As readers drive around town, most are generally in a hurry to get to their destination. Little time is available to ponder the past while detained at an intersection anxiously awaiting the change of the traffic light. If nothing else, perhaps this time in our history has provided us with more opportunities to “stop and smell the roses” (or notice the old buildings) if inclined. The Stoneham Historical Society is offering some “Then” and “Now” images of an intersection that is probably as heavily traveled now as it was when the picture including the 1940’s era automobile was taken. Upon close scrutiny, it seems there were two “connah stoahs” at that moment in time in that intersection of Pond and Summer Streets. The Coca Cola sign on one building suggests the purpose but the image of other one who seems to have a customer is less clear. A story in the 9/19/1941 issue of the SI shares that Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Reynolds opened Rafferty’s Variety Store in 1888 on that exact 46 Pond Street location. It was deemed the “oldest store in continuous use in Stoneham”. The article further explains that “Miss Josephine Reynolds went into the hotel business in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Upon the death of their mother, Edward Rafferty (husband of twin sister Alice Reynolds) took over the store and in 1917 changed the name to Rafferty’s. What attracted attention to passers by was the huge ice cream cone prominently propped up on the sidewalk. When Mr. Rafferty passed away in 1923, Miss Josephine returned from the west coast and she and Alice continued running the store. It seems all the Reynolds children were born and raised across the street upstairs where another store stood (the one with the beverage sign). Other than the caption below the newspaper image, there was no mention of the nickname for the area except that it referred to the late 1890’s. Once that area of town became more developed, these kinds of activities totally disappeared. Neither was there information about the transition from that small one story structure to the 2-story bustling variety store and morphed into the home that still exists save for the awnings and entrance today on the Pond Street side. Jim Rouillard, penned a column in a 1986 issue of SI reminiscing about the disappearance of the “Corner Store Spirit”. He offered that “some former stores can still be located by the careful observer. Many were converted to apartments but upon close inspection may yield traces from still-existing large store-front windows to a slight oddity in the structure of the building with an unusual blank wall or strange bulge created by an architectural modification.” Many years later, we’re still curious. A quick search in the SI archives mentions at least 6 other “conna stoahs” that once dotted our community neighborhoods and were the best source for everyday groceries and every kid’s favorites – popsicles, comic books, trading cards and penny candy. Some of you may recall them by the name on the sign, the proprietors, location or have a faded picture. Someone may even know the color of that iconic ice cream that never melted. Your memories of these variety stores will help complete this “lookback” for future publication. Stay tuned and reach us via firstname.lastname@example.org; FB or drop a note to 36 William Street, Stoneham, MA 02180. The SHSM is an all volunteer 501(c)3 nonprofit group dedicated (with sweet candy dots memories) to “Pride in our past; Faith in our future” since 1922.
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