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Riots


Okay, last time, I said that Revere Beach in the early twentieth century was mostly a peaceful place. But, then, I teased you and mentioned something about...yikes...there being a riot.


And so there was. And now I’m going to tell you about it. But before I do that, I’m going to have to do something else. And when I mention that “something” I could easily end up being accused of “classism.” But I swear. I don’t mean to commit that particular sin.


Here’s the thing: Revere Beach was, from 1900, more middle-class and blue collar than the other resort beaches of Massachussets. That was inevitable. It was closest to the city, and the narrow gauge railway provided easy transportation to those who didn’t own a car. So it was that factory workers and mill hands and all the rest of Boston’s many peoples could find their way to Revere easily.



About the photos: Several today. The first is a shot I got of Revere Beach at sunset. I love the color.


Which was fine. Blue-Collar dollars spend as well as any other kind. And Blue Collar crowds are about as well-behaved as any other sort. I, personally, have dealt with some pretty darn unruly wealthy people, particularly when I taught (very briefly) at a second string Ivy League in New England. Until you’ve had to flunk a tall, blonde, blue-eyed, heavily muscled sophomore who is a favorite of the administration and whose daddy could buy and sell you...and who *knows* his daddy could buy and sell you...then you don’t really know the true meaning of “Oh, shit!”


But, the reality is that at Blue Collar resorts, things do tend to be a little bit more open. And, worse, if those resorts are easily accessible by people who otherwise could not travel, then they are also accessible to other sorts of people as well.


So...


By 1920, Revere Beach had become a favorite recreational spot for sailors on leave. Sailors, on leave, are sometimes said to be a bit ...um....fond of beer, wine, and liquor. Perhaps, over fond.


Anyway, in that year, one such U.S. Navy sailor had...shall we say?...a little too much to drink on Revere Beach. The police arrested the aforesaid sailor. And, then...all his friends on the Beach...plus some Marines...saw what had happened to their friend. And, they’d also been drinking a bit too (no doubt)....and, well, one thing led to another...(1)


Apparently it turned into a fairly serious brawl. A police station was ransacked. Several police officers got beaten up. Troops -- with fixed bayonets! -- were called in to restore order.


So, basically, a fine time was had by all.


I gather that the Riot of 1920 entered local legend, but it didn’t adversely effect the Beach’s popularity. It remained a destination for those in search of cool sea breezes and gentle (if sometimes risqué) summer fun for the next thirty years or so.


But, maybe, the riot of 1920 was kind of a turning point. Maybe things sort of began to change for the worse after that Certainly, by 1950, the Beach was in decline. Ballrooms, restaurants, and the rides were allowed to decay. Some closed entirely. Others were torn down and their lots left vacant. The Beach, not to mention the town of Revere, got a reputation as a tough place, one of the rustier spots on the Rust Belt, and people began to avoid it. The Blizzard of ’78 was the coup de gras.


By the time I visited in 1979, in that summer just before I began graduate school, Revere Beach wasn’t a beach. It was a place to be avoided.


Time passed. Slowly, Revere the city began to regain lost ground. With the help of the state, of the Federal Government, and of its own citizens, it has begun to find new economic viability. New businesses have begun to enter the town. There’s new life in the community itself. There is still a lot to be done, but you feel when you visit Revere these days that you’re watching a community on the way up. This is a city, now, which is participating in the larger real estate boom which is driving the whole of the Boston area upward and onward.






The second is of Martha a breakfast a few days ago (I write this on Sep 7, 2023) while we were at the Austin Diner in Austin.


And the Beach? It, too, is on the mend. The rides, the attractions, even the beach’s old seawall vanished with storm and fire. But, new apartment buildings and condos line the water’s edge. There is new growth and new development. There are no killer rollercoasters or dancehalls, and Tommy Dorsey is long gone. But people still flock to the Beach in hot weather and, sometimes, in cold. And there are new attractions. For instance, there is now a sand sculpting festival that brings visitors from all over the world--over a million each year. (2) And, there is a movement afoot to rebuilt and refurbish the Beach’s ancient gazebos and pavilions.(3) That would be a good thing, indeed.


So, yes, Revere Beach isn’t all the way back yet. And, frankly, it will probably never be anything like it once was. It will never again be a place of dancehalls and carousels and...one hopes...riots. The world that made those things desirable, or at least possible, is gone.


But...still, the Beach is improving. It is hard not wish it, and its community, the very best.


After all, how can you not love a place which once contained pizza, and dancing, and...most of all...


The Teddy Bear Merry Go Round?


More to come.




Finally, some screen shots from a 1920 edition of the Boston Globe referencing the riot.



1. For details of the Revere Beach Riot of 1920, I rely on “Revere Beach Riot, 1920” on the Celebrate Boston website, here: http://www.celebrateboston.com/crime/revere-beach-riot.htm

The Riot is also referenced on Revere Beach Wikipedia entry, see footnote 2, below.

And, finally, I will post in the comments two screenshots of a 1920s Boston Globe story about the incident.

2. See the Wikipedia entry on Revere Beach for more information on the sand sculpting festival, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revere_Beach#New_England_Sand_Sculpting_Festival

3. “Councillor McKenna Calls for Restoration of Revere Beach Structures,” by Adam Swift, https://www.reverebeach.com/development/councillor-mckenna-calls-for-restoration-of-revere-beach-structures/, Feb 2023.







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I provide these blog postings for free. That’s fine and I’m happy to do so. But, long ago and far away, I was told that if you give away your material, that means you don’t really think it has any value.


So, to get beyond that, I’ve decided to make it possible for you to leave me a “tip” for my posts.


If you like what I write or the videos I produce, and feel you could make a small contribution to support my efforts, please go here:



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Either way, thanks hugely for dropping by the blog :-)


~mjt



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Copyright©2023 Michael Jay Tucker

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