The Generations of Norwood Center
During the past few days I was reminded, Norwood Center pre-dates my memories - it was even more spectacular.
Memories are a magnificent gift. The ability of the human brain to capture and preserve images, scents and sounds for us, is simply astonishing.
As I spoke to family and friends this week, not surprisingly I found we share many of the same fond memories of Norwood Center. There are so many stories about the center of our town, stories I have never heard.
Memories are relative, and the truth is if you weren’t present to experience something, well then you obviously can’t remember it, let alone share it. But I was given a glimpse of a Norwood, a Norwood in the 1950's, by my friend’s mother. It was a glorious conversation and one that makes my heart yearn even more for the heart of our town.
We were watching Joey and her grandson play floor hockey earlier this week and just as Joey had asked me on Sunday, my friend’s mother asked me what I was writing about this week. I said, “I’m writing about Norwood center and how it really has become a shell of what it once was. I started telling Joey about some of the places I used to go to as a child, I don’t think he believes me that a true 'center' of town ever existed.”
My friend’s mom said, “Oh, I miss the center; it was the heart of Norwood. It still is but you are right. It is like town has been abandoned."
She went on to describe the center she knew.
There was something special about Norwood center, she said.
Do you know there used to be three movie theaters? Three!
There was the one that is now the Fiddlehead right by the common. There was one where Conrad’s is located.
I looked at her a little perplexed, feeling much like Joey must have on Sunday when I drove him through a town he didn’t recognize. Conrad’s when it was in the house by the Post Office?
No, she said, Conrad’s where it is now. That was originally a movie theater and then the bank moved in.
The third movie theater was in South Norwood. We used to get so excited when we could go to the movies in South Norwood, she said. "I’d hop the tracks. It was so much fun."
The town was so alive.
"Do you remember Furlongs?" she asked. I said, “It’s still open, on the highway.”
She smiled at me and said, “It used to be in Norwood Center." Again, I felt like Joey on Sunday. She told me it was next to the movie theater and it was incredible. It had those big doors that pushed wide open, much like on “Happy Days.” They had red high-back booths and a big soda fountain. We spent countless hours at Furlongs, she said. Just sit, hang out, and drink ice cream sodas.
"We always went before we had to go to CCD. It’s too bad there aren’t places like that any longer," she said.
And there was the best Jewish deli, she said. They had the best dill pickles. It was on the corner near where Twice as Nice is now. I would walk up from my house to pick up sandwiches with my sister, she said, for supper sometimes during the summer. And we usually stopped at Furlongs on the way home.
I was really beginning to wonder if we were talking about he same town.
She began to describe a department store called Park Snow - what I knew as Klein's. Apparently long before it was Klein’s, the main department store was Park Snow. We lived across the street from the back of Park Snow, my friend's mother said. They had these huge dumpsters, and every week or so the owner would throw out the “junk.” My sister and I found many treasures on Sunday afternoons.
We talked about all of the places in the center that I remembered too. We laughed as we shared stories and reminisced. As I excited the Civic that evening, juggling Joey's floor hockey stick and gear I looked up at the Center just up to the right, and thought of the stories my friend's mother shared with me. Three movie theaters? Furlong's would have been one street over from the Civic. Here we were going home when all I wanted to do was walk around the corner and push open those big, wide doors and take Joey for an ice cream soda at the Furlong's I never knew.
Please share your memories with me. I am going to share mine with you next week as I continue to tell Joey about the wonderful places that made up the heart and soul of our town (he is begging for the rest of the story).