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

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spitting to All Fields, Part 8

Bomb Bomb Bomb—Bomb Bomb Iran!

A Sixteen Acres sit-in? An angry student protest at the corner of Wilbraham Road and Breckwood Boulevard? Yep and yep, believe it or not. The photos above and below are Western New England College students just outside their campus protesting the taking of 52 Americans hostages by Iranian radicals in Teheran in 1979.

A WNEC student kicks—well, actually nudges—a burning effigy of Ayatollah Khomeini.

I believe the sign on the left, in front of Gateway Village, says, "Khomeini is a Wacko."

The hostage crisis began on November 4, 1979, provoking indignation throughout the world. How could the Ayatollah’s “theocracy” possibly defend this crap? And on November 10, Iranians in the United States—seriously misjudging the possible reaction of the American public— held marches across the country, including one, for some reason, right down State Street in Springfield. They chanted, “Long live Khomeini!” but they were soon surrounded and jeered by angry Springfield residents who hurled eggs, obscenities, threats, and such epithets as “Arabs go home!”

In other cities, some of the more vocal Iranian marchers were beaten up by furious mobs. However, these idiots luckily escaped any real violence in Springfield, thanks to quick-thinking police, who commandeered an empty city bus and whisked them away on the vehicle near the Civic Center before the counterdemonstrators knew what was going on. One guy struggled to get through the bus door and throw a couple of eggs into the bus before he was pulled out, and then the bus windows were pelted with eggs when it pulled away. The protesting was over—or so everyone thought.

On November 15, 1979, Western New England College students held an anti-Khomeini protest of their own, occupying the intersection of Wilbraham Road and Breckwood Boulevard, and halting traffic. My friend Craig Stewart saw this demonstration unfold when he was an eighth-grader at Duggan Junior High School. That night I had the pleasure of telling him that I had stumbled into—and then joined—this rally downtown. Here’s how it happened.

After whipping themselves into a frenzy at Wilbraham and Breckwood, the marchers continued down Wilbraham Road to State Street, where their numbers swelled with AIC and Springfield College students, among other rabble-rousers.

How did I manage to take part in this bizarre march? Following my after-school classroom driving instruction at Winchester Auto School on State Street, I walked out the building and noticed a commotion on my right: a mob of loud, boisterous men—flanked by police—was heading my way! The cruiser lights were blinding and reflected off the buildings, including the City Library. “My God,” I thought. “Another protest march!” It took me about five seconds to deduce that it was a group of college students outraged at not only the hostage situation in Iran, but also the fact that that Iranians had the gumption to hold an anti-Shah march on the same street a few days earlier.

I “joined” them. Why the quotes around “joined”? Let’s just say I tagged along toward the back of the pack. I was only 16 and didn’t want to be on the front lines if the cops decided to get rough or if a scuffle broke out with any counter-protesters. “Is there an another anti-Shah demonstration downtown?” I wondered as I walked and shook my fist with the rest of these guys.

The signs read: Down with Iran, and Free Us While You Can!

We took a right on Main Street and headed to Court Square. I was still leery. Were the Iranians marching again? Will there be a large confrontation with them? Nope and nope. No Iranians in sight. We gathered on the steps of City Hall as a large group of police looked on nervously. It was unlike any 1960s or 1970s student protest I had ever seen on the news—people waved American flags instead of burning them. The crowd went through a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and The Pledge of Allegiance. It was WEIRD.

“Death to Iran!” they screamed. “Send’em back Jimmy, send’em back!” was another chant, in reference to President Jimmy Carter’s threat to expel a number of Iranians from the United States. Other incantations: “Eat your oil, not our wheat!” as well as “We want Ted!” because Ted Kennedy had announced that he was running for president on November 7 and apparently they thought he would handle the crisis better than Jimmy could.

There were about 300 loud college students and other hangers-on (like me) at City Hall, but the police relaxed when they gradually realized there wouldn’t be any real trouble. In fact, the cop who spoke to the crowd with the megaphone was probably Deputy chief Daniel Shea, who the newspapers credited with controlling the situation. Speaking into a bullhorn, he essentially thanked the students for being peaceful and somewhat orderly, and then most of the protesters either went to Baystate West or took city buses home. The whole thing was over that quickly.

