Eagerman's Bakery, Natick, Mass.

"Hey, let's drive a half hour to get some bagels!"

Normally, these words would have sounded ridiciculous but not so when traveling from Arlington to Natick for some bagels at Eagerman's Bakery on Route 9. This full service bakery made the very best, plus it was always a benefit to add to the order with some delicious turnovers or danishes.

Owner Eagerman's first named was Moe. That sat well with me as he had the name of on of the Three Stooges. The difference was, however, that Moe at Eagerman's was one savvy, visionary businessman who had the smarts to never hire a Curley, Larry or Shemp. All employees never beat on each other, worked at the highest level and seemed to be part of the community.

I don't exactly recall when Eagerman's closed but what I can tell you is that few places, locally, have produced such yummy bagels, to this very day!

It was certainly worth the half hour drive.

Who Remembers These Car Dealerships in Arlington, Mass.?

Does anyone remember these car dealerships in Arlington, Mass.?

Arrow Pontiac (East Arlington)
Arlington Ford (Arlington center)
LeBert Bros. Lincoln Mercury (between Arlington High School and Brattle St.)
Hodgdon-Noyes Buick Pontiac GMC (near Arlington High School)
Time Oldsmobile (at the corner of Mass. Ave and Mill St.)

It seemed like Arlington had quite a few car dealerships back in the day. I remember that most of them hired good people that were part of the community -- not the cliched, aggressive hard-sell types.

As a member of the Arlington High School newspaper and yearbook, I remember the majority of these dealerships were quite supportive of s sponsoring those publications. My memory is a little foggy but I seem to recall my dad buying the phony wood paneled Mercury Marquis and Ford LTD station wagsons from LeBert Brothers and Arlington Ford, respectively. Ahh, the new car smell, the emerging presence of FM radio on the car stereo, the mystery drives to nowhere -- but somehow always involving Bates Farm ice cream in Carlisle (now Kimball Farm) -- when gas was 28 cents a gallon.

Mirak Chevrolet and Hyundai still remain and seem to be thriving, a real testimony to their long-time success.

Do you have any memories of these car dealerships in Arlington? Please commnet in the box below.

The 8-Sided Star Market Building in Woburn, Mass.

The former Star Market in Woburn, Mass. always caught my attention. I mean, where could you find another octagon-shaped market in New England?

I always thought the eye-catching shape of this building allowed more merchandise to fill the interior. It sure seemed that way. This Star Market had everything and outperformed local markets like Purity Supreme, A&P, First National and Stop & Shop, in my humble childhood opinion.

Not that all Star Markets were this good, mind you. I generally found the others to be just Ok. Not the Woburn location, though, this was definitely the star destination of the chain.

Whole Foods eventually replaced this Star Market. I don't see the octagon shape anymore but I guess that's what happens when you cut corners. Sorry for that bad pun.

Bickford's Pancake House: Why Did It Go Away?

Bickford's Pancake House never should have gone away.

For a chain, Bickford's felt more like a standalone locally-owned restaurant. I certainly liked Bickford's a lot better than Denny's in Lexington and the International House of Pancakes in Cambridge and Watertown. Bickford's served big breakfasts, huge and cheap, and rarely screwed up the orders. The carpeting was nice, the lighting just right and the space between tables and booths not too cramped. The Woburn location was usually the go-to Bickford's for me.

Bickford's had a great run in New England from the 1970s to, I think, the early 2000s. It was one of the few chain restaurants I actually liked. The whole experience always seemed like a big family outing. Bickford's wasn't one of those places where those going out to eat seemed miserable in a down-and-out kind of way and uncommunicative with loved ones.

A few weeks ago, I drove past Bickford's Grille in Woburn. I'm curious to try it out although I know the vibe won't be the same as Bickford's Pancake House.

Has anyone been to Bickford's Grille? Do you have any special memories of Bickford's Pancake House? Please comment in the box below!

