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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.

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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