November 16, 2018 7:26 AM
Welcome To Our Memories Project
The Roland Family
Fifty years have flown by, and I have returned to my watery roots with memories of a very special childhood. Those memories are about the rocks, the water, and walking..and walking.
|Prior to WWII, our little family lived on Summer Street, across from Summer Street Court.
This was property owned by my grandfather, Thomas Roland, who resided two doors up the street and included several acres of greenhouses for his florist business.
I remember following Johnny Johnson, who lived across the street, to the Valley Road School to Kindergarten when I was four.
The teacher discovered me on the slide, asked me who I was, and that was the end of that adventure.
When I did get old enough for school, Billy Brown was a favorite classmate, the only black kid in town. He was impressive because he could run faster than any of the other kids. The racecourse circled the school building.
In the eye of the ’38 hurricane, my father and I took a ride in our beach wagon (with real wood!) with Ollies from the greenhouses driving. We drove along Willow Road, and near the foot of Winter Street, we were stopped by a huge downed tree. The wind also picked up and forced the front wheels to the right. It then seemed unsafe to do anything else but turn around and go for shelter. It wasn’t especially scary.
My mother died suddenly in 1939. My father remarried and we became a family of six children. A larger home was needed, and we moved to the ‘Red Mill’ as it was called then, on the corner of Winter Street and Nahant Road. Once my father installed a heating system and shingled the exterior, it was no longer red and the name was dropped.
WWII loomed large in our childhood. I remember the trucks carrying soldiers into town, losing East Point, the black outs, the guns, especially the 5 o’clock gun which was the signal for us to be home for supper; playing war, drawing war games. My father was an Air Raid Warden. We had a Victory Garden and chickens in the barn. The barn stood where Dick & Elsie Davis’s house is now on Winter Street, but it now across the street – rehabbed as a house.
We played many games: Kick the Can, Ghost in the Garden, etc. with the neighborhood kids. They were Dickie White, his brother, his sister Jean, and the Devereaux’s on the other side. The Whites had a huge Great Dane named Tina. I remember the gas street lamps being lit individually every night.
My sister, Marty, and I along with Cookie Gosselin and Mary Johnson (and probably other), used to play ‘dress up clothes’ in our cousin’s, Judy and Jill Roland, backyard – called ‘Gypsyland’ - on Willow Road. We acquired the clothes from Blanch Bushnell’s trash can on Summer Street Court. She was small and had really cute stuff. We also played ‘Soda Fountain’ using rationed soapsuds. In the summer, we played on Tudor Beach and swam off of our favorite rock. The Rolands consisted of five families, all living in Nahant, so some of our best friends were also relatives.
With three brothers, I became interested in sports, and we used the Nahant Club property for most of it. We could play touch football (girls and boys), softball, tennis, and hockey when the courts froze over. When not involved with those activities, we walked all over. We walked the back roads, Forty Steps, to Ryan’s (now Richland) for comics, candy bars, or a soda at the fountain. We walked the rocks, the roads, sidewalks, empty lots, and explored empty houses… there were so many summer residents then. Especially intriguing was the ‘Edgehill Inn’. It was so easy to get up the fire escapes and run around the roofs, checking windows to see if we could get in. Little did I know that I would have a key and pay for an apartment there when I returned! I certainly felt strange. We even walked the icebergs trying to make it from Tudor Beach to the Wharf. No luck. We were challenged by climbing out to Castle Rock and jumping off in to the frigid water below. We explored Swallow’s Cave when the tide was right. We made a campfire on the rocks by the Cary Street place and cooked hot dogs every April 19th and called it ‘fry day’.
After WWII, there were so many kids for us to play with, and the Wharf became the playground. We prided ourselves on being ‘Wharf Rate’ and looked up to the older guys like Jimmy Brown (Brownie), Paul Devereaux, Frank Roland, Bob Lewis and others. Some of the kids my age were: Laurie and Richie Golden, Donnie Hodges, Bill Zimmerman, Paul English, Sally Moulton, Nancy Wilson, Almena Rynders, Mary Johnson, Mary Ann Butler…can’t remember them all! One hot summer day, we decided to swim from Forty Steps to Egg Rock. We had enough boats among us for safety so we did it. Not to brag, but the three of us who made it all the way were my cousin, Sid Roland, my cousin Gretchen Sterenberg, and me. We were around 12 or 13 years of age. We were thrilled to finally explore Egg Rock. However, one of us (who shall remain nameless) took an oar and smashed as many gull eggs as he could. We were horrified and reported it to the older guys at the Wharf when we got back. They threw the kid off the Wharf, of course (the ultimate punishment!), but we didn’t know he couldn’t swim. Fortunately, Brownie jumped in after him when he went down for the third time! When we mentioned our swim to our parents, they didn’t believe us!
