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Revisit Lowell Road … Hudson Super Duper

Grand Opening Super Duper 1970

As early as the mid 1950’s the ‘go-to’ grocery store for many Hudson residents, especially those living on or near Lowell Road, was the Hudson Super Market owned and operated by Robert “Bob” and Doris Provencal. Hudson was a fast growing town and business expanded so that by September 1970 the Provencal family held the grand opening of The Hudson Super Duper as shown in this week’s first photo. This event included onsite broadcasting of a local radio station, door prize of 18 inch portable TV, and special sale prices from all departments within the store.

The story of The Hudson Super Market, The Super Duper, and later The Piggly Wiggly, is also the story of Bob and Doris Provencal and their family. It began as early as 1936. Bob, then 16, lived with his family a short distance from what would later become the Super Duper. Bob needed extra money to buy a car. He had the idea of making bleach water and selling it for .20 a gallon to neighbors and friends. His efforts were profitable enough so he could purchase his first car. At 18 he took over his father’s filling station in Hudson as a mechanic. Again he was successful and needed to hire extra people.

After our country became involved with World War II, Bob wanted to enlist in the Army. His classification made him not eligible. Wanting to do something to help, he closed the gas station and went to work at Fort Devens where he ran a dynamometer and tested White Engines. By 1945 he met and married Doris Ledoux, also of Hudson. Soon thereafter he resigned from Fort Devens and re-opened the gas station, hoping to settle in Hudson; but there was a lack of housing in town so they settled in Nashua while making plans for and building an apartment building in Hudson. The rent they received would help pay the mortgage plus they would have a place to live in Hudson. As things were looking bright for the young couple, they were saddened by the loss of their first born son at the age of 10 days.

For her own health Doris knew she should keep busy. She suggested they put an extension onto their house so she could open a small store. This they did, and Doris ran the store where she met people while Bob ran the business of his own across the street. They added a grill and soda fountain and the endeavor became an immediate success. When not busy in the station he would help Doris in the store. One could say ‘the rest is history’.

The Hudson Super Market was opened in October 1952. Business grew and the store was expanded. A few years later the family realized the existing store could not accommodate the growing demands. On September 2, 1970 the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hudson Super Duper took place. That same year Bob Provencal was named Grocer of the Year by The NH Grocers Association. Doris and Bob had a family of 2 sons (Greg and Donald) and 1 daughter (Charlene). The family grew up with the grocery business; and by 1970 Charlene was studying floral arrangement in Boston. She would later open her own Charlene’s Flower Shoppe nearby on Lowell Road. Donald was managing the frozen food department in the family store; and Greg was studying business in a local college.

By 1972 the Provencal family aligned their Super Duper Market with the Piggly Wiggly enterprise. This Super Market, along with Shop and Wash, and Richard Coiffures were located on Lowell Road, a major part of The Super Duper Shopping Center in Hudson.

Citizens Plaza 2006

By 1977 The Nashua Trust Company, which held the mortgage, foreclosed on the Piggly Wiggly building. Two business remained there as tenants: Richard Coiffures and the Shop and Wash Laundromat and Dry Cleaners. In 1979 Nashua Trust announced its plans to build a new banking facility on this location and the two remaining tenants had to vacate. By 1980 construction was completed and The Nashua Trust moved from its location at 1 Derry Street to open its Hudson Community Banking Center at 71 Lowell Road. Since that time due to bank mergers and closures the Nashua Trust became The First NH Bank and later Citizens Bank. Our second photo shows this site in 2006 – home to Brooks Pharmacy, Citizens Bank, and Hudson Chamber of Commerce.  Written by Ruth Parker.

 

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Route of the Steam Railroad Part 2

“Long Crossing” on Central Street

Crossing Melendy Road near the intersection with Central Street the tracks went almost parallel and south of Central Street on the course toward Hudson Center. They went just north of Melendy Pond and through the back yard of what is now 91 Central Street heading towards Melendy Brook; which is also called Hadley Brook and First Brook. In this part of the route Central Street was north of the tracks.

Shortly after crossing the brook Central Street and the railroad tracks converged and ultimately Central Street crossed the tracks in such a manner that Central Street took a diagonal turn to the south. This placed the street on the south side of the tracks. This crossing was referred to as Central Street Crossing or also as Long Crossing. The switching of the street from the north to the south of the tracks resulted in a situation where oncoming auto traffic seemed to be approaching on the driver’s right which contributed to mishaps, particularly after dark. The name Long Crossing referred to the angle at which Central crossed the tracks. Once the railroad line was abandoned this diagonal turn was eliminated and that section of Central Street was straightened. The land taking to accomplish this resulted in narrow frontage for odd numbered houses near 91 Central Street whereas the opposite side ended up with wide frontage.

