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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bullshitting to All Fields, Part 6

Here’s a real diamond in the rough (if you can put up with the grainy photo). Posted on the Facebook site Springfield, 413 Then and Now are a few old photos of Sixteen Acres Center, including the only one I’ve ever seen of the A and P and Acre Drug, as well as the original Acres Friendly ice cream shop (above).

I had kind of forgotten about the tall edifice at the front of Friendly’s, even bigger than Giovanni’s across the street (below). It was so—I’m lacking a better architectural term here—Cape Cod-like!

And how about that the large Friendly Ice Cream sign on top? Classic.

Somewhere, in the caverns of my memory, the Friendly’s storefront was there, and it took this photo to bring it to the forefront. I remember the facade was light blue, wasn’t it? This became the Parker Lounge, or, as the locals called it, the Parker House.

Click on the photo at the top of this blog post and look to the left of Acre Drug: you can see the circular A and P sign.

This supermarket chain had its ups and downs over the years—its decline began in the 1950s, and by 1975 it hired outside management, which decided to close older stores, including this one. It became Plywood Ranch (now it's Goodwill). A and P filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2010 and reemerged, but it filed for bankruptcy again on July 19, 2015. The latest news: the company plans to close 25 stores and sell about 100 of the remaining ones.

Next to “the Friendly,” as we used to say, was Barsom Beauty Salon. The sign, I believe, read “Richard H. Barsom,” but I can’t remember. Can anyone fill me in? I will reluctantly admit that I got my hair cut a few times by Sal at Barsom’s because what barber in the 1970s could handle long hair styles in Springfield? None of them. Not Thorpe’s, not the Mall Barber—nada! And when Barsom’s insisted that I lean back from one of their chairs into a sink for a pre-cut shampoo, I felt, in Archie Bunker’s words, “as queer as a four dollar bill.”

Acre Drug’s mortar and pestle, unbelievably, are still there.

And, of course, Liberty Bakeries was at the right end.

Here is another photo from the same story in the Springfield Herald newspaper on April 13, 1967. Springfield Herald? Never heard of it. This does contain the only other picture I’ve seen of the House of Television sign.

The first HOT sign I published a few years ago after contacting Adam Feldstein, the son of the late HOT owner Moe Feldstein. Adam provided me with the photo below.

Adam’s sister, Tracy, said that Moe was a Super 8 enthusiast, so I immediately inquired about the possibility that he had taken film footage of the sign’s H-O-T, HOT HOT sequence. That would truly be the Holy Grail. She didn’t remember seeing any—or any other photos of the HOT sign, though she said she would look, even though it means going into The Box, “a crazy time warp journey that messes with my mind,” she said. I wonder if she ever got around to taking the lid off the box and rummaging? If anyone out there knows Tracy, tell her we need more photos of the HOT sign, or heaven forbid, film!

On the left of the House of Television was of course the old Gulf station (Pride is there now. It was known in the newspapers as “Sixteen Acres Gulf” or “Parker Gulf,” but we always called it “Bing’s Gulf” after the owner, Bing Taylor.

The Springfield Herald article goes into a “community renewal” program as The Acres experienced some growing pains in ’67. It notes that the Center is unattractive and that traffic and pedestrian circulation there is poor. Well, not much has changed in that department in nearly 40 years. I just LOVE heading east in the left lane through the intersection of Wilbraham and Parker and getting stuck behind someone taking a left into Dunkin Donuts or one of the other establishments. Inevitably, the turn signal comes at the same time the driver stops. Put your blinker on earlier, so I can get around you, you idiot!

And how about the people trying to take a left out of Dunkin Donuts during morning rush hour? Do you think I give them a break and let them cut me off? I’ve got some bad news for you, Sunshine. This is my policy:

“Oh, come on!” They say. “You’ve got a red light! Why are you being such a traffic Nazi? Can’t you just leave a space in front of you so I can inch my way over to the other side of Wilbraham Road and delay you and all the other motorists around you?” My answer: 

“But I’m in a hurry! Can’t you just let me go and cut off three lanes of traffic?”