The Dory Club was a good hangout, and we had many dances/parties there, as well as at the Hodges and the Golden’s on High Street. They were summer residents. Some of us had Town Class sailboats and we sailed a lot as well as raced three times a week. My family had two sailboats… Pink Lady (Painted Pink) and Stinger. My cousin Phil’s boat was Hot Rum, painted red, and my cousin Frank’s boat was High Ball. I have wonderful memories of sailing out to Graves Light, beaching the boat and being guided around the lighthouse by the keeper… and signing the guestbook. Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton (big movie start back then) had also signed. We also sailed to some of the other islands and to Revere Beach. After each sail, I would pack the jib and mainsail in the sail bag, throw it over my shoulder and walk home, to dry the sails out on the grass. What a life!
A word about our house…At Town Meeting one year, someone petitioned for a liquor license. A man stood up in the middle of the discussion and asked why we needed another liquor license in town when we had Did Roland’s place up the street. Needless to say, it was a popular place, especially if you drank gin. It was free and unlimited. Many stories there! We had one of the first TVs in town, and we used to watch the test pattern all the time. One night, there was a big boxing fight on.. I think it might have been Joe Lewis and Billy Conn. There were a lot of people at the house to see it, when we were called from Town Hall that my father had won the raffle that night. The prize was a television set!!
One of my childhood heroes was Tom Curtin, Superintendent of Schools. Sally Moulton and I decided to wear jeans one day to school, in Miss Grover’s 9th grade … tired of the dress code. We were sent to the principal’s office and Mr. Curtin made very little of what we did and let us play it out until we were tired of being different. A wise man.
It’s possible that everyone’s childhood is special to them, but growing up in Nahant, (I think) makes mine unique. I still haven’t gotten over it.
The Summer of 1950!
By Angela Becker
Oh! The memories for a fourteen year-old girl from England! It was a different way of life, and I have never forgotten any of it.
We stayed with my mother’s cousin, Dick and Barbara Roland, and their six kids on Nahant Road. I wore dresses and MaryJanes in those days, and Edi decided it was time for more civilized clothes, e.g. dungarees, check shirt, bobby socks and sneakers, and my hair was cut into bangs at T.W. Rogers.
I saw TV for the first time, and the program was ‘Howdy Doody’, followed by ‘The Hands of Destiny’.
We spent a lot of time at the wharf, joining a lot of other kids, I remember Fred, the Wharfinger, and his pet monkey, who loved scratching himself and eating apples. The Dory club had table tennis, movies, and dances, and everyone loved sailing. I remember boats names ‘Jigger’ and ‘Highball’, and the yacht races from Marblehead to Nahant. What a gorgeous sight that was!
I admired Frank Roland so much for all he was able to do, in spite of having Polio, and always being cheerful.
We all used to pile into the Beach Wagon, sometimes 10 to 12 of us, and go to the fairground in Revere Beach. Mary Johnson, Sally Moulton, Paul English, Bobby Devereau, Betty Ann Werner ‘Snooks’, and Marie Murphy to name a few. Such nice people and so much fun!
There was a party at the Golden’s house one night, and I fell in love for the first time, but he never knew! It was a different time! I still have those ‘78s’ records of the hit songs that summer; ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘Sam’s Song’ and ‘Music, music, music’ and ‘I Can Dream, Can’t I?’
I remember Ryan’s Store on Nahant Road, and the delicious ice cream sodas and frappes.
I remember Barbara and Dick’s wedding anniversary, and Lou Marino’s band from the Thompson Club. And I shall never forget the beautiful voice of Anne English singing ‘Summertime’.
I have returned to Nahant many times and, whenever I do, all those memories come flooding back, especially at the wharf. I almost expect to see Don Hodges, Mary Ann Butler, Jill and Judy Roland and so many others, but they are in my mind and heart forever.
Whenever I feel sad, I always say, ‘It’s time for a little Nahant!’ Nahant is good for the soul!
Growing Up In Nahant…
By Anne Deluca Cote
In the early 1900s, my grandparents came to Nahant with their children, parents, and brother and sisters. They all lived in ‘Irish Town’ and worked in the shoe factories in Lynn.
In 1921, my grandparents bought the Nahant Grocery Store and Seaside Restaurant, and they lived above these businesses until their deaths.
My mother and her sister (until her death during the flu epidemic) and her brother went through the Nahant schools and then Lynn Classical high school.
Growing up in the small business section of town, I knew all the people who owned these small stores at a very young age. I also helped out at and worked in these establishments.
One the most memorable events, which took place yearly until my high school years, took place at Short Beach. Living across from Short Beach, everyone knew all the fishermen who lived in the neighborhood. Each evening, when there would be a school of mackerel running, all the fishermen would don their boots and gear, gather large nets and get into row boats. Other, knee deep in water, would chase the fish and catch hundreds of mackerel, perch and other fish into these very large and long nets, traveling at a quick pace! By the end of the catch, it would be pitch black out, and all the spectators would return home and wait for the next evening, when they would see another school of fish circling the shore of Short Beach, and the excitement would begin again.
