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September 29, 2007


big lou

butchie ball eater girl friend peggy pelican

Toxic Spill

(Taken from internet)

At 9:05 a.m. on April 3, 1980, tank car TLOX 113009 was being pulled through the railroad switching station in Somerville, Mass., near Joy Street. The tank car was on the final leg of a journey from Monsanto Chemical Company's plant in East St. Louis to another Monsanto plant in Everett. Inside were 13,000 gallons of phosphorus trichloride, used in the manufacture of other chemicals, for textile finishing, electroplating and for making pesticides and gasoline additives.

The switching engine with the chemical tank cars paused while the engineer stopped to throw a switch. A 38-car freight train creeping along an intersecting track sideswiped the tank car, ripping a gash in the half-inch steel skin of the tank car, three inches wide by 20 inches long.

"Something went wrong ... we had a collision," the railroad safety manager told a newspaper reporter.

The Somerville Fire Department sent three engine companies and two ladder companies. The deputy chief took one look at the gray fluids running into storm drains and began to envision toxic fumes coming up from sewer drains from Joy Street to Boston Harbor. Firefighters turned their hoses on the fluid and created a giant cloud of noxious particles, hundreds of feet into the air, drifting toward Boston in the light breeze.

After learning more about the toxic contents of the car, the deputy chief consulted with his dispatcher, who retrieved a hazardous materials handbook and informed him that a strong spray of water directly aimed at the spill could cause an explosion and that the fumes in the gaseous clouds were dangerous. The guide recommended using a fine mist to reduce the vapor, but explicitly precluded direct water spray on a spill. It also called for a dike to contain the spill until removal apparatus was available. Firefighters suited up in hazardous materials gear and began digging a pit to contain the spill.

At 9:30 a.m., Somerville's mayor ordered evacuation of adjacent areas and alerted Boston and Cambridge officials about the growing toxic gas cloud that the wind could carry to their cities. At 10 a.m., area hospitals began implementing disaster plans to prepare for mass casualties.

At 11 a.m., the state fire marshal determined the cloud posed a threat to commuters and transportation and told police to start evacuating people as far as Lechmere Square and to close Route 93 and the Mystic-Tobin Bridge, as well as other smaller transportation routes through Boston.

Shortly after 1 p.m., the leak was contained. About 9,500 gallons had spilled. The wind shifted, and evacuation orders expanded. A layer of mist was being laid over the spill, but the change in wind sent another spray onto the spill, creating another toxic cloud.

By 11:30 p.m., the pit was filled with sand and soda ash, while environmental engineers monitored how much, if any, of the chemical was leeching through soil. By 1 a.m., the estimated 17,000 evacuated people were allowed to return to their homes. At 7:37 a.m., Friday, April 4, the Somerville Fire Department gave the all-clear sign.

The acids formed when the firefighters sprayed water on the liquid phosphorus trichloride are highly corrosive, capable of eating away at many metals and fabrics. Another molecule formed with the acids is a highly toxic gas that was used as a chemical warfare agent in World War I and can cause nausea, convulsions, paralysis, coma and death.

In the end, more than 600 victims were seen at 10 area hospitals. All but a few were released after treatment. At Somerville Hospital, 457 patients exposed to fumes showed a 20 percent liver abnormality rate, suggesting potential liver damage. The incident lasted less than 24 hours, but cost well over $500,000 to Somerville and at least that much to other participating agencies. Somerville's annual city budget was only $47 million. The cost to the city alone required a $4 increase in the tax rate.

big lou

just a fact i think it was jimmy negelli not ron also steve costerelli is alive and well and al perry is the iron worker in the garden beam

Al Coholic

Any more good underage drinking memories?
Where did Dr. Mrs. McCarty waitress besides the Last Supper ?


Durgin-Park, obviously.


JAR - thank you for the answers to my questions. Not that this is important to anyone except me, butI woke up yesterday morning, and one of my first thoughts was, strangely, a memory of that car dealership; I wasn't sure if it was accurate or not.

