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

Thursday, May 1, 2014

SHITTING to All Fields, Part 7

Check out that hat! This is the real McCoy from the late 1960s, unearthed and emailed to Hell’s Acres after spending 35 years in the basement of the guy’s sister. “It comes close to fitting me now,” writes the owner. “I had a big head back then.” He reports, however, that it “smells just a tad musty.”

How many times did I run my fingers over the stucco walls of the Flaming Pit? The treasure chest full of free  “prizes” was to the right of the door, I believe. 

While we’re on the subject of old restaurants, say hello to Mama Nardi. Maria Grace Nardi is pictured in 1983. When she wasn’t in the kitchen, she was at the door greeting people or going from table to table chatting. Mama Nardi’s cure for the common cold: take a glass of hot water, add three shots of whiskey, add orange peel, apple, lemon and honey. Cool it slightly, drink it slowly, get in bed under the covers and stay there for 24 hours.

How about some more Italian restaurants that are no more?

People lined up for the Lido’s final meals on March 31, 2012 (above). “I’ve been crying for two days,” said Lido waitress Karin Arpin. “Customers are hugging and kissing me and asking me where I’m going. I’ve been here 35 years and it’s breaking my heart.” My heart wasn’t exactly in one piece when I heard the news of its impending demise. I loved that place.

Al Santanelli of Santi’s in 1978

The Ditch, Part 2

My post from 2012 that included a few paragraphs on a couple of old Boston Road hangouts, The Ditch and the Zayre parking lot, finally got alumni from both teenage Meccas to respond to my request and come forward in emails and in the comments section at the end of that post.

Denizens of The Ditch, which was on the left at the end of Wilkes Street in the satellite photo (now a Jehovah’s Witnesses church) inform me that the hangout started modestly in 1973 with just seven people. “The original Ditch guys were, Russ, Mike, Danny, C.L., myself, the other Kenny P, and Tom B.,” writes Ken Palmer. Then others came: Tommy D., Richard D., Billy P., Debbie P, Tammy M., Randy M., Malka Y. Palmer’s sister, Deborah-Jean Henry, was also a Ditch girl.

Membership had its privileges: no one at street level could see the Ditch people, and they could see from all angles, so it was impossible to sneak up on them. Adds Palmer:

“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 Liquors, or the car wash. It was so innocent at first. 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.”

Another former Ditcher informed me that the legendary bonfires were fueled with as many as 25 wood pallets, and that the partiers threw fireworks in them. “Not sure the firemen enjoyed it as much as we did!” she writes. “I do remember them turning the hose on us a couple of times!”

You definitely know you have a happening party spot when it has been visited by both the police and the fire department.

“I’ve been talking to a friend, Randy Mascaro,” she added. “He and his sister were there at both also. He said add his name so he can show his kids!” Done and done. Since we were exchanging emails about the Ditch people and those who hung out in the Zayre parking lot, I’m not sure which group Mascaro belonged to. Possibly both?

Yes, this is the Boston Road Zayre in 1976.

The Zayre Boys, Part 2

Yes, I stand corrected. It wasn’t the Zayre Gang, but the Zayre Boys. This much larger Boston Road crew included Ken Palmer, Jimmy P., Joey P., Nick M., Tony M., John Sheedy, Mike R., Joey R., Mary R., Robert Miner, Polastry, Pastieris, Edson, Murphy, and many more. Palmer also relates a big police raid: 

“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 were driving to Zayre, I put on my blinker and looked over to see people scrambling, running from the cops, a paddy wagon—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.”

According to Robert Miner, the Zayre Boys owned street racers and muscle cars and used to go to the old U.S. Envelope on Roosevelt Avenue to race—usually against Chicopee guys. Miner’s ride was a 1970 Pontiac Firebird. Polastry had a 1970 Plymouth Duster; his brother ran a Stage 1 Buick; Pasteris had a 1964 Chevy Impala; and Murphy’s pride and joy was a 1970 Chevy Monte Carlo with a big block V8 engine (Wow! I could have had a V8!). Edson was known for his 1970 Oldsmobile 442. (442 meant four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhaust. Vroooooooom!)

The Zayre Boys raced at U.S. Envelope from 1972 to 1983—then “the law cracked down hard on us,” wrote Miner. After 1983 they basically hung around the Sports Page Lounge down the road.

