(This article was first published June 6, 2004. On June 3, 2014, a proclamation was issued by the Sugar Hill selectmen declaring July 4th as Roger Aldrich Day, in recognition of his devotion to his town, which helped found in 1962. — LJC)
SUGAR HILL – Roger Aldrich is in France today, a country that is grateful he was there 60 years ago.
If all went according to plan, he was on a special train at 5:30 this morning, full of fellow World War II veterans, bound for Normandy.
Yesterday afternoon, head high and full of memories of comrades who never made it home after the war, he received a Knight of the Legion of Honor, the most prestigious award France can bestow upon a man.
“I am representing the people who can’t be there,” Aldrich said of the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. “This is not my medal. I did nothing but be there.”
He is one of 100 American veterans selected by the French government to receive its finest honor. In his own quiet way, Aldrich is proud to have been chosen and proud to carry the memory of the thousands who never grew old and who never knew the gratitude of the country they were fighting to save.
Aldrich, 81, grew up in Sugar Hill. After graduating from high school in Lisbon, he went to Northeastern University to study engineering, but a year later, with the war raging, he decided to enlist in the Army. He was 19.
“My high school physics teacher was an Army reservist,” Aldrich said. “He was Jerry Chase, who went on to become the president of UNH. He told me if I ever went into the Army, to look at topographical engineering. When I enlisted, that’s what I had in mind.”
He became a mapmaker and belonged to the 62nd Engineer Company, whose duty it was to survey battlegrounds and map them out.
In June of 1944, he was aboard a ship with 4,000 or 5,000 other men. He was an engineer replacement. Most of the engineers landed on D-Day.
“We missed it by this much,” he said, holding up a thumb and forefinger.
He recalled a delay in getting off the ship onto Normandy.
“There was a big storm on the 19th – we sat off shore at anchor,” he said.
Off all those on ship, it was this kid from Sugar Hill who wasn’t seasick.
On the 23rd, they landed on Omaha Beach. Aldrich was in a survey platoon.
“There were eight or 10 of us in the survey and we were up front every day,” he said. “We never had to shoot back, but we were shelled or bombed many times.”
The need for maps was still there and maps were drawn all the way to the Elbe River in Germany when the war ended, he said.
Aldrich has been back to Normandy three times.
“The first time I went back was in 1985,” he said. “It was very emotional.”
After 40 years, it was a trip that helped him heal. Like many soldiers, Aldrich never talked much about what he saw, what he felt or the close calls he had. Ten years after that journey, he wrote Soldiering Yesterday, about his Army experiences – all the three years and 14 days he spent in the military.
It was many years following his return home that he realized he had post traumatic stress syndrome.
“It was so severe that when I came home and went back to college, I couldn’t make it,” he said. “I couldn’t stand to be confined.”
He one day realized that root of it was “a fear of showing fear.”
His last trip to Normandy was in April and he was accompanied by his wife, Nancy, their daughter, Kathie Cote and grandson, Christopher. Christopher, who is 13, wrote a journal about the trip, which touched Aldrich.
In all his trips back to France, he has been treated with dignity and respect by the French people.
“I have never been back to France that the people haven’t come back and thanked me for being there in 1944,” he said. “One man told me that if (America) had not been there, he would be speaking German today.”
Aldrich, whose family has been in town since 1790, returned to Sugar Hill and never left. He married his wife, Nancy, in 1949 and worked for 20 years at a small print shop, before leaving to help his wife run the popular Polly’s Pancake Parlor, a landmark in the town. He also served as a selectman for 25 years, seeing the town through its separation from Lisbon in 1962.
“This is a once in a lifetime thing,” he said of his trip. “The French government is aware of this – we’re fast disappearing.”
By Lorna Colquhoun
May 27, 2004
(This article appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader on May 6, 2003. LJC)
FRANCONIA – The headline was bold and it stretched across the front page of The New Hampshire Sunday News 45 years ago.
Old Man Doomed
An accompanying story carried the headline, “He Would Die Impressively but Dangerously.” A photo of the Great Stone Face was captioned, “Famous face to fall? Yes, say state engineers – the Old Man of the Mountain is doomed and no amount of costly engineering safeguards can prevent the ultimate calamity. It is only a question of time – and no man knows when.”