Remember the Johnnie's Special for 15 cents @ the corner of Thurston and Medford Sts.? Those were the days that you could leave school for lunch.


Always good to hear things from your unique point of view, Jimmy, keep up the good work!
John, look forward to your next presentation, keep us posted! You've more than replaced Isobel Cheney as the official city historian!
Noone has yet mentioned the slot car track in Davis Square (I believe it was above the old Yee's Village), or the miniature golf course in the basement of the Hobbs Building (Somerville Theater), that one was before my time. And right through the 80's, I believe, there was a yarn shop in the storefront beside the Somerville Theater (probably now part of the Mr. Crepe storefront). And for years, a dance studio above that storefront - the teachers name escapes me at the moment. And before we had BuckaBook we had Papa Gino's, which had been Brigham's. How about Beauty Garden on Highland Avenue, by Dente's Barber Shop? And the original Steve's Ice Cream! And I believe that before there was Spark's, there was The Bargain Center and before there was McKinnon's there was the A&P. And don't forget in the late 70's when Pal Joey's became a nightclub called El Sid's.....Alex Rocco was spotted there more than once! That's all the exercise my brain can handle for one day.......

BoBo Petricone

BoBo Petricone was his name. Alex Rocco is his Hollywood hideout name !


BoBo aka Alex took off for Hollywood when the shooting started between the Charlestown and Somerville factions back in the Buddy McLean days.
He was a small time bookie with a long rap sheet. Moe Green he was not!

Somerville Memories

How about Cabot Farms on Broadway near Powderhouse, does anybody remember going dancing there?


What's happening with Cabot Farms? Every time I go by (for the last 15 years) it's a bit more run down. Who owns it? Why isn't it a going thing?

Ron Newman

The guy who knows the most says "the property as a whole is caught in the middle of a protracted estate/probate battle between various factions of the ownership."


Actually Maureen, I think I mentioned the slot car track in the previous thread that Ron Newman pointed out. It was right on the corner of Grove and Highland in what is now the Dental Arts Bldg. (opposite Central Bank). There were two large figure 8 tracks of 8-10 lanes each IIRC. I was about 5 or 6 then, so that goes back to 1965-'67. My brother and his friends used to always go there. Do you remember the sign outside with the F-1 racing cars?
The Phone Co. was still diagonally across.

I miss Yee Village too. They had the only dining area off from the main room big enough for me to bring the kids from my Little League team for Chinese food without overly disturbing the other patrons. We go to the Mandarin in Union Sq. these days.

Helen Gurich was the owner of the Beauty Garden. At one time she had several locations with a rather thriving business. She passed away about 5 years ago as I recall.

Sparkes post-dated the Bargain Center, but the two were in completely different buildings. The Bargain Center occupied the site between Ming Toy and Cummings (now Goodwill). I was probably inside the Bargain Center three times in my life, but I remember the day it burned. We could see the smoke pall from all those bins of rubber sneakers waifting through the air while in study hall at the Southern. When the building got torn down, you could see the west wall of Ming Toy for the first time.

We always went over to the Converse Outlet in Malden for sneakers, usually the week school got out or after Memorial Day, so we'd have new sneakers for the summer.

McKinnon's was there for at least as long as I could read, but we used to shop at Stop & Shop up where the FFC is (where the first McDonald's went in). Remember the chicken rotisserie oven?


There was, in fact, a gas station on that north-west corner of Cutter and Summer. Recollection tells me it was either a Jenny or a Sinclair station--possibly a Mobil or Citgo. There was a Texaco where Dominos is.

Toxic Spill:

It is worthy of note that the tank car incident near Washington/Joy Street took pace one day after the end of through freight trains through Davis Square. The line through there was severed on April 2, 1980.


Can you answer this?

Where was the first "Somerville Lumber" located and who were their original owners?

dapper dan

Anyone remember the "Soda Hut" on elm st...over by Steve's?

