EDITOR’S NOTE: Imagine Nashua: Then & Now is a weekly photo column by Don Himsel. Each week, he will feature an old photo within a more recent photo, along with the story behind it.
Archie and his pals were ready to play.
The photograph, taken in front of the Amherst Street School, came to me from Sue Hill-Blouin. She called her father a “baseball fanatic.” I pegged the car as a late 1920s or very early ’30s model. The boy on the fender, the second kid on the left, was probably in his teens. It shows Sue’s father, Archie.
Sue tells me Archie’s mother died when he was a teen. He grew up in his father’s house at 39 Amherst St. The back looked out over Artillery Field and the spot where Holman Stadium would be built in 1937.
“I think that’s the only place they really ever went. That was their hangout,” Sue said.
Archie Hill and his pals loved that ballpark. Even as the years went on, his visits there were a regular thing – on foot, by bike – all the time.
“He was always at the stadium,” Sue said. “On his daily walks or his bike ride, he’d go to the stadium every day to check it out to see what the guys were doing. The guys used to get so irritated with him at first, because they thought he was a chronic complainer,” she said. They grew to enjoy the visits.
As an old man, there was something that stuck in his craw about his beloved ballpark. “He was so angry when they took the stadium away from the kids. When they brought in the professional baseball and the kids got thrown out, he was so angry,” she said. “‘It was Holman Stadium,’ he said, ‘they did that so the kids could have a place to go. It was for the kids of Nashua,’ he would say.”
Family roots are set firmly there.
As a young man, Archie married a Lithuanian girl named Antosa Milenavich. He joined the U.S. Army and came back home to the neighborhood. “He’s never left that immediate area,” said Sue.
“When they got married, they moved into her mother’s house at 66 Amherst St. “Then they bought the house on Farley Street. They both lived there until the day they died.”
It was at that house, not quite a baseball’s throw to the stadium from 7 Farley St., that Sue, her brothers and sisters grew up: Bill, Diane, Dick and Beverly.
“We lived at the stadium. All of us,” she said. Her dad would walk the kids down to the town pool for night swimming. She remembers him pushing them on the merry-go-round, running to pick up speed, and playing in the nearby fountain.
“His kids were his priority,” Sue said. “When he’d come home at night, he was always grubby because he was welding. He’d come into the kitchen, grab my mother and he’d always give her a hug and a kiss. I remember him always swinging her around in the kitchen. He’d just go like this with her,” she said, demonstrating a glorious, graceful twirl.
“He’d get all cleaned up. If dinner wasn’t ready, he’d go outside with us and play. His kids were his life.”
She called the neighborhood around that Farley Street home a nurturing environment. “Everybody knew everybody. There were no fences. Every night we’d play out in the yards,” Sue said.
“We’d come home from school and my mother would have something fresh baked every day,” she said, emphasizing the words “every day.” “My brother used to sell his snacks to kids at school, because my mother was the only one that made homemade stuff.”
Sue said she was jealous other kids had store-bought cookies. “Let me tell you now, I don’t know why I was thinking that,” she said with a laugh.
They played outside at night until the neighborhood streetlights came on. “We knew it was time to come in. We knew. That’s what was expected of us. We followed the rules as kids,” she said.
Sue thinks of her dad. “He really was an incredible guy. He’d snowblow everybody’s driveway, even when he was 80- something years old,” she said.
Antosa, Sue’s mother, died four years ago in March. Archie, the boy with the baseball glove on the bumper of the car, died five weeks later.
“Oh, (it was a) broken heart definitely,” Sue said. “He was the sicker one. All he kept saying was, ‘it should have been me, not your mother’.”
They were married for 72 years.
When Archie was ailing, Sue’s niece Sara provided care. She lived at the house when he died and raised her own daughter there for awhile. Though her parents are gone, Sue still drives by the house from time to time.
“I do. It breaks my heart,” she said. What really breaks her heart is that Archie was patriotic and Sue would get him a new American flag on Fathers Day every year. He’d fly it proudly. When he died, she left the flag. Since then, she noticed it’s been replaced by a state flag.
“I just check the neighborhood. I bring Sara’s children. They were living at that house, also.” She goes just to see if the neighbor kids are still out playing.
“It’s come back to a kids’ neighborhood, like when I was a kid,” she said. For the longest time, there was not a kid on the street. Sara was the only kid on the street.
“I used to say, ‘This is so sad. there’s no kids left.’ Now, it’s back to little kids running around. It’s back to the way it’s supposed to be.”
Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590, DHimsel@nashuatelegraph.com or on Twitter @Telegraph_DonH.