This morning something, I’m not sure what, brought to mind the strip mall near our house in Massachusetts. Danvers Plaza was not far from our neighborhood and it offered a little something for everyone in our family.
I can remember going to Augy’s gas station with my Dad, who was always responsible for gassing up the cars, when gas was about 39 cents a gallon. Our large family was never without a station wagon. Completely free of car seats and safety restraints, we somehow managed to make it safely to our destination. Instead of shot gun, our driveway was always filled with a chorus of “I get the back back!”
Purity Supreme was where Mom did all our grocery shopping. I think it’s out of business now. I accompanied Mom and frequently assisted with the shopping for school lunch ingredients. Our family was a big consumer of something called Cheez Whiz, that is until the price went “through the roof.” I vividly recall the time my Mom loudly vowed to never buy it again. And she didn’t. But I can still taste the orange tang of a good Cheez Whiz sandwich.
Purity Supreme seemed to be some sort of a testing zone for new products. Strange items would show up and disappear. With a lot of cajoling, I was able to convince my Mom to buy something called “I Hate Peas.” These were French fries with peas squooshed inside. I think they also carried “I Hate Carrots” but since none of us hated carrots, Mom never bought those. Not surprisingly, this product did not last long and we had to go back to eating peas in their original format.
Danvers Plaza had a barber shop. My brothers all wanted long hair like the Beetles, but much to their chagrin, they always came home from this shop with crew cuts. My brother Greg once ran away from home for an entire day to avoid the barber’s chair. He hid in a drain pipe and had the whole neighborhood on alert. After he was apprehended, he got a super crew cut. Instead of Ringo Starr, he looked more like Yul Brenner.
The biggest and best store at Danvers Plaza was Almy’s Department Store, which was a precursor to Target. They carried a wide variety of merchandise and their prices were low. Almy’s was infamous in our family for several reasons. First of all, they had a fire there, which was big news in Danvers; and the fire was followed by an epic sale. Mom bought a lot of yarn at the fire sale and knitted a few sweaters, but no matter how many times they were washed, they always smelled strongly of smoke. But boy, she was proud of that bargain yarn.
Long after we moved from Danvers, our next door neighbor there, Donald S. was arrested for robbing the Almy’s. We were not surprised. Donald was a hoodlum from the time he was born. His sister Annie was my very best friend, but visits to her house were always a little scary because you never knew what Donald would do. The S’s had a terrifying bull mastiff named Vicky who was kept in a 10 foot tall chain link enclosure through which Donald would tease her until we all thought she’d leap over the fence and tear us to bits. And Donald had a much younger, oops brother named Jimmy who later became the victim of Donald’s bullying. He was once forced to eat one of Donald’s boogers on a cracker. I often wonder what became of poor Jimmy. I imagine there must have been a lot of therapy in his life.
I doubt I’d recognize Danvers Plaza today. I think it’s been remodeled and filled with the bigger chain stores. And I doubt any other shopping center will ever evoke as many memories as this one did. I wonder what a jar of Cheez Whiz goes for these days?