Burlington Mall Memories from the 1970s and Beyond

To many, the Burlington Mall in Burlington, MA, might look like any other mall, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

As a child in 1968, I saw farmland and cows grazing on dense, green grass replaced by this huge shopping structure that, unlike the North Shore Shopping Mall in Peabody, MA, was built with an indoor corridor leading to all stores. What a concept!

Also, the absence of cows might have meant a shortage of milk for me to consume, which made the Burlington Mall seem even more appealing. 1968 soon became the "summer of love" for me when it came to what the mall would bring: lots of toys, better air conditioning than back home, and a nice Chinese or cafeteria-style meal.

Thinking of the Burlington Mall stores through the years nearly brings tears to my eyes, which is ironic since sometimes as a child, the thought of shopping there for hours -- and not having the shopping revolve around us kids -- brought tears to my eyes. As an adult, I can now look back with fond memories of the slick clothing salesmen at Kennedy's trying to sell my Dad a cheap suit. I recall the revolving door of beloved restaurants that never fostered long-term relationships, including the Hot Shoppe with its cafeteria-style food that was almost as good as the school lunches. York's Steak House where the steak tasted like fish and the sauteed onions transformed that pungent allium food species into something good. The Pacific Hut where it was so dark that we nearly bumped into walls. The restaurant at the former Jordan Marsh department store where the one-of-a-kind bluberry muffins had priority over the actual food.

Through the years, Music Land provided entertainment as we enjoyed being spoken down to by the angry young hippie employees who were probably making $4.00 an hour and clearly didn't like our short haircuts. Or the fact that we liked David Gates and Bread and other musical groups that actually included melodies with the music. Spencer Gifts was full of hippie joy, joy buzzers and a few girls that were probably named Joy. It wasn't always a joyful place, however, with some mean-spirited and countercultural stuff that seemed incompatible with my David Gates and Bread albums.

I loved the Wurlitzer store including with the pencil thin mustache and Pee Wee Herman-type too small suit playing the greatest hits of Lawrence Welk tuneshe tuneson the organ.

The former Sears department store had Ted Williams as a spokesman, as well as golfer Johnny Miller, if my memory serves me correct. They lended some class to this huge store that we liked because they also had toys. My beloved late Uncle Lou shopped at the Sears in Rochester, NY, and always chose classy clothing. I tried to mimic him in that regard, but golf clothing on a 10-year-old kid just didn't seem to gel at the miniature golf course.

The aforementioned Jordan Marsh and Filene's (both, no longer there) served as the other anchors. We could always find parking on the Jordan Marsh side. This allowed us to walk through Jordan Marsh, ignore the merchandise and proceed to our preferred stores in the mall (gee, maybe by bypassing Jordan Marsh, we were solely responsible for that New England retail landmark going out of business?). We also didn't do much shopping at Filene's. It was nice to look at, but Marshall's in Bedford, MA, always had better deals for the same brand names. They still do, a real testimony to the concept that customers love a good bargain.

Lord and Taylor became the other Burlington Mall anchor in 1978. I remember buying a green winter jacket there in the early 90s, because it was heavily discounted. That green jacket lasted a long time, suggesting maybe I should give Lord and Taylor another try. Oh wait, never mind -- they closed.

The Burlington Mall even had a two-screen cinema and a Stop and Shop supermarket in the early days. We saw a few Disney movies at the cinema but never went to Stop and Shop. It just didn't seem right to buy your groceries at a mall (today many supermarkets, however, resemble a mall with toys, gifts, music CDs, hardware items, etc.).

What about Radio Shack where they recorded your life story on a sign-up sheet when you just wanted to buy a couple of batteries? Or, going to Tom McAns for shoes and worrying that one of your classmates would be there to laugh at your purple socks bought from Woolworth's? How about the now-closed Rainforest Cafe with all the rainforest "bells and whistles" in an incredibly realistic, yet hokey setting -- as well as serving pretty good food? The thunder storms, waterfalls and apes pounding their chests help create a jungle theme away from the jungle of shoppers buying so much more than we ever did growing up. I miss that place but, at the same time, really don't.

