Rita Savard of the Sun wrote a great background story about Bob Dylan and Lowell in nothing flat so that it hit the streets just as lots of people were talking about Dylan coming back to Lowell.
Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Kerouac’s grave in Edson Cemetery, November 1975.
We ought to give him a key to the city this time or maybe a chip of red granite that skateboarders have knocked off one of the pillars at the Kerouac Commemorative. The granite was cut in Minnesota, not far from where young Bobby Zimmerman hung out around the University of Minnesota campus in the big city. When I flew out there to inspect the carved granite panels with Steve Conant, who was a planner at Lowell Heritage State Park at the time, we wandered over to the famous “Dinkytown” near the campus where the students and midwest-style bohemians gathered. It had been Steve’s idea to move the Kerouac “tribute thing” (we didn’t have the Commemorative concept yet) from a small chunk of federal land near the Lower Locks complex to a larger parcel of land on Bridge Street that was going to become a new downtown park with the help of state funds. I was working at the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission in those days (1986), and the LHPC had already approved my proposal to commission a sculptural tribute to Kerouac of some kind. I recommended the move to Bridge Street if the LHPC would double the budget for Kerouac from $50,000 to $100,000 since it was a larger site and we would need a more substantial public artwork. The new location and funding were approved by the Commissioners (unsung heroes in all this, people like Clementine Alexis, Kay Georgalos, Maryann Simenson, Bill Hogan, along with staffers like then-LHPC boss Armand P. Mercier, operations director Ray LaPorte, later executive director Peter Aucella, and others), and we were off to the races. Steve coordinated the state piece of the park development, I had the federal piece for the LHPC, and Ed Trudel of the City Division of Planning and Development managed the whole bunch of us young turks because the City held the overall park construction contract. It was a classic Lowell multi-partner project. We dedicated the Kerouac Commerative in then-Eastern Canal Park in June 1988. A few years later, Tom Bellegarde, I think, put up the bold wooden sign that reads “Kerouac Park,” and that made the whole thing Jack’s Place. Better than Eastern Canal Park for the ages.