. How can I tell you about the Gloucester I knew and loved in the 40’s and 50’s in five minutes? A time in history that can never be repeated. Here are just a few highlights in my memory. Saturday night shopping on Main Street was a ritual. No need to go over the bridge and leave Gloucester. There were no malls or shopping centers. Everything was here on Main Street. W. G. Brown’s Department store was the anchor store. I purchased my elegant wedding gown at Gessie Alper’s Bridal Shop on Main Street. To name a few stores there was F.W.Woolworths, Kresge.s, J.J. Newbury, Empire, Almys, Goldmans, Adasko, , Bell Shop, Gorins, Sandlers, Blanchards and Art Jewelry’s, Nichols and Fanny Farmers Candy, Greys and Sears and many hotels, restaurants, shoe stores, drug stores and grocery stores. Stores were open until 9 o’clock, then the curfew would sound two blows from the fire station and the streets would be cleared; most people went home. The many colorful barrooms remained open.
Gloucester was diverse in many cultures, keeping to themselves. Portuguese section; Our Lady of Good Voyage Church with Holy Spirit Crowning’s. Swedish, Lebanese had their own community in Lanesville. The Italian/Sicilian folks first settled down the Fort. Celebrating the St. Peter’s Fiesta. the Italian fishing fleet stayed in port for fiesta week. This was a time to paint, refurbish and decorate with colorful Italian flags. The fishing boats were tied to the wharfs, sometimes six across. I remember my dad holding my hand, as we jumped from boat to boat, as he was the engineer and had to check on his engine room. At the Blessing of the fleet my Grandpa entertained over fifty relatives on his boat. We watched the greasy pole and seine boat races. My grandma made spaghetti and meatballs. We enjoyed watermelon. Tony Gentile played his accordion, as we sang and danced to our Italian music on deck. We had no life jackets.
Back in the 50’s mackerel was king. Seining fishing boats were in their heyday. My dad was a fisherman, best money he ever made. Fishing was Gloucester’s history. Most of the town was tied into fishing in some way. I could see schools of mackerel from the boulevard, a silver shining presence in the water. Small day fishing boats could set their nets close to shore and haul in a good catch.
I remember walking everywhere. My dad did not own a car until I was in High School. Everyone walked. We walked to neighborhood school, no school busses, we walked to church. we walked to the beach and to the movies.
The Strand Theater, and the North Shore Theater provided us with great movies. The Strand had a drawing for a free bike on Saturday afternoon.
I remember going to Mass on Sunday morning at St. Ann’s Church. Ushers collected 25 cents seat money from adults at the door. Ushers went up and down the aisles, getting five or six people into each pew. The church was filled. The down stairs children’s mass was held with the Nuns, Sisters of Mercy, After Mass we attended Sunday School. Many churches were so well attended. Most everyone went to church on Sunday. The stores were closed. This was family day with family dinners and visiting in the afternoon. No TV, Internet or Computers.
Mr. Bernard, my neighbor, was the ticket master at the Gloucester Depot. The building was heated by a potbellied coal stove in winter. A double wooden bench was in the middle of the room. Newspapers were two or three cents. Annually the circus came to town on the first early morning train. My dad would wake us to look our window at the parade of elephants and cages with lions, tigers and many animals, as they paraded from the Gloucester Depot down Washington Street to Stage Fort Park. During the summer many Carnivals were held at Stage Fort Park.
Many years ago, sitting in front of me on the train ride home from Boston were two young men. I believe they were contemplating a move to Gloucester. Apparently, one had lived here before and was explaining to his friend of all the employment opportunities in Gloucester. He stated “There are many fish plants. Jobs are plentiful. You will work hard. This is good honest work and you will be very well paid. Everyone is so friendly in Gloucester.” A choice of factories also would have been available: Mighty-Mac, manufacturing world famous clothing. Gloucester Mill Condos on Maplewood Ave was a huge factory where ladies stockings were made, before nylons, Universal Coat Factory, LePage’s Glue Factory and many more. I listened as I imagined their disappointment, when they would discover a different Gloucester on their arrival. At that time all these businesses were gone
. I was born in Gloucester in 1929, I have never living anywhere else. I have witnessed many changes take place. I anticipate having my book finished and my Book Launching Party on my 90th Birthday on July 24, 2019. You will all be invited.
Virginia Frontiero McKinnon July 2018
After every football game and on many weekday afternoons the Gloucester High School ROTC Band would parade through the streets. My brother was the Drum Major, he played the trombone.
One day, I was strolling along Main Street looking for someplace to have a snack. I was about seven years old. I was with my Aunt Flossie, who was nine months younger than me. The lunch counter at Woolworths had ice-cream for ten cents and so did Kreskas Five and Dime. We only had a nickel. I remember my Dad taking me to the Busy Bee for a delicious dish of fruit cocktail for five cents. Entering the Busy Bee. we put our nickels on the counter and ordered fruit cocktail. We felt so grown up, sitting at the counter and enjoying our snack. The bar tender was so gracious, treating us like young ladies. He was my dad’s friend. When we got home we could wait to tell my mother. She was furious at my Dad. How could he take his little girl into a bar room to sit at the bar? This was something we never repeated to anyone.
One year on my birthday my young son, Mike, woke me” Here is your birthday present Ma” Exciting he held up a bucket of mackerel he had just caught from Capt. Joe’s wharf across the street from my home. I cleaned the fish, enjoying grilled fish with lots of lemon.
Gloucester was diverse in many cultures, keeping to themselves. Portuguese section. Our Lady/Holy Spirit Crowning’s. Swedish, Lebanese had their own community in Lanesville. The Italian/Sicilian folks first settled down the Fort, celebrating the St. Peter’s Fiesta. The Italian fishing fleet stayed in port for fiesta week. This was a time to paint, refurbish and decorated with colorful Italian flags. The fishing boats were tied to the wharfs, sometimes six across.
I remember my dad holding my hand, as we jumped from boat to boat, as he was the engineer and had to check on his engine room. Then we would share a bottle of Twinlight soda. At the Blessing of the fleet my Grandpa entertained over fifty relatives on his boat. We watched the greasy pole and seine boat races. My grandma made spaghetti, meatballs and watermelon. Tony Gentile played his accordion, as we sang and danced to our Italian music on deck. No life jackets