Friday, December 31, 2021

In My Footsteps: My 2021


    2021 is over. This year was less about resolutions and attempts to better my life and more about surviving until the bell rang. Will 2022 be any different? I’d like to think so. Is that na├»ve optimism? Perhaps. I can only speak of things in terms of my own life.

    As Jay-Z said “There’s much bigger issues in the world, I know, but I first had to take care of the world I know.” I’d love to think that 2022 ends the Covid pandemic as the number of vaccinated continues to rise and this in turn allows us to go back to life as we saw it in 2019. However that is not something I can change, so all I can do is hope family and friends are protected and the rest of the world is what it is.

    That being said 2022 has to be better than 2021 and definitely 2020. For me this comes down to changes I’ve made in life and seeds that were planted and are ready to be harvested. Farmers plant crops, not in the expectation of immediate gratification, but on the hopes that it they take the time and care to cultivate that a bountiful harvest will come there way in time. Life is more fine dining rather than fast food, you need to be patient for something good. This is how I feel.

    I look back 365 days to what life was and how bleak things felt. I worked in an unfulfilling job, a highly toxic work environment. It was loaded with people who were either unqualified or undeserving of the positions they held, some were both. There were no available Covid vaccinations yet. This meant that it was virtually impossible to visit my dying grandmother at the nursing home but for standing outside of her window. I had only recently quit alcohol and could easily fall off the wagon due to depression. I felt stuck.

    In March when my Nina passed I was at a turning point. The stress and unhappiness at work led me to take my own mental health into consideration. I gave my notice despite having no backup plan and it being in the midst of a pandemic. I hoped that if I bet on myself something better would come my way.

    Eventually it did. I was able to find a job back in personal training which is far more fulfilling. It turns out this job is one of those planted seeds I’ve mentioned. Likely in the spring of 2022 a new small-group training facility is opening as part of the place I work. It was not mentioned when I first got the job and was an extra bonus that showed me I was in the right place.

    This job is also bringing me back to center when it comes to my own mental health, physical well-being, and overall view of myself in the wider world. Having a boss and coworkers that are knowledgeable, positive, and supportive, allows one to not only do the job for others, but to do the job of fixing what’s broken within yourself. It has been a slow climb in the second half of 2021 with big things planned and hoped for in 2022 at least when it comes to me as a person.

    For those that know me, family, friends, even loyal podcast listeners, I have been up front about mental health and dilemmas in my own life. I have hoped that it might inspire others, or at least let them know that the issues they are dealing with are more common than they think.  One thing I have been leaning into is the fact that I am in control of my own life, my own narrative, my own happiness.  I cannot, and you should not, allow anyone else's negativity dim your shine.

    The main thing I can say is that even when things are at their worst, and it feels like you’re just fumbling around in the dark hoping to find a light switch, just keep moving forward. Sometimes you’ve planted seeds to be harvested without even realizing it. For me I had two new book opportunities come in 2021 based around previous works. I was not looking for new projects as of yet and they found me. These projects, a photography book and a true crime book, will see the day in late 2022 to maybe early 2023. They both came out of nowhere. This is why I try to be as good a person as I can and treat others with as much respect and kindness as I can. These good karma acts might get repaid when you least expect it.

    When it comes to the last three years, 2019-2021, I am not special. I am not unique in the fact that I have had problems, or tragedies befall me. I am not alone in having goals and dreams I wish to achieve and being forced to go through trials and tribulations, a virtual war of attrition to prove I really want them. What I am doing is sharing my own story to let others know that it’s okay to trip and fall down. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to have times where you feel like the tiniest grain of sand on the tiniest island in the largest ocean. What’s not okay though is to have that be what defines you.

    I lost my Grampa who was my hero. I developed a drinking problem to cope with it. I attempted to switch jobs right before Covid struck and ended up stuck in a terrible situation. I became a stress eater after giving up alcohol. I lost my Nina, my last remaining grandparent. I’ve had major crises of confidence and waves of depression. But you know what? I am still here. I am still standing and that fact alone gives me hope.

    I am optimistic and approaching 2022 with the best of intentions. You may not have had the same problems as me but we all get this symbolic clean slate. Will all of my seeds I’ve played lead to bountiful crops? Likely no, but I won’t know for sure until the time has passed. That is how we all must looks at things. You won’t know if things don’t work out until after, but like Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

    When it comes to 2022, I think I can. So let’s go.


Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

Zazzle Store: Cape Cod Living

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

In Their Footsteps: New England History - Edaville Railroad, Carver, Massachusetts

    For generations it has been a holiday right of passage for those living in Southeastern Massachusetts. Simple beauty, family fun, filled with wholesome memories, Edaville has been visited by countless thousands of families during its existence. Developed in the vision of its creator this Massachusetts staple has come back from several tragedies to now be going strong into its eighth decade. This is the story of the creation and perseverance of Edaville.

Christmas at Edaville(goaliej54/flickr)

    Born in 1889 Ellis D. Atwood was raised in Carver, Massachusetts. He graduated Tabor Academy in the nearby town of Marion. Later on he married Elthea Eldredge of Wareham in February 1919. 

