You know you’re going something right—or horribly wrong—when you’re mentioned in Tommy Devine’s blog. Fortunately, Devine, who many call the father of the western Massachusetts blogging movement (he said he is demanding a paternity test) has taken a liking to Hell’s Acres, as you can see from his post from the summer of 2010.
In 1999 and 2000, Devine turned heads and dropped jaws in Springfield with The Ogulewicz Chronicles, a multi-part online expose on municipal corruption, with the main source being former three-term city Councilor Mitch Ogulewicz. One of the more interesting—and scandalous—posts was about the controversial Broska Farm development in east Sixteen Acres.
Over the years, the only notoriety Broska Farm gained was the occasional blast in the ass that neighborhood kids received from Mrs. Broska’s much-feared rock salt-loaded shotgun whenever they tried to raid the crops. Driving back and forth in her ’58 Brookwood wagon, she patrolled her fields like a soldier.
But in the late 1980s, the words “Broska Farm” would conjure up another image: the specter of the darkest form of shadiness hovering over the Springfield City Council and the Springfield Newspapers.
In 1987, when Ed Broska put up his 44-acre family farm up for sale, Springfield’s Conservation Commission and Sixteen Acres residents were eager to preserve the open space and turn it into a park. State Senator Martin Reilly and State Representative Paul Caron secured a promise from the state legislature that if Springfield were to buy the property, the state would reimburse the city for 80 percent of the cost.
But that never happened. A developer with his eyes on the land and with friends in high places managed to prevent the city from taking Broska Farm by eminent domain. A bizarre editorial in the Springfield Newspapers supported his proposed housing development there, and several city counselors mysteriously reversed their position on the issue and voted against the city’s acquisition of state money to purchase the land. Unbelievably, Springfield turned down the funding for a new park at Broska Farm, and the developer reaped a fortune subdividing the land on what is now Winterset Drive (below).
The last major area of unprotected open space in Springfield—viewed as a potential suburban version of Forest Park—had been handed to the city on a silver platter, and suddenly it was lost forever. The woods and the farmland were bulldozed, and the politically connected developer—as well as others—raked in the dough. Read about the details here.
These critters have welcomed kindergarteners at the Glickman Elementary School for decades. Guardians of the “Bunny Doors,” they made school a little less intimidating for five-year-olds. Glickman served as the ideal walk-to school for neighborhood kids until court-ordered busing in the 1970s forced many Sixteen Acres parents to send their children miles away to the Homer Street School near AIC.
Springfield’s busing crisis back then lacked the theatrics of the protests in South Boston, Charlestown, and Hyde Park—where rioting occurred—but my friends used to tell me about the endless racial fights at Glickman during the first few years of busing.
Archaic ARCO Giveaways
My report on the location of the old fountain at the Arco gas station on the corner of Breckwood Boulevard and Wilbraham Road (its location is pictured below) prompted a comment from the son of the original owner of place, who remembered his father complaining about kids putting Mr. Bubble and laundry detergent in the infamous water feature.
A big promotion at the station was the giveaway of Styrofoam red balls for car antennae—the idea being that you could locate your car in a crowded parking lot by seeking out this tacky sphere, which annoyingly left red paint residue on anything it touched. A red ball was the symbol of the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO for short), and you received one of those Styrofoam babies if you received “red ball service”—when the attendant filled your tank, checked the oil, and checked the tires.
“When my dad sold the station around 1973, we ended up with cases of those balls in our garage at home,” he wrote. “They all ended up in our pool years later during a drunken teenager pool party when the parents were gone for the weekend.”
A more useful ARCO promotion for me, however, was the distribution of free mini cardboard Red Sox posters. Yes, as you can see above and below, I saved them, although my dozen or so posters are in less-than-ideal condition because I had taped them to my wall.
Watch Reggie Smith’s and Carl Yastrzemski’s sideburns grow from clean-cut in 1969 (above) to hippie in 1971 (below).
Dammit, I should have preserved them better with ARCO’s frame kit!
Brother, Can You Spare a Squash?
While we’re on the subject of Breckwood Boulevard, I promised in Spitting to All Fields, Part 1 that I would take and post a picture of a gourd that was grown in the garden behind the “Hotel O’Shay,” the Depression-era mess hall/job center that was built at the site of what is now Duggan Middle School. Well, here it is:
During the Great Depression, hundreds of “welfare laborers” employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) gathered at the Hotel O’Shay every day (pictured below) for job assignments and a free meal, cooked with food grown in the garden there. My uncle’s father worked for the WPA and to this day my uncle keeps a gourd in his garage—a keepsake vegetable from his dad’s garden plot at the Hotel O’Shay. I was proud to hold in my hand a product of Springfield’s forgotten history.
