Growing Up on Main Street Gloucester, Circa 1960s ~ Stories Shared by Melissa Abbott and Toby Pett

In the comment section of several recent posts, Melissa and Toby have been sharing some super fun stories about growing up in Gloucester during the 60s. I know everyone doesn’t read the comments, so we are posting their conversation. Wonderful Gloucester history–thank you both so much for taking the time to write.

Melissa Abbott gloucester ma.jpgPhoto of Melissa Abbott , circa 1970

Melissa writes (see Toby’s original comment, posted yesterday, below):

“Very Funny Toby. I have never heard that story about C2 in Nick’s Pool Room. Women were not allowed in the Pool Room and it was like walking the gauntlet to walk in front of it carrying your school books. Once I was bet .50 to walk into the pool room and all the way around the back pool table and back out. I loved a dare so I did it amidst all kinds of cat calls and whistles. I think I was in the 8th grade at Central Grammar so it must have been about 1966 or so. Nick Danikas was in my class and such a nice boy. I think I took the .50 and went down the street to Connor’s Drug Store and bought some Cherry Cokes and hung around in the wooden phone booth with some other kids. Whenever I went into Connor’s Drug Store (now Sugar Magnolias) on Main St., the old man and his son Austin would nudge each other and stare at me. I later found out it was because my great great grandmother was named Mary Connors and she had been married to the 1880′s Halibut Highliner Schooner Captain Wiilliam Greenleaf who was my great great grandfather. Capt Willam had lost a Schooner called the Henrietta during a storm on a shake down cruise when they were tossed over by a rogue wave. Mary Connor’s brother was onboard and was lost with several others. My great great Grandfather was a finest kind of guy and he supported all of the families for the rest of his life till he died while living on Middle St in the 1930′s. He was known as the best cusser in Gloucester but he never swore and was a teetotaler. He and his brother Nathanial Greenleaf were well known on Gloucester docks as very fast and able men in the late 1800′s. Anyway, the Connor’s always nudged each other because apparently I looked like a Connors Girl and the genes had come through on my face. Dr Cohen had his office upstairs and Ina Hahn taught dance there. We bought all our shoes at Phillip Weiner across the street (Now mark Adrian) and if we weren’t in Connors drug store after school waiting for the late bus then maybe we were in the Tic Toc sharing a plate of French Fries in a book (now the Franklin). Like Toby mentioned, in those days Gloucester Youth sort of “came of age” in and around the “waiting station” in that area of Gloucester. We practiced swearing, acting grownup, smoked cigarettes, wore outfits from Adaskos, Goldman’s, or Empire Stores. All carried the same pocketbook bought at Mark Adrian and wore circle pins at our peter pan collars with matching heather toned wool skirt and cardigan sets. The Clique and the West End Kids rivaled each other like West Side Story only it was the Gloucester version and it was the 1960′s. Background music was Louis Louis, 96 Tears, and the Beatles.”

Toby’s comment, to which Melissa responded, 

“I realize that many do not keep our early to bed, early to rise schedule…was hoping to hear from someone re: C2…well, here is the answer: where David Cox’ wonderful little shop is, there was Nick’s Pool Room…it was a wonderful place to spend time and make friendships…Mike Patil, one of the founders of Timberline, spent time there…Phil Mazzeo, who just closed his hair salon on Center Street, was one of the best shooters…I could go on and on…it was a place where you learned to mature and to respect others…It was run by the Danikas family, Artie, now in his 80′s, walks Essex Ave and Good Harbor Beach every day…and his son Capt. Nick is co-owner of the Hurricane II, the whale watch boat…anyway, I have gotten off track here, C2 was the number on the Juke Box for “It’s Over”, that great tune by Roy…and when you were about to finish off your opponent in a game one would often say “C2″…to this day when I am watching sports and one team has clearly claimed the upper hand I often say “C2″, although I don’t think many around me understand…”

Melissa adds more to the story:

