Thursday, January 19, 2017
I'll start off by saying that I'm a Duxbury kid, and it's odd for me to argue for a Marshfield icon. My natural instinct is to encourage things that harm Marshfield's football team and help Duxbury's team. For the most part, their pain is my joy. Schadenfreude, as they say in Germany.
Forgive the German allusion, I'm having brain lock thinking of a prominent fired general who was perfectly competent... but this is very much how people in the American military must have felt when Hitler sacked Rommel. "Oh, Adolph made a big mistake there... that's his best general."
Coach Lou Silva isn't Rommel and Marshfield High School isn't the Wehrmacht (Ed: and Hitler never fired Rommel, instead demanding and getting his suicide) but the comparison works. From where I'm sitting, it looks like Marsh Vegas just sacked their best general.
What's worse, they did so without a better man in place. Or, since I saw Goldie Hawn coach football in a movie once, a better woman.
Marsh Vegas was always tough under Coach Silva. He went 236-144-7 as a head coach, and he brought 5 Super Bowls home to Marshfield. Winning five Super Bowls in the NFL guarantees you a first ballot, undisputed entrance into the NFL Hall Of Fame... and the NFL only has 32 teams. Coach Silva waded through a state with hundreds of high schools, and he brought multiple titles home.
Is there someone who can do that out there? They have one chance of getting a better coach than Pretty Lou Silva.... and that is the longshot bet that a second celebrity inexplicably becomes enamored with operating a small business in Marshfield, a la Steve Carell, or however he spells that. This celebrity would have to be a retired NFL or Div. 1 college coach, and he'd have to be in place by the spring practices.
Other than that, Marshfield just cut off their nose to spite their face. The next coach will be someone who teaches there, his teaching experience will make little/no difference in the player's lives through his coaching, and the team will be less well-run.
Silva retired as Athletic Director in 2014, so the bump-him-upstairs option isn't there.
I would say something along the lines of "I hope they go 0-10," but that just seems mean to the kids. I could say something like "Any Marshfield kids who can really, really play are welcome to transfer over to Duxbury High School," but that may be illegal... especially where I have run several Gambling columns in my life. DHS is an Ivy league factory, however... just sayin'.
I should add that Duxbury- another Grade A program with multiple Super Bowls- has been through at least five or six coaches since Marsh Vegas brought Coach Silva into the mix. Many a Thanksgiving saw Deluxebury serve as Lou Silva's punching bag, and he won his last squabble with us by 50+ points.
It would be fitting if the whole MHS team quit en masse, and instead showed up at Coach Silva's house on the date of MHS's first practice like "Hey coach, split us up, let's scrimmage."
Or Marshfield could do the right thing, admit that they made a mistake, and hire Coach Silva back.
While speculating on a man's demise is never nice, I don't feel badly at all saying that Silva should get the Bear Bryant treatment, i.e. "he is allowed to coach until he is a week from death."
Marshfield shouldn't need a Duxbury guy to tell them this... and yet it seems that they do.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
|Duxbury Beach, courtesy of the Duxbury Beach Residents Association|
I grew up on Duxbury Beach, an isolated neighborhood on a peninsula stretching out into Cape Cod Bay.
Duxbury Beach, a cottage neighborhood in the 1970s, was very much unlike Duxbury Proper. As is the case with any isolated kids (during the height of the Baby Boom, my neighborhood had 3 other kids in an area of about a square mile), I was different than the kids in town.
Many people who I went to high school with thought that I was from Marshfield. Others thought that I was "spiritually" from Marshfield, as Vegas villages like Green Harbor and Brant Rock were effectively closer to my home than any Duxbury neighborhood.
People closer to the truth (myself included, for a while) thought instead of a run of "Beach People" stretching from about Quincy to the end of the Cape.
In reality, I was just a citizen of Duxbury's very small chunk of the Irish Riviera.
|Hull, courtesy of Nathan McKelvey|
We'll be talking Irish Riviera today, to get your mind all proper-like as St. Patrick's Day draws near. We shall explore what a Riviera is, why we have so many Irish, how so many of them ended up on the South Shore and whatever else comes into my head as I bang away at Ol' Momma Keyboard here.
Let's start by discussing what a Riviera is. The famous one is the French Riviera/Cote d'Azur, which is France's coastline on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Cote d'Azur is a resort area. You know how they say that the French all take August off? This is where they go. British, continental and even Russian tourists also started arriving in droves. A 1763 British author wrote of the benefits of oceanfront vacations, and by the end of the 19th century, it was the thing to do.
Originally an aristocracy thing, this newfound (coastal people were generally thought of as a sort of salty hillbilly for much of history) love of seaside resort life soon spread down to the proles.
