My recent column reminiscing about Malden, back in the day, struck a nerve with many Maldonians. It was a pleasure to write, and I sincerely appreciate folks reaching out to me. I’ll let Barry, Arthur and Jonesy take it from here:
Barry Crotty: “Great write up! Brought back many memories. I was a summer park instructor 1960 at Roosevelt Park. Grew up in Forestdale surrounded by immigrant families from Nova Scotia, Italy, and Ireland, interspersed with many Jewish families from all over the world. One of which took the time to teach me some Yiddish while I was learning German at MHS. The ‘Poor Farm’ (McFadden Manor) was still in operation, with cows and a bull, a two-story barn, a silo, and hundreds of chickens in a long, two-story coop. The farm had horses, and there was an underground stable in the rear of the extensive living quarters. Mr. McGuire was in charge and every spring he tilled the fields and planted vegetables. One of their fenced-in fields had several huge chestnut trees, now rarely found in the USA. Forestdale Park was originally located on Sylvan Street at the bottom of Kimball Street (replacing ‘WW-2 Victory Garden’ plots planted by Forestdale neighbors). Next to it the city grew trees for replanting around the city. The Poor Farm and the Forestdale Park property acreage was incrementally developed into elderly housing, the current Forestdale Park, and a new school. The Forestdale Cemetery still had lots of open space at the Forest St/Sylvan Street end, where us kids would roam. It’s now filled up with gravesites. Pine Banks Park had a large dump next to it, largely hidden in the woods, and when they closed it for good, they bulldozed it flat and trucked excess dump material as fill to make the current ballfields. For years afterwards lots of glass shards would work their way to the grassy surface. Maplewood, Linden, and Forestdale comprised our stomping grounds. Our schools were very old, Ayers, Maplewood, and Browne, all replaced over the years. Malden had 5 movie theaters in ‘The Square’ and candlepin bowling alleys. Automated pin setting machines existed but some alleys still used boys to reset the pins! Many of our streets were still paved with cobblestones and roads were still unpaved dirt. They city started to dig up many cobblestones and stored piles of them at the old City Yards near the Pearl St Stadium, but that was too man-intensive, so they just paved over many streets, leaving the cobblestones as a base. Malden’s main streets were crisscrossed with trolley wires about 15-20 feet high. The trackless trolley buses had two poles attached to the rear of the buses which connected to the overhead electrical wires. One pole would often detach from the wires when the bus made a tight turn around a corner. The bus would immediately stop, and the driver had to go out and swing the pole back into position. The Service Bus Line with blue buses replaced the red buses of the Warwick Line in the mid-1950’s. Ten cents a ride! I left Malden in 1961 for four years in the Air Force, returned for a year, working for Household Finance on Pleasant Street, and then off to a 40+ year career as a civilian in the Department of Defense at NSA and the Pentagon. Lived in England, Italy, Texas, Florida, Maryland, Hawaii and now Oregon but always remembered how places like the Salemwood Grille, Jessel’s, and others were not just bars, they were neighborhood gathering places, where ‘they knew your name, what you drank and what your parents drank.’ It took us YEARS to find the same feeling of ‘belonging.’ Still have family in Malden. My father and brothers worked for the city as the Inspectors of Wiring and Code Enforcement, and my nephew is a current police officer. We still return for visits and noticed that ‘The Square’ is looking much better each year. All the best in the future.”
Bobby “Jonesy” Jones: “Peter very good commentary of life growing up in Malden.
“It was a great time to be young. As for me on a personal note, I was lucky to experience a lot of these different areas of our city. Growing up just east of Malden Sq. on Almont St. off Eastern Ave in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. But going to Beebe in my Jr. High yrs. Getting to meet guys like you in the Edgeworth area and down at Devir Park for Beebe football practices in ’71 and ’72. Eventually practicing at Amerige Park ’73. It was a culmination of knowing people from different ethnic groups from where I lived. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Living here in the South now, I am living with a mixture of people from all over the country and the world. Which has opened my eyes to many more experiences that keep coming every day.”
Arthur Fullman: “Great writing, Peter. I grew up in Judson Square and then the West End. Worked for a time at Judson Square Pharmacy. Had high school friends from all over the city. Many great memories of school and life in Malden. Practiced law in Malden for 40 years, then 10 more in Lynnfield. Interesting to watch the city in transition. Often used Malden as an example in the course I taught for 15 years at Suffolk University Law School on Municipal Law and Public Policy. Thanks for the memories. MHS Class of 1960.”
As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character “Columbo” would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – the Blue Star Bar bumper sticker on the back of my Versa has elicited many thumbs up, many smiles and numerous waves since I added it a few years back. But the encounter I had in the recent past with a woman in her early to mid-70s was the most memorable. I only mention this because many of us in Malden hold memories of the Blue Star near and dear to our collective hearts. It was a “rite of passage” back in the day to journey to Route 1, stop at the Blue Star and have lifelong remembrances full of fun memories – a time to forget about everyday life for a moment or two – fun that you could not get in Malden. So, I am on Lowell Street in Peabody when a woman in the car behind me starts frantically waving her arms for me to pull over. I don’t recognize her so I figure she must have me mistaken me for somebody else. After a half mile of hi-beams flashing, more hand waves and manic honking, I pull into the parking lot of Saint Adelaide’s Church. I am not struck by lightning nor does a tree fall on my vehicle as I pull in the church lot. So that is a good thing – insert smiley face emoji. I roll the window down. So does she. At that point this total stranger goes into the most heartfelt exchange I have had with any person in many years. She became emotional as she told me that my bumper sticker brought back a boatload of unforgettable memories. She thanked me for pulling over and for giving her the opportunity to tell me how “delightful” it was for her to see that memory alive once again. She went on to tell me how she and her friends (100 strong!) would take over the bar on the weekends. How they would dance and laugh all night. How much fun they had listening to the bands. Hanging with the eclectic clientele the BS attracted. How many of those friends are no longer alive. Like many of us she wished she could spend “one more of those nights dancing carefree” – “laughing until it hurt” – to go back when “life was simpler.” I agreed. Total strangers when we met, hugging on departure as if we knew each other forever.
Postscript: Congratulations to Maura “Friend of Malden” Healey! Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Not only because she’s wicked smaht, remarkably successful and extremely affable but also because she was a professional basketball player! Yes, before she was a law clerk, before she was a junior partner at a prestigious law firm, before she was a special assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, she spent some time as the starting point guard for a pro hoop team in Austria: UBBC Wustenrot Salzburg. That is cool. All kidding aside, her hoop cred is impressive, of course, but we are truly fortunate to have an immense talent like Ms. Healey guiding us into the 21st century. Let us count our blessings for her voice of reason – and sanity. Governor Healey’s voice as well as Eddie (Edgeworth’s very own) Markey, Jason Lewis, Steve (Edgeworth’s very own) Ultrino, Kate Lipper-Garabedian and Katherine Clark representing us with honor and dignity. Honor and dignity not to be taken for granted these days. Malden has your back, Governor Healey. All the best from the birthplace of Norman “Spirit in the Sky” Greenbaum.
—Peter is a longtime Malden resident and a regular contributor to the Malden Advocate. He can be reached at PeteL39@aol.com for comments, compliments or criticisms.