The winters were extremely cold as a child. We, who lived by Short Beach, would wait for our friends to walk over from Little Nahant. My two good friends, Gail Comfort and Annalyce Cowan, would sometimes hop along the ‘icebergs’ that covered the entire shore line to meet up with us so we could walk to the Valley Road School. On the way home in the afternoon, we would walk back along the ‘icebergs’ to Little Nahant, dodging the water. It was truly fun, but very cold. Cars and buses were a rarity in those days.
When I was very young, 7 or 8 years-old, my mother would get a pass to go to the army movie house (where the Little League ball field is today). We would watch all the new movies that came out at Fort Ruckman. I also remember the mock raids that took place on Nahant Road, which were conducted by the American Red Cross and the army soldiers. It was very scary and emotional to me. The people pretending to be injured would have ketchup all other body, and the aides would be bandaging the ‘wounds’. When I was in second grade, we would have air raid drills at the JT Wilson School. We would all run in single file to the cellar or lunchroom and get down under the tables and wait for the ‘all-out- signal before we could return to our classrooms.
One of the best treats we had in school was our travel club. Each year we would save 10 cents, or 25 cents as we got older, monthly in our school class fund, and then we would go on a trip twice each year. We enjoyed these trips up until ninth grade.
Sundays in the summer, tourists would come from greater Boston to spend the entire day at Short Beach. Many people would jump out of the back of a large business truck with chairs and tables. Fires were a common practice along the beach where posts and pans filled with food would be cooking. Many people joined the Nahant residents playing ball and other games along the beach.
The roller skating rink in Bass Point was a busy place, where all my friends would gather and skate. My friends managed to find ways of getting me out of my house to go skating with them on the pretense of going to the library! My uncle and friends in the neighborhood taught me how to row a boat by the age of twelve. I would do all the rowing under their guidance all the way to the springs, which was in the area of Maolis Road. There, we would bring the boat on to the rocks and fill large containers with spring water to bring back home. I did not row back!
Dinner parties at the home of Patricia Rooney on Nahant Road, and Carolann Somerby at Forty Steps, happened often. Many of my young classmates were invited for lavish dinners in the formal dining room. Their mothers were practicing on us as they were taking cooking classes. Often, we would be celebrating a birthday.
The Eastern Mass Bus strike was memorable, because we had no way to get home from school while attending Lynn English High. I remember Marvene Jacobsen, Carol Fox, Annalyce Cowan, Gail Comfort and me walking home on several occasions.
The Centennial Celebration in 1953 was an event that brought so many people to town, and the parades and floats were the best ever seen!
Running around with all our friends in the cemetery on Halloween was always a scary fun event.
Bridge card lawn parties at St. Thomas Aquinas church were held every summer. My girlfriends and I would serve dessert to all the ladies who were playing cards dressed in their finery and big flowered hats. We also had to dress in our best dresses. This was held on the church grounds, organized by Mrs. Devereaux and her committee.
Nahant was always a beautiful place in summer, winter, spring or fall, and it continues to be a picturesque little community to this day.
Memories of Going to the Bass Point Midway
As Recalled by Eleanor Gallery Finnan in 1983
*To reach the roller coaster, one had to start at the “Midway”, the short road that began at the Bass Point Firehouse.
*On our right, we found “Ma Geary’s Hot Dog Stand”.. colorful, stern and serious was she, enthroned in her domain.
*Next came “Stantons” where the clickety clack of the machinery turned out candy
“Kisses” since called “Salt Water Taffy”.
*The music of the calliope drew us on into the “Flying Horses” (Merry-go-Round) where for 5 cents you rode round and round and my big sister Mary would bravely reach out and grab for the “brass ring”.. so many lucky tried for a free tide.
*”Mikkis” Japanese Rolling Balls came next. Little wooden balls, carefully rolled about 6 feet on a table top to land on numbered slots. There, one could run up a score, and when summer had ended – tally it up, and go proudly home with a little tea set..fans.. or a little lacquer chest or whatever.
*At last, the Roller Coaster at the top of the little hill. Some called it “The Scenic Railway”.
*(I wondered who ever had the temerity to look to the right or left). It was scary to be little, and strapped in the car and ride into what seemed to be the side of a mountain… pretending to be as brave as my big sister, who screamed with delight, as we twisted and turned and looped…while I screamed in terror.
*When we and our allowances were spent, we walked home through the “Government Land”. Paths cut through shoulder high walls of Tansy, Thistle and Burdock… where now stands the Johnson School, Public Works, and Fire Station.
*Wonderful memories of then and good to know now that the town’s children are beginning to shape their lives, where we ended our little adventures in life’s little excitements.
*That’s me in the middle of the front row at my ninth grade graduation.
Earliest Memories of Nahant
Submitted by Sue Boardman Branga
One of my earliest memories was when the Summer People came to Nahant. The Brooks family always arrived with the Rev. Brooks singing out the car window. There were 3 children. Ben, Sara, and Connie. Rev. Brooks would get all of the neighborhood kids to do chores for him, like paint the house. Birthday parties would be going on all summer long.
