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 …
BETHLEHEM – More than 80 years after delivering the old Boston Post newspaper, Richmond Trainor took delivery of the Boston Post cane Saturday morning, receiving the tribute established by the paper to honor a long life.
Trainor, 95, has waited a couple of years for this honor; he missed being feted as the town’s oldest resident the last time the search went out to the late Newt Washburn, who was three or four weeks older.
“I’ll be 96 in December,” Trainor said. “I always wanted to live that long.”
He’s the first person in nearly 40 years to actually get his hands on the original Boston Post Cane. It was lost some time in the 1970s, only to emerge last month from a forgotten closet at a residence in town after a New Hampshire Union Leader article noted that the cane had been missing all these years.
“It’s just a great story,” said Richard Robie, who had been trying to track down the gold-headed cane for well over a decade. In that time, the Bethlehem Heritage Society resumed the tradition of presenting a cane about a dozen years ago, after ordering a replica cane.
But on Saturday morning, for a few minutes, Trainor had a good firm grip on the original cane, as Robie talked about Trainor’s competition this time around, after putting out the word the town was looking for the oldest resident.
“We had a bunch of babies call us – they were just 90 – 91 years old,” Robie said.
Trainor nodded and said, “They’re just kids.”
Trainor became a paperboy when he was 11, delivering the Boston Post and other papers of the day to residents in his Lawrence, Mass., neighborhood. The year that stands out the most to him, he told a reception of family and friends, was 1927.
“That was the year (Charles) Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic,” he said. ” I delivered papers about the great sporting feat – when Jack Dempsey lost the heavyweight crown to Gene Tunney … and my father died.”
It was in 1909 that the Boston Post dispatched more than 700 canes to communities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island. The selectmen were given the gold-headed, ebony cane and asked to pass the cane on to their oldest resident. In return, the newspaper asked to be informed of the recipients, with circulation-boosting tales about what they attribute their old age to.
Trainor said he wasn’t aware of the cane and its meaning when he was paperboy, but as he continued celebrating birthdays, he said he thought it was a nice tradition of which he wanted a part.
“It’s a nice tradition that people my age appreciate,” he said. “Keep this tradition going.”
If the Boston Post, which published its last edition more than 50 years ago, asked Trainor what he attributes his long life to, he would have paused.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “All you have to do is hang around!”
Married to his bride, Geraldine, for 73 years, Trainor said “helping each other as much as you can and being honest” made strong foundation.
Trainor got to bring home the Bethlehem Heritage Cane after his reception; the Post Cane will be held for safekeeping.
“This is not going to leave (the heritage society) again,” Robie said.
The original Boston Post cane will be displayed and a plaque is keeping track of those residents in town who live long lives.
(First published in 1997)
In the midst of a hard-scrabble life, followers of a Vermont man more than a century ago patiently awaited the end of the world.
The man was William Miller – army captain, deputy sheriff, farmer, prophet. His followers, called Millerites, numbered in the thousands and believed with him that the world would end on Oct. 22, 1844.
Miller spent years calculating numbers gleaned from the Bible and devising a timeline charting the second coming of Jesus Christ. From the 1830s to that fateful day in 1844, he spread his message throughout the Northeast and beyond.
“I think this is the first of what we would call a cult that surfaced in New Hampshire,’’ said Charlie Jordan of Clarksville, who researched the Millerites and their presence in Sugar Hill for his publication, Northern New Hampshire Magazine. “It could be defined as a cult by today’s terms.’’
The occasional story and minor mention of the Millerites’ presence are noted in local town histories and university publications. For some reason, Miller’s teachings took firm root in Sugar Hill, which at the time was a part of Lisbon.
One June day in 1835, some 3,000 people attended a state meeting of the Free Will Baptists in what is now Sugar Hill, which coincided with the rise of Millerism. Sunday services after that were punctuated by pro and con discussions of Miller’s calculations.
Not long after, a group of the town’s Free-Will Baptists broke away, became Adventists, built a church of their own and upheld the Millerite movement, which Jordan said, called for all members “to put their affairs in order and be prepared to be called home.’’
Adventist doctrine, Jordan wrote, said “the Lord would appear high in the clouds and the members would be called up through a spiritual ray.’’
The Book of Daniel states that at the end, those who had already died would be called home and from that, many Millerites thought local cemeteries were good places to wait for an express trip to heaven.
Miller published numerous papers to keep in touch with his followers, while he and others continued to add and subtract to come up with the correct day.
At first, Miller said the end of the world would happen sometime in 1843. In the years leading up to that date, Jordan said, the devoted quietly put their affairs in order, while more skeptical people wondered, “What if the Millerites were right?’’
Authors Ronald and Janet Numbers, in their book The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the 19th Century, noted that admissions to state mental hospitals were based on “religious excitement’’ in the 1840s. A notation made beside the name of the very first patient at the New Hampshire Asylum for the Insane in 1842 simply said “Millerite.’’
