This past Sunday, the Ideas section published a version of a recent Brainiac post, titled "Lost Boston vs. Flickr." The Brainiac item (retitled "Everyone's a historian now") was illustrated with the following mystery photo, identified by the Library of Congress like so: "Street in industrial town in Massachusetts, 1940 Dec. [or] 1941 Jan."
Thanks to readers of the Ideas section, the photo has been positively identified: Sylvia Sweet's Tea Room was on the corner of School and Main, in downtown Brockton, Mass.
I've also learned that:
* Sylvia Sweet's "was located one block from the Brockton Police Station and often supplied food for prisoners." -- Tom Monaghan
* Sylvia Sweet's was on "the northeast corner of Main St. and School St, looking north on Main St. My mother was coincidentally named Sylvia, and she liked to get a dish of ice cream there while shopping." -- Joe Tomaselli
* Sylvia Sweet's "was there for a long time and had soda fountain and luncheon menu. The Dayos family from Brockton owned and operated it for many years." -- Fred Mullins
* Sylvia Sweet's "was owned and operated by a man whose last name was Dayos. I don't know his first name, but he lived with his wife and three (I believe) children on a street off West Elm Street on Brockton's west side. His son, Nicholas Dayos, was a friend of mine during our elementary, junior high, and high school days. He was killed a few years ago in a car crash. I am 75, and he was perhaps two years older. A guy who would give you the shirt off his back, as the saying goes, if you needed it." -- John J. Mullins [Any relation to Fred? -- ed.]
* Sylvia Sweet's "was a popular lunchroom, especially for people waiting for buses at the nearby bus stop." And: "The street floor was also the location of a popular department store, McCarthy's, and a jewelry store.The upper floors contained mainly law offices. In the 70s the building was being remodeled for housing when a fire destroyed it. The building was later rebuilt following its original design. It currently contains apartments on its upper floors and commercial space on the street floor." -- Robert Corey
* "In the early 1950s we used to take the bus from Hanson, shop in the wonderful Brockton downtown, and get a snack at Sylvia Sweet's before taking the bus back home. How the city has changed. No more bus, no more Sylvia Sweet's." -- Carolyn Galambos
* This same photo was "misidentified in the book, 'America: A Celebration,' by Martin Sandler." -- David Gain
The photo of Brockton, Mass., showing Sylvia Sweets and my father's law office was probably taken in the 1940's. The Eastern Mass Street Railway buses would stop at this corner in downtown coming from all directions and leaving at the direction of a "starter" who was posted there all day long. My father practiced law in this building [known as the "Bixby Building"] from the 1930s until we moved to a new bank building a block North on January 1, 1967. The Bixby Building and the adjoining Home Bank Building [both having the address of 106 Main Street with a common, marble lobby and staircase] consisted of mostly law offices and insurance agencies on the top four floors and retail stores on the ground floor. One such store, McCarthy's, was owned by a couple who perished in the famous Coconut Grove fire in Boston, but it continued on for many years. As a kid I watched the parade for Rocky Marciano pass by this corner from the office window facing Main Street.-- William M. Wainwright
Thank you, readers! This was a highly successful experiment, if you ask me. I have posted this information to the proper Flickr image page. I'm sure the Library of Congress appreciates it. Now, readers, how about identifying this photo, titled "Street Scene, Possibly in Brockton, Mass."
PS: Here are more photos of Brockton from the Library of Congress.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.