Ken Palmer adds, “I have more…” Bring it on, Ken!

A.P. and B.P.

The Boston Road Zayre in 1971 (above). Did you know that there was a little league team called the 16 Acres Zayres? I shit you not. Compare: you can’t do better than Zayre. Or can you? The team seemed to be a bit lacking in run production:

Does anybody recognize these players’ names from 1971? The Zayres got blanked 5-0 by Holy Name.

Oops, and they got hammered by OLSH the following year.

While we’re cruising down Boston Road: 

Before Salvatore’s there was El Rancho.

Boston Road in 1970: (L-R) Arby's Roast Beef, Red Top Motel, Stanley Wegiel's Garage, A & W Root Beer, Dono-Rama, and Knapp Shoes. Then, heading east a little (below), Hoskin Rugs and Town & Country Restaurant.

B & M Golf was a miniature golf course and driving range at the site of the old Frank’s Nursery at 840 Boston Road from 1953 to 1977.

Paysaver in 1982

Eastfield Mall’s Steiger’s

The late, not-so-great Springdale Mall and its stores, above and below.

Fairfield Mall (below) had a Two Guys, which was converted into a Bradlees when it closed.

Pestering Poor Patricia Hale, the Witch of Sixteen Acres,
Part 3

Now here’s something I haven’t thought about in a while! Caps!

The good old cap bomb and cap gun.

Reminiscing about blowing off caps got me thinking about Patricia Hale, the woman we tormented for years. (Details of our torture are here and here.) When we were kids, popping one cap at a time got a little boring for us after a while, even when we knew it annoyed Patricia Hale when we threw cap bombs in the street in front of her house. This was, after all, the early 1970s, before the late 1970s availability of Snappers, which you could throw on pavement (and, of course, at people):

So, to liven things up, one of us discovered that you could get a hell of a bang for your buck if you took a hammer and smacked a WHOLE ROLL of caps with a hammer instead of one at a time. This brought the inevitable wrath of Patricia Hale, who complained about not only the noise, but also the burn marks and paper we left on her curb. Once again, chugging like a train, her large chin like a cow-catcher, she charged at us. Nine-hundred thousand tons of steel out of control. The mere sight of her tempted me to utter our oft-used ebonic taunt: “Hale smail!” And you know that notion just crossed my mind.

“Why can’t you do that somewhere else?” she fumed.

We didn’t have an answer. Why? Because. Just because. Our silence prompted her to turn around and head back in her house, her legs like pumping pistons. More a bitch than a machine. But not before the phrase escaped my lips: “Hale smail!”

In 2012 I looked Patricia Hale up on Intelius.com and it listed her as 101 years old. I was astonished. Certainly, I thought, we had driven her to an early grave. Had she made a deal with the devil? Will she live to be older than Methuselah? But that was before I realized that these search sites just keep automatically adding a year onto people’s ages annually, even after they’re dead.

The truth is that she actually died in 2008 at the ripe old age of 97. The newspaper obituary ran a 1980s photo of her and it brought back a memory I had long forgotten: her very prominent chin. The jawbone of an ass. In fact, she was one of those people—like Dick Enberg—whose face resembles a ventriloquist dummy when they age, because lines form from the edges of their mouth down to the bottom of their chin.

So Patricia Hale, the witch of Sixteen Acres, looked something like this:

The Grateful Dead, Springfield Civic Center, March 28, 1973

Yes, her two “friends” got tickets and left her holding the sign, in true Deadhead fashion!

Here is an account of the show from “pumasmom” on masslive.com’s Nostalgia forum: 

“Omigod! That was a crazy concert! They let everyone in to the lobby before the concert and we were crammed in like sardines! My husband had one hand, someone else had my other hand and both were trying to pull me through the crowd! In different directions! My husband was getting mad at me for not moving, but when I screamed at him that my other hand was being pulled in the other direction, he helped me get free of the other person. Then, we got to our nosebleed seats. The place filled up to capacity and beyond. We managed to move down several rows to allegedly get a better view. I had really long hair down to my waist back then. People way up in back were lighting joints and THROWING THEM! I got one tangled in my hair and freaked out! We tried to leave a little early to avoid another crush, but the stairs were crammed full of people. There was no way out! We just sat down and people watched for another hour til we could move. The concert was excellent otherwise!”

