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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Bullshitting to All Fields, Part 8

Masslive.com just published a series of vintage Forest Park pictures, and among them was a view of the Monkey House that I had never seen in a photo. The monkeys are on the left, the lions, tiger and the chimps were on the right—where you can see how they roped off the area due to the tuberculosis outbreak in 1974. Or so they say. Some say it was because Jiggsy the baby chimp was urinating on too many people and he needed a cool-down period.

Above is the same view, minus the cages, from last year. It’s being renovated for year-round public functions. According to the article, the facility was built in 1911, replacing the original wood building that was damaged by a fire.

Here are similar views from the main entrance side 1974 (with the roped-off area on the left) and now:

Remember the paddleboats at Forest Park? I always wondered why they stopped this activity.

Roy Orbison (not to mention Bozo the Clown) at Mountain Park in 1964

The 35-foot Indian carved by Hungarian sculptor Peter Toth (from a 14,000-pound pine tree) is installed at the park’s back entrance in 1984 “to honor a proud and noble people.” It’s name: Omiskanoagwiak, The Wolf People-Medicine Man.

Speaking of big guys, the new home of the Mutual Ford Giant/Plantation Man is Headquarters Bar in Agawam.

Snyder’s Market on Sumner Avenue in the late 1930s (above). It’s now a pre-school, but, unbelievably, you can still see the faded Snyder’s sign if you look carefully above the pre-school sign (click the photo below to enlarge it), even though it closed back in 1968, after the death of 75-year-old Morris Snyder. 

A Polish immigrant who started out pushing a cart selling fruits and vegetables, Morris built the market in 1913.

Above is his grandson Tommy standing in front of the place. It was a C.J. Roberts clothes washer parts store in the 1970s and 1980s. The pre-school serves the Sumner Avenue School, which everyone in the Snyder family attended back in the day.

The “Airwalk to Nowhere” on Main Street after Forbes and Wallace closed in 1976. It’s pictured being built, from the opposite direction, below.

Tamarack Bog, Part 3

I decided to take my mountain bike over to some of my favorite trails in the Tamarack Bog behind the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Sixteen Acres. The last time I was over there, the newspaper box that once held a really cool hikers’ trail journal had been burned and tipped over. This time I saw one standing in the distance, but alas, it has not been replaced. No journaling going on HERE.

The homemade bridge over the South Branch of the Mill River, however, is still there:

Just past the bridge were some signs of a late-night meeting spot.

I found a trail to the left (following the brook, heading south) that I had never seen before. It was in pretty good shape, too, and about a quarter-mile long, although in places it was a bit overgrown. This is it at its widest: not bad.

Dang! A pricker bush grabbed my arm and didn’t want to let go. I am outta here!

Hillcrest Park Cemetery gets its famous floral clock in 1934.

Here’s what it looked like in 1943 (above). Time flies when you’re dead.

Today’s floral clock is a far cry from what it once was.

Prime real estate!

I got my Cathedral High School brick! My good friend Stan Janek went to the demolition site, but workers were reluctant to let him grab one because there was asbestos in the rubble, but then they said, “Well, what if we turned around and didn’t see you?” That was all he needed to hear.

It doesn’t look like there’s any asbestos on my brick. Can you imagine if I caught asbestosis with it? Four years at Cat High didn’t kill me, but a brick from the auditorium (the exterior is pictured below) 34 years later puts me six feet under.

From the Facebook page Springfield, the 413 Then and Now, the demolition of Putnam Vocational High School:

…and, of course, most of Tech went down as well:

The Continental Restaurant

Above is a late 1930s photo of the restaurant on the northeast corner of Parker Street and Boston Road. I believe that’s the same building that became the Continental Restaurant in the 1950s. It’s hard to remember. The same structure is pictured below years earlier from the front as Andrew's Rose Tree Inn (the same sign reads Andrew’s Cafeteria in the above photo). It was run by Joseph P. Andrews.

While the Rose Tree was famous for Roast Duck, the Continental specialized in seafood.

The Continental, next to Pier I Imports (now Walgreens) became renowned locally not only for its steamed clams and huge portions, but also for the twin sisters who ran the place, Marie and Aurora Silva, who also ran a small trailer park in back. They were as feisty as hell and bickered a lot—part of the “show” that was The Continental. Quite simply, there are no more restaurants like this in Springfield.

It’s pictured below at the end of the arrow, above the white box-looking building that was Pier 1 Imports. You can see the trailers to the left.