On the Fourth of July we had small parades on Bass Point Road. Girls would dress up their doll carriages with crape paper and boys would decorate bikes with it. There were cookouts on the beach with lobsters cooked in the rocks.
We had army men living in the tower. They were all around 18 years old. They were given so much food that they would give it to 4 or 5 families. My mom would cook for them and they would do work around the house for us. We also played games with them, like hid and seek, chase, red light, etc. They would also take us in the tower and watch the radar screen, and they would tell us what each blip meant, whether it is a plane, boat, or ship.
We would go roller-skating on Saturdays at Comfort’s. We would get blisters every week from the different skates we rented. That didn’t stop us from going back. We would watch the older kids dance. We would try it, no luck!
We had dances at the gym in the Johnson School on Friday nights. We had a D.J. Ron McCarter who had contacts and would have semi-famous people come and perform for us. One was Johnny Horton (sang Sink the Bismarck). Lots of fun. Also, they had block dances at the school before the Junior High School was built. Then it went to Mitchel’s Corner. Not as nice as it is now. After the school dances ended we went to the town hall, which was run by the Y.M.C.A.
We played in the tunnels very often. It was so much fun we would get candles and old trees and make torches to go in and look around. There were older boys who would hide on the rafters and jump down and scare us (not really). We would drop candles, etc., and run out. It was just fun to see if they were around when we went it.
Junior high was the best time. We had a cooking and sewing teacher Mrs. Wilson (known as the Bomber). First year we took sewing was P.J.’s, second year was skirt and top, and third was a jumper (plaid, and it had to match perfect) or you heard her famous words “RIP IT OUT.” Cooking was the same, perfect or else.
We also had a French teacher that would forget she had a class if she left the room. We used to change seats on her when she left the room and she would think it was a different class and leave. Miss Maloney (Mousey) was her name. We did work very hard there. We had a science teach who loved to blow up things and take us to the Museum of Science in Boston (Mrs. Briggs). She was fun.
When summer came around so did the man on the bike, to sharpen all your tools and knives. You could hear the bell as he was riding up the street. I think he came about two or three times during the summer. The other companies selling products that came ot the house were Cushman Bakery with all the goodies, the milkman with the milk, eggs, bread etc., and Whites Cleaners. Just leave a note in the window and they would get your clothes and return them in a few days. I also vaguely remember the coal truck coming next door and the noise that went with it and lots of black air when they finished.
"Memories…Growing up in Nahant in the 40’s and 50’s"
By Marilyn Matthews Steele
||My impressions of Nahant at the age of six in 1942, were the distinct smell of the sea, and then the amazing blueness of the Atlantic Ocean, Lynn Harbor, Egg Rock, and the causeway to Nahant. My mother, father, brother, dog and I had arrived from Newton, Massachusetts, just west of Boston, to live in an apartment over Ryan’s store next to where the Post Office is on Nahant Road.
My impressions of Nahant at the age of six in 1942, were the distinct smell of the sea, and then the amazing blueness of the Atlantic Ocean, Lynn Harbor, Egg Rock, and the causeway to Nahant. My mother, father, brother, dog and I had arrived from Newton, Massachusetts, just west of Boston, to live in an apartment over Ryan’s store next to where the Post Office is on Nahant road. The nearby Town Hall, with its side door basement, was one of my elegant ‘pretend’ homes for me and my doll and doll carriage. How amused the workers inside the Town Hall must have been to peer out the window and see me, a friend, and our ‘babies’ as we went about our homemaking duties. Another elegant ‘pretend’ home was the Public Library, which became our ‘castle’ with its many stone stairways and balconies! No one ever told us to ‘go home’, and in that day and age, our parents
didn’t seem to worry about our wandering all over town.
||I remember running everywhere; to East Point, Forty Steps, and all around the (then public) rocky coastal path to Short Beach and beyond. Another friend and I would go down to Tudor Beach and make mud pies with the mucky sand by the rocks.
When we were a little older, my brother and I (and our dog) would go swimming at the wharf and jump off of the tall pilings at high tide (a frightening ritual for all newcomers)! The wharf has been rebuilt since then, after several storms over the years.
When school began in the fall, a group of us would walk all the way past the Village Church (which had since become a YMCA, then a home), the Country Club, the Catholic Church, and on to the J.T. Wilson School near Short Beach and across the street from the Nahant Cemetery. What I remember most about grades one through five are the ‘Travel Club’ trips to places such as the Pequot Mills in Salem, Gorton’s Fisheries in Gloucester, the Arboretum in Boston, and Pioneer Village.
Our family moved to Fox Hill Road when I was age 10 or 11, and the new route to school went down Flash Road to Spring Road and up over the hill behind Irishtown, past some chickens, and scary goats, on my way to my friend Anne’s house, and on to the J.T. Wilson School. If we were lucky, we would find discarded flowers form a waste pile in the cemetery on our way home!
