... of electric streets, the smithy and outstanding teachers 75 years ago
(The third of three installments, looking back at Melrose)
When the good old electric street cars still ran through Melrose from Reading, Wakefield, Stoneham, etc., their home base was on Green Street, just off Main Street. After the street cars were replaced by buses, the Green Street building housed the buses. Later the Melrose Hockey Center was located there.
It cost 10 cents to ride from Melrose to Everett Station and another 10 cents for the elevated. I used to walk from Grove Street to the Malden-Melrose line at Pine Banks and take the street car to Chelsea, the cost being 5 cents. I would then walk from Chelsea to East Boston to my maternal grandmother’s house.
When my grandfather was a young man, he drove a horse car in East Boston from the car barns on Lexington Street to what became Maverick Station. He let his beard grow as winter approached to protect his face from the cold, because the driver had to stand outside of the main horse car.
Later horse cars were replaced by electric cars which he operated for 40 years for the Boston Elevated Railway without ever taking a day off or a vacation. He and my grandmother brought up 12 children. At midday he would stop his car at the end of his street, race home to grab his lunch, then race back to continue his journey. Following retirement, he died of a heart attack while riding home on a street car after shopping at the markets in Haymarket Square. He was 78.
In addition to street cars in Melrose, another throwback was the blacksmith shop on Essex Street, where I used to watch Jacko Bennett, the smithy, make shoes and also shoe horses. The smithy also used to sharpen the points on City of Melrose picks used to dig up the street before the day of the jackhammer.
Just about everything was done by hand in those days, including shoveling the streets. The snow would be shoveled into horse-drawn pungs. When full, the horses would trudge to the corner of Main and Sylvan where the snow was unloaded by hand. As kids, we used to hitch rides on the pungs — both ways.
Near the corner of Main and Grove was a barber shop that charged 25 cents, a shoe shop run by “Tony the Shoemaker” and a small garage. Just beyond was a block of stores that included a potato chip factory. We were allowed to watch as they put the chips into large cardboard boxes, then pour a large amount of salt over them and shake the box. Once in a while they might hand us kids a chip, which made us very happy!
Yes, we also went to school, and the names of many teachers still stick in my mind. At the Washington School were Miss Helen Kendrick, first grade; Mrs. Noyes, second grade; Miss Atwood, third grade (she lived in Reading); Miss Morrow, fourth grade; Miss Georgia Stone, fifth grade; Miss Dorothy Seavey, sixth grade; Miss Toma, my English teacher in seventh grade; also Miss Stanley in seventh grade; Miss Duffy, eighth grade art teacher, and Mrs. Hosmer, eighth-grade home room teacher. Miss Morrow left during the school year, but not before she taught me the difference between “Can I?” and “May I?”, a distinction I have never forgotten.
In high school I recall Mary Putnam, who got me interested in poetry; Miss Hall; Miss Byrd; Miss Agnes Ring, my shorthand and transcription teacher; Miss Amy Damon, my senior English teacher; Miss Effie Brown, my Spanish teacher; Mr. Houghton, music teacher; Mr. Harold Poole, my chemistry teacher whom we used to call Daddy Poole.
There were many others I can picture in my mind, but I can’t recall their names. After all, it has been 67 years since I graduated from Melrose High.
End of three-part series.
(Paul Hupper, born at Melrose Hospital on September 4, 1919, now lives with his wife Sarah Jeanne in Winter Park, Florida)