By Brian P. Wallace
For those of you who don’t know those lyrics, they are from one of my favorite Beatle songs, which I think about a lot when reminiscing about things in my past. One of those memories is West Broadway or Big Broadway of my youth. It certainly was a much different time back when we shopped West Broadway with our parents or by ourselves.
I remember sitting on the stool at the lunch counter in Woolworth’s and ordering a hot dog from an old rotary cooking machine and a coke from the waitress. Even though I was eight or nine years old, I thought I was pretty grown up, and I enjoyed feeling that way even if it was just for a few minutes. I remember accompanying my mother into Kennedy’s Butter & Egg Store and running to the ice cream cooler as my mother ordered our eggs, cheese, butter and milk and then into the Manhattan Market where we got our meat for the week. We would get our fruit next door at the outdoor fruit stand, and directly across the street my mother would do her banking at the South Boston Savings Bank and then into the Supreme Market next door to get the rest of our weekly order. I remember my mother paying her gas, electric and phone bills on West Broadway.
When I needed shoes, I got them at Sullivan’s Shoes, Petchell’s or Thom McCann’s next to Sands. A new shirt brought me into Gorin’s next to Liggett’s Drug Store. There was also a Grant’s and Stukas’ Photography studio next to Dr. Levitan’s, which was next to Sands. We sometimes got our fruit at Mignosa’s or from the fruit man truck. He would sing what he had to sell that day. “Watermellow half a quarter watermelon, peaches.” We would go next door into Taylor’s Market (Where Your Grandmother Shopped) the sign said. Taylor’s Market was located on the corner of E and Broadway.
A weekend was never complete without a trip to the Broadway Show (AKA the Bug House) and some popcorn and a vanilla tubby from Mrs. Gagin. We mailed our letters at the Post Office next to the Broadway Show, where ABCD is now located. We got our gas at Charlie & Chris gas station, which is now the West Broadway parking lot. I will never forget the bowling alley on the second floor next to the gas station. There was a donut shop and a Brigham’s on that block of West Broadway as well. Johnny Cunniff, Al Shaughnessy, Billy Baker and Mike Larkin all at one time or another ran the sporting goods store next to the fruit market on Broadway.
Pober’s was the only place for first communion outfits, and the Bay View Men’s shop was always the place my father got his new hats. Carey’s furniture store was at the corner of F & Broadway across from Mary Anne’s. Broadway Tile and Linoleum was a few doors down the street, and Mike’s Lunch was directly across the street, where the Community Health Center is now located, as was Ellis Furniture. Joe’s Spa, Cantor’s and Cabot’s Drugstore were all located at Dorchester and Broadway across from the Bay View Pub. There was also another small butcher shop on that corner where we got our skirt steak, tenderized of course. My father was known to join some of his WWII friends at the Car Stop, The Heights Tavern, The Bright Star or The Casino. The Colonial Room was above The Elite Restaurant. There weren’t a lot of realty businesses back then on Broadway.
World Famous Blinstrub’s anchored the corner at D & Broadway across from Rosengarten Drug Store. Fini’s Drug Store was on the other side of D & Broadway near the First Tavern, next to Sonny and Whitey’s, just up the street from the old Station 6. Also, just up from D & Broadway was the Penn Tavern. The Italian Villa, the Carmen’s Post and the International were all next to the Penn Tavern at one time or another. The McDonough Post moved down Broadway after a tragic fire at its old location where Charlie and Chris moved in to, and it was above Irving tailor shop where my aunt Jeannie Geary worked. And I always wondered how that little Eliot typewriter repair shop stayed in business all those many years. Same with that little religious bookstore just up from E and Broadway. I never saw anyone go into that typewriter store or that religious bookstore my entire life. There was a barber shop, another cobbler shop and a Lithuanian market where Shenanigan’s is now located.
Legendary Matty Landy’s, which got most of its business after hours, was on the corner of B and Broadway and that went through a series of name changes like Barney Grogan’s, Street Lights and Patchessi’s before settling on Sturgis Cleaners. Frank’s Barber Shop was next door. The South Boston Supply company was between E and F on Broadway near Ketvirtis Jewelers, and Billy Long had a florist shop at E and Broadway, while Theresa Mullen’s florist shop was located where Station 6 is now located. The Royal Café, The Transit and The Tunnel were on Broadway near Broadway Station across the street from PJ Cronin’s.
What do all of those places have in common? They were all a major part of West Broadway once, and most are now gone. A few, however, still remain. I haven’t even touched the bars, which were as plentiful as the churches at one time. With all the changes South Boston has been through, I thought a stroll down memory lane might be in order. They can replace the businesses and the churches, but they will never be able to replace our memories.
“These are places I remember; some have gone, but some remain.”