Opinion

Jourgensen: I remember when the doctor was in

Dr. Mark Sanphy practices podiatry on Nahant Street in Lynn in a neighborhood — and a city — where neighborhood doctors were once the norm.

It was great talking to former Osborne Pharmacy proprietor and Lynnfield resident Bill Booras about the days when Lynn had more than 50 pharmacies and medicine, short of going to a hospital, involved a trip to a neighborhood doctor, who wrote a prescription to be filled in the pharmacy around the corner.

Booras, who lived on Eastern Avenue as a child, said most pharmacies in business a half century ago were family-operated and neighborhood fixtures within close proximity to doctor’s offices.

Dr. Israel Orris’ practice at Coburn and Essex streets served East Lynn residents while Orris’ brother, Harry, saw patients on Broad Street. Booras recalled how doctors like the Orris brothers, Dr. Richard Allison on Chatham Street and Drs. Leo and Elizabeth MacDonald on Ocean Street made house calls and maintained close relationships with druggists.

“They were one-person operations.”

Physicians William and Hilda Berenson saw patients in their office overlooking Lynn Common. Like almost everyone else back then, the doctors smoked, even while seeing patients.

A handful of doctors and dentists still maintain offices along Ocean Street and side streets like Atlantic, but the Richmond Pharmacy is among the region’s last independently owned and operated pharmacies.

Booras recalled driving around with his father checking out drug store competition and tallying up the number of pharmacies doing business in the city.

He said Fred Osborne made his own ice cream. “My dream as a boy was to work at a soda fountain,” Booras recalled. The independent pharmacies lost their fountain business, Booras said, when Friendly’s and Brigham’s opened franchises. Independent doctors’ offices went the way of cash transactions for medical care. The personal touch is now extolled in health care advertisements like a remembrance of a golden bygone day.

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Speaking of bygone days, Meili Clark recalled shopping in downtown Lynn in the 1950s and 1960s. “I loved to spend my paycheck on Union Street and in Central Square, starting off with Arnold’s Stationary, White Tower and Huntt’s across the street, then rounding the corner for Connolly’s Chocolates, Kay Jewelers, Sanborn Camera, Empire and Sam’s. So much to buy!”

Let’s not let West Lynn go unnoticed: Frank Morrill weighed in with memories of the West Lynn Arena next to the Western Avenue post office and Young’s Furniture: “My father and I used to go watch wrestling matches there — Steve ‘Crusher’ Casey, ‘Drop Kick’ Murphy, Tony Bruno. The place held about 200 to 300 people in bleacher-type seats. We used to sit on the end, right near the door, so that between bouts my father could jump down and run across the street to the bar.”

West Lynn memories of the circus coming to town also run deep with Dave Solimine recalling performers camping on a hill over Walnut Street where Curtis Street now runs. Nearby Hill’s Field was the circus site but it also doubled as a favored spot for holiday bonfires fueled by piled railroad ties.

“I was told there was a murder at the circus and that was the last one held there. The newer houses on upper Childs Street to Walnut Street were built to house all of the folks who came to General Electric during World War II when employment was at its highest,” said Solimine.

Apropos of the West Lynn Arena are the stories another informed source told me about the Harbor House on the Lynnway and the days when boxing matches were held there. The weight classes extended to under 100 pounds and more than a few of the contenders were trained by the late, great Tony Pavone. More about Tony next week.

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