September 16, 2007

It was a warm and breezy night – the kind you’re glad to experience after so many months of oppressive heat. So there we were, Tracey and me, reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ under the warm and friendly pineapple lights on our patio, remembering all the small home-town businesses we remember both us and our parents frequenting long before super markets became, well, supermarkets, and megastores like Walmart, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and any number of so-called “superstores” began to take over the landscape. Just a few of them we remember fondly:

John’s Fruitland – Used to be on Rte. 38 in Tewksbury (I believe there’s a go-kart and arcade place there now). I still can remember my parents stopping there on the way home from church to pick up their produce. My old friend Paul Porcella and I used to ride our bikes down there to buy Bing Cherries (which they’d weigh carefully and then hand us in a brown paper bag), then sit on the big rock behind the Shawsheen School baseball field backstop and devour them, joyfully spitting out the pits as we worked our way through the contents.

Andrews Appliance – Used to be on Rte. 3A on the North Billerica/Chelmsford line. I remember after our condo was hit by a lightning strike, the power surge fried my stereo setup. I brought my receiver down to Andrews and the guy behind the counter took one look at it and just laughed. It was toast.

Martin’s TV – Used to be on Rte. 38 in Tewksbury. I remember the Martins repairman coming out to fix our console hi-fi’s turntable and testing out his repair by putting on The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album and dropping the stylus in the middle of “I Am The Walrus”. The guy says to me, “there’s still something wrong with this needle, I’m gonna replace it”, and me replying, “nope, that sounds fine to me – thanks!”

Freddie’s – Used to be diagonally across the street from where we lived at 2284 Main Street in Tewksbury. I remember my mom and I going in there to buy meat, so it must have been some kind of mini-market. It burned down in the winter of 1967 or ’68, upon which a strip mall went up in its place…

Bob’s Barber Shop – Used to be in this little tiny shack across the street from where we lived. It was really just a tiny old cabin with just room enough for a couple of chairs. After Freddie’s burned down, he moved into a store in the strip mall that replaced it. I believe his daughter still runs the place and my Uncle Don still gets his hair cut there.

(I’m also just remembering now – there used to be a meat market in that strip mall, and one of the high school senior class pranks was to steal the cow that was on its roof. I remember the kids stole the cow and sent a letter of ransom for it’s return. Actually, that was pretty funny and harmless…)

Windham Animal Hospital – Used to be across from Gary’s Ice Cream on the North Billerica/Chelmsford border. I remember driving home from work one day on my way to a discernment meeting scheduled at St. Anne’s Church (this was the first time I was discerning my call to the priesthood). Anyways, I was driving along the Middlesex Turnpike in Bilerica and saw a bunch of people standing by the side of the road. Evidently, a cat had gotten hit by a car several minutes before, and no one knew what to do. So, I picked up the cat, wrapped him in my shirt, took him over to Windham, then went on to do my discernment meeting in my undershirt. Unfortunately, the cat died shortly after I brought him in, but I think he must have been a good kitty.

The Oaks – used to be at the corner of Main Street (Rte. 38) and Shawsheen Street in Tewksbury. I never went in there, but my guess is it just a glorified dive where people went for a broiled beefsteak and few beers. Much like, I’m guessing, The Bandbox. which used to be at the junction of routes 3A and Rte. 129 in North Billerica. In the case of the latter, my brother Mark and I used to go in there and have a beer or two and watch the Fleury Brothers play country & western music on weekday nights. They were what one used to call “supper clubs”, I think. I sure miss those kinds of places…

I love the memories of these places, and feel privileged to have been born in an era where places like this used to be a part of the fabric of the small towns they existed in. I can’t help but feel that the arrival of chain restaurants and superstores have left a stain on the soul of small-town America.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:07 | Comments (3)
  1. That sure brought back a lot of memories (good and bad)! Some you left out:
    – Snack Shack (rt 38, across from…)
    – French’s Subs
    – Carter’s Green house
    – The “old” Haffners Gas Station (where Tom Olson used to gas up the Superbird!)
    – Jade East – mecca of chinese food!
    – Harold Parker State Forest – Let your mind wonder here 😉

    Now here are a couple of brain teasers…
    – Name the eating establishment where “Albie Bommel” used to be the “chef in training”.
    – The name of the mini golf place across from the Tew-Mac airport.

    Comment by Tightwad — October 16, 2007 @ 10:55 am

  2. It sounds like you and I need to talk. This is WAY too familiar stuff…and I don’t remember where Albie was chef-in-training or the name of the mini-golf place was, but I’ll bet you know…

    Olsen’s T-bird was a cool car, but your Plymouth Satellite was no slouch either…

    Comment by The Great White Shank — October 16, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

  3. Oh yes, definately! I’m sure by now you have figured out who this is from the Satellite reference! It HAS been many years indeed!

    Comment by Tightwad — October 16, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

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