50 Years Ago, Thanksgiving 1965 with Arlo Guthrie

Alice’s Restaurant

It wArloGuthrie2007as 50 years ago, Thanksgiving in 1965, when an 18-year-old rising folk singer named Arlo Davy Guthrie drove up from Queens, N.Y., to Great Barrington to visit a friend named Alice Brock. While he was there, he did Alice and her husband, Ray, a favor. He took out their garbage. It would change his life. Guthrie and his buddy threw the garbage down a ditch where others often did the same thing. But the next day, Guthrie was arrested for littering, and that blip is what kept him from being drafted into the Vietnam War because he had an arrest record. It also became the narrative for a little ditty he wrote two years later that he called “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” Part song, part storytelling, it became Guthrie’s signature and this fall he’s taking off on a national tour to celebrate the 50 years since the event.

50 Things About Arlo Guthrie on the 50th Anniversary of Alice’s Restaurant

You’ve heard the song, no doubt. So here are some fun facts, collected from interviews Guthrie has given and stories about the song over the years.

  1. The song is 18 minutes 34 seconds long, give or take a minute depending on his pace.
  2. The length of the song is the exact same length as the gap in the Nixon Watergate tapes, and Guthrie has often quipped that the song may explain that silence in the infamous tapes.
  3. The song was too long to be released on one side of a 45 rpm single.
  4. Guthrie had just started classes at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., in September 1965 when the incident happened over Thanksgiving break.
  5. He planned on studying forestry, but never finished his first year.
  6. He was born in Coney Island, N.Y., in 1947.
  7. He is one of four children born to Marjorie (Greenblatt) Mazia and folk legend Woody Guthrie.
  8. He was 13 when he gave his first public performance.
  9. In Boston, he was a regular performer at Club 47 in Harvard Square along with Joan Baez.
  10. Today Club 47 is Club Passim.
  11. In 1991, Guthrie purchased the Stockbridge Trinity Church where Alice and Ray Brock lived and where many of the events that inspired “Alice’s Restaurant” took place.
  12. Guthrie and his friend Ricky Robbins dumped the trash on that fateful day in Stockbridge because the Great Barrington dump was closed for the holiday.
  13. They were fined. And ordered to pick up their trash. The exact amount of the fine has varied in stories over the years from $20 to $25 to $50.
  14. The church is now The Guthrie Center, a nonprofit devoted to helping people with HIV and other afflictions, including Huntington’s disease, the illness that most contributed to Woody Guthrie’s death.
  15. One of Arlo Guthrie’s first lessons on the harmonica came from Bob Dylan, who visited his house looking for Woody.
  16. In the 1969 movie, “Alice’s Restaurant,” the cop is played by the real Officer Obie, William Obanhein, from the story.
  17. The blind judge in the movie “Alice’s Restaurant” is played by the real-life blind judge in Guthrie’s case, James Hannon.
  18. One of his inspirations for believing that such a long story could succeed as a song was Bill Cosby, whom he had seen tell long rambling tales on stage that kept audiences riveted.
  19. He has to relearn the song anytime he’s going to perform it. “It’s not like riding a bike,” he toldRolling Stone magazine.
  20. Guthrie’s biggest hit was “City of New Orleans.” “Alice’s Restaurant” never cracked the Billboard Hot 100. The album peaked at 17.
  21. Theresa’s Stockbridge Café is now in the space where Alice and Ray ran their restaurant.
  22. Alice and Ray Brock are divorced.
  23. Alice Brock owns an art studio in Provincetown, where she paints.
  24. Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, once wrote Alice Brock, she has said, asking if her restaurant would consider selling the choker necklaces he was making in prison. She declined.
  25. A version called “Alice’s Rock & Roll Restaurant” he released in 1969 lasts 4 minutes long and reached 97 on the Billboard singles chart.
  26. He does not listen to “Alice’s Restaurant” when it’s on the radio during Thanksgiving. And neither does his family.
  27. All of his children play instruments and sing, and some of his grandkids, too.
  28. Guthrie first performed live on a New York radio station in 1967.
  29. He rides a 2001 Indian motorcycle.
  30. The original lyrics contain a slur against homosexuals that today might bring a fine from the FCC to any radio station that plays a song containing it. But the song is played uncut and no fines are incurred.
  31. “Music will be your best friend.” This was a line his father told him when he was very young.
  32. One of Guthrie’s daughters, Sarah Lee Guthrie, is married to Johnny Irion, whose great uncle is John Steinbeck.
  33. His son, Abe, will play the keyboards on the upcoming tour with him.
  34. More than 75,000 photographs from Guthrie’s life have been collected for the tour and many of them will be projected on a screen throughout his concerts.
  35. When Guthrie was 18, he did his first concert with Pete Seeger at Carnegie Hall, a tradition they continued almost every year until Seeger died in 2014.
  36. One of Guthrie’s sisters, Cathy, died in a home fire when she was 4.
  37. The red VW microbus Guthrie talks about in “Alice’s Restaurant” has officially been “relegated to history,” according to a post on his Facebook page this summer.
  38. Woody Guthrie died in October 1967, only one month before his son released the song that would make him famous.
  39. His song “Massachusetts” was adopted by the state Legislature in 1981 as the state’s official folk song.
  40. The inscription on the guitar of Woody Guthrie, a notorious peace activist, read: “This Machine Kills Fascists.”
  41. Arlo Guthrie’s music lineage goes beyond his father Woody. His grandfather Charlie was a court clerk in Oklahoma, a painter and a singer.
  42. Around 2005, Guthrie became a registered Republican voter. He told The New York Times, “to have a successful democracy you have to have at least two parties, and one of them was failing miserably. We had enough good Democrats. We needed a few more good Republicans. We needed a loyal opposition.”
  43. In that same Times interview, he said: “I thought I would be governor of Massachusetts. I stood on a pile of my old albums and said, I’m the only one with a record to stand on.”
  44. He says it took him about a year to write “Alice’s Restaurant” because he had to live through the experiences “one at a time and add them to the little song.”
  45. His mother was a dance teacher at Indian Hill camp in Stockbridge.
  46. His father was Protestant, his mother was Jewish, and he was raised Orthodox. In 1977 he converted to Catholicism.
  47. His grandmother was a Yiddish poet named Aliza Greenblatt.
  48. He was taught Hebrew for his bar mitzvah by Meir Kahane, the controversial American-Israeli rabbi who later founded the Jewish Defense League and was assassinated in New York City in 1990.
  49. His full name has an unusual story. His mother read to him from a series of children’s books called “Arlo Books” about a Swiss boy named Arlo. But because she and Woody were concerned their son would hate the strange name growing up, they tacked on the middle name Davy, in case he preferred to use that. Davy was a nod to Davy Crockett.
  50. When he was in sixth grade, he walked into school and heard kids singing his father’s hit, “This Land Is Your Land,” and he realized he didn’t know the words. He quickly learned them.

