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Everybody That Was Hangin' Out

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 27, 2014 12:44 PM
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Bob Dylan in Cambridge
From the collection of Betsy Siggins Schmidt

Bob Dylan on a car roof on Mount Auburn St., Cambridge?  Who was fortunate enough to get this 1963 shot?  It was Betsy Minot Siggins, freshman roommate of Joan Baez at B.U. and a manager of Club 47 in Harvard Square who today has it in her assembled collection called the New England Folk Archives.

"I was into folk music a little early," Siggins said in an interview for examiner.com. "I was a high school sophomore, and The Weavers were getting heard on the radio. There were the Everly Brothers, with a hint of R&B. I also overdosed on Gilbert and Sullivan as a teenager."

Siggins and Baez were both more into music than academics which prompted Siggins to waitress at the Cafe Yana, a tiny basement club off the B.U. campus on Brookline Av.

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She met and eventually married to Bob Siggins of the Charles River Valley Boys. After a year touring overseas with the band, the couple returned to Cambridge where Club 47 became Betsy Siggins' employer and favorite hang. She was said to have made herself indispensable to the legendary venue.

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Joan Baez performs at Club 47 in Harvard Square, 1959
From a blog called Musical Urbanism by Leonard Nevarez

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The Glitter Rubs Right Off And You're Nowhere

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 24, 2014 04:10 PM
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Washington Street glistens in a 1958 rain

Washington Street downtown, modernized almost beyond recognition today, was, in an American way, at its visual zenith in 1958. The above photo, more than many, portrays the forward look that many American cities had bought into, the look that is the basis for the sentimental longing they evoke. Let's go to the movies.

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Ava Gardner, 1958

The film playing at the Mayflower, The Naked Maja, was a tribute to a painting by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. The piece features a nude brunette reclined, her hands behind her head. The film, shot in Italy over Spanish objections, is said to be a fictionalized account of aspects of Goya's life. Ava Gardner was said to be well cast in this foreign film, coming as it did on the heels of her breakup with Frank Sinatra and her weariness with all that was Hollywood. In fact, the movie was made right after her move to Spain to escape the media scrutiny she suffered at the time. The filmmaker, Giuseppe Rotunno,would shoot her next film, the better known On The Beach in 1959. And we won't even start to talk about the other movie on the marquee starring Eartha Kitt.

The Mayflower opened as The Modern Theater, the site of the first installed sound projection equipment in the country and the first theater to run double features. In 1949 it was renamed The Mayflower Theater which it held until December, 1978 when it reverted to its old name and showcased live theater such as David Mamet's American Buffalo. This turned out to be an unwise course of action and the Modern Theater closed forever in 1981.

Back to Boston in 1958, a year some cultural historians like to call a "banner year". While Ford's introduction of the Edsel flopped at the time, the prices they now command are astonishing. Bertrand Russell  officially launched the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Elvis Presley was converted into U.S. Private #53310761. Unemployment in Detroit was at 20 per cent, the highest of all American cities during the Recession of 1958. Yet it seemed everyone had cars. Many families owned two.

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Cars on Worthington Street, off Huntington Av, facing Mission Hill in 1958
Courtesy of Boston City Archives

Veep Richard Nixon was received poorly in Caracas by anti-American demonstrators. The Beatles, as The Quarrymen, recorded their first record, a cover of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day". Pizza Hut opened its first door. Bossa Nova was introduced in Rio by Joao Gilberto's Chega de Saudade.  See the very tentative Girl From Ipanema, Gilberto's daughter Astrid sing. Crack open a Schaefer. But not on the orange green line!
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Rounding the bend on Commonwealth Av at Brighton Av, Allston, 1958

Thanks to Cinema Treasures, IMDB, Turner Classic Movies, Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil and Boston City Archives.

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Right Around The Corner

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 23, 2014 02:02 PM
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Photo by Eileen Hymans

Henry Timrod, a poet from 19th century South Carolina, once said "Spring is a true Reconstructionist." Although not commonly heard as a metaphor for the season that truly cures Boston's  Seasonal Affective Disorder, Timrod's words resonate this afternoon. It's 50 degrees--at least until tonight--and can acceptable weather be that far behind? Don't answer that.

