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

Friday, February 1, 2013

Spitting to All Fields, Part 9

Have you seen the new Sixteen Acres sign the city put up a while ago in The Center? Springfield now has neighborhood signs in each of its sections.

I said it back then, and I’m saying it now: disco sucks! But not as much as Cyndi Lauper. What the hell am I talking about? Stay tuned.

This is a photo I picked up from somewhere purporting to be the old Dream Machine in the Eastfield Mall, but it doesn’t look right: the outside doesn’t look like the hallway in front of the former Eastfield Mall Cinemas, which was opposite the arcade. Did they bust out another wall when they renovated the Dream Machine, or is this the now-defunct Hampshire Mall Dream Machine?

Another question: when did the Dream Machine close at the Eastfield Mall? Apparently, there was an auction (above) of all the arcade’s games in 2006.

Bring back Sixteen Acres little league baseball and softball!

While were at it, bring back John Quill and his magic marker.

See the tuning fork-shaped street to the right of “Sixteen” in the old map? That's Catalpa Terrace—when it had a real terrace. Yes, a grassy strip dividing the street. When was the street reconfigured? I had also heard that Sunrise Terrace was once similarly divided, but I have a difficult time picturing exactly where.

Before it was Hot Table restaurant and GW Goodys Goodwill Thrift Store, it was Gateway Hardware. Remember Springfields New England Blades of the Eastern Hockey League?

How about those Holyoke Millers? I loved the fact that there was a running track cutting through the outfield at Mackenzie Field, and I maintain that the screenwriter for the movie Brewster’s Millions expanded on this quirk and had TRAIN TRACKS bisecting the outfield in the film.

“Relax? There's a goddamn train going through the outfield!”

When the Springfield Civic Center Rocked, Part 4

The “old” Springfield Civic Center with the outdoor “plaza” in the front before they expanded the building all the way to Main Street.

When the Springfield Civic Center Rocked, Parts One, Two, and Three dealt with some of the awesome bands that played in the building. Part 4 doesn’t. Indeed, for Cyndi Lauper, who opened for The Kinks on December 28, 1983, this was a time when the Springfield Civic Center sucked. Yes, the fans there have been known to be merciless to opening acts. I had witnessed a few of them being booed, including the Rockets, who opened for Blue Oyster Cult in 1979. I wan’t there when Sebastian Bach got hit in the head by a thrown bottle when his band, Skid Row, opened for Aerosmith ten years later, but a bootleg video of the incident went viral even before the Internet! He fired the bottle back, then jumped into the crowd, and was arrested after the show for breaking the nose of a 17-year-old girl:

I saw Brian Adams perform in front of a fairly hostile audience when he opened there for The Kinks in 1982, so it surprised me when Lauper was booked to warm up the crowd for their show in 1983. Were The Kinks trying to look good by playing after lame bands?

Fortunately, no one got hurt during Cyndi Lauper’s set—except her wittle feewings. I was about five feet from the security barrier in front of the stage when the lights dimmed, and there she was, fresh off her video Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and boy did her and her band look freaky. She was the orange-haired leader of the island of misfit toys. It didn’t take long for the smattering of boos to evolve into a chorus of thousands of angry jeers—and it was quite overwhelming. That’s the thing with a mob mentality—once a bunch of drunk fans reach the tipping point and decide to turn on a performer, there’s no going back. Cyndi and company weren’t that bad, but it was a ROCK crowd that was contemptuous of the newer MTV stars and resentful of the way the music industry was going (favoring bands’ appearance over talent), and things got ugly.

They booed. They flipped the bird. And then they threw stuff. The problem was that my friends and I were getting hit with some of the shit people were throwing. Getting bopped with crumpled cups and other PAPER stadium trash wasn’t so bad, but the hard stuff came: lighters and coins started raining down on us. And then, of course, the Civic Center’s removable plastic arm rests came down in a hailstorm. Thankfully, the only bottles I saw tossed were empty plastic liquor pint and half-pint containers, not their glass counterparts. But it still sucked. How much, we wondered, was Cyndi going to take?

Not much. At first, she tried to make light of the fan reaction. “I guess you’re not really into new wave in Springfield, are you?”

“No!!!!” came the unanimous rejoinder. More stuff started flying. She started to tear up a bit.

Then she began a slow song. Which one? At times my memory is as cloudy as the Civic Center rafters during a concert, but it was probably Time After Time. The crowd actually drowned her out, and I really thought she was going to start bawling.

Why can’t you let ME be ME, Springfield? I’m so UNUSUAL!

After about 15 seconds she stopped singing, huddled with her band, and launched into a more rocking tune. It didn’t sway the naysayers, but at least we could hear her this time. During the song, some guy next to me got bonked in the head with a plastic armrest. He bent over, picked it up, and fired it at the keyboard player, nailing him right in the chest. When the song ended and the booing resumed, the drummer—not the keyboardist—went to the front of the stage and pointed his drumstick at the armrest thrower and said, “After our set I’m gonna come out there and KICK YOUR ASS! REALLY! I’m coming! After we’re done!”

