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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Miscellaneous Shit, Part 4

The Parkway Drive-in’s grand opening in 1948 featured “Song of the South.” It closed in 1987.

The Manchester Drive-in in Bolton, CT opened in 1953 and closed in 1984. Nature took over:

Anybody brave enough to climb that ladder?

One of the old Airline Drive-in signs is on display somewhere in Chicopee. It looks like it’s in some kind of banquet hall (there is a coat room on the right). Anybody have any idea where this is? More on the old drive-in theaters in one of my old posts.

While we’re on the subject of Chicopee, here is the “new” Foggie’s. The old one opened in the Fairfield Mall in 1975—under the mall’s first liquor license. Fairfield opened in 1974, closed in 2001, and was demolished in 2004. We used to make the trek there to spend all my money on old baseball cards at the Sunday flea markets. Here are some photos of the place, which was anchored by Caldor and Bradlee’s.

The above photo is from 1990.

One of the original anchors:

Here is a tour of the old Fairfield Mall. The soundtrack seems to be a little off, but what the hell:

Once, when I was 16 (barely after I had gotten my driver’s license), my friends and I were playing video games in an arcade in Fairfield Mall when I decided that I wasn’t buzzed enough and was going back to my car to chug another couple of beers. I opened the car door after beer number two to put the empty next to the car when I saw a police cruiser go by, so I closed the door and waited until the coast was clear. The coast wasn’t clear. After I put the bottle down and started walking toward the mall the cruiser swung by again and a cop rolled down his window. 

“What were you doing in that car?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I replied and kept walking.
“Where do you think you’re going?” asked the driver, who got out with his partner and bent my arm behind my back. “You broke into that car, didn’t you?’

“That’s my car!” I said. “Ow!”

“Prove it,” he said. He let go of my arm. We walked back to the car.

“These are my keys,” I said, unlocking it. I noticed the case of beer in the back seat. Rut-roh.

“License and registration,” he replied.

I didn't have a picture license yet, just a thin slip of paper. My memory escapes me as to what color it was. I remember that the learner's permits were pink, so this one might have been green. The cops studied the paper and the registration under a flashlight and then looked at each other. Amazingly, they didn't shine the flashlight in the back seat and see our Michelob box.

“Sorry for the inconvenience,” the driver said. “We saw you open the door, and start to get out, and then you sat back down and closed it when you saw us. Why did you do that?”

“OK. We thought you were acting suspiciously. Good night.”

Inside the arcade, I told my friends what happened. They didn’t believe me. Why should they? Then again, why should I make up a story like that? Because I was a dumb teenager? Guilty. But not guilty of breaking into a car, or making up a story. Well, I didn’t care if they didn’t believe me. The problem was that I had lost my buzz in the adrenaline rush of the incident, but at least I didn’t get busted for the beer. It was time to play Asteroids and forget about the while thing until it popped into my brain 36 years later when I was writing a blog post and thinking about the Fairfield Mall. 

Ah, good old Asteroids:

Who remembers the puke machine at Riverside Park?

You could actually see the racetrack from the top of The Rotor. For those who don’t remember, The Rotor spun at 33 revolutions per minute, creating a centrifugal effect and making riders stick to the wall when the floor was lowered. There were plenty of injuries on the ride. When I was home from college, my father, a lawyer, told me that a couple of guys I knew from Kensington Avenue were suing Riverside after they got drunk and hurt goofing around on The Rotor. (I believe they tried to stick to the wall upside down and fell.) My dad defended Riverside’s insurance company in the case. I can’t remember the outcome.

Anyway, most parks got rid of The Rotor (also named the Hell Hole) after similar incidents piled up. Riverside got its version of the ride in 1958 and dismantled it after the 1998 season. Six Flags got rid of The Rotor at most of its locations in 2002 after a girl lost most of her big toe when the floor came back up at the park in Gurnee, Ill.

Unbelievably, I hear The Rotor making a comeback, and there are a few out there. Here is one at Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT, which was removed after the 2010 season:

Also at Riverside, who remembers the “Lost River” ride? You can see the rhino on wheels on the left. Other animations included the not-so-politically-correct cannibal cooking white explorers in a couple of pots. I guess this attraction at some point was called “Jungle Land.” It opened in 1962 and closed some time in the late 1970s. I had totally forgotten until I read this article that there was a “water curtain” that used to threaten to soak riders until it shut off right before the boat went through it:

Good old Laff in the Dark. We were the punky kids who used to get out of the rolling carts and run around in the dark scaring people. What the hell were we thinking?

I never knew that 11 members of the Springfield Boys club drowned one July afternoon in an East Otis pond in 1919. Eleven!

In 1982, NRBQ and David Johansen (pre-Buster Poindexter) played at our favorite university (then college) in Sixteen Acres. I didn’t even hear about this show because I was away at college.

Some might not get the delicious irony in the above photo. Despite the billboard, mobster “Big Nose” Sam Cufari used Ciro’s restaurant as a headquarters.

Bowling in The Orchard anyone?

