Tuesday, July 29, 2014

***Ain’t Got Not No Time For The Corner Boys-With George V. Higgins’ The Friends Of Eddie Coyle in Mind

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Every kid, every “the projects” kid, a kid who would have to know this bit of urban legend wisdom sooner rather than later, know there was “no honor among thieves,” in order to survive out on the edge of society down there where the line between the lumpen and the downtrodden working poor (or can’t work poor) is blurred, very blurred. Know this by heart, by gut, in order to survive childhood in one piece unless he was “connected” or was tough enough, or had a brother or brothers tough enough to protect him. So would every triple-decker Southie/Dot/North Cambridge/Somerville/Revere and on and on Massachusetts Mom and Pop variety store holding up the wall looking for the heart of Saturday night corner boy, ditto on the “no honor among thieves” wisdom. Ditto too on the survival part. All knowing too that that principle though applies as well to “hit” men, stone-cold killers, grifters, drifters, midnight sifters, gunrunners, heist artists and every con man who walks the street going whatever his con is. Those young guys know deep in their hearts, and if not somebody better embed it there, just like Eddie Coyle knew, Eddie “Fingers” if you forgot his real name, and just knew him from his small reputation as a part-time stand-up guy, that despite all that stuff about the sanctified lumpen brotherhood down there in the grime of society, all that noise about keeping the faith as a stand-up guy if you want to stay in one piece, above about not being a “snitch” each of those projects boys or corner boys (could be the same depending on your town and its social structure) has to learn, and maybe the hard way, that down at the bottom of society, down there where the working poor meets the non-working poor meets the bottom feeder, what, Karl Marx, and not just him, called the lumpen that it is dog eat dog and the survivors move up the food chain.

And see the cops, the guys who deal with all of this one way or another as part of their jobs, who maybe lived in the projects coming up themselves or held up some corner storefront brick wall, work that knowledge to their benefit. Work each freaking guy up against it, each guy looking at some serious closed-up and forgotten time, each guy who comes up against their justice system and if you are a projects boy or a corner boy you will come up against that system if only for a search and frisk for being a po’ boy, to sell-out whoever and whatever he can to get right with whatever governmental agency has him by the cajoles. Not only do the cops know this but the guys who prosecute the cases for the government, you know the D.As. (really the Assistant D.A.s except in high profile cases),the judges, the jailers, and the constitutional law professors, most of whom did not come up that way, all know this. Laugh among themselves over drinks about how some poor snook could not figure out the fact that he was being used as an experiment in their “snitch” manipulations (mainly how to get those dockets cleared before noon day after day with ninety-five percent plea outs). The only ones who don’t know, or maybe do a little but don’t know the extent of it, are the average citizens who get bopped on the head, get their cars stolen, or get burgled.       

Hold on though there is another group, well, maybe not a group but a few guys anyway, smart guys in all ways, all important ways. Those of course are maybe guys who used to be in law enforcement now working as security for private businesses, maybe guys who used to try the cases for the government (or better get a negotiated plea out) now in lucrative private practices who make it their business to know so they could use that information when they went out and got real jobs, or maybe write about it, to wise the public up every once in a while.

That’s what this guy I knew once did, the late George V. Higgins, a guy who worked in the Attorney-General’s Office in Massachusetts and when he got tired of that moved up to the “bigs” in the federal district court in Massachusetts. Kind of a stand-up guy in his own way if anybody is asking although as far as I know he always had his nose in a book. He said one that he had done a little corner boy stuff and although he was a “projects” boy he gave up the thrill of the criminal life that beckoned to every corner boy early and from there went straight to the head of his class.

So George knew his stuff, had as they say “seen it all” and while he worked for chump change in the government he made a good living at writing the stuff up later because he knew his former low-rent “clientele” that wound up coming before him for a deal, looking for help, and ready to give up their acquaintances, their close friends, their relatives, hell, their mothers if it would get them out from under some long stretch in Cedar Junction, the old MCI-Walpole or you name your MCI, or down sunny “club fed” Danbury in Connecticut. Knew the Eddie Fingers of the world. Better, had a close ear to the way they talked, talked to each other, talked to the coppers, talked to the bench but most importantly knew how their minds worked, how they skittled the truth, on the job and off. Higgins knew too how to make a lot of guys at Sculler’s over in North Adamsville, guys like me who worked in that town and liked to stop off for a few after work, laugh that knowing laugh about that “honor among thieves” stuff.  (One time he said that North Adamsville was where he was originally from, or so I heard, and so he liked to go back to the old neighborhood taverns looking for “color.”)

