So the other day I was driving down Main Street here in “Honest Town” admiring the beautiful architecture and thinking what a place this must have been back in the 1890’s and early 1900’s. Just like many other towns in New England you will see names and building dates on these buildings. Then a sobering thought struck me.
As I looked around I realized there are very few, if any, stores downtown that were there when I was younger. My town had a bustling downtown fifty years ago. But due to many circumstances these businesses moved 0r closed down. Doing my best to not mix politics into my blog (I know quite a change from previously) I won’t get into the reasons why.
As I was perusing my vast library (called the internet) I came across a book from 1966 titled “Southbridge Historical Album 1816 – 1966 Sesquicentennial”. This was quite an event in town. I remember it, especially the parade. This book was printed through donations and advertisements garnered from the local businesses. As I paged through this book, I was struck by how many of these businesses are no longer here.
I remember many of these businesses. I can still remember going into Perron’s Hardware on Main Street where if you entered through the rear door you came to where the bicycles were. This is where I got my Schwinn “Sting Ray”. It was gold and those raised handlebars and banana seat made me look pretty cool riding up and down Taft Street, up to the Hospital Spa and around the High School parking lots. “Helmet? We don’t need no stinking helmet”.
Perron’s Hardware – Gone. Hospital Spa – still there and still owned and run by the original family.
There was the Western Auto store on Hamilton Street. This was where I would go to buy my “Matchbox” cars. They were kept in a plastic turn style display. You could turn it and look at the cars and pick the one you wanted. I wonder if this is where Carvana came up with the idea? Behind this counter were shelves where most of the cars were kept.
Western Auto – Gone
Just up Hamilton Street was G. Gregoire and Sons. This is where we would by our “good shoes”, the ones we wore to church and school. One of the Gregoire’s was a cobbler and he had a section at the back of the store. I can still remember the smell of leather. For sneakers we would go to David Lenti’s. They carried “Red Ball” sneakers, easily identified by the big red ball on the sides (or were they PF Flyers?). It would take a long time to wear these out, much longer than the last paid of Reeboks I had.
G. Gregoire and sons – gone. David Lenti – Gone, now offices for the Cornerstone Bank, formerly the Southbridge Saving Bank. There is still one piece of Lenti’s left. Several years ago they demolished the building that was next to Lenti’s and uncovered a painted sign on the wall with the name of the store. And with that was a classic Coca-Cola advertisement. (see above)
Another long gone store is Henry’s Radio Shop. This was one of the places where you could buy a television in town. If you had a problem with yours, you could call Henry and he would come to your house and service it. You didn’t throw it away and buy a new one. There was also Damian’s Radio and TV and several of the furniture stores also sold televisions. Each place carried their own major brand, Zenith, RCA, and Motorola were the top three.
All television and radio stores – Gone.
This concludes my trip down memory lane for today. I miss these places. There was something about them that will never be replaced. The people, the atmosphere, the sounds, the smells. It makes me wonder – what will my children and grandchildren remember when they look back?