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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.  , 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 . 

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.

Aimee Saulnier March 30, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Thank You for taking us back, Denise :) ... too many memories to jot down here so I'll just touch on a few! Let's talk french fries ... my favorites were from Woolworth's and Red Rooster. May's Bakery for the biggest cookies (I can still remember the very specific aroma that hit you the minute you entered). Off to Mr. Big's for some toys then to Stride Rite or Thom McCann's (sp) for a pair of shoes and then to Cummings for a new dress. Wrapping up the day with a great movie with popcorn at the Embassy Theater then off to the candy counter at the bottom of the escalator at Grover Cronins!!! Those were the days, my friend!
Marie Daly March 30, 2011 at 02:34 AM
I remember when Forest Street was a narrow, pot-holed road lined with woods on both sides. We would ask the bus driver to go "fast over the bumps, please." The Murphy Army Hospital would play reveille and taps every morning and night. Camp Ted was the Boy Scout camp, and Camp Wanisik was the Girl Scout camp across Forest Street. Our overnight stays at Camp Wanisik seemed as if they were in the middle of a wilderness. We spent many a night around a campfire toasting marshmallows, singing folk songs and telling scary stories. Marie Daly, Waltham Historical Society
Denise J. Dubé March 30, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Aimee! Wonderful memories. How could we ever forget Cummings and the candy counter at the end of the escalator. Marie, thank you for sharing. I remember when the houses on Forest Street were new, but don't recall the pot-holed street. Thank you for remembering. Who's going to talk about Dean Dairy, the Canada Dry factory and ...
Patricia Silverstein March 30, 2011 at 08:40 PM
There are so many places to remember! Robert Halls Department Store on Main St, the old city bus barn where Bickfords was located. The S & H Green Stamp store between Wendy's and CVS on Main St. The Waltham Supermarket with it's huge meat department. You would get green stamps at the check out and walk across the street to redeem them. The A & P supermarket where the new Baybank offices were built on Main St across from Veronicas. Bates Pharmacy, Zayre's and Ames, the Chateau Restaurant when it had red wooden benches, red and white checkered table cloths and only two small dining rooms. Central Junior High, the "Voc" Vocational High School. The Chesterbrook Restaurant on Lexington St and the Cottage Crest on Trapelo Rd. The McArthur School when it was named the Northwest School. Honeywell on Smith St. where the the US Postal Annex is located today. The huge Stop n Shop on Linden Street where CVS and Petco are now. Yes, Denise I do remember the Dean Dairy and The Canada Dry plant on Second Ave. There is so much more...
Ryan Grannan-Doll (Editor) March 30, 2011 at 08:46 PM
I'm speechless! These comments are great! Thanks to all the readers for their submissions, and thanks to Denise Dube, who rocks!
Denise J. Dubé March 30, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Patricia, yes, yes, yes! How wonderful to recall all those places. Ryan, thank you for a wonderful compliment, but I think our readers rock!
Ruth Gately April 01, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Denise never disappoints! A few more memories include the By-Way beside Mama Josie's, the Greatway on upper Main St. where the first cable companies in the city took over, Teens 'n Queens, the laundromat and Twinbrook Pharmacy in the A&P strip Mall, the Rustler Steak House (also on the site of the old bus barn), Chez Elise, the short lived skating rink on Bacon St. (now Harvey's), and finally Sears surplus store on Moody St. Ruth Gately
Denise J. Dubé April 01, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Hi Ruth, how are you? I forgot about Greatway. Didn't that morph into Giant's? It was an all-time favorite here, similar to Moe Black's but with even more "stuff."
Ruth Gately April 02, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Hi Denise Yes, the Greatway morphed into the Giant. Bought a lot of "back to school" clothes there. Had a great winter (in warmer climates). Enjot "The Patch".
vet74 April 04, 2011 at 04:56 AM
There was at one time a Chinese Restaurant in the middle of the now Shaws Supermarket on Lexington Street, North Waltham....but for the life of me I cannot remember the name. Where Chadwicks Ice Cream Palor was is now a sort of Day Care Center, new building and all.
Tina April 12, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Yes, I remember that Chinese restaurant in the middle of the Star Market (now Shaw's) parking lot on Lexington Street, but I was too young to remember the name. I had my first Chinese dinner there!
Tina April 12, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Does anyone remember Camp Chesterbrook, the day camp on Lincoln Street? Chester and Evelyn Holbrook ran a superb program for boys and girls. The land is now a housing development. There was a big red barn that was used for indoor activities. I think I heard that it burned down after the camp went out of business.
Tina April 12, 2011 at 05:37 PM
I was sorry to see the demise of Mass Hardware on High Street. It was more convenient than Home Depot, as I hate that confusing stretch of Winter Street near Home Depot. Mass Hardware always had everything I needed, from appliances to supplies for my gardening and furniture refinishing projects. Is it correct that Mass Hardware and Moe Black's went out of business because the larger companies that took them over went bankrupt? I know that is what happened to Lechmere, another favorite store.
Tina April 12, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Another place I miss is Bambino's on Crescent Street. They had great chicken caesar salads and burgers. On karaoke nights, Elvis often made an appearance! Their building was attached to Grover Cronin's, and it fell to the wrecking ball when Cronin's was demolished.
Tina April 12, 2011 at 06:16 PM
I now live on Forest Street, and it has turned into a speedway! I went to the Cedar Hill Girl Scout day camp when I was a Brownie in 1960 or so, and I remember Forest Street as being very narrow and dark. At the time, the future Bentley University campus was just vacant land bordering Camp Wanisik. As for Camp Ted, its land fell victim to the housing developments on the roads in back of Forest Street. There is no longer a forest on Forest Street! My neighbors and I now see woodchucks, foxes and coyotes in our yards, as they have lost their natural habitat due to all the development. Needless to say, we keep our cat indoors, because the traffic and the predatory wild animals -- coyotes and foxes -- are unsafe for any kitty!
