The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Time for Springfield

Time for delusions.

Recently I came across a copy of Time for Springfield (above) the 1978 promotional item designed to resemble a copy of Time magazine. It was put out by Springfield Central, a now defunct downtown business group that was formed in the early 1960's primarily to promote the building of what would later be known as BaystateWest, now called Tower Square. It pretty much disbanded after that, but came back alive in the late 1970's. At the time of the promotional magazine, the organization was headed by past and future Mayor Charles V. Ryan and his executive director Carlo Marchetti.

Rising fast in the organization was the publisher of the Springfield Newspapers David Starr, at that time newly arrived from New York. A profile of the soon to be powerful player appeared in the promo magazine, where Starr's philosophy was described as "a publisher should take an active part in public affairs." (click photo to enlarge)

Just how active a role Starr would play was not then perceived, but in time he would become the dominant figure in Springfield Central and the most powerful unelected public figure in Springfield.

At that time there were two papers, a morning and afternoon edition, as seen in this advertisement from the promo magazine. (click to enlarge)

In the advertisement, the Springfield Newspapers praise themselves for the cheerleading role they played in economic development. However there was a clear conflict of interest between Starr's role at the top of the economic development group (he eventually became its president) and the watchdog role his paper had a duty to perform over the development schemes. As a result, even constructive criticism of the development plans was censored, thereby resulting in disastrous errors of judgement and lost opportunities which occurred simply because those with good advice or better ideas were shut out of the discussion if they challenged Starr and Springfield Central. Eventually Springfield Central died in the 1990's when its members finally quit in disgust and frustration over the organization's legacy of failure.

Here's the gang that couldn't shoot straight and their City Hall allies. Notice Charlie Ryan and Dave Starr sitting together in the top photo.(click to enlarge)

At the beginning of Springfield Central Ryan and Starr were great friends, but the friendship eventually soured as Ryan became increasingly alarmed by Starr and his newspaper's self-serving agenda. I asked Ryan about his split with Starr in an interview I had with him for The Baystate Objectivist in 1995. Here is what Ryan told me.

"David's an old friend, but I started to distance myself when I saw what was going on. I didn't like the type of characters he was bringing in. I said to him, "These people don't seem to be of the best caliber," and he replied, "Yes, but they are OUR people."

The magazine itself is rather dull. It has useful sections on local history and a lot of positive talk, but most of it consists of a economic development "master plan" (one of what would be many more to come) and like those to follow this one was a miserable failure. It was designed to be financed with taxpayer subsidies, which were supposed to be secured by the city's Congressman Ed Boland.

In Congress Boland's nickname was "the House Mouse," an ineffective legislator whom most of his colleagues would have considered a non-entity except for his close relationship with House Speaker Tip O'Neil, his longtime Washington roommate. At home he was much more significant as the leader of the local Democrat Party machine. Despite the corrupt political machine Boland built and his failure to bring home the bacon in ways like saving the Springfield Armoury, a major statue of the House Mouse stands in the heart of downtown. But that's typical of Springfield - the bigger the scoundrel the higher the honors.

The heart of the failed master plan was the concept of turning downtown into a pedestrian mall, as seen below. In the top picture, I wonder who would get to park in the mall's one parking spot. (click to enlarge)

It was only a dream, but Springfield looked wonderful to the city planners in a future where apparently cars drove without drivers.

This motley crew is the Springfield City Council in 1978. (click to enlarge)

Can you pick out the two Councilors who went on to become Mayor? Can you identify the one who served a year as an acting-Mayor? Do you know which one became a judge?

One joy of reading Time for Springfield is the nostalgia of looking at the advertisements in it. What isn't so joyful is contemplating how many of the places advertised are no longer in business. (click to enlarge)

On page 70 there begins a listing of some famous people from Springfield. Conspicuous in its absence is any mention of Dr. Seuss! Here is the write-up they had on Timothy Leary:

"To be born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the 1920's - well, it was a wonderful place, a cultural place - and a lot of important people have come out of the Connecticut Valley."
So said Dr. Timothy Leary, who advised young people in the 1960's to "tune in, turn on and drop out" with LSD, having dropped out of his hometown many years before.
Leary can still recall the motto of his Classical High School Principal William C. Hill, "Don't do that which, if everyone did, would destroy society."
Apparently Hill was unable to instill that motto in all of his students.

It's fun to read Time for Springfield, but there is a serious lesson there too. It was the private sector which built the downtown Springfield that is now considered its glory days. It was the public sector that destroyed it. If Springfield is ever to be reborn, then it must be the private sector that does it, and not the foolish government plans of Time for Springfield.

This car parked in Amherst demonstrates why the peace protests in town will never end.

Yesterday on my way to the bus stop at UMass I saw all this steam pouring out of every opening in the ground around the Fine Arts and Herter Hall. I guess they were just testing the heating system or something, because I didn't see any explanation for it in the media. However, it was a good subject to video.

Finally, the truth:


Anonymous said...

Hey; I hvae a copy of 'TIME for Springfield'. I believe that there was also litigation, (or threat of litigation) by TIME magazine for alleged copright violation....

Anonymous said...

I believe the threatened litigation was actually against Mike Albano, who stole the idea for a campaign piece, with a giant picture of his mug on the front.

Randylou said...

I also had a copy of that publication. And yes, there was indeed litigation, or at least a threat to litigate, by Time, Inc.

Just discovered this blog, btw. I lived most of my life in the Valley. I'd move back if it ever gets an economy again. Thanks for telling me things I'm shocked I never knew. I mean, I always knew that Springfield was a cesspool of corruption, but I didn't know all the details.

Hey, you must have few stories about that poor SOB councilman who ran against DiMauro and was railroaded out of town. Forget his name...

Tom said...

You are thinking of Peter Jurzynski.

Randylou said...

That's the guy.

I heard many horror stories of how the guy was harassed by the police and the Dimauro administration, that did everything it could to make the guy look like a loon. A friend of mine ran into him on a bus in Somerville, Mass. in the 1990s, and according to her he didn't look well. I'm not sure how that assessment stands up to the actual truth, but he was definitely way ahead of his time.

Having lived in Springfield and Worcester, and having traveled around the Northeast, I don't have to tell you that Springfield's story is hardly unique. You merely have to change the names of the players. I now live in a small town north of Philadelphia, and the same thing plays out on a smaller scale. It's bad enough that the economies leave these great urban centers behind, but they also seem to take away everyone with an ounce of civic ability and imagination.

Once again, love your blog. Count me as another fan.