Globe Features Kerouac & Lowell’s Creative Economy

James Sullivan writes about the economic impact of Jack Kerouac’s legacy in Lowell in the Business section of the Boston Globe, posted tonight on for tomorrow’s paper. Read the article here, and get the Globe if you appreciate the reporting.

2 Responses to Globe Features Kerouac & Lowell’s Creative Economy

  1. Marie says:

    Refresh our memory Paul. That event you described in the Globe article: “So many people showed up, the Fire Department had to seal the doors,’’ recalled Paul Marion, an organizer. “It was an early indication of the potential of Kerouac as a cultural asset.’’
    Was this the event at the Lowell Museum? The Lowell Museum was housed in the Wannalancit Mill on Suffolk Street.

  2. PaulM says:

    Marie asked me to elaborate on the 1979 event. Yes, it was sponsored by the Lowell Museum that once operated in the Suffolk Mill on Suffolk Street (now called Wannalancit Mills). The Museum filled a large space on the first floor. Museum director Lew Karabatsos and his team organized the first public program in Lowell paying tribute to Jack Kerouac after his death in 1969. Lowell gets kicked around sometimes by “observers” for having neglected Kerouac in his hey-day, but the story is more complicated than that. I read a Charlie Sampas column from 1959 that said Kerouac’s latest novel (presumably “Maggie Cassidy,” Jack’s high-school romance story) had sold 200 copies in a store downtown (was Prince’s Books open in those days?). So, it wasn’t as if Lowellians weren’t reading Kerouac. And his first novel, “The Town and the City,” was excerpted in the SUN; he did a book-signing at Bon Marche on Merrimack St.

    At any rate, coordinating a speaking program and exhibit about Kerouac was plenty of work for the Lowell Museum. The evening program consisted of readings from Kerouac’s work, playing a tape of Kerouac reading his work (I think it was a passage about the Three Stooges), a display of foreign editions of Kerouac’s books courtesy of Lowell Tech prof Charles (Ziavras) Jarvis, who would go on to write the biography “Visions of Kerouac.” The Museum was filled with maybe 150 people or more, and there was a long line of people outside on the sidewalk who were waiting to get in. When they were told the space was filled to capacity they began complaining. My memory is that the Museum staff called the Fire Department to come down and explain to people that fire laws would not permit allowing more people in the Museum space. I’ll never forget the long line of people on the sidewalk along Suffolk Street. Marie may recall more details. I think Kerouac’s widow, Stella Sampas Kerouac, was somehow involved with the event, too.

    From 1980 to 1988, the Lowell community hosted one kind of Kerouac event or another, from art exhibits and a marathon reading of Doctor Sax, to Lowell plays with Kerouac included as a character and a premier of John Antonelli’s Kerouac documentary film. In 1988, we dedicated the Kerouac Commemorative and produced the first of the annual festivals. It was a weeklong celebration. One of the high points was a poetry reading in the Smith Baker Center attended by 1,000 people—on stage were Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Michael McClure with Ray Manzarek of the Doors, John Weiners, and a few writers from the city, including Gerard Brunelle.