Signs Of Our Time, Compared With Signs Of The Past

Return to "Our Town" index
'Our Town' Logo

"Our Town" By James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, July 5, 1956

This column has to do with signs. Daniel Webster once said: "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades: shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers, a monster watch; and a dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

Great Stone Face

Webster referred, of course, to "The Old Man of the Mountain," that unique rock profile in the White Mountains which gave Hawthorne the theme of his story, "The Great Stone Face." Most of us have seen and marvelled at the sign which God hung out on Cannon Mountain. And to many more of us the man-made signs denoting trades were commonplace along with cigarstore Indians, in the days of our youth.

Mr. Locke's Garden

We saw one just the other day in an Amesbury barn. We had taken a trip to that city, the Mrs. and I, to see Mr. Harvey Locke's glorious garden which directly adjoins his home, almost at the foot of the Locke Ski Slope. No small garden that we know of in this part of New England can compare with it. Gorgeous rhododendrons, flaming azaleas, modest pink mountain laurel and a profusion of beautiful iris, peonies and roses.

Home -Spun Philosopher

And, walking modestly through the garden which he planted and still cares for, was Mr. Locke -- over ninety years of age -- a Christian gentleman in all that the term implies, a home-spun philosopher and a meticulous clock and cabinet maker.

A Master Craftsman

Last year he took us into his barn workshop and showed us a satiny smooth, beautifully designed, expertly finished high-boy that he was just completing and this year he pointed out a flawless desk, about ready for the finishing touches of this master craftsman of ninety-odd years. And on the wall of his workshop hung a monster wooden watch, with the lettering, "Harvey Locke, Jeweler."

Obnoxiously Persistent

Modern signs are much more diversified, more attractive and more compelling than the old fashioned images that were indicative of trades. And today's signs flash their messages throughout the night as well as through the daylight hours. Even though they are so persistent they become obnoxious, we can't get along without them, for they spell out directions, give us important information and warn us of dangers.

Hidden Marsh Beauty

Yet in our town, most of us feel that our community would be greatly benefitted if by some hokus-pokus of magic, every single one of the conglomeration of messy signs, strewn helter-skelter across the marsh-view, south entrance to tour town, could be obliterated at one fell stroke. Then, with the ill-kept, oddly assorted signs, which now utterly destroy the scenic beauty of the marshland, out of the way, we might arrange for a half dozen cocks of marsh-hay at vantage points, and against this background of unusual beauty, erect one dignified sign to take the place of 97 signs -- mostly disreputable. And this one sign might read -- "Welcome to Hampton, New Hampshire's Pioneer Coastal Community with a Worldwide Reputation for Recreation."

That Fifty-Mile Zone

Have you noticed that the "Fifty Mile Speed Zone" signs on the Lafayette Road have been moved by state authorities closer to the compact section of our town? Last year they were just beyond the overhead railroad bridges at the south [Shaw's Bridge] and north [Brown's Bridge] entrances to Hampton. This year the "Fifty-Mile Speed Zone" signs have been moved to the town side of these same bridges.

Is Area Endangered?

On the north, the fifty-mile zone begins just before you get to Warren's new super market (later, Newick's Restaurant, For Sale in 2004, across from Lena's Subs]. In fact, the sign is on a post just a little south of the market where hundreds of autos are turning into and out of the parking area every day. Also, included in the fifty-mile speed zone are three streets which lead directly to new housing developments and over which there is considerable auto traffic. There probably is a reason for this obvious hint to motorists to "step on it" in this busy neighborhood. But we are just too dumb to figure it out.

Political Signs

And there are the political signs we've seen tacked to trees all over the southeastern section of the state. In the first place, the publicity bears no signature and we supposed that the law required all political advertising to be signed by its sponsor; in the second place, we love trees and in common with many other citizens, hate to see them defaced with political, theatre or patent medicine signs. Indeed, signs can be so persistent they become obnoxious.

Controversial Signs

Let's consider, for a minute the myriad of new signs which spell out the controversial traffic pattern recently installed by agreement at the beach. In the first place, there's nothing new about the pattern. It was not conceived in the fertile minds of experts attached to the N.H. Department of Highways and Public Works. A group of quite ordinary citizens first suggested it many years ago when Selectman Harry Munsey was Police Chief and again when John Malek first headed up that important department.

Our Selectmen Complied

Moreover the state could never have imposed the rotary traffic pattern, now in effect at the beach, upon the Town of Hampton without the complete cooperation of the selectmen of our town. As a matter of fact, the arrow-signs, denoting direction on the lettered streets connecting "Coin Box Esplanade" with Marsh (Ashworth) Avenue, were paid for through an appropriation made and earmarked for that purpose at the last town meeting.

Violation Tickets

The plain and incontrovertible fact is that our town officials complied in every detail with the traffic plan eventually worked out for Hampton Beach, and that without such compliance there could not have been such a traffic plan. And while we personally agree that the plan which was adopted is the best possible under existing circumstances, we dislike the idea of issuing tickets for parking violations on "C", "D", or "Q" streets, or on any other of our town's thoroughfares, which bear the printed heading, "State of New Hampshire, Department of Forestry and Recreation."

Given An Inch

Give our state government an inch and it takes the proverbial mile! This has been proven in the past and it is being proven again today. The direct responsibility for a state supervised and controlled parking or traffic plan on any thoroughfare in our town, except designated state roads like Ocean Boulevard, rests with Hampton town officials. And it is their duty to make certain that rights legally reserved to the town are not delegated to the state.

Challenge State's Right

And as for the state, it may well be that its right to make a grand parking concourse for revenue out of an area that the law plainly says shall be held exclusively "for highway, park and recreational purposes forever," may be challenged through court action by irate citizens of our community. Enough eventually becomes more than enough. That is the biggest sign of the times locally.

Return to "Our Town" index