Malden News

Malden’s Suffolk Square is a forgotten Jewish enclave

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Grandparents Felix and Christina Lubin

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.

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Parents Stanley and Anna Lubin and the new Plymouth car

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.

JewishBankersMalden2When 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.

Courtesy Scorsello Family bank book

Courtesy Scorsello Family bank book

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?”

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Elaine Lubin, age 5

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.

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Courtesy Malden Historical Society

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

About Sharon Santillo (4 Articles)
Family Stories through Art

32 Comments on Malden’s Suffolk Square is a forgotten Jewish enclave

  1. Great story, Saron. I love reading about real life history. Pat

    • Sharon Santillo // February 19, 2015 at 4:06 pm // Reply

      Thanks,Pat.I overheard part of this story at a party and learned a bit of local history that I knew little about.

  2. Gail Freeman // February 19, 2015 at 4:43 pm // Reply

    Great story Sharon! Having lived in Malden all my life, I never knew any of this!

  3. Debbie DeMaria, Councillor At Large // February 19, 2015 at 5:06 pm // Reply

    Fantastic story Sharon. Thank you so much. Tradition and history speaks volumes!

  4. Sharon, I love the pictorial along with history.

  5. Wow! I’d forgotten. There was also Abe Tabachnick’s grocery store.

  6. Wow! I’d forgotten. There was also Abe Tabachnick’s grocery store.

  7. Malden was at least 20% Jewish population back in the day. However, I’m concerned with the picture at the top of this with a Cross hanging on the wall. Makes me wonder about the validity.

    • Sharon Santillo // February 27, 2015 at 8:08 pm // Reply

      Hi Lauren. I was hoping someone would notice the cross. The Jewish bankers gave a loan to the Polish Catholic family in the story when traditional banks would not. It is a true story of the Lubin family and Malden’s Suffolk Square.

  8. Yes, Shan Lor Pharmacy on corner of Cross and Bryant, with Goldberg’s Fish Market, a meat market (I think it was Swerdlick’s) and a bakery on other corners. On the corner of Grape and Bryant was another bakery. I remember Sunny Rose Market (the local super market), Glick’s Meat Market, the 5 and dime (the owners had their concentration camp numbers on their arms) as did Phil, the owner of the convenience store on corner of Newton and Bryant. Across Bryant St was the Capital Theatre/bowling alleys. Further down Bryant St was another meat market and Arnold’s Barber Shop. Some great memories.

    • Don’t you remember Smitty the fish store? He would give fish to many and didn’t take money as times were tough. He never became rich in finance but was rewarded in ways That truly counted! He was my grandfather. Thank you for this story. It brought back many happy childhood memories!

      • PAUL FRANK // May 8, 2017 at 10:19 pm //

        The Soony Rose belonged to my grandfather Max Berman. The name came from my uncle who was the only son and my grandmothers name was Rose. That’s how it became the Sonny Rose

      • Margot Weinstein (Cutler) // May 8, 2017 at 11:59 pm //

        Was Max Berman a dentist? My entire childhood was practically spent ( my teeth anyway) at Dr Bermans office. I think it was Ferry Street. Related?

  9. Lenny at Shan Lor was an institution.

  10. J. Silverstein // July 15, 2016 at 10:39 pm // Reply

    Grew up on Bryant Street. Remember the square well! Grandmother and grandfather owned Alice’s Variety store on the corner of Essex and Henry Streets. My dad was born in 1918 in a house in the square. One of the Glick’s would always throw me a piece of corned beef when my mom would shop there. Remember the Lincoln Jr. fire when we had to go double sesions.
    Angie the barber? I went to Arnold’s.

  11. Deborah Savage // December 6, 2016 at 12:48 am // Reply

    My grandmother, Reva Pomerantz, lived at 80 Lyme Street until her death in 1998 at the age of 97. I loved Suffolk Square the Cake Box, and knowing everyone in the neighborhood.

