Saturday, December 10, 2022

In My Heart, In My Soul, In My Feelings


    If you had told me the day I met her that she would still have a huge place in my heart and soul in 2022 I would have smiled and said ‘that’s a good thing.’ If you had then said that I would not have seen her face or heard her voice, in 16 years I would have wondered how both were possible.

    How can someone be a part of your life for 2 years yet leave an aura that still wraps snugly around your soul for so long after they have left your life?

    I guess timing and circumstances helped, but only in a small way. I had battled a pretty bad period of depression over the previous 18 months before she entered my world like a blazing supernova. When someone shows up and has the power to shake the chain of depression from around your heart you will forever be indebted to them. She took someone that was wounded and broken and made them feel like a complete human again.

    I think I knew she was going to end up being a major part of my life’s story from the start. I immediately began chronicling our relationship in a journal. I am so grateful to my younger self for giving me access to that period anytime I see fit. I have memories as vivid today as they were when they first happened. Maybe this is a reason why the moments are clear, her face pristine, and her voice soothing so long after all left my world.

    By our third date, I was out of my head in love with this girl. I kept having to pinch myself that she was real. She was everything I had ever wanted, and unlike anyone, I had ever met. We came from 2 different worlds, and different backgrounds, but we clicked. She had a gentle way of speaking that hid a fire that made me feel more alive than I can remember before or since.

    I am glad that I never took a moment with her for granted. Those moments were fleeting. There have been plenty of times over the years when I wondered aloud why I was given all I could want but only for a brief time. Maybe it was so that I knew that real love actually does exist. Maybe it was to give me someone to compare every single person I’ve met since.

    In the end, it was the distance that smothered our flame. She was merely passing through my world. Quite literally. Her real home was far away and she had just been in my area for the summer. I wanted to marry her. I wanted to move 2,000 miles to bridge the gap. I guess knowing that I was willing to go to those lengths for someone means something.

    So again I ask how can someone leave such a huge impact on me in such a short time. And why is she still such an important figure in my life even today?

    Yes, I believe that she was every bit of the once-in-a-lifetime type of person that I remember. However, I do believe that timing played a part. Maybe if I wasn’t so broken and beaten when we met I wouldn’t have had so high to climb. Or maybe she was the one beacon of light that I would use to sail my life toward forever after.

    I think another major factor is that once we parted ways she vanished. I was so busy soaking in every second of time with her that I have almost nothing physical to remind me of her. There are no photos of us. Only a couple of photos she took of me, or pictures I took with her standing beside me. The one big gift she got me I have lost. It’s what makes those journal entries mean even more.

    She has no social media presence and doesn’t have the same phone number, or the same address, so there was no way for me to find her. The mystery makes me go back to our relationship. I romanticize those good times and they grow more important the older I get and the more jaded about love I become.

    I have never gotten any sort of closure. I have never gotten the chance to tell her how important she was and how grateful I will always be to her for coming into my life when she did. But then I wonder if not getting closure keeps that flame burning. Not knowing anything about her presently is a curse but perhaps a blessing too.

    For me, there is always that far-off hope of a magical comeback. A last-second shot that wins the game. She might just be the Holly to my Michael for fans of The Office. She is the one who got away but the only one that I constantly keep looking for. There’s that small sliver of a chance that she and I are just taking the scenic route back to each other.

    I want the way she made me feel, even if I can never see her again. She remains the only person I’ve met that I would consider completely uprooting my life for. There are plenty of times I think that I’d give almost anything for one more day. But what would we be? Would we instantly be those kids in our 20s that didn’t expect each other but loved like nobody else existed? Would we be something better? Older and wiser and ready. Or would it be an unmitigated disaster where we have nothing to hold on to and those great memories get tainted?

    I don’t know. Maybe I’ll never know. Maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be. But I’ll always leave a light on for her. And who knows? Maybe someday she will come knocking.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Cape Cod History - What Happened to Thomas Powers?

    In the early morning hours of Thursday, April 14, 1898, James Jennings was heading out of his Sandwich, Massachusetts home on his way to work. Jennings spotted flickering light coming from inside his neighbor James Keenan’s stable. Curious, Jennings walked over and peered in through a window. What he saw was something of indescribable horror. The light was fire and it was consuming a human body.