As prophetic as that news seems 45 years later, in the end, the Old Man of the Mountain, icon of the Granite State, did collapse, but without the fury detailed in the articles.
The story, written by Sunday News writer George Woodbury, was based on an interview with Russell Tobey, the popular director of state parks in charge of preserving the profile at the time.
“Engineers studying the project have informed Mr. Tobey that the same forces of nature that carved the face on the cliff of Cannon Mountain are now irresistibly at work to destroy it,” the article reads. “It might happen this afternoon or many years hence.”
Scenarios for the Old Man’s demise included a slight earthquake that would set off a big slide, a dynamite explosion or sonic boom.
On the last day of the Old Man’s reign before he collapsed early Saturday, heavy rains pelted Franconia Notch and high winds blew through it. In the morning, frost dusted the higher elevations of the Notch.
“Such a disaster to the Old Man could cause an avalanche to sweep down through the Notch,” according to the article. “It would almost certainly result in obliteration of Profile Lake, state engineers feared.”
Landslides wrought havoc through the years in Franconia Notch and 50 years ago, they were of concern.
Landslides had been recorded in Franconia Notch since 1826 and in the 20th century, there were at least eight major slides, six of which crossed the road. In October 1938, 15 feet of debris slid over the highway. In June 1948, two slides on either end of Profile Lake came down within twenty minutes of one another.
A little over a year after this article appeared, the largest slide in modern times happened on Oct. 24, 1959. Some 200 feet of highway was covered to depth of 27 feet and required more than three days of around-the-clock work to clear it, according to historical information.
Robert Sullivan, an engineer with the state Department of Forestry and Recreation, told Woodbury how the collapse could cause an avalanche.
Whenever a talus slope of rubble builds up under crumbling cliff, such as under the profile … the fallen boulders come to rest at approximately an angle of 45 degrees,” according to the article. “Torrential rains may turn the underlying dirt to slippery mud and start a slide or a massive fall on top of the slope may start it rolling.”
Officials were concerned at how much damage would occur in the Notch after the fall of the profile.
“When and if the massive profile of the Old Man collapses, no one can accurately foresee the resultant damage to the Notch and the highway running through it,” according to the article. “However, officials say such a heavy fall as this might produce an avalanche of major proportions, even for the White Mountains where they have happened many times before.”
The Legislature that year set aside $25,000 “in an all out attempt to arrest disintegration slowly progressing every year through the action of frost and earth movement.”
“The best that engineering can do is postpone the day when the austere granite profile, so long a symbol of the state of New Hampshire and its people, will fall and ruin the Notch, Tobey asserts,” according to the article.
“There is no way of calculating how long we can delay the fall of the Old Man,” he told Woodbury. “There is absolutely no way of knowing. It can crash down at anytime.”
That year’s plans for the engineering program, according to the article, was for placement of a waterproof cap for the Old Man, “which, it is hoped, will further delay the hand of nature, which once, long ago, created this mammoth sculpture that now seems bent on its destruction.”
Tobey told Woodbury that the Old Man would one day collapse, in spite of efforts to save it.
“All the engineering skill in the world – and all the money – Mr. Tobey commented, cannot build back forever the irresistible force of geology with all the time eternity has its disposal,” Woodbury wrote.
He concluded his story with Daniel Webster’s verse about God Almighty hanging his sign in Franconia Notch that “he makes men.”
“Now we know, that some day and in spite of all our wealth and engineering skill, that Great Stone Sign will fall.”
By Lorna Colquhoun
(Originally published in April 2003)
FRANCONIA — As winter recedes from the steep slopes of Mount Lafayette, there are those who say the last remnants of the season cling to ravines, forming for a short time, a cross on the side of the mountain.
“It’s visible right now,” says Don Eastman, who spotted it from Franconia’s Main Street early last week. “Look at the right shoulder.”
Eastman, who’s not particularly religious, nonetheless watches for it to appear each spring. A former employee at the Cannon Mountain tramway years ago, he said old timers there told him that when the cross appears, it’s about time to go trout fishing.
Once it appears, he keeps a watchful eye on it.
