Main Street was the first street in Medfield, long before it was Route 109. It’s gone from being an unpaved pathway to a partially paved road with tracks (the street railway operated 1899-1924) to the one of the most heavily-traveled roads in Massachusetts, partially resurfaced this month.
The first automobile in Medfield, a Kidder, was bought in 1901 by Dr. Arthur Mitchell of 503 Main Street. (These days, Jack, his dog, is better known than the doctor because Jack’s portrait faces drivers stopped at the traffic light at North and Main Streets. Dr. Mitchell had Medfield artist J. S. Monks paint Jack’s portrait to honor the dog who saved him from drowning in the Charles River. The dog and the doctor are buried side by side in Maine.)
By 1914 traffic had increased to the point that a local group, the Automobile Owners of Medfield, Mass. began passing out these cards:
TO AUTOMOBILE OWNERS AND DRIVERS
The automobile owners of Medfield are going to STOP FAST DRIVING through this town… Won’t you personally help us when going through by not running faster than 12 MILES per hour? You can go through town at 12 miles an hour in 5 minutes; if you go fast, you cannot go in less than 2-1/2 minutes. Will you not do your part in helping is make speed traps unnecessary in Medfield?
SHOW THIS CARD TO YOUR FRIENDS
(Good luck getting through the center of town at 12 mph today!)
Yet Fred Temple, who moved with his family from Roslindale to Medfield in 1946, used to say he could drive on Route 109 in commuting hours and sometimes get to Westwood before he saw another car!
Our Main Street in Medfield has always been thought of as the midstream of activity. This is the heartbeat of any town that pulsates and moves to the rhythm of its people. To wonder where this boulevard begins and ends is not as important as the bounty and adventure that Medfield has become in history. If there was anything that one would believe with a certainty and conviction, it would be the ever changing pavement and complexion of this vibrant artery and highway of travel.
In the mid-twentieth century, Medfield was a town and world without something as simple as the Friendly’s Restaurant that eventually became today’s Dunkin Donuts. From the west one approached the downtown from “where the lights were bright, and there was magic in the air, regardless of what one thin dime could buy.” The intersection of Routes 109 and 27 is just about where a small strip mall is home for now to Medfield TV, Jing’s Garden, Mutt Waggin’, Texture Salon, The Rib Joint, Papa Gino’s, ReMax, Zen Nails, The Village Barber, and the Village Cleaners.
On what is now the CVS Pharmacy was once a Star Market, and before that, Medfield’s first supermarket, Super Duper. Close by is Palumbo Liquors and Subway, which many years earlier was Duffy’s Honey Farms.
It was in 1974, that construction broke ground to pave the all new road called North Meadows Road, that many residents still call the new Route 27.
At one time there was a fast-moving brook (now covered by asphalt) where residents of Frairy Street could be seated and briskly float with water coming up to just their shoulders, enough to cool one off on a hot summer’s day. For them it was a great pleasure to chill out from all the heat and humidity of the summer. Wading into that brook was just like the ones they used to refresh themselves in Italy, more affectionately referred to as “the old country.”
That brook eventually fed into the sedate Cemetery Pond, now called Vine Lake. For many years that abundant and cool stream remained untouched from human progress, but is now only reduced to a trickle.
The changes that were going to take place were quick and constant. Further reminiscing, it was in 1959 that Medfield celebrated the opening of the town’s first supermarket, Super Duper, which was built on the site of the magnificent Harwood mansion at 555 Main Street. The grand opening was a fun-filled time for everyone, as Medfield seemed to be shedding the image of just another country town. Super Duper was an independent supermarket owned by Max Hoffman from Dover.
To make sure that everyone knew about the festive happening, Max had fliers dropped from a small airplane all over Medfield. The event was marked by the awarding of door prizes, free soda and candy, and colorful, helium-filled balloons that announced the opening of the store, right along with the appearance of Bozo the Clown. The place was packed, and the ceremonial occasion was a great success. Everyone left that night happy, welcoming the new supermarket with enthusiasm and shopping carriages full of groceries.
