Ruth Doan MacDougall
INDEX OF EARLIER ENTRIES: 2018-March 2019
MAY 19, 2019
During her visit, Penny and I watched New Hampshire Chronicle, a nightly magazine-type TV program. One evening as a segment began about a subject called “audio dramas,” we sat there bewildered—and then we turned to each other and exclaimed, “It’s radio!”
We learned that Rick Coste of Modern Audio Drama writes and produces these drama podcasts, which include The Behemoth, Bryar Lane, Inhale, and Is Anybody Out There?, and he directs the “voice actors.”
Well! Needless to say, by the end of that segment we were teeming with radio memories. As I wrote about Snowy and Tom’s first date in The Cheerleader, these memories and sounds from childhood remained in our minds and our ears:
The first movie was a Western with Zachary Scott. Tom and Snowy had each seen so many Westerns, from childhood Saturday matinees of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy to the latest on television (Range Rider was one of Snowy’s favorite programs), that the violent stories were as soothingly familiar as nursery rhymes, and they usually watched them with cozy anticipation of the stagecoach chase, the fistfights, the leap from the hotel roof into the saddle, the posse, the box canyon, the ambush, the wild riding, the gunfight, the sunset, and because they’d grown up listening to the radio, they enjoyed the sounds as much as the scenes, the clip-clop of horses, the bang of six-guns, the silence and slap of poker games, the chink and glug of whiskey.
Years later Snowy is reminded of radio when she and Bev are going to their fortieth high-school reunion in Henrietta Snow:
She and Bev scooted up the walk, around the building to the front door, high heels clattering on the pavement like the sound effects in old radio mystery shows. Margo Lane in The Shadow.
The Shadow was one of the programs Penny and I reminisced about, still able in our Golden Years to recite the eerie introduction—“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” At the kitchen table on Saturday afternoons we had sat listening to the many programs (The House of Mystery; Martin Kane, Private Eye; etc., etc., etc.!) on the small brown radio (not the big console radio in the living room), and as we listened we would draw pictures, our mother having supplied us with pencils and crayons and pieces of our father’s manila typewriter paper. Sometimes we played Double Solitaire, taught by this card-shark mother. We dipped into the bowl of popcorn we’d made, overseen by Mama, in the wire popper shaken on a stove burner, in memory the best popcorn ever made even though it was margarine-d, not buttered.
“And remember,” we said, “if there was leftover popcorn we’d have it next morning cold, with milk, for breakfast!”
MAY 12, 2019
My sister was visiting last week, so together we saw the news on TV about the birth of the royal baby and then learned the baby’s name. Archie. And we vowed, “This summer we must go see the Archie statue!”
A statue, that is, of the Archie Andrews of comic-book fame. It’s nearby, in Meredith, NH. In 1942 Bob Montana rented a cottage on Lake Waukewan and drew the first comic book there, and in 2018 the unveiling of the bronze Archie statue was part of Meredith’s 250th anniversary celebration.
Bob Montana came to Meredith as a child, when his parents retired from their vaudeville careers and in 1924 started a Meredith restaurant called Montana’s. Alas, the Great Depression closed it. They moved to Boston. His father died; his mother remarried and settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts. And Haverhill High School inspired the characters and setting for the Archie comics.
However, while Penny and I were growing up we knew that Laconia folks liked to think that Laconia High School was also an inspiration. After all, LHS was the big high school in the Lakes Region, and Bob Montana had returned here, buying a sixty-acre farm on Meredith Neck in 1948 and making Meredith his home. In an article in the November 19, 2016, issue of the Laconia Daily Sun, reporter Bea Lewis quoted his daughter, Lynn, who remarked that her father “frequently said that the best thing he ever did was raise his family in Meredith.” In the April 5, 2018, issue of the Laconia newspaper, reporter Thomas P. Caldwell wrote that “in a book about Montana’s life and connection to the community, author Carol Lee Anderson noted that he placed Archie and the Gang at various New Hampshire locations, skiing at the Gunstock Recreation Area [near Laconia] and boating on Lake Winnipesaukee.”
