A few days ago I finally shelled out for a digital subscription to the Boston Globe. Gotta financially support your local paper, after all — or, at least, the paper that offers the most advantageous combo of regional, national and international news.
The best thing about the subscription is that it comes with access to 200 years’ worth of the Globe’s online archives. When time has allowed, I’ve started dipping my toes into it — only just starting.
(Among other things, I added some color to my knowledge of a curious story involving a young man from my hometown. It’s a story I was first drawn to 30 years ago as a teenager walking to school, but didn’t know the full details of until recently. At some point, in some format, I’ll tell the story, if I can figure out a way to do it justice.)
While I figure out where to deep-dive, I’m gonna do some shallow diving.
Specifically, I’ve pulled together a random list of people, places and things — mostly Seventies-oriented, mostly trivial — and I’m going to find out when each one was first mentioned in New England’s newspaper of record. If I can find any other interesting clips on the subject, I’ll mention those also.
Sir Grapefellow: Short-lived grape-flavored cereal — with marshmallows! — sold by General Mills. Mentioned 11 times in the Globe between 1972 and 1978. The first two mentions are ads, tied to the cereal’s introduction; the remainder are news stories and columns tut-tutting about the high sugar content in children’s cereals.
“Parents who give in to their children’s demands to buy Sir Grapefellow, Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies, Cocoa Pebbles, Super Sugar Crisp and the like, are not only wasting their money, but risking the health of their children and teaching them poor eating habits,” chastised columnist Jack Thomas in September 1976.
Yeah, stow it, Jack.
July 23, 1972.
Magic Dick: Harmonica player for Beantown’s own J. Geils Band. Government name: Richard Salwitz. Unlike Sir Grapefellow, still alive and well.
Globe archive shows 458 matches for “Magic Dick” between 1876 and the present. Weeding out references clearly not related to Mr. Salwitz, his first appearance in the Globe biz comes in a record review by Ernie Santosuosso in the Jan. 3, 1971, issue (on page 69, no less).
Santosuosso sussed what made the man special from the get-go: “Seth Justman, piano and organ, and Magic Dick, harp, shore up even the more mediocre music with fascinatingly strong solos. … Magic Dick’s harmonica playing is first-class.”
(Two months later, stringer David W. Johnson waxed even more eloquent in a piece about the band: “Their harp player, Magic Dick, is truly an enchanted person.”)
Ubbi-dubbi: Language game popularized by the public television children’s show Zoom, produced by station WGBH in Boston (oh-two-one-three-four) between 1972 and 1978.
Zoom was later revived by WGBH, and indeed, only two of the 13 references to ubbi-dubbi in the Globe archives date to the run of the original show. The very first came on Jan. 15, 1972, in the form of a puzzle or challenge, alongside a piece by staff writer Bill Fripp introducing the show.
John LaRose: By my research, Rhode Island native LaRose was the shortest-tenured Boston Red Sox player of the Seventies.
His career with the Sox — and his career in the bigs — lasted all of one game. He pitched two innings in relief against Detroit on Sept. 20, 1978, got knocked around a bit, and never got into another major-league game.
LaRose’s first mention in the Globe came more than eight years before his big MLB moment. On July 29, 1970, baseball writer Clif Keane mentioned LaRose as a young ballplayer doing well with the team’s Jamestown farm club.
On April 4, 1971, staff writer Ray Fitzgerald again mentioned LaRose as a promising up-and-comer — listing him earlier in the story than fellow prospects Dick Pole, Ben Oglivie, Juan Beniquez and Rick Miller, all of whom had considerably longer big-league careers. (It would have been hard to have a shorter one, I suppose.)
Charles Ives: Stepping away from the Seventies for a moment: One of America’s first great homegrown composers; lived in obscurity until near the end of his life; a New Englander and a Yale graduate.
There are 1,341 references to a Charles Ives in the Globe archives between 1872 (two years before Ives’s birth) and the present.
The first reference that can be clearly identified as the composer came on Jan. 26, 1931, in an unbylined review of a concert of modern music by the Chamber Orchestra of Boston.
The orchestra’s leader, Nicolas Slonimsky, was an early champion of Ives; the group performed Ives’s “Three Places in New England.” The review factually described Ives’s compositions but did not comment critically on them.
By the time of Ives’s death in 1954, his critical reputation was on its way to being established, as shown by the words of a memorial column by writer Cyrus Durgin: “Only the future can prove to us the true stature of Charles Ives. … It would be nice to be around say 50 years from now, when the talent of Ives will have become plain beyond all doubt.”
Steve Grogan: OK, back to the lowbrow. Steve Grogan, a strapping Texan with a remarkable capacity to absorb pain, was the New England Patriots’ chief quarterback of my youth. He played for the team from 1975 to 1990, taking part in a few great seasons and quite a few lost ones.
The first mention of Grogan the quarterback (another man of the same name was a minor member of the Manson Family) came on Jan. 29, 1975, the day the Pats took him in the fifth round of the NFL draft.
