Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spitting to All Fields, Part 6

Sixteen Acres Pet Peeves:

It’s about time I got this one off my chest. I’m not exactly a connoisseur or “early bird” psycho when it comes to tag sales, but I’ve been known to visit one or two on the weekend. What really bugs me are the one- or two-table piece of crap tag sales that aren’t worth getting out of the car for—let alone stopping.

I KNOW you’ve experienced the same frustration: driving along, you see the cardboard sign taped to the street sign. You wonder if the sale is a time-and gas-waster or the real deal. You take a gamble and take the turn. You have never heard of the street, but you keep driving anyway. Then you start negotiating a labyrinth of roads through crappy subdivisions they threw up in the seventies. “Where the hell is this place?” you ask. The neighborhood gets worse. At first, off the main road, you see aging albeit decent ranch houses, but then come those flat-top boxes that resemble mobile homes.

And then you get a load of the critters that live in them. Hanging out in the street are a gaggle of grime-covered kids and teenaged Beavises (is the plural “Beavii”?) and Buttheads. Shirtless fucks walking pit bulls or working on their muscle cars. Midriff-showing jailbait sluts. Folks straight out of L’il Abner—all either beating up their siblings or gaping at you, slack-jawed and mule-jawed. No, this isn’t the Sixteen Acres you grew up in, but the place has changed over the years.

FINALLY, there it is. The lame-ass tag sale in front of the shotgun shack. How dare this couple even call this junk smorgasbord anything but trash? I love how these yokels behind the tables always try to talk to you—even if you avoid eye contact. “How ya doin?” asks the guy with the wife-beater T-shirt and Skoal-stained teeth.

And what a display of garbage. The inevitable NASCAR and Dale Earnhardt commemorative baseball caps and shirts. (Ya think these are ridden with lice, bedbugs, or both? Yup. ) The boom box with the missing cassette door, tennis rackets missing strings, deflated basketballs and footballs, Barbie dolls with even less hair than the mom with female pattern baldness smoking behind the table, and the TV that hasn’t worked since dad spilled beer down the back while dancing during a Hee Haw viewing in 1979. Of course, dad talks up the merchandise:

“This here camera still works! An’ ah do believe thar might still be pitchers of my daughter’s nekkid pillow fight with her kissin’ cousins on it!”

“I reckon this here piggy bank is a good deal. It got an extra hole in it—I bet yeewwd like to guess whar! Yuk! Yuk! Yup, right in back, whar ah made mah ‘deposits’! You know whah the pig looks so surprised? Cause I just made a deposit five minutes ago behind the garage! Yuk! Yuk! The coins keep fallin’ out, though. I reckon that’s whah we cain’t save no money!”

Don’t tell me that shitty tag sales are the signs of a bad economy. These chintzy displays have been going on for decades. The Hillbillies dump some crap on their driveways and tables and sit there all day because they have nothing better to do. Some of them even have the balls to call it an “estate sale.”

What would Jesus do about these trash sales? Well, here’s a message to every purveyor of lousy tag sale goods: I’ve got bad news for you sunshine. I am going to start overturning your tables, just as Jesus did to the moneychangers at the temple. You sell shit—I send your tables and shit flying.

And let me give you phony tag sale merchants a warning: in many of the paintings I find of this “cleansing of the temple,” Christ used a whip he created from some cords and opened up a can of whoop-ass. Now, I’m not saying that I’m creating such a weapon, but I’m willing to improvise—a boom box antenna, a Hot Wheels track, a belt with one of those stupid horse belt buckles on it, a tattered dream catcher—whatever you got that’s handy, hick. So don’t even think of selling your shit. Just take your trash and throw it in the trash before I pull a Jesus and trash it.

Here’s another pet peeve. Everyone knows the intersection below, right? Heading east, after Plumtree Road, Wilbraham Road becomes one lane. Traffic in the right lane is supposed to merge into one lane, and for the most part the lane-drop works peacefully—except when immature drivers decide that they want to take their home and job tensions on the road and take their frustrations out on everyone else.

How many times have you had to deal with some douchebag speeding up—in either the left or the right lane—and trying to muscle into this merge? You know the type: he or she guns it, disrupts the traffic flow, and then avoids eye contact when you look over—the car inches from yours. What is this asshole thinking? Oh, I know: “Don’t you realize that my mommy always let me get my way? I’m so important! I’m in a hurry! Can you just put on your brakes and let me go? If you don’t, I’ll get on my cell phone and cry to my mommy!”

Similar merges seem to work well on Wilbraham Road heading into East Sixteen Acres, and at either direction at the Wilbraham Road intersection at Breckwood—although there are exceptions—but this particular intersection seems to bring out the dick in every dickhead. Memo to moron: if you try the merge meltdown on me, you’ll either be driving on the grass or on the wrong side of the road. As the Black Knight says:

Officers Down

The skies were gloomy when I took a photo of the Western New England University flags at half-mast on June 7, the day of Officer Kevin Ambrose’s wake at Sampson’s Chapel of the Acres. He was shot to death three days earlier on a domestic call on Lawton Street, AKA “those apartments behind the old Big Y Liquors.”