    Jennings burst into the stable and beat the flames out. It was far too late. The young man was dead and his body was nearly charred beyond recognition. He was Thomas Powers who had been working for Keenan as a stableman. How had he ended up in such a condition?

A similar stable to Keenan's(John L. Hildreth)

    A further inspection of the scene was performed when State Detective Sim Letteney and Sheriff Eugene Haines were called to the scene. Though Powers’ clothes had been almost entirely consumed by the fire the investigators found the metal hooks of his suspenders by his feet. It appeared as though someone had tried to remove his pants before he had caught fire.

    Word of the horrific scene at Keenan’s stable quickly spread around Sandwich and beyond. It was like nothing that Cape Cod had seen before. Powers’ body was eventually removed from the stable with an autopsy scheduled for later in the week.

    Rather quickly it became apparent that Powers had not been alone the previous night. Detective Letteney and Sheriff Haines spoke with half a dozen witnesses who said Powers had been in the barn with at least two other persons. The investigators were able to ascertain that whatever happened to Powers likely occurred around midnight.

    Several questions were at the forefront. Who was with Thomas Powers the night before? How did Powers meet his end? Was the fire the cause of his death, or an attempt to cover up the true cause? The answer to the first question came shortly thereafter.

    Those interviewed told the investigators that Powers had been hanging out with four men the previous night. They were identified as Philip Smith, Eugene Allen, Eben Battles, and Allen Webster.

    Detective Letteney interviewed Eugene Allen first. Allen admitted to being a part of the group at Keenan’s stable the night before. He said the five young men had all been drinking heavily. In fact, Webster and Battles were so inebriated that Allen had to walk them home. The three men left Thomas Powers and Philip Smith in the stable.

    Letteney sought out Philip Smith for an interview. Smith also admitted to being with the group the previous night, drinking heavily. However, he said he had passed out in the office around ten. The fire had awakened him as it began to creep its way into the office. Smith claimed to have thrown water on the fire and called out to Powers. Not hearing anything he passed out again. Upon awakening, Smith said he simply walked home.

    The stories of Allen and Smith did not seem to match up, especially with the evidence that Letteney and Haines had already collected. Legend has it that Detective Letteney did in fact uncover the truth about what happened to Thomas Powers that night in 1898. So why is this case still classified as unsolved?

    Detective Letteney brought his evidence to District Attorney Andrew Jennings of Fall River, no relation to the man who had found Thomas Powers’ body. At the time of the investigation, it was reported that Jennings had ordered the case to be further investigated. The problem was that Jennings was far more interested in a case he was pursuing that involved Alicia LeBau Berger. She was the daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt who was the richest man in the United States. To Jennings that was more important than the potential murder of a poor Irish boy from Cape Cod. Detective Letteney had to do it himself.

Barnstable County Court House in the early 1900s.

    The investigation was brought before Judge Frederick Swift at Barnstable District Court on April 15, 1898. Letteney was not a trained attorney and therefore was at a huge disadvantage when it came to presenting a case before a grand jury. Although Philip Smith was never officially named a suspect it was believed that he had something to do with Powers’ grisly demise.

    Letteney did the best he could to present a compelling case. He brought twenty-two witnesses before a grand jury. Nearly the entire day was spent individually examining them. Unfortunately, much of the evidence was circumstantial and the grand jury chose not to indict Philip Smith or anyone else for that matter. This meant that nobody would end up being held responsible for the death of Thomas Powers. In the end, it was reported that the belief was Powers died from smoke inhalation and subsequently the fire. How exactly the fire was started was never answered.

    The outrage on Cape Cod was palpable. If D.A. Jennings had tried the case perhaps a resolution could have been had. The locals saw Jennings as someone who didn’t care about the Cape unless he was being paid by the uber-wealthy Vanderbilt family. They had their chance to extract some revenge in short order.

    Mere days before the horrific death of Thomas Powers Cape Cod’s congressional representative, John Simpkins, died. D.A. Jennings quickly announced his candidacy for the open spot. The Republican party caucus took place a few weeks later. It was here that Jennings got his comeuppance. He received no support from Cape Cod and finished dead last out of all of the prospective candidates.

    Jennings did not run for district attorney again. He also promised to run again for Congress but that also did not materialize. One interesting twist to the Jennings saga came during the May 31, 1898, special election for the Simpkins seat. One lone person from Cape Cod gave Jennings a write-in vote. It leads to speculation as to whether that write-in vote came from Thomas Powers’ murderer who never was apprehended partially due to the lax attitude of Jennings.

