By Marilyn Hackett Moulton
New Hampshire Profiles
It is a bit of a rarity to be a Hampton Beach native. People come to the resort to vacation — or to build summer homes or businesses — but Mrs. Ruth Leavitt Palmer is both a native and a fourth generation resident.
In her pleasant retirement home on Mill Pond Lane, Mrs. Palmer is surrounded by reminders of how her family's history has reflected changes and the growth of the Seacoast region as a whole. One of her most treasured possessions is a beautifully detailed Town of Hampton map drawn by her sister, Hazel. Copies of it are still used by the town when referring to official boundaries. The Town Seal was also designed and donated by this gifted artist at the time of Hampton's Tercentenary.
The land on which Mrs. Palmer's house is situated was formerly the site of an ice house owned by her brother Eugene. Her home overlooks the pond and the Tuck Grist Mill, a family operation. In fact, Mrs. Palmer's father, Irvin Leavitt, at one time owned most of the land north from High Street along the North Shore Boulevard to the area known as The Colony. In this parcel there are two Leavitt Homesteads: the Moses Leavitt Place consisting of a large house and barn, now a part of the Aquarama Motel, and the Willows, the childhood home of Mrs. Palmer.
Both of these were operated by members of the Leavitt family as places of lodging; first, for the fishermen and fishmongers who brought frozen and salted fish for the Canadian market during the winter months; later, for the tourists who came and stayed to enjoy the sand and surf of Hampton Beach.
It was between the family homes on the land now occupied by The Yankee Village Motel, that Mrs. Palmer and her late husband established a restaurant renowned for "home cooking" and seafood specialties for more than twenty-two years. Due to her husband's failing health, Mrs. Palmer sold the restaurant in 1944, rather than hire a chef and change the method of food preparation.
Never a woman who could put up with idleness, Mrs. Palmer started another venture. She undertook the building and running of a tourist cabin court which she managed alone until 1958. In addition to teaching school and taking care of the two businesses she owned, she also managed other businesses in the community. At the same time, she raised two sons, Richard and Phillip.
The majority of her immediate family still resides in the area, including all four grandchildren and her six great-grandchildren. Both grandsons, Donald and Allen, share their grandmother's interest in community activities.
Donald is a registered pharmacist and owner of Palmer's Pharmacy in Hampton. He and his wife, Jane, and their three children live in North Hampton where he is also town zoning inspector.
Allen, or "Bud" as he prefers to be called, resides in Hampton with his wife, Gerry, and three children. He is associated with N. E. Telephone & Telegraph Co. in a managerial capacity, and was recently elected a member of Hampton's Budget Committee, polling the largest vote ever received by anyone running for this particular post.
Shunning complete retirement Mrs. Palmer still keeps in touch with some of her past customers through her job in the office of the Spindrift Motel. However, she also finds time for her two card clubs, and she's an enthusiastic braider of rugs. Active in the Eastern Star and the Legion Auxiliary, she has maintained a membership in the Oceanside Grange for more than fifty years. At present she is participating in the continued shaping and changing of her community as evidenced by her recent appointment to the Charter Study Committee, organized to look into the advisability of consolidating the governments of the Town of Hampton and Hampton Beach Precinct.
From a family tradition of hospitality, Ruth Leavitt Palmer distilled the essence of conviviality and added concern for the needs of others. As a result, her efforts these past fifty years may well form the solid base of an even greater family tradition of community service.