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Remembering Jack’s Café, The Hall And An Old Friend

A dinner with his wife stirs up some old memories for our columnist.

My wife and I had dinner at last Friday night. We hadn’t been there for quite some time even though we’ve always liked their food and their prices are quite reasonable. We just never seem to think about going there. I suppose it’s because we live in Easton now and we naturally gravitate in the other direction, toward Brockton, Avon, and the South Shore communities. 

When we lived in Mansfield years ago, we tended to go toward Attleboro or maybe up to Route One to eat, shop, etc. It’s strange how moving just a few miles can alter your habits. 

Geno’s has always had good seafood so both Berta and I opted to go in that direction. She ordered the fish and chips, I got the Captain’s Platter and we each ordered a cup of clam chowder, but the cook made a mistake and gave us bowls instead. The chowder was top shelf, but a whole bowl of chowder on top of the generous portion of fish, shrimp and scallops that I had eaten was a bit much. Truthfully, it was more than a bit much – it was way over the top 

Berta couldn’t finish her fish or her chowder so, being the accommodating husband that I am; I finished the chowder and some of her fish for her and we took the rest of it home. It made a great fish sandwich, which I happily ate the next day -again, with the accommodating husband thing. Hey, I can’t help it! It’s who I am.  

Being a Mansfield townie, I can’t help but still think of Geno’s as Jack’s, which is what it was called prior to being purchased by the new proprietors. I still call it Jack’s most of the time. As a matter of fact, last Friday night when Berta asked if I had any ideas for dinner, I said, “Let’s go to Jack’s.” Old habits are hard to break. And old memories aren’t soon forgotten. 

I’ve been going to Jack’s since I was a kid. My mom and dad and my brothers and I used to go there occasionally, which was a big treat for us as most families didn’t go out to eat that often in those days. Most folks back then were much more frugal than we are now. 

My mom and dad would generally opt for the fish and chips, or maybe a clam plate and I’d get the clams or a pizza. Jack’s had great pizza which, to my dismay, was taken off the menu when Geno’s took over. Too bad! It was tasty. 

I don’t remember what my brother, Bruce used to order. I’d guess either clams or pizza. My youngest brother, John, who came along many years after our Jack’s tradition had already been well established, mostly drooled on himself and threw food at us. That’s what one-year-olds do. 

In later years, John was known to have a few cold ones at Jack’s, not unlike most everyone who grew up in Mansfield. As a matter of fact, John, Bruce and I have met at Jack’s for beers a few times over the years . Unfortunately, John was still drooling on himself and throwing food at us, which was a little embarrassing. I guess some things never change. There were some wild times at Jack’s back in the day. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble! 

My friend, Eddie Unger and I used to get takeout from Jack’s and go to his house to watch TV. I remember one particular night during our senior year at ; we’d ordered clams and pizza and gone to Eddie’s house to watch the Celtics in game seven of the NBA Championship against the Lakers.   

Between the two of us, we scarfed down a couple of pizzas and a couple of pints of fried clams during the game. The Celtics beat the hated Lakers and won the championship, so we decided to celebrate by smoking our Red Auerbach victory cigars, which we had purchased earlier that day. 

The cigars were green – and so were we after we smoked them! Neither of us felt too well so we decided to call it a night. We jumped in to Eddie’s dad’s station wagon and had driven no more than a half mile when I yelled, “Eddie, stop the car!”  He pulled over and I opened the passenger door and deposited all that pizza and all those fried clams on the side of the road. Yup – I puked my guts out! To this day, my stomach gets queasy when I see a cigar with a green wrapper. 

Authors note: Fried clams taste much better on the way down. 

Oh, about Eddie’s dad’s station wagon. Eddie and I were out one night and had stopped off at The Gloria Colombo Hall to get a pizza. The Hall, as it was affectionately known, has since burned down. It was located on Chauncy Street, right about where stands today. 

Back in the mid-sixties, there weren’t a whole lot of local places to go and get pizza or a sandwich or even a hamburger for that matter. The Hall was one of the few places to go at night to meet up with friends or get some food. The only hamburger joints nearby were Burger Chef over on Route One in North Attleboro and Ratty’s, which was also on Route One near the old North Attleboro Drive-In. 

