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by Jacob Marmor (pseudonym)

Friday, March 28, 1941

in What's New In Town

W. J. Sidis


[Note actress with lowest billing in the ad.]


        Boston baked beans, according to one legend, are of greater antiquity than supposed. The custom, however, of weekend baked beans is fading away in Boston, though the ritual is still quite well observed in New England's country regions. The story goes that the old Indian town of Shawmut (called Boston by the invaders) was an important place for the gatherings of the tribes, and numerous joint councils of the neighboring red peoples were held on Shawmut's council grounds (now Boston Common). A pit served as a receptacle for piles of beans for a council feast; and, while weighty matters of state were being argued, the council fires were baking the contents of the pit below. Over such council fires were discussed the details of the world's first democratic federal government (the Penacook Federation, covering a large part of New England). The art of baking beans was one of the "Americanisation" lessons given in the Spring of 1621 to the new European immigrants at Plymouth by the Indian courier-messenger Squanto. The story places the old original bean-pit at the site of Park St. Subway Station. One versification of the story winds up with: "Many years passed since those councils, and the pit was covered o'er. And the whites a mighty city built upon the Shawmut shore. But the pit, revived, extended, was put to uses new, as the world's first subway system from that ancient beanhole grew."


        Boston had the first Y. M. C. A. in this country. Its home was at one time in Tremont Temple.


        Old-timers in Boston probably will remember the complicated color scheme of Boston's trolleys in the old days. The rainbow coloring effect it gave to Boylston Street, for instance, is something worth remembering. By that arrangement, the color of a car indicated what side of town that line belonged. In the Nineties, the name of the suburb appeared on the front of the car, just below the motorman's window, painted in large type, in the fancy "woodcut" style then current. When the Boston Elevated took over in 1898, the name of the suburb was eliminated, and we had only the color to go by. The color schedule follows: Green, Roxbury; Lemon, Yellow, Jamaica Plain; Robin's Egg Blue, Dorchester; Brownish Brick Color, East Boston; Pink, South Boston; Orange Yellow, Somerville-Charlestown; Crimson, Cambridge; Brown, Brighton. In 1911 began a two-year job of repainting all "El" cars a uniform dull green. On top of the cars were attached little circular plates of the old familiar colors, with a characteristic number for each; so that, for instance, Cambridge cars carried a crimson plate numbered 7, and South Boston Boston cars had a pink plate numbered 5. Later these numbers become the first figures of the three-figured numbers indicating individual routes. It seems too bad that these have been abandoned, and the Elevated might do well to dig that numbering system out of its archives. The present orange color of "El" cars and buses dates from about 1923.


        There are very few railroad stations in the world containing movie theaters for the convenience of passengers waiting for trains. By far the largest of such theaters is the one in Boston's own South Station.


        The corner of Tremont and Court Streets has bee a location for law offices for a long time—over a hundred years ago Daniel Webster had his office there, in a building in which George Washington had once stayed. The lower floor—the place now occupied by the Ligget drug store in Scollay Square—became, in 1831, the grocery store of Samuel S. Pierce, beginning the chain of stores now called S. S. Pierce Co.


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