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 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