It was on the Wilbraham Road bus that I recognized two of the WNEC students from the Sixteen Acres, the Minahan brothers, who lived on Martel Road. “Why did you bring your books?” one of them asked with a laugh. I shrugged. I was about to say, “I have homework tonight,” when I realized they must have mistaken me for a college student. Was this possible? At age 16? Wow. What a strange day—my first protest, and pretty much my last—unless I count on incident a few years later in which I joined fellow boisterous college students in banging on the side of a beer truck after they shut off the taps at the Dickey Betts concert during our school’s annual Spring Weekend concert. Does a “We want beer!” chant count as a college protest? Oh, the injustice!

The signs: “Free Our People,” and “Long live America,” among others.

The Zayre Gang

I use the term “gang” loosely, because it had different connotations back in the 1960s and 1970s. Often it was just a group of kids who hung out and got fucked up—such as the kids who hung out in the Zayre parking lot on Boston Road. I know I’m straying from The Acres here—but not much. Boston Road isn’t THAT far away, folks, and many of you might remember the hooligans who hung out in the Zayre parking lot in the 1970s. 

It was the group of “greasers”—now I’m really using ancient terminology here—who hung out there on Fridays (Saturday, after all, was “date night”)—and engaged in all sorts of the usual hijinx. They were Pine Pointers—many of whom went to the Dorman Elementary School together.

No, they weren’t a “gang” in today’s gangster sense, although there may or many not have been some trouble between a few of the Zayre boys and the Mallowhill Road Gang in the mid-1970s over a fight at the Big E—and a gun may or may not have been flashed in the aftermath.

One of the Zayre Gang’s most famous antics took place on August 8, 1976, when a few kids stole a car, wedged a board between the gas pedal and the seat, revved it up, and used a stick to pop it into gear, sending it flying into the building used to house Miss Lacy’s discoteque (and later Bingo Royale).

A commenter to this blog who had read The Garbage Gang post had stated with surprise that my rundown of Sixteen Acres/Boston Road gangs didn’t include the Zayre Gang. He referred to this crash, and yes I was able to confirm it! “The car, owned by George Pagella, of 96 Fisher Street, was stolen earlier in the evening and taken to the parking lot around 10:30 p.m.,” notes the article. And then, wham! Ya gotta love it—even though it did $1,500 worth of damage to the building.

So who were the people in the Zayre gang? It’s amazing, after all these years, how reluctant they are to fess up to their involvement in this group—and in this prank. Come on! Send me a comment or an email (hellsacres@gmail.com)! You’re not going to jail 36 years after this stunt! I want to hear from the Zayre Gang!

The Ditch

A few years later, across from Zayre , there was another hangout known as The Ditch. This pit couldn’t be seen from Boston Road, Wilkes Street, or McDonald’s restaurant, because it was a deep depression in the ground (a reader informs me). Bonfires in this sandy hole led to good times, and sometimes fights—which were often settled at Five Mile Pond.

The time period was the mid- to late-1970s, and possibly into 1980, according to the reader. Who hung out there? I recognized none of the names she provided, except the notorious Pafumi brothers of Pine Point, who may or may not have hung out in the Zayre parking lot, but who rarely frequented The Ditch, according to my source.

So who were The Ditch people? She provided the names Fenno, Slatcher, Cinq-Mars, Sacramento, Burr, Yeager, Palmer, White, Bailey Longworth, Eliot, and Marti. Who were these mystery Pine Point/Boston Road people? Leave me a comment or send me an email! Did you frequent The Ditch? We want to know all about it!

The Ditch, I was told, was the only place for neighborhood kids to go before kids got their drivers’ licenses. Do these circumstances sound familiar, folks? Of course! It was along the end of Wilkes Street (pictured above), even though the actual ditch in the wooded area was paved over some years ago to make way for a Jehovah’s Witness church. “Seems fitting,” the commenter opined. “Religion found The Ditch.”