    In the end, young Thomas Powers' death remains unsolved. Was he murdered? Was it simply an accident? Was Philip Smith at fault? Or was it someone else? Sadly that answer will likely never come. Regardless of who was at fault, it was a horrific way for someone’s life to end.


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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Cape Cod History: The Tragic Obsession Murders of Lizzie Coleman and Sadie Hassard


    The term murder-suicide is sadly something that is heard far too often in the 21st century. The idea of a person murdering one, or more, people before ending their own lives is both selfish and cowardly. Killing oneself rather than facing the consequences leaves the families unable to properly achieve closure after such a heinous act.

    Unfortunately in many of these cases, there are warning signs, some quite blatant, that go unnoticed, or worse, unreported. In the end, it leaves the victims’ families with the same question: could the tragedy have been prevented?

    Murder-suicides and unreported threats are sadly not only a present-day issue. Nearly 130 years ago the quiet peninsula of Cape Cod saw two unbelievably tragic cases within a span of fewer than twelve months. Both crimes shook the Cape to its core and only after the fact did it become clear that lives could have been saved if the warning signs had been heeded.

    The stories of Osterville’s Lizzie Coleman and Brewster’s Sadie Hassard are similar but different. Both have the sad murder-suicide label. Both came down to jealousy. As stated above, unfortunately, there were warning signs that could have prevented both crimes.

Lizzie Coleman(3rd from left), and her family outside of their Osterville home. About 1890, she would have been roughly 9 years old.

    It began in Osterville at the end of 1894 when an infatuation was born. German laborer Henry Ledtke, who had been working for a few years on S.S. Leonard’s farm, spotted William and Lucy Coleman’s daughter Lizzie for the first time. Ledtke was a man over forty with a wife and three children back in Germany, Lizzie was thirteen and not yet in high school.

    Ledtke’s obsession with Lizzie grew slowly. He began spending more and more time at the Coleman house, on the corner of Main Street and West Barnstable Road, trying desperately to woo the affection of the girl nearly thirty years his junior. The courtship also included numerous gifts given to Lizzie. During this time Lizzie was seen in the company of Eben Harding, the literal boy next door, quite often. The powder keg was soon lit.

    As time passed and Ledtke noticed Lizzie and Eben’s budding relationship he grew wild with jealous rage. It was in May 1895 that Ledtke was told by Mr. Coleman to not come near his house or his daughter anymore. When his request that all of the gifts he had given Lizzie be returned was denied that was the last straw.

    Ledtke made threats against the entire Coleman family, brazenly admitting to Lizzie that he planned on killing her. Sadly she did not tell her father of the danger. Initially, Ledtke’s plan was to kill both    Lizzie and Eben after church on Sunday June 9th. He even suggested a shortcut home to the young couple which would have led them deep into the Osterville woods where he would have ambushed them. When they refused Ledtke devised a blunter scheme that unfolded early the following day.

    At 8:30am on Monday June 10th Lizzie walked to school with her two brothers when Ledtke struck. In broad daylight on a public street, he approached Lizzie brandishing a revolver. The first shot grazed her face while two shots missed her brothers. The three turned and ran but Ledtke pursued. He fired a shot that struck Lizzie in the back of the head, killing her instantly. Ledtke then turned the gun on himself. Both murderer and victim lay next to each other in the middle of the street. Incredibly Mr. Coleman had been contemplating alerting the police about Ledtke’s threats on Monday. He never got the chance.

Lizzie Coleman's grave at Hillside Cemetery in Osterville.

    The outbreak of grief and unimaginable sadness was immediate. Lizzie’s funeral was held the day after at the Osterville Baptist Church on Main Street. Her friends from school sang hymns while surrounding her casket. The situation was made all the worse by the fact that Lizzie Coleman’s murder likely could have been stopped if someone had contacted the authorities earlier. She was laid to rest at Hillside Cemetery on Old Mill Road in Osterville.

    342 days later, twenty miles away, with the tragic murder of Lizzie Coleman still fresh in the minds of Cape Codders, a similar story unfolded.

    The story of Sarah 'Sadie' Hassard is like the other side of the same coin. The main difference between her story and Lizzie’s is the belief reported at the time that Sadie and her killer were at some point romantically linked.