The ownership and name of the Super Duper changed a few times over the next decades, and currently it’s the site of CVS.
While moving closer to the railway tracks, one also saw the sun shining on a renovated block that included a new restaurant named The Gay Ninety that served food and featured homemade ice cream. Like the Super Duper, the new restaurant aimed to please, and the owner gave out free samples of the ice cream. To say that the new found sense of commerce was in the air would have been a humble estimate. Changes were taking place and the population of Medfield was changing as well, with a feeling of confidence and restoration.
Near the railroad tracks, what is now the Noon Hill Grill used to be Ned’s Medfield Coffee Shop that was a favorite breakfast and lunch restaurant. It was a regular gathering place for locals who wanted to catch up on all the latest news.
Heading east toward North Street, old Route 27, people were greeted by the town selectman, Joe Marcionette, owner of the Jenney (later Citgo) gas station across the street from the UCC Church. He served as a selectman for 38 years, the longest time on record in Medfield. Joe was a natural politician, cheerfully greeting all who came into the gas station.
The town of Medfield was to prosper under Joe’s populist style of statesmanship. He was forever promoting the causes of the common man and family. He earned a reputation for generosity and benevolence, and his influence has never been surpassed since the last days of his public office and life.
Many Medfield residents might not know that at one time the Amoco gas station was located where the Bank of America stands today. The gas station was owed by Gino Sacchetine and later operated by his devoted sons. That gas station was built in 1957, but just 19 years later it was taken down and replaced by the Bay Bank in 1976.
Directly across Main Street from the bank is the Monks Block, the 1888 building that housed the Clement and then the Maguire Drug Store, in the 1950s, owned and operated by Arthur Maguire and family. That drug store featured Medfield’s first soda fountain and was run by son Artie, while the pharmacy provided all of one’s medicinal needs. Many name and business changes have occurred since; currently it’s Juice on Main.
Close within proximity of Medfield center were other stores and shops that would further cast light on the history of Route 109 and the older Route 27. In the 1950s, opposite the Unitarian Church, there was a store called Crowell’s that sold newspapers, candy, and the like; on the second floor was a barber shop and pool room. In the later 1950s Crowell’s was replaced by Rexall Pharmacy, which featured a great two-for-one sale on over-the-counter products. Then after ten years, this drug store became the Medfield Pharmacy. Medfield had a newspaper store that also served as a mini-mart as well as a soda fountain and was situated next to Harry’s Medfield Bakery. Larkin’s Liquor Store was located in the same block. Some of the new-to-town residents objected to their colorful, flashing sign above the front of their store, claiming the sign made the area look like a carnival. Appreciatively, that opinion never prevailed, and that great sign is still going strong in the evening.
Across the street, in the 1950s, at the corner of Janes Avenue, North Attleboro’s Joe Martin, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, helped celebrate the opening of a new brick post office. (The old post office had been on Main Street, between what was then Lord’s and the First National, now Brothers and Bella.) That post office building later became home to Zebra’s Restaurant and then the Nosh & Grog Restaurant.
The postal service had to expand and later on moved to its present location on North Street. To build the post office, a strip mall was demolished; it had housed Sun Island and previously The Red Vest Restaurant that featured a piano bar where Medfield’s music teacher, Robert Hersee sometimes played the piano at night. This restaurant was considered to be fine dining along with a menu serving filet minion and lobster.
Originally, that location was where The Manor Inn stood for many years before it was torn down in April, 1961. The demolition weapon of choice was none other than a Sherman tank. Here’s a link to a home movie about it, which was posted on YouTube.
While continuing along the intersection, the Memorial Public Library was practically front and center. Back then the library was a smaller version of what it is today. Across the street was the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, more commonly known as the A&P, that was a slice of Americana. It was a one-story building between the town hall and what is now Starbuck’s. Most everyone who at one time went to the A&P to buy groceries remember buying a loaf of bread for just fifteen cents. If the same bread was on the shelf the following day, it was sold for just ten cents. Sodas and candy bars cost just a nickel.
