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'We're still here'

In era of closings, Spencer Furniture still scrappy at 50

Kevin, right, and Raoul Chalifoux in their main showroom. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
November 17, 2010
SPENCER — Fifty years ago, the world was a very different place.

John F. Kennedy had just won the presidency. The Cold War was getting frostier as the United States launched the first nuclear aircraft carrier and sent its first soldiers to Vietnam, the Russians shot down an American U2 plane and began building the Berlin Wall, and France joined the list of nuclear weapon states. Birth control pills went on the market, while "Psycho" hit the big screen. The laser and pacemaker were invented.

Homes cost about $12,700, gas 25 cents a gallon, bread 20 cents, a new car $2,600.

For Raoul and Kevin Chalifoux, though, the most important event of 1960 was their father's move to Spencer to start Spencer Furniture. The brothers now run the firm in the same location on Olde Main Street, but the building looks nothing like it did then, having entirely swallowed the house they used to live in, among other things.

Raoul said that house was a gristmill in a previous era, as the somewhat slanted floors, naked wooden beams and iron heating grates testify. It now houses their "primitive" furniture showrooms, with some displays sitting atop the same dishwasher, sink and toilet they used as kids. (And they still work.)

"We were kids living upstairs over the store" until about age 15, Raoul said. "When we were young, it was great. We were constantly surrounded by [our family] and lived what we worked."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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