The next morning we paid a visit to 269 Broadway,
a three story 6 unit building with wooden columns and an overhang that sheltered the front steps from the elements.
Three steps up and you were in the vestibule. Three more steps and you
were facing the main staircase.
building was run down and several windows were boarded up but compared to what we'd been living in it seemed like
On the staircase we were met by a couple guys curious about what we were doing and when we explained
that we were looking for a place to live, they seemed uneasy.
They told us they'd been Squatters for some time and hoped that we'd
be "cool" meaning not causing any trouble.
We assured them we only wanted a roof over our
heads and asked them if they'd ever had any trouble with the City of Cambridge.
"No real trouble,
no. Once in a while they try to get us to leave but then they go away.
In fact, it may be good for you to move in. This way we may have more clout at
City Hall if we need to appeal."
They informed us that we might have trouble accessing the place because the
city had put locks on all the empty units.
"I don't think you can get in," one guy said, "the
doors are locked from the inside with an iron bar, strong as hell. I don't see how you're gonna be able to open it."
We made our way to the 3rd floor and tried forcing the door open.
It refused to budge but to our left was a window that opened onto
a ventilation shaft.
Across from it was another window that opened into the Apartment.
If we could reach the far window and it wasn't locked, we'd
It would be
a little dangerous though, there was a 3 story drop to the ground below.
Down in the basement we found a sturdy
plank which we placed from one window ledge to the other and steadied it as Toad crawled across the abyss.
Reaching the other side, he opened the window and climbed into
it was just a matter of pulling the iron bar away from the door.
we were standing in the Entrance Way
of our New Home.
"Man, look at this place, it's huge!"
To the right was a living room
with a bay window, Fireplace and Mantle.
Off the living room to the right was the front bedroom which was to become mine.
To the left of the living
room was an alcove which was to serve as a bedroom.
Down the hall was a bathroom and another bedroom.
At the end of the hall was a large kitchen with, much to our amazement,
had a Stove and Refrigerator.
At the rear of the kitchen was another room and if you opened the back door
in that room you'd be standing on the rear porch.
Exited, we raced through the Apartment claiming bedrooms and slapping each others
"Hey bro, movin' up in the world!"
"Finally got our own place, man.
Finally got our own place!"
We went from window to window taking in the views.
On one side was a strip of grass and just beyond the building next door.
living room window provided a view up and down Broadway.
Directly across the street was a Fire Station.
Whether or not it was going to be a source of noise never entered our
The backyard property ran about 50 feet up to a chain link fence and beyond it were the back yards of
other vacant buildings.
It never occurred to us that any of the other buildings might afford a more comfortable situation, we were
sure we had the best place in the neighborhood.
The good news was two-fold......
First, we had running water.
Second we were able to go down to the basement and turn on the electricity.
For gas, we would have to call the Utility Company and make an appointment.
We were pushing the envelope but we were running on an energy that would
not be denied.
wasn't some weekend expedition, this was survival !!!
Furnishing Our Abode
We went back over
to the Hippie dive and announced we were moving out.
All we had to do was furnish the new place. This would be done by salvaging what
we could from the abandoned buildings on the block.
We poured down the stairs and out into the yard.......
The first building we came upon was boarded up and it was difficult getting the plywood away from the door but
with a little determination, we succeeded.
We eased up the back steps into the kitchen where we checked the drawers for utensils
and the cupboards for dishes, cups and bowls.
We made a pile on the floor and began scanning other rooms for things like mattresses, chairs
and lamps. The place was in disarray with debris strewn all over the floor but there was enough useable stuff to make it worth
Whatever we could salvage we carried around to the front of 269 Broadway and lugged it up the stairs.
This went on for days.
In one building I found an antique desk and placed it against the wall
in my room.
things like curtains, ashtrays, coat hangers and light bulbs were needed we'd make another foray and in no time we'd
pulled together a respectable Bohemian Pad.
The living room at 269 was the central gathering
place but would do double duty as a bedroom for Toad.
To the right was Toad's bed which was a Couch by day.
Near the bay window we placed an old Wing Chair.
Tattered but comfortable, it was a bone of contention when the room
The Fireplace wasn't working but had decorative wooden columns and added a little style to the
Many evenings were spent in that living room Shooting the Breeze and making plans
before going out to Paint the Town.
Many a night we bared our souls, discussing things both weighty and mundane.....
conversations about music, life back in New Jersey, woman, the situation
in the house
the future might bring........
There were nights spent consoling one another when we were down and nights spent laughing so
hard we couldn't control ourselves.
It was a haven from the cruel world and a launching pad for
If only those
walls could talk.........
Making Ourselves Comfortable
The alcove off the living room was
used by Ollie whose bed consisted of a box spring mattress mounted on a stack of bricks.
My room was to the right of the front door facing Broadway
so I got the brunt of the noise from the Fire Station.
The bathroom had an old claw foot tub with a metal ring
above it to hang the shower curtain. We got the curtain from one of the abandoned buildings as well as a plunger to clean
the toilet .
Down the hall was a third bedroom. This one had
two beds and would be shared by different people depending on who was sleeping over.
The kitchen was furnished with a table and chairs
and was a place to schmooze and philosophize while making dinner.
We placed a 3 tiered shelf by the kitchen
window and on it kept a toaster and a yogurt maker that we found in one of the apartments. And we really put that yogurt
maker to good use.