Wow, I went off on a bit of a tangent there, didn’t I? Below is a Springfield Herald article from 1960 about the fate of the original Sixteen Acres School next to the fire station.

Built in 1861, Citizens Hall housed the Sixteen Acres School until 1933 and was used as a community center until it was razed in 1960. I had assumed they tore it down because it was structurally unsound, but it looks like the fire department wanted it out of the way, despite residents’ opposition. Here is another photo of the building:

Cabin Fever

Two years ago my sequel to the Roach Motels post included the Pine Tree Motor Lodge on Boston Road in Wilbraham (below), which seems to have fallen on hard times—at least since I moved back here eight years ago. 

The photos prompted the granddaughter of the original owner to send some old photos and inform me that she has memories of a happy, fun, family-centered life at the Pine Tree during its better days. “I prefer to remember Pine Tree Motor Court with my relatives and siblings, proudly standing in front of the pristinely white painted, well-kept cabins, with the promise of a welcome smile for all visitors and weary travelers,” she wrote.

Check out the pine tree on the cabin shutter behind them:

Her parents bought the property from her grandmother, who moved to Florida. The house (pictured brand new below) and the three accompanying cabins—there were seven eventually—were built in the mid-1940s by her grandmother.

The house doesn’t look that bad, but the cabins—jeez. The see-through sign out front is a nice touch. You can also view from this angle several cabins in back:

Below is the original neon sign.

It’s tough to say how long the original sign lasted—her parents sold the business in 1962-1963 and they all moved to North Carolina. Her father, who worked at the Alamac Knitting Mill in Ludlow, was tagged to help open a new factory in Lumberton, NC. He had built the final four cabins.

You can see a Pine Tree sign in this Pizza Pub photo from the 1970s—it’s across the street (on the right, although you may be looking at the girl with the knockers on the left). That sign difficult to view, but it is definitely not the original, so it must have been replaced at one point.

Her dad also built a shuffleboard court in back of the cabins, as well as a dozen or so Adirondack chairs on the property. “My mother basically ran the business for my grandmother,” she wrote. “This included caring for three children (at the time), cleaning all the cabins, washing, ironing all the linens, greeting all guests, 24/7. It was a tremendous amount of work, but done with a great deal of pride and enthusiasm.”

In the oldest sign photo you can see another cabin across the street, behind her grandmother’s shoulder. You might even be able to make out, between the Coca Cola signs, “Mountain View Cabins.” That was another business and the Pine Tree’s chief competition.

It’s important to take note that back then there were many more cabins, hotels, motels, and inns on Route 20, when it was the main route to Boston before the construction of the Mass Pike in the mid-1950s. Indeed, you see plenty of abandoned pre-Pike motels, restaurants, and snack bars on the road in the small towns on Route 20 between here and Worcester. Now the Wilbraham Inn in front of Home Depot is the only one left in town. Is the Pine Tree still in business? I see a car or two over there once in a while. Unfortunately, according to GetMyHotel, you can’t book a cabin online.

“Just for the record, Pine Tree Motor Court was once a fine, honorable establishment and part of a memory which I will always cherish,” she wrote.

Other places to stay in Wilbraham years ago included the Auto Inn, across from Nine Mile Pond, next to what is now Luzi’s Auto Body:

Manchonis Lake is the old name for Nine Mile Pond.

The Old Reliable Auto Inn became Sullivan’s Auto Inn, which was a tavern/tap room in the 1940s and 1950s. According to a site called Rocketroberts, Nine Mile Pond beachgoers used to “hot-foot” it across Boston Road, go to the back door of the Inn, and return with cold beverages. It was torn down in 1965.

The nearby Lake View House (below) in Wilbraham was across from the Lakeside Restaurant (now the Anchor House).

What later became the Lake View Tourist Court also had a restaurant. I’m not sure when it closed, but it lasted at least until the 1970s. In 1986 it was on the market for a buyer:

Now the Roche Associates have an office there. It looks like some of the Lake View was torn down or modified, but you can see the four brick cabins in the back—one is a garage.