“It’s like foliage,” he said. “I keep thinking it’s going to get better and then one day its not there anymore.”
Postcards from a century ago depict a bold white cross formation on the Franconia side of the 5,249-foot Mount Lafayette. In her “History of Franconia,” author Sarah Welch used as the first photograph in the book a picture of the snow cross.
“The cross is formed by ravines which fill with snow during the winter,” she wrote. “When the snow melts away in the spring, it leaves for a few days in the deep ravines enough snow to form the cross. The variation of weather and the amount of snow greatly affect the visibility of the cross from year to year.”
There is one man, however, who begs to differ that the snow cross truly exists.
Robert McGrath, professor of art history at Dartmouth College, said the notion that snow forms a cross on Mount Lafayette is something 19th-century tourism promoters came up with to keep travelers from heading west.
McGrath devoted a couple of pages to the Mount Lafayette snow cross in his book, “Gods in Granite: The Art of the White Mountains.” He says that cross was born after the discovery and subsequent 1873 photograph by William Henry Jackson of the Mountain of the Holy Cross in Colorado.
“Those with a vested interest in White Mountains tourism feared that God had gone west,” he said.
At that time, he said, there was a sense that the Old Man of the Mountain embodied God and that He had a “covenant” with New Hampshire.
“It was a devastating photo — the perception was that God had migrated to Colorado,” McGrath said. “Hotels and railroads had to do something to counter it.”
In 1890, photographer H.C. Peabody took a picture of Mount Lafayette in the spring. Figuring prominently on the slope is a cross.
“It’s a doctored photo,” McGrath said.
“. . . Peabody’s doctored photograph of a snow cross on Mount Lafayette suggests a meretricious effort to recoup for the White Mountains the vestigial remains of a relocated cultural ‘sublimity,’” McGrath wrote in his book.
The Mountain of the Holy Cross, located about 15 miles southwest of Vail, had a fabled history. By the 1920s, it was a destination for pilgrims and there were stories of it great healing powers. President Herbert Hoover designated it a national monument in 1929, but by the 1950s, a decline in the number of visitors and erosion on a portion of the cross led to the decommissioning of the monument.
The Mount Lafayette cross never gained that fame, but more than a century later, there are locals who watch for it every year, using it as a harbinger for such things as planting and trout fishing.
“There is not a cross formation,” McGrath says. “It does glisten and hold snow in winter, but it takes an imaginative person to convert it into a cross.”
Originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader September 1998.
At about the point where you come nose to nose with the Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire nomenclature gets a little quirky.
Whether on foot or in a car in northern environs, chances are that to get from point A to point B in the North Country, you’re going to have to go through a notch.
If you really, really want to get away from it all, you’re going to find yourself in a place that ends with the words “Grant” or “Purchase.”
If you have a good map or gazetteer, or know who to talk to in Easton, you’re going to see or hear the word “bungy.” Pronounce the letter ‘G’ the same way you’d say, “Gosh.” And it has nothing to do with what you do when you temporarily lose your sanity at about the same time you attach a rubber band to your ankle and jump off a bridge.
Think those mountains standing in the way of the horizon are just mountains? Well, in some cases, yes, that’s what they are. But in other cases, they are a sort of Rorshach test of nature, where you can see profiles of men, animals, ordnance and dead presidents in repose.
Northern nomenclature is a mix of history, legend and imagination. It’s an anchor to way things were and perceived a few centuries ago. It’s part of the character of the land.
So let’s start with grants and purchases. These are known as unincorporated places – they are not towns and in most cases are not inhabited. They are great big chunks of wild land.
With two exceptions, they are all in Coos County, which has 38 towns, one city and 23 unincorporated places. Grafton County has one unincorporated place – Livermore – an old logging community you pass through on the Kancamagus Highway. Carroll County has the other one – Hale’s Location – in back of Conway near Cathedral Ledge.
“Coos County acts as the local government for these places, as well as those in Grafton and Carroll Counties,” said Suzanne Collins, Coos County administrator. “We keep track of property tax cards, pay a few bills. We serve as local government, school district, town government and planning board.”
For the most part, the grants are located in the northern part of the county and many date back to the days of the Wentworths, colonial governors who granted thousands of acres to soldiers and educational institutions.
