1638 - HAMPTON TERCENTENARY - 1938
By Henry A. Shute
Your invitation to contribute an article to your Tercentenary Magazine is an honor which I appreciate more than you imagine and for these reasons: First, because your town, Hampton, and my town, Exeter, are twin sisters, but not identical twins, having little resemblance in physical attributes.
Second, because both sister towns have lived for three hundred years on the same street, in the same little corner of the same State, and barring some slight disagreements such as occasionally occur between twin sisters, have always kissed and made up. And now, after all these years, can, and as dear old ladies, do, constantly visit each other and over a sociable cup of tea, best Hyson, and seed cakes, gossip about their children, their grandchildren, their great-great-great-great-great, etc., as dear old ladies always do.
I, however, cannot go back more than seventy-four years in my knowledge of Hampton but these recollections are a delight to me. I well remember my first visit to your beach when as a small boy of seven, clinging in terror and delight to my father's hand, I saw the magnificent rollers rushing in, roaring for my shrinking body, I wanted to go home and to start at once.
I remember that my splendid, handsome, six-foot father was rather ashamed of his skinny offspring. But everything was forgotten by our first taste of a fish chowder at Tom Nudd's. I had never supposed or dreamed that such delicious food existed and I was very proud when he addressed father as George and he was addressed as Tom.
Then we walked hand-in-hand up to Boar's Head stopping on the way at the small brick basement house above the Leavitt Hotel built a few years later and where years later "Joe" Leavitt, his gracious and beautiful wife, and their three children, Major, Tom and Polly, making the handsomest family I ever knew, lived for years, and did so many kindly and courteous acts for their guests.
Coming back to that memorable first day, father led me up the hill to the Boar's Head Hotel, then appearing to my childish eyes and for many years as the most magnificent place I had ever seen, and when my own father, entering, accosted a fine-looking man at the desk, a man with a handsome but stern face, as "Steb", I wondered at and admired my father's collossal nerve.
But when I saw the Godlike monarch desert his post, come forward with outstretched hand, and a wide smile and the words "Hullo George! I'd rather see you than the President," I realized that my father then was and so remained until his death, one of the best loved men in the Town of Exeter and in every other town was known as such.
As I grew older, I went oftener to the beach and learned to love the town of Hampton more as I learned to know it better. I do not think I ever went to Hampton for pleasure but what I found it.
Even my first dip into its surf, although I was tipped wrong-side up, swallowed a deep bumper of the saltiest water ever, it left me feeling like a "strong man about to run a race".
Then anyone, having a sense of humor, could in those early days have the greatest possible amusement in lying on the beach and watching the young, middle-aged and old bathers. Ye Gods! what costumes! Husky farmers in overalls, hickory shirts and blue woolen socks. Women, fat, thin, old, young, although they all looked the same age and all wore heavy woolen dresses, reaching to their knees with woolen stockings bound just about the knees with many folds of white woolen strips.
These loose woolen dresses had the habit of billowing out like half-submerged balloons giving the general appearance of a blue cabbage floating wrong-side up.
Incidentally, the present costumes of "Little before, nothing behind and no sleeves" or to quote from Kipling, "The uniform she wore was nothing much afore and rather less than 'alf of that behine", is, even to my aged eyes much more attractive, but not nearly so funny as the style of these early days.
It seems to me as I look back over those seventy-four years as if there have been many distinct periods. First, the horse and Concord wagon or surrey period where visitors brought their own lunches, hay and grain for their horses, and used their curtained wagon to undress, change to bathing suits much heavier than the ordinary street wear, bathe, undress again, redress, eat again, and at evening, drive home surfeited with good food, a chill, but delightful bath, and a most delightful outing.
Next, the velocipede period which lasted but one season, but was prolific in more strained tendon, skinned ankles, abraded knees, and weeping sinews than anything invented up to that date.
The only set-off (to use a legal term) to these various ills was, as I remember, a wonderful record made by two of Exeter's most prominent business men, William Burlingame and James Albert Clark who, mirabile dictu, rode, (walking up and down the various hills and valleys) all the way from Exeter to Hampton Beach and return, twenty miles in all, in one day.
Why! they equalled the record of the famous recruits in the "Regular Army Oh" which as sung by the famous Squamscott Glee Club, musically asserted, equalled the record of Burlingame and Clark by marching
"Twenty miles a day
On beans and hay
In the Regular Army Oh"
The third period, the Bicycle Period, was by some supposed to point to the gradual withdrawal of all horses. But it had no such effect.
Then came the trolley car period, heralding the practical extinction of the horse, but was a delightful period during which the beach gained immensely in vogue and property, public and private, but the horse persisted.
Next and now, the motor car period has banished the horse and the trolley car and has taken up the task of making a great, a most beautiful, and, I hope, a permanent summer place of your Hampton Beach.
There have been times during these changes when the character of the beach and, through it, the old town has been threatened. There have been times in the past when the sinister influence of the liquor interests have threatened the good name of the Beach and Town, when to some of us it appeared that, to use the words of a very distinguished Exeter citizen addressed to Hon. Thomas Leavitt, a citizen of Exeter, but a native and a loyal son of Hampton --
"Thomas, is new rum legal tender in old Hampton?" Hampton was in serious danger.
There have been times when unworthy classes of people have endeavored to gain a foothold on your beach, a class of people and of individuals that have made a byword and a reproach of beaches, towns and summer places once noted but now notorious.
You people of Hampton have united against them; your churches have stood firm and your town officials have worked together and with you.
Together you have made and offered to the public a clean, progressive town, a clean people and one of the most beautiful and best managed beaches on the Atlantic Coast.
May your coming celebration of your Three Hundredth Birthday be worthy of your town, your beach and your sturdy, progressive and clean people, is the wish of every citizen of Exeter, your sister town, of which citizens I am one.
The best of success to you and yours.