Magoun Square memories

On May 5, 2012, 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.)

They recently removed the “Lil Vinny’s” sign on the closed business and underneath you could see the outline of the old “Danny’s” sign. It is a reminder of the years gone by and all the changes that have occurred in Magoun Square. Since I wrote about Ball Square a few weeks back, I figured we would give Magoun Square equal time. Many of my friends have chimed in are and these are some of their memories. Please note that people have tried to remember names and places and we have all done our best to dig deep in our minds.

When I think of Magoun Square I think of that little shop on Medford Street that sold musical instruments. There was a friendly looking old man inside and it was there for years. Then one day I noticed it was gone. A friend remembers 3D’s Sub shop being in Magoun Square along with and Kerner’s pharmacy where he enjoyed a cold root beer float. Bobby and Richie sold subs in 3D’s for 25 cents! And the memories just keep on coming.

Friends recalled Smalls Variety, Sunnyhurst, LaTony’s Pizza, Canty’s Café, Odea’s (maybe OD’s?) Janar’s Pharmacy (formerly Austin Drug), Maria’s Ravioli, Sordillos Pharmacy, Roses Hardware and Frank’s Cleaners. There was a meat market near Sunnyhurst but we couldn’t remember the name (maybe it was Mitchell’s as noted further on). Some think it was Sam’s (like on The Brady Bunch).

Someone tells us, “My Dad had a little fish and chips place in Magoun and my uncle Frank had a barber shop at the other end of the square.”

My friends Ed and Mike recall shining shoes in Magoun Square on weekends at every bar, then eating at Frenchy’s Restaurant.

Who doesn’t remember Frenchy’s Breakfast? A friend notes, “The best thing about Magoun Sq. was Frenchy’s’ restaurant. Frenchy was a legend in the square. She was open every day of the year except for Christmas and New Year’s Day. What a character she was! For $1.25 you got two eggs, two strips of bacon, two slices of toast, and a glass of OJ and all the coffee you could drink. Frenchy’s boyfriend was called Baldie and Twiggy was her daughter.” We remember Peter Piro being in there and sometimes buying coffee for everyone. Cara Donna bakery was next door. Can you still taste the great éclairs you got there?

There were two jewelry stores in the square, one on the corner of Lowell and Medford Streets, and one across from Sunnyhurst. The one near Lowell St. had a cat clock in the window for years.

On the Hill Tavern was formerly Mahoney’s, Sam Maguire’s, and China Moon.

Someone passed this tid-bit along: “We used to play street hockey in the parking lot of Sunnyhurst Farms. I remember walking into a “bakery” one time, but it really wasn’t one, and there was a bunch of suits at a small table playing cards. They didn’t like it that I walked in on them!”

Another friend tells us: “There was a great breakfast place called Christies’ owned by the Treskas. There was a pub called Sherlock Holmes where lots of Somerville people hung out. Mitchells Meat Market was a great store too.” How about these memories from my friend’s 82 year old dad: “Shawmut and Rose Hardware, Zeidel’s Shoes, Sloane’s Furniture, Somerville Kosher Market, Nash auto dealership, Harold Wells Jeweler, M Winer before it was Elm Farm.”

On September 18,1970, just after 2 a.m., the block of stores at 506-508 Medford Street were engulfed in a fire. An explosion and resulting fire heavily damaged the block. It started in the Renaldo Rene Hair Salon and spread to Sav-Mor Furniture, and 3D Sub shop. Thanks go out to Charlie Breen from Engine Seven.

I appreciate everyone who shared their thoughts and memories about Magoun Square. Not all the Magoun Square memories are pleasant and we will never forget the special people from there who are no longer with us.


11 Responses to “Magoun Square memories”

  1. A Moore says:

    My mother used to send us up to Dom amd Phil’s barbershop there in the same building where the music place was. Also used to go to the hobby shop and drool over the trains they had where DD is now. My father would drag us up to the 2 hardware stores in the square on Saturday. Don’t know if it counts but we used to go up to the A&P also. We lived on Hinckly Street then where on Richardson Street they had 2 small convienent stores. My father used to send me up to the barroom(don’t remember the name) to get his cigaretts and the pack would have 2 cents change in it then. Glad they gave those up years ago. Mitchels I remember and I am pretty sure there was a second meat store there.

  2. j. connelly says:

    I remember one Saturday the apartments above Janar Pharmacy were on fire & in almost the same time Griffin’s the Florist on McGrath Hwy was also burning.

    Yes there were all the great places, you could find everything you needed at Rose Hardware, All the great culinary delight businesses.
    Piro Printer had good prices for business cards, etc. and quick delivery.
    Harold Wells I believe also served as a Mayor.

    Too bad all those businesses are gone, when they were here all of the squares thrived and flourished with actvity.

    In my youth I got up at 4 am, helped Jack the Hood Milk man deliver milk up around the Tufts campus. Then at 6 am he’d drop me off at Burke’s News and I did the morning paper route. Then after school I worked at the Teele Sq Supermarket, stocking shelves, bagging and delivering groceries in a shopping cart. The delivery area was from Powderhouse Sq to part of E.Arlington & Medford line by Tufts to Mass Ave Cambridge Went through a lot of shoes back then but it was fun. Maurice the meat cutter would show me how to cut meats, brine beef, etc. It was a good n interesting job.

