Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Travel Tuesday: A Genealogy Trip To New Hampshire (March 4, 2014)

In the early spring of 2010 I went on a a genealogy trip to New England to visit some cousins, do some research in Newport, RI, and to visit the homes my family lived in while we were in New Hampshire in the early 1960s. 

My family moved to Salem, New Hampshire in 1959 when it was still called Salem Depot. Three years later we moved to the state capital, Concord.  This brief post is about my visit after almost 50 years to the home, the school, and a special place I recall from our days in Salem Depot.

With apologies to Thomas Wolfe* . . . "You Can Go Home Again -- But It Will Sure Look Different!"

We moved to Salem Depot from Chicopee, Massachusetts when my father was transferred from the Sears store in Holyoke to the Sears store in Lawrence, Massachusetts (just across the state line from Salem Depot).  My father became the Assistant Manager of the Lawrence Sears store.  

When we moved to New Hampshire, I was in the 2nd grade.  My parents bought a white Cape Cod style house in a new and growing development that had lots of kids in the neighborhood and lots of woods just beyond our back yard.  The woods seemed at first to stretch forever, but within weeks I knew every inch of the scores of acres.  New friends and I created trails and forts through the ferns and undergrowth of the mixed pine and hardwood forest.

Our house at 18 Joseph Rd. almost 50 years later. (2010)

Today all the woods are gone and houses sit where I used to climb trees and build forts.  My favorite climbing tree is nowhere to be seen.  The house is no longer white and it seems to have shrunk, but the landscaping is more mature and a hedge of forsythia exists that was never there in the early 60s. The road to the left of the house is completed with more houses and the hill that I recall the road heading up is now just a gentle incline lined with homes and tall trees. I suspect there are no more party lines in the neighborhood and all the overhead lines carry internet and cable connections as well as individual phone lines to each home.  

The school I attended was Mary A. Fisk Elementary, which as I recall had grades 1 through 4 and possibly Kindergarten. There was a Smokey Bear Club organized in the school after a visit from a Park Ranger to emphasize fire safety. Our playground was a sloping grassy field to one side of the school and beyond the school there was not much development as the school sat at the outer edge of what was Salem Depot proper.

Mary A. Fisk School in late March 2010.

Today Fisk School is expanded in size and the grassy sloped play field is gone under a section of the school that never existed before. What was the main entrance to the school in the early sixties (shown above as the rectangular brick arch at the far end of the cream-colored section of the building) looks little used today and the walkway to the doors and the bushes appear merely ornamental. The school now has grades 1 - 5, but no Kindergarten. Instead of a Smokey Bear Club, they have an After-School Enrichment Program called "Zumbatronic Club" and they are in the process of renovating a gymnasium they never had in 1959.  

On the other side of the woods behind our home on Joseph Rd. in Salem Depot was a reservoir called Canobie Lake. On the Lake was a very special place called Canobie Lake Park. It was an amusement Park that was first opened in 1902. In its early days, the Park had flower gardens and "promenades," but in later years it added a dancehall theater, swimming pool, roller coaster, and other rides. On summer Saturday nights in the early 60s I could lay on the top bunk in my room and watch the weekly fireworks rise above the woods behind our house.  What I did not know at the time was that my grandfather used to visit Canobie Lake Park in and around 1912 - 1913 when he was a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He died before we moved to Salem and so I never got to hear him recall for us his visits and exploits at Canobie Lake in its earliest years. [My father and the rest of the family only found out about this amazing coincidence when I came across mentions of Canobie Lake Park while transcribing my grandfather's 1913 Line A Day diary about two years ago.] 

Postcard of Canobie Lake Park Dance Pavilion (1910)

Canobie Lake Park rides circa 1950s - 1960s 

Canobie Lake Park is still there in Salem going strong at over 110 years old. It looks more modern and has added ever more extreme and challenging thrill rides. I do not know if they still have weekly Saturday night fireworks during the summer or if it still attracts entertainment names like Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Sonny & Cher or Aerosmith as it did in years past, but "Just For Fun" it still provides laughter, thrills and memories for added generations of the young and young at heart!

A Canobie Lake Park entrance (2010)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

All photographs by the author (2010).  The two vintage postcard images from eBay.

* Thomas Wolfe is the author of "You Can't Go Home Again" (1940). As the main character, George Webber, states at the climax of the novel, "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood . . . back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame . . . back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time -- back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."

For more information about Canobie Lake Park, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canobie_Lake_Park

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

1 comment:

  1. Great post John! It's wonderful that your home on Joseph Road was still there. It must have been fun to visit your childhood home and school.