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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.