Did you go to the post office?” the old man called across the street to his friend.
“Yes!” said the other old man.
“Was there any mail?”
“No, just female!”
Drawing outside the Paul Revere Restaurant recently, I watched the midday characters come and go in the village of West Medford, a community in the greater city of Medford. The restaurant attracted my attention because this spring I’m doing a series of drawings along the route Paul Revere took on that historic night, April 25, 1775.
Founded in 1938, the restaurant places you immediately in a Norman Rockwell painting. The long lunch counter, hard stools, high-backed booths, tin ceiling and even some of the grit are all original, and in the back is a shrine of sorts to the restaurant’s namesake, Paul Revere. On the wall is a big photograph of the original owner, a woman who would find little changed since she left, five owners ago. Further down the wall is a long, framed group photo of the contestants in the 1965 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.
This is the kind of place where the old guys go for breakfast or lunch. Cheap and cheerful. Nothing fancy. Never changing. Not retro: original. After drawing, I had the chicken salad club with fries for $6.50. The talk at the lunch counter between the owner and a regular was of the next Boston Bruins game: “I’m going to the game tomorrow night…should be some fights.”
As I left, I double checked the date of the restaurant’s opening which got the two guys talking local history. “I grew up in Arlington,” the owner said, “which used to be called Menotomy. I think it was part of Cambridge before that.” He mentioned growing up near the Jason Russell House—which caught my attention, because although it’s miles away, it’s also on Paul Revere’s route and I’ll be drawing there in the coming months. I wonder if he realized how interwoven his life’s path was with Revere’s.