Excerpt from Chapter 3 of Always Something Doing: Top Hats to Footlights, The Square Grows Up
the new Irish-Catholic immigrants and the established
Yankee-Protestants was immediate, so when the Back Bay
fill-in project (begun in 1859) created new property
west of the Public Garden, many of those who could
afford to move did so with little hesitation. As
the elite moved further away from Scollay Square, the
businesses left behind had a choice: either adapt to the
new working-class clientele or close. Fine hotels
like the American House, the Quincy House (Boston's
first building made from Quincy granite), and Young's
Hotel became more like boarding houses than the fine
hostelries they were originally intended to be.
Elegant restaurants became cafeterias.
Haberdashers who once carried silk top hats now sold
woolen scully caps. Dance academies became tap
dance studios. And around the corner from Tremont
Row, on Howard Street, the Howard Athenaeum, which
during the 1850s presented William MacReady, the
greatest Shakespearean actor of the day, twenty years
later touted minstrel shows and seats in the gallery for
just fifteen cents.
Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Always Something Doing: The Old Howard
It started in a blaze
of religious fervor and ended more than a century later
when a real fire gutted its grand frame, giving a
waiting wrecking ball the chance it was being
denied. The demolition of its granite walls saw
the end of America's oldest theater: the Howard
Athenaeum, later known as the Old Howard. On stage
the great dramatists of the nineteenth century such as
Edmund Kean and Junius Booth performed classic plays of
the English language. Later, Weber & Fields,
Fred Allen, and Fanny Brice would create their own
classics in vaudeville. The stage would be visited
last by burlesque stars who entertained generations of
servicemen, Harvard under grads, and high school
Excerpt from Chapter 7 of Always Something Doing: Joe and Nemo's
It was night on the
beach at Normandy, several days following the Allied
invasion of German occupied France. Guards had
been posted around the allied encampment with the
warning: Be careful. A sudden rustling of bushes
drew the quick response of a soldier standing guard.
"Private Smith, First infantry," came the reply.
The voice sounded American enough, but the guard had to be sure, so he started to ask the voice in the dark some questions.
"Where are you from?" he asked the intruder.
"Boston," was the reply.
"What do you know about Boston?"
"What do you know about Scollay Square?"
"Joe & Nemo's."
And so the world was
made a little safer for democracy thanks to a hot dog
Excerpt from Chapter 8 of Always Something Doing: Memories of the Square
...Ralph Saya, a projectionist and spotlight operator for many years at the Casino, recalls what a typical day was like:
I would get in about a quarter to nine for a nine o'clock show, turn on the amplifiers and load the first reel of the first show. Then at nine I'd start the double feature, one A show and one B show. They weren't first run, by the way, since the real money was made from the stage show. The film just bought some time while the people filed in.
At noon the candy butchers would come out. That would take about half an hour. Everything sold was supposed to be lurid and mysterious and, most importantly, from France. One of them actually sold empty boxes. He even told the crowd they were empty..."there could be a watch or a diamond ring but I'm telling you they are empty. "Then the stage show would begin. There was a four piece orchestra consisting of a drum, a piano, a trumpet, and a saxophone. One day Helen Green, a stripper, got drunk but insisted on going on because if she didn't she wouldn't get paid. She started out slow and was doing fine until she started going faster and twirled around and fell into the pit on top of the drummer.
The strippers had some tricks. I had a dark blue light on them so it was hard to see, and they'd strip until they would jump backstage at the last moment. Some wore a G- string which they would cover with black wool so a quick look got the audience thinking they got a flash.
High school kids used
to get in by showing up early in the day when the movie
was on and the ticket taker didn't care at that
hour. The kids had to look fairly mature to get in
anyway. Rather than argue they'd let them
in. Also, the theatre sometimes got stuffy and
they would open the fire escape doors which were not
Excerpt from Always Something Doing: Epilogue (only in the 1999 edition)
Since the story of
Scollay Square was last told Joe and Nemo’s has moved
away from its tiny perch on Beacon Hill to the more
spacious and hotdog-friendly Revere Beach. In the
past ten years Billie Lee, John Brenner, George Burns,
and many other denizens of the Square’s bars, theaters,
and restaurants have passed away. Since the first
edition of Always Something Doing there has been nary a
bump or a grind to be found in what used to be Old
Scollay Square. Yet, there has been plenty of
activity there, if only over the comparatively mundane
issue of development. And that’s what this Epilog
is all about – the continuing saga of Scollay Square’s
evolution, in a world that is every day filled more and
more with people who have never even heard of Joe and
Nemo’s, the Old Howard, or Sally Keith...
Rose LaRose, Mary Goodneighbor, and Marion Russell at their booking for indecency in 1953
8) Dentist William T. Morton's office was located at 19 Tremont Row and the Papanti Dance Studio was located at 21 Tremont Row. Both of those statements are true. Both businesses had long been assumed to be on that part of Tremont Row which extended from Pemberton Square to Howard Street, which placed them across from Brattle Street, in the heart of Scollay Square - and just below the studios of photographers Southworth & Hawes. Recent evidence (brought to my attention by Rajesh Haridas, an Anesthesiologist with an interest in the history of Anesthesiology) shows that Morton and Papanti were actually between Pemberton Square and Beacon Street, across from the Boston Museum.
This page from a 1851 street directory provides the details:
As this preamble to the guide indicates, everyone seemed to be confused over street names and building numbers, requiring an overhaul and renumbering of many streets in Boston:
We erred on page 21 of
Always Something Doing by placing Dr.
Morton below the studios of
photographers Southworth & Hawes, (who were located
at 19 Tremont Row - but between Pemberton Square and
Howard Street.) The Pemberton/Howard stretch of
Tremont Row was also incorrectly indentified as the home
to the Papanti Dance Studio on page 18 of Scollay
Square (when, as stated above, Papanti was
actually located along the stretch of Tremont Street
between Pamberton and Beacon. (My chagrin over
this error is mitigated, only in part, by the fact
that Walter Muir Whitehill, in his pamphlet on the
Square, also got the two sections of Tremont Row mixed
up, as well.)