In the United Kingdom, factories would often close for a week or two in the summer to service and repair the machines. This would loose the workers upon whatever resort areas they could afford to get to. They frequently chose the seaside... maybe get a cottage on the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear.
This love of seaside resorts definitely bled down to the Irish. Pale and hard-drinking, they were the perfect candidates for the brief two-month-summers of Massachusetts beach life. They just didn't figure it out until they got to America.
|Marshfield, thanks to Annaliese Sviokla!|
As you probably guessed, most of America's Irish live in California, followed by places like Texas, Florida and Ohio. However, those are just population numbers. When you get to the leaders by % of Population as Irish, your leaders are New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
Massachusetts takes the title via a robust 21.2% hit of Irish in their population. That's about double the US average. Six of the top ten Irish towns in America are in Massachusetts, and we dominate the top 20, top 30 and top 100 as well.
Milton, MA 38%
Pearl River, NY 38%
Braintree, MA 36%
Collingdale, PA 35%
Marshfield, MA 35%
Scituate, MA 35%
Gloucester City, NJ 34%
Drexel Hill, PA 34%
Pembroke, MA 34%
Weymouth, MA 33%
The numbers are sometimes in dispute, and it depends on who you ask and what your terms are.
|I'm pretty sure that she's English, but she's posed well|
Most of these Irish started off in Boston. Catholicism was prohibited by the Puritans in Massachusetts, so the Irish were either not coming or pretending to be Scots for a lot of our history.
In the 1820s, various projects like canals, roads and railroads needed cheap labor. Irish immigration skyrocketed. The Great Hunger, where a blight killed off the potatoes which the Irish had come to depend on disproportionately, scattered the Irish like a sort of Mick Pinata.
Two million Irish arrived between 1820 and the US Civil War. They were attracted to cities, where Irish communities were springing up. They were also popular (at least as labor) in any town with a mill. The influx was only slowed by the Great Depression.
More Irish numbers:
Number of immigrants from Ireland
1820-1830 54,338 1911-1920 146,181
1831-1840 207,381 1921-1930 211,234
1841-1850 780,719 1931-1940 10,973
1851-1860 914,119 1941-1950 19,789
1861-1870 435,778 1951-1960 48,362
1871-1880 436,871 1961-1970 32,996
1881-1890 655,482 1971-1980 11,940
1891-1900 388,416 1981-1990 31,969
1901-1910 399,065 1991-2004 62,447
My favorite anti-Irish quote, used completely out of context here... "You will scarcely ever find an Irishman dabbling in counterfeit money, or breaking into houses, or swindling; but if there is any fighting to be done, he is very apt to have a hand in it."
Boston had 35,000 Irish (about 25% of her total population) by 1850. They have banged out 3-7 kids per family ever since. They also got scattered around, as the Irish tend to do.
Yes, we did have some mills. There were even fringe industries that attracted Irish, like Irish Mossing in Scituate. Those features brought a lot of Green to SE Massachusetts. You'd also have Irish workers who had earned enough to get out of the city, looking for a more pastoral lifestyle. This was especially true of retiring Boston cops.
After WWII, and with the prosperity following it, many Irish returning from war took the opportunity to head for the sticks. The highway system (especially Route 3, which should probably have an Irish nickname like Mick Street or Paddy Road) provided access to what was already being called the Irish Riviera.
There was yet another Irish Diaspora that grew from the busing era. Any moneyed Mick got the heck out of Dodge when the city started getting ugly. Every town on the South Shore saw their population just about double.
Think I'm lying? Here are the population figures for both 1960 and 1980 for a few South Shore towns, and I could have drawn names from a hat in this region without screwing up my statistical model that much:
Plymouth, 14K to 35K
Duxbury, 4K to 11 K
Marshfield, 6K to 21K
Scituate, 11K to 17K (Scituate reached their Paddy allotment earlier, with the Irish Moss industry)
I'm not saying that the onus of busing involved poor Irish neighborhoods, but you didn't see a lot of people fleeing Wellesley. The South Shore filled with Irish-Am families from Dorchester, South Boston, Charlestown, Hyde Park and so forth. I spent at least one summer as a Dorchester kid living on Duxbury Beach, dating a Boston Latin girl from West Roxbury who summered in Green Harbor. That's straight-up Irish Riviera living, player.
With many South Shore immigrants from Boston, it was just a case where buying and building up a South Shore cottage was cheaper than sending your Irish brood (save the venom, your author is as Irish as a puddle of Guinness vomit outside of Triple O's pub) of 5 kids to private schools from K-12.
Throw in a cycle or two of reproduction, and we are where we stand today.
There is some dispute as to the borders of the Irish Riviera.
