Places gather meaning from the names we give to them. It’s a basic human impulse to give a name to a place. The original gestures pass into history and are sometimes overlooked as we live day to day. People who are new to a place may not know the source of the names on local streets, buildings, and monuments. Sometimes names change: Lowell replaced East Chelmsford, which replaced Wamesit. Across Lowell, there are tributes to notable persons from the community in the form of signs, plaques, building names, and more. On Highland Street at the Edith Nourse Rogers School, now the home of the administrative offices of the Lowell School Department, the ever-busy gymnasium is named for James P. Scondras (1920 – 1945). He was a star athlete at Lowell High School and Holy Cross College who died in battle on the island of Iwo Jima in February, 1945.
Here are three links to websites that tell more about this outstanding young man and US Marine: The Lowell High School Athletic Hall of Fame site, another called Baseball in Wartime, and the Spring 2011 issue of the online magazine of Holy Cross College in Worcester. The Holy Cross article by John W. Gearan is especially interesting for its telling of what happened on Iwo Jima:
Impossible to imagine, but true. Sgt. Tsaffaras, First Lt. Scondras ’43 and Cpl. Tsapatsaris grew up in The Acre, an immigrant-springboard neighborhood, then also known as Greektown. All graduated from Lowell High. Because he had high cheekbones and the daring of a Native American brave, his pals nicknamed Jimmy Scondras “The Chief.” They called Tsapatsaris “Red” because of his hair. Scondras ’43 signed on with the U.S. Marines Corps Reserves at Holy Cross. Tsaffaras joined the Marines in April 1942, Tsapatsaris, in November 1943.
Now they are together again, in a foxhole, in mortal danger. The reunion lasts only 20 minutes. “Jimmy (Tsaffaras) put together a quick meal for us from a can of scrambled eggs,” recalls Tsapatsaris.