Opinion

Jourgensen: When home was on the hill

They were razed and turned into housing subdivisions years ago, but the Tower Hill convalescent home and Joseph Devlin public health complex on Holyoke Street were once a cornerstone of local municipal service.

Both city-run facilities were staffed by people who, day in, day out, cared for local residents who were sick and couldn’t afford to get treated anywhere else. The healthcare changes that occurred in the 21st century’s first 18 years sounded the death knell for the two facilities. Lynn became one the last Massachusetts communities under former Mayor Chip Clancy’s tenure to operate expensive medical facilities.

Tower Hill, in particular, dated back to a time when poor farms and sanitariums were the 19th century version of supplemental income assistance and long-term health care. A story that occasionally makes the rounds of my wife’s family gatherings relates how a relative in safekeeping at Tower Hill occasionally “escaped” and made his way down to Frank’s Sea Grill for a couple before being escorted back up the hill.

The convalescent home and the Devlin are long gone but the memories of the people who worked there and the people they cared for deserve to be preserved.

***

Attention everyone under 40: I’m about to make you roll your eyes and turn to Arlo and Janis for entertainment. I always cringe a little when I see people walking around a store or other business establishment carrying an oversized coffee or other beverage. I can remember when food and drinks were OK to consume in a car or on the street or in a park, but you didn’t chomp or slurp while you shopped.

I’m going to theorize that the carry-your-beverage-into-a-business mentality probably evolved in tandem with smart technology and the societal leeway provided to people browsing their mobile device and locked into social media. The necessity — much less the obligation — to be completely present with someone you are talking to or buying something from has gone the way of the rotary dial and the phone booth.

***

That be-here-now mantra was enforced by my father who insisted we make conversation at the dinner table and upbraided us for sloppy manners. I’ll never forget going to the Wyoming state capitol and meeting former governor Stan Hathaway. I don’t know about my brother, but I forgot to say, “Nice to meet you” and heard about it loudly from my dad for the next 200 miles. It would take me much longer to understand the full import of first impressions and what is involved in making a good one.

***

Joe Boyd and Julio Bare are truly Lynn’s bards. My wife and I are still talking about how Joe recited a 10 minute-long poem about a pumpkin to us at the Lynn Museum auction last Friday night. He is a master of verse and a source of mirth.

Thanks also to Pat Lee for revealing how “History Stories of Lynn” published in 1931 and compiled by Lynn students was followed up in 1979 with an updated history prepared by fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders under the direction of educators George Laubner and Miriam Morse. “(This) one is very similar to the older version, but is a little different,” Lee noted.

A dive into the original volume unveils a litany of leading figures in Lynn’s shoe industry including John Johnson, Charles Winslow, Richard Richards, George Parrott, Thomas Hart, William Neely, Eugene Phelps and the mind behind “the greatest of the Lynn inventions…,” Jan Matzeliger.

More Stories From Lynn