The following day was much nicer weather for the funeral. At the end of Sunrise Terrace I shot the above photo of the formation waiting for the 5,000-officer-strong police procession making its way from the funeral home to St. Catherine of Siena church. It was a sky of blue—and a sea of blue uniforms on Parker Street. Below is the beginning of the procession.

When watching this impressive but somber event I can’t help but harken back to the police procession for patrolman Michael Schiavina on November 16, 1985 after he and his partner, Alain Beauregard, were gunned down during a traffic stop. It’s especially weird because three months ago I posted on this blog the below photo that I took of District Attorney Matty Ryan and Springfield Mayor Richard Neal during the 1985 March. Also below are some others I snapped on that day.

The police cortege turns the corner onto Breckwood Boulevard. Yes, to the left of large tree, you can see a sliver of the fountain pool that used to foam with suds when pranksters spiked it with Mr. Bubble!

The procession passes AM/PM mini-market. By the elevated angle of the shot, I am no doubt standing on the edge of the asphalt “cliff” at the end of what are now known as the Breckwood Shoppes. My friends and I had gone to see Stevie Ray Vaughan the night of the double-murder, and we were no doubt in Symphony Hall at 7:50 p.m. when the officers were killed. We were clueless about the tragedy until we read about it in the newspaper the next day.

The marchers, some on horseback, continue down the hill on Breckwood to the funeral at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church. Nearly 27 years later another deadly reminder of the hazards of police work:

Pictured above are (L-R) Mayor Domenic Sarno, Springfield Police Commissioner William Fitchett, and Springfield Police Chaplain John Sheaffer, the former pastor at St. Catherine and a classmate of mine at Cathedral High School.

Above: U.S. Attorney Paul Smith, Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni, U.S. Congressman Richard Neal, Sheriff Michael Ashe, State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, and former District Attorney William Bennett. Was it a bit strange to be taking yet another picture of Neal—almost three decades later—mourning another fallen officer? How about the fact that Schiavina and Ambrose grew up pretty much one street away from each other? Schiavina was from Bellwood Road and Ambrose lived on Pineview Street before his family moved to Plumtree Road. Below: the rear of the procession walks to Hillcrest Park Cemetery.

Below is a video I took of the funeral cortege:

Twisted Twister, Part 2

Who in the area will ever forget the tornado on June 1, 2011? Prior to that day, most people brushed off the possibility that a tornado could occur in Springfield. Even when local meteorologists warned that the atmospheric conditions were right for such an event, no one believed it could happen—until a funnel cloud touched down in Westfield and left a 39-mile trail of extensive destruction all the way to the town of Charlton.

There were several tornadoes on that fateful afternoon, but the deadliest one—rated an EF-3 in strength—killed three people and devastated the communities in its path. In Springfield, the tornado caused an unbelievable amount of damage in a corridor that cuts across the middle of the city. It not only wrecked homes, schools, business and trees— and displaced residents. It also stalled the momentum of a city that was recovering from receivership and recession.

It is an East Side guy, Nick Fyntrilakis, who has been instrumental in Springfield’s efforts to pick up the pieces after this disaster. He is co-chairman of the Rebuild Springfield initiative and chairman of the Board of Directors of DevelopSpringfield, a private nonprofit group leading post-tornado efforts to revitalize Springfield in conjunction with the Springfield Redevelopment Authority.

DevelopSpringfield was formed in 2008 to advance development and redevelopment projects, to stimulate and support economic growth, and to expedite the revitalization process within the City of Springfield. Nick’s leadership ability, experience, and strong ties to the community made him a natural fit for the chairmanship of the Board of Directors for this organization, which for nearly three years— among other accomplishments— has helped business and property owners with exterior improvements along Main Street and State Street.

After the tornado, Mayor Sarno asked Nick to co-chair the Rebuild Springfield effort—and for good reason. He gets things done. A year later, following the input of about 3,000 city residents, Rebuild Springfield unveiled a sweeping master plan that seeks to not just rebuild the city. It also aims to redevelop and create a NEW city. In three to five years it will hopefully make Springfield a more vibrant place than it was before disaster struck.

To be sure, Springfield IS recovering—even the South End, which is still pretty scarred. About $23 million has been spent on tornado cleanup efforts, and about $100 million more going into this massive plan, with the money coming from private companies like MassMutual, donations from the community, and grants on the federal and state level.

