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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.