    Atwood made a name for himself in the highly profitable local cranberry growing industry.  This began by him purchasing three acres of land from his father.  Then with his father died in 1915 Ellis took over all of the family cranberry business.  

    Ellis and Elthea lived in the Murdock-Atwood House near Sampson’s Pond which had been passed down to Ellis by his great-Uncle Marcus Atwood.

    The Atwood’s connection with the Christmas season began with an elaborate display on their front lawn in 1933. Cranberries, Christmas, and railroads, Ellis Atwood’s three favorite things, would eventually be brought together by another’s loss.

    What would eventually become Edaville Railroad was born out of the ashes of a defunct railway. The Bridgton and Harrison Railroad had begun operations in Maine in 1883. Late in 1941 it was being shut down. The rails and train cars were being destroyed. Having taken a blissful trip upon the railroad in August 1941, mere months before it was rendered obsolete, Atwood made a trip to Maine to buy what he could.

Ellis D. Atwood(Cranberries Magazine, Dec. 1950)

    On December 3, 1941 Atwood purchased one locomotive known as the Old No. 7. In addition he bought 11 box cars, 24 flat cars, a caboose, and a half-mile of two-foot gauge track. The final, and perhaps most important piece, was the hiring of former Bridgton and Harrison conductor Everett Brown. Atwood desired someone who knew the railroad and could teach him how to drive a train.

    Completing the Atwood property railroad was delayed due to World War II. Eventually though the man known as the Cape Cod Cranberry King soon had a fully-operational narrow gauge railway circumnavigating the 1,800-acre Atwood property. Atwood’s goal was to combine his success in the cranberry industry with his love of railroads. The new railway on his property was called the Cranberry Belt Line. It was used for sanding, spraying, and harvesting from the bogs.

    Atwood’s Cranberry Belt Line had more than five miles of track. There were some rumors in 1945 that Atwood was considering converting his railroad into an active route between Plymouth and Boston. That did not end up happening. Although it didn’t become an active passenger railroad Atwood’s train was used for more than work. Not long after beginning to take his own train rides around the cranberry bogs Atwood had curious neighbors stopping by for a trip of their own.

    In May 1946 Atwood parlayed his Cranberry Belt Line railroad into a local tourist attraction. He called it ‘Edaville’ for Ellis D. Atwood’s E.D.A. initials. By the end of the year more than 25,000 people had taken a ride on his locomotive around his cranberry bog property. During this first season all Atwood asked of his customers for a fare was common courtesy and common sense.

    Word quickly spread during the first few seasons of the Edaville Railroad. It was the last narrow gauge railroad in the country. In 1948 Atwood said that more than 35,000 people per month arrived to climb aboard the Cranberry Belt Line. The cars and stops along the railway had cranberry-themed names. These included cars named ‘Oceans Spray,’ ‘Eatmor,’ ‘Atwood Special,’ and stops called ‘Cranberry Valley,’ ‘Sunset Vista,’ and ‘Mount Urann’ which was named for Marcus Urann who was president of the National Cranberry Association.

The locomotive at Edaville, 1959(rickpilot_2000/flickr)

    Although it was popular during the warmer months due to there being a beach for summertime play it was the Christmas season where Edaville saw its largest crowds. In 1949 alone upwards of 75,000 people came for a ride to see the over 12,000 colorful lights and more than forty Christmas scene displays lit by floodlights. Train rides through the season began at 4:30pm and ran until midnight. Ellis Atwood had created a family-friendly and wildly popular local tourist attraction. However tragedy nearly ended Edaville.

    On November 26, 1950 Ellis Atwood was late returning home from Edaville. His wife Elthea went to check on him. She found him face down in the basement of the railroad administration building. The furnace had exploded with the door striking Atwood in the head. He clung to life at Wareham’s Tobey Hospital for four days before succumbing to his injuries on November 30th. Ellis D. Atwood, the Eda of Edaville, was dead at sixty-one.

    Cranberry growing had made Atwood a millionaire, but Edaville had brought him more love and popularity. His memorial held at Edaville was attended by more than 2,000 people. Elthea carried on the day-to-day operations of the park in Ellis’ honor. She increased the displays and lights surrounding the Christmas season in particular by creating the Edaville Christmas Festival. However it all became too much. Elthea sold Edaville to F. Nelson Blount in the spring of 1956.

    The railroad continued to thrill visitors for decades. It was sold a few more times yet each successive owner maintained or even improved upon the park’s presentation. The cranberry bogs were highly profitable due to their deep connection to the Ocean Spray corporation. In 1991 final owner George Bartholomew closed the beloved park. Most of the equipment was sold off shortly thereafter to a railroad museum in Portland, Maine. It seemed as though Edaville was finished after more than four decades in operation.

