This is One for the books. History books.
A giant cactus. A giant peanut with a top hat and monocle. An orange dinosaur. A landlocked Ship. Plastic cows. Real cows. Holy cow.
I remember them all. But my vantage point was a little different; most of my time on Route 1 was spent in parking lots.
My mother didn’t get her license until she was 43, and the only reason she got it was my father died a year earlier and he was her primary source of transportation. So she got a license, a yellow Ford Torino, and she took to the roadways. It wasn’t pretty.
I don’t recall her ever getting into an accident, but that was probably because God was looking out for all other motorists. Or maybe he was looking out for her main passenger: my grandmother.
The term “backseat driver” may have predated my grandmother, but it certainly came to define her. And it was where I saw my second business opportunity. (The first was taking out trash barrels on Nahant Place in Lynn, where I grew up, and on neighboring Nahant and Broad streets. I’d get paid 25 cents a barrel and pay friends 10 cents apiece to do it for me. But, I digress.)
My mother’s driving created a much better-paying opportunity. Neither she nor my grandmother were thrilled with her driving, so when I got my license a year later after I turned 16, they, too, saw an opportunity, to be chauffeured. And I was more than happy to appease them. For a price.
My grandmother gave me $2 a trip, and my mother filled the tank in the Torino for my use.
Lyft? Uber? I was decades ahead of them.
Back to Route 1. Remember Zayre’s? I do. Not the inside of the store, but the parking lot, on Route 1 at Walnut Street.
K-Mart? Hilltop Butcher Shop? The Dress Barn (I think it was called)?
Yes, yes, and yes. I remember the outside of those stores, but it was their parking lots that I knew best.
In hindsight, it’s probably where my non-chauffeur career also got its beginnings. I’d sit in Route 1 parking lots reading newspapers. Specifically, I’d read the columnists. Jimmy Cannon and Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin, when I got my hands on out-of-town papers. I especially loved the Boston sports columnists. The Globe’s Ray Fitzgerald was my favorite, but there were so many great ones. Tim Horgan. Larry Claflin. Clif Keane. Joe Fitzgerald. Leigh Montville. And notes columns by Bob Ryan and Peter Gammons and Will McDonough. Reading them was better than going to the games. I remember as a
kid reading Ed Cahill’s “Cracker Barrel” in The Item, and – even though I’d see him in his Cherry Street home and after Lynn Shore Little League games with his son, Teddy – I can’t explain the thrill of seeing him at the news desk when I went to work for the paper years later.
Read Mike Conway’s cover story about the Route 1 of old. Reminisce about Adventure Car Hop and Chickland and Yoken’s and Lenny’s on the Turnpike and Jolly Jorge’s.
I’ll think about the parking lots.
Hot top isn’t the only thing paving the way to a great edition of One. Check out the story about Kevin Currie of Saugus, Mass. General Hospital’s self-styled ambassador for the handicapped. Beth Bresnahan, Meaghan Casey and Stacey Marcus focus on my two favorite things – food and fashion; and we go from the water (Lynn-based Cape Codder Boats) to the woods (Lynn Woods ranger Dan Small).
All in One.
Cover design by Tori Faieta
Cover photo: Newbu