Uptown And Downtown Easton

A Small Place Which Holds Lots Of Memories


Like tens of millions of Baby Boomers, I remember Sunday nights as a kid watching the The F.B.I. television show.  The series, sponsored by Ford Motor Company, ran from 1964 through 1974.  Except for the final season, when the show started at 7:30, the hour-long episodes started at 8. 

The Muscato clan, then living on Andrews Street, made a weekly event of watching the show, and attended it with a practice that I suspect we shared with many families in Easton:  pizzas from the Crossroads Cafe and (can still taste that wonderful root beer, which back then, as was the case with all soda, was made with real sugar.)

Now, as you will remember, at the end of some of the episodes, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who played the main character, Inspector Lewis Erskine, in the show, would do a “Most Wanted” segment in which he presented and described and showed a photo of fugitives on the actual FBI Most Wanted List. 

It seems that I have long been disposed to storytelling, for as I sat there and gazed at the photos of these dangerous, vile and violent criminals, I would announce to my family that, “I think I saw that guy uptown.” 

“Uptown” would be that all too brief stretch of Main Street that ran from where it intersects with Pond Street and the curve off of which sits .   During the daytime, uptown and Main Street and its stores and sidewalks hosted light and constant activiity and bustle.  

Yes, this is where evil could lurk and mix and try to avoid detection among good and decent citizens.

It was uptown to us because Andrews Street was behind the section of Main Street which most would call our downtown.   Then again, it wasn’t much of downtown, or an uptown, and it still isn’t.   That is a reason I am so excited about the . 

Back to the criminals and me, the budding crime stopper and sleuth. 

I was on to all of it.   Really, I would declare to my parents and my brother and sister that Efrem Zimbalist Jr. had just pointed out a villain who walked a mere two stone throws away.

Of course, they thought all of this was just hilarious.  But I don’t remember beyond some initial guffaws and chortling and giggles them prolonging their good-natured ribbing. 

Well, hey, some young kids have make-believe friends and pets.   I was taken with more sinister imaginings.   Perhaps this may have had something to do with, among other texts, the Edgar Allen Poe poem “Annabelle Lee” that my mother read to me when I was a child.   

Please allow me to also say this.  In that I attested to seeing bad men dowtown/uptown is somewhat credible in that during this period the North Easton post office was in the stone building that has a sort of H.H. Richardson design and which is across the street from the Rockery.  In the post office, affixed to a wall were sheets of paper on which were descriptions and photos of the FBI's most wanted.  These postings easily engaged kids, including me.   

I drove along uptown, er, downtown – whatever – yesterday afternoon.   As I said, we didn’t have much of a downtown/uptown back then, and we still don’t.   I was thinking though how things have changed uptown.   Things change everywhere.

What is different downtown/uptown now from then?  So much.

Gone is Harvey’s Market, where our family had a tab.  Ing’s Kitchen – a small diner run by Ing and Lubby Healey – has been gone for close to 40 years.  

Can you believe it that at one time Main Street, between Mechanic Street and Sullivan Avenue, had three barbershops?   It did.   There was Connie Galvin’s barbershop (not sure what the actual name was), Carl’s Barbershop, and Kevin Jackson also ran a barbershop there. 

Zarella’s Pharmacy.   No more.  

Mitrano’s Chevrolet.   One for the ages.  

Mitrano’s Package Store.   Not there.  

We had five and dime store, Tom Barnhill’s.   That is where we get our candy after school. 

Later there would be Nana’s Place, another candy store, which also was a joke shop.

The anchor store that was on Main Street from about 1900 until the late 1960s, and which was in the space where is now Main Street Cafe, was O’Connor’s Newsstand.   It had an actual soda fountain and offered a wide variety of newspapers and periodicals.  

Some enterprises on Main Street that were there when I was a grade-schooler are resilient and healthy warriors still doing business:  and Howard Insurance. 

There was a Chinese restaurant downtown/uptown.   I remember eating there.  It was in the building in which Oxford Cleaners is now located. 