In 1967 Bob Montana bought a closed gas station on Meredith’s Main Street and turned it into an art gallery and framing shop. Don once went in looking for some framing materials but didn’t meet him. Bea Lewis reported that Bob Montana’s wife took over the running of the shop: “Lynn Montana recounted that her father attracted an icy stare from her mother when she got back to the farm after spending all day at the gallery, found him enjoying a drink and would be cheerily asked, ‘What’s for dinner?’”
Having been reminded of this Archie by the royal Archie, Penny and I reminisced about how we’d discovered him in the comic-books treasure-trove of our childhood, the upstairs of a friend’s garage. Her father had a grocery store that sold comic books, and stacks of old ones were stored there. Many a sunny afternoon we spent upstairs in that dusty gloom with, amongst other favorites, the Archie comic books. Even though we weren’t teenagers yet, we felt that the high-school situations were somewhat dated (dated! We hadn’t dated yet, either!), but we appreciated the bright clarity of the drawings and enjoyed cheering for Betty and booing Veronica.
I’ve seen newspaper-and-online photos of the statue: life-size Archie is sitting on a park bench in Main Street’s Community Park. This summer Penny and I will go sit beside him.
MAY 5, 2019
Recently my niece told me about rediscovering the joys of department stores when she was in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and she and a friend went to Wilson’s Department Store. Everything they wanted, all in one store! Googling, I read that Wilson’s has been “a fixture in downtown Greenfield for 137 years” and has “three floors of name-brand merchandise spanning 20 departments.”
This all brought back my introduction to department stores, O’Shea’s in Laconia. It was an impressive place, in a grand building that had once been an opera house. Its wonders included an overwhelming array of children’s clothes, men’s clothes, women’s clothes, perfume, shoes, and everything else (Girl Scout uniforms!)—but especially fascinating was its method of payment: your mother’s money was put in a little container that went zooming off overhead to the business department and came zooming back with her change.
As I grew up, I literally went up in O’Shea’s, climbing up to the second floor and the women’s clothing there. In A Gunthwaite Girl, Snowy and Bev and Puddles reminisce about Ship’n Shore blouses. Ah, yes.
When our high-school’s Junior Prom Decoration Committee went to Boston to consult Dennison’s about our decorations, we girls explored a huge (compared with O’Shea’s) department store, Jordan Marsh. I put this experience in The Cheerleader:
. . . The girls were so dazzled by such an enormous store that they couldn’t make up their minds what to buy and finally chose only shortie nighties, which they could have bought at Dunlap’s Department Store. Then they got lost. They couldn’t find the entrance where they were supposed to meet the boys—“Wasn’t it the one near the perfume?” “Or was it the one near the pocketbooks?”—and Snowy, beginning to panic, fearing they’d miss the train, said, “Let’s go outdoors, I think I can recognize it from outside.” They walked around the building and there were Dudley and Ron waiting.
During my Bennington Non-Resident Terms working in Boston I got well acquainted with Jordan Marsh and Filene’s in my lunch hours, and later when Don and I spent a year in Boston I even bravely ventured into Filene’s Basement, renowned for its fearsome bargain-hunters.
Thinking about my niece’s news, I tried to remember the last time I had been in a true department store. And I realized it had been dear old O’Shea’s. During Laconia’s urban renewal, my mother phoned to tell me that O’Shea’s was scheduled to be torn down very soon. Demolished. Don and I were living in Dover, NH, then. We came home and I went into the venerable, historic building for the last time. I wandered around, feeling sad disbelief, and finally just bought a scarf for a souvenir.
SPRING IS HERE!
April 28, 2019
I knew that spring had truly arrived when last week a neighbor reported that a BIG bear was making his rounds.
I had taken down my bird feeder a few days earlier after seeing an entry in my diary on April 20, 2011, that said, “I began deskwork—and Don yelled, ‘Bear!’ A young bear had got the suet feeder and retreated behind the shed and returned. It would not leave—too young even to be scared by Don charging it in the truck, horn blaring. But finally it wandered off. I returned to deskwork.”