    Sadie and Frederick Alexander both lived in Brewster. She was a pretty and well-liked woman of twenty-five. He was said to be a relatively average young man working odd jobs around town at spots like local cranberry bogs. The pair became a couple with the thought being that they intended to get married at some point. It seemed like a perfect story of young love.

    Sometime early in 1896, there was a dissolution of the relationship. Reports at the time said that although Sadie didn’t have eyes for another she had grown tired of Frederick. The young man grew angry and jealous despite Sadie not starting another relationship.

    The impact was immediate as Frederick began making threats against her and her family which consisted of parents and four sisters. The nature of the threats was not revealed at the time. However, in a sad parallel to Lizzie Coleman’s case, the family refused to report the threats to the authorities for fear of unwanted notoriety. It was a costly mistake.

    On the morning of Sunday, May 17, 1896, Sadie and one of her younger sisters were at home on Lower Road in Brewster. She had been living with elderly Reverend Thomas Dawes for the previous two years, she was likely his caretaker as he was seventy-eight years old at the time. The morning church services were just beginning at the Unitarian Church a few hundred yards away on Main Street(Rt. 6A). As Reverend Dawes gave his opening prayer tragedy was unfolding.

    Frederick Alexander went to Sadie’s residence with malice on his mind and a revolver in his hand. He found the doors locked and attempted to enter through a window. Although he was not able to enter the house he managed to grab Sadie and drag her out through the window. She ran out of the yard through the front gate, narrowly missing being shot by Frederick.

    The sound of the shot startled the churchgoers at the Unitarian Church. Sadie attempted to flee to her parents' house further down Lower Road. Three more shots followed as Frederick gave chase. Sadie fell after being hit and before she could even move Frederick caught up to her, pressed the gun to her head, and fired the final shot. He immediately fled south as the church members approached finding young Sadie Hassard dead.

    After the initial shock of finding Sadie's body, the search was on. Chairman of Selectmen of Brewster, John Clark, and Deputy Sheriff Alfred Crocker, put together the search as it seemed to be apparent to those in the know that Frederick Alexander was the culprit.

Sadie Hassard's gravestone.

    The search party headed south, eventually crossing into what is present-day Sweetwater Forest campground. Along the shore of Snow’s Pond, Frederick’s hat was found. Inside it was the murder weapon and twenty-five unused bullets. There was no sign of the killer along the water’s edge but a boat was sent for and the pond was searched. Several passes found nothing. The search persisted and eventually, the body of Frederick Alexander was found about one hundred feet from shore in five feet of water. He had taken his own life.

    Once pulled to shore his person was searched. A bottle of strychnine was found. Also in his pocket was a note evidently written earlier in the day. In the note, Frederick said he planned on killing Sadie and would not be taken alive. He ended with an ominous threat that if he was cornered he would take others with him. This meant that if the concerned churchgoers had arrived a few moments earlier there could have been more losses of life.

    The outpouring of grief was immense in the quiet town of Brewster. Sadie Hassard’s funeral was held at the Baptist Church on Main Street on Wednesday, May 20, 1896. The church was overflowing with people from all over Cape Cod. Reverend Dawes, beside himself with sadness, gave a heartfelt prayer for Sadie’s soul, and the wounded hearts of her family and the town.

The Hassard house foundation at the head of the Eddy Bay Trail in Brewster.

    Sadie Hassard was laid to rest at the Brewster Cemetery on Lower Road. A few hundred yards east of the cemetery, where the Hassard family home stood, is now the Eddy Bay Trail conservation area. The stone remains of the home’s foundation still stand as a solemn link back to a sad and tragic event in Brewster’s history that possibly could have been prevented if only the threats had been reported.

    Lizzie Coleman and Sadie Hassard both had long lives ahead of them. Both of these young ladies had their flame cruelly snuffed out by jealous men. It is important to remember that there were warning signs in both cases. If you or someone you know is in a similar situation to Lizzie and Sadie before their untimely murders please reach out to the proper authorities.


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Saturday, September 17, 2022

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - The Great Hyannis Fire of 1904

    Natural disasters come in all forms. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, and more attack without remorse and change land and lives in their wake. Fires are sometimes natural disasters and sometimes man-made. They are no less devastating whatever their origin is.