Hey Toby, As you know, you and I go in the WAY BACK Machine together quite a bit and probably know where more bodies and buried on Cape Ann then we care to describe. The history is forgotten and the ways we relate to each other is forgotten as new generations emerge and new people move onto Cape Ann. Your post about Nick’s Pool Room certainly piqued up the memories of the Waiting Station and downtown Gloucester in the 1960′s. The streets and sidewalks were thronged with kids after school. This is where we made our “connections” and learned our social queues, that and passing notes in class were our social network. I thought about those times more this morning. I loved Grays Hardware across the Street (now the new stores where Kid’s Unlimited is located). Nancy Gray was my best friend in 6th and 7th grade and we would go into her father’s store on Main St after school and see her mother and brothers there. Her father would give us a dollar and we would scamper off to Connors Drug store together. I was also friends with Wendy Wonson whose Mom and Dad were fantastic people and invited kids to their home on Eastern Point many times where we played 45 records and twisted in their living room. Dr Wonson was a dentist and he was upstairs from Nick’s Pool Room someplace. Other friends of that era that you could find on the sidewalk at the Waiting Station in the 1960′s included Donny Steele, Robbie Wonson (from Rocky Neck), Whitey Wonson and his older brother Todd, Peter Asaro, Fingers Mike Parisi, Edie Kuivanen, Rick Melanson, John Love, Eric and Brett Hawks, the Peloquin Brothers, Holly Davis, Holly Bell, Judy and Jack Gale, David Lacey, Charlie Abbott (my now husband AKA Wicked Abbott and yes he is still WICKED), David Abbott, Andy MacInnis, Pouchie, Jackie Chimaseno (now married to JJ Bell), Paul and Peter Jeswald, Scott MacNeil, John Ahonen, Isabel Natti, Cliff and Ralph Amero and their brothers from Magnolia, Maureen Viera, Fly and Linda Amero, Michael March, Jonathan Pope, Valerie Means, the McCarthy Brothers from Long Beach, Ralph Pino, Robert Hawkins, Miffy and Jay Somers, Jackie Alexander and even you Toby Pett. I am probably missing many more people but even to this day when I walk past Passports or Deborah Coull Salon I still can squint my eyes and see all the people I knew at Central Grammar congregating, waiting for the late bus home. I still remember my penny loafers, leather boots, knee socks, and the Carnaby Street style double breasted Maxi Coat I wore. White Lipstick and Vidal Sassoon haircuts were the rage for girls but many just grew their hair as long as they could. I was always looking for split ends and wishing my hair longer, combing it constantly between classes to get that smooth flat look. Everyone said I had the best manners in town, at least my friends parents told me that when I called and announced who I was, “Hello, This is Melissa Smith, May I please speak with…..” Everyone knew my name then, as I had the same name as my grandmother whose name was on loaves of Anadama Bread in the First National Stores and on the sign outside Easterly Inn on the back shore. Everyone had at one time worked for her and either loved her or hated her, there was no middle ground. Now a days, no one remembers our history. Everyone knew you Toby as Dr Pett’s son. The connection, the roots meant something and were respected. Nowadays it is quite different and thats ok. I like the anonymity to a certain degree. People often try to explain things in Gloucester to me and give me directions. I don’t even tell them that I could drive to that place in my sleep or with my eyes closed. I know the feel of driving on the streets with my eyes closed.

I am not sure if I could do an oral history on my own but once you get me started on something and my memory gets woken up I do tend to know who lived in what house and the history of almost any house or area in town having known people who lived there or been in the homes at one time or another and maybe even lived there myself. Some things are best left un-talked about and when I observed newcomers explaining Gloucester and Gloucester history to people on the social nets and even writing books about it, I do know they may be missing a certain flavor of the story because they hadn’t lived it and it becomes rote and disconnected from the truth and the roots, lacking the personal experience touch.

Toby, you and I could have a field day with the Kings Rook and Stonehenge Days. If I ever talk about those days to people, no one believes me. It was THAT cool. Yes, we saw J Geils Band 38 times before they were famous or listened to a young Bonnie Raitt open for people who got mad because she was so good with that bottleneck guitar and was a girl besides. You were the Manager and I was a waitress. I only worked there so I could hear the music for free. It was a good gig.

