NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (AP) — Passing by a display case in the Senior Community Center lobby, local residents might recognize relics of a bygone era when a dollar and change could pay for an entire restaurant meal.
A variety of menus, ash trays, glassware and silverware from several now-defunct area restaurants are among dozens of items on display in the Senior Center, 331 High St., thanks to local collector Jeff Alcorn, who began accumulating the items more than 50 years ago.
Inside the display case, an open menu from Howard Johnson's — a restaurant chain that had numerous outlets throughout the mid-20th century — shows a selection of meals with prices seldom exceeding the $2 mark. It stands alongside several 1960s and 1970s-era paper menus from long-gone eateries, including3 Valle's Steak House, the Hilltop Steakhouse and the Red Coach.
Other items include old china and glassware from Harvard University, and more menus that harken back to the earlier days of some restaurants and hotels that are still standing, including the 99 Restaurant chain and Friendly Ice Cream Shops, which exists today as Friendly's restaurant.
"I enjoyed collecting these things," said Alcorn, who discovered most of the items inside off-beat thrift stores and antique shops in New England and beyond. He insisted that the display includes only a fraction of his massive collection, which includes "boxes and boxes" of more items.
Alcorn's collection is the fourth exhibit to be featured in the Senior Community Center's display cases. They have previously shown items from the local Historical Society, artifacts from the Custom House Maritime Museum, and art by Newburyport students.
Alcorn worked with the city's Council on Aging to put up the display at the center earlier this month, hoping to bring back some nice memories for residents.
"Newburyporters tend to stay in place and remember all the things that were going on," said Alcorn. "I knew it would trigger people's memories."
And so far, the display has been an effective and pleasant reminder of the past for many visitors, according to Roseann Robillard, the building's director.
"It's a walk down memory lane," said Robillard. "Most of the people that come to the Senior Center are familiar with all these places."
Robbillard said she was surprised to see a familiar-looking vintage menu from the Parker House in Boston, where she spent her wedding night decades ago.
"I had dinner at the Parker House and used that menu, so it's wonderful to walk by this every day and see that," said Robillard. "That's my personal memory of one place, but other people have their personal memories. Now when they come into the building, they stop right here and say, 'look, remember when?' And that's great, it's what the community center is all about."
Information from: The Daily News of Newburyport (Mass.), http://www.newburyportnews.com