I remember one time, it have to have been about thirty or forty years ago, Higgins came dragging his ass into the bar one night after some hardball case for the “feds” whom he was working for then had finished up, had become “case closed” and he was in an expansive mood so he just let it rip. Wanted to give out on about the 227th version on the “no honor among thieves” thesis. So somebody bought him a high-end Scotch (I forget the brand but he always drank high-end liquor in those days).  See he had been (as had me and a few other guys there listening) a corner boy himself and so could see where going off track might lead, had been in thrall to the “life” for a while until he figured the percentage differently from those corner boys who he grew up with and who choose a different “career” path ending up doing plenty of collective “hard time.”  Yeah, that night he told us about old Eddie Coyle, old Eddie “Fingers” who the day before had wound up face down with about nine slugs in him in the front passenger side of a stolen 1970 two-toned Chevy over at the Fresh Pond Shopping Mall in Cambridge as the prime new example he could give about that honor among thieves stuff.

George didn’t know much about Eddie’s early life but he guessed that like a lot of guys who came of age in the 1930s and 1940s, guys from  Eddie’s “class” like Whitey Bulger who they just grabbed recently, a couple of years ago, grabbed good Eddie started early. Figure: probably a drunken father (like George’s had been, that was the first time I had heard that) who did, or did not beat, the kids (and wife) after a three day toot and who did, or did not, drink away his weekly wages leaving said wife with many empty envelopes for the “on time” bill collectors and repo men but who in whichever case applies was AWOL in bringing up sonny boy. Figure: a nagging mother (who despite the beating or short money would not leave her man, where would she go?) who kept sonny boy in tow for a while with “you do not want to be like your father” but who when he came of age turned more and more like his father-except he was in thrall to easy money, easy money “found on the ground” not whiskey. Figure too: too many kids in the family, too little space to breathe, always climbing over or under somebody, and the kicker- a serious wanting habit that never left him because there was too much to want and not enough to pay for it. Yeah, George did not know every detail, every Eddie detail but those of us on the stools kept nodding our heads as he spoke.

How to get that easy money though. Maybe Eddie started, you know probably with the “clip”, the “five-finger discount” at some cheap jewelry store downtown (and probably for some young girl that he was smitten with and had no dough to buy some harmless trinket. Little did he know then that there was not enough dough in the world when his women got their wanting habits on. That hard-bitten knowledge came later.). Kids’ stuff for kids’ eyes. Later when more serious dough was needed  maybe a quick Mom and Pop variety store robbery throwing a scare in the owners but no weapons (and not in the neighborhood either-funny about the “code” you did not hit the neighborhood stores but some other neighborhood stores with the same hard-working up against it small owners were fair game. Worse though was when the drugs came and distorted a lot so even locals were hit. But in Eddie’s time-stay away).Maybe some silly petty larceny thing finally graduating to more dough armed robberies, selling stolen goods, selling dope, maybe selling women who knows. The way George got to know Eddie though was as a gun-runner, one of the best in New England, and one of the surefire ways to get yourself before the “feds”-if you were looking for a way.








What Eddie was though, and here he was and is legion, was a career “soldier,” a guy just trying to do a little of this, a little of that to keep the vultures from the door. George said looking at photographs of Eddie when he was younger he looked pretty tough, but also a good- looking guy that would be spending a lot of time buying trinkets for one frail or another. George said think of maybe a young Robert Mitchum, all cleft-chin, barrel-chest, a mass of dark hair, and a little sneer that women, some women anyway, usually make it their business to take off a guy when they have a different set of wanting habits on. They would never make a movie of Eddie’s short unsweet mournful life but if they did he would suggest Mitchum for the role hands down.     

Yeah, so Eddie was just a guy doing the best he could, not an educated guy but “street wise” enough to get noticed by guys who notice such things. (Eddie dropped out of high school over at Rindge Tech in Cambridge after his first successful armed robbery and after he nearly beat one of the teachers, a shop teacher, to death when he asked Eddie where he was going with all shop materials in the back of his car after school).  Most of the time whatever caper he was on worked, a few mishaps, thirty days here, six months there and then back to the streets, back to the “this and that.” But here is where he got dragged into the “code.” One time he was look-out on an armed robbery of a department store on payday. Something went wrong and the guys who actually were to pull the robbery off fled leaving Eddie holding the bag. Eddie was left “holding the bag” (had a weapon on him as he was approached by the called cops.) Eddie, knowing the guys he was working with were “connected’ did his first stand-up guy routine-got a year and served six months. He would stand-up some more later but what was important was after that time, after he proved to be a stand-up guy, was when he began his career as the “armorer” anytime somebody needed some “clean” guns.   


But see guys like Eddie are street smart, or better be if they expect a longest career, but not smart, smart, not covered with about eight layers of protection before they might have to take the big fall, not brain smart and so guys like Eddie make mistakes, and certain mistakes cost a guy. That is how Eddie got his moniker. See mostly Eddie was after that youthful mishap stuff, that 30 days here, six months there stuff, a gun-runner, a job which means that he was “connected” if only by a “banker” to guys who mattered. Eddie was the guy who, if you were “connected,” could depend on to get guns for your caper and then you dump them in some river, any river and nobody was the wiser, no cops anyway. That was what Jimmy Smalls did, the case that later put Eddie face down, when he thought up his string of quick armed robberies and then fade out but needed a ton of hardware to pull them all off.

