The Internet does not love me and does not want me to function like a regular human being.
In addition to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (discussed at more length in my previous post), I have discovered that there’s a Boston TV News Digital Library. Loads and loads of archival news footage from my city of choice, spanning decades.
I could spend a day watching nothing but clips about the 1974 busing crisis. That would be an interesting deep dive into a complex historical moment, and an education besides.
But there’s other stuff too. Such as:
Duke Ellington and his orchestra playing a festival in August 1970. This is not the finest extant film of Duke, and it runs less than a minute-and-a-half. But it puts you in the front row to watch Duke Ellington and his orchestra play “Take The A Train” — and they ain’t makin’ any more footage of that.
(While we’re on the jazz-royalty beat, you might also enjoy this 1982 interview with Count Basie.)
A few months after Duke’s gig, there’s footage of the October 1970 announcement of Humberto Cardinal Medeiros as the new Archbishop of Boston. Medeiros leads his legendary predecessor, Richard Cardinal Cushing, out by the arm. Cushing, who would be dead of cancer less than a month later, spends the entire media availability chewing on invisible pain.
On a lighter note, we have some April 1976 footage of Commonwealth Avenue, intended to accompany a story about trolleys and buses.
This aligns with my interests because it shows the stretch of Comm. Ave. so familiar from my BU days. (The specific hi-fi shops and pizza shops had turned over by the 1990s, but the buildings are recognizable.) It’s also droll because you get to hear the interactions of the news crew while they’re filming the B-roll — and in particular, a timeless blast of frustration on the driver’s part. (“Aw, c’mon, ya dumb fuck, you’ve got a green light!”)
It’s enough to make you wonder what’s really on the soundtrack when you see those background shots on the 6 o’ clock news … well, for those who still watch the 6 o’clock news, anyway.
Diana Ross rehearses at the old Boston Music Hall, early 1977, wearing one of those sorta-homemade T-shirts that says “Boston Loves Diana Ross.” I know damn little in actual truth about Diana Ross — it’s all surface image, like the Supremes in the floor-length gowns doing the stylized hand gestures — so any one-on-one exposure of Miss Ross to a camera is an education.
From the same period — early 1977 — some Registry of Motor Vehicles film of Massachusetts drivers being issued the new green-on-white license plates.
Circa 2000, I did a story for my suburban daily newspaper about the fact that Mass. had moved on to a new plate design but had never quite gotten around to phasing these out completely. The story included an interview with Michael Dukakis, who was enjoyably piss-and-vinegar about his successors’ failure to clamp down. (Yes, I called Michael Dukakis to talk about green-and-white license plates. Those were different times.)
Fast-forward to 2021 … and those drivers who still have legible green-on-whites are still allowed to use them.
From March 1978, we have brief B-roll related to a “disco fight“! Apparently some sailors on shore leave went to a disco on Lansdowne Street — near Fenway Park — and got into a brawl with non-military booty-shakers. I was on Lansdowne Street earlier this summer and that building looks familiar, though it’s not green any more, and I couldn’t tell you what’s there now. Now, if they hadn’t insisted on tearing down Scollay Square, they wouldn’t have had this problem…
Speaking of Fenway Park, there are a couple of blasts of sports footage, including silent film of an April 1972 game between the Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.
The Red Sox pitcher’s corkscrew windup marks him as the beloved Luis Tiant, just beginning his big comeback season. El Tiante, close to washing out of the big leagues, went 15-6 with a league-best 1.91 ERA in 1972 and would pitch in Boston through the end of the 1978 season. Apparently he lost this game, though.
“Bomb at the John Hancock Building,” December 1973, offers its own slice of the past: I find it works well if you mentally overdub Kojak-style tense instrumental music over the footage. The mystery package, thankfully, is not explosive in nature. (I think this is the Old John Hancock Building — steady blue, clear view — not the Hancock Tower, which was still in construction in 1973 and having well-publicized problems with its windowpanes.)
Fritz Mondale at Boston College commencement, 1979. “I’m delighted to be in Boston again … *tap tap tap* … is this thing working?” Ah, Fritz, inspirational as always.
(Hey, I’m gonna have to see if this archive has any John Anderson in it. Aw, hells yes, it does.)
An obituary for Arthur Fiedler, also 1979. Like Duke Ellington, they aren’t making any more footage of Arthur Fiedler wandering around the Hatch Shell. He seems like the sort of civic institution whose memory is worth preserving, and it’s nice to know there’s film of him circulating online, talking firsthand about what he did and why he did it. (“You do the best you can, always. I’ll do the best I can.”)
“Silent footage of a junkyard in the rain,” July 1976. It is as advertised. Need it be anything else?
Grand Bostonians 1977: Mayor Kevin White, most noted in pop culture for enabling James Brown and the Rolling Stones to play the Gahden, honors seven venerable Bostonians for their social contributions. Leverett Saltonstall and Henry Cabot Lodge are included. To White’s credit, so too is African-American community leader Melnea Cass.
This clip begins with the words, “Emerson once said that ‘the measure or test of a civilization…” and you can just inject that city-on-a-hill transcendentalist big-idea stuff directly into my veins.
November 1980: A computer show invades Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. Pretty sure I’ve seen this film before. But sharing anyway because nostalgia for the early days of computing is also core to my experience.
The Boston Astros: Apparently in 1974 there was a pro soccer team called the Boston Astros that played games on Boston University’s field. I can’t get this footage to play, so it’s quite possible that they never existed and the whole thing is one big shuck. Posting it anyway, just in case it works tomorrow.
There’s more. Much more. I’ll stop there. It’s Sunday night and a workin’ man needs to wind down at some point. I’ll just have to come back…