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

Sunday, September 1, 2013

SHITTING to All Fields, Part 2

The latest gem from the Facebook page “You Know You Grew Up in Springfield, Massachusetts if”: a 1971 photo from Zayre on Boston Road. The sign would spell out ZAYRE, one letter at a time, and then flash the entire name three times before starting over again. Now if we can only find a nighttime photo of the House of Television sign!

Yep, that’s the actual Caldor sign on Cooley Street in 1982, and here’s proof: the Denny’s sign behind it!

While I’m posting long gone signs:

An old Kiley Junior High button and the good old Kiley K, suitable for sewing.

On the subject of homemade bridges in Sixteen Acres, how remiss of me not to include in my last post this masterpiece crossing the north branch of the Mill River in the “horse trails” behind Hillcrest Park Cemetery. C’mon, folks, and take a mountain bike tour with me through this evergreen forest and swampland.

A trail near the scrapwood bridge leads to the Sabis International Charter School campus, which ate up a huge swath of these woods (38 acres formerly owned by the cemetery) when it was built in the early 2000s.

Years ago this stunt course for dirt bikes and ATVs (above) was carved into the middle of these woods. Last summer I idiotically took my mountain bike over the far jump in the photo. I thought I could yank up the front wheel as I crested and catch some air, and I sure did—I flipped over my handlebars, so I caught some sand, too. In my pockets. And in my mouth. No more jumping for me.

The “horse trails” nickname for what is officially named Woodland Park harkens back to a more pastoral time in The Acres when there were stables on the corner of Wilbraham and Parker, as well as behind the Hampden East condos. In fact, there are streets bordering the east side of these woods with the names of Harness, Blacksmith, and Horseshoe. There is also Clydesdale Lane near Sabis. Horses haven’t graced these woods for quite a while—I know, because I haven’t seen their tracks or poop during recent bike rides. They would definitely be spooked by all the motorized vehicles in here on any given weekend.

Dirt bikers love this loose sand, but I can’t get any traction in it with my mountain bike, dammit.

A vernal pool reflects one of the many pine groves that make up this conservation land.

Ya think anybody parties on the “horse trails”?

How about some ring toss—with a tire rim?

Barriers have been positioned on paths to keep ATVs out, including a felled tree (above) and a barricade in front of the bridge leading to the cemetery (below), but riders always manage to get in.

This is a view of the north branch of the Mill River from the side of the cemetery bridge.

We emerge from the woods into the cemetery, where its bell tower reaches for the cloudy sky. The structure is also on an old postcard.

Some notable people buried in Hillcrest Park: 

Hockey legend Jack Butterfield, pictured in the middle with Rick Ley and Gordie Howe.

“Old time hockey” himself Eddie Shore

John Garand, creator of the M1 semiautomatic rifle and grandfather of our murdered friend in this post.

Speaking of murder, it’s been 41 years and no arrest in the slaying of Danny Croteau, who is also buried at Hillcrest Park.

The Rialto Roller Rink at 82 Walnut Street, now the site of the Mason Wright Retirement Community, was open from the 1930s to 1980. 

In January of 1966, Muhammad Ali visited the Rialto (pictured above and below) to promote Afro-American unity at a bazaar that was sponsored by Muhammad’s Mosque No. 13.

This wasn’t the first time The Peoples Champion visited the Springfield area. The previous year he trained at the Schine Inn in Chicopee for his fight with Sonny Liston.

Ali’s parking spot at the Schine Inn.

According to the book Ali and Liston by Bob Mee, Ali actually trained in an adjacent building (above), on top of a bowling alley (now the AMF Chicopee Lanes), where the crash of bowling balls and pins could be heard over Ali’s voice. “Things livened up a little with the appearance of world light-heavyweight champion Jose Torres, who had apparently issued a challenge to Ali, who in turn decided he was to be called Squirrel,” Mee wrote. “What do you mean challenging me?” demanded Ali. “You fight my sparring partner, James Ellis. He’s grown into a light-heavyweight. Squirrel, you fight Ellis, and then I’ll fight you.”

