What is now known as Tommy Devine's Online Journal existed for seven years as a print publication before it went online in 1998 to become the Pioneer Valley's first blog. In print form, it was called The Baystate Objectivist, a term that was originally intended as a spoof of serious sounding media publications, back at the beginning when myself and Baystate Objectivist co-founder Jay Libardi first envisioned the Baystate Objectivist as a local political humor "zine."
The Zine Movement was the first wave of New Media, which arose out of word processing technology that enabled everyone to print cheap, reasonably high quality publications using WordPerfect and photocopying. Northampton was a regional center of the Zine Scene, with lots of zines focusing on punk rock bands. The mainstreaming of the internet by Bill Gates and Windows killed the zine scene because it made more sense to turn your zine into a webpage. Some of us then turned our websites into daily online journals or web logs - and mushing the two words together - they became "blogs" as they would eventually be called.
Anyway, I've been going through some of those old print editions of the Baystate Objectivist and been finding some interesting stuff. For example, once a year I used to do a Heroes and Villains list of what I considered the best and worst of the preceding year. Whatever one might think of my choices, they did serve as a kind of end of the year review, which makes them historically interesting in reading them today. For example, the Villains list of 1995 referred to the mass exodus then underway of the middle class fleeing Springfield:
You know who they are. They're the family that used live in that now boarded up house down the street from you. Remember, they were the ones who had their house broken into in broad daylight. The husband, you remember him, he's the one whose business closed down last year. The wife, you must remember her, she was the one who stood up at the PTO meeting and said she was fed up with the second-rate education her children were receiving in Springfield's public schools. And her kids, you remember them too don't you - you used to see them playing down at the schoolyard every weekend, before the schoolyard was taken over by the gangs.
Yep, they're gone now that family. Them and a whole lot of other families just like them. You used to see all the vacant houses, all the missing families and wonder who would go next. Now you just expect to see the moving vans. Admit it. You've sympathized with their reasons for going. Maybe you've even envied them.
But no more running. Stay and fight.
Obviously the exodus continued, and today it is Springfield's lack of a stable middle-class that is one its major barriers to recovery.
One time I asked readers to nominate people based on the question "If you were in charge of granting an award for outstanding public service to any one public figure in Springfield, whom would you choose?" My plan was to create an award that could serve as a meaningful alternative to the lame-0 Pynchon Awards, which tend to honor the most go along to get along types. No real life award ever developed, but it is interesting to see who people nominated in 1996 as deserving of a public service award, and the number of votes they received.
l. Brian Lees (14)
2. Michael Albano (13)
3. Dan Yorke (10)
4. Charles Ryan (9)
5. Kevin Noonan (7)
6. Mitch Ogulewicz (7)
7. Benjamin Swan (6)
8. Carmen Rosa (5)
9. Michael Ashe (4)
10. Bishop Dupre (4)
11. Yusef Muhammad (3)
12. Paul Caron (2)
13. Paula Meara (2)
14. Richard Neal (2)
15. Peter Picknelly (2)
16. Kateri Walsh (2)
17. Bud Williams (2)
18. Rev. Ann Geer (1)
19. Gumersindo Gomez (1)
20. Anthony Scibelli (1)
21. Craig Smith (1)
I had these comments to make about the list:
State Senator Brian Lees, Mayor Michael Albano and media personality Dan Yorke are apparently the most popular public figures in Springfield. Failed mayoral candidate Charlie Ryan still has his fans, while Kevin Noonan of Open Pantry had several admirers. WNNZ's Mitch Ogulewicz was the second media figure to make the top 10, with State Representative Benjamin Swan following. Controversial School Committee member Carmen Rosa was next, while Sheriff Michael Ashe was number nine. Rounding out the top ten was Roman Catholic Bishop Rev. Thomas Dupre.
To be nominated on this list at all is probably a meaningful complement, and others nominated by a person or two were: Nation of Islam leader Yusef Muhammad, State Rep. Paul Caron, police chief Paula Meara, Congressman Richard Neal, Peter Pan's Peter Picknelly, WHYN radio host Kateri Walsh, City Councilor Bud Williams, anti-gambling crusader Rev. Ann Geer, activist Gumersindo Gomez, State Rep. Tony Scibelli and WWLP-TV anchor Craig Smith.
Does anyone remember Craig Smith?
Not everyone was a fan of the things I did, as I'm reminded by this letter I received after a stint hosting the Dan Yorke Show on WGGB-TV in 1995:
It is my opinion that people like yourself, Dan Yorke and other whiners in the media are doing a disservice to this community with your constant complaining. I have always considered Dan Yorke a person with poor judgement, and the week you filled in for him on TV only confirms my opinion.
People like you and Yorke are nothing but egomaniacs who like drawing attention to yourselves by scandal mongering and doom saying. According to people like you, Springfield is the cesspool of New England, and those of us who own property in Springfield are not pleased by how all the bad publicity reflects on our property values.
Maybe if you would bother to take an interest in what's good about Springfield, then we could build up the enthusiasm to get this city back on the right track. If Springfield politics bothers you so much, why don't you move somewhere else? And while you're at it, take Dan Yorke with you!
Angela P. Rossen
That was a constant refrain from certain quarters in the '90's, that if you don't like what was happening in this city then you should move out. In one classic example, former School Committee member Bob McCollum, when informed by the media that people were pulling their kids out of the public schools in droves, blithely stated that Springfield would simply educate the kids that were left! Actually Springfield's political establishment was glad to see people go, even if they were the best residents who were leaving, because that meant fewer informed citizens standing in the way of the next round of scams.
Oh well, I'll continue to rummage through my vaults and show you what I find.
I'm saddened to read of the death of Edna Broska, the 94 year old widow of Edward Broska, who once ran Springfield's historic Broska Farm. It was the last working farm in Springfield, and attempts to turn it into a park unleashed one of the ugliest political episodes of the 1980's.
To read all the dirty details of the Broska Farm controversy click here.
Last night on my way home from group therapy the bus broke down and we were stranded at Big Lots Discount Store in Northampton until a new bus could come rescue us. This is Paul, from my therapy group.
The property rights of The Valley Advocate were violated by this poster that was inserted into their distribution box advertising a knight of Kinks Kovers in Northampton. Hey, ya oughta go - the kover charge only kosts five bucks kash! (klick photo to enlarge)