After crossing to the north of Central Street the tracks proceeded onto private land; next to emerge at the street level crossing with Burnham Road just below Alpine Avenue. There are two ‘dips’ in the road are apparent to this day. This street level crossing was called `Betsy Cutter Crossing’ and the road was known as Cutter Road. The crossing and the road were named for Betsey Cutter, a Revolutionary War Pensioner whose husband was a veteran. She applied for and received his pension. The road has since been changed to Burnham Road.

Tracks Through Westview Cemetery

The railroad bed is still very pronounced as it goes through the wooded section of Westview Cemetery. This is easily walked and takes one north of properties on Central Street. The track bed crosses Merrill Brook over a stone culvert. Some maps identify the railroad track bed through Westview Cemetery as the right of way for the trolley. These maps are in error. The trolley approached Hudson Center via Ferry Street; proceeding into a wooded area at the beginning of Burnham Road.

A section of the old electric car (trolley) bed may be seen beyond the swamp to the north of the railroad bed. The trolley tracks take a sharp turn towards Central Street and cross under the railroad right of way just east of White Birch and behind Burger King where one can see the remains of the stone trestle which carried the trains to the Hudson Center station; crossing over the trolley tracks which carried the trolleys on to Pelham.

 

Railroad Trestle at Hudson Center

The train tracks continued east where a row of pines marks the railroad bed before it passed close behind the First Baptist Church. Crossing at Greeley Street the trains arrived at the Hudson Center Station. It was here that animals and patrons arrived to go to Benson’s. Animals were shipped here and some were walked along the road to the farm. The Jungle Train from Boston brought people on excursions. There was a freight house and siding for handling goods.
The station was later made into a dwelling, but when it was no longer in use it was moved to Benson Park. It has since been renovated and can be seen at the entrance to the park. Leaving the station trains passed along the north wall of the Grange Hall (formerly the Town Hall) and crossed Windham Road heading towards Windham.

Revisit Lowell Road … 74 and 76 Lowell Road C1977

Looking North at 74 and 76 Lowell Road C 1977

 

 

We revisit 74 and 76 Lowell Road! Since the mid 1960’s we have seen major growth and change occur along Lowell Road. This site at 74 and 76 Lowell is no exception!!

This week we look north from Birch and Lowell onto 74 and 76 Lowell Road. Prior to 1966 74 Lowell Road was home to Xavier and Exillia Gagnon and their family. At that time they moved to a house on B Street in Hudson. Xavier was employed and later retired from Johns Manville Products Corp of Nashua. He passed in 1969 after living in Hudson for 43 years. His family included his wife, Exillia, 2 sons, 2 daughters, and 4 grandchildren. By 1966 the house at 74 Lowell was removed and soon replaced with The Hudson ’66’ Service Station; it is now a Sunoco Station.

By 1970 76 Lowell was under construction and it became the home of Star Dry Cleaners, later Anton’s Cleaners. By 1977, as shown in this weeks photo, it was the location of Halls Market. By 1980 the site expanded to include Halls Market, Prime Graphics, Superior Floor Company, and Suzies Donut and Coffee Shop. Over time Halls Market transitioned to Palmer’s Market and Kay’s Diner along with other business like Shear Paradise and Kay’s Laundry. Today this is the location of the popular Suzie’s Diner.

Contrast this photo with the busy intersection at Birch Street we see today and the filled parking lot across the way. Photo taken for publication in the Town in Transition and is part of the Historical Society Collection.

Route of the Steam Railroad Part 1

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Iron Railroad Bridge C 1912

Written by Ruth Parker

This is the first of three articles which traces the route taken by the steam railroad in it’s four mile stretch through Hudson.

The Nashua and Rochester railroad began operation of a single track route through Hudson in 1874 with a single station which was located in Hudson Center off Greeley Street and behind the Town Hall (now Wattannick Hall the home of Hudson Grange). This line provided passenger and freight services in both directions. After 1910 business on this line was on the decrease and the station closed about 1922 with passenger service continuing until 1934. O the station closed passengers boarding the train at Hudson Center would purchase tickets from the conductor. The line east of Hudson to Fremont, NH was abandoned by 1935; leaving Hudson as a branch line out of Nashua. Hudson remained an important stop because of Benson’s Wild Animal Farm and the Jungle train which brought passengers from Boston’s North Station to the Animal Farm on Sunday’s. The price of the train ride included admission to Benson’s.

