Postcards from Wollaston

Wollaston square circa. 1960. Photo from NQHS Yearbook

I grew up in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy, Massachusetts. Quincy adjoins the city of Boston on its southern border and Wollaston is in the northern end of Quincy. The city’s name is pronounced Kwin-zee, not Kwin-see as many people assume. Downtown Boston’s South Station is a little less than eight miles away from my parents’ home.


Quincy, city, Norfolk county, eastern Massachusetts, U.S., on Boston Harbor, just southeast of Boston. In 1625 the site, which was settled by Captain Wollaston, was given the name Mount Wollaston, and a short time afterward, under the leadership of Thomas Morton, it was renamed Merry Mount; in 1627 Morton, an anti-Puritan, was exiled for celebrating May Day. Set off from Braintree and incorporated as a town (township) in 1792, it was renamed to honour Colonel John Quincy, a prominent local resident. Quincy is notable as the home of the celebrated Adams family. Adams National Historical Park (established as a national historic site 1946, redesignated 1998) preserves the birthplaces (formerly in Braintree) of the two U.S. presidents John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams and several other historic buildings; the crypts of the two presidents and their wives are in the United First Parish Church (1828), which is also in the park. John Hancock, the Revolutionary patriot, was also born in the portion of Braintree that became Quincy. 

I ran into these photo postcards for sale on eBay, and they brought back many memories of my childhood.

Wollaston Beach 1929 Postcard

This postcard recently sold on eBay. Wollaston Beach is about a mile from the house where I grew up. Many summer days as a kid, I walked to Wollaston Beach and enjoyed playing on the beach and wading in the water. We swam at Wollaston Beach until the water became polluted. I remember Fourth of July nights on Wollaston Beach where we enjoyed watching fireworks shot from a barge being towed across Quincy Bay. Many hot summer nights, mother and dad would take us for a car ride along Wollaston Beach on “The Boulevard,” now named Quincy Shore Drive. In the days before air-conditioning, riding along the beach with the car windows open was like heaven.

Wollaston from Third Hill Post Card

Another old Postcard with a shot overlooking the town all the way to Quincy Bay and beyond. Winter nights, when the trees were bare, we could look north all the way to Boston and see the John Hancock Building tower’s lights showing the weather forecast. As I remember it, their tower flashing in red predicted snow. Here is a more recent drawing describing the John Hancock building’s lighting weather indicators. 

Boston John Hancock Lights

For many years, my mother walked from our home to downtown Wollaston and shopped at the First National Store market where she bought our groceries. When my two younger brothers were younger, she pushed my youngest brother, Andy, in a stroller which served as a grocery cart as well as a toddler carrier. Steve and I were older and could walk the trip. Our walk took us down Beale Street and in front of the Wollaston Fire Station. In a later year, when I was older and wasn’t walking with them, a fire truck rushed out of the fire station and hit the stroller that mother was pushing on her way home back from the First National Store. Luckily, Andy was walking beside her and wasn’t injured. The only things harmed by the collision were the stroller and its cargo, the day’s shopping.

Old Picture Post Card of Wollaston’s Fire Station
PHOTO of an old Stroller

I believe Mother’s stroller had a basket for groceries on the back.

Here is the only photo I could find of the Wollaston First National Store. This shot is of a fire at that store in the early 1950s.

Fire at the First National stores in Wollaston Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

“Finast” was First National Stores’ generic brand
A First National Store (Not Wollaston’s) Lee Library Historical Collection

I remember standing at a donut machine in the front of the First National store while my mother was shopping and watching the donuts being made  That machine fascinated me! I remember many times standing and watching it run as it produced donuts. I’ve searched online for a photo of a similar machine, but can’t find one. The machine consisted of a large tank of hot grease. At one end, a dough container formed the donut dough and plopped one donut at a time into the hot grease below it. The donut circulated around the large machine floating in the grease. About halfway around its oval path, a paddle-like arm lifted and flipped the donut so it could finish its trip cooking its other side. At the end of the circle, the now-cooked donut was ejected from the machine to cool. It was all automatic and the only time people would work on it was when they re-filled the dough container and removed the cooked donuts. The whole works was probably eight to ten feet long and enclosed in glass. I can’t find a photo of a similar machine on the web. If anyone sees one, I’d love it if you sent me a link via the Comments Section below or by email.

Wollaston Train Station Post Card

My dad walked from home to this station and caught the Old Colony Line train to Boston every workday for many years. An MBTA (subway) station later replaced it.

The day I joined the Navy, (which happened to be my brother Steve’s birthday), I rode into Boston with Dad on his way to work. When we arrived at South Station, he walked on to his office. I walked up the street to the Armed Forces recruiting center at the Fargo Building. After clerical processing, I joined a group of other Navy recruits for a bus to Logan Airport and a flight to Chicago for Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. Years later Steve told me that my leaving was the best birthday present I ever gave him.

Postcard of Stoney Brae Golf Course clubhouse on Wollaston’s Forbes Hill (later named Furnace Brook Golf Club.)

I remember standing in the dark outside of this clubhouse at the top of the hill in 1957 taking advantage of the unobstructed view of the sky to watch the Soviet Union’s Sputnik travel across the sky. Hundreds of our neighbors gathered there to watch the satellite travel on its orbit.

