By Alison Barnet
I tell a friend I’m going to Morgan Memorial and she says, “Why? Do you need something?” She doesn’t understand—it’s not about need, it’s about finding surprise treasures. Like the Brattle Book Shop, another of my favorite places. In both, I never know what I’m going to find but, whatever it is, I can afford it. I go to Morgan Memorial only on Tuesday, Senior Day, when everything is 25% off for those of us who are 62 and up. Don’t ask me what the place is like on other days—I wouldn’t go if my life depended on it! Although it’s Senior Day at all the branches as well, the headquarters store at 1010 Harrison Avenue is the closest to me. And every Tuesday, I’m sure to see friends Linda, Jane, Jovita, Aileen, and Sandra. One Tuesday, I was in the back of the store, walking past kitchen wares and framed pictures, when I saw a plaster elephant. That’s a nice elephant, I thought, but kept going. A few minutes later, it occurred to me that, if that’s a nice elephant, I should go back and get it. Did I need an elephant? No, of course not. Luckily, no one grabbed it before me. I worried about that possibility the day I saw a small wooden sign: “Before you shoot your mouth off make sure your brains are loaded.” I didn’t buy it at first but hurried back later to find it still on the shelf. Now I don’t know what to do with it, but the elephant graces my bookshelf. I buy all my clothes there, although, since the Pandemic, dressing rooms have been closed, so I’ve had to cut way back, especially on pants, loading up instead on sweaters, gym wear, handbags, scarves, jackets and, lately, shoes. This is to say nothing of cups, plates, notebooks, boxes, bookends and baskets. And a new wine glass every time I break one. Speaking of sweaters, one thing I don’t like is the smell of whatever detergent they use. Often I have to wash them several times, which I do immediately because I want so much to wear them. Sometimes I forget to cut off the tiny plastic stick in the shoulder area. Later, it’s telltale, like the man in my gym class who wore a “new” shirt with the yellow sticker still attached. And we all knew. Goodwill Industries headquarters on Harrison Avenue opened in 1986 with the motto: “Not charity but a chance.” These days, most people call it Goodwill but those of us who remember the original store at 95 Berkeley St. stick with Morgan Memorial or simply Morgie’s. Rev. Henry Morgan founded Morgan Chapel in 1868. Rev. Edgar J. Helms was appointed pastor in 1895, and like Morgan, his mission was “to evangelize the drunkards and impoverished immigrants of Boston’s South End.” Early in the 20th century, Helms and Fred Moore created Morgan Memorial Co-operative Industries and Stores, Inc., later called Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries. You should see how long the check-out line is! Will my favorite cashier call me over? When she asks if I want to round off my payment, I always do. Last time, my total came to $12 and I needed two bags. I’ll be back next Tuesday no matter what. Alison Barnet is a longtime South End resident and author of five books on the neighborhood’s history.