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

Thursday, August 1, 2013

SHITTING to All Fields

Sorry for the SHITTING in the title. I just didn’t want to write an unlucky Spitting to All Fields, Part 13 post. I guess I’m superSHITious. And this SHIT in the title gets your attention, doesn’t it? Sorry to make you think about SHIT when I paint my masterpiece of SHIT. Hope you’re not eating when you read this SHIT. If you are, for dessert, how about a nice A & W Root Beer feces float served by Rooty the Great Root Bear?

Does that beverage above make you think about excrement? A rhetorical question. Here’s another one: Does Rooty the Great Root Bear shit in an A & W mug? All right, enough of that SHIT.

Oh, how we loved A & W Root Beer restaurant on Boston Road back in the day. There is plenty of A & W memorabilia on the Web because the soda is still in existence, even though the restaurant is practically non-existent in New England. There were 2,000 U.S. franchises in 1960, but the number was down to 200 in 1989—mostly kiosks in shopping malls. It’s hard to tell from its website how many restaurants remain. There was apparently a resurgence since then, with 75 locations now in California, for example, but the only one in Massachusetts seems to be in Harwich Port on the Cape.

Is the A & W in the above photo the one on Boston Road? If you do a Google Maps search of its former address number, 901, you get NAPA Auto Parts, but the nearby houses on Phillips Avenue look a lot like the houses in the old picture. Compare. What do you think?

Quicksand in The Acres?

It’s interesting how some urban and suburban legends grow, and one of the most notorious is the “quicksand” death on the South Branch of the Mill River in Sixteen Acres. Long ago, off Middlebrook Drive, a little boy supposedly sunk in the stuff and died, and the story is even mentioned in a blog by another Acres guy.

There an element of truth in this tale, even though there is some dispute that quicksand can kill you by sucking you in (as opposed to trapping you long enough to make you succumb to the elements, according to this experiment).

We had always heard that there was quicksand on the “Dingle Brook” side of Forest Park’s Porter Lake, and an aerial view of the area helps explain the rumor. Pretty menacing-looking, although this sand, I assure you, is not of the quick variety:

Baby boomers knew about quicksand when they were kids from old Tarzan movies (above) and from Gilligan’s Island, but no, there is no quicksand in Springfield.

In the late winter and early spring, however, there is deep mud off Middlebrook Drive when the snow melts, and on February 28, 1955, three mothers briefly lost sight of their three toddlers near their homes, and that’s all it took for big trouble to start. They noticed the boys’ tricycles on the South Branch Parkway and heard shouts from the swamp across the street. The mothers of two-year-old Bobby Cohen and Allan Hurwitz, also two, scrambled down the embankment to look for the children, including three-year old David Hirschahut, while Mrs. Hirschhaut stayed in the street with her younger son Steven and Mrs. Cohen’s daughter.

To their horror, the two women saw David floating in the brook and Bobby and Allen stuck in knee-deep mud. Mrs. Hurwitz was unable to free Allan and ran for help while Mrs. Cohen scooped up David and managed to finally wrench Bobby’s legs from the menacing mud that seemed to cement the boy’s foot under a buried log.

Allan was ultimately rescued, but David couldn’t be revived. He had apparently stayed afloat by the buoyancy of his snowsuit, but he was facedown in the water long enough to drown. The tragedy made the UP press service, the precursor to United Press International (below) and there were no accounts in either that report or in the Springfield newspapers of quicksand.

After the death, there were demands by area homeowners to put a fence along South Branch Parkway, which never happened, but the Sixteen Acres Civic League and the Sixteen Acres Lions organization successfully lobbied for the nearby fire station to obtain a resuscitator.

The Bridge of Tamarack Bog

Downstream from the drowning incident is the huge scrapwood bridge over the South Branch brook that connects this area off Parker Street with the Gate of Heaven Cemetery and the Tinkham Road neighborhood. How big is this sucker? Large enough to be viewed from a satellite photo:

You can find it by driving behind Gate of Heaven cemetery and looking for the huge dirt mounds on the right (pictured below). Cemetery officials don’t mind hikers and dog walkers parking there—as long as you’re not towing ATVs or dirt bikes.

I mean, look at those layers: a true Hillbilly bridge, but ingeniously durable, even when the brook swells in the spring:

The bridge leads to a pathway that once went all the way to Sixteen Acres Center. But alas, it is now too overgrown and you are forced to turn around well before Mill Pond. If you go back over the bridge and keep walking past the dirt mounds and the dirt road through the clearing heading south, you’ll see the Tamarack Bog reservation, which offers a truly great hike.

