New Orleanians aren’t the only ones saying goodbye to old neighbors…

In my hometown of Braintree, some familiar faces have moved on. The Hilltop Steakhouse, the “western-style steakhouse” conceived by Frank and Irene Giuffrida, has closed its doors. The only one remaining is the original in Saugus.

The fiberglass cows that greeted Braintree residents and Route 3 travelers from their hilly post sold for upwards of $1,000 at auction yesterday.

I didn’t make it to the auction, but I also don’t feel as blue about the departure of the cows and 50 foot cactus that will no longer welcome me when I get off the Union Street exit (17) to visit the fam. Thanks to MIT hackers, the Institute has its own fiberglass cow – Ferdi – stolen in 1981 from the Saugus hilltop. She smiles down on me at the Stata center whenever I wander over there to buy some coffee.

It’s the end of yet another era in Braintree; I remember when there was nothing more at the eventual site of the Hilltop than a Grossman’s lumber yard. Now there’s a Borders, a KMart, a Best Buy, a whole slew of Big Boxes. The Hilltop’s departure, to make way for a Toyota dealership, is one more hit to the local flavor (pun intended!) of my hometown that made it slightly recognizable from the rest of the suburban towns that line Routes 3 and 93. Sure, countless strangers who ride the T will recognize my roots from the red line’s enduring publicity – “This is a Braintree train” – but as I age more and more quirky bits of my town are things of the past. I wonder if Saugus, with its own Route 1/Hilltop Steakhouse/road raging drivers cultural landscape is feeling the same threat. Keep fighting the good fight, people. Not every town can be such a gracious host to a heated driving range, fiberglass cows and one special tiki bar’s fiery beauty.


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