It never hurts to get a little nostalgic about Nashua
Some of you may remember an article I wrote back in November titled, “Growing Up Nashua,” where I discussed growing up on the Tree Streets of our city.
Much like an episode of “Happy Days,” I once again have some thoughts of Nashua in a nostalgic light and a bygone era.
From the 1960s to present day, a lot has changed, while much has remained the same.
As a music buff, I can picture walking to Main Street to buy actual LP (Long Playing) vinyl records at places like Enterprise Stores, where we’d buy our LP’s in stereo or mono for under $3.00, or Nutting’s Music, where we could listen to any record prior to purchase through half an earphone through one of several old “record players” affixed to the counter. Oddly enough, LPs are actually making a comeback with audiophiles.
Remember the store Marsh Parsons? They were infamous for their “high tech” cash/receipt system that whooshed a basket containing your cash on a track resembling Disney’s Monorail, all the way up to the cashier in the rear of the store on the second floor, then returned in the same manner with your receipt.
Indian Head National Bank, Nashua Trust, Nashua Federal Savings and Second National, provided the financial services Nashuans sought in those times, the pre-direct deposit days, when we’d actually walk into a bank to cash our weekly payroll checks.
Restaurants such as Espresso Pizza, Tom’s Delicatessen, The Skillet, Santoro’s and Al’s Pizza would satisfy shoppers’ hunger pangs.
And who could forget the iconic Yvonne’s on West Pearl Street, where you’d get the ultimate deep fried seafood, French fries and Cole slaw? The grease was somewhat considered a extra feature back in the days prior to its known affect on heart health.
I can remember racing home with a paper bag full of fries wrapped around my bicycle handle bars, hoping to get home before the grease-soaked bag let loose and spilled my precious cargo all over the street.
We had the Popular Club, not a social group, but a retail store behind city hall that was a forerunner of the shopping format of Service Merchandise, another retail fatality, where one would view a display model of the product in the store, fill out a form, give it to an attendant and your merchandise would be brought to you from the warehouse. That same format was used back then at state liquor stores, where you’d wait in line, fill out a form and an attendant would fetch your happy juice from behind a counter.
It was a time when an actual human being would fill our cars’ gas tanks, clean our windshields and check our oil at “filling” stations (now pretty much all convenience stores) bearing logos like Flying A, Esso (now Exxon), Atlantic and Amoco, all names of a bygone era.
I can remember thinking 45 cents was too much to pay for a gallon of premium fuel needed for my ’65 Chevy Impala SS.
My, how times have changed!
We could bowl a few strings at Nashua Ten Pin on DW Highway or Leda Lanes on Amherst Street, at least the latter of which is still with us and now features “Glow Bowling.”
Roller skaters, on rented skates, zipped around the huge oval floor at Turnpike Roll Away, also on Amherst Street, while organ music wailed in the background. The old Roll Away later became Brothers 4 and lastly the Bahama Beach Club.
Big name rock bands appeared at the Go-Go Den, a stone’s throw behind the old Nashua High School on Elm Street. Car shoppers would frequent establishments like Nashua Auto, Manzi Dodge, Dick Kinny’s (all now gone) and Colonial Imports, once located within the New England Automotive Village, which still thrives today.
And remember how the Nashua and Tyngsborough Drive-Ins played the latest Hollywood blockbusters for $5 per carload?
In the early ’60s, many Nashuans would need to travel to Manchester or Lowell, Massachusetts, to shop the big department stores like Bradlees, Zayre’s or Kings. But soon Bradlees and W.T. Grants opened anchor stores at the new Simoneau Plaza and all was very different with the Nashua shopping scene.
Eventually, Nashua’s first enclosed mall – the Nashua Mall on Broad street – brought shoppers to the outskirts of the city. It was the ultimate treat for die-hard winter shoppers to no longer have to brave the cold to go from store to store.
The real estate that once housed stores like Almy’s, Woolco’s, Cherry and Webb, and Anderson-Little, now has a very different look and feel. Although once again a thriving Nashua retail stalwart, no longer is it an actual enclosed mall.
They say change is good, but so are memories.
It never hurts to think about what was, versus what is, and how those changes have and will continue to affect and shape our lives.
Every so often, consider it therapy to remove yourself from this crazy world, get nostalgic and take a look back at how we lived and grew up in the Gate City.
Indeed, these were often Happy Days.
Don Canney is a longtime Nashua resident and occassional guest columnist for The Telegraph.