As dates calculated by Miller came and went, true believers were undaunted. Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune published cartoons showing Miller and his followers being taken skyward.
On Oct. 16, 1844, the editor of the Advent Herald in Boston, a Miller publication, told readers it would be the last issue, for he was going home to prepare for the end of the world and so should his readers.
Meanwhile, in Sugar Hill, Jordan said, farmers had stopped tending their fields. Their wives stopped doing laundry and dishes and all devoted their hours to reading the Scriptures. So concerned were selectmen, they gathered volunteers to harvest the crops.
“The town officials reasoned that if the world ended, well, that would be that,’’ Jordan wrote. “But if it didn’t, the families who let their farms go untended – to ultimately cared for by others – would be expected to reimburse their neighbors for their work sometime after Oct. 23.’’
It was a time of hard times, Jordan said.
“People were more accepting back then and forgiving of unusual beliefs,’’ he said. “It was trying times – there was a potato famine. Spiritualism found a fertile ground.’’
There is little hard evidence as to what happened in Sugar Hill on the morning of Oct. 22, 1844, but from his research, Jordan surmised that the local Millerites dressed in their white ‘Ascension Robes,’ positioned themselves beside individual headstones of departed loved ones and looked skyward.
The day wore on and nothing happened.
“Mrs. Arthur Jesseman’s uncle went to see what was going on and the believers in the cemetery were looking very cold and gloomy,’’ according Lisbon’s Ten Score Years. “On the next day his investigations disclosed women ‘up to their shoulder’ in the washtubs, as they had not washed any clothes for several weeks and their farmer husbands were frantically trying to get in their unharvested crops.’’
There was great disappointment in the days that followed and the Millerite movement eventually collapsed. Before the end of the decade that was to have seen the end of the world, Miller died, still believing that “the day of the Lord is near, even at the door.’’
- Reprinted from the May 9, 2003 edition of The Union Leader on the occasion of the 8th anniversary of the fall of the Old Man of the Mountain.
FRANCONIA – The man had waited until Monday to come down from Littleton to Franconia Notch, partly to avoid the crowd of the curious on Sunday and partly to believe for a few more hours that maybe the headlines weren’t as bad as they sounded.
Like thousands of other Granite Staters last weekend, he took the news that the Old Man of the Mountain had collapsed with a mix of disbelief, denial and sadness – sadness for the loss of such a symbol and sadness that his two faraway sons did not get one last look at it.
“They live in Florida and Virginia,” said the man, dressed all in blue, who did not share his name. “My son in Virginia – he’s in the service overseas. But whenever he comes home, he always comes up on (Interstate) 93, just so he could see it. He comes up that way, even though it would be quicker for him to come up (Interstate) 91. When he would finally see it, he would say he’s at the gate – he’s almost home.”
The tumble of the Old Man, in the early hours of last Saturday, caught everyone off guard. Surely, while few of us had doubted such a formation could continue defying gravity, we figured this granite icon was good for as long as we were.
What has also caught us unawares is the emotion that has flowed in the aftermath. Because few of us ever really thought that the Great Stone Face would fall in our lifetime, we had also never really thought about what that would mean to us individually and in our collective psyche. We are finding that for every piece of crumbled rock resting below Cannon Cliffs, there is a memory and a piece of our hearts attached.
For some, the Old Man was a destination at the end of a journey. Getting there to see him meant a long summer’s ride in a station wagon, maybe with a bunch of cousins and an arsenal of fluffernutters. It was taking in a bear show at Clark’s and a splash in Echo Lake and between those times, the station wagon was pulled over and everyone looked skyward. Long after growing up, a glimpse of the Old Man would bring those memories back over the years and a succeeding generation would seek to recreate those days with their own children.
For others, to see the Old Man come into view meant they were almost back home or that in just a few minutes, they would be at their grandmother’s house.
But those feeling the loss of the Old Man most deeply are those who lived and grew up in the vicinity of his gaze. Maybe as children, they fought siblings for backseat rights that would let them see the Old Man first.
As adults, they would drive by him on their way to and from work and like a cherished neighbor they pass on the street, to go by the Old Man and not acknowledge him would be rude.
The Old Man was such a part of the landscape, it was almost like he was a protector or a guardian or the keeper of the Notch. In a world of rapid and bewildering change, the Old Man was steady at his vigil. He did not change. He was just always there and there was something greatly comforting about that.
Now that he’s gone, there is a feeling of vulnerability – the protector, the guardian, the keeper is gone. Who’s there to watch over us? Who’s there to listen to what we have to say him? Who’s there for children to wave at?
In these few days after the fall, it is still hard to fathom, much less even say out loud - the Old Man is gone. After a first look at the empty cliff last Saturday, at least one woman has not looked at it again, even though she drives through the Notch twice a day.
“I pull my visor over my window and just look straight ahead,” she said. “I just can’t bear to look up there.”