The Collins Inn and Livery Stable was at the corner of Boston Road and Chapel Street in Wilbraham, where the Citgo Station is a little west of the railroad underpass, next to the Tap Room:

The following photo is of the Collins Inn in 1901. Built in 1874 by Warren Collins—he ran a stagecoach between Wilbraham Center and North Wilbraham—it was converted into apartments, probably during the 1930s, and torn down in the 1978.

The Collins Inn’s livery stable is below.

A world prior to the Mass Pike— just the Boston Post Road as the main east-west route to Boston—is almost beyond my comprehension. But there were places for the tired vacationer to go, like:

The Ranch House in Springfield! Its latest incarnation finally closed, apparently, from a photo in Tommy Devine’s Baystate Objectivist blog. Yes, the place’s first incarnation, Trase’s Motor Court, predates the Mass Pike. It was that old.

Anyone remember this sculpture in the Eastfield Mall? I had wondered what happened to it, and a Google search reveals it’s now in Harry Wilf Park in Jerusalem!

The Crumbling Campanile

Also courtesy of Springfield, 413 Then and Now, the strips of black black webbing on Springfield's Campanile tower prevent the corroding limestone from falling off and hurting someone.

I heard the damage was bad, but holy shit! Please someone tell me this was photoshopped.

It was built in 1913.

Take a tour inside Springfield’s Campanile tower:

Okay, back to The Acres for one last flashback: they’re building a house on the old Broska Farm land on Wilbraham road next to Winterset Drive. Look what they found on the property: an antique tiller!

You can read about the city’s shady dealings on Broska Farm in the late 1980s here

Well, I’ll all done for the month.


Anonymous said...

Is it true that the campanile was a terrorist target back in the twenties??

Hell's Acres said...

A person named Ortie McGanigle planted a bomb when it was under construction in 1911. It blew a hole in the wall, but the tower survived. Here is a masslive.com story on the bombing: http://www.masslive.com/history/index.ssf/2014/03/notorius_bomber_ortie_mcmanigle_failed_in_blwoing_up_springfields_camapanile_more_than_a_century_ago.html

Anonymous said...


don g said...

the ranch house... I remember when it was called tracys motel. 1954-55. we would go to mass at OLSH on first fridays then rush over to tracys for breakfast, then return to school at OLSH. OH how I hated that school. those nuns were sadistic bitches..

Hell's Acres said...

Was it Tracy's or Trase's?

Anonymous said...

The neon roof sign next to Friendly's was for the Ralph N. Bacon photography studio. They had moved to 67 Granby St. by 1983.

Anonymous said...

The sign in the background in the Pizza Pub photo was for Howard Lumber Co. The original Pine Tree Inn survived into the 1980s, repainted white at the end. At some point in the 1950s or early 1960s , a flashing red ball with a bunch of tube-shaped light bulbs was added. Like the rest of the motel, this ball fell into disrepair as the bulbs burned out, one by one.

Hell's Acres said...

Thanks for clearing that up. I knew there was someone out there with some memory of the Pine Tree sign.

Hell's Acres said...

OK, the Ralph N. Bacon photography studio. It's all coming back to me now!

Anonymous said...

I think that the Springfield Herald may have been better known as the Shopping News. It was a precursor to the Reminder. Could be wrong, have been before!

Agawamian said...

I remember being stopped at the light on Boston Road and watching the H-O-T sequence blink over, and over, and over. This was usually just before or just after the holidays, when we absolutely needed to get something over at Eastfield Mall or at Lechmere's, so the traffic was atrocious.

Regarding the Campanile, that era of stone and steel frame construction is prone to failure just like the ones you see. The steel structure is rusting and expanding, and pushing the limestone off the building.

Parker House said...

Hey Hell's - thanks for the shout out. Can I make a request for a Looney Tunes short in every post?

Hell's Acres said...

@parkerhouse: I'll see what I can do. Warner Bros. routinely deletes bootlegged Looney Tunes cartoons from YouTube, however.

Parker House said...

Don't they know who I am?

Hell's Acres said...


Parker House said...

Apparently a made up avatar for a local blog, no matter how self important and self absorbed that avatar is, doesn't count for anything anymore.


Hell's Acres said...

@Agawamian: MGM should pay for part of the Camanile restoration!

Agawamian said...