Last year, the Greater Derry-Londonderry Chamber of Commerce honored Janet Conroy as its Citizen of the Year. It was a good choice. The Chamber in Derry had its origins in the Business Men’s Association that was founded in 1890. In time, this group morphed into the Derry Merchant’s Association. After a few more pushes and pulls, starts and stops, it became the Greater Derry Chamber of Commerce in 1963.
In the early 20th century, the Business Men’s Association annually had a summer get-away to a seashore resort. These days in the sun continued for a number of years until the approach of World War I put an end to such frivolity. It was impossible to think of spending money on such a trip when the doughboys would soon be “over there.” Our money would soon be needed to buy war bonds.
The first Business Men’s Association outing was held on July 26, 1911, and would be typical of later summer excursions. That morning, 44 local businessmen gathered on East Broadway where nine automobiles were waiting to carry them to the Bass Point Hotel at Nahant Beach in Massachusetts. Two of these cars were owned by Derry News owner Edmund Trowbridge. Before they left, a local photographer took a picture of the men and their flivvers that filled the entire block from McAllister Court to Manning Street including the vacant lot that’s now home to the Sovereign Bank. I have a picture of this line up in my office at the Municipal Center. Stop in and see it.
The all-male caravan took off south down Birch Street at 8:25 — remember I-93 wouldn’t be built until 1963. Their route took them through Windham and Salem Depot and then to Danvers where they stopped to re-inflate their tires. The route took them to Beverly, Mass. There they rubber-necked at the home of President William Howard Taft. (Note: Beverly Hills, Calif., is named in honor of Taft’s summer White House.) Bill Taft wasn’t home so they didn’t stop. After driving for over three hours, they had covered 58 miles and were finally at Nahant.