When I rediscovered the Tamarack Bog a few years ago, I saw a newspaper box at the trailhead and said to myself, “Great, some Beavis or Butthead or both had 12 beers and thought it would be funny to drag this in here. But I soon saw it provided a mini shelter for a trail journal!

A few interesting journal entries: somebody was pissed off about a pickup truck driver treating the area like a motocross track:

Some of the wildlife seen: a barred owl, wild turkeys, and…an albino deer?

Wow, I’d love to see one of those! American Indians thought albino deer to be magical—an ancestor or benevolent soul transfigured from human form. They believed that if a hunter killed one, he would suffer an untimely death, and his spirit would be usurped by the white deer.

Hmm. The legend didn’t dissuade this guy:

I had to leave my mark on the Tamarack Bog—and not by blowing away The Great Acres Albino Deer:

Taj Mahal Was Here!

Speaking of legends, I had to see Springfield bluesman for the first time in years at Stearns Square on July 18. Above is my lame iPhone photo, so below I included a better one from the the Republican newspaper.

My friend emailed me a photo of a true classic 45 from his brother’s vinyl collection:

I expected more footage of the concert on YouTube, but all I found was one short clip:

Anyone see this masslive.com story about the guy below that attacked Springfield cops with an axe? Even after he was shot, he was still swinging the hatchet. Fortunately, one of the officers just suffered a small cut from the weapon and he didn’t need to seek hospital treatment. Who does this guy think he is? Paul Bunyan?

Check out the resemblance—even down to the plaid shirt!

Hippie Hill

When I was a kid, when we went sledding in Forest Park, it was either on Snake Hill or Barney Hill. Of course, we, like everybody, called the latter “Hippie Hill,” because, for a while, it was THE place for area youth to let their freak flags fly.

It all started with Springfield’s first “Love-in” on October 6, 1968 (pictured above and below), when more than 2,000 people gathered to see the bands Existance (Was that misspelling intentional, like “Furthur?”), The Egg, and Rain Drop Blues. I’m not sure which of these bands is pictured below, and there is no online information of whatever became of these acts. Have any of Hell’s Acres’ readers heard of these guys?

The Springfield Police were not amused by this event and started arresting people, including four who were passing around a pipe full of pot near the Barney Mausoleum. Three of the four were from the Forest Park area, but alas, one of them was an 18-year-old lad from The Acres: he lived on Gary Road. Dude! Are you out there? Tell us what it was like to get busted at this historic happening!

After one of the busts, an estimated 800 concertgoers formed a human wall around the police cruiser and started rocking it, chanting “Pigs!” The police quickly broke through the wall and freed the car. When another cruiser was driving away with a 38-year-old prisoner charged with public drunkenness, a youth pulled off the car’s gas cap, earning HIM a free ride downtown as well.

Martin Waite, a 23-year-old photographer for The Yellow Jacket, AIC's student newspaper, was taking pictures and approached detectives Michael Sands, Raymond Burroughs, and Sgt. Robert Seymour. “Smile man,” he said. “Smile like you’re making a bust!” The cops frowned. Finally, Seymour managed a smile, and Waite snapped a photo. Then the cops grabbed the camera and exposed the guy’s film!

The final bust tally at the Love-in:

Hippie Hill remained a popular youth gathering spot for a few years—complete with concerts (blogger Tom Devine recalled one of his experiences there)—until police started cracking down on the partying. Then it became a gay cruising area before police broke THAT up. Do kids still slide there in the winter? It seemed so steep back then. That is, until you rode your sled down the nearby Barney Amphitheater hill! Now THAT was a cruise.

I took a photo of this stencil on the concrete walk outside the Bank of America ATM at the Breckwood Shoppes. WTF?

Above is the cover of the Kiley Junior High 1978-1979 yearbook. That same year, the Duggan Junior High yearbook had a similar cover as a tribute to the band Boston. No, that’s not the Duggan cover below—it’s Boston's first album.

Boston became the darling of the teenage rock crowd around that time—second only to Led Zeppelin—until infighting between the band and management, and among bandmates, after the 1978 album Don’t Look Back, delayed the release of their next album until…1986! JFC!

