Letters to ...

Readers respond to April Melrose Mirror

Polymnia and High School Chorus; health care issues; Boston Globe; Lennie's-on-the-Turnpike

from our readers

Here is a newsy letter about the April 2010 issue, from "retired" SilverStringer Irving Smolens to John Averell

Hi John,

I thoroughly enjoyed Jackie Wattenberg's review of the Polymnia and High School Chorus Concert featuring Mark Cross's musical version of "The Ethics of The Fathers." There is much to ponder in the sayings of the sages. One of those sayings is a question, "If I am only for myself what am I?" "If I am only for myself who will be for me?"

Keeping that in mind caused me to be an active supporter of the newly passed Health Care Bill. My wife and I are seniors and our health care is provided my Medicare. We also have the best supplemental health care program because as a retired Melrose school teacher she was a member of the Melrose Teachers Union that provided that coverage at a nominal fee as part of their union contract. We know how fortunate we are and we both wonder why the wealthiest nation in the history of the world could not find the means to provide health care for thirty-nine million Americans without affordable health care. So for that reason we are not for ourselves alone.

We are all aware of the recent coal mine disaster in West Virginia. The owner of that mine has been cited for hundreds of safety violations. The workers in that mine have continually been intimidated by the mine owner to prevent them from forming a union. The president of the United Mine Workers Union has appeared on television saying that if the workers had been unionized they could have refused to enter that mine and averted the disaster without fear of losing their jobs.

Of course, many employers are sympathetic to the well being of their workers but there are employers who are not. Their workers should not be deterred from joining a union because doing so will mean better health security and safety for themselves and their families.

Irving Smolens

Frequent contributor from Pennsylvania, Eleanor Jenkins, keeps in touch
I got my email off, by the way, on Friday to all of my friends and relatives who are regular readers of the Melrose Mirror. Liked the story about the pictures and I see that the Boston Globe chose that story to publish in the Boston Globe this past week.  

One of my cousins’ wives has begun writing at the community she is living in near Allentown, PA, their “magazine” like ours is titled Crest Chronicle and comes out once a month also. I haven’t found it yet, but when I do will let you know.

My cousins have been regular readers of the Melrose Mirror ever since I sent them the site several years ago. Now she has been influenced to start to write for this new one and I am sure she will have many interesting stories to write about. Thanks again for your monthly reminder.

Eleanor Jenkins

Stringer Steve Johnson, now residing in Arizona, received this letter about his story, "Lennie's-on-the-Turnpike" published in October, 2003.

Sent: Thursday, April 08, 2010 7:33 PM
Subject: Lennie's-On-The-Turnpike

Dear Mr. Johnson,

My name is Greg Payne. I'm a sophomore at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. I'm writing a feature article for a class about Chianti restaurant in Beverly, which recently opened a jazz lounge. Many of the musicians I spoke with there kept mentioning Lennie's-On-The-Turnpike whenever I asked them about the history of jazz on the North Shore. I did some research and came upon your excerpt on Lennie's for the Melrose Mirror.

I really enjoyed reading your piece about Lennie's, and I was wondering if you wouldn't mind providing an original quote about Lennie's for the history portion of my article. I really want to do justice to what made Lennie's (along with Sandy's Jazz Revival) such a great place. If you wouldn't mind taking the time, could you just describe the atmosphere in Lennie's and talk about what it was about Lennie's that made you want to go back there night after night? Also, could you just describe Mr. Sogoloff as a person and how he managed to bring in so many famous musicians while connecting with so many people?

Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Johnson. I really do
appreciate it.

Greg Payne
Hi Greg

It is amazing and very gratifying to me that my "Lennie's-On-The-Turnpike" article has endured all these years. I wrote it in the summer of 2003 and it was published in the October 2003 issue of the Melrose Mirror. I knew that Lennie's was a popular place but I never realized it lives on in the memories of so many people. It truly was a special place!

I think of Lennie's as a "jazz room", not as club or a lounge. You would walk up the steps onto the front porch and open the door. The bar was to the left and the "room" to the right. If Joe Bucci was playing that night, he was right there by the door with his Hammond B3. The original room had a low ceiling, a wood floor and was set up with tables for four facing the front. It held probably 30 to 40 people. What brought me back there over and over again was the intimacy of the room and the great talent that always performed there. Can you visualize a 16 piece band in your living room? That was Lennie's! Mister Sogoloff knew how to do it right!

I was not a close personal friend of Lennie. He knew me because I was a "regular" in there, mostly later in the evening when I would come in after work. He and his bartender, Joe Baptista, always had a friendly greeting for anyone coming through the front door. If you "Google" "Lennie Sogoloff", you will get hundreds of returns that testify to Lennie's popularity, fame and successful career. As far as I know, he is still with us, is in his mid-eighties and lives on the North Shore, not too far from you.

You have my permission to quote from this e-mail and/or my original "Lennie's" article from the Melrose Mirror for the feature you are working on. Just give the "Mirror" a credit or two if you do.

Thanks for writing and good luck on your article. And thanks for helping to keep the memory of Lennie's-On-The-Turnpike alive!


Steve Johnson
Peoria, Arizona

Here is a letter from reader Marilyn of Arizona, after reading the article "The lowdown on higher ups" by Russ Priestley.

Hello there, from Tucson, Arizona!

I'm wondering if you are the father of Jim and Steve and Joe and Will Priestley, all of whom I knew in the late 70's. I met you and their late mother back then, and sat at your Melrose, MA, kitchen table, and you gave me marvelous writing paper with a water mark of a Canada goose (Winged Flight) which I made a book out of, called Winged Flight and the Apple, a little chapbook of poems I wrote whilst on vacation in NYC in the summer of '78.

At any rate, I enjoyed your April 2, 2010 piece on Australia and the marsupials, etc. I used the word gobsmacked m'self the other day, whilst meeting a guy for the first time after seeing him on an
Internet dating site. I found him so much more attractive than his
profile photo, I told him I was gobsmacked by it.

So, I am still in Tucson, and still
Do say hi to "all those Priestleys" for me, if indeed you are Russ Priestley whom I met so many years ago. And thanks, again, for that marvelous writing paper.

May 7, 2010

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