Writer, journalist, author
She wasn’t born in Boston, but the day Stephanie Schorow moved here in 1989, she knew she had come home. Ms. Schorow is the author of six books on Boston, including, with co-author Beverly Ford, is The Boston Mob Guide: Hit Men, Hoodlums & Hideouts, published in December 2011, by the History Press and Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits, published by Union Park Press on November 1, 2012.
A seasoned reporter, she works as freelance writer for a host of publications and institutions, including the Boston Globe, the Harvard Gazette, and many others. She now serves at the coordinator of publications and communications at Bunker Hill Community College. She has taught feature writing for the adult education division of Emerson College and frequently teaches freelance writing classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
Stephanie has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a master’s degree from New York University. She worked at newspapers around the country until moving to Boston to work for the Associated Press. She briefly worked for the TAB newspapers before making the switch to Wingo Way. For 12 years, she was a lifestyles editor and writer at the Boston Herald, where she supervised freelance writers, wrote features and contributed a weekly technology column.
Currently, she reviews restaurants for the Globe's North section and new CDs for the Chicago Blues Guide.
Stephanie frequently speaks at libraries and other community centers in the Greater Boston area, including appearances at the Old South Meeting House and three appearances at the Massachusetts Superior Court. She was recently featured in a segment on the Brink's robbery for "Mysteries at the Museum," on the Travel Channel. She has appeared as an expert in documentaries about fire including "Damrell's Fire," first broadcast in 2006, a look at the Great Boston Fire of 1872; and in a segment on the Cocoanut Grove fire for the "Modern Marvels" series on the History Channel broadcast in 2004.
She is vice president of the board of the Boston Fire Historical Society, an organization dedicated to preserving Boston's fire history. She has also served on the board of the Volunteers and Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands, an advocacy and volunteer group
A clay potter working at the Mudflat Studio in Somerville, she also teaches pottery at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and sells her work through the Mudflat Gallery in Porter Square and at bi-annual Mudflat sales.
By Stephanie Schorow
Some years ago I wrote a book on the horrible 1942 fire at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston, which killed nearly 500 people. I continue to research the fire and I’m often asked to lecture about it. At my lectures or even in conversation with Bostonians, someone always has a story about how someone close to them was affected by that fire. Maybe an uncle. Maybe a grandfather or grandmother. Maybe the children of a neighbor. Sometimes it’s a tale of injury and death. But more often it’s a tale of a near miss. “My mother was in the club that night, but left before the fire.” “My parents were planning to go to the club that night but decided not to at the last minute.” “My uncle tried to get into the club that night, but it was too crowded.” “My grandfather was going to go, but Boston College lost the football game so he went home.” Or even, “I was there the night BEFORE the fire.”
I have heard this story over and over again, with numerous variations. An African-American man even said his parents were turned away at the door that night because they were black. At first it was intriguing, then frustrating – how could all of these people been headed to the club that night? And then I realized that these stories contained a greater truth – that all of Boston felt they had a brush with death on November 28, 1942. That this was a horror that could have happened to them. It was a tragedy that engulfed the city and beyond.
In the last two days, I have found myself telling people: “I was just at the library last week. I was just on Boylston street having dinner.” Friends are telling me how they were watching the marathon but left before the bombs went off. An acquaintance describes how she was several blocks away. Others are posting in social media about the injuries to friends of friends. Like the 1942 fire, this will be a tragedy that will resonate down the years, trauma passed down to generations in the form of stories of how grandfather or grandmother narrowly avoided death that day.
In the course of my Cocoanut Grove research, I went through newspaper files of photos of the victims provide by family members: graduation pictures, snapshots, wedding picture. I tried to look at each one, seeing them as a person, not a victim. The day the bombs went off in Boston, there were bombs going off in Bagdad, killing at least 55. And there were probably other terrorist strikes as well – bloody, irrational murders of innocents – innocent who will be faceless and nameless to Americans.
I was not directly affected by the bombs; my story is not gripping or poignant. I grieved through TV images (“ I was just there!”) and Facebook posts. Many of us are trying to see some kind of meaning in this tragedy; whether terrorism, militia, lone wolf. In my Cocoanut Grove research, many people expounded on how Boston College folks cancelled plans to be at the club that night because the football team lost what was supposed to be a sure win against Holy Cross. They saw the hand of God. But many victorious Holy Cross fans went to the club and I can’t see anything but the quirks of fate in action.
