Consider reading the book ALWAYS SOMETHING DOING by David Kruh for an enjoyable journey into the real OLD BOSTON.
If you go to the
web site www.joeandnemo.com you can find more about Scollay Square and how to get David Kruh's book.
Boston,in the 40's and 50's,kept
vaudeville alive.Vaudeville was a stage entertainment consisting of a series of acts performed by dancers,singers,comedians,magicians,animal
acts and anything one,two or more people could put together for public entertainment...sort of the Ed Sullivan Show without class.
place to see vaudeville in those days was The Old Howard in Scollay Square." The Boston Watch and Ward Society, an organization of
morality police made Boston famous by censoring books , thus increasing sales around the country because the book was "BANNED IN BOSTON".
Somehow the word got out that there were stripper acts on the stage and that ribaldry was prevalent among the comedians. Some of the
most fun times were those days when the lights would flicker in the theater , as a signal that the ladies from the society were on
board and were ready to catch the indecent performers in the act. The transformation from a topless , g-stringed stripper with a fan
to a long-gowned opera singer was worth the price of admission.When the ladies left,the real show would go on in the true tradition
The Guy In The Lower Right Corner Looks Familiar
ALWAYS SOMETHING DOING was the by-word at the Old Howard. It contributed to the anticipation
that high school truants had as they climbed the stairs to the main floor of the theater. (The first floor was occupied by a brewery
at one time). The Monday morning show was supposed to be the best. The censors usually made there first rounds for the new weekly
show in the afternoon. The show would include a B movie with someone like Ronald Reagan, a cartoon, Movietone News, and other "short
subjects".Then the screen would disappear and the stage would be set for the real show.
Out would come the MC who thought he was ready
for Broadway. He would sing and if he was lucky he got through his song.Then we would be treated to a succession of comedians, dancers,specialty
acts, a chorus line and eventually the strippers.
It should be said that the feature stripper was thought of in the same way that young
guys thought of baseball players . Everybody appreciated real talent and everybody had his favorite.There was a modicum of respect
for the performers.Who wouldn't appreciate the skill displayed by Zorita the Snake Girl? According to Joe Savino who worked at the
Old Howard and David Kruh who includes the account in his book ALWAYS SOMETHING DOING and first-hand accounts of others who were present:
She was unique. She did a striptease with a snake. At one point she would throw the snake over her back and the snake would slither
down her back and eventually disappear. She had a gimmick where the snake would disappear , and of course you know where she had everybody
believing that it went!Â
During intermission the audience was subjected to the candy salesman, who was known as THE CANDY BUTCHER.
Also from David Kruh's book.
Not all the activity at the Old Howard was confined to bumps and grinds of the strippers. Every show was
also punctuated by the chatter of a salesman unique to the burlesque theater. As soon as the intermission curtain lowered, the candy
butcher would appear at the side of the stage, dressed in a mismatched suit and wearing a large diamond pinky ring, which he flashed
in the spotlight. His chatter, remembered here by Dan McCole of the Boston Herald,is recalled fondly by every sucker who dished out
a couple of quarters for what usually turned out to be a box of stale candy. But it was worth it just to hear him speak:
laze n' gennemen. Tonight I would like to welcome you to the Old Howard theater , here in the heart of Boston's historic Scollay Square.
Now I realize you're a broad-minded audience , else you would not be present. Tonight, laze n' gennemen, I have a special offer for
you-an offer of which you will no doubt say to yourself-"How can they do this? Why, they must be losing money with bargains like this."