The Other Gully

So let’s go over some of the other area hangouts, including not OUR Gully, but another “Gully” on Ferncliff Avenue, where kids enjoyed making forts back in the day. It was actually property that had remained undeveloped since from the days when the area was farmland. After the street was subdivided in the 1950s, these lots on Ferncliff somehow remained woods, and attracted the usual kid stuff.

But the owner, a former farmer, closely guarded his property, scaring the tykes off with a shotgun, which prompted them to respond with the occasional brush fire—just to let him know that it wasn’t okay to pull a gun on them.

Anyway, the other Gully is history—just like our Gully. Speaking of extinct:

The Monkey Trail

Yes, it’s a small world—and the Internet has made it smaller— but I still find it incredible that strangers would contact me about certain childhood incidents that I write about because they had played a starring role in them. What are the odds that they’d find these Hell’s Acres recollections? It happened when someone read Fear and Loathing on the Monkey Trail, Part 1. It is highly probable that one of the kids who confronted Craig Stewart and me in the wooded area between Donbray Road and Lumae Street—and then went after us when we swore at them—read my account and commented at the end of the post!

“Great memories,” he wrote. “I would almost bet that I was one of those kids that chased you away. I lived on Prouty and we owned the monkey trail from ’72 ’til high school graduation in ’78.”

Well, I’m still waiting for an apology, asshole. Just kidding. I would write that the Maebeth Street crew will meet you and your friends at the Monkey Trail for a showdown at midnight, but there is no more public access to this path. It has been fenced off. 

Another anonymous commenter informed me that his group was the final generation to frequent the trail. “Yeah, it is blocked by a fence now,” he wrote. “Me and my sister were the last bunch of kids to enjoy the Monkey Trail. We grew up on the end of Donbray on Sunrise Terrace. Damn those fools who fenced off the monkey trail! It is missed.” Presumably the same person wrote after Fear and Loathing on the Monkey Trail, Part 2: “I’m 22 now and still live on Sunrise Terrace. The fence went up sometime when my older sibling and I were in middle school. We were beyond pissed, as were the rest of the neighborhood kids. After it went up the group all went their separate ways. We had nowhere to hang anymore. Sad.”

Putnam’s Puddle

I didn’t even try to explain the logic of my friends and I yelling obscenities at kids across the pond named Putnam’s Puddle (above). It was just something kids did. The pond was our hangout. How dare these punks who lived off North Brook Road ruin our view of the pond with their presence? Our greeting: “Hey! Fuck you!” This was always responded to in kind. I should have known that an “Other Sider”—this one from Pidgeon Drive—would eventually happen upon my babblings.

“We really did laugh as we remembered yelling F. U . @ you guys & u at us....for no real reason!!!” he wrote, liking the story of the long lost ritual so much that he called his Other Sider friend and clued him in on the blog entry. “Man we laughed at that memory Sorry we yelled the F U @ you guys , some of you turned out all right!!! LOL.”

Veterans Golf Course

Who hasn’t taken part in a late-night kegger at Vets? Well, some people apparently made the place their home away from home. I recently got word of an underground fort that was built between the front nine of the golf course and Kiley Junior High School in the mid-1970s. Supposedly the police found a TV, stereo, and rugs in it, and whoever built the structure tapped into the power lines that ran to Kiley.

The last part is almost impossible to believe, but my “source” insists that the discovery of this party palace was covered in the Springfield newspapers. Does anyone know about this den of iniquity? Let me know! Leave a comment!

The Lamont Street Woods

The masslive.com forums can be fun to read, especially because many of the posters are such morons. But I never thought that someone would actually blast The Paving of Our Pine Point Party Paradise in the Western Mass Nostagia forum. I had simply pointed out that I missed this little forest, which was also called by some “Strawberry Fields.” Two years ago, someone with the handle Wilcox Live wrote of my objection to the development of our Lamont Street Woods hangout in Pine Point: “That’s what you get for moving away, you should have bought it yourself, maybe all the money you blew on beer would have paid for it, and you would have saved your little sanctuary.”