In a draft analysis by columnist Will McDonough, Grogan went unmentioned until the 16th paragraph of a 21-paragraph story, overshadowed by higher picks — all of whom he long outlasted. In a separate column of draft notes, Grogan was again left as a last-paragraph footnote.
James at 15: Short-lived, critically praised, briefly controversial teen-centered TV series about a dreamy young man who is transplanted from Oregon to Boston when his father, a college professor, takes a job in the Hub of the Universe.
From 1977 to the present, the phrase returns 2,216 matches in the Globe archive — though most of those are false alarms, since the search engine returns any story in which “James” and “15” appear in close proximity. (Example: “James Pabst, 15, of Claymont, Del., said he does not care if he sees the Delaware River again after a ride aboard an ice floe almost led to disaster for him and a friend.”)
The first mention of the TV series came on May 4, 1977, in a preview of NBC’s nine new fall shows. Globe writer Robert McLean described it as a show about “a boy approaching manhood, suffering adolescent pains and pangs.” (He misspelled the star’s name as “Lance Kirwin.”)
McLean also found room to diss another newcomer to the NBC schedule, CHiPS: “Chips, which must have some action-adventure plot lines in its bag, already has been cynically labeled ‘Startsky & Clutch’ by one industry reviewer.” Meow!
To tie two threads together: The series’ pilot movie, despite the Boston connection, was apparently bumped from the local network affiliate to an independent channel when the network affiliate opted to show a Patriots exhibition game … no doubt featuring the above-mentioned Steve Grogan. (So reported the Globe on Sept. 14, 1977.)
William Obanhein: Small-town police chief in the Berkshires who arrested Arlo Guthrie for littering on Thanksgiving Day 1965 and was subsequently immortalized as “Officer Obie” in the song “Alice’s Restaurant.”
The name of Chief Obie (thank you very much) first appeared in the Globe issue of Jan. 25, 1960, long before his brush with counterculture fame. One of a lengthy list of bills scheduled for State House committee hearings that day was H. 1547, a bill “to provide unlimited tenure for William J. Obanhein, incumbent chief of police in Stockbridge.”
Unfortunately, later events would not be as kind to the chief. An article in 1966 noted the disappearance of his teenage son Mark; what happened next is not specified in the Globe’s archives, but in a 1969 profile of Obanhein, Mark is not listed among the chief’s three children. And a 1972 article noted the disappearance of another son, David, from a work-release program at the Berkshire County Jail, where he was doing time for helping a prisoner escape from his father’s jail.
Lynn Sailors: From the It Made Sense At The Time Dep’t: In 1980, the struggling Seattle Mariners decided to put their Class AA minor-league team more than 3,000 miles away from Seattle.
On top of that, they decided that having the team play in diehard Red Sox country — only about 20 miles from Fenway Park — was a worthwhile endeavour. Oh, and did I mention that their community of choice was a chronically rundown small city derisively known as the “City of Sin“?
The result of this brainstorm was the Lynn Sailors, who played four seasons in the Eastern League, switching to a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate at the end. The Sailors were introduced to Boston on March 28, 1980, in an article by staff writer Neil Singelais; the team’s name would appear 113 more times, usually in game results in the sports agate.
Those fans who bothered to go might have had the last laugh: The major-leaguers who passed through Lynn on the way up included Alvin Davis, Mike Moore, Harold Reynolds, former No. 1 draft pick Al Chambers, and future Red Sox Matt Young, Dave Valle and Spike Owen.
May 9, 1980.
Art Garfunkel: Has no direct connection to Boston or New England that I know of; I just wanted to see when the Globe first took notice of him.
His name first appeared on page 447 of the Nov. 27, 1966 issue, as part of a record-company ad touting “two hip, very topical singers whose music has a unique flavor of its own.”
He was then mentioned in a photo caption on July 23, 1967, accompanying the TV listings, as he and that other guy were appearing on some sort of TV special.
And on Jan. 30, 1968, Globeman Kevin Kelly reviewed a S&G performance at Symphony Hall (no taverns or roadhouses for them): “Paul Simon is rather small, short, black-haired, rather outgoing; Art Garfunkel is tall, thin, wiry-haired, terribly hesitant.”
Night in the Ruts: Given how many times I’ve mentioned this album — the product of Boston’s own Aerosmith — you had to know I’d work it in here.
From 1979 to the present, the phrase appears 22 times in the Globe archives. The first is in the radio listings of Nov. 20, 1979, noting that the album would be played in its entirety at midnight Friday, Nov. 23, on Boston’s WAAF.
Mon Dieu, for the days when radio stations not only played entire albums, but advertised it in advance! I bet half the teenagers in Boston had their TDKs at the ready and their fingers on the Record button at 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 23, 1979.
As for the record itself, the Globe didn’t get around to reviewing it until Jan. 31, 1980, which maybe connotes that the record didn’t spark any great urgency.
Writer Jim Sullivan correctly observed that Night in the Ruts was better than its predecessor, 1977’s Draw the Line, but that the band seemed stuck in a formula: “In a charged musical climate, neutral is not the gear to be stuck in.” (Other albums reviewed that week: Rupert Holmes’s Partners in Crime and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall.)