Green Plastic Dinosaur Banks from Boston Sinclair Gas Stations

Does anyone remember those green plastic dinosaur banks that were given away with each fill up at the Boston area Sinclair gas stations? At 28 cents a gallon, my dad would fill up his Pontiac at the station at the corner of Brighton and Concord Avenues on the Belmont-Cambridge line and we would tag along for those one-of-a-kind dinosaur banks.

The green dinosaur banks were sturdily built and able to hold a good amount of earned allowance -- which, we spent, of course, on baseball cards, Wacky Packages and Mad Magazines from Mrs. Mooney at the former Hoffman News in Arlington Heights.

Eventually the dinosaur banks became extinct, as well as the Sinclair stations in the Boston area.

Is there anyone in the world that remembers these green dinosaur banks? Please let me know!

Green Ridge Turkey Farm Remembrances

Postcard: Green Ridge Turkey Farm Restaurant

Ahhhh, the Green Ridge Turkey Farm. Just the mention of this restaurant brings up memories of... hmmmm...wait a minute... let's see... TURKEY!

 Located on the overly commercial Daniel Webster Highway in Nashua, N.H., dining at the Green Ridge Turkey Farm was like celebrating Thanksgiving every day with its succulent roast turkey, homemade stuffing and gravy, mashed potatoes and some guy dressed up in a John Alden outfit looking for Plymouth Rock. Just kidding on the last one.

I remember seeing from a distance that giant turkey perched on top of the restaurant sign out front, and that is when my mouth would usually start to water in anticipation of the turkey dinner, as well as a slice of homemade blueberry pie. The Green Ridge also made a terrific salad with homemade dressing. I also remember the elderly waitresses were so sweet and took the time to socialize with the families dining there. While the turkey at the Green Ridge was tremendous, I think the pleasant nature of the waitresses is what made us like the Green Ridge so much. It was almost like going to a close relative's house. The atmosphere was quite agreeable, too, with a large, carpeted dining room and historic section of the restaurant known as the Manor House.

 I shed more than a few tears when the Green Ridge Turkey Farm went out of business in the mid-90s. Seeing that building razed for a Barnes and Noble took away a New England restaurant icon, and one we happened to love. With its origins dating back to 1931, the Green Ridge Turkey farm surely was one of the region's great dining traditions.

Pleasure Island Amusement Park Memories

Today, Pleasure Island might be the name of a future TV reality show starring sassy, shallow people, but I remember the name best as a wonderful amusement park located in Wakefield, Mass.

Pleasure Island had a short life -- only in business from 1959 to 1969 -- but the memories can never be taken away.  This lively 100-acre park had all the amusement park bells and whistles that were requisite for finicky kids like me with enough rides, attractions, events and overall visual appeal to create those lifetime of memories. I loved the hokey actors that staged mock gunfights in the Western City, the Space Rocket, Moby Dick and Pirate Rides, the picnic area, the Animal Barn, reliving the frontier days on the Chisholm Trail, the merry-go-round, various boat and car rides, and the locomotive steaming through the premises. I recall a few good places to eat there. They had an entertainment center, too, and I read that performers like Ricky Nelson, the Three Stooges and Caesar Romero performed at the "Show Bowl," We never got to see them, as our bed time was something like right after supper.

I bring up Pleasure Island in conversation whenever I can, and people look at me like I'm nuts. No one seems to remember this place, except my brother-in-law, Bill. It's nice to know there's someone in this world that remembers Pleasure Island and was equally enthusiastic about this amazing amusement park.

A business park eventually replaced Pleasure Island. That's fine -- we need people working in our country -- but perhaps some day an entrepreneur familiar with the glory days of Pleasure Island can find some open space and bring back this wonderful amusement park for the younger generations.  Wouldn't that be nice?

Lannos in Watertown, Mass., for Old School Italian Cuisine

A few questions have come up in regards to what makes me qualified to write this blog, Old School Boston. I can answer that sufficiently by saying that yesterday I drove five miles with the left blinker on.

Now that you have my credentials, let's move onto the next Old School Boston article!