Before the show, I had made some small talk with this same hillbilly in the crowd. He was from one of those dirt towns beginning with a “W” heading toward Worcester. Warren? Wales? Ware? Where? These hicks always caused a lot of trouble at Civic Center concerts, but I thought this guy was fairly normal—until he pulled the armrest stunt.

“You got my back, right?” he said to me.

“What? I asked.

“That drummer. You with me? We’re gonna kick HIS ass.”

“Yeah…o-kaaaay. Right.”

Jesus. This guy really thought I was going to defend him as the drummer and security goons pounded him and then dragged him onstage so Cyndi could kick him in the balls?

No, the drummer didn’t go after him. Cyndi got hooted through one more song and her and her bandmates got off the stage when the pelting started again.

The Other Trail of Swears

Time to dig out the old shoebox for some photos I took nearly 30 years ago. No, this has nothing to do with the Trail of Swears to Eastfield Mall—but everything to do with a long string of obscenities uttered on our way up a mountain. During the summer of 1984 I persuaded my brother, a friend, and this chick to climb Mt. Tom with me. I had hiked to the top a few weeks before and told them there was a little sweating involved, but the view was worth it.

We met my friend at the ski area/Alpine Slide lot, and I told him to get in my car because I knew a really good trail on the Easthampton side of the mountain. The hike started pleasantly enough.

What the hell is that thing above? A ruin from the old Mt. Tom railroad that went to the summit? Something from an old logging operation? To tell you the truth, my razor-sharp memory (you know, the one that sometimes gets as cloudy as the Civic Center rafters during a concert) fails me on this one. This picture was grouped with the photos of The Other Trail of Swears, but it could very well be from the hike I took several weeks earlier, which was far from swearful. Anyone know what this apparatus was? Anyway back to The Other Trail of Swears.

Unfortunately, we got off the trail, and we soon found ourselves stumbling on rock debris that is made up of fragments of the basalt cliffs on the west face of Mt. Tom. Here is an outcropping of this volcanic rock I shot:

There are my brother and my friend, slipping and sliding, bumming out, and needing the help of their arms to stay on their feet. You can see a cliff on the top right. We would see that cliff again—up close.

Below is where we reached the point of no return. It was steep enough to have to hold onto trees, but to abandon the climb and head back down would have meant rollerskating on this crap, falling, and getting all cut up or even worse. I declared that we had to press on, head to the top, and then take a REAL trail down or walk the ski trail.

But first we had to find a pass between two cliffs to proceed to the summit—and this eluded us. We certainly couldn’t attempt to negotiate our way up one of these bluffs. (In fact, this is what a group of hikers tried to do in 2000, and they had to be rescued.) So we agonizingly made our way horizontally to the right, blundering and swearing up a storm on the loose shale. We started mini-avalanches of stones and swears.

When I wasn’t swearing out loud, I had a long, silent talk with myself: “I made a stupid goddamn mistake! We should have backtracked and found the real trail again instead of thinking we could fucking bushwhack our way up through this shit! Why am I doing the fucking shale shuffle like an idiot! Endangering others! I’m a moron! I’m irresponsible! I’m incompetent! I’m fucked! I should be ashamed of myself! Risking my brother’s life! How the hell could I take a girl up here?”

Okay. I exaggerate. The situation was somewhere between “a pain in the ass” and “danger” categories—maybe more on the “pain in the ass” side after we (hallelujah) realized we were out of danger when we finally found a traversable way to the left of the cliff pictured below.

Yes, we could finally enjoy the view—and what a vista:

No, my victims did NOT appreciate the beauty. They were exhausted and their legs were a little banged up by the rocks:

Now it was time to go down, and we opted to walk alongside the Alpine Slide. Miraculously, I found one of the ride’s wheeled sleds at the edge of the woods—someone must have gotten off the slide because he or she was either afraid of going any further, or was getting stoned in the woods, or was going on a little side hike. Who knows?

I placed the sled on the track. “This thing works!” I declared. “All the wheels work and the brakes are fine!” But no one else in my party wanted to ride it down—they thought the sled HAD to be fucked up. Why would someone just abandon it? I didn’t care. I was EXHAUSTED. A free Alpine Slide trip down Mt. Tom? You betcha. My legs were as sore as hell. I bade them adieu and told them I’d meet them at the bottom. See ya!

Did my conscience bother me? Let me put it this way: I left most of the guilt on the side of the mountain, and any that remained evaporated with my sweat in the cool breeze I felt as I coasted downhill. No, no one took a picture of me on the slide. I think you’ll recognize the real subject of the photo:

Then I waited on the deck (below), Heineken in hand purchased at the Mt. Tom lodge, for my ragged, battered, and perspiring companions.