During the period of the Big Bad Bruins of the early ’70s, we had a skate shop downtown/uptown.   I remember being in the store when my mother bought me skates, and the owner of the store told her how much the skates would cost, and he in telling her how much tax there would be, he provided the amount and said it was for “Governor Sargent.”   Francis Sargent was Massachusetts governor from 1971 to 1975.

Connolly Insurance, across from Oxford Cleaners, on the corner of Main Street and Center Street, used to the headquarters of the North Easton Cooperative Bank (now ). 

Here I will wander a bit from downtown/uptown.

Next door, on Center Street, to the North Easton Cooperative Bank was the Betty Jean Shop.   It was a small clothing store that for years held a monopoly in that it was the only place you could purchase the required uniforms for and gym classes. 

Next to the Betty Jean Shop was Sawyer’s Hardware, now the place of business for .   The Muscatos had an account had Sawyer’s.   Unless you have lived in town for a long, long time it is a good bet you don’t know that this building was once a movie theater.   In the back and upper floors of the building is still found the projector room and remnants of the theater seating.   

A little note:  as my dad told me, the theater was known to some as the “Johnny Free Show,” for it was a practice for kids inside the theater to open a door and let in, for free, friends and associates.

More businesses and places were downtown/uptown in years past – so many more than I have described here.  

Yes, downtown and uptown have some emotion and heart-tugging history and nostalgia.  

History and nostalgia in a small and interesting place I used to roam where there were people, real and imagined, actual and conjured. 

Joe Povoas February 27, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Ross - right next to O'Connor's was a diner with booths and a counter called Dorothy's run by Dot and James McMenamy, my next door neighbors growing up. At one time James brother Frank worked there too as a partner before he started McMenamy's Hamburg House on Washington Street. There is a very interesting story on how that came to be which few people if only myself now know. Dot is 94 years old and still lives at her homestead. She used to tell me about working as a waitress at the Toll House in Whitman for Ruth Wakefield who created the famous Toll House cookies aka chocolate chip cookies.
Pat Maguire Parrie February 27, 2012 at 04:10 PM
And WAYYYYYY back, too, was Reed's Hardware and the shoe repair/skate sharpener man in the building that later became Crane's and then Abbott's Pharmacy across from Sundell's gas station. And there was a dentist, Dr, Smith, in the white house just to the left of what was then the North Easton Grammar School. And Ms Helen Lincoln was THE phone operator in the building on the corner of Center & Main Streets. "Ms Lincoln, may I have 266, please." We are talking mid-40s and early 50s. More than half a CENTURY ago. WOW! ;o)
Lori hauthaway February 28, 2012 at 02:18 PM
How about My Daughter's Place pizza? I remember being there after school and we'd sit outside because there were so many kids there. Or sedell's
Sinclair March 02, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Ruth Wakefield, of "Toll House Cookie" fame, was a North Easton native. She grew up on Jenny Lind Street and graduated from O.A. The "Johnny Free Show" moniker actually began when the owner ocassionally offered free movies to promote his business. And yes, some kids did open the back door to let their friends in. The barber shop was simply named "Galvin's Barber Shop". It originally had gold letters with the name embossed on the front window. James McMenamy originally had a grocery store with his twin brother where "Freitas Real Estate" was located. He then converted it to a restaurant. The small restaurant Dot McMenamy opened was actually a bakery during the 1940's and early 1950's. And let's not forget the late Siegfred "Jeff" Haglund, the proprietor of "O'Conner's", who gave the football team free ice cream sundaes whenever they won a game. The "Betty Jean Shop" was originally located between "O'Conner's" and "Howard Insurance". When they relocated to Center Street, Rudy Howard expanded his office into the "Betty Jean" space.
Joe Povoas March 02, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Also on Main Street, we can't forget Barnhills, the small 5 & 10 run by Tom Barnhill, who also lived on Sheridan Street. It had long tables covered with boxes each containing his wares. Tom would sit on a small chair against the wall off the center of the floor.


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