Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Millie the Mill Girl - Manchester, New Hampshire


Here is “Millie”, the Mill Girl. She stands in a place well known to her, for she has crossed these brick portals many, many times. This is the world of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, what was and what is. We are in Manchester, New Hampshire.

We mark Labor Day next Monday with a look at this evocative statue sculpted by Antoinette Schultze and dedicated September 9, 1988.

The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company created Manchester, as much as did Samuel Blodgett, who in 1807 constructed a canals and locks along the Merrimack River that would open this area by Amoskeag Falls to industrial development. His idea was of a kind of textile manufacturing center similar to the city of Manchester in Great Britain. In referring to this project as “The Manchester of America”, the nickname stuck, and Manchester, along with the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, which produced cotton and woolen textiles, became a planned industrial city in much the same way as Lowell, Massachusetts.

The first jeans put out by Mr. Levi Strauss were made from cloth manufacturered here.

With its orderly grid of streets and any amenity of civilized village life the old paternalistic system could bestow, it was a world unto itself. The world came crashing down on Christmas Eve, 1935, when the Amoskeag closed it doors. There were many contributing factors, the Great Depression obviously being among them, but aging technology in a fast-changing world had a lot to do with it. River-powered turbines were not needed in the newer plants of the South when the oil which powered those mills seemed so plentiful.

There is a very old cycle to creating industry and watching it become obsolete, a pattern we have yet to fully understand, let alone break.

Visit the Amoskeag complex of 19th century factory buildings today, and you find a number of small businesses including software companies, stores, and the very interesting Millyard Museum, which holds the story of Amoskeag, among them.

Millie the Mill Girl stands here stoically reflecting on the past. The plaque mounted on the side of the building above her contains a moving tribute to our mill girl:

She stands here, for thousands
Of 19th century working women:

Industrial revolutionaries who broke
With the past to earn their living
Making history and creating the future.


For more on the 19th century mill girls, have a look at this previous post on Millie’s sisters in Lowell and in Chicopee.

For more on the Millyard Museum, have a look at this website.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Postcard Scenes of Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts



In this previous post we visited a couple of turn-of the-twentieth century postcard scenes of Mt. Tom in western Massachusetts. In this other post on my Tragedy and Comedy in New England blog, we discussed the Valley Players summer stock theater on Mt. Tom.
Here are a few more postcard views from the early 1900s of summertime fun on the summit of Mt. Tom.


 
 
 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summertime in Newbury, New Hampshire

Town meeting’s come and gone in Newbury, New Hampshire, yet on a warm, lazy summer day like this, there is something eternal about the banner across the country road.


Or the checkerboard put out on the sidewalk in front of some shops.

Or the flowers on the bridge over the southernmost cove of Lake Sunapee, where motorboats pull up to the dockside restauraunt, called The Anchorage.

But, change does come here, too. Newbury, incorporated in 1837, had taken a fling at being “Dantzic”, “Hereford” and “Fisherfield” before the final moniker. Change comes, but maybe it’s just a little slower. Or, maybe it just seems that way in summer.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Flood of 1955



(Don't forget to scroll down to the bottom of this page to mute the music so you can hear the newsreel.)



The Flood of 1955 came from the residual rain of two hurricanes, and yet because of its suddenness in striking in the wee hours on August 19th, seemed to come out of nowhere.

Hurricane Connie, and Hurricane Diane, neither of which actually entered New England, nevertheless pushed a couple of feet of rain, a deluge in a very short span of just over a day. The sodden ground could take no more, and the rivers morphed into monsters and took property, and lives, away.

There seemed to be less havoc on the Connecticut River, which had the benefit of flood control projects inspired by previous flood disasters, but the smaller rivers and tributaries were not protected quite so well.

The Westfield River in Western Massachusetts, and especially down the Naugatuck River valley, Connecticut’s industrial center, was hammered by the swift, destructive current. In Connecticut, over 90 people were dead or missing and presumed dead. In a report in the Connecticut State Library, “The Connecticut Floods of 1955: A Fifty-Year Perspective” we note that over 85,000 people were left without jobs, several thousand suffered flood damage to their homes, or were temporarily left homeless, or lost their homes altogether.

Another flood in October would make 1955 a very memorable and tragic year for Connecticut. In these days before suburban industrial parks, most industries were built on, and were powered by, rivers. Our towns created by the rivers in the 16th and 17th centuries still thrived as 20th century “downtowns” where most of the commerce, if not still many of the homes before suburban sprawl, were situated.

There is a duality to rivers. They give birth to communities, and whole civilizations; and they sometimes take it away.

Have a look here for facts and figures, and photos, of the Connecticut flooding in this Connecticut State Library site, a 50-year perspective on the 1955 floods. Have a look here for a series of articles by Jim Shea of The Hartford Courant also done on the 50th anniversary in 2005, particularly for the vivid memories shared by readers.

Also have a look here for a Western Massachusetts perspective from one of my favorite blogs, On Larch Lane.