The entrance to Edaville on Rt. 58 in Carver.(T.S. Custadio/Wikimedia)

    The park sat vacant for eight years. In a surprising turn of events the CranRail Corporation bought the decaying Edaville in 1999. The company poured $5 million into restoring and renovating the park over five years. Edaville was reopened to much fanfare just in time for the Christmas Lights Festival in December 1999. Since its reopening Edaville has enchanted countless thousands of visitors. Parents and grandparents now bring new generations to enjoy Edaville much like they had.

    Ellis Atwood had only seen a tiny slice of the impact Edaville was to make on Massachusetts locals and visitors before his untimely death. Despite that his name is still front and center whenever someone utters ‘EDAville.’ It is far more than a little train roaming the cranberry bogs of Carver. Edaville is a destination for families annually. In a day when so much constantly changes Edaville is a throwback to a simpler time. It should be experienced, or re-experienced, by all of those within reach of the park.


Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

Zazzle Store: Cape Cod Living

Thursday, December 2, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Shirdan's Country Kitchen of Hyannis

    Times change. Places come and they go. Sometimes even those that stuck around for decades and left a positive impression on the community can become lost to history. This is the case with Shirdan’s Restaurant. It was a popular eatery for nearly three decades. Yet at times it can feel as though it never existed. This is a little trip down memory lane with the story of Shirdan’s Restaurant and its Country Kitchen.

    Even a half a century ago the area surrounding the Barnstable Airport was one of the busiest on all of Cape Cod. Thousands of people circled the Airport Rotary daily. It seemed a fairly safe idea that any businesses that opened in that area would see some modicum of success. The greater the business, the greater the success.

    From the beginning Shirdan’s Restaurant was indeed a success. It was a true partnership between Shirley and Dan Shaughnessey. The husband and wife partners opened Shirdan’s at the Airport Rotary in 1968. This restaurant venture was not a passing fancy, especially for Shirley. In fact Shirley’s parents, Margaret and Al Barabe, owned Margaret and Al’s Restaurant in the same building from 1956-1968. Shirdan’s name was a nod to Shirley’s parents’ choice of business name. Margaret also went on to work at Shirdan’s.

    Shirdan’s Restaurant was by all accounts a classic, comfort food, New England establishment. It served breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere. There were seafood choices like fish and chips, fried clams, and baked stuffed shrimp. In addition there were also classic comfort foods like sheppards pie, meatloaf, chicken pie, chicken croquettes, and prime rib on Friday’s.

    Throughout the 1970’s Shirdan’s delighted countless customers at their Airport Rotary location. When opportunity arose to expand the Shaughnessey’s jumped on it. In March 1979 they purchased Marshview Farms Restaurant from Ed and Alice Taylor for $112,000($426,000 in 2021). The restaurant was located on a quieter stretch of Rt. 132 in Hyannis. Shirley and Dan renamed it Shirdan’s Country Kitchen and had it open in time for the summer of 1979.

    The next several years saw success on two fronts for Shirley and Dan. Not only did the couple run a pair of popular restaurants but Shirley Shaughnessey also was an important figure in Hyannis town affairs. She would eventually become president of the Hyannis Chamber of Commerce during the early 1980’s.

    Despite Shirley’s connections to the town there were issues that she could not overcome. Changes to the leasing agreements of the Enoch Cobb Lot of property in 1982, the area also included Mitchell’s Steak House and the VFW, had the Shaughnessey’s considering their options. Eventually the Shaughnessey’s agreed to pay a higher rent but the writing was on the wall.

    While the VFW ended up purchasing their share of the property Shirdan’s went a different route. After Labor Day in 1983 Shirdan’s Restaurant was closed and the lease given up. Shirley said that she felt it would be easier to keep business under one roof. Nantucket Sound, the stereo store, moved into the spot from the Cape Cod Mall and still exists there as of 2021. All was not lost though as the Rt. 132 location was expanded. Shirdan’s Country Kitchen remained a popular destination.

The Nantucket Sound location where the original Shirdan's once stood.(Google Maps)

    In April 1985 Shirdan’s Country Kitchen was sold to John Kaye. He reassured customers that no changes would be made to the restaurant. A big change did come though when Kaye opened a second Shirdan’s in West Yarmouth on Rt. 28. For a time both locations were successful. However two problems crept up as the 1980’s turned to the 1990’s. One was the uncertainty of the seasonal nature of Cape Cod. A subpar summer could spell doom for places that depended on tourists. The second problem was the influx of larger chain restaurants.

    These problems came to a head in the mid-1990’s. First the West Yarmouth location of Shirdan’s closed sometime after the summer of 1995. It was sold at auction in July 1996 and turned into a Burger King(now Dunkin’). The Rt. 132 location hung on through the summer of 1996. It was that October when John Kaye decided to close. He stated that the encroaching chain restaurants, specifically Old Country Buffet in the neighboring Festival Plaza, had eroded Shirdan’s business to the point that staying open was no longer financially feasible. Incredibly the Hyannis area was reported to be the second-most saturated restaurant market in the country at the time, trailing only Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It made it nearly impossible for local spots at the time to thrive.

