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November 12, 2003

Melrose, est. 1629

Wandering around in downtown Melrose, Massachusetts, my home town.

Sherman will probably have some strong words about this town where we went to high school together.

A couple of things that seemed notable from my walk down Main Street.

  • My old Jr. High School is now an apartment building. I knew it was converted to residential years ago, but I thought it was condos, not rentals. Why does that seem to make a difference?

  • There's a Starbucks in the middle of town. And it has a WiFi hotspot.

  • There are a lot more restaurants than when I was a kid. Some actually look edible.

  • There are two psychic readings places on the main street. Go figure.

Melrose has always been to me the ultimate "bedroom community" The ratio of people who live here and work in other towns, vs. live elsewhere and work here, must be 100-1.

A nice place to visit...

Posted by jghiii at November 12, 2003 01:00 PM
Posted by: sherman on November 12, 2003 09:38 PM

So much to say, but let's talk schools.

My first school, the Whittier School, was a four classroom school house at Albion & Franklin. They knocked it down and built a park. My second school was the Franklin School at Main and Franklin. They knocked it down and build another school on the site. My third school was the Coolidge. They didn't knock it down, but they turned it residential. I often wonder who is living in the old locker room which has many fond memories for me. My fourth school was the High School, which they decomissioned and turned into a middle school.

Nothing stays the same.

Posted by: Sherman on November 13, 2003 12:35 AM

Growing up, the only chinese food we ate was at Kowloons in Saugus. But by the time Melrose was a place I came to visit from Western Massachusetts, there was a chinese restaurant downtown. They did all the great appetizer stuff: pork strips and golden fingers and chicken wings and terryaki sticks and all that. And they always gave you a lot of food -- I mean a lot. We always suspected that it was because they couldn't serve booze. I didn't drink, but i knew that the drink part of the menu at Kowloons was several pages long -- with illustrations of what the drink looked like (big surprise: there was a little umbrella in the drink). Melrose was/is (not sure now) a dry town. No packie stores. No booze in the Knights of Columbus or Masonic Hall, and no booze served at the restaurants. Melrose was terrified that is they allowed booze they'd turn into Malden, and with all respects to the Hodgson family roots -- Malden was a step down from Melrose. Malden was closer to Revere, and Melrose aspired to be Wakefield. So there were always huge portions at the Chinese restaurant downtown.

The only other restaurants were Brigham's, with their great hot fudge ice creams sundaes, and Santoro's sub shop -- where I learned to love meatball subs. There weren't any other real restaurants downtown, unless you count the Donut Shop.

Posted by: sherman on November 13, 2003 02:51 AM

Melrose was a wonderful place to grow up if you weren't an outcast. If you were one of the abnormal ones -- you had to be very strong. I wasn't. It was a really cruel world, and it twisted us. I remember a junior high feud with another outcast -- struggling to see which of us could tear the other apart better so we might get acceptance from the cool kids. Junior high was really horrible for me. It was easier in high school, because I found places I could find comfort: the band and debate. I know, I know -- geek city, but at least I wasn't in the AV club -- that was social death. Even band geeks looked down on the AV club. In band I got to be a King of the Geeks, like the kid in Sixteen Candles. I was in the inner circle there. But geeks still like sex and all the kids in band started pairing off and dating and holding hands and I wasn't able to do the boy/girl thing and become a couple. They tried to fix me up, but it just didn't work. So my senior year, I started to change my focus to debate.

In debate, it was just more cruelty at first. The other guys from my class of 1972 that were in debate were confident and cool and having sex and I was geeky and uncoordinated and insecure and spending too much time watching the cool kids undress in the locker room. Debate became a salvation for me when I looked for friendship outside of my senior class. I became the novice coach and those kids three years younger than me became my world. Jack paved the way before me. Because of a twisted eligibility system, Jack was only one year ahead of me in class, while he was two years ahead of me in age (which is why he's now mid-fifties while I'm just about to turn 49). For his senior year, Jack didn't debate but instead he took care of the novice debaters for our coach. Our coach FTF was a great man, but in the major depths of alocoholism at the time, and someone had to help him teach the novices. I was a junior while senior Jack started this role, and I took it from him when he graduated. I didn't really ask if he was ready to let go of it, and sure enough a year later when I graduated, I didn't let go of it but took care of the novices for a second year. But Jack was going to college in Boston so I took on the role of novice coach in place of debating my senior year. So instead of hanging out with my fellow seniors, I was with the freshman novices all the time. And that was my salvation in high school. I discovered I was a good coach, and I discoverd I could be socially cool if I hung out with kids younger than me.

I loved it. I felt good and accepted but I distanced myself from my own classmates in the process. I didn't hang out with anyone from my class. It culminated on graduation night when I was walking to fellow senior debater and Class President (and now Massachusetts State Senator) Mike Festa's house for the grad night party. We -- the we is me and my girlfriend Robyn (okay -- so I let the band people pair me up finally because I really didn't want to be what I was figuring out that I was) and her best friend Nancy who couldn't get a boyfriend because she was a huge big-boned girl and she was jealous that Robyn got a boyfriend, but ha ha the joke was on Robyn, Nancy -- she didn't even get tongue from me and I dumped her when she pushed for physcial action. So we were already parked and walking towards the house and I heard the noise from inside and I saw the people walking across the lawn for the front door and I realized that this was going to be a party where I would feel like a fool, where I wouldn't be comfortable, where -- like the party two months before when I took Robyn and tried to be cool but that (mom alert!!!) fucking bitch Candy Rogers just had to scream out to everyone that I still had the price tag stapled under the arm of the new suit coat I was wearing. Robyn probably must've been really pissed, but the dumping took place within a few days so I never found out her reaction, but she must've been pissed because I just turned to Robyn and told her I wasn't going to the party. I didn't explain, I just said I wasn't going and I left. I left her and Nancy at the curb and went off to hang out with my freshmen novices that night and had a great time.

Eventually I left more than the party -- I left Melrose. In Berkeley I can be the square peg in a round hole very easily. In Melrose, they would've got out the carving knife and reshaped me to fit in the hole. I didn't fit in Melrose and it wasn't until I got out did I realize how unhappy I was there. I've never gone to a reunion. I've never looked back. I did retain two wonderful friends from that place, but Melrose is a place where David lived, and he's gone.

Posted by: dave on November 13, 2003 12:51 PM


That was the ratio between adults and teenages in my day.(100 kids for every 1 adult)
The Melrose police had a ball chasing us around every weekend night.

Thats what I remember about youth in Melrose

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