Dogs Are Family, Too–Lord Jacob of Calvert (Jake)

Dogs are family too-Jake

To once again borrow a few words from my good friends at Google, “the loyalty, affection, and exploits”of my dogs throughout my years on this earth have inspired a rich body of true, sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad stories that have only added to my life events.   And today, unfortunately, it is with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Jake, our 17-1/2 year old Cockapoo.

Jake came to us from Fredericksburg, Virginia, which is where many of my Boling ancestors dating back several generations lived.  We were on a mission to find a replacement dog for my mom, who was celebrating her 71st birthday back in August of 1998.  We picked a rust colored pup for mom, which she named, of course, “Rusty.” The breeders lived on a farm and they also raised bullmastiffs.  I noticed there were two other 8-week old pups from their first cockapoo litter that were playing in and around the yard. A solid black one,  was trying to eat water from a hose after just visiting the large mastiffs in their cages.  He came running and jumped up on my legs and gave me a very warm greeting.  And, this is when our love for each other began.  What else could I do, we left Fredericksburg that day with two pups. One, we had chosen for mom, and the other, who chose me.

Over our nearly 18 years together, Lord Jacob of Calvert, “Jake,” as we called him, gave us much joy, many laughs, and in his recent years had presented us with way too many unwelcomed presents.

Jake and BeauThis picture was taken in 1999.  Jake was about one year old.  His buddy next to him was “Beau.”  Beau was with us when we purchased Jake–and Beau was less than a happy camper that day, riding in the back seat of a car with two eight week old pups.  But, they soon became fast friends and remained so for five years.  Beau passed due to cancer in the summer of 2003.  He had been with us for 12 years.

In the summertime, our extended families and their children came over on the weekends to swim in our pool.  We always put out a big spread and we reminded everyone about Jake’s main interest–food!  Even the breeders advised us that he never could get enough food and that he was a glutton.  On this one weekend, we had freshly prepared deviled eggs waiting for the swimmers to come inside to eat.  Everyone was usually aware all chairs were to remain pushed into the table, especially if there was food on it.  On this one occasion, though, someone forgot–and that was Jake’s opportunity. While the cooks went outside to call in the swimmers, Jake used the chair to climb up on the table.  When we opened the door from outside all we could see was Jake on all fours standing atop a once filled platter of freshly made deviled eggs–that “little stinker”–he quickly he had eaten all 18 of them!  All we could do was laugh and keep Jake at a distance.

