Copyright © The Fuzzy Pink Muse. All rights reserved.
by Lina Rehal
(from Carousel Kisses)
Before air-conditioned malls with crowded food courts,
wholesale warehouses, high definition television with movies on demand, cosmic bowling alleys and online banking and bookstores, most cities had a downtown area that provided shopping, dining and entertainment for everyone.
I grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts. Downtown Lynn had restaurants, clothing and department stores, five and dimes, drugstores, coffee shops, banks, movie theaters, beauty parlors, a bowling alley, newspaper office, the gas and electric companies, a hotel and a Western Union.
On Saturday afternoons, we walked downtown or rode the bus, often spending the entire day at the movies. The Paramount Theater was my favorite. It was the largest one and had the best snack counter. You could smell the aroma of hot buttered popcorn the minute you walked into the lobby. A wide sweeping stairway led to the balcony on the upper level. Giant posters of stars like Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlton Heston, Tony Curtis and JanetLeigh hung on the walls. The movies ran continuously all day and into the evening. For twenty-five cents we could watch two feature-length films, a cartoon, coming attractions and stay to watch the first movie over again.
There were three five and ten cent stores on Union Street. Kresges and McLellans had uneven wooden floors that creaked as customers walked up and down the aisles and lunch counters where you could sit and have a sandwich, ice cream, cup of coffee or a root beer float. I liked Woolworths the best. It was a bit more modern. The lunch counter was much larger and it had an escalator instead of an elevator like the other stores. There was also a photo booth that you could sit in and have your picture taken for a quarter. We bought Blue Waltz perfume in little heart shaped bottles with a blue cap, tubes of lipstick for twenty-nine cents and embroidered handkerchiefs. They sold toys, cosmetics, household items, school supplies and things needed for gardening and sewing. You could buy just about anything you needed in a dime store.
W. T. Grant Co. opened its first “25 Cent Store” in Lynn in 1906. It was another popular spot for many years. I remember the big bins of cookies at the front of the store.
Burrows & Sanborn was a department store that had a little bit of everything, including a cafeteria in the basement. Some other great places to eat included Sassone’s Italian Restaurant, Ruth’s, The Capitol Diner (which is still there), Anthony’s Hawthorne and Agganis’s.
In the early 1960’s, we bought 45rpm records at Lynn Music, shoes at Thom McAnn, candy at Fanny Farmer’s, the greatest fudge at Connelly’s Candies and cards at Mary Brennan’s Card Shop. We had our hair washed, cut and set at BeautyCreators. Our prom gowns and dresses for special occasions came from the Bell Shop or Lerners. We also had The Bargain Spot, Raymonds, Rooks, T.W. Rogers, Empire, Sam’s Town & Tweed and several jewelry stores.
Whether it was shopping for school clothes or a quick trip to pay a utility bill, all we needed was in that one area of town.
In a song called “Downtown,” Petula Clark sang, “You can forget all your troubles.” In those less hurried days of our lives, we did just that.
Downtown U.S.A. has been featured on several online websites and published in various newsletters.
silver charm bracelet
hi-fi or stereo record player
Dick Clark’s American Bandstand aired on televisionfor the first time in 1957. Host, Dick Clark, introduced new singing talent. An appearance on Bandstand led many unknowns to a career in the entertainment business. It made instant teenage idols of them. Singers Bobby Rydell, Fabian and Frankie Avalon appeared on the show in the late 1950’s.
The audience was made up of teenagers who showed up each day and danced to the music. Many of them became regulars on the show and celebrities in their own right. Kids all over America wanted to be like them and dance like them. They did the Jitterbug, Slop, Hand-Jive, and many others. The Bandstand kids created dances such as the Chalypso and the Stroll. The Chalypso was a cross between the Cha-Cha and the Calypso. The Stroll was a slow moving line dance.
Of all the dance crazes, none was as earthshaking or became as popular as the Twist. Originally recorded by Hank Ballard, it was re-recorded by Chubby Checker in 1960. He appeared on American Bandstand and before long, people all over the country were doing The Twist. Joey Dee and the Starliters did The Peppermint Twist at the Peppermint Lounge in New York. There were even movies about the new dance craze. Chubby Checker was known for other dances such as The Pony, Limbo Rock and The Fly. He also recorded Let’s Twist Again.
Other dances baby boomers will remember are The Monkey, Mashed Potato, Hully Gully, Watusi, the Jerk and the Locomotion.
Rock and roll legends of that wonderful era include
Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, The Big Bopper, Ricky Nelson and of course, the King, Elvis Presley.
*I saw Chubby Checker in Concert at The American Pavilion in Epcot at Walt Disney World in 2002 and again in 2003. It was fun watching him Twist around the stage and hearing him sing the songs I remember so well. It brought me back to my teenage years.
**In May of 2010, Chubby was at Epcot again. He invited ladies from the audience to join him on stage. I did the Twist with Chubby Checker! !
blue suede shoes
foam curlers in your hair
your boyfriend's letter sweater
your boyfriend's ring on a chain
by Lina Rehal
(from Carousel Kisses)
the malt shop
the five and ten cent store