Unearthing Bits of Westfield’s History

Listen to this quote:

"Economically, Westfield is on the move! Optimism prevails as to the future."

Or, "A firm economic foundation exists here as exemplified by the diversity of commercial and industrial activities which prevail. This diversification presages a minimum of economic disruption."

And, "Westfield is blessed with a plentiful and skilled labor market."

Written this week? No, written in 1969, when Westfield celebrated its 300th Birthday, for the Tri-Centennial booklet.

And, I’m going to take a quick look back, thanks to that booklet, even though John Reed reminded us all last week, as he signed the papers to build a new hotel in Westfield’s downtown, that we can’t look back, because Westfield will never return to what it was in the past. We have to look forward, to a changing scene.

And, the booklet reminds us, that change is constant.

Many businesses sponsored that booklet, including H. B. Smith Company, which bought the inside front cover and included an aerial photo of their sprawling, 300-employee plant on East Main Street, now the site of Stop and Shop. H. B. Smith, of course, still exists, but on a smaller scale and in a different location.

Other sponsors have disappeared entirely. Robinson Reminders, White Industries, Antoinette’s, Security Shoe, National Floor Covering, Marcoullier Brothers Lumber, Westfield Coal, Sears, Supreme Radio, Silver Superette. Gone, all gone.

As are Newberry’s, Tonelli’s Little River Inn, Crotty Drugs, Pioneer Loan and Finance, Burton Hicks Volkswagen, Soo’s Chinese Restaurant. Front Page Cigar, H. E. Wood and Sons, Kute Kiddie and Teen Towne. Clinton Pharmacy and Town & Country Lanes and Steigers and Eaton’s and Moriarity Shoes. Too many to list.

Some changed names. Firtion-Hollister, Prince and Gamble, Valley Bank, Hillbrook House. And many changed locations–Andrew Grant, for example.

Names sound familiar? How about Woronoco Bank or Westfield Savings, Westfield Cooperative Bank, Micro Abrasives, Parkside Parts, East Mountain Country Club, Travel Bureau of Westfield, Commercial Distributing, Heritage Homes. Still here. As are Dirats Laboratories, Conner’s, Berkshire Industries, among the many still operating today. Dunkin’ Donuts was even here in 1969.

Some familiar faces appear. Chip Colton, page 52, joining the Colton Agency after four years in the Air Force. Spark Plugs President Don Blair, page 61, along with folks like Nick Riga, Don Barnes, Bernie Cassin, Sam Genovese, Ted Perez, Jack Klaubert, Frank Pollard. Just picture them about 33 years younger than they are today.

The school committee, city council, firefighters are all featured in photographs. And, of course, Miss Tri-Centennial Patricia Jemiola and her court, Susan Laudato and Toni Orellana.

Looking back, the Westfield Association of Insurance Agents had 13 members. Many have merged, or closed, including Berkshire General, Ray Bartlett,. Benjamin Buyinski, Fred O’Donnell, R. B. Pomeroy, and Dorotha Rice.

How did the city celebrate during the 1969 celebration? With a Whip City Polka Spectacular featuring "Happy Louie." With a first day cover for a stamp. Round and square block dancing, and the YMCA’s Aunt Jemima Community Pancake Day. A flower show, tennis tournament, and a Tercentenary Ball in the Armory with Vaughn Monroe and his Orchestra. And don’t forget the beard growing contest and St. Peter’s mock peasant wedding.

All presided over by then-Mayor John Palczynski. And, knowing mayors, he probably bought some of the commemorative items offered. A medal, perhaps, available at any of the banks for $2 for bronze or $8 in sterling silver. Or a souvenier plate, from Gift Gallery or Elm Business Services. Maher’s was selling the first cover for a quarter. Tekoa Book Center had the ethnic cook book, "Our Culinary Heritage." Nick’s Smoke Shop had the city’s special calendar.

Other office holders at the time included State Senator George Hammond, and Representatives Robert McGinn and James Adams. Patrick Dowd was president of the City Council.

Some interesting facts were included in the booklet. Westfield got it first phones in 1877, less than a year after the telephone was patented. Gladwin and Lane had a 140,000 gallon storage tank for fuel oil. Attorney John Greaney, now a Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice, wrote the history of the Western Hampden District Court.

The Police Department was founded in 1874 with three officers. By the Tercentennial, the department had "a Chief, Captain, 9 Sargeants, 37 Patrolmen, 12 Reserve Patrolmen, 14 School Traffic Supervisors, two Clerk-stenographers…six cruisers, two boats, nine Handie-Talkes, one Inter-city radio and photographic equipment."

There were plenty of clubs and organizations in the ads, including American Legion Post 454, the Westfield Labor Council of the AFL-CIO, St. Rocco Women’s Club, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Woman’s Club, Hampton Ponds Association, Westfield BPW, and, of course, the animal lodges--Lions, Elks, Eagles.

How many have you heard of? Are there other old favorites you remember?

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014