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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

BESIDE THE STILL WATERS - A Novel of the Quabbin Reservoir - Zoom Presentation June 8, 2021




Zoom presentation on BESIDE THE STILL WATERS: Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 7 p.m.

I'll be discussing the historical background of my novel about the four towns that were demolished to create the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. The story is about community and how the loss of community affects our family heritage and our personal identities. Photos and maps will be part of the presentation hosted by the Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Please email mbaron@holyokelibrary.org for the link to join us. See you there!



Monday, February 8, 2021

Hal Holbrook on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts


Beloved memories and tributes pour forth as we note the recent passing of actor Hal Holbrook, perhaps most famous for the one-man show he created: “Mark Twain Tonight!”  He first achieved his actor’s union Equity card working for a noted summer theater on top of Mt. Tom, in Holyoke, Massachusetts in the early 1950s.  The ramshackle wooden playhouse was called, grandly, “The Casino.”  The resident troupe was The Valley Players.


Though their name paid tribute to the region of the Pioneer Valley, that broad swath of history and dinosaur tracks that comprise that section of the Connecticut River valley, the playhouse was actually on the grounds of an amusement park…on the top of a mountain…at the edge of a factory town.  No scenic shoreline summer barn, but a working, vibrant company in a glorified shack in as unlikely a place for traditional New England summer theatre as one might find. 
 
Holbrook and his first wife, Ruby were members of the company for a few years in the early 1950s.  In 1957 he returned as a guest to open the season with his show on Mark Twain, performing it in its full-length version for the first time.
 
The following passages are from my book, Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain: 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts.
 
We begin with Holbrook’s own recollections from his memoir:

 
While The Firebrand was playing eight performances, Monday through Saturday, we were also rehearsing Goodbye My Fancy to open the following Monday.  While Fancy played its eight performance schedule we’d rehearse the next play, and so on down the twelve-week summer season.  We rehearsed five hours a day, but only two hours on matinee days, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and we learned the lines at night after the evening’s performance.  Jean and Carlton’s rambling old home became our clubhouse, where there was close companionship and plenty of beer on ice.  We cued each other over and over until we had nailed those pages of lines into our brains.  Sleep was the only thing that was rationed.
 
In an on-camera interview for the locally produced television documentary, Mountain Park Memories, Mr. Holbrook recalled,
 
You had to learn all new lines.  A new play…I can’t even believe  today what  we  did.   You’d stay up till 2 o’clock working real hard on your lines.  You’d go back, you’re trying to get six, seven hours sleep.  Get up, rehearse all day, do the show again at night, then learn the lines in the middle of the night for the next.  And you do that every night, every day, week after week.  And it took spirit…
 
Mr. Holbrook’s chapter in his memoir, Harold, on The Valley Players is filled with delightful reminiscences of specific plays.  He would receive his first featured role for The Valley Players in Candlelight in late August.
 
 The Valley Players managers noted of Holbrook in a program at the end of the 1953 season:
 
Admirable actor as he was from the outset in 1951, his work has broadened and deepened and humanized as season after season unfolded.  One of the greatest rewards of summer-theater management is to see a fine actor mature in ever-greater and greater achievements.  All that we can provide is the opportunity: the credit for making the most of it belongs to the actor.  Mr. Holbrook, we believe, will go far in the world of theater…
 
The local press had equally warm thoughts that summer towards the acting company:
 
The Valley Players have made this community a richer place in which to live during the summer season.  They’ve made for us a happy feeling that they belong to us…  The Valley Players themselves, as persons, make a happy factor in our community life.  A group with high standards as individuals, people you wish you might know better and still be able to invest them with the glamour that they lay upon us.  We could wish we might show ourselves as hosts eager to do them honor, we thank Carlton and Jean Guild for choosing to settle into our Holyoke life and for wanting to stay with us…
 
 In 1954 Hal Holbrook went to New York and had a regular job on the radio soap opera, The Brighter Day.  He did regional theatre, and appeared in clubs in New York with skits on some new material he had worked up himself – on the nineteenth century humorist Mark Twain.  It would be his making as an actor.  He performed his Mark Twain persona on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show with Steve Allen on television, and by the end of the decade, would debut a full-length one-man show on Twain—at The Valley Players as a special guest performer in 1957.
 