Nick, his team, Mayor Sarno and his administration, and the thousands of Springfield residents who have taken part in this process are to be congratulated. They used the tornado as a catalyst for rethinking the city’s future. Out of this revitalization effort, we hope that Springfield will come back even stronger. As plan states, “Opportunity often comes disguised as a challenge.”

No, I didn’t take the above picture of the tornado behind the Church in the Acres, but I did shoot the photos below of the destruction —unless otherwise indicated. It’s amazing seeing Plumtree Road two days after—and then a year after—the tornado. The following were taken facing east in 2011:

Look at the difference a year later: facing east the wreckage has been cleared away. Not much left but A LOT of wood chips and shavings.

In 2011, looking west, toward the Bradley Road:

Looking west a year later:

This snapped tree below…

…has been neatly “trimmed” with a chainsaw:

Check out the aerial shots of the “WNEC Woods” in the lower left corner before and after the tornado.



These woods have been cleared of debris and a barren land remains. The below views are from Evergreen and Plumtree and Roads, respectively. The city should rename Evergreen “Sever-green.”

What’s that rocky formation I see beyond Veterans Golf Course?

I’ll tell you what it is. My God, with the tree cover gone, from Plumtree Road now you can actually see the stone foundation of the long lost “scenic lookout” on the South Branch Parkway, the Depression-era structure I wrote about in Spitting to All Fields, Part 1.

Here it is, up close, from the original post:

I’m glad I had taken the following photos of the tree cover at Bass Pond a few years ago…

…because many of the trees are gone now, on both sides of Bass and the old quarry pond:

Tree replanting efforts around Bass Pond were in the works this past spring. Forest Park Middle School students helped the Parks Department plant 70 red oaks and maples in the area:

My friend Stan Janek took one of my favorite photos of the destruction—a piece of slate that somehow blew into the crack at the entrance to a house at 404 Hancock Street:

At the same address: a gaping hole that somehow left the ceiling fan hanging. Oh well, there plenty of air circulation in the room after the tornado.

While going through the debris with his friend, Stan found a clock that had its battery popped out (or sucked out!) at the moment the tornado hit Six Corners: 4:38 p.m.

Pretty WAS a picture—another bizarre photo from 404 Hancock: a picture and half its frame gone, but the other half is left hanging.

I always thought that “Killa’s” was a funny-ass name for the barber shop at Main and Union Streets. This pre-tornado photo was taken by Hell’s Acres follower Tony Mateus for his In the Valley blog. (He also took MUCH better photos of the Ambrose procession, so check it out.)

Killa’s was all but killed by the tornado.

Holy crap! It looks like Killa’s is back—at least according to the post-tornado Google Maps street view. There are windows on the joint again!

Okay. Just one more word on the tornado. One thing you can count on when talking to residents of the communities that were hit by the twister: we can’t stop talking about it. We tend to spew on and on, yammering at 200 words a minute, with gusts of up to 250. So I’ll leave the T-word topic with just one more reference:

Toto, a three-week-old kitten found a day after the tornado clinging to a tree branch in Brimfield, was brought into the Brimfield Fire station by a tree worker and adopted by paramedic Jonathan Hall, who wrote a children’s book about him.

Needless to say, it’s a miracle that the six-ounce creature survived. When he came to the Wilbraham Public Library on May 19, of I just had to bring my six-year-old son to meet Toto and buy a copy of the book. My son is pictured petting Toto below.

The Back of Spencer Gifts, Part 3

If you’ve been faithfully reading Hell’s Acres, you know by now that my astounding number of page views (now more than 72,000) are due in no small part to the number of searches for the 1970s poster babes in the back of the old Spencer Gifts in the Eastfield Mall. One of the most common searches is for “Cheryl Tiegs fishnet,” and I must admit I had forgotten about said poster because for some reason, burned into my brain (my other brain below the waist) is the Tiegs image I know and love:

But then I looked for the fishnet—and I was snared in its web. Wow. As far as my memory is concerned: how could I have let this one slip away? Decades of beer drinking is no excuse:

The Googlers out there are undoubtedly looking for the Tiegs fishnet poster with the most—ahem—contrast, so, in the interest of driving up my numbers, here’s a darker version below:

I think it’s about time we move into the 1980s Spencer Gifts posters. Here is the famous one of Nastassja Kinski shot by Richard Avedon in 1981.

Speaking of cheesecake, here are a few 1960s ads for the Orange Lantern in Monson. Yes, it’s the old name for the Magic Lantern we all know and love. 

The Orange Lantern opened in the 1930s, when it was more of a dinner club that provided “entertainment.” (Believe it or not, Rocky Marciano sang a few tunes there once). Peter Pessolano purchased the Orange Lantern in 1955 and police raids soon followed in 1956 and took place intermittently over the years. (After all, the State Police barracks used to be right across the street). It started featuring burlesque shows in the 1960s and the name changed in 1979.