    Cape Cod has seen its share of fires. There have been some terrible forest fires over the centuries. However what about fires that caused an overwhelming loss of property? One of the deadliest such fires occurred in the first decade of the 20th century and forever changed Downtown Hyannis. This is the story of Main Street’s great fire of 1904.

Looking west down Main Street before the fire. Everything on the right was basically wiped out.

    In the 2020s it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when Hyannis’ Main Street was anything but wall-to-wall shopping and restaurants. A century ago however it was dotted with residential homes as much as businesses. It has always been referred to by its ‘ends.’ The East End lies near the end of the railroad tracks and is close to Cape Cod Hospital, while the West End is today near a rotary and close to the Cape Cod Melody Tent.

    The Main Street area of Hyannis had actually seen a pair of large fires in the preceding years both in 1892 and again in 1894. What came in the early morning hours of December 2-3, 1904 topped both of them in terms of loss.

    The exact location and cause of the fire itself have never truly been established. However, it can be traced to one of two places. Although the fire could have begun at either L.P. Wilson’s grocery store or Walter Baker’s neighboring department store, both located near Center Street across from the railroad depot. It was Wilson who first was made aware of the blaze.

    Living above his store Wilson’s mother alerted him and his wife and two children just before midnight on September 2nd. They were all able to escape the fire in the nick of time with only the clothes on their backs. Wilson’s store was the easternmost location to be lost. Wilson’s mother thought the fire began next door in Baker’s building. However with the buildings all being built so close together, some as close as six feet, it will likely never be known where the actual ignition location was.

    Shortly after midnight on Saturday, December 3rd the alarm had been sounded for the fire department in the form of the bell atop the nearby Universalist Church. It is unknown just how long the flames had been roaring before being brought to anyone’s attention. Wilson’s Hyannis Public Market and Walter Baker’s Department Store were the first structures to go, but they weren’t the last.

    Strong northeast winds coupled with the wooden buildings being so closely packed together meant that the fire spread easily. The flames were essentially blown right down Main Street. Luckily many of the buildings in the path of the flames had items removed by volunteers before the flames could reach them. This included stock from some of the businesses. The Hyannis Fire Department got five pieces of apparatus together but it was no match for the growing fire. Calls were made to other local departments with firefighters from as far away as Middleborough, Provincetown, and Brockton making their way to help. In an extreme act of bravery, a man from the Telephone Exchange Co. was atop a nearby telephone pole sending messages for help as long as he was safe.

    The fire ate through more than 600 feet of Main Street real estate. The exclamation point in the carnage came at just after 3am when the steeple of the Universalist Church came toppling to the ground. A perimeter was set up using wet rugs and blankets on and around buildings that were just out of the fire’s reach. Eventually, the strong northeast winds died down, and by 4am the fire had been contained.

    Heading west along Main Street the following businesses were totally destroyed by the fire: The Universalist Church, post office, Richardson Bros. Photographers, William P. Bearse & Co. who sold meats and provisions, P. F. Campbell & Co. who were tailors, Singer Sewing Machine Co., Charles W Megathlin’s pharmacy, A. P. and E. L. Eagleston’s department store, New England Telephone Exchange, Julia Stevens dressmaker, James E. Baxter boots/shoes, Thomas Nickerson’s marble, and granite works, and finally A. B. Nye & Co.’s paint store.

Postcard of the fire's aftermath, taken by Walter Baker whose department store was destroyed.

    When all was said and done fifteen buildings had been destroyed. Conservative estimates had the damage somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000($5 million in 2022). For A. B. Nye it was the third time that his paint store had burned down in twelve years. Only once had the fire started on Nye’s property. Sadly sixty-nine-year-old retired sea captain William Penn Lewis died of a heart attack while in the process of saving his house from the fire. As day broke on that Saturday morning all that was left was carnage. Nearly ten acres of property, retail and residential, government and worship, all lay in ruins.

    With the perseverance of a bygone generation, those Hyannis residents who lost their homes or businesses did not stay down for long. In fact, the post office was quickly moved into the home of Mrs. E. C. Benson. Thanks to the determination of Postmaster Percy Goss it was delivering its first shipment of mail by 7:30 that same morning. Most of the businesses quickly set up temporary locations in and around the charred remains of their establishments. Insurance adjusters came later in the day on Saturday, and by the end of the day, plans were already being made for rebuilding Main Street.