Born n' raised

It's great to read Jimmy's article and everyone's comments, certainly does bring back memories. I'm surprised no one has mentioned, although not in Davis Sq, the Chinatown..

Ron Newman

Maureen said: "Before we had BuckaBook we had Papa Gino's, which had been Brigham's."

Starbucks now occupies the former location of Brigham's and later Papa Gino's.


There was a liqour store in what became the final location of Buck a Book.

To Newman:

Ron, I could be mistaken, but I think Brigham's was in the spot which became BuckaBook. It didn't look exactly the same, so it's hard to remember, because the 'plaza' did not exist at the time that Brigham's was there.

Ron Newman

Was there a street or another building where the plaza is now?


There was also a bowling alley behind Wedgewood Crane and Connely.
I believed it burned.once or twice.


That's Connelly !!

Ron Newman

Connolly, actually. I never knew about it -- I'll have to ask Jack sometime.


I didn't read through all the comments, so somebody may have answered the trivia question about the auto parts store, which was named Goff's, I believe.


I recall eating in the Waldorf Cafeteria where Mike's Pizza is now located. And there was a Mexican restaurant next to the Somerville Theater, right along side the tracks, but I cannot remember its name. Also, does anybody remember the Blarney Stone, the bar that was located in the Woodbridge Inn? I think it burned down sometime in the wee small hours of March 18th back in 1979 or so.

Dapper Dan, I remember the Soda Hut! Didn't the Steve's Ice Cream building originally house a dry cleaners (Union Dry Cleaners, if memory serves?)


Does anyone remember that Aerosmith had a studio down on Lowell St near the corner of Albion and Lowell?

Ron Newman (SF)

I think the Mexican place was called La Pinata? They had commercials on WCAS radio, "In Harvard Square Cambridge and Davis Square Somerville", to the tune of "El Paso".

Lagal Seafood

I know the original Legal Seafood was technically in Cambridge, but on the Somerville/Cambridge Line. I remember waiting in line to get the best seafood around served in paper bags and would now put their "exclusive" restaurants to shame.
A bag of seafood for about five bucks, you couldn't even get a pepsi for that amount in their "now off limits to a working class family with kids snobbery"!


Cara Donna = Gone

La Cassias = Gone

Lyndells = If you have a bag of money and a credit card you might walk out of there with a cupcake.

Patsys = Excellent and price friendly.

Can anyone else remember any other "old" pastry shops?

Times are a changing

I guess this column shows the drastic changes that this city has gone through over the past 40 years or more. Whether that's good or bad, I guess only time will tell.

It's funny how the the posters on this board have fond memories of a city that was one big neighborhood.

Now it's a city of transients, carpetbaggers,newbies telling us how to live our life, neighbors that don't even know each other, a dramatic decrease of children, a dramatic increase of selfish people, a large group of people that don't get involved and donate their time to kids sports in this city, it's the same old original Somervillians who have continued this tradition.

Lattes? Yogurt? Vegans? No stickball? PDS? The Arts? No Budweiser served in the "upscale" bars to keep the Somerville people out? Tofu? Dog Poo-POO Parks? 20$ cover charges? A bunch of whining adults complaining about and stunting the growth of this city? etc., etc.

What a shame!

It's Legal....

I also remember the original Legal Sea Foods. People eating in their upscale eatery today woudn't believe where they started! We had a pile of kids, and weren't rich, but we could still get fish and chips at Legal every so often. It was certainly affordable. They had a 'to go' area that was just your typical, old-fashioned fish market. Then the 'restaurant', which was something you might find on the docks at Gloucester or New Bedford. Long wooden tables with benches, and counters along the wall for condiments and cutlery. You went up to the counter to order, then waited for them to call your number. There were always rumors around that the fire which 'put them out of business' (!!) was actually arson. Anyone remember if it was ever proven?


