From Fribbles to finance

On March 12, 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.)

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.


15 Responses to “From Fribbles to finance”

  1. mike says:

    Don’t forget BOBO’s Chinese food in Ball Square, Lindas Donut Shop, the Willow and O’Briens Bar, I remember shinning shoes in Magoon Square, If walls could have talked back then, I remember Oscars oh so well. Boy Jimmy, you bring back so many good memories.

  2. Lisa Wood says:

    I remember that Dairy Queen on Cedar Street. But we never had money to stop! =< For us it was Hoa Hoa's Chinese near Magoun Square. Johnny's Spa & Subs was where we got candy after church with our communion money! LOL

    I remember living on the corner of Hinckley St. a block from Trum Field. My best friend and I passed the time catching grasshoppers on the neighbor's lawn which had wild mint growing. It smelled like heaven under the sun. The Italian family down the street had a garden with green beans and tomatoes, and the old grandmother would wave here cane and scare us away when she caught us stealing her vegetables! I still recall her making handmade pasta on a great big butcher block table. She also hand tailored the childrens' clothes!

    There was wild rhubarb nearby, too. And, of course, a haunted house! We would scare ourselves silly!

    Great memories of Somerville!

  3. sandy lourenco says:

    I lived on the corner of albion and cedar street and remember friendlys and dairy queen they were my best memories ever.

  4. neil gillis says:

    Thurston spa on medford st lg. american sub $1.75 or the Apollo cake on the way back from Foss Park

  5. Kristin Kelson says:

    Another great article, Jimmy! You do bring back great memories. I remember the convenience store on the corner of Highland Ave. and Lowell St. as always being a convenience store, but back in the 70’s it was known as Kneeland’s. I vaguely remember Mr. Kneeland, whom at the time seemed ancient to me though he probably was in his 60s at most. Back in the early 70’s, I used to occasionally stop in there on my way to school (Proctor School – and at ages 5 through 9 I would walk to school ALONE – not heard of these days) to buy a snack for that day’s snack time. The popular snacks were either a bag of Drake’s pretzel nuggets for 5 cents, or a package of Yodels or Ring Dings which, I think, couldn’t have been more than 20-25 cents at the time. Also, on the opposite corner, there was a five and dime store, which I believe was also owned by Mr. Kneeland. You could buy greeting cards, toys, and best of all, penny candy. I lived with my grandparents at the time, both of whom, as well as my mother, worked and didn’t get home until after 4:00, so I was pretty much what you’d call a “latch key kid.” I’d come home from school and sneak into my piggy bank which my grandmother kept in a dresser drawer in her bedroom. I’d take 10 or 20 cents and go to the five and dime to buy penny candy or – my favorite – Wacky Packages at 10 cents each. They contained the crappy stick of bubblegum and 5 or 6 baseball-type cards to a package that satirized regular products, i.e. “Liptorn Tea” instead of Lipton Tea, or “Rabid Foam” Shaving Cream instead of Rapid Foam. They were hysterical and I had quite the collection. Wish I still had them today as the original cards are collectible. They still sell Wacky Packages today, but a pack will set you back over a dollar.

    Anyway, I’m babbling, but have to say again, thank you for bringing back some fun memories!

  6. Rick says:

    To me driving down Lowell st past Albion i remember a little store called Pauls (nicknamed Paul the pirates) on our way to play baseball at Hoyt/ Sullivan park. I still think fondly about it everytime i pass by !!!

  7. John McLaughlin says:


    I remember when the Friendly’s was built–probably 1967 or ’68. Can still see the crane lowering the steel beams for the roof. There was a vacant lot there for many years, although I’m not sure what used to be on the corner.

    Across Highland Ave. was Cedar Pharmacy (where the Yoga Studio is now). They had a soda fountain in there where my brother Mark used to work as a Soda Jerk. In fact, I think he was the last one to hold that “position” there since once Friendly’s opened, the Soda Fountain was closed. The owner/druggist there was a Portuguese guy named Mario whose last name escapes me at the moment. He passed away just a few years ago. I remember reading his obit in the other paper.

    I remember stopping in there with my best friend Eddie Evans when Mark was working to get a Lime Rickey, and how cool it felt to get to “order” my big brother around. I think it was either a dime or fifteen cents.

    He finished up there as a stockperson and doing odd jobs, then went to work at Ace Electronics in Davis Square, and then over to Kresge Hall at Harvard.

    I never saw anything to verify this, but recall being told that the Somerville Friendly’s was the first one in the history of the chain to close. My favorite thing from there, by the way, was the Watermelon Sherbert Cooler.