Greens and Ervings Locations were named for the soldiers so granted land. Second College Grant, Gov. Benning Wentworth’s second choice for locating a college named Dartmouth, and Atkinson and Gilmanton Academy Grant, two major educational institutions of their day, were given grants from which they could derive income.
Most of the purchases are in the southern end and are reminders of several pioneering families in the remote North Country. If you’ve been to the top of Mount Washington, you’ve been to Thompson and Meserves Purchase. If you’ve skied Wildcat, you’ve been to Bean’s Purchase.
The tracts of land went for big money in their day – about 60 cents an acre in some cases.
“These lands support tourism and forest industries,” said Fred King of Colebrook, who is the part-time administrator of the unincorporated places.
To get to these grants and purchases, you’re going to have to go through a notch or two. The better known ones are those you drive through – Franconia, Crawford, Dixville, Kinsman, Bear.
But there are less of those and more obscure ones that take some getting to. In the White Mountain National Forest, Steve Smith of Lincoln, who own the Mountain Wanderer Bookstore, has counted 24 (four of those are on the Maine side of the forest).
A notch is a pass through the mountains, a U or V shape in a valley that was carved by glacial movement.
If you ever find yourself in a Name that Notch contest, here’s some help. Albany, Tyler, Haystack and Miles are in Maine. Any New Hampshire-ite worthy of the name knows where Bear, Carter, Crawford, Franconia, Jefferson, Kinsman, Pinkham and Sandwich Notch are.
It takes a good look at a good map to find the rest – Bunnell, Carleton (there’s two of them), Carrigain, Dickey, Jefferson, Hancock, Haystack, Mad River, Oliverian, Perkins, Willard and Zealand.
“Zealand is the most scenic and Carrigain is the wildest,” offers Smith, the author of “Ponds and Lakes in the White Mountains.”
Notches are not just confined to the WMNF. Northern Coos County has its share – the most famous being Dixville, which has a two digit population, except in election years. There’s Tabor Notch in Pittsburg and a little further to the south, in the Columbia area, there are seven.
“From my front porch, I can see six of them, Cree, Cleveland, Cranberry Bog, Moran, Gadwah and Kelsey,” said Columbia selectman and historian Fred Foss, who can’t see Gore Notch from there. “I’m working on a town history and I want to get a picture of each one.”
These cluster of notches may not be as spectacular as their southern cousins, but they have their place in history, Foss said.
“Moran is very narrow – it’s just a footpath,” he said. “Kelsey was once the only avenue of exit if you were going from here to Berlin, Portland and coast.”
There’s even the remains of a general store in that notch.
“The stone foundation is six feet high,” he said.
Foss lives in the part of Columbia called Bungy. It’s generally accepted that Bungy describes a particular wind. Back in the 1970s, when energy conservation was the buzzword, the government put up a 90-foot tower and windmill in Foss’ yard, presumably to harness the Bungy.
Twenty-five years later, Foss opines that if they’d put it up a half mile or so from his house, there might have better results. As it is, the windmill is gone, but the 90-foot tower now sports a spotlight and Foss can see when he takes an evening dip in the frog pond.
About 70 miles south of Columbia, the Bungy, or Bungay, has some lore and legend to it.
Kate Kerivan, who with her husband, owns the Bungay Jar Bed and Breakfast in Easton, carefully researched local history to define the word, which is printed on t-shirts.
“A mysterious rumbling sound emanating from the depths of Kinsman Notch, thought to have made the early settlers queer,” her definition reads. “A phantom roar like an avalanche, accompanied by high winds that gallop up Easton Valley.”
It’s not a wind that is usual. That’s probably a good thing.
“It really does sound peculiar,” Kerivan said. “It’s a specific wind that doesn’t happen that often, but you know it when it does.”
Back to her t-shirts, the last definition of Bungay is something that makes it “impossible to be pompous or serious when uttering.”
On a nice day, as opposed to one when a malevolent bungy is blowing, a trip around the mountains in northern New Hampshire can test the imagination. The U.S. Forest Service has information on rock formations at its offices.
It doesn’t take too much to see the most famous rock profiles in the state – the OId Man, the Indian Head, the Elephant’s Head. But those are easy.
