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Port in Progress

March 19, 2007

Autos, malls, economy cause Port's decline

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NEWBURYPORT -- Jack Bradshaw fell in love with Newburyport as a child in the 1950s after spending weekends and summer vacations on Plum Island with a special aunt. It wasn't only the beach that captured the Haverhill-born lad's affection. He enjoyed everything about Newburyport: its people, location, history, and especially its bustle.

The Newburyport of Bradshaw's youth was a time of prosperity for the Clipper City. Area factories were humming, providing residents with employment and the salaries to keep the city's economic engine oiled and running at a comfortable clip. With at least five bus companies servicing it, State Street was the hub of a downtown business district offering everything its residents and others needed for everyday life.

At 12 in 1954, Bradshaw grew old enough to get a weekend job at Kennedy's Butter and Egg, a Pleasant Street institution offering staples like milk, cheese, eggs, butter and coffee to the masses. At Kennedy's, Bradshaw became part of the economic and social dynamic that created a vibrant downtown. He treasured every moment.

"On Friday nights, downtown was jammin', just jammin'" Bradshaw said. "There were five of us working at the counter. We were so busy we could hardly close the doors at 9:30 p.m. On Saturday, it all began again. It was a ball, and the people were so wonderful."

Even though he was only 12, the experience made such an impact on the youth that Bradshaw decided he'd make Newburyport his home when he was old enough to do so. He wanted to be a permanent part of what by then had become his Mecca. Someday, he'd be more than a weekend visitor. Someday, his permanent address would read: Newburyport, Massachusetts.

In 1965, after attending college in New York, serving the military in Europe and a working a brief stint with the insurance industry in New York City, Bradshaw asked for a transfer to his employer's Salem office. With his first child on the way, he kept his promise to himself; he and his wife took up residence in Newburyport.

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