Veteran Edward Clark turns 95
MILFORD – Edward Clark will turn 95 on Friday, Feb. 7. Except for four years during World War II, he lived most of those years in Milford.
His family moved to Milford in 1928, he recalled recently. His father had been laid off from the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Mass.
“His uncle owned Roberts Quarry and invited the whole family to come up. I was in the fifth grade,” he said. The Quarry Condominiums are now on the site of Roberts Quarry.
When the area quarries closed in the 1930s and 1940s, most of the family went back to Quincy, but Clark’s family stayed.
He recalled Milford of the 1930s, noting many changes. He attended Milford High School, Class of 1938, but didn’t graduate.
“I had to go to work to help the family,” he said, and found a job at the former French and Heald Furniture Company. “I was working there for 25 cents an hour before I got drafted.
“They didn’t have many snow plows,” Clark said, “so snow was shoveled by hand. Money was very scarce. I used to shovel the railroad tracks – 40 cents an hour was big money. I left school one week to shovel snow, earned $16. When I went back and told them what I did, they said it was all right.”
“Everything’s changed,” Clark said. “Back then, you could leave your car running and no one would touch it. Little kids could walk anywhere and be safe. You didn’t lock your doors. Those are what I call ‘the good old days,’ and now it’s very sad.
“Back in Quincy, we had indoor plumbing, out there on Mont Vernon Street, we had an outhouse. You took your bath in a tub behind the woodstove.”
When the quarry closed, the family moved to The Acre, at the end of Souhegan and Border streets.
“There were six or seven boys the same age as I was,” he said.
Clark recalled a pond in the river created for a hydroelectric plant “which was shut down a long time ago, that’s where I learned to ice skate. Now, they have this place at Shephard Park.”
He recalled ice skating on Thanksgiving, no longer possible because of climate change.
There was no Little League baseball, he said. “We had a pick up team. We played the guys from North Street and East Milford. Milford had a baseball club, the Milford AC team, and that’s where we got our bats and balls, all their broken down stuff, how we played ball. I learned how to sew the baseballs (back together) and we taped up the broken bats.”
Movies were another popular pastime, going to the old theater on Middle Street, many silent movies, where “Stanley Martell played the piano.”
Thursday was “chum night,” 15 cents for two. “One week, I’d pay the 8 cents and my friend the other seven, and the next week we’d swap.”
Clark’s parents never owned a home, he said. “We moved a lot. We spent a long time on Elm Street and Cottage Street. I said when I got married, I wouldn’t move so much.”
He and his wife, Marie, bought the house on King Street, where he still lives, in the 1950s.
Clark was drafted into the Army on March 25, 1942.
“For one year,” he said, “and then Pearl Harbor happened and I stayed four more years.”
He was discharged on Oct. 14, 1945. He served in Europe with Gen. George Patton’s tank battalion including the Battle of the Bulge. He drove a “kind of a tank, an M8 that had tires,” he said, but he was in reconnaissance. “We went ahead to see where the German tanks were.”
His adventures, Clark said, included “getting almost killed several times.” He was awarded the bronze star for saving the life of a comrade under fire and also four battle stars.
The war, he said, “was the worst time of my life.”
Following the war, he worked for awhile for a plumber and then went back to French and Heald, staying with that company when it changed to Sprague and Carleton until it closed in 1967. He then went to Nashua to work for what was later Triangle Pacific, making kitchen cabinets. He retired in 1984.
Clark was a charter member of the Milford VFW.
The VFW hall “was an old barn and we patched it up,” he said. “There were 25 of us. I’d just got back home.”
He is one of two still in Milford.
He and his wife, Marie Stimson, were married in 1948.
“I went to a basketball game,” he said, “and saw her there. I knew who she was, and asked if she’d like a ride home. I knew she was it, she was the one for me. We had a wonderful life.”
They were married for more than 60 years, Marie died in 2012.
Music has always been a big part of his life, he said. He played the piano until arthritis stiffened his fingers too much. And he loved ballroom dancing.
“I learned to dance in the eighth grade,” he said. “Our teacher asked if we’d like to learn. We learned the waltz and the fox trot. We used to dance a lot, my wife and I. There were five couples and we went together until I was 76. The last place we went was the VFW in Nashua where they had a DJ.”
Clark has a large collection of Big Band era music.
“I really liked Guy Lombardo,” he said. “You can’t dance to what they now call music.”
He’s a little hard of hearing now, but he goes every week to exercise class at the Boys & Girls Club and he likes the classic movies at Wilton Town Hall Theater.
He especially likes the silent ones. Just like old times.