So there was always a demand, especially for guns that didn’t blow up on you when you used them, or blow up on you with a “history” (you know stolen, or from some government inventory storage, or used in some traceable criminal act if you got caught). Eddie made that mistake, once. See Eddie was supposed to give the good-housekeeping seal of approval on all the guns he sold, was to make sure that those guns had no history, had not been used before in some traceable criminal activity. That one time he got sloppy, dealt with a dealer who claimed the guns were clean (Eddie was always the “middle man” on these deals. Like George said where would he get guns, clean guns on his own.). Billy Banks, the old-time bank-robber (who like the more illustrious Willy Sutton said he did it because that was where the money was. Nice) depended on an Eddie gun, got into a squeeze with the “Feds” and found out the gun had been used in an unsolved murder. Well, Billy, who was connected from way back, was not going to be the guy who got the lesson. Our boy Eddie was. Here is how “connected” justice works though. They took Eddie’s hand (nicely giving him the choice of which one) and slammed it into a drawer-hard. So Eddie, now Eddie Fingers, had a grotesque set of knuckles on one hand ever after. Hence the moniker.                 

After that object lesson Eddie became cautious, much more cautious, for a long time. Like a lot of career guys, soldiers, he got married, had kids and so he needed a steady flow of cash and the gun trade was somewhat seasonal. So he branched out a little, worked a shipment of stolen goods up in Maine for a couple of guys, and got caught. That shipment turned out to be many, many cases of liquor, untaxed stolen liquor coming over the line from Canada. That is where George came into the story personally with Eddie. See an aging soldier with a wife and kids just can’t do the “time.” They had him solid on the heist, no question, and so Eddie seeing the writing on the wall, saw that being a stand-up guy was going to put him in nowhere land wanted to talk to one of George’s field guys, wanted to talk to “Uncle” George called the process.  And what “talking to Uncle” meant was that Eddie was ready to sell his mother to get out from under his expected two-to-five year sentence.

So Eddie made one of his life’s little compromises. Here is how that went. Eddie needing plenty of cash for family and lawyers got back into the gun-running trade while awaiting sentencing. Eddie was the broker for Jimmy Smalls’ caper like I said which needed much hardware in a short period. Eddie found his dealer, a young guy named Tiny Brown, who had serious connections to some small arms plant where they made the damn things, worked him hard, mercilessly in fact, to get the guns that were necessary for Jimmy’s series of quick bank robberies. Things went well for a while, Eddie got all the guns he needed at a decent price and plenty of dough for himself. The problem was the Feds were wired into the action (through the thoughtfulness of another snitch of course), wired in almost accidently.

In those days, back in the early 1970s, the Feds were up to their knees in trying to keep guns out of hand of black revolutionaries like the Panthers fearing some kind of race war with “whitey” getting the short end of the stick. Also as time went on and America got all crazy over Vietnam some white radicals figured they would start a “second front” in America to aid the Vietnamese revolutionaries over there and the black liberation fighters in America.  They too were looking for guns, heavy-duty M-16 kind of automatic weaponry. And Tiny was the man who could get such weaponry. So at one point on another Tiny dealt with some radicals looking for guns for the revolution at the same time as Eddie needed some quick gun turnaround. The Feds brought down Tiny, the gun-dealer with no problem. Oh yeah, with a little help from Eddie, something about machine-guns in the trunk of his car. George said Eddie’s logic was impeccable-he did not want to see his country overrun by n----rs and commies and why not throw a gun-dealer in the mix to lighten his sentence. Besides Tiny was kind of a snotty-nosed kid

Here is the funny thing about the “stoolie” business though, about when you stop being a stand-up guy. Once you give “Uncle” one thing he wants to put you on the “payroll.” Wants you to sing loud and clear in his choir. See George’s field guy went to bat for Eddie up in Maine but because he neglected to “dime” on the guys who ran the operation (connected guys and so you might as well cut your own throat if you brought them down as I am sure Eddie seriously thought about when he looked at his knuckles) the government guy in Maine wasn’t ready to do likewise. So our boy Eddie was going to have produce more than that one gun-dealer, like maybe give up who the guys were who organized that stolen goods shipment up in Maine. Here is where the “code of honor” goes to hell and back. The guy, or one of the guys who organized the stolen goods heist was a guy, Dixie, who ran a bar in Boston and was for his own purposes working for Uncle. And guess what Dixie was worried about. Yeah, Eddie’s problem, whether Eddie would be a stand-up guy when the deal went down. So Eddie became the classic victim of the squeeze. See Dixie put it in Uncle’s ear that Eddie was the guy who ratted out on the bank robberies, ratted out on Jimmy’s capers, that were spreading like wild-fire around Boston-using Eddie provided guns.

