Steve Sherry's The Vagabonds of '74

Boston, Cambridge Hippies and No Turning Back

Early '74 Montclair, New Jersey, Alf a most unusual friend
Cedar Grove, New Jersey my little town....Miss Munches House, Newberry's, Cedar Grove Pool
Hitchhiking To Albuquerque 1972, The Commune and Krishnamurti, University of New Mexico
Seeing Badfinger At Carnegie Hall, The Dugout, McSorely's Ale House
Seeing Bob Dylan, "The Poet Lad" At Madison Square Garden
South End Pizzeria, Van Gogh and Plans for California
Jersey Shore Recollections, Summer of '71. St. Louis, The Gateway of the West, The Road to Colorado
Rocky Mountain Panorama, Problems with the Pinto, Ritchfield Utah???
California! Lennon's Lost Weekend, Venice Beach, Malibu
Pacific Coast Highway, Panoramic Visions and the Magic Carpet Ride To Santa Barbara
San Francisco, The Shelter, The Warf and the Hole in the Wall Hotel
Sacramento, Jumping A Train? Wierd But True, The Shock of My Life
Oblivion, Reno, Good Samaritans and The Ghosts of Woody Guthrie, James Dean and Tom Joad
A Night In The Can in Kansas
University of Kansas at Lawrence and The Doobie Brothers
True Meditation Foundation of Human Understanding, "How Your Mind Can Keep You Well"
Vagabonds of '74 Part 2: Old Friend Ollie, Meeting Veronica, The Suburban in Montclair
BOSTON, The Leap of Faith and A Night in a Shelter
Sleeping in a Newspaper Truck, Cambridge Hippies and No Turning Back
Squatter's Rights: 269 BROADWAY, Furnishing Our Hippie Pad
269 BROADWAY becomes Miss Dale's Farm
California Hippies Arrive. Free Food from The Docks, Strange Encounters
Kenmore Square Blood Bank
Leonard Cohen, Patron Saint, Ali Defeats Foreman and the Great Squash Fight of '74
Vivid Visitors from New Jersey,
The Invasion of Boston University, Taking Over The Dorm
Jonathan Swifts, Harvard Square and The Sugar Shortage
Beacon Hill Gulf Gas Station and Reflections Atop The Longfellow Bridge
Christmas 1974 in Montclair, Returning to Cambridge, "13th Floor Panarama"
Bandages, Canes, Barroom Brawls and Spontaneous Conversation
Meeting Leonard Cohen
The Beginning Of The End and Saying Goodbye
Vagabonds of 74 Epilogue
Essex Catholic Memories: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Marty Liquori, Mark Murro, City Stadium, St. Benedicts, Dylan, Positively 4th St.
The Essex Catholic Wrestling Team 1971: 8 District Champs, Ting A Lings, Hitting the Town....
Essex Catholic Teachers and Students, Br. Harrington, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Taglieri, Mr. Zarro, Simon and Garfunkel
Random Events at Essex Catholic 1967-1971: Stuff Happens! Bomb Scare, JUG!, Abbey Road
Essex Catholic Senior Year 1971: World Trade Center Rising, The Staircase from "A Hard Days Night?" Meditation, MySpace: "Jersey Shore," Crosby, Stills and Nash Epilogue
The Jersey Shore: May, 2011 Brielle....Sea Girt....Introspection On The Sand.....
Essex Catholic Memories 2012

Things Begin To Get Interesting


On a cool September morning in 1974 with duffel bags in tow Ollie and I made our way to the Garden State Parkway On Ramp at Watchung Avenue in Bloomfield.
In the Autumn sunshine we stuck out a thumb and in a few minutes got our First and Only ride of the day.
A young college student was himself going to Boston and if we wanted to chip in for gas, he'd take us all the way there.

I remember the car. It was, an AMC Gremlin with a hatchback.
I remember because I was scrunched up in the back of that thing for the entire trip.

As we passed through the first toll booth and made our way North,
one of my favorite songs began playing on the radio.
It was "Lover's Cross" written by Jim Croce and sung by Melanie,
both major talents of the day.
Laying on my duffel bag and staring out the window I very much related to the tune as the Garden State Parkway disappeared behind us.......

It summed up so much of what I was feeling and helped soothe a very bruised ego.
Veronica was still very much on my mind.....

In Boston, we went straight to the YMCA and got a room and the next day we began checking out the employment and housing situation.
It was intimidating. We knew how to rough it but neither of us had the street smarts of Toad or Eddie, especially Toad, who never sweated anything.   

A short, stubby guy, he was athletic and quick on his feet.
He had a head of bushy hair and dressed the part of a bohemian,
(jeans, boots, bandanna and vest) but he was more of a hustler than a "flower child."
Without a second thought he would approach anyone to bum a smoke or "spare change" or anything else he needed.
I was a little wary of him but to his credit whenever he was flush he would share with those around him.

Many a summer night he could be found lounging around the local parks sharing cigarettes, bottles of wine or whatever else came his way.
"Damn straight! What goes around, comes around." That was his working motto.