  3. dan mcneil says:

    i remember the north end fruit market run by the malagodi’s they lived o.n lowell street the meat markets were mitchells and sams there was a restruant next to canty’s called peggy’s going way back when cantys was where dunkin donuts now. there was a kennedy’s butter and egg store there was also a first national store where sunnyhurst is now. there was 5 bars and two liquor stores there cantys drakes dannys jerrys and mahoneys there was a liquor store at the corner of partridge ave and one beside wells jewelers. dannys was owned by danny iandoli and jerrys was owned by his brother jerry

  4. JAR says:

    I believe Rose Hardware became Mike’s Ace Hardware (right on Medford Street a few doors up from Lil’ Vinny’s going toward Broadway). In June of 1983 I rented a floor sander from him for $20 for the day and did the floors in the house myself. I still remember hiim saying to me when he sold me the sheets of 60-grit paper “Remember, you only have an inch and a half of floor there–don’t let it sit for long while it’s running”. Good advice!

    Back arounf 1970 when I was 11, I was up there one day with my friend Billy McCormack and there was an old guy–apparently a Magoun Sq. denizen–whose last name I THINK was McGwire (sp?) walking along the sidewalk. He apparently had no voice box and was “talking” Donald Duck-style. For whatever reason, he came up and just randomly slapped Billy on the side of the head. Not sure what that was about.

    When I was in cooking school at BHCC, the son of the owner of Cara Donna’s was one of the teachers we had for baking. I learned the secret of their rum cake from him.

    Magoun was definitely a “different” kind of place.


  5. Charlie Booker says:

    I grew up in the Square as a young kid through my teenage years. My grandfather had a barber shop in the Square “Mucci’s” back in the 1950’s. I lived on Trull Street next door to my cousins the Alibrandi’s. The Square was a tough place back in those days. The meat market near Sunnyhurst was Sam’s, Mitchells was on the opposite side of the street. The Donald Duck talking guy was known as Snuffy.

    It was a First National Store before Sunnyhurst took over. There were quite a few characters in that Square. From all the bookies such as Whirlaway, and Spike. It was an interesting Square to grow up in. Most of my friends I had growing up in that Square, many never made it to the age 55, sadly.

  6. Pat says:

    Hi JAR:
    I remember the Carra Donna Pastry Shop. I use to go there on weekends and remember the Italian Rum Cakes and the Paragina’s, Napoleons, Eclairs and those Rum Soaked pastries. What was the secret to those fabulous Rum Cakes? Are the Carra Donna’ owners or son still in the area? I’d like to learn how those Italian pastries were made … still remember driving from Cambridge to Somerville and parking on the opposite side of the street. What memories!


  7. WowI was born in 1924 and remember Magoun Sw. well, – my folks owned fruit store next to Sloans furnit;ure – Damiano Simeone – couple stores down was Kennedys sold butter cut from big tubs and fresh baked beans every Saturday, scooped into cartons . Remember First National became first self serve with little carts. Hostess factory was on Lowell, I believe, and you could buy bag of broken cookies very cheap. Believe it was Swift meat packing in Brick Bottom where we held our noses when we passed. Mucci brothers had barber shops, one next to drug store Broadway and another on Medford St. – went to school with daughters in Medford., class of 42. Kennedy’s sold butter from large tubs, carving out chunks and fresh baked beans on Saturdays.Also, , my Mom could not convince my father that she had premanition bank on corner of Medford and Dextor St was going to close, and sadly watched from our store across the street when officials pulled down small shades on windows Very little money was ever paid back to the trusting, hard working people who put their cash in a bag on Saturday nights and placed it in the night deposit. We lived on corner Strathmore and Winter Hill, where Rose Hardware son later built a cleaner in empty lot we played ball on as kids. My uncle owned theater in Teel Sq – we used to have May Parties, dressed up in crepe paper, King and Queen, marching from Magoun to Powder House Sq, with our lunches in a red wagon .Lotsa memories

  8. A. Moore says:

    On the Hill Tavern was formerly Mahoney’s, Sam Maguire’s, and China Moon, I tihnk it was called Ollie’s or something like that for a while, also I seem to recall it being a steak house once. When you think back on it these squares had so much business and so much to offer. Some of the younger crowd would probably never believe how much business we had going in such a small square. I appreciate so much more today thinking back. How the heck could 2 hardware stores, 2 supermarkets and so many other stores survive for so long in such a small square. Pretty amazing.

  9. My Dad, Dominic or “Zeke”, had a Magoun Square ice cream parlor called “Green Meadows” where he met my mother. The ice cream was made in Watertown, using their own herd of dairy cows. Just a fleeting memory, perhaps for some.

  10. marian sulvester says:

    I was born 1942 and lived on Hinckley st until I got married and then for a few years with my family. Right next to Mitchell’s when I was 5 there was a produce market owned by my Dad. Joe Sylvester. Then he hung out at Drakes. I remember a soda shop directly across from there. I used to get hot chocolate here. Kennedys was right next door. The jewelry store at the corner of Medford and Lowell was run by a heavy set guy called Izzy. He sold prescription drugs also and u didn’t need a prescription. Remember Frank’s tailors and mens clothing store. My first job at age 15 was the laundry mat near franks. Soon many memories. Loved my birthday cakes from Cara Donna

  11. marian Sylvester says:

    I grew up on Hinckley st. Born 1942. Right next to Mitchell’s meat market there was a fruit and vegetable store owned by my patents. Joe and Video Sylvester. Across the street was a soda shop that was next store to Kennedy’s that had large tubs of peanut butter dad hung out at Drakes. The jewelry store at the corner of Lowell and Medford was magoun sq jewelers owned by Izzy. U could buy prescription drugs there without a prescription . lastly I remember my first job at 14 was a laundry mat. Right next to Franks cleaners and men’s clothing store. Loved the b day cakes from Cara Donnas

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