Discovering Duggan’s Dingle
I was on my mountain bike recently and decided to ride around the Leatherleaf Bog behind Duggan Middle School. Despite growing up a half-mile away, I had never been in these woods, and judging from a satellite photo I feared that the area would be all wetlands and short on dry places to bike on.
Well, my fears were unfounded. With well-established paths (above), this place makes for a nice little excursion. It has its share of bog (below)…
…but it also has plenty of biking areas. In fact, some patches are a little TOO worn down—evidence of motorcycle trails (below). Still, not a bad bike trek. It’s small, and it left me wanting more, but never fear—there are plenty of trails down Wilbraham Road at Springfield College’s 80-acre East Campus.
Pedaling toward Watershops Pond, I knew that Springfield College still had lots woods left there, despite its contentious leasing of 25 acres of forest to Baystate Health Systems, which built the Reeds Landing retirement community on the site in 1992. (The decision spawned picketing students and faculty, angry neighborhood residents, and accusations of conflict-of-interest regarding several Springfield College trustees’ ties to Bay State.) But, I wondered, does this forest offer just hiking trails, or is this land “mountain bike friendly?”
My questions were soon answered: yeah baby!
The Grumpy Greeks
How about this treasure? The flyer declaring the grand opening of Pizza Palace:
How about those prices? Not bad for the inflationary 1970s.
Despite the smiling face on the grand opening flier, we always referred to the Pizza Palace owners as the “grumpy Greeks,” because they made it clear they didn’t want us kids hanging out in the place—even though we gave them a lot of business. I haven’t been there in more than 30 years. Did they ever put in air conditioning? Those big windows on the Parker Street side (below) used to let in a lot of sunlight and it got unbearably hot—my skin used to stick to those hideous red-cushioned booths.
The owners indeed lived up to their grouchy reputation two years ago in a dispute that began innocently enough: a cop saw Manny, pictured below, parked in the fire lane in front of the store and asked him to move his car.
How courteously he made the request isn’t known, but Manny allegedly responded with a profanity and refused to move. After informing Manny it wasn’t a loading zone and requesting again for him to clear the fire lane, according to the police, he became more and more belligerent, and when the cop began to write a ticket, Manny went into the eatery and got his father. Police insist that both threatened the officer, and the dispute moved inside the restaurant, where the cop said he told the pair, after repeated warnings, that they were going to be arrested for disorderly conduct.
Then all hell broke loose in the center of Hell’s Acres. Andy was accused of attempting to choke the officer from behind, and once the cop broke free of the grip, Andy then allegedly grabbed a 16-inch kitchen knife and began to swing it at the officer, who claimed that he was also punched in the chest.
The cop, sporting a cut on his forehead, subdued Manny with pepper spray, grabbed his pistol, pointed it at the pair, and put an end to the incident without gunfire. Andy and Manny, whose full names are Andreas and Demetrios Evangeliou, got their mug shots published in the Springfield Republican newspaper:
The article elicited a fury of reader comments defending the duo, with one suggesting that the police had been harassing the Evangelious because they stopped giving the cops free food when the recession started.
The Pizza Palace father-and-son combo have always prepared their food fairly quickly, but on a busy night, if you don’t get your dinner right away, it’s still a good idea to be patient with them. After all, that 16-inch knife isn’t just effective on onions. Word to the wise: don’t fuck with these guys.
Still, despite their gruff exterior, I remember one Saturday morning in 1977 when the World Wide Wrestling Federation was awarding of the manager of the year trophy. When pandemonium hit the ring, Andy was kind enough to turn the small black-and-white TV on the counter about 45 degrees so I could join him in watching the mayhem:
Broken Bat; Broken Heart
Speaking of trophies, there I was, taking a break from a basement baseball game with my five-year-old son and taking a shit in our cellar bathroom, when all of a sudden I hear him crying outside the door, “Oh, Dad. Oh no! Oh! I broke the trophy!”
“What?” I screamed and hurriedly wiped my ass, abruptly ending what until then was a particularly successful and satisfying crap. Without washing my hands, I flung open the door to see that he had snapped the bat off my Sixteen Acres Red Sox 1974 Playoffs trophy. What the fuck?
We had been awarding the trophy to the winner of each of our basement baseball games—an ultra-competitive contest in which the batter hit a pitched Wiffleball with my son’s stuffed great white shark. The victor got to proudly parade the trophy around the room and really rub it in on the loser.
His explanation for castrating the trophy: “I’m sorry. Waaah! I was just trying to make the bat bigger.”