In addition to the bear news last week, Sandwich (known to be a snow pocket) finally really looked like spring. A rainy spell has washed away the snow, including the last white blob lingering under my front-yard maple, and turned the surprised grass rapidly green. The brook is roaring. In the brimming pond the spring peepers have begun shrilling so loudly I can hear them inside the house. Two chipmunks have emerged from their burrows and I find one or the other waiting impatiently on the rock where they know I’ll lovingly leave sunflower seeds for them. Phoebes have returned; usually they nest in the ell’s eaves but I saw two inspecting the possibilities of the eaves in that shed Don built.
Of course rain means that the springtime mud has got muddier. During National Poetry Month, Sandwich’s Yeoman’s Fund for the Arts group has been posting a daily poem. Here’s a mud poem, an anonymous poem found several years ago pinned on the bulletin board between the North Sandwich Post Office and the North Sandwich Store:
NORTH SANDWICH WHOPPER
(by a Center Sandwichite)
In North Sandwich they will tell you
that if you see a hat
lying in the road on Basket Street
in April, you had best not pick it up,
not unless you have a lot of time.
If you pick up that hat, they tell you,
underneath it you will find a man
whom you will have to dig out
(April is mud time up on Basket Street)
only to find that he is riding a horse.
But what they will not tell you
is that the horse’s hooves are planted
on the carapace of an enormous
nor that the tortoise rests
with one foot each upon the patient backs
of four majestic elephants who stand
facing the four directions, on the coils
of the primeval serpent.
And that snake?
DOROTHY PARKER POEM
April 21, 2019
After rereading Ogden Nash’s poems during this National Poetry Month, I decided to reread another old-favorite poet, Dorothy Parker. I have my parents’ collection that I used to pore over, Not So Deep As a Well. I’ve mentioned before that during our—er—courtship I quoted to Don a Dorothy Parker poem; rereading the collection I came to it and laughed:
Say my love is easy had,
Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad—
Still behold me at your side.
Say I’m neither brave nor young,
Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue—
Still you have my heart to wear.
But say my verses do not scan,
And I get me another man!
Amused, we agreed that he’d only correct me on technical stuff, such as cars and carpentry.
During the ensuing years I consulted him about much more, and when he read my manuscripts he mentioned problems he encountered. Of the “do not scan” type of problems I can only remember in detail the first one: In a short story I’d written for the Advanced Writing course we both were taking at Keene Teachers’ College, I wrote that my distraught heroine “ran out into the night.” Don gently told me that he hated when people ran out into the night in stories.
I immediately rewrote, and I think I can safely say nobody has run out into the night in anything I’ve written since.
I depended on him for help with all I wrote. As I work on Lazy Beds I’m still making mental notes to ask him this or that and I almost jot “ask Don!” in the margins of the manuscript.
NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK, 2019
April 14, 2019
Last week was National Library Week, which reminded me how very lucky I’ve been with libraries, the Laconia library in my youth, the Sandwich library during most of my adult years.
On June 7, 2003, the Laconia library celebrated its 100th birthday with a party. Here’s an excerpt from a piece about this I wrote at the time for “Ruth’s Neighborhood.” I titled it “Happy Birthday, Dear Library.”
. . . A hundred years before this library was built, the first library was organized in Laconia, then called Meredith Bridge. So the party also commemorated two hundred years of interest in—and devotion to—books.
A bequest from a rich Laconia resident with the glorious name of Major Napoleon Bonaparte Gale financed the construction of the grand new library. It is an imposing edifice of red-pink granite and gray granite, with a tower and a turret, and nowadays the architecture makes me smile affectionately, but I still feel the thrilling awe that used to overwhelm me when my mother led me up the long series of steps to the massive doors whose knobs were too big for me to turn by myself and I entered this fairy-tale castle.
