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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

SHITTING to All Fields, Part 6

Wiffle World, Part 5


“Oh my God!” I said to myself. A sudden revelation: “They’re playing Wiffleball without me while I sit here on my fat ass!” Okay, maybe my “epiphany” wasn’t that sudden. More like a nagging feeling finally surfacing—like the head of a pimple. “Enough of these idiotic TV game shows!” I proclaimed. “Enough!” It was high time for me to get back to the only game that mattered: our neighborhood Wiffleball game—especially because my game show pig-out was getting out of hand. I had started by gobbling half of one of those big bags of nacho cheese flavored Doritos, and then I kept going. And going. When I devoured three-quarters of the bag, I reasoned— as every pudgy kid does— that I might as well go for the gusto and finish it.

So my post-lunch munch soldiered on as I watched Match Game ’75 and continued my daily mid-afternoon TV break from Wiffleball.

And, come to think of it, why not? It was sweltering outside, nice and cool in my basement, the show was almost over, and there was celebrity panelist Kate Jackson, looking good. This was before she was a household name on Charlie’s Angels. Kate was still nurse Jill Danko on The Rookies, and she sure wasn’t like the nurse in my doctor’s office.  “Nurse Danko,” I said between Doritos crunches, leering and licking nacho cheese dust from my lips, “administer to me.” Indeed, a year later, when Kate Jackson got really famous, I told my friends that I discovered her before anyone. She was mine.

I shoveled another handful of Doritos in my mouth. “Nurse,” I commanded, like Dr. Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H, “give me some suction!”

My twelve-year-old hormones were on overdrive. I had been marveling at the babes on this stupid show all summer: Lynda Day George. Jo Ann Pflug. Lee Meredith and her fabulous, um, dimples, and a blouse so tight she had to take it off at night with paint thinner. Speaking of Lees on the show, how about Lee Meriwether (The Cat Woman…Meeeoooww!)?  What I wouldn’t have given for a Lee sandwich: Meriwether and Meredith at the same time. And while I’m on the subject of Match Game Merediths: Man oh man, Meredith MacRae: the blonde from that dumb Hillbilly program Petticoat Junction (below)

But the show was soon over, and so was my eating and ogling. Every last chip crumb was gone. The credits were rolling, the wah-wah funk guitar song begun playing, and the announcer said, “This is a Mark Goodson/Bill Todman production.” Time for Wiffleball, I guess. I got up.

Wait! Up next: The Money Maze at four o’clock! I had recently added this schlock shit to my viewing schedule and it was hysterical. A husband or wife stood on a platform and tried to direct the other spouse through a giant maze: “Left! Right! Right! Left! No! Left!”

My addiction to The Money Maze was getting as strong as my obsession with not only Kate Jackson, but also Match Game ’75, The Gong Show, professional wrestling, eating Doritos, Twinkies, and cherry flavored Now-and-Laters; lighting fireworks, smoke bombs, and “Magic Snakes” pellets; burning ants with a magnifying glass; reading MAD magazine and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine; and collecting baseball cards, Planet of the Apes cards, Kung Fu cards, and Wacky Packages. Not to mention playing Wiffleball, which was now taking a back seat to… game shows.

Wiffleball, I proclaimed to the The Money Maze contestants, can wait. The problem with my procrastination, however, was that my brother and my friends were undoubtedly hitting home runs in my absence, and since we counted our cumulative homer totals that summer—as we did every summer—I risked being eclipsed in the home run race by Rick Riccardi, who had forty-five to my fifty-two. Still, there I sat, slack-jawed, losing valuable plate appearances every minute I stayed put watching a person scurry around a maze like a cocaine-starved rat.

Then I snapped out of it, turned off the TV, flew up the stairs and out of the door. It was time to play Wiffleball.

But there was one problem. We couldn’t play. There were occasions when the ball was so busted up it couldn’t be repaired with our cigarette lighter “plastic surgery,” and this was one of them. Granted, the lighter flame could soften the plastic enough for us to smooth out most cracks, although when one of the nubs between the ball’s perforations broke, sometimes a “graft” was needed from a patch of plastic of another discarded ball, and this operation had a fifty-percent mortality rate. If the ball could not be revived on the operating table—and was declared dead—someone had to get on his bike and buy another ball or two at Parker Drug.

This ball was truly fucked, with three nubs broken—a gaping hole that no amount of patchwork could fix. When I wasn’t there, my brother and my friends voted that I should pedal all the way to Parker Drug for a ball. “No problem,” I said. “I’ll buy a ball.” And a bag of Doritos. And a MAD magazine. And a pack of cherry Now-and-Laters.

I hope that brought back some memories, folks. You certainly can’t buy Magic Snakes at drug stores any more.

For your enjoyment, here are 700 Magic Snakes being lit at once:

Read Wiffle World, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, not to mention The Great Wiffleball Fire of 1975.

The Ruins of South Branch Park, Part 5

I decided to take a closer look at the ruins of the South Branch Park ice rink, especially because the last time I was there—years ago— I didn’t have the nerve to peek inside the building that people used to lace up their skates. It looked pretty skeevy, and having hiked plenty of woodlands within the city of Boston, I knew that the homeless sometimes lived in these types of abandoned structures.