Here is what got Eddie doomed though, got him over to Fresh Pond. When the coppers, using information provided by a woman scorned girlfriend of Jimmy, the mastermind of those robberies, closed in for the arrests they killed one of his confederates.   A kid, a kid seriously connected to a local Mafia boss who treated the kid like a son. So the contract went out, the contract with one Edward Coyle’s, late of the Cambridge streets, name written all over it. An injustice, sure. A bad end, sure. Honor among thieves? Ask Eddie with his face down in some car seat. No, better, ask his widow. Jesus, that George sure could tell a story.                      

Monday, July 28, 2014

***The Dog Days Of July-Musings On A 50th Anniversary High School Reunion  

The Trials and Tribulations Of Sam Lowell 

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

A while back I wrote a couple of things about my old North Adamsville classmate Sam Lowell and his short love affair with one of our classmates, Melinda Loring,  an affair that wrecked his longtime relationship with his companion, Laura, and which has of now not recovered. That relationship with Melinda flowered not in some act of youthful hubris but very recently as part of his reaching out to fellow classmates to get them to attend our 50th anniversary of graduation from high school in 1964. Here is the germane part of the motivation for his getting involved in the reunion organizing effort from one of those things I wrote about the affair as a quick background note:

“….. Sam had been thinking about his 50th class reunion at North Adamsville High School since he had received an invitation to go to his 40th reunion back in 2004. At that time Sam had dismissed the invitation with so much hubris because then he still thought that the bad luck that had followed him for much of his life had been caused by his growing up on “the wrong side of the tracks” in North Adamsville. He told me, a number of times, that he had spent half a lifetime blaming that bad luck hometown affiliation on everything from acne to wormwood.” 


“Subsequently through some family-related deaths that took him back to the old town Sam had reconciled himself with his roots and had exhibited the first stirrings of a feeling that he might like to see some of his old classmates. In late 2013, around Thanksgiving he, at least marginally savvy on such user-friendly sites, created a Facebook  event page in order to see if anybody else on the planet knew of plans or was interested in making plans for a 50th reunion. One day, a few days after setting up the page, he got an inquiry asking what he knew about any upcoming plans.  He answered in a short note his own limited knowledge of any such plans but that his intention in setting up the page had been to seek others to help out with organizing an event if nothing had been established as yet….. ”

The subsequent affair as we know didn’t work out and went out with a bang rather than a whimper as I have also written about previously and which I am thoroughly sick of writing about, and Sam is in describing. He mentioned to me after the last blow-out between him and Melinda that at 16 or 68 (his current age) relationships do not get any easier but let’s be done with that one. The ever intrepid Sam though has continued to work on getting out the troops for the reunion and as part of that effort has been writing what he calls “mood” pieces about the old days in North Adamsville including pre-high school days on the class website.

Those pieces had elicited a little comment and some exchanges from fellow classmates and Sam thought I could use the material provided to, get this, let the world know, that the class of 1964, the generation of ’68 had not all gone to hell in a hand basket. I, to appease him frankly, have agreed to try to make some sense out of the exchanges. Personally, although at this point he has talked me into going to the reunion unless a better offer comes along, I would have let it rest, have let the old fogies who populate the site go discuss their grandchildren or some such worthy endeavor. The “mood piece” subjects, the July doldrums’ worthy subjects, included pieces on his childhood Fourth of July neighborhood celebrations, the positive effect that going to the various branches of the Timothy Clark Public Library in North Adamsville had on saving his life (and alleviating his teenage angst and alienation), and a certain childhood local bakery, Ida’s, that still brought ancient smells back to memory.  

From Sam:

Cindy-Thanks for remembering about that store next to Harold’s- wasn’t it a club for the North Adamsville Associates or whatever they called the group that ran the July 4th “time.” Also thanks for memories of Adams Elementary School and May Day. [Planetary orb May Day not the Red Square red scare Cold War best forgotten May Day.]- We did the same thing at Adamsville South and got those crepe May baskets as a reward. Of course May Day in Adamsville has always been associated with the wild boys and girls, circa 1600s, who gathered round some rogue Puritan’s maypole, a guy who believed in free love and free drinking on that day and others as well, and got kicked out of town after a while-yeah, we know-the puritan ethic that has us still in its grip as well-we created one in sixth grade I think.

Do you have any stories about Doc Andrew’s drugstore you want to share? I have one about my first liquor purchase (illegal) if anybody is interested in hearing it. I am being nice these days and not filling up this Message Forum with my long postings which from now on will be on my profile page. Although how would we have gotten to cutting up old touches about the old days if I hadn’t written that piece on the old North Adamsville Fourth of July. By the way (okay BTW) I noticed when I went on site to the cyberspace Magnet to check what activities you did in high school that you belonged to the nurses’ career club. Did you go in the health field after graduation? You also mentioned hospital around your late husband’s illness.  

