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

Monday, August 1, 2016

Miscellaneous Shit, Part 2

When they showed smut at the Riverdale and the Parkway.

Ever wonder what the deal was with that building under I-91 overpass off East Columbus Avenue? The structure, built in the French Empire style, is opposite the end of Gridiron Street:

It’s in the middle of a kind of no-man’s land and one wonders why it wasn’t torn down, like many buildings were, when I-91 was built in 1968. It turns out that it was likely saved from an appointment with the wrecking ball because it stands so close to active railroad lines, making it a pain in the ass to demolish, according to City Assessor Stephen P. O’Malley. It seems that the building was built in the 1870s a railroad control tower as was still being used in that function as late as 1990. 

I see a washed-out “74” (possibly) in one of the corner blocks. Was it built in 1874?

It kind of reminds me of “the last tenement,” a building near the Boston Garden that somehow survived the destruction of the West End in the name of urban renewal in the late 1950s:

According to one of my readers, for years, the building, also known as the Spring Tower (Amtrak shorthand for “Springfield”?), was the home of the Springfield Celery Company:

Here’s how it looked in the late 1930s, decades before its gabled roof was lopped off to make room for the overpass:

Amazingly, the building is still being used: for storage!

Speaking of relics, above and below is the old Glickman School backstop, which is looking just a little tired these days. There used to be a lot of little league baseball played there, and technically it was the closest diamond to our house, so the neighborhood kids used to cross Wilbraham Road, cut up Jonquil Drive, and check out the games.

An addition to the school was built sometime in the 1970s, which drastically shortened left and left-center field—and I believe ended organized baseball there, except for the occasional practice. Here is the view of the addition from the backstop:

The gym at Glickman used to be a good place to play basketball, until it was converted into classrooms in the early 1970s—I guess to accommodate an influx of students after court-ordered busing. Anybody remember “The Beatles” spray painted on the outside of the main building next to the gymnasium in the 1970s?

Above is the view from the backstop toward right field, where the swing set used to be. I remember when some of the older kids used to hang by the swings we didn’t dare go over there. It was their “turf” lol.

Speaking of “the older kids,” I recall the Glickman lot being quite the party spot at night. People used to pull up and park their cars there pretty brazenly, and the police didn’t roust them. We would just pass through on our 10-speed bikes—a little too young to stop and bum a beer. This is from 1978:

Whoops, maybe this driver was daydreaming of Raquel Welch when he rear-ended (pun-intended) this Louis and Clark van. Or maybe he was hunting for Pokemon.

Former School Committee member Mary M. Lynch stands in front of the former North Branch School when it was renamed in her honor in October of 1972.

For a while, these were the only two photos I knew that existed of the old State Line Potato Chips factory sign. Until, that is, the Facebook group You Know You Grew Up in Springfield If… posted this one:

Hey, here’s another (you can see it if you look carefully):

State Line started in Thompsonville (above), hence the name. Begun in a kitchen in a farm in 1919 (the ad is from 1925) by the Carville family, the company moved to Wilbraham in 1929. It went bankrupt in 1996, and consequently, the Smith Farm in Worthington, which had supplied the company with 130,000 tons of potatoes annually, went belly-up soon after. The chips are made in Canada now. No, they are not nearly as good, but if you have a nostalgia thing for the retro packaging, go ahead and munch away.

From the 1950s:

Last March, when I posted this masslive.com photo of Coliseum Charlie, the late legendary Springfield Indians fan who took off his shirt during every game, I wondered if any other pictures of him existed. And then I found one, albeit grainy, in the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle from January 9, 1975. Here he is in his usual plaid jacket yelling through a rolled-up program:

Coliseum Charlie was also known as Nine-Beer Charlie, although he was known to consume 12-15 beers a game. “I don’t count ’em—I just drink ’em,” he told the Springfield Union in 1981. He might have been the Indians most famous boozer—I mean, booster—but he was also a Rochester Americans fan. Treason? Hardly. He worked for Conrail, which stationed him in Rochester for a time, so he adopted the city’s American Hockey League team as his own, attending the vast majority of the home games. He was an Amerks fan, that is, until the Indians—or, as was the case in 1975, the Springfield Kings—played them. “If Springfield comes here, I don’t care if I have to fight 7,000 people, I’ll cheer for Springfield,” he said with a twinkle in his deep blue eyes. “The Rochester fans get mad at me, but now they know me.”

Sometimes Charlie drove a hearse to games. When he had a few too many and didn’t reserve a motel room before the game, he slept in his car. One night, he woke up in the car in a Rochester parking lot after it snowed and found “Hi Charlie” written on the back window. Good thing he didn’t freeze to death. Charlie’s beverage of choice in Rochester: Genesee Cream Ale. But when he’s with a girl, “I try to behave like an angel,” he said. 