Jeez, is this guy for real? Someone called Celtic23 chided him: “That was really uncalled for. We all have our fond memories of where we grew up and most of the changes have not been for the better, at least from what I've seen. What gives Wilcox? Maybe you're just having a bad day.”

Wilcox Live’s feeble rejoinder: “Maybe he should have sticked around to live here and be a little more vocal in goings on in his neighborhood, instead of complaining about ripping up his drinking haunts.”

Too funny. “STICKED around?” True, I have blown a lot of money on beer, but not enough to buy out the developers of Keystone Woods and Prospect Park. And I might have killed more than a few brain cells with beer, but not enough to think that the past tense of “stick” is “sticked.”

More Hangouts

The WNEC Woods, The Pit and Log Cabin (the latter a shack without a roof) off Moss Road at what is now Pheasant Drive, The Rail at the end of Blanche Street, the other “Rail” at the end of Bolton Street, The Logs behind the Sixteen Acres Branch Library, the ponds behind Brunton School. I know I’m leaving some out. Where was your hangout? Leave a comment!

16 Acres the Movie?

Nope, its not about our neighborhood, Gods little acres. This film is based on the book about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, which encompasses 16 acres of ground. According to the website, the movie has already been screened last month at the Zurich film festival.

X Marks the Spot

Okay, we’re getting away from The Acres here, but there’s a great new Facebook page entitled “You Know You Grew Up at the ‘X’ if” with lots of phenomenal photos, including shots of old Springfield concert ads…

..and memorabilia of long-gone places of yore..

Friendly’s replaced Buckey’s on the western end of Sumner Avenue in 1979.

In House of Television and Other Signs of the Times, Part 4 I included photos of the Hotel Charles’ exterior, but the X page has additional ones (above), as well as numerous interior shots (below)!

As you read before, my original search for a good picture of the hotels neon sign had turned up limited results, but below is a great shot:

Wait, how did that photo get in here? It must have been misfiled:

A good photo of the other neon sign at the hotel:

Hmm. Those Mars Hotel shots just keep creeping in:

I also have a couple of photos of Steigers exterior in another post, but I never thought I'd run into shots of the store's interior:

There are plenty more shots of the Hotel Charles and Steigers on this Facebook page, and more are added every day. Look for the photo albums on the top. I daresay it has more historic Springfield photos than any Facebook page out there.

They still had paddle boats on Porter Lake until at least the mid-1980s, although they didnt look like this.

Slattery’s, behind the shuffleboard courts in Forest Park (above). I can smell the burgers and popcorn now. Honk if your parents bought you a pinwheel at Slattery’s!

The original X, when the area was (Dare I write it? The original nickname of The Acres?) “the sticks. There, I wrote it. May the X folk forgive me.

According to local lore, the Iron Sheik was seen working out at Big Daddy’s at The X prior to wrestling one night at the Civic Center. Supposedly, Central City was the gym in which you started out, and if you worked really hard, you got big enough to go across the street to work out with the big dogs at Big Daddy’s.

The notorious X Gang (the older “Big X” guys, not to be confused with the “Little X” guys).

Classical High School kids pitching pennies in 1976. Does anyone partake in this activity any more? If so, they certainly don’t do it wearing plaid pants!

Betcha didn’t know the Indian Motorcycle Company made bikes (or maybe you did). Yeah, you probably did.

Twisted Twister, Part 3

In our never-ending look at the 2011 Springfield tornado, I noticed that Part 1 and Part 2 didn't include any video taken by me. So below documents the devastation of the tree cover between Bass Pond and the Quarry Pond off Parker Street. You’ll also notice that Emma’s Place, a City of Springfield function hall, got pretty trashed as well. But it's still standing. Soundtrack: the 1970s cult classic Please Her or Leave Her by the Sixteen Acres band The Snortones.

When Forest Zoo Animals Attack (Or Just Mind Their Own F-ing Business) Part 4

While I’m stealing photos from The X page, here are some of the old Forest Park zoo. I’m always ecstatic when I see a “new old” photo of Morganetta the elephant...even with her leg chain.

Okay, can you smell the monkey house now?

These black bears would never attack. Unlike Snowball or Jiggs the Chimp!