From Cindy:

Ah...Yes Doc Andrews drugstore. My cousin lived upstairs over the store. We hung around there too and played his jukebox every afternoon after school, on days when we had nickels, dimes, and quarters. My brother, Billy, when he ran out of money from bottle returns used to hit our mother’s pocketbook for loose change-without asking of course. A venial sin which I hope he confessed up at Our Lady’s Church, although knowing him probably not. He probably thought it was his just do in order to keep those jukebox platters spinning.

I also remember being on the safety patrol in front of the school [Adams Elementary] with Mrs. DeYoung the Safety Officer? We went to "dirty Doc's" for a tonic or a candy bar after school or on our way to Norfolk Downs. 

As for my after high school life, I retired early from Adamsville General Hospital. My last years were spent working in the ER in administrative work, over seeing my phone operators, co-coordinators and registration. Working directly with nurses and doctors alike. There is nothing I haven't seen, from birth to death and in between. I do miss it though. I was with AGH for 23 years. I worked the night shift the entire time. My grandmother was my inspiration as she was an LPN at Mass General and had owned a nursing home.

I remember the go-cart races down Young Street in front of Doc's and sledding in the winter because cars would use Kendall or Sagamore Streets as Young Street was too steep with ice. 

From Sam:

Cathy-short note –If you can believe this I was a safety patrol guy complete with white belt and a small badge down at Adamsville South School (where a number of other NA64ers went including my much missed and wish he could be found friend Brad Badger, the great trackman from our class.  Believe me my career (read: life story) took a very different path, a very different path indeed, from the local kid cop who lorded it over the non-safety patrol kids.

Yes, we use to build box cars down Young Street which would stop about Coe Street. More later.

How about this thought- Let’s see how brave you were- Dave Vails reminded me of this a few months ago. Down in the old Adamsville projects we would “skid-hop” mostly the Eastern Mass buses because the driver couldn’t see us. You know we would hang on the back bumper and get a free ride for a distance as long as snow was on the ground. I did the same on Main Street too. Okay, girl, (you know I mean woman, okay) how about you? BTW we did not do it on cars after one guy almost killed us when he saw what we were doing and he sped up.

Finally- Cindy- we are all adults here-and I address this to everybody who reads this as well. How about some “‘now” photos. I have placed one on my profile page and would put more if others would not stay stuck in the summer of 1963 when you went into Boston to Bachrach’s to pose. Like I said we are adults here-oh BTW let’s avoid the photo shop we know ages here-do we know ages.         

From Sam:

Cindy -Greeting from Boston on a wet July Fourth- Thanks for the added information about the old days. I was just thinking about that summer rec program where we made those gimp bracelets and stuff. I remember one time that I made one, there two kinds I think the easy weave kind and square cross-over kind if you remember. I was very shy about girls as a kid (what else is new in the world) but I did give one of my first ones to a girl that used to sit on the picnic table. She accepted it with a slight smile, or what I thought was a slight smile.  Did a guy every give you a gimp bracelet back then. I already told you, shy I might have been, but my whole purpose in making the foolish things was to give to girls at Adamsville South and later Atlantic. Like I said they all thought I was from Mars or something. Also on the rec thing I use to make copper etchings or something like that from a kit they had. Also we did archery but I don’t remember being very good at it. Okay that settles the rec program for now. If you think of anything else let me know.

Thanks for the information on your late husband and sorry for the mistake I made about him being our classmate. Now that we are all of a certain age most of us have been through some experience like you had caring for your husband. Still it requires a hats off from your fellow classmates to keep him at home as long as you could. I could never really do that although I have had my share of care-giving.          

I agree the old Atlantic neighborhood doesn’t have the feel like in the old days on the several occasions I have returned over the last few years. The field is smaller and seems unused. Harry’s and all the old name stores are gone. The Red Feather is gone, and on and on. I think that part of it is the change in the groups who live there now, the pressures of today’s life for young  families to interact, and the loss of the old time working class feeling of everybody being poor as church mice and trying to help each other more. That is just a snap sociological opinion.

That brings me to my next point –the Midway and the Bargain Center-those pre-Walmart stores were where I (alright my mother) got our clothes. You know plaid shirts when they were not in style, some god awful pants. Yeah, that was the fate of the church mice poor. So you know I was no GQ guy. Funny I think that other NA students worked at the Bargain Center as well. I know my old friend and the great runner from our class Brad Badger’s mother worked there.      