Despite their name, Ratty's had great hamburgers. And no, their hamburgers weren't made from rats, though every kid in Mansfield swore to it at the time. I think that was one of the original Urban Legends.

Frates Dairy was in neighboring Norton next to the Norton Reservoir where is now located. Frates had great pizza, fried seafood and ice cream. You could take a date there and get a large pizza and two cokes for $1.50. The Mansfield House, which was on Thomas Street just before the bend in the road by . had great meatball subs for fifty-cents, but it wasn’t a place we could hang out. It was more of a bar room. 

And I can’t leave out Jolly Cholly’s on Route One in North Attleboro where we used to go on a slow Friday or Saturday night, park, sit on the hood of the car and watch everyone else who was parked and sitting on the hood of their car. Yup, we were pretty wild! 

Let me preface this next paragraph by saying that I certainly don’t condone under-age drinking, but we all know it happens. I was a senior in high school, nearing graduation and well – boys will be boys. My friend, Eddie was driving and he wasn’t drinking. I’m not saying that makes it okay, but……. 

Okay, so I’d had a few beers and I was feeling a little frisky, so I…… I’m not really sure how to say this. I……. Okay, I guess I can’t sugar coat it. I was going to show Eddie the correct way to make a tackle, so I backed up about twenty-five feet from the car, ran full speed in to the passenger door and tore it off.  It was a textbook tackle! 

This is about forty-five years too late, but I’m very sorry, Mr. Unger; I truly am. 

Eddie was the studious type. If he got less than an A on a test, he’d be bummed out for a week. This made no sense to me. We were polar opposites in that area. If I got a C+ on a test, I’d be ecstatic for a week. 

Eddie was quite a character. His personality and interests were totally opposite that of all my other friends. I think that’s why I liked him so much. He was different. 

Cartoons were his obsession. He was a cartoon junkie and, if memory serves me, a devoted fan of Magilla Gorilla. He actually planned his homework and study time around his cartoon viewing schedule, which I found fascinating. Not so much that he planned his schedule around cartoons, but that he studied and did homework. 

He also had a collection of recordings of Hitler’s speeches, which he’d play for anyone who would listen. I didn’t really know how to react to them; I mean this was Adolph Hitler for crying out loud! Nobody listens to recordings of Adolph Hitler! But, you’d have to know Eddie. He loved history and he was fascinated by Hitler’s oratory skills. Yup, Eddie was a character – and a truly good guy. 

That’s it for this week. If you’re ever in Geno’s and you see me having dinner with my wife, please stop by and say Hello. That should go a long way in helping to convince her that I’m famous.

Oh, and if I could ask a favor; please have some respect for my private life. No autographs!

Make it a great week!

Bob Havey is a freelance writer and a Mansfield native, currently living in Easton. His column "Take Me Back" appears every Friday at http://mansfield-ma.patch.com. His other column, "The View From Here", may be seen each Tuesday at http://easton-ma.patch.com.

Photos by permission of Wayne Garriepy, former Mansfield resident and owner of imagesdv.com . Wayne is currently working on a documentary about Mansfield entitled, 'A Town in Time: The Chronicle of an Uncommon Community.'