Grandsons Mark and Peter Pessolano bought the Magic Lantern from their father, Anthony, in 1994. It’s a family business, but it doesn’t really offer family fare, does it?  I don’t think the bar has had any legal troubles since 2008, when an underage woman bought alcohol there during a “compliance check,” but I could be wrong.

So I wonder what Rita Atlanta, Princess Ming Chu, and Alawn Donclay are doing now? Of course! These old bags are dancing at the 5th Alarm!

I did some research on Rita Atlanta, and it turns out she achieved a fairly high level of stripper stardom for her “champagne bath in a glass” routine (above). Well, at least she washed once in a while.

If there’s an “official” Sixteen Acres Center exterior building material, I guess that would be good old-fashioned New England red brick—whether it is on the old Acre Drug wall next to the old A & P supermarket or the old Christian Bookstore building. Even the CVS that replaced the Christian Bookstore building is red brick, remaining consistent with the predominant building material on traditional architectural style that seen on the buildings down the road at Western New England University.

So, want to guess where this exterior is? Does it have “Breckwood” written all over it? This cheesy stone wall, with the “fit-together” jagged slices of rock, is the signature style of the Breckwood Shoppes and Breckwood Plaza across the street. What were they thinking when they slapped up this crap?

Speaking of the Breckwood area, anyone remember “Beef Town” across from Duggan at what is now the Greater Springfield Credit Union? Also known as “Barf Town,” this small chain of restaurants specialized in roast beef, and remember being somewhat excited when one opened in The Acres in 1971. Another fast food restaurant to pig out in! Then we realized that place was hopelessly overrun with flies and the food sucked. Barf Town didn’t last long, and I bet many of you don’t even remember it. I believe the Duggan kids checked it out briefly after school, held their noses, and then proceeded to go directly across the street to Treats.

Sumner Ave. in the Seventies

I know we’re getting out of Sixteen Acres a bit, but how about dinner at the Jaycox?

Where have you gone Schermerhorn’s and Abe’s Kosher Mart? I couldn’t find a picture of the cow on the Abe’s sign. Anyone have one? Email it to hellsacres@gmail.com.

In 1985 a man hit his head his head on the pavement during a fight in front of the Orange Café and died afterward. The city began to crack down on the Orange, citing the fights, drug dealing, and illegal poker machines there, but it took around 20 years for the place to finally get shuttered. Its successor, Scores Sports Bar, was finally closed in 2007 after a fight spilled outside and a guy was shot.

Buckey’s was on the western end of Sumner Avenue at the site of what is now Friendly’s. Believe it or not, in the 1970s, there was a group that called itself the “Circle Gang” (different than the Sixteen Acres Circle Gang) that hung out behind Buckey’s, where a road named Florentine Gardens wraps around a tiny circular park.

OK, this was more than a bit off Sumner Avenue—on Orange Street near the Corner of White Street. Can you lift the latch after last call and let me in for a pop?

While we're in yesteryear, bring back Main Music!

One last Spitting to All Fields “saliva sling.” Who among you is guilty of hocking a loogie at Riverside Park patrons below from the safety of the Monorail?

The monorail opened in 1959, the same year as Disneyland’s monorail, and it was dismantled in 1997, when Premier Parks bought Riverside. In 1998, Premier Parks acquired all the Six Flags parks, and the Riverside name hung on until the end of the 1999 season.

For a while it was the only amusement park monorail in the east. Disney World didn’t build one until 1971.

There was a metal wire mesh on the left side window to prevent people from falling out, but the other side it was wide open for spitting.

Disney sued Riverside in 1962, claiming copyright infringement, citing Riverside’s tea cups ride and the monorail. Disney also said Riverside ripped off its allegedly patented boat-guiding device that was used for Riverside’s “Lost River”—easily the lamest ride at the park, other than the monorail. I’m not sure what happened to the lawsuit, but the monorail kept a rollin’ (gliding?) for decades.

Let’s take a trip back in time on a Riverside monorail ride, shall we?


barrooman said...

thanks for the monorail video. christ i dont think i've been to riverside park since 1975 for a friends birthday. remember driving up from hartford in a station with several of us 11/12 year olds in the car with the birthday boys dad driving. on the way back i had to lay down in the carpeted area with the windows slanting right over my head!!!

Hell's Acres said...

I haven't been to Riverside since 1981 when I got a girl's phone number at the Dial Tone and we both agreed that going to the park the next day was a good idea.

Bad idea. You run out of conversation pretty quickly waiting in long lines in the hot sun.

I still haven't been to the Six Flags incarnation. Some day.

Daniel Bradway said...

I never noticed as a kid that the monorail announcements were one continuous, shameless advertisement...

Hell's Acres said...

Hi Daniel,

I never noticed either. But permanently ingrained in my memory is the bumper cars announcement: "No head-on bumping PLEASE. No head-on bumping PLEASE."