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Cronin's Department Store in Florida

In past newsletters we told about rumors we heard of a Cronin's store in Florida. Recently Loraine Poirier Morreale LeBlanc of Florida (formerly Waltham) told us that Paul Cronin Jr. has a store on Vanderbuilt Road in Bonita Springs, Florida, which is near Naples, Florida. He calls it the "Paul Cronin Store." If you're down in that area be sure to visit the store. Tell Paul to come back to Waltham.

Paul Cronin, Jr. is the grandson of Grover Cronin. His father, Paul Cronin Sr., ran Grover Cronins from 1970 to 1979 when he died suddenly. In many of the early Cronin films of their Easter and Santa parades, Paul Cronin, Jr. can be seen as a young boy.

(Note: Loraine was once a singer with the Baron Hugo Orchestra. While touring the museum and Lafayette Hall she played the piano and sang a few numbers for us without sheet music. She is very good.)

The Grover Cronin Mannequin Doll - A crew's good luck charm!

In 1943 Angelo A. Taranto Jr. of 10 Pierce Street in Waltham joined the Army Air Corp. and became a tail-gunner on a B-24 bomber. Before he left for England his neighbor, Mae Scalosi, who was a buyer for Grover Cronins, took a countertop bra mannequin and gave it to Taranto as a good luck charm. Taranto made 40 missions over Germany and the doll, as he calls it, was on 26 of these missions. Each time he would paint memorable remarks on the doll. Twice the doll was hit by German anti-aircraft fire. Her hand was shot off the first time and her base was damaged the second time.

     On one occasion the plane was so badly shot up that it had to belly land in England. Even with the plane on fire the pilot made sure to rescue the doll – the crew’s good luck charm.

     On Christmas day in December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, Taranto’s bomber was again hit badly by the German guns and they were forced to land as soon as they got into friendly territory. They landed at a fighter base. Here a B-24 was sent from England to pick them up. When the plane was taking off for England the crew remembered the doll. They had the pilot turn around and go back so that they could pick up the doll.

    In 1995, during the 50th Anniversary of VE Day, which ended the war in Europe, the doll was placed on exhibit at air shows, at the Pentagon and for five years it was on exhibit at the Museum of Air History in England.

 The doll is now back with Angelo Taranto and he may place it with the Waltham Museum some day.

 Grover Cronins

When we think of Grover Cronins, we think of the store and not of the great man who made it possible. From the small tea store that his father, Jeremiah, started in 1885, Grover took over in 1912 and within 20 years put the store in a class by itself. In 1931, at the beginning of the big depression, the exterior of the store was made in the art deco style. The interior was made with such class that wealthy women from Newton, Wellesley, Weston, Lincoln, Lexington as well as Waltham would frequent his store. In 1928, the Embassy Theater was built with the same elegance as Cronins. Being across the street, the businesses complemented each other and had little or no trouble during the depression. After World War II, Cronin started the Easter and Christmas Parades. For over 30 years they provided the veterans of the war and their growing families as well as people from all over, with much pleasure. In 1953, Grover died, and his wife Helen carried on his policies until 1970, when their son Robert took over. Around 1960, Shoppers World in Framingham started a mall trend around metropolitan Boston. One by one, Cronins' brother stores on Moody Street were forced to move or go out of business. J.C. Penny, Sears, Gilchrist, Grant's, Parke Snows, Lincolns, Enterprize, Touraines and others. Sadly, in 1972, the Embassy Theater, the long time companion of Cronins closed. Then, after celebrating their 100th Anniversary in 1985, Cronins closed 4 years later.

More on Grover Cronin

When the Waltham Museum prepared its slide show on Grover Cronins, we restudied its history and substantiated what we all know, this was one great store. Their devotion to the people of Waltham was unpresident. They constantly had a display in their windows for the Salvation Army, or the Waltham Boys Club, or for the United Fund, Art Appreciation Week, Junior Chamber of Commerce, and many others. For over thirty years they put on Easter and Christmas parades in Waltham where up to 200,000 people would attend. They brought much pleasure into all of our lives. Cronins wasn't just another cold department store, it was part of the fiber of the Waltham community. Its owners quietly devoted much of their time as members of charitable organizations, and their money on community projects. Cronins was a caring and devoted enterprise and it didn't deserve its ill-fated demise. Hopefully future operations at this location will carry on the legacy of Grover Cronins.

 Jordan's Furniture Company

Recently, one of our members pointed out a Boston Globe news clip that tells about how Jordan's Furniture originally started in Waltham. Maurice Kniznik of 33 Derby Street was the first owner. He was also treasurer of Grey Furniture at 621 Moody Street.

In 1928 Jordan's started by taking over the old Holmes, Luce Furniture Company at 278 Moody Street (across the street from Parke Snows). They moved to 419 Moody Street for about 35 years. Then in the early 1970's they took over the old Parke Snow building where they are now located. They have since expanded to other locations in New England. The present two owners have interesting commercials on television.

 The Watch City Diner

The interest in the history of Waltham is being shown again by the Watch City Diner, a new restaurant being opened up at the corner of Prospect and Felton Streets. The new owners had asked the Waltham Museum to provide them with historical pictures of Waltham for permanent display throughout the restaurant.

Everyone is asked to drop in for a meal or sandwich and enjoy these old pictures of Waltham. This diner should not be confused with the Watch Factory Deli. The deli is in the old factory building on Crescent Street and it too displays our old pictures of Waltham.

The Prospect Street Drug Store

The Watch City Diner is located where the old Prospect Street Drug Store was located. Jacob Cohen operated the drug store in the 1930's, 40's, 50's and 60's. It had a nice soda fountain and booths where you could get a lemon coke, an ice cream soda, or even a sandwich. During the 1920's the drug store was operated by White C. Walter. During the 1910's the drug store was operated by John R. Hudson.

Remember... J.C. Penny's and the "Lamson Cash Railway"

How many of us remember J.C. Penny's at the corner of Moody and Pine Streets? How about the strange way you paid for an item. Penny's used the "Lamson Cash Railway." The purpose of the cash railway was to transport cash from sales clerks on the floor to a central cashiers' office on the upper level. The cash was transported in metal cars along the wires hanging overhead. The office would then record the sale, and send the change and receipt back to the sales clerk in the same manner.

This system was developed and invented by the late William S. Lamson of Lowell, Massachusetts in 1878. By 1900, the company had reached peak production and had customers throughout the world. In order to see one of these railways today, one only has to visit Chadwicks, Lexington Street, Lexington, Massachusetts, where one is on display.


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