The Continental closed in the mid-1980s. Aurora passed away in 2013 and Marie (below) died at 91 last June.

Liberace at Storrowton in 1972

Aerosmith played at AIC in March of 1974 and they also double-billed with Blue Oyster Cult at the Civic Center later in the year. They had gotten big enough to headline at the Civic Center in front of 6,500 fans in ’75 for their “Toys in the Attic” tour, when the Springfield crowd “greeted the group with sparklers held high in the air, lit matches, clapping, and cheering,” according to the Springfield Union newspapers. What, no lighters?

The article noted that “banks of multi-colored spotlights cut through the smoke-filled arena and flashed” as Aerosmith played. Yep, that sounds like a rock concert all right. Duh! The writer also took not of the age of the crowd—late teens and early 20s. When writing my last post, I noticed that the paper also described the ages of the concertgoers in an Alice Cooper show there in 1972—most of them were in their late teens. It’s funny, the adult world was still trying to figure out what this arena rock phenomenon was all about—what was drawing thousands and thousands of youths time after time to this den of iniquity built on Main Street. It must have been more than a little unsettling for downtown workers during evening rush hour to see these kids in various stages of inebriation congregating around the Civic Center.

Aerosmith drew a 10,000 over-capacity crowd there in August of 1976 for their “Rocks” tour. That year the newspaper noted the Civic Center’s difficulties trying to keep order because of “inadequate manpower” dealing with a “raucous” audience. The Civic center “shook beneath the stomping fans,” the writer added.

That’s not my stub. I didn’t see Aerosmith at the Civic Center until 1980, when the Springfield Daily News spelled the name of the band “Arrowsmith.” I’m not shitting you. I’m just bullshitting to all fields.

The Casino, Before and After

The original design

Poof! A skyscraper goes up in smoke.

What’s next? I’ve seen some of the latest sketches:

The casino is coming! The casino is coming! Our ace in the hole in Springfield— also known as The Comeback City. Yes, an $800 million MGM casino is going to be built in the South End/Downtown, and because of this—as well as the ongoing $83 million renovation of the city’s train station—Springfield is allegedly brimming with hope. Positively beaming, gleaming, glowing, flowing with possibilities. Maybe it is. I’m just not feeling it.

First MGM pulled the plug on its 25-story tower, which was the “wow” factor in the artist’s rendering that sold Springfield on the project. Now it’s scaling back the square footage of the whole shebang by nearly 14 percent. 

Nonetheless, I want to sense the optimism that is said to be so prevalent in my native city—to see for myself the comeback spirit sparkling in people’s eyes as they trim their hedges, water their flowers, sweep hypodermic needles off their sidewalks, and whistle “Good Vibrations” over the blaring police sirens. But I’m not seeing it. I’m not hearing it.

Oh, wait! There it is!

’Til next month folks. I’ll leave you with the lyrics to Mr. Rogers’ closing song, “It’s Such a Good Feeling.”

It’s such a good feeling to know you're alive.
It's such a happy feeling: You’re growing inside.
And when you wake up ready to say,
“I think I'll make a snappy new day.”
It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling,
The feeling you know that we’re friends.


Chris Griffin said...

The Springfield Casino; A sad, inevitable conclusion to over 50 years of bad civic decisions, political opportunism, short-sighted thinking, and pure, stupid greed.

Welcome to the reality where George Bailey was never born. Springfield should just get it over with and rename itself "Pottersville."

Randylou said...

My one and only visit to the Continental, I got treated to the Silva sister floor show when one of the openly insulted one of the customers. I'm sure it she was just trying to be funny Don Rickes style, but it understandably pissed off the customer and he left. The food was good, though, but the place was closed a few years later.

Hell's Acres said...

Yeah, and both sisters also strictly enforced the "not serving more than two drinks per customer" policy, which some weren't happy about--even though it probably saved a couple of lives.

Agawamian said...

I'm not holding my breath as to whether or not the casino will ever open. If it does, it'll be about as successful in revitalizing Springfield as Baystate West, the Civic Center (now the MassMutual Center,) and both of the new Basketball Hall of Fame buildings.

And now I read that the city is back to courting a minor league ball team? I seem to remember that was the Big Plan 25 years ago.

Hell's Acres said...

Yeah, and they would need approval from the Eastern League, because the Hartford Yard Goats will start play in 2016, and Springfield is within 15 miles of the team's audience boundary. Springfield has tried to get its minor league baseball shit together for 50 years and has failed. Don't hold your breath.