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Parking Lot Series: Houlton, Maine 1950

This addition to the “Parking Lot Series” takes us to the center of Houlton, Maine for a view of Market Square. This facility isn’t a parking lot, instead, it actually is one extra-wide two-way street divided in the middle by a parking island.

The present-day street view of Market Square shows that the Houlton Cinema, the first of two movie theaters closest to the camera on the far left has been torn down. Other than updates to the storefronts the remaining buildings have all survived. Betty Grable in “Wabash Avenue” was playing at the Houlton Cinema at time the photo was taken and the film was released in 1950.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph and information courtesy of the Maine Memory Network.

14 responses to “Parking Lot Series: Houlton, Maine 1950

  1. In Item 1 of 2, at the lower right appears to be a ’48 Olds Series 98 (with whitewalls!) next to a ’49 Pontiac Chieftain 4-door Sedan. Five cars farther down the right side seems to be a ’47 or ’48 Frazer or 40-’50 Kaiser
    Down the street on the left in front of the Temple Theatre (showing a Gene Autry movie) looks like a ’50 Plymouth Special De Luxe wagon…their last Woodie. Possibly that’s a Plymouth Suburban wagon with an odd two-tone treatment pulling into the far intersection from the left.
    Just about opposite the Temple Theatre looks like a black ’46 – ’48 Buick Super or Roadmaster 4-door Sedan

    In Item 2 of 2, the 2nd and 6th cars up on the right are ’49 Buick Sedans…the one up close, a Super, the far one, it’s hard to say. But it’s only the second car I see with whitewalls. Farther down that side about seven cars just about even with the guy in the white jacket, is a ’47-49 Studebaker. There’s another one out in the street between a late-‘40s Pontiac Streamliner and possibly a ’46-48 Ford (?) taxi.

  2. Looking at Gene Autry’s IMDB page, I see The Cowboy and the Indians came out in 1949. Must have been a long-running big hit.

    • I believe theaters had different classes, 1st run theaters, 2nd run, etc…
      Houlton is on the Canadian border. Google maps shows Canada more sparse than this place.
      I think the studios would milk a movie for all it’s worth and this would be peoples lot in life for movie entertainment, 2nd run movies that were played out in the big cities.
      I wouldn’t be surprised if a large part of their clientele was Canadian.

  3. Another pleasing mix of cars! I see several ’49 to ’50 cars. Quite a bunch of cars from the in-between years ’48 and ’49s. About half the cars are the war years 1940 to post war carryovers to ’48 for some marques. I clearly see two Studebakers with their futuristic styling (’47 to ’50ish). I also see dozens of mid ’30s to ’40ish cars all around. The earliest car, front and center, appears to be a ’30/’31 model A Ford Tudor sedan. The next earliest car I see appears to be about a ’34/’35 Ford V8 coupe about two-thirds of the way down the line of parked cars on our right side of the picture.

    Thank you David G. I like to see group/traffic photographs showing a wide mix of cars the way I remember from when I was little. Historically, early cars were obsoleted after only a few years due to the rapid technological changes, and many if not most were destroyed by the dust of dirt roads before they were more than a few years old. In the 1920s, it really was common for a large group of cars to have nothing more than those few years old. As technology and roads improved, cars began lasting longer. By 1940, it was common for ten year old cars to still be in daily use. In the ’50s, one could hardly find a time and place without older cars around. For those reasons, I find photographs showing dozens of cars with nothing more than four years old to somehow be unreal. I suspect, we see so many such photos because the photographers often chose to capture and keep those rare moments when nothing older was in the view. Likely an effort to show “our modern world”. I can imagine the photographer, setting on his perch, waiting patiently for that fifteen year old car to move out of the shot, saying “RATS” to himself when two more pull into view. Wait a few more moments. Wait, there it goes! Snap, roll, PRINT IT!
    Regardless, David G. Thank you for the look back.

  4. The age of the buildings and the width of the area makes me wonder if this was first a “market square” and not as much a street. As cars took over from horses and carriages, it would have been easy to add the center divider and parking meters.

  5. Thanks David! Great photo of downtown “Shire town” (Houlton). Two Maine photos in the same week – and this one is only 45 minutes away from me!

    Just as an aside – Houlton was the destination of my Grandmother’s first car ride – it was in a Franklin (probably a 9 or 10 series) from Presque Isle to Houlton. It was an all day adventure that she remembered vividly all her long life – that and riding a railroad track inspection car into Presque Isle to watch a “talkie” for the first time.

  6. That model A sure sticks out and it is only 20 years old or so. My 2nd grade teacher still drove her Model A to school every day in 1965. Miss Monahan was quite a sight in Lake Elmo, Minnesota!

  7. Ahh, Houlton at the northern end of I-95. We would turn left there onto US Route 1 and head west to Presque Isle, then Caribou and almost all the way to Limestone to get to Loring Air Force Base. We lived at Loring for three years from late 1979 to 1982. Eight months of winter. I understand things have warmed up a bit since then. We would wear jackets or sweaters in the evening starting in mid-August when the leaves started changing. We were just about guaranteed a frost as late as Memorial Day weekend. We shopped in Caribou or Presque Isle. The only shopping I remember we did in Houlton was for furniture at a place on the right side of Route 1 heading west. We still have some of that furniture. It has survived more than 20 moves including a few overseas. If you wanted to go to a mall, you had to take an overnight trip to Bangor. I guess we were never in downtown Houlton because I don’t remember this at all.

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