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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SHITTING to All Fields, Part 9

Bring back Princess Parlour!

In case you can’t read the fine print, that’s all the pancakes you can eat for 64 cents. The small restaurant chain was founded in 1970 and located at 1951 Wilbraham Road (where Johnny Mac Liquors is now), at 429 Center Street in Ludlow (next to Kings), at 44 North Main Street in East Longmeadow, and at 1531 Main Street in Springfield.

Yes, in The Acres it opened next to the “new” Popular market and tried to rival Friendly’s. The East Longmeadow shop lasted until 1983 and the downtown Springfield one was open as late as 1981. The Acres Princess Parlour closed in 1977 and was briefly replaced by a restaurant called A La Mode before two Chinese restaurants gave it a try there: Lucky Dragon and Joy Ho.

On the other side of the Popular Market in The Acres: Parker Drug. I can’t for the life of me find a photo of its cool sign. Can anybody help me out?

Shitty Tag Sales, Part 2

I don’t mean to go off on shitty tag sales again, but I am very tempted to go on a quest. Stopping at yet another a shitty tag sale the other day, I got the notion to take a photo of the worst item there—a shitty painting—and then post it on the blog. “I could do this every month,” I thought. That way, a stop at a shitty tag sale wouldn’t be a total waste of my time and gas. I could at least ridicule the tag sale purveyor and get a laugh.

But then I realized that this would be very mean-spirited of me. I’d like to think there is a higher power that guides me through life, and I believe that the voice in my ear that told me to do this was from my “lower power.”

Which brings me to another pet peeve: spam. Look, I know that it’s a pain in the ass to post a comment on this blog because the “captcha” screening is difficult to read. Well, for a while I took away the filter to make it easier for readers, and I was spammed several times a day. There is nothing like the thrill of the notification for a comment, and then finding out that it’s nothing but a piece of dung in poor English with a lame link. Here are some examples of unfiltered Hell’s Acres comments. I can imagine this diminutive guy in some third-world country:

“No matter if some one searches for his vital thing, so he/she needs to be available that in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.” 
“Thank you for that good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?”

Yes. Let’s “communicate.” It would go something like this:

“You want to spam Hell’s Acres?”

“Dats two for flinching little mon.”

Shaker Park Memories (Or Lack Thereof)

I woke up in the back seat of my friend’s car after having a little—OK, I guess the adjective here is WAY—too much to drink. It was 1981, and I was 18—of legal drinking age in Connecticut—so we headed down south, and so did my eyelids. When we arrived, I could not render myself conscious enough to get out of the car like a zombie and march to the bar, so my buddies did what all good friends would do in a situation like this: go inside and leave me to sleep it off in the back seat.

After an eternity, I awoke to what sounded like Robert Plant singing:

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, it’s just a spring clean for the May queen.”

I was alarmed. Where the hell was I? Why was I hearing Stairway to Heaven? Did I drift into “the big sleep” (meaning death, if you haven’t read Raymond Chandler) and was I now at the pearly gates?

No. I looked out the window to see that I was in the parking lot of Shaker Park.

“Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know. The piper’s calling you to join him.”

So I followed the piper’s music into the entrance, straightening my stagger and trying to appear sober enough to gain admittance. The bouncer let me in and didn’t charge me a cover—for good reason. Alas, it was an encore. I had made it in for just the blazing Stairway solo and the final verse. Oh well, as Cheech Marin said, all is fair in rock and roll.

Twenty-four years later, I’m wondering, who was that band? It could have been a multitude of bands that played Stairway as the closer.

Shaker Park was known as a place that wasn’t completely hospitable to drivers who pulled in with Massachusetts license plates. It depends on how you look at it. The roadhouse was more than five miles off the I-91 exit—a little off the beaten path—so, unlike the other Enfield bars, it wasn’t completely taken over by Springfield people. You really had to WANT to go there. And, after that long drive, if you still insisted on acting like a Masshole at Shaker Park, you were treated like one. Know what I mean?

How about all the acts that played there with true “bar band” names? I’m talking Savage, Sabotage, Renegade, Scavenger, Charger, Tremor, Force, and Tirebiter, which played at my friend’s wedding.

Slow dancin’, swaying to the music of Savage. Hey dude, nice Dutch Boy haircut!

The legendary Springfield band FAT played at Shaker Park. A recent discussion on a Facebook page devoted to the bar (where these photos are from) revealed an impressive list of headliners: Rick Derringer, James Cotton James Montgomery, Mountain, Chubby Checker, and Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs (Wooly Bully).

Not to mention the regulars, such as Motor Mouse and TKO (below).

And who can forget Hooker (below)? Was that their name because they dressed like prostitutes? Glam rules!

As far as I know, Alice Bowie never played there.

Whoops, I just uncovered some footage: 

Do these photos bring back any memories?

If my memory serves me well (below) the entrance was around the corner on the left.

Whoa! There’s Kashmir at the Park in 1979. (Listen to Kashmir playing there in 1980.) Good thing the management didn’t use flammable acoustic foam around the stage!

