Hudson Valley Main Street Back In The Day is a retrospective visual tour of some of the unique streets in our hamlets, villages, and cities, that people call their hometown. It’s about the classic Main Street before the big box retailers drove the locally owned businesses out and Pied Pipered shoppers off to the cookie cutter malls.
All of these streets are not named “Main Street”. It’s the spirit of the name that applies globally to any street where the community gathers to shop, get things done, be entertained, or just visit with other folks.Read more
My hat goes off to the tenacious people who have worked so diligently to facilitate the renaissance on Hudson Valley Main Streets. To the merchants who had the grit and tenacity to hang in through tough times, and to those merchants who had the audacity to move in, fight the odds, and help fuel the rebirth. And of course, to the those who kept the faith and the local spirit, and by doing so kept the fires of rebirth and revitalization burning.
Most of the images in this tour date back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with some later entries mixed in. As you already know, life was much much different in those days. It was simpler, but with the simplicity came a tougher way of life with less conveniences and services. Getting it done in many instances meant doing it yourself.
Back in the day most Hudson Valley residents worked in agriculture or in industry of some kind. The work was hard, the hours were long, and drop down dollars were few. This made the hometown Main Street a special place in people’s lives, especially in rural areas. It was a place to go and to meet and greet. Parades and gatherings, celebrations and festivals, shopping and dining all added to the allure. Trips into town were very special occasions for both young and old.
Most people back in the day couldn’t afford telephones and mail was not delivered to your door either. This made the General Store all important. Making a phone call meant hiking, horsing, or biking to town just to make a phone call or pick up and mail letters.
Many general stores had pay phones and a post office within the store. With a little luck the store owner might also be the justice of the piece or a local official. Next to the local church, the general store was the community hub. Most had a stove with nearby chairs or benches so people could come in and warm up. There was often a small table for people to indulge in a game of chess or checkers, and a posting board where personal ads could be placed. It was clearly one of the community hubs and the locals would stop by as often as possible just to find out about the doings in the area or to tie into the local gossip.
Early in the 1900’s Americans everywhere fell in love with movies, often going to the local cinema 3 times a week. And where were the cinemas? Right on good old Main Street. Having a movie theater was a great step forward for a small village or hamlet. It brought people into town more often than ever, which was great for local business. Movie goers would intentionally get into town early and meet up with friends or family, have something to eat, shop, drop things off and pick things up all in that little Main Street universe.
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t only the malls and chain stores that buried the hometown Main Street. The death of local movie theaters between the late 1940’s and early 1960’s added greatly to its demise. Three quarters of all movie theaters in small town America closed their doors during that period. Hundreds of people who would have been in town before and after a showing were no longer there. The loss of business was devastating and irreplaceable.
Most of all I believe that Main Street created a sense of unity and community in people. This was your street in your town with your friends and family right there and on a first name basis. Community euphoria was demonstrated in parades and special event days throughout the year, right on Main Street. Town woes were discussed in public forums in a town hall or in a room above the general store where everyone could participate and become a part of the solution. Good old days but tough old days, and through it all there was Main Street. It was just the right setting for nurturing the greatness that is America.
It thrills me to no end to see revival blossoming on our Hudson Valley Main Street. To see people discovering, or in some cases rediscovering that places such as these are part of the enduring constants that make a place our home.