Old Timers Of The Trolley Era

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"Our Town" by James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, April 16, 1953

Last week we wrote about Johnny Cuddy, one of the four original Casino Associates who purchased the Casino property from Graves and Ramsdell in 1926. We called Johnny a "latter-day old-timer" and told about the very important part he played in starting the motor-car or modern epoch of Hampton Beach history. You may remember that we divided the development of our beach into three overlapping periods or eras: (1) the stage coach and carriage trade era, 1819-1897; (2) the trolley car era, 1897-1926; (3) the motor car era, 1926-1953. And the material growth of our town during these three epochs, as indicated by valuation figures, was as follows: 1819, approximately $150,000; 1897, about $600,000; 1926, $4,901.805; 1952, $10,026.899.

Fabulous Trolley Car Era

The trolley car epoch of our town's history was truly fabulous. It was marked by Aladdin-like growth and a valuation increase of over four million dollars. The first trolley car ran onto the beach in July 1897. The north half of the Casino was opened in 1899. The south half of the Casino and the Ocean House began operation at the start of the 1901 summer season. The "Mile Long" wooden toll bridge was opened formally on May 14, 1902. The new transportation and recreational facilities, made possible by electric railway interests, gave the first and greatest impetus to this golden era. We arrived at Hampton Beach in 1915. The trolley car period was a little more than half over. We would like to write today about some of the men and events of this period.

No Pressing Erosion Problem

In 1915 there was three or four hundred feet of soft sand between the east side of the Boulevard and the mean high tide mark. This happy condition obtained along the entire main beach northward nearly to Cutler's Seaview Hotel. And even in the cove in front of Cutlet's, there was a small, but excellent bathing beach. In the business section, all of the larger hotels laid board-walks on the soft sand opposite their places of business in order that their patrons might more easily walk from the Boulevard east sidewalk to the hard sands of the bathing beach. And at low tide in those days, the hard sands were so wide and so firm that they were suitable for horse racing. Later, the beach was used for racing early model autos and still layer as runways for the first airplanes. No erosion problem existed along the main beach in 1915.

Value of Early Carnivals

In 1915, a Board of Trade, which had existed for some time only in the minds of a group of old-timers who met socially in a big room in the front of the second story of the Ross barn or "Engine House" was formally organized for the purpose of conducting the first Hampton Beach Carnival. The story of that really auspicious event was told in this pillar on July 19, 1951. Back in those early days the Carnival served a fourfold purpose. It was a concrete example of a worthwhile community project that could be accomplished by a group of business men working together. So, (1) it increased interest in the Board of Trade which became eventually the Chamber of Commerce. (2) The event was a news-worthy peg on which many thousands of dollars' worth of publicity was hung. (3) It brought thousands of transient visitors to the beach, and a few vacationists, at a time when ordinarily the Boulevard would have been deserted. (4) it gave business men a chance to close out stocks for the season.
Old Timers
The 1915 Carnival Committee:
Left to right, back row:
J. Frank James, J. A. McAdams,
Frank Callahan and James W. Tucker,
Front row, left to right:
Edmund Langley, Byron Redman
and J. S. Dudley.

1915 Committee and Contributors

The first Carnival cost close to $3,000 and 185 local business men and their suppliers donated the money. The general committee included the President of the newly formed Board of Trade, J. Frank James of Lawrence, Mass., J. A. McAdams, superintendent of The Exeter and Hampton Street Railway, Frank Callahan, Edmund Langley, byron Redman, Joseph Dudley, Jack White and the over-signed. (See accompanying picture.) Contributors to the first Carnival who are now living include: Frank Downer, K. [Kenneth] N. Ross, Bert Janvrin, Armas Guyon, Jim Garland, W. E. Lamb, W. I. Miller, Hampton Beach Improvement Co., C. H. Moody, Edmund Langley, J. [James] W. Tucker, Walter W. Goss. Contributors who are no longer living, but whose families are year around or summer residents of our town, include: Joe Dudley, Jack White, J. A. Janvrin, L. [Lemuel] C. and R. B. Ring, George Ashworth, Bryce Baker, Mr. Dumas, Jere Rowe, W. L. Redman, Launcelot Quinn, Henry W. Ford, H. Bragg, A. T. Johnson, John Coleman, Mrs. K. Harrington, John Dineen, G. Everett Felch, John Sise, D. and L. E. Hunter, N. Dunbrack, M. C. Felch and J. D. L. Janvrin. And the old list mentions a "Mr. Marston", who probably is our well known Irving [W.] Marston.

