• Category Archives Not So Long Ago
  • Last Race At Belknap Was The Greatest

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    It was at the end of the 99th lap of the 100 Mile National Championship Motorcycle Race at the Belknap Recreation Area in Gilford, New Hampshire, and 19 year old Jody Nicholas, who started strong and had led all but two of the laps around the race track, and was still up front when suddenly “…his machine slid from under him and he was spread-eagled on the pavement…” and his veteran racing opponent George Roeder, who had been closely pursuing him throughout the race, sped by him to become the leader.
    This event was the last national championship motorcycle race to be held at the Belknap Recreation Area and, in the opinion of my Dad, Ray Smith, who wrote about the 1963 race in a June, 1964 article, it was the greatest race ever run there.
    The motorcyclists have come to the area as part of the organized Gypsy Tours in 1917 and the races began at the Belknap Area in 1938 and continued until that last one in 1963.

     

    Jody Nicholas led the 1963 race all but two of the laps around the race track, and was still up front when suddenly “…his machine slid from under him and he was spread-eagled on the pavement…” Nicholas was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, returned to racing afterwards, wrote for motorcycle magazines, and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.

    I wasn’t there for the first or the last of those championship races, but did attend a few in between. I remember being in the car with family members as my Dad drove up to the entrance to the recreation area on race day and we approached the ticket sellers, and the sense of satisfaction, and perhaps privilege by association, as my Dad revealed his “press card” as a reporter of the event and we were allowed to enter without paying.
    I didn’t know the drivers or much about motorcycles in general or the rules of the race, but there was excitement in the air with the sound of roaring engines and the thrill of seeing the racers zoom around the track in their effort to travel faster than anyone else.
    The 1938 race was 200 miles in length, while the 1963 one was 100 miles. That first national championship in 1938 was won by Ed Kretz. But what was it about the last race at the Belknap Area that made it so great? According to my Dad , “It had everything.” The weather was perfect with millions of acres of sunshine, the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, and the wind blew briskly from the west. People came out in numbers large enough to make it the largest crowd ever with 20,000 viewing the 100 mile race and a total attendance at all events of 32,000. It was a safe race with no accidents requiring the use of ambulances on the race track or in the area as a whole. It was also the greatest of all the races because of who was in attendance, again, according to my Dad, “They were all there.”
    Former Laconia Mayor and publisher of The Laconia Evening Citizen, E.J. Gallagher, who was involved in bringing the national championship motorcycle race to the area in 1938 was there, as was Fritzie Baer, manager of the Belknap Area, and easily recognized in his red hat. County Commissioner Joe Smith was there, of whom it was said that without him there would have been no Belknap Recreation area. Big names in motorcycle racing like Hank Miller and Floyd Cramer were there, along with many sportswriters and photographers.
    I am going to give some special attention to a motorcycle man who was there in 1963 who obviously had gained great respect from those who knew him. His name is Bill Schietinger, the president of the New England Motorcycle Dealers Association, and described in the 1964 news article as “quiet, modest Bill Schietinger, bellweather of New England cycle fans under whose guidance a quarter-century of racing history was written at Belknap.” Bill was also present at the initial race at the invitation of the then Mayor of Laconia, E.J. Gallagher in 1938 and at each one through that 1963 competition. Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • New Hampshire Red Men & Odd Fellows

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    “The Union”, the Manchester, NH newspaper of 1906 reported on the activities of the Red Men of New Hampshire in the Spring of that year.
    You might be surprised to learn that a new tribe known as Squamtum, No. 47, was said to have been organized in East Jaffrey with a charter membership of 35. Chief of records was J.D. Donahue, chief of wampum was G.H. Williams and keeper of wampum was Charles N. Wilson. The Watatic tribe of Winchendon did the degree work with Grand Sachem Joseph L. Wiggin and Grand Chief of Records Harrie M. Young instituting the tribe. The report informed the reader that “At the conclusion of the work corn and venison were served.” Other tribes mentioned in the article were the Skitchawang of Claremont, the Contoocook of Hillsborough, the Massapatanapus of Goffstown, the Massasoil of Portsmouth, and the Agawam of Manchester. The Contoocook Tribe was scheduled to adopt a class of “twelve palefaces” on May 29th.

     


    A second surprise might be in finding out what the Red Men were all about was that none of them were “red”, but all were indeed palefaces, or white.The fact is that the Society of Red Men or the Improved Order of Red Men is not a Native American organization, but a fraternity which grew out of the patriotic movements associated with the American Revolution, particularly the Sons of Liberty. It was a group of men calling themselves the Sons of Liberty that, on December 16, 1773, dressed themselves in the attire of Mohawk Indians and dumped 342 chests of English tea into Boston Harbor. During America’s struggle for independence there were a number of secret societies that were formed to promote freedom, following the example of the Sons of Liberty. In the year 1813 several of these groups came together at Fort Mifflin, near Philadelphia, Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • It Happened In The Month Of May

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    As you know, the month of May can bring to the New Hampshire landscape a variety of weather from cold and snow to the sweltering-like heat of a summer’s day along with the expected springing to life of leaves and grass and the fulfillment of its promise to provide us with flowers, bees and black flies. The month of May has also provided us with persons and events that have made it an exciting time to think history.
    It was on May 8, 1945 that the Germans officially surrendered and the fighting of World War II ended in Europe. Many celebrated that day as VE Day or as Victory in Europe Day. New Hampshire places of business helped to celebrate the occasion with special messages in advertisements placed in newspapers.


