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

Friday, January 1, 2016

Bullshitting to All Fields, Part 9

Anybody in The Acres remember the Hungry Crane restaurant? I don’t—probably because it went bankrupt in 1968.

Here is the old Big Y on Breckwood Boulevard. The first supermarket in The Acres was a Growers Outlet across the street in the 1950s, which soon changed its name to Gateway Growers.

Speaking of supermarkets, on the right is a sign for a Jumbo food store looking up North Main Street (toward Harkness) in East Longmeadow in 1964:

Here is an ad for the 1963 grand opening of the Jumbo market in the Fairview section of Chicopee:

The Sixteen Acres Jumbo opened in what is now the Breckwood Shoppes (where Sunoco is now) in January of 1965.

As you can see from the close-up of the Fairview Jumbo ad below, there was a cartoon animal holding up balloons on the sign. You can’t see what it is, but I don’t think it was the store’s signature cartoon elephant. If my memory from the Acres Jumbo serves me well, it might have been a seal. Can anyone remember?

The back of the Acres Jumbo (and the balloons sticking up from the sign) can be seen in the background of the 1967 photo below. I won’t be able to sleep at night without knowing what animal it was holding up the balloons! Settle this once and for all and post a comment! Jumbo burned and exploded on Christmas night in 1967, which I write about in this post.

Speaking of Breckwood, here is a 1917 ad when the neighborhood was being developed. The tract’s owners, Stephen E. Seymour and Charles I. Pheland, have streets named after them in Pine Point. An estate gift from Seymour enabled the Springfield Science Museum to built its planetarium.

Did you know that FAT played at Trinity Church on Sumner in ’69? Those were the days.

From the Facebook group “You Knew You Grew Up in Springfield, MA If”: 

Yeah, this makes it look like a really nice motel (LMFAO!) Waterskiing on Loon Pond? Maybe back in the day, but I doubt it.

Some other gems from this Facebook group: 

I had seen Mother’s Finest, the opener for the Brothers Johnson, warm up for Aerosmith in the Civic Center in 1980, and they kicked ass.

Skipton’s, on the corner of Wilbraham Road and Colonial, is pictured in the late 1930s. Pictured below is when it was Stop & Buy recently.

The house next to it had burned a while ago. 

It was formerly Ross’s Spa, and in the early 1970s a new owner renamed the place the You and I Convenience Store and fortified the entrance with a backstop-like chain link fence, which prompted my brother and I to call the store “You and I and the Fence Between Us.” Now it’s called “Mommy’s.” I shit you not.

Remember these? Wacky Packages even lampooned itself as “Wormy Packages.”

I still call Kool Aid “Kook Aid” and nobody knows what the fuck I’m talking about.

Above is the old Mountain Park carousel, which is now in Holyoke’s Heritage Park. Years ago we brought our son there and I insisted on taking a picture of my finger in a horse’s mouth.

Why? To show I wasn’t afraid of getting bitten by a rattlesnake. Have you ever heard the urban legend of a boy dying from a rattlesnake bite on this carousel? It goes back to at least the early 1970s, and probably much earlier. Supposedly it came out of the horse’s mouth, but there aren’t holes in the mouths of these horses!

It turns out this story is an old urban legend that has spread about amusement parks across the country. How did it come to Mountain Park? Possibly because there are rattlesnakes on Mount Tom. Possibly because Mountain Park was always considered the poor cousin of Riverside Park, and it fits the stereotype of maintenance people doing a poor job of checking the safety of the rides. Also, there is an old ballad named The Pesky Sarpent about 22-year-old Timothy Merrick dying of a rattlesnake bite on August 7, 1761 on “Springfield Mountain” (Wilbraham Mountain). Could it be that a version of this story—a true one, by the way—was moved to another mountain? Perhaps.

But I digress. On the subject of the Holyoke carousel, here is the original Mountain Park merry-go-round building (1894) that housed a German carousel. 

Below, on the left is the bigger carousel building in 1897. It stood from 1894 until a year after the park’s closing in 1987. Originally an enclosed pavilion that functioned as a dance hall and then as an arcade, the building was modified to contain the park’s new carousel for the 1929 season.

Jay Collins, who had run Mountain Park for decades, decided it was time to close the place for good in 1987. He received several large offers for the carousel, including a $2 million bid, but that would have meant taking it out of Holyoke. He was approached by John Hickey, the head of the Holyoke Water Power Company, who wanted to keep it in the city. Collins was willing to sell the ride to the city for $875,000 and he gave Hickey a year to raise the money.

One of the carousel fundraisers was a “last ride” day at the closed Mountain Park in 1988. Pictured below are some of the 3,000-plus people who paid a dollar each to take one more spin.

Schoolchildren raised $32,000 in two weeks:

A lot of the closed park’s hand-painted figures by artist and architectural designer Dominic Spadola were stored in the 1929 carousel building:

The 1929 building was deemed too expensive to move, so a replica was built at Heritage State Park in 1993 (below), and the carousel has been there ever since.

