“Everyone was one big family. They always came back. It’s friends and family for life.” Brighton Lew was never a camper and was only a counselor for 1 summer, in 1972. He would have come earlier, but the West End House had just moved to the Allston – Brighton area in 1971, close to where he lived on Commonwealth Terrace, off of Allston Street.
I was the first club kid to go to camp.
Bill asked what he was going to do over the summer and offered him the opportunity to be the Archery instructor. “I’ll try it,” he told Bill.
After getting the proper Archery certification, Brighton came to camp as a Junior Counselor. When he arrived at camp he did not know anyone, but was treated like he had been there for years. “I was NOT treated like an outsider.” He became immediate friends with other counselors such as Peter Kaplan, Mike Finn, Dave Bikofsky, Peter Nason, Tank Sherman and Johnny Kaplan. He was placed in 5A and had distinguished campers such as Ronny and Carl Leppo, Peter Gosule and Mike Paul. The Senior Counselor was Rod Taft and his CIT, Joe Spinale.
Brighton wrote about his Archery program in the 1972 Spirit. “This year at West End House Camp, the Archery program got off to a flying start. The program was enjoyable, and many campers were using the Archery facilities. As the year progressed arrows became fewer and fewer, and thus the Archery program lessened a bit in significance.” Getting a new set of arrows on Amazon was clearly not an option.
Brighton remembers reffing during Color War. He was surprised at how well the kids worked together and how the entire camp was separated. “I’d never seen anything like that, the kids on different teams didn’t talk to each other.” Brighton loved the food. “It was good, actually excellent, I gained a lot of weight.” Since he did not have a car, he was appreciative that people gave him rides back and forth to Boston for days off.
Brighton was the only camper from Boston and many of his friends were from Brookline. He found out that he and the Brookline guys knew many of the same people. “I must have seen those guys before, but I never knew them until camp.” Back then, it seemed to Brighton that camp was “all Caucasian and me, it was mostly Jewish back then.” He enjoyed his experience so much that he convinced his friends from the club, Ricky Brenner, John McCoy and Paul McDermott, to join him at Old Timers Week.
Brighton Lew had a unique upbringing. His father and mother married in an arranged marriage, back in China, and his father moved to the United States prior to World War II. He fought in the war and was in the military until 1948. The reason he left China was to get out of the Communist country and his mother came in 1949 to join him. “Brighton” is a unique and memorable first name. He was not born in a hospital, but in his house on “Brighton Ave.” His parents, who did not know English well, were confused when filling out the paperwork. When asked the new baby’s name, they gave the name of the street they lived on. He has 4 sisters and 1 brother (Polly, Betty, Lucy, Margie and Beau). “I never considered changing my name, I also lived IN Brighton.” While he has the most unique name amongst his siblings, Brighton was proud that he was the only one of the 6 to have a middle name. Brighton Get Keong Lew, from Brighton Ave, graduate of Brighton High, from the Brighton section of Boston, the name fits.
Brighton is more popularly known in camp circles as “Mao,” a nickname I personally feel uncomfortable using, as I assumed it was solely because of the Chinese dictator. But, Brighton said that in Basketball, he was a tenacious rebounder, so people would say he was a “Chairman of the Boards.” I suppose the fact that Chairman Mao and Brighton are both Chinese helped the nickname stick. Brighton, an avid runner, was at the Cambridge Runners Club one time and ran into old timer, Charlie LaRosa from 4B. He wanted to buy him a beer and the waiter said to Charlie “Here is a beer from Brighton.” Charlie didn’t know Mao’s real name. So Brighton told the waiter to say “Here is a beer from Mao.” Charlie understood immediately. “Go anywhere and I run into West Enders and I hear people yell out MAO!”
In 1979, Brighton attended his first Old Timer’s Week and he has been a mainstay ever since. He enjoys hanging out at the Waterfront and taking walks up Hessian Hill. “It’s a reunion of my extended family, seeing guys I haven’t seen for a year, or years. We reminisce about camp.” Camp friends Joel Saperstein and Mike Finn went to his wedding. Brighton is a bit of prankster. “One year I wanted to wake up Yogi (Alex Berger) for breakfast and I dumped a bucket of water on him.” In his younger days, Brighton enjoyed playing basketball in the Rec Hall, then they’d raid the kitchen at 1AM. Another year during Old Timer’s Week, Brighton went into Limerick, to a restaurant called the “Bimbo.” “Some lady pointed a finger at me and introduced me to her niece. We went on a date, and then I disappeared with her to California for 3 months.”
One time Brighton was on vacation in Mexico and he was wearing a West End House hat. Someone came up to him and asked him if he knew Bill “Snoopy” Margolin. Of course he did. Brighton speaks fondly of his mentor as someone who always looks at the positive in everyone.
He is humble, always there for anything, sincere. One of the most unique people you will ever meet as a friend. Everyone talks highly of Bill. He has an influence on everyone. He knows how to treat everyone the same.Brighton’s thoughts on Bill Margolin
After graduating Brighton High, he got a job at an electrical company in Cambridge, owned by a West Ender, then he went to Boston State University and graduated in 1979. He was proud to say “The club gave me a college scholarship every year.” Brighton wanted to be an FBI agent, but instead got a job with the ABCD-Head Start program, which was a program initiated by President Lyndon Johnson, after the assasination of John F. Kennedy. Brighton then worked for another West Ender, at Warren Rockwell advertising, helping to market a detection device used to deter mice, instead of using poison. The company closed, and with a recommendation from Kevin Honan, whom Brighton played Basketball with, he landed his long term job working as a toll booth collector on the Mass Pike.
Brighton says he used to stop traffic at the toll booth to talk to West Enders. When I asked if he let West Enders go through without paying, the answer was clear yes. “I had a $6 leeway to make mistakes, so as long as I stayed within that, I’d never get in trouble.” Brighton also pointed out that people often overpay, so the $6 leeway ended up being much more. When asked if any celebrities ever went through his toll, he said that John Henry (Red Sox owner) came through the day after the Red Sox won the World Series. Brighton said to Mr. Henry, “its on me,” as he was thrilled about the Red Sox finally winning it all. He did point out that “he drove an ugly Mercedes with a weird color.”
Brighton retired from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. These days Brighton works in a wall paper business and enjoys driving his son Andrew to work. Andrew, is a cook at Northeastern University. He still goes out to dinner with camp friends like Peter Kaplan and Peter Nason from time to time. “I am grateful West End House was put down in the Allston area. I never would’ve met Snoopy. My camp brothers are my extended family, I never would’ve had them help me in life.” Thank you Brighton Lew for Remembering with Ryan and for giving West Ender’s a free ride through the Mass Pike. Sonny Corleone probably wishes he was a West Ender.