    Willey’s Express announced that “Victorious Allied Troops marched toward the capital of Germany today. The Nazi regime has been crushed. With occupation of the country rapidly approaching completion, the allied war councils moved immediately to mop-up Japan.” Alcide Paquette sporting goods store on Canal Street placed an ad depicting a family listening to the radio and hearing the news that “Germany Surrenders!” The ad asserted that “ Again man will live away from dictatorial domination of those who sought to enslave all of mankind. For all this, we give thanks to our fighting American boys, who again have proved to the world that democracy and the love of liberty conquers all obstacles.” General Mills, with an office in Laconia, NH proclaimed “Honor and Glory to our Fighting Heroes. You are the men to whom we owe our lives and our happiness.” Levasseur’s Men’s Shop on Main Street in Laconia pictured the Statue of Liberty and stated that the victory in Europe increased the beauty and stature of “The Fairest Lady in the Land.” Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • ‘Doc’ Smith – State Veterinarian

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    After reading about the life of Robinson W. Smith, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, I am struck with wonderment as to how the busy and accomplished animal doctor could add so many other activities to his life. Dr. Smith was born in Meredith, New Hampshire on May 18, 1891. He was the son of Joseph F. Smith, a successful farmer in Meredith and a travelling salesman for the American Woolen Company, and Isabelle Robinson Smith. His schooling included attending the local elementary schools , the New Hampton Literary Institute, and the Chicago Veterinary College in Chicago Illinois, graduating with the class of 1915.
    After receiving his degree Dr. Smith came back to New Hampshire and began his veterinary practice in Laconia which proved to be the start of a long and impressive profession. His accomplishments included serving as Belknap County Agricultural Agent from 1917 to1920, followed by becoming an employee of the State Department of Agriculture in Concord in September of 1920 where he was made Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture and Agent in Marketing, and the appointment on July 1, 1921 to be State Veterinarian by the Commissioner of Agriculture, Andrew L. Felker. That appointment was approved by Governor Alfred O. Brown and the Governor’s Council.

    The horse, with Dr. Smith as the driver, was named Elmer Gentry who placed in the money in 54 0f 57 starts. Doc Smith was the driver in 52 of them.

     

    Dr. Robinson W. Smith

    Dr. Smith was not able to serve in World War I because of medical reasons , a situation which led to his involvement with the state extension service. He was married to Ruth Hull , daughter of Charles and Florence Hull of Meredith, on June 25, 1918. During his prep school days at New Hampton Robinson W. Smith was the quarterback of the football team during the years of 1907, 1908, and 1909, and continued playing football during his college years as a half-back.
    As the first State Veterinarian in New Hampshire, in a position he held for over 40 years, Smith established a reputation throughout the United States as a knowledgeable and skilled doctor. He was recognized as an authority on the control and eradication of contagious and infectious diseases of domestic animals. His involvement in professional organizations included being a member of the United States Livestock Sanitary Association as part of its Executive Committee, a member and director of the National Brucellosis Committee, and a director and member of the Executive Committee of Livestock Conservation, Inc. with its offices in Chicago. Under his leadership New Hampshire received national recognition in June of 1960 as a brucellosis free state. The Doctor was one of the organizers and a past president of the New England Veterinary Medical Association as well as a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He also served as the State Chairman for Veterinarians Procurement and Assignment Service during World War II, and was on the National Advisory Committee to the Selective Service.
    In his younger years as the county agricultural agent, Dr. Smith travelled extensively around the countryside, driving his Model T Ford in summer and relying on his horse and sleigh in the winter. He is reported to have routinely travelled through the snow with his horse and sleigh to meet with groups of farmers on winter evenings, instructing the attentive audience on how to keep up with the times with improved agricultural methods.
    Participating in an activity which he described as “a sideline and a hobby” Doc Smith was well-known for his involvement in harness horse racing, both as an owner of trotters and pacers and an official of the sport. Licenses issued by the United States Trotting Association gave him the authority to serve as an official starter and presiding judge anywhere in the United States. Often, though, he would drive his own horses at tracks in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. He served as the Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the New Hampshire Fairs Association of which he was instrumental in organizing in the year 1928, and was a Director of the Plymouth Fair.
    And, as if all that wasn’t enough for the ambitious veterinarian, Dr. Smith was involved politically in the city of Laconia. He described himself as a “staunch Republican”, following the example of his Father, and served as a City Councilman for three years and Mayor of the city for a record of eight years. For at least twenty years he was a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
    So, not so long ago, Dr. Robinson W. Smith made significant contributions to the well-being of not only the Lakes Region, but to all of New Hampshire and the other states of the country, having visited most of them in his campaign to eliminate brucellosis in cattle. His brothers also left their mark on the history of our state, but their stories will have to wait for other articles.