I’ll leave you with a snippet from the show: Weather Report Suite Prelude into Dark Star into Eyes Of The World into Playing In The Band:


barrooman said...

man what a trip down memory lane again hells!! caps and hammers, zayres two guys now we gots five miss the two lechmere friggin burger chef!! spent some time in yer area when i was a kid as my dad was in the real estate business remember some of the places. not so much the restaurants the only one not mentioned was the student prince went up there a with my folks mom loved that place being of german ancestry. civic center of course thats how i found my way to your blog as i was looking up some old shows that i went to up there.
all the years combine they melt into a dream...

Hell's Acres said...

Thanks, barrooman.

I wonder if they still sell caps in drug stores and convenience stores. I'll have to keep my eyes open.

By the way, the Dead did play Stella Blue at that '73 show, along with You Ain't Woman Enough lol. Not that I was there. My first Dead show was in Springfield in 1980.

capecat said...

Wow! "The Ditch." I remember it well, but I was of a group that came a little later. How about "the field." Right behind the McDonald's on Boston Road. McDonald's used to host a little carnival/fair on Labor Day weekend to support the MDA (in concert with the Jerry Lewis/MDA telethon).

I grew up off Glenwood Street, eating fast food from McDonald's, taking film to the Fotomat in the Zayre's parking lot, and loving A&W root beer and burgers.

And my first concert ever...The Romantics and Adam Ant. 1984? 1985?

Oh, yeah, the best pizza and Italian pastries are in the Springfield area. I live near Boston now and travel to Western MA for cannolis!

Love your blog! Unique and filled with great memories for me.


Hell's Acres said...

Hey Capecat,

Sounds like you guys were a little younger. Where did you Boston Road folk hang out?

Kelley McCormick said...

I grew up playing with or against the Lempkes. Johnny is my age (48) so I would bet it was his older brother Brian that was the pitcher fir Holy Name. Brian graduated Cathedral in 1980 I think. Hard throwing righty. Mr. Doyle, a famous OLSH coach just past away recently. I played against Chris (Schnoil) and Timmy. Chris was a tough catcher, and Timmy was a nasty, three quarter delivery lefty pitcher. Tough competitors and would back down from no one.

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Kelley,

Come to think of it, this was probably Brian Lempke.

I remember Tim Doyle was being scouted by the Yankees in the mid-'80s, but I wonder whatever became of it. He was still playing Tri-County years later, so he didn't throw his arm out.

Speaking of OLSH, who was that pitcher in the mid-'70s they called "Chooch"? God that guy could throw hard. I believe he played 12-14 ball in '75. He almost took my head off with a pick-off try when I dared to take a modest lead on first base!

Lizzie T. said...

My God, that Zayre's. I remember going there with my mom back when we lived on Covington Street, before my parents packed my sister and me up to move to Wilbraham in 1977.

I'm pretty sure that Bradlee's is where my mom went into labor with me. She was buying laundry baskets with my father's aunt.

Hell's Acres said...

You were almost a Bradlee's baby!

Anonymous said...

The pictures of Two Guys and Bradlees are both of the Fairfield Mall store; the Bradlees picture being taken right after Two Guys went out of business and the building converted to a Bradlees.

Hell's Acres said...

Good eye! I just made the correction. You can see the similarities in the front: the four extensions above the entrance and the four pillars.

Talbois Talbois said...

Thanks - Great job!!!!!!

TC said...

Lemke on Holy Name Braves was Brian Lemke , I was on the team also- The Veto on 16 acres is Paulie Veto

I know who you are Kenny P and your girlfriend Mary R - I went out with her Mary's friend Jackie D

Keep writing- brings back great memories- T.C.

Kelley McCormick said...

I played with and against Mario Felici. His nickname was Chooch and he was from the Acres. Another famous ball player from there confirmed that Chooch is whom you are most likely referring to. Oh yeah, and Chooch, AKA Fal-Dooch, would definitely throw high and inside. I I'll give a hint as to my OLSH source- he was the first kid I ever knew to wear white baseball spikes. He was a Classical kid, had a few nicknames, but you better be friends with him if you were going to use any of them.

Hell's Acres said...

You may be right. Chooch also might have been Scott Mascaro.