BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — There was a lot of fanfare around the visit Wednesday by Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone.
Children from Nathaniel Bowditch School were out in the lobby as greeters.
A who’s who of local officials was assembled, including Mayor Kim Driscoll, state Sen. Joan Lovely and Salem State University President Patricia Meservey.
When Malone finally sat down in a semicircle to address the dignitaries, he had some exciting news to share — and it had nothing to do with the $128,000 grant the Salem public schools was getting.
On his way to the morning event, Malone said he drove past “one of my top 10 places in America.”
What was he talking about? The Peabody Essex Museum? Salem Willows? The Ropes Mansion?
“Dubes,” Malone exclaimed with boyish enthusiasm.
For the uninitiated, Dubes is a little restaurant on Jefferson Avenue beloved by locals. It is to fried clams and fried scallops what Marblehead Harbor is to sailing, or Harvard to higher education.
Malone confessed that he became a fan when he was superintendent in Swampscott and used to sneak over to Dubes with some of his staff.
During last week’s school forum on longer school days, Driscoll remarked that there are all sorts of options for extending the school day. There is even one model, the mayor said, where kids stay in school until 4:30 p.m., get all their homework done right there and have no homework at night. It eliminates a lot of stress at home, she said.
After he picked himself up off the floor, Superintendent Stephen Russell said: “So tomorrow’s headline should be, ‘Mayor promises no homework.’”
Without missing a beat, Driscoll replied: “I’ll be in good shape if they change the voting age, too.”
Queen for a day
Who’s going to tell Salem Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rinus Oosthoek that he no longer lives in the Netherlands?
When it came time for announcements at the weekly Salem Rotary meeting, he proudly proclaimed that Queen Beatrix was abdicating her throne in favor of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander.
What’s next, an update on Hans Brinker?
Police Chief Paul Tucker is in Israel.
No, he hasn’t changed jobs. He’s part of a law enforcement delegation from the northeast United States taking part in a counterterrorism training program.
The U.S. officials are learning how Israel prevents and responds to terrorist attacks. They will meet with commanders form the Israel National Police, as well as security and intelligence experts.
The trip is sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.
Day of pride
In case you hadn’t heard, the North Shore Pride Parade was such a hit last year, it is coming back.
Salem will host the parade on Saturday, June 29.
Changing of guard
The Salem Police Patrolmen’s Association has a new leader.
Patrolman Robert Phelan was elected president, replacing longtime union boss Nancy O’Donnell.
Our own state representative got a nice honor the other day.
The Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs named John Keenan 2012 “Legislator of the Year.”
The proclamation read: “In recognition of his tireless efforts in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a champion for YMCA youth-at-risk programs, thereby strengthening the foundations of communities throughout Massachusetts.”
Take a bow, John.
The demolition of St. Joseph Church stirred a lot of memories for former Mayor Jean Levesque, who is now 88.
Levesque not only grew up in the French-Canadian parish and attended the church, he helped build it.
“I was a hod carrier,” said Levesque, who was mayor from 1973-83.
For those of you who don’t get outside a lot, a hod carrier lugs materials for bricklayers. It’s a tough job demanding a lot of endurance and strength.
Levesque went to work at the church not long after returning from World War II, where he was a U.S. Army infantry squad leader who saw combat in Europe. In fact, he was doing amphibious training for the invasion of Japan when President Harry Truman dropped the bomb.
Anyway, when Levesque was working at St. Joseph, a priest who had been watching the construction approached. The French-speaking priest addressed him as the “Petit Levesque,” or “Little Levesque,” and gave him some tips on hod lugging.
“I guess before he went into the priesthood, he had done that kind of work,” Levesque said.
The former mayor wondered whether there is anyone else around who worked on that church, which came down this month to make way for a housing development.
“I’d be interested in finding out if there’s anybody similar to me, who put their sweat and blood, and earned a living building that church.”
CinemaSalem is showing Oscar-nominated live-action short films for a week starting today.
And one has a North Shore connection.
On Monday night, they’re screening “ASAD,” an 18-minute film about a young Somali refugee. It was written and directed by Bryan Buckley, a graduate of Swampscott High.
In fact, his dad, Richard, plans to come to the screening to talk about his son and the film.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.