The other day a friend of mine called with an idea. He and his wife would like to go on a road trip with the Pianist and me. “Let’s take a walking tour of Claremont,” he said.
It seems they have read my reminiscences in these pages about growing up in Claremont, and “would like you to take us around so we could see the place through your eyes.” It took me some time to be sure I heard that right.
My reaction, typical as the Pianist will confirm, was negative. “You want to do what?” I asked.
My friend repeated the idea and mentioned something about seeing my father’s factory, the “shoddy mill” in Lower Village. I said it was an old building even when I was young and today, while it still stands, has not improved with age. It’s not much to look at.
As for Claremont, I added, “It’s not really a walking place,” thinking but not saying “unless you want to walk past a bunch of boarded up storefronts.”
Later the same day another friend sent me an email with a link to a lecture by a retired UNH professor named John C. Porter. So, I watched “The History of Agriculture as Told by Barns,” which includes photos of barns from all over New Hampshire. Towards the end of the documentary appears a barn in Claremont, no address provided. I took a screen shot, so we can go looking for it if we actually take this road trip.
We have a friend in Keene who owns a hydroelectric power plant in Claremont located near what was my father’s mill alongside the Sugar River. If we schedule this trip on a date when he will be in town, we can ask him to show us the plant and explain how it works. When that thought came to mind, my negativity needle started moving towards positive. What else? I suppose we could visit my boyhood home, even though they say you can’t go home again. Its address used to be “Edgewood,” but now it’s on Foster Place. I haven’t lived there in more than 60 years, but I remember it fondly— “five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and five fireplaces,” my mother used to say. I stopped by several years ago, and the -owner asked whether I would like to buy it.
I’m running out of ideas, but here’s one more – the Temple Meyer-David Cemetery, on the road to West Claremont. I was there on May 1 on my way to the West Claremont Burial Ground for the graveside funeral service of my friend Albie Leahy, who like his father served for many years as the local judge. That cemetery is located next to Old St. Mary’s Church, built in 1823. I didn’t even know it existed when I was young, but it is an impressive two-story brick building that happens to be the oldest Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire.
Hmm. The needle just moved again.
From there we could drive over to Claremont Junction, which is the only station in New Hampshire (platform only, no building) where you can board (or get off) the Amtrak “Vermonter.” My friend is a train buff.
The Pianist says we should show our friends the Opera House, which is connected to City Hall. I like that idea, and not just because she has given several concerts there. It was in that very space that I entered a pie-eating contest when I was nine, went home with my clothes covered with blueberry stains, and had to explain to my mother that I didn’t win.
You can walk a short distance from the Opera House to the Civil War monument on Broad Street. They held Friday night concerts at the bandstand, and my Uncle Billy played the trumpet.