Short Beach was my favorite destination in summer and winter both. The playground and swings were on one side of Nahant Road, and beautiful wild roses next to the beach on the other. In the summer we had to walk a long way out to the water to swim when the tide was low, and had no place to sit on the beach when there was a high tide. In the winter we would ice skate on the small frozen ponds in the middle of the bulrushes, which meandered down toward the Lowlands behind my house on Fox Hill Road.
Nearly every day I would walk down Fox Hill past the Coast Guard station to play with friends in Little Nahant. There used ot be a neat Boardwalk along the rocks at the edge of Short Beach, which made a nice shortcut to my friends’ homes. I remember that sea weed would collect in one corner of the beach and give off quite an aroma!
I recall earlier, playing under the old skating rink at the tip of Bass Point (where the apartments are now), while my father fished off the rocks. At age 11 through 14, I made good use of the ‘new’ skating rink, also in Bass Point (but not out on the rocks), and skating to ‘live’ organ music. Kids from all over used to come to the Nahant skating rink by bus, and sometimes by motorcycles.
During the war, when a lot of things were rationed, my friends and I would walk across Lynn Beach to a little store on Washington Street in Lynn to buy Bubble Gum. That store was the only one able to get it. The gum was pink and flat with a colorful wrapper, but I can’t remember the name. My first job at 13 was handing out towels at the bathhouse at Lynn Beach on the Little Nahant side. ‘Big doings’ for us were the movies shown at Fort Ruckman across from Fox Hill, where we could get in with a much coveted pass! We would also go to the movies in Lynn by bus on Saturdays (to the Capital Theater, the Warner Theater, or the Paramount Theater) to watch Westerns, Musicals, Cartoons, the Newsreels, and live stage shows. Around that time and through my High School years at Lynn English High School, the buses to Lynn ran every house on the hour (if I remember correctly)! As they drove the circle around Nahant, the bus drivers would sometimes go to Bass Point first, and if I missed the bus at Fox Hill, I would run down to the Coast Guard station and catch it as it came down Nahant Road from East Point. I think it took about 10 minutes to make the circuit so I really had to hurry!
Other great memories were the Village Church Musicals, (written and direct by Mrs. Annie Tibbo). She would recruit a lot of kids and townspeople to be in the shows, (which benefited the Village Church). We were taught songs and dances, and performed on the stage at the Town Hall (with opening and closing curtains, and a full orchestra) in front of a large audience. It was a very exciting time for a 13 year old! We attended the sixth grade at the Valley Road School where we were the underlings until we got to Junior High (grades 7 through 9) and became VIPs in the ninth grade. We went from a class of about 30 students in Nahant to a class of about 350 students in Lynn. We had a choice of going to Lynn English or Classical. Most of us went to Lynn English at that time, but after I graduated, most kids attended Classical.
I left the fun of growing up in Nahant to a member of a new generation, my little sister Nancy, as I prepared to move to Florida at age 21. A lobster fisherman friend of my father’s said to me at the time, “You’ll be sorry if you leave Nahant. You’ll miss it!”
And I most certainly do!! Marilyn passed away December 23, 2015 in Kentucky.
Bacon on the Grill
|"Bacon on the Grill" by Helen Baldwin Flynn
Click On The Images For A Larger View
|It all began in 1949 when our family relocated from Somerville, Mass. 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.
Growing Up At The Elms
The Elms was an Inn owned and operated by my great aunt and uncle, Mary Agnes (Linnane) and her husband Tom Scally between 1930-1955. Aunt Mary was my father’s aunt, and she and Uncle Tom brought up my father James “Buddy” Linnane, (or as he was also called “Red” Scally). Aunt Mary and my grandfather’s family came from County Clare, Ireland, and Uncle Tom and his brothers, James and Patrick, came from County Mayo. Aunt Mary and her first cousin Nan (Linnane) Scally married two of the three Scally brothers. Patrick picked a bride from the Callahan Family. I was the first grandchild of four in my family who spent a lot of time at the Elms, in addition to a number of cousins. My parents lived at 5 Summer Street Court when my sisters and I were very young. (That’s actually where I was born, making me a real “Townie”.)
“The Elms” was named after the elms that at one point formed a canopy over Nahant Road, before Dutch elm disease hit most of them. It operated during the late 30’s through the mid 50’s. As Aunt Mary was the cook, her days were pretty much spent in the “Elms” large kitchen on the ground floor. She did most of her cooking in a huge “Walker & Sons” black cast-iron stove (circa 1850) which was built into the wall and was heated by both wood and coal (no thermostat).
She also used an old Glenwood stove, which was old when it came in. The kitchen was a large square room with one wall of upper and lower cabinets and a counter, and a large working table in the center of the room. The meals were sent upstairs to the dining rooms on a dumb-waiter, which was a source of great fascination to all of us kids! As Saturday was baking day, we would set the beans to soak overnight, and my job was to pick out any that weren’t suitable for baking.
