By Peter Levine
Hipsters, flipsters and finger poppin’ daddies, knock me your lobes; in the case of these musings, lend me your peepers! I just love hearing from readers (or as Bullwinkle would say, “fan mail from some flounder?”), especially those with stories to share. As noted in the past, I feel it’s imperative that as a community we try our best to keep the past alive – to preserve tales of yesterday before they are lost to time. Bill Mini was famous for his Malden of yesteryear recall. We are a better place today because of gentlemen like Bill and John O’Brien and Don Squires – no longer with us – but who left a paper trail of our collective past to look back on proudly. It is vital for us to remember our history – that is why whenever the opportunity arose, I sat and listened to Joe Croken, Richie Cremone, Karen Anderson, Walter Mullaney and Jim Conway. That is why whenever the opportunity arises, I sit intently and listen to Barbara Tolstrup, Johnny Brandano, Neal Anderson, Bob Rotondi, Jack Garrity, “Butch” Gennetti, Dom Fermano, Arthur Kahn and Eddie Lucey. They visually connect me to a long-gone time and place, a place inaccessible but for those that lived it. With that said, Aaron Mintz (and his brother Mayer) have been reaching out to share tales from outside of Edgeworth (is there such a place?)! A foreign land called Suffolk Square was their stampin’ ground and their history is a fascinating snapshot of a city and a neighborhood with a rich history. Have at it my friend!
“A Malden Rock n Roll Reminiscence by Aaron Mintz”:
“My brother Mayer introduced me to Rock n Roll in the mid 1950’s We listened to DJs like Arnie Ginsburg on WBOS and Ken Malden on WILD. Ken Malden was really Milton Tokson – he preferred being on the radio to plucking chickens at his family’s poultry store in Suffolk Square.”
“WHIL was Malden’s own station with studios in Malden Square where Mayer bought records at Roli Music. As president of the local ‘Bill Haley and Comets Fan Club,’ Mayer won tickets to see a preview showing of ‘Rock Around the Clock’ at the Colonial Theatre in Boston in March,1956. My mother and I went with him and took in the excitement.
“As the 1950’s ended, Mayer’s pal Norman Greenbaum bought an acoustic guitar and soon Mayer had one. Norman tuned his guitar in a unique way and began to write songs, which he sang in our living room on Harvard St. Norman went to BU after he and Mayer graduated MHS in 1960, and Norman worked for Arnie Ginsburg now on WMEX.
“I was still immersed in Rock n Roll and at Malden High, circa 1962, our lunchroom was Malden Square. Every Thursday I raced to Moe’s Smoke Shop to buy the latest Billboard Magazine. Instead of learning Latin grammar, I devoured the top 100 hits of the week. In the summer of 1962, I walked Revere Beach with Norman polling teenage beachgoers. Arnie Ginsburg had given Norman a list of new records, and Norman’s job was to find out which ones were liked. Meeting girls was a bonus.
“High school friend Bob Prodanas lived near Jack Coughlin in Malden, and Bob and I got to hear Jack play rockabilly and boogie woogie styled versions of vintage Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis songs on an old upright piano. I’ll never forget how good a young Preacher Jack sounded – what a talent! His music evoked that early rock and roll sound my brother and I heard as kids.
“Later in the 1960’s, I saw Jack play at a bar in Everett Square. Mayer saw him at a North Shore club and in the mid 1970’s, I heard Preacher Jack play at the Inman Square Men’s Bar in Cambridge. I would always make the Malden connection with Jack, and he would smile.
“Norman Greenbaum had moved to California and formed Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, and Norman’s song ‘The Eggplant that Ate Chicago’ was a big Boston hit late in 1966. Mayer saw the group at the Frolic on Revere Beach, and I heard them at the Unicorn on Boylston Street in Boston. The band had painted faces, avant-garde clothing, and psychedelic lyrics. Seeing the band was a look into the future of Rock and Roll. ‘Spirit in the Sky’ followed 3 years later.