  • 1950s Progressive Production Of Wood Pulp And Paper

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Berlin, New Hampshire, in the state’s north country, has been described as the city that trees built because it had its beginnings as a sawmill and was built around the lumber business. In the year 1956 the Brown Company of Berlin was New England’s largest producer of pulp, paper and paper products and announced in the spring of said year that it was expanding its hardwood purchasing program. This was good news for owners of woodlands because it meant that they would have a market for tree species such as oak, maples, birches and beech as well as the softwood trees like pine and spruce, though the change to hardwood was probably because of the decreasing supply of softwood trees. The Brown Company spokesman indicated that this could help in woodlot management because the owners could profit by thinning their trees with the increasing demand for hardwood pulp.
    Probably many people do not know that paper made from wood is a process that has been around for less than 200 years. Before wood, used rags were a main source of paper-making material, but in 1838 two men, not in contact with each other, were influenced by the idea of making paper out of trees. Friedrich Keller in Germany started thinking about ways to make the idea a reality and in 1845 filed for a patent for a process that made wood pulp into paper. A year earlier, in 1844, the experiments of a Canadian, Charles Fenerty, resulted in successfully processing wood into paper.

    A crane using a sling to unload a truck at the Brown Company in Berlin.

    A hundred and twelve years later the Brown Company in the city that trees built was promising good times for the people of northern New England as it prepared to increase pulpwood production to supply the demand for increased paper and paper products with new equipment . Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • Marie Paul Joseph Roche Ives Gilbert de Mottier Marquis de Lafayette’s Visit To NH

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer
    His official name seems to have no end, but he is known more commonly and more simply as Lafayette by those who remember him, and he is also sometimes referred to as America’s forgotten hero.
    Lafayette was a young French aristocrat who was supportive of the American cause to be independent of England and, at great risk to himself came to this country to help as a leader in the Revolutionary War. This “Citizen of Two Worlds” or “Hero of Two Worlds ”, other labels applied to him because of his acts of valor in America and in his native France, visited New Hampshire in June of 1825 during a return trip to the United States which included visits to all 24 of the States which comprised the country at that time.
    In his June visit Lafayette travelled from Massachusetts to Concord, NH, then to Portland, Maine and back to Concord, before continuing west in New Hampshire and into Vermont. He was in the United States at the invitation of President James Monroe in consultation with Congress 40 years after the Revolutionary War and was greeted with many accolades as he moved from state to state.

    George Washington and Lafayette on horseback at Valley Forge.

    In his book about Lafayette, published in 1879, A.A. Parker mentions a meeting with Rev. Dr. Dana on his way to Concord and a visit with him to a ladies school run by a Miss Grant. I wonder if this was the Rev. Dr. Dana from New Hampton who served as a physician, preacher and teacher and for whom the Dana Meeting House where he preached is named. Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • When A Newspaper Built Houses

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    It is not unusual for a local newspaper company to report the news concerning a building project in the community it serves, but it is exceptional for the media to be doing the building project unless it involves its own facilities. Nevertheless, during the depression years of the 1930’s The Laconia Evening Citizen conducted its own home building program in an apparently successful effort to help stimulate the local economy.
    Begun in 1935 under the leadership of the newspaper’s owner, Edward J. Gallagher, a plan was established to build ten “Model Homes” over a period of time in different areas of the city which would provide jobs for local laborers, a home for a local family, and encourage others to build nearby.
    The national unemployment rate in 1935 was 20.1 percent and the New Deal under President Roosevelt was begun along with the Work Progress Act to provide jobs for millions of Americans.

    One of the model homes built by the Laconia Citizen beginning in 1935.

    Those who were working in the United States in 1935 had an average income of $1,600.00 a year. A new house on average cost $3,450.00 and those who rented payed an average of $22 a month. The ground-breaking for Laconia Evening Citizen Model Home One took place on June 15, 1935 on Belknap Street with the then mayor of the city, Walter E. Dunlap as the contractor. Financing for the first and the following nine model homes was provided by the Laconia Building and Loan Association, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the Association, E. Harrison Merrill said of the project after the sale of the third home: “This is a remarkable contribution to community progress on the part of our daily newspaper since in every instance erection of other homes has been stimulated by the fact that the Citizen goes ahead and does it.” Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • 1923 NH Legislature… “Lots Of Fun But No Laws”

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    It was the year that Robert Frost’s book of poems titled “ New Hampshire” was published, the Laconia Car Company manufactured its last railway cars, and Governor Brown signed a bill giving the University of New Hampshire its name. It was also the year that the legislature was to work on tax reform in the State, but news editor and soon to become New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, Hobart Brownside Pillsbury, indicated that the tax reformers had lots of fun but produced no laws during their January to May session in the year 1923. In the January issue of The Granite Monthly magazine an article titled “A Program for Taxation ” by Raymond B. Stevens declared that “The most important and difficult question before the coming legislature is the question of taxation.” He maintained that New Hampshire’s “…system of taxation is antiquated, and entirely inadequate for modern conditions.”

