LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Sometimes, we had to leave The Plains

The Hose 3 substation of the Waterville Fire Department was located across the street from the Second Baptist Church. The building remains, but is now a residence. (photo courtesy of E. Roger Hallee)

by Roland D. Hallee

Even though The Plains was a self-sustaining community of its own, there were times when we had to go downtown to get some necessities. Now, that brings up a question because people called it differently. Some people would say “I’m going downtown,” while others would say, “I’m going uptown.” I never did find out why, but I guess everyone was talking about the same place.

I remember when the stores would stay open on Friday nights until 9 p.m. The following day, Saturday, would see an influx of pedestrians crowding the sidewalks, reminiscent of scenes in movies along New York’s Manhattan streets. People, shoulder to shoulder, making their way to the merchants.

So, let’s take a walk down Main St., Waterville, in the 1950s. This week, we’ll do the east side which parallels Front St. and the Kennebec River.

The first four buildings you would come across would be the Crescent Hotel, the iconic Levine’s Store for Men and Boys, Atherton’ Furniture Store, and Federal Trust Company bank. All once occupied the space now belonging to the Lockwood Hotel.

After that, you would encounter the GHM Insurance Agency, the Chi Rho Shop – a religious store – Alvina and Delia’s Women’s Apparel Shop, Gerard’s Restaurant, and on the corner of Common St., across from Castonguay Square was Michaud’s Jewelers.

On the other side of the square was Montgomery-Ward Depart­ment Store, which later would become Stern’s Department Store, later the Center, which housed the Maine Made Shop, now the site of the Paul J. Shumpf Art Center.

Next in line was Al Corey’s Music Store, W. B. Arnold Hardware Store, and Joe’s Smoke Shop, on the corner of Temple St. down Temple Street, on the north side was Corey’s Restaurant, Bill’s Tire, Bill’s Restaurant, and the Bob-In Tavern.

Continuing up Main St., on the corner of Temple St. was Harold Labbe’s Real Estate Office, followed by the Waterville Steam Laundry – now Waterville House of Pizza and Amici’s Cucina – Harris Baking Co. – now Opa’s – and Centers Department Store – where Berry’s Stationers (and Atkins Printing Shop, in the basement) were located. The next structure was an office building (the Haines Building) with Judy’s Hairdressers on the ground floor.

We now go down Appleton St., where the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge #905 was located on the north side, with the St. Joseph Maronite School. Across the street was the office of the New England Telephone Company.

Back to Main St., on the corner of Appleton was the “Professional Building,” with LaVerdiere’s Super Drug Store on the ground flood. Our family doctor, Dr. Ovide Pomerleau, had offices on the third floor. Dr. Pomerleau’s residence was located on Silver St., an impressive brick home now occupied by Golden Pond Financial.

In the same building, adjacent to LaVerdiere’s was a hall and lobby where one could take the elevator to the floors above.

Next to the Professional Building was the Haines Theater, which burned in the 1960s, and now is a small park, with a drive through teller for TD Bank, located across the street.

The next building was occupied by Boothbay & Bartlett Insurance Agency. A modest home was next before you came to Whipper’s Pizza, the first pizza shop to locate in Waterville. Day’s Travel Agency followed next, and then a furniture store, whose name escapes me at the moment. Above the furniture store was the famous – or infamous, depending on how well you bowled – Metro-Bowl bowling alleys. I often wonder if the bowling alleys are still in place. Ken-a-Set most recently occupied the space at street level.

That brings us to the Waterville Fire Station, and then Goodhue’s Texacardium – a Texaco gas station and auto repair shop – on the corner of Union St.

As always, there may be a few gaps in here that I don’t recall.

So, as you can see, Main St., Waterville, in those days, was a busy place.


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