A Soviet 40 kopeks stamp, showing the satellite’s orbit

According to Wikipedia:

Sputnik 1 was the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957, orbiting for three weeks before its batteries died, then silently for two more months before falling back into the atmosphere. It was a 23 inch diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses. Its radio signal was easily detectable even by radio amateurs and the 65° inclination and duration of its orbit made its flight path cover virtually the entire inhabited Earth. The satellite’s unanticipated success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis and triggered the Space Race, a part of the Cold War. The launch was the beginning of a new era of political, military, technological, and scientific developments. The name “Sputnik” is Russian for spouse/traveling companion or satellite when interpreted in an astronomical context.

Wollaston School Postcard

This was my grammar (grade 1-6) school. It looked about the same about ten years ago when I last visited. My mother and I lived with my grandparents in their home across the street from Wollaston School during World War II while my dad was serving with General Patton’s Army in Europe.

I spent a lot of time with my Grandpa Locke during those days. I would “help him” shovel coal into the furnace in the cellar on cold winter days. As a toddler, I probably was more “in the way” than any help to him. I looked forward to coal deliveries to watch the driver hook the coal shoot from the truck to the door leading to the cellar’s coal bin.

My Grandparents’ Home on Beale Street across from Wollaston School

After the war was over and my Dad returned, we moved to our own home several blocks away. My grandparents continued to live on Beale Street for most of the rest of their lives. They later sold the home to my first-cousin Larry and his wife. 

Seeing the old postcards sent me on a ”memory voyage” to my digital photo collection where I found photos of Wollaston that I shot years ago. Here are a few of those shots.

My Parents’ Home on Hillside Ave in Wollaston where I spent most of my childhood
Downton and the Wollaston Theater a/k/a “The Wolly”

I remember paying 20 cents for Saturday matinees at the Wollaston Theater in the early 1950s. I think it was later that everyone started calling the theater “The Wolly.”

A Photo I shot of the Wollaston Library in the 1970s.
Wollaston Post Office photo shot in the 1970s
Downtown Wollaston shot from the 1970s
Back of Mother and Dad’s Home 1970s
My 1972 Dodge parked in my parents’ driveway during a visit to them in the 1970s

Another Wollaston photo from my 1970s visit:

Wollaston Playground looking at Forbes Hill in the distance

A couple of my Hurricane Carol photos from 1954:

Photo I shot with my Brownie Hawkeye camera on Everett Street in Wollaston after Hurricane Carol In 1954.
Another photo I shot with my Brownie Hawkeye camera on Everett Street in Wollaston after Hurricane Carol In 1954.

 See my blog post with more about that hurricane HERE.

Several of my blizzard photos:

My brothers, Andy and Steve in our Wollaston Neighborhood after a snowstorm in the 1960s.
Neighborhood kids in Wollaston Neighborhood after a snowstorm in the 1960s.

My online searches for old Wollaston postcards and photos led me to Digital Commonwealth Massachusetts Collections Online. 

That site has some great old photos of Wollaston back to the 19th century. Digital Commonwealth describes itself as

Digital Commonwealth is a non-profit collaborative organization, founded in 2006, that provides resources and services to support the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage materials held by Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. Digital Commonwealth currently has over 180 member institutions from across the state.
This site, managed by the Boston Public Library, provides access to thousands of images, documents, and sound recordings that have been digitized by member institutions so that they may be available to researchers, students, and the general public.

Here are a few photos from their collection:

Corner of Beale and North Central where Mrs. Jack’s Grocery Store and Joe Beck’s Pharmacy were when I lived in the neighborhood.
I believe this the corner of Beale Street just east of the railroad station. I remember Howard Johnson had a soda fountain in this building. Later Dee Dee’s Bar was in the building as well as a bowling alley in the cellar below it.
Drinking fountain on the corner of Beale Street and Newport Avenue. I guess the intersection was called “Hutchinson Square.” This was way before my time.
“$10,000 Mansion” on Beach Street in Wollaston. I wonder what it is worth today!
A heavy downpour of rain and melting snow caused an overflow of Furnace Brook in the spring of 1886. I don’t remember ever hearing about this.

You can view many, many more interesting photos of Wollaston as well as the rest of Massachusetts at Digital Commonwealth. I recommend you take a look!

I truly appreciate your interest and Welcome Your Comments!
Please Post Your Thoughts, Comments, Corrections, and Remarks in the “Comments” Section below… >>>>>

4 thoughts on “Postcards from Wollaston

  1. Very interesting and nostalgic photos. I lived in North Quincy on French St. but my grandmother lived at 18 Beach St. near the post office and just a few houses from Wollaston Center & Blackwood Pharmacy across the street. I remember going to the First National with my mother and the 20 cent Saturday morning double cartoons and features I walked to at the Wolly – Wollaston Theater. Thanks for posting these pictures.


  2. Thanks for the walk down memory lane! Your photos from the 70s show Wollaston just as it was when I grew up on Norfolk St. My siblings and I walked a few blocks to Wollaston School past Dacey’s and Jo Beck’s Pharmacy. Do you remember when the house exploded on Beale Street between N. Central and Highland Ave? My sister worked at Wolly Theater and used to sneak us in for free!


  3. Thanks, Linda!
    I grew up on Hillside Ave right across from where Everett Street ends. Norfolk Street was up the hill and right around the corner. I vaguely remember something about a Beale Street house exploding. Do you have any idea what year that would have been? Do you remember if it was a house on the north side of Beale Street? My grandparents and later one of my cousins and his wife lived on the other side of Beale Street at the corner of Highland Ave.


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