“My father’s shoe store was called Siciliano’s Climax Bootery. When I got out of high school, a thought came into his mind that this was such a sweet area, that he ought to go into the ice cream business. It was right on the corner of Eagle and Main where the Pizza House is now. We were the second building in. There was Rice’s Corner and my father’s building and a fish market. Someone didn’t renew their lease, so we changed it from a haberdashery into the luncheonette business and flourished for many years.”
“It was called Siciliano’s Luncheonette. We made our own ice cream. As you came in, there was the ice cream bar and booths on both sides, and tables in the middle. The ice cream making machine was on the right hand side as you came in, but he never made ice cream while customers were in the store. He probably started making it at ten o’clock at night.”
“Main Street was narrow then. What do you think went down the middle of the street? Trolley cars. It cost ten cents. I was in school then. It was a very romantic era, honest to God. The cars were just coming into prominence, and they had no such thing as parking restrictions, so there’d be parking on Eagle Street on both sides. And the trolley car would go right down the middle. Sometimes it would just about make it on the turn where we had our store.”
“Back when I was a kid, and my father had the shoe store on Eagle Street, the shoe boxes had all that wax paper in them. On a Sunday morning, we’d go down, my two brothers and myself, and we’d get all the boxes and strap them together. There were maybe eight feet of boxes. When business opened on Monday morning, we went out the store and into the next store, which was the fish market. We’d give them the shoe boxes. They would wrap the fish and put it into the shoe boxes for the customers to take home. Remembering it now, I can see folks lined up waiting to get their fish, and then going out the door with the shoe boxes.” -Lou Siciliano
“As a kid of about 11 or 12, I lived at 320 Franklin Street, a house my dad built in 1939. One day, I decided to ride my bike from my house to downtown. Right at the sharp left turn just before Franklin joins Eagle Street, I broke the chain on the bike. It was the old coaster brake type, and of course, when the chain snaps, NO BRAKES! I came down Eagle Street screaming at the top of my lungs, yelling at everyone that I had no brakes.” -Bill Hodgson
If Bill had been able to look up for a moment as he frantically descended Eagle Street, he might have noticed how the Flatiron Block resembles the bow of an incoming ship. He might have also admired the lovely row of old facades on the Flatiron side of the street that curve gently around to Main Street. A few weeks ago, I was engaged in such admiration, and I was taking some photographs. A man walked up to me and said, “Why would you want to take pictures on this street? What’s there to see?”
What I wanted to say was, “Well, since you’ve asked, perhaps you should look at….” But I passed up the opportunity.
The downtown block of Eagle Street boasts the city’s oldest commercial buildings. For the most part, they are also the most endangered. Behind those facades is a renovation project that is running out of chances. The look and feel of these buildings recall their nearly forgotten counterparts that disappeared from Bank Street and the south side of Main Street 30 years ago. Eagle Street is the last remaining commercial block that symbolizes the earliest days of North Adams. With its history of cobblers, barbers, dressmakers, and little Mom and Pop shops, Eagle Street reminds us of a simpler and slower-paced era when most customers and store owners lived in the same neighborhoods and shared a common struggle.
Like Benji, the dog in the story below, Eagle Street needs to be adopted by all of us and nurtured back to health while there is still time.
If you have been in the vicinity of Eagle Street lately, you have no doubt seen a cute furry dog who gets pushed around in a little cart. According to a friend of mine, the dog is Benji, and he is part cocker spaniel and part poodle (cockapoo?). My friend and two other persons recently “co-adopted” Benji. Several months ago, Benji had a mysterious injury that broke his back.
Laura, a nice woman who walks with a cane, has been taking Benji for rides in the cart to keep him entertained, and for an occasional walk when he’s up to it. Jo Jo, the popular former employee of the Mohawk Theater, is especially fond of Benji. A familiar sight in front of 103 Main Street or near Jack’s Hot Dogs is Jo Jo, Laura and Benji keeping each other company. Jo Jo hasn’t been getting around well lately either, so they have formed sort of a support group.
Benji hangs out during the day at the Tropical Gardens fish store. He is fast becoming the city’s new mascot. He yips and yaps in his little cart and looks like he’s enjoying the ride. To be kind, his bark is a bit shrill, but he’s a friendly little thing. He often rides down to one of the banks, where he gets a free treat from the employees.
So how did he get injured? My friend thinks that he might have been hit by a mean stranger with a blunt instrument. It seems that Benji is afraid of men. That’s one clue. Quite by accident, the new owners discovered that he is deathly afraid of cucumbers and zucchini. Since dogs supposedly can’t see colors (like green), the reasoning is that he was assaulted by a man wielding a cucumber-shaped object (or perhaps an actual cucumber). Poor Benji.
But his new owners are willing to pay his medical bills and nurse him back to health. Good for them! We wish Benji a speedy recovery. Stop and say hello when you see him. Meanwhile, if you notice a strange man carrying a cucumber, call the police.