REMEMBERING THE COMBAT ZONE
Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s in Roxbury and the South End, I often walked into Downtown or when my friends and I were lazy, we would take the Kneeland Street bus. We would cross over into the Combat Zone to check out the place on our way up to Jordan Marsh, Woolworth’s, etc.
The Combat Zone was pretty safe during the daylight. Not so in the dark of night. It was a pretty tough area. Pimps, bookies, XXX movie theatres, near naked girls behind the peep holes, blah, blah, blah!
It also had two pinball machine shops where you got to play six games for a quarter unless you won and got more free games. Scantily dressed girls were always staring at you, but nothing they had was free.
Back when the Charlestown Navy Yard was open, every sailor in port at some point and every sailor from any country was in port, they quickly made it over to Lower Roxbury Street.
I can remember when I was a little kid maybe 10, my parents
used to walk us into town on our way to the North End and they always crossed the street near the State Theater which was next to the Paramount because the State always plastered with plenty of bare naked girl photos advertising the latest move inside. Once my parents forgot to cross over and they turned around and my younger brother and myself had stopped to check out those photos. My parents never forgot to cross the street again.
I was sorry to have missed Stephanie Schorow’s lecture about her new book, “Inside The Combat Zone,” at the Charlestown Branch Library while I was down in Texas.
However, I was reminded of the old Combat Zone one day while walking along Congress Avenue in Downtown Austin. I saw it, but couldn’t believe it. There in front of my eyes were the names of two movie houses, one was the State and the other was the Paramount, just like in my younger Boston days.
Oh, I almost forget. Do you know who created the term Combat Zone for lower Washington Street? None other than Dapper O’Neil when he was licensing commissioner before joining the City Council.
One last thing, I always thought the Stuart Theater was the Gateway to the Combat Zone. You never watched a movie in there unless you took a can of Lysol in with you. Do not ask me why!
One last, last thing. Who knows what I am talking about here. C’mon don’t be shy. Wasn’t the Combat Zone pretty entertaining for all us baby boomers too?