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Arcadia looks at Manchester and Pembroke communities
By Rebecca Rule   - 09/11/2005

Nashua Telegraph

Since 1993, Arcadia Publishing has been putting out little books loaded with pictures and history. These books are a lot the same: sepia-toned covers, old photographs on every page, text that is more caption than chapter.

Arcadia figured out early on that, like politics, all history is local. Typically, the publisher recruits a local knowledgeable writer to research a subject of interest to some hundreds of people, maybe a few thousand – as opposed to the homogenized millions bigger publishers seek. Result: quality. And strong local appeal.

Robert Perreault’s postcard history (part of an Arcadia series) called “Manchester” presents the Queen City’s past in postcards and photographs, many from Perreault’s own collection. A professor at Saint Anselm College, Perreault has been reading about, writing about and promoting Manchester’s history since the 1970s. He’s a lecturer for the N.H. Humanities Council, tour guide, photographer and general man about town. I got a sense of the depth of his knowledge a few years ago, when I interviewed him for one of several profiles of Manchester movers and shakers, part of a revitalization project. I thought, maybe, an hour of chat would do the trick. Three hours later, I stumbled away, dazed, but happy, with 10 times more material than I needed for my one-page profile.

Perreault knows his native city. He loves it. And he’s got a lot to say about it.

Some “Manchester” moments that might surprise you:

• Gen. John Stark, his wife and 27 relatives rest in the family cemetery, which, along with 800-plus acres from the family homestead, became Stark Park in 1893. His famous words, paraphrased on our license plates, decree: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.”

• Lamprey eels, also called “Derryfield beef,” thrived at the spot on the Merrimack the Penacooks called Namaske, or Namaoskeag (“place of fish”). The old fishing hole became known to settlers as Amoskeag Falls. Dams built by the Amoskeag Co. in the early 1800s diverted water into canals for hydroelectric power.

• The second Amoskeag bridge served the community for more than 60 years before, as author Grace Holbrook Blood wrote, it “slowly and without commotion or violence settled and sank into the river” on Sunday, Aug. 15, 1920.

Captioning a postcard of the weave room in the No. 11 Amoskeag mill, Perreault writes (poetically, I think): Without ever having visited a weave room such as the one seen here . . . , it is difficult to imagine the ambiance that reigned within. Even before entering the building, putting one’s hand against the outside brick wall revealed the trembling of 4,000 looms running simultaneously. Inside, seemingly never-ending rows of looms repeatedly made their deafening “click-clack” noise, and the air was thick with humidity, cotton dust, and, in summer, stifling heat.

In a 1910 photograph, onlookers gaped as eight elephants marched truck to tail down Elm Street the day the circus came to own.

“Manchester” reminds me of a chat in Perreault’s study with photographs at hand to illustrate the topics of animated discussion. Remember – or maybe your parents or grandparents remember – when Mr. et Mme. P Nichol, le plus petit couple au monde lived on the West Side? What about Charlie Lambert, the hermit of Mosquito Pond (now Crystal Lake). He was some character, our own New Hampshire Thoreau, except Charlie kept up his simple-life experiment for seventy years.

Easy to read, entertaining, real (if abbreviated) history, “Manchester” offers facts and stories you can trust, because Perreault has tracked them down, checked and double-checked, and arranged them so the individual facts and stories add up to one fascinating portrait of a vital and vibrant city.

What about Pembroke, the town next door, you ask? Arcadia has just published “Pembroke” in its Images of America series. Lianne E.H. Keary chronicles “Views,” “People,” “Homes,” “Business and Industry” and “Institutions” in five short, lively (as in, full of life) chapters. In a view of Broadway, 1886, the soldier elms thrive along a snowy unplowed boulevard. Outside Georgi’s Bakery and Store, employees pose in overalls, aprons and long skirts beside a sign that reads “B & M Street Railway Waiting Room. Come in.” The lettering on the awning declares: “ICE CREAM SODA IT’S DELICIOUS.” A photograph from 1808, give or take, shows George P. Cass about to pound a nail into a horse shoe, complete with horse, at his Blacksmith shop in East Pembroke.

Hermas Daviault, Ralph McKay, George Hummer, Gordon MacKenzie, Eddie Eaton, Donald Woodard, Ralph Follansbee, Chester Richard, Richard Moran, Hector Campbell, Percy Monty – any of these names ring a bell? These fellows made up the Pembroke Academy boys basketball team of 1936. In their high tops, rolled socks, short shorts and undershirts, the boys are looking good! As are the members of the Suncook Union Cornet Band, pre-1959; the children at the Village School, somber at their double desks, hands folded, 1905; and the thespians of Le Club Amateur de Suncook, in costume and on set, 1923.

If you know Pembroke, knew it, know people who live there or used to, or even if you know, knew, or fondly recall a town like Pembroke, this book, like Perreault’s, will sluice loose a flood of memories.

Perreault will appear at the Centre Franco-Americain, 52 Concord St., Manchester, on Thursday, Sept. 22, from 5-8 p.m. to sign copies of “Manchester.” For more information, call Adele Boufford-Baker at 669-4045.

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