In the past that Friendly's was a popular place for local politicians to meet. Oh, if only those walls could talk - all the history that could be learned - and all the indictments handed down!
But the purpose of our visit to Springfield last night was not political. Instead we wanted to check out the musical show they were having at the site of the old Bing Theater, now called the Bing Arts Center. It would be the first time I stepped foot in that place in at least two decades.
When I was a kid the Bing was a popular cheap movie theater, where parents from across the city used to drop off their kids on a weekend afternoon. I remember the floors of the theater were sticky with all the soda that had been spilled on it over the years, and the joint was as much a public playground as a theater, filled with running, laughing and screaming kids. The only authority figures were 16 year old ushers working their first job who had been rowdy patrons themselves just a few years before, so the disciplinary level was always very lax. Sometimes I had so much fun I hardly watched the movie!
When we arrived we were greeted at the door by the self-described "obsessive" who is the driving force behind the new Bing - Executive Director Brian Hale. Here's a picture of he and I.
There is a small gallery of artwork featuring pieces done by an artist who uses material rescued from local landfills. It is surprisingly decorative.
Hale told me that the artwork was chosen in part because it was made by using that which was old and disused but now has found new life through the arts. In other words, the art is a perfect metaphor for the Bing itself.
The performance area is in the former theater lobby and was filled to capacity.
Refreshments were sold by volunteers.
I was pleased to see that the coffee being served was by Blue Moon Roasters, a Forest Park coffee shop that has been closed for years but whose products are still available online.
The band that played was a jazzy husband and wife act called Too Human.
The Bing opened in 1950, so nearly everyone who was a child in the Springfield area during the decades before it closed in 1999 has some memories of it. I was one of those kids, and therefore looked forward to seeing what has been done to revive the place. After the show, I imposed on Hale to show us the still unrenovated movie theater. So grabbing an industrial flashlight to show the way, Hale led us into the shadowy ruins of the theater itself.
The first years after the theater closed it was under the protection of the city of Springfield, which is the same as saying it wasn't protected at all. As a result the theater was repeatedly looted and vandalized. There was no light except that provided by Hale's flashlight, so I couldn't get any decent pictures, with the exception of these rows of dusty seats now only occupied by ghosts.
There is still a long way to go before the old Bing is finally restored, this time into not just a movie theater but a place that shows plays and concerts as well. It may take a while, but I predict that Brian Hale and his devoted volunteers will one day bring their beautiful obsession into reality.
After we left the Bing we stopped at Murphy's on Island Pond Road, where I noticed that the free paper area where I used to deliver The Baystate Objectivist is still there.
And just a short ways away is the Richard Neal for Congress Re-Election Headquarters.
State Senate candidate and Pine Pointer Tom McCarthy (right) is shown here at a recent fundraiser reading The Reminder with West Springfield State Rep. candidate Greg Neffinger.
An ominous pumpkinhead in a shop window in downtown Northampton.
Here's a video of driving through Northampton in the rain in 1988. How many changes can you spot?
A Northampton music video made at Hugo's bar in 1999.