On a Thanksgiving break from his freshman year of college that would soon prove permanent, Arlo Guthrie returned home to the Berkshires in 1965, staying with Friends Alice and Ray Brock at their home, an old church in the village of Van Deusenville near Great Barrington. As the story goes, after enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, Guthrie attempted to help his hosts by taking their trash to the dump, only to find that it was closed for the holiday.
“Because I had gone to [high] school there, I was familiar with all of these little back roads and nook-and-cranny places,” Guthrie recalled decades later for National Public Radio’s (NPR) All Things Considered. “And I knew a place that local people were using to get rid of their stuff.”
Happening upon a pile of garbage at the bottom of a ditch along a side road, Guthrie added the Brocks’ trash to it, reasoning “that one big pile is better than two little piles,” he sings in his eighteen-minute ‘sixties anthem “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” the classic tune that was spawned from the Thanksgiving trash incident of 1965. Guthrie returned to the Brocks’ church to indulge in a tryptophan-induced night’s sleep. He was awakened the next morning by the local sheriff, who arrested him for littering, a crime for which he would later be deemed unfit for military service.
Today Old Trinity Church, the former home of the Brocks, still stands at 4 Deusenville Road, two and a half miles outside town. It is one of a handful of living relics that help imbue Great Barrington with its unique aesthetic of culturally rich rural refinement, a major reason why this idyllically small town is so enjoyable to visit.
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