    The Hyannis Shirdan’s building remained standing until 2005 when it was finally demolished. Even before then the landscape surrounding it was changing. In 1999 Bearse’s Way was expanded to cut through the former property. This paved the way for the Stop & Shop location that stands in that area.

    The Airport Rotary and Rt. 132 look far different today than even during the time of Shirdan’s. Despite only being gone for a quarter-century there are times when it feels as though successful businesses like Shirdan’s have been lost to history. Both Dan and Shirley Shaughnessey have since passed away and the three former Shirdan’s locations have either been demolished or repurposed by another business. The Shirdan’s name will remain alive in the memories of those locals who sat at its tables during its nearly three decades of serving delicious comfort food to Cape Cod.


Previous Blog Posts:

Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

Zazzle Store: Cape Cod Living

In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 47: Restaurant Storytime 3, Top 5 Xmas TV Specials, Nintendo Game Boy, Colonial Williamsburg


Sunday, November 28, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - The Blue Tavern of Barnstable

    Barnstable Village is one of the most beautiful areas on Cape Cod. Where Route 6A passes through it there is the atmosphere of a quaint Main Street. So much of what attracts people to the Cape is located in barely a half-mile stretch of road. There are shops, restaurants, libraries, churches with beautiful gardens, the District Court, and even a fire department.

    The fire department in Barnstable Village came into existence after a pair of devastating fires in the mid-1930’s. The first fire was the catalyst to get people talking about creating a village fire department. It was a tragic event that could have very easily been prevented. Five fire departments came in time, the only thing they lacked was the water to put the fire out. The victim of this fire was the popular and luxurious Blue Tavern. This is the story of the brief tenure of this long forgotten Cape Cod establishment.

    The idea for a luxurious hotel in Barnstable Village came from the mind of Harold Daggett and on the land owned by his father. It was late in 1925 when the reports of a new hotel possibly being constructed in the village popped up. The land was directly across Route 6A from what is today the Barnstable House.

    Construction was slow going at the beginning. An early frost and cold frozen ground on Cape Cod caused Daggett to delay the rock blasting to break ground on the hotel’s cellar. After waiting until it was more favorable weather-wise work began in late December 1925.

    Located up on a hill the progress on the Blue Tavern was rushed during the winter and spring of 1926 in the hopes of getting it opened by the summer. There was a main entrance leading into the property from Route 6A and the winding driveway led around and exited out onto Old Jail Lane. Despite rushing the construction the fabulous Blue Tavern was ready for its grand opening on June 1, 1926.

    The specs of the new hotel included three floors and twenty-eight guest rooms. A huge chimney rose from the ground on either end of the building which was naturally adorned with blue trimmings. All of the guest rooms had private baths and telephones, many of these rooms were named after Cape Cod towns. There was a basement tea room, a fully equipped pump house, and a twelve car garage. Blue Tavern sat on twenty-one acres of land surrounded by evergreens. It gave it the feeling of being secluded even though it was only a few hundred feet from the road. The total cost of the project was estimated at $125,000 ($1.93 million in 2021).

The Blue Tavern (Sturgis Library)

    The first season of the Blue Tavern was considered a success highlighted by Henry Ford staying for several nights in the ‘Chatham’ room. Being a luxury hotel attracted higher class clientele yet this was a double-edged sword. It turned out that running a hotel with opulent amenities along with running the Blue Lantern Tea Room across the street was an expensive undertaking. The Blue Tavern was said to have been one of the costliest properties on Cape Cod as far as upkeep went.

    Harold Daggett had been under the belief that a Cape Cod land boom was on the horizon as he debuted the Blue Tavern. This, however, did not end up occurring. The repercussions were immediate as Daggett was forced into bankruptcy shortly after closing the hotel for the season. The end result was the hotel being sold in January 1927 to Elmer Clapp of Boston for the sum of $94,280 ($1.48 million in 2021).

    Clapp installed Ernest Sharpe of Swampscott, Massachusetts as General Manager due to his previous successes running several hotels in Florida. The Blue Tavern opened for its second season in March 1927. The ride was smooth for the new ownership only for about a year. Sharpe resigned from his post as GM in May 1928 to go and run the Yarmouth Tavern. Elmer Clapp appointed his son Charles as the new GM shortly thereafter.

An ad for the Blue Tavern from Yarmouth Register July 2, 1927

    For the next several years the Blue Tavern earned a reputation as one of the premier hotels on Cape Cod. In addition to being frequented by travelers from all parts of the country the hotel was also a perfect location for other events. Important meetings, wedding receptions, intimate dining affairs, and more were held on the property. After some stops and starts it appeared that nothing could keep Blue Tavern from creating a lasting legacy in Cape Cod history.

    Sadly that was not to be the case. On June 25, 1934 a fire of unknown origin broke out just after dawn. Within a short period of time five different neighboring fire departments arrived at the Blue Tavern. Hyannis Fire Department Chief J. Lester Howland later admitted that the fire itself was fairly routine and could have easily been taken care of. However that did not end up happening. The reason? There was a lack of water for the firemen to use.

