Thursday, August 5, 2021

In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 31: 2,100-Mile Road Trip Overview, Kevin McHale Basketball Camp, My Top 5 Concerts, MTV Is 40(8-5-2021)


Sunday, August 1, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Christine's Restaurant & Showroom, West Dennis


    It was a can’t-miss spot, both literally and figuratively. Located on the big curve of Route 28 in West Dennis, Christine’s set the bar high when it came to entertainment. Some famous names graced the stage in the twenty-five years this landmark was in existence. The three-hundred-seat Christine’s packed people in on a nightly basis.

    It began in 1980, when Joe Jamiel, straight out of college, purchased the property and originally called it Celebrities. It was a young rock-and-roll bar back when the drinking age on Cape Cod was still eighteen. When the drinking age was raised, Jamiel decided to change with the times. The hopping nightclub atmosphere of Celebrities was replaced with a function room for private parties, banquets and family-style meals. The only thing left was choosing the new name. Jamiel named the venue Christine’s after his wife, and the new establishment opened in 1983.

    Despite the changes, this spot did not lose its appeal; in fact, it gained even more. The young rock-and-roll bar began incorporating all sorts of musical tastes to increase its audience. Monday was jazz night, and many legendary local musicians played there weekly. Tuesdays were reserved for standup comedy, including a young Jay Leno, who plied his trade on stage there before later becoming host of the Tonight Show for many years.

A 1987 Ad for Christine's(Yarmouth Register

    Shows started between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m. and never ceased to amaze and enthrall customers. Jamiel credits having really good agents for helping him book many talented acts. Christine’s was seen as the little stepchild of the Melody Tent, a popular music venue that opened in Hyannis in 1950 and is still running strong as of 2016. This was due in part to the fact that several acts would play the Tent and then Christine’s, or vice-versa.

    It was a family-run restaurant, with Joe Jamiel booking the entertainment, his brother Geoffrey working as the chef and his wife, Christine, running the front of the house. His kids ran and played throughout the restaurant, adding to the true family atmosphere that they wanted to display.

    Though it was known for tremendous entertainment, Christine’s could hold its own with cuisine as well. It had the classic Cape Cod seafood meals and award-winning clam chowder. It was also known for its buffets on holidays such as Mother’s Day, Easter and Thanksgiving. The talented staff could change the function room from buffet setup to nightclub setup in thirty minutes, an impressive feat for a three-hundred-seat establishment.

    The entertainment is what made Christine’s a landmark. There are legendary stories to attest to that fact.

    There was the time that the rock band Steppenwolf came to Christine’s. The Canadian American band had some major hit songs, including “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride,” and sold more than twenty-five million albums worldwide. It also attracted a large biker following, and on the night that they played, some two-hundred-plus motorcycles packed the Christine’s parking lot to hear the band play.

    Sometimes Jamiel got lucky with the timing of the acts he booked, like the time he had R&B singer Chubby Checker come and play in 1988. Not too long after booking him, it was revealed that Checker was to play the halftime show of Super Bowl XXII between the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins. The publicity for his appearance was off the charts.

    Then there were times like when the Guess Who came and played. The Canadian rock band had a string of massive hits in the 1960s, including “No Time,” “American Woman” and “These Eyes.” After playing a large arena show, the next stop for the band was Christine’s. The band walked into the three-hundred-seat function room thinking it was just a place where they were going to eat and asked where the venue was, not knowing they were there already.

A 1990 Christine's Ad featuring some big name artists.(Yarmouth Register)

    Perhaps the most famous story is that of the time the band War played. The California-based funk rock band had some substantial hits, including “Low Rider” in 1975. However, when the band was nearing the end of its show at Christine’s, the musicians played another hit—“Why Can’t We Be Friends?.” It was during this song about peace, love and friendship that a massive brawl erupted between patrons right in front of the stage, completely contradicting the message of the song.

    There was also the time that Boston Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn came to help promote the Dream Day on Cape Cod charitable event. He had just been named American League Most Valuable Player in 1995. Again, the hype for this appearance was palpable, and it included legendary Boston sportscaster Bob Lobel coming down to interview Vaughn from Christine’s.