Coming east from Nashua trains crossed the Merrimack River about 60 rods south of the Taylor Falls Bridge and proceeded on a north-east direction to Hudson Center and then on to Anderson Station in West Windham, a four plus mile route At first there was a wooden bridge across the river, but it was burned when set afire by sparks from a locomotive traveling on it. It was replaced in 1910 by an iron bridge, the metal later being salvaged for use during World War II to support the war effort. Our first photo shows the iron bridge C 1912 looking north (upriver) to the concrete Taylors Falls bridge. The abutments from the railroad bridge are still visible in the river as you cross from Nashua into Hudson. . These abutments can also be seen on the Hudson side of the river at Merrill Park. This park is located on land which includes the railroad right-of-way. Our second photo shows the entrance to Merrill Park which sits on the former railroad right-of-way. Part of the old railroad bed is also visible opposite the entrance to the Park and near the end at Fulton and Gillis Streets.

Entrance to Merrill Park

Entrance to Merrill Park former right-of-way

The trains climbed a grade from the river’s edge heading toward Hudson Center. The tracks crossed Lowell Road between the residence at 1 Lowell Road and the business at 5 Lowell Road. The train crossed Lowell Road and the street railway (trolley) on a trestle at the junction of Lowell and Central Streets as seen by our third photo. In this photo the home on the right is currently 65 Central and the house in mid picture is 1 Lowell Road.

overpass at Lowell Road

Railroad Overpass at Lowell and Central

The tracks then proceeded in a north of east direction along Central Street to a street level crossing of Melandy Road onto town owned land which was the former town barn, later the skate park, and now the pickleball court.

 

Revisit Lowell Road …. Tiny’s Garage

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Tiny’s Garage on Atwood Avenue C 1948

Tiny’s Garage was a legendary source for towing wrecked cars and salvaging and recycling usable parts. To find Tiny’s you traveled south on Lowell Road and took a right turn onto Atwood Avenue and stopped at number 7. Many remember the man called ‘Tiny’, his business, and the family who worked with him.

Chester ‘Tiny’ Sojka grew up in Derby, CN and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps as a young man. After Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Army and served as a tank mechanic; being stationed in North Africa and Italy. He met his wife Mary while on leave and they were married in December 1944. After his discharge in 1945 he started a garage repairing and towing cars. They settled in Nashua and later moved to Hudson and opened his business here. Over time the business evolved to include salvaging and selling used car parts, especially those which were hard to find. His business included the entire cycle: towing wrecked cars, recycling automotive liquids (gas, oil, antifreeze), breaking down the wrecked vehicle for usable parts, maintaining an inventory of these parts, and selling them to other mechanics and ‘do it yourselfers’ as they repaired vehicles of the same or comparable model. I’m sure many mechanics or DIYers remember going to or calling ‘Tiny’ to see if he had the needed part in stock. I myself recall an ad for Tiny’s that said: Please Drive Safely – We Don’t Need your Business.

The Old Youth Center aka the “portable”

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The Youth Center C 1976

This building which began as a school house in Peterborough, NH was moved to Hudson in 1929. It was moved a second time in 1941 where it found a permanent use by our town Recreation Department until it was replaced in 1985.

In 1929 Hudson was in the midst of the depression and money was tight. Extensive repairs had been completed to the Webster school building as the result of the recent fire. These repairs placed the facility in a better condition than before the fire. Hudson’s total school enrollment was 457 students: 356 at Webster, 58 at Hudson Center, 23 at No. 1 District school at Musquash, and 20 at No 9 District on Derry Road (now Old Derry Road). Yes!! Two of our local district schools were still operating at that time. Also, there were almost 100 Hudson students who were attending private elementary schools. Despite the depression it was apparent to the school board that an additional classroom was needed at Webster. They were fortunate to locate an available portable school house from the district of Peterborough. This building was secured, moved to Hudson, and placed behind the Webster school house in time for the 1929 school year. This annex to Webster immediately acquired the nickname of the “portable”.

The “portable” served Hudson quite well. It provided a make-shift class room which could be used for any grade(s) until another school building and/or school room became available. One year the “portable” was used for grade 1 and grade 3. Another year, for example, for grade 2 and grade 3. And so it continued. The depression continued into the 1930’s. The school board continuously looked for ways to decrease the cost of the elementary grades. At the same time the number of students attending Nashua Junior and Senior High was increasing. In 1933 the No.1 school house was closed due to cost and enrollment. This saved the district over $800 but added to the congestion at Webster. This situation continued until Hudson obtained a federal grant and made plans for a Junior High school building. Land was purchased and The Hudson Junior High school was built on School Street at the corner of what is now First Street near Oakwood Street. In 1939 the junior high was completed and Hudson students in grades 7,8,9 were schooled there; thus reducing the tuition spent to Nashua. This also relieved the pressure at Webster and made possible the closing of the “portable”. At that time grades 1-6 attended either Webster or Hudson Center’ graded 7-9 attended Hudson Junior High, and grades 10-12 were tuition students at Nashua.

