In my hometown of Canton, Ma, there used to be a shop called Charlie’s Bakery. Charlie’s was a full-service bakery, but all that mattered to the kids in my town were their honey dipped donuts. They cost 6 cents, and they must have had 6 pounds of honey dripping from them.
I never knew Charlie’s wife’s name; she was always Mrs. Charlie to the kids I knew. I’ll never forget her white hair and her smile. The greatest moment a kid could have was when Mrs. Charlie would take you behind the counter into their kitchen to pick out a piping hot freshly dipped donut. After you had one, the honey would stick to whatever part of your clothing or you it touched. Everyone knew you’d just had one of Charlie’s honey dipped donuts.
You’ll never convince me a better donut ever has or ever will exist.
Every evening, the hungry, homeless and those whose mission was to help those in dire straits, would line up at Charlie’s backdoor. Charlie and Mrs. Charlie never wanted attention or recognition for their acts of kindness. They were just happy to help.
The details are sketchy to me, but when I was in High School during the 1970’s, Dunkin’ Donuts purchased the block Charlie’s Bakery was located on, becoming Charlie’s landlords. Before you knew it, Charlie’s Bakery lost the rental lease it had held forever.
People in Canton demonstrated in front of Dunkin’ Donuts. It even made the local TV news, but it was all in vain. Charlie’s had to close up shop.
But it wasn’t the donuts that had locals out in the streets with protest signs.
While Charlie’s Bakery products were a staple in most everyone in my hometown’s diet, we could live without their donuts, but we couldn’t live without Charlie and Mrs. Charlie.
We all seemed to know Charlie and Mrs. Charlie for as long as anyone could remember. They loved what they did, and they loved us, and the feeling was mutual.
I credit Charlie and Mrs. Charlie for motivating me to add the Ethel Weiss Service Award, with Ethel as the award’s first recipient, to the Brookline Youth Awards lineup in 2014. At nearly 100 years old, Ethel Weiss, owner of the legendary Irving’s Toy and Card Shop, accepted her award in person. I’ll never forget it.
Last Labor Day weekend, Irving’s opened for the last time. Anita Jamieson, Ethel’s daughter, opened the shop to sell off their remaining inventory as a fundraiser for the kids at the Devotion School. I manned the register one of those last days. The line never stopped, people came from far and wide to buy remembrances and spend a moment to soak in their childhood.
There was nothing in Irving’s Toy Shop you couldn’t live without besides Ethel. She was there 76 years, not nearly long enough.
Chobee Hoy and Dana Brigham, the 2015 and 2016 recipients of the Ethel Weiss Service Award, fit Ethel’s mold in their own unique ways.
At the 7th Brookline Youth Awards on May 17 at the Coolidge, the Ethel Weiss Service Award will be presented to Christy Timon and Abe Faber, owners of Clear Flour Bread.
Christy started Clear Flour in 1983. An art student at the time, Abe took a job from Christy to make deliveries in her mom’s ’69 Chevy Nova for $6 an hour. Abe fell in love with Christy the moment he laid eyes on her. It took Christy a little longer, but she fell in love too. The couple held their reception at the bakery on Thanksgiving because Thanksgiving’s one of only two days a year Clear Flour Bread is closed.
Clear Flour Bread’s retail business started off on a scale about as small as you can get. Lacking a license to sell retail at the time, the couple would put French baguettes out on a little wooden table Christy had bought for a dollar at a thrift shop. Neighbors would take a pastry from the table, open the draw and put in 50 cents or so. Everything was on the honor system.
Today, Clear Flour is one of the best known and most respected bakeries in the United States. Bread bakers, schooled for years by Christy Timon, have set up establishments all over the country. You don’t have to be an expert on French, Italian or German artisan bread making to appreciate Christy’s baking. I can’t even find words in a thesaurus that describes what it’s like to experience Clear Flour’s products. Just do yourself a favor and go there.
There are lots of reasons why we’ll be honoring Abe and Christy on May 17 at the 7th Brookline Youth Awards.
Partly it’s because, for almost 35 years, our young people have grown up with their insanely great baked goods, which can only be produced with the level of knowledge and craftsmanship many of today’s bread and pastry makers believe is unnecessary.
Partly it’s because of all the young people Abe and Christy have hired and mentored over the years, including their own two daughters.
Partly it’s because of Abe and Christy’s humanity. Every day, trucks and vans from local nonprofits line up outside the back of their bakery to bring homeless and hungry people the same quality of Clear Flour Bread you and I can buy at their counter. Like Charlie and Mrs. Charlie, Abe and Christy have never sought attention or recognition for their acts of devotion and kindness.
Perhaps the most important reason we’ll be honoring Abe and Christy on May 17 is that like Ethel, Chobee, Dana and the Charlie’s; they are present in our community every day.
You can count on them. Nothing is more important than that.