     
    The Democrats, who controlled the House of Representatives, through its State committee chairman, Robert Jackson of Concord, declared that their branch of the legislature had been one of the most successful in the history of the State. The Republicans, who controlled the Senate, felt that they should be congratulated for keeping what they considered to be the radical ideas of the Democrats from becoming law. Hobart Pillsbury wrote on April 21st that since New Year’s the Legislature had “… accomplished a good deal, although no bill has been passed yet that amounts to anything. None will be passed, no matter how long the session lasts. This, however, is satisfactory to all concerned.”
    Pillsbury obviously believed that legislators could accomplish as much sometimes by defeating proposed legislation rather than passing it, and could have fun doing it. So maybe we can have fun pondering what the tax reformers in the House of Representatives proposed that the opposition Senators rejected. The majority leader in the Senate was Republican Leon D. Ripley and the Democrat Ovide J. Coulombe of Berlin was the minority leader. The House passed a bill to eliminate the poll tax for women, but the Senate defeated the bill on party lines, 13 to 8, leading Pillsbury to observe that the action meant “…that the fair sex will not be prohibited from enjoying the pleasure of equality with men in paying a poll tax.” The poll tax had to be paid to allow a person to vote. Another House supported bill was to impose a one cent tax on gasoline along with a bill to establish a highway fund into which would be deposited all fees and taxes related to automobiles. Another tax bill passed by the representatives, but not by the senators, involved inheritances. This was a flat rate tax with heirs divided into three classes with different rates applied. The first class was direct heirs with a two percent tax levied upon them. The second class was referred to as collateral heirs, like brothers or sisters, who were to be taxed at six per cent, and the third class was to be other collateral heirs, who would be assessed a ten per cent tax. An additional inheritance tax bill was passed which made the state a collateral heir, which Pillsbury described as “…sort of a second cousin, twice removed…” that would be entitled to a certain percentage of estates above $50,000. Taxes on savings bank deposits were cut by one-third in an effort to encourage the New Hampshire banks to increase their dividends which were lower than those in Massachusetts which, it was claimed, held fifty million dollars of money belonging to New Hampshire residents.
    In 1923 if you owned an automobile you were thought to be rich, so legislators looked for ways to raise money through fees and taxes on the owners and to pass regulations to control the use of vehicles. Efforts were made to pass a bill introducing compulsory insurance on automobiles. The House of Representatives passed a bill placing mandatory jail sentences on drunken drivers. No fines were to be assessed and no jail sentences could be suspended. The first conviction for the drunken driver was a sixty day jail sentence and the repeat offender would be sent to the state prison for six months and lose their driver’s license for one to three years. Hobart Pillsbury’s comment about this proposed law was that “It was argued that if this bill could pass there would be no need of compulsory insurance, because an automobile is dangerous only when there is gasoline in the car and whiskey in the driver.”
    As the legislators of New Hampshire adjourned their 1923 session in May, the first of the politicians who were preparing to run for President of the United States in the nation’s first primary was beginning his campaign. His name was David S. Beach and he was from Connecticut. Mr. Beach seemed to think that he could save the country and the world from financial disaster and spread the wealth around, but he also advocated abolishing state governments which would mean that there would be no need for state governors or legislators. Mr. Pillsbury insisted that such a candidate would not find support in a state like New Hampshire where “All the inhabitants … outside of the state prison, and some of them inside, hope someday to sit in the Legislature unless they have already done so…”.
    Maybe Mr. Anderson, who felt that there was unequal taxation and large amounts of wealth that escaped taxation, had a more favorable response to Mr. Beach’s plan to share more of the wealth of the nations between individuals.
    One victory for the Democrats in 1923 was the appointment of one of their own, Rev. Ora W. Craig as the state commissioner of law enforcement, which, according to Mr. Pillsbury, meant that he was the commissioner of prohibition. He had several deputies who secretly worked under him, and the common opinion was “When a stranger invades a quiet New Hampshire community , he is assumed to be a prohibition deputy until proven otherwise.”

    Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr. lives in New Hampton.


  • Saving Daylight In New Hampshire

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Daylight Savings Time, though perhaps never considered a major political or social issue, seems to have always been a controversial idea, particularly when we realize that we mere humans cannot change the amount of daylight so we try to adjust our schedules to get the most out of what is given to us, verifying that we usually prefer light over darkness.
    Having lived at different times in several different states, my observation is that some people seem to handle the change from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time and vice versa more easily than do others. As the Pastor of a church in rural Pennsylvania, I was surprised to find that during the period of Daylight Savings Time a husband and wife among my good parishioners used different timepieces. The husband refused to change from Standard Time based on his belief that Daylight Savings Time was the Devil’s time. The Mrs. set her clock ahead one hour at the prescribed time in the Spring, so when the clock on her side of the bed read 8:00 o’clock, the clock on his side of the bed read 7:00 o’clock. They arrived at the church building on Sunday mornings together in the same car, but he was there at 8:30 and she at 9:30.

    Ohio Clock in the U.S. Capitol being turned forward for the country’s first daylight saving time in 1918. Daylight Savings Time has been a controversial subject over the years. This year the New Hampshire legislature is considering going to Atlantic Time year round. Writer Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr. looks at the history of Daylight Savings Time and more this week.

    Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • A NH Child’s Winter In The 1940’S

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    In past columns I’ve written about scenes from my childhood during the spring, summer, and fall, so it seems advisable now to share some of the winter experiences while we are still in the season.
    New England country roads with dirt (sand and gravel) surfaces became sledding trails for the boys and girls of my era. Actually those I played with called it sliding. We used sleds, with an occasional toboggan or traverse, but we went sliding on the roads and in the fields when the conditions were right. Our sleds were of the flexible flyer variety with metal runners and frame underneath wood slats with a wood handle for steering. Packed snow on the hills of a dirt road surface as the result of being run over by car tires became a good place to use our sleds. The limited vehicle traffic travelled our Dana Hill Road at slow speeds and if we met one on a ride down the hill we simply turned into the snow bank beside the road for a quick stop. There were times when our school recesses became sliding times as we took our sleds up the hilly road a quarter of a mile or more and slid down to the schoolhouse where the teacher had stopped traffic heading up the hill. The town sanding dump truck was not a welcome sight for us. In those days the bed of the truck was lifted to let the sand slide out, sometimes assisted with a man with a shovel at the back of the truck. Slippery roads meant that it was time to get out the tire chains for cars and trucks. If the conditions were right in the hay field below our house, meaning a crusty surface strong enough to support sled and child, we would slide there after school. Sometimes the sleds runners would break through the crust and stop abruptly, with the rider continuing to slide by himself on the snow.

