My Life Growing up in Manchester, Part 2

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O P I N I O N

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.


Editor’s Note: The following is a companion to Part 1, which you can read here.


I’ll start with a few leftovers from Part 1.

Screenshot 2022 07 26 12.09.57 AMMy story about the goat was from my Mom when she was a kid, around 1920. That’s when you could walk around with a pet goat in the street and it wasn’t a big deal.

Then there was Pine Island Park. That was a big deal in the 50s. There was this tall roller coaster made of wood. It was scary, especially when you’re a little kid. My mom took me on the go-karts. When I asked her why she was going so slow and why everyone was passing us, she told me to be quiet. The park closed in the early 60s.

Well, it was 1965 and off to Central High. A new chapter and new friends. They were in the process of building a new addition to the school and they were driving the pilings into the ground so the building shook constantly. There was also a dress code at Central, no blue jeans, which seems weird now. At lunchtime, we would go to Nikki’s Lunch across from the school on Maple Street and grab a couple of hot dogs and play pinball. Pinball was big then, as this was before video games.

This was also our introduction to high school football. Athletic Field (now Gill Stadium) was the place to be on Friday nights. People of all ages were there. Central, Bishop Bradley (Now Trinity), West, and now Memorial played there. I remember when we played Haverhill there would be fights in the stands. Those Haverhill kids were a rough crowd. A big highlight was when Steve Schubert ran a punt back for a touchdown and we won the game. Steve went on to play in the pros, as did Don Macek.

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Athletic Field

We walked all over town cause we couldn’t drive yet. I remember going behind where Dunkin Donuts is now and talking to the hobos. There was a railroad station there and riding the freight trains was their way of life. They would camp out for a day or two and then ride the train to their next town.

Thursday nights were the big night in downtown Manchester. All the stores would stay open till 9 p.m. and it was a great place to hang out. There were a few restaurants there, but it was mostly retail stores. On Saturday afternoons we would go to the horror movies at the Strand and Palace theaters on Hanover Streets. The line of kids went all the way down to Elm Street. The Vincent Price movies were the most popular. TV was becoming popular as well, with the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock shows being my favorites.

Manchester had its local characters, the most notable was Jimmy King, the leader of all the bands. Everyone knew Jimmy and he was immensely popular. Whenever there was a parade on Elm Street Jimmy was the honorary leader of the band.

In the mid-60s The Beach Boys played at the JFK Colosseum. During the show Bonnie Bonneville (of the car family), my childhood friend and classmate, went up on stage and one of the Beach Boys kissed her. Bonnie was a really cool girl anyway but now she was a superstar. Sadly, she passed a few years ago and I miss her.

Later in the 60s, the formerly Greek section of town behind the SNHU Arena became known as the Combat Zone. Welfare people moved in as the Greeks moved out and it became a high crime area, definitely a place to stay away from.

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1967 Pontiac GTO hard top.

Around 1967 I got my driver’s license and began hanging out with my fellow motorheads. Our whole life was cars. Around Labor Day we would go to all the car dealers and see the new cars being delivered. This was a big deal, as the cars changed a lot every year. I had a GTO and my friends all had fast cars. Many people in high school worked in the mills or shoe shops but I had to be around cars, so I pumped gas at the Mobil station on North Elm Street. Gas stations were different then. There was no self-service and no convenience stores. They were repair shops and only sold oil and car stuff. I had to give customers S&H Green Stamps, depending on how much they spent. The stamps were redeemable at the plaza on Valley and Lincoln streets. God help me if I didn’t give some old lady enough stamps.

This was the era of the mini skirt and I made sure that windshields were spotless, even if I had to do them twice.  Gas was 29.9 cents a gallon and we would put in a dollar and cruise around for a while, then put in another dollar, and so on.  This was the muscle car era, and I was fortunate to be growing up then. We would cruise from the Puritan (No Backroom then) down Webster Street to Elm Street, down Elm Street to Zayre’s parking lot, and then to Howdy Beefburgers (now St Mary’s Bank), then over the hill to McDonald’s, which was new and was only a hamburger joint then, with no seating but a big parking lot. Burgers were 10 cents, but I was working for $1.65 an hour so I guess everything’s relative. Elm Street was a virtual cruise show, with Mustangs, Camaros, Road Runners, 442s and GTOs everywhere. Manchester built Industrial Park Drive off of Candia Road. It was about a mile long with no businesses on it except Raytheon at the very end. This was our real Street Outlaws show. Eventually, the cops caught on.

The old, old, police station was on the corner of Manchester and Chestnut streets. Our friend’s father, Captain Xiggoris, was the officer at the desk. We would stop in and shoot the breeze with him. I remember him always asking us if we were behaving ourselves. Of course we were — not. He was there until some punk who lived across the street decided to stick his rifle out the window and shoot him. Our friend’s father lived, thankfully.

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Led Zeppelin, back then.

In 1969 I graduated high school and it was “the endless summer,” just like that Bryan Adams song goes. I got a summer job with the city on the garbage truck. A wise guy asked us if business was picking up. I told him to wise up or we would stop delivering to his house. That shut him up. I remember our astronauts landing on the moon. I’m still in awe that they could do that with rudimentary computers. My son, the conspiracy nut, claims the moon landing was faked.

In August my friend Zack asked me if I wanted to go to a music festival in some little town named Woodstock in New York State. I was in love with Diane and didn’t want to leave her so I passed. Hey, who knew? I know we’re old but we had the best music, Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater, the Stones, Hendrix, Santana, and many others too numerous to name. It was a great time to grow up in. If you watch shows or pics of Woodstock you notice that everyone had long hair, no shaved heads, tattoos, colored hair, or piercings. Times have really changed.

My friend Ricky had a 1960 Chevy junker. It was one of those cars that you bought for $100, drove for a year and then sold for $100. It had a hole in the floor on the passenger side which we covered with plywood. It was perfect for dumping our beer cans without having to toss them out the window. Speaking of beer, that was the main drug around then. Pot was just starting to make the rounds. We knew this guy, Dodo, who would buy beer for us, but when we went to his house we would have to wait till the TV show “Superman” was done. Only then could he go.

Drive-in theaters were everywhere. There was the Manchester Drive-In on South Willow Street across from CJs, the Bedford Grove on the West Side by Taco Bell, the Sky Ray in Hooksett by the 99, and of course the Litchfield Drive-in which showed XXX movies.

Manchester even had its own motorcycle gang, the Die Hards. They flourished until they were blamed for a murder and the cops came down hard on them.

At some point there was a carnival in the JFK parking lot for a week. A friend worked there all week. On Saturday night they told him to come there on Sunday morning to get paid, but when he went there the parking lot was empty. Damn Gypsies!

Well, that’s enough for now but I’ll have more soon.community e1641783868660


   

About this Author

William Stergios

William Stergios grew up in Manchester and lives in Candia.