One of our favorite trips was to walk past Morganettas cage and down the ravine to check out the water buffalo (above). What a flimsy wire fence, we thought: he could easily ram right through that fucker. And that possibility added to the excitement. But he never did. Right near the fence was an igloo-shaped structure that was reportedly the former shelter of Red the kangaroo. The shelter was supposedly dumped in the ravine after Red was killed by lightning in 1963. Was this really Reds house? Somebody out there has to know. Leave a comment!

One last Spitting to All Fields expectoration. Spitting to All Fields, Part 6 had photos of Riverside Park’s monorail, but I’ve uncovered four more: the ride’s 1973 grand re-opening after renovations, with guest celebrity Leonard Nimoy…

Below are two photos of Nimoy, after he changed into his Spock costume on the monorail, propositioning Marge Simpson.

“It would be completely logical, Margery, if you were to do THIS with your legs for me and enable us to consummate our mutual admiration for each other.”

“Margery, it defies logic that you are not responding to the obvious inflammation of my penis. You are female, aesthetically appealing and fit to bear children. And I am male, physically able and quite virile. Moreover, I enjoy oversized posteriors. Is the logic inescapable for you, or shall I purchase for you several alcoholic beverages after we exit the monorail to loosen your inhibitions? Finally, I must warn you that my phaser is set to ‘bone.’ Margery Simpson, you cannot spell ‘logic’ without an ‘O.’ It would please me immensely to give you one.”

Where was I? Oh yes, one last expectoration. Boy did I get off the spitting subject with that Spock thing. So below is some kid hocking a loogie from the monorail onto the Riverside Park patrons below: 




Tom said...

The person behind those pics is a Deadhead. The Mars Hotel was the place where Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady used to stay when they were in San Francisco and the Grateful Dead released an album called "Live From the Mars Hotel" although they never really played there, although Neal Cassady drove the bus for them and all but that's another story....

Randylou said...

I can't personally confirm the underground fort near Kiley, but when I went to Kiley a few years later, I do remember at least one of the teachers talking all about it. He did say that it was pretty elaborate and it did indeed draw power from the school. The police came in upon reports of guns being hidden in there. Having dug my share of holes, I have to commend the industriousness of those involved. I can only wonder what became of them.

Hell's Acres said...


Thanks for the comment. Too bad they tore the place down in the 1980s. I wonder if the sign was saved. Doubt it. I read in the comment section on a blog page devoted to the Mars Hotel (http://www.bluoz.com/blog/index.php?/archives/1297-The-Mars-Hotel-at-4th-and-Howard.html) that David Bowie included footage in front of the Mars Hotel in his 1972 video "Jean Genie" but I couldn't find it on YouTube.

Two questions:

How's the book coming?

Did you know any of the Zayre parking lot folks?

Hell's Acres said...


Now you are the third person who has heard about this fort. Can anyone else give me more details?

One of my "sources" said that police discovered this structure after golfers complained about someone shooting their golf balls on the green near Kiley. I misunderstood the person, thinking "shooting" meant that the guys who built the fort whacked the golf balls into the woods with clubs and then hid before the golfers could catch them.

After your comment, now I know he meant that they were actually shooting the golf balls with guns. Is this true? Anyone else hear about this incident?

Tom said...

I have a nearly completed autobiography that's on hold until the Miller diary is completed, which is a kind of prelude to it.
Heavy weirdness went down in the Zayre's parking lot but I missed most of it.

Kelley Mc said...

The kid to check in with in regards to The Fort is Chris Cox. He owns a music store on Boston Road I believe. He hang over in tere 1977-80. He would know as that was a cut through or all the kids that lived over that side.

Anonymous said...

owshowWhen you mention hangouts don't forget "The Pinetree" in the woods behind The Gaslight. Everyone in the Allen and Cooley area partied there every Friday and Saturday night in the 70's and 80's!

Hell's Acres said...

So that's where the Allen and Cooley people went! Frankly I didn't even know there were woods behind the old Gaslight, but according to you and Google Maps, there are!