    Robert Hanaford Smith’s oldest brother, Raymond,Jr. who had the nickname “Skip”, with his sister Virginia (now Virginia Haas) who being the only girl was called “Sister”.

    I have experienced the inevitable facial scrapes and bruises from those episodes. Large pieces of cardboard were found to be safer substitutes for the runner sleds under certain conditions. The eastern side of our field provided a steeper but shorter hill for sliding, but we had to maneuver between the apple trees and there were saplings along the edge of the field. One Christmas I had received some new lumberjack style heavy wool winter trousers with black and red checks and wore them as I slid down the hill among the apple trees,into the clear at the bottom of the hill, continuing into the saplings beyond which stopped me. Somehow, maybe from a nail from the sled, my new trousers sustained a large tear in them. I cried as I returned to the house, knowing that my parents weren’t going to be pleased with what I had to show them. I wasn’t hurt; the crying was to exhibit remorse, and maybe it did hurt a little, but I escaped the application of any additional pain applied as punishment.


    My boyhood winters were not all play, there were chores to do, such as sawing and splitting wood, filling the kitchen and sitting room wood boxes morning and evening, feeding, watering and bedding the animals, cleaning out the tie-up, and shoveling snow after the storms, washing dishes, and sometimes hanging up wet clothes to dry. If the weather was thought warm enough they were hung outside even in winter.I do recall times when I found my union suit (longjohns) frozen stiff on the clothesline.
    I had siblings, so we shared the chores, and sometimes they were related to our 4-H projects. One of my memories is that of mixing grain and warm water in a pail in our kitchen and feeding the pigs twice a day. By the way the tie-up was that section of the barn where the cattle were tied up and spent a good part of the winter. Cleaning it meant shoveling the manure out of an open window onto the manure pile in back of the barn. In the barn yard there was a concrete water receptacle for the cows which was in a wood enclosure. We used an axe to cut through the ice which sometimes built up considerably during the winter months. Milking the cow was another of the jobs that we boys had to learn to do, along with separating the cream from the milk and operating the churn to make butter.
    A lot of activity took place in and around the barn. One winter’s day I discovered a red fox curled up in the snow behind the barn sleeping and decided I would find a way to kill it, so I found a brother (maybe two) to help me dispatch it. We found a long wooden pole and plotted to sneak up to the fox and whack it on the head with the pole, hoping that would kill it. (I remembered visiting our neighbors in past years, the Leslie Smith family, and walking through a shed with multiple fox and probably other animal pelts.) On approaching we realized that the animal was not sleeping, but already dead. The dead fox was taken to Leonard Huckins who skinned it for us, so we had our own fur pelt, which the last I remember was stored in a bureau drawer.
    We slept upstairs in unheated bedrooms on rope beds with cotton filled mattresses and on the really cold nights soapstones were heated on the wood stove, wrapped in newspapers, and used as foot-warmers. After school I sometimes visited the cellar to grab an apple to eat while I read about a famous person in one of the orange covered book series by a publisher I don’t remember and/or listened to a radio adventure program such as “Sky King” or “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon”. Saturday nights we ate beans for supper and sometimes had leftover beans for breakfast on Sunday morning, and maybe bean sandwiches for lunch on Monday. Of course, Saturday night was bath night when the galvanized metal tub was brought out and placed on the kitchen floor beside the stove with its’ water reservoir where enough hot water was available. On Sunday evenings, after the Sunday afternoon church services at the schoolhouse, we popped popcorn on the stove which was eaten with milk with perhaps a sour pickle on the side. If the static on the radio wasn’t too bad we listened to “Amos and Andy”, “George Burns and Gracie Allen”, “Jack Benny” and “Our Miss Brooks”. And I must not forget school, since that dominated weekdays from nine a.m.to three p.m. The black chalkboards and the squeal of the chalk writing upon them, the desks with the built in inkwells to supply ink for our pens before the ball-point ones arrived, the long settees used for group activities and guests to sit in, the wood stove with the circular medal enclosure around it, and the making of valentines for every pupil during craft times are all part of my memories. There was a contest for the best valentine, but everyone knew that Peter Emmons would be the winner, not because he was the teacher’s nephew, but because he was the most artistic person in school.
    So there is a quick sketch of my childhood in winter though much more could be added. I have some closing advice to the sledders, though. Be careful and don’t take foolish chances. Know where your sled will stop before you start and never try to slide under a barb-wire fence, it’s not worth the risk, even though some have successfully kept their heads low enough to survive that stunt.

    Robert Hanaford ,Sr. lives in New Hampton.


