When James “Whitey” Bulger returns to the city he lorded over as Boston’s reputed crime boss, he’ll see many changes. Bulger skipped town on Dec. 23, 1994, and had been living on the lam until he and his girlfriend were arrested without incident Wednesday night at their apartment in Santa Monica, Calif.
It’s unlikely Bulger will be allowed to visit any of his old haunts when he gets back to town, but even if he did, many of them wouldn’t be there anymore. A quick check of the Boston Globe from the day Whitey vanished is chock full of ads for Filenes, Bradlees, Lechmere and Circuit City, all retail giants that have since closed their doors. Building 19 is still around though, still selling good stuff cheap.
Whitey would find things a little more expensive around the old neighborhood. In the Globe classifieds (sort of like Craigslist, but printed with ink in the newspaper), a two-bedroom apartment in South Boston, in what was described as a “nice neighborhood” with a roof-deck, was renting for $600 a month, plus utilities. A quick check of the Internet shows a two-bedroom apartment in Southie now going for around $2,500 a month. If Whitey needed wheels back then, he could have picked up a brand new 1994 Ford Escort wagon for only $9,885, delivered.
Whitey’s younger brother Bill was still making news back in 1994. On the front page of the Dec. 23, 1994, Globe Metro section, a headline proclaimed then-Senate President William Bulger was irked over a convention center setback. The article described the give and take between the Senate and the House over the future of a new convention center. Whitey will be happy to know his little brother ultimately prevailed, with the Convention Center now a major draw in South Boston, just down the road from Whitey’s old home.
Some things haven’t changed since 1994. Boston is still a big sports town, and when Whitey left, there was a huge article on the front page of the Globe about how their 22-year-old phenom quarterback Drew Bledsoe was about to lead the Pats to their first playoff game since they lost Super Bowl XX back in 1986. Of course, not even Whitey knew back then that it would be another six years before the Patriots dynasty took hold, with Super Bowl wins in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
No one knows if Whitey got that Globe on the day he left town, but if he did, perhaps he might have read his horoscope. Virgo: Buckle down to work this morning so you can leave early. Banish any feeling of jealousy or suspicion.