What I call progress

YESTERDAY, on my way to the mailbox at Putnam and Magazine Streets, I passed by the windows of the former Harvest Computer Store, which recently went bankrupt. Harvest had held forth for a few years in a brick building on the corner of Magazine and Allston Streets. It brought along more ties and three-piece suits than had ever been seen in this part of Cambridgeport. Harvest went bankrupt early last year and life has gone back to normal. This is a mixed neighborhood, blue collar and academe. You see people wearing jeans or running suits and riding bikes. The Yuppies are gone. The windows of the store are covered with paper or the venetian blinds are drawn, except in the last one, where ``Antiques and Collectibles'' is still written on the glass.

This space was formerly occupied by the Wild Goose antique shop, which specialized in china from the 1920s through the '50s - the kind I remember from my childhood. In the '30s, to attract business, our movie theater gave away such china. When they first started the promotion, they gave out the china as you entered. It made such a racket you could scarcely hear the actors. Cleaning up the breakage must have been arduous, too.

Soon they switched to handing it out at the exit, which improved the chances of getting it home intact. Since members of my family frequently went to the movies, we owned many pieces of one set, a white pattern with a raised flower border - courtesy of the Community theater. It was similar to the kind the Wild Goose sold as antique.

This was not my first brush with being considered antique. I had the initial shock in the late '60s when I went to a flea market in Essex, Conn., and saw an Orphan Annie mug selling for $17.50. I vividly remembered Little Orphan Annie offering me such a mug over the radio. Every weekday evening in the early '30s I ate supper close to our wooden Philips radio set listening to Uncle Don, Orphan Annie, and Jack Armstrong. As soon as Annie offered the mug, I sent 25 cents along with the inner seal from a can of Ovaltine off to her station. Then began the seemingly endless wait.

For six long weeks I ran eagerly to the mailbox, including Saturdays and Sundays, crushed when I found nothing in it for me. I was only 7, and it seemed forever till the cardboard box with my name on it finally arrived. In it was the promised mug, cream-colored with a pale green border and decorated with my champion, the curly-headed Orphan Annie, with her dog, Sandy, arf-arfing alongside. What bliss to sit listening to their adventures sipping Ovaltine from my own mug.

It was the same mug that I saw before me at the Essex flea market. How it had diminished in size over the years. I could scarcely credit the excitement I had felt when I first saw it. And how it had increased in value.

Yesterday, as I looked in the shop, the old china was there - as though the clock had been turned back a few years. Not erasing the ``Antiques and Collec-tibles'' was prophetic. Here they are again. They must have been packed away in the cellar. What joy to see them once more.

In a world that is going more and more to computers, how fortunate to have one space that is going back to antique china. Now, when I go to mail a letter, I see a window full of familiar china that takes me back to the '30s, when times were hard but I was young and carefree. It is a case of one antique appreciating another.

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