    Although it had been a bone of contention for many years Barnstable Village did not have its own water supply to be used to fight fires. The village depended on using water from local creeks and in a case of bad timing the tide was out that morning as the Blue Tavern burned.

    The fire was first noticed by hotel employee Eleanor Scott shortly after 8am. Luckily there were only nine guests at the hotel at the time. They were all alerted and safely got out of the hotel. In fact the fire burned so slowly that all of the guests had ample time to pack their belongings before exiting. When all was said and done the only thing left standing of the Blue Tavern was a wing on the east side.

    Though some furniture was saved management said almost immediately that the building was unlikely to be rebuilt. Cementing the likely end a note of appreciation was written by owner Elmer Clapp thanking the fire department and police for all of their attempts to save the Blue Tavern. It was a devastating loss not only for travelers to Cape Cod but for the staff as well. The Great Depression was crippling the job market in America and things did not bode well for the former employees who lost their jobs as well as surrounding businesses that benefited from the tourism.

    Despite the fire spelling the likely end of the Blue Tavern the remains of the property still stood for several years. There were rumors of the property being converted into a jail farm but those never materialized. The final curtain came in December 1940 when the last pieces of the Blue Tavern hotel were knocked down and removed. The property stayed unoccupied until 1970 when a family home was built there.

The Barnstable Village fire department. (Google Maps)

    Although the Blue Tavern is a long forgotten blip on the radar in history there was an event that resulted from its demise that is still around today. Barnstable got its own official fire department on July 14, 1935. It was approved by voters including money for a fire engine and land donated by Alfred Crocker in memory of his father. Upon this land the fire station was constructed. Located in the center of Barnstable Village it still stands to this day. It might have been too late to save the Blue Tavern but the loss of the luxury hotel led to the creation of a fire department that without question has saved lives and property in the decades since. In that vein the Blue Tavern was a rousing success.


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Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

Zazzle Store: Cape Cod Living

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Yarmouth's Hidden Dance Hall

    More than a half a century ago entertainment options for young people were far different than in the 21st century. Drive-in movies, hanging out at a pizza parlor or other causal restaurant, or simply meeting at friends’ houses were common tropes. However the main form of entertainment revolved around music and dancing. Night clubs and dance halls were the most popular meeting spots for the younger generation in the years after World War II.

    Cape Cod was no different. In the 1950’s Places like the Rainbow Ballroom, Mill Hill Club, Pilgrim Club, Storyville, and more attracted young people with the promise of fun nights of dancing and music. These places were good business ideas which led to people looking to establish their own dance halls to bring in the younger generation. Some of these places were successful like those previously mentioned. Some came in with a bang and quickly fizzled out with a whimper. Others tried several different options in an attempt to find success and this is the story of one such place.

    In the 1950’s Yarmouth’s Higgins Crowell Road was a fairly barren two-mile stretch of road in between Route 28 and Willow Street. These were the days before the police station and two schools were built along this road. An idea was hatched to create a safe spot to entertain teens and young adults with dancing and music in a spot surrounded by woods.

    The project was named Sherwood Forest Recreation Center and was the brainchild of young Yarmouth builder Anthony Alosi. He had already built up several residences on the south end of Higgins Crowell Road and saw potential in a 25-acre parcel of land he had recently acquired. Alosi went to the Town of Yarmouth in April 1957 with his idea of building a dance hall in the area that had only recently been zoned for business or industrial purposes. The fact that it was a newly designated area meant that Alosi had to go through a few hoops to be approved, some in town were still getting used to the industrial zoning distinction of the quiet area on Higgins Crowell Road.

    Alosi’s project was approved. The town saw his intentions as good with the dance hall being alcohol-free. After some initial delays work began on Sherwood Forest in September 1957. Alosi was joined by Joseph Massi in clearing land and prepping for the construction. Massi was to be the leader of the house band that would play at Sherwood Forest upon its opening.

    The winter was spent clearing and prepping the land so that beginning in February 1958 work could begin on the building itself. Sherwood Forest when all was said and done, was a 200x60 foot building reinforced by steel trusses. It had a flat roof and the siding was covered in stucco. The building was to have a maximum capacity of 1,500. Out back was a patio and a fountain while the interior saw a large dance floor and a pair of snack bars on either side of the main entrance. Alosi wanted Sherwood Forest to have a gothic look.

An ad for Sherwood Forest from Yarmouth Register July 11, 1958

    Alosi and his crew worked tirelessly throughout the spring. The establishment had strict guidelines. No one under 17 could attend unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Women had to wear dresses or skirts, men had to wear button-down shirts with sports jackets and slacks, no jeans allowed. Hours placed it open from 8pm to 1am every day except Sundays.

    Opening night of Sherwood Forest came on July 3, 1958 with a special guest night. It was led by Joe Massi and his fifteen piece band. The liquor-free dance hall opened to the public on July 4th. It was a huge success attended by hundreds of local youth.

