The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, June 24, 1980
Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 053)
45 years ago…
Many of Burlington’s bigger farms were still in business. Robert and William Given ran six greenhouses on Wyman Street and the John G. Winn farm of 40 acres south of Mountain Road still produced. Ida and Hattie Pollack managed, in a small way, the old Tom Pollack farm where 128 now crosses Winn Street. The Crawfords plowed and seeded the old Frank Marion farm on Lowell Street, many of whose acres now are occupied by Beacon Village. Arthur and William Kerrigan farmed the 29 acres of the Walker Annex, raising some of the finest squash in town. Most of that land is now covered by the Marshall Simonds Middle School. The old Walker farm lay fallow.
The Graham brothers owned some 37 acres on South Bedford Street, and cultivated much of it. This property had been a part of the huge 400 acre Cummings operation at one time. Farther west on the Turnpike, then a narrow oiled gravel road, was another fine farm, the Pattison place. It outlasted all the others and only succumbed to “progress” when 128 brought in the electronic companies.
Although still a farming community in 1935, many people did earn their living elsewhere, often the patent leather shops and tanneries in Woburn and Winchester. Busses ran regularly from Billerica to Woburn by way of Cambridge Street and Winn Street. Service was good, every half hour during rush hours morning and night. They connected with commuter trains in Woburn Center. Steam locomotives sometimes pulled 10 or 12 coach trains through the Woburn depot.
The one big business in town then was the Reed Ham Works. Known from one end of the country to the other, Reed’s was doing a good business but tough times were just ahead. The decline in the volume of business started during the Depression years continued and the smoke houses were shut down finally in 1953.
There were at least four places in town where food, drink and sometimes entertainment could be found. Ye Olde Turnpike Inn, once the Richardson Tavern on the corner of Middlesex and Adams Streets, offered a “Colored Floor Show” on Wednesday and Friday nights and one could dine and dance until one. Then there was Terrace Hall Tavern which acquired a rather questionable reputation. Here one also could dine and dance until one. It advertised choice ales, wines and liquors. The Grey Squirrel, which once stood where the car wash is now on Cambridge Street, offered steamed clams “Ipswich fresh dug” and good beer “drawn from underground storage.” The Winnmere Inn at the Woburn line on Lowell Street (Beacon Street) seemed to specialize only in light lunches.
There were a number of other little eateries around town at that time too. There was Marky’s Cafe, formerly run by the Duncan sisters, on Cambridge Street south of the center. Charlie Bennett was known to have sung “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” there on occasion. Charlie was Town Moderator in 1935. Charlie’s Place in the center of town was run by Charlie Dearborn. The telephone exchange was there once and there was a poolroom in the rear. What Charlie didn’t know about the town wasn’t worth knowing.
There were no shopping malls or groups of stores anywhere in town. But a number of small stores were handy and several delivery services were thriving. The Village Store on Center Street was doing business as it had for over a hundred years. Mary Vincent had a small variety store in Winnmere on the corner of Winnmere Avenue. Directly behind her store lived Alec Brown. He sold meats and produce from his service wagon. On Cambridge Street just south of the Billerica line Brady Skelton had a small grocery store. His father Orray ran a Motor Food Service and advertised “Quality Goods, Reasonable Prices, At Your Door.” In the center of town only a few steps from Dearborn’s, Loren Blenkhorn had taken the old Foster barn and turned it into a general store which he called the Trading Post. Opened in 1932, it did a good business for 10 years and only closed when Mr. Blenkhorn became a carpenter at Camp Edwards during World War II.
Burlington had no high school, no town water, no Route 128, no Burlington Mall, no elderly housing and no electronics businesses. There were no banks in town and only one church. The newborn fire dept. under Chief Skelton and Capt. Martikke had 25 men on call, and the police dept. had six special officers appointed by the selectmen and two elected constables, Bill Pollock and Ray Twining.
Almost every family in town had a little garden, and one could still go blueberry picking. And farm boys could still go skinny-dipping in Vine Brook.