On the morning of March 2, Helena Spear warmly welcomed me into her home to talk about her life in Charlotte, their family businesses and her husband, William Spear, or Bid, who died at home on February 19.
Let’s start at the beginning: how did you and Bid meet?
When we were kids there was a gang at our place, at the Mack Farm on Greenbush Road, and he and his buddy — his buddy always rode his bike and he walked — they would come to see me. He was the cutest, shyest boy. This was when he was about 15.
Where did the name Bid come from?
His brother Sam, who was eleven months older than him, couldn’t pronounce Billy so he called him Biddy. The name always stuck.
And where was he living at the time?
He lived on Ferry Road, just past the intersection to Lake Road. We never went to school together, though. He went to Spear School and I went to the Village School, then he went to Burlington High and I went to Mt. Saint Mary’s, the convent in Burlington.
His father worked in Burlington as a mechanic at Hagar Hardware, so Bid rode into town with him. I boarded at Mt. Saint Mary’s.
So then when did the dating begin?
We started dating when I was 16. I had to ask both my mother and my father for permission. We would go bowling or to the movies, more or less what kids do today. He used to like to squirrel hunt in the fall, so we would go down into the woods and squirrel hunt.
After high school he went into the Navy. He was on active duty for three years, then he was in the reserves. He was called back into active duty because of the Korean situation and that’s when we decided to get married, 1952.
Where did you get married?
We got married in East Charlotte at the Catholic Church on February 14 and had a small family reception afterwards.
Where did you live when you were first married?
We lived in a little trailer down at the farm. Bid was working at Spear’s Garage with his father. Back then the garage was where Rise ‘n Shine is now, that was the original Spear’s Garage.
When did the garage move?
When they changed Route 7, which used to come down the hill, Church Hill Road, that’s when they built the new building.
What about the other building—when did that go up and what was it used for?
At one point Charlotte decided they needed a police force. Bid’s dad was the police chief for several years. Eventually they disbanded, but they used to have bingo games to raise money for the police department. The warehouse was built to help support the police force. Then Sam and his wife, Priscilla, decided they were going to have a dairy bar, so that’s where Uncle Sam’s came from. It was a bingo hall and a dairy bar.
The dairy bar started in the mid-1960s and was always open from mid-May to mid-September. Bid and I worked there together one summer, but he eventually went back to the garage. His dad retired and then Bid ran Spear’s Garage.
I’ll bet you saw a lot of kids from this town pass through Uncle Sam’s.
So many kids from town over the years! It’s fun to go back over the payroll book and look at the names. A lot of Charlotte kids passed through that door. I heard a lot of parent troubles and boyfriend troubles and school troubles!
How many years did you have the dairy bar?
We were there for about 38 years; it’s been closed for four years now. We were getting older and I wanted more time with my husband.
The property has been for sale for a while now. What would you want people to know about that?
It’s been for sale for about ten years. Bid was ready to sell it when he retired. It’s a sad situation. The need is there for travelers on Route 7 to have access to service. I remember once when a woman, a trucker, came through and nobody would accept her credit card because she was from the Midwest. I gave her $20 for diesel so she could get to the next location.
It hasn’t been a happy situation, but we’ve dealt with it and we’ll continue to deal with it until the clouds lift and the sun shines. I’ve got more important things on my mind now.
What did Bid love about this place, about Charlotte?
He loved the lake and his boat—it’s a house boat. He and his friends would go out during the Derby. They’d leave early in the morning and cook breakfast out in the middle of the lake. He loved the “campers,” the summer people who came to Cedar Beach and Thompson’s Point. They were some of his favorite customers. He worked on their cars and then store them for the winter. He touched a lot of lives there at the garage. A lot of kids looked up to him like a dad. I remember Bid going with one boy when he bought his first car.
Bid’s family always loved this town. In 1965 his dad gave the land where the town garage is on Route 7 to the state and then in 1985 the state gave it to the town.
Tell me one thing that you loved about Bid.
He was so polite, such a polite man. He always held the door for you.