Anyone remember Lannos in Watertown, Mass.? I think they were an old school restaurant the very day they opened with enough parm dishes and carpeting to write the textbook on classic Italian-American restaurants. I can't say for sure, but Lannos felt like a family-owned and operated restaurant as you would see the same faces (all friendly) year after year. Lannos was great for affordable lunches and dinners, as well as being able to aptly accommodate functions. It was a pretty large downtown restaurant with, as I recall, a downstairs, too.

I believe Lannos closed in the mid-90s. If I am wrong, someone please correct me. I'm doing this all on memory.

Traditional Italian-American restaurants are definitely on the wane in the Boston area, as there is more of a demand for the higher end, more authentic Italian restaurants. That is fine with me, but sometimes you just need a slab of parm, an unpretentious atmosphere, and a vociferous staff and clientele that keeps the dining experience from being like that of eating in a library.

If you have any fond memories of Lannos, we'd love to hear them!

Bringing People Together during The Blizzard of 1978

Who remembers the Blizzard of 1978? This catastrophic, early February nor'easter  dumped record amounts of snow on us Bostonians, not to mention hurricane-like winds. I've heard a few times through the years that that this storm killed more than 100 people and injured over 4,500.

The tragic outcomes of the storm will always be etched in our sympathetic and empathetic New England hearts and souls.  Tragedy, however, also brings some positive aspects that we can learn from, and the Blizzard of 1978 was no exception. I remember best the way people came together to help each other out. There was goodwill everywhere -- we saw the news features on television covering this topic that centered on the help coming from church, state and community. We saw countless examples of unbounded selflessness in our own Arlington neighborhood. I think back fondly on having to walk everywhere and people stopping us to say "hello," and making sure everything was OK. It wasn't just a going-through-the-motions talk -- people really became closer and took a general interest in each other.  People shoveled and snowplowed for each other, knocked on neighbor's doors to make sure they were OK and keeping the elderly and disabled first in mind. I saw more people smiling in one week of adversity than a whole year of normal daily life. It was true testimony to the decency of the people in our country.

We had quite a few days off from school. It was a great time to sled, build a snow fort out front and watch a few more cartoons on television. The news coverage and political response was tremendous, too, as you will witness in the video above. As examples, Ted O'Brien's anchoring was stellar, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis' genuine concern a political revelation (even though I wasn't a big fan of his governing, in general) and meteorologist Harvey Leonard was his usual excellent self -- and with so much more hair! Harvey, as many of you know, is the chief meteorologist on WCVB-TV, Channel 5.

I truly feel we can apply the goodwill of the Blizzard of 1978 to today's world where our nation has often become derailed on the most fundamental, most important aspects of life. As I have currently become nauseated by the lying, attacking and dirty tricks that impeded this recent presidential election -- and the overall divide of this great country -- I think back to times like the Blizzard of 1978 as a role model for people putting aside their differences for the love and concern of their fellow neighbor. Yes, our society was much less divided then but it wasn't exactly a "Leave it to Beaver" era, either, with a growing distrust of government and a "me decade" all too often favoring greed, narcissim and various excesses over "loving thy neighbor," and doing what was best for society.

It's ironic, isn't it, that such a monstrous storm brought about so much sunshine to our daily lives in the form of placing others before oneself.  Wouldn't it be nice if everyday was like that, but without storms of any kind?              

Old School Boston Businesses That Still Exist Today

Many traditional, old-fashioned Boston area businesses that we loved in the 60s and 70s still exist today without much of a change in the way they do business. Here are some that come to mind...

