Windham Life and Times – December 3, 2015

A Blast from the Past: The North Shore Shopping Center

northshore shopping

The North Shore Shopping Center opened in September of 1958. You might be wondering why a shopping center in Peabody, Massachusetts is relevant to Windham’s history. When it opened, North Shore was the only major shopping center, with first class stores, that could be easily reached by car from Windham, especially after Interstate 93 was built. If you grew up North of Boston in the 1960’s, I’m sure you’ll remember making shopping trips here. A trip in August, for school clothes, was always on the agenda and signaled that summer was almost over.

The major draw was the huge Jordan Marsh store which anchored the center along with Filenes. I always got Buster Brown shoes which meant my foot was measured with an x-ray fluoroscope machine, which was really neat, except that it probably caused cancer. The best part of the Jordan Marsh store was the top floor, because that was where the toy department was located. There was no such thing as Toys R Us back in the day. We always saw Santa there, because he was a first class type of Santa, and then we would stare endlessly at the model train display which was the centerpiece of the department. I got my first Lego set, which was brand new to America from Jordan Marsh. But the best thing about visiting Jordon Marsh, was that when you got through shopping, you could stop at the bakery and bring home a box of the most delicious blueberry muffins you ever tasted.

My family always preferred Filenes when shopping for clothes. And when I became an adult I always preferred the selection at Filenes better than either Jordan Marsh or Macy’s. North Shore began as an open air center and there was a grand staircase between Jordon’s and Filenes. You will probably also remember the wooden soldier’s that decorated the place during the holidays.

Of course, there were many other stores as well. One was S.S. Pierce, which had bright red and white stripes on their store-front. They were a Boston tradition with fancy canned goods and other food and liquor products. There was also the Windsor Button shop, yes woman needed a wide selection of buttons because many of them bought patterns from places like Vogue and actually sewed their own clothes. Brigham’s was there for lunch, ice cream or a Raspberry Lime Ricky. Kennedy’s was a nice men’s store where I got one of my first sport jacket. Others stores included Thom McCann shoes among others, Liggett-Rexall Drugstore, S.S Kresge, J.J. Newbury, Lauriat Books, Charles Sumner and a Stop and Shop.
There was also a Showcase Cinema, which was convenient, because the kids could be dropped off while their parents shopped. I cried through the shooting of “Old Yella” in that very theater. There was also a small amusement park called Kiddie Towne. In 2015, with online shopping growing, the question is if brick and mortar retail will even exist in a few years. I was thinking recently, how over the past 100 years, shopping has come full circle. We are back to a preference for “mail order” shopping like Sear Roebuck & Co. pioneered in 1894, only now we shop online rather than in a catalog.

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