Sunday, May 3, 2015

Our Neighborhood, Cherry Street

Let us go up Cherry Street in the early 1930's. We lived at 48 Cherry St. The house still stands; the second house east of Ash Street, on the south side of the street. The house belonged at that time to the Spencer Savings Bank. I would assume it had most likely been part of a Depression-era foreclosure. I don’t remember what the inside of our apartment looked like, but I do recall there were two beautiful pine trees standing, one on each side of the front walk. I believe one of the pine trees became a victim of the 1938 hurricane.

We lived on the first floor. On the second floor lived Frank Kimball, his wife, Florence, and two sons; Paul -- about a year younger than my brother, Bob -- and Lawrence, a red-headed kid with a Dutch cut, about a year younger than me. (Todd and Keith, you most likely remember Larry Kimball from Syracuse University, where he was publicity director for the University athletic teams.) Frank Kimball was employed as a farm hand at Sibley Farms located where Ragsdale Chevrolet is today. Florence Kimball, is still alive; she must be in her 90's. Mr. and Mrs. Buster Archambault occupied the third floor. Buster and wife were childless and he earned his living on a door-to-door residential bread route for the Holsom Bread Co.

The house below us on the corner of Ash and Cherry streets belonged to Walter Prouty. Mr. Prouty was a very waspy gentleman who served as treasurer of the Spencer Savings Bank. On the second floor lived a Mr. and Mrs. Tripp, the retired Spencer postmaster, and their daughter, Eleanor. I remember Eleanor as being in her 20's always wearing riding apparel and was quite masculine.

The house on the other side of 48 Cherry St. belonged to Mrs. Mary Porter, who was considered by many people to be the richest person in town. Her late husband had made a fortune in the Oklahoma oil fields in the early part of the 20th century. She shared her home with her sister, Emma Birch, along with Mr. Birch and her full-time maid, Myrtle. Mrs. Porter was the biggest contributor to the Congregational Church in Spencer. Upon her death in the 1950's, It was said that she left over $1 million to the Church. I don’t know if it’s true, but she was a real wealthy lady. As a three-year-old kid I used to visit Mrs. Birch, who was quite sickly. When she died, she willed me the picture of the Dutch boy that still hangs in Dorothy’s and my bedroom. As a little kid visiting my friend Mrs. Birch, I always used to admire that picture. Mrs. Birch willed Uncle Bob the Bible that her father carried with him as a Union soldier in the Civil War.

Going east up Cherry, in the house next to Mrs. Porter’s lived Mr. and Mrs. Tom Greenwood. I remember Tom Greenwood as a short, chubby, bald man. He ran a dairy on the corner of Main and Spring streets, in the building where Gregoire Electric is now.

In the next house, on the corner of Cherry and May, resided a very important man of that period in Spencer. Mr. Fred Trail was chairman of the Board of Selectman, and treasurer of the Allen Squire Shoe Co., Spencer’s second-biggest employer. Allen Squire manufactured men’s work shoes that were worn by many during the Depression years. A good and steady business to be in or to be employed in.

I am going to cross Cherry Street at May Street on the north side of the street. On the east of May was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Willard Johnson. Mr. Johnson worked for his wife’s family who was the Hobbs of Hobbs Coal and Ice Co., delivering coal. The Johnsons had five children; two boys and three girls; and only one survives. The oldest was Frank, a very bad asthmatic who in adulthood worked at Norton’s and lived in Holden. He died about 15 years ago in the Jewish Health Center in Worcester. Eleanor, the oldest girl (and the prettiest) served as an Army nurse during World War II. She died a number of years ago in Worcester. Another sister, Grace Perreault, worked at the jewelry counter at the Fair Dept. Store for many years. She passed away just a few months ago. Phyllis Johnson Girourd died in Spencer quite a few years ago, a classmate of my brother, Bob. The youngest of the Johnsons, Gordon-- a.k.a. Guy -- is retired from Norton’s and lives in Holden. (His son is married to Nancy Gregoire.) Crossing May, still going down Cherry, was the house where Mr. and Mrs. Bill Rogan lived with their two identical twin sons, Jack and Bill. Mr. Rogan was a debit salesman for the Prudential Insurance Co. One Rogan twin is deceased; the other is still alive. Going down the street, in the next house lived some people by the name of Dunn, and Rick Hobbs lived upstairs.

The next home down belonged to Dr. George & Tillie Gerrish. What wonderful people they were. Their three children included Ann, who lives in Denver and is now close to 90. Back in the late 1930's, Ann became a Pioneer Airline hostess. Sarah became the wife of a dentist, the late Dr Fred Mase. The youngest, Scott, was my very best friend when we were kids. We remained very close until after we were both married. I was an usher at his wedding; he was an usher at Dorothy’s and my wedding. As the years passed we grew apart and saw very little of each other, though Scott lived about 15 miles from Spencer in Brimfield. Scott died about seven years ago of pancreatic cancer. There is no real reason we drifted apart, but it is something I regret deeply.

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