I can’t believe that we did not know each other back then (unless you were the girl I gave that foolish bracelet to) because I used to go to the Post Office all the time looking for new stamps (when stamp-collecting was a real hobby), used to love (and still do) the sound of train whistles first heard I think for the Old Colony station. That was really the way to go into Boston if you had the dough. Forget the Eastern Mass buses. I would rather walk to the nearest subway stop over in Clintondale. And of course I used to use the tunnel to cross from Hancock Street to get over to Young Street where I would go frequently when home-life got to crazy and grandma’s house was my refuge.    

Funny too about Adamsville Beach which I wrote about recently here. I think one of our classmates’ mothers gave swimming lesson. I won’t even ask you about high school Adamsville Beach, day or night unless you want the world to know about “parking” and “submarine races” but I will ask you about that Newport Drive-In since you described it, and I quote as a “ passion pit.” On second thought some classmates may have not taken their high blood pressure medication and that kind of thing is best left for another time and another way of communicating.  

Finally, for now I guess, I ask you a question that I put to Rita Brady (did you know her?)- “What I don’t see you and Cindy Moore talking about in the tonic and ice cream scramble. Was that crazed rush to grab every off-hand bottle of tonic and ice cream a guy thing. I think they had the tables separated for boys and girls (what else was new). Frankie did it in the 1950s. When we moved back to North Adamsville in 1959 I know I did. Hell it was easier for me than Frankie since my grandparents’ house on Young Street was closer than Frankie’s. I assume that when they went around collecting dough they hit Bottoms Street. I don’t remember guys playing music on the flatbed truck but they did have a bullhorn.”

What’s your take on the tonic and ice cream scramble?

Later-glad that you are going to the reunion and have taken care of business. Funny as Bob Curry said today we are having the reunion in a place that used to be a Mecca for live dangerous swimmers-Friendly regards-Sam      

From Cindy:

Yes Sam, I did collect my share of sodas and Hoodsies back in the day. [July 4th when a group of residents organized a local celebration including a ton of sodas and ice cream] And as there were 4 of us girls at the time we had a good haul. My brother was only a baby then. Yes there were two lines as well [boys and girls]. There was a vacant cobbler store I believe next to Harry’s Variety that would showcase all the prizes leading up to the Fourth as well. I will have to look in my hopeless chest to see if I still have that bracelet.

Sorry Sam, no such luck on a picture [Sam had asked if Cindy had any photos from the period, from the 1950s]. But when I think that far back it comes to mind before the tennis courts they had tents set up also. Each tent had a bunch of games. There were about 6 or 8. Also before it was "Harry’s" the store it was called Whelan’s. Operated by Betty Whelan and family as my mother worked there part time. On the opposite corner was Stendell’s, a butcher shop with meats and deli. Betty Leahy was the head waitress at the Feather [a local barroom when all the fathers and older brothers did their drinking]. I did go to the summer rec program every year. Made pot holders, worked a gimp bracelet as well as see-sawed on those green ass splintered boards. They had 2 sets of swings too. Regular and baby seat with the bars. At night we would stand up on them to see how high we could go (fearless).

In the winter months the North Adamsville Public Works Department plowed the roads and dumped the snow on the ball field. [The field used for July 4th and for summer kid recreational programs.] We used slide down the mounds. They also used to flood the park to ice skate. 

I remember the factory across from the park as it made baby pacifiers among other things. The LeBlancs lived in the corner house at Young St. The Madsens’ lived in the ranch, the Gallaghers' lived across from the park on Young. Also in front of the Daley on the corner of Kendall and Hancock used to be North Adamsville Cab.

Don't want to bore you with much more.

From Sam:

Cindy -Thanks for all the great information about the old days in Atlantic. And no, no way are you boring anybody because look at the responses that are being generated. A couple of things about those Whelans when Betty got married (I forgot her mother’s name but she went to live with them) to a guy who worked at Duggan Brothers (now long gone) and sold the store they moved over to my street, Maple Street, a few doors down from us.

By the way when the store became Harry’s and I used to hang there to play the pinball machine (illegally since I was not sixteen) I found out that it was really a cover for a bookie joint. He had his book right out there in front. I would see Adamsville cops coming in to make their bets. Even my sainted grandmother knew about that operation before I did. Such is life. 

Speaking of grandparents mine, Daniel and Anna Riley, lived at 78 Young Street.  Classmates Jim McNally lived on one side at one time and Gary Davis on the other. Stendell’s is where I would go to get their meats since my grandfather had a stroke and my grandmother was house-bound due to a crippling injury in her 50s.

Amazing too we probably sat next to each other in summer rec (I was the shy guy who maybe gave you a little glance) because I made those gimp bracelets too. Reason: to give them to girls at Atlantic (or earlier at Adamsville South)-I guess I was girl-addled even then-but they dismissed me out of hand. I guess they wanted real bracelets like I gave a girl from North Adamsville one time later.

From Sam again:

Cindy -If you get a photo I can walk you through the process. I am not an IT wizard either -our super webmaster Donna walked me through it. I know and learn enough tech stuff to survive on the "information super-highway" and worry more about writing. The whole process is infinitely easier than about twenty years ago when I would rather use a typewriter than the world processor although some days I miss that old beauty.   