Wishful thinking would have the whole past week be a bad dream and in the morning, the profile would be there.
The Old Man has been staring southward for 10,000 years or more, but he was a relatively recent discovery – he was just two years shy of celebrating the bicentennial of his discovery. We had less than 200 years to enjoy him.
Our parents, their parents and their parents introduced each succeeding generation to him, but part of the collective sadness this week is the regret that those who follow will not know the strength, the inspiration, the awe or the comfort of the Old Man.
And so we now try to figure out how to best to remember the Old Man of the Mountain. Do we do everything we can to recreate his visage high above Franconia Notch and if we do, will that assuage the aching emptiness on that cliffside? Could a mere replica inspire poets, charm children, uphold the identity of an entire state or remedy our broken hearts?
Or do we realize that the hand of man can never recreate the wonder of nature? Do we let the Old Man rest in peace – and pieces – with a modest memorial to explain to those who follow us why his image remains – and must remain – 10, 20, 200 years from now?
Nature proved this week that what it can make, it can also take away. It showed that it is not static.
We lost a huge symbol, but who is to say that nature is finished making marvels, creating wonder and provoking mystery? Tomorrow or 10,000 tomorrows from now, there maybe another night of hard rain and high winds and frost. The hillsides may shake and rumble and change, unseen in the fog that so often cloaks high elevations.
And when that veil lifts, possibly on a blue sky day like last Saturday, perhaps a new generation can find a source of strength and pride and awe, one we can’t even imagine today.
~ Lorna Colquhoun
BETHLEHEM – Dick Robie has spent more than 10 years looking for something that’s been missing for decades – until Tuesday, when he became the youngest recipient of the Boston Post Cane.
“It’s been 35 or 40 years since it’s last been seen,” said Robie, who is a member of the Bethlehem Heritage Society.
The town of Bethlehem is one of 700 communities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island that were presented with the gold-headed, ebony cane from the old Boston Post newspaper in 1909, according to the Maynard, Mass., Historical Society, which keeps track of the canes.
These towns were directed to pass the cane on to their oldest resident and in return, the newspaper asked to be informed of the recipients, with circulation-boosting tales about what they attribute their old age to.
It is a tradition that has lasted far longer than the newspaper, which went out of print in 1957.
Over the last 102 years, some communities have lost track of their canes. As near as Robie has figured, the Bethlehem cane was last seen in the 1970s and its whereabouts unknown since then.
On Tuesday, an article in the New Hampshire Union Leader prompted an end to the mystery. Robie had put the word out that the town is seeking its oldest resident to present a replica cane to and he wistfully said how nice it would be to find the Bethlehem cane.
About a mile and a half away from Robie’s house, Russell Burt read the article that morning and it jogged his memory. He went to a tiny closet in the living room of the home he shares with Joan Iserman.
“It’s a closet we never go into and Russell called me at work and said ‘I think we have it!’” Iserman said.
The couple called Robie over to their house later that day. Burt, a prankster, solemnly showed Robie the other forgotten occupant in the closet, a shelaleigh.
“He said, ‘Is this what you’re looking for?’ and showed me this gnarled stick that looked like a woodpecker’s head and boy, my heart just went down,” Robie said.
Burt laughed and presented him the Boston Post cane and there concluded a search that Robie thought he would never end.
“I never expected to see it again,” he said.
The cane is in fine shape. The African Congo mahogany may not gleam and the the 14-carot gold head has a dent or two, but there is no doubt as to what it is, for the fine inscription says ‘Bethlehem, NH.’ But curiously, it has a rubber tip not found on the original canes.
It’s discovery may have ended Robie’s search, but it has set Iserman on one of her own.
“I really didn’t know I had it,” she said, “and I don’t know how I came to have it.”
She figures it came into her possession after her mother died in 1989 and she stored away some of her things. An aunt, her mother’s sister, had died earlier and her mother had cleaned out her things.
The aunt had resided at a local nursing home and may have been friends with a previous recipient of the cane, sometime in the 1970s.
“Since it had a rubber tip, all I can think is that someone had it and she needed one and they gave it to (the aunt),” Robie said, “and she used it. Somewhere along the line, that rubber tip was put on it.”
Iserman has been calling family members all around the country, trying to figure out just how it might have landed in her closet.
In the days since Robie put the word out about looking for the oldest citizen, he has been surprised at the number of calls he has gotten from people wondering if they might be the eldest elder in the town.
Robie did not want to divulge the age of the oldest one he’s heard about so far, but he would say that number is over 90.
In many New Hampshire towns, the tradition of presenting the cane has been retired, for those qualified to receive it have perceived it, as several town officials have said over the years, that it is the “kiss of death.”
Robie will suggest that now that town has its Boston Post Cane back, it should be retired to the Bethlehem Heritage Society.
The tradition of honoring the oldest citizen will carry on, since it resumed in 1999, when a replica cane was made for the presentation denoting an achievement that is a mystery all its own – achieving old age.