Economic revitalization of downtown areas is usually aimed at sprucing up what’s already here through things like improved, uniform signage and dressing up storefronts as well as attracting the kinds of new businesses that reflect the quaint, warm and homey small town feel that we either remember from our childhoods or have seen on postcards from the Good Old Days before malls and the Internet stole all our retail commerce.

cvs_oldWhich makes all the recent hand-wringing over a possible “Dollar Store” in downtown Wakefield, MA so very interesting.

That possibility has once again surfaced with respect to the possible re-uses of the still vacant former CVS building on Main Street in Wakefield. Rumors that a Dollar Store was going into the space first came up earlier this year. But at the time, people were too busy dictating to the owners of the Fraen Corporation what they could do with their property to give much more than passing attention to the specter of a Dollar Store.
Continue reading ‘A Fistful of Dollar Stores’

Play bends comedy, drama and mystery in one entertaining package

plum_snee2Widowed Mary Antonelli, a retired school teacher, and Joe LaCedra, a 64 year-old leg-breaker for the mob, are spending a stormy New Year’s Eve together in Mary’s South Boston home. But this is no social encounter. It’s strictly business. We learn that much in the opening seconds of Jack Neary’s Auld Lang Syne, currently on stage at the Gloucester Stage Company.

Joe (played by Richard Snee) has to drag the details out of Mary (Snee’s real life spouse, Paula Plum), who phoned him earlier and asked him to come over. It turns out that Mary made her late husband Arthur a promise on his deathbed and she needs to hire the gangster to carry out the job. She can’t do it herself, she explains, because, well, that would be a mortal sin. But a gangster like Joe can do it, she reasons, because, “People who don’t believe in heaven or hell are the kind that murder people.”
Continue reading ‘‘Auld Lang Syne’ at Gloucester Stage Company’

New book on legendary Wakefield, Massachusetts Amusement Park

Pleasure Island 1959-1969“It’s been highly rewarding,” says local author Bob McLaughlin of writing his second book on famed local amusement park, Pleasure Island, published this month by Arcadia. The best part, according to the affable Water Street resident, was getting “to meet a lot of people I never would have met.”

Indeed, over the years McLaughlin has crisscrossed the country at his own expense conducting interviews and doing research for his two books on Pleasure Island plus another on New York’s Freedomland amusement park.

“Pleasure Island: 1959–1969,” is an all new, full-color photographic history of legendary theme park located off Audubon Road in Wakefield MA, where the Edgewater Office Park now sits.
Continue reading ‘Pleasure Island: 1959-1969’

parade_sign Like other secular national holidays, Independence Day brings its share of reminders of the “true meaning” of the holiday. Enjoy your three-day weekend, we’re told, but take a moment to think about why we observe the day. This seems especially appropriate on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, when we pay tribute to those who fought and died for our country.

But unlike Veterans Day and Memorial Day, which are more observances than festive occasions, the Fourth of July is a true celebration. Still, it’s worth remembering what happened 238 years ago. Have your hot dogs and beer and watermelon, they’ll be telling us tomorrow, but make sure you take a moment to remember why we celebrate Independence Day.
Continue reading ‘A Founding Father’s Advice on Celebrating Independence Day’

freds_franks2014As expected, at their June 23 meeting the Board of Selectmen addressed at length the latest controversy over local peddlers, including Fred’s Franks, the hotdog vendor that had until recently occupied a spot at the head of the Lake.

Several Board members indicated that they had been receiving phone calls and emails from local residents on the peddler issue. One resident, Janet Filoramo, spoke during the public participation portion of last night’s meeting and asked the board to explain why the regulations were changed last year to require the peddlers to move 100 feet every two hours.
Continue reading ‘Selectmen defend rules on peddlers’

vendorFor the first time in living memory peddlers in Wakefield, MA are being asked to abide by the town’s regulations. But from the reaction, you’d think that instead of being asked to move 100 feet every two hours they were being forced to run the gauntlet.

Contrary to popular belief, local regulations have always indicated that hawkers and peddlers were supposed to move “from place to place” when doing business in town. And the regs have always said, quite explicitly, that “No vendor has a right to a specific location.”

So there was never any doubt as to the intent. The problem was that the old regulations were silent when it came to exactly how often and how far the peddlers were supposed to move. Nature abhors a vacuum and the peddlers took full advantage of it. Several of them have occupied the same locations all day, every day, from spring through fall for years. And with the vagueness of the old regulations, the town couldn’t tell them how often they were supposed to move, so it let them be.
Continue reading ‘Immovable Objects’

Filmmakers Michaela O’Brien & Melissa Langer examine EB in Bogota, Colombia

Michaela shootingWhile working as a documentary photographer in 2011, Michaela O’Brien visited an orphanage in Bogota, Colombia. While there, the 2004 Wakefield High School graduate met two girls, Nixa and her older sister Nury. Both girls were afflicted with a rare, genetic skin disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa, or “EB.”

O’Brien watched as the sisters wrapped their limbs in plastic to minimize damage to their raw and fragile skin. She saw the girls draw stares when out in public.

Nury and Nixa 2Inspired by these feisty and resilient sisters determined to be independent, O’Brien began an impromptu film shoot and upon her return to Boston shared the footage with film editor Melissa Langer. Convinced of the power of the story, the film makers made three more return trips to Colombia where they documented their discovery of a wider EB community.

Their documentary film, In Crystal Skin, focuses of four individuals with EB and their separate but interwoven stories of struggle in the face of great odds.
Continue reading ‘Rare Disease Focus of Documentary’



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