I Can Still Smell ...
Smells from Easton's Past
I was reading an online British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) story about the sense of smell. Here is how the story starts out:
"Smell is the only one of our senses directly hard wired to our brains.
"Just one whiff of an old classroom can instantly transport you back to your school days."
How true. Smells. Aromas. Fragrances. They all pull and connect to us to different times and places. They can affect our mood, making us happy or sad; they can excite and energize us.
Of course, smell and taste are tightly tied and are of close consequence to each other.
I thought about today and yesterday in Easton. I thought about the smells that get me thinking – that bring me back to the past. I sent out a request to my Facebook friends to share with me their thoughts on what smells stay with them from the times they lived in Easton.
People from across the nation responded. It was discussion that built quickly and which was a lot of fun.
I can tell you that I remember summer and the Easton Town Pool and the smell of the chlorine mixed with the odor of pine bark and pitch and needles. I remember during autumn behind North Easton Grammar School – the delicious smell, and taste, of the grapes that were ripening on the vines of the house at the end of Howland Court.
Football season and the practice fields up behind the Easton Junior High School, and Frothingham Park: the smell of moist grass and dirt, a mélange of odor that is about as earthy as exists. That smell is hard wired to my brain.
My dad was an athletic coach and the athletic director at Oliver Ames High School, and I remember the locker room and the smell of fresh and stale sweat, slightly moldy equipment and uniforms, and the wintergreen essence of liniment.
I remember Sunday nights when we lived on Andrews Street, and the family would watch together The F.B.I. television show and eat pizza from the Crossroads Café and drink Simpson Spring soda. I can still smell and taste the pizza and the Simpson Spring root beer.
The smell of books: pages, covers, and binding, at the Ames Free Library. I am still in touch with that smell. I am in touch as well with Immaculate Conception Church and the burning of incense during Mass – that smell.
Years ago, in the area off of Oliver Street and Elm Street, where now is the building in which the Easton Public Schools central office and Douglas A. King Builders' office are located, there was a factory, Steadfast Rubber. It pumped out an industrial odor.
"I remember riding my bike home from baseball practice past Steadfast Rubber," said John Quattrucci (Oliver Ames H.S. '84). "I can still smell that place."
My sister, Suzy (a resident of Evanston, IL), has an interesting recollection: "the smell of rotting worms at Frothingham Park when the entire park was reseeded."
"When I was a wee lad, my friends and I spent hours and hours playing Asteroids in the Easton House of Pizza." noted Stephen Saia (OA '84), a resident of Austin, TX, in a Facebook post. "The smell of a 600 degree oven stuffed with baking pizzas, all of which were topped with an absurd amount of a Wisconsin cheddar and mozzarella cheese blend and covered with greasy pepperoni dripping in oil, saturated the entire restaurant."
"When we were over at the Unionville Playground, I remember the smell of McMenamy's hamburgers [from McMenamy's Hamburger House]," said Gregg LeBlanc, my classmate at OA (Class of '81), who is now living in Maryland. "And the smell of pizza cooking at the Union Villa; actually when I was a kid living up in that part of town, it was called Spillane's."
In high school, we had a wonderful English teacher named Pat Bailey. She had a dry a wit; she also used to load on the perfume. I don't recall the perfume, but many others do, including Gregg LeBlanc, as he stated in his Facebook posting.
Brian Chapman (OAHS '85) grew up on Columbus Avenue. He recalls when Joe Gill, who owned a pig farm off of Depot Street, and who lived in a house (now decrepit and falling in on itself) across the street from the farm, would come around and pick up the slop from homes in the community, which he would in turn feed to his pigs.
"During the summertime, especially when it was particularly hot, you could smell the Pig Man's truck from a couple blocks away," said Brian.
I always wondered to whom Mr. Gill sold his pigs, and whether our dinner was ever Easton garbage-fed meat.
Brian Chapman told me he can still smell the wood, freshly cut, wet, dry, and otherwise from Foster & Beshong Lumber on Park Street, and ripe apples during the fall at Johnny's Cider Mill on Depot Street.
A friend, who now lives down on Cape Cod, emailed me how she misses the real-time smell of "running through Borderland, inhaling the fresh smell of autumn, the changing of the leaves, and the leaves on the ground; the smell of cool, crisp, clean, icy air in winter; and the inviting hints of springtime."
Smell and emotion are hand in hand. One nurtures and supports the other.
I'm curious: What smells in present-day Easton rouse emotion in you? What smells from Easton's past do the same?
I hope you will post your thoughts in the comments section of this article. I look forward to what you have to say.