There was no Independence Day celebration in 1955; the town appropriated nothing for fireworks, bonfires or parades.

A decade after World War II and two years after the Korean War there was no official July Fourth celebration in Andover. However, we patriotic children made up for it by exploding cherry bombs and boxcars all over town. Kids could have dangerous fun, which sometimes was the best fun. There was a heat wave in early July, 1955, finally broken by a violent thunderstorm. Lightening hit Arthur Reed's home on High Plain Road, setting fire to the roof. The heat created record crowds at Pomps Pond on July 2-4; over 5,500 people showed up. Posted rules at Pomps stated that dressing rooms were for dressing and undressing only, and clothes should not be left behind. Changing clothes in cars was not permitted. No person should enter the water with open sores, bandages, contagious skin diseases, inflamed eyes, runny nose, ear infections... well, you get the picture.

In July, 1955, the selectmen voted to spend $35,000 to buy 77 acres on Shawsheen Road to locate a new high school. The school was built three years later, and the traditional name "Punchard" was dropped by the School Committee with little discussion. The generation of us who still think it was a bad mistake is getting old. The new school was called Andover High School and it had the motto, "Excellence in Everything" over the door. The motto was self defeating in that it was silly enough to disprove itself. How can you have excellence in everything? The new school building, occupied in 1959, is now West Middle School and the high school is behind it.

The Andover Townsman in an editorial titled, "Taxes Zoom Up, Up," expressed the opinion that the town had to get a better balance of residential and industrial taxpayers. The Townsman's wish would be granted when Interstate 93 and Route 495 were built, intersecting in Andover and creating some of the most valuable commercial land in New England, while destroying some of the best farm land around.

Chairman of Selectman J. Everett Collins announced that a new fire chief would be selected, and no one outside the town would be considered. Within a week, Henry L. Hilton, a World War II Marine combat veteran, was appointed. He and his fellow deputy chief, Albert Cole, were the two finalists. Hilton succeeded the recently deceased Chief Edward Buchan and had a long career as chief. Al Cole remained as deputy and entered town politics years later, serving as a selectman (1977-1979).

"Down the Years With the Townsman" had a bold letter mention of a two-foot long alligator being found in Andover 25 years earlier. It was found on "Reading Road" near the North Reading line. The author wondered what became of the animal. (I wonder about Reading Road. There's no such road listed in street lists or maps of the time, so I surmise that some folks might have called the portion of Main Street south of the town center, "Reading Road."

A picture in the Townsman showed Mr. and Mrs. Munro Leaf and their two sons aboard a ship headed for Europe, where they would go on a two and a half month tour. The Leafs lived at 6 Stonehedge Road. (For you folks new to Andover, it is "Stonehedge" and not "Stonehenge" Road.) Mr. Leaf was the author of "The Story of Ferdinand" (1936). One of the best-selling children's books of all time, it has never gone out of print. If you have a first edition lying around in fine condition, it's worth over $10,000.

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Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman, and you can contact him at billdalton@andovertownie.com.

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