Walpole Woodworkers in Walpole still sells those expertly crafted swing sets we bought in the 60s. Balich 5&10 in Arlington remains one of the last five and dimes in the area. Playtime in Arlington is no longer a toy store but the old school arts and crafts element is well intact and as impressive as ever. Sports Etc. in Arlington, still excels in the sporting goods category and with that superb customer service that has been a prioritization for all these years. The Old Mill restaurant in Westminster continues it magical Sunday morning brunch. The lovely pond, covered bridge, waterfall and the chance to feed the ducks bread are joyously timeless. Prince Pizzeria in Saugus still has that "Leaning Tower of Pizza" structure outside and delicious Italian-style pizza inside. Steve Castraberti has done a great job maintaining the excellence that his late, great father, Arthur, created through the years. Durgin Park restaurant keeps on going strong in Boston, although the waitresses are not nearly as rude as in the past. The Union Oyster House and Javeli's still thrive in Boston with, respectively, their seafood and old school Italian business specialties. The Maynard Outdoor Store in Maynard was a favorite back in the day and still is today with its fantastic mix of clothing, footwear, camping and sporting goods in a very old-fashioned, neighborhood store setting.

We'd love to hear from you on old school Boston area businesses that still remain today. What are some of your favorites?

Remembering the Chicken Coop in Rhode Island

Nancy takes us to Rhode Island for a restaurant memory from quite a long time ago...

There used to be a wonderful southern fried chicken restaurant (back in the 1950s/1960s) named the Chicken Coop ---- it was located near the junction of Cranston Street/Westminster Street in Providence. Now there is a high school (Central High) where the restaurant used to be.... not even KFC could have matched them for the taste/quality.

Editor's reply: Thanks so much, Nancy, for this piece of Rhode Island nostalgia! Readers, send us your favorite Boston, New England restaurant memories and we'll consider it for publication

The Stockpot, The Tasty and Other Boston, Cambridge Restaurant Memories

We just received some great old-time Boston and Cambridge restaurant memories from a reader named Peter...

Harvard Square, Cambridge:  The Blue Grotto  -- It was a downstairs, cozy, mediocre Italian and pizza place, very cozy on a winter night.  Nothing remarkable, just good times for a 7th grader going a little upscale.

Harvard Square, on the corner (I think it's a nice Chinese place now)  La Crepe -- Decent savory and sweet crepes.

And also in Harvard Square, The Tasty! Four or five stools in a tiny little place with these heart-of-gold crusty diner men serving griddled burgers and decent fries in an only-back-then-setting.  I still miss that one, and would have loved to take my kids there.

Near Harvard Square:  Chi Chi's  -- A national Tex Mex chain that for a couple years in the late 70s was ridiculously popular.  My first chimichanga.  We'd wait for an hour plus, and for that not great food!  But back then, not a lot of fun Mex places like that.

Of that ilk, the Friday's on Newbury in Back Bay.  No good reason for it to be as popular as it was, but, boy, was it hot in the early 80s.

On Mass Ave in Cambridge, near the Three Aces Pizza,  The Mustard Cup, which was sort of a diner, coffee shop type place.  I remember maybe the best french fries of my childhood, served in a paper cup.

In the Galleria in Harvard Square, bottom floor, The Stock Pot served soup, salad and fresh baked bread.  Nothing special, but my Ma used to love not cooking Sunday supper in order to go to the Stock Pot.

On Mass. Ave. or near Central Square ... The Athenian Taverna.  Similar to the Acropolis with a slightly less showy interior.  Perhaps the Greek family restaurant concept still thrives, but I really miss that type of place out here in California.

And last one for now, on Mt Auburn near Watertown, by the Star Market, I want to say "Quality Donuts", or something like that...a spacious s-curve counter and stools to sit on for the donut crowd back when independent donut shops still thrived.

Editor's reply: Thanks, Peter, great list! We remember many of these places quite well, and wish they had never left us. Well, most of them.

A Memorable Moment in Boston during the Christmas Season

The Boston Common Christmas lights shone, "Merry Christmas Darling" by The Carpenters played on the radio and the new car smell in our Mercury Marquis station wagon lingered. Life sure felt good while waiting in the car while my dad ran into Eric Fuch's model railroad store to pick up a few items.

My dad was an avid Lionel railroad collector and Fuch's served as the "model" toy train store in the area. Eric Fuch's eventually expanded into the suburbs, but it wasn't the same. We loved the thrill of driving into Boston and getting in the Christmas spirit.

Although waiting in the car might seem like an odd way to enjoy the Christmas season, sometimes moments like these inexplicably stick in one's mind. Do you have any "smaller" moments from childhood in Boston that never went away?

