I grew up in a bedroom community, a town of 27,000 whose border actually touched the City of Boston (Milton, Massachusetts if anyone cares). It was a fairly quick walk to "Mattapan Square" a street-shop retail area on Blue Hill Avenue in a not-the-best part of the City. There were a couple of food establishments (Blackie's and Jim's Diner where I went with my maternal grandmother once).
There was a hobby store called Hobby Town. There was Kresge's Five and Dime and Grant's department stores (Both!). There were a couple of haberdashers -- ok, clothing stores for men. Up the street (quite a way) was "Simco's by the Bridge" a footlong hotdog stand with an action neon sign of a dachshund in a bun wagging his tail. The original owners had it a loooong time (sorry for the pun) but the new owners have at least tried to have a nod towards tradition -- they call it "Simco's on the Bridge." Good for them. My family stopped by about 10 years ago and got a dog, but my mother wouldn't get out of the car. Things looked rough, but the dogs were OK.
There were a couple of barbers, Cirelli's on the corner of a side street (where we were never supposed to go) and the other one, whose name escapes me that was located up a skinny flight of stairs on the second floor above another retail shop. My brother took me for a haircut once and for God-only-knows what reason, he took me to Cirelli's who proceeded to cut the top of my ear badly, then stuffed my whole ear with styptic goo of some sort. The ER doc only put once stitch in because he was afraid to close it with all the goop in it. Ahhhh memories.
There was a movie theater (single screen, of course) a little bit further up called The Oriental Theater. It was from the time when going to the movies was an event, and not just a seat in a plain square box. The theater was all decked out in Asian decor (or at least the Americanized concept of Asian decor) and the very high ceiling had blue sky and clouds that moved and little points of light that looked like stars, especially to me as a child with my as-yet undiagnosed near-sightedness. So the last time I went had to be before I turned 9. Wow. As a matter of fact, after checking into the Oriental, I find that the theater did close when I was 9.
Click through these pics for bigger views, this size doesn't do them justice.
Oriental Theater Interior, date Unknown. I believe this is the organ installed along the side of the second floor of the theater.
As you can see, they had high ceilings!
According to cinema treasures.org:
The original Wurlitzer organ, Opus 2131, installed in 1930 was removed by J Arthur Goggin and subsequently sold to Larry McPherson of Indianapolis who planned to install it in a pizza restaurant. That never materialized and the organ was sold to Dan Stankey & myself (Terry Hochmuth) who restored it and installed it in our home in New Lenox, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, in 1983. After I suffered a tragic accident in 1995 and was severely burned, it was sold to Ron Rhode and Ron Tanner in Pheonix and installed in their home. In June, 2006, it was removed from their home and is I once again own it. It will be installed in my new home in North Truro, MA. A true case of a Mighty Wurlitzer that's returning to its home territory!
posted by Terry Hochmuth on Jun 18, 2006 at 10:55am
Oriental Theater Exterior, circa 1930. "Virtuous Sin (1930)" and "William Haines in Remote Control (1930)" are on the marquis.
Oriental Theater Street View, circa 1938. "Adventures of Tom Sawyer(1938)" and Allan Jones in "Everybody Sing (1938)" are playing here.
Mattapan Square was the south-western terminus of the Mattapan-Ashmont high speed trolley line that ran along dedicated tracks and connected with Boston's subway system. There was a "Papa Gino's" restaurant, a largish local pizza chain house in what once was the Depot Station Building. It was a curious but beautiful stone building on the corner location right outside of the Trolley station.
In this photo it was newly built (1856) and standing all alone, but by the time I knew it and enjoyed my late-night after-trolley pizza, it was a corner like you see in Times Square, and the post office was in the point of the letter V bordered by the street on the left and the street-sized access road (buses and cars) to the trolley station on the right.
Originally the trolleys came down to the station, but by the time I was around they had moved the waiting area up the line a bit and installed circle of tracks and switches to allow the trolleys to turn around and transfer to the other track.
My parent's house was in a pretty good location for transportation in/around Boston as long as you had some time. The walk to Mattapan Square was about 10 minutes, the trolley ran frequently most of the time and took "12 minutes to Boston" as the sign said (although we were already in Boston???). I used to figure that I could get anywhere in Boston on the "Red Line" from my house in an hour, and to Harvard Square in Cambridge in another 15 minutes.
