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As I walk and drive through the streets of Somerville during my busy day, I pass by many places that had former lives. When you have lived in the same house in the same city for almost 60 years, you see a lot of changes. There is a sign in the window of one store that says, “All you can eat Sushi.” It’s in the block of a few stores that used to sell submarine sandwiches, and hamburgers and white chocolate and barley pops. To this day, the smell of an Italian sub takes me back to that sub shop near Powder House Park. It was called Bella Meos and the candy shop next door was Louds.
My eyes are like a camera that sees one object, but then sends bits of information to my brain that translate those images into memories. I must pass by the bank at the corner of Highland Avenue and Cedar Street at least four times a day. Lifelong Somerville residents remember back in the day when that bank was a Friendly’s restaurant.
You may recall trudging up the hill on Cedar St. and placing an order at the take out window. Maybe you got fries and a Fribble or a cone for 15 cents. A Jim Dandy sundae also hit the spot. I can remember walking home from Somerville High School in the 1970’s and stopping at Friendly’s. We would milk a milk shake for an hour just so we could hang around with our friends in there. We went there instead of church, and I am sure some kids were there instead of being in school. You had to be careful not to get a face full of Aqua Net when one of the girls turned her head too quickly.
Often members from the summer theater program known as Project STAR used to stop in after rehearsals. They would sing the songs from whichever show they were performing that season. It was the place to go after basketball games at Somerville High School. After the game, kids would walk down to Friendly’s and spend the rest of the night there. Anyone who was a kid in the 70’s has fond memories of that Friendly’s restaurant on Highland and Cedar.
Cedar Street used to have another great ice cream place. To be precise, it was near the intersections of Morrison Ave and Cedar. Today, it is the site of a dry cleaner and laundry. Back then it was a Dairy Queen. So it went form a place your clothes got stained, to a place where they get stains out. You could get a Mr. Misty, which was like a Slurpee from what I remember. The lime Rickey’s were very refreshing after spending a morning at Trum Field running around and playing ball. I used to love getting a Blizzard. It was soft serve ice cream with toppings such as Heath bar and Oreo cookies. Many of us kids got a “brain freeze “ from those yummy treats at DQ. If you go into the cleaners today, you can see the great old photo of the Dairy Queen that once graced the location.
When I drive through Davis Square up Summer Street the smell of fresh ground coffee fills my memory banks. The building on the right hand side directly across from the Dilboy Post and bank used to be an A&P store. I can still see the cement floor and coffee grinding machines. The whole place smelled like coffee. Eight o’clock coffee to be exact. Remember the red package? The smell of ground coffee still reminds me of the A&P.
At the bottom of the steep hill known as Liberty Road, that runs out to Morrison Ave, there is a big brown house. It wasn’t always a house. It used to be Oscar’s variety store. Maybe it was officially called Liberty Market or something but to us it was Oscar’s. He owned the place where we go our penny candy an Cokes. Legend has it that he had a heart attack chasing an adolescent thief up the steep street that my kids named “Dead Man’s Hill.” Nevertheless, what was once a small square building was transformed into a huge house thanks to attached roofs, and garages and lots o renovation money. It will always be Oscar’s to me. It will always bring back the taste of mint-juleps, Bazooka bubble gum, and Twinkies.
Friendly’s, Dairy Queen, the A&P, and Oscar’s are just a few of the places we loved that are now something else. To those of us who enjoyed them in their hey days, we will always think fond thoughts as we drive or walk by. These buildings used to be different when they were younger, just like us. When we look at the places now, we have visions of the stores they used to be. It’s almost like when we look in the mirror, and see the faces of the kids we used to be. We may be different on the outside, but we still have that spirit of our youth, brimming with precious memories.