Have you ever heard the term banker’s hours? This usually refers to being open for the shortest, most inconvenient hours. But back before Suffolk Square in Malden, Massachusetts was leveled for urban renewal, banker’s hours had a whole different meaning.
Suffolk Square was a Jewish enclave in Malden, the heart of which was in the vicinity of Cross and Bryant streets and the old Lincoln Junior High School. When Elaine Lubin’s grandparents wanted to buy land in Malden, the large, established banks in Malden Square weren’t where they went for a mortgage.
The Jewish bank in Suffolk Square, Progressive Workmen’s Credit Union, saw the potential in this hard-working Polish Catholic couple who had immigrated to Massachusetts from Vilna in what is now Lithuania. They approved of their plan for a small dairy farm in the area of Bowdoin Street and Bent Avenue and gave them a mortgage for the property that they then purchased from Mrs. Bent.
When Elaine’s parents needed a car loan for their new blue Plymouth, they also went to Mr. Eiseman at the credit union who hand wrote their weekly payments in a passbook. And Lubin has the distinction of receiving the bank’s first ever student loan. The Lubins did all their banking with the Jewish bankers on Saturday night when they reopened after sundown on the Sabbath and began their work week.
So when Lubin first went away to college in the years before ATM machines and was going out on Saturday evening, she saw nothing strange about her plan to stop at the bank and withdraw money on her way out with her friends. Her friends were astonished. “Where are you going to find a bank open on Saturday night?”
Lubin laughed when normal banking customs were explained to her. She had thought all banker’s hours were like the ones she knew growing up in Suffolk Square.
She shared more happy memories of the Shan-lor Drugstore on Cross Street, the 5&10, movie theatre, fish market, butcher, bakery and all the delicious delis. She even found a baby card in her mother’s keepsakes, mailed to Melrose Wakefield hospital from Berman’s Dry Goods. Elaine said that store was packed to the rafters with clothing and fabrics. The proprietor had a stick with a hook to get dresses down from the ceiling.
It was sad when all was taken by eminent domain for urban renewal projects modeled on Boston’s Scolley Square and West End. Zoning changed and the family dairy business was forced to close. Many triple-deckers mysteriously went up in flames for the insurance. Lubin and the other neighborhood children used to go watch the fires. –Sharon Santillo