Is the deck looking a little worse for the wear? This is a recent photo of it, which is a perfect segue into my next segment:

The Ruins of the Mt. Tom Ski Area

Below is an old Mt. Tom ski trail map and other memorabilia:

There is a surprising amount of old Mt. Tom Ski Area photos on the web, considering that the last year of operation was 1998. Why did it close? Bad weather and changing family circumstances among the owners, along with “changing demographics, and an explosion in costly technology,” according to the Sunday Republican. Two mild winters in a row thinned out the skiing crowd there, and a forecast for a wet summer of 1999, which would have dampened business at the water slide and the wave pool, was the final straw.

This site has plenty of photos of the ruins of Mt. Tom, and I use quite a few of them below. 

The main lodge restaurant and bar

The locker room

The landing pool for the water slide

The race shack (The encroaching quarry is in the background.)

The ski patrol and first aid shack

Ski rentals on the left, the ski shop on the right

Both sides of the ski school. I had heard that this structure, along with others, were burned down by vandals since these photos were taken.

Where the T bar was

The water slide launch pad

The wave pool: before and after

Having never taken a skiing lesson—and therefore perpetually stuck at the “intermediate” skill level—I basically taught myself to ski in the half-dozen times I went to Mt. Tom as a teenager. I was ill-prepared in the attire department: jeans and crummy cotton winter gloves that got instantly soaked when I fell. My first Mt. Tom experience: dealing with trying to grasp an iced-over rope tow, losing my grip, and taking out five other skiers as I slid backward.

And how about those old “beginner” rentals? The bindings were designed to release easily to prevent leg injuries—a little too easily. How many times did the boot pop off the ski as I was making a turn? Enough to turn me off to skiing until I was 24, when I warily joined some friends on a trip to Killington. Surprisingly, I remembered the basics and got down the mountain without killing myself. Now I ski every winter. Thank you, Mt. Tom, for giving me my start in skiing!

It’s unfortunate that there is no more skiing at Mt. Tom. For a while there was hope that a new ski operation would open, but the land was finally sold in 2002 to a combination of state, federal, and nonprofit agencies. The good news was that the parcels were protected from development. The bad news: the nearest skiing is in Blandford.

There I was, waiting for my car to get inspected at Boston Road Service, when I saw the old Carol Cared Cars sign. I took a photo, and there it is above, to the left of the gas pump. But alas, I was too lazy to walk over and snap a proper picture of this bizarre sign.

Thankfully, Google Maps allows me to cruise over and “take a photo” (a computer creen capture) of Carol’s latest incarnation: Fortuna Auto Sales. The shape of this sign has intrigued me since I was a kid. I always thought it looked like a cartoon stomach or kidney.

Why the strange shape? It’s like all those old drive-in theater signs: roadside curios that are beloved precisely because they are somewhat out-of-place on most roads—except in, say, Las Vegas! Presumably, these weird signs were meant to be noticed—and they were—so I guess form follows function in their case.

All right, it was bugging me that I didn’t take a good photo of the sign, but not enough to get out in the January cold and do the deed. Then, voila: I was waiting at the light, and I was right in front of the sign! I whipped out my phone. Excuse me, traffic, while I whip this out:

A large selection of ’57s to ’62s! Buy one of these babies and then arrive at Russell’s in style, leave a patch, and drag race down to Abdow’s Big Boy, and get some fried chicken.

I did some research, and prior to Carol it was known as King’s Used Car Plaza, and then King of Bay Street. The Carol name was taken in 1959, and then it was spelled Karol in 1961 before reverting back to Carol in 1967. Now that I look at the photo again, I’m thinking that originally that shape might have been a dollar sign. Can readers shed any light on the mystery blob on Bay Street?

The Blue Eagle on Worthington: THAT was a great restaurant. Is its present incarnation as Two Eagles on Island Pond Road any good? Please let me know. The photos below were taken when the building was for sale:

Now there’s a Jumbo market there:

I stole the ad below from the “You Know You Grew Up at the X If…” Facebook site:

While I’m raiding that Facebook site, here are a few more gems:

A “new” old picture of Morganetta the elephant!

The Seven Gables Motel lounge: where boozers from The Acres and Pine Point crossed paths. Casual, yet luxurious.

Ya gotta love the bands at the The Rusty Nail in just one month in 1978: The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Gil Scott Heron, Taj Mahal, Roomful of Blues, FAT, and the Pousette Dart Band!

One of the few photos of the turtle fountain in Stearns Square actually working (touched on in a past blog post). There are supposedly plans to restore this fountain, which hasnt worked in years. I’ll believe it when I feel the spray on a hot summer day.

One last Spitting to All Field expectoration: I read about the Houston Texans’ J. J. Watt hocking a loogie on the Patriots logo on the Gillette Stadium field before his team got shellacked 41-21 in the playoffs. So, in my limited Photoshop skills, turnabout is fair play, Mr. Watt. Hoccch ptoooey!