Wednesday, December 22, 2010

RIP AltaVista - another part of DEC bites the dust (remember CMGI Field?)

The end of AltaVista by current owner Yahoo pretty much closes the book on the once mighty Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) which was bought by Compaq in 1998.

DEC was a powerhouse in Massachusetts and in the late 80's was the second largest employer after the Commonwealth itself. But like other Massachusetts giants (Polaroid, Wang, Data General) the company had trouble adapting.

DEC's founder Ken Olsen had a fatal vision when he said 

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”

AltaVista was taken over by a DEC spinoff CMGI which was most famous for having the naming rights of the new Patriots stadium in Foxborough but ran out of $$$ before the stadium opened. 

Polaroid died a horrible death when their founder Edwin Land refused to embrace digital images saying film would never be replaced. 20 years ago they had a lock on the ID industry, but it all went away. To compound it, Land spent a fortune on instant motion picture film at the same time consumer video tape was developed in the late 70's.

The DEC credit union lives on, now open to all as does what was really the DEC private airport in Stowe, MA now Minuteman Field.

The Massachusetts Miracle...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bob Feller and Howard Johnson's in Kenmore Square

The Herald on Saturday carried a piece by Akron, Ohio baseball writer Sheldon Ocker about the death of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller.

In the article is a look back at forgotten Boston.

"There was a hotel a couple of blocks from Fenway," Bob said. "Howard Johnson’s was down the street, and Howard would dish out the ice cream."

"Do you mean the actual Howard Johnson?" I said.

A little irritated by the dumb question, Bob answered, "Of course, Howard Johnson. It was his store."

Indeed the store in Kenmore Square was the flagship of HoJo's growing empire and my older brother worked there in the 50's and Mr. Johnson was always there.

In this picture you can see HoJo's in the background where today Uno's Chicago Grille is located at Commonwealth and Brookline, 2 blocks from Fenway. I wonder if Feller knew that HoJo's back in 1919 was the bar of the Hotel Buckminster where the Chicago White Sox were approached to throw the 1919 World Series. The photo also has one of the best images of the iconic White Fuel sign that was in Kenmore for decades and was more famous than the Cities Service (Citgo) sign because of the flowing neon.

I am wondering if Leonardi's would become the infamous Rat a decade later.

The hotel Feller refers to would have been the Hotel Kenmore on Commonwealth where most teams stayed until the Sheraton Boston was built in the 60's.

These pictures from the Rotch Visual Collections: were taken sometime between 1954 and !959.

My how our city has changed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How John Harrington made the Red Sox what they are today

Like everybody else I am a little stunned by what Boston has done the past 5 days but not really surprised. The Red Sox created a monster in 2001 when they decided to switch NESN from a pay service of $10-12 a month to basic cable.

These 3 articles give background

When the Red Sox were put up for sale in late 2000, they knew NESN was the sleeping giant in the sale especially because Charles Dolan was at the door waving $$$$$. Harrington and Dolan despised each other dating back to when NESN was born in 1984.

Dolan owned SportsChannel ( which in many markets is now FOX Sports xxxxx )

Dolan bought SportsVision in Chicago for little money as the White Sox simply wanted out of a losing money fiasco and Dolan knew what would happen when Chicago finally was fully wired for cable. At the same time he also bought PRISM which was Philly based and was a HBO type service that in Philly and Boston showed movies and sports. (Boston it was the Celtics)

In New York he paid the Yankees 50 million for a 10 year deal around 1983 for half the games to move from WPIX to cable and brought back Mel Allen.

He then tried to buy the rights to the Red Sox and Bruins but Buddy LeRioux and Jeremy Jacobs decided to launch their own channel (NESN) instead that was similar to what the Tigers had in Detroit with PASS. NESN was at first 60% owned by the Red Sox, 20% by the Bruins and the other 20% by Viacom (which owned WSBK-TV and had the over the air rights to the Red Sox and Yankees)

Dolan was not happy and he refused to even offer NESN on his Massachusetts cable systems (Cablevision) which included Boston. This went on for almost three seasons as Dolan was trying to break NESN.

(The NY Daily News wrote about this in 2002 when Dolan tried to stop YES)

The Mayor of Boston finally told Dolan in 1986 he would revoke his Boston franchise unless he got the Sox on his TV that night (remember the Red Sox were the surprise team that year)

So for almost 15 years NESN was $10 a month or $15 if you added Sportschannel (Celtics-Whalers)

Dolan kept offering to buy and Harrington said no. Dolan tried to buy Viacom's 20% but the Red Sox had the right to match it.

When Harrington decided to move NESN to basic the cable companies balked at first but in a master stroke he gave Comcast first option to buy the channel if they ever decide to sell it. Comcast added NESN to basic and Time-Warner, Cox and Charter did the same. Harrington made one major mistake, he assumed since NYY was locked into a long term deal with Dolan's MSG channel he couldn't counter. Ooops.

