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!