On Saturday mornings, Aunt Mary made the dough for Parker House rolls, loaves of bread, and apple and/or mince pies. She put up her own preserves that she used all winter, and she and Uncle Tom made their own ice cream in the summer. There was always a huge pot of soup simmering on the old cast iron stove any day during the winter if I happened to come in. Uncle Tom would open the grate of the old stove and pull up a chair for me to sit on to take off my boots so I could hold up my feet to get warm and dry. Then Aunt Mary would make sure that I had a bowl of hot soup. Of course, they would do the same for any friend who happened to come along with me. My friends all called them Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom too!
I remember sitting in the yard on Sunday mornings after church with either Uncle Tom or my mother and a bushel basket of peas or green beans to prep for dinner and a large pot before us. It seemed as if the alarm would always ring in on Sunday’s around noon-time or one o’clock, then the Coast Guard “duck” would come roaring up the street heading towards East Point. I don’t know if they ever had a real crisis up there, but it always sounded like it. Nahant still had the old gas-light lamps on Nahant Road in those days (through the 1940’s), and old Mr. Killilae, the lamplighter, would come down the street with his ladder over his shoulder to light all the street lamps every afternoon.
Uncle Tom was a call firefighter and when the clock on the Village Church rang in an alarm for a fire, the fire truck (coming from the back of the Town Hall) would slow down in front of the Elms just long enough for him to jump on the back of the truck. (He did this up until he was in his 70’s). He was the sextant at St. Thomas Aquinas Church for many years and he drove for Father Somers. He passed the collection basket at each Mass along with old Mr. White (Bill’s father). I was sure that St. Thomas’s Church was named for Uncle Tom because he worked and spent so much time there. My sisters (Cathy, Christine and Celia) and I spent as much time at the Elms as we did at our own home when we were growing up. I actually lived there off and on over the years while I was in high school. (I was the only kid whose day started by bringing in a basket of firewood before I went to school and laying a fire in the old stove). We celebrated most holidays and family events with an endless succession of cousins from both sides of the family. As a result, we grew up knowing all of our aunts, uncles, and cousins.
As the family stories go, in the summer of 1938, President Roosevelt’s son John married Ann Haven Clark at the Village Church on Cliff Street. A couple of secret service men stayed at the Elms. And, occasionally, Aunt Mary would buttonhole one of them at the door and tell him “… you paid for your meals, and you’ll stay and eat!” They would say “yes, ma’am” and head right back to the dining room. (I guess the president could wait!)
There were regular guests as well as seasonal ones. The regulars were Colonel and Mrs. Frank (Alice Sigourney) Converse, and their maid Mrs. Woodhouse (“Woodie”), Miss Jane Kelly (Nahant’s Remedial Reading Teacher), and Uncle Tom’s handyman Clyde Sweet generally knows as “Sweet”. There was Ms. Kitty Galligan, Mrs. Dorothy Lavender (“Lavie”), Miss Amy Heffernan, Miss Nell Murphy, two Miss Fallons (sisters), and Miss Mary Murtaugh. Kitty was a sturdy older woman with a hearty laugh. She attended many of our family gatherings. Lavie was a retired school teacher with no family. Miss Heffernan seemed tall and slim and very neat. She always wore a cameo pin at her throat, and wore a Marcelle hairdo. Miss Murphy was probably the most striking of the group. She was nearly 5ft. tall in her very high heels, and she wore a deep red wig, full taffeta skirts, a big picture hat, and always had a cigarette in a long holder. She might have stepped out of an old black and white movie!
The Edgehill Inn was directly across the street from the Elms. During the summers, you would often see Shrubie Devens coming or going to play golf, or Lucien Price, who was also known as “Uncle Dudley” for his column in the Boston Globe. He usually wore a beret, an ascot, navy blazer and light summer slacks. The beret and ascot set him apart from most of the others coming and going from the Edgehill.
Various family members, and sometimes town folk worked at the Elms, especially during the summer, Helen (Bowers) Clements and Barbara O’Brien did. If the season was busy and there was an overflow of guests, some might be sent to stay at Bea and Fred Shea’s, who lived next door to the Elms, or Irma and John Greenlaw, who lived next door to the Shea’s or sometimes down at Stacia and Tom O’Brien’s (they lived on the corner of Nahant Road and Summer Street), they would still take their meals at the Elms.
Then there was Madge O’Rourke, a neighbor who lived in the big house on the corner of Nahant Road and Winter Street. Madgie had hennaed hair and rouged ear lobes. She had an older brother, who was a Monsignor, and two sisters, Lulie and Tessie. I never laid eyes on any of them, as Madgie was the only one who ever came over. They had the only house in town whose yard was tiered, and edged with empty (cobalt blue) Milk of Magnesia bottles. It looked really pretty, until you got to thinking about who used all that Milk of Magnesia… When Madge visited, she would come through the back yards between the hedges, and if Uncle Tom saw her coming first, he would beat it as fast as he could – lest she catch him to do one job or another.
