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Growing Up At “The Elms"
296 Nahant Road Nahant, Massachusetts
By Susan (Linnane) Bonner

By Philip (Sleepy) Callagher

Memories of the 1950’s and 60’s
By Carol Ann Somerby Masters

A Memory
B y Patty Flynn Demit

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Growing Up At “The Elms” 296 Nahant Road Nahant, Massachusetts

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 submitted by Philip (Sleepy) Callagher

Philip recently sent a note from Boca Raton, where he has lived since he graduated from English High School. He returns to Nahant every summer.

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One of my favorite memories was “Pool Hopping” with Fred Lessor, Bill Hurd, Pat O’Connor, Jon Knudsen, Jack Ward and Jack Bradley. Several of these friends graduated from Nahant in 1951. One of the pools was the Carey Street Club.

(Click On The Image For A Larger View)

I loved Nahant for the ocean, and the waves hitting the rocks at Forty Steps Beach. I’ll always remember the 20-inch guns going off at East Point during WWII, shaking the land, and watching the convoys leaving Boston on the way to England in the 40’s when I was very young.

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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 Flynn Demit

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.

My grandfather, Timothy Flynn lived in that house with his father and mother until 1912 when he built 91 Fox Hill Road and moved there with his wife Celia and newly born son, my dad, John P. Flynn.  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 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.