  • Walden And Chinook

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    The students of the New Hampton Literary Institution (now New Hampton School ) along with interested townspeople, were outdoors on the campus eagerly waiting for the arrival of some special visitors. It was late in the winter of 1923-24 with snow on the ground and as the students, including my Dad, kept watch towards the south-east, a team of sled dogs came trotting down Shinglecamp Hill around the Mansion corner onto Main Street towards the excited audience. Once on Main Street the dog-sled driver prompted his dogs to sprint at full speed until they arrived at their destination when his shouted orders brought them to a stop in front of Meservey Hall. This was not only a new observance for the gathered crowd, it also brought to the thoughts of the boys reminders of the Alaska gold rush and the poems they had read by Robert Service and the books of Jack London. Moreover, the driver of the team was none other than the colorful Arthur Walden of Wonalancet in Tamworth, New Hampshire and his lead dog was the soon to be famous Chinook.


    Walden had driven his dog team from his home at Wonalancet to the New Hampton School in order to give a speech at the school assembly. He was promoting sled dog racing and is credited with bringing the sport to New England. My Dad’s account of that occasion said that every boy and girl who had a Brownie camera had a field day as Walden talked of his Alaskan adventures. The headmaster at the school at that time was identified as Dr. John Shaw French. Walden, after giving his speech, returned to the team of seven huskies that pulled his sled and headed back up Shinglecamp Hill to begin the long trip back to Tamworth .
    Arthur Treadwell Walden was not a native of either Alaska or New Hampshire. He was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 8, 1871. His father, an Episcopal clergyman, moved the family to Boston in 1890 where he became the minister of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Arthur didn’t like it in Boston, so spent much of his time at their vacation home in Tamworth, New Hampshire and went to Alaska in 1896. That was the year that gold was discovered and the Klondike gold rush began, so Walden became a freight-runner up and down the Klondike River. He was introduced to sled dogs, as they were used as carriers, an event that led to his life-long interest in sled-dog training and racing.Walden returned to New Hampshire, married Katherine Sleeper in Tamworth in 1902. Arthur and Katherine were proprietors of the Wonalancet Farm and Inn where Arthur began the breeding and training of sled dogs for racing purposes. In Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • NH’s War-Time Farm Census

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Late in the year of 1944 New Hampshire newspapers printed the following report: “The agricultural resources of the United States at war will be measured with the taking of the coming Census of Agriculture, scheduled to begin the first week of January, 1945. Basic information on agriculture, including statistics on farm acreage, crops, livestock, farm labor, and other items related to farm operations will be obtained.”
    The census was planned by several government agencies, including the Bureau of Census, United States Department of Commerce, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the War Food Administration, and the preparation for the census and the choice of questions took many months. The actual collection of information was to take place during the months of January, February, and March of 1945. The census during a time of war was seen to be particularly important in providing for postwar planning.

    Questions to farmers would include what type of road passed by their property, if the farm had a telephone and radio, and inquiries about farm machinery and household appliances.

    That 1945 farm census had a direct influence upon my life as a six year old child because my father, Raymond C. Smith, was appointed to be the state supervisor for New Hampshire. The district office was established at Room 219 at the Forestry Building in Laconia. Roland E. Bunker of Barnstead was appointed to be the state’s assistant supervisor, which resulted in a permanent friendship being formed between my Dad and his assistant. Miss Mildred Smith was the office clerk. Raymond C. Smith was promoted to the area supervisor for the District of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont when the previous supervisor, Garnett R. Brown of Washington, D.C. had to resign because of illness, and the District office was moved from Portland, Maine to the Forestry Building in Laconia. Mr. Bunker was promoted to be the supervisor for New Hampshire. Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • Winter Carnival

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Carnival is defined as an organized program for entertainment or exhibition. New Hampshire residents have long used the winter carnival as a means of turning the ice and snow of the season into fun and competitive activities.
    One of the past carnivals was the one held in Laconia in the year 1923. “On a cold morning in February, to be exact, the 10th, at 5 o’clock in the morning, a few, tired, sleepy, and cold lads and lassies were pulled out of bed, given a warm breakfast by Miss Caswell, and departed, midst fast falling snow flakes on an open four-horse sled, driven by Mr. George Dicey and Mr. Henry Plastridge, for Laconia.” Those lads and Lassies were from the New Hampton Literary Institution and the quotation is from the school’s magazine, The Hamptonia. The article states that though the New Hampton students arrived late for the ski jumping event that was held in Lakeport, the officials allowed them to compete. Howard Gwynne Dyer represented the school in what was described as the “…high and strange jump.” He was allowed three scoring jumps, and he increased his distance in each of the second and third jumps, reaching distances of 39 feet, 42 feet six inches, and what was described as a “ superhuman jump”, the longest of the day, at 48 feet. Dyer, however, placed second in the event instead of first, because he was penalized for breaking the rules. In what was perceived as an act of bravery, he tried to do a somersault, unsuccessfully, but without injury. Another New Hampton student, Jerome Gordon, won second prize in the 440 ski race and third prize in the mile race. Margaret Dicey, described by The Hamptonia as “…one of the greatest of our students, a girl…” also placed in high positions in ski racing, as she won second prize in the hundred yard and third prize in the fifty yard race. Their return trip to New Hampton was said to be much like the trip into Laconia with many of the passengers walking every other mile to keep warm. The reporter wrote “…we reached home cold but happy, and glad to get into the nice warm bed at 3 o’clock in the morning…”.
    The 1927 Laconia Winter Carnival was the ninth annual one and began on a Saturday, February 19, with the wood chopping contest which was won by Raymond Wescott of Winnisquam. An egg boiling contest held between Boy Scout troops was won by Dan Wooldridge and Morris Kidder was victorious in the pie-eating event. The 1927 carnival ended with a costume parade which was followed by a huge bonfire at the Pearl Street grounds. Miss Ruth Gilman of Academy Street won the costume contest, being Miss Winter in a snow-white costume. Second place was won by Albert Snow of Gilford Avenue who entered as a comic clown, and Uncle Sam, portrayed by Hazel Fortin of Garfield Street took the third prize. The carnival’s sled dog races attracted an audience of about 15,000 people and the winning musher was Hi Mason of Tamworth. The ski jumping contest was won by Raymond Jacques with Alphy Morin being a close second. Skaters competed for the Northern N.E. Championships at the municipal rink on Pearl Street with over 8,000 spectators. Miss Ruth Eleanor Morrison of Court Street was elected to be the Carnival Queen. Continue reading  Post ID 2864


