I have been collecting postcards of Medford, Mass., the city I grew up in for somewhere around 32 years now. In that time, I have managed to amass quite a collection. Well, I was on Ebay earlier this week and checked all my usual categories and found an extremely rare view of Riverside Avenue in Medford Square, circa 1950. This black & white photocard showed an atypical view of this street. It was taken from the east looking toward the middle of Medford Square and it’s subject matter presumedly was to showcase the newly built Shopping Center along the south side of the street.
As noted in an article about the first shopping malls in the Bay State, (specifically about “Shopper’s World” in Framingham), written by Kathleen Kelly Broomer for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal Magazine (Volume 13 – Number 1, Fall-Winter, 1994-95 edition), it was mentioned that the Medford Square Shopping Center was one of the earliest developed in-town shopping centers that predated the suburban ones built in the following decades.
Anyway, I was excited to see this card for a couple of reasons, the first was because I had never seen it before. The second reason was that I was able to date this pretty much because of what was shown in the scene. Chief among this was the shopping center on the left, next and very obvious was the large brick structure across the street with the blank wall. This was the old Square Theater which I personally do not remember in my lifetime (I was born in 1953). Although I do not know for sure when exactly this happened, the theater was redeveloped (I conjecture) within a few years from when this photo card was shot, to become more retail space. The top half of the building was removed and a new street-level facade was built to house a good 7 or 8 stores that are still in use today.
Also seen in the post card at the base of the eastern end of the theater, just under the hanging Mobilgas sign, is a small box-like white building. This is as far as I know the only streetview that shows the legendary (in my opinion) Howard Rust’s Radamat. The Radamat was a 1948 or 49 vintage Valentine Diner that was extremely rare for this part of the country. Whoever Howard Rust was, he was kind of ahead of his time. He attempted to open a chain of small diners (all Valentine diners, built in Witchita, KS) that featured an early version of Microwave cooking.
In doing some research in the early 1990′s, I found an old ad that featured Howard Rust’s Radamat. It was from the July 15, 1949 edition of the Medford Daily Mercury. The ad is frustrating as it tells of “Existing and Proposed Locations” without actually saying which were real and which never existed!
I do know there were at least 2 of them, the one in Medford Square and the one on Boston Avenue (Medford Hillside). The Malden location sounds real as it gets specific about what was across the street. The chain reportedly went out of business fairly quickly. The Medford Square location became known as the Humpty Dumpty Diner before being torn down circa 1959 or 1960 when the current professional building was built there. The Medford Hillside location went under various names such as, the White House Cafe and the Jumbo Diner. I also recall it being called Pacigalupe’s or Bacigalupe’s before that was demolished in the 1970′s.
Jonathan Yonan asked me how a rare Valentine Diner made it so far afield from Witchita, Kansas after I posted the image of the postcard on Facebook. I told him that there had been a dealer based in Long Island, NY, basically, it was Valentine’s East Coast sales office, National Diner Sales in West Hampstead. (Thanks to Dick Gutman’s American Diner, Then & Now). It would be safe to assume that any Valentine Diner that made it into the New England market, as well as anywhere in the Northeast was sold by National Diner Sales.
Although things have changed a little in Medford Square since 1950, the view is still identifiable by the fact that Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church is visible in the distance on High Street at the other end of the Square.