Peter “Max” Olko and his brother Joe (below) owned Shaker Park for 38 years (it was formerly known as Pine Point) before the place closed for good in 1987. It was torn down, and Ashmead Commons condominiums was built on the site in the late 1980s.

Max died in 2012.  Joe died a year later. Check out their casket covers!

Tamarack Bog, Part 2

I thought it was high time to revisit the Tamarack Bog (Part 1) behind the Gate of Heaven cemetery and read the latest entries in the trail journal, which is normally housed in the “converted” newspaper box above.

However, I was greeted by this sight. Oh-oh. Those look like burn marks.

Sure enough, it’s trashed. I guess it’s too much to expect something cool like this to continue in perpetuity with bored teenagers in the area.

Could the culprits be the folks that left this stuff further down the trail? Who knows?

Fortunately, I checked my photo files, and I still have a portion of the 2010 trail journal:

The wall the person on this page refers to is a wall that he apparently made with The Acres’ signature red sandstone:

Anyway, the huge bridge upstream, closer to the cemetery, is still there:


Further downstream is another bridge:

Also left over from my 2010 photos are a mysterious structure and a cart on the south side of the reservation:

I suggest that the trail journal could be started again—online—in blog form. It would be easy enough to publicize the URL with signs and visitors could simple add entries—and photos—on their smart phones or on their computers when the get home. As for trying it again, the old-fashioned way, in a newspaper box, well...YOU KNOW:

Jim Dandy Restaurants: What are They Now?

Hell’s Acres commenters have mentioned the area’s old Jim Dandy fried chicken restaurants, so here we go. They began as a Friendly’s offshoot in 1969 in partnership with Host International Company of Los Angeles.

Jim Dandy was, of course, locally famous for the hokey Springfield Indians promotion. The announcer would boldly bark out, “When the Indians get brave, you get chicken!” Get the wordplay on “Indians” and “brave”? God, how awful. “If the Springfield Indians score five goals or more and win, bring your game program to your neighborhood Jim Dandy fried chicken restaurant within 24 hours, and we’ll give you a free ‘Jim Dandy Hockey Pak,’—two pieces of mouthwatering chicken and a roll.”

The crowd at the Civic Center, as if they were at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, would sarcastically respond, “And a roll!”

There are still reminders of the old Jim Dandy’s triangle-shaped storefronts:

The corner of State and Colonial in Springfield (above)

130 Walnut Street in Springfield

The old Jim Dandy next to the Friendly’s plant on Boston Road in Wilbraham

105 Center Street in Chicopee

668 Westfield St. in West Springfield

111 North Elm Street in Westfield

The one at 333 Appleton Street in Holyoke has seen better days.

735 Blue Hills Avenue, Bloomfield, CT

The old Jim Dandy at 1051 St. James Avenue in Springfield didn’t have the usual triangle roof. It was torn down to make way for a PeoplesBank.

This photo of the old Jim Dandy at 124 King Street in Northampton I stole from Tommy Devine’s old website, in which he describes waiting in the place to make a drug deal. Despite its premise, the brief recollection is an amusing vignette.

The old Jim Dandy at the intersection of Sumner and Abbot, next to the old Friendly’s in East Forest Park, is now Sellica Insurance. Did they add on, or is it a brand new building?

There were ambitious plans to expand the franchise throughout New England and beyond, but it petered out, the last ones closing a few years ago.  In the early days there were high hopes, according to the article: “We believe in the success of the Jim Dandy formula—larger pieces of chicken, cooked by special equipment, using a special formula, producing a better product, and most importantly, priced below our competitors.”

They left out one component: “AND A ROLL!”

Talking Tree at Steiger’s

Honk if you miss Steiger’s!

“Timberlee,” the talking tree at Steiger’s, is pictured in 1978. The store began the promotion in 1970 and the voice was from singer and actress Vickie Phillips (below). She lived New York for 15 years, returning in 1985 and assuming her old job in Springfield, sitting at a table with a headset on, watching two TV monitors and relaying children’s Christmas requests to the North Pole.

 Romper Room

Are you a Do-Be?

Or are you a Don't Be?

Or are you sometimes a Do-be, and sometimes a Don’t be, but mostly just doing up Doobies?

WWLP-22, like many stations, had its own locally broadcast Romper Room. Miss Penny was the host from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Her successor, Channel 22’s third Miss Romper Room, Miss Janet (Burke), pictured above, ended up marrying NBC lawyer Corydon Dunham, according the book How We Survived in UHF Television: a Broadcasting Memoir, 1953-1984, by William Lowell Putnam and Kitty Broman Putnam.

The Missing Link, Part 2

I haven’t seen  the Missing Link of Sixteen Acres roaming shirtless down Wilbraham Road in years, but he did surface, wearing a jacket on a cold day (above) in this video taken by a guy on the side of that scary Highland Farms convenience store at the intersection of State and St. James. I’ll leave you with this mostly one-way conversation. Listen to his voice. It’s definitely him: