Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lawrence - My Hometown

Black Horse Ale

By Richard E. Noble

We were back in Fort Lauderdale one Christmas for a break from our Hobo-ing America adventure of working our way around the U.S.A. Our homemade camper now sported an elevated fiberglass top (roof) that we had put on while traveling through Riverside, California. We picked up my brother and his wife at their condo and took them for a hobo-style lunch on Fort Lauderdale beach.
We parked in one of the big, fancy hotel parking lots where we had a nice view of the beach. We opened the back doors to the van and sat at our makeshift dinner table drinking a beer and eating our sandwiches. As we sat there enjoying the view and the cool ocean breezes a party of six came out of the hotel’s lounge. They were all dressed to the nines.
They were very happy as they came strolling by the open back doors of our van camper.
“Here, enjoy a real brew with your lunch,” one of the entourage said hefting a six-pack of beer up onto our table.
“Why thank-you,” I said sliding a bottle out of the six-pack and taking a look at the label.
“This is a good brew,” I said with emphasis. “I’ve drunk a many of them in my day.”
“That’s impossible,” the man said.
“Impossible my butt! I used to drink Holihan’s Black Horse Ale all the time. It was manufactured and brewed right in my hometown. It is made with genuine spring water, you know.”
“That’s right,” the man said. “Where’s your hometown?”
“Lawrence, Massachusetts,” I boasted.
“That’s right again. But this company has been out of business for over a decade.”
“Well, I’m not exactly a teenager,” I said. “I’ve been drinking beer for a long time. In fact I consider myself somewhat of a professional. This Holihan’s Black Hose Ale is one of the best ales ever brewed,” I flattered.
The man seemed to be beside himself with joy. He called his entire party over to the back of our camper. He introduced us to all his friends and then added, “We were impressed with this Holihan’s Black Horse Ale ourselves. In fact, we just closed a deal inside that hotel. We bought the formula and the rights to this ale and we are going to start manufacturing it and distributing it all over America.”
“No kidding! Well good luck to all of you.”
“You guys must be a sign. What are the chances of meeting a group of people from Lawrence, Mass. in a parking lot at Fort Lauderdale beach after just signing a contract to buy the formula for Holihan’s Black Horse Ale?”
“What are the odds on that?” I asked my brother Ernie who fancied himself to be a dog track handicapping expert. My brother moved to Florida because he had outgrown Rockingham Park.
“I don’t think you could get Nick the Greek to give you odds on that one.”
The new Black Horse Ale owners went off laughing, hugging and slapping one another on the back.
The remainder of that afternoon my brother and I spent reminiscing about Lawrence. We stopped when the girls began to doze off.
The Holihan brothers started their brewery in Lawrence in 1856, I discovered. In 1912, the name was changed to Diamond Spring Brewery and it was on Beacon Street. They were closed for the prohibition years but reopened in 1933. The Diamond Spring Brewery finally closed its doors in 1970.
My brother Ernie wasn’t much of a drinker but I filled in for him. I drank plenty of Holihan’s Black Horse Ale. My brother was a basketball “star” at Central Catholic. He played for Central Catholic for five years at the center position. He graduated in 1955. He stayed an extra year at Central Catholic trying to get a sport scholarship. He finally got an offer from Colby College but then opted out of sports and worked his way through Northeastern University in Boston. He played with other Central Catholic stars like - Jimmy Dyer, Leo Trudashard, (Bob, Tom?) Flynn, “Bucky” Butterworth, Don Tremblay, and Charlie Fiorino. He played on some great Central teams.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry partly inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America, is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.