On Nov. 28, a writer remembered going to Porteous on Congress Street in Portland at Christmastime. This brought memories flooding back to my mind about more sites and sounds along Congress Street in the ’50s and ’60s.

Of course, along the short way to Portland High School from the West End of the city each day, with no school buses in those days, one got a keen sense of the city.

Four years of traveling those sidewalks back and forth certainly are embedded in feet and mind. I will start at Longfellow Square with that grand statue of our own poet watching all our moves.

Then on to Portland Public Library (which every night would be filled with kids from the West End doing homework, for some of them the only quiet place they had to study).

I once shook hands and chatted with then-Sen. John F. Kennedy as I was going to the library and he was in town for a speaking engagement. He was just coming out of the Lafayette Hotel. Where has the opportunity to meet such figures gone today?

It is with sweet thoughts that I remember Soule’s Candy Kitchen and Haven’s Candy. Also, who remembers the State Theatre, the Pagoda Restaurant, State Street Drugs, Hays Drugstore, Your Host Restaurant, Strand Theater and the Puritan Restaurant?


The Puritan was where kids would stop on our way home from high school to eat french fries with gravy, have a Coke, and maybe smoke a first cigarette. West End kids got to know a lot of East End kids at the Puritan.

I once met Milton Berle there, sitting in a booth. I was told that he married a local gal and was visiting. Many early friendships and romances were created at that restaurant.

Then on to Recordland and Woolworths — who could ever forget such a gathering place for young and old alike? Tons of people waited for buses in front of the store and boys lucky enough to have borrowed their fathers’ cars for the afternoon cruised by to see what cute chick they could ask if she wanted a ride home.

Things were and felt pretty safe on Congress Street then. In fact, who ever gave a thought to safety in those days? Then on to Porteous with its grand revolving door, Kresge’s, Grant’s (with the only escalator for miles around and also a place to play records in a booth out back), Rines Brothers, Owen Moore’s (where a neighbor of mine always bought such gorgeous feathery hats with a veil), Palmer’s, Day’s Jewelry Store (where we would stop and watch this box called the television in the front window), Bernie’s Fashion (ooh, la-la, what style there!), The Civic Theater, Surplus Store, Monument Square (tons more people waiting for buses), George’s Deli, Benoit’s and then Portland High’s Freshman Alley.

I remember all the holiday sounds and smells from this street and the wonder of it all. But as I get older, I hardly ever walk down Congress Street anymore.

I do wish I could go to the Strand for 35 cents on a snowy afternoon and see “Miracle on 34th Street” again. Everyone would be there!


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