Next to the A&P was Alfred Zullo’s Barber Shop. This shop was where east met west, where Mr. Zullo spoke English with an Italian accent and sometimes even spoke in Italian with the other barber who worked next to him. Most people couldn’t understand a word of their conversation, but at least they marveled at the accent while getting their hair cut. Today The Zullo Gallery has been named in Alfred Zullo’s honor.
Above the Medfield Town Hall was a movie theater that had all first run movies originating in Boston theaters. Some of the favorite movies shown were “Snow White” and many other Disney favorites and “Quo Vadis,” a biblical story. As young kids, many of us received our first lesson in Shakespeare while watching “Julius Caesar,” with Marlon Brando as Mark Antony with his stirring, unforgettable “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech, along with Louis Calhern’s lead as Caesar saying “Et tu, Brute?” or “You too, Brutus?”
Another grocery store named the First National sold a wider variety of products than the A&P. Then in 1961 that grocery store became Feo’s Restaurant, serving pizza and other Italian cuisine. It was later taken over by Pat Ciampi in 1965 and named Bella Pizza. Pat Ciampi perfected his recipes with the help of his loving wife, Elena. As good fortune followed, Pat shared his success with his family and in 1984 decided to rename the restaurant Casabella, or Beautiful House. John Ciampi, Pat’s son, ran it. In family tradition, the pizzeria continued to be one of the most successful Italian sub and pizza shops in the town of Medfield. Casabella Restaurant was the first restaurant in Medfield to introduce and serve calzone, an Italian meal of spicy meats, cheese, sauce and vegetables all baked within a thin layer of dough. Within the past six years Casabella changed hands once again and is now run by the Brazilian Pavilion who are all from Rio, in the land of the jaguar. Over at Royal Pizza, the owner Steve is from Athens, Greece and is just as popular as Casabella serving pan pizza and subs. In that same Vasto building, is Medfield’s jeweler, Michael Absi.
Advancing further in downtown Medfield, some remember A. E Wills Hardware with Arthur Wills and Pret Bryant, who died a couple of years ago at the age of 102, and Lord’s Department Store. Many Medfield residents grew up with those two stores that stood the test of time, and couldn’t imagine them ever coming to an end and closing. Those two establishments were durable and happy warriors in what would become a very competitive market. Today Wills is on West Street, and the old Wills location has become Avenue Restaurant. Directly across the street is Brother’s Market, where there used to be a big, bright red, neon Lord’s sign on top.
Today many of us know and say “It’s a jungle out there!” All one would have to do is ask the owners who once upon a time owned the Fernandes Supermarket, that later became Shaw’s. Or maybe ask the good people who used to run the defunct Rite Aid Drug Store, that later housed Blockbuster Video. People like to say that location is everything. But drive east on Route 109 past Lovell’s Flowers, formerly Pederzini’s, just over the Westwood line, and re-discover the Bubbling Brook Restaurant. The business is a festive, thriving seafood restaurant with the very best ice cream; in the 1950s a small cone was seven cents; a large was 13. Their good fortune is written on the chimney of the restaurant, established in 1897. They open in April and close in early October and do a great business in those seven months.
Sometimes business can be here today, gone tomorrow. Production doesn’t always bring prosperity for everyone, which is perhaps why some establishments close and slip out of town after putting up a sign on their front door that thanks the customers for their patronage. That said, anyone running and owning a restaurant will tell us, “It’s a lot of work.” But in a whirlwind of commerce, much the same is true for most all of the other enterprises mentioned. The song named “Car Wash” summed up the situation by singing the words, “You might not ever get rich, but you’ll always have fun down at the car wash. Some of the work gets kinda hard. This ain’t no place to be if you planned on bein’ a movie star.” Perchance, those lyrics might just reveal the essence of how hard it can sometimes be in reaching one’s goal through dedication and perseverance.
There’s an abundance of landmarks in the story of Medfield history. What has now evolved before us is a melting pot of cultures, nationalities and a mixed bag of ethnic traditions that can continue in harmony to enrich our town well into the future.