, Salem, MA

June 21, 2013

The Music Man is being honored next week


---- — SALEM — There are a lot of reasons to be at Salem Willows on Tuesday night.

Hobbs’ popcorn, of course.

It’s also the kickoff of the free summer concerts by the North Shore Concert Band, a 25-piece group of professional musicians.

And, best of all, they’re dedicating the bandstand to Bob Hayes.

If you don’t know Mr. Hayes, you should.

He is a 92-year-old trombone player who has been part of the free concerts at Salem Willows since 1939. For you historians, that would be FDR’s second term.

OK, he missed a few years because of World War II, but even then he was a musician 2nd class performing aboard the USS Essex as it patrolled the South Pacific. He was at Iwo Jima and even survived a few kamikaze attacks.

Hayes, who recently moved into assisted living, was also the organizer of the summer concerts.

So, head down to the Willows Tuesday night to pay tribute to a man who has played more military and patriotic music than John Philip Sousa and George M. Cohan — combined.

Beer patrol

Yes, that was the police you saw last week down at the Ward Two Social Club.

They shut down a beer pong game, which apparently is a no-no and violates state liquor laws banning games that involve drinking or award drinks as prizes. Beer pong, for you bookworms, is a game in which contestants toss a pingpong ball across a table and try to land it in a cup of beer.

And, no, it is not an Olympic sport.

Although this doesn’t sound too serious, it does trigger memories of a decade ago when the club had a brush with illegal gambling. A full report is expected at Monday night’s meeting of the Licensing Board.

Library legend

If you are one of the thousands who love the Salem Public Library, then you must know Jane Walsh, the head reference librarian.

She is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly ... No, wait, that’s the Boy Scouts.

Walsh is dedicated, devoted and tireless in her efforts to find the correct answers to questions asked by inquiring minds who visit in person, call on the phone or write letters. No question is too stupid — believe us, we’ve tested her.

She will retire next week after a long and distinguished career. We asked Walsh how long she has been at the library, and she instantly went into reference-librarian mode.

“How long have I been the reference librarian?” she said, turning to a colleague.

She has worked at the library for more than 30 years and has been reference librarian for much of that time. One of her favorite duties is guiding visitors to the Salem History Room, a treasure trove of newspaper clippings and books about her favorite city.

“It’s almost like she’s giving (you) a tour of her own home,” said Jean Stella, a local historian.

Although Walsh hates all this fuss, she truly is one of the reasons Salem has such a great library. And she will be sorely missed.

Gov. What’s-His-Name

Nice tweet yesterday by our governor about his visit to Salem High: “Excited to join MassEducation and Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Salem Spartans for our student town hall forum.”

Not as excited as we are to have Devil Patrick visit the Salem Witches.

Salary squabble

Did you see the story about carnival workers filing a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court this week against Fiesta Shows of New Hampshire, claiming they work long hours for something less than minimum wage?

Who knows if it’s true, but that name rings a bell — Fiesta Shows. Let’s see now ...

Oh, yeah, aren’t those the guys who come here every October to run the amusement rides on Derby Street?

Helping a neighbor

A fund has been set up at Salem Five bank for Samantha Mattei, 23, the Salem woman who suffered severe head injuries in a 2009 MBTA trolley crash caused by a subway car operator who was texting his girlfriend. She was one of the dozens taken to the hospital that night.

The former Merrimack College student was awarded $461,000 this month in a jury trial, which sounds like a lot, but it left her family “shocked and disappointed.” They say it is not enough to cover lawyers’ fees, court expenses and past medical bills; was only a fraction of the $8.6 million they were seeking for past and future care; and has left them in debt.

Sam is the daughter of Fred and Cecile Mattei of Churchill Street.

Donations may be sent to the Sam Mattei Fund, c/o Salem Five, 424 Essex St., Salem, MA, 01970. Contributions also can be made on PayPal at

School work

If you want to see something impressive, drive down to the corner of Congress and Leavitt streets and gaze at the addition to the On Point building being built by students at North Shore Technical High School, which serves kids in Salem and across the region.

Over the past month, several dozen carpentry, electrical, masonry and other students, under the watchful eyes of instructors, have built a large addition to this building on the edge of Palmer’s Cove Playground.

This is not just any building, but one overseen by the Plummer Home for Boys and used by Salem Police and the courts to run a number of programs for kids, including many from The Point. It is a building with a real purpose, and this extra space will allow it to serve a lot more kids and maybe even become a de facto community center for The Point.

Reporter at large

Several folks in town were interviewed last week by a reporter from the Scripps Howard news service, who was here for a few days working on a story about Damien Echols, the man who was released from Death Row after being convicted as a teenager for the murders of three boys in West Memphis, Ark.

Echols not only settled in Salem, but debuted his documentary, “West of Memphis,” at the 2013 Salem Film Fest.

Court crowd

There was big crowd outside the new courthouse Wednesday morning. No, it wasn’t anything too exciting, just a fire drill. The last time there were this many people on Federal Street was in April, when half the city tried to get a peek at actor Bradley Cooper, who was here filming a movie in the empty court buildings.

99 and counting

If you’re one of those history nuts, you know that next Tuesday is the 99th anniversary of the start of The Great Salem Fire of 1914, which burned down half the city.

There are already plans to mark the 100th anniversary next year.

If the 99 Restaurant is on the ball, they’ll offer a 99th-anniversary special Tuesday night for something on the menu that’s really hot, like Buffalo wings.

Tom Dalton can be reached at