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  • Courtesy photo

    A close-up of interesting brickwook on the facade of the old Nashua Corporation building is one of many similar depictions in the gallery of the "Old Nashua" Facebook page.
  • Courtesy photo

    Who remembers the Colonial Maid? Where was it? When did it disappear from the Nashua landscape? Thanks to the "You know you're from Old Nashua if ..." Facebook page, we have answers.
  • Courtesy photo

    Who could refuse a quarter or 50-cent haircut at New Mode Barber School? So what if it didn't come out even - it's a bargain, and you helped train a new barber.
Saturday, March 17, 2012

Take an online cruise down memory lane

Dean Shalhoup

While poking around in granny’s attic the other day, you spotted an old postcard and blew off the dust in hopes of making out the faded writing.

Giving up, you flipped it over to find a black-and-white picture of a funny-looking building, kind of like a stout tugboat with awnings and the words “tea room” and “ice cream bar.”

The fine print says “Nashua, N.H.,” but you’re a Nashua native and never heard of this place.

Suddenly, you remember the same thing happening to a friend last week; among her late grandfather’s books, she found a stack of booklets called “The Nashua Cavalier” and a thin hardcover, a bit tattered and torn, about a guy supposedly from Nashua who wrote about his lifelong struggle with polio.

You ask around, but at best get vague, “Well, it might have been … but I’m not sure …” answers.

So, what to do?

First, you need to ask the right people: Those of us who dig history, especially Nashua history, who tend to be, well, in the “mature” age group and who wear our “Research Geek” badges as medals of honor.

But now there’s an even better, easier and far speedier way to solve your little mysteries, and it’s a lot of fun, to boot.

Enter the magical wonderland of cyberspace (yes, even we history geeks embrace it; we have to). Specifically, one of its modern-day mainstays called Facebook.

Growing up fast among the gazillions of “pages” is something of a virtual treasure trove of all things Nashua called, typo and all, “You know you from the Old NASHUA IF …”

The second “you,” of course, should be “you’re,” but hey, typos happen; I’m sure it’ll be corrected soon.

Fairly new on the scene, the page has racked up more than 4,200 members and has upward of 1,800 photos already in its gallery, irrefutable proof that tons of Nashua loyalists with more than a passing interest in our collective roots remain in our midst, even if some are hundreds of miles away.

Again, kudos to technology.

For instance, the aforementioned (hypothetical) friends could have solved the mystery surrounding their (real) postcard and books in minutes on the “Old Nashua” page.

Within a few clicks, the one with the postcard would know it depicted an eatery called the Colonial Maid, which lived at 109 Concord St., just north of Greeley Park, and as advertised, specialized in ice cream and casual “tea room” dining.

It disappeared sometime in the ’60s after probably 30 or 40 years there.

As for the “friend” with the mystery books, they wouldn’t have been a mystery for long after she joined the page.

The thin hardcover did in fact trace the life of a Nashua man who had polio; he was one Dick Chaput, who, stricken in his youth by dreaded poliomyelitis, or “infantile paralysis,” penned the autobiography “Not To Doubt” in adulthood.

And those “Nashua Cavalier” booklets she found were monthly accounts of the goings-on, businesswise and socially, of Nashua Corp., which were published largely in its mid-20th-century heyday.

“Old Nashua,” as its name suggests, came about as a quick, easy vehicle for sharing city facts, figures and folklore that a quick perusal will show range from important milestones and significant landmarks to the quirky urban legends that add charm to any historical account.

But a couple of recent threads prove just how vital such communication can be in the overall scheme of things.

Stationed overseas and longing for contact with happier places, Army Sgt. Mike Iozzo found it in the “Old Nashua” page, certainly a comfortable port in a storm for an infantryman, paratrooper and drill sergeant who joined up more than 11 years ago – just days after his high school graduation.

Perhaps Iozzo’s, and everyone else’s, favorite post came in the wee hours of Thursday when he at long last set foot back on American soil.

“Well, Nashuans, I’m back home,” Iozzo wrote. “Just wanted to take a quick moment to thank you all for providing a distraction during both the good and not so good times of my deployment. It’s great to be back in America.”

Predictably, plenty of welcome homes and thank-yous and other warm greetings followed.

A contributor named Sharon wrote, “Freedom is never free. It is because of sacrifices of young men (and) women like you that I am even able to say thank you.”

Judy Kleiner is among the most frequent contributors.

“I’m learning so much about Nashua,” she said this week. “I thought I already knew a lot, but now I’m finding out more about Nashua things that have always made me curious.”

That the page encompasses things well beyond Nashua history, such as Iozzo’s heartwarming story and posts by aldermen looking to keep constituents abreast of the latest on real-time topics such as the Broad Street Parkway and Parcel F, is earning “Old Nashua” a reputation as a vital community resource, an element that complements famously its intrinsic recreational value.

When Nashua’s famous “Franny” came home last week, it was posted. Threads are flying on old friend Alan S. Manoian’s upcoming historic walking tour of the old Franklin Street mill, what we know as Nashua Corp., at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 24.

And photos? You name it.

The old State and Brandt theaters.

Lillian’s (snicker) Motel.

A Telegraph clipping of a 1964 Simoneau Plaza carnival.

More intersections, then and now, than you can shake a walk-light at.

Long-gone schoolhouses.

A menu from the Olde Coach Inn.

Our historic former County Courthouse on Temple Street, with the quip, “OK, anyone who has been divorced knows this building.”

And a couple of Kleiner’s recent golden oldies: Colonial Maid tea room and ice cream bar, and inside the old New Mode Barber School. The “where were they?” answers came within a few posts: Colonial Maid, 109 Concord St., and New Mode, 42 Chestnut St. – where soup and sandwiches have replaced a shave and a haircut.

You know you’re from Old Nashua if … you’re now putting the paper down (or closing the website) and logging onto Facebook to search for “You know you’re from Old Nashua if …”

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Saturdays in The Telegraph. He can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.