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Don Whitney Photo of Hamilton Street in Southbridge- 1950s

A Kid’s Eye View of Southbridge in the Early 1950s -
Ellen Zepp

It’s Christmas 2003 and looking back half a century to the early 1950s, I find a handful of luminous vignettes. These places that touched the heart of a very small child remain only in my memory. Perhaps some of them made magic for you too.

· The newspaper store at the Globe had enormous steps and piles of newspapers reaching from a low shelf up to my shoulders. This is where the treats came from -
pastel fudge-like candy in a fluted metal pie pan the size of a half dollar that came with a tiny tin spoon - sugared popcorn (white kernels with pink glaze) in a bag big enough to share.

· Right next door to the newspaper store was what I called “Minnows”, a bait and tackle shop. While Dad browsed or chatted, I got to visit the pools of fish that were destined for the bait buckets of local ice fishermen.

· Weld and Beck’s Grain Store on Foster Street had bins of seeds and always a resident cat.

· Joe McKay’s store sat where McDonald’s is now. I sometimes wonder if the pigeons in the parking lot today are the 20 th generation grandchildren of those that flocked there in the 50s. It wasn’t just the pigeons that made this a favorite place. Joe had a parrot.  [For me the saddest part of the flood of 1955 was hearing the news that Joe McKay’s store (and probably the parrot too) was under water.]

· At McClellan’s (sp), located at the corner of Main and Elm Streets we could buy hats, mittens, and embroidered handkerchiefs (and probably lots of other things that made no impression on a pre-schooler). To get to the magic though, all I had to do was go through the front door, and bear to the right. About half-way back into the store on the right-hand counter was a mirror; and on the mirror were tiny glass animals in numbers too large to count. No more than 2 inches high, these figures were sculpted of glass rod rather than being blown.

· At Christmastime the train station (today’s Senior Center) turned into a toy store with toys that weren’t even pictured in the Sears and Roebuck Catalog.

· But the most wonderous place in the whole town was Mr. (Jules) Florsheim’s back room. This men’s clothing store was on Main Street across from Southbridge Savings Bank. In an alcove at the rear of the sales floor were doves, finches, parrots and a talking mynah bird. I was allowed to stay with the birds while Dad bought his clothes and if there were no other customers,  Mr. Florsheim would come back and tell me stories about the birds.

It’s strange what the tunnel of time does to our memories. Joe McKay, Bob Beck and Jules Florsheim seemed to me old men in the early 1950s. When I was blessed with the opportunity to meet them again as an adult, I was shocked that they had only grown younger during the intervening 20 years.

Don Whitney photo - Dec 1954

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