Honk if you remember Crown Kosher Market—gone with the 1970s when Friendly’s replaced it, as well as Buckey’s Corner store, in 1980.

Roach Motels (and Hotels) and Their Guests, Part 2

A new “old” photo of Trase’s Motel and Restaurant on Boston Road in Pine Point!

In Part I, I neglected to mention the Red Top Motel on the corner of Boston Road and Lloyd Avenue, a welfare dump that had its share of incidents, including a man stabbing his girlfriend’s arm with a screwdriver there in 1984. This place was torn down some time in the 1990s, and it’s STILL a vacant lot next to Aamco:

And it was indeed remiss of me not to mention the old Pine Tree Motel on Boston Road in Wilbraham, across from the Pizza Pub. Its neon sign, with the blinking star on the top, called out, “Take your discreet affair to THIS fleabag! Someone might recognize you at the Wilbraham Motel, but you can park your car behind the cabin here!”

To say this is a derelict property now would be paying it a compliment. I used Google Maps for the above and below photos of the decrepit cabins, because, frankly, I got kind of spooked at the idea of stalking around there with a camera: it still might be a “motel” for down-and-outers. I see a car or two parked there once in a while, so WHO KNOWS?

In 1991 a schizophrenic woman made the Pine Tree her home. Sandra Jones, a former marine, was known for swearing at motorists and flipping them off when they didn’t let her cross the road to the Pizza Pub, where she bought loads of food to tote back to her cabin and hoard. Sandra used to bust up her own property, including her TV and her car windows, and, after many arrests, developed a bitter feud with the local police.

It was that animosity with cops that was brought to the forefront when she disappeared for nearly three months, prompting her former boyfriend to travel to Wilbraham from his home in Tampa, FL to remove her belongings at the request of the motel owners. He walked in the back of the Pine Tree and before long found her body hanging from a tree less than 100 yards from the cabin. Frustrated, he went to the media, calling police officers in the case indifferent to the missing person report, and blasting their claims that they did an exhaustive search of the surrounding area.

The old boyfriend said it took him two minutes to find her—a suicide in plain sight, leaving a body in an open landscape and a desperate note in the cabin (that included her stick figure illustration of a body hanging from a tree) that were somehow missed by police. “There’s no way anybody could have looked for her,” he said. Selectmen ultimately cleared the police of negligence.

I finally got up the nerve—if you could call it that—to take some photos of the Pine Tree. I was hesitant to stand there like an idiot with a camera in front of the old dump, but, after all, how much longer will this place be left standing before Wilbraham gets its act together and takes the wrecking ball to some of the more blighted Boston Road buildings? You gotta love the leaning light post. It’s hard to get all artsy-fartsy with an iPhone camera, but look at the composition of this photo:

Ah yes, there is a ragged beauty in peeling paint, isn’t there?

Speaking of ragged, get a load of the lawn of the home on Catalpa Terrace my friend grew up in (below). A grand old house, it was built in 1927—long before any of the homes on Catalpa and the nearby side streets. The rainforest of a yard has been growing all summer, and I vowed to let the weeds tower higher than the mailbox before I took a photo.

Well, if you look closely, the mailbox seems to be pushing down on the weed in front of it to stifle its growth, but meanwhile the uber-weed in back snuck up on it, and is now officially taller.

The house recently exchanged hands, and I’m not going to humiliate the new owner by naming him, but for Christ’s sake mow the fucking lawn! And if you’re not going to take good care of the house, sell it!

We had many a good time in the porch attached to the garage in back. My friend’s parents used to let us take sleeping bags out there for overnight “campouts” in which we would raid neighborhood gardens and raise hell. Our favorite antic was cutting through lawns to Wilbraham Road, hiding behind bushes, and waiting for someone to walk by on the sidewalk. We’d let them get as far as Maebeth Street or Aldrew Terrace before one of us would invariably yell, “Hey, fuck you!” Sometimes a tomato or a pepper from one of the gardens was chucked in the person’s direction.

One night five or six older teens walked by and, drunkenly roughhousing, took a left on Jonquil Drive to head up to Glickman School fields. My friend bolted into the middle of Wilbraham Road and bellowed. “Hey, if you want to fight somebody, fight ME!”

They turned around and walked toward us, and of course, we scurried away like rats, through the dark backyards to the safety of the porch. Yes, I know I’ve written this a couple of times before, but it bears repeating: Who says there’s nothing to do growing up in Sixteen Acres?