Since late 2010 I’ve been writing this Hindsight column to share glimpses of what it was like to grow up here in Danvers. The articles are a joy to write and small things often jog my memories. People sometimes ask me how it is that I remember things in such detail. My usual response is that I narrate my life in my head, always have, and always will.
Recently, Julie Lotito founded a new Facebook group for people who grew up in Danvers, called: You Know You Grew Up in Danvers Massachusetts When. Such groups have popped up on Facebook for cities and towns all over the United States in recent weeks. Looking at several of them, I came to realize that folks all over have many of the same memories. Yet, as is to be expected, there are also memories unique to their hometown. I waited for a Danvers group to emerge, hoping to see that others shared my love for waxing nostalgia about our town. I am delighted to report that, as of this writing, over 1200 others do! The memories shared by Danversites are both sweet and bittersweet. They make me yearn for days gone by, but at the same time, help me to appreciate all that we share in this moment.
In many ways, this group feels like a town-wide reunion of sorts, but without all the expensive travel and extensive planning. One can pop in and read whenever he/she has time. It is quite the addictive experience, as many have mentioned. It occurs to me that this must be that the pleasure centers of our brains are stimulated by recalling happier times.
I asked members of the group for permission to share some of their memories in this column, and for permission to use their names. The responses have been entirely positive, and I hope to share some of their stories and names in this space, today and in the future. There are also plans in the works to save these cherished memories in book format down the road.
Many of the memories, especially things related to places and events of yore, and tidbits of local lore, showed up several times over the course of a few days. It is interesting to see the various takes people have on things. One thing remains consistent though, and that is the enthusiasm for strolling down memory lane. The excitement and joy the group share is palpable.
To begin at the beginning, the first postings were mostly about school and teachers, or things like skating at the Meadows. As things progressed to a fast and furious pace, there were more reports of childhood pranks and misdeeds, botched attempts at outsmarting our parents and then on to specifics of where someone’s paper-route was, and where the hangouts where, and where to get the best pizza.
The first members of the group included Lotito’s friends from the DHS Class of 81, her old neighbors, people she knew from the Danvers Alarm List Company and from the Danvers Historical Society.
Let’s move on to the good stuff−some of the memories shared by group members.
One oft-repeated memory is that of Rozanne’s Shoe Store. There was a little carousel in the back and kids rode it at every visit until you were told you were just too big. Back-to-school shoe shopping seems to have been a popular yearly event as the topic of Rozanne’s has been mentioned many times, including this from Bev Barrett, “Macdonald Fudge was next to Rozanne’s Shoes store with the little bike ride in the back that went around in circles. I think they were tricycles all hooked together and on a wooden platform.” Not surprisingly, many people didn’t remember the name of the store at first, but once prompted with the name, excited posts appeared saying “Saul Zang’s Rozanne’s Shoes!”
Rick Learoyd remembered other stores in the area as well. “Nissens department store...creaky old wood floors...(burnt down)...across from Woodman's Drugstore, the shoe repair store, Pat's Place, Murphy's Fruit....Rozanne’s Shoes, Essex Bank...” These businesses struck a chord with quite a few of the group members too.
Another theme that shows up quite often is “walking the tracks” to get from here to there. It’s quite the twist of fate that those same tracks now comprise the Danvers Rail Trail for safe walking and biking. Posts include memories of walking the tracks to the movies, to The Butchery if you wanted to work for a while, to go to school at the high school, or even just to walk the tracks for the sake of it. Evidently, the tracks were quite the source of entertainment for several generations. We’ll save the stories of hooliganism that went on for another day.
Susan Shepherd Lawrence is amongst those who fondly remember the bonfire at Plains Park on July 3 each year, and a great many others remember that there was also a Carnival held there during the same week. Susan also remembers riding bikes down an empty Route 95 to Putnam Pantry. It is thanks to Susan that we have many pictures of Danvers in days gone by, including the ones shared here on Danvers Patch. Susan posted them to the group, and they are courtesy of Tom O'Connor.
Betsy Gates Angelico posts, “calling dial-a-story and hearing Eleanor Day read you a story!” Eleanor Day was a beloved librarian at the Peabody Institute Library. Betsy also has a memory like that of Susan Shepherd Lawrence of “riding my bike down the middle of 95 with my family before it was opened to cars.”
Alice Lipinsnki Tierney remembers many of the old business in town. She writes, “Mscisz Drive-In, Vic's Drive In, Danvers Diner, China Gardens, Landophi's, Putnam Pantry on Route One South, Cherry Hill Farm, Teddy & The Pandas, Woolworths, Nessan’s, Rat Hole, Penny Pincher, Sullivan's Garage, Day's Potato Chips, Hyland Diner, Deerskin Trading Post, Rozanne’s Shoes, Griffin's 6 scoop banana split, Freddie Falcon, and Bugler's Drug Store.” Many of us remember buying our Christmas trees at Lipinski’s stand every year. Tierney also remembers, “How about sitting on top of the cars at Mscisz drive-in eating fast food and watching the TV that was connected to the cigarette lighter. Then as the evening went on, the guys would go under Endicott Street on to Route 128 and race their cars. Those were the days when there weren't many cars on 128!”
Doug Deluca commented that he remembers when you could buy turtles at Woolworth’s. Doug also states, “I still have mine.” When another member called the veracity of that statement into question, Doug replied, “They sold good quality turtles back then. Why did yours die?”
Fun stuff. Yet it wasn't all sweetness and light. There will be more to report on that next time.
It seems that I’ve barely scratched the surface of our hometown memories, but having already exceeded my word count, I’ll reluctantly end this week’s Hindsight column. As I read the members posts to try to pick stories for this week, I enjoyed many smiles, a bunch of guffaws, some head shaking, and lots and lots of fond remembrances. Watch this space for more next week!