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Monitor Board of Contributors: A Penacook renaissance

  • Raymond Auprey relaxes with his grandson Cole, 5, after working in his garden in Penacook on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Auprey's brother Bob, stopped by for a visit and checked out the potato patch.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Raymond Auprey relaxes with his grandson Cole, 5, after working in his garden in Penacook on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Auprey's brother Bob, stopped by for a visit and checked out the potato patch.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Downtown Penacook on Friday afternoon, May 10, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Downtown Penacook on Friday afternoon, May 10, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Jill Shaw and Kelly Lewis, both teachers at Penacook Elementary School, take a walk on their lunch break in between passing showers on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Jill Shaw and Kelly Lewis, both teachers at Penacook Elementary School, take a walk on their lunch break in between passing showers on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Pat Horrocks, an employee who works to assemble a wheel-barrel at Fox Ace Hardware in downtown Penacook on Wednesday evening, May 8, 2013, before closing time. Horrocks has worked on and off with the hardware store for several years and now works two days a week.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Pat Horrocks, an employee who works to assemble a wheel-barrel at Fox Ace Hardware in downtown Penacook on Wednesday evening, May 8, 2013, before closing time. Horrocks has worked on and off with the hardware store for several years and now works two days a week.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Downtown Penacook on Friday afternoon, May 10, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Downtown Penacook on Friday afternoon, May 10, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Raymond Auprey relaxes with his grandson Cole, 5, after working in his garden in Penacook on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Auprey's brother Bob, stopped by for a visit and checked out the potato patch.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Downtown Penacook on Friday afternoon, May 10, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Jill Shaw and Kelly Lewis, both teachers at Penacook Elementary School, take a walk on their lunch break in between passing showers on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Pat Horrocks, an employee who works to assemble a wheel-barrel at Fox Ace Hardware in downtown Penacook on Wednesday evening, May 8, 2013, before closing time. Horrocks has worked on and off with the hardware store for several years and now works two days a week.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Downtown Penacook on Friday afternoon, May 10, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

The weather, which had been teetering on the cusp of hope and promise, has finally turned, and spring, my favorite time of year, has emerged. Both of my flower gardens have exploded with yellow – forsythias and daffodils happily co-existing and content in the knowledge that my gardens will never look more beautiful than at this moment. The orchard, too, is coming awake and delicate white blossoms, with a blush of pink, have appeared, seemingly overnight.

My father died in the spring, my favorite time of year. He was a Penacook boy, so now, when the earth reawakens, I think especially of my dad, and I think of Penacook. I grew up in Concord and I have lived in Boscawen for all of my adult life, but my heart is in Penacook. Penacook is sandwiched between the two towns, and I travel through and shop and visit in Penacook all the time.

When my dad was a boy, Penacook was a mill town (Allied Leather, New England Briar Pipe, textiles, flour, etc.), bustling and busy with workers coming to and fro, buying their groceries, their beer and their wares. There were doctors and dentists; there were grocery stores (Lambrukos’s Market, First National Store, Veroneau’s Store, the A & P and Vezina’s Market), a number of churches, Catholic and Protestant, and Dinah’s Candy Store. There was Manny’s Café and Ted’s Café. There was a post office, and clothing stores (George’s and Spearman’s). There were gas stations (McShanes’s, Red Rolf Texaco and Tubby Holmes), a bakery (Lessard’s) and the Palace movie theater. Not to be forgotten, there was also Eisenhaur’s Hardware Store, Blanchard’s Variety Store, Barney’s Hardware & Sporting Goods Store, and Tandy’s 5 & 10 Cent Store. Penacook had neighborhood elementary schools and its own exclusive Penacook High School (class of 1949 for my dad).

About 30 years ago, the last of the mills closed, and eventually the busy little village of Penacook slowed down. I believe, however, that Penacook has its seasons, too. I believe that perhaps this beloved neighborhood of Concord with a strong identity may be on the cusp of hope and promise. Many new and exciting things are happening or about to happen in the little village. We have already seen Penacook Family Physicians spring from the little village medical office, inspired by Eli Whitney and brought to fruition by Dr. Robert Gabrielli, to a state-of-the-art, sprawling facility on Crescent Street.

Many other businesses have sprung up in the town center since my dad was a boy: Fox Ace Hardware, Citizens Bank, Penacook Family Dentistry, Chief’s Place, The Hair Clip, Deluxe Video and pranaStrong Yoga & Wellness, just to mention a few. Stalwart throughout the changes has been the Penacook Phar-

macy (formerly McCardle’s Drug Store and then Taylors’s Drugstore) run and operated by the Langlais family.

Over the years, the spirit of Penacook has been championed by people such as former Concord Mayor Bill Veroneau and City Councilor Liz Blanchard. They and others have worked tirelessly to defend, maintain and promote the life energy of Penacook.

Other wonderful changes are coming. Hopefully a new library (more square footage than the current branch and located on the former Allied Leather Tannery site) will be included in the changes as well as an assisted living facility and riverfront park (all to be voted on this summer by the Concord City Council). Another exciting improvement will be the Route 3 corridor project, which will include a new pavement overlay through town, along with a roundabout solving the Washington Street/Main Street intersection dilemma. Buried utility lines are promised, as well as much needed bridgework, new parking spaces and green space.

Penacook is much more than just its village business section. There is the Merrimack Valley School District, the Thirty Pines Plaza development as well as the Route 3 corridor leading up into town, all with many new businesses too numerous to mention.

In a time of growth, there is always the fear of a town losing its charm, its friendliness, its comfort. Transitions are always hard. That is where the beauty of our democratic society shines brightest. There have been many meetings between city officials and Penacook residents and business owners discussing the pros and cons of many ideas. There will be those who want progress and change and those who hold fast to the way things were and are. The give and take of the democratic process allows everyone a voice; hopefully the end product will be a combination of the old and the new – the best of both.

I expect that Penacook will emerge re-energized with new economic vitality. The spirit, the core of Penacook will always be there. The blood, sweat and tears of a working class village will always be there. The history of the town courses through resident blood and knowledge of the local Pennacook tribe, the settlement of European immigrants in the 1700s, the influence and impact of the farming community, the Contoocook River Park and the boom times of the mills are often proudly spoken of. Just as the forsythia and daffodils are bursting forth, vibrant days for the town will come again. Penacook is Penacook is Penacook, loved by all of us who have history there.

It is spring and Penacook is teetering on the cusp of hope and promise. Dad, you would be so proud.

(Lynn West of Boscawen is a retired state administrator and former elementary school librarian.)

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