The old Boston Herald headquarters in the South End will stand for just a few more days, but memories of the colorful characters and feisty spirit that filled the squat brick building on Harrison Avenue for five decades will have a much longer shelf life.
That was the message from about 30 former Herald staffers who met across the street from the building on Sunday afternoon to reminisce before demolition begins on Friday to make way for an apartment and retail development called the Ink Block .
“The esprit de corps here was extraordinary,” said David Weber, a Herald reporter for 17 years who left in 2005. “We were a powerful underdog. That’s the way we felt.”
Laura Raposa, who joined the Herald in 1983 and retired this year as a writer for the Inside Track, the tabloid’s gossip column, said she felt that bond begin to weaken when the company moved to the Seaport District in South Boston in early 2012.
“Here, we felt like a community,” Raposa said. Once the newsroom moved to the Seaport, “I didn’t feel like I was a part of anything.”
But the South End run was fantastic, Raposa said, with a group of co-workers who appeared to come straight out of central casting for a Hollywood movie about a newsroom.
“We had fish tanks, funny pictures,” said Raposa. “It was a very romantic place.’’
Peter Gelzinis, a Herald columnist who first joined the newspaper in 1972, said many of the personalities had a deep knowledge of Boston’s history, and a certain flair. He recalled that Kenny Mayer, a Herald columnist and radio host who died in 1982, was always tanned and preferred velour shirts, gold chains, and mink coats. He also helped Gelzinis score interviews with top celebrities, including Frank Sinatra.
“The thing about this place was that everybody was a quirky institution of Boston,” Gelzinis said. “Back in the day, you could go to them for anything, and it was like they were a sort of walking history.”
Editors could be demanding. Michael Lasalandra, a former Herald medical reporter, spent several days in California in 1983 covering a highly publicized heart transplant for a Saugus man named John Faragi Jr., who died in 1998.
Lasalandra said the editors would not let him return to Boston until he had a photo of Faragi in recovery in his hospital room, despite the reporter’s protestations that the room was closed to the press. He said he eventually persuaded Faragi’s mother to take a photo with a Polaroid camera that he gave her, and the picture ran on the front page. “There was always stuff like that,” Lasalandra said.
A formal farewell is planned for Thursday, when speakers, including Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald, will pay tribute to the site, said Ted Tye, a managing partner at National Development, the company building the Ink Block.