HAMPTON: A CENTURY OF TOWN AND BEACH, 1888-1988
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Chapter 10 -- Part 1
The Police Department
The correspondent's attitude must have prevailed during most of the nineteenth century, for in that time, Hampton's police department was only a part-time operation, with men called into service as needed. Although John W. Dearborn and Irvin 0. Wright were listed as "Police" on the town officers page of the 1885 town report, neither man was paid anything during the year. In 1886, however, Wright was paid $20 for his services in 1884 and 1885, and Dearborn was paid $30 as a police officer and constable during the year. Selectman George A. Johnson was the primary officer in 1887, earning $15 for police services, $45 for being selectman.
Hampton was a small town and most crime was petty. In September 1889, the News-Letter reported, "One week ago last Sunday night one or more entered Mrs. Thomas Ward's barn and took her horse, harness and wagon. Soon as the loss was discovered telegrams were sent in various directions and the missing team was found Monday in Ipswich....
"Last Saturday night, the post office was entered through a window and two dollars in coppers was taken. Nothing else was found missing .... It is evident the thief left in a hurry, as many articles of value in the store adjoining were unmolested." Police officers appointed in 1889 included Curtis DeLancey and Charles A. Weare.
Police regulations were issued in 1891. No boxes, barrels, or other articles were to be placed so as to obstruct the public way; two or more people were not to block any sidewalks; no one could loiter about the doors of any hall, store, office