    Not to be forgotten in the world of Christine’s entertainment was the Italian wedding show dinner theater and music from the reggae, folk and even disco genres. It was true that this spot had something for everyone.

    As the twenty-first century dawned, it started becoming harder to book acts due to the rise of local casinos. Jamiel said that felt he was “starting to get a little old for the nightclub scene.” It was around this time that he opened the first Ardeo Mediterranean Grill on Station Avenue in South Yarmouth. At one point, there were five of these spots featuring Mediterranean cuisine. For a few years, the Jamiel family ran both Ardeo and Christine’s, but the rapid success of Ardeo—combined with the tragic loss of Joe’s brother Geoffrey in 2006—made it easier to sell the legendary establishment.

The former Christine's building in 2008.(Google Maps)

    It has been over a decade since Christine’s lights went out for the last time, and people still reminisce about it. After sitting dormant for many years, in 2015, a new complex opened on that famous curve in West Dennis, anchored by a barbecue restaurant called Billygoats BBQ.  The new restaurant did not last very long.  In a fitting twist of irony though Ardeo, which had been closed for a few years, opened a new location in that very complex in 2019.  This means that Joe Jamiel is operating his business on the grounds where Christine's once reigned supreme. 


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Edna Harris Cape Cod Business Pioneer

    The story of Edna Harris is one of ingenuity, success, and determination. In a time when women as business owners was rare Harris found herself in that position multiple times. She was connected to some of the most beloved establishments in Cape Cod history. It was during the first half of the 20th century that Edna Harris became a Cape Cod icon and business icon alike. This is her story.

    Edna Lincoln Sprague was born in Watertown, Massachusetts on August 4, 1877. She married William Harris in Taunton in June 1900. The couple would have four children, three of whom had been born when the couple made their way to Cape Cod in 1912.

    Edna’s first foray into business on Cape Cod came in the form of the Megansett Tea Room in North Falmouth. The opening day was June 21, 1913 and it was the subject of rave reviews from the get-go. From the beautifully decorated interior to the comfortable chairs on an attractive piazza this new establishment was primed for success. Like many Cape businesses the Megansett Tea Room was seasonal, closing in October to allow the Harris’ to head back home to Watertown for the winter.

Megansett Tea Room(Falmouth Public Library)

    Not one to rest on her laurels Edna made constant tweaks and improvements to her tea room in the hopes of increasing business. It was this desire to stay ahead of the curve that would serve her well in her Cape business career. Some new features eventually included a dance room decked out in yellow and black complete with an orchestra run by Sidney Reinherz in 1920. There was also a gift shop added. The new features worked and an addition was built on the Megansett Tea Room in 1923 out of necessity. Edna Harris was an undeniable success and soon others wanted a piece of the action.

    In 1930 the Crane family asked Edna to take over the lease of their Coonamessett Inn. At this time Coonamessett consisted of a large ranch house overlooking the pond of the same name. Under Harris it became an icon of Cape Cod. In the beginning she tried to run both Coonamessett and her beloved Megansett Tea Room. This proved to be impossible and Edna gave up Megansett in 1934, the property taken over by the Watertown Bank. After sitting vacant and deteriorating for several years the venerable establishment was eventually torn down.

The original Coonamessett Inn(Falmouth Public Library)

    At the Coonamessett Inn however Edna’s success boiled over. Being in close proximity to the Falmouth Playhouse brought internationally known performers in. This was closely followed by high ranking politicians like Massachusetts Governor James Michael Curley and people from the financial world. These people all raved about the food and accommodations at the Coonamessett, but more so than that they raved about Edna Harris. World War II saw military officials frequenting the Coonamessett as Camp Edwards was close by. This massive success achieved by Harris in the early to mid 1940’s gave her the confidence to make yet another big move in Cape Cod business.

