Flashbacks: February 10, 2006

By EDITORIAL  |  February 9, 2006

Jamaica flame |  30 years ago | February 10, 1976 | Howard Husock told the story behind Boston’s worst blaze in 35 years.

“For artists and craftsmen, photographers and architects, the block-long building on Centre and Bickford Streets in Jamaica Plain was ideal. The price for a studio that could double as an apartment was too good to pass up: about $100 a month. The former Plant Shoe Company factory, once the world’s largest women’s shoe manufacturer, offered the big high-ceiling loft space artists yearn for. In the five years between the time Howard Fleishman, a Brookline egg processor, bought it for $140,000 and last week, when Boston’s largest fire in 35 years destroyed it, the six-story building became a center of the city’s artistic community. Eighty visual artists were living and working there, another 40 renting working space. Many were students at the Museum of Fine Arts School of the Massachusetts College of Art....

“Few residents thought the fire would be a big one, however. ‘When the smoke started I just figured, ‘here we go again,’ and grabbed a couple of bottles of wine and went outside to watch,’ recalls Bill Sebastian, an electronics designer. ‘I just assumed it would go out. But it just kept getting bigger.’ ”

“In the end, the entire building was destroyed. Fifty of Boston’s 52 fire companies came to fight it, and the life’s work of all the tenants was reduced to ice-covered ashes. Trying to put a price on the intangible, officials would call it a $1 million blaze. Four tenants remain unaccounted for, although the transience of residents makes it difficult to determine if there were any deaths.”

Damn Yankees | 35 years ago | February 9, 1971 | Fred Branfman reported from Saigon on the distressing status of Americans in Vietnam.

“Beneath a surface calm, the American position here is deteriorating from within. The last six months have seen almost unprecedented anti-Americanism, economic problems, war-weariness and open opposition to the American-supported Thieu regime. These political losses jeopardize the success of ‘Vietnamization’ as much as the still unknown communist strength on the battlefield.

“The most dramatic example of this yet has been the public reaction to the killing of a Vietnamese boy by an American solider in Qui Nhem. For the first time since 1966 the streets have been filled with Anti-American demonstrators. And students who in 1967 were fearful of speaking out are now firebombing American vehicles.

“Nineteen-seventy saw a growing number of anti-American incidents. In addition to those publicized, there has been a skyrocketing of verbal attacks, robberies and muggings of Americans. ‘I never thought I’d leave Vietnam before the American government,’ an American contract employee who has been here 15 years said recently, ‘but I’ll be leaving next year. It’s gotten so I’m afraid to leave my house after 5 p.m. anymore. In another year it won’t be safe for an American to go out without a gun.’ ”

Where are they now?

Charyn Pfeuffer is a San Francisco–based freelancer and the former lifestyle editor for Philadelphia Style magazine. Steve Vineberg is a frequent contributor to the Boston Phoenix. Peter Keough is the film editor for the Boston Phoenix. Kathleen Hirsch is the author of A Home in the Heart of a City and A Sabbath Life. Michael Gee is a former sports columnist for the Boston Herald. Howard Husock is the director of case studies in public policy and management at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Fred Branfman is a contributor to Salon.com and Huffingtonpost.com.
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