Other fond memories were when we took Jake, who already had began to show his age, down to North Beach’s boardwalk.  Three years ago, we went and spent the entire day there with Jake and us sitting under a shade tree and enjoying the people and events of the first ever Dragon Boat Races that were sponsored by Calvert’s End Hunger Program.

We also took Jake with our chihuahuas two years ago this winter to Petersburg, Virginia, as we did more genealogical research within the Boling family’s stomping grounds and historical places.  Jake loved riding in the car and this was probably his longest ride and day long event ever. We left at 6 a.m. in the morning and didn’t return home until nearly midnight.

To honor Jake on his last day today, we fed him Porterhouse Steak, which, still true to form, he gobbled up.  Despite his poor health–his appetite never went.  Jake lost one third of his body weight over this past year, he lost his left eye to disease two years ago, about that same time his hearing started going, and two weeks ago the doc told us his calculated age was 88 and that the noises that he had recently started making were probably due to dementia.  We had so hoped that the old man would just pass quietly in his sleep, but he reminded us of his early pup days when he was a fighter playing with the streaming water from a hose (something his firefighting dad probably fully understands), and the giant bullmastiffs that were probably 10 times his size.

We must also give thanks today to Calvert Animal Hospital for all their years of helping us care for Jake and for making his and our last day together today as painless as possible.  We will never forget or stop loving our old man, Jake, may he rest in peace.  And, I so pray that doggie heaven is a part of man’s too.  Because our dogs have always been our best friends and will always be a part of our family.


100 Years of Men’s Hairstyles

One of my daily social media reads is the Mental_floss Magazine.  Mental_floss describes their magazine as:  “an intelligent read, but not too intelligent. We’re the sort of intelligent that you hang out with for a while, enjoy our company, laugh a little, smile a lot and then we part ways. Great times. And you only realize how much you learned from us after a little while. Like a couple of days later when you’re impressing your friends with all these intriguing facts and things you picked up from us, and they ask you how you know so much, and you think back on that great afternoon you spent with us and you smile.”  Yes, I find every word of their description of their works to be true.

Sailors-Samuel and My Dad FrankYesterday’s video post by Mental_floss reviewed history from a man’s fashion sense; i.e., men’s hairstyle changes over the last 100 years. And giving credit where credit is due, the model, Sam Orson, remains quite adaptive and attractive throughout all the styles over the decades.  In fact, his 1940’s style where he dons a sailor’s cap brought back images of photos of my dad from his times as a sailor as well as other remembrances of times in which I have had the pleasure of experiencing life. Hope you enjoy this cleverly done video as much as I did!

The Times, They are a Changin…

Bob Dylan–an American singer, songwriter, artist and writer

Bob Dylan PhotomaniaHe has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades.  Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota.  In 1997, Bob Dylan became the first rock star ever to receive Kennedy Center Honors, considered the nation’s highest award for artistic excellence.

Seventy-four year old Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin, released in 1964, was just one of his several anthem songs composed during the anti-war and Civil Rights Movements of the ’60s.

The Times They Are A Changin

As I read the lyrics and watched the video again this morning, it’s tenor and lyrics remain timeless to me.  America, Americans, and other people of our World, despite the times changing, remain in civil unrest–as countries; neighbors; individuals; religious, political, and social cultures–as our executive pastor put it this morning in his message, “it’s a cultural mayhem”. None of us has fully embraced our supposed life lessons from all our histories successes and failures, and many of us have reduced our perception of humanity to “skin color.”

Sorry to be feeling so sinister today.  But, it’s times like this when I turn to my faith to keep believing.  To paraphrase author of Be A Good Human, Tom Giaquinto; “Sometimes, there is a lot of darkness in this world. As I see it, we have two choices. We can be a part of that darkness or we can be a light. I choose to be a light.”  And, it appears my prayers once again have been answered in this weekend’s wonderful message sent by God I’m sure, but delivered eloquently by Daniel Palmer, one of our executive pastor’s.  Here it is, if you care to enjoy listening to it:  One Image

I hope, too, that you enjoy Bob Dylan’s video and lyrics below.  As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

LYRICS:  The Times They Are A Changin

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’


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