Monday, June 22, 2015

A Novel Approach to History

Recently the Henney History Room of the Conway Public Library assisted a patron who visited us from Hollywood, California. She was looking for background information for a story she was writing set in the White Mountains during the Grand Hotel era around the end of the 19th century. She hopes to have it made into a book and a movie. She was interested in both the life of the hotel guests as well as the “downstairs” and behind the scenes life of the bellboys, waiters, maids, butlers, chauffeurs and other support staff for these well-heeled tourists during that extravagant and elegant time period.

Over the years we have helped a number of writers and directors set the scene for their books and films. We have a special section in our fiction collection for their works and of earlier works that have a connection to the geographical scope and focus of the Henney History Room.

Some of the titles include The Appomattox Cat, Catamount, Eight Cousins, Hopalong Cassidy, Look to the Mountain, The Nancy Flyer, Fryeburg Chronicles, and The Story of a Bad Boy.

If you would like to immerse yourself into these imaginative versions of our area’s history, visit the Henney History Room and experience all of thise danger, romance, and adventure for yourself.

It certainly is a “novel” approach to history. Get it?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A swarm of locusts

Bike Week starts this weekend, but my reference to a swarm of locusts is not what you are thinking. I associate large black jacketed Harley riders with pretty fragrant flowers.

This past week patrons visiting the Conway Public Library were treated to a unique sweet aroma from a palisade of trees to the west of the main entrance with cascading showers of small cream colored flowers hanging like grapes from a handful of very crooked trees with deeply furrowed bark that resembles a gator's back. Each year the flowering of these trees heralds the beginning of motorcycle week in New Hampshire. 

The blooms and smell make the trees easy to identify. If you were an early settler to Conway, some 250 years ago, you might want to mark those trees and make a note of their location for they have hidden secrets and serve special functions. 

These secrets are revealed in volume 3 of Jeremy Belknap’s The History of New-Hampshire first published in 1792. A key section of his book, titled modestly “Forest trees and other vegetable productions” is like a “how to” manual for pioneers.

Belknap reports that “Locust (rabinia pseudo-acacia) is excellent fuel. Its trunk serves for durable posts set in the ground, and may be split into trunnels for ships, which are equal to any wood for that purpose. It thrives on sandy and gravelly soils, and its leaves enrich them. For these reasons, the cultivation of the locust has been thought an object worthy of attention, especially as it is a tree of quick growth." 

Fuel: Black locust is highly valued as firewood. It burns slowly, with little visible flame or smoke, and has a higher heat content than any other species that grows widely in the Eastern United States, comparable to the heat content of anthracite coal. It is also popular because of its ability to burn even when wet.

Fence posts: Flavonoids in the heartwood allow the wood to last over 100 years in soil.

Trunnels: The Summer 2013 edition of Northern Woodlands magazine explains that as early as the 1630s, New England shipbuilders used dowels, or treenails, made of Locust trees, that hold a ship’s planks to the frames. The metal fasteners available back then corroded when exposed to salt, and black locust was soon found to be superior to the traditional oak treenails as it is harder and even more decay resistant than oak.

Soil enrichment: Locust trees have nitrogen fixing bacteria on their root systems and as a result, can grow on poor soils and is an early colonizer of disturbed areas.

Belknap's book continues with practical advice for pioneers on the nature of many trees and plants. Drop by the Henney History Room next time you are planning a homesteading type project. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Majestic Conway

Graduation season is here. It is an important time to take stock of the past, present and future. We recently received a donation of a 1939 graduation notice. It reads “The Senior Class of Kennett High School announces its Graduation Exercises on Tuesday the twentieth of June nineteen hundred thirty-nine at two-thirty o’clock Majestic Theatre Conway, New Hampshire.”

Also included in the donation were six photographs documenting both the inside and outside of the theater. We hope to learn a lot about the Majestic by carefully studying the signs, old cars, landscape features and people in the pictures. We would love you to comment and help us identify some of the details.

For example, you can see a couple different movie posters in the scenes. In one photo they were showing the film, “Bring on the Girls” starring Veronica Lake dating that picture no earlier than 1945. The Majestic Theater also plays a starring role in the film “Conway Boy” which was featured at the recent history fair at Pine Tree School.

To learn more, all these items can be explored at the Henney History Room of the Conway Public Library.