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

Saturday, November 1, 2014

SHITTING to All Fields, Part 10

I went to the Big E this year for the first time in more than 30 years, and it was pretty much how I remember it: the place smells like farm animal feces and you run out of money in 20 minutes. The only change was not sneaking in this time. Does anyone remember the long line to sneak in along that chain link fence that extended into the swamp? You had to grab the fence with both hands while your feet made their way along carefully placed rocks in the water. Then the fence ended and you simply swung around and repeated the task on the other side, following another line of rocks, until you were home free (literally) on dry land.

It’s pretty funny how some things remain the same at the Big E after three decades, such as fried dough and corn dogs.

Hey, that one looks just like a…

No wonder chicks dig ’em.

Um. OK, then. Moving right along. Nothing to see here.

There is yet another theory of the identity of the “Woody Allen Umpire,” who I saw get jumped and smacked around by an irate fan at Kiley Junior High School in 1974. A commenter recalls watching a game at Hoarle Field behind the Greenleaf Community Center in 1977 or 1978 when a Woody Allen-looking ump “was jumped and beaten by the father of one of the players,” he writes. “Could this be the same guy?”

No, he wasn’t hit over the head with the Hoarle trophy. I did a little research, and the guy the commenter refers to is still umpiring high school softball games! He is pictured below. If this was the Woody Allen ump that I remember, he must really like officiating, because he’s still at it 40 years later despite two beatings by fans in his salad days.

Speaking of Sixteen Acres fields, below is Johnny Pesky and a couple of Acres lads in the late 1970s at Friendly Field, which is now a parking lot next to the library. What’s missing is the psychedelic Greenleaf Park sign over Pesky’s left shoulder. Maybe it was in for repairs or down for good. Check out Pesky’s “Sambo’s” hat—quite possibly he was in town to promote the Boston Road Sambo’s across the street from the Henry VIII strip club. The Sambo’s chain never really got over its controversial name, and it was bought by Friendly’s in 1983.

While I digress, below is a photo I had never seen before of the original Friendly’s on Boston Road. Next to it is Charles Holland TV and Appliance, a Pine Point institution in the 1950s and 1960s.

Which Side Are You On?

On the subject the feud between the kids from our side of the Sixteen Acres pond Putnam’s Puddle (Sunrise Terrace) and the guys from the other side (North Brook Road), yet another tale! A commenter who grew up on Sunnybrook Road had many friends in the Lumae Street and Prouty Street areas, and they used to go “down the pond” as we used to say:

“We would hang out on the Sunrise side and get harassed by the burnouts on the other side by the boat launch (who were 4-5 years older than us). One day we got so sick of their shit, we waited for them to get on that stupid raft, and we bombed them with rocks and bottles, called them pussies and dared them to come do something about it (knowing all the while that we could easily get away long before they had time to navigate to shore). Plus we knew they were way to stoned to matter anyway. So we’d wait a week before coming back, then repeat the attack. LOL. They never caught up with us.”

The rivalry between our side of the pond and the “Other Siders” is written about in great detail in "A Sixteen Acres Pond Suddenly Vanishes, Part 2" and in "Shitting to All Fields, Part 5." Did you ever go down to Putnam’s Puddle to fish or hang out? I have one question for you. Were you on the Sunrise Terrace Side or the North Brook Road side? It mattered:

Old Forest Park Zoo

More great photos of old Forest Park Zoo animals from the Facebook site “You Know You Grew Up in Springfield, Massachusetts if.”

I don't remember the crocs, but I remember the rocks!

Holy shit! The guy who posted the photo claimed that the only person who could touch Snowball was his grandfather (pictured). OK, the guy knew her from when she was a cub, but Jeez. From the look of the car in the background—and from his contact with Snowball—this picture must have been taken before April 17, 1972, when she chomped down on a 16-year-old girl’s arm and got a bullet in the head, courtesy of the Springfield Police.

In Search of Bunny, Chicopee’s Ambassador

Relying on Google Maps, I thought that I possibly had a picture of Bunny, a Chicopee institution who many of us remember used to “direct” traffic on the Chicopee side of the Singing Bridge. He moved his act to the corner of Dale and McKinstry in Aldenville, but alas, the person I had in mind turned out to be a crossing guard. Or was it? Check out that cross shadow on the tree. I know it’s from the sign in front of it, but...pretty fucking weird.

I “searched” Bernie’s usual haunts, but I couldn’t find him. The Lucky Strike:

The Copperline Eatery:

Even his group home on McKinstry:

A commenter even wrote on my original post that Bernie “Bunny” Murray had died, but I’ve learned that, on the contrary, he is very much alive—at 70 years young. Apparently, his mother was getting old and decided that he should learn to be able to live “on his own” as much as possible—hence his move to the group home. Sure enough, his mother died on January 21 and his brother, Jim, died on June 13. Believe it or not, he is so loved that people in Chicopee have even contacted the mayor’s office to erect a statue or have a street named after him.