Steinbrenner quickly figured out he had to do the same and quickly formed YES and even paid Dolan a huge fee to break the contract.

The Mets followed a few years later with SNY which is really CSN but since Comcast is not a player in the cable market of NYC they allowed the SNY name.

CSN of course now has started sports channels in many markets and Dolan's FSN is hurting.

The problem is team owned cable only works in a few markets....Minneapolis and Kansas City tried and they were disasters and the Indians STO only exists because the Indians owner can't stand Charles Dolan ( who is family LOL)

I expect in Chicago within 5 years you will see at least 2 sports channels... Bulls/White Sox and Cubs/Hawks going at it.

Bottom line - NESN going to basic started this madness.

and now NESN has launched

which is available in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Michigan with more to come.

The rich get richer

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How South Station almost became home of the Patriots and Red Sox

Taking another ride in the Way Back Machine

A plan was presented in Boston in 1964 to build a domed stadium at a cost of $90M. The complex would include an arena with the intent that all four pro sports teams would call the place home. It is believed that the Bruins were the only hold out as they owned the Garden and saw no reason to pay rent to the Commonwealth. The dome would have been funded by DOG RACING that would have used the arena on nights there were no games.

The scrapbook pictures shown above were published by the former Boston Record American (later part of Boston Herald) back in 1965.  It shows a model of the proposed complex being viewed by then Governor John Volpe (second from left), Lt. Governor Elliot Richardson (third from left), architect Vincent Kling (third from right) and then Boston Patriots owner Billy Sullivan (second from right).  The lower picture shows where the stadium would have been located. Summer Street runs from the left middle of the picture to the top middle of the photo.  The Southeast Expressway is identified at the bottom running left to right

South Station was finally renovated in the mid 80's.

These pictures were taken on April 7, 1957 which was a Sunday and April 20, 1957 a Saturday, which explains the lack of local commuter passengers in these pics.

The construction for the old Dewey Square Tunnel in 1957

First National Bank of Boston, Rexall Drugs, Merchants Bank..all long gone

The New Haven RR handled Providence/New Haven/New York
The New York Central handled Framingham/Worcester/Springfield/Albany/Chicago
The New Haven ran the Old Colony Lines, Needham and Blackstone (now Franklin)
The New York Central ran what is now the Worcester line.

TRACK 15 to New York City - notice the ads are for Broadway shows

Looks like they actually gave useful information back then..

Fresh fruit for your trip?

You can see how much bigger the station was back then

Novel concept - baggage lockers

Photos courtesy of 
Rotch Visual Collections, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

9 Minutes from Kenmore to Park Street?

More photos from the MIT Libraries

The archive was compiled by two MIT researchers who were studying urban planning. A research assistant on their project shot 2,000 photos of city neighborhoods in the Greater Boston area from 1954 to 1959. The pictures taken by Nishan Bichajian provide stark, black-and-white documentation of a bygone era. The Kepes/Lynch Collection, named for the researchers, is hosted by the university’s Rotch Library of Architecture and Planning.

9 minutes in 1957 :)

So in 1956 the Green Line was called Rapid Transit

No Charley Card machines in 1956

This is the 'arcade' that was located at what is now the Downtown Crossing T station - it had a food market, bakery and other stores.

Today this is the Orange Line platform heading towards Oak Grove.
In 1956 - it was called Summer Station

Stairs to Washington Station

Park Street 

Wish we had signs like this today

Fare was 20 cents in 1956

No Spitting??

Recently there has been a major issue about signs on buildings in Cambridge......ummm where were these people 55 years ago?

Pearl and Green Street (Central Sq)

The old F and T Diner in Kendall Square

 Massachusetts Ave between Central and MIT

Where the Asgard Irish Pub is today was a Chevy Dealership

This was the Kendall Sq bus station in 1957 - notice an old JENNY gas station nearby

Bob Slate's survived but .....

Heinz Building on Vassar Street

Friday, December 3, 2010

Eight Minutes To Park Street???????

Going through more pictures of long lost Cambridge-Boston.


  The Harvard Trust Building (now Bank of America) being built 1956

The Celtic Cafe pictured here is where the 1369 Coffee House in Inman Square is located today.

     The College Grille is now known as the Cambridge Common on Mass Ave.
     Cambridge City Hall looks exactly the same today as it did in 1955
    Richard's Drive-In on Memorial Drive near River Street

   The Harvard Square Subway Station before it was rebuilt in the 80's

Kendall Square Station
 Years ago companies on Memorial Drive had signs on the roof

 Newtowne Grille looks the same today

  Brattle St

My thanks again to the Rotch Visual Collections
Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Cambridge