Saturday, April 13, 2013

1933: After 46 Years, Beer Back in Brookline

On April 7, 1933 Prohibition came to a partial end in the United States with the passage of the Cullen-Harrison Act permitting the sale of 3.2 beer and light wine.  Two days later, the Brookline Board of Selectmen granted 31 licenses to sell or serve beer in town.

For the country as a whole it had been 13 years since the start of Prohibition. But in Brookline the action of the Selectmen brought to an end nearly half a century without alcoholic beverages being legally available.

Brookline had been a dry town since 1887, when Town Meeting voted 452-268 to ban the granting of licenses for the sale of intoxicating beverages. (The town voted to go "wet" again in March 1920, but that vote was symbolic only; Prohibition had gone into effect nationally two months earlier.)

At least one local restaurant wasted no time: Gurley's Restaurant in Coolidge Corner (where Otto Pizza is today) advertised "legal beer" in the April 13 edition of the weekly Brookline Chronicle.

Chronicle ad for "Legal Beer" at Gurley's Restaurant, April 13, 1933
Gurley's Restaurant, where Otto Pizza is today, was one of the first to obtain a license when beer sales came back to Brookline after 46 years.

Beer sellers were notified that their licenses were only temporary until a town-wide referendum could be held to approve or reject the granting of licenses.  That came in June, with the "Yes" votes winning easily: 6,718 to 1,600.  Voters also chose, by an even more overwhelming majority, to send "wet" representatives to the Constitutional Convention voting on ratification of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would repeal Prohibition altogether.

There was one more vote on December 28, 1933, three weeks after the final repeal of Prohibition, on whether to allow sales of hard liquor and stronger beer and wine in Brookline.  That too was approved, although turnout was light.  Two days later, coincidentally, the Coolidge Corner Theatre opened its doors, bringing the movies to Brookline after a 20 year fight against allowing a theater in town.  Brookline was definitely loosening up.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cy Young & "Old-Timers' Night" in Brookline

On a June night in 1938 on Brookline Field a 71-year old man  wearing a fake beard and mustache took off his hat and coat and threw a ceremonial first pitch to start an old timers' baseball game.

The wind-up and delivery were familiar to many in attendance, as the septuagenarian hurler was none other than Cy Young, former star pitcher in Boston, Cleveland, and St. Louis and a recent inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cy Young in 1939Young, reported the Brookline Chronicle,

went through the customary wind-up to the accompaniment of thundering applause and then let go the pitch to officially start the ball game. Before the diamond battle of the year got underway, however, "Old Cy" mounted the rubber and gave a demonstration of how he used to "burn 'em over" for which he was roundly applauded. 

[Cy Young, right, at the dedication of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1939, one year after his appearance at "Old-Timers' Night" in Brookline.]

Old-Timers' Night was an annual event in Brookline from 1936 to 1941, though only in 1938 was it graced by the presence of a figure as celebrated as Cy Young.  A handful of other former major league players took part, including Brookline-born Jack Kelleher who played parts of six seasons with four National League teams between 1912 and 1924.

For the most part, the game was a chance to bring back Brookline ballplayers of years past, from Brookline High School and from the many local clubs that competed with one another and with teams from other towns as much as a half-century before.

Brookline Chronicle article previewing 1939 Old-Timers' Night
The Brookline Chronicle's preview of the 1939 Old-Timers' Night included this picture of the old Brookline Marions team from 50 years earlier. (Click for larger view)
In addition to baseball, Old-Timers' Night typically included a parade of vintage vehicles that, according to the Chronicle,
would have done credit to a museum display, ranging from the aristocratic Beverly wagon down through the brougham, landau, surrey, brake, barouche, tally-ho, stagecoach and Irish jaunting car to the common hayrack and cart and including a "steamer" fire engine, a police ambulance and the once-familiar "Black Maria," also a fleet of tandem and single bicycles and high-wheelers and a group of "horseless carriages."

There were also men and women in vintage clothing, including

top-hatted gentlemen with ruffled and bustled ladies and helmeted guardians of the law and red-shirted fire laddies.

The parade, with local luminaries and marching bands, typically began at the Municipal Gymnasium near the High School and wound its way via Greenough, Washington, Cypress, Boylston, and High Streets and Highland and Jamaica Roads to Brookline Field (now Harry Downes Field) where the game was played.  Crowds estimated at 11,000 to 15,000 turned out each year to watch the events.

Old-Timers' Night in Brookline apparently came to an end with the entry of the United States into the Second World War.

NOTE: It's not clear why Cy Young wore a false beard and mustache on Old-Timers' Night.  It would not have been to make his presence a surprise, as his participation had been announced in the paper a week before. Perhaps it was simply a nod to the throwback spirit of the event, mimicking the more hirsute fashion of an earlier era.  If so, it would have been a nice bit of whimsy from a gentleman of 71 years.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Brookline's Town Seal: Adopted April 3, 1848

Town Seal of Brookline
165 years ago today, Brookline Town Meeting voted to accept the now ubiquitous Town Seal, picturing "a group of agricultural and farming implements, a view of the City of Boston in the distance, with a train of cars running between the two places" and bearing the inscription "Muddy River, a part of Boston. Founded 1630. Brookline incorporated 1705."

The design, according to a report from then Town Clerk Artemas Newall, was "intended to be emblematical of the character of the Town from its early settlement, when designated and known as Boston Cornfield & Boston Plantation, to the present time,— the inscription to perpetuate, in a degree, its early historical associations."

The symbolism, according to a report from the town Preservation Office, "asserts that Brookline was not just suburban but prosperously agrarian—a suitable home, perhaps, for the country gentleman."

The seal, engraved on steel, was executed for the town by Francis N. Mitchell of Boston at a cost of $56 which included 100 embossed impressions and a press to be used for copying.

See also this later blog post about one of the object pictured on the seal.