item 1 >>> Yuletide Myth #1…Poinsettias are poisonous. Poinsettias were introduced to the U.S. in 1928 by Joel Poinsett, Minister to Mexico. In the wild, plants grow up to 16 feet tall. The actual flowers are tiny yellow or green things, surrounded by large red bracts, which are specialized leaves designed to draw in pollinating insects. No one seems to know why poinsettias are thought to be toxic. Over the years, public displays of poinsettia consumption haven’t seemed to convince anyone. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, you could eat 500 bracts with no ill effects.

item 2 >>> Many times when I can’t find something on the net, I give up and try a few days or weeks later. And that worked for the North Shore Shopping Center Christmas Soldiers. Well, I “remembered” them more like nutcracker soldiers, but the more I look at this picture, the more they start to come back to me…

item 3 >>> Stores I remember…honestly, I don’t have that good a memory about these day-to-day sort of things. Sure, Jordan Marsh and their endless escalators…how many floors did they have? And wasn’t the top floor furniture? Boring! At some point it became cool for us kids to eschew the moving stairs and take the regular stairs in between the Up and the Down. I remember they had a decent stamp collecting section, as did the smaller J.J. Newberry’s. Shopped at Sears a lot…once with my Dad, we were passing thru the TV department, and “King Kong” was just coming on! Geez, can we hurry this up so I can get home and watch what’s left of it? My Dad was probably like: “No.” And I do have some warm fuzzy feelings about the unique Carmelite Chapel, built in 1960…we’d go to Confession there sometimes, and the gift-shop if somebody needed a new missal.

item 4 >>> The land in Peabody where the North Shore Shopping Center was built was first owned by Elias Hasket Derby, one of the most celebrated of Salem’s early merchants, who died in 1799. Yeah, Derby St. was named after him, not the hat. In fact, Derby is sometimes said to be America’s first millionaire, but he was just one of many highly successful Massachusetts merchants of the day. His daughter Elizabeth inherited the land, and with her husband Nathaniel West built the Oak Knoll Estate, altho most of the land was used for farming. The mansion was transferred to the Xaverian Brothers in 1922, and then torn down when purchased by Allied Stores of New York in 1955. The Shopping Center opened in September, 1958. Note for further research: it was originally planned for Beverly (??)

item 5 >>> Los Angeles Vikings? Have you seen the video of the Metrodome roof collapsing and the snow gooshing down? Pretty impressive, well not to Vikes fans probably. Minnesota Vikings ownership has been wrangling for a new stadium for some time now, and with this mishap, you get the inevitable talk of a move to Los Angeles, the 2nd largest market in the country, and football-less since 1995. But you wonder why Angelenos don’t seem to care, what with the way Clevelanders went postal when the Browns moved to Baltimore. Anyway, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is one of the oldest NFL stadiums still in use, dating from 1982. (Bloomington sez: See?!) Reminds me of the saga of the Birmingham Patriots.

item 6 >>> Yeah, the Birmingham, Alabama, Patriots. Coulda happened. Before the Foxboro facility opened in 1971, the Pats were often described as “nomadic.” Home-fields included Fenway Park, and stadiums at Harvard, Boston College, and Boston University. As the decade of the 1960s progressed, papers were filled with more and more stories of owner Billy Sullivan’s frustration, and various moves to other cities were rumored, almost to the point of the boy who cried “wolf.” But it all came to a head with the NFL/AFL merger…it was agreed that all teams would have a field with seating for at least 50,000. The Pats had been playing at  BC’s Alumni Field, 26,00. When talks to lease Harvard Stadium fell thru, Billy issued his ultimatum: commit to a new stadium by March 15, 1970, or its hasta la vista, baby. He was in talks with a group from Birmingham, and that seemed the likely spot, but of course it all got worked out.

item 7 >>> So why Birmingham? Others I remember in the running included Memphis, Seattle, Phoenix. What had impressed Billy Sullivan about Legion Field was the game they played there in 1968. The Pats that season called Fenway Park home, and they weren’t drawing very well, so Billy cooked up a scheme: the home opener versus the Jets was moved to Birmingham, where guess who had played for Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide. (If you don’t know who, why are you reading this?) The gate was almost 30,000, Pats lost 47-31, but it was apparently enough to land the Pittsburgh of the South in the #1 slot on Billy’s wish list. And while the switch to the name “New England Patriots” is always explained as being in recognition of the new location half-way between Boston and Providence, I wonder whether it wasn’t a final “Thanks For Nothing” from Billy Sullivan to the Hub of the Solar System…

item 8 >>> Not for nothing, but if I were in charge of sports headlines for the Boston Herald, Monday’s on the Pats would have been: WE CAN’T THINK OF WHAT TO SAY…CAN YOU?

item 9 >>> So how good are the Pats? How about a streak of 14 touchdowns, without a single one by their opponents, until the Bears got their only score of the game in the 3rd period. And according to Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday was their 5th consecutive game without a turnover, and that’s an NFL record.

item 10 >>> My first “review” at the Internet Movie Data Base is also my last. They edited a good part out, and what the heck? I write what I write cuz that’s what I want to say. You can check it out under the TV series “Decoy.” OK, they run things how they want…it’s good to be the king. It’s still an incredible site for TV and movie info at your fingertips, but if you want to contribute, forewarned is forearmed.

Wicked Ballsy

Yes, old Kiddie Towne, nostalgic “first job” for countless North Shore teens till 1973. Again, I must have gone there, just don’t for the life of me remember…

shameless plug pudding…

Podcasts at http://stolfpod.podbean.com and   http://thewholething.podbean.com

Daily blogs at http://stolf.wordpress.com and  https://deepfriedhoodsiecups.wordpress.com

More bloggage at http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com and  http://www.examiner.com/retro-pop-culture-in-watertown/mark-john-astolfi

Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi

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