The first honor he received was his Chicopee Comp jacket, which in 1980 the high school band gave to him with “Bernie” emblazoned on the front. It’s getting kind of old, and word has it he wants another Comp jacket.

But where is Bunny on the Internet? I’m too lazy to drive all the way over to Aldenville. But wait! I don’t have to! Someone on the “You Know Ya are from Chicopee” Facebook group stalked him in front of his group home and posted a picture of him:

Next time you see Bunny, honk, and you’re sure to get a wave, a round of applause, or a fist pump.

Some Drive-in Memories

Yes, this couple got married at the West Springfield Drive-in on June 30, 1953.

Here are some old postcards of the Wilbraham Motel—now the Wilbraham Inn—where from the rooms facing the Parkway screen you could catch the movies with the sound wired into the units.

Little did I know, however, that you could also catch a church service there 40 years ago. Here’s an AP story from June 17, 1974:

Motel Guests Offered Church

Robert Chapman, owner of the Wilbraham Motel here, is offering something new for Sunday guests. Eighteen of his motel’s two dozen rooms have picture windows looking out on an adjoining drive-in theater. The rooms are even equipped with the theater’s speakers. Starting next Sunday, the Rev. Darryl L. Larson of the Evangelical Covenant Church will begin conducting Sunday services at the drive-in. 
The Rev. Larson said the services are designed to attract people who would not ordinarily dress up for church. Chapman decided to take it a step further. His guests not only won’t have to dress up, they won t have to dress. They will be able to watch the services from bed. “We think this is something unique in the country, something nobody else has to offer,” says Chapman.

More theatres (the indoor kind): 

The Jefferson in the North End. By the bitter end it was showing porn.

The Grand in Indian Orchard

The Bing without its iconic neon sign

The Allen & Cooley became Mikara’s nightclub.

Francis A. Curran, manager of the Arcade Theatre on State Street in Springfield, and Harry Schwab, manager of the Paris Cinema in West Springfield, get out of obscenity charges for showing I Am Curious Yellow (1969) and Andy Warhol’s Trash (1971), respectively:

Springfield Plaza Cinemas says goodbye on February 27, 1987.

I had already posted a photo of the old B & M Golf on Boston Road (above), but here are couple of new ones below.  I remember the miniature golf course, but apparently there was also a pitch and putt there. THAT I don’t remember. Anyone play there? Enlighten us all!

Gateway Barber is back at the Breckwood Shoppes! It moved across the street decades ago and did business as the Breckwood Barber Shop after "that Gas Land bastard" landlord had jacked up the rent, but it has returned.

Another return: The Fort, reopening on November 26. The undated photo of the old entrance includes neon signs for Schlitz, Hampden Lager, and Ballantine’s.

Another institution coming back: Rice Fruit Farm on Main Street in Wilbraham, which closed five years ago.

There have been delays, but the building has been renovated, and we’re waiting for this place to get going again! We want cider donuts! This is the original Rice Farm stand before the large building was erected:

The old sorting shed:

Back in the day, the peaches made their way through The Acres by wagon all the way downtown to the H.P. Stone Company at 55 Lyman Street. By the 1970s, Lyman Street was known for another kind of “produce.”

Before (above) and after (below) the renovation. The roof was fixed, the windows look different, and the wood is lighter. When is it going to open?

One last “shitting,” this one is from the John Waters movie Pink Flamingos. I hope you’re not eating, because Divine sure is. And (s)he’s not eating peaches! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Anonymous said...

I also went to the Big E this year for the first time in 25 years. The wait to get in was horrendous and it is expensive, but the kids loved it. It was much as I remembered it.

Randylou said...

I do remember the pitch and putt on Boston Road, but I don't think I ever played it. The only P&P course I remember playing was the Fenway in East Longmeadow.

I have yet to return to the Big E after my last real visit in 1982. And from what I read about it these days, I'm hardly compelled to make a return anytime soon.

Kelley McCormick said...

Even after thirty years, I would feel the need to sneak in. Not easy to get the wife and son to climb over by the RR trestle, but the tradition lives! Did anyone suggest "Birdie" Connery as the umpire? He was omnipresent in the 1970s Littke League. He was hpthe son of Hawk Connery.

Hell's Acres said...

OK, since we're naming names, the three names that surface in the comments were Birdie Connery, Al Markman, and Michael Smist. All three were controversial and wore those glasses.