New York (Rockaway Beach), Indiana, Michigan and New Jersey all have areas known as the Irish Riviera. However, once you start counting Paddys, Massachusetts can tell all of the other states to start thinking of a new nickname.
The Irish Riviera is generally considered to be the coastal South Shore. Many use a sort of river/tributary system based on Route 3 or especially Route 3A.
Some people include the whole South Shore, as interior towns like Whitman and Pembroke also sport large Mick populations.
Some go the other way, using a Scituate/Marshfield definition. Other people stretch it on to the Cape, to the Kennedy Compound. You still have heavy Irish numbers on Cape Cod, but you should also notice that those % of Irish in a town charts I put up earlier don't have Sandwich, Orleans or Hyannis in them.
I'd personally run the Irish Riviera from Quincy to Sagamore, after which the Cape starts importing tourists and summer people of every stripe to f*ck up the numericals. Bourne is the first town in a long run of coastal Massachusetts towns that doesn't make it onto those % of Irish in population charts, although they are most likely in the 25-35% (Editor's Note: 27%) range.
Besides, the Cape Cod Canal makes for an excellent natural border.
Will the Irish Riviera ever lose her unique, Irish domination of the population base?
There is some gentrification going on. Those cottages that were owned by Irish families for so long get sold now and then. Many of these people are Yuppies, looking to flip a cottage into a coastal McMansion. The Irish make for poor Yuppies.
Many of the Branns and Egans and Carrolls (and even the also-Catholic Italian families like the Leones and Palmieris) from my old neighborhood are still holding out, although the veteran Brann that I spoke to tells me that the neighborhood just ain't the same. The Kerrigans scattered across the world, from Plymouth to Florida to Arizona to San Diego to Australia. Even that Bowden kid is shacked up with a French girl on Cape Cod.
However, it would take some Third World birth rates from other nationalities to knock, say, Scituate down from 35-45% Irish. Since the Catholics frown on birth control, they may even crank out 5 kid families for generations to come. People will still flee Boston. Irish families that grew up summering on the Riviera will move there full-time.
Other Irish families buy up neighboring Riviera houses as the kids marry off, and build little compounds. There is one corner of my old Duxbury Beach neighborhood where you could knock on 3 different doors and still get a Deehan, and tiny Ocean Road North once, in 1999, had 6 houses owned by descendants of the same branch of the Flaherty family.
In the end, we'll end up with a thinned-out-but-still-vital Irish Riviera. You won't beat the Mick out of this area for several generations, if ever.
Monday, November 30, 2015
People who grew up on the South Shore have long known that her time had passed... but it still hurts to see her go.
There are rumors that The Ranch House in Marshfield, which has been closed for most (closed in 2004) of this current century, has been sold. They were asking a mere $365K, reduced from $373K. It is zoned for Residential use now, so get ready for a McMansion or some condos.
Before that happens, they're going to have to put the wrecking ball to a local hardcore icon.
It makes sense. The derelict old building was a fire waiting to happen. I'm sure that some homeless have squatted in it. It's a vine-covered eyesore. If you get close, it smells like 1970s white trash vomit. Whatever rodents are running around your Canal Street yard probably winter in there. Out-of-town drunks still make the Hajj, only to find disappointment. It should have come down long ago.
That doesn't mean that we won't miss it.
There are bars and clubs all over the South Shore, but none of them were in The Ranch House's league as a den of debauchery. Set between a beach neighborhood and a marsh on Canal Street, it was at least a regional capital of the Irish Riviera.
You couldn't ask for an uglier locale. It looked like someone made it for a Patrick Swayze bouncer movie. The actual bar in the film Road House was miles ahead of the Green Harbor landmark as far as aesthetics go, and that movie was supposed to be about a dive.
To keep it Hollywood for people who may never have been inside... it's pretty much exactly like the bar that the Blues Brothers had to sing Rawhide in... except that bar was classier.
You parked on a dirt lot, wherever you could fit. If you had 4WD, you could park in the marsh. Once inside, you sat at the sort of tables that you see in the backyards of poor rural families. I think that they may have bought their chairs from a high school closing, and they were the perfect size/weight to hit someone with. The exposed rafters had the authenticity that you just don't get when a yuppie restaurant has exposed rafters- you were supposed to swing from these beams.
|photos from Molisse Real Estate ("Selling the entire South Shore") ad for the property|
You also had regional superpowers like Clutch Grabwell, Jim Plunkett or the Fat City Band playing there. You had cover bands galore, including Crystal Ship of Bitchin' Camaro fame. You had bands that never crossed the goal line, like the The Steamers, The Well Endowed Gentlemen, Silent Underground, Itchy Fish, Feel Thing and Exit 11. First ballot Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer Joe Perry of Aerosmith and little-known Hannes Schneider of the Injurys (I asked them, it's supposed to be spelled wrong) plugged their guitars into the same outlet.
