Jourgensen: Songs from the corner

I miss my friend Arthur Smith, aka Smitty, and his stories about learning the shoe trade in the big building on High Street. It’s amazing the former shoe school did not fall prey to fire during all of those years it stayed vacant before Girls Inc. turned it into a dynamic and happy place.

Speaking of schools, I enjoyed listening the other day as the estimable John M. Bresnahan Jr. described how his first teaching assignment was in the former Cobbet Junior High School.

“At the time it had the reputation of being the toughest junior high in the city. I found out it was the best,” Bresnahan said.



My buddy Paul regales me with stories about the Brickyard and how he used to sing with his friends and brothers on one corner while doo-woppers, crooners and serenaders of all stripes and talents made music on other corners. It must have been a lot of fun and it wasn’t so long ago. It used to be that warm weather pulled everyone out onto stoops, corners, parks, playgrounds and streets for all manner and shape of impromptu games with arcane rules that changed from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Lynn and surrounding communities have great parks and playgrounds, but a resident expert and I were talking the other day about how social media is encroaching on the time all of us spend in public just hanging around, enjoying the weather and one another. It’s a sure sign of age when you look around and say, “We’re all in too big a hurry.” But communities are safer and people get along better when they spend some time the way they used to spend it.



The great Bike Invasion of 2018 prompts me to reach out and wonder if anyone remembers a velodrome in Revere where people went to watch bicyclists compete by riding around an oval-shaped arena with steeply-pitched sides. The Ant and ofo bikes that have rolled into Lynn, Swampscott and Revere are a lot of fun. Was there an earlier time in Lynn and surrounding communities when bicycles were a popular means of getting around?




File under “a bridge by another name:” Is the span across the Saugus River called the Belden Bly Bridge or the Fox Hill Bridge or both?  And by the way, where’s Fox Hill? I see Floating Bridge referred to as Buchanan Bridge but another resident expert assures me the original bridge on Western Avenue did indeed float.



It’s high time to get some nominations printed in this column for long-gone but great ice cream places in Lynn and surrounds. An early nominee is Swift’s Ice Cream — not sure where it was located. Penny candy enthusiasts continue to wade in with cherished memories with Edward Landry identifying the store once located at Waterhill and Cottage streets as Valenti’s. He said Johnson’s was located on Fuller Street and they sold cigarettes for a penny apiece. Patrice Buchanan remembers Fontaine’s, owned by Ray Fontaine, at Glenwood and President streets. Also a Connie’s on Chatham Street fan, Buchanan recalled Ruthie’s at the corner of Clarendon Avenue and Chatham Street.

Keep ’em coming!



PS — Thanks to Rent-A-Tool President Steve Williams for enlightening me on the fate of the SS United States whistle that once sat atop the former Rent-a-Tool on North Shore Road. He said the whistle was sold in December 2016 to a collector in Texas who plans to restore it.

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