    Not willing to rest on his laurels Alosi announced four major events that summer at Sherwood Forest. They were the Tommy Dorsey Band directed by Warren Covington, the Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Ray McKinley, the annual Yarmouth Police Ball, and a semi-formal ball for Centerville’s Our Lady of Victory church. All signs pointed to a banner summer of safe and fun entertainment.

    However that was not the case. Despite all of the hype and the roaring initial success Sherwood Forest found itself closed in early August due to a lack of customers. Alosi sold the building to the John Hinckley & Son company. The dream of Sherwood Forest was not over though.

    In February 1959 a new idea was brought forth. Staying within the restriction of any establishment being alcohol-free Hinckley & Son proposed that Sherwood Forest become a roller skating rink. The proposition was accepted and the Silver Roll-A-Way was born.

    New owner Walter Juskiewicz took the former Sherwood Forest through a litany of renovations. This included a plastic non-skid skating floor and a new snack bar. A major selling point was that in addition to nighttime skates there would be skating instruction on Saturday mornings from 10am to noon for children ages 4-10.

    Much like Sherwood Forest despite a successful beginning the project did not last. The large spacious building on Higgins Crowell Road was shuttered after one summer. It lay dormant throughout 1960 until another investor saw potential in the building. This time it was Ruth Feeley who operated a successful dance studio in South Yarmouth.

    Feeley planned to turn the property back to a dance hall. She planned on local dances combining live bands and vinyl records. There were also plans for special junior high school nights, fashion shows, and dance competitions. The Prom Ballroom Club opened for business April 9, 1961. After a few successful months the establishment quickly fizzled out. Once the summer ended Feeley’s Prom Ballroom became the third business to fail inside the expansive building. It would not be the last.

    In the summer of 1962 Donald Putignano of Brockton took a swing. He reopened the building this time under the name of the Cape Cod Tropical Ballroom. This fourth incarnation of Anthony Alosi’s structure was able to stamp its name in the annals of Cape Cod history based around one night.

    On July 3, 1963 more than 2,000 people crammed inside the building which was zoned to hold roughly 1,200. The reason? They wanted to see the iconic Ray Charles and his band play. There was little advanced notice given and despite that people came from as far as New Bedford and Provincetown to hear Charles play among the woods of West Yarmouth. It was a legendary night. That being said, it was par for the course, as banner single nights did not a successful business make.

    The Cape Cod Tropical Ballroom did not last. Ironically there was never an issue with disorderly conduct in the area throughout all of its incarnations. It was the lack of profit that caused such constant turnover. The fifth time was not the charm either.

A concert poster from A Go-Go 1966 (Record

    In June 1965 Charles MacKenney and Jimmy Troy took their shot. The dance hall was reopened as the A Go-Go. It featured more mainstream music for the time, long hair, electric guitars, and still no alcohol. Club membership passes were sold to give patrons a discount in admission from $2.50 down to $1.75. Boston-based band the Barbarians frequented the A Go-Go while outside acts such as Roger Pace and the Pacemakers as well as Joey Dee and the Starlighters graced the stage during that first season. The Animals and The Velvet Underground played there in 1966 and 1967.

    The issues with the establishment came quickly. Averaging 600-700 people during the weekend dances led to issues between rival towns. Alcohol use by minors in the parking lot and at home before coming to the club led to numerous fights inside and outside of the A Go-Go. This in turn led to an increase in the police presence in the area.

    Although relatively successful for a few years the problems at the A Go-Go proved to be too much. It became the fifth business to try and fail at the Higgins Crowell location in a decade. The building remained closed for a few years before a permanent resident came along.

The former location of Sherwood Forest/A Go-Go. (Google Maps)

    Interestingly despite five attempts at entertainment in the building it was the New Testament Baptist Church that gave the property stability. After the building and property was taken by the town by eminent domain in early 1972 a buyer was sought. The church purchased the property in October 1972. Major renovations were done to the property and the organization has called it home for nearly fifty years.

    A decade of turbulence saw five business try and fail in a location that was a blessing and a curse. Quiet and secluded to keep any noise localized, and yet so secluded that it had trouble bringing in customers. Though Sherwood Forest, the A-Go-Go and the others have been lost to history, a mere blip on the radar, the building itself designed by Anthony Alosi is still standing and still entertaining people, albeit in a far different way than he initially intended.


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Friday, November 5, 2021

In My Footsteps: Sundays at Nana's

    It’s a funny thing how you can still miss a person tremendously even if you had spent as much time as you possibly could with them. It’s incredible the mark someone can leave on you and your life that you can have thousands of unique memories and moments with them, a literal infinite field of flowers, and yet they still leave you thinking it was not enough. I still have so many vivid memories of my Nana, even twelve years after her death because I was around her so much.

    She was a saint of a woman. All 5-feet of Portuguese and English blood who had been forced to raise four kids on her own after a cruel twist took the life of her husband at the young age of forty-three. It had to have been rough being both mother and father to kids between the ages of eight and sixteen. She did it though, all while also being the bread winner of the family. There was no stay at home parenting, no day care, no babysitting. My Nana became tough and unflappable because life gave her no other option.

