Whitney Web Page
Recollections of Southbridge

April 15, 2008 Research results (Courtesy of  Margaret Morrissey - JEL Adult Services Librarian)

Jacob Edwards Library has a scrapbook documenting the strike that eventually led to the closure of the plant on February 12, 1935 - the headline reads: "Hamilton Mill is sold to Stevens interests". A Mr. Ames Stevens of the United States Bunting Co. of Lowell was mentioned as the spokesperson.  At that stage " No decision has been made as to a new name for the mill." but as we know it became known as Ames Worcested and operated until sometime in the 1960s, in the Mill Street/Main Street of Globe Village in the west part of town.

I sent an article electronically already, from Time with the title A Shocked Southbridge"

Ames History - Whitney Web Page

Ames Fan Club - New Added 15-Apr-08

Recollections of the Original Ames Department Store –
Dick Whitney

The photo of me was that accompanies this article was taken by my father Don Whitney in 1959, and shows me standing in front of the original Ames Department store. Enough time has now gone by that many in the area may not realize that the original Ames Department store started here in Southbridge in 1958, at the location that now is now the Salvation Army on Mill Street. This article is not meant to be a complete history of that business (or building), but rather something that I hope stirs the recollections of others who visited that first store.

The Ames Department Store web page states the following about their beginnings in Southbridge:
“Ames began in 1958 when two Connecticut brothers, Milton and Irving Gilman, opened their first store in the Ames Worsted Textile Co. mill in Southbridge, Mass.”

In this photo, taken one year after the first Ames opened in Southbridge, I had just come from shopping with my family. In the immediate background on the left of the photo, one can see the Eagles club sign which is still there today. Three years after this photo was taken, two of the four Eagles from Marcy Street School were placed on either side of the driveway to this club. Since Dad often took photos of the family, those in his collection that are of historical interest to local people invariably have a family member in the photo. Sorry about that!

Getting back to the subject of the original Ames Department Store, I remember going there especially on Friday nights and Saturday’s to shop.  When I think of Ames, I recall walking through the front doors and stepping on the creaky wooden floors. I also especially can picture the large wooden staircase that was located to the left in center of the store, as I believe it led down to the toy section of the store. This is where I spent most of my time, and I avoided the clothing area (and most often still do!). My wife (Peg Nass) on the other hand, loves to shop – especially for clothes. Her parents have often relayed the story to me of when Peg was a young rambunctious young child of 5, she hid among the racks of clothes just to be devil. As a teenager, my favorite spot was the record section, which at that time was on the first floor. I spent many hours going through the 33 1/3 albums, and can recall urging my father to buy records in stereo, instead of the less expensive monaural. It was at Ames that I bought my first record with my own money – Petula Clarks’ hit single on “Downtown”, which was in the old 45 record format!
In my search for recollections and photos of Southbridge, I would very much appreciate being contacted by anyone who would like to relay their personal recollections of Ames. The photo in this article is the only one I have found to date in my collection.

The following letter was an e-mail that I received from Dick Bedard in San Diego. Three hours after posting the Ames photo (below) on my web site and asking for recollections, he sent the following to me. Such is the power of the Internet!!!

"Hi Dick
You have a great site which I enjoy viewing several times a month.  Your picture of 1959 Ames Discount brought back some memories. My Dad passed away in 1949 while my family was living in Ballard Court.  I was 15 and had 2 brothers and a sister who were younger than me.  I was a sophomore at Mary E. Wells High School at the time and got myself several jobs to help my Mom make ends meet.  (They didn't alwas meet, in spite of the jobs). By the following Spring, I was working for the Central Dinner during lunch at school and on Saturday mornings.  I worked for Touraine Paints near Consumer's Market  on Hamilton Street every afternoon after school and Saturday afternoon.  From 6 PM to 11:30, Monday thru Saturday I worked at the cafeteria in the basement of the Ames Worsted located at the jog on Mill Street.  I was alone for the night shift and ran the "roach coach" food wagon around the entire plant; once before 7:00 PM and twice following the evening meal in the cafeteria at 7:00.  As I remember, the plant was rather busy during '49/'50 and working with those folks was a great experience.

Shortly after, I got a job at the First National Store across from the A & P on Main Street. I may have some pictures of that era but for the life of me I wouldnt be able to find the right now. I came out to San Diego right after I got out of the Army in '56 and have been back to go to Worcester Junior College (grad 1960) and dozens of visits to see my brother and his family since. Ames Worsted and Hamilton Woolen were going concerns then; too bad they had to leave."

Keep up the good work.
God Bless.
Dick Bedard
4345 Clayford Street
San Diego, CA  92117-4135

1959 picture of Dick Whitney in front of the Original Ames Department store (Don Whitney photo)

Ames Then and Now section of this Website

Bill Kroll recalls the Original Ames

AO Flood History

AO Recollections

AO History

Southbridge History Page

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