    I’m trying to remember the name of the kid who had the then-new ‘Vette (black) that used to hang around at Friendly’s. Remember Pat’s Barber Shop across the street next door to where Cafe Arome is today?

    The favorite at DQ was always the chocolate-dipped vanilla cone with the chocolate that hardened so you had to break it with your front teeth and then get the Brain freeze you spoke of.

    My niece Kristin mentioned Kneeland’s. Bruce and Sally Kneeland were from Maine originally, and were two of the nicest people I ever knew. And he was the quintessential “Grocer”… always wore the white apron. The original store had a fire (actually the fire took place in the apartment building above) around 1967. It was an old orange-painted storefront with the big plate glass windows and the recessed entry and Coca Cola sign (and Coca Cola cooler sliding top chest inside–worth a FORTUNE nowadays!). After the fire, they built the dual-entrance with the step-up and the raised back section. I remember how cool we thought it was when it re-opened. I also remember the little newspaper article being posted next to the register saying ‘Smokers get five cent jolt’ when a pack of cigarettes went from 25 to 30 cents because the State had raised the taxes.

    Between Friendly’s and Kneelands, near the foot of Porter Street on the north side of Highland was another small variety store that we called Cliff & Lucy’s. The thing that stood out about that place was the cat that used to sleep on top of the stack of newspapers in the window sunning itself. The thing never moved! I only remember going in there one time to buy a loaf of bread and it was moldy when I got it home so my mother sent me back with it to get my money back. Kind of a challenge for an 8-year old.

    When Cliff & Lucy gave up the business (they were both quite aged) around 1970, the first “Head Shop” I ever saw went in there… the “Unique Boutique”. How “60s” was that?!?! I didn;t know what they were at the time, but they sold bongs and EZ-Wider and all sorts of other stuff (beads that hung from the doorway) and psychadelic type stuff. And the owner had the flower-power leather vest and so on. Far out man!!

    You get me going on this stuff and I can’t stop….

    Thanks, as always, for the memories Jimmy!


  8. George Jetson says:

    A peek at 2022 in “New Somerville”. Walking though the East side to Olive Garden for a nice lunch. Its a casual stroll though the old Broadway. Back in 2010 cars use to drive through here, now its a walkway/bikeway for all the liberal, out of work, artists and carpetbaggers. No cars allowed in New Somerville. After Olive Garden a quick stop at the big empty lot called IKEA-land. A big open field used as the worlds largest dog park. Remember back in 2005 when IKEA tried to open a store here? What ever happened to that? Anyway, off to Job Lot in Winter Hill for some great deals…At least the Green line is due to be completed in 2030 !

  9. Jimmy DelPonte says:

    Where is this Olive Garden you speak of ??

  10. Ron Newman says:

    I have some memory of a store at Lowell and Albion, where I think I bought fruits and vegetables in the summer of 1979. But I don’t remember its name or much else about it.

    When did Friendly’s and Dairy Queen close? (And for that matter, Brigham’s in Davis Square?)

  11. Charlie says:

    I certainly remember Dairy Queen and Friendly’s, especially growing up in the Magoun Square area. My grandfather had a barber shop in Magoun Square many years. Mucci’s Barber Shop. At the time, I lived on Trull Street.We lived next door to the Alibrandi’s, who are cousins.

  12. Bob Graves says:

    I think you sohuld write a book about the now gone places in Somerville. As a lifelong resident of Somerville I really enjoy your columns about the days gone by, they bring back back so many wonderful memeries.

  13. Some Ole Villen says:

    How about the Hostess outlet store on Lowell Street near the bridge, (my favorites were the powdered dunuts and the cream filled cupcakes). Or the fat old sweaty slush guy at Trum Field who always greeted you saying, “what’ll it be pal, lemon or ras?”
    My favorite store as a kid was Saval’s 5 & 10cent Store in Ball Square
    where Kelly’s Diner is now.

  14. A. Moore says:

    I rememerb being at the Bingham school and we would all go over the the hostess factory on Lowell Street and see how they were made and all sit down and have a carton of milk and a twinkie. I guess it’s official today they are done. No more twinkies, wonder bread and all the other health food they made. I wonder, did they start here?

  15. j. connelly says:

    Boy! Archie Bunker is turning over in his grave…he enjoyed yelling to Edith to bring his daily dose of “Twinkies” to him. This world is truly going downhill. Though once the Hostess/Drake operations were pulled out of MA you could detect that the original real fresh flavor had diminished with the added preservatives. This is enough to drive one to drink daily with Hoda/Kathy-Lee on Today, NBC (National Booze Company).

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