The Way Waltham Used To Be
Reminders of the past everyday life in Waltham
Last week the former Polaroid building was demolished. Long-empty, riddled with weeds and unkempt, it was still a sad so long. I remember years ago passing by and seeing the people packed into the glass-walled cafeteria.
That was just one of the memories I had this week as I recalled several odd bits and pieces of what everyday life in Waltham used to be.
I recall cutting through the back of Hardy School on Lake Street to reach the grocery market on Lexington Street. It started as a Publix grocery store before it turned into a Stop & Shop. It eventually morphed into the T.J. Maxx you see today.
I recall old Mr. Lazazzero, during the late 1960s sometimes out at 5:30 a.m. either pushing his worn wheelbarrow or carrying lumber over his shoulders. He was in his 80s then, but looked more like 50. We’d talk as he walked me to Mister Donut’s for my 6 a.m. shift. Mister Donut's eventually became Dunkin' Donuts.
A mason, Mr. Lazazzero built the brick house on the edge of Indian and College Farm roads. Lazazzero Playground, on Lake Street in front of Hardy Pond was named after his son, who I believe died in the World War II.
The former Wal-Lex bowling complex also popped into my head recently. Wal-Lex offered a pink 99-cent card every summer that made parents and kids pretty happy. With one small card, kids could bowl one string, roller skate at the rink and play a game of miniature golf. I think we could also get a hot dog, although I’m not sure my memory is serving me well on this. Anyone know?
While I have a lot of Waltham memories, other shared theirs with me, including the presidents of the Waltham Historical Society.
Sheila FitzPatrick, co-president of the Waltham Historical Society: “As a teenager I remember window shopping at Grover Cronin’s after school.”
FitzPatrick lived on Gilbert Street, which is south of Main Street, east of Newton Street, North of the Charles River and west of Watertown.
“I still live where I grew up. I remember Raytheon as a child. At 3:30 in the afternoon, when the first shift was let out, every child in the neighborhood knew to stay in the yard [to avoid being hit by a vehicle],” Sheila said of the line of cars that poured out of the factory. “By 3:45, we could go out and play again. We’d be riding bicycles.”
Wayne McCarthy, co-president of the Waltham Historical Society: Wayne had friends who worked at Polaroid, so he too recalls the old building.
“I remember Moe Black’s, Woolworth’s 5 & 10 cent store, the Battle of the Bands at the Hovey …” McCarthy said.
Moe Black’s was a two-building department and gardening store that sat across from the police station on Lexington Street. Not the cleanest place, but it was everyone’s favorite.
“…Grover Cronins … Grover Cronin’s fashion shows… the old parades along Main Street. Some ended at Grover Cronin’s back parking lot … the Easter Bunny contest … the pig farm off Winter Street.”
And, of course, “the reservoir,” also known as “the res.” Most of us remember “the res” and the parking lights that lined both sides of the dark street. Mostly, I remember the police shining lights in the window …
Check out the images in the photo gallery that are sure to bring back a few thoughts of what we grew up around. There are a lot more, but I’m going to let you share your stories and memories in the comments section.
Our recollections of this great city are important, so go ahead and repeat your version. I can’t wait to see your responses.