Published On: Fri, Nov 1st, 2013

Memories of Boston

Dear Editor:

Last February, you may have noticed the newspaper story, date line Erika, California, “The last time so much gold was pulled out of this town, the place was known as ‘the richest square mile on earth’ a Gold Rush Jewel north of California’s mother lode. By the mid-1850’s, the town, so glittered in gold that the miners showered the popular child star Lotta Crabtree with buckskin bags filled with nuggets at the Arcade Saloon.” Of course it is natural to wonder just what happened to the gold and this is the story. In the late 1960’s, I relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, to manage a theater in the downtown area. The city itself had not as yet begun to have a skyline such as Manhattan but that was beginning to change with the continuing construction of the Prudential Center leading the way and adding to the tradition of commerce and culture in the New England area. The city itself had a core of government buildings, a commercial area and some old line homes and colleges all considered “Back Bay.” Surrounding this by residential, Irish “Southy,” Italian “North End” and black “Roxbury.”

One could compare these neighborhoods as a whole to “Gaul” but being a citizen of Boston did not guarantee you safe passage out of your particular as in the time of Caesar. Gathered over time, the surprise that one could purchase liquor on Sunday at a drug store (for medicinal purposes) and entertainers had to do their steps out of time to the music, as otherwise they would be considered dancing, a violation of the Sabbath laws. Then, there was the episode of the parking garage. It had been decided that there was need for additional parking downtown and the only space as suitable happened to be underneath the historic “Boston Commons” and public gardens. The choice was to remove the sacred soil (read dirt), build an underground garage then, return the grounds as before.

Civic projects are seldom finished on schedule and the underground garage project was no exception although the final phase had a hitch. The historic sacred soil had disappeared! One of the contractors entered the defense as who would hire a watchman to guard a pile of dirt Obviously, he was not from the area. So, good citizen should you have a flowerpots or rose bushes originating from New England, especially Boston, be of care that nurturing soil may have been trod upon by our founding fathers.

Back to the gold and where it ended up. Lotta Crabtree who was always accompanied her mother returned to their home in Boston and began construction of a large commercial building at the corner of Boylston and Washington Streets. This building consisted of a theater connected underground by a tunnel linking it to a hotel and “The Crabtree Office Building.” Mr. Jack Handley, Superintendent, of the office building explained that over the years, since the passing of Miss Crabtree and her mother, the theater and hotel had been sold with only the office building still remaining still funding her estate. Her will had specified that all employees of the building had to be veterans of WW I (and in the ‘60s they were getting scarce) and any performer making application showing evidence of an audition in NYC be provided with a train ticket and if the need be, a chit for them to be able to purchase dancing shoes.

Some of you may have heard someone say “Frank (Sinatra) helps me out.” Years ago, Lotta Crabtree did it also.

Jack Ballard

Lewisburg