It all began in 1949 when our family relocated from Somerville, Massachusetts to this small sea coastal town. There were five of us – Chester, my dad, Marietta, my Mom, two daughters; Helen aged 12, 6 year old Mary and our newborn brother, Phillip. Whether fate or destiny, The Baldwin’s, along with a few worldly possessions, took up residence in Bass Point. Our new address – 14 Colby Way.
Our families, as well as generations before us, were city dwellers. The butcher, grocer, cobbler, and movie theater were all within walking distance. My friends and I attended the Saturday matinees – Audie Murphy was my hero.
The sounds of the city were constant, shrilling, whistling sounds of trains speeding along the railroad track. The double doors of the big yellow buses opening wide, passengers ascending or descending on the steep stairway.
In contrast, everything in this small peninsula was still. Where one could clearly hear the chirping of the birds perched high on the limbs of tall trees. The only other sounds were the waves splashing against the craggy rocks.
We had only been in town less than a year when Leo LeBlanc approached my Dad and asked if our family would be interested in purchasing his grocery store. Zelda, his wife, ran the business. They arrived from Canada many years ago, and raised their family in the apartment located above the store if my memory serves one daughter, and me – four or five boys. Both Leo and Zelda both spoke with a French accent; it was charming to hear them speak.
The basement was converted into space utilized as a grocery store. The location was at 271 Castle Road, Bass Point. From 1959 to 1964, my Dad, Chester Baldwin, was proprietor of this small emporium. We had a refrigerated deli case with varied assortment of cold cuts and cheeses. Dad served breakfast and lunch. Most of the customers were town workers – by definition “The Townies”.
Comments from the guys were “Chet we don’t come here to see you, we just come for your famous coffee”. I can still picture my dad leaning on the faded yellow Formica counter conversing and laughing with his faithful customers.
Dad would heap the bacon on the grill, and turn the eggs cooking them to perfection. At least the customers thought they were good. Smoke clouds would fill the store; different cooking smells would permeate the air.
A place that exists in memory and legend, for me that place is Nahant.