Indeed, he had taken the hollow plastic leg off one of his kiddie chairs and placed it around the bat to make a gigantic Louisville Slugger on the trophy, but when he held it up, he smacked it against the wall, and just like that the trophy was bat-less. No amount of glue could put Humpty fucking Dumpty’s bat together again. It kept falling off. So Scotch-taped it:
Pretty lame, huh? And get this: what upset him was the fact that he had wrecked the trophy presentations for our pitiful little baseball games. The fact that the 37-year-old artifact had sentimental value for me didn’t occur to him. Oh well, at least I had taken a photo of the unbroken trophy for an earlier blog entry:
Stuck on Renrut
Anyone who has ever played in little league will enjoy the cartoonist Renrut’s short chronicle of a hitless season on a pathetic 1-12 Sixteen Acres baseball team in 1961.
For the record, that wasn’t the worst record posted by a Sixteen Acres little league team. In the early 1970s, my friend Craig Stewart’s dad coached a squad of hungover 15- and 16-year-olds that went 0-20. I was a sometime bat boy for that team, and the highlight of the season for me was a Sixteen Acres Lions left fielder getting a late start on a fly ball and making an error because he was checking out the coach’s daughter on the sidelines. They truly were the Bad News Lions.
Anyone know anything about Camp Husky? The address in the ad would place it in the large property opposite the Keystone Woods elderly housing complex.
Ann Dunn and her husband Ted began operating the camp when Sixteen Acres was truly rural: in 1953, a few years after they moved from San Antonio, TX, where Ted served in the Army Air Corps.
I’m not sure when Camp Husky dissolved. Another question: was it a camp for little fatties, as its name suggests? I know someone has the answers out there. Inquiring minds want to know!
The land and was sold to Tri-County Youth Programs in 2003 and the organization is now known as the New England Center for Change, an agency that provides residential sites for troubled youth. There is a residence there that was built in 2008 (below). Wasn’t there an older house at this location prior to this structure?
More Rock-a-Dundee Road Ruminations
My blog entry on the haunting of Rock-a-Dundee Road in Hampden produced, of course, some intriguing comments, including one person who claims that he saw the form of a girl sitting on the rocks on the side of a nearby lake—the ghost of a teenager that supposedly drowned there. He goes on to explain that the lake is said to appear as if it’s always raining there (supposedly the result of the ghost girl’s tears). No big deal: it’s her party, and she’ll cry if she wants to, right? However, he debunks the story after his own investigation revealed that bugs skimming the lake’s surface are responsible for the tears effect. Nice work, Sherlock.
Years ago, a gazebo “bus stop” was built on Rock-a-Dundee Road and dedicated to the boy who, as legend has it, was supposedly hit by a bus—and the crazed ghost bus driver to this day is reputed to terrorize teenaged visitors by driving his vehicle at them. The fact of the matter is that the boy died of an long illness in 1993, but the same paranormal sleuth who saw the ghost girl next to the lake claims he contacted the child using a Ouija board, asking him how he had died. The response, he claims, spelled out P-O-I-S-O-N. Stop the presses! He was murdered!
I think the most unbelievable fact this guy mentions is that kids are coming all the way from CHICOPEE to check out the creepy vibe of Rock-a-Dundee Road. Jesus. If word keeps spreading, the place is going to need a traffic cop.
The Neighborhood of Homes
My blog entry on Sixteen Acres gangs of yesteryear induced a few comments, including mentions of groups that I left out, including the crews that hung out in the Zayre parking lot on Boston Road and in the athletic fields behind Western New England College in the 1970s, as well as “quite a gang contingent that came from the big Kay-Vee development built in the early 1970s near the Wilbraham line,” wrote one reader. “Most of them hung out in the woods behind Broska’s farm, in a scene that could almost be described as tribal. There was no name. Just a bunch of blue-collar kids smoking dope, drinking, trying to get laid, and eventually ending up in jail, the military, or both.”
The name Kay-Vee in this final comment sparked a long-dormant brain cell in my noggin to come alive. Kay-Vee! That company built SO many houses in Sixteen Acres. But what did these initial stand for? As you can see in the logo above, it was an acronym for Keddy-Vadnais. Norman Keddy and George Vadnais were homebuilders for more than 50 years and put up more than 6,000 houses in the Springfield area.
The Raunch House
A little bit of research has revealed that the Ranch House restaurant, the famous Boston Road brothel described in Spitting to All Fields, Part 2 was once a restaurant known as Trase’s, which featured an “Oriental” banquet on weekends.
(Insert racist joke here: Me so horny! Fuckie suckie Yankee? Me love you long time.)
Guess That Location
Can anyone tell me the whereabouts of this Sixteen Acres Mecca for sledding? (Or, as we used to say, “sliding.”) Hint: if the water on the asphalt sidewalk froze just right, you could slide down standing up in your boots!
Answer: the Mary Lynch School (the North Branch School to us old fogies.)
One More Expectoration
I’d like to conclude Spitting to All Fields, Part 3 with another sputum expulsion. Oh, is phlegm to disgusting for you? How about blood and fire instead?