Try looking out Dewey Rock in Franconia Notch. It’s best to maybe view a photo of this U.S. Admiral before looking up to Artist Bluff, so you know what to look for.
George Washington boulder in Jackson is on Thorn Mountain, but if you see a profile looking like Alfred Hitchcock, you’re not the only one. The first president can also be seen lying in state in two places. On the eastern side of the Kancamagus Highway in Conway, the mountains appear to be the president, arms folded on his chest, lying in state.
From the Flume Gorge in Franconia, they’re different mountains, but same president lying in state.
Cannon Mountain takes its name from the formation supposedly on it. This is not easy to see, but the forest service says to look past the Old Man’s head to see a boulder resembling a cannon poking out from a parapet of a fortress.
Lest it be thought that rock formations are exclusively of the male persuasion, the Old Lady of the Mountain keeps her eye on the Old Man. She can be seen on Eagle Cliff on Mount Lafayette facing east – best time to look is in the afternoon. She’s also called the Watcher, because it looks like she’s watching for strangers.
While you’re in Franconia Notch, look for White Horse Ledge, especially of you’re an unmarried woman. According to legend, a spinster could look at the ledge and if she saw the white horse, counted to 100, the next man she saw would become her husband.
Martha Washington can be seen on a boulder off the Base Station Road in Bretton Woods near Upper Falls.
If you can see all those, you’re on a roll, so it’s a good time to go look for the Sleeping Astronomer in Littleton, the Duck’s Head in Jackson and the Imp profile near Gorham.
~ Lorna Colquhoun
(This story was written in May 2004 and published in the New Hampshire Sunday News.)
If nowhere is a place where no one has trod for decades, then Mount Kancamagus is in the middle of it.
A hiker found himself there last week on what the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide describes as a “trail-less mass of round, wooded ridges” and where he stumbled upon human remains.
Several law enforcement officials returned with the man the next day to retrieve them and earlier this week, dental records confirmed that they were those of Steven Romines, a Massachusetts man who went missing almost 20 years ago, in October of 1984. Investigators say initial reports had indicated that he was “distraught” at the time and while no cause of death was determined, it is likely that he committed suicide.
“From where the location was, he was off the beaten path,” said State Police Lt. John Scarinza, commander of Troop F in Twin Mountain.
The discovery of and subsequent age of the remains was a bit of a wonder and a reminder of the secrets the mountains keep and sometimes reveal in their own due time. New Hampshire may be a small state and ‘sprawl’ might be a buzzword in some parts of it, but there are places here where people get lost.
Sometimes they are never found.
Last week’s recovery is certainly not the first time remains have been discovered after a significant length of time has passed.
Ten years ago, hikers on the Valley Way trail in Randolph discovered the remains of a Massachusetts woman. The Valley Way, the most direct and easiest trail to the AMC’s Madison Hut, is a popular route.
According to newspaper accounts, her remains were found no more than 75 feet off the trail.
She had been reported missing nine years before.
State Police Sgt. Bob Bruno can understand how difficult it is to find someone who wanted to be lost. He hiked up Mount Kancamagus last weekend.
“There was no trail,” he said. “We were climbing up rock ledge and through small balsams. We put our heads down and just pushed.”
And even when they got to the top of one of the ridges where the hiker took a GPS reading after discovering the bones, Bruno said they did not find them right away.
“Even with sophisticated equipment, we couldn’t find it,” he said.
Local police say they get field several calls a year from relatives reporting that loved ones may have headed for the mountains intending to end their lives. Veteran officers who have dealt with these situations say in such stressful moments, people return to an area where they had once found happiness or other spiritual reasons.
“How many others have there been over the years?” Bruno mused, noting that some people may have never been reported missing. “I know there are others out there who have never been found. If I sat down, I could probably come up with quite a few others.”
There is no list, per se, of people believed missing in the White Mountains. Bruno, a 24-year veteran of State Police, figured the remains he helped retrieve last week were either Romines or another man who had been reported missing years before.
The remains were not of the young man who went missing in 1983 from Franconia Notch. He is a mountain statistic whose fate has yet unfolded in more than 20 years.