It's now listed as the Anna and Joseph Memorial Conservation Area. Did it have a nickname back then, or was it just "The Woods"?

jeanne wrann said...

I hung out at the ditch off Boston rd in the 70s. I have 3 grown Slatcher children. I have great memories of hanging out there . I'm still in contact with several people.

Hell's Acres said...

Hi Jeanne,

I knew some Ditch people would eventually find this! Who else hung out there?

Ken palmer said...

OK my name is Kenny Palmer. The original Ditch guys were, Russ, Mike, Danny, C.L.,myself, the other Kenny P, Tom B. There were many more to "discover" the Ditch, but these were the first. Others were Tommy D.,Richard D., Billy P., Debbie P, Tammy M., Randy M., Malka Y., and the list goes on. I remember looking down from Wilkes st. and seeing Russ, Mike, and Danny down there and I went to see what was going on. We just hung down there-no one could see us and we could see from all angles- no one could sneak up on us. We smoked our cigarettes, and drank whatever beer, etc., that we could find, steal, or borrow. :) There was a bit of weed-go figure, and later other things. We could cut through the woods to Kappy's Liquor, or the car wash. It was so innocent at first, this was around 1973. It slowly built up with other people finding out about the ditch. It progressed over time and we had huge parties, huge bonfires, and if you didn't know how to drive you would get stuck. Every party we had to push someone out. And on more than one occasion we pushed the cops out when the got stuck on the track. We had to show them where to drive-if off the track too much you just got stuck. So it all began around 1973, before that it was just dirt, and old broken up concrete where we sat.
AND we also hung out at Zayre parking lot. That crew was many more including Jimmy P, Joey P., Nick M., Tony M.,John Sheedy, Mike R, Joey R, Mary R, lots more that
I cant remember, but many came and went. The Zayre parking lot got bad enough that the cops rolled in one night and busted everyone. I missed it because I just got my license and picked up my girlfriend Mary R. We we driving TO Zayre, I put on my blinker and looked over to see people scrambling, running from the cops, a paddy wagon-Funny- etc. I just kept on driving. Two minutes earlier and we would have been grabbed too. Her dad was a cop so it would have been a nightmare. Anyway... I have more.....

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Kenny,

This is great stuff. Keep going. I would keep the comments at about that length because there is a character limit on comments. A couple of my friends found out the hard way--writing long pieces that didn't download because of length. They had to rewrite in installments because they didn't back the text up in Word or any notebook-type app!

Deborah-Jean Henry said...

So much fun to read about all this...I grew up on boston rd. The Ditch was "home" to a lot of us!! So much fun. Ken Palmer is my brother. Loved reading his comments. We have been having fun reminiscing since we saw this...

Hell's Acres said...

Hi Deborah-Jean,

Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm definitely going to have to write something on The Ditch, as well as the Zayre Gang, for my May posting.

A woman named Debbie emailed me and wrote, regarding the Zayre people, "To this day we can call each other and be there!!" I'm not sure if "be there" meant meeting at the old parking lot, or just "being there" at someone's house or a bar.

I emailed Debbie back, but she never got back to me. Maybe you know, or you can ask your brother, because if there are actual mini-reunions in the old parking lot, that would be amazing. I'd love to include this fact in a future post.

Tim.r said...

The cabin off moss rd had a roof and and barrel with a stack for a fire place...I hung out there and all over pine point and the acers

BillyQ said...

I remember this day vividly as I was one of the "older" college students involved in getting STCC involved in the march down State Street. We stood at State and Main, with those students trapped in a building, singing the national anthem and all. And the whole time, the cops snuck a bus up to the back of the building and got the iranian students out of there. It was as the bus took off that the eggs started to fly. lol What a time it was.

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Billy Q. I have found more photos of that demonstration I will post them soon!

BillyQ said...

I appreciate you effort. Thanks.

robert miner said...


Hell's Acres said...

I knew I'd hear from more of the Zayre's boys!

Hell's Acres said...

HI Robert,

You had contacted me before about the Zayre Boys, and with that info I followed up with a section in this post: http://hellsacres.blogspot.com/2014/05/shitting-to-all-fields-part-7.html.