So while it is hard to believe that as a baby boomer, my stories about Gloucester and history are even something interesting. I documented my families businesses in my book “The Legacy of Three Melissas” but maybe there is more to the story and another book in me from that era. Not everything in the past was that great and mostly I am not sure the memories are worth talking about. I prefer to remember the good times and the highlights with affection. Thank-you Toby for sparking the story!!”

Melissa Abbott circa 1960s

Melissa Abbott, circa 1960s

See related GMG posts: Fantastic Roy Orbison Photo by Kathy Chapman , Roy Orbison Mystery Girl:Unraveled 

 

6 comments

  • I was born on January 10th. 1943. I was born in my grandmother Mary Todd’s spare room. The house was located about a couple hundred feet from the Cedar St Railroad Crossing. I spent the first ten years of my life as a ward of the state. Ten homes in ten years. I was able to return to Gloucester in 1953. I spent the next seven years shining shoes. I did not hang out like other kids but I worked the streets from morning to night. I am now 71 am proud to say I am second Finalist for Poet Laureate of Gloucester. I submit to the Good Morning readers one of my Gloucester Look Back writings.

    Continuing to Look Back ~ Traversing Pleasant & Main Streets
    Memories from Peter Todd
    01/10/1989

    At this time we see the corner of Main & Pleasant as a total emptying of store fronts. This corner in years past was one of the busiest in Gloucester. In my time it was Sterlings Drugstore. It was managed by Jerry & Gordon Wiener. To this day I can remember Mrs. Johnson cutting me a big piece of squash pie, with a heaping spoonful of Sealtest chocolate ice cream. I can recall how in my youth the counter was so large. The people who worked at the Drugstore were very kind to the children of the area.

    In walking around the corner upward on Pleasant St. there was Gloucester Camera and Photo, which later became a part of my Masonic Journey in the pages of time. Where the Artist Galleries are now located was the Western Union, managed by Mr. & Mrs. Howard Costa. I can also envision where Browns Mall is. The William G.Brown Department Store. Who could ever imagine that there would be so many condominiums within that building.

    I remember the most, the little restaurant in the department store. Contrary to popular belief it was located beneath the spot where the Savory Skillet is located now. I can even now hear in my mind the sounds of the sales papers being routed through the air tubes that were located all over the store. In going out of the building on the Pleasant Street side I can also remember Santa’s Village, located between the Salvation Army and Browns Department Store.

    In particular in recalling the Salvation Army, when we were small we would go there to be given shoes to wear, and clothing to keep us warm . I can also remember each Christmas party at the Elks on Pleasant Street when we were treated to a Christmas Party with all the fixings, including Winter and Rain coats and hats gifted from Mighty Mac.

    Woolworth’s was located on the corner of Pleasant & Mains Street heading down toward where Dunkin Donuts is. Where the Police Station now is located there used to be Gorin’s, which later became Almys Department store. The Police Station was located on Duncan St., next to the Fishermen’s Institute, which by the way I and my family had the honor of cleaning before they tore it down. You see the agreement was we were only to clean up to the second floor as they were going to tear out the third, however as we finished the second floor some of the fishermen proceeded to lug their things from the third floor down to the second. So it was decided the building had to go.

    Well that’s it for now , I will try to shake the brain for more interesting imprints of my youth and teenage years.

    Posted

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  • Those were the days, Melissa…It would be a great idea for you and Toby to collaborate on a book about being a Gloucester teen in the 60s. The male and female point of view.
    I especially like your mentioning the Phillip Wine pocketbooks..they were never called purses or bags back then, and the wool heather skirt sets ..it made me recall how when spring rolled around we traded those outfits for tent dresses, dirndle (mini) skirts and fisherman basket pocketbooks bought at Goldman’s ..I believe Dick of Dicks Shoe Store had to become a lot wealthier every September when school started just by the sales of Bass Weejuns.

