Turn the Clock Back

May 24, 2011
By

Burt Schwartz of Marblehead is shown circa October, 1970 reading a newspaper in a small news outlet on Union Street. Notice the Wonderland racing form.

For those of us over 50, there are always the lingering, latent but altogether very real and compelling feelings we carry with us about Lynn the way we knew it, the way it was, when we were much younger people just coming of age in a world far different than it is today.

The downtown Lynn of that era, now just a wisp of thought every now and then in a rapidly vanishing past, was bustling and Lynn was a metropolis where the shoe industry was still king, where 10,000 employees drove through the gated front entrance of the General Electric plant on Western Avenue every day.

This image showing two popular produce sales people from another era was shot somewhere on Union Street in the fall of 1970. The prices were certainly right back then.

Three shifts were powering the plant then – and orders for jet engines and implements of war all being used in the effort in Vietnam kept the plant at full employment.

Lynn was changing with the times during the Vietnam War.

The downtown had already lost some of its vigor and 1920’s luster during the 1970’s. Many old families were packing up and saying good-by to Lynn at the time. The burgeoning suburbs around us held a greater and expanding attraction for many, many families who called this city home for decades.

The grittiness of Lynn’s urban persona, the closeness of life in a big city where so many families were connected by so much social history, didn’t vanish but it had already begun disappearing.

In the Marblehead and Swampscotts of this by-gone era, there were legions of young people in those towns drawn to Lynn because it was, above all, a great old city with a palpable rush of energy and a difference in people one couldn’t find living a lifetime in Marblehead or Swampscott, let alone Peabody and Saugus.

Downtown Lynn was alive. It was inviting. It was vibrant. Union Street was like the Appian Way.

Those of us who grew-up in the suburbs were brought here by our parents to shop. Many of us bought our clothes at Hoffman’s, our shoes at Packard’s, our Sunday newspapers late at night from the guy in Central Square who stood by a stack of newspapers six feet high.

Lynn had everything. The suburbs had nothing.

One such person who grew up in Marblehead during this era was Michael Clough.

His photographs from that era accompany this article.

As a young man, Clough was a musician who played in a rock band, “Scotty and the Henchmen.” To a legion of young Marbleheaders of that day Clough was a musical legend and a bit of a firebrand – and he was always carrying a camera, always seeking to express himself and to show others what the world – his world – was all about.

Three of Clough’s black and white photographs reveal the Lynn of that era with unsurpassable simplicity and revealed as well are some of the faces of the people who helped to make Lynn what it was during that era..

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