LONG AGO, before the digital age emerged, Nashua’s youth played outdoors with little to no resources during the Great Depression. They engaged in games like jacks, marbles, Dominoes and checkers, swam in nearby watering holes and played sports at Textile Field.
The cotton textile business established in 1823, known as Nashua Manufacturing Company and its successor, Textron Inc., helped to define our city and its economic landscape. By 1836, the company had constructed three cotton mills that produced 9.3 million yards of cloth yearly on 710 looms and many jobs.
And the same could be said about Manchester and the impact the Amoskeag Mills had on the Queen City’s heritage and early transformation during the Industrial Revolution.
But like most textile mills in New England, Nashua Manufacturing Company struggled during the Depression.
Nashua Manufacturing Company owned a sizable portion of the land along the Nashua River that it used for powering its machines. But that was not all.
In a column my late newspaper editor father wrote for the Nashua Telegraph, I found interesting information about our city’s recreational spots, namely Textile Field.
It reminds me of the classic Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams,” but instead of building a baseball diamond in the Iowa cornfields, Nashua built one in the middle of the woods.
“At one time, it (Textile Field) had a regulation diamond, and on Sunday afternoons and also evenings, drew large throngs at baseball games involving industrial teams. And there were some good ones.
“This was an era before Holman Stadium, and the major diamonds included North Common, South Common and Textile Field,” my dad wrote. “Baseball prospered those days but not at today’s heights with so many leagues involving youth. But a high brand of semi-professional baseball was offered, not to mention the old New England pro league and the later Class B baseball presented by the Nashua Dodgers, 1946-1949.”
He went on to write that Textile Field was later narrowed through the construction of Ledge Street Elementary School (1956), and the once-wooded area saw the development of many new residences take place over the years.
So, did Nashua’s Field of Dreams disappear?
I asked for help from Nashua Public Library’s Marita Klements, supervisor of information services. I also contacted the Nashua Historical Society and finally called Eddie Lecius, former WSMN radio legend and recently retired community policing coordinator for the Nashua Police Department.
They were all helpful, but Eddie seemed to have the right answer and confirmed it with two other well-known Nashuans, Al Savage (age 92) and Greg Andruskevich (a former Union Leader editor).
All three Nashua sports experts believe that a portion of Textile Field is now home to Ledge Street Elementary. If you walked halfway into the school, you would possibly be standing where home plate was.
Not far from Textile Field lay the old mill canal, where young and old swimmers had a blast with the swift current provided by the water power used by the textile mills. You could negotiate a half-mile or so downstream with no major effort.
“At least a half-dozen swimming holes were spread along the canal, most of them with ethnic names such as French hole, Polack (Poles) hole, Greek hole, Lemon Hole, and so on,” my father wrote in his column.
Fields Grove was the other popular swimming spot at Salmon Brook that Nashuans enjoyed for several decades before it was closed to swimming in the late 1960s. I grew up merely yards away from the grove, which we would access via the corner of Revere Street and Lawndale Avenue and walk down the steep, unpaved hill with our little beach towels in tow.
Nashua has gone through fascinating transformations and will continue to do so.
As philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”