A Yearning for Funny Face Fruit Drinks

I loved Funny Face fruit drinks. They were much like Kool-Aid, but developed nearby in the great city of Weymouth, Mass. There's something always better about an artificially flavored fruit drink that's made locally, I say. I went to school with someone that worked at Funny Face. Before we knew each other, I asked where he worked. The kid turned a bit red, sunk his head down low and said in almost a whisper, "Funny Face."

Pillsbury actually created the Funny Face line, but eventually sold to Brady Enterprises on the South Shore. The cartoon characters, gracing the packets, represented a flavor --  Goofy Grape,  Jolly Ollie Orange, Freckle Face Strawberry. You get the picture! The drawings were quite happy-looking and full of character despite the very simplistic drawings -- kind of like the smiley face with different coloring.

Funny Face disappeared in 1994, but I heard some local businessmen were trying to bring back the cartoon characters for a television show. Has anyone else heard that, too, and, if so, what is the latest?

Saying "Hi" to Former Boston Red Sox Pitcher Lee Stange at the Boston Museum of Science in the Late 1960s

On this Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox, I'd like to take the way back machine to write about Lee Stange, a journeyman pitcher who played for the Sox from 1966-1969. They called him the "Stinger" and his first name was actually Albert. Why Stange used his middle name as his first, I really can't say.

Stange pitched as a starter and reliever throughout career, but mainly the latter with the Sox. Back then, Stange didn't seem like much of a pitcher but, in retrospect, if he played today, Stange would probably have a multi-million dollar contract and a few all-star games under his belt. He had a career 3.56 ERA, a 62-61 record over a 16-year career, nine complete games in 1966 (although he went 8-9!) and 12 saves for the Sox in 1968 -- that was really good for the era. Stange also went 12-5 for the Minnesota Twins in 1963.

Perhaps my best memory of Lee Stange was seeing him at the Boston Museum of Science in the late 1960s. I can't remember why Stange was a guest there, but I saw him throwing a ball in front of an audience. I never saw anyone throw a ball that fast in person! He wasn't that big, either, maybe 5"10" so I thought "anything is possible" when aspiring to be a baseball player someday ((like 99 percent of the neighborhood kids with the exception of one geek that played in his dress shoes!) Clearly inspired, I returned home and practiced very hard to try to throw that fast. I could throw so fast, the neighborhood kids must have thought I was the local Tom Seaver. Little did they know that Lee Stange was my baseball pitching inspiration!

What Happened to Major Tom Lewis on WVBF, 105.7?

Major Tom Lewis, on the old WVBF 105.7, Framingham-Boston (now WROR) was a terrific mid-morning radio DJ in, I believe, the early 1970s who knew how to keep the music moving while bringing a national quality voice and personality to our local airwaves.

With a dry personality, some hit-or-miss jokes and incredible intuition on when to talk over the music, Major Tom not only had a cool, relevant 1970s radio name but an ability to connect with listeners of different ages. While many parents in our neighborhood were turned off by some of the screaming DJs of the late 60s and early 70s, Major Tom sounded like a sincere best friend who also happened to possess superb articulation. He could have sounded great on a beautiful music station, a middle of the road format, or perhaps as a news anchor given he never really flubbed his lines, but his stint on this top 40 FM giant contributed greatly to Boston's amazing pool of radio talent during this period. I'd be interested to know where Major Tom Lewis went after WVBF and if he is still in the business today. Anyone know?

Gus Saunders Yankee Kitchen Food Show on the Old WCOP 1150 AM Radio Boston

Does anyone remember Gus Saunder's Yankee Kitchen food show on the old WCOP 1150 AM radio, Boston? I have special memories of this entertaining, low-key show and getting to visit Gus with family at the former Rib Room at the Hotel Sonesta in Cambridge -- that's where he broadcast from live. Gus treated everyone like a beloved family member and his gentle style and overall civility is something we often see missing in a much more fast-paced, me-first world.

By the way, I think this was the intro song to the show, Bert Kaempfert's "That Happy Feeling" -- just listening to this song brings a big smile:

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