, Newburyport, MA


January 10, 2013

Looking back at changes from a few decades ago

At the start of every new year, people like to reflect back on the happenings of the just-ended year. The Daily News featured photos of 2012 events, and radio and television repeated all the top stories, very few of which were good. I thought for this month’s article I would reflect back a half century or more and mention a few things of that era that have greatly changed or no longer exist.

Many of the older residents will remember the tower at the Plum Island Airport with its revolving flashing light that on a clear night could be seen for a wide area. The tower was removed in June of 1957.

Back in those days there were numerous no school signals. Sometimes grades 1 through 4 would be canceled; other times grades 1 through 8 got the day off; and in a big storm, all schools would be closed. No two-hour delays in those days. Also, in those days the elementary schools had an hour break at noontime and most kids went home for lunch from their neighborhood school.

Out on the Turnpike near the Justin Brown farm was a “measured mile.” People went out there to check their mile meter for accuracy. Today all miles are measured right down to “tenths” on all the major highways.

All the gas stations had free air at the pump for your car and bike tires or your football or basketball. Last summer I paid a dollar for three minutes to put air in my wife’s bike tires.

Many people should remember the “Thursday Flower Man.” He came from out of town and set up shop on the sidewalk on either State or Pleasant Street sometime in the late 1960s. He was very popular with the shoppers but not so popular with many of the merchants. He was forced to move his location many times because of complaints. He was told by the City Council on March 1, 1979 to cease doing business on public sidewalks. Two weeks later he was back in business on private property in front of the Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street, where he did a flourishing business for a long period.

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