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Alice's Restaurant Recreated

Jim Levulis

Hundreds in the Berkshires took a trip to the past over the weekend while enjoying locally-inspired unique dishes.

Sights, sounds, smells and familiar faces helped recreate the title name of the popular 1960’s Arlo Guthrie song at The Dream Away Lodge in Becket, Massachusetts.

The kitchen was bustling, the herbs were diced, the meat was sizzling, the glasses were chilled, laughs were had and taste buds were satisfied.

The two-day event showcased a menu inspired by Alice Brock, the Alice in Guthrie’s song. Dream Away Chef Amy Loveless came up with the idea.

“Most of things on the menu are going to spark memories in a lot of the people who are coming because a lot of the people used to eat Alice’s or work at Alice’s,” Loveless said. “We have a lot of former employees coming. One of things people talk about the most still is the Chinese duck, which they used to call ‘black duck’ because it has a dark, dark marinade.”

Loveless grew up eating at Brock’s The Back Room, Take Out Alice and finally Alice’s Restaurant, inspiring her to pursue a career in the culinary arts.

“She was one of the people who made it look like a viable career and a viable artistic expression,” said Loveless.

Brock got into the restaurant business in 1966 after cooking for students from the Stockbridge School out of the church she lived in with her husband — and the garbage, as legend has it. One of those students was Guthrie. Brock was known for serving dishes from different cultures and parts of the world.

“A lot of them I just made up,” Brock confessed. “I heard about it or I read about it and I said ‘Okay maybe it tastes like this.”

Guthrie’s song details a series of events in Stockbridge and New York City involving Brock and their pals who she says were considered hippies after having grown up as juvenile delinquents and beatniks.

“We sat around the big old oak table which I still have and he sang us what he had,” Brock said. “Then we started adding verses to it. We had a good time, but in the end its Arlo’s song.”

Brock says the run-ins with police and most of the stories detailed in the song are largely true, but a lot of what is depicted in the 1969 movie that followed is fiction. She says she didn’t want anything to do with the movie initially, but her father, who was friends with the director, Berkshires mainstay Arthur Penn, convinced her it would lead to good things. Brock, Guthrie and other Berkshire locals are in the movie either as themselves or as extras.

“I was very uncomfortable because public figures are not really treated with much respect,” she explained. “They really aren’t. Once your name is in the paper people feel that they can go; ‘Oh are you Alice?’ Turn around,’ like they want to see my behind or something. So I resented it for a long time, but I’ve come to realize now that people are just delighted when they hear my name, so how can I complain.”

Brock says the song became so popular because it captured how young people were feeling during the late 1960s.

“It was so timely,” she said. “We thought that the government was totally off base. They didn’t know what they were talking about. We were very much against the war. Most people my age were. You know it was end of the 60s, but we had already decided not to live by their rules. We were living by our own rules. ”

Even without the song and the movie, Brock’s menu etched itself into Berkshire culinary history, according to the customers at The Dream Away Lodge.

Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

“Well Alice had her restaurants in the Berkshires when I first moved here,” Deb Phillips said. “So it’s part of the history of the Berkshires. As is this place, so it was a nice combination of things. It really was something fun from the past.”

“Alice is legendary,” Liz Thompson said. “I was tickled because I wasn’t here when she had her restaurant, but boy was I happy to be here for this.”

In Provincetown, Massachusetts Brock runs a gallery showcasing her art and books. She says people of all ages realize after a short time in the gallery that Alice is the Alice from the song played around the country on Thanksgiving.

“A lot of teenagers and young people say to me ‘Oh I wish I lived in the 60s,’” Brock explained. “I say to them this is no different than the 60s now. Just get off your rear end and get out there. That’s the only difference is you’re busy with yourselves. We were busy thinking we could change the world. And we did, a little bit.”

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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