Recalling The Good 'Ole Days

Everyone has their story of the Good 'Ole Days. Sometimes it just takes a sight or smell to bring you right back to those lazy days of summer, when life seemed so much simpler.


My daughter and I found ourselves with an unexpected hour of 'free time,' and we decided to take a stroll through the Danvers Square to see what there is to see. "Isn't the downtown so pretty, now?" she asked me. She went on to point out all the new little shops and restaurants, the pretty street lights, and the overall quaintness of it all.

"Sure," I told her, "it's really coming along..." of course, I can't help myself...perhaps its a sign of age, but I began pointing out 'what used to be': Archer Kent, Sunnyhurst Farms, Harvey Jewelers; and across the street, the old mattress store once stood where the atrium is now- before the big fire took it all away...

I told her the story about how our family was away in New Hampshire when that fire tore through, devastating the entire block. I'll never forget driving up route 35 into the square, the signal to my nine year old brain that said, "you're almost home!"  And the scorched wreckage came into view. I was horrified. Although I had never even been inside the iconic blue building that had anchored the businesses on that corner of High and Elm Streets for as long as I'd been alive, I was still so sad to see it destroyed.

Thinking about that summer so long ago began to conjure up memories of what life was like when I was a kid growing up here in Danvers. In the summer, time seemed to stand still for us kids. We divided our time between catching frogs and riding bikes; there were daily ice cream trucks where you could get an Italian Ice for fifty cents; and at park we had bubblers, gimp and the annual park parade.

We would skip rope in the old neighborhood, as long as we could sucker two kids into holding the ends. If there were only two of us, well, then an old chair was the likely stand in.

But the real adventure was when the streetlights went on and we had a mere thirty minutes before the curfew whistle blew for our favorite pastime: Kick The Can. Being the youngest in the neighborhood gang with the earliest bedtime had its disadvantages. For years I merely watched the bigger kids' hide and seeking as I pressed my nose up against the smelly screen in my bedroom window, yearning to grow up (right now!). But those few times the teenagers let me play along were the thrill of my life!

Later, I became a big reader, abandoning the usual play things for the simple pleasure of getting lost between the pages of the classics my mom brought me free from some grocery store promotion: Little Women, Treasure Island, and my favorite, The Black Stallion. I would set up camp for the entire day, nose in book, toe to the floor, gently swinging back and forth on the old glider on our huge front porch. Well, the porch certainly seemed huge to me, funny how perspective changes with the passage of time.

As I take in the “New” Danvers Square, with its pristine brick walkways, beautiful flowering fruitless pear trees, and pretty street lights, I feel a sense of pride, and at the same time I can’t help but think about how things have changed. It's a different world now; a different neighborhood, and certainly a different Danvers Square.

Yeah, I think the downtown looks pretty snazzy. The improvements have brought new life to the businesses there, and I'm proud of what the town has done, and is continuing to do. But there is nothing like the good old days, when a kid was just a kid; catching frogs, skipping rope, kicking cans and having the sheer luxury to forget about time.

Sally Symmes July 23, 2012 at 12:18 AM
For me - it is obvious that I am older - the mattress store was Nessons (I think that is how they spelled it). It was the days of full skirts and crinolines and they had the best crinolines around. I remember my orange one that my mother hated and I just loved. You would wash them and then dip them in sugar and water to keep them stiff - it is a wonder we didn't have ants following us. Harveys Jewelers was then Snyders and across the street was Arringtons where we bought our class rings. Penny Pincher was next to Snyders. Every Halloween there would be a window contest and kids got to paint the windows with Halloween themed pictures. My friend and I had Tompkins one year and Penny Pincher another. We never did win a prize though. Kirby's shoe store featured a machine that could look at the bones in your feet. We all loved to do it. Of course now we know that it was like an x-ray and not so good for our health. Almy's had a soda fountain where I had my first cherry coke. We would go to Suburban to get our school supplies. In those days Suburban had two parts (long before the children's shop which is now a nail salon) and you would walk to the back of the store and around to the other half of the store. Cal's was where Chuck's is now and after choir practice we would go to Cal's and have fries and a coke. Wheelwrights was across the street where you could get your groceries. They even delivered. It was a wonderful town in which to grow up.
Michelle Gilliss July 23, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Thank you, Sally, for sharing your memories of downtown! I do remember Suburbans, and the two sides, but do you remember the big old Patty Play Pal look-a-like dolls they always had in their window? they would dress them up in different outfits depending on the holiday-I always wanted to take them home :)
Morris Williams July 23, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Growing up in east Danvers was a lot of fun. We never spent any time indoors, baseball on Bradstreet ave, swimming at the end of Eden glen ave or sliding down the side of folly hill on pieces of cardboard! The fifties were a good time in Danvers. Favorite hangout was Nelson's store on bridge st. Penny candy and a soda fountain, what more could an 8 year old want?
Michael J Bourgault July 26, 2012 at 04:20 PM
My Mom worked at Siesta Sleep Shop for years before it burnt. She also did the ads for the local radio station WESX for the store. She worked for Tompkins Furniture store & Loraine Roy's Women's Dress shop downtown also. She never had a drivers license so she relied on C&A Taxi service to get her to work downtown if no one else was around to drive her. We lived on Walnut Street in the Highlands section of town. You can see her picture on the wall behind the cash register at my brothers new store in Danvers Square, the New England Dog Biscuit Company, next to the CVS across from the flag pole. Supremes was the place to go to cure the "munchies" at all hours of the day.
Michelle Gilliss July 26, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Anne- Where was that located? I remember Steve's Quality Instruments on Water St, but can't recall Scotti's.


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