    Despite everyone knowing that the family’s success or failure fell squarely on her shoulders she never lost her cool or became overwhelmed by the pressure. If she did feel any of those things she kept them hidden away from prying eyes. Being raised as a child during the Great Depression must have made persevering through life’s struggles as instinctual a trait as breathing. Crying about the hand one was dealt did not change the hand.

    My Nana had to make all of the tough choices when it came to parenting. She did not have a tag team partner to bounce ideas off of. By the time she was forty-three she had lost her husband and her mother leaving very little in the way of immediate family for emotional support. She was good cop and bad cop in the name of raising well adjusted kids. She had to console grieving children who had lost their father, all the while doing her own grieving of her husband and mother in private.

    These challenges of being a child during the Great Depression, college-aged during World War II, and a widowed single-mother in her forties, all shaped my Nana into the person I got to know starting in her fifties. She was fifty-three when I was born. By that point her youngest child was now twenty. Although I’d love to say that my being born allowed her to step back and let her guard down a little the truth is that it was just a coincidence. She had done her job of raising her kids and now it was time to take a breath.

    I don’t have any concrete memories of my Nana until about the age of five. There are however countless photos of things before they left an imprint on my young mind. Some photos might have her head cut out by her own hand, but they all show that she was a constant presence in my life from Day One.

    I never knew the woman named Doris. I never knew the woman lovingly referred to as ‘Ma.’ I only knew Nana. She was the person with the roaring infectious laughter that everybody who came into contact with her tried to bring to the surface. Her laugh made us laugh until tears streamed down all of our faces. It was as much a tradition as turkey on Thanksgiving and lights on the Christmas tree. Nana was the straight man in the venerable nut house that was Boxberry Lane during family gatherings.

    Despite her home being ground zero for all types of gatherings throughout childhood it is Sunday that always stood out for me. In some ways Sunday is still Nana Day in my mind. Those days of visiting her began with being picked up at home, many times by Nana herself. In the early days it was a black Ford Escort (that I took my first driving lessons in), later on it was a red Dodge Dynasty.

    Most Sunday’s consisted of watching television, Three Stooges and WWF All-American Wrestling stand out. If it was warm there was ample time in the backyard either playing Wiffle ball before the neighbors put up a fence in their backyard, or lying in the hammock. If it was cold or rainy we’d be inside. We’d play board games like Chutes and Ladders or going through the old family albums and getting a kick out of the different hair and clothing styles. I can still hear the crinkling sounds the protective plastic made with each turn of those old albums.

    The biggest question was always what was for dinner. During the summer we’d have as many cookouts on Nana’s old red-topped charcoal grill. However Nana could make a lot of dishes. A few of her favorites to share with us were American Chop Suey, Inside-Out Ravioli, New England boiled dinner (ham or corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, carrots), and the classic franks, beans, and brown bread. If she wasn’t feeling like cooking it was pizza from Giardino’s or Taki’s, or a buffet from China Inn.

    Nana was the one who loved her birds (especially Goldfinches), loved her crossword puzzles, and loved her grandkids. That was why if of one Nana’s four kids gave some good-natured ribbing about her being some sort of strict disciplinarian when they were younger we grandkids would just shake our heads in disbelief. That was not our Nana, hell I don’t think that could have been Ma, or even Doris. She was someone who always saw the good in everyone and everything.

    Nana was always the one who seemed truly proud of you for whatever you had done. No matter how small or insignificant it might have been her pride was evident. She was always the one who was genuinely happy to see you even as her life grew painful and her light grew dimmer. As a child and a teenager these Sundays with Nana were written in ink on the schedule of my life. An obligation not a choice, though that does not mean they were any less enjoyable. It just means that as I became a young man in my twenties with my own life and own means of transportation I made it my choice to continue the visits because I wanted to.

    I can sit here now and recall literally hundreds and hundreds of Sundays with Nana. From ones that happened before my memory held on to them to the last one in November 2009 each and every one of them had special moments which, like grains of sand, fill the pristine beach that was my Nana’s life.

    I was blessed to have my Nana in my life until I was thirty-two. This allowed me the ability to see her not only as my loving grandmother but also later on to be able to speak and learn from her as an adult. It allowed me to appreciate the person behind my Nana so much more. It gave me the opportunity to do things like trace her family tree back hundreds of years, or to write a children’s book based around her and her cat Mittens.

    Part of me held on to the belief that as long as I had living grandparents I was still a child. Therefore I was a child until I turned forty-three. Still, as much as I’d love to have one more Sunday with my Nana it gives me peace to know that I had as many as I possibly could and likely more than most people have with their grandparents. I miss those days and can picture all of it so clearly. I miss the old phonograph in the den with the Edison record that we always wanted to play. I miss the cigarette smoke damaged painting above the fireplace. I miss the eclectic collection of glass bottles that lined the mantle. I miss sun tea and Horse’s Necks. I miss climbing up to the attic on a ladder that seemed to be one step from collapse. I miss the rose bush that swallowed a fence, or the giant puddle that formed in the street after it rained.