The Burlington Mall eventually built a second floor featuring many more specialty shops and a food court with a 775 person capacity. The Mall -- with more than 165 stores -- clearly became more upscale (perhaps best represented by Nordstrom's 2008 opening).

I still love going to the Burlington Mall. It's just different, though, with most stores from childhood gone and new trends intact.

Tying to navigate my way through cell phone talkers, people not fully or appropriately dressed, and those not looking where they are going (often the cell phone talkers) can be frustrating and seem superficial and shallow. I guess you just have to ignore the excesses and enjoy what the Burlingon Mall has to offer. There' still plenty to like there. The Christmas season particlarly stands out with lights, designs and decor that are well alisgned with a back in the day scene. I am generally mortified and nauseated all the development in the Boston suburbs that's threatening our peace of mind. The Burlington Mall is exempt from my concern of overdevelopment, however. After all, how can you knock a place that provided so much happiness and great memories as a child and seems to be doing the same for our current generation?

The Burlington Mall, 75 Middlesex Tpke, Burlington, MA 01803. Tel. (781) 272-8667 More Burlington memories: Lauriats Book Store
Memrories of Route 3A in Burlington

Lauriat's Books - Boston and the Suburbs

Lauriat's Books served as the greatest chapter of my interest in books as a kid.

The Boston-based book chain that dated back to 1872 not only helped spark my interest in reading (ahh, the Curious George, Encycopedia Brown and Richard Scarry books!) but also offsetting the boring tendencies of mall shopping. You know, like shoe shopping at Tom McAn and Filene's and the cosmetic counter with the sales ladies in white lab coats (still don't get this one) at the former Jordan Marsh.

There was something about Lauriat's that made for a far more rewarding book shopping experience than Barnes and Noble and Amazon. They always seemed to have the books I was looking for and other gems not yet discovered. Additionally, Lauriat's created a nice layout without crowded aisles. They hired employees genuinely interested in books. The lighting and low-pile carpeting were pleasing and the overall store spotless and with a clean smell -- not that musty book odor. They must have vacuumed that place day and night, I had thought as a kid.

Unfortunately, Lauriat's liquidated (hey, nice alliteration!) in 1999, ending many a relationship between book lovers like me and a local book chain. Chains like Barnes and Noble and the former Borders crushed great book stores like Lauriat's. I think if Lauriat's survived, Amazon would have further dominated this smaller gem of a book chain.

It stinks how big business has taken over the smaller booksellers. Taking away Lauriat's was like making sure I'd never see a best friend again.

There's hope, however, as many local book shops have found a way to currently survive. I'm sure it's noit easy but I have all the respect and admiration in the world from these brave small business owners who take passion, pride of ownership and connection to the community rather than just making the big bucks.

I just wished Lauriat's was still part of that mix. It's too bad that chapter had to come to an end.

Crackers and Cheese Tray at Boston Area Restaurants

There was something so wonderfully traditional about Boston area restaurants serving crackers and cheese before the main meal.

Some eateries added offerings of sticky and regular bread rolls and a relish tray to the mix, which was nice, but for me the taste of store-bought artificial tasting cheese and bland crackers could stand on their own.

Many times, this offering seemed to be served by very old ladies in colonial-like or old school waitress uniform apparel or high school kids with good manners and a healthy fear of their employer -- they wanted to keep their jobs and not disappoint the business, or mom and dad.

I know many traditional New England restaurants offered crackers and cheese but as the years go on, many of the names escape me. Places I can remember: The Commodore in Beverly, The Continental in Saugus(still in business, yay!), The Joppa Grill in East Bridgewater and I think The Cock N Kettle in Uxbridge.

Can you think of any more Boston area or New England restaurants that served crackers and cheese before the main course? If so, please comment in the box below.

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