Housecalls? From WJ O’Donnell

Dear Joe – I grew up in Gloucester in the 60s and 70s, one of seven kids, all of whom graduated from Gloucester High. I have been enjoying GoodMorningGloucester, and recently found the great reminiscences of Melissa Abbott on Gloucester in the 1960s and 1970s. Our father, Dr. Walter E. O’Donnell, came to Gloucester in 1960, started his own medical practice and eventually led a group practice that grew into Cape Ann Medical Center. I have lots of fond memories of going on house calls with him all over Gloucester and Rockport. Gloucester in the early 1960s was still a place where everyone made house calls. Every week, Bud Murphy from Railroad Avenue Market (naturally, not on RR Ave but on East Main St where the Last Stop is now) would show up at our door with all our groceries, including the greenest bananas he could find for my father. In a smelly symmetry, once a week Joe the garbage man, with his big smile under the dirtiest watch cap, would come by to collect our garbage, and haul it back to feed it banquet-style to the pigs at the piggery off Eastern Ave. And of course, we all remember the famous housecalls that Sylvester Deering made to that little white house on Stacy Boulevard – when the Cut Bridge broke, naturally in the upright position, Mr. Deering was the only person who knew how to fix it. My dad made hundreds of house calls a year, right up until he retired in 1989. My family and I have been reminiscing about Dad’s house calls, and wondered if any of your readers have any housecall stories to share. 

Thanks. WJ O’Donnell

Day’s End Brace Cove

Is this flotsom or jetsam or neither?

Flotsom Marine Debris Brace Cove Gloucester MA Beach ©Kim Smith 2014Large Tangled Mass Washed Up at Brace Cove  ~ approximately 8 feet wide by 5 feet high

I’ve always used the words interchangeably to describe any debris washed up on the beach, not realizing there is a notable difference. From the NOAA website: “Flotsam and jetsam are terms that describe two types of marine debris associated with vessels. Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship’s load. The word flotsam derives from the French word floter, to float. Jetsam is a shortened word for jettison.

Under maritime law the distinction is important. Flotsam may be claimed by the original owner, whereas jetsam may be claimed as property of whoever discovers it. If the jetsam is valuable, the discoverer may collect proceeds received though the sale of the salvaged objects.”

It is also noted on the website that the majority of trash that covers our beaches and floats in our oceans comes from sewers and storm drains, as well as from recreational activities, namely from picnickers and beach goers.


GMG Reader The Purple Place writes with joyful news:

“Benji was FOUND today (12/27/14) in the Friend Street Area around 4pm WOOHOO!! He was found by one of the many caring members of the Community who have been searching for HIM for the past few days! I am SO HAPPY to know he’ll now be safe and only PRAY he goes to a home to that will LOVE and Cherish him forever !!! <3″

Thank you Purple Place for letting us know. I am so grateful that you took the time to write. Thank you to everyone in the community who searched for Bengi. He’s quite an admirable soul to have survived for over a week on his own! It’s a Wonderful Life!!!


Painter Barb and cousin Vesla in NYC

My sister “Painter Barb” left for NYC after her Christmas Day visit with me. I see she arrived safely. Her photo is of her and my father’s cousin Vesla, on the left. Vesla is the Norwegian nickname for “little one.” She is the youngest from that generation of my family, which has its roots on the island of Tonsberg, off the southern coast of Norway. In the background is the Manhattan Apple store, whose products are used by my sis and myself. God bless them both.BBandVesla0957wm

A Little Help Here: North Shore Shopping Center 1970s

As was touched upon during yesterday’s podcast, I’ve been thinking about the giant holiday soldiers that once stood guard outside the North Shore Shopping Center for weeks now.  If I’m being honest here, I actually think about them each December.

Having lived in Middleton, Hamilton, Gloucester, and Rockport for my entire life I have years worth of memories that somehow include hours clocked at that mall.

Now, I’m not trying to say that the mall itself holds any special place in my heart…and, in all actuality, I’m happy to report that many months go by when I don’t ever step a foot in there these days.  While holiday shopping this year, I went to the mall exactly once.  I hit the Apple Store, J Crew, and the Gap and was out in less than 30 minutes.

That having been said, I do have very fond memories from way back when that involve that same shopping center in one form or another.  For example, I remember fondly the way my grandmother would refer to it as the shopping center rather than the mall when I was a teenager.  I have fond memories of Brigham’s…but, that could have been The Liberty Tree Mall.  Speaking of…remember that strange, silver Tree that once stood in the center of that mall?  In speaking with my mother last night to piece together my memories, she was able to tell me that that tree was at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York before being moved to Danvers.

I digress.

I did really love those big toy soldiers!

Likewise, I have such fond and vivid memories of what, in my mind, was miles and miles of Christmas decorations adorning the long corridors of the mall.  I remember holiday scenes set up the length of the mall.  Every 50 yards or so, would be a different mini village to gaze upon with the holiday wonder that kids eat up like crazy.  I also remember giant, brightly colored artificial Christmas trees.

The problem is…. I seem to be the only one who remembers those decorations.

Help me out here, would you?!  Did they really not exist?  That can’t possibly be!

My mother was able to fill me in on the rides in Kiddietowne (that evidently, according to our podcast, Joey remembers.  Or at least he remembers the train.)….but, it seems those rides closed in 1973…and since I was just 2 years old then, I don’t fault myself for not remembering them.  My mom confirmed the old grocery store….and that I did indeed get lost there once when I was little. Sorry, Mom!  She, likewise, can confirm my memories of the toy soldiers. I also managed to find a photo of those outside of Filene’s.  My grandmother always said “Filene’s” with a soft i sound like Fill ene’s.  Funny the things you remember.


After an hour of my life that I’ll never get back, I came up pretty empty handed in regards to the shopping center of my childhood memories.

Here’s a link to the rides at Kiddietowne that stood outside of where Macy’s is today.  Who would have thought?  And, for the record, for anyone with warm fuzzies about Kiddietowne, it turns out that they have reunions.  I read about the last one on their website. Sadly, it took place in 2006. I’m not sure if there are more in the works.

I also found some information on this website.  It details some of the growth, change, and development…but, doesn’t fill in any of the missing information I was looking for.  Bummer.  I barely remember it being an outdoor mall.

I think, in piecing together my memories and Joey’s memories, that maybe the decorations that I’m speaking of ultimately became part of the Enchanted Village at Jordan’s Furniture.  Thoughts?

While we’re at it…check out the photo of the old movie theater.  Not as waaaay back as some of my other memories, but man, did I clock some time there during Middle School and High School.  Open the flood gates of memories with this photo!


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Community Stuff 12/27/14

Merry Christmas, Joey. I just realized the bag of gifts my mother-in-law brought over says Goldman’s of Gloucester. Now we’re debating how old this bag could be. Is there a FOB out there that knows when Goldman’s closed its doors? Thank you to anyone who may have some insight.
Joanne Christopher