Hangin’ Around in Lowell: Hale Howard
By Joseph Quattrochi
(as told in an interview with Linda Hoyt)
I was born in the Hale/Howard Street area. It wasn’t the best part of town but it was a good place to grow up. We used to go fishing in Hale’s Brook. We never ate them, just caught them and threw them back We couldn’t go swimming there. . .it was too dirty. We did go swimming further up, near the Harvard Brewery. In the summer we used to jump on the back of the ice truck to get a piece of ice. It’s Muldoon Brothers and Company now. Or I could ride with Brody, the rag man. There was a junk yard on Dailey Street that had a horse. When I was 11 or 12, we used to have rock fights with the Smith Street gang. Some of them are cops now.
Sometimes we would travel all over town. People would throw their bus passes away when they were through with them. We would get hold of them, and ride wherever we wanted to go. It was great!
Of course, I had chores at home. In the summer, I had to get wood and put it in the basement. In the fall, I had to pull up tomato plants. It wasn't exciting, was a good life.
I didn’t like school much. I graduated ninth from C.W. Morey. Miss Macheras was my teacher. I remember the principal, Buck Dennett. He was tough!
I liked the Lowell Trade School. It was across street from the John Street parking garage. I enjoyed it because we had one week in class, then one week shop. I learned to do carpentry there.
I always looked forward to going downtown. My favorite place was Rufkin’s candy store. Downtown was especially good at Christmas time. The city put up lots of lights. I especially remember the smells. All the stores gave out popcorn, so it smelled like popcorn everywhere.
My first job was at Plaza Lunch; I made 25 cents an hour. Later, my father and I both worked at Merrimack Mills. They replaced the floors every year. The wood would get rotten from the dyes.
When I was about 16 or 17, there was a dance every Friday or Saturday night at the Immaculate Conception Church. It was called the “Hoodsie Hop.” Bernie Larkin’s group played. I remember dancing to songs like “Muskrat Ramble” and “Bonaparte's Retreat.” We danced the jitterbug and the foxtrot. There was always a priest policing the dance.
When I was older, we went to dances at the Commodore Ballroom, where the Bus Center is now. I heard Tommy Dorsey and Gene Krupa there. Dorothy Lamour was there, selling war bonds. Truman stopped at the Depot, and also Governor Dewey and Wilkie, when they were running for president.
Lowell was a beautiful town when I was growing up, and it's still a good place to live.