, Salem, MA


December 31, 2012

McAllister: The North Shore, as seen in 1945

This week’s offering was born the minute a kindly employee at a local thrift shop handed over to me a September 1945 issue of National Geographic that he had planned to keep for himself. Within its pages, most of which were devoted to World War II matters, was an article titled “Northeast of Boston” by Albert Atwood.

Atwood’s lengthy, 35-page article covers Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, with much of the attention going to our very own North Shore. The story is accompanied by two dozen photographs, 15 of which relate to local communities. In the latter category are paired images of the serene Rockport Harbor (showing Motif No. 1 and a single lobster boat) and its bustling, chaotic counterpart in neighboring Gloucester; two interior shots of the then-Peabody Museum; and a photo of four smiling young ladies, in full color, with a historic marker for the old Salem Jail site.

Of particular interest are the full-page color shot of what is now the Marblehead selectmen’s room in Abbot Hall and an interior of the Salem YMCA. In the former, a handful of youngsters are shown reading and writing at a table just beneath the famed “Spirit of ’76” painting by Archibald Willard, a visual reminder that the space once housed the children’s room of the Marblehead Public Library. In the YMCA shot, two young women pose with replicas of Alexander Graham Bell’s “original instruments” displayed in a glass case. The YMCA, the author notes, stands on the former site of the Mary Sanders House, where Bell lived rent-free for nearly three years in the 1870s in return for tutoring Mary’s hearing-impaired grandson, George Sanders. The author also mentions parenthetically that Salem native Walter Gifford had, for the past 20 years, served as president of the American Telephone and Telegraph Co.

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