Mr. Holbrook notes from his autobiography, Harold
 
On June 6, just before heading to Holyoke, I got another appearance on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jack Lescoulie as host.  Would that help me fill the big open-sided Mountain Park Casino in Holyoke?  I wondered.
 
Mark Twain Tonight!, presented at Holyoke in its first full-length version, was a career-making event for Hal Holbrook.  It opened The Valley Players’ sixteenth season.  The reviews were fabulous.
 
From Louise Mace of the Springfield Union:
 
“…a unique and rewarding program…in all life, so it seemed, there was Samuel Langhorne Clemens himself, complete with immaculate, comfortably wrinkled white suit, brisk red tie, drooping white mustache, ample white headpiece, and the inevitable cigar…a re-creation of a man and a mind in a deeply kneaded personification.”
 
From the Daily Hampshire Gazette:
 
His portrayal is both a science and an art. He has paid scrupulous attention to detail, from the shuffling walk to the twinkle in his eye.  Hal Holbrook never draws a breath on stage—it is Mark Twain even when he tells a story requiring the dialect and mannerisms of three or four additional characters.  A remarkable piece of showmanship, Mark Twain, Tonight at the Casino through Saturday merits your attendance.
 
The Holyoke Transcript-Telegram called it “a fascinating artistic masterpiece…the young Mr. Holbrook, remembered as the company’s handsome leading man a few year ago, is dropped from mind the instant Mark Twain enters the stage…”
 
 Barbara Bernard, who attended the opening night performance, remembers:
 
I thought: this is going to fall flat on its ear, or it’s going to be something so different.  Well, it was—and it was magnificent.  He came out in that rumpled white suit.  Oh, he was terrific.
 
William Guild recalls:
 
It took him two hours to put on that makeup.  You know, back then you had to use putty and all kinds of stuff that they can do so easily now.  But I mean he was late twenties or maybe thirty.  But I used to drive him up to the theater three hours before the performance for the week that he was doing it, and we would sit in the dressing room while he did makeup, and talk.  I have very fond memories of that.  He was kind of like an uncle in a way.
 
In less than two years, Holbrook’s one-man show would be a smash on Broadway.


(Note, the above photo is of Holbrook as Twain as he preformed it in 1957 on Mt. Tom.  Courtesy Holyoke Public Library History Room and Archives.)
 
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For your copy of Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain: 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts, please see this universal link for the eBook available at Barnes & Noble, Apple, and a variety of other online shops.

For the print book and also eBook, please see this link to Amazon.

I hope you enjoy it.  For more of my books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Kobo, and a variety of other online shops, please see my website here:  www.JacquelineTLynch.com.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Benoni Chapin - Revolutionary War grave - Chicopee, Massachusetts

