Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gone, All Gone

If you’re my age – that is, old enough to remember getting up to change the channel – you’ll probably understand.

The Oriental Theater in Mattapan was an old-time movie palace, spacious and elegant. It was flea-bitten by the time I started frequenting it, but I was so young it never struck me as anything other than beautiful. There were gigantic statues of Buddha high up on each side wall with electrically-glowing red and green eyes (one statue had the red eyes and the other the green.) If you got tired of the film, you leaned back and looked at the ceiling. There you found a rolling projection of an outdoor starlit night. I would give ten years to be able to spend one more afternoon in that place – at least, if I knew I was destined to live to 120 and I wasn’t 110. It is now an electrical supply store.

The Baker's Chocolate factory was headquartered a couple of blocks from my childhood home in Dorchester. When I was a kid, the entire neighborhood smelled of chocolate. Baker’s moved and much of the factory was converted into condominiums. Other sections were razed to make a parking lot.
The Gilbert Stuart was my grade school, a three-story brick building on Richmond Street in Lower Mills. The public library was just up the street. It was also a lovely old brick building, with many odd nooks and crannies that endeared it to kids like me. I spent hours of immense pleasure there, exploring the myriad worlds opened to me once the school taught me to read.
The library building was sold and turned into offices. They then tore down my school to build a new library. Two memories killed for the price of one.

The Elevated – then part of the Orange Line - was considered an eyesore by many. But it was what I rode to my grandparent’s home for many Easters, Christmases and other special occasions, so I loved it. There was opposition to its removal from people in the neighborhoods it served, but the MBTA promised alternate means of transportation. Some of those people are still waiting for that alternate transportation, but the el is no more.

So many places gone and a piece of my heart with them. Most of the candlepin bowling alleys where I played that uniquely New England sport with friends; The Rat, Kenmore Square’s answer to CBGB's and the most famous venue I played as a bum musician; My neighborhood store, where Charlie Capabianco let us kids go behind the counter to pick out penny candy, trusting us to be honest - which we were 19 times out of 20; Grant's, Woolworth's, Kresge's, Lechmere's, Gilchrist's, Zayre's, Raymond's, Kennedy's, Mickey Finn's, Filene’s and the granddaddy of them all that nobody from my age group could even imagine not existing in downtown Boston, Jordan Marsh; all gone.

Among other things, I lost a chocolate-scented neighborhood, floating Buddhas, an indoor starlit sky and a railway that traveled through the air. I lost magic.

You may not realize it yet, if you’re younger, but they’re going to take away your magic, too. You probably won’t be able to stop them any more than I did. About the best you can hope for is a nice editor who will occasionally let you be an old grump and write a column about it.

(And, since my editor at The Boston Herald doesn't seem to have been overwhelmed by this, it's nice to have another outlet and I thank you for listening.)

Soon, with more better stuff.



Juli said...

I can't believe "the basement" is gone...

A few years back they demo-ed the old "north" high school to make way for a beautiful new one and I didn't get it.

And while my boys will have the advantage of the new "south" high school currently being built, the one that Oldest currently attends while awaiting it's finish, is the same one I used to pick his father up from when we'd skip school. It's the same halls he walked, the same plumbing classrooms he spent so many hours in.

But of course, he doesn't get that....not unlike how I didn't.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

They closed the Foster's Freeze, in the town where I grew up, the other day.
Rezoned the property for multiple use, they said.
Rezoned for a bigger tax bite is my response.

Merisi in Vienna said...

Blimey, these are too many good things gone!

I never realized Baker's chocolate was manufactured in Boston. Can it still taste as good now that it is made elsewhere? Can you send me a sample square, please?

Filene's Basement in DC was a favorite of mine (right at the border to Maryland), long gone, too.

Even here in Vienna, where one could easily get the impression that nothing ever changes, timeworn stores and cafes close doors. It's a shame.

messymimi said...

You have my sympathy. We lost a lot of those places we loved, and then Hurricane Katrina came in, and we now have a song called "Ain't Dere No More." The number of places that song mentions is staggering.

Marja said...

lol i don't call it a grump just some youth sentiments. These places and building are attached to feelings and memories. But the good thing is they can take the building away but not your memories....I hope

joeh said...

I realized I was old when my kid told me "Dad, you're always pointing to places and telling us what they used to be!"

joeh said...

Excellent post, I'm surprised they did not use it.

Craig said...

Wonderful stuff, Sully. Your BH editor is a moron (but you don't have to tell him I said so. . .)

High on the list of such places for me is Tiger Stadium, of course. Just a big ol' vacant lot there now (but the old center field flagpole is still there. . .) Last time I was in my hometown, Up North, I drove past my old junior high school (which was the building in which my mom went to high school), only, it was just a block of grassy park; not even any trees. . . And heck, a few weeks ago, I was in the area, so I decided to drive past the building where I worked for nine years (which began its existence as a B-24 plant during WWII), and it is just a mile-long demolition site.

