... scenes from opening night in the city's main business center
We were a little early for Santa's arrival that evening -- it was the opening of the Chamber of Commerce yearly program called "Home for the Holidays". So we spent that good time wandering along Main Street, enjoying the christmasy window dressings, and the smiles of other earlybirds.
Melrose is unique in that, in it's five-square-miles, there is no major commercial shopping center, not a single highway running through our town, and yet we are twenty minutes from downtown Boston. A hundred years ago we were named "the bedroom of Boston", and that is essentially the way it is today. We do have our own business section -- basically two long blocks of Main Street that caters to some sixty store-fronts. And of course, there are other smaller groups of stores in town -- in the Highlands, Franklin Square, at Wyoming crossing, Cedar Park, and now a new commercial entity and condominiums on lower Main Street, just short of the city line -- right opposite the newly re-built Pine Banks Park.
Melrose has always been a "dry town", ever since it's inception in the 1600's. About a dozen years ago, things changed and the city fathers saw fit to allow the consumption of liquor at restaurants with a minimum seating capacity (100, I believe). That made way for three delightful new places downtown, Turner's (see above), Stearns and Hills (across the street), Mexico Lindo, also downtown, and lately a new restaurant, "Bob's" in the new condo complex at our southern town line. Commercially, the move was a boon for local busineses. The restaurants draw considerably.
Melrose was settled as a farming area in the early 1600s, as the population grew out of Charlestown, northward. The town broke away from Malden in 1850 to form its own government, and in 1900, it officially became a city with seven wards. The Boston and Maine Railway arrived in town in 1845, and this little town with practically no commercial income, became the bedroom of Boston.
If you want to buy a bottle of booze today, you will have to go out-of-town, to Wakefield, Malden, perhaps to Saugus or Stoneham. But there are no all-out liquor stores in our town. Wine is fine, and we have one specialty store for just that purpose. It is located directly across the street from City Hall.
During World War II, there were several hardware stores in Melrose -- one in Franklin Square, two downtown, another at the Wyoming Crossing, and a little later, one in the Highlands. All have come and gone, mostly victims of department stores and shopping centers. Whittemore's Hardware, on Main Street downtown, still remains intact, and is a delight to shop at -- close-in, tightly packed goods, another room (three in all) for heavy machinery such as lawnmowers and snowblowers. It's a fun place, a practical place where a homeowner can bring his problems -- and get some free advice.
There is an excellent running store in town, operated by real competitors. There are two appliance stores but not a single automobile dealership (there used to be at least half dozen). There is a big four-story YMCA right in the heart of the town, featurings a big new gym and a fine pool. There virtually NO chain-operated stores -- except for groceries; no chain fast foods shops, but we do have three donut shops in the community.
And finally, least we look unkempt, we have a good-looking barber shop as well as several beauty salons.
Now that's practically everything one would need in a hometown.
December 7, 2012