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    • I think that would be a really good idea for a book…Be another just like “Village at Lane’s Cove Paperback – Illustrated, January 1, 1989.” By: Barbara H Erkkila (Author). Her dog used to come to our house all the time had a crush on our beagle (Tiny). :-)Dave

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  • Hi Brenda, Yes, we did call purses “pocketbooks” but it sounded sometimes like poccabook. My mother was always making me annunciate all the letters in that word. They came in a very limited color palette. Black, Brown, Wine, and Navy. They had a little flap and they were a shoulder bag. I have tried for years to find a similar design because they were beautifully made and a nice size. I do remember walking around Browns Department Store or Empire and wanting all the skirts and sweater sets. I didn’t have many so I would constantly mix and match the sweaters and skirts to get more outfits. DO you remember “dickies”. They were a pretend blouse or collar and you wore them with your sweater and it looked like a turtleneck or a blouse. They have completely gone out of style but back then it was a way to extend your wardrobe. I still marvel at how much wool we all wore back then. These were the days before corn syrup in all our foods so we were all very skinny and probably cold. Do you remember walking around Browns Dept Store and the hat department? To me the hat department was mesmerizing and it was in the area where the Savory skillet is now because you went up the stairs and there were all these poles and mannequin heads with hats on them. You know a few years ago I was in the Green Store that the Common Crow had for a while and I actually recognized the display cases as having been from Brown’s Department Store all those years ago. Almys was across the Street and Shepard’s Market was where Common Crow is now. It was basically a butcher shop and I sometimes flash on that when I am in there because now it’s sort of a place vegetarians might shop. I remember when Almy’s (where the Police Station is now) burned to the ground. back in those days when there was a big fire, everyone got in their cars and drove to it. It was a way of life. The sirens would go off and everyone would instantly get in their cars and race to see the fire. I went to the Almy’s Fire in the back of my mother’s black Rocket 88 Oldsmobile. I also went to the Hotel Fires on the back shore and the Montgomery Wharf Fire (where Capt Joes is now located) in the 1950′s and 60′s.
    There were very strict codes of behavior for teenagers at that time and it was pretty conservative. I do remember some of it. There was a lot of peer pressure and consciousness of similarities. There were various cliques which were more about social strata. It is probably the same way now but since the 60′s when people rebelled against the strict norms, it has fragmented to be more complicated. Yes, those were simpler times and there were a lot less people on Cape Ann.

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  • Hello Melissa
    Thanks so much for sharing your memories with us! Nice to see your memories of Brown’s. I was advertising manager at that grand old store during the late fifties and most of the sixties–and spent so much time there that I still dream about it! There were wonderful people working there. . .none of whom could ever have been replaced by a shopping cart! Harriet at the hosiery counter would take a hosiery box from the shelf, put on a glove, and put her hand inside the stocking to show the sheerness. At the cosmetic counter Gert could act as beauty counselor and always give advice and samples. George ran the lunch counter and watching him perform his short order cook duties was like watching a ballet! Judy Chamberlain took care of the book department and must have read everything there! Al Mitchell was furniture buyer and for a while Beryl Wonson was in charge of the children’s department . Before Beryl the buyer was Johanna Ackerly. Back then Men’s Night was a big deal at Christmas with models and prize drawings. We used to pack the store, with lines out front a couple of times a year when we ran “crazy ads” making fun of the merchandise and selling things for pennies!
    Brown’s Market was great. They delivered groceries–even when there was a blizzard and all the customer really wanted was cigarettes. I wonder what became of the wonderful carved figure of a butcher that hung over the door? The carver was named Art Call I think. He also made a mermaid that was over the door at the Rhumb Line.
    My boys, Steve and Larry Creed were patrons at Nicks. I bought a great photo called “Last Game At Nicks” from Gino Mondello and gave it to Steve years ago.
    Keep writing, Melissa.
    Carol Perry

    P/S. I still occasionally call a purse a “pocketbook” and have to be corrected by granddaughter!

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