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Essoville: 1941

Essoville: 1941

August 1941. "The Connecticut River at Bellows Falls, Vermont, and on the far side of the river, North Walpole, New Hampshire." Car Heaven. Medium-format negative by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Gas Tax

Vermont may have had cheaper gas than New Hampshire back then. This could explain the prevalence of gas stations on one side of the bridge between the two states.

A little history from Dad

My dad grew up across the river in this photo in Bellows Falls. He was born 7-21 of the same year this photo was taken.

I met up with him for about 15 minutes and here is what he remembered of what was visible in this photo. "Only of there was another photo taken just to the right of where this shot is would have been great!" he quipped, as he would have been able to see the rest of the dam and the railroad station and yards. Now the data he recalled was based on this photo from about 1949, 8 years later when he started to go out by himself and learn the area.

On the very right edge of the photo on the north side of the dam is a small white building with two windows. This house contained some of the mechanical and electrical equipment for the dam.

Further to the right and what is obscured by the dam structure and crane is a railroad crossing on River Street that had a small guard shack. This crossing used to be a manually protected by a man named (probably) Patrick "Pippy" Ballzero, an Italian immigrant who was employed by the B&O railroad. When a train was approaching the crossing Pippy would come out of the shack and protect the train movement by holding a STOP sign or lit red lantern to stop vehicle traffic. Pippy was stationed there after an accident elsewhere on the railroad where he lost a leg in an accident. My father used to go down to watch trains at the Bellows Falls station and to get there he had to first cross this crossing and would stop to talk to Pippy on the way.

In addition to the sporting goods and furniture that Aumands sold, they also for a short time sold bus tickets. In good weather, the bus stop for one direction was in front of the store, the other across the street where the three black cars are parked.

The prominent Esso Gas station in the photo was operated by the father of Hazel Odet.

Next-door to "Smiths", or as he called it "Smitty's" barber shop was a bookstore. By 1949 the two gas pumps in front of Spencer's garage were removed.

The house just above the oval Esso sign was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Usher, daughter Leddie.

The Bridge

I used to live just across the street/tracks from Aumands about 25 years ago. They tore down this bridge in 1982 because of safety concerns. However, it took the demolition crew five tries before it finally collapsed.

Wish I was there

Wow, I just love this picture. It reminds me of all the small towns from the fifties and sixties that had gas stations on every corner and ice cream on at least one. I hate the mega sized auto plazas of today. The old bridge had class unlike the new one.

Petrol pumps....

I don't think I can recall seeing that many petrol pumps in the one photo. No doubt it would have made for very competitive pricing. One would hope the word collusion would not be in their business lexicon.

Judging by the proliferation of both pumps and cars, where is Andy Hardy? Surely he was delayed at another engagement. It’s not like him to have missed such a monumental photo opportunity.

Car heaven

Car heaven, indeed. Besides all those choices for fuel there were at least three dealerships or sales agents here: Buick (far left edge), Ford and Dodge/Plymouth (Spencer's Garage).

What? No Subarus in that part of New England?

What we've lost

I got completely lost in the full sized view of this picture perfect river town. Then I made the mistake of looking it up on street view. Ugh! I didn't have the heart to post it. We've lost so much over the decades.


Former home of Steamtown, USA, since relocated to Scranton PA.

Spencer's Garage and Smith's Barber Shop

A view of Spencer's Garage and Smith's Barber Shop today:

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Why does it seem to me that they looked more modern in 1941 than today?

Re: Diminishing choices

Why are all of the gas stations on the Vermont side of the river? Or were there more on the other side out of sight?

Of course, Coca-Cola can be found on both sides ...

Run Into The Ground

The car on the left, abandoned and forlorn with weeds growing around, it is no more than five or six years old.

Dad's from here

My dad grew up across the river the year this photo was taken. He hasn't seen the photo just yet, but after a phone call he let me know that Aumands was also a sporting goods store too. He used to get his hair cut there at whom he referred to as "Smitty's" there in the lower right hand corner. The dual railroad tracks across the river just adjacent to the dam lead off to the station at Bellows Falls. More from my dad later when I meet up with him...and his memories of this area.


If there were a train in that picture, it'd have "Lionel" on the tender.

Park & Gas?

Gasoline pumps right on the curb? That's insane! I wonder when they banned that. Beautiful photo, and a great bridge. Anyone from those parts have a shot of what replaced it?

The weather

It was a hot August day judging by all the the wide open garage doors. It was also the lull before the storm; just four months from the U.S. entry into WW2.

Something still ain't Rite

A newer bridge.


Aumand's Furniture, across the bridge in North Walpole, NH is still in business - 93 years.

Uncle Sam

Why is he lurking behind Brookside Dairy Bar?


By '43 you'd be lucky to get gas at any of these stations! That little corner of town looks like a place I would've liked to hang out at.

Spencer's Garage

I think this is that garage on the right.

Diminishing choices

While back in 1941 you could gas up your car with Amoco, Esso, Shell or Mobil, today your choices are Citgo or nothing.

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