2018-01-12 / Opinion

Remember When?

Bath’s Singing Vendor
Bath Historical Society

COURTESY BATH HISTORICAL SOCIETY COURTESY BATH HISTORICAL SOCIETY Who could ever forget the one and only Jack Lynch? The only one Bath ever had. The gentleman that sang of his wares, “My oranges, peaches and pears.”

On September 18, 1944, John H. Lynch, Bath’s famous singing vendor, died at Bath Memorial Hospital. He was best known as Jack Lynch by all and was a familiar figure on the streets of Bath. With his passing Bath lost someone unique.

He lived on Oak Street where Jack stabled his horse Dobbin, as he called him, in the barn along with the wagon, hay, feed and grain. In his spotless white shirt and overalls, sometimes white trousers, he would leave Oak Street for downtown, regal as a king on a throne. The clop, clop, clop of Dobbin’s feet on the cobblestones was something to hear, a new day, you knew, as the sound reached the ears of many. Jack was an early riser, and that familiar voice raised in song brought many sleepy-eyed, barefoot youngsters and oldsters alike to their window to see Jack Lynch go by.

“Oh, what a wonderful day!” These were the opening words of the ‘Caruso’ huckster as he proceeded leisurely along the streets of Bath, stopping occasionally in summer to re-arrange the straw hat astride the head of his noble steed or furnish some housewife with the vegetables, flowers or fish that she needed.

As he drove about in his wagon from early spring until late fall with his much loved black mare, he would sing with gusto to sell his wares – “Mackerel, fresh mackerel today.” He would also sing about vegetables, fruits and berries or whatever else was in season. In the spring it would be greenhouse flowers and vegetable plants. All this to some tune or other. “Oh, you sure need a tonic to clear your system. Try this superb rhubarb and asparagus. You will never be sorry.”

Now comes July and the melodious voice, “They’re here. Those wonderful berries grown by Joe — right here in West Bath, none better,” and in a low voice, “20 cents a box,” followed by his louder, musical voice chanting, “two boxes for 45 cents.” Believe it or not, it was surprising to see the public pay 5 cents more for two boxes than to buy one box at a time.

Later in August his jolly, lilting sing song tune changed — "Green corn, fresh, sweet corn. A dozen? And you'll love it.” He was also generous with his produce and many a youngster enjoyed a juicy orange tossed to him from the cart.

Then came the other fruits and vegetables in season, all with a special song of their own. “Any pears, any peaches, any plums today? Cause the peaches they are sweetest, the pears are mellow,

JACK LYNCH 1878-1944

and the plums, oh so tender from the morning dew. I have peas that are the greenest and berries culled from the rain. If you’re needing any produce, you can’t do better, no matter what you pay.”

However, his favorite pastime was stopping in front of Percy’s Department store (later Senter’s, Barden’s and, in 1993, Renys) to finish the day. Here one could hear, ‘Tinker mackerel, right from West Point’s icy waters, six for a quarter. Shrimp seven for a dollar.” One day in front of Percy’s, a summer visitor, Margaret Leveroni of Quincy, Massachusetts, an operatic singer with a good voice, happened to hear our Jack Lynch as he sang of the wonderful fruit he was selling. Margaret listened for a few minutes and then there began a vocal dialogue between Margaret and Jack. Jack was good, but Margaret was better and quite mischievous. Traffic on Front Street stopped and snarled as the vocal duel continued, but all ended on sweet tones — such is memory!

Courtesy Bath Historical Society Newsletter #25 August 1993

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