Michael Miller was 23 in 1983, up with friends from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for an October weekend. On that particular Sunday, according to newspaper accounts, he shouted “See you at the summit” to a group of friends and departed up the Old Bridle Path on Mount Lafayette.
It was 3 p.m. on that day, far too late to consider summitting the 5,260-foot mountain. He wore jeans, boots and a leather jacket over a sweater.
A search that lasted nearly a week followed, in weather conditions that deteriorated, as they do rapidly in the approach to winter. On the last day, winds howled at hurricane force.
To this day, nothing indicating what might have happened to him as ever been found.
“It happens,” said Grafton County Sheriff Charlie Barry, a former director of the state’s Fish and Game Department.
One of his most puzzling cases happened more than 30 years ago.
“Her name was Ethel Conners and she and her husband – they were both in their 80s – lived in Plymouth,” he recalled.
One night, they took a ride up to a house they owned on Swain Hill in the Glencliff area of Warren. He started mowing the lawn. She changed her shoes and told him she was going to take a walk up the road.
“He kept mowing and when he finished, she never showed up,” Barry said.
What followed was a massive search of the area, involving scores of people. Barry spent time in a helicopter searching from the air. Volunteers did line searches along the side of the road, in case she had been struck by a car and thrown into the woods.
“We searched from Glencliff to Warren,” he said. “We never did locate her.”
A case as puzzling as the Conners disappearance has been shaping up in the woods of Haverhill, where Maura Murray, a Massachusetts nursing student, was last seen following a minor car accident in February. Air and ground searches have failed to turn up any clues.
It has not only been people whose fates have been concealed by the mountains. In the past five decades, at least three planes had disappeared and were not discovered for lengthy periods of time.
The most recent, and perplexing, mystery was the Learjet that went missing out of Lebanon on Christmas Eve 1996. Unequipped with a locator device that would likely have denoted where it went down, the jet was found by an Orford forester Quentin Mack in a depression on Smart’s Mountain in Dorchester.
It was missing for almost three years, despite intensive searches in the years that followed.
Mack told investigators that he had been within 100 yards of the crash site the week before.
“The notion people have that the woods are full of people is definitely not true,” said Fish and Game Lt. Dave Hewitt the day after the crash was discovered. “There are many areas in the state where no human being has put a footprint on the ground in years and years.”
That was the case in this area. There was no trail leading to the site – getting there involved about 45 minutes of bushwhacking through over some challenging terrain, but a little more than half a mile off a well-maintained logging road.
The Learjet was not the only aircraft crash in New Hampshire that went undiscovered. In June 1972, a hiker on Jennings Peak in Waterville Valley discovered the wreckage, and the body of the Iowa pilot still strapped inside, of a Cessna.
It had been missing since March 1966.
“It had been bound for Maine from Burlington, Vt.,” said Paul Leavitt, the assistant Grafton County Sheriff, who was the Waterville Valley police chief at the time. He described the crash area as heavily wooded.
The most fabled lost plane went down in February 1959, when two doctors on the staff of the Dartmouth Medical College were returning from an emergency in Berlin aboard a Piper Comanche.
That plane was missing for more than 80 days, recalled Barry, who was a young conservation officer at the time and had participated in the extensive search.
It was finally discovered that May, after a plane went up on a search. It had gone down in the remote Pemigewasset wilderness, about 12 miles north from Lincoln and about nine miles off the Kancamagus Highway.
“The snow had melted and you could see it right from the air – it was upside down,” Barry said.
It was later found that the two doctors had survived for several days after the crash and had left notes for their families.
There is other lore in these mountain places of people who went missing and were later found. Some has been lost in time, the legends outliving the archival knowledge of people who knew about it.
One of those legends comes out of the little town of Easton. In a slim volume of the town’s history published in 1976, Looking Back at Easton tells the curious story of a Morman settlement in the Easton Valley, on the slopes of Mount Kinsman.
“Legend has it that these people, originally from Vermont, were living here in the 1830s,” the story goes. “One day, the people of the valley looked up toward the settlement and saw smoke from the chimneys. On going up to investigate, they found the stoves still warm, with pots of porridge cooling on them, but no sign of people.”