jimmy,you've always been one of the most talented,creative people i've known...thanks to your mom i got the chance to know you. i remember all the old hangouts and the stephen james house we'd go to after work for a drink or they would have functions so the office (located at one davis) would have a christmas party. we would have bowling banquets at cabot farms..go to friscati's after work and about 9pm they would let us dance in the back of the room..our town was always jumping from teele sq to union sq then across from somerville ave to mystic ave. we would ride the streets to every corner hangout and mingle with everyone. we had a great time..somerville will always be home..did anyone remember the moose hall at the corner of central and highland?..and they put up a parking lot!! great memories and awesome way to celebrate our cities history.

Paul Boyle

Jimmy, Nice article. I moved out of Somerville in 1975. In fact, I group up down the street from you. I can remember all the names of the families that lived on the street (Fitzgerald's, Lorenzo's, Kerber's, etc). And around the corner and down the hill was Oscar's Store.

Davis Square used to have a Grant's with a lunch counter, Park Snow, Woolworth's 5 & 10 Store, The Smoke Shop (for comics - still there I believe). You mentioned Dente's Barbershop. Not only is that still there but you can get a haircut from the kid that used to sweep the floors there in the 60's. There used to be a Bargain Basement store in Davis Square. The old Bowling Alley that was between the Woodbridge and the Christian Science Reading Room only had six lanes if I remember correctly. There was also a Stop & Shop in the Square and an A&P Supermartket.

Venice Pizza and then Napoli's Pizza (?) between the Venice and the Somerville Theatre. Angelina's Subs up near Teele Square. And I thought it would never happen but the Logan post is now gone.

The Dairy Queen was at the end of Morrison Ave. on Cedar Street. We used to shovel out the DQ parking lot in the winter so we could play street hockey. There was always a little variety shop there back in the day. Up the street near the RR Tracks on Cedar St. was the Pollywog Pit where we would catch pollywogs and watch them turn into small frogs (if they lasted that long).

Trum field had an all dirt surface. Did the grass they plant there hold up? I grew up playing at Dilboy Field for Little League.

Back down Broadway across from Doughterty's Funeral Palor was the Prince Donut Shop with Loud's and the Sub Shop around the corner.

Those were the days, my friend.

Ron Newman

The Venice became the Transit, the Bullpen Pub, Tallulah's, the Aquarium (good riddance) and finally Orleans. I may have missed one or two in between; for a while it seemed to constantly change owners and names.

Angelina's sub shop is still there.

The former Parke Snow building (One Davis Square) was torn down last year. The new building in its place will have a CVS and a Boston Sports Club gym, and should open next month.

Mouth- O- plenty

Hi Paul Boyle !! Thanks for some great idea !! Jimmy

Fran Hart

Greetings -
I woke up this morning after having a dream about the Goodell Drug Store in Powderhouse Square (don't ask me why!!) and that prompted me to do an Internet search, which landed me here. I LOVED reading all your comments, as it reinforced my memory of the Powderhouse/Davis/Ball Square areas, where I spent so much time as a kid. I lived on Walker St. (right off Powderhouse Square) from infancy to 12 years. I am now 52 and moved to Burlington in 1967, where I've been ever since.

In response to the Cabot Farms comment, I had three best friends growing up in Somerville. One was Deran Dinjian, whose parents owned Cabot Farms. We went to school together - both at the Hodgkin's School and the Western Junior High. As a result, I spent a lot of time inside Cabot Farms. We had a band (in 6th grade - I still can't believe it!) so we were allowed to use the stage areas in either room to practice. When we weren't practicing, we amused ourselves in many ways. We would play hide 'n seek using the whole first-floor area - there were a million places to hide. When we got thirsty, we would scoop out some ice cream, then come upstairs and make a frappe - we usually made raspberry, which you don't find all that often anymore. There were always chips available. When we went to the Hodgkin's, we would come home at lunchtime and then go back at 1:00 PM (I still can't believe that either!) On the way back, we would grab these huge pickles out of the big jars they had and the goal was to try and make the pickle last until we got back to school (we were easily amused.) We would also use the voluminous numbers of milk crates they had and create obstacle courses in his back yard - they were metal in those days, so they were heavy and sturdy.

