From the vault.
Do I get mail? Oh boy do I get mail! Today when someone has a response they wish to make to something I write they usually just put it in the comments section which is accessible by the little (too little?) comments sign at the end of each post. I ask whether it is too little because recently a longtime reader informed me they had just recently discovered that you could instantly reply to everything I write.
Oh well, once upon a time this website didn't have that newfangled comments technology and people used to just send me emails. I would then put them in a special section where people could read them, sort of like the Letters section of a print newspaper. The truth is, despite being our Valley's pioneering first blogger, I didn't switch to better technology until long after it became available. I guess it was just my Irish sentimentality that made me hesitate to dump the original Geocities make-your-own website technology that was considered state of the art back in 1998 but a pitiful dinosaur by the time I finally dumped it for the modern Blogger template I use now.
Anyway, I was looking through some of those old emails, and saw that some of them are well worth drawing attention to today. I promise to go searching through them to cull the best for you, but for today let me give you a little tease of what lies within the vaults!
Springfield has had an endless stream of economic development plans, in fact there is yet another one currently underway. In every case they have ended up as doorstoppers and plant holders around City Hall. Activist Bob Powell wrote to me back in 2001 to restate the obvious once again - but which Springfield seems incapable of learning:
From: Bob Powell email@example.com
About: Master Plan
Date: Fri, 06 Jul 2001 01:16:51 -0400
Your piece on the new "Master Plan" for Springfield is right on the money. I know it wasn't Albano who started this Master Plan crap but he sure is the type to pile on with it. This type of micro managing of the market place is always doomed to failure. Just because some politician has a "Vision" to "Build" something doesn't mean "they will come". If there was really a NEED for an "Inter-modal Transportation Center", or a Market for a new Convention Center or an expanded "Basketball Hall of Fame" investors from the private sector would have stepped up by themselves to build these things and then reap the profits to be made.
Alas, there will be no profits to be made off these new endeavors. These projects are doomed to failure and will become expensive burdens on the taxpayers of the city. The only reason they are being built is because we have a Mayor willing to expropriate Millions of public tax dollars for the benefit of a few well connected people. The Mayor always trumpets his idea of using Public Expenditures to spur Private Development. This is an artificial method of development. Things are built NOT because there was a market or a need for them but simply because the Mayor had a vision and some developers wanted a taxpayer subsidy. I'm sure there will be some money to be made in the construction of these things but as far as the city as a whole goes they will be another drain on the resources of the city.
As you said, Public and Private should be separate. Let the marketplace decide what is needed or wanted in the city. If the market demands it someone will build it. If it takes 25 million dollars in grant money from the taxpayers to build it, then there was never any market for it in the first place.
Stopping all this public sponsored development would also have the positive effect of curtailing much of the reckless use of Eminent Domain. Some politicians evidently believe they know what's best for YOUR private property. It's time to put an end to that kind of tyranny.
Nothing has hurt Springfield worse than it's collective state of political amnesia. If I wasn't keeping archives, virtually nothing would exist of the modern history of Springfield politics. But just as sad is the lack of appreciation for the city's history in general. That's what makes this first hand account of a Springfield boyhood so special.
From: "David Shoughrue" firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "Tom Devine" email@example.com
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 18:37:55 -0500
I recall that Springfield in the late 40' and the 50's boasted a population of about 170,000. Of course during the WWII years the Armory was at full tilt as well as Smith and Wesson, American Bosch and many other manufacturing facilities. Westover Field was a big deal and I well remember the sky being black by flights of B-17's on their way to Newfoundland and ultimately England, Blackouts were not uncommon and the Air raid wardens in your block were making their appointed rounds with flashlights and whistles in hand.
The neighborhoods were closely knit and everybody had their favorite stores - no hypermarts of today- in our area on Sumner Ave. By the railroad tracks there was a barber, a cobbler, Lederers Bakery and the never to be forgotten Jimmy's Ice Cream Shop, complete with marble counter and round marble tables and the Bastian-Blessing soda fountain (seltzer water and all). Other noteworthy ice cream establishments of the era included Jane Aldens across the entrance to Forrest Park on Sumner Ave. and Jensens Ice Cream and Candy across from Steigers on Bridge Street.
Movies theatres included the Paramount on Main by the railroad station, Lowes Poli on Worthington Street, the Capitol at Main and Pynchon, the Bijou, the Arcade on State at Maple Street, and way out was Phillips at The X. I can remember double features for 25cents and you could stay a long as you liked - showings were continuous with news reels and cartoons and serials.
One other establishment on my hit parade was Johnson's Book Store on Main Street and they had the best Santa Claus- the store itself also featured toys and could have been the F.A.O. Schwarz of Springfield.
In the sports world we had Pynchon Park across the Memorial Bridge in W. Spfld. which was the home of the Springfield Giants a farm team for the then NY Giants- saw the likes of Willie Mays and Felipe Alou. Also the Springfield Indians were a farm team for the NY Rangers and played their hockey at the Colosseum at the Eastern States Exhibition Grounds.
Friday night high school basketball games (Classical,Tech,Cathederal, Trade) always drew large crowds at Springfield College fieldhouse. The Eastern States Exhibition was a great event and I think we got a day off from school.
Another major entertainment center was Riverside Park with its fantastic wooden roller coaster and large roller skating indoor rink which was also uses for dances at which "Big Bands" would perform.
Saturday night was stock car racing and those cars would raise dust and if the wind was right the drone of their engines would carry across the Connecticut into the South End of Columbus Ave., where also was located the Bond Bread Bakery and such wonderful aromas were forthcoming.
There is more, but I'll finish with a description of the Sixteen Acres School. It was a fairly new school in 1948 and about 1/2 to 3/4 miles easterly from the intersection of Wilbraham Rd. and Parker St. We had one teacher for the fifth and sixth grade in the same room. Miss Powers was her name and she had the ability to inspire one to learn more and go beyond the square. Thanks, and perhaps others will share their Springfield memories.
David L. Shoughrue
Happily, soon after this letter caused history starved residents to flock to my website by the thousands, Pine Pointer Mean Mary Jean petitioned Masslive.com to create a forum to preserve and discuss Valley history. To their credit Masslive agreed and now you can share your personal historic memories with other local historians by going here.
As I said, I plan to go over these old emails and pick out the gems to share with you in the coming weeks.
I went to the Farmer's Market in Amherst this morning:
Across the street Amherst College was having a class reunion. This class wore the cap and gown three and a half decades ago.
Next door to the market was a festival focusing on Indians, American and otherwise. They had some really cool t-shirts for sale.
Here's a short video of the event:
Walking home I came upon this message scrawled on the sidewalk by someone so full of the joy of life that they had to share it:
May you and I both have a day of such sentiments.