  • Notable Journalists From New Hampshire

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    As a Laconia High school student in the 1950s, I would occasionally stop at my Dad’s place of employment, the Laconia Evening Citizen office on Beacon Street. As I entered through the front door, and before I turned to the left and went down the stairs to the news room, I often saw in the office straight ahead of me – my dad’s employer and publisher of the newspaper, Edward J. Gallagher. Mr. Gallagher was the founder and owner of the publication with the first edition being published on January 4, 1926. It should be noted that Mr. Gallagher was previously involved from its beginning in producing the Laconia Democrat newspaper. He died in 1978, but the Citizen continued to be published by his daughter Alma and son-in-law Lawrence Smith until 1991, and was published by others until its last edition came out on September 30, 2016.
    Those visits to the Citizen office and my observance of my Dad’s work (even trying to assist him in covering high school football games) allowed me to learn about the steps involved in the publishing of a newspaper. Watching the reporters do their job, the teletype machine printing out the latest news from national sources and the type-setter assemble the letters for the paper and operate the linotype machine. On one occasion I watched as the staff from the newsroom rushed to grab a copy of the day’s first newspapers fresh off the press in order to scan its pages, looking for any errors that could be corrected before the printing process continued.

    Horace Greeley

    The State of New Hampshire has been the birthplace of a number of very influential journalists. One of those was Horace Greeley. Greeley was born on a farm in Amherst on February 3, 1811. As a teenager he went to Vermont as an apprentice printer, and then at the age of twenty made his way to New York . There, in 1934, he founded the New Yorker magazine, followed in 1841 with the founding of the New York Tribune newspaper in 1841, and being its editor for three decades. During his lifetime he belonged to three political parties, first being a Whig, then being one of the founders of the Republican party, and perhaps giving it its name, and afterwards founding the Liberal Republican party. As a member of the latter, he ran for President of the U.S.A., also winning support of the Democrat party, but he was defeated in the election. As editor of the Tribune he had great influence on people around the country, especially in rural areas. Credited by some, and discredited by others, for coining the phrase “ Go west, young man,” he promoted westward expansion. Greeley is also known for strongly opposing slavery, promoting the rights of women and opposing the concentration of wealth among a few ( monopolies). Shortly after the death of his wife and his unsuccessful run for President, Horace Greeley died at the age of sixty-one.
    Horace Greeley’s managing editor at the Tribune from 1847 -1862 was Charles A. Dana who was born in Hinsdale, N.H. on August 8, 1819. Dana served in President Lincoln’s administration as Assistant Secretary of War during the Civil War.
    One of the New Hampshire boys who went west to Chicago was John Wentworth who was born in Sandwich on March 5, 1815. He apparently had a love of farming and considered staying on the farm in Sandwich, but after attending Berwick Academy in Maine and Dudley Leavitt’s “Meredith Academick School” he went to New Hampton Literary Institute from which he graduated. He then went to Dartmouth College, graduating in 1836. (Leavitt was another New Hampshire journalist.) Nicknamed “Long John” because of his 6’6” height, Wentworth became the managing editor of Chicago’s first newspaper, The Chicago Democrat, which led to him becoming the owner and publisher. This journalist became a lawyer and entered the political arena, first as a Democrat and later as a Republican. He was elected for six terms to the U.S. House of Representatives and for two terms as the Mayor of Chicago. Not forgetting his home town, when given the opportunity to change the name of a town in Illinois, the name he selected was Sandwich.
    On May 17, 1864, a baby boy was born to Moses and Emma Chandler in Landaff, New Hampshire, and he was named Harry. As a student at Dartmouth College Harry Chandler responded to a dare by jumping into a vat of starch that had been frozen over which led to him coming down with a severe case of pneumonia. With the goal of improving his health he moved to Los Angeles, California. He started a newspaper delivery service through which he met Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis who hired Chandler as the general manager of the newspaper. Harry married the daughter of his boss and, when Otis died in 1917, he became the publisher of the paper, which became one of the leading newspapers in the country under his leadership. Harry Chandler added real-estate investing and community projects to his publishing vocation and has been described as “…the leading citizen of Los Angeles in the first half of the twentieth century.” He was involved in the building of the famous Hollywood sign.
    The Boston Post newspaper was also founded by a man who was born in New Hampshire. Charles Gordon Greene was born in Boscawen on July 1, 1804, but began his journalistic career in Massachusetts. He worked in several editing, managing and publishing positions there before going to Philadelphia in 1827,where he was involved in starting the National Palladium, and in 1828 was working for the United States Telegraph in Washington D.C. Returning to Boston, Charles Greene founded the Boston Post in 1831 and headed that newspaper until 1875. Belonging to the Democrat party he served in the Massachusetts Legislature.
    The one thing that I find most interesting that all these journalists had in common was they not only reported and commented on the news of their day, but were personally involved in the political process and accepting elected positions in government.


