To many of our residents, the brick building at 31 West Broadway is where Eric Bodenrader, Nicole Ferrante, Justin Fairbanks and their cadre do such a great job in signing up, scheduling and coaching our children in town-sponsored sports. It’s also where lots of seniors go to walk or board busses for excursions.
It’s the home to a judo school, our Special Olympians and the incredible Red Star Twirlers. In 2010, the town fathers debated getting rid of the building but instead wisely decided to keep it, and thanks to a government grant its energy efficiency has been greatly improved. A new roof was put on in 2012, and the front stairs were repaired last week. It is a real town treasure.
The building is correctly called The Veterans Building, the result of locals of 1926 believing the town needed to honor veterans of all wars, including conflicts way back in colonial days. In 1923, Derry had erected a monument in front of the Adams Memorial Building with the names of the 290 local heroes who served in World War I — “The war to end all wars” — and we had the Civil War monument in East Derry. By 1926, we had two veterans organizations: the American Legion. founded in 1919, and the VFW, in 1926.
All that was great, but the First World War veterans were then young men and really wanted to have a gym where they could play basketball. The Adams building was good for shows and dances but not for shooting hoops. They could use the Upper Village Hall, but it had space for only half-court games.
Another benefit of such a building would be that it would have public toilets. Broadway was a very popular shopping destination in those pre-mall days. On pay days, thousands would descend on Broadway’s many stores. One Monday in 1926, one man went to the railroad depot to get out of the rain. During the hour he was there, he counted 13 men and women who came into use the station’s toilets but found them locked. The Boston and Maine Railroad only unlocked them when there was a train at the station. The observer figured that during the week there must have been hundreds of uncomfortable shoppers with “anxious expressions on their faces.”