Old Burying Ground, Chicopee, Mass. - photo by JT Lynch

There was a village green in front of the first Meeting House in 1775. In Colonial times, every able-bodied man was required to attend training for the militia, and here is where they drilled. When the Revolution came, some 38 men of this village would fight in battles from the eastern part of the state to as far away as Fort Ticonderoga. The Chicopee Street Burying Ground, not too far from where they first drilled, is the final resting place of many of these men. 
In this photo we see the top of the headstone of Edward Chapin, Jr., who is buried with his father, Deacon Edward Chapin (who fought in the French and Indian War), and behind them, the grave of Benoni Chapin. We know little about Edward, Jr.'s service, but Benoni enlisted on Christmas Day 1776 as part of the Hampshire County Militia. He was 51 years old when he enlisted. 
In those days, there was no Hampden County; we were all part of Hampshire County then. Here is Benoni Chapin's service record: Private, Capt. Daniel Caldwell's co., Col. Timothy Robinson's detachment of Hampshire Co. militia; enlisted Dec. 25, 1776; discharged April 2, 1777; roll sworn to at Springfield; also, Capt. John Morgan's co.; enlisted Jan. 5, 1778; discharged July 1, 1778; service, 5 mos. 26 days; company detached from militia of Hampshire and Worcester counties to guard stores and magazines at Springfield and Brookfield; also, Capt. Joseph Browning's co., Col. Seth Murray's (Hampshire Co.) regt.; enlisted July 21, 1780; discharged Oct. 10, 1780; service 2 mos. 27 days; enlistment, 3 months; company raised to reinforce Continental Army; roll sworn to in Suffolk Co.; also, Corporal, same co. and regt.; order dated Springfield, March 22, 1782. for wages for 3 months service in 1780. Benoni, Private, Capt. Samuel Burt's co., Col. Elisha Porter's (Hampshire Co.) regt; enlisted July 22, 1779; discharged Aug. 25, 1779; service, 1 mo. 7 days, at New London, Conn. 
Source: Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution, 17 Vols., pp 304, 307.

He died in 1799 at the age of 73, at the dawning of the 19th century in a new country just 18 years old, that he helped to create.

Jaqueline T. Lynch is the author of States of Mind: New England; The Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts; Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain - 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts; and Beside the Still Waters, a novel of the making of the Quabbin Reservoir



Saturday, March 21, 2020

FREE eBook - Meet Me in Nuthatch

To help pass the time during the pandemic emergency  - please accept my offering of a FREE eBook:



Meet Me in Nuthatch - here's the story:

A whimsical, poignant tale about a practical joke-turned-publicity-stunt that fires up the small town of Nuthatch, Massachusetts, in a desperate attempt to attract tourists.

Christmas tree farmer Everett Campbell proposes turning the clock back to 1904 and reviving the town’s cozy past, an idea he gets from watching his young daughter’s favorite classic movie, Meet Me in St. Louis. She is thrilled at being allowed to dress up and pretend, but not everyone in town is enchanted with the nostalgic promotion—including Everett’s moody teenage son.

The media, and the tourists, do come, but the scheme also attracts a large theme park corporation that wants to buy Nuthatch 1904.

Everett now stands to lose his town in a way he never imagined, and his neighbors are divided on which alternate future to choose.

A local drug dealer, Everett’s boyhood enemy, may hold the future of the entire town in his hands unless Everett can pull off one of his most spectacular, and dangerous, practical jokes.


The eBook is FREE at Apple, Barnes & Noble, Scrbd, 24 Symbols, and Playster all at this link.

And it is FREE here at Kobo at this link.

Bless you all and best wishes for better months ahead.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Amherst Railway Society Train Show - West Springfield, Mass.


JTLynch photo (2019 event)

The Amherst Railway Society presents its annual model railroad hobby show this weekend on the fairgrounds of the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.  It is a fantastic event not only for model train enthusiasts but a delightful outing even for anyone, as the eye-catching train layouts and villages are spread out over four separate buildings on the fairgrounds.  For more information, have a look at their website here.

JTLynch photo (2019 event)

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Sheraton-Stonehaven of Springfield, Mass.


An ad in the Springfield Daily News (Springfield, Mass) for holiday festivities at The Sheraton hotel.  The chain began with a hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1933, and a second one in 1937 in Springfield as the Stonehaven, originally an apartment building.  Here is a postcard image from that era.




The chain expanded through the decades with new locations all over the country and all over the world.


Happy New Year from New England Travels!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

BOOK SIGNING - SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER!


My twin brother John and I will be selling and signing our books on Sunday, September 22nd from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the outdoor craft fair hosted by the Sisterhood of Temple Beth El at 979 Dickinson Street, Springfield, Massachusetts.

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We will also be selling and signing our books at a craft fair hosted by the St. Joan of Arc School P.T.O. on Sunday, October 6th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall, 460 Granby Road, Chicopee, Mass.
 

Now Available