Thanksgiving’s Best Record: Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Alice’s Restaurant’
Q: I watched the movie "Alice's Restaurant" the other day and was wondering if you could give us the real details of the story.
A: Arlo Guthrie's 1967 classic ALICE'S RESTAURANT was the basis for that 1969 film that starred Arlo along with Pat Quinn and James Broderick as Alice and Ray Brock. It was based on a true story that happened on Thanksgiving Day, 1965. Arlo was 18 years old at the time and he and his friend Rick Robbins had Thanksgiving dinner in Stockbridge, Massachusetts with Alice and Ray Brock and a host of other guests. Alice and Ray's home was the former Trinity Church on Division Street in Stockbridge, which is the actual church used in the movie. They spent the night and when Ray woke up the next morning, he suggested they all help clean up the mess left by the previous day's dinner. Arlo and Rick helped sweep and wound up loading all the garbage into a VW microbus and went to the town dump, which was closed. Trying to find a place to dump the garbage, Arlo remembered a side road on Prospect Hill by the Indian Hill Music Camp; and that's where they ended up dumping the garbage. That afternoon, Stockbridge police chief William J. Obanhein called the church, stating he found an envelope with the name "Brock" on it. Arlo and Rick admitted to the illegal dumping and were arrested. The chief drove them up to Prospect Hill, took some pictures and wrote "PROSPECT HILL RUBBISH DUMPING FILE UNDER GUTHRIE AND ROBBINS 11/26/65" on the backs. Arlo and Rick were thrown in jail, fined $25 each and were ordered to pick up the garbage. After the bail was paid, they spent the rest of the day back at the church writing the song that would become known as ALICE'S RESTAURANT. (The following is the actual article that appeared in the local Stockbridge paper: "Saturday, Richard J. Robbins, 19, of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., and Arlo Guthrie, 18, of Howard Beach, N. Y., each paid a fine of $25 in Lee District Court after pleading guilty of illegally disposing of rubbish. Special Justice James E. Hannon ordered the youths to remove all the rubbish. They did so Saturday afternoon, following a heavy rain. Police Chief William J. Obanhein of Stockbridge said later the youths found dragging the junk up the hillside much harder than throwing it down. He said he hoped their case would be an example to others who are careless about disposal of rubbish. The junk included a divan, plus nearly enough bottles, garbage, papers and boxes to fill their Volkswagen bus. 'The stuff would take up at least half of a good-sized pickup truck,' Chief Obanhein said. The rubbish was thrown into the Nelson Foote Sr. property on Prospect Street, a residential section of Stockbridge consisting largely of estates on the hill across from Indian Hill School. Chief Obanhein told the court he spent 'a very disagreeable two hours' looking through the rubbish before finding a clue to who had thrown it there. He finally found a scrap of paper bearing the name of a Great Barrington man. Subsequent investigation indicated Robbins and Guthrie had been visiting the Great Barrington man and had agreed to cart away the rubbish for him. They told the court that, when they found the Barrington dump closed, they drove around and then disposed of the junk by tossing it over the Stockbridge hillside.")