I have placed another photo on my profile page from California last month to lure everybody else out.

Yes we have come a long way from the days long ago when, as the English poet William Wordsworth said in one of his poems “to be young was very heaven”, and we thought we were immortal, were going to live forever. If you still have that winsome smile that you have on your class photo that will please everybody. No wrinkles could erase that I am sure.  

My favorite at Ida’s (beside the cupcakes now making a culinary resurgence) was to go on Friday to get her oatmeal bread so I could have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at my grandmother’s. Guess what- I still like that kind of sandwich. 

Thanks for the remembrance of the Timothy Clark Public Library branch on Sagamore from early youth before it went to Appleton Street I think, or was it Atlantic. The branch down at Adamsville South  saved my life the summer of sixth grade, saved me from the corner boy life that I was taking dead aim at until I realized that I liked reading a lot more than the life of petty crime.     

From Sam [in response to memory postings by several classmates including Cindy]: 

***The Smells, Ah, The Smells Of Childhood- Ida's Bakery Over on Sagamore Street, For Rosemary 

There are many smells, sounds, tastes on the memory trail in search of the old days in North Adamsville. Of course one cannot dismiss that invigorating smell of the salt air blowing in from Adamsville Bay when the wind was up. And that never to be forgotten slightly oily, sulfuric smell at low tide down at Adamsville Beach, the time of the clam diggers and their accomplices trying to eke a living or a feeding out of that slimy mass. Or the smell of marsh weeds from up at the disfavored Montum end of the beach. Or the sound of the ocean on those days when the usually tepid splashing against the shoreline turned around and became a real ocean and acted to calm a man’s (or kid’s) nerves in the frustrating struggle to understand a world not of one’s own making.

I know I do not have to stop very long to tell this crowd, the crowd that will read this piece, about the tastes of that HoJo’s ice cream back in the days. Or those char-broiled hot dogs and hamburgers from your backyard barbecue pit or the ones down at the beach. But the smell that I am smelling today is closer to home, as a result of a fellow classmate’s bringing this to my attention. (Although if the truth be known I was already on the verge of “exploring" the subject). Ida’ Bakery over on Sagamore Street, the next street over from my grandparents’ house on Young Street across from the Welcome Young Field.

You, if you are of a certain age and neighborhood, remember Ida’s, right? She ran a bakery out of her living room in the 1950s and early 1960s (beyond that period I do not know). Now I do not remember all the particulars about her, about her operation, about what she made but I remember the smells of fresh oatmeal bread. Or of those Lenten hot cross buns. Or of the 1001 other simple baked goods that put my mother, my grandmother, your mother, your grandmother in the shade. And that is at least half the point. You went over to Ida’s to get high on those calorie-loaded goodies. And in those days that was okay. Believe me it’s was okay. I swear I will never forget those glass-enclosed delights but I need a little help here. I do not remember much about the woman, her life, where she was from, or any of that. If you do, let me know. This I do know- in this time of frenzied interest in all things culinary Ida's simple recipes and her kid-maddening bakery smells still hold a place of honor.

And This Too From Sam:

The Timothy Clark Public Library

Recently Cindy Moore in response to a sketch I wrote about Ida’s Bakery over on Sagamore Street mentioned that she inevitably stopped by that shop after having been to the library located almost next door if I recall. I remember that Thomas Crane Public Library branch early on when I used to go visit my grandparents on Young Street when I was in elementary school at Adamsville South. Later, after moving back to North Adamsville in 7th grade, I used to go to the branch when it was relocated on Atlantic Street (I think). And later when we were in high school I went to the bigger branch when it was built across from Sacred Heart Church. Needless to say I made a number of visits to the architecturally magnificent main library “up the Square.”

Many fruitful hours reading and research hours were spend in all those locations but today I wish to speak of the branch which was attached to the Adamsville South School when I was growing up (now located at the corner of Palmer and Sea Streets) and which saved my life. In late fifth and almost all of sixth grade I was caught up in the corner boy life of the “projects.” (And strangely was also a “cop” on the school safety patrol-go figure the vagaries of tween-ness.) You know hanging around with guys who were into petty crime. Mostly “clipping” stuff from the stores “up the Square” and other misdemeanors. I got into some minor trouble, mostly home trouble, a fair number of times but by the summer after sixth grade I was enthralled by “the life.”

One very hot day that July I went into the library to just cool off since we did not have AC at home and I was uncomfortably hot. I picked out a book (who knows what it was, probably a biography of Abigail Adams who I was crazy about then, except it was in the children’s section since you couldn’t officially go in the adult section until seventh grade) and started reading. Read that day until the place closed. And went back there every day for the rest of the summer. See I finally figured out that I liked reading a lot more than I liked fretting over the next criminal caper. Many of my corner boys, as their later “careers” testified to, were not so lucky. So a tip of the hat to the Timothy Clark.  