John Havey May 20, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Great article, loved Jacks. I remember going there with mom and dad after you and Bruce were gone. The Hall was also great, loved their stuffed quahogs. The original House Of Pizza had some great fish and chips too, the kind with the thick crunchy batter. Frates, the best pizza around, mom and dad would take me there after I pitched in little league. Another great spot for fish and chips, Wonder Chef in Attleboro, off of pleasant St, I'll bet you don't remember that one. Hey, what are you doing tomorrow night? wanna go to Genos and I'll drool on myself and throw a fried clam at you, just like old times! Boy, I really miss Mansfield, or should I say, I miss the old Mansfield. A great town, with great character, and a lot of just plain old characters. Ask anyone that grew up there, and is older than 40 what "The Bubbler" was, and if they don't know, they didn't grow up in Mansfield!
Bill Gouveia May 20, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Frates was a great place, Bob - used to love those fish sandwiches for 50 cents! The food was fried, there was plenty of it, and the soda was nice and cold! And Ratty's was a real trip! Later I loved going to Lum's in North Attleboro for those beer-steamed hot dogs!
Bob Havey May 20, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Spoken like a true foodie, Bill. I vaguely remember Lums, but you can't go wrong with beer-steamed hot dogs.. I worked at Frates the summer before my senior year in high school. We could eat whatever we wanted for dinner, so I'd usually have a cheeseburger, a pint of fried clams, fries and/or onion rings and a frappe. I gained 20 libs!
Kara M May 21, 2011 at 12:06 AM
You tore the door off your friend's fathers car? LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Did he still speak to you after that? Funny!!!!
Frida May 21, 2011 at 02:44 PM
I've eaten at Geno's but was not around this area when it was Jack's. You're right they do have good seafood and reasonable prices. If I see you there I promise I won't ask for your autograph. Great column like always.
Michael LoDico May 22, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Back in the 30s, my dad and his Italian buddies would hang out at Jack's which was known as the N.E.P. Club [North End Progressives]. My Uncle James LoDico was a bartender there along with Raldo 'Coots' Baldini around 1934 or so. I have a great photo of the old bar with Jack Bernado [the owner], James & raldo. http://www.lodico.org/mike/images/relatives/jacks-cafe-1934-1.jpg
wendy miller maglio August 09, 2011 at 10:17 PM
GREAT article and special memories. We were in mansfield this march to put my dad to rest at st marys. I suggested jacks cafe for old time sake and boy did the memories start to flow. Thnx for the memories and great pictures....
Dave Wellmanwellm April 19, 2012 at 03:50 PM
mmm, yummy.,.. had the clams there 2 nights in a row a couple of weeks ago. And when we use to live on Pratt st. we use to get pizza there when it was Jack's. And when i was there 2 weeks ago i was surprised the pizza wasnt stil on the menu.
Vicki morse April 19, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Thanks Bob
Ronald Buck April 20, 2012 at 02:42 AM
I loved the story, remember them all and have my own stories re.same places. But, the Hall was in front of Dub's and didn't burn. The big fire in that area was the VFW.
Bob Havey April 23, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Thanks, Dave. They haven't had pizza for many years. Wish they still did! @ Vicki, you're welcome. @ Ron - Glad you enjoyed it. I guess my memory of The Hall and the fire is off by a hundred yards.or so. ;-)
Linda Stuart Young May 11, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Tucker and I would go there frequently. Mr Simmons was the cook and he also worked at Jolly Chollys! My Mom always had the clams as she did at the Red Wing dinner. I remember as a kid my Mom would give me money for the juke box and I would get spaghetti and meatballs. When I met Tuck at the ripe old age of 19 I graduated to ravioli and I'd let him pick the music-he was much better at it than I was. Ah yes, the good ole' days of ridding around in his gold MG and partying at the Eusepi's and Fulps!
Bob Havey May 12, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Thanks, Linda! It's pretty obvious that Jack's was a big part of the 'Mansfield scene' back in the day. I don't remember Tuck's [RIP] gold MG. I was probably out in CA of AZ during that time. I can picture you two zooming around it it.Great memories!
Charlie Dale May 14, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Back in the mid 50's we used to go to the back door (kitchen) because we were under age. Usually "Shorty" would get our Meatball sandwiches for us, best in town. We call Virginia home now but every trip back we hit Jacks at least once.
Bob Havey May 14, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Charlie - Thanks for your comment. In my opinion 'The Mansfield House' had the best meatball sandwiches, but Jack's food was great. Fried clams and pizza were my favorites. Since it became Geno's they 86'd the pizza. Best clam chowder around.
William J. Chalifoux May 14, 2012 at 11:46 PM
loved the mansfield house meatball subs.... alway been many a year since i went to jacks.... but last time there in the early 80's had a good time.... saw alot of the old gang from mansfield.... and bye the way a great article..... keep up the good work.... always great reading....
Bob Havey May 15, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Thanks so much, William. I'm glad you enjoy my column. I no longer write for the Mansfield Patch, but you can read my past work by typing my name into the Search Engine of the front page of the site, or you can go to my FB Author's page at https://www.facebook.com/Bobfreelance - which is where I assume you found this particular column. Most of my work is posted there also. You may also see my column in the Norton Patch every other Wednesday.

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