His shirt often made its way over the glass by the end of the game, but I had also heard reports of Charlie ending up on the ice one night, and this article verifies this story with an eyewitness account from none other than former AHL Commissioner Jack Butterfield:

“One game, several years ago in the old Eastern States Coliseum, Charlie sat in a box behind the visiting goal. The boxes in that building were eight or nine feet above the walkway that separates the rink from the seats. This night, Charlie was in his usual vociferous manner. Two players started an altercation on the ice and Charlie jumped out of the box down into the walkway. He ran through the seats and somehow climbed over the glass onto the ice. And now, suddenly, in his inebriated condition, he started to run down the ice to where the altercation was. It was so funny, the audience was laughing and the players even stopped fighting.”

Charlie the peacemaker. Anyway, security guards escorted him from the building without incident. 

According to Charlie, one time players actually left the ice to come after HIM. When the Kings hosted the New Haven Nighthawks (he didn’t provide the year), Charlie and some other fans began chanting (he didn’t provide the chant). Whatever they said, it pissed off the players so much that “the whole team just came over the glass wall,” he said. I never heard of this incident, but who am I to doubt Coliseum Charlie?

“If I ever hit the big number, the New York State Lottery, I'd buy my own team and call them the Boozers,” he said to the Democrat and Chronicle reporter before taking another gulp of his Genesee. “They might not win a game, but they'd sure have a good time.”

I’ll leave you with that thought. Go Boozers!


Anonymous said...

Great post, per usual. Funny memory comes to mind. I can recall being at recess at Sixteen Acres Elementary and seeing TITTIES RULE with a crude picture next to it spray painted on the building. Mid to late 80s. Boy we need to make America great again.


Anonymous said...

Love this Blog! I remember most everything about Glickman. The baseball leagues, the swingset, the basketball hoops, climbing onto the roof and chimney, swinging on the flagpole, and of course this old backstop. I clearly remember "The Beatles" moniker on the west back wall, although I think that was more like the 60's. Sad to say it now but Glickman was definitely my turf in the 70's. I probably left the mess in the news photo and I remember Mitch the janitor seen standing over it. He hated us. Going back a bit further to one summer in the early to mid 60's, I remember the "big kids" broke just about every window in the back of the building. When I get back up there now and then and drive past Glickman I note the absence of wayward youths hanging around and I wonder why it took them so long to put up a fence!

Chris said...

I love this blog!!!! Seeing all the memories of Springfield and the glory it once had, I really am starting to think that the construction of I-91 is what lead to the downfall of Springfield

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Glickman guy. We broke a window there once. I'll have to include this story in a post!

mrh lwyr said...

I remember Charlie from the late 70s games at the Coliseum. I was perhaps 13 or so. What was "charming" then ( getting intoxicated, screaming and disrobing) is now very much forbidden, not to mention just politically incorrect. I often think back to that time in my life as just a great time to be a kid. Thanks very much for this great blog.

Hell's Acres said...

Hey mrh lwyr,

Thanks for the comment. How do I begin to explain to people how much fun it was to be a kid in Springfield back then? Wait, I guess that's what this blog is all about! D'oh!

Anonymous said...

the railroad tower was SS 274 in New Haven railroad days, and SPRING tower in the late 1960s under Penn Central.

Hell's Acres said...

I knew a RR enthusiast would weigh in on this!

Anonymous said...

I worked with Charlie for years on the railroad before realizing his legendary status. A very unassuming soul.Away from the ice, that is. And apart from the hearse. A pretty laid back kinda guy.

Hell's Acres said...

Well, he sure liked hockey. And alcohol. Don't we all? lol. It must have been quite surprising when you discovered his alter ego.

Jeff said...

I first started attending games at the Coliseum when I was probably 10 or so - late 70's. Charlie was a legend. My friends and I would laugh. When the Indians moved to Springfield, I remember him there too. Then he just disappeared. Passed away I presume. Last year I was at the Big E and went into the Coliseum. Man! I can't believe hockey use to be played inside there!

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Jeff,

Coliseum Charlie, Charles G. Thibault, died in 2007 at the age of 72. Check it out: http://hellsacres.blogspot.com/2012/11/springfield-indians-shake-rattle-and.html.

Part 2 his here: http://hellsacres.blogspot.com/2012/12/springfield-indians-shake-rattle-and.html

Part 3 is here: http://hellsacres.blogspot.com/2016/06/springfield-indians-shake-rattle-and.html.