Undaunted, Squirrel, at five-foot-ten, said to six-foot-three Ali, “C’mon man, you and me, I need a good payday. We'll pack them in.”

Ali turned to Torres’ wife Ramonita and said, “Okay, but you have to feed him a lot of rice and beans. Only then can I make money for your man.”

Ali and Torres would never fight. The latter retired soon after he lost his title and went on to write an Ali book of his own: …Sting Like a Bee. We all know the outcome of the Ali-Liston bout in Lewiston, ME:

The Schine Inn on Burnett Road later became the Plantation Inn. Do you think Ali would have set foot in this place if he were greeted by this cracker, the former Mutual Ford Uncle Sam, who now stands guard there?

According to a former desk clerk at the Schine, Ali “was so great with the kids that came to see him train. He even brought a bunch of them into his suite and bought them ice cream and talked to them for over an hour. He was quiet and humble when the press was not around.”

But all was not fine and dandy at the Schine Inn during his stay. According to a May 21, 1965 UPI wire service story, the Louisville Lip was worried that he was a target—and we’re not talking about a just target of Sonny Liston’s gloves: 

New York State Troopers warned the Chicopee, Massachusetts Police that a group of Black Muslims are on there way to Chicopee to assassinate Cassius Clay. 
According to Investigators, a black sedan with 4 Black Muslims was stopped on Route 22 in upstate New York. The group leader said they were headed to the Schine Inn in Chicopee, Massachusetts (Cassius Clay's Training Camp) to discuss personal business. 
A map and details of the route (Massachusetts Turnpike, Springfield Exit 9) were found in the car, along with an 'X' marked on the Schine Inn, and Cassius Clay's room number. 
The current security detail of 70, has now been increased to 300, with help from the Massachusetts State Troopers, the State of Maine State Troopers and City of Lewiston, Maine Police force. 
The Champion - Cassius Clay, who now goes by his Black Muslim name of Muhammad Ali is fearful, as his friend Malcolm X was murdered in New York on February 21, 1965 (just 3-months ago).

Another UPI story reported that Ali even had a police escort on trips to his wife’s adjoining room at the Schine. According one of the rumors, the Nation of Islam had basically “persuaded” (ordered) him to disassociate himself with Malcolm X, who was feuding with NOI leader Elijah Muhammad. In response, it was said that Malcolm X supporters planned to kill Ali for turning his back on his former friend and mentor (and recent assassination victim).

Who Killed Tammy Lynds?

Last year, WFXT Fox 25 aired a report on the 1994 murder of 15-year-old Tammy Lynds, who was found in the woods off Fox Road on the Pine Point-Sixteen Acres line (below) and was the subject of a Hell’s Acres post. But the Fox 25 “New England Unsolved” piece never aired in Springfield, where leads could be generated by local television exposure. Then WWLP-TV 22 did follow up with its own story last May.

Unfortunately, Tammy’s father, Richard Lynds, posted on Facebook on June 4 that the cold case isn’t getting much warmer: “Update: I have an appointment with the Springfield DA Wednesday afternoon to go over my daughter’s unsolved case. For what I have been told, briefly, over the phone, this case is still unsolved and will stay unsolved until someone comes forward and talks. There is still no one talking or relaying anything to the police about how my daughter died.”

I ask again: if she were killed by a stranger, instead of the person she was supposed to meet that night, did police question known sex offenders from the area, including two men who were convicted of rapes in the woods off North Branch Parkway in 1980 and 1982 respectively? There was also a rape in the nearby North Branch Tributary Park between Slater Avenue and Grayson Drive in 1977, and the alleged perpetrator was caught.

A “new” old photo of Morganetta the elephant posted on the “You Know You Grew Up at the X if” Facebook site.