Main Street as it appears today. (Google Maps)

    By April 1905 nearly all of the lost buildings had been rebuilt, most of them in the same locations where they previously stood. Today there is little to no reminder of the devastating fire that changed the face of Main Street Hyannis. The ‘new’ buildings are all now nearly 120 years old themselves. They have seen generations of change on Cape Cod and in the world. The solitary reminder in plain sight is a historic marker at the intersection with Ocean Street. It was roughly where the fire was stopped and shows a photo of the aftermath of the blaze.


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Friday, September 2, 2022

In My Footsteps: When A Smell Sparks Up Nostalgia


    Have you ever had a certain scent stir up intense memories? I’ve had a lot of recent experiences, especially during the warmer months. It centers around pine. Pine trees, pine needles, maybe the sap, I don’t know, but it’s strong. It happened again today while I was walking from my car into a client’s house which led me to write this. The smell of the pine needles strewn across the ground, coupled with the dry, late-summer air made a perfect potpourri. So much so that I had to stop and take a moment to acknowledge the memories and emotion that was brought to the surface.

    Whether on a forest trail or a bike trail the past comes softly calling. It always sends me back to the same place, the same time. Age sixteen, 1994. Why is that? It’s easy yet complicated.

    1994 was likely the last time that I felt the warmth of innocence. I was a sophomore in high school, still living in the neighborhood that had molded my childhood like fresh clay. It was a time when the world was still there to be conquered, but there was no rush to make concrete plans. I had dreams, to be a writer, filmmaker, something that gave my creative spirit joy. But there was time.

The old tracks filled with pine trees.(2009)

    1994 was a time in life when everybody was still here. I had never experienced loss. I didn’t know the deep and permanent scars that can be left in your heart when you lose someone, whether just from your life or from this earth entirely. I sit back now and think about all that I didn’t know about the world and I wish I could go back there. I think about things I didn’t know about people, places, and things, and wish I could go back there.

    1994 was an innocent time. School was relatively easy albeit time-consuming. Life was cluttered with amazing friends. It was filled with fun times when fun times were so simple and basic and the worries were not real worries. Did I finish my homework? Does that girl like me? Do I have enough money to buy anything good at the corner store?

    I was lucky enough to live in an area that allowed me to walk through quiet streets, through some secluded wooded pathways, and to a tiny strip mall where my friends and I would buy soda, chips, and candy.

Quiet streets to walk.

    There were abandoned railroad tracks and sandy paths running under rows of power lines. We’d walk the tracks, or sneak onto the nearby golf course. I’d feel like I was on an adventure but never felt worried or threatened by life. The world was happy. The world was safe. Along those railroad tracks, along those sandy paths, along the golf course were untold numbers of pine trees, big and tall, or short and stubby. The joy I felt in those times, on those adventures, and in life in general, was captured and contained in the smell of the pine. While I was making those long-lasting positive memories the scent of the pine seeped into my subconscious.

    I didn’t notice it much until the last few years. Ironically they have been filled with loss and instability. The world doesn’t feel happy. The world doesn’t feel safe. I’ve lost countless family members and friends. I’ve faced adult choices and adult demons that make me long for the time-consuming school days of 1994.

    It feels like in the last few years the universe has known I’ve needed some peace of mind and thus the smell of the pine came to the forefront. I can be sitting at a park, walking the bike trail, or like today walking across a parking lot to someone’s house and I’ll catch a whiff. Suddenly it’s 1994 again.

    It’s 1994, I’m sixteen, and I can visit any of my grandparents whenever I want. I can pick up the phone and call friends and make plans to ‘hang.’ Or I could grab my bike and ride to someone’s house, or to the corner store, and bask in the fleeting feelings of youth. The future lay out before me like a sunny highway. Nothing seemed uncertain, nothing to fear. Dreams were larger than regret. Living the good old days we didn’t know were good yet.

    This is not an isolated experience. There are other scents that bring back other types of memories. But the pine is the most intense. It sparks a nostalgic flame that I welcome each time. It’s as if the scent of the pine was a fine wine I gathered back then to break out on special occasions.

    Sit back and think. What scents take your mind somewhere? Why do you think that is the case? If you’re wondering how something like memory-inducing scents happen check out this article.