    In March 1947 Harris took over the lease of another up and coming Cape establishment, the Popponesset Inn. Opened in 1941 Popponesset at the time had 26 small family cottages, hotel, restaurant and cocktail lounge. Being wary of what happened when she tried running both the Coonamessett and Megansett Tea Room at the same time Edna placed her eldest daughter Hilda Coppage in charge as manager.

    Great food, décor, and entertainment at Coonamessett made Edna Harris a household name on Cape Cod and far beyond. Now she was adding that touch to the Popponesset. These facts made it more surprising when in August 1953 the Crane family alerted Edna that her lease at Coonamessett was not being renewed. The property was sold to Richard Treadway, owner of a string of Treadway Inns. By this time Harris was 75 and could have easily gone sweetly into retirement. However she was determined to not be pushed out of a place she made into a giant of Cape Cod hospitality.

    In a stroke of genius Edna Harris secured financial backing and purchased the Robert Longyear house at Gifford Street and Jones Road in Falmouth in September 1953. After it was approved to be run as an inn Edna had the Coonamessett liquor license, of which she was in ownership of, transferred to the new property. In a beautiful irony since the original Coonamessett property was to be renamed Treadway Inn this meant that the Coonamessett name was available to be incorporated by Edna Harris. The final twist came when she also took much of the furniture from the old property and brought it to the new location.

    On November 24, 1953 Edna Harris’ Coonamessett Inn reopened in the new location a mere three months after she had been told her lease would not be renewed. It was a massive triumph for Harris who kept all of what made her Coonamessett special despite moving to a new location. In a bit of karma the Treadway Inn which took over the property at Coonamessett Pond failed and became Clauson’s Inn at Coonamessett in early 1958.

    Edna Harris continued successfully running her new Coonamessett Inn well into her 80’s. Her daughter Hilda Coppage carved out her own legacy at Popponesset with guests marveling at her rapid-fire wit. She was seen as Cape Cod’s answer to comedian Shelley Berman. The mother-daughter combo dominated the Upper Cape for nearly a decade.

    After a short illness Edna passed away on January 6, 1967 at the age of 89. She had been working hard at Coonamessett until her body literally could not give any more. Her daughter Hilda Coppage ran the Coonamessett for a few more years before selling it in 1969 to Josiah K. Lilly.

    Edna Harris was beloved and admired. Her legacy followed her even after she left this world. In a time where woman were seen as merely a Mrs. to their husband, rarely having their actual names mentioned in the newspaper, Edna Harris broke through and left an indelible mark on Cape Cod and beyond. She was a pioneer for women in positions of power in business and a true icon of Cape Cod hospitality.


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Sunday, July 18, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Lincoln Lodge, Harwich


    Cape Cod over the centuries has had a rich connection to the ocean. There are numerous beautiful sea captains’ homes which dot the peninsula from one end to the other. Many of these have been deemed of historic significance, such as those on the Captain’s Mile along Route 6A in Yarmouth Port. Some of these homes have enjoyed a second life though as a piece of Cape Cod’s historic nightlife including The Columns in West Dennis which began as the home of Obed Baker. Another such sea captains’ home which went on to live a second life resided a stone’s throw from Allen Harbor in Harwich. It was originally the home of Captain Leonard Robbins and would go on to become the popular Lincoln Lodge during the mid-20th century.

    Around 1833 the home would be built for the aforementioned Captain Robbins. It would be christened the Massachusett Lodge for a planting field located in the area run by the Native American tribe of the same name. It would be owned by three different people throughout the 19th century before being purchased around the turn of the 20th century by a retired judge from Chicago named William Keough.

    Keough would make many changes to the home, mostly enlarging it into a stately summer manor. However after nearly thirty years as owner of the home Keough’s life would change drastically. He was called into court in Chicago in the late 1930’s in a dispute over properties he owned, battling against members of notorious Al Capone’s gang. When Keogh refused to sell his properties the rents were raised immensely. He went to court to appeal the rent increases. When his appeals were denied it did not sit well with him and Keogh in turn shot and killed the victorious party’s assessor in the courthouse. The retired judge would be declared legally insane and sent away to an institution. Subsequently Keough’s children would sell the property to the Borden Family whose dairy company still operates to this day.

