One of those evictions found us moving to Dedham (the only time we had ever lived outside of the city of Boston) and on one occasion living high on the hog with each of us actually getting a portion of a piece of a cube steak and some baked potatoes and canned green beans for dinner. Dad was feeling generous because he’d made a few bucks from hitting his numbers. As the breadwinner, such food was reserved for him most nights while we’d eat something like mac n cheese from the box or maybe a bowl of gluey cream of chicken soup stirred into rice.
I never knew how Dad swung that move to Dedham where we lived in a real house for the very first time, and where there were four bedrooms to accommodate all ten of us in rare comfort. It was a world away from the cramped three bedroom apartments we were used to, with my brothers and me in one bedroom and all five of my sisters crammed into another. We spent most of our childhood sleeping in dilapidated bunk beds, rickety from so many moves and the constant taking apart and putting together. We all knew the place in Dedham was way beyond my father’s budget so figured he must have hit the numbers pretty good to be able to put down a security deposit and first month’s rent so we also knew our stay would be short-lived as it indeed turned out to be as it always was. But that was our normal. Meanwhile, we’d enjoy living in such an uppity town like Dedham in spite of being treated at school as if we were the Beverly Hillbillies because of our hard Boston accents, shabby clothes and rotting teeth.
It was a big brown house that was one lot in from the Gulf gas station that made the corner of Route 1 and Dedham Square and sat right across from the Dedham Savings Bank. It was during a hot summer, and just after we’d moved in that we looked out the front window and saw dozens of people moving about frantic and shouting and emptying tractor trailer trucks and setting up enormous lighting systems and big cameras although it was the middle of a brutal hot and humid day. We sent my sister Diane across the street to check things out as by now we’d all moved out to the front porch, dying with curiosity. Soon she was running back across the street.
“What’s going on over there?” my mother asked.
“It’s a movie!” Diane said. “They’re making a movie!”
“What?” I said, what about?
“Gangsters or something,” Diane said. “They’re going to rob the bank for the movie!”
I could see movie cameras and other equipment being put together and mounted now as some order seemed to be coming to the chaos across the street and some of the crew were sitting down on the grass and on the curb smoking cigarettes and talking with animated hands. I noticed the sign for the Dedham Savings Bank had been changed to read “South Shore Savings Bank.” I walked off of the porch and trying to seem casual, sauntered across the street to see what more I could find out.
“Hey,” I said to one of the younger crew members who looked about twenty. “What’s the movie gonna be?”
“Hey, how ya doin?” the kid replied. “It’s a Mob movie. Called The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Robert Mitchum is in it.”
I learned later that Eddie Coyle (a.k.a. “Eddie Fingers”) was based on a true story about an aging delivery truck driver for a bakery in the Boston area, who was also a low-level gunrunner for a crime organization in Boston. As the story went, he was facing several years in prison for a truck hijacking in New Hampshire set up by a guy named Dillon, who owned a local bar. Coyle’s last chance is a sentencing recommendation from an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent, Dave Foley, who demanded that Coyle become an informer in return. Coyle’s undercover work got him involved in bank robberies and other unsavory activities. The banks name had been changed to match the real life bank that had been robbed in Braintree or Quincy. Unbeknownst to Coyle, Dillon was an informer for Foley, and Coyle wound up getting double-crossed in the end.
“Wow, no kidding,” I said, and no sooner had that come out of my mouth when I saw Robert Mitchum, the man himself, standing back and off to the side talking with who I assumed must have been the director or someone else important. He was just fifteen feet away. They were gesturing towards an older model car with some actors with masks on already seated inside, with a white screen set up behind the back window and brilliant camera lights on either side.
“What are they going to do over there?” I asked, pointing to the car.
“Ah, they’re setting up the getaway scene,” the kid replied. “They don’t really drive at all, they just sit in the car and pretend, and in the final movie it will look like they’re driving.”
“Huh?” I replied.
“Yeah, they just project a movie onto that screen back there and it looks like their driving. All the actor has to do is turn the wheel to make it look real.”
“Whaddya know? Thanks,” I said and darted back across the street and explained everything.
“Robert Mitchum? Ma said, as she instinctively began to tug at the sides of her wig and adjust her stretchy pants and tube top. “Run in the house and get me my sunglasses,” she said to no one in particular but Diane got up and went into house to grab them off the kitchen counter where Ma always left them. She was back in no time and Ma put them on, adjusted them under her wig and behind her ears and lit a cigarette as she stood leaning on the porch rail in what I suppose she thought was a sexy pose.
We watched as Robert Mitchum stood by observing as the actors in the car ran through their scene. Suddenly, they piled out of the hot car after a number of takes to take a break. We looked on in amazement as we saw none other than Robert Mitchum walking towards our porch with some other guy, who appeared to be one of the crew. They stopped at the stoop, and as Robert Mitchum pushed his fedora up on his head revealing a sweaty brow, the other guy asks if they might have some cold water since it was so damn hot out there?
We all just stared unsure and in disbelief for a second until my mother snapped us out of it by saying, again to no one in particular, “Go in quick and get some ice water for Mr. Mitchum!”
This time Diane and I raced in and as she reached for a couple of plastic Tupperware tumblers I cracked open an ice tray from the freezer. It was the only thing in there. We rushed to fill the tumblers with ice and cold tap water and brought them out front and handed them to my mother who handed them to the actor and the other guy. They drained the plastic cups in unison and in one long drink and with a satisfying “ah” handed them back to my mother.
“Thanks,” said the other guy, as Robert Mitchum tipped his hat without a word, and they turned and walked back to the bank, thus ending the Boudreau family’s brush with fame before we could even ask for an autograph!
To be continued….