You can appreciate my excitement when the Historical Society received an inquiry a few weeks ago from Phil Gatz, a great-grandson of Arno, looking for information! This led to a successful exchange of information and a collaboration between us to write this article.
Who were Arno and Ida Gatz?
Arno Gatz was born in 1880 in the small German town of Mülsen St. Jacob in the region of Saxony. His birth name was Ernst Arno Götz – a name which can also be spelled as Goetz. He arrived with his family in New York City in 1882 the day before his 2nd birthday. His family settled in Manchester, NH, one of several New England textile towns that sought the manufacturing expertise from the center of the Germany’s textile industry – Saxony. Just three years after their arrival, tragedy struck the family as Arno’s mother died leaving five children ages 5 to 17. In her short life, she had given birth to twelve children with only 5 living to adulthood. Arno completed his high school education in the late 1890’s in Manchester and made his way to Nashua to work at the White Mountain Freezer Company. In 1905, he married Ida Eleanor Hunter – a schoolteacher from neighboring Tyngsborough, MA. She was born in 1878 and had attended the Lowell Normal School before becoming a teacher. Their first Hudson residence was a rented home on Highland Street near Pleasant Street. They welcomed a son, Philip, into their family in 1907 and a daughter, Selma, in 1912. Just after their daughter’s birth, they purchased a home at 3 Ferry Street near the Taylors Falls Bridge. They resided there until just after Arno’s death in 1942. During the thirty-some years at the home on Ferry Street, Arno and Ida raised their two children. Both went to Hudson schools, graduated from Nashua High School, married, and ultimately left the area. Arno continued to work for the freezer company until his retirement in the late 1930s. He then worked until his death for other area manufacturing companies as well as being self-employed as a toy maker. He also was a member of the local Masonic lodge participating in many of their local social events.
Ida was very active outside the home in civic duties and social activities. She was elected as a Supervisor of the Check List in 1924 – just four years after women won the right to vote. She held this position until the early 1940s. In 1930, she was also elected to her first three-year term on the Hudson School Board. During her nine years on the board, she became the “chairman” of the Building Committee for new Hudson Junior High School. At the building dedication in November 1939, Ida provided the opening remarks at the event and gave the ceremonial keys for the new building to the school board chairman. Her civic duty, however, was not done. She took over as the town’s treasurer in 1942 after the unexpected death of the long-time treasurer and filled the role again the following year. In 1932, Ida helped found the Nashua branch of the New Hampshire League of Arts and Crafts (today called the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen). She made jewelry, painted, sewed Native American figures for children and helped run the League’s store on Temple Street. On top of these activities, Ida found time to work at the Benson’s Animal Farm, where her forte seemed to be with the snakes at the park.