    Yes I miss all of what made Sundays at Nana’s so special and fun. However there is one thing that above all else I wish I had the opportunity to relive one more time. When we would be driven home after dinner on Sundays Nana would stand in the front door and wave to us as the car drove away. I remember watching her wave and fade from sight as we pulled away. She never closed the door until long after we had vanished, like she wanted to see us for as long as she could as much as we wanted to see her. Even near the end when it was too painful to see me off at the door I could picture her sitting in her favorite chair and waving as she heard my car leave, even if she knew I couldn't see it.

    I find that ending of a typical Sunday, the vision of Nana waving to us slowly growing smaller until she faded away, being a perfect metaphor for her final years. She never closed the door she simply faded away until we could not see her anymore. But if I close my eyes and think hard enough I can see her again, I can hear her again, and despite being gone for twelve years the fact that she remains such a powerful and important part of my life I believe is the greatest compliment I could pay her.


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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Kemp's of America the Cape's First Fast Food Restaurant

    McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, and more are what pops to mind when thinking of the most popular fast food chains in history. Each of these has at least one location on Cape Cod and hundreds, if not thousands of locations worldwide. However did you know when looking back that the very first fast food chain to break ground on the Cape was none of the above? In fact it was a spot that came and went rather quickly and is somewhat lost to the passage of time. The very first fast food spot was a hamburger spot called Kemp's of America and this is a little bit about its history.

    In terms of overall history, the first true fast food hamburger restaurant was White Castle which was founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. The 1950’s saw the dawn of many prominent fast food chains including Jack In the Box(1951), Burger King(1953), Sonic(1953), and the franchising of already established places like McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    Though ripe with competition there were still some who saw opportunity in the crowded fast food market. This included Boston business executive Lawrence Laskey who created Kemp’s of America in 1963 and opened its first location in 1964 in Saugus, Massachusetts. Other locations soon followed in Medford, Fall River, Brockton, Worcester, Burlington, and Nashua, New Hampshire. By late 1964 Kemp’s was considered one of the fastest growing chains in the country.

Advertisement for the opening of the Roxbury Kemp's from Oct. 1964(Boston Public Library)

    Kemp’s offered 15-cent hamburgers, 20-cent cheeseburgers, 15-cent hot dogs, 12-cent shoestring french fries, 20-cent milkshakes, and even a fish fry. Sporting the slogans of the ‘best in the world’ and ‘the nation’s favorite’ it was not long until Kemp’s made its way to Cape Cod.

    Talks for a location on the Cape began in December 1964. It was settled on Hyannis as the site of what would be the 26th Kemp’s restaurant. A section of Iyannough Road almost directly across the street from the iconic Mildred’s Chowder House was where construction began.

    The new Hyannis location, a yellow building complete with a black cow on the top, opened late in the spring of 1965. It was overshadowed by the first Boston-proper location that opened in July 1965 at 632 Washington Street. The manager of the Hyannis location was Ray Cadrin who would go on to have a long and distinguished career in Cape Cod restaurants.

An old Kemp's sign in Boston 1971(

    Kemp’s became an immediate hit with kids and families. The company sponsored youth baseball and gave the added incentive of free hamburgers and milkshakes after every win. Lawrence Laskey was front and center promoting Kemp’s and the company’s growth. He predicted the chain would have more than one hundred locations by the end of 1966. This was set to include a second Cape Cod location in Falmouth. Neither of the predictions came true. It is unclear though just how many restaurants Kemp’s had at its peak.

    Despite doing fairly well business-wise, and being popular locally, Kemp’s could not stave off the encroachment of other fast food chains. McDonald’s came to the Cape in 1969 with a location on Rt. 132, little more than half a mile from Kemp’s. Wendy’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack in the Box, and Burger Chef, among others, also came to Cape Cod in that same time period. These additional options for customers spelled doom for the smaller Kemp’s.

    The Hyannis location of Kemp’s closed in 1973 with the building becoming the home of Mr. Donut in 1975. Slowly Kemp’s locations closed down across the state. After the Hyannis location closed former manager Ray Cadrin landed on his feet. He opened the very popular Ray’s Sub Shop not long after on Center Street in Hyannis. Cadrin operated that establishment until his retirement in 1995.

    The last location of Kemp’s that remained is difficult to confirm. A location on Boylston Street in Boston was still in operation in 1978. However the company itself was dissolved in 1980. Regardless of where the last location stood in the end Kemp’s was faced with overwhelming competition from far larger chains and was eventually squeezed out.

The site of the former Kemp's(Google Maps)

    Today on Cape Cod the larger fast food chains remain strong. The only thing to remain of Kemp’s is the memories from those who went there during its brief run as the original fast food spot on the Cape. As of 2021 Honey Dew Donuts occupies the property that once house Kemp’s of America.


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