For over 160 years the Broadway section of Derry has been a busy place. In 1849, the railroad cut through the area; the availability of rail transportation brought about the construction of a half-dozen sprawling shoe factories employing thousands of workers. Houses, tenements and boarding houses were soon being built all over the area. Stores were erected and Broadway became a shopping hub for Derry and the surrounding towns. Western Derry was also where most of the town’s doctors, lawyers, churches, fraternal club houses and theaters were located.
Back in the 1950s, I remember my mother doing all her weekly shopping on Broadway. Groceries were bought at the First National Store or the A&P, medicines at the Low’s Pharmacy, banking at First National Bank and other stuff at Newberry’s Five and Dime Store. Also each week I’d hear Ma complain about the lack of parking on Broadway. She’d often have to cruise up and down Broadway for a quarter-hour before finding a car pulling out of its parking space.
The earliest parking complaint in my files was way back in 1929. A storekeeper wrote to the Derry News that: “It would be a great advantage to the merchants of Derry if there was a space set apart for automobiles, so that autos will come here with their machines bringing their families for shopping purposes.” It was feared that without parking these out-of-townies might choose to spend their money in Haverhill or Manchester.
In 1947, the Park-O-Meter Company brought a proposal before the town fathers meeting in the court room at the Adams Memorial Building. They suggested that, if we installed their parking meters, Derry could solve its parking problem. They told us that no one would park longer then necessary because “time is money.” They also projected that the meters would bring in between $1,000 and $1,500 monthly. The town meeting in March 1949 voted to have the town buy parking meters. This was also the year the voters approved the very controversial warrant article to begin having a town manager to run the day-to-day affairs of the town.