Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Big E Weekend And Meeting Darth Vader

Rocky's/ACE Hardware/Friendly's Plaza at the intersection before Westfield River, $5, Full Lot. Walk another hundred feet and the friendly folks at 53 Suffield Street host the best place to park your car for $3.

We, the people of the Northeast, have pride in our accomplishment and contributions to America. We celebrate it by attending an annual bi-weekly fair called The Big E also known as the "Big Eastern", "Big Eat" but all encompassing "Eastern State Exposition". Well that was this weekend and for the first time in many years, Renee and I went along to spend our Saturday with a sabotage of hot weather, messes of crowds, and people driving hours plus to wait in snaking lines to scarf down potatoes. Big E was as I remember it all for the above and some more little odds and ends.

Living in Central Connecticut as I do, I decided to go the way my dad drove us, which is taking the “truck route” or Route 75, passing Bradley and through Suffield to get straight to border in Agawam, where the Big E sits beside in West Springfield. It’s a pleasant drive through the plains of Connecticut’s northern end and eliminates some of that unwanted traffic going near Springfield via 91. Digression aside, I made a few stops before the Big E.

March 22, 2006; A trip to the long vacant Ames of Agawam and a souvenir I wasn't leaving without...

Earlier this year, I drove all the way to Agawam to visit what might be one of most intruging long vacant Ames stores in the more northern parts of the area. Agawam is a small town which borders Connecticut and shares a small, albeit “hick” town persona not worried about all those modern conveniences. While I’ve seen much worse towns to live in, in terms of population versus entertainment, than Agawam (the upper parts of Massachusetts represented on I-91 which include butterfly museums or Deerfield) the town has a working class blended with farming town element going and I’m pretty sure the folks who live here like it this way.

Southgate Shopping Center might be Agawam's early 1970's timewarp which once housed a Zayre which became Ames in it's very final, few years. Italian aquaduct-style architecture never goes uninspired.

Inside this former Zayre gone Ames now "JRs Flea Market" were many signs of Ames once existing here for only a couple years. The red "A" were vestige of Ames, while a sticker and even a painting inspired by Caldor were there at the Flea Market.

Along the way on 75 was what I knew, courtesy of The Ames Fan Club, of as a former Ames within the town of Agawam in a very brown, very outdated looking shopping plaza. Now if you think you might know what Ames I’m reffering to (a very rare part of the reading audience may know), you might be mistaken. At one point in history, Agawam had two Ames stores not much more than two or three miles separating them. Actually, the blame goes to Zayre, a chain seized and rebranded by Ames in 1989, who drove themselves out of business for reasons like this. This former Ames had not been an Ames for almost 16 years when I had learned this store closed in 1990, in a prime strategic move by Ames which probably benefitted the company by eliminating stores which shared close proximity to one another.

The other Ames store, on Springfield Street, is the one that lasted around the time Ames finally folded. This is also the store I visited in March of this year where I took an invaluable souvenir with a few coins and the risk of being arrested (or so I thought). This store is located next to a traffic heavy intersection that attracts all to the area being that it’s right off 75 and approximately 100 feet from the Big E hosted town of West Springfield. Needless to say, it’s a good area for commerce, questionably better than the now flea market location a few miles away.

This plaza also turned out to be a disaster for the town seeing as the entire shopping center is now vacant, along with the overgrown husk which was once Ames. There was, at one point, plans to have this center purchased by a Massachusetts local who runs a “Pet and Soda” store who has since built nearby, due to a contractual deal to have caved at the time. The former Ames, however, is still there alongside a small business, who didn’t call the police on me when I originally came here earlier this year.

The unforgettable creepy small town Agawam Motel still kickin'.

The memorable intersection, crossing the Westfield River bridge on the brink of Agawam.

The Westfield River and the Hood blimp which continued to hover over us all day.

A new reason to name Vermont the forbidden fruit state in spite their lacking efforts to punish child rapists.

We waited. It was worth it.

Darth Vader making an appearance at the Big E... "What?!"

After my revisit, it was off to the Big E once again to wait in line for gallons of apple cider, and a baked potato. Don’t blame me, I grew up here. So unless you have the urge to go see Foreigner live (more like alive), wait in long lines for everything (including sweltering in heat, inhaling fresh horse droppings, or clotheslining little children) then get your butt to West Springfield as the fair ends the first of October, or as we Northeasterners call it, the beginning of a time that's just too damn cold to be outside even for us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey there. I grew up in Agawam -- still visit a few times a year to see my parents -- and have fond memories of Ames and Zayre etc. Love this entry, the photos, and the outsider insights. Thanks!