In my travels up and down and across and around our state, I’ve heard many stories about our particular and peculiar brand of politics. Some may even be true. Here are a few of my favorites.
Ira Littlefield served as sewer and water commissioner in the town of New London for many years. This exchange, I’m told, occurred around about 1904. A newcomer to town hall discovered there were no maps or descriptions of the locations of the sewer and water pipes. He confronted Ira Littlefield with this information. “Don’t need ‘em,” Ira said. “I know where all the pipes lie.”
“But what if you retire,” the newcomer said, “what if, god forbid, you die?”
“Then,” Ira said, “It ain’t my problem.”
Sherman Adams, once governor, once chief of staff to Eisenhower, had many fans in the North Country. One of them, Judge Jay Muchmore of North Woodstock, went so far as to pledge that he’d support Sherman Adams “until the cows came home.” Evidently, Adams did something down to Concord, or maybe it was down to Washinton, D.C., that didn’t set just right with the judge. He sent a curt postcard to his former favorite: “Dear Sherman Adams,” he wrote, “the streets of North Woodstock are full of cows.”
A town hall employee (won’t name the town, let’s call him Will Kidder) was on the phone trying to get through on an important call when he ran into trouble with the operator. This was in the days when you called the operator and she (usually a she) put you through to your party. The discussion escalated. Will told her to go to hell. This exchange was overheard by a selectman. “Will,” the selectman said, “you can’t go around saying such things to people on town time and on a town phone. Call her back and apologize.”
Will did. “Are you the operator I told to go to hell a few minutes ago?” “I am.”
“Well,” Will said, “you don’t have to go.”
This story is out of Canterbury. Ollie Fifield told about the lively town meeting of 1957. It seems a petitioned warrant article called for the ban of nuclear weapons in Canterbury. The news went national and international. Japan sent a contingent of media to cover the Canterbury town meeting. “Only problem,” Ollie said, “was we didn’t speak Japanese and the Japanese didn’t speak English. A lady come up from New York City to translate, but nobody understood her.” Ollie and his wife had the visitors to supper the evening before town meeting. They served baked beans and brown bread. “You know,” Ollie says, “those Japanese reporters had never had bread from a can before.”
At town meeting the next day when the article in question came up, Ollie’s brother Hughie proposed an amendment. He said, “I’m not a fan of nuclear weapons, but there’s one thing I hate even more than nuclear weapons . . . and that’s black flies.” He proposed that the article read “to ban nuclear weapons and black flies in Canturbury.”
It passed. And that’s why, to this day, there are no nuclear weapons or black flies in Canterbury, NH.
This blog post first appeared in The Pawtuckaway Forum, a very cool on-line newspaper that serves the towns of Candia, Deerfield, Nottingham, and Northwood. What happens in these small towns gets written about in the Forum. It’s worth a look! Check out: forumhome.org