Opinion

Jourgensen: Legacy is gone, but a gateway remains

One of the hand-painted heads that adorned Daily Evening Item holiday choir singer figurines. (Courtesy photo)

What could be a more fitting tribute to a family that, through hard work and dedication, stamped a corner of Lynn with their legacy than to ensure the lot where Christie’s once served food is a welcoming and well-kept gateway to the city?

The Dean family closed their restaurant in May after 115 years in business and the only reminder that the dining spot across from the Nahant Rotary existed is a line of orange traffic cones, blue plastic buckets and cinder blocks marking the property’s perimeter.

On Thursday morning a crew equipped with excavation tools began digging in the remains of Christie’s asphalt parking lot and setting fence posts.

A 1955 story in the Daily Evening Item chronicled Christie’s transformation from ” … one of the first stands on Lynn Beach … to ” … one of the finest dining rooms on the North Shore — Completely air conditioned.”

George and Christie Dean were left with a bad taste in their mouths in 2006 when they failed in their bid to lease the Christie’s site to a CVS. They stayed in business, serving burgers and seafood and selling lottery tickets, before closing this year.

More anachronism than attraction by the time it closed, Christie’s and its trademark cursive sign stood astride the Lynn Shore Drive entrance to the city. The building and the sign are gone but the Christie’s site, like the city’s other gateways, could stand a sprucing up and a significant visual improvement.

To be fair, Lynn’s other gateways could also use upgrades: Goodwin Circle once offered a bucolic view of Lynn with its hillside of tall pines and one of two picnic tables jogging memories for drivers old enough to remember Good Luck Farms and Perley Burrill just up the road.

The General Edwards Bridge spills onto the uglier end of the Lynnway with the overgrowth near the fishing pier and an infestation of commercial signs.

Attempts to reach George and Christie Dean this week for comment on plans for their lot were unsuccessful. The lot detracts visually from an otherwise beautiful approach into Lynn with the rotary and the ocean beyond it. Some landscaping and grass would make the property a worthy tribute to the Deans’ contribution to Lynn until future development takes shape on the land.

***

You can’t mention Christie’s without someone with an institutional memory chiming in about Roland’s and the “kitchen sink,” a massive ice cream concoction so big they dared you to try to finish it. A resident expert also mentioned the long-gone Redwood Lounge as another beach area attraction.

Speaking of lounges, an informed source recalled the days of Mickey Reardon’s in Revere when Mickey could always be counted on to wear a black suit. Once you passed muster with Mickey, he greeted you like a long-lost friend every time you walked into the joint.

While we’re talking about watering holes, someone told me the Lido got its name from a place called Chez Lido in Florida. A 2001 story by yours truly quotes Frank Christopher, a World War II Marine who made Lido’s trademark pizzas for years, recalling when a barbershop and a pool room occupied the Lido’s current site.

“My brother-in-law opened the restaurant right after Prohibition,” I quoted Christopher as saying.

***

It’s that time of year when the Item choir singers made their annual appearance in the windows of the “old building” at 38 Exchange St. With their boy’s regular hairdos, choir robes and cherubic faces, the artfully-crafted figures were a throwback, albeit a warmly nostalgic one, to holidays past.

Older, well-used decorations tug at my heart more during the holidays than the inflatables and high-tech lighting. I guess it’s because, more often than not, they survived decades of holidays and people breaking them out of the attic or closet and setting them up. I confess, I’m one of those people who even like the old tree decorations shaped like Sputnik and painted garish 1950s colors.

More Stories From Lynn