The Clark Family on Pleasant Street

In the January article I wrote about the woman of the Federated Church, who re-purposed the church’s old stained glass windows. During my research, I realized that the details of this story had faded with time. In an attempt to save the story I reached out to you, the readers, for any information that could be added to the Ashland Historical Society’s archives. The responses that I received were overwhelming.

Many thanks to Cynthia Winterhalter for donating her collection of the re-purposed window ornaments to the Historical Society. The ornaments will be on display at either the Historical Society (2 Myrtle Street) or the Town Hall.

I would also like to thank Pam Clark Cerutti for sharing her story. It was her grandmother, Mrs. Clark, who housed the Church’s windows in her Pleasant Street Garage. Pam has allowed me to share their story with you:    

Hi Jennifer,

I was very pleased and excited to read your article in January’s Ashland Directions. Given my attachment to the story, I wanted to shed some light on Mrs. Clark and that big garage on Pleasant Street where she stored the stained glass windows for the Federated Church. You see, Mrs. Clark was my grandmother. Her name was Mildred Helen Clark, but she went by the name “Helen” and signed her name as “M. Helen Clark.” The lady whose picture appeared with your article was her sister-in-law, my great aunt Helen, who lived on High Street with my great uncle Eliot Clark. I have included a picture of my grandmother to offset the confusion.

As a child, I spent most Saturdays at the Pleasant Street home of my grandparents, Donald S. Clark, Sr., and M. Helen Clark. I have many fond memories of fishing in the Sudbury River down back with bamboo poles and bobbers, playing croquet on the big lawn, and playing hide-and-seek around and behind the garage. My sister and I rode our tricycles on the large concrete slab that used to serve as the entrance to the garage. However, Nana and Grampy Clark always warned us to stay out of the garage’s three huge bays. In the 1950’s and 60’s it was already old, relegated to the storage of neighbor’s cars, old tools, and outdated automotive supplies from my grandfather’s business.

The Pleasant Street garage was the original site of the Ashland Garage. Donald Clark started his auto service there in 1915 in affiliation with Texaco. After a stint in the army during World War I, he returned to grow his business and his family. Wife Helen opened an ice cream window from her kitchen in their adjacent home while raising their children, Don Junior and Marjorie. I have included a picture of Don Junior, captured in 1924 in the front yard along with the garage’s Texaco sign and the ice cream stand’s sign.

Donald moved the Ashland Garage to Summer Street sometime in the 1920’s. His mother, Edith Gardner Clark – fondly known by residents as “Mother Clark” – handled the bookkeeping in the small office built onto the left side until her death in 1929. (Ironically, she was hit by a car while sightseeing in Paris.) Both Clark children joined the Air Force in World War II; Don was an airplane mechanic and Margie was a physical therapist. When the war ended, Don Jr. joined his father at the garage. He eventually took over the business when Grampy got sick and died in 1969 with Nana following soon after.

The Ashland Garage continued to be a presence in the lives of Don Jr.’s children. As a teenager, I handled stock for Dad on weekends. Later on, my brother Bill honed his skills as a mechanic under Dad’s guidance after school. Having operated under three generations of Clarks for some 60-plus years, this was one of the longest running Texaco stations in the country.

The wooden garage on Pleasant Street lasted long enough to store the stained glass windows from the Federated Church. It was finally torn down just a few years ago. However, the sturdy brick building that was the Ashland Garage still stands on Summer Street, now a car sales and repair business.

-Pam Clark Cerutti

Jennifer Lecesse

March 2018