Writer, journalist, author
She wasn’t born in Boston, but the day Stephanie Schorow moved here in 1989, she knew she had come home. Stephanie 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.
Her books take a grassroots, people's history view of Boston. She has investigated the mysteries behind the tragic 1942 nightclub fire at the Cocoanut Grove and probed the lore of the infamous Brink's robbery of 1950. She has ventured out to the far reaches of the Boston Harbor Islands and into dusty archives; she has talked to cops and robbers, bartenders and barristers. For more on her books see Works on your right.
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. Stephanie has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in Latin America studies from New York University. She worked at newspapers around the country until moving to Boston to work for the Associated Press in 1989. 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. Today she continues to freelance; among her regular features are reviews restaurants for the Globe's North section and new CDs reviews for the Chicago Blues Guide. She also works full time as assistant director of public relations and editorial services at Bunker Hill Community College.
For links to stories, see links to Recent Articles on the lower right.
Stephanie has put her experience to work in the classroom She teaches feature writing for the Digital Journalism certificate program at Emerson College. She has taught a variety of writing classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, including breaking into freelance writing, regional history writing and how to kickstart that book you always wanted to write.
Stephanie frequently speaks at libraries, community centers, historical societies and assisted living units in the Greater Boston area, including appearances at the Old South Meeting House, the Brookline and Arlington adult education centers, Massachusetts Superior Court. She was recently featured in a segment on the Brink's robbery for "Mysteries at the Museum," on the Travel Channel and will appear in an upcoming documentary on Boston's infamous Symphony Road arson case, "Burning Greed." 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.
For information on where Stephanie will speak next, see Events.
Stephanie 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 artist working at the Mudflat Studio in Somerville, she has taught 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.
Stephanie has become a much-sought-after speaker who spices her presentations with images, videos and artifacts. Here's what she can talk about:
Drinking Boston: A historical pub crawl through the taverns, speakeasies and nightclubs of Boston.
From the drama of the "Blue Blazer" to the mystery of the "Ward 8," Stephanie serves up a cocktail of pop culture, history and anecdotes. Couple this with dinner and drinks and you'll have event that will have people talking. The talk covers Boston's drinking history, beginning in the Colonial period and continuing through Prohibition and into Boston's craft cocktail scene.
The Tragedy of the Cocoanut Grove Fire
This 1942 nightclub fire killed nearly 500 people and burned through the heart of Boston. Stephanie recounts the events that led to the fire, its investigation and its enduring mysteries. New information continues to come forward and Stephanie brings the latest to life. She also leaves time for people to share their stories of the Grove, making for a moving, interactive event.
The Boston Mob Guide: Hit Men, Hoodlums and Hideouts
With partner-in-crime Beverly Ford, Stephanie takes a walk on Boston's wild side with the bady boys of the Hub. The gals trace the history of organized crime in Boston from its roots in the 1910s and 1920s to the latest on Whitey Bulger and his convictions. With compassion for victims as well as intriguing details on the mobsters, Bev and Stephanie paint an indelible portait of the murder and mayhem.
Fire! Boston Burning
Stephanie looks at the fires that have shaped Boston's history from the Colonial period to the arson rings of the 1970s and 1980s.
The Crime of the Century: The Brink's Job
In January of 1950, a band of misfit thieves broke into the Brink's armored car headquarters in Boston's North End and pulled off the largest robbery in U.S. history. The Crime of the Century went unsolved for six years and police only cracked the case when one of the robbers turned stool pigeon. Much of the money was never recovered. Stephanie uses historical images, FBI evidence, movie clips and humor to bring the story of the Brink's heist to life.
Girls Night Out -- 1891 Style
In July of 1891, four intrepid woman spent 10 days sojourning on Great Brewster Island in Boston Harbor. One kept a diary which provides a fascinating look into the lives of women in the 1890s as well as the history -- flora, fauna and bovine -- of the Harbor Islands. Stephanie plays detective, tracking elusive details from the illustrated diary and invites the audiences to be sleuths along with her.
To book any of these lectures, please email me at sschorow (at) comcast (dot) net ,
REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS OF THE COCOANUT GROVE
There is a movement, headed by Dr. Kenneth Marshall of Watertown, to create a more significant memorial to the victims of the Cocoanut Grove fire. He can be reached at kenm1228 (at) yahoo (dot) com.
There is an effort to rename a street to commemorate the fire:
See story in the Boston Business Journal on Sept. 25, 2013:
More than 70 years after a fire killed 492 patrons at the Cocoanut Grove Club in Boston, the city may finally honor the victims by renaming a street at the site of the tragedy. The city’s Public Improvement Commission will consider a petition next month by abutters to rename a portion of Shawmut Street at Piedmont Street in the Bay Village neighborhood where the club stood as Cocoanut Grove Lane.
For background on the fire itself, see these links:
Boston Fire Historical Society
The Cocoanut Grove Coalition
The Mob Museum Blog
Beverly Ford and I have been been blogging about the James "Whitey"Bulger trial for The Mob Museum in Las Vegas in advance of our appearance there on Aug. 16 and 17.
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.