And I did! I spent my late teens and young adulthood in the city. Downtown Boston with all of the shopping and all of the jobs (my first gig as a 16 year old was flipping burgers at McDonald's on Washington Street in Downtown Boston). After all, there was no work within walking distance in my home town and very limited opportunities in Mattapan Square mom and pop stores (more on that later). I loved Harvard Square and truth be told for the most part I enjoyed riding the trains when I didn't have to be somewhere, and it wasn't too cold or too hot or too crowded.
As I got older, Mattapan Square (and Mattapan as a whole) continued in urban decay. The banks had redlined and blockbusted the area and the streets got rougher and stores closed. At first the stores were replaced -- a "Store 24" 24-hour convenience store moved in and I thought that was just the Bee's Knees, not realizing what was going on. WT Grants and Kresge's moved out and were empty for a while. Now I understand that there is a revival going on. I hope the neighborhood is in better shape than when I left it. I'll have to go back and bring a camera.
you didn't mention anything about where you did your 1st standup routine?
|That was in Pooh's Pub in Kenmore Square.|
|Tony's Barber Shop was on the 2nd floor in Mattapan Square in the 1940's and 1950's. He was an immigrant from Italy after the war.|
truth be told for the most part I enjoyed riding the trains when I didn't have to be somewhere, and it wasn't too cold or too hot or too crowded
To paraphrase the Kingston Trio, "...get poor 'Ronnie' off the MTA."
|wonder if this is why ronnie has a motorhome??|
|I think you are confusing Kresge's with Woolworth. It had a lunch counter where we would buy grilled cheese sandwiches when my Mom gave us money.|
I live in Mattapan from 1958 to 1981.
I worked at Balckie's Deli as a kid from 1970 until it burned down.
We lived in the Oriental Theater on our paper route money.
|Whee, getting excited!|
|Wow! That's cool the organ was in New Lenox, IL. I'm in New Lenox all the since that's where the kennel club is located that I take Teddy to. Joliet runs right into New Lenox.|
Interesting story and history.
|I'm missing Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins while reading this!|
And Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg's ads for Adventure Car Hop, home of the Ginsburger.
And Bob Lee's Islander...
|You're probably right about me confusing Kresge's and Woolworth!|
|Ron - Thank you very much! I loved seeing the photos, and I truly enjoyed your stories.|
Jim Sullivan (OFD)
|It was Woolworths and it was the Hobby Fair not Hobby Town|
|Yes! Hobby FAIR! I just remember the owner of that store staring out the window with his foot up on something behind the counter. I think almost every time I saw him, that's where he was.|
|Ron, great post. However, it was Woolworths and Grants and they shared a parking lot in the back, not Kresge's. Both stores had a horse ride by the rear cash registers that gave a broncing good ride for all of 5 cents. Leonard Nimoy's (Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame) mom and my grandmother were best pals and she worked there in the shoe dept. |
I spent many a Saturday afternoon at the old Ori (as we all called it then in the 1960s) watching the double features, eating popcorn, trying to win the door prize, listening to the old organ (it was amazing)... I went to the Tileston School up the street and spent every last nickle on penny candy at the orange penny candy house/store acroos the street.
In addition to the hotdogs on the bridge, how many remember Embers? Or the Chinese restaurant on River Street right by the Mattapan Station and the post office?
After the blockbusting and the flight from Mattapan by many to the burbs, it was never the same. I went back a few years ago. What a difference. -Sully[/b]
Interesting thing about Nimoy's parents: We lived in a two family house and when the other apartment was available they came to see it! Oh boy, when I found out (after the fact) I was very disappointed that my dad didn't give it to them for free! Apparently they didn't like the kitchen, wasn't "modern enough."
OK, here's the name for you -- Cathay Village! I'm kinda sure that was the name for that restaurant on river, right next to the bus ramp. I used to eat there often, and my dad used to order takeout there exclusively. I think they finally had a fire at some point, but I may be confusing them with someone else.
I just LOVED however they did their brown sauces, like over the egg foo young and beef with broccoli. My mother was enamored of asked for the food by the Chinese name, she was very proud that she knew that "gai" was chicken. Loved ordering "char shel dang" (I donb't recall what that was, maybe a pork and vegetables dish? I'm not sure) and moo goo gai pan.
We have an unusual last name so dad always ordered as "Mr. Bernard"! LOL Frequently I'd have to "hop out" of the car and pick it up... don't forget to check the number of containers and ask for the fortune cookies! ahhh Childhood memories.