It was surmised that these settlers had gone west where their leader, Joseph Smith, was establishing a home for the Church of the Latter Day Saints, according to the Easton history.
Robert Frost, who lived for several years in neighboring Franconia, immortalized the story in a poem, A Fountain, A Bottle, A Donkey’s Ears and Some Books. In it, Frost is badgering a local man to take him to the ruins of the settlement.
“To shut you up, I’ll tell you what I’ll do:
I’ll find that fountain if it takes all summer
And both our united strengths to do it.”
“You lost it, then?”
“Not so, but I can find it.
No doubt its grown up some to woods around it.”
Frost never found the settlement, nor has anyone else over the years. The Easton history notes that determining who these Mormons were, where they lived, and when they lived in town “has been an absorbing task.”
Historians have determined some family names associated with the stories about the Mormons, including the name Cooley.
“A tantalizing piece of information remains, however,” according to the town history. “At time there was a lot of about 12 acres on Beech Hill called the Cooley Gore. Where was it? Who lived there? We do not have the answers, but we hope a future historian will pursue this lead.”
by Lorna Colquhoun
LISBON, NH – Who knows what the future would have held for Harry Chandler were it not for a college dare and a vat of starch.
Maybe he would have found another reason to leave New Hampshire and head west to southern California.
Chandler’s future was set when, as a Dartmouth College student, he took a dare and jumped into a vat of frozen starch. He could not have known it would be his ticket to California, where he would go and chart the course of an entire city. His legacies there would be many, not the least being the famous Hollywood sign.
Born in Landaff in 1864, educated at the one room Blue School and in neighboring Lisbon before a brief stint at Dartmouth College, Chandler suffered severe lung damage after that college prank and went west on his doctor’s suggestion as a young man, landing in Los Angeles. He went to work in the circulation department of the mighty Los Angeles Times, ambitiously making a name for himself and more money than the publishers when he set up his own delivery and collections business.
Marrying Emma Marion Otis, the daughter of editor and part owner of the Times, Harrison Gray Otis, didn’t hinder Chandler’s ambitions and in the years until his death at the age of 80 in 1944, he became one the wealthiest and most powerful men in the city.
Chandler became the publisher of the Los Angeles Times. By some accounts, he was ruthless, but he is also remembered for many contributions to his beloved community.
Overlooking it all is that great big sign on the side of Mount Lee. It was put there in 1923, after Chandler hatched the idea as a way to promote not the city, but a housing development called Hollywoodland. The last four letters came down in the late 1940s when the city was deeded the tract of land and the sign.
“The sign is a big deal in Hollywood,” said Gregory Williams, who wrote The Story of Hollywoodland in 1991. “It’s an icon like the Eiffel Tower, which is an engineering marvel. What’s ironic is that (the sign) was built to advertise real estate for sale. It has icon status, but that was never intended.”
Chandler paid an advertising agent $21,000 to put up the Hollywoodland sign, insisting that the letters be 50 feet high and surrounded with 20-watt bulbs.
At about the same time he was paying for the Hollywoodland sign,Chandler wrote another check for a less extravagant purpose, contributing $30,000 for the construction of the Lisbon Public Library, next door to his old hometown.
Today, his picture hangs in the handsome brick building across the street from the town hall, next to that of Herbert Moulton, who was treasurer of the old Parker Young Company. On a plaque mounted on the corner of the building, Chandler, described in the town history as “a former Landaff boy who became editor of the Los Angeles Times,” gets top billing as benefactor.
In the town history, Lisbon’s 10 Score Years, the library’s construction is outlined.
“It was through Mr. Moulton’s influence that Mr. Chandler became interested in providing a new library building for Lisbon,” it reads.
The 1927 Lisbon town report notes that construction costs totaled $44,277. Moulton, who had donated the land, paid for the balance.
In 1963, some 20 years after Harry Chandler’s death, library trustees approached the second generation Chandlers for another contribution to the library.
In a return letter dated Dec. 19, 1963 and written on Times Mirror stationary, President and Chairman of the Board Norman Chandler, whose wife was so active in the arts that the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – where the Academy Awards were last handed out in 1999 – was named for her, wrote that his family “unanimously agreed … to make a contribution to cover remodeling the upstairs of the Lisbon Library for the historical society.”