You're right - if you live long enough, stuff just. . . disappears. . .

Suldog said...

Juli - Yes, I miss Filene's Basement, too. I have great memories of some shopping trips there accompanying My Mom during my very early years.

(Not my Uncle) Skip - Yeah, I have to think your final line is probably the truth. And more's the pity.

Merisi - I guess even bastions of history see things disappear. Of course, some places in Europe (and elsewhere - see Mimi's comment) are hit with things other than greed, and my losses at least did not result in losses of life (so far as I know) so they are small losses in comparison to some.

Mimi - See above, my reply to Merisi. Your losses make mine pale.

Marja - Yes, our memories are usually secure, especially when we can put them into writing :-)

Joe - I once played in a softball tournament near my childhood neighborhood. We had a long break between games and I took one of my teammates to breakfast and then on a short tour of what I thought would be my old stomping grounds. Most of it was me pointing to some gas station or convenience store and saying, "There used to be such-and-such there..." It must have been hideously boring to him, but he was polite enough not to laugh in my face.

Craig - Had Fenway Park suffered the same fate as your Tiger Stadium, I might have shed actual tears while writing my piece. I'll never understand the desire to destroy the repositories of memory and history. Well, yeah, I understand that it's usually for the almighty dollar, but I've never understood that desire. I mean, I'm a gambler, so I understand wanting more than you have, but how much more does anyone need?

Mich said...

The ones that kill me are the farms. There used to be over 20 farms within a stone's throw of my house. Now?


Tabor said...

I guess I am much more of a pragmatist knowing my history with buildings is not that important in the grand scheme of things. I worry so much more about the grand heritage sites that are in the middle of wars.

mike140 said...

Don't forget Clover Drug, Hendries, The Deli, Spuckies, The Maryknoll Shop, Tony the Barber, McDonough's, Tessler's, Orlando's. The First National.................
Good memories!!!

Suldog said...

Mich - Each person has their own puzzling losses. Being mostly a city boy, farms were never a priority among my treasured places. Still, it's sad, right?

Tabor - Yeah, as I said above a couple of times, some losses are more tragic than mine.

Mike - Wow! Those were all local places in our neighborhood. If I mentioned every store that disappeared there, we could be here all day! I thought Clover Drug wa still there. I guess it's been a while since I looked for it.

Hilary said...

I know the feeling well. I belong to a Facebook group called Montreal Memories where someone will often post remember when we used to..." or something along those lines. Much is no more.

You always have a knack of making me feel as if I'm a part of your nostalgic memories.

Joanna Jenkins said...

A neighborhood that smelled of chocolate-- You lived in paradise!

So sad that much of it is gone-- same thing's happening here in LA-- all the time.


Daryl said...

same thing here ... i was just reminiscing about the good old days when the Matzoh Brothers (two really degenerate looking guys) owned and operated a small neighborhood store open 24/7 you didnt buy food there, nothing was fresh but you could get a bag of Chips Ahoy and/or a pack of Marlboros at 3 in the morning ... and now the spot where their store was is now shop that sells pet clothes and treats and other insane accessories for dogs .....

connie said...

My grandmother's house, where I spent so many happy hours, has been replaced by a several-stories-high senior housing building.

Dwyer's dairy farm is now a strip mall.

Mary D's bakery is a convenience store and the store that was beside it, Bloom's meat market, is now a parking lot.

The fire station is closed and deserted,

The beautiful old library was torn down and replaced by a small park and the new "modern" library building is just "adequate".

My high school burned down and was rebuilt as a middle school.

Washington Square where my "five and ten" and theater were located is now mostly deserted storefronts waiting to be torn down and replace by condos over retail spaces.

But, at least for now, the Cameo Theater in South Weymouth is still there and shows the latest movies at reasonable prices.

Suldog said...

Well, I assumed this sort of thing would strike a chord and that's why I submitted it to my editor. Turns out I was right. Their loss, I guess (although I can always use the payment, so I suppose we both lost out.)

silly rabbit said...

I'm missing magic from my neighborhood too. Sucks.

It' said...

I moved from my "hometown" 20 years ago....I don't have to feel nostalgic about a place that was torn down, because when I go (once a year), I'm so overwhelmed at how much the area I grew up in has changed, I'm just thankful my Mom's quaint little house is still there. But, I understand what you mean ~ everytime I visit Santa Fe, the favorite little restaurant or shop that was there 2 months ago is either gone & replaced with something else, or sadly empty with a "For Lease" sign that looks rather dusty.

Maggie May said...

I find it quite sad to be going back to places that don't even exist anymore except in your memory.
It happens all the time and the older you get...... the more changes take place.
it's all so clear in my memory and I can go there whenever I want!
Maggie x

Shammickite said...

Your editor has no class whatsoever.
He (or she?) should have printed this. It's obviously something that people care about. Remembering. And missing what used to be.