  12. I lived on Lyme Street as a kid (c. 1949-1960). My uncle Manuel Finn owned the drug store on the corner of Bryant St. and Grape St., in competition with Shan Lors. My stepmom’s brother-in-law, Morris Weiner, had a grocery store there, and my aunt’s father, Mr. King, was a furrier. Was it Mal’s Fruit Store? I once won a puppy at the Capitol Theater. Wow – Arnold’s Barber Shop! Sledding down the hill at Lyme St. extension, near the Daniels School –
    At the end of Lyme Street (across from the VFW I think) there was an upholstery shop as I recall – the owner hated having us kids around. At the other end there was a little variety store that sold submarine sandwiches (35 cents). Thanks for these memories.

  13. I love reading your memories! They are rich with characters and descriptions. I can imagine the owner of the upholstery shop that hated kids, taste a submarine sandwich, sled down the hill in the cold, and oh the delight of winning a puppy is a beyond wonderful!

  14. Deborah Savage // February 2, 2017 at 7:49 am // Reply

    We (or our parents) knew each other for sure then. While my grandparents lived on Lyme Street, my parents lived on Daniels Street when I was born, then on Mills Street in a triple decker with the Youngs. I went to the Daniels Street school for first grade before we moved to Peabody.My teacher was Mrs. Wright. We moved to Peabody in June 1960. I remember sliding down that hill, and running along the stone wall up the hill. My grandmother was a Finstein. My grandfather owned the United National grocery near Revere Beach. My grandmother’s house is the one right next to the DAV (not VFW) that you are talking about. We played ball in the parking lot all the time. Was Morris Weiner’s son Paul? He went on to teach economics at UCONN. The upholstery shop was a mattress factory, When they threw it down all the rodents scurried around the neighborhood. My grandmother was beside herself. She belonged to the Harvard Street shul; my grandfather’s family had founded Mishkan T’filah up the Granville Ave hill. I used to walk up there and drop in on Mrs. Chesno on Playstead Rd on the way. My uncle Sonny (Sumner) Pomerantz would still have been living at home when you lived there. In 1949 he would have been in high school I think. My mother graduated from Malden High in 48. My grandmother went to the Revere Knitting Mill a few blocks away at least once a week, usually with me in tow. It all seems like yesterday. My other memory is how diverse Lyme Street was. The was a black family directly across the street. My grandmother spoke with her every day. Lots of Italian families on the street, too. Johnny Boy lived at the far end of the street, had the classic white T and jeans, slicked back hair. Up on Ferry Street Rocky the Barber cut my brothers’ hair.

  15. A Lyme St./ Suffolk Square connection! Thank you both for sharing these memories. I wish Suffolk Square was still here.

  16. Margot Weinstein(Cutler) (Smith) // February 3, 2017 at 7:20 pm // Reply

    Someone else posted a great story on Suffolk Square. I wish there were more photos! I was born in the 50’s but was lucky enough to experience something that kids just don’t see anymore. All these small businesses, my grandfather had a fish store. Everyone knew him as Smitty! An honest and hard working man who was loved by most! I was young but still remember a little bit about walking there and getting penny candy at Shanlors? He was a Jewish immigrant with his hard working family as they all worked many long hours. They were like a family, all the small businesses sharing each other’s challenges in one little area, although there was a larger fish store that I remember was competing with my Zadie! My grandfather had too big a heart when people came for food and didn’t have any money. He would tell them to pay when they could and he would give them the fish anyway. IHe may have not been a shrewd business man but I’d rather remember those days as a little girl knowing how much he cared about others. If anyone remembers him please share or any photos. Thanks!

  17. Yes, please share photos everyone!

  18. I lived on Linwood Street in the 1950’s and attended Lincoln school (watched it burn down). Loved to go into Suffolk Square to go to the movies. Remember the chickens hanging in the butcher shop window. Arnold the barber cut my hair and told me he was a survivor. Many of them moved into the neighborhood. Spent all my summers playing ball at Ferryway Green and winters ice skating there at night. It was a tough area but we all managed to survive. Glad I lived there.

  19. Leonard Freedman // March 4, 2017 at 11:49 am // Reply

    I lived on Grape St. until 1940, then moved to 76 Upham St., next Franklin school. After the war, we moved to Essex ST. I went to the Franklin school until it closed in 1938, then Lincoln and Malden High. Suffolk Square will never be forgotten. I remember Leshner’s Grocery in which Jack and Fran Gabowitz worked.

