posted by rsbe October 12, 09 09:18 PM
  1. Consciously or not, Bloomberg is equating small-town Boston suburbia to anti-Semitism. Conversely, a move to a bigger place like New York City would have little, if any, anti-Semitism. In other words, a place without Jews offers almost nothing, and a place with Jews offers something. Please prove me wrong here.

    Posted by Reasonable Now October 12, 09 09:24 PM
  1. My mother taught Michael Bloomberg at the Gleason School in Medford. Paul Theroux's mother taught there as well, although the kids, as I recall, went to St. Francis.
    Everybody has to be from someplace, and Medford is as good a place as any

    Posted by Michael McCarthy [Yakima] October 12, 09 09:37 PM
  1. What is Michael Bloomburg.s point that Medford not NYC ? It is a working class commuter burb. He knocked the school system before but like other Mass towns thats pretty much based on the wealth of the community. Is Medfid dull yeah, but it is a short hop to Boston and Cambridge and it has a nice swimming hole in Wrights Pond. Paul Theroux lived down the street from us the homes were taken for Rte 93.

    Posted by Paul B October 12, 09 09:57 PM
  1. Medford is a pretty normal city. It's in an area where there are plenty of opportunities. Boston is 5 minutes away, you have Tufts University located in West Medford Hillside, Medford has the subway and the communter rail, plenty of fantastic cold cut and sub shops, a completely redone Wellington Circle area, a low crime rate compared to some of the cities in the same area, and plenty of community activities whether it is youth sports, charity events, or local organizations. The place in which you grow up is all what you make of it. Maybe Bloomberg never really wanted to be here, maybe he had a bad experience with a certain individual, I don't know but I do know Medford is a great city and it has a rich history of successful people that grew up here and still live here. Go Mustangs!

    Posted by DRM October 12, 09 10:14 PM
  1. I'm still miffed they changed the "Medford Yacht Club" to the "Medford Boat Club". That old name had such a great self-effacing bit of humor built into it. It sounded special and grand, even it was just a place for families and bocce afficianados. If "Medford Yacht Club" had been a person, it would have had a mischievous, gleaming twinkle in its eye, much like the old-timer Italians who hung out there. The new name sounds so bland and common.

    Posted by meffa_neighbah October 12, 09 10:39 PM
  1. The situation against selling to Jews was the same in many areas of Newton in the 1940s also. When I questioned the language in the Globe ad which I'd researched for the house my parents bought in 1948 about the area being restricted and the buyer had to meet the bank's approval my mother answered "Oh that meant no Jews or Blacks."

    Posted by Don21 October 12, 09 10:45 PM
  1. Medford must have been a horrible place to live for someone with New York tastes, and New York must be a horrible place to live for someone with suburban Boston tastes.

    Poor me. I could never figure out whether I'm basically a city boy or a suburbanite, but in any case it's Greater Boston (or a Northern European city). My lungs could never take NYC. It's the equivalent of smoking 3 packs a day, of course, LA is more like 3 cartons a day.

    Posted by Michael October 13, 09 12:15 AM
  1. Hey "Reasonable Now" (#27), read "Don21" (#32). Its not about Medford, its about the 40s and 50s.

    Posted by Samurai Jackaphobia October 13, 09 12:51 AM
  1. I was born in Medford in 1961, went through the Medford school system, and will be buried there. My grandparents moved to Medford from the West End in 1940. Discrimination happened no matter what your creed. I'm proud to be a Medford girl, make that an Italian Medford girl. As far as I can recall, and my dad too, I just asked him, the Temple Shalom has been on Winthrop Street for decades. Does Mayor Bloomberg have selective memory? I would move back to my hometown in a heartbeat!! By the way, unless you are from Medford, please don't say or write Medfa. It's just the way we locals say it; not anyone it! Go Mustangs....great football team this year.

    Posted by Mary Marquardo October 13, 09 09:42 AM
  1. and one more thing - George Street rulez and the Medford Library is the bizzomb!

    Posted by Jack Murphy, Class of '93 October 13, 09 12:22 PM
  1. I moved to Medford 10 years ago as an adult.
    I've definitely met good people in Medford, as I'd expect to anywhere,
    but please don't kid yourselves that that was just the bad old days and Medford is now a "welcoming and diverse community." It wasn't so long ago that the years of sporadic egging of our house ceased (knock on wood). Apparently 2 women owning a house together was deemed unacceptable. The police never helped; some didn't see what the big deal was, others who were concerned were off the case before long. Funny how neighbors never saw or knew a thing, but sure were quick to call the cops the one time one of us yelled out into the dark night in frustration after the latest assault. BTW, this was a few years ago, but Medford Human Rights told us they never thought of our situation as having to do with them. Go Mustangs!

    Posted by Ansy October 13, 09 04:17 PM
  1. I live near medford square and think it is a nice little place that has potential to be better than it is. there is a book store that i've heard good things about but its still not open. i heard about a steak restaurant that was suppose to open but that place is now for lease. there's a river that runs by that could be used for kayaks and canoes but no easy way to get to it. there's a nice theater/stage on the water front that is rarely used. i feel that medford is still trying to figure out its place amongst the local cities and town in area (cambridge, somerville, alrington, etc). I am wondering what medford is planning to do to make it more appealing, especially to young professionals moving to the area.

    Posted by John October 13, 09 11:29 PM
  1. What if Bloomberg had been Italian, like so many of us in South Medford? Black neighborhoods in the Hilllside or West Medford would have been a step up for us, crowded as we were on a filled swamp adjacent to the Tufts College dump. I enjoyed Marky Mark's jab at Paul Theroux, but to be fair, his wife was a Brit when I met him and he and his kids lived in the UK. I moved to Cape Cod 50 years ago and am certain that "Meffid" is as good as any city to "be from." I, too, got a lot of my education from the wonderful Medford Public Library.

    Posted by Paul Giambarba October 15, 09 05:55 PM
  1. I am not sure where Mr.Bloomberg is coming from . I have lived in Medford for over 65 years . I am not ashamed , but proud of Medford . I was in school
    with Mr.Bloomberg . I had many Jewish friends male and female . We all got along and enjoyed our experiences together . I participated in sports with
    jewish them and we shared our experiences , success and failures together .
    What i remember of Mike was he was a quiet , reserved individual who kept
    to himself . I don't recall him him participating in sport or high school activities . He went to school then headed home . I honestly don't take what he says to be much to be concerned about . Maybe he should have been more involved and
    not run home and pout about something he imagined . If New York is a bettor
    place to grow up in , go for it .

    Posted by TC March 14, 10 01:04 PM