Dog Park’s ‘Barbaric’ history
By MARK SARDELLA
Last month, through the efforts of a number of local people, local dog lovers and their canine friends received the gift of a new dog park in the Junction. But this long-vacant parcel and its neighboring property have an interesting, but mostly forgotten, history dating back to May 17, 1969.
Let’s set the stage.
It was the height of the 1960s counterculture. Forty percent of the population in the United States was under 20, and they were eager to demonstrate their nonconformity by all dressing exactly alike. Men and boys wore their hair long. Women wore short skirts and peasant dresses. Absolutely everyone wore bell-bottoms.
Rebellion and anti-authoritarianism were all the rage. Police were disdained and called “pigs” and “blue meanies.” The era was also famous for its proliferation of recreational drugs like LSD and especially marijuana, which may come as news to some Millennials who think that they invented pot.
Woodstock, the hippie Mecca, was three months away. But four months after that, the Age of Aquarius would come crashing down at the Dec. 6, 1969 concert at the Altamont Speedway in California. The Rolling Stones, on the sage advice of the Grateful Dead, had retained the notorious motorcycle gang the Hells Angels to provide concert security in exchange for a large quantity of beer. The drug-addled crowd grew increasingly rambunctious as the concert wore on. Finally, as the Stones played Under My Thumb, a highly drugged-out man in the crowd raised a gun and pointed it toward the band. He was quickly stabbed to death by a Hell’s Angel. That concert was also the symbolic the death knell of the Sixties fairy tale of Peace and Love through Flower Power.
That night may have been foreshadowed by the events of Saturday, May 17, 1969 in Wakefield, Massachusetts.
It had been an unseasonably warm spring day. Temperatures reached 87 degrees and the skies were clear. All 432 members of the Wakefield High School class of 1969 were eagerly anticipating their upcoming graduation ceremonies on Walton Field. Summer was around the corner and the future seemed as bright as the skies above on that day.
Then night fell.
It remained mild, with temperatures clinging to the 60s well into the evening.
A young couple had gone to see a double feature, “Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” at Wakefield Cinema. They were driving home down Main Street from the square toward Greenwood just after 11 p.m. On the car’s AM radio, WRKO was playing Credence Clearwater Revival‘s Bad Moon Rising. As they approached the Junction, the couple wondered what all the commotion was about.
Wakefield and State Police cruisers were everywhere, their blue lights illuminating faces in the crowd that was gathering on the sidewalk between Franklin Street and Summer Street. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on a house across the street, set back from the roadway, near the corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue.
Word was spreading quickly throughout the crowd and around town that a raid was going down. The house was well-known as the headquarters of a notorious motorcycle gang called “The Barbarics.”
The idea that this Hell’s Angels-like motorcycle club had elected to set up shop in Wakefield had not been sitting well with the Town Fathers. They did not view the drugs, weapons and reputation for violence that this collection of leather-jacketed bikers brought with them as a plus for the town.
But the big concern was the Barbarics’ penchant for drugs, which led some to dub the gang “the Barbiturates.”
So, at about 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, armed with a warrant from Malden District Court, a combined force of over 60 cops, including 45 State Troopers and 16 Wakefield Police officers descended on the house at 669 Main Street. Police found a cache of marijuana, various pills and some weapons. When it was all over, 47 young men and women were arrested in and around the house on charges that included drug possession, being present where drugs were found and weapons possession. Among those arrested were 22 Wakefield residents and two from Lynnfield.
But the biker group was nothing if not inclusive. The remaining arrestees hailed from Melrose, Boston, Reading, Lowell, Malden, Saugus, Revere, Swampscott, Burlington, Winchester, Peabody, North Reading and Billerica.
Apparently, the Barbarics were also early believers in gender equality. About half of those arrested were female. It seems the club even had a youth outreach program. A 16-year-old girl from Wakefield was among those taken into custody that night.
The oldest arrestee was a 29-year-old gentleman from Mattapan.
It was the biggest bust it Wakefield history.
But even after the cruisers and paddy wagons departed for Wakefield Police Headquarters and the crowd of spectators slowly drifted away in the wee hours of the morning, things weren’t over quite yet.
As it turned out, some of those arrested at the motorcycle club headquarters were not big fans of police – or porcelain for that matter.
Pipes and lavatory equipment in the jail cells at the Wakefield Police Station on Union Street were “smashed or torn apart,” according to the Monday, May 19 Wakefield Daily Item. Those involved in that bit of redecorating were additionally charged with malicious destruction of public property.
Most of the other defendants were released on bail or personal recognizance later that night after being booked at Wakefield PD.
On Monday, May 19, 46 of the men and women rounded up on Saturday night were arraigned in front of Judge Lawrence Brooks at Malden District Court. The cases against 45 of them were continued to June 3. One defendant defaulted and failed to show up for the arraignment.
The case against the 16-year-old Wakefield girl was continued to June 5. She was released on personal recognizance pending a separate hearing on that date.
Two of the group, a married couple from Wakefield, both 21, were renters at the house. They were charged with possession of a narcotic drug, namely marijuana, according to the following day’s Daily Item report. All 46 were charged with being present where drugs were found.
Those arrested on the drug-related charges faced a maximum of five years in prison and fines up to $5,000.
Three men denied the additional charges of malicious destruction of public property. They included a 21-year-old from Wakefield, a 25-year-old Swampscott man and a 28-year-old from Winchester.
The June 3 trial of 45 of the defendants was described by Wakefield Daily Item as “the longest trial recorded in the history of Malden District Court,” lasting from 1 p.m. until after 6 p.m.
Judge Louis Glaser heard testimony from Wakefield police officers, including Sgt. Robert A. Westcott and Patrolmen Daniel J. Sullivan, William J. Scanlon, John D. Tecce and Warren J. Sheehan.
As police recounted each phase of the raid, they told the judge that in most cases, the drug found was marijuana, but quantities of LSD and other dangerous drugs were also discovered.
All 45 were found guilty by Judge Glaser and given fines or jail sentences, depending on their past criminal records.
The bride and groom from Wakefield who were renting the house were each given one-year sentences in the house of Correction and $500 fines for possession of narcotic drugs. Both immediately appealed their sentences.
Others received penalties ranging from $500 fines to six-month jail terms. One defendant had all charges dismissed, including malicious destruction of property, so that he could enter the military. He was also ordered to pay restitution for the damage at the Police Station.
One young woman received an indefinite sentence at the Framingham Reformatory, suspended for one year.
All of the defendants were prohibited from associating with each other in the future and were told by the judge that “they’d wind up in jail” if any such association under similar circumstances were to be discovered.
“I intend to break up this group, which has harassed and polluted the community,” said Judge Glaser, a jurist not given to understatement. He told the assembled defendants that they would have to “win back the respect” of their neighbors and “redeem themselves in the community.”
“The police have no cure-all,” Judge Glaser lamented. “There is a lack of concern on the part of parents,” he added, who are unaware of the places their children frequent and “what they are doing to their minds and bodies.”
So today, as you watch Rex and Fido frolic in the new Wakefield Dog Park in the Junction, reflect back on what happened there on a warm spring night nearly 50 years ago, when Wakefield and State Police swooped in and eradicated the infamous Barbarics motorcycle gang.
[This story originally appeared in the December 28, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]
Filed under: Columns & Essays, Feature stories, History, Humor, News, Opinion, Profiles, Wakefield | 1 Comment
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