In addition to a huge garage, Uncle Tom had a cottage out back that he called “Mora Castle”, where he went out to take a nap every chance he got. He kept a hen house that was attached to the left side of “Mora Castle”. Along with chickens, Uncle Tom kept a rooster who didn’t much like folks coming into his territory. He particularly disliked my father, who got bitten about the ankles often. One year Uncle Tom raised a pig in a space at the right rear side of Mora Castle. (Obviously, this wasn’t the norm, even in those days). So every time the pig made a sound, one of us had to go out and give the pig a plate of leftovers to keep it quiet. (This happened one Easter during dinner. I was about five at the time, but Uncle Tom and I were the first to hear him. We both got up from the table at the same time to head for the kitchen for something for me to take out to give the pig). Then one morning, Uncle Tom spotted Madgie on her way in, and he scuttled right out of the kitchen – through the dining room where he passed me on my way to the kitchen. Madge bustled in the kitchen door and said “Good Morning, Mrs. Scally. It’s a lovely day. Do you know on my way over, I could have sworn I smelled a pig!” Uncle Tom had a dish towel up to his face, to cover his laugh and beat it upstairs. Rose and Jim Devereaux lived across the street on the opposite corner (from the O’Rourke’s) of Nahant Road and Winter Street. Jim would visit with my uncle and grandfather at the Elms during the weekends. Discussions took place from the issues of the day – to what a fine man Mayor James Michael Curley was, etc. And if the Devereaux family got tired of waiting for Jim to come home on a Saturday evening, one of their kids would come over to ask him for the keys to the car and to take home hot rolls and fresh baked beans. More family members and friends would pour into that kitchen on Sunday mornings after church than anyone could believe.
Friends and family always came in the side door from the yard. If the doorbell for the front door rang, I, being the youngest and most agile person in the house, would run up the stairs to answer it. However, being all of six, no one ever knew what I would say when I got there. One day when the doorbell rang and I dashed off to answer it, and there was a man and woman there to see Colonel Converse. I asked them to wait while I went to get him, and I closed the door on them while I went down the hall to get the Colonel. He asked, “Who is it Suzie? And, where did you leave them?” I told him that “I left them on the front porch” and said “I don’t know who they are, but they look like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee”. That caused the Colonel and Mrs. Converse to roar with laughter. Needless to say, the Colonel came right down to the front door to greet them and let them into the parlor. To his chagrin, he had to face Governor Paul Dever and his sister Helen, while trying to keep his face straight.
Another day when the doorbell rang, I dashed off to answer it. There was a woman there in full black riding habit, hat, boots, etc. (whom I had never seen before), and an arm full of dozens of gladiolas. She asked for Mrs. Converse. I asked her to wait, went down the hall for Mrs. Converse. She asked who it was and I said “I don’t know who she is, but I think she might be a clown, and, she has a lot of really big flowers in her arms”. When she stopped laughing, she asked the Colonel to go see who it was. That day, it was Mrs. Converse’s sister, Miss Catherine Sigourney. (My sister Cathy couldn’t manage to say Mrs. Converse, so she just called her “Congie”. Mrs Converse loved it, and she was “Congie” ever after). One night, when I was considerably older, I served the Colonel and his guest, Senator Leverett Saltonstall. The Senator came in sporting his straw hat and his bow tie. He really was a lovely man.
Often, Jimmy Marks, the Superintendent of the Lynn Schools, would call and make a reservation for lunch at the Elms – for himself and the Principals of the other Lynn Schools. (I behaved quite well at the time – considering I had no idea what their jobs were, or how they might later impact me!) Growing up downstairs at an Inn is certainly an education in itself, and worth the experience for learning about people. (Not that I knew that at the time!)
Thanks to my Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom and the Elms, my aunts, uncles, and my many cousins and friends, we all had wonderful times at the Elms! Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom closed the Inn in 1955, when her health made it too difficult for her to continue. She passed away in the spring of 1958. Uncle Tom passed away in the fall of 1962. Their passing was truly the end of an era for all of us.
By Susan (Linnane) Bonner
Memories of the 1950’s and 60’s
By Carol Ann Somerby Masters
My father came upon the stone house at 391 Nahant Road across from Forty Steps Beach to visit a client and loved the house and location. He had an opportunity to buy it, as he had always wanted to live there, so we moved from Winthrop.
I grew up in that house from the age of seven until we moved to Swampscott after Junior High Graduation in 1951. I loved the house and watched the ocean during all the storms, when the waves would splash against the rocks and pull the small rocks out to sea. The house was so large, 22 rooms. One day our precious dog, Friskie, a Border collie, disappeared. She was missing for well over a week. We finally heard her one day scratching at the door to the attic where she had accidentally been closed in. There she was! I don’t know why we never heard her barking!
My father had a New York 1950 yacht, which was 72 feet long (50 feet at the water line). He would take my brother and me out on this sailboat, and we would anchor at East Point and fish from the boat. We caught flounder and mackerel. I’ll always remember fondly my youth in Nahant.
