If you were raised on the east side of Manchester, chances are you'll remember Bill Green. If you yearned for the finest in
handle bar tassels, or had bike repair problems, or just wanted plain talk and good honest and reliable service, you will
remember Bill Green.
Bill was born on January 11, 1896. The earliest town records have him being a carpenter in the year 1915, at the age of 19. Some time in the next four years he would change his trade, and at the age of 22, Bill would open his bicycle shop. He operated this business continuously for the next 40 years.
Bill's Tire Shop was located on the west side of Spruce Street, just a couple of doors south of Nathan Hale School. The home where Bill lived was nestled against his shop. He was a quiet man, quiet even to us youngsters who frequented his shop. Though his hair was pure white when I was a youngster, we could call him "Bill." I remember his thick glasses; boy were they thick and his eyes appeared twice their size because of the magnification.
It's funny, as a kid you give very little thought to age and, therefore, when I left Manchester in 1955 to join the military, it never entered my mind that I might not ever see Bill Green again, that I might not have another conversation with him over the mechanics of bicycles or gaze longingly at the shiny chrome fenders or other slick accessories that the proceeds of a Courant paper route might afford a youngster like myself.
He gave up the bicycle shop in 1959 when thoughts of retirement convinced him it was time. He would live to enjoy 24 of his golden years, passing away on October 24, 1983 at the age of 87.
Just this past July while home in Manchester, I had need for the services of a tailor. The Yellow Pages listed Luca's Tailor Shop on 180 Spruce Street. Since I had lived on Spruce Street during the summers of my childhood at my grandmother's home at 300 Spruce Street, I knew the shop must be near Oak Street. When I entered Luca Addabbo's shop, he had several customers, so I was obliged to wait. As I waited and looked at the neighboring structures, I realized I was standing on the very spot where my old friend Bill Green spent his life fixing bicycles.
The shop had emptied when Mr. Addabbo waited on me, so I had an opportunity to speak at length. "Did you know Bill Green's Bicycle Shop once occupied this very spot?", I asked. He smiled and nodded his head, walked to a small desk behind the counter, and took out a large brown envelope. As he pulled the contents of this envelope out, I found myself looking at an old sepia tone photo taken many years ago. Bill was standing proudly in front of his shop, but he was a younger man, long before age had dulled his eye sight and caused him to wear the round, gold framed, thick glasses I had grown accustomed to; long before he had a single gray hair. Mr. Addabbo bought Bill's store and home from him in 1959, razed the buildings, and built his tailor shop on the very spot.
As we grow older our circle of friends become smaller and what we are left with are memories of those folks. Our mind slowly loses the details, the way one smiles and laughs, the twinkle of ones eye, the way one dresses. Can't you recall running across that picture of your special aunt in the family scrapbook and as you gaze at this photo you become overwhelmed with a feeling of love and pleasure? As I was handed the old sepia-toned photograph of Bill Green, my many fond memories surged. Mr. Addabbo could sense how much this picture meant to me and offered to give it to me, but I knew how precious it must have been to him to save and protect it for so many years. Today's technology allowed me to scan the photo and return it to Mr. Addabbo, and now I have it to share with you.
Jack Risley delivered the newspaper to Bill, so I expect he and many others could tell us more about him. The Manchester Historical Society is considering erecting a replica of Bill's shop in the newly acquired Cheney Mill Machine Shop facility at the corner of Forest and Pine Streets and, if they do, all the folks passing by will see Bill Green's picture as you have. Too bad that most of those people never got to know him.
Reproduced 2011 from www.mhs1955.com with permission of its webmaster Dick Jenkins.
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