After a couple days in Boston we called home to find out where to hook up with Toad and my brother, Eddie.
They'd left a message saying to meet them in Harvard Square and it was a relief to see them standing at the subway station when we arrived.
The more of us, the better the chances of making something work.
They looked ridiculous with their battered suitcases but they were as slick and confident as ever, scanning the horizon and smiling when they saw us coming.

"What's happening with you guys?" Eddie asked in his off the cuff manner.

"Nothing, we're staying at the Y," I said. "What are you guys planning on doing?" 

"We'll think of something," he said, almost ignoring me as he took in the surroundings.

Toad was just as loose, puffing on a cigarette while checking out the Co-Eds coming and going and making off color remarks.

While Ollie and I were just trying to keep our heads above water, these two were running on all Cylinders.
Both were adept at exploiting situations and Toad could drum up extra cash with his Panhandling Skills anytime he wanted.

An hour later we wished them luck and parted with the understanding we would phone home in a couple days to find out where we should hook up next.

Meanwhile, the YMCA was getting old and the money allotted for room rent was running low.
During the day we filled out applications in Grocery Stores and Restaurants but when
you don't have a phone and you don't know the city, you're at a major disadvantage.

When we called home once again we were told to meet Eddie and Toad at the Cambridge Common off Harvard Square.
There, we found them "rapping" to the locals and tossing a Frizbee around,
one of Toad's favorite past times.....

True to form, he was carefree as could be, flinging and catching that Frizbee with an artistic flare in between drags off his cigarette.

Ollie and I were uptight.
Things were not going well and we were hoping my brother and Toad had better luck.
What they then related to us was to become legendary in the annuls of
"The Vagabonds of '74."

               Sleeping in A Newspaper Truck?

The first night in town Ollie and Toad perused Harvard Square looking to latch onto a situation.
When nothing materialized they decided to bed down in the back of a truck filled with bundles of Newspapers.
Under the circumstances it seemed like an ideal place.  The newspapers would provide padding and insulation from the cold.

To their surprise, they were jolted awake at 3 A.M.
when the truck began rolling down Massachusetts Ave.
It turns out the driver was beginning his run, picking up the morning papers for delivery around the city. 

They grabbed their suitcases and leaped off the back of the truck as it rolled down the street freaking out the driver and spent the rest of the night sleeping on the porch of a nearby house.

In the morning they awakened to see a couple Hippies rummaging through their suitcases which they'd left near the curb.  
One was a bearded guy who went by the name of Merlin and the other, his lady friend,  mistakenly thought the suitcases had been put out for the trash.

Once the situation got straightened out, Toad and Eddie were invited to a "Crash Pad" several blocks from Harvard Square. 
They  lived there with a bunch of other Hippies in a cluster of abandoned buildings that were slated for demolition.
It was the perfect environment for people needing to put a roof over their heads without the burden of having to pay rent.

Toad and Eddie, not wasting a minute in making themselves at home, plopped down and began sleeping in the living room of one of the buildings that very night.

After they related the story, Ollie and I wanted to tag along and be part of the trip.
Toad, was in agreement but Eddie was more guarded. 

"You guys gotta get your own place. You can't stay with us. You're gonna blow our gig!"

There had always been sibling rivalry between me and my brother and I wasn't surprised that it was showing itself again.

"Screw you man, we just wanna see the place," I said.

"Oh come on Ed," Toad insisted, "it won't hurt."

It was three against one so Eddie relented and Ollie and I followed them
down Mass. Ave. to Columbia St. then over to Broadway where we came upon a city block of abandoned buildings, many which had their windows boarded up.
One block further and we stood in front of a two story tenement that was visibly listing to one side and in need of major repairs.
It had a central hallway and four apartments, two up and two down.

           Stepping Into A Different World

Eddie led us upstairs to a kitchen where two young woman were preparing food. 
It was sparsely furnished and run down. There was a table and a couple chairs, an old refrigerator and an ancient looking sink across the room.

If you walked from the sink over to the refrigerator it was on an uphill slant which provided us with a bit of amusement. 

It was apparent that the people who lived here were struggling, financially and otherwise.

The main reason that Eddie and Toad had been allowed to stay was that they wood bring food home as payment for crashing in the living room.
In fact if it wasn't for Toad and Eddie the refrigerator would have been almost completely empty.

Just off the kitchen was a room with a couple mattresses thrown on the floor.
In the central hallway was another mattress where a guy named Jake slept with his girlfriend. 
You virtually had to step over them to get to the living room. The only thing that gave them any privacy was a curtain hanging in the doorway held up by thumb tacks. 

The living room was furnished with two old sofas where Eddie and Toad slept.
The other units in the building were even more dreary.
I got a chance to peer into a ground floor apartment which was so filled with clutter that you could barely walk inside.
Across the hall was the abode of a guy they called Dipsy Doodle or just Dipsy for short.

