Old Davis, new Davis

On January 28, 2011, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

Do I love Davis Square? Madly. Do I enjoy living in the past? Definitely.  Actually, I can’t believe I have been around long enough to see so many changes down Davis Square.

It has been a real education. It’s not just the earrings and piercings that constitute change. When we were hanging there in the 70’s we had earrings, only they were confined to …you know…ears. It’s not the tattoos and the 250 different types of micro brews offered in every new bar that opens.

My first tattoo was done down a guys cellar on Somerville Avenue and my first fancy beer was Haffenreffer private stock with those puzzles  under the cap. The Old Davis Square had a certain feeling.

Much like today, it is an exciting, bustling, busy destination. Joseph’s Transportation buses shuttle Tufts students back and forth to and from the campus. Glad to have them. I love seeing all those smart young minds around. We are lucky to be so close to Tufts. We hung around Tufts as kids and snuck into mixers and frat parties. Tufts is a part of my “yute.” I still remember the day the stuffed carcass of Jumbo the Elephant burned. It was a sad day.

I love people watching in the square. When I sit on the bench outside the ice cream place, I see so many different types of people. I remember when I was one of those different types of people. They probably look at me today and wonder what kind of old weirdo I am. The old folks called us hippies back then. I am one of those old folks now, or close to it. It was the early 70’s and we had hair past our shoulders and we loved Davis Square. We used to meander  from one joint to the next. It was before the statues and before the Red line. The Store 24 was called The Quick Shop. We bowled behind Wedgewood Crane and Connolly. People used to shovel their sidewalks because the landlords actually lived in their property. There was a gin mill that used to sell beer on Sunday (or so I am told.) That was before they changed the laws. By the way, that joint is still in operation! There was another bar down the square that had a secret knock on Sunday mornings. If you knew the secret knock, you could get in before it opened.

The old Davis Square had an Italian bakery where we got delicious birthday cakes. For about the same price it cost for one of those cakes, you can now buy two or three fancy cupcakes down there.

Christos, The Venice, Frascatis, Speedy’s and Napoli served great pizza. Christos offered authentic Greek pizza.

They once said that Davis Square was the Paris of the 90’s.  I wonder what we can call it now?  It sort of looks like Harvard Square from back in the 70’s. I wish I had kept some of my hippie clothes from back then because they are back in style, even though they would never fit now.

Did you ever see a jogger when they have to wait for traffic and they jog in place? Back in the day, they would have really had to do a lot of jogging in place if one of those big old freight trains were rumbling through the square! Diversity is a great thing. Davis Square is a sample of what our world is like today. A little of this and a little of that.

There seems to have been a lot more kids in the square and surrounding streets in the 70’s.  After supper most of these kids were in the streets playing games. Where are all the kids? Families used to consist of at least three kids and as many as seven or eight. Couples today seem to have one, maybe two kids at the most. The streets were two way and there were less speeders and reckless drivers.

Back then a father would tell their kid to be in when the street lights went on. Today parents tell their kids to use their words and reward them with a “good job!” A lot of the kids I grew up with don’t live in Somerville anymore but they still have that Somerville feeling. It’s sort of a tough outer coating that we wear throughout our lives.

You could go to Johnny D’s and dance to a country band. You could pop over to the Surrey Room, behind The Rosebud and do the Hustle. You could always go to Pat Connelly’s and get a pickled egg and a Pabst too. Speaking of food, today there are so many restaurants and watering holes in Davis Square it’s baffling.

I am glad to announce that Davis Square is still a pretty down to earth place no matter how fancy some people try to make it appear. Just last month I was in one of the trendy bars back rooms and my feet were sticking to the floor. It made me feel like things really haven’t changed that much after all.

Don’t miss the Celebrate Somerville Event Saturday Jan. 29 from 1 to 3 pm at the Somerville High Gym/Atrium. We are celebrating Somerville being honored as one of the nation’s top 100 Communities. There will be exciting activities as well as entertainment by Teen Empowerment, The Mary Flynn Murphy School of Dance, and the 2010 Sunsetters.


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