Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)
This article originally ran Feb. 4, 2009.
I went exploring and found a copy of that other Somerville newspaper from August 14, 1969. There was a photo of some of us Project Star performers in a scene from Oliver, the musical we were presenting that summer (I played The Artful Dodger). I started flipping through the yellowed pages of the old newspaper and decided to use this week’s column to pass on some of the interesting and fun facts I discovered from 45 years ago. I had just turned 16 years old. Yikes!
The price of the paperback then was 15 cents and James F. Brennan was the mayor. One of the cover stories was Trum Recaptures Track Crown, after an absence of five years. Richie Salvo, Dean McKiel and Arthur Koropolous were among the star athletes who competed with the other parks throughout the city.
Parke Snow department store in Davis Square was having its August “White Sale” – you could get a Cannon bath towel for $1.87 and facecloths – 2 for 87 cents. Cotton bedspreads were $4.99, while a woven bedspread set you back a whopping $5.99. My cousin Carol reminded me that there was also a cobbler (shoe repair guy) downstairs in Parke Snow. They had booths where you could wait while you got re-soled or heeled. I remember that having taps on your shoes made you very cool, and you could get them there.
And speaking of shoes, the Giant Shoe Outlet at 412 Highland Ave was having a pre-school sale. Girls “popular T-strap styles” in smooth mock leather, black or brown, in sizes 8 ½ to 3 cost $1.39. Nurse’s white oxfords were $3.33. You could buy a pair of men’s work boots for $4.97. Now that’s what I call a sale.
Put on those new shoes and head over to Paramount Beverage Company at 225 Elm Street and pick up a case of beer for $2.99. Joseph Goodell, registered pharmacist, was featured in “Pharmacy Footnotes.” His drug store was at 852 Broadway, right in Powder House Square. Johnnie’s Foodmaster, boasting “5 stores to serve you,” had some pretty sweet deals. 5 ears for 25 cents, 3 lbs. of peaches for 39 cents, 2-6 packs of tuna for 69 cents. You could pick up some nice New York style pastrami for a mere 99 cents a pound. Where’s the beef? How’s’ about some nice Boneless London Broil for 98 cents a pound? Can’t beat that with a stick!
Rigazio Brothers car dealership on Beacon St. could put you into a brand new 1969 Rambler for $1899. Other deals on the lot included a 1968 Javelin for $2495 (remember the commercial where the carload of girls would pull up and say “Hey Javelin”?) You could score a nice little used 1962 Corvair for 95 bucks. The Engine was in the rear!
Arrow Pontiac had some good deals too. A ’66 Mustang for $1495, a 1968 Firebird stick shift for $2100, and a ’61 Ford T-Bird for $495. Don’t you wish you could go back in time?
A look at the classifieds was very entertaining. The first thing I noticed was that there were no area codes back then so you would just use 7 digits. Check this ad out: “Somerville, College Ave, Davis Square, 4 room apartment. Heat, hot water and parking included, $160 a month.” And that was one of the expensive ones. How about this gem: “Cambridge, 4 rooms $95 a month.” Furnished rooms were in the vicinity of $20 a week. If you were going to buy a house, JJ Nissenbaum had this one up for sale: “Somerville West, two family 6 and 6 (rooms), Philadelphia style, 2 car garage, $22,500.” Can you believe it? If you were looking for a job and you were a registered nurse, you could pull down $135 to $175 a week at Somerville Hospital.
I hope you enjoyed yet another trip back to the good old days of the best city in America: Somerville, Mass!