by Pat Kelly, Head of Reference
*This article was originally published in the Lynnfield Villager on June 1, 2021
The Lynnfield Public Library reference department recently had a most unusual request: a patron from Florida who had grown up in the North Shore contacted us with an inquiry regarding a local Lynnfield ‘legend’ of the ‘last century’ known as Mayo Kaan. Mayo was a bodybuilder and chiropractor who had a business called “House of Health” on Route 1 in Lynnfield during the 1970s-1980s. The bodybuilder promoted himself as having been a model for the Superman character and even had a large billboard cutout of himself dressed as Superman on the building.
Now the patron did not want a picture of Mayo Kaan – that would have been too easy! The patron wanted a picture of the building but was not certain of the exact location on Route 1 other than it was northbound in Lynnfield. Several staff members recalled seeing the Superman ‘billboard’ in the 1970s-1980s, but could not recall the location of the building either. Then – success! Through the excellent memory of a staff family member, we narrowed the site of Kaan’s building to the current Mercedes dealership (385 Broadway) on Route 1 North. The original ‘Superman’ building was demolished to make way for the dealership.
With this new information, I reached out to Bob McKendrick of the Lynnfield Historical Society to see if he had any further information on the building. Bob verified the location and was able to provide more insight into the history of the building, but he could not find a picture of the building anywhere in the Historical Society collection. The building once housed an indoor golf putting range, a massage parlor, and various offices – including Mayo Kaan’s chiropractic practice “House of Health.” Somewhere in a family album in Lynnfield, there exists a picture of the building but without going door-to-door, the trail has gone cold. If you have a picture of the old office building at 385 Broadway, and the cutout of Mayo Kaan as Superman, please drop Pat Kelly a line at 781-334-5411… It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s Superman in Lynnfield!
Want to read more about Mayo Kaan? Go to: http://lynnfieldlibrary.org/databases/, scroll down, and choose “The Boston Globe.”. To access the database, enter your library card number when prompted and type “Mayo Kaan” in the search box. The article below is an example of what you’ll find through free library resources!
From the Boston Globe: “A Big Guy Passes”
“Mayo Kaan was an imposing fellow. When the crowd I hung with in the 1950s knew him, he ran his bodybuilding and health care business out of his house on Hermon Street in Winthrop. Later, he ran the House of Health in Lynnfield. In those days, unlike these days, most guys weren’t into building muscle by working out. But somebody heard about weightlifting and such at Mayo’s, the word spread, and a bunch of us began showing up. Some stayed the course and ended up looking pretty good. Some of us dropped out and ended up looking like me. But, to all of us, the toughened and the wannabes, Mayo was equally kind and patient. He had the self-confidence that often comes with being big and strong. Upon returning from vacation, I read that Mayo died at age 88 in a Florida hospital. The obituary noted that the creators of the Superman comic book hero had denied Mayo’s long-held contention that he had posed for Superman in the 1930s. Well, maybe he had, maybe he hadn’t. Maybe Mayo wasn’t Superman after all. Let it be recorded, however, that to a bunch of ’50s teenagers, he was a super guy.”
Lupo, Alan . Boston Globe ; Boston, Mass. [Boston, Mass]25 July 2002: GN.3.