Saturday, January 30, 2016

...let slip the dogs of war.

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


A copy of Shakespeare's first folio with these immortal words will be on display at the Currier Museum later this year to mark the 400th anniversary of his death (see for details).

Dogs in warfare have a long history starting in ancient times. The photo below is from a fascinating microfilm that we have at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.  

 It documents the use of military dogs during World War Two in both Europe and the Pacific.

  Many of the pages are marked "secret" although they have since been declassified. Click on the pages to read them. The page below details an interesting encounter in which "One of the patrol scouts, who spoke German fluently, went forward to investigate the alert, when he was challenged by a German sentry, he pretended to be a German soldier and engaged the sentry in conversation."

Local skimeister, Hannes Schneider's son also had a similar experience according to notes in our vertical files.
In this case, "The sentry became suspicious and fired on the patrol. In the skirmish that followed Cpl Brown was slightly wounded on the knee by a fragment of an enemy hand grenade."

Later in the report, credit is given to several of the dogs in the unit. Buddy was praised for working very well while the patrol withdrew under heavy machine gun fire and "when it was necessary for Cpl Brown to crawl, Buddy automatically crawled with him without command." Messenger dogs Sailor and Pal carried map overlays one and a quarter miles making a record for time for a successful run by a messenger team.
This report was about a unit attached to the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, part of the famous 10th Mountain Division, bivouacked in Vidiciatico, Italy.
Some of the war dogs were trained at the Chinook Kennels in Wonalancet, a village in Tamworth, New Hampshire.
Charger, pictured below, was a Chinook mascot for the first operational Chinook helicopter unit in Vietnam in 1966. He was a gift of the employees of the Vertol Division, Boeing Company.

Chinooks are New Hampshire's State dog breed.

Here they are "with bells on" and ready to roll.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A look back ...

... one hundred years ago to January 1916 … as viewed through the lens of Conway’s local newspaper of the time. The Reporter was published each Thursday for 3 cents a copy or you could get a subscription for $1.00 per year if paid in advance.

Things have changed. For example, today’s local newspaper is actually cheaper - its free now.

The Reporter, January 27, 1916, p. 5

Prices were much cheaper for most items. A dress priced regularly at one dollar dress was on sale for 79 cents. Cod liver oil was 75 cents a bottle.

On the other hand, the bank offered 4% interest on savings deposits. That would be a fantastic deal in today's economy.

 The front pages of January 2016 have focused a lot on national politics. While 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the NH primary, there was very little on the front page about national politics in 1916 or for that matter much of anything about the war raging in Europe. 

 Instead the largest page one article for the January 6, 1916 issue covered the debate about a bequest for the North Conway Public Library with Dr. Schouler and later Harvey Dow Gibson giving their opinions.

 The war was not mentioned in the month's first issue until page four, and that was more of a social column about Parisians going to the forests for vacation as the seaside resorts have been taken over by military authorities. The month's second issue also referred to the war on page four in reference to Wilson wasting his time writing complaints against Germany's destruction of our ships and the problem of the “war economy” cutting down budgets for libraries to buy books.

The first visual reference to the war comes in the 4th issue of the month on the 5th page in the form of an advertisement. (see picture above). Using the image of a soldier and comforting military type phrases, we are told that Rexall laxative tablets, available at Pitman Pharmacy, North Conway are ...

“Standing Guard Over the Whole Family” and this product “Protects every member of the family from Constipation - the enemy of good health” This Pitman family was related to the then famous Pitman's arch tourist attraction on West Side Road. Never heard of it? Give us a call or check it out on our online history collection.

More than half the regular front page was basically local gossip and social news.  On each issue's front page, the column on the far right was for the “Conway” column with the subtitle, “What the People are Doing in Busy Conway” Like today’s facebook or twitter these social columns were short and sweet and laced with advertisements. So here is a bit from the past.

Schools began Monday last with the same corp of teachers.
Edward Davis returned from his visit to Massachusetts on Monday.
Mrs. Warren Bly and little daughter returned from Memorial Hospital last Friday.
For Sale - Green hard wood, fitted to stove. Inquire of John G. Lucy, North Conway

Again, like facebook and twitter, you needed to understand the code of abbreviations. Today it's OMG, and WWJD? The cryptic codex of a century ago included IOOF, K of P, GAR, CRC, OES, DAR, D of P, IORM. I will give a free copy of Hounsell’s history of Conway to the first person who comments me with the correct answer to these abbreviations.  

Here is a hint. Most of them are related to fraternal and social organizations.

From the text and the ads, you can see that health was a major issue. In the case of cold feet the solution was not a pill, not a high tech device, but instead a hot water bottle, available at Stone the Druggist opposite the train station in Conway.

The Reporter, January 13, 1916, p. 8

It was also a time, when things such as shoes and watches were repaired instead of simply tossed and replaced. We have very few repair shops in town anymore.

The Reporter, January 6, 1916, p. 2

Do you know where the Pequaket House was? I'll give you a hint. It is now a very erudite location.
Semper Fi!

Sunday, January 10, 2016


After a long wait, winter has finally arrived. We have had a wild weather ride this winter and it looks like the ping-pong temperatures will continue with warm to frigid and back again. The recent extreme cold and snow made me think of the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room collection related to polar exploration.
Earlier this week the truck I was driving to work stalled out, stranding me in 20 degree weather. That made me think specifically about the challenges of technology in the cold weather and the often tragic and dangerous history of polar explorations especially the problems they had with airplanes and snowmobiles. Did you know if it were not for White Mountain local Arthur Walden and his dogs, the Byrd expedition to the south pole would have failed?

The Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room has some great resources on early polar explorers. Due to our sometimes extreme weather and closeness to metropolitan areas, this area served as base for many famous cold region explorers and adventurers such as Greely, Peary, Byrd, Walden, Ricker, Clarke, Seppala and of course the dogs, Chinook, Kim, Ningo, Igloo, Balto, Rud, Yard, Kip, Ling, Riki, Tiki, Tavi, Togo and Tug.  

Some of this history will be revealed at an upcoming outreach program at the Gibson Center later this month. If you would like to schedule one of our outreach programs for your school or club please contact us.
We are also working on several “frozen” type projects including a student history fair on explorers, a film on dog sledding, and a project with the NH Folklife Program on making dog sleds.

Hope to see you on the trail!