• Our Town – Medfield, A Story of Everyday Life in Small-Town America

    by  • October 3, 2018 • 1950s, Carvelho, Main Street, Medfield, Medfield Little League, North Street, Nyren • 0 Comments

    Our town of Medfield in early 1951 celebrated a special time when many people started shopping for their first black and white televisions, just becoming popular in American homes. A family could all sit together after supper and watch the news or the popular shows at that time: singer Kate Smith’s show, which she opened with the song, When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain; Amos and Andy; NBC’s Texaco Star Theater, which ran from 1948 to 1955 and featured Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, and Eddie Cantor among many others; Talent Scouts with Arthur Godfrey. Some of the initial programming featured newsreels of the 2nd World War.

    The war had ended only a few years earlier and was still very much on the minds of the many veterans and residents of Medfield. Some of those newsreels showed the devastation and immediate aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Others showed troops returning to America and the celebrations taking place in Times Square in New York City and elsewhere after the German and then the Japanese surrenders. Those servicemen and women who didn’t return home to Medfield continue to be remembered on Memorial Day with a special salute and recognition at our town hall and Baxter Park.

    Movies in Medfield

    During the early fifties, Medfield had a movie theater in the town hall on the floor above the offices, with many of the first run movies making their way to Medfield after premiering in Boston. Among those that packed the Medfield theater were Disney’s animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; The Searchers,  a great western and classic starring John Wayne, Natalie Wood and Jeffrey Hunter; Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida; and All the Brothers Were Valiant with Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger, a story about whaling in New England all in beautiful Technicolor.

    Another very popular movie that arrived in Medfield during that time was Quo Vadis, a biblical tale that featured an ending where a hulking former slave fights off a black bull, preventing it from killing the actress, Debra Kerr. She had her hands bound behind her while she was tied to a wooden post in the middle of the Roman Coliseum.

    When young Medfield kids were watching that scene they couldn’t help but believe that the strongman was fighting the bull with his bare hands. Of course the bull’s neck wasn’t really broken but more a matter of “trick photography,” with a fake bull taking the fall, but kids coming out of that movie actually thought the big former slave killed the bull.

    That particular scene was harder to shoot than most because several bulls had to be used, and the close ups were accelerated to make the action more believable and realistic. Likewise the lions used in the scenes at the Roman Coliseum were tame and borrowed from different circus acts. Those lions were fairly timid and sometimes had to be prompted into running around in the Coliseum, but all in all, those scenes from Quo Vadis were enough to excite and entertain the Medfield audience of children and adults alike.

    The Medfield movie theater didn’t last long and closed because the floor wasn’t safe to accommodate large crowds of people, so local families instead went to nearby towns like Dedham, Franklin, East Walpole and Norwood that all had small theaters.

    Little League

    The Medfield Little League was another very popular pastime with many of Medfield youth. There were four teams, the Red Sox, the Braves, the Indians, and the Yankees. If a kid was gifted and athletic enough, he’d get to play in the games. If not, then they’d be “warming the bench.” That’s the way things went back then. Some of the parents of the players would get into heated arguments, especially when the concept of “playing for blood,” was mentioned. Ideally, the idea of playing little league baseball was to win and have fun. However the having fun part was often overlooked and forgotten, even if it meant that some of those less talented kids rarely got to play.

    That was a tradition back then that continued for many years before parents began to establish that winning wasn’t everything. The ball park back in those years had wooden fences painted green with the score board out in deep (215 feet) center field, along with the American flag waving in the air. In back of home plate there was a play-by-play announcer perched atop the small equipment storage building.

    As folklore told it, beyond left of center field was an old, weathered Medfield High football goal post that was never to be taken down. But that goal post turned out to be something of measuring stick because young Ralph Baker who played on the Braves team hit a tremendous home run that cleared the cross bar of that goal post. That feat of power and strength and others like it made watching those little league games one of the favorite pastimes for Medfield families back in the fifties.

    Teens and Their Summer Jobs

    Another popular spot was the Clement Drug Store in the center of town. Stepping inside, the pharmacy was to the right and the main attraction near the other front door had to be the soda fountain that served coffee and ice cream, as well as ice cream hand packed into either pint or quart containers.

    Some of the counter workers back then were Arthur McGuire Jr., Mrs. Kierstead, and Mrs. Petrie. The soda fountain stools at the counter were always filled with standing room only for the many teens.

    Many of those same high school kids would later hang out on the street corner outside, unceremoniously smoking their cigarettes and drinking coffee. Some of the alumni from the street corner were movie extra lookalikes from Rebel Without a Cause. Some the many teens were Joey Carvalho, Philip Rossi, Todd Flaherty, Bob Tammero, David Martin, and Bobby O’Neil.  They lived Standing on the Corner, a hit song of 1956 by The Four Lads.

    Yet those teens considered themselves as being unique and different. They were the gathering of non-conformists while buying a pack of cigarettes or drinking a couple of cans of beer from an outdated case of Budweiser found at the town dump on Grove Street, not exactly the best decision ever made.

    They thought of themselves as pleasure seekers and rebellious in their not so secret world, searching for their footing and defying the unity of a whole new world yet to come. Arriving at those crossroads, they found life to be a mystery waiting to be discovered and revealed.