These emotions vied within me as Don and I approached the library for the party. A tent had been set up on the lawn . . . [we] kept on along the walk, past spiffed-up gardens, to the library pond at the back. This was a very special place in our childhoods. Don remembers taking a shortcut through it every day on his way from his home on River Street (“Snowy’s House”) to his elementary school, but this route didn’t actually save him time because the pond was such a peaceful place to dawdle that he was apt to be late going to and fro. Indeed, in our years together the library pond has entered our language; when he’s daydreaming or otherwise abstracted and not doing something he should be doing, we say he’s “library-ponding.”
. . . When the welcoming ceremony ended, we went up the steps, through the formidable doors, into the stained-glass entry. . . Of the books on the shelves [in the children’s room in my day] I remember most fondly a series of biographies, with orange covers, illustrated with black silhouettes—Julia Ward Howe and Jane Addams were favorites—and a series about twins from different lands, such as . . . the Scotch (not Scottish, I’m pretty sure) Twins, Jean and Jock. During the following years, there were the Rosamund du Jardins and Betty Cavannas and all. I was allowed into the stacks.
Here in 2003, in the reading room four long tables had been set up for four of us authors from Laconia or the surrounding area, with our books displayed . . . I met my youngest reader, age seven, who had started in on The Cheerleader even though her mother had told her she must wait until she’s older. When this adorable, solemn little girl asked me to sign her copy, I said, “Do you want to be a cheerleader?” She put me in my place by replying, “No, a football player!”
Then a barbershop quartet began singing, “Happy Birthday, Dear Library.”
NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, 2019
April 7, 2019
It’s April, National Poetry Month, and I’ve been rereading two poets who are—er—strange bedfellows: Anne Bradstreet and Ogden Nash.
Recently when I was looking up some other poet in my Oxford Book of American Verse, I happened to see Anne Bradstreet’s name leading the list in the table of contents. Her name usually does because she’s our oldest American poet, so to speak; she was born (in England) in 1612 and died in 1672. I realized I hadn’t reread her since college and resolved to read these selections. So now I have, starting with “The Prologue”:
. . . I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A Poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on Female wits:
If what I do prove well, it won’t advance,
They’l say it’s stoln, or else it was by chance . . .
And recently in the Sandwich library I paused at the poetry bookcase, my eye caught by the Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash: 650 Rhymes, Lyrics, and Poems. As I’ve mentioned, I spent a lot of time in my youth poring over my parents’ collections of his and Dorothy Parker’s poems. So I took Ogden Nash’s Selected Poetry home from the library and in my own poetry bookcase I located that very copy of my parents’ Ogden Nash collection, The Face Is Familiar, published in 1940. I settled down happily with both books and started with the Selected Poetry, published in 1995. It has a trenchant introduction by Archibald MacLeish and the poems are organized by subject, very handy. I went to the section titled “Parents—And Oh, Those Children!” and found one of the verses I remembered best, “Reflection on Babies”:
A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.
In my high-school journal I switched that around to apply to the girls’ locker room, where Cashmere Bouquet was always walcum (as I later noted in The Cheerleader).
For National Poetry Month, here’s his April poem, “Always Marry an April Girl”:
Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true—
I love April, I love you.
© 2019 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved
This page: CURRENT ENTRIES: April, 2019
EARLIER ENTRIES INDEX
Squirrels (January 6)
Mills & Factories (January 13)
Kingfisher (January 19)
A Rockland Restaurant (January 27)
Home Ec (February 3)
Ice Fishing Remembered (February 10)
Our First Date (February 17)
Sandwiches Past and Present (February 23)
Snowy Owls & Chicadees (March 3)
Car Inspection (March 10)
Latest Reading & Listening (March 17)
Frost Heaves, Again (March 24)
Signs of Spring, 2019 (March 31)
March, 2018 (first entry)
Earlier: See Ruth's Neighborhood
The Old Country Store (March 25)
The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (041518)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing;;
Food & Drink Poems (April 22)
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)
All rights reserved