Opinion

Jourgensen: A day to remember

For a small place, Nahant has plenty of fun stories and trivia nuggets, including claims by locals that Harriet Beecher Stowe lived for a time in a home on Nahant Road. The same source for this information also said literary great Henry Wadsworth Longfellow occasionally came to Nahant to swap tales with Stowe.

The town has its share of local luminaries, including sculptor Reno Pisano. His work can be found around Lynn and his Nahant studio makes you imagine what it must have been like to walk into Michelangelo’s studio and find sculptures in various stages of creation.

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Halloween’s a long way off but I love any and all haunted house and ghost stories, including the supposedly enduring claim that Dungeon Rock had quicksand at its bottom threatening to swallow up kids. Another Nahanter, Ken Turino, shared a ghost story with me years ago about the big stone house on Kensington Park. I’ll wait until Halloween to reveal its details. The “blue lady of Danvers Road” has a spooky ring to it even though tellings seem to closely parallel the time-honored hook-on-the-door handle stories.

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It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic day in Lynn history than February 25, 1967, when self-described Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo was apprehended locally after 33 hours on the lam. In an age of television and radio news bulletins but no 24-hour media cycle, DeSalvo’s escape from Bridgewater State Hospital electrified Massachusetts and the North Shore.

Item accounts relate how a tip about his brothers supposedly dropping him off in McDonough Square mobilized a police dragnet that fanned out in search of DeSalvo. Police officers searched empty units in Curwin Circle and tips flooded in by telephone about DeSalvo sightings and stolen cars.

He broke into Arthur Vincent’s 785 Western Avenue cellar and spent the night sleeping only yards away from Vincent and his family. DeSalvo donned a Navy uniform that belonged to Vincent’s nephew and slithered out of the cellar to evade searchers. But Saturday afternoon, he was inside Simons Uniform Co., 741 Western Avenue, still wearing the uniform but also a pair of decidedly non-Navy issue brown shoes.

Part-time Simons employee Fred Waldron first spotted DeSalvo in the store and manager Jim Trelegan kept DeSalvo occupied while police were called. The Strangler asked for a cup of coffee and took a single sip before police descended on Simons and scooped him up.

The list of Lynn’s finest and assisting officers who nabbed DeSalvo includes Adam Kotkowski, Joe Queena, Joe Olszewski, Basil Manias, Carl Perlino, John Lopresti, Vernon Foss, James Kennedy, Robert Cloonan and don’t forget the late great Joe Coppinger.

The list of the Strangler’s victims includes Helen Blake, who was killed in her apartment building at Newhall and Sagamore streets in 1962. The building is long gone.

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Jim Imperial is a ready supply of knowledge about all things West Lynn, including the barn he said was located behind Cap’s Auto where the resident blacksmith could be found banging out horse shoes. He also recalled Harry & Jim’s Diner with its push-button jukebox.

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I’m grateful to David Solimine Sr. for pointing out the interesting garage configuration on Parkland Avenue and Richardson Road where three garages in one building serve three separate homes. Two of the garages exit onto Richardson and one onto Parkland. A true case of share and share alike.

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