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.
Cliff Bathalon of Hudson has the good fortune of having his father Albert’s collection of Nashua photos that provide a window on a changed community.
“He was a photographer in high school, and he was a photographer through the ’50s and ’60s,” Bathalon said recently. “He had his own photo studio in the basement growing up, and his own darkroom.”
“He used to take pictures of people’s homes. People would invite him over. It was a big thing back then,” he said. “They used to put (the photo) on a Christmas card and send it to friends.”
Bathalon said he still has some of the equipment and templates he used to add Christmas greetings to the prints.
“That’s what he did to make a few bucks,” he said. Albert would have been about 17 or 18. He would enter photo contests. He won awards with scenic photos made around Hollis.
Later, the elder Bathalon went into the service during the Korean conflict. He brought his camera with him, his son said. “He took pictures throughout that, of him and his buddies.” Snapshots show a lean, young soldier with a crisp uniform and rows of barracks.
Then back home, more snaps. Men smile and show off a stringer full of fish. Cliff said there are photos of him up in the White Mountains with him posing in places near the Old Man of the Mountain. When Albert went out with his wife, he had a crank-up mechanical timer he’d use, so he could jump in and join Nancy in the photo.
“He was taking pictures of everything,” Cliff said. He’d photograph the front doors of the big Concord Street homes. “He had a collection of those. Just doors. Just the front doors of the homes,” he said.
“He and my mom had six kids,” Bathalon said. “Back then, big families were all over the place.” Cliff’s siblings – Debbie, David, Denise, Gary and Judy – all live around Nashua.
At that time, Cliff’s days were spent around town and places like Salmon Brook. He remembers taking his boat under the footbridge at the end of Chestnut Street back and forth to Fields Grove. They would fish. They would skate there, too, and at Sandy Pond, strapping skates on at home and walked on their skates to the ice.
“It’s just what we did. It wasn’t like today.” He said they didn’t need constant supervision. “We watched out for each other,” Bathalon said.
Cliff said Albert worked at Taggart’s, making deliveries for them. He worked at International Paper Box Machine Company. “He was a machinist. He did whatever was available back then,” Bathalon said.
At one point, his dad worked second shift at Nashua Corporation. He had a view out of a front window onto Franklin Street.
Cliff and his pals would ride their bikes down there. “We’d stand on our bike seats. He’d reach down and grab us through the window,” he said. “He’d say, ‘sit right here and don’t move.’ He’d be running big machines.” Cliff would watch the big rolls of paper – what exactly, he wasn’t sure – grow larger and larger. “Four or five feet long with a big diameter,” he said.
Albert died in 1979 of cancer. Cliff is left now with his dad’s big collection of photos, including this one of cars on Main Street. The Old Chocolate Church is still standing. It would be about 10 more years until it succumbed to fire and was gone forever, like many of the other buildings in the frame, too.