A Love Affair With Hampton

By Mike Bisceglia

Hampton Union, Tuesday, February 26, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

He was a plain person from the plains of Kansas, yet he went on to achieve extraordinary greatness. As the commanding general of the Allied Forces during World War II, he faced the daunting challenge of directing thousands into terrible conflict. He was inaugurated as president of Columbia University and then went on to be the two-term 34th president of the United States.

He was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a gracious man who corresponded regularly with family, friends and associates. Thus, it was a surprise to no one that he appreciated the service he received at Lamie's Tavern during his two-night stay over Thanksgiving in 1963. Less than a week after the assassination of his successor, President John F. Kennedy, Eisenhower, his family and members of the Secret Service spent two days in the Seacoast.

The then ex-president had a true love affair with New Hampshire and couldn't have been more elated when his grandson, David, chose to attend Phillips Exeter Academy.

Like other presidents and presidential hopefuls, Eisenhower found the region to his liking, and said so, just as he was entering his car to be driven away from the tavern, "It is a good thing that it is raining or else we would certainly want to stay here for a few more days!" That quote merited a chuckle and a cheer from those who were on hand to see him off.

I contacted the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kan., to find out more about his stay at Lamie's, and the head archivist (whose name is Margaret) told me simply, "He loved it." She was about to dismiss me because there was a storm approaching and she wanted to avoid being in it if possible.

"Just one last question," I begged. "What kind of a tipper was the president?"

There was a long pause, and then she chuckled. "You know, I've been a librarian here for over 30 years and no one as ever asked me that question before. I simply don't know, but I do know folks just plain loved him . . . so I guess he was good."

Mr. and Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower had the most expensive room at Lamie's those two nights. The going rate for the room was $33.50 a night ($99 a night, now). The other rooms for the remainder of the party were considerably less. The receipts and photographs of that visit are displayed on the walls in the reception area. In addition, there is also a framed note to hotel manager Jerry Dunfey. It is dated Nov. 30, 1963, and begins, "I cannot tell you how pleased the entire family was with the hospitality and courtesy that they constantly encountered during their stay at Lamie's. All of us are more than grateful . . ."

It is safe to say that the Dunfey family appreciated that notable visit. They named the front room adjacent to the patio The Eisenhower Room.

Eisenhower had at least two other contacts with the folks of the community of Hampton. He appointed William "Bill" Elliot, Hampton's Singing Cop, to the National Committee of Rivers and Harbors. Eisenhower also appointed Samuel Albert Towle as Hampton's postmaster.

Yes, it is safe to say that President Eisenhower had a love affair with the community of Hampton, and it is safe to say that the affair was reciprocal.

Ike and family
Former President Dwight Eisenhower and his family enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at Lamie's Tavern
and Motor Inn in 1963. Shown clockwise are grandchildren Mary Jean, Anne and David, Mrs.
Mamie Eisenhower, Eisenhower, granddaughter Susan, their daughter-in-law Barbara Eisenhower
and their son, Col. John Eisenhower.

["A Colt photo" courtesy of the Lane Memorial Library not in original article.]
Mike Bisceglia Jr. is a freelance writer who lives in Hampton.