  20. PAUL FRANK // April 7, 2017 at 3:17 pm // Reply

    My mothers family were the Bermans. They slso owned the Sonny Rose dry good store

  21. Barry Velleman // April 7, 2017 at 9:32 pm // Reply

    Many of our neighbors on Lyme Street at the time (c. 1949-1960) were Italian. We lived at 96 Lyme Street, renting from first the Hoffmans and then the Miccichis, though my mother’s parents (Thomas and Nadia Finn) lived above us first: they were killed in a car accident in New York on July 4, 1950. Next door upstairs were the Savastanos (Frank and Dick and their mom – Jeannie I think), and downstairs from them were Flo and Blackie. Sal Vetrano lived down the street, and next door was the Rossi family. The Rossi son, Jerome, became a major figure in the TJ Maxx organization. I played ball with Butchie Burgess accross the street, whose father (I think) was named Elmer. There was a large garage near the Harvard Street end of Lyme Street and we used to play ball, throwing the ball against the building. The folks who lived next door, named Ritter, didn’t like that very much!

    • Deborah Savage // May 9, 2017 at 9:37 pm // Reply

      Spent my entire childhood in Berman’s chair, too. Big cotton sticks on the ends of the needles, like we wouldn’t see them. Awful.

      We used to play ball in the DAV parking lot next to my grandparent’s house at 80 Lyme Street. (Pomerantz)

      He owned a grocery near Revere Beach on Atlantic Ave (United National.)

  22. PAUL FRANK // May 8, 2017 at 10:13 pm // Reply

    I lived at 460 cross street directly across the street from Asia Bakery all great memories back in the late forties and fifties until urban renewal took it over and we moved to Pierce Street in Malden now I go back to show my children and is nothing what’s the weather left of Suffolk Square again great memories

  23. Merton Sirota // May 23, 2017 at 1:19 pm // Reply

    I was born in Malden in the mid 30’s and lived on Cross Street, Hazelwood St and Harvard Street.
    I went to Daniels. Lincoln and Malden High graduating in1954, Yes, I recall Suffolk Square and
    Cohens, Bermans,Shanlors, Freddies shoe Store,Finns and Moguls Capital Theater ( 2 features, serial .funnies ,coming attractions, and drawings for prizes like bicycles, food,etc.—I won a Piggy bank ) , Movies were 12 cents and my mother always packed a peanut and raisin snack bag,. the Cake Box with the pool parlor upstairs.My father used to go to the Progressive Credit Union fort interest free loans and savings accounts.) .
    I remember the electric trolley that the conductor had to go outdoors to re-align the car with the overhead lines when turning around.

    2 blocks from our Harvard Street house was the Agudas Achum Synagogue an orthodox temple where I was bar-mitzvahed. I still imagine my grandmother sitting in the balcony and my father and I about 4 rows from the bima.That building was demolished in the 60’s and a modern
    building was constructed at that location, which is now gone.

    I returned in 2004 for my MHS reunion and walked the streets of Suffolk Square and Malden Square .Remember the Mystic,Strand,Granada and Orpheam theaters? Where did the Malden Hospital go ?

    • Deborah Savage // May 23, 2017 at 2:44 pm // Reply

      Were you in school with Sumner (Sonny) Pomerantz? My mother Charlotte is about five years older than you. They were at 80 Lyme Street. My grandmother went to the Harvard street schul and my grandfather was up the hill on Granville.

  24. Merton Sirota // May 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm // Reply

    Hi Deborah,
    I do recall Sonny Pomerantz who was also buddies with Jerry Hyde (deceased) and Leon Shear. I graduated MHS in 1954.
    Wilma (my sister) just returned from her grandson’s graduation from Tufts. They toured our area and took video and photos
    around Harvard/Sammett and the Agudas Achim cemetery. They stopped at the New Bryant Street Schul and she actually met 2
    women she knew from the Suffolk Square area. ! I would have joined them,
    however I was in New Orleans
    celebrating my granddaughter’s graduation from Tulane.

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