I believe we are better people in Boston now than in 1942. There were numerous reports about the looting of the bodies of the Cocoanut Grove victims. A man once called me to tell me how he learned his father, as a teenager, grabbed wallets from the dead; he burst into tears confessing his father’s sin, sickened by the stain of his own genetics. There was the story of the man who begged someone to take him to the hospital, promising him $300. The man passed out and woke up in the hospital to find $300 taken from his wallet.
Yet then, as now, people lined up to donate blood, and the staff at Boston City Hospital and Massachusetts General made heroic efforts to save all they could. Today we have a security net for those injured. In the 1940s, the Grove victims eventually received only about $100-$200 each for their pain and suffering from the estate of the club. Only one person ever served jail time in relation to the fire—the club owner – who was allowed to go home to die after only a few years in prison. Today we have heroes to celebrate, even as we mourn, and we are convinced that someone will be brought to justice, no matter how long it takes.
Someday, I’m sure, there will be a public monument to the victims of the Marathon attack – a place where we can bring flowers, meditate on loss and suffering, and remember the bravery of ordinary people, marathoners, firefighters, police and others who did what we could. There will be speeches about how “We will never forget.” There is no such monument to the Cocoanut Grove victims, just a simple and worn plaque in the sidewalk in Bay Village marking the club’s location. Bunches of flowers are still sometimes left there.
In Boston today, we will tell our stories, over and over again, suffused with the knowledge we all could have been there; it could have been us, we were just there minutes, hours, days before the bombs went off.
April 17, 2013
Farewell to the Herald building on Harrison Avenue
The end of an era.
Can you drink cocktails at 9:30 a.m.?
And on Fox25 -- a special guest.
Happy Hours? We don't need no stinkin' happy hours.
ABC News on Boston's ban on half-price drinks.
On Greater Boston
A nice interview on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney on Jan. 9.
An Interview With Stephanie
An interview with Stephanie by Stephanie about her latest book
All Media All the Time
BNN News Interview
The ever-erudite and gracious Chris Lovett interviews me about Drinking Boston.
Radio Boston Interviews Schorow at Foley's
I'm interviewed by Radio Boston at one of my favorite drinking holes.
The Ward 8
The mystery of this Boston cocktail
Thursty Boston on Drinking Boston
Luke O'Neil's interview with Stephanie for the Metro
Boston Zest Review
Boston Zest Review
Old South Meeting House
Bev Ford and I speak about the Mob at the Old South Meeting House.
Bev Ford and I talk about the Boston Mob at Northeastern University
I assisted the BBC with this story on the Brink's robbery.
Bev and I are interviewed by Chris Lovett of Neighborhood Network News at BU.
Boston's Fire Trail: The NFPA Journal
Fire, walk with me on a Boston tour of infamous fires and disasters. You will also link to a video tour of the journey.
The Brinks -- AGAIN
A group of Belmont high school students interviewed me for a project on the Brink's heist. They put together this excellent video. And they all got A's.
November marked the anniversary of two fires that changed Boston history: The horrific Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire of Nov. 28, 1942, which killed nearly 500 people, and the Great Boston Fire of Nov. 9-11, 1872, which devastated downtown Boston.
Stephanie Schorow has uncovered new photographs and information about these seminal events that she has incorporated into a multi-media presentation available for libraries and local venues. She can speak about the legacy of the Cocoanut Grove fire which impacted fire safety codes, manslaughter law and medical treatment for burns and lung injuries. She has new information about a “hero” of the 1872 fire – a New Hampshire fire engine that raced to Boston and saved the Old South Meeting House. She has incorporated her research into a presentation that draws links between past and present and shows how tragedies may lead to innovations that save lives.
To book Stephanie for an appearance, please email her
at sschorow (at ) comcast.net.
The Return of the Kearsarge -- the "Hero" of the 1872 Great Boston Fire
The Kearsarge is not yet fully restored. Someday Andy hopes to have the old machine fully functional, which means that it will burn coal or wood to build up pressure. Water hooked to an external source-- i.e. a hydrant -- would then be sprayed out of attached hoses. This technology, awkward as it may seem today, was responsible for saving many cities and towns from burning in the 19th century. Previously, such "masheens" as they were called, were pumped by hand.
We hope to bring back the fully restored Kearsarge to Downtown Boston in two years. If any groups are interested in co-sponsoring such an event, please contact Stephanie.
For a slide show on the Kearsarge of photos taken by Stephanie, please click the caption under the photo.