Thursday, September 15, 2011

Those Places Thursday: 3 Milk Street, Salem, MA

When Grampa was a teenager in the tiny town of Capa, South Dakota, the town’s Catholic priest had a car and family in Salem, Massachusetts. What he didn’t have was the knowledge on how to drive the car. But Grampa did…

Priest's garage in Capa, South Dakota

So the summer when he was 15 years old, Grampa and one of his friends, Clarence Petorski, drove the priest the 1,850 miles to Salem, to stay with his family for the summer. They stopped by my grandfather’s grandfather’s house in Russell, Iowa, where this picture was taken.

The next summer they did it again, only this time, using the brilliance that only a 16-year-old can pull off, Grampa talked the priest into letting his friend Pete come along. Pete knows how to fix things, said Grampa. Remember that trouble we had with the car last year? Pete could fix that!

From the 1937 yearbook of Pete, the friend who came along the 2nd summer

So for two summers, a car of teenagers and a Catholic priest road-tripped to Salem, Massachusetts where they stayed at 3 Milk Street.

The priest had a non-priestly brother who worked all day. Grampa and his friends would impatiently wait all day for the brother to get home and then they’d all head to the Salem Willows.

From the Salem Willows website (

This beautiful wooded and hill peninsula jutting out into Salem Harbor became a municipal park in 1858. Graced with majestic, 200-year-old white willow trees, Salem Willows, a public park since 1858, has a special place in amusement park history.

In 1906, Everett Hobbs & William Eaton offered Americans the first ice-cream cone; “Blind Pat” Kenneally introduced Spanish “double-jointed" peanuts to America from his cart at the Willows.

Bavarian woodcarver Joseph Brown created the famous Flying-horse Carousel in 1866. in 1945, the horses were sold to Macy’s Department Store in New York City , where they graced the famous Macy’s Christmas displays. While the original horses have been replaced, the carousel itself still offers a thrilling ride.

A young Duke Ellington played here in 1923; Count Basie and Louis Armstrong performed as well, at the old Charleshurst Ballroom, now the Willows Casino. A tradition of popular summer jazz concerts continues to this day; jazz vocalist Cassandre McKinley performed here in 2003.


  1. Wow! I loved your post! My grandparents grew up in Salem, right down the street from Milk Street. My grandmother grew up on Becket St. and I still have a cousin on Columbus. If you look on you can see it is all within walking distance. I was just at Salem Willows with my Mom, who is 75 and has to go back every summer for a "chop suey sandwich" which is famous there. The Willows still has a few rides, like a merry-go-round that is over 100 years old.

  2. I will have to ask Grampa if he remembers the chop suey sandwiches! What a kick! He for sure remembers the rides. They were a highlight of his summers. I'm so mad that when I was in Salem, I didn't know this story, our I'd have headed over to 3 Milk Street and taken pictures and knocked on the door to see if it's the same family!