A fight at a Sixteen Acres School dance in 1971? Say it ain’t so! Actually, this incident of March of that year might have been part of a series of fights between kids from Sixteen Acres and teenagers who hung around the old Friendly’s at Sumner and Allen. The two youths named in the above article lived on streets near that Friendly’s, and the following October, the Acres guys were in a fight at that Friendly’s, which led to the Friendly’s guys coming up to the Acres:

I’ll leave you now with a top 20 list from the spring of 1980. The funny thing is, WHYN was strictly a pop station and I don’t think it ever played “Another Brick in the Wall” or any other Pink Floyd, for that matter. We thought WAQY was bad back then, but WHYN was much, much worse.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Windsor Locks Canal Trail, Part 2

So here we are at the Windsor Locks end of the canal.

Check out the old swing bridge.

I guess it's probably the remains of this swing bridge pictured in 1909 below.  The Montgomery Mill at the end of the trail is pictured in the background.

The Montgomery Mill was a thread and yarn factory that was established in 1891, had some additions built over the years, and closed in 1989.

I took some shots of building's the exterior, including the “Hubcap Wall.”

The old mill is on the National Register of Historic Places, but three fires, including this whopper in 2006, have pretty much rendered the building permanently abandoned.

It is interesting to ride by the building and imagine what it must look like inside. Whoops, imagine no longer, because this photographer got in there in 2013:

This one is entitled “Superman Entered Here” LOL:

Here is a 100-year-old machine in the mill pictured just after the place closed in ’89.

Time to turn around on my bike and head back. Can I reiterate that this ride is absolutely stunning at around sunset?

Here we are, back at the Suffield lock. The rocky bank in the water is part of the long-breached Enfield Dam that once diverted water into the canal on the left. In the background is the 190 bridge.

In June of 1982, a bunch of guys I knew from Forest Park built a 20-foot-long raft and attempted to ride it on the river from Longmeadow to Long Island Sound. However, they didn’t know about the Enfield rapids. After they hit what remained of the dam, the raft broke up, and they were forced to swim to the shore, losing their camping gear and almost their lives. Their adventure was reported in the Springfield newspapers. The reporter interviewed one of their fathers, who mentioned something about the kids trying to be Huckleberry Finn, but they didn't know about the dam.

The dam was a wooden crib structure (consisting of criss-crossed logs with rock fill) that really started falling apart in the 1970s, but it was still about six feet high when their raft went over the waterfall. This is the dam in a 1900 photo:

Here is is in 1908:

Here is is from the Enfield side in 1900:

The Enfield Rapids, or Enfield Falls, have been the stuff of legend. Boats heading north could avoid the rough stuff and safely enter the canal and continue to the area of South Hadley Falls, where another canal allowed them to bypass this waterfall. It seems many have met their maker on this Enfield stretch, including 23-year-old Elijah Fish, who drowned on the falls on October 19, 1805, along with Hewlett Stockwell, when their small skiff overturned. Fish's fate is immortalized on his gravestone in Enfield's King Street Cemetery:

The passage at the bottom of the stone reads:

Death, like an overflowing stream,
Sweeps us away; our life’s a dream,

An empty tale, a morning flow’r,
Cut down and withered in an hour.

The passage was taken from a 1719 poem by Isaac Watts. Death sweeps us away indeed.

This is from the 2006 book Enfield, Connecticut Carved in Stone by Bob Clark:

The First Century of the History of Springfield, a book written in 1817 by Henry M. Burt, lists Abraham Munden drowning at Enfield Falls in 1644 and William Jess doing the same in 1645:

Munden's daughter, Mary got into trouble in Northampton for "wearing silk, and that in a flaunting manner" in 1676. It was speculated that her outrageous behavior was possibly brought on by her father's drowning. Fortunately, she redeemed herself by obtaining a husband the following year: 

Anyway, the dam was first breached in 1977, the same year that boat traffic through the canal was banned. There have been at least five major breaches since the 1980s, and now the dam is pretty much caput. For awhile there had been a movement afloat (pun intended) to rebuild the dam to make it safer for boating (boats scrape the bottom there between 25 to 30 times a week in the summer). The fishermen who cast their lines around there certainly wouldn't mind this: the shad that swim upstream used to be impeded by the Enfield Dam and were easily caught. Now the fish can make it all the way to the Holyoke Dam, so fishermen now head to Holyoke to catch them.

Some kayakers also recall shooting the rapids in the 1970s, and then paddling up the canal for repeated runs down the Connecticut. This stopped, of course in 1977. They'd love to be able to do this again, but they're not holding their breath, because it's unlikely that the dam will be rebuilt.

Let’s continue back to the parking area, but go past it for the last leg: under the 190 bridge…

And then the loop onto the bridge for the perfect sunset shot from the middle facing north:

This is facing south:

The path is open from April 1 to November 15 (you don't have much time left this fall), and in the spring keep in mind the potential ban on pedestrians and bicyclists because of eagle nesting, which will limit your viewing in the southern portion.

So check it out! You’ll be in good company: Charles Dickens passed through the canal on a small steamer from Springfield to Hartford on February 7, 1842 and described the trip in his American Notes.

Wisely, his boat took a right into the canal instead of going right into the Enfield rapids like my friends.

Read The Windsor Locks Canal Trail, Part 1.