Yeah, Woolworth's and Grant's! I remember the parking lot in back, a little bit. The entrance to the lot was also off of River street if memory serves (I wasn't a driver as a child! ) I also remember a large letter laid out in mosaic tiles in the ground at the entrance to one of those stores. The letter remained for years as the Store 24s and other merchants replaced them, but I don't remember the exact locations of those new stores.
Did you ever eat at Brother's Restaurant?
|I grew up in Mattapan. My best Girlfriend, Judy was Chinese, and her Daddy was the Chef at the Cathay Village.|
|I grew up in mattapan as well. I remember both Chinese restaurants cathay village near mattapan station and china joy across from simcos and next to the old first national supermarket ( we used to play street hockey in the parking lot). I remember the hobby fair, sunnys cigar store, embers, jimmy's diner, simco's, woolworths, grants and colby's drug store where you could get cherry cokes. |
Without question, the biggest attraction in the square was the oriental theater and the stars on the ceiling as well as the movie screen.
Does anyone remember the candy factory that was on babson or norfolk street?, i forget exactly. There was also a candy store we called the "little store" across from the tileston school on babson street where you could get penny candy and baseball cards- nolan ryan rookie card in my bicycle spokes-who knew?
Love the Boston talk!
Although I have lived in So. California for 30 years, I grew up in the
suburban Boston area - in Beverly, which is, I believe, just about as far north and east of the city as Mattapan is to the south and west.
Nice pictures & memories of the area and the era. Thanks for sharing.
|The Oriental Theatre was extraordinary, especially to a sheltered girl from Milton. The sky appeared infinite, and we could see the stars through the clouds that moved beneath them. I saw The Blob there and was so terrified that I had to go outside and stand in the sunshine for a while. We were told to never enter Sonny's Newspaper Stand--with implications of danger from underworld crime. So we went there as often as possible, reading Sonny's comic books until he kicked us out. Does anyone remember Brigham's? The floor was sticky, probably from sugar distilled from the air of the place--you could gain weight just breathing, it was so sweet. The waitresses wore yellow uniforms with lacy hankerchiefs pinned to their shoulders. The butterscotch sundae was sublime, and I think it cost 35 cents. The movie tickets were 25 cents. Good memories!|
|I love stuff like this!!! Thanks for posting Ron!|
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't get the chance to visit Boston when I worked in NY sometime back in 2002. I did visit Mass and then headed to Rhode Island where I stayed for a few days on Nantucket (wrote lovely poetry there!)
When I eventually move to Montreal, I will definately start taking road trips at some point in time and will remember or look back on this post.
The Oriental Theater...wow! I read a story about the first showing of a Christmas play back in the early turn of the century when it first opened. A terrible fire tragedy occurred there if I'm thinking of the same place? They say the alley way behind it is haunted.
Ah reminincing about places visited in childhood and youth...yes I can see why it makes people feel nostoligic. Thank you for also bringing us along on the trip down memory lane!
We were told to never enter Sonny's Newspaper Stand--with implications of danger from underworld crime. So we went there as often as possible, reading Sonny's comic books until he kicked us out.Sonny's! I remember the place. You know, I have a long time ago acquaintance who used to walk to Mattapan Square to buy comic books. I think I'll give him a poke on fb and point him here to ask if he frequented the establishment.
I don't recall Brigham's in Mattapan Square, although I certainly remember Brigham's in general. My sister's faaaavorite ice cream ever used to be Brigham's Maple Walnut. Now that she lives up in Vermont's Ben and Jerry's land, I wonder if that's still true? I'll point her this way too.
When I eventually move to Montreal, I will definately start taking road trips at some point in time and will remember or look back on this post.Don't forget you have my contact info!
The Oriental Theater...wow! I read a story about the first showing of a Christmas play back in the early turn of the century when it first opened. A terrible fire tragedy occurred there if I'm thinking of the same place? They say the alley way behind it is haunted.I'm not sure if it's the same one or not. I think I found there are many of them named that way around the US. Probably not in the Orient though!
|I bought my first 45 at the record store - don't remember the name - but the owner was always so nice and he'd play any record we wanted to hear. My first 45 was "Short Fat Fanny" sung by Larry Williams. I still have it!|
Sundaes at Brighams after the matinee at the Oriental - with the glowing green buddha eyes and the older kids making out in the back row.
We got all our dungarees at Klein's.