From the Library of Congress, the above and below photos are of a “Street gang, corner of Margaret and Water Streets, 4:30 p.m. Springfield, Massachusetts.” Lewis Wickes Hine was the photographer. The pictures were taken on June 27, 1916. I’m pretty sure the South End ruffian on the left is holding a BB gun, not a rifle.

Water Street no longer exists: it was probably in the East or West Columbus Avenue area, or even in the section razed for the construction of I-91. Margaret Street, according to 1950s maps, extended toward the river beyond Columbus Avenue (before Columbus was split into two roads) all the way to the railroad tracks.

In the summer of 1984 I lived on Margaret Street on the second floor of the above house, which was torn down years ago. I loved the smell of Bondi’s Island in the morning. It smelled like. . .the South End.

Football Hall-of-Famer Nick Buoniconti grew up on Margaret Street and starred for Cathedral, Notre Dame, the Patriots, and the Miami Dolphins.

Pynchon Plaza, Part 2

In an earlier post I likened the state of Pynchon Plaza as a barometer of the direction that downtown Springfield is heading. The park is only half-open, with an iron fence blocking pedestrians from using the upper portion. But at least some of it us usable—I’m a glass-half-full kinda guy, optimistic that the rest of it will be available some day, and its recent reopening proof that the city is on the upswing.  This led me to search for old photos of Pynchon Plaza when it wasn’t blocked off, and I came up with two:

In that post I also compared Springfield with The Little Engine that Could. I think the city can rebound from its downward spiral. I think it can. I think it can. Just like I think Pynchon Plaza pedestrians can one day make it to the top of the stairs to Chestnut Street.

But, as I wrote before, the way a city treats its parklands is a good indicator of its competence, functionality, and pride. The 3.7 mile Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway, for example, is underused, poorly maintained, a haven for the homeless, and filled with debris and weeds. There were two violent muggings on the trail on August 26 and 27. And the Turtle Fountain in Stearns Square, I noticed at the July 18 Taj Mahal concert there, is dry and bereft of its turtle sculptures.

So what’s it going to be, Springfield? The Little Engine that Could? Or the alternative: 

Bill Baughman, pictured below with his neon clocks in a 2007 Boston Globe Magazine article, is seated in front of the old Tic Toc Lounge sign. Bill died recently, and his family is looking for a buyer for his collection. I would love to have the old Tic Toc neon in my man-cave basement, but my wife would kill me if I shelled out any dough for it.

An online search of the Tic Toc reveals the only other known image of the sign: in a painting that graces a greeting card:

But wait! Word has it that the Tic Toc sign and several other clocks from Baughman’s collection were used in the 2006 movie The Departed. Next time you watch this film, keep an eye out!

Tom McNamara and his wife used to enjoy listening to a jazz piano player in Boston on weekends at a place called the Tic Toc (above) and vowed if they ever opened a bar, that’s what they would call it.

Their dream came true in 1965, when they bought Matthew’s (formerly Briglio’s) on Dwight Street and renamed it the Tic Toc. It moved to Worthington Street in the 1980s.

When the Worthington Street bar scene got popular in the early 2000s, thanks in part to the Tic Toc, some businessmen, with the help of the mayor and his cronies, set out to make a lot of money on the newly dubbed "Entertainment District. The Tic Toc’s lease wasn’t renewed, and the establishment was moved to the South End with the help of a loan from a controversial “fund.” The Tic Toc was then replaced with the Pour House, which was embroiled in a federal investigation involving unreported income and payments to workers under the table without paying taxes.

The Tic Toc’s popularity ebbed, mainly because its new location was far away from the Worthington bar hub, and it closed in 2002. Five years later, the Pour House's co-owner, along with another man involved with the fund, went to jail on federal charges. The Pour House is now vacant:

The Blizzard of ’78: the 291 East Indian Orchard exit (above) and the corner of Dwight and Carew (below). I delivered the Morning Union newspaper back then, and that day I frantically dug into the snowbank for the stack of papers that I thought were deeply buried, until my mother yelled out the door: “I just called! They can’t get the trucks out to deliver the papers!” No school. No paper route today. Yippee!