ML - Boston Common

2013 - Issue 3 - Summer

Boston Common - Niche Media - A side of Boston that's anything but common.

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SPIRIT OF GENEROSITY The Fourth of July fireworks paired with the music of the Boston Pops is like no other show in the US. TOP LEFT: David Mugar giving directions for the show in 1978. LEFT: Mugar founded the show in collaboration with the late Arthur Fiedler, the longtime conductor of the Boston Pops. continued from page 50 would love to see it carried on." Mugar, 74, grew up in a well-to-do section of Watertown and recalls a boisterous childhood spent racing around the neighborhood with other boys and girls, creating a make-believe town of which he was the mayor. Mugar didn't enjoy school, and he describes himself as "the worst possible student." He failed out of Belmont Hill School, eventually receiving his high school diploma from The Cambridge School of Weston. He went to Babson college, but flunked out his senior year. "Education and I run on parallel courses in life; we never really came together," he says. Even though he didn't like school, he was intensely curious. He frequently read in the school library and became absorbed in a three-volume set on —DAVID G. MUGAR John D. Rockefeller. He was riveted. "I already knew that I wanted to be a businessman." His lack of scholarship was a source of pain and embarrassment, particularly because his father placed a high priority on education. "For the early part of my life I was a failure," he says. Mugar briefly entered the family business, first as a meat cutter, then later as manager of the Star Market in Quincy. But the grocery business is tough, and Mugar's heart wasn't in it. "The supermarket is a very high-volume but very low-profitability business," he says. "At "My father was a great golfer, and his last words to me were: 'You are hitting them right down the middle.'" 52 that time, if you made one-and-a-half cents on the dollar, you were running an excellent supermarket." (Ironically, 18 years ago, Mugar opened a grocery store—the Starfish Market—on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. The store is a huge success. It averages about 7,000 customers a week, and last year earned over $12.5 million.) It wasn't until he won a 13-year battle with the Federal Communications Commission to gain ownership of Channel 7, now WHDH, that he finally felt "successful." (He ran Channel 7 for nearly 12 years, and sold it in 1993.) His father, who died of cancer in 1982, lived long enough to see his son take control of the station. From his hospital bed at Massachusetts General Hospital, he told his son he was proud: "He was a great golfer, and his last words to me were: 'You are hitting them right down the middle.' That was the last thing he said to me." While his father referred to Mugar's overall success, he may well have been expressing the city's sentiments about the decades and thousands of hours Mugar has devoted to the July Fourth display on the Esplanade. This summer marks the show's 40th anniversary—a birthday made all the more poignant in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Mugar acknowledges that security will be on the minds of many attendees this year, but he remains resolute. "Boston is resilient and Boston is strong," he says. "Whether it's the marathon next year or this Fourth of July, everything will be fine. I know that everyone in attendance will be in very good hands." True—his own, generous ones. BC PHOTOGRAPHY BY YOON S. BYUN (FIREWORKS); COURTESY OF DAVID MUGAR (MUGAR 1978, FIEDLER) ABOVE: BOSTONCOMMON-MAGAZINE.COM 050-055_BC_SP_SoG_SUM13.indd 52 6/10/13 4:38 PM

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