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Inspired by Sugarloaf Street

Recorder/Paul Franz
Thomas W Merrigan of Greenfield has written a book entitled Sugarloaf Street.

Recorder/Paul Franz Thomas W Merrigan of Greenfield has written a book entitled Sugarloaf Street.

GREENFIELD — “They’ve torn down our old house on Sugarloaf Street (South Deerfield),” 85-year-old Thomas W. Merrigan begins his book, “Sugarloaf Street: A Memoir.”

The former Recorder reporter, Greenfield selectman, county commissioner, and assistant district attorney said he wrote the book because everybody has a story to tell, and he wanted to tell his.

“What’s yours?” Merrigan asks everyone who inquires about his book.

“I’ve always thought about writing a memoir,” said the father of eight, grandfather of 24, and great-grandfather of 13. “Growing up on Sugarloaf Street in the 1930s and 1940s was a good time to be young.”

Merrigan, who grew up at 77 Sugarloaf St., said he looked back on those years in South Deerfield, where he lived with his parents and two brothers, as some of the best of his life.

“Interesting things happened there,” he said. “Sugarloaf Street could actually be thought of as one of the characters in my book.”

Merrigan said Sugarloaf Street, which, for all intents and purposes is the true center of town, is a microcosm of what he calls “Small Town America.”

“The street and everything that happened on it could be found anywhere in the country,” said Merrigan, who raised his children in Greenfield, and still lives on Congress Street. “And so could the people who lived, played and worked there.”

“Every day of my life I have remembered my past in some way,” he said. “The book was a way of getting some of it off my chest.”

The man who went back to school later in life to become a lawyer at the age of 55, wrote about the changes he’s seen on the street over the years.

“The last time I saw the old place it was a pile of rubble and the power shovel was taking its last bites from the few walls and bits of framing still standing,” he wrote.

Merrigan said he has felt a “nostalgic tug” every time he has driven along Sugarloaf Street over the past 60 or 70 years.

He talked in the book about working tobacco and working at the former D.M. Jewett pickle factory in South Deerfield, as well as the plane crash that took the life of the youngest Jewett.

“Things were never the same for the D.M. Jewett pickle factory,” he wrote.

Merrigan called Sugarloaf Street “every kid’s playground” in the book and talked about meeting the love of his life, Marguerite A. McKillop of Belchertown, when they were both 13 years old.

“She had come to South Deerfield with her older sister Dorothy and her mother Anna McKillop to visit another sister Helen, who had married my brother Raymond,” wrote Merrigan.

Eight years later, Merrigan and McKillop were married. They eventually became parents of eight children, and spent “60 joyful married years together,” he wrote.

In 2008, his wife died.

Merrigan said he included a number of pictures in the memoir: the Hotel Warren, a view of the Connecticut River from Mount Sugarloaf, Fisher’s Garage, which still operates in the center of town today, what was once known as Bloody Brook Inn, which now houses apartments, a grocery store, and a diner, and the Elmer E. Putnam block, where Cumberland Farms currently stands.

“They are all places people will remember, or recognize,” said Merrigan, who was born in the former Farren Memorial Hospital on Feb. 19, 1927.

After he married in 1948, he moved to Greenfield and has lived there since.

Merrigan worked 22 years as a reporter for the Greenfield Recorder-Gazette, now The Recorder.

He served two terms as a selectman in Greenfield, two terms as a Franklin County commissioner, and became a lawyer in 1982.

His daughter Patricia died in 2011.

His other children are Thomas T. Merrigan, a lawyer and former District Court judge; Greenfield Town Clerk Maureen T. Winseck; Nancy Hawkins, a registered nurse and real-estate sales person; Franklin County Register of Probate John. F. Merrigan; Kathleen M. Niedbala, part-time manager of family apartments; Marguerite A. Merrigan, manager of family apartments; and James M. Merrigan, a lawyer in Boston.

Merrigan said he hopes his book touches “all sorts of people” throughout Franklin County and beyond.

He said he would like to thank Lynn Stowe Tomb, the graphic artist and editor who guided him and made the book possible.

“Sugarloaf Street: A Memoir” can be purchased at World Eye Bookshop, 156 Main St., or Wilson’s Department Store, 258 Main St., in Greenfield and at Historic Deerfield Museum Gift Shop & Bookstore, 79 Old Main St. in Deerfield.

To request a copy, you can also call 413-774-7184 or email: sugarloafstreet.memoir@yahoo.com.

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