His claim to notoriety was that one night, while very stoned, he fell asleep in a cross legged position, cutting off the blood flow to his legs, partially crippling him for life.
He was a vindictive, tragic person who walked around on canes complaining about this or that and was impossible to please. Everyone in the building was afraid of him.

     Ollie and I sat at the kitchen table talking until it was time to return to the YMCA.
Two days later, almost out of money, we decided to roll the dice and check out.
We'd been unable to get a toe hold and were unsure about what to do so in desperation we decided to head to the on-ramp of the the Mass Pike and began hitchhiking West.

When a ride didn't materialize so we decided to stay in Boston and give it another try.
We made our way over to the Cambridge Common where we hooked up with Toad and Eddie and when the day grew late, followed them to the Tenement. 

That night we crashed on the mattresses in the bedroom off the kitchen.
When I hit that mattress and that feeling of well being settled over me, it would have taken an army to move me. 
For one night at least, we knew that we'd covered our asses.

Due to the well stocked refrigerator, the Hippies didn't seem to mind too much.
What had happened was that Toad had landed a job at a Restaurant in Harvard Square.
This provided him not only with money but any extra food he could smuggle out.
We were stunned at the amount of stuff he brought home, bread, eggs, mayonnaise and restaurant sized cans of tuna. 

"What goes around comes around, man. Everybody just help yourselves."

By day, Ollie and I hit the streets job hunting and would return to the Tenement
exhausted but at least knowing we had a place to lay our heads.
But tension was beginning to build.
Eddie was concerned that we were compromising his Situation and after a few days it became an unhealthy scene.

Our hosts too, feeling the pinch, complained that they felt crowded and were dropping hints that we should leave.
The remedy for this was to make sure to restock the refrigerator.
Whenever that happened, the complaints tapered off and began again only when the food supply ran low. The situation see-sawed back and forth for a week. 


Meanwhile, we were getting acquainted with the personalities that came and went.
One of them was "Sparrow," an intellectual type who was into health food
and the Hippy life style.
He would show up to partake of whatever food was provided by the girls, usually veggies and rice, then would spend the next 45 minutes clearing his bowls in the bathroom.

Normally, this would not have been an issue except for the fact that the bathroom had no door and he pursued his bodily functions with such fervor that the sound effects echoed unmercifully throughout the house, often while the rest of us were still eating.

Being Hippies, nobody saw anything wrong with this or the fact that there was no bathroom door. To protest would have been "uptight," "uncool" and "unhip," all the things that counter culture people were not supposed to be.

Hey, all Sparrow was doing was "being himself," "pursuing happiness," "being healthy."

For us, each episode was a long drawn out affair, a mixture of amusement and dread
as we stifled laughter on one hand and cursed him out on the other as Sparrow
"did his thing" in the bathroom just a few steps off the kitchen. 

                        More Intrigues

As the days wore on our determination intensified.
We were under pressure but we weren't going to just roll over and play dead either.
We had a right to survive, the same as anybody else.

In early October I landed a job in a little cafe called "As You Like it" in Harvard Square.
I was passing by one day when I saw a "help wanted" sign, walked in and nailed down the job then and there. It was basically kitchen duty.
I started that night earning minimum wage but I was able to eat free and whenever I could I'd slap a sandwich together and toss it to Ollie as he stood outside at the back door. 

At the end of the week I was handed a meager paycheck but anything was a help.
I turned 21 while working in that little place. I remember feeling a twinge as I stood there washing dishes.
"If my friends could see me now, what would they think?"

Meanwhile, there were more rumblings about our presence in the Apartment.
Jake, the guy who slept on the mattress in the hallway was becoming territorial.
He contributed nothing to the house yet felt entitled to special consideration.
I didn't like him.

He was more a street person than a Hippie anyway.
All he did was eat our food and bang the hell out of his girlfriend keeping everyone awake at night. 
He began flexing his muscles and word got back to us that he was threatening to get physical in order to make an example of one of us. 

"I'll just grab one and throw him down the stairs," he said, or something to that effect.
It was a direct challenge and we were almost hoping he'd try.
It would have been a big mistake......

Returning home one night we were told we would have to leave.
The Hippies were "fed up," (no pun intended) and they wanted back their  space.
Confronted with the situation we sat down to discuss what could be done to create a win-win situation.
That's when one of the girls spoke up, "Look, there are other buildings
where you guys can move in.
You just claim "Squatter's Rights" and the city can't legally kick you out." 

"Squatter's Rights" we were told, stemmed from Old English Common Law,
where if you maintain the abode in question the Government can't legally remove you without due process.
"You mean we can just move in?"
"And they won't be able to throw us out?"
"At all?"
"No, it would take a long time."

A whole new scenario had just opened before our eyes.
There were a dozen or so buildings on the surrounding block.
All we had to do was choose one that was functional enough to live in.
Through the Grapevine, our hosts already knew about the one over on Broadway
that had some vacant units.
It was all we had to hear.
We could even see it across the backyards by looking out the kitchen window.

The first thing in the morning we would pay a visit to Broadway to check it out.......

           Squatter's Writes here we come.....!!!!!

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