The reply of the trustees was brief and heartfelt.
“The trustees wish to say they are eternally grateful,” the letter read.
History aficionados know Chandler’s place in the annals of the Los Angeles Times, where he became publisher upon the death of his father-in-law, but few were aware of his contribution to the Hollywood sign.
The Hollywoodland sign was only built to last about 18 months and by 1949, was in significant disrepair. City fathers began taking it down, but there was such a public outcry by citizens who saw it as a symbol of their community, they instead refurbished the sign and shortened it to Hollywood.
Thirty years later, in 1978, the second restoration of the sign began, the campaign led by such stars as Alice Cooper – he bought an O – and magazine publisher Hugh Hefner. Cost per letter was $27,000.
Chandler continued to be a mover and shaker in Los Angeles. He was part of a real estate syndicate, helped build a 233-mile aqueduct to bring water to the city, busted unions at his newspaper, founded a symphony and an airline, bankrolled the Santa Anita racetrack and the Biltmore Hotel.
Not bad for a kid from Landaff.
Chandler and his legacy was in the news (in 1999) when the Los Angeles Times, which had been family owned for over a century, was sold to the Tribune Company in Chicago for $8 billion.
LA Times columnist Patt Morrison wrote after announcement of the sale, “For good or ill, the Chandlers have been part of the fabric of Los Angeles for a long, long time. You can’t tell the story of L.A. without the Chandlers, and now that part of the story has come to a close.”
Despite his long list of achievements and influence, Chandler’s legacy does not provoke fuzzy feelings.
“LA was built on real estate values from the Chandler era,” author Williams said. “I don’t get the sense he’s revered – that’s one reason why we have sprawl out here. He contributed to that and made the city what it is, but it’s still trying to find its identity.”
Local historians in Landaff and Lisbon say to their knowledge, Chandler never came back to the area.
July 2, 2011
Today was the annual Franconia-Easton-Sugar Hill Old Home Day, continuing a century old tradition of New Hampshire towns calling back to their communities those who left, for whatever reason, to rekindle friendships and maybe, just maybe, draw them back.
A photographer friend of mine, always looking for a new angle, lamented that his parade pictures this year could look like last year’s.
On the surface, if you’ve been to a few of these parades, is that indeed, there’s not much difference from year to year. You can count on the blue flashing lights on town police cruiser coming down Main Street to herald the parade, followed by a color guard and World War II veterans stepping lively.
But, if you’ve been to a few of these parades, each year you can note with some sorrow that some of those veterans’ faces who have become familiar from year to year are not marching this in this parade, and realize their numbers are dwindling. No different from other years is the wave of applause that follows them down the street.
The vintage vehicles come next and it was nice to see the 1939 Ford Farm truck that Burt Aldrich restored years ago. Burt died last fall. Look closely and it was Cliff at the wheel and Burt’s widow, Maxine, in the passenger seat and, if you think about it, you’re just glad to see that pretty red truck because the parade wouldn’t be the same without it.
Politicians were scarce this year, except for Ray Burton. If Ray wasn’t marching in the parade, it would be cause for alarm.
A year ago, no one had not heard of, and perhaps could not conceive of an issue that, since last year’s Old Home Day parade, has galvanized an entire region against the Northern Pass. This year, dozens of men, women and children, wearing orange, the color of opposition, marched in solidarity down Main Street.
The floats followed, showing the humor and creativity and enthusiasm of businesses and organizations. Kids, flushed and happy, waved and grinned, taking their place in the tradition of the day. They, too, will probably leave someday, but, perhaps, they’ll make it back every year, or every other year, for Old Home Day.
The fire trucks brought up the end of the parade. Sirens whined and screamed, to the delight of children of a certain age, but not to the dogs. Drivers and passengers waved out their windows of the trucks at familiar faces that lined the route and, because you just can’t help it when you see fire trucks driving slowly, you grin, and hope that in the year that is now unfolding, this parade is the only reason why the trucks roll out of the station.
I hope my friend’s experiment with random shooting on his wide angle lens will give his readers a different view of the parade. I’m fairly confident, given the delightful summer day that it was, it was another successful Old Home Day for our little towns.
Until next year …