This photo, sent to our facebook page a month ago by Eileen Hymans on her maiden voyage to DOB, captures the feeling of spring downtown at Tremont & Park in 1976. People are walking, brisk with purpose, adding a lilt to their struts. It feels good just to watch them. 

The body self-reconstructs simply to rise to the decending warmth of the sun pervading our deprived skin and bones. We anticipate it's coming, but we are Dirty Old Boston so we know better. As local filmmaker Michael Bavaro (Rex Trailer, Filene's Basement) said just the other day, "We have passed the apex!"

Catch you 'round the corner. Meet me at Anna's for some iced coffee and people watching. Better days-a-coming. Trust me.

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Think You Got It Bad?

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 16, 2014 01:25 PM
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Photo sent to D.O.B. by Bobo Leach

No doubt about it. We've been repeatedly assaulted by Old Man Winter. More is predicted later this week even as we clean up after the latest ravaging. Time for a cliche. "Every cloud has a silver lining". John Milton coined the phrase 'silver lining' in Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle in 1634. This silver lining came awhile ago as well--36 years actually--but we find it apropos. The lining comes in the form of this photo  taken at the corner of Jones Road and George Avenue in the Beachmont section of Revere following the Blizzard of 1978. Never made the papers or the screen at the time, but this particular Kodak showcases the misery felt by many during that unforgettable time. May the back pangs feel lighter. May the snow removal devices remain unemployed. And may Spring get here already?

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The Day The Earth Stood Unstill

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 15, 2014 04:05 PM
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The Construction of Today's MBTA Begins, 1895
Photo courtesy of The Bostonian Society

Boston boasts the first subway system in the U.S. Although tiny next to New York's, we were first and this photo allows the imagination to picture the intense amount of labor it must have taken to get the thing built. Here we see its construction in motion at what is now Park Street Station, with no technology available to assist in the heavy lifting.

Yet on September 1, 1897, at 6 am, "over 100 people crowded onto the first train to travel through a tunnel under downtown Boston", according to Mass Moments. "More than 100,000 people would take the three-and-a-half minute trip that day. They were riding on the first subway line in the United States. After considering various alternatives to ease congestion on Boston's streets, city officials decided to follow the example of London, Glasgow, and Budapest and build an underground system. Within a year, passengers could get on and off the subway at Boylston Street, Park Street, Scollay Square, Adams Square, and Haymarket. In time, the route would be connected to the Boston Elevated Railway, creating the public transportation system that was the precursor to today's T."
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While you are enjoying the pleasures of a slow jaunt out to Boston College from North Station on a single 8PM car, or standing in the windy cold of the Stony Brook tunnel waiting for the Orange Line, take a moment and think glowingly of those greater than yourselves, those who came before you and made your ride possible. And remember, this too shall pass!

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On The Other Hand....

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 14, 2014 04:01 PM
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The Barbarians in a publicity photo

"One the one hand," say the economists, "the outlook appears sunny with all indicators leading to a robust year for investors, job-seekers and consumers. On the other hand.......".

Harry Truman had a quick and ready answer for these prognosticators who are as accountable as meteorologists: "Give me a one-handed economist," he'd say.

Boston has never had a one-handed economist, but it has had a  one-handed drummer who was the personality behind the biggest area garage rock band other than Barry & The Remains. His name was Victor Moulton, better known as Moulty, and his band was called The Barbarians. Emerging from P-Town, they hit the scene just as long hair was coming into vogue on American males. And true to the times, their first single on Laurie Records was called "Are you a Boy or are you a Girl?" . They quickly followed it with a second single wherein Moulty talks about not giving up despite challenges while the band sings the chorus behind him. The song was simply called "Moulty" and after being released as a single, had the distinction of appearing later on Lenny Kaye's 1972 gatefold double LP called "Nuggets".
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An animated Moulty bangs the drums quickly in this Boston Globe photo.

This writer was fortunate enough to catch The Barbarians at Irwin's Garden in Weirs Beach, NH during the summer of 1968 when they opened for Vanilla Fudge. Like the band Blue Cheer from the West Coast, they were louder than God and a real musical and visual treat for a teen into hard rockin'. While it is unlikely they will appear in concert again they can be seen performing in the mid-60s at the T.A.M.I (Teenage Awards Music International) Show, available on DVD and worth seeing if ever a 50 year old concert was.
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So I'm saying this to all of you
All of you who think you'll never make it
All of you guys and girls
Cause you think you're so bad off

Or maybe you think you're
A little different or strange
So listen to me now
Cause I've lived through it all

Moulty!