And here on yesterday’s Another Old Movie Blog, we discuss Rosalind Russell’s movie premiere and homecoming to her hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut hours before the flood destroyed much of the aptly named Waterbury.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vaughn Monroe at The Meadows

Maybe you recall The Meadows in Framingham, Massachusetts and danced to Vaughn Monroe’s big band.

Here is the cover of sheet music for a jingle written for The Meadows by Jack Edwards and Johnny Watson. We see a photo of this nightclub on the front, and on the back, a photo of Vaughn Monroe, who owned The Meadows and broadcast his national radio show Camel Caravan here for a while in the late 1940s.

Mr. Monroe, for the uninitiated, was a singer and musician, and big band leader. He formed his own band in 1940, appeared in Boston and on The Terrace Gables in Falmouth on the Cape, and in several other cities around the country. After he took up ownership of The Meadows on Route 9, his band still toured quite a bit.

Those of us who are fans will remember his hits like “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, “Ballerina”, “There, I’ve Said it Again,” “Sound Off”, his signature tune, “Racing with the Moon.”

Other spots in New England where Vaughn Monroe played were Seiler’s Ten Acres in Wayland, and the Surf Ballroom in Revere, Massachusetts. He performed at the Carousel Ballroom in Manchester, New Hampshire; at the Canobie Lake Ballroom in Salem, NH, as well as the Hampton Beach Casino.

Maybe you weren’t lucky enough to see him, but listened to his Camel Caravan on WBZ from Boston. Later the show moved to television.

The Meadows burned down in 1980.

For more on The Meadows and the career of Vaughn Monroe, have a look at this website, and here for some memories. Special thanks to Gail Watson for hunting up this bit of Route 9 memorabilia.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wells-Ogunquit Historical Society


Route 1 through southern Maine seems more built-up each year with new businesses, and summertime traffic. Here in Wells, the Historical Society of Wells & Ogunquit observes the changes through the windows of the Meetinghouse Museum.

It’s the old First Congregational Church, on the National Register of Historic Places, over 140 years old, but continuing service in a new way for a town that is now 357 years old. New development on Route 1, whatever it brings, is just a blink of the eye in the timeline of this seaside community.

The museum here contains various exhibits on daily life throughout history, and illustrates the changes and opportunities that the people of the Wells-Ogunquit area witnessed or created by hand for themselves.

For more on the Meetinghouse Museum and the Historical Society of Wells & Ogunquit, Inc., have a look at this website.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Graves Lighthouse - Boston Harbor

Photo by Detroit Publishing Company, 1906.  Library of Congress collection, now in public domain.




The Graves Lighthouse stands on a rocky ledge in Boston Harbor, an outpost perhaps more rugged than romantic, but romantic enough to be used as the Cape Cod lighthouse in the 1949 film, “Portrait of Jennie” with Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones.

We tend nowadays to think of lighthouses as cozy and quaint icons of a romantic past. Perhaps something to do with the fact that automation, and a decreased reliance on ship travel, makes them seem remote and anachronistic. The story of Jennie and the starving artist, first made popular in Robert Nathan novella, is based upon anachronism and the impossible reaching out for the past, a doomed attempt to meld it with the present.

The actual history of the Graves Lighthouse is more prosaic. Built from 1903 to 1905, it is one of the younger lighthouses in New England. It replaced buoys to mark a busy shipping channel in Boston Harbor. With granite cut from Rockport, Massachusetts, it began operation in September 1905 with what was then the most powerful light of any Massachusetts lighthouse. Its enormous lens rested on 400 pounds of mercury (a spill of this material in the 1970s required the lighthouse to be shut down temporarily for decontamination). The light was automated in 1976 and its gigantic lens was sent to the Smithsonian Institute.
Photo by Detroit Publishing Company, 1906. Library of Congress collection, now in public domain.


For more on the Graves Lighthouse, have a look at this website, which also features a brief candid home movie of Joseph Cotten at the time of filming “Portrait of Jennie”. Note that it is the distance shots of the lighthouse in the film that are of the actual Graves Lighthouse. The close-ups were shot on a set back in Hollywood.

Here is another site with more information on the lighthouse.

For more on “Portrait of Jennie”, have a look here at my post on Another Old Movie Blog.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"A Funny Thing Happened..." - A Memoir by Lester Colodny


What is more fun than a barrel of monkeys? The question is asked, and hilariously answered, in a new memoir by Lester Colodny of Westport, Connecticut. “A Funny Thing Happened - Life Behind the Scenes: Hollywood Hilarity and Manhattan Mayhem” was recently published by SciArt Media, written by Mr. Colodny with Susan Heller.

Mr. Colodny kindly granted me a phone interview and discussed his long and varied career as a writer of plays, ad copy, of news prĂ©cis, and screenplays. He stumbled into acting and stumbled into Mae West, touring with her show “Diamond L’il”. He worked as a literary agent, a talent agent, and director of television commercials. He won an Emmy Award for a special with Jack Benny he wrote, directed and produced. He won several “Clio” awards for his unique “Xerox” commercials. Now, at 85 years old, he directs community theatre plays in Connecticut, and has written this fun memoir of a life of many career twists and turns, usually unexpected and often under the silliest of circumstances.

“When I look back, I say, “Who is that fellow, Les Colodny, that did all that?”