Apart from the function room/kitchen areas, we would also enjoy activities in the apartments above. There were four apartments - three used by his family members, and one spare that he was allowed to use. He had a big racing track layout there - all his comic books, his guitar, etc. It was great refuge especially for a couple of young kids.

Deran was brilliant - a great musician - I think he went on to M.I.T. We lost touch after I moved, but I have great memories of him and Cabot Farms.

I loved remembering some of the places you all mentioned: Loud's was a GREAT candy store. They used to have a popcorn machine out in the middle of the floor and if you ordered popcorn, the woman would have to come out from behind all the see-through candy shelves and get the bag of popcorn for you. Bella Meo's had great subs - my favorite was the hot pastrami. He also had an ice cream area to the right and we used to get shakes there all the time .25 for a small/.35 for a large. There was also a great donut shop at the end of the block, closets to Cabot farms, where the best donuts were the "Jimmy" donuts.

In Davis Square, I loved the smoke shop - was it called Robbin's? - for their comic book selection. I also loved the Bargain Basement. Next to Goff's auto store was Butler's Music Center, where I took my first guitar lessons. I miss all the old stores like Woolworth's (remember they used to sell live miniature turtles and they had a great snack bar, Grant's and the bowling alley. There was also a great little record shop where we got our 45s (small record - big hole) over near McKinnon's.

Spent a lot of time in Ball Square too. One of my other best friends was Walter Klemm, whose parents ran Lyndell's Bakery. We would occasionally get some free goodies, but I don't remember ever going inside the bakery in a behind-the-scenes way like I did at Cabot Farms. I remember Mitchell's and Ray's, but my favorite was Todi's. I am an extremely fussy eater and Todi's had the only sauce and meatballs I would eat. I LOVED HIS RECIPE. Even as an adult, I would stop there anytime I was near Somerville and get 6 quarts of sauce, bring them home, divide them up and freeze them. I was crushed the day I went to the store and found him out of business. I actually contacted him at his home and he offered the recipe to me. I was hoping he would mail me the recipe, but it was more or less in his head and as he told me the items and quantities, I sensed I was not going to be able to replicate the formula - and I was right. I could never make it like he did.

A few more somewhat related recollections: There was a hobby shop on Highland Ave., a little ways up from the square towards East Somerville, where you could get models, Matchbox cars, model train and racing accessories - it was awesome and you don't find those shops anymore. Does anyone remember Dick and Ellen's? It was a few blocks up from Cabot Farms, towards Teele Square. We would stop there almost every day on the way back to Hodgkin's, to get candy or pretzels or comic books (another pace with a great selection). Finally, there was a kind of a mini- 5 & 10 next to Harold’s Luncheonette in Ball Square, along with a record shop - they might have occupied the same space at different times - does anyone remember these and their names? Also, Harold's was owned by the Michitson (sp?) family. They used to live next door to us on walker St. The father died in a fire at the store. The son - Butchie - took it over and I think I saw where he passed away not too long ago - I might be wrong about that. The daughter, Jeannie, and the son Jay were playmates of mine during the early years.

OK - I know I went on for a long time here, but I was psyched to find this site, so please forgive the length of this post. I would love to hear any responses or clarifications to my post. Also, to the person who said they have a slideshow and film, I would really encourage you to post the slideshow online somewhere and to convert the film to video to also post. In the meantime, if you can e-mail me the slideshow, I would love to see it. My email address is:

Thanks for the posts and for reading this.
Fran Hart



Thanks for sharing the recollections. In so doing, you have proven the worth of sites such as these, where living histories can be preserved and then later found by anyone doing a web search, who then adds to the history themselves.