    But life was not only fun and games. Many kids back in the fifties declared their personal independence by working a part time job and saving the money for something they wanted to later spend it on, perhaps at Lord’s Department Store, Wills Hardware – or maybe a new baseball glove, a new fishing rod or maybe parts for the car that Jimmy Keating was working on in his back yard.

    Back at that time, there weren’t many classified ads or help wanted postings in the local newspapers, but somehow the kids who wanted jobs and the people who needed help managed to find each other.

    Before there was the recycling of today, Allan Larkin, who was part owner of Larkin’s Liquor Store, had too many empty cardboard cartons piling up in the basement of the building with no where to put them. So Allan decided to hire some kids to burn them up in a makeshift fireplace right next to his building where The North Street Market is today.

    David Kegwin, who lived on South Street, made burning those empty cartons fun, just as long as the fire didn’t get out of hand. David was also responsible for cleaning and sorting the many empty glass liquor and soda bottles in Larkin’s basement so the redeemables could be taken to redemption center or the Clicquot Club bottling company over in Millis.

    There were young teens like Peter Squires, who worked the summer months bailing hay and using his carpentry skills.

    During the summer months there were plenty of families that didn’t have time to cut their lawns. A young kid who mowed lawns would be paid by the hour or by how well he did the job. Chris Magnussen, started his own lawn mowing business and had several teens working for him. Another young man, Mario Ippoliti, started his own successful landscaping business in and around Medfield.

    Some kids would find jobs taking out the weekly trash of a homeowner, other janitorial work, and even chimney sweeping. Les Bowman, Brian Flynn and sister Cathy Flynn, who all liked and owned horses, worked in stables and also competed with their own horses in the local horse shows like the ones held  on North Street at the Norfolk Hunt Club. Other traditional jobs included pumping gas, cashiers, babysitting, working in restaurants as short order cooks, dishwashers, waitresses and waiters. Those jobs provided work for the twins, Jimmy and Joey Horgan who both worked at Ned’s Coffee Shop. Many young, enterprising kids like Paul Nyren, Freddie Coffin, Billy Walker and others had newspaper routes in their neighborhoods where they delivered the Globe and the Record American while riding their bikes.

    People Helping People

    And in a town like Medfield, people still manage to find each other when they can help each other out.

    Maryan Seaman and her husband Mal came from Melrose to live in their beautiful home on Granite Street, Medfield nearly 50 years ago. Maryan, who was the only child in her family, had an ideal upbringing with her mom and dad, a vice president of Necco Candies in Boston. A devout Catholic like her parents, Maryan was an honor roll student and cheer captain at Melrose High, after which she had a very successful career as a model until she put that on hold with the birth of her first son, Malcolm Jr.

    Mal owned and operated three different parking lots in Boston. Mal was a tireless worker who made a great honest living from those parking lots and was able to support and lavish great affection on his young family. However, Mal was a three-pack-a-day smoker and died 30 years ago from heart failure. Maryan, who had always been a stay-at-home mom had to fend for herself and her young children. Life wasn’t easy, but she relied on her faith and always looking on the bright side, and she and her three sons flourished: Mel Jr., who became an RN; second son Chris, who went on to be a very devoted son and industrious worker in the kitchens at Medfield State Hospital; and third son Russell.

    But time marches on. Mal Jr. now lives in Florida but keeps in close contact with his mom through phone calls and visits. Chris, who remained at home with Maryan and his younger brother until his retirement, succumbed to the same heart disease that took his father. And Russell recently began residing in a group home with the possibility of independent living in a more communal setting. As a devoted mother, she visits Russell every week and talks with him on the phone for an hour every day at 2 pm.  But her nest was suddenly pretty empty.

    Maryan has always enjoyed her friendship with Chip Lennon who had worked at A&D TV Center on Upham Road. Chip had been with the Medfield Fire Department for many years and had recently worked at Home Depot in Norwood on Route One. However, he recently had a difficult time with his type 2 diabetes, which led to more complications in his daily life and living situation. When they talked about their changed circumstances they both realized that joining forces made a lot of sense, and Chip moved in to share Maryan’s home, bringing companionship and even a new flat-screen TV.

    Chip was so thankful he posted on his Facebook account that he hit the jackpot in the Massachusetts lottery. Another friend, Steve Wiberg, has been visiting Maryan for the past 10 years while always bringing her a large tuna fish sub every night after 5 pm. He has forever remained a best friend and enjoys watching the Boston Red Sox and All in the Family along with all the laughs and Archie Bunker. Being a great fan of the Boston Red Sox, Steve is looking forward to taking in a game in Worcester when the triple A team moves to that city in 2020.

    As we all now see, suddenly life has taken on a dramatic turn for the better for Maryan Seaman.

    All of this good fortune reminds one of the song, It’s Raining Men, by the Weather Girls. And that’s enough to sing hallelujah just like that song.

    Maryan has always looked on the bright side of life and never lost faith. That is the concept she’s believed in, even when all those around her had doubted that better days were coming in their own lives. She knows that birth and death are inevitable and that’s why she has been able to give all the life in between a greater meaning of recognition and inspiration by honoring the parents who raised her, her late husband, her children and to all of the people she has ever come to know, appreciate and love. We are like the stars that have fallen, are scratching the Earth and looking to make our mark.


    Tim Flaherty, a lifelong Medfield resident, served in the Peace Corps in Africa and in Central America. He has published numerous articles and is nearing completion of his second novel.

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