Dudley and White Head List

Looking over the list of contributors to that first Carnival of 38 years ago brings vividly to mind many of the old-timers who were mainly responsible for the rapid expansion of Hampton Beach during the middle of the trolley era when autos were just beginning to come into their own. We best remember Joe Dudley and Jack White, two old-timers with qualifications which fitted them to head any list where community enterprise and unselfish civic service are considered. Then, in addition to those mentioned in the preceding paragraph, there were James DeLancey who was interested in several businesses besides his hotel; W. A. Shipley, proprietor of a souvenir store and a Mr. Maker, with a crippled left arm, who ran the first lunchroom at the south Boulevard corner of C street.

Other 1915 Business Men

We remember W. J. Bigley who developed the land in the vicinity of the Catholic church where Fr. P. J. Scott was the first rector, and Tom Powers of the Avon Hotel. John Coleman ran an ice cream store and Dan Mahoney conducted the original lunchroom on the south corner of the Boulevard and B Street. Owen J. Boston is remembered as a stalwart proprietor of an old-time candy store. We can never forget Jere Rowe, one of the original real estate men of the White Island section or W. F. Thayer who owned considerable property on Highland avenue.

Prominent Cottage Owners

Among cottage owners, who were prominent in that long ago era, were Sam Bell who lived on the Head in the house now owned by Charles Greenman; Charles Higgins, the band leader; Fred Swett, who lived on the site of what is now the Harris Sea Ranch and the Lees, whose home was located in the area north of Church street developed by Ken Ross. James Garland was in the real estate business with a chap named Murphy and the senior James Garland had been conducting the Fairview Hotel for some eight or nine years. If we remember rightly, E. [Ernest] G. Cole had a branch store at the Beach about where the Post Office is at present and William Brown, afterwards town clerk for many years, was employed there. And Bessie Cooper, whose personal charm and pleasant, courteous manners earned for her a place in the beach community as a vendor of baskets, had not then purchased the Felch property on Marsh [now Ashworth] avenue which she now owns. Following the first Carnival, the entire Beach from B street north to Highland avenue, burned flat.

Features of 1916 Carnival

And also among our souvenirs is a list of contributors to the second annual Carnival which was held in 1916. There were a few less contributors and the total amount was given as $2,728.06. And here we find some names that we didn't discover in the 1915 list. For instance there is Neil Underwood, C. J. Edgerly, John R. Perkins, E. Aitken and Charles Newcomb, all of which are familiar names to many readers. The main attractions at the second Carnival were Farnum Fish, aviator and Charles Evan Hughes, then Republican candidate for President of the United States and afterwards Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Clara Dudley was Queen of the Carnival and a feature of the Agricultural, Civic and Trades Parade of Friday afternoon was Doug Hunter who won first prize in the division of grotesque vehicles.

On Eating Steamed Clams

Wednesday's "Preparedness Day" program was rained out in 1916 and the events postponed until the following Monday. One of the attractions of this particular day was the appearance of sailors from the USS Washington. We remember that they came, but cannot recall whether it was on the rainy Wednesday or the following Monday. And we remember that they came, only because we happened to be present at a dinner, served in their honor, when most of our time was given over to teaching sailors from the middle West how best to eat steamed clams and boiled lobster. And that reminds us that the late Ralph Meras of Exeter, a frequent diner at Hampton Beach, used to eat steamed clams successfully and gracefully with knife and fork.

An Era of Beginnings

We had intended to include a story about the "Farmer's Day" program which we attended in 1917 and which included the usual "Famous Fish Feast," but that will have to wait until another day. But we shall never forget the fabulous era of the trolley car at Hampton, which also marked the beginning of the annual Carnivals and of the organization formed to promote them -- the Board of Trade, parent of our present Chamber of Commerce.
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