Kyle McCluskey July 23, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Does anyone remember Jumbo's Pizza on Main Street right across from City Hall? They featured their famous "Bubble Gum" Pizza. It was the BEST pizza I have ever eaten.
Joanne Rennie Paré September 29, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Does anyone remember Penny's on Moody street? They sent merchandise payments through an electric "trolley" type machine near the ceiling to their office.. Then the return to where the purchase was made with the receipt and change, if applicable. Loved the old magic of Waltham!
Lynda Stewart November 25, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Does anyone know what happen to all those really neat pictures that use to hang high above on the walls of the Waltham Super Market? I'm sure now a day's they would have to remove them for "offending" someone. They were very cool! What about the Easter bunny and Santa, and all the animated characters at Grover Cronin. And the gentleman that would sell balloons , one inside of another. Skiing at Prospect Hill , Central Jr. High. The old joke shop, and Record store on Moody street. I moved from Waltham in 1986, I have been back to visit a handful of times. I don't recognize it any more, the DeVincent farms, we would go there for fresh produce , and at Christmas , we would always look for a Christmas tree there. Remember the storm of "78" we had to walk everywhere , the streets were closed for close to a week. I thought it was pretty cool, I'm sure the adults at the time found it very inconvenient , as I would now. How Waltham has changed so. Haven't we all. Thanks for the memories!
john mattson December 04, 2012 at 11:07 AM
how bout rogers drug store,soda jerk there in early fifties jm
Vicki Sarro Corpian January 10, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Vincent's Bakery on Main street across from the former Waltham Savings Bank, where I opened my first bank account with $5.00. Discland record store, Expressions gift shop where I would go every week and spend my $2.00 allowance on Smurfs! Lastly the animals on the common...
Connie Lewis Kennedy March 28, 2013 at 01:14 AM
I love Grover Cronins. I worked at Grover Cronins. I remember Dr. Barry he hired me. Also remember Liggets drug store. It was a great place to hang out after school. Then there was Park Snows the 5 & 10. Raymonds,Stride Rite Shoes, then came the Danish House where I met my husband John
Richard Brose April 18, 2013 at 04:01 PM
I was wounded in Korea and spent 1 year at Murphy Army Hosp. The cottage Crest was down the road and as soon as I was able to walk thats where I headed for. My best memory is of a beautyiful blonde from Newton. She and others used to come to the hosp. to cheer up the wounded. Her last name was Poplton I think. Brose37@aol.com 2
Pam Feeley Doiron May 15, 2013 at 06:04 PM
I remember all the dances we had on Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday is was a choice of the Boys Club or IBEW. Saturday was always at Central or the Old High School as some called it. The best was good old Brigham's on Main St where Gordon's Liquor store is now. Every afternoon after school for a Vanilla Coke.
JJoseph May 15, 2013 at 06:19 PM
How about "The News Tribune", "Signor Pizza" "Waltham Cinema" "Bruce Pharmacy"
JJoseph May 15, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Don't forget "Zayres" on River Street and the "Sears scratch and dent" (where the Skellig is now) and Anderson Little on River Street. The Waltham Hospital, The Roundup Steak House, IGOs restaurant.
Pam Feeley Doiron May 15, 2013 at 07:21 PM
How could we forget Tayter's Potato Chips. It has been so long I hope I spelled it correctly.
K Eden June 01, 2013 at 02:09 PM
can not forget the Wal-Lex - back in the day, it was my first pizza, then the two Brighams,one on Main the other on Moddy Streets, best hot fudge sauce, a sub shop on Main near the Brighams, best subs or so a kid like I was then thought and who could ever forget the Waltham Supermarket, owned by the Drabkins, store made bread and ice cream, they even had a basement with Woolworth type items, and Park Snows and so many other great thigs - way up Moody was the pet store, and the Nan King - awful food, nice big orange trees in each large window -and not to forget the Kennedy Butter and Egg Stores, there were two of them. Yes the parades, and Grover Cronins, my mother likened it to Boston Filenes, until Shopper World came along, I grew up in Sudbury, I visited my grandparents often, Waltham became my city in the mid 1960's - loved it then. Used to sneak into the Embassy for FREE!!!
Ruth-Ann Smith Rubman September 15, 2013 at 10:29 PM
Just think of the helicopter that would bring Rex Trailer to the parade (he might have been piloting it?) and he would either have Santa, the Easter Bunny with him. They always landed in the Reece parking lot (not sure what it used to be but it was right across from the entrance to Mt Feake cemetery). Then we had the fourth of July parade every year and the carnival on the Waltham Common. I still think of Rex Trailer when I hear a helicopter in the air.
Mike Burns December 26, 2013 at 02:21 AM
Here's to Waltham girls, the first girls I recognized as such, the girls from around the neighborhood as well as those holy girls from Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, but mostly I say here's to the Woods of Waltham... The great north woods at the top of the hill on all three sides of Doty St.... Big Rock in the woods near the Northeast Elementary School, where we would play street hockey, all pretending to be Bobby Orr all year round (that is when we weren't up on top of the roof of the school, listening to the transistor radio play classic rock when the music was as young as we were)... The pond (where we would skate like Orr on ice in winter) in the woods on the way to the YMCA and out to Wal-Lex and beyond, all the way to Moody St and even the Electronic Jungle where the wild bongs and bootlegs are... Always running around outside, we'd go climbing and hiding in the tops of trees, till the cowbell rang in the distance and the sun went down on me... The Woods Of Waltham : The Great Escape (from home).

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