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New Year, 2006
By Rick Winterson

     There are many ways to celebrate New Year's Eve and the Day itself. Most South Bostonians seemed to go along with the traditional approach.


      First Night was its usual spectacle. It was the 30th Anniversary of that celebration, which started here in Boston on the nation's Bicentennial New Year, and now extends to cities all across America.

     As always, the eye-catching ice sculptures in Copley Square and next to the Frog Pond on Boston Common were centers of attention. The parade started down Boylston Street at 5:30. Spectators got a good preview of the Chinese New Year parade coming up on January 29. An incredible number of shows and concerts provided non-stop entertainment. Fireworks marked the Eve of 2006 at 7:30 and midnight.

     Of course, the major New Year event in South Boston was Polar Bear Swim #102 on New Year's Day, which places it among the oldest traditions in the country. This year's theme was "Celebrating Southie Pride".

     The Woods family's L Street Tavern - the home of "Good Will Hunting" - opened early, serving coffee and doughnuts to the swimmers and the bagpipe escort. Part of the Tavern's festivities included a fundraising raffle for the Scleroderma Foundation. Promptly at 10 a.m., the 103rd Postal Fire Column Pipes and Drums formed up at L and Eighth, and then marched several swimmers to the Bathhouse.

     The procession entered the K Street entrance at the Curley Center, joining the main body of polar bears in the Curley community room. The pipes, drums, and cheers from the crowd were nigh-on deafening, but no one backed out. The skirling of the pipes, the rat-tat-tat of the drumsticks on the snares, and the boom of the mallets and bass drums were nothing short of stirring. Perhaps most fittingly, the last number played by the "Column" was "Amazing Grace".

     The sky was gray and overcast; the temperature hovered well below freezing; there was a stiff breeze. Snow from the previous evening covered the damp sand. It was nothing like the spring-like warmth of the prior year. In short, it was absolutely perfect weather for the 2006 swim.

     At 10:30, Freddy Ahern, the Curley Center Director, assembled the swimmers behind the banner - "Home of the World Famous L Street Brownies". A City of Boston fireboat saluted the crowds with streams of water. All were barefoot; a few hardy souls rubbed snow on themselves. Tommy McCauliffe blew the Infantry Charge on his bass horn. The banner dropped and in they went.


      A chorus of shrieks and yells filled the raw air. There were more than 500 human beings of every size, shape, gender, and description wallowing in the cold Old Harbor salt water. Most headed back to shore as soon as they dipped. Acres of wet gooseflesh were very much in evidence. And 2006 was well and truly begun.

     The New Year afternoon was quiet around South Boston. Late brunches were popular. The watering hole crowds watched the Patriots' second team play fairly well against a Dolphins team that sported a five-game win streak coming in. Doug Flutie scored an extra point with the first successful NFL dropkick since before World War II. Whatever he does, that guy always goes out a winner. The Pats lost, 28-26, ending their season with a 10-6 record. But we're playing Jacksonville (12-4) injury-free this coming Saturday evening in Gillette Stadium.
Just as important, Monday was a holiday for most of us. Happy New Year.



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The pipers surround Marie Coyle,President of the Scleroderma Foundation.

The 103 Postal Fire Column Pipes & Drums march down L.

Chopper Cox, 'L' Street Tavern Owner, Susan Woods, and Cookie Tallent. Two will swim.

The Boston Fire Department boat sprays ice cubes.

The crowd gathers in front of the L Street Tavern.