In honor of the star of our presentation this evening , " Bubbles La Bomba", who you all saw on this very stage just moments ago ,
and with her permission , we can offer our specially commissioned photographs of Bubbles in a pose that caused the recent Labor Day
riots at the Detroit Blueberry Festival. This full-sized eight by ten photo , suitable for framing for your home , comes coupled with
a special magazine which cannot be purchased on the outside. I repeat- and I know you're a broad-minded audience , otherwise you would
not be here-this magazine cannot be bought outside this theater. This magazine has many features that can only be described as bizarre,
intriguing, and erotic and fun to read in your own home. Along with this magazine and the picture of our star for this evening , Bubbles
La Bomba, we will include a photo of the strongest man in the world-Mr Charles Atlas. Now, laze n' gennemen, I know you're a broad-minded
audience, otherwise you wouldn't be here -but if you take the photo of Charles Atlas-a life-sized eight-by-ten- and a photo of the
lovely star of this evening's presentation, Miss Bubbles La Bomba, and place them one on top of the other, you can shake them in the
dark under your seats and you will see things that will make your hair stand on end. You'll find out why the lights have been flashing
on and off in the back rooms at many swanky Beacon Hill homes and men's clubs. Now you have article number one, the magazine. Article
number two ,of course, is the photos of the lovely Bubbles and the strongest man in the world, Charles Atlas.......both suitable for
framing in your home. So here we have article number three. Laze n' gennemen, a plain pair of playing dice. You can take these dice
and you can play craps with your f riends. You can take these dice and you can play Monoply with your children in you own homes. However,
if you take these dice , placing one against the other in any infinite number of combinations, turning them one side to the other
,again and again, and holding them up to the lightbulb, and you will see things that made Errol Flynn blush and giggle in the office
of his Hollywood attorney. Now I know you are a broad-minded audience, else you wouldn't be here . And I know you're saying to yourself,"
' How can they do this?' "Of course we can't sell these items where they would cost twenty to thirty-five dollars. But here is our
secret. We do not sell them. No, laze n' gennemen-we give them to you free.In this world where there is no free lunch- we give article
number one , the magazine ; article two, the photos which are suitable for framing for your home ; and article number three, the exotic
dice-all free. Free with the delicious candy we are offering tonight. I know you're a broad-minded audience- otherwise you wouldn't
be here. Now, laze 'n gennemen, you say to yourself, " How can they do this , the candy alone must cost fifteen, twenty dollars."
No. laze 'n gennemen. Not fifteen or twenty dollars. No , not even ten dollars. Not five dollars. No not even one dollar. Each and
every one of you can have this complete home entertainment set plus a delicious and healthful candy bar for just fifty cents. An,
laze 'n gennemen, as soon as anyone finds a ten or twenty or fifty dollar bill in with the delicious candy treat, please hold up the
bill so we can all see them. There's a man in the rear holding up a watch- a beautiful Waltham timepiece. Congratulations, sir! And
there, over there- there's a man with a -Friend, is that a twenty? No, why it's a fifty- a fifty dollar bill "( Dan McCole).
Sunday evening and the guys were hanging around Avon Square as usual. In the group was an adult who had more than a casual interest
in what transpired. His name was Joe Collum(sic) and he was there to pick up any news tidbits he could include in his Avon News Briefs
section of the daily Brockton Enterprise. It was said he was paid by the inch for his stories.
Someone suggested that since the next
day was Monday.. it was a good day for the Howard. We agreed to meet in the square just before school and spend the day in Boston.All
the necessary logistics of notes and excuses were planned in advance.All to no avail. The next issue of the Enterprise contained the
item: A theater party was held in Boston on Monday.After the theater a lunch was enjoyed in a local Scollay Square restaurant.(Joe
and Nemos Hot Dog Stand )*Those in attendence were ( a list followed that included the names of the culprits).
My punishment was severe
It was early spring and time for Joe Doherty to deliver a wagon load of cow manure. Joe deftly grasped his horse's reins and backed
the wagon onto the spot where the garden will grow. He knew it well since we were annual customers for his wares. The chore of spreading
the manure was usually a family group affair. This year, it fell to me alone. It is not a fun job. I reserved further trips to the
Old Howard when school was not in session and when Joe Collum was not around.
*Joe and Nemos was a place where a hot dog could be purchased
for a nickel.There are people everywhere today who remember how good they tasted and the great ambience of watching a hairy fist reach
into the hot water to pick up a dog and slide it into a hot bun with mustard.Some guys would order, "one all around", which meant
mustard, relish,onions and horseradish