, Derry, New Hampshire


August 16, 2012

Column: Once, European royalty dined at Derry's Oxen Yoke

At the corner of Broadway and Oak Street is now a small strip mall. About 25 years ago, the Oxen Yoke Restaurant was where D’Angelo’s is now. It was a smallish eatery with maybe a dozen or so tables and a meeting room where the Kiwanis and many other social groups met. Over the decades many, many wedding receptions, showers and birthday parties had been held at the Oxen Yoke. The best tables were in the front near a pair of picture windows. The walls were done in the then fashionable knotty pine paneling.

The place always seemed very clean, the food good, the service was quick and the prices were reasonable. I remember in the late 1950s taking a number of young ladies there for after-movie dinners. With a few dollars in my wallet I could be a real man about town. My date and I could each have a sandwich, a couple scoops of ice cream and a vanilla Coke for less than $2. Leaving a quarter tip on the table sent the message to my date that I was a real big spender. Then we would suffer the indignity of waiting on the sidewalk for my parents to pick us up for the drive home.

The Oxen Yoke building had been built around 1900 as a store by Charles Kimball. In 1908-1909, the building was operated as a movie theater by Morris Katz. It was called the Pastime Theatre, showing movies six days a week. It was closed on Sunday — as was every store and place of amusement in Derry. The movies changed every Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. In addition to movies, the patrons would also be shown illustrated songs. The words would be projected onto the screen and an audience would take part in a sing-a-long with the help of a violinist, piano player and quartet. Usually there would also be a couple of vaudeville acts such as a comedian, singer and dancer. The silent flicks showed on Nov. 25, 1908, included “The Bandit’s Watermelon”, “Balked at the Altar” and “The Colonel’s Bird.” Admission was 5 cents.

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