‘Old Days’ in the City

My friend Andy lives out in the country where the deer roam his back yard, and the antelope play. Just kidding, there are no antelope. But a rafter of wild turkeys do visit from time to time. Truth be told, he lives just across the harbor from the town wharf, but the country is what he calls his wooded environs.

            Every once in a while, usually on a sunny day, he ventures into “the city,” which is what he calls our humble village, in his antique roadster convertible to access any changes that have occurred since his last visit. Which is to say not many. He and I have been around these parts for much of the three-quarters of a century that we have lived (yikes!)

            On second thought, there has indeed been much change in “the city.”

            When Andy and I grew up, the population hovered around 2,000. Between the two of us, it seemed as though we knew most everyone. Now it is over 6,500, and we hardly know anybody. You could walk down Church Street and always see someone you knew. It seemed as though we knew every kid, their parents, their grandparents, and their cousins, cats and canaries. We knew all the police officers and the firefighters, the folks down at the post office, the schoolteachers, the butcher, the baker … and even most of the summer people. Not anymore.

            Walk past the Congregational Church and you’d pass Enoch Winslow’s boat shop at the corner of Barstow Street to arrive at E.A. Walsh’s General Store across from Center School. The building looked like it was ready to collapse, the floor was rickety and the candy was there for the stealing. A nice cottage sits on that spot now.

            You could grab a 25-cent greasy hamburger at Tony’s PX. After many incarnations, it was torn down, and a nice house replaced it. It was next to my dad’s barber shop where old men would gather to solve the world’s problems. They called themselves the Professional Loafers Club, an apt name for this batch of “townie” retirees. Next door to the barber shop was the Washburn house with its grand front porch where teenage boys would sit drinking RC Colas and toss the empty bottles into the alley between the buildings, which became known as Glass Alley.

            The Post Office was next door with rows of brass mailboxes with combination locks and a tiny, barred window where you could buy stamps. It moved on up to Route 6 across the street from the Cape Cod Cabinet Shop builders of fine cabinetry. I can still remember the smell of freshly sawn wood. Webster Bank rests there now.

            Across the highway was the Big 3 Hardware store, now a “mall” which houses a restaurant, a small market and assorted shops. I worked in the hardware store one day … literally. It was a boring job, so I quit to work at the Hagen Toy Factory, which was next to the old fire station and is now offices. It was an awful job. Live and learn. Later I worked for a local carpenter building houses. Maybe all the growth and change may be partly my fault.

            Back in the village past the old Post Office was Sylvia’s Grocery, with its hand painted “specials” signs hanging in the windows. It is now a residence. So is Romeo’s liquor shop down by the wharf across from the Holiday House, which became the Mattapoisett Inn, then the Kinsale Inn and is now the Inn on Shipyard Park.

            The building where old Dr. Mysliwy, our dentist, practiced his torture with a hammer and chisel in an old cast-iron chair with only the view out the back window as anesthesia, became a health food store, then a bookstore, then a bakery, and is now the new general store.

            The police station was in the basement of the Town Hall across the street from a hardware store, which became Ed Vallador’s antiques store, which later became Hal Peterson’s coin shop. Hal had a radio talk show on WBSM and lived across from the tennis courts. The shop was turned into rental housing and is now condominiums. The village was bustling.

            The Universalist church is now apartments. It was across the street from the Presto Press, The Wanderer’s predecessor. Frank’s Market, which was on the highway near the butcher shop (which is now a pizza restaurant) and was no bigger than a small Dunkin’ Donuts, became a small Dunkin’ Donuts and is now a florist shop. The Dunkin’ Donuts moved to where an A&P Supermarket stood, which was built on the old town dump, which was followed by a Salvation Army store and now shares space with a 7-Eleven.

            Meiling’s Chinese restaurant, which was across the street from the Pilot House Diner, and all six houses (recently torn down) next to it are all gone. Larriviere’s drug store at the corner of Route 6 and Main Street became many things including a deli, a tile store and is now the Tastebuds Bistro. The field out back of my house where the circus used to set up now has a funeral home perched upon it, more condominiums, the police station, and our new fire station. Got all that?

            Thankfully, I know of a couple of things that haven’t changed. My friend Andy and me. We look exactly the same as we did in high school. I swear it. Besides, there aren’t many folks left around we know who can say otherwise.

            Editor’s note: Mattapoisett resident Dick Morgado is an artist and retired newspaper columnist whose musings are, after some years, back in The Wanderer under the subtitle “Thoughts on ….” Morgado’s opinions have also appeared for many years in daily newspapers around Boston.

Thoughts on…

By Dick Morgado

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