Oh yeah, I know at least one fellow classmate who sought refuge from teen angst and alienation and the craziness of home life at the main library. And she turned out well. Who else has a library story or for that matter has a special place refuge ("shelter from the storm") from the trials and tribulations of youth story.

From Sam:

Once Again on the Timothy Clark Library Branch

Cindy- I am always ready to stand corrected on a factual memory matter, or on any other. There have been many classmates on this site ready, more than ready, to help me see the error of my ways. I am therefore ready to defer to your memories. Almost. The reason I think I remember that Atlantic Street branch as being later than the Sagamore location was because in junior high I had a “crush” on a girl who used to go to that branch and I would constantly be passing by to see if she was in there. Don’t tell me I did all that walking and looking for nothing. Or worse, that my memory has let me down so badly that I was in the wrong place. Maybe a third party can help us out. Help! Later Sam        

From Cindy:

Well Sam you got on my facts being ass backwards. But I have an excuse. You see at this late time in my life with children, grandchildren and even a great-grandchild along with plans to attend the reunion, I am also getting married in 3 weeks. Plus I am trying to get two of our classmates to join in our reunion. Sounds like they are both planning to attend although they are not computer set up. I am planning on driving from Fl. to Ma.

From Sam:

Cindy -Thanks for note-You really had me going on the library question. I checked with some independent third party sources who shall remain anonymous since they have not been authorized to provide that information (hey, that sounds like a governmental press agent would say doesn’t it) and they have confirmed that Sagamore was first and then Atlantic Street. So I did not walk that street and peek in that storefront library window for that girl I had a crush on in junior high in vain (although doing so was since I never got to first base but that is a separate question). 

But with all you are up to these days I can understand the memory overload. I am not sure if I will run out of cyberspace before I finish but congratulations on each of your children. Each grandchild. The (for now) great-grandchild. Special congratulations on your up-coming marriage and I wish you and him well. Congratulations on your planned trek up to Ma from Fla and good speed. Finally congratulations on trying to get some classmates to come to the reunion as well although I am continually amazed at the number of people from our class we have not been able to reach because they too are not on the “information super-highway.”      


Sunday, July 27, 2014

***When The Artist Formerly Known As Prince Was Prince- The Thirtieth Anniversary Of Purple Rain

Yeah, purple rain, purple rain

***21st Century Teen Angst and Alienation- Liam James’ The Way Way Back


DVD Review

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

The Way Way Back, starring Liam James, Steve Carroll, 2013 

Call it them generation of’68, the “me” generation, the millennial generation, generation X,Y, or Z any way you package it the growing of up years of each generation have been filled with more teenage angst and alienation that you  could shake a stick at. And while each generation has its own little sociological quirks, for example today’s average teens are more likely to face their anxieties in single parent homes than say, the generation of ’68, there are many more similarities. Take the film under review, The Way Way Back, definitely a 21st century teen angst “coming of age” film where this generation of ‘68er found himself uncomfortably squirming in his seat at various points remembering back to some very familiar episodes.        

Now this film is billed as a comedy and in many ways it is but it also contains the raw data of themes that most teens run through-questions of self-esteem and self-identity, close and distant relationships with parents and the adult world generally, and the question of questions for most guys-what makes girls tick (most girls just flip the genders, okay). All of those are questions that our “hero” Duncan (played by Liam James) encounters and has to work through in dealing with his world one summer when he, his mother, Pam, her fairly new boyfriend, Trent (played by Steve Carroll), and his daughter, Steph, pack up to go to Trent’s summer place down in Cape Cod for some fun in the sun.   

Naturally school’s out for the summer so Duncan should be ready from the get-go for fun and checking out the girls at the beach. This thing however starts out as something like a prison camp for the alienated Duncan (including his initial hunched-up physical persona) who still hasn’t resolved the break-up of the family home and his long gone dad and who moreover loathes Trent. And Trent and the summer time adult gang, including Pam, do nothing to alleviate that feeling as they drink and carouse the weeks away. What does alleviate some tensions  is meeting “wild and wooly” mad monk Owen who helps run the waterworks amusement park in town, gives Duncan a summer job and some serious, if at times comical, advise about how to survive until adulthood. Throw in a short, if chaste, relationship with the girl next door ( a fox whom he should have been all over from minute one once she came hither on him but he was too wrapped in the teen angst thing to see that he could have gone that summer route-but we all made those kinds of mistakes) and a scandalous confrontation with Pam and Trent over Trent’s backdoor affair with a neighbor’s wife to add to the pile of wisdom that Duncan figures out by the time that whole crowd leaves early to go home and try to survive until next summer. A few places toward the end were a little too “feel good” but this one is worth watching for the chuckles and the traumas.