Using powered milk, we'd mix up a batch at night, dropping a single dolup of store
bought yogurt into it and turning on the incubator.
By morning, the milk had turned to yogurt, an important staple
in our diet and surprisingly tasty.
The refrigerator was sparsely stocked except for milk for morning
tea and maybe some bread and a stick of butter.
The way we lived was Feast or Famine, mostly famine.
If we were lucky enough to score food of any kind it
was usually devoured that night.
Beer, forget it...... That was gone in minutes.
We also found
canned food in the abandoned apartments. Being a low income neighborhood, many of the families were on Public Assistance,
hence the powdered milk, beans and other stuff.....
The back room off the kitchen was utilized by Daisy,
a young woman who befriended us while we were at the Hippie pad and who followed us to the new abode.
A nice girl, cute too, we all liked her but she had a
boyfriend who went to Boston College and came over often to stay with her.
Her room afforded complete privacy and she kept it decorated
with a womanly touch.
She had her own life and her own trip but we all thought of her as a sister figure.
stayed with us through thick and thin and shared some key adventures.....
found that the Fire Station across the street was a source of noise at all hours of the day and night but it didn't bother
us all that much. We were usually able to sleep with the exception of hearing the sirens very early in the morning.
Once we'd furnished our pad we needed a lock for
We ran to the hardware store, bought one and installed it, then on my insistence, we each tied a key around
our necks on a chord.
I knew that sooner or later some of us would lose or misplace our keys if we just kept them in our pockets
so the idea of the chord worked out great.
I cut the chords long enough so that we could still unlock the door without
taking the chords from around our necks.
They were also a sort of Talisman, an Insignia that we all wore and almost never removed.
An air of Manifest Destiny was all around......
Youthful Enthusiasm and Territorial Imperative
had won out.
We'd come to Boston with just the shirts on our backs and now had our own place, furnished, no less.
And though existing on a lower rung of
Society, we were calling our own shots.......
The situation though, was an ever changing one.
After a couple weeks I quit my job at "As You Like
It" in Harvard Square, Ollie was virtually broke and Toad lost his job at the restaurant when they realized he'd
been helping himself to their food.
Eddie was the only one who had a few bucks in his pocket but he was a tightwad.
He didn't drink as heavily as the rest of us and didn't smoke.
All his Money went on food and he treated himself
While we were eating bread he was eating steak and buying deserts.
We constantly tried to wrangle Money out
of him but it was like pulling teeth.
So the initial group was myself and Ollie, my older brother Ed and Toad,
who was the most adept at survival.
The running joke was that you could drop him out of an airplane on a Desert Island
and by nightfall he'd have eaten, bummed a few smokes, found a place to live and would be moving in on the Tribal
Rounding Out The Roster:
Leo and Jolly Rodger Show Up
When people back home got
wind of the fact that we had our own pad in Cambridge
we began to get visitors.
The first to show up was Eddie's friend Leo.
A little guy, he stood about five feet five and couldn't
have weighed more than 115 pounds.
Although personable and with a sense of humor he was calculating and sometimes confrontational.
(Think of a Joe Pesci character).
You just didn't know what he was going to do next.....
of Leo's arrival came another Unforgettable Character.
It was Roger Beaman, also known as Jolly Roger because
everyone said he resembled a pirate. He was a friend of Eddie's and Toad's and "just dropped by for a visit."
Roger had a main of scraggly hair, dressed in Hippie
clothing and at the age of 19 looked like he was 35.
All he needed was an eye patch and you'd swear you
were talking to Long John Silver.
As a youth he was notorious for his ability to pick parking meters by using
the bristles that had broken off Street Sweepers, providing him with windfalls of nickles.
I knew Roger too,
but only slightly and I was just as concerned about
him as I was about Leo.
He was rough-hewn and edgy and his main purpose in life was
to get stoned and stay stoned.
Don't get me wrong, at that age we all imbibed but guys like Roger brought it
to a whole other level.
He might be the only person in the bar who could track with you if you were both drunk and still keep
the conversation going on an intellectual level.
His claim to fame as far as I was concerned, was the night at the Verona
a group of us, rather buzzed, were sitting at a table in the back room.
It was late in the evening and Roger decided that the
Men's Room was just too far a walk in the condition he was in.
In the middle of the conversation, he stood
up, whipped it out and began peeing all over the table in a smooth back and forth motion as if he were watering plants.
Everyone dove from the table, scattering as if
from a hand grenade and the entire bar looked on in horror as Roger nonchalantly completed his evil deed.
disbelief, the rest of us stumbled outside for air.
A minute later the door opened and three Bouncers tossed Roger into the parking lot,
literally on his ass.
He got up and continued Hob-Nobbing like nothing happened.....
then lit up a cigarette........He wasn't phased at all...........
Up until that time,
that was the most vivid memory I had of him so I wasn't all that pleased when he showed up at my door.
and Eddy, on the other hand, got along with Roger, tolerating him as long as his antics didn't reach Critical Mass.
He was all smiles and handshakes so we welcomed him in
and sat around getting caught up on how things were going back in Jersey.
He could stay for a while and hang out, it was no big
From the moment we moved in, the main thrust of our existence after Survival
was to Party..........
With Money so scarce, we had to scramble just to eat
but when Night Time came round
all bets were off.
We partied anywhere and everywhere we could, bar hopping
and crashing innumerable Parties.
The Band Wagon had pulled up to our front door and we all climbed aboard........