A thousand other local bands tried and failed there. Your friend who can play the guitar a bit may have secured a slot there in his youth, only to find that their drawing power was limited to family and very close friends.
This focus on live music gave The Ranch House a different crowd than the dozen gin mills nearby.
Rather than a gathering of locals (although they were well-represented), TRH usually had a good crop of road trip people who were there because they liked the band. For a guy who struck out with the whole South Shore, the new girls this diversity provided probably prevented an alienated loner-style mass shooting at some point in
my 20s the late 1980s.
You also had people- sometimes bikers- who came just because of TRH's reputation as a rowdy bar. The rowdy bar part worked for the locals. If your houseparty got the wrong crowd and it was time to move it to the bar... but if you didn't want to ruin your good name at the local bar that you frequent... that's why God gave us the Ranch House.
Beyond that, it becomes a hazy collage of drunken memories:
- I know a guy who got knocked out at the Ranch House, another guy who got his jaw broken, a third guy who tried to pepper spray some behemoth and the spray failed, catching him an extra-effort whupping. I know a guy who got a bottle broken over his head. I know a girl who slapped another girl unconscious there, and a bystander girl who got hit with a pool cue during a fight she wasn't in.
- I want to make sure to tip a glass to Mary, the waitress with the inexhaustible supply of miniskirts. She had a sister who worked there, forget her name, may have been
- Close to when the business sold, I saw Steven Tyler pay a visit to owner Dorothy Hudson there during a show with a full house. Some drunk walked up to him and said, "Hey, you're Steven Tyler," and Tyler went "No sh*t?"
- There's a rumor about a 70s era bouncer who threw a guy up the chimney.
- You could hear music and even distinguish song lyrics from Ranch House bands in Duxbury Beach neighborhoods. I may post this in a few Duxbury groups to see if the noise made it across the marsh into Duxbury Proper in the right weather conditions.
- It is very possible that Joe Perry, who at times lives a half mile across an open marsh from TRH, could sit on his back porch and listen to local Axemen trying to play Aerosmith covers on the Ranch House stage.
- A house on Ocean Road North in Duxbury once brought the bar home for an afterparty, even the band and their instruments.
- The loss of The Ranch House, coupled with the residentializing of Paddock's Package Store, means the end of Canal Street as a business district. It also killed two of my favorite spots with a range from about age 5 to 32.
- The Green Harbor General Store and the Brant Rock Market gained Paddock's beer/snacks customers. The local rowdies from TRH bled into the other local pubs.
- If your formerly low-key tavern deteriorated into rowdiness during the late Bush II era, that's most likely what happened to it.
They don't make 'em like The Ranch House anymore.
Marsh Vegas still has some rowdy bars, but it ain't what it once was.
Brian's Place is a Mama Mia's franchise now. The various bars that occupy the spot at the Green Harbor Marina are edging towards Yuppiedom. The Ocean Cafe, once the ugliest building that I ever enjoyed eating in, is now a lovely place that people call Haddad's. The Venus II got a facelift.
Marshfield- especially the Irish Riviera part- will never be a really delicate place. But it is changing...
Just one "Anyone have any Ranch House pics I can use?" post on Facebook brought up at least one Duxbury Wannabe comment regarding the nature of the neighborhood. Someone else called it "Duxbury Delusion Syndrome."
Coastal property- even if it is a few streets back- never loses that much value. Not everyone can hang onto the family cottage, nor can they turn down the money they can make selling it to some rich family.
The next thing you know, the people who own the rowdy hard-rock bar see the future coming, lack the desire to transition into something Yuppie, and decide to sell the property.
There were nibbles in 2004, but it's hard to build when you abut wetlands, have a reputation as the go-to rowdy bar on the South Shore that will take a generation to erase, and will immediately require a tear-down (it's essentially a giant doghouse) and re-build. I loved The Ranch House, but I wouldn't have dreamed of eating in that building, even bagged potato chips.
Most people have higher tastes than me, and that pretty much punched the ticket for The Ranch House.
It sucks when a relic from your past has to go away, and no one stays young forever. The live music scene is lessened for it, and you'll have to drive a bit to see a band in any sort of building that isn't better suited to a breakfast buffet. Most people will forget soon enough.
But not all...
It will be funny if whoever builds there throws up a large structure, and has to continually answer the door and tell people that The Ranch House no longer exists.
We probably aren't too far from a day where people will have to stop the car and think about exactly where The Ranch House used to be. There was once a time when there would have been no question about it.
|You know that I'm stealing that Wagon Wheel. Dibs!|