This site has a lot of great old and new photos of the carousel, including these:

At the abandoned park, vandals torched the 1929 carousel building, along with several others, in 2002. These are the only photos I could find of the burned structure:

So go check out the old carousel some time. As for the ruins of the 1929 building and the rest of Mountain Park, they’ve pretty much been burned and cleared away. So wave goodbye to Mountain Park.

...and, ’til next month, wave goodbye to Hell’s Acres:

…and don’t forget to wave goodbye to New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski and Donald Trump!


Anonymous said...

I grew up off Tinkham Rd near Wilbraham and I'd never heard about the "Pesky Sarpent" before reading this. Feels like I should have. Thanks for sharing!

Hell's Acres said...

The area on Main Street near the Hampden line where it happened used to be marked with a Pesky Sarpent sign. It's not readily apparent how to hike in there or if there is even a trail.

abner kravitz said...

"The Brother's Johnson"? Nice use of the English language by the creators of the poster above. Sounds like they are talking about some black guy's wang. Anyhow, love the blog.

Hell's Acres said...

Yes, I should have mentioned that lol. And there should have been an apostrophe in "Mothers Finest." Reminds me of all the mistakes they made in wrestling posters and ads.

Anonymous said...

The Big Y pictured opened in 1967. The Atlantic station with the fountain opened about the same time. Except for the NET&T switch building, the rest of that corner was woods before then. The Jumbo that opened in January 1965 was the old Grower's Outlet in Gateway Plaza. Jumbo and Grower's Outlet had the same owners and the Grower's Outlet name was being retired, along with the older/smaller stores. This was the building that burned. Roosevelt Mills and the Gas Town/Gas Land/F.L. Roberts gas station were built in its place. Big Y didn't buy out Jumbo until the '70s.

Hell's Acres said...

Thanks. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of this stuff!

Anonymous said...

You may have written about this before but in the late sixties, not 100% sure of the time frame, there was a club on Page Blvd in Springfield called the Pesky Sarpent. I believe Richy Havens and some other notables played there but it was a little before my clubbing days. It was in the basement of a store that I do remember called Mark and Carl's ( again which you may have written about). Mark and Carl's used the club space as an extension of the store but if you went in to that area they did not change any of the paint or painted on signs on the walls.

Hell's Acres said...

I've never written about the club before but I remember reading about it. I believe the city came down on Pesky Sarpent because of overcrowding and drug use.

capecat said...

Love this blog. I'm still thinking about the JUMBO mascot-seal or elephant. . . I'd love to see a blog entry about Fred's Shoes on Breckwood Blvd. The store was pretty much THE ONLY place the kids in my family bought shoes. . .except for my first pair of Adidas sneakers at Steiger's! Then I went back to Fred's for shoes right through high school (1985). I don't think I have ever had a shoe salesperson spend so much time on making sure I had shoes that fit correctly.

Anonymous said...

We used to sing the "Springfield Mountain" song in music class in elementary school in Monson, albeit because the mountain is partly in Monson, but Mrs. Haendigas also had us sing "Eleanor Rigby" so I guess she had a thing for depressing songs.

I loved Mountain Park, more so than Riverside, it's faults were its charms. A similar park that I also went to as a kid was Lake Quasapaug in Middlebury, CT. It's still around and I want to take my kids at some point.

Hell's Acres said...

@capecat: Fred's Shoes is still there! Yes, I will have to write about that place.

@anonymous: never heard of Lake Quasapaug. I'll have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what I remember the Big Y looking like in 1983 when I was a freshman at Western New England. I couldn't count the number of times we walked over there for pringles, little debbie oatmeal cream pies, and coke. Plus there used to be a restaurant in that shopping center...family owned...that was pretty good. I think it may have been a pizza/sub shop. I haven't lived in Springfield since 1991 but I enjoy reading your blog and I keep pulling for Springfield to finally catch a break and start on the upswing.

Hell's Acres said...

I remember going to that pizza place a few times in the '70s but I can't for the life of me remember its name? Can anybody help me?

Joe T. said...

The Hungry Crane opened in part of the strip mall connected to the Breckwood Big Y (I believe it occupied the storefront right next to the Big Y, if memory serves me). I was 16 years old at the time and a friend of mine had gotten a job (short-lived) there but, there was never support for that restaurant and it soon went out of business. I lucked out and got a job working at the Big Y. I was grateful to have gotten the job because it was close to home (I lived off of Bradley Road) and I wanted to save money to buy a car. I remember the Grower's Outlet fire, attributed to a shrink wrap heater (used to secure cellophane over produce) that was inadvertantly left on supposedly. My friends and I all believed that it was "convenient" that that had occurred with the recent opening of the Big Y. Just saying is all!! Joe T.

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Joe T.

Thanks for the info. Yes, I remember some suspicions about the Jumbo fire, especially since there was a huge explosion.