Why Smells Trigger Such Vivid Memories -


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Friday, August 26, 2022

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Dorsie's Steak House, West Yarmouth

    This legendary establishment along the high-traffic Route 28 in Yarmouth had a dedication to great entertainment and terrific food. Its status as a place to be was in part thanks to the tireless efforts of its larger-than-life owner. For nearly two decades, George “Dorsie” Carey ran his eponymous steak house in two separate locations along Route 28, creating buzz around town with his entertainment and cuisine. 

    Carey had come to the Cape from Dorchester. And no, this was not how he got the nickname Dorsie. That nickname was bestowed on him by his niece while they were living in the same three-story building in the historic Boston neighborhood. She could not pronounce the name George, and as it usually came out “Dorsie,” the name stuck with him. Carey had another nickname that became the name of a restaurant—“Handlebar Harry”—due to his handlebar mustache. He opened Handlebar Harry’s in Plymouth with his wife, Louise Houston, in 1991.

Dorsie's when it was still the Gay Nineties.

    Dorsie’s began as a much smaller restaurant located at 183 Route 28 in West Yarmouth, near the iconic Mill Hill Club in 1974. Business took off over the next few years. The landlord of the property decided after the 1978 season to increase the rent for the property by 400 percent, from $8,500 per month to $35,000. This shocking increase set off a chain reaction that ended up taking Dorsie’s to new heights.

    Carey searched all along Route 28, from Hyannis to Bass River, in the hopes of finding a new location. One of his regular customers at the restaurant was, in fact, the owner of an establishment called the Gay Nineties located half a mile away on Route 28. After hearing of Carey’s plight, the owner sold the Gay Nineties building to him on a handshake. On the night of July 3, 1979, Carey, his staff, close friends, and some of the Yarmouth Police worked through the night and moved all of the equipment from the original Dorsie’s down the street and into its new home.

Inside Dorsie's

    “We were opened July Fourth,” Carey proudly reflected, “although there was no food service until July Fifth.”

    The hard work of finding the new location paid off.

    The new, larger Dorsie’s had a lot more space for patrons and entertainment. There were three unique function rooms at this location. There was the Cranberry Room, which was located over the main dining room. It was totally self-contained and seated 60 people. There was the Nineties Room, which had an 1890s motif as a nod to the former Gay Nineties Restaurant. This sat 200 people. Finally, there was the Waterwheel Room, which was the primary function room. It sat an impressive 350 people and was complete with its own banquet kitchen.

    There was always something going on as far as entertainment went at Dorsie’s, including an up-and-coming Jay Leno plying his trade in the Waterwheel Room. Leno had been contracted to play another legendary establishment in West Dennis called the Golden Anchor. However, that place was sold before he could perform, so Leno’s contract was given to Dorsie’s. He was given the gate while the restaurant kept what the bar brought in.

The front entrance

    Diane Dexter, who played piano and sang at Dorsie’s starting in 1981, has fond memories of her time playing there as well as the man behind it all.

    “I worked in their main lounge on a grand piano as a solo act,” she recalled, “playing and singing standards and pop/folk/country/rock songs that were popular at the time.”

    Dexter also recalls the Dorsieland Ragtime Review, a Dixieland band that played in the Gay Nineties Room and was a very popular attraction. As for Carey himself, Dexter remembered that he was “always very good with people.”

    The one thing that put Dorsie’s over the top was its affordably priced food. The establishment did a tremendous liquor business, which Carey wisely reinvested in his menu. Marinated steak tips, steak teriyaki, and prime rib were the biggest sellers, made even better by the fact that the meat would be cut and cooked at the Pit, right out in the dining room. Customers could watch while their food was prepared before their eyes. It only added to the uniqueness of Dorsie’s.

    After years of successfully running his mid-Cape complex, Carey yearned for a change. He got that chance when Cordage Park in Plymouth, which converted buildings into a mall in the 1980s, came calling. Carey sold Dorsie’s in 1990, and it became a Lambert’s Farm Market. In 1991, Carey opened Handlebar Harry’s, which became the anchor of the mall. It was tremendously popular in its own right and ran until 2003.

    Today, George “Dorsie” Carey is retired, but even more than thirty years after Dorsie’s closed its doors, he still has people coming up to him and wanting to reminisce about those good old days. As of 2022, Antiques Center of Yarmouth stands where Dorsie’s once did.


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