I Remember When…

Some random memories of Watertown when I was growing up

In some locations in Watertown (as well as other places in the Greater Boston area), I would see a plaque or stone reading “George Washington slept here.”

Watertown Square was the only place where I would hear a bell ring when it was safe to cross the street. Because the Perkins School was right down the street, there were a number of blind people in the area who needed this sound to know when it was safe to cross. In later years, other towns also added bells, or sometimes chirping sounds, to signal the right time to cross.

Speaking of crossing the street, there were no walk/don't walk signs back then. Red and yellow lights were the signal for drivers to stop and pedestrians to cross the street.

There was a huge rotary in Watertown Square. A lot of people, most likely from out of state, hate rotaries. I think it was much easier to get through the Square when the rotary was there. Now, more traffic lights slow things down and it’s too easy to end up in the wrong lane relative to where you intend to go.

Woolworth’s five and ten cent store was in Watertown Square, located where CVS now stands. Besides selling a variety of inexpensive items, the store was also home to a soda fountain.

That same block also included Gorin’s, which was a small department store. One or two doors down was a record store, where I got my first 45, the Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand”/"I Saw Her Standing There.”

Mt. Auburn Street was home to the ice cream parlors Friendly’s and Brigham’s, located in the spaces currently occupied by Starbucks and the Okinawan Karate-do Academy, respectively. Though Brigham’s was closer to the high school, all the high school kids went to Friendly’s.

There was a Dairy Joy ice cream stand where Celebrity Pizza now sits. I also vaguely remember getting ice cream at a small place on the part of Mt. Auburn Street between there and Cambridge. I don’t remember its name, but we called it “the glass house” because of its appearance.

Every year, several kids in my class would move in or out of town because their fathers worked at the Watertown Arsenal, then a military research facility.

Rather than being three numbers, telephone exchanges were two letters and one number, with the letters standing for a word.  The current exchange 924 was called WA4, with the WA standing not for Watertown, but for Walnut.

Miss Mari’s dance studio was located on Chauncey St. and a lot of the little girls from the neighborhood took ballet lessons there. (I was one.)

Winthrop Street ran all the way from Mt. Auburn Street to Boylston Street, with the Hosmer School on one side and the East Junior High on the other. There was also a tennis or basketball court on the street. (I forget which it was.) We used to go ice skating on the court in the winter when it was frozen over.

A section of the East Junior High park was a kids' playground with swings, a slide, and one of those merry-go-rounds that several kids would sit on while another kid gave it a push to spin it around. If you fell off anything, you landed on the hard ground.

There was a path through the East Junior High park that had so much broken glass on it that we called it “the glass path.”

Litter was everywhere. After finishing whatever they were eating, people would routinely just toss the empty container onto the ground. One day my friend and I were playing a game to see who could collect the most potato chip bags from the street. (Yes, there were enough bags strewn around that we could make a contest of it.) I quit the game and ran home to wash my hands when a bag I picked up had a doggie decoration on the flipside.

Back then, most people didn't pick up after their dogs. They often didn’t even see what doggie did: with no leash law, dogs were frequently out wandering by themselves. One day when I was sitting in the schoolyard with a bunch of other kids, a dog from Porter Street came over to us, and suddenly a friend’s ankle was in the mouth of said dog. (She was wearing rubbers at the time, so I don’t know if the dog actually bit her ankle or just chewed on the rubber.) I'm glad there's now a leash law.

These are just a few random memories of Watertown when I was growing up. Perhaps you remember some of these things too.

Kathy Heaton September 14, 2011 at 12:34 AM
You're describing an era! Change the names, and it's my hometown. :)
Marian Ferro September 18, 2011 at 04:49 AM
Kathy, Thank you for your comment. You're right: it does describe an era. I'm not at all surprised that you can relate to much that I've described.


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