The Trolleys Return

Return to Table of Contents

by Horace E. Hobbs

Hampton Union & Rockingham County Gazette, July 6, 1983

So, like the swallows return to Capistrano, the trolley cars have returned to Hampton (but minus their trolley!) Nostalgia arises within me, for during the first two decades of the 1900's the trolleys played a large part in the development of our town and particularly the beach. Known as the "E.H. and A.," meaning Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury, it served as the connecting link with the populous industrial cities along the Merrimac River Valley to the south and west and New Hampshire's important shipping port at Portsmouth. The first connection was with the Massachusetts Northeastern R.R. at the Smithtown terminal in Seabrook and the northern connection was with the "P.D. and Y.," the Portsmouth, Dover, and York at the North Beach terminal near the North Hampton line, along by the beaches.

My uncle, Elmer King Sr., drove the first trolley car along the E.H. and A. His son, Elmer King Jr., was later a conductor on the same line.

My uncle, Walter A. Scott, was the superintendent of this same line for a period of time during the 1900's.

I was a conductor while going to New Hampshire College, as it was known, and received the hourly wage of 17 cents or $1.70 for a 10 hour day. No wonder the motormen left their handles on the control boxes and went to work in the Portsmouth Navy Yard with the advent of World War I.

Motormen with whom I worked were:
1- Bill Felch, who lived on Lafayette Road near the Hampton Falls-Seabrook line;
2- Bill Spinney, a massive fellow who lived near the "Five Corners" off High Street, which was then known as "Sleepy Town";
3- Herbert Lamprey, who lived along the road to the beach, nearly opposite the Barn Theatre;
4- Arthur Young, who lived near Young's Corner on Winnacunnet Road;
5- Bert Brown, who also lived on the same road, halfway to the beach, and who, for years, we "praised up" on the Portsmouth run nights with all of the sailors on the last car off the beach. What a time! I'd collect the fares, go to my station at the rear of the car and we'd rock and roll the old car with our songs and mirth.
6 and 7- The two most regular motormen were George Munsey and Howard Lane, who both lived on the Exeter Road. George was a large man. Howard was slighter, but they could both wrestle with and handle the handbrake which worked on a lever and rachet action. Larger and heavier, George usually sat on a stool, while Howard always stood and exercised has authority while constantly chewing tobacco, much to the displeasure of the summer boarders who wanted to sit up front and often found their pretty summer dresses garnished with yellow spots that blew back on them from Howard's "chew tobacco".
8- Then, finally, there was "Spit Willy." He lived near the car barns on the Exeter Road and was the "story teller." He punctuated his stories by expectorating, hence the name "Spit," and I knew no other. His story about the "lady with the terrible pain" is one, only to be told in certain circles.

Railroad characters would never be complete for E.H. and A. without a mention of Jim Eastman, Lou Clark, and Frank Stevens. Jim Eastman grew up, developed and didn't even perish with the railroad when its owners unloaded it on the town after the profitable years before World War I. They saw what was happening in Detroit under the uncanny leadership of Henry Ford and were glad to get out while the getting was good. Jim Eastman, who managed our unsuccessful Hampton Beach baseball team, acted as dispatcher at the beach and stayed on until the bitter end and then some.

Frank Stevens, who also lived on the Exeter Road, was a long time employee of the road and is probably best remembered as being "starter" at the beach summers. It was during this assignment that he assisted his charming daughter, Adeline, to become one of the first Miss Hampton Beach titleholders.

Lou Clark was also a longtime employee. He worked as "starter" at the Whittier Junction, where the Hotel Whittier was located, at the confluence of Winnacunnet Road and Lafayette Road. His moments of leisure gave him the opportunity to become acquainted with a local lady who lived nearby, Mary Toppan. Mary was a local damsel who was my first partner at Tommy Stanton's dancing school, held in the old town hall. Tommy came over from Amesbury every week during the winter for these classes. I was only a youth, but my mother insisted that I go. After going through the preliminaries of a few steps, Tommy would line us up, the boys on one side and the girls on the other. Then we would come together in the center to get our partners. This certain night found me alone in the middle of the floor with Mary. Tommy had taught us the waltz step "slide and step - slide and step". Now, facing Mary, there was nothing to do but "slide and step". We did this successfully in the same spot until the music stopped. A lot of people in town thought of Mary as the "old maid," but I thought of her as the damsel who taught me how to dance. She probably taught Lou a few things also. Mary Toppan is respectfully remembered in town.

Return to Table of Contents