The “portable” was used as a Webster annex until the end of the 1938 school year; almost 10 years. At the School District meeting in March 1939 the “portable” building was made available to the youth of Hudson. A short time after the building was moved from the rear of Webster onto School District land at the corner of First Street and Oakwood Avenue. A Recreation Committee of 5 persons was formed and organized activities for the youth of Hudson during the weeks of school summer vacation began to take root.

By 1953 there were 300 children and teenagers participating in the 9 week schedule of supervised summer activities ranging from playground activities, little league, and crafts. One special event such as doll show, pet show, bicycle parade, father and son baseball, or a trip to Benson’s was scheduled for each week. These events were held at the Youth Center on Oakwood Street and area fields: the ball field behind the Junior High, tennis courts located at the Robinson playground on School Street, and the ball field at the corner of School and Library Streets. This last field is now the site of the Leonard Smith Fire Station. At the School District meeting March 1954 the so called “portable” lot at the intersection of First and Oakwood Streets was deeded by the School District deeded to the town of Hudson for use by the town Recreation Committee.

Our first photo shows the Youth Center aka the old “potable” facing Oakwook Street C 1975. This building remained in use through the summer program of 1984 at which time it was replaced as a project of the Lions Club. The new building was 2,160 square feet and contained a large meeting room, heating facilities, an office, and space for a kitchen. The Lions Club donated the cost of this building with the assistance of many tradesmen, suppliers, and individuals in town who worked on the project at or below cost. The building committee consisted of Alvin Rodgers, Gus Piantidosi, Richard Millard, and Phillip Rodgers as chairman. The keys to the new youth center were turned over to Recreation Commission Chairman Paul Hamilton and Selectman John Bednar who thanked the Lions for their contribution to the community. While making this presentation Lions Club President Roger Latulippe stated that the new recreation building was donated to the town and its citizens as a token of gratitude for the many years of support shown to the club. Credit was specifically given to Paul Dawkins who wired the building at no cost and to the Snowmen snowmobile club who hung sheetrock at no cost.

Rec Center 2019

The Rec Center 2019

Our second photo shows the Rec Center at it appears in 2019. Under the direction of Dave Yates, Recreation Director our recreation department now includes activities at this location plus the facilities at Robinson Pond, the playground and ball field at Hudson Center, activities at the Community Center (previously Lions Hall), senior services at the North Barn, and numerous ball fields and playground distributed through town. The 1975 photo is from the collection at the historical society. The current photo was taken by the author.

57 Lowell Road

57 Lowell C1947 COMP

57 Lowell Road C1947

Now a dealership for previously owned cars this was the childhood home of John Simo. John was a member of the first graduation class of Alvirne High in 1951. John passed a short while ago but is fondly remembered by people in town and some of his Alvirne classmates.
By 1935 Nicolae and Cornelia Simo with their young family of Victoria and John moved from Nashua to this house at 57 Lowell Road in Hudson. The trolley and later bus services made it possible for Nicolae to commute to his job as a shoe worker at J. F. McElwain Shoe Company in Nashua. Cornelia held a position at Fort Devens in Mass. Daughter Victoria attended Hudson schools and graduated from Nashua High. She was active in 4-H, Scouts, and the youth activities of the Hudson Community Church. After High School she attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. She later married and lived in Conn. John was able to complete his high school in Hudson; being a member of the first class to graduate from Alvirne in 1951. He was also active in 4-H and the youth activities of the Community Church.
This weeks photo shows the Simo home about 1947; the woman seated on the front steps has been identified as Cornelia.
John was one of many Hudson teenagers who worked at Bensons Animal Farm during the summer months. Upon graduation from Alvirne, John and a high school friend of his traveled to Seattle, WA for summer work at The Jolly Green Giant Factory. His friend returned to Hudson to attend college. John remained on the west coast, traveling and working in various states for several years. When he did return to New Hampshire he married Glenda Pratt of Milford and made his home in Milford.
Cornelia passed in 1965; Nicolae continued to live in this house until about 1984 when he moved to Milford with his son John. Nicolae passed in 1989. John remembers his mother as an intelligent woman who was fluent in many languages. His dad had musical abilities with the violin; being able to repeat a tune after hearing it a single time.
By 1984 Lowell Road was becoming a busy commercial road; no longer the rural and residential road of the previous decades. As with many homes along Lowell Road this one at number 57 would transition into commercial use. Many of our readers may recall Dunkin Dogs, a self service dog shampoo parlor and grooming establishment. Today this site is the location of Stellar Motors, a used automobile mart. Thanks to John Simo of Milford for the memories; photo from the Hudson Historical Society collection.

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