“I did an oldies show on Western Mass. radio stations for 20+ years and always played Preacher Jack to great response. The Ames Bros, Preacher Jack, and Norman Greenbaum made for a great 3 song set…all Malden artists.” To be continued…
It is said in “Malden Musings”…
- We had so much fun at San Rock Festa 2023! Combine a killer musical lineup with Mother Nature at her finest, fuhgeddaboudit, as we say down in Edgeworth! The dance band WildFire just lit up Saturday night! We’ve had big crowds in the recent past – Al Martino at the 75th and Midtown Men at the 90th come quickly to mind – but Kenny and his extremely talented band of merrymakers just might have topped the list for a non-anniversary year! Total pros – they had San Rock pilgrims dancing, eating and drinking right up to the witching hour of 11, when we could hear Franny and Mary in the Albert Spadafora Beer Garden screaming, “last call for alcohol!!”
- Saint Rocco is placed in the middle of Pearl Street during the Feast. Pilgrims pin money to the Rock to help raise funds for the cause and are rewarded with a San Rocco pinback and the knowledge that they have helped fund worthy scholarship applicants and to keep this thing of ours funded for yet another year. Usually there is a volunteer working the Saint: collecting money and handing out pins. In the last few years, it has been Ward 1 Councillor Peg Crowe doing the Lord’s work and hanging all weekend with the Saint. This year Mayor Gary Christenson took Friday night duty, and Peg took the reins for Saturday night. Word trickling down from the powers that be tell us that Mayor Christenson’s debut was a smashing success, raising much gelt along with many photo ops! Peg’s work during the Feast is legendary. We thank you both for all that you do.
- A passing of the torch of sorts…four-year-old Nolan Ryan Edwards (with little sister Kennedy watching) was gently lifted by Billy “Papa” Settemio so he could place a wreath of donations on the Saint as it stopped in front of the Italian American Citizens’ Club before the Sunday afternoon Procession. Nolan’s grandmother Michelle looked on proudly. Not a dry eye on Pearl Street.
- My sincerest condolences go out to Eddie and the whole Casaletto family on the recent passing of the patriarch of the family, Joe “Chubby” Casaletto, at age 89. “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”
As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character ‘Columbo’ would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – Flashback 2020: “Harry Lyon’s mom Alice passed on February 12th, 2020. She was 96 and died peacefully in the comfort of her own home. How fortunate for that. ‘The cycle of life’ as her son Harry lovingly recalled. Most likely you do not know Harry. Harry was quiet and unassuming growing up. We were classmates all the way from that fateful day in Nov of 1963 up until the waning days of the Vietnam War in ‘75. Emerson School and Miss Paradise’s 1st grade class to – Beebe and Miss Bothwell – all the way through M.H.S. – Class of 1975. A long, strange trip indeed. Harry and I were not best of friends as children. One street separated us growing up but that was as close as we were. I could toss a baseball at his home on Watts from mine on Charles. But we never played ball together. Our mothers were closer. My mother just adored Alice. The feeling was mutual. I traveled one road. Harry traveled his. I have always respected him and that life journey. We would run into each other from time to time. Quickly catch up on life. That was the extent of our relationship. When I ran into him last week in the parking lot of Stop & Shop, time stood still. It had been years since we last saw each other. We recognized one another immediately. Even with masks pulled up tight. We exchanged pleasantries as friends of 55 plus years will do. We took that road as far as we could. When he told me of his mom’s passing, I glanced down. I was caught by surprise. I knew how much she meant to him. What they meant to each other. I was speechless. I tried to find some words. My first instinct was to let him know that he wasn’t alone, to assure him that I understood his hurt. I flirted with trying to comfort him by letting him know that time will heal this great loss. These sentiments seemed trite. Instead, silence. I expressed my condolences, muttered something banal like ‘gotta get back to work Harry, great to see you and I am very sorry for your loss.’ His pain, his grief, her death left him alone in the world. His loss, so real. Too real. I had no words for that.”
—Peter is a long-time Malden resident and a regular contributor to the Malden Advocate. He can be reached at PeteL39@aol.com for comments, compliments or criticisms.