Most are gone. Not all are forgotten. Marching band veteran Romeo Couture, 94, will see to that.
Couture was going through some things a while back. He reached out to me, asking if I wanted some photos, and I agreed.
While picking them up at his Hudson home, I got to talking with him about his band days. Music ran deep in Couture from an early age, and it carried him on a journey through military service into a lifetime of entertaining generations of Nashuans before entertainment became satellite radio and video screens.
Couture began playing trumpet in the Nashua Boys Band. As a teenager, he said he pushed the envelope, trying to enlist.
“I was deferred because of my work,” he said. “I was designing and making hydraulic presses for the war effort.”
The massive machines helped make airplanes, trucks and bombs, Couture said.
“I worked for Greenerd for 57 years on Crown Street. It used to be the Greenerd Arbor Press. My father worked for that company for 45 years (including) during World War I,” he said.
Eventually Couture did stints in the National Guard and U.S. Navy. He served during World War II in the Aleutian Islands and near Okinawa. And he played music. He conducted town and marching bands for many years.
Romeo points out people in the photograph.
“There’s Charlie Coleta, there’s Bob Plamondon, there’s Roger Gaskell.” He looks some more. “There’s my son, David,” he added.
The Nashua Police Department has its headquarters on Panther Drive. Before that, it was located in a building adjacent to City Hall and even before that, it was on Court Street. Now, that building is the home to the James E. Coffey Post 3.
“We used to rehearse upstairs in the hall. We rehearsed Monday nights,” Courture said. “We played for the parades in Nashua. Then we played at least six concerts a year all over Nashua when we didn’t have the Concord Street (band) shell. We used to have a portable platform we lugged around town.
“I conducted hundreds and hundreds of concerts over a period of years, a long, long time,” he said.
Bands were a big deal, and there were several. You can’t mention band music and Nashua without touching on Pop Wilson, the venerable conductor and overall spiritual maestro.
Couture pores over another image. “There was Pop Wilson. I was his assistant,” he said. “He taught me conducting. I was a friend for life. I was there until the day he died.”
Turning his attention to the Court Street photo, he points to smiling faces. “Ernie Johnson, Johnson Electric. Al Beals, he’s gone,” he said.
“The younger crowds don’t go for the bands anymore. You go to the band concerts and they’re all older people with their chairs. We used to have big crowds,” he said.
“Way back in the ’30s and ’40s, the Nashua Boys Band used to give concerts at the old school on Spring Street. We used to have to do two nights in a row because we sold too many tickets. It was a big thing,” Couture said.
“I miss it something awful.”
Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or DHimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Don on Twitter @Telegraph_DonH.