  • Childhood Memories Of Christmas In New Hampshire

     

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    A year ago this column was about a memorable, unusual Christmas that involved a serious illness my father experienced and the generous support our family received from neighbors and other friends.
    Because Christmas is a gift that keeps on giving every year, I have additional memories, some of which I decided to share this year.
    At the country one-classroom school I attended for the first six years of public education, we had yearly Christmas programs at a special evening time when relatives and friends were invited to be entertained by the pupils. My memory takes me back to a snowy winter’s night with big fluffy flakes falling but failing to keep the annual Christmas program from happening at the Hanaford School in New Hampton. The tree would have been decorated with ornaments made by the boys and girls. I recall particularly the scissors, colored construction paper, and glue that were made into paper chains to hang upon the classroom tree. Back in those days we sometimes even made our own glue with flour and water. The program itself included recitations, carols and perhaps a play. The one I remember being a version of

    Dicken’s Christmas Carol featuring Tiny Tim and a make-believe goose. The session would end with the arrival of Santa Claus, who would pass out decorated candy boxes filled with hard candies. I have never forgotten an outside event, either before or after the inside festivities when David Caverhill, the big upper classman, decided to pick me up and hold me high from the ground in the falling snow. He was so tall he must have been in the eighth grade, and I so small I must have been in the first. I was happy and scared at the same time, pleased that the big guy was paying attention to me while thinking “surely he is just having fun and won’t do anything to hurt me” still there was some uncertainty in my mind as to what he was up to. I soon felt that he was a kind guy and meant me no harm, still, I felt somewhat safer when he finally set me down on my feet.
    Our family had the practice of going out into the woods on our farm to find a Christmas tree, which was a challenge because, even though there were many trees, there were few that would meet the requirements for an acceptable Christmas tree, so the search went on until there was agreement that we had found the right one. A wooden stand had to be fashioned and the selected tree was set up in the sitting room the day before the one celebrating the birth of Jesus.
    Christmas shopping was another of the anticipatory activities before the big day arrived. I usually had a little money to use for presents for my parents and five siblings. The nickel and dime stores offered the logical place to find the gifts and I don’t remember having much difficulty finding a little something for the brothers and sister, but it was a different story when it came to Daddy and Mother. (Mother was always called Mother, not a variation of the title.) When I was old enough to do my shopping by myself, I recall going back and forth between Woolworths and Newberry’s in Laconia, seeking an appropriate present for Mother and Father that my money could buy, always wondering if I could find something that would make them happy. I might wander a little to other stores and discover items that I would like to have, realizing that most of my wants involved items that would be too expensive for our family’s resources. I was impressed by the electric train set displayed in the window of the hardware store and wished to have more time to enjoy watching it run around the tracks, but knew better than to ask to receive that item as a Christmas gift.
    A child’s anticipation of Christmas may have a greater impression on their lives as the day itself. My favorite spot on Christmas Eve, if I could claim it before a sibling did, was the chair in the corner beside the sitting (living) room wood stove – the warmest spot in the house. The tree was lighted with a string of colored lights with bulbs that were larger than most of those used today. Some of the presents were wrapped and under the tree and there were the thoughts of wondering which were mine and what was inside the wrappings, but, even with the anticipation of opening presents the next morning, I would become somewhat melancholy and meditative, thinking of people who would not have the same happy Christmas that I had. I was not thinking of anyone in particular; I just understood that there were people “out there” who were not having a Merry Christmas and wished I could do something to change that situation. Christmas morning was always one of great excitement with the first activity being that of discovering the contents of the stockings which were hung behind the kitchen stove on the clothesline usually used for drying purposes. The contents always included an orange, which was a treat for us, and hard candies, along with other items. Additional presents were under the tree, but before these could be opened breakfast had to be completed and the dishes washed and the morning chores of feeding the animals, milking the cow and filling the kitchen and sitting room wood boxes had to be completed. Then, not with a mad rush, but in a deliberate and orderly manner, the presents were removed from under the tree and given to the named recipients.
    I could continue with many other Christmas memories including the traditional dinner with a rooster or two from our chicken house and the usual fixings and some special Christmases as an adult, but I will conclude this discourse by quoting from an editorial of a December 25, 1944 in Life magazine. I was six years old and the United States of America was fighting in World War II. Since early childhood I was made aware that Christmas was to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Savior and Messiah.
    The Life editorial began “Now when the birthday of Jesus Christ came to be celebrated in America in the days of President Roosevelt, there lived in that country a simple man named Arthur, who believed that Christmas should be a time of joy. For had not a Redeemer been sent to bring men peace and goodwill, and to save them from their sins?”