I took my first ballet classes at Miss Karabel's - up an old dark stairway to her studio. There were about 7 of us taking with her. I guess I studied with her about a year or so. Cut to 35 years later, I"m living in LA and needed some tights for class - I was a pro dancer for a while - anyway, I see this funny little tucked away place in a mall - Karabel's Dance Supplies. I go in talk to the lady at the cash register, turns out she's her sister - they all started out in Mattapan. I nearly fell over. They're still in business!
|Hi, Does anyone have photographs that they would like to share from the area... Mattapan Square north to Dorchester along Blue Hill Ave showing the businesses , also the inside of the Oriental Theatre ?|
I just noticed something in one of the photos and have no idea what it is. Perhaps you or someone else here knows?
In the third photo, of the trolley, in the background it appears that there is a viaduct or something crossing Blue Hill Avenue. What in heck is that? It certainly wasn't there by the time I was around in the 50's, 60's, 70's...
|Interesting! Zooming in it looks a lot like an elevated train. I certainly don't recall one there!|
When I get to my desktop computer, I'll see if I can capture some of that detail and post it.
|In the meantime, there is this page:|
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston-are ... tcar_lines
Perhaps it was the Franklin Park to Andrew line? That would probably run along or parallel to present day Morton Street (although it might be a little farther north than this picture)?
And thinking about it... Simco's by the Bridge. That's where Blue Hill Avenue is elevated up over train tracks, no? I wonder if it used to be the other way around at some point?
My parents grew up in the area. My mom is gone, but I'll ask my dad.
EDIT: I talked with Dad. He lived in Dorchester, and didn't travel south down to Mattapan much and doesn't recall elevated tracks across Blue Hill Ave.
|my bet's on train, it appears to be train cars and the structure framework coincides with the era and also would explain it's deteriation and removal in the 40's or early 50's. |
this is fun ron, although not from boston, have family there and i'm sure you're familiar with them.
Tony's Barber Shop was on the 2nd floor in Mattapan Square in the 1940's and 1950's. He was an immigrant from Italy after the war.
then it became''danny's'' barber shop,I know because I worked there.
Excellent! I remember it as an entrance door at street level on the left side of a store; between a couple of stores, I suppose. Then up a skinny flight of stairs and in through a wooden door with a window in it. The shop had a window overlooking Blue Hill Ave, maybe 2 or 3 barber seats and a few waiting chairs.
Tony's Barber Shop was on the 2nd floor in Mattapan Square in the 1940's and 1950's. He was an immigrant from Italy after the war.
then it became''danny's'' barber shop,I know because I worked there.
Is that the place I'm thinking about? Do I have it close? When did you work there?
What was it above? Was it right above the cigar store? I just can't remember and it's been bugging me! LOL
|Was also a Mattapanite. Chinese food may have been Cathay Village. Above Roberts Hardware was Danny's barbershop. Rexford Drug once had a soda fountain. Ann's Sub Shop was a favorite as well.|
My name is Marty and and best years of life are from living in Mattapan in 60s with my good friend Tom O'Leary.
My father worked at the Franklin Park Theatre as a doorman. So between the Oriental and Franklin I never paid for a movie.
I would go to the Oriental on Friday night nites with a date and just hang out in the lobby. Man do I miss that.
|Hello. I lived on Cummins Highway near Mattapan Square from the late forties to mid-fifties -- where my mother's family had lived for decades prior. Attended EP Tileston Grammar School and St. Angela's Parish. Have been searching for a childhood friend who lived on Rosewood Street near Cummins Hwy in the early fifties. His first name was Mark, last name Rugner or something similar. Ring any bells? Thanks. David Rogus email@example.com|
|The barber shop "upstairs" in the retail building was "PAUL'S BARBER SHOP". Paul opened his barber shop after a dispute with the barber shop he was working for. That barber shop was the "TERMINAL BARBER SHOP" "10 BARBERS NO WAITING" the sign said. This shop was the previous tenant located in the building PAPA GINOS was located in. I remember my mother having an argument with the head barber at the terminal shop, they expected the customers to|
accept the next available barber to cut your hair, and were upset that customers prefered a
favorite barber, in my family's case it was PAUL. The men's clothing store I remeber was
ALSON'S. There was the TOY AND GARDEN STORE, on river street, a FIRESTONE
franchised store, they later moved to Blue Hill Avenue, to the right of the former theatre, now
CAPITOL ELECTRIC SUPPLY CO. there was also another toy shop, MURRAYS, who moved to the square from Franklin Field, when things changed in that area. (There was also a MURRAYS DEPARTMENT STORE, no connection in Mattapan) Mattapan was a nice place to visit,
the best way to get there was by STUDEBAKER.
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