Note: Nahant Harbor Review readers who have enjoyed the Memories Project would no doubt like to know that Carol Ann was my dearest friend for over sixty years and was one of the first to contribute her memories to the Nahant Historical Society’s Memories project in 2006. Sadly she passed away the summer of 2007. Carol Ann’s fondest request was to hold her memorial services and reception at Forty Steps Cove on a yacht below her former home. As per her wishes, these services were held on Labor Day Saturday and will be forever remembered by all who attended.
Submitted by Anne Deluca Coté
A Memory - by Patty Demit Flynn
According to Town records, my family, the John Flynn family, was one of the earliest settlers in Nahant. Records indicate that my great-grandfather came to Nahant from Ireland in 1851, and was naturalized in 1855. His house was on Little Nahant Road, in what used to be the Drooker house, right on the bend near Howe Road. He had one son and four daughters. The book “some annals of Nahant” by Fred A. Wilson, published in 1928, indicates that my great-grandfather was one of the first Catholics in town.
He and his wife raised a family which consisted of four sons and two daughters, William, Edward, Joseph, John, Virginia and Alice. My grandfather worked for the Motley family on Cary Street as a gardener and landscaper up until he passed away in 1943.
||My grandfather, Timothy Flynn lived in that house with his father and mother until 1912.
In 1912, he built 91 Fox Hill Road and moved there with his wife Celia and newly born son, my dad, John P. Flynn.
My dad, John, was the organist at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in the 1930s and 1940s where he met and married my mother, Sara B. Cole, who had moved here from Somerville in 1937. Sara was the soloist at St. Thomas’s and John directed her and the choir.
(The Cole’s had summered on Locust Way in Nahant for many years in what eventually became the Gaudet home. Claire Gaudet was also a Cole. In 1940, John moved his new bride to the Tierney house on Central Street where they began their family which would soon number nine, three sons and six daughters. His mother continued to live in the family house on Fox Hill with her daughter, Virginia.
||With dad’s background in music, he was approached by Johnny Comfort about becoming the organist at Comforts Roller Skating Rink at the Relay Yard in Bass Point.
He played there for many decades right up until the rink burned down.
For years, John played the organ at the rink to the delight of neighbors of the Relay Yard neighborhood which now included John, Sara and their five children on Sherman Avenue where they moved to in 1948. It was there, especially in the summers, that John would be working at the rink and all of his family would lie in the beds, windows open wide and enjoy his music.
Many, many nights, John would lull the neighbors to sleep with his melodies while the skaters wend round and round to his wonderful organ sounds. We would be disappointed when it rained, and we had to close the window.
In 1953, with five of his children born, John and Sara moved back into the family home on Fox Hill Road, where the family continued to live until 1988, when the property was sold. The remaining four children of the Flynn family were born on Fox Hill Road.
All nine Flynn kids attended the Nahant Public Schools attended the Wilson and Valley Road schools. Only a couple of the kids were privileged to attend the Johnson School. Eight of them attended Lynn Classical, and they were known as the Nahant Flynns as there was another family named Flynn from West Lynn who were called the Lynn Flynns.
During the summers, those old enough would be at Sandy Beach from morning to night taking care of each other. We would walk to the playground via the wooden bridge over the ‘ditch’, make our crafts, and bring however many we made home to our mother. I think our mother was the only mom who had six of everything we made, but she never complained.
We would have our lunch, pack some snacks and clean clothes, and head back to Sandy for the afternoon. We would play for hours and, with any luck, Father George Croft from Harbor View Road would be there to play with us. We would get thrown up into the air and splash down in the water – seeing who could make the biggest splash. This would go on for hours. We never knew where Fr. Croft got the strength, as every kid on Sandy Beach would be lined up to get thrown in. We would also build sand castles and forts in the afternoon. At dinner time, we would all be washed off in the ocean, put in clean dry clothes and brought home. (We always knew when it was time to go home as the horns would go off, and we knew to get on our way. The horns would blow at 11:45 am and at 5:00 pm. Word has it that they blew to notify the town workers that it was time to return to the station for lunch and for dismissal.)
After dinner, the older Flynn kids would be off with friends to explore the town. The first stop would always be Greco’s store for a hot dog and a Bierely’s orange soda. Mrs. Greco would be at the grill from morning until night and always had a smile for the town kids. Her hot dogs were $0.20 and soda was a dime. We would just hang around out front or across the street, and as long as we didn’t cause a problem, we were allowed to stay until dark.
On Friday nights, we would go to the Town Hall for the YMCA dances from 7:00 – 10:00 pm. There would be music by a DJ and there was always lots of fun. Refreshments were $0.25 and at 10:00 all the parents would be outside to pick up the kids. Many romances started at the ‘Y” dances, and some couples remain together today. Years later, when the Y moved its programs to the new YMCA on Nahant Road, (the old Village Church) many of those kids were now parents picking up their children. A new generation had the same fun until the Y closed and the building was sold as a private home.