The only hobby shop I remember on Highland Ave. was in the block of stores just east of Cedar Street, corner of Highland and Eastman Road. This goes back to 1965-'66 or thereabouts.

Cafe Rossini is located there today.

Thanks again for your contributions.


Ron Newman

Thank you for posting this, Fran! Robbins Smoke Shop is stlll in Davis Square today, though I'm not sure they sell comic books anymore. And Lyndell's is still going strong in Ball Square.

To Fran


Thanks for your post.

Sadly, Jennie Michitson (Rider) also sadly passed away.


I am curious as to whether any of the SFD Jakes--or anyone else out there--can refresh me on details of the JP Squires fire.

As I recall, it was in late August of 1978 but I may be confusing it with another blaze. How big of a fire was it (in terms of alarms)? Any other anecdotes would be appreciated. Amazing how fast 30 years goes by!

Thanks in advance.



That was before my time but our website does a great job giving details, pictures and audio of the fire.

"The Squire's fire was on September 1, 1978. Fire was in a vacant, five story brick warehouse. Fire originated in the basement and spread throughout. The floors of the building were saturated with years of grease from the meat packing industry. An interior attack was initially attempted by members of Group 3 but was abandoned after fire began to spread to upper floors. A collapse of the Medford Street wall destroyed the 303 (District Chief's vehicle). Two dwellings on Medford Street also suffered fire damage. The all-out was not sounded until September 3rd @ 2059 hours."


Thanks Lieutenant. I was thinking late August, but remembered it being close to Labor Day weekend, which it must have been.

I didn't realize it went to 10 alarms, but am not surprised after seeing the pictures--quite the conflagration.

Offhand, me wonders if that was the last 10-banger called in Somerville? I can't think of too many bigger that have happened since.

Neat website, by the way. My compliments to everyone involved in putting it together. It does a fine job conveying the pride, tradition and history of our Fire Dept.


Ron Newman

When Beacon Ink exploded on Winslow Ave ten years ago, that brought fire engines from lots and lots of surrounding towns. Don't know if it was 10 alarms but it was still huge.



I went down there that day and got photos of the fire from the footpath off the Bikeway. While Beacon Ink was a big fire and involved the unfortunate destruction of adjacent structures, it did not approach the magnitude of the Squires blaze. The departments involved did a great job knocking the Winslow Ave./Clifton St. fire down though.


Fran Hart

Hi - Thanks for the feedback. To the poster who stated that Jeannie passed: I am amazed to hear that. She would have been my age - 53 - do you know what happened?



I got to looking through some of the fires from years past (The Beacon Ink was 8 alarms). One which stands out was the March 4, 1968 fire at 36 Vernon St. I believe this was the old Derby Desk Co. building, although it may have been International Paper at that time.

I remember the kids who lived close by coming into school at the Proctor the next morning and talking about it. I was in third grade at the time and our teacher was--believe it or not--Mrs. McCarthy (sorry, no "Dr." salutation) who lived diagonally across Central Street, and not far from where the fire was.

SFD Lt. (Capt.?) Charlie "Buster" Siciliano--whose father was a Somerville Firefighter at the time--probably recalls it pretty well. I'm sure he would have seen it from his house on Centre Street.


To Fran


I'm not sure how Jeannie passed. It was some sort of disease not an abrupt ending. It was several years ago. I'm sorry. She was lovely. I also misspoke. Her married name was Ridings.

Ron Newman

JAR - Did there use to be another building at Derby Desk, that burned down? The current Rogers Foam buildings are 6 and 20 Vernon Street. 36 Vernon would be the address of what's now a vacant (and very steeply sloped) lot; the house next door is 38.

To Ron

Who cares? Why don't you jump on the bandwagon with that other nut Zendehful and worry about "peak oil". That issue seems to be right up your alley.

Try as you might but you won't bury the posts....they will appear even more plentiful tomorrow!

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