The Lincoln Lodge c. Rebecca Lufkin-Catron

    It would be the Borden’s who took the stately manor and turned it into a rooming house. They would also be the ones to give it its ‘Lincoln Lodge’ name. The property would be named for Joseph Lincoln rather than former President Abraham Lincoln. Joseph Lincoln was an author born in Brewster who during his career, specifically the first few decades of the 20th century, wrote about a fictionalized version of Cape Cod and had pieces published in such illustrious publications as the Saturday Evening Post. When the property was sold again in the 1940’s to William Jenks he kept the Lincoln Lodge name, assuming it was in honor of President Lincoln.

    Jenks would sell the Lodge to Else Lufkin in 1953 and the former sea captain’s home would embark on its most celebrated chapter. Lufkin and her son Robert Jr. would begin the process of turning the former rooming house into a popular eating and drinking establishment. The Lodge’s décor was cozy with half of the establishment having half circular couches with coffee tables facing a field stone fireplace and colonial wallpaper. The other half had the dining area and bar.  One popular change was the addition of the ‘Village Fare’ which was a changing buffet dinner Saturday nights. In the late 1960’s Lufkin would build a two-story motel on the property known as the Mary Todd Court. This meant that visitors could enjoy an evening at Lincoln Lodge, and if it was desired, stay the night close by.

Lincoln Lodge and Mary Todd Court

The Lincoln Lodge would promote its menu heavily including jumbo shrimp, clam pie, scallop stew, and Southern fried chicken. It would also become the Cape’s only Fondue restaurant adding to the popularity and uniqueness of the Lodge. Woe be to those who dropped food into the fondue. According to Bob Lufkin’s daughter Rebecca Lufkin-Catron there were specific instructions on how to rectify their mistake.

“A waitress would bring that customer a box with slips of paper with instructions for the customer,” she explains. “These would include instructing he or she to sing a song, tell a joke, recite a poem or kiss the host or hostess.”

Bob Lufkin would promote an air of fun and comradery at his spot. This included Hawaiian Luau’s on the outside lawn where a Hula dance instructor was on site to teach the dance to patrons. Rebecca Lufkin-Catron describes another way of bringing strangers together, Nut and Bolt Night which began after 9pm.

“A guy would be given a bolt and a gal a nut as they came in the lodge,” Lufkin-Catron says, “Which was a way to get people to mingle, by seeing whose nut matched whose bolt.”

However Robert Lufkin would shift the focus of his establishment in the late 1970’s when he created the hugely popular drink the Nantucket Sleigh Ride.

Postcard in front of Mary Todd Court

Lufkin created a monster with this famous drink. Although Lincoln Lodge was opened for cocktails nightly until 1am Sunday was set aside as Sleigh Ride Night. Rebecca Lufkin-Catron says it was so popular that on Sleigh Ride Night people would be lined up outside all the way to the end of the parking lot just to get a taste. Due to its potency though Lufkin set a limit of two drinks per customer. To this day Lufkin-Catron says that she is asked just what is needed to make a Nantucket Sleigh Ride. However that is rightfully a guarded family secret.

The Nantucket Sleigh Ride increased the establishment’s popularity, as did a new entertainment license in 1984. However both of these positives were double-edged swords. By 1985 there was an outcry by some neighbors about overcrowding and noise at Lincoln Lodge due to its increasing business. Though Lufkin went above and beyond to try to control noise and minimize intoxicated customers he continued to battle against neighbors and local police for several years. The constant battles with the town, coupled with increased police presence in the area and shortened operating hours on Sundays proved to be too much.

c. Rebecca Lufkin-Catron

Lufkin would sell his beloved Lincoln Lodge in May 1988 to Scott Sogard who would drastically change the business which had been there for more than thirty years. He would rename it Goucho’s Mexican Restaurant which it would remain for a decade before becoming Widow’s Walk Condos in 1999. As of 2021 the former Lincoln Lodge is still operating as the condos.


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