The monkeys, incidentally, involved the completely unprepared cast of NBC’s “The Today” show, with a clownish Dave Garroway, and his terrorized compatriots: Frank Blair, Jack Lescoulie, and a very young, beautiful, and horror-stricken Florence Henderson. Mr. Colodny was the show’s writer and associate producer at the time. You need to read the book just for this story alone.

He is a multi-talented raconteur and teller of stories, which feature Frank Sinatra, Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis, and many more. Mr. Colodny’s granddaughter, actress, Elizabeth Hendrickson (“The Young and the Restless” and “All My Children” - 2002-2007) wrote the foreword.

“My life is funny,” Mr. Colodny remarks, noting that the parade of comical incidents, improbable twists of fate, and the sometimes exasperating over-the-top characters that have passed through his life is like, “God played a joke on me.”

For more on Lester Colodny’s work in theatre, including his new avocation as a director of community theatre plays in Connecticut, have a look at next week’s Tragedy and Comedy in New England blog. For more on his adventures in film and television, join us in a couple weeks at Another Old Movie Blog.

For more on Lester Colodny’s book and to order your copy, have a look here at the SciArt Media website. SciArt Media is a new publishing company in New Hampshire, which specializes in books by New England authors.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Wreck of the SS Andrea Doria



(Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of this page and pause the music so you can hear the video.)

In late July 1956, the ocean liner SS Andrea Doria sank on the last night of its transatlantic voyage from Italy to New York City when another ocean liner, the MS Stockholm, collided with her.

It seemed a watershed moment, almost as if morosely heralding the end of the leisurely elegance of ship travel (the first jet was to cross the Atlantic two years later), and the beginning of instant news as still photographers from Life magazine and others, newsreel cameramen, and reporters scrambled to the site to watch the vessel sink. Topping any newspaper “extras”, the film was developed and shown on television.

Most amazing about the story of the sinking of the Andrea Doria is rescue operation that began in such an impromptu fashion, among a variety of vessels and participants, and became one of the most successful rescues at sea in history. The death toll of 46 from the Andrea Doria and 5 from the Stockholm was a tragedy. That there were not more was a triumph.

Much of the information from this post comes from Richard Goldstein’s fine book “Desperate Hours - The Epic Rescue of the Andrea Doria” (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NY, 2003), as well as the interesting television documentary, “Secrets of the Dead - The Sinking of the Andrea Doria” (PBS 2006).

Her last voyage was to be a nine-day journey from Genoa, Italy to New York City in this era where travel was leisurely. The trip enjoyed clear weather, and a peaceful crossing until its final night when disaster struck off the New England coast.

An excellent book called “Shipwrecks Around Cape Cod” by William P. Quinn (Lower Cape Publishing, Orleans, Mass. 1973), notes centuries of nautical disasters off the shores of Cape Cod where a variety of circumstances have made these treacherous waters. Survival rates, in days long gone by, were not very good.

Safety, and chances of survival, had improved a very great deal by the summer of 1956 when the Andrea Doria was completing her pleasant journey across the Atlantic. But a hurdle had been thrown out by the typically unforgiving New England weather on this last evening of the voyage, the notoriously fog-bound waters south of Nantucket.

There was the usual last night festivities on ship, with champagne and streamers, and a roast beef dinner, and “Arrivederci Roma” played by Dino Massa and Orchestra. Shortly after 11 p.m., the MS Stockholm accidentally rammed the Andrea Doria, and a drama of several hours began.

Ten minutes after the collision, a ship-to-shore radio station in Chatham, Massachusetts on the Cape received a distress call, first from the Stockholm, and immediately followed by the Andrea Doria. Closest to the scene were six other ships: a commercial freighter called Cape Ann, a military transport Private William H. Thomas, the Coast Guard cutter Hornbeam, a Navy destroyer escort ship Edward H. Allen, and a tanker, the Robert E. Hopkins, as well as another grand ocean liner, the Ile de France.

Fortunately, though the Stockholm was severely damaged in the collision, the ship was still seaworthy and also rescued passengers from the Andrea Doria. The Andrea Doria lost the use of half of its lifeboats due to technical glitch brought on by the listing of the ship. Had not so many ships raced to the rescue, an enormous tragedy similar to the Titanic could have occurred with not enough lifeboats for the passengers.

The freighter Cape Ann, owned by the United Fruit Company, was the first to arrive. The Coast Guard directed the rescue, with participation to varying degrees from military installations around New England, including the Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth and Coast Guard units at Woods Hole on the Cape; New London, Connecticut; and in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Some injured passengers were plucked by helicopter and taken to the Nantucket Cottage Hospital for first treatment before being taken to Boston.

Boston Daily Globe, July 26, 1956, p. 1

A total of 1660 passengers and crew were rescued. The Andrea Doria, after a dark night of terror, could not be saved, and sank at around 10 a.m. the following morning, in full daylight, in full view of the cameras. For more on the shipboard experiences that night and rescue of two Hollywood stars, have a look at yesterday’s Another Old Movie Blog.

For more in the story of the Andrea Doria, have a look at this website.