The problem was getting to the area. The pathway to the right of the brook, downhill from the Veterans Golf Course entrance, has been hopelessly blocked ever since the tornado and the freak October snowstorm in 2011.

There is a way to access the ruins, however. Simply park in the golf course lot, walk along the Parkway toward Parker Street a bit, and then trudge down the hill to the right of the Depression-era stone overlook, which is pictured below:

To give you some idea of the treefall and cleanup that has taken place there, below is a pre-tornado view from the overlook in a photo I took in the spring of 2011:

Take a look at the view now. You can see the golf course:

You have to hike downhill diagonally to the right to get past the blockage. Then you can hook up with the path:

The clearing is still there, but the young pines are starting to stake a claim inside the old remaining boards:

I come to the building:

The door is wide open, beckoning me to come on in. Who knows what horrors await inside. Dead bodies? A family of raccoons? Leatherface with his chainsaw? Children of the Corn?

It’s clear the place is a stoner hangout. I’m not sure how much shelter it provides in the rain, seeing that the corrugated metal roof is propped up by branches and two-by-fours.

Big brother is watching you.

Anarchy in the Acres.

Not sure what the second rule means.

Yes, that’s a sleeping bag. Did someone actually crash in this hellhole?

A broom! So someone cleans this place once in a while? Then the unidentified animal turds must have been dropped after the last sweeping.

What is that Dennis Hopper quote from the movie Blue Velvet? “Heineken? Fuck that! Pabst Blue Ribbon!”

Exiting the building, I am offered some friendly advice on the other door.

Opened in December of 1962, the rink was ruined by vandals in the early morning of April Fool’s Day, 1970, and abandoned. Below is one of the rink’s downed lights:

Amazingly, some of the lights and light poles remain standing:

All right. Time to get out of there before the 420 club returns.

Read The Ruins of South Branch Park, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Thrilla in Manilla in the Exhibition Hall

The old armory on Howard Street (the South End Community Center), which was trashed by the tornado, supposedly inspired some of Dr. Seuss’ castle drawings. He was born at 22 Howard Street before moving to 74 Fairfield Street when he was four. The armory, with its crenellated towers, was across from his grandparents’ bakery.What do you think?

As many of you know, Sixteen Acres was once primarily “The Sticks” and farmland. Below: Guy Boutelle bred poultry and other animals on Fair Oak Road.

Albert Creswell had a pig farm in the area of what became Creswell Street:

Hyman Freedman bought the Creswell tract, and Arthur J. Boyer built many of the houses on the nearby streets in the early 1950s. Boyer bought the Maebeth Street-Catalpa Terrace tract from Freedman, began selling individual lots in 1950, and my immediate neighborhood was soon born.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Friendly’s in East Forest Park (opened in 1967 and closed in 2004) was a big Cathedral High School hangout. In the early and mid-1960s, however, Cat High kids frequented the Friendly’s in East Longmeadow, which was next to the Polar Whip (both are pictured), another popular place. The photo is from the Facebook page Springfield, 413 Then and Now.

I'll leave you with the small replica of The Galley restaurant’s old sign—the one I found on an ebay ad and the subject of an old blog post. My friend Rob Gostofsky recently found it—repainted—at the Blue Plate Kitchen in West Hartford and took a photo. As for the original, he reports that it was stored at Red’s Towing on Riverdale Road, but it was sold to an antique dealer prior to the fire at Red’s in January of 2013, and rumor has it that the neon sign has been seen for sale at the Brimfield Antique Show. BOY that would look good in my living room!


barrooman said...

magic snakes!!
forgot bout those
didnt even see the blue plate was open when i was in WH a couple weeks back. close enough to the folks place to stumble home. will check it out.

thanks HA and happy new year

barrooman said...

and speaking of tv shows we lost two recently the "professor" and "rueben kincaid" rest in peace

Randylou said...

How sad. I had the same game show addiction as a young teen. I still cringe at the memory of turning down an offer to play ball with my buddies on a hot summer day to stay in the AC to watch some dumb game show. I've since come to better appreciate the hot weather wouldn't even bother with AC if it weren't for my wife.

Agawamian said...

Maybe I'm just biased, because relatives who lived in Sixteen Acres always seemed to be having more fun than I was out in the 'burbs, but Sixteen Acres in the 60s and 70s must have been a great place to grow up. I think I've said this before, but the way my cousins described it, they'd leave the house in the morning, go play in the woods, end up at someone's house for lunch, and come home for dinner. It's too bad we feel like we can't do that with our own kids.

Hell's Acres said...

Hey guys,

Thanks for the comments. I've been vowing to get back to Wiffleball, magic snakes, and other childhood memories that many can identify with.

It was indeed a great place to grow up, and yes, this kind of childhood free of adult supervision is something we can never retain for various reasons.

RIP the Professor and Reuben Kincaid, the biggest nerds on TV prior to Urkel.

Anonymous said...

what about the princess parlour in
east longmeaD what about the country coners bar in east long meadow and the blue moon bar next to donut dip

Anonymous said...

Springfield 413 Then and Now is not the source of most of their photo's.

Hell's Acres said...

That's okay, it's still a great repository and it gets Facebook folks reminiscing and communicating.