Don't turn away
(You gotta keep on trying)
Don't turn away.
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For Better Or For Wurst

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 12, 2014 04:25 PM
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The Wursthaus was a Harvard Square landmark frequented by locals and visitors alike
Photo courtesy of the Cambridge Historical Society

Serving sauerbraten and schnitzel washed down with beers from around the world, the Wursthaus lasted 79 years as a Harvard Square institution. Located next door to The Tasty in the now demolished Read Block Building, it first opened in 1917 and was bought by Frank Cardullo in 1942. Cardullo is better known for his self-named gourmet shop located across from the Wursthaus which he opened in 1950.
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Photo from CultureCheeseMag.com

By the mid 80s, the Wursthaus was clearing over $3 million a year but with the Red Line extension allowing riders to bypass Harvard Square altogether, the changing face of the area from a collection of funky one-off shops to the corporate landscape people complain of today, business began slowing. Coupled with an increase in health conscious diners, the meat and beer joint that had expanded from 50 to 500 seats suddenly fell out of favor with the masses. Cardullo filed for Chapter 11.

"There are certain restaurants, bookstores, and establishments that do a lot to define the special quality and tradition of the Square," said Derek Bok, former Harvard president at the time of its closing. "The Wursthaus is one of those establishments."

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Popular Mechanics (Dorchester Style)

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 7, 2014 04:53 PM
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Photo by Eric Jamieson

There was a time when men were men, cars were cars, and the struggle for mastery by one over the other was dependent on the mood of either on any given day. That has all changed thanks to the fact that the car as become a computer on wheels, programmed and reset by trained technicians formerly known as mechanics. And we all know what has happened to men. Fried, dyed, and laid to the side, most men no longer master cars. Their cars master them.

Our DOB photo today takes a look back to a time when a man stepped up and mastered his machine come hell or high water. Such is the case with Eric Jamieson's dad, pictured above, who on one sunny day in 1950's Dorchester took charge. He had had it up to his eyeteeth with vehicular insouciance. Up he stepped with what many called the Universal Tool, the simple hammer, to have a heart to heart "chat" with his slippery servant. The results were not reported to this blog but we are almost certain that not once did Mr. Jamieson consult the Mr. Fix It Bible of the Era, Popular Mechanics.

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We only hope that the car responded positively to the gentleman's suggestions.

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One Day In Mattapan

Posted by Jim Botticelli February 1, 2014 11:49 AM
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Babies get walked in Mattapan, 1974...Photographer unknown

"I didn't like to kiss babies, though I didn't mind kissing their mothers" ... Pierre Trudeau

An ordinary day in perhaps the least acknowledged section of Boston, the neigborhood of Mattapan, where daily life is also lived. We can't be sure if these ladies are teenage baby-sitters or young mothers. Note the Town Talk Bread neon sign off duty in the store window which is reflecting Rico's Market across the street. Does Town Talk Bread exist today? Haven't seen it for years, in fact fell totally off the neurological back-up drive until the sign jarred memories long
dormant. The photo is 40 years old.

 A little info on Mattapan for the uninitiated. Mattapan became a part of Boston when Dorchester was annexed in 1870. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 36,480. Like other neighborhoods of the late 19th and early 20th century, Mattapan developed, residentially and commercially, as the railroads and streetcars made downtown Boston increasingly accessible. Predominantly residential, Mattapan is a mix of public housing, small apartment buildings, single-family houses, and two and three-family houses we call as triple deckers. The neighborhood is not without its brushes with greatness. Celtic Dana Barros is a native. Jazz writer Nat Hentoff, author of Boston Boy calls Blue Hill Av his place of origin. Conductor Leonard Bernstein and rapper Big Shug of Gang Starr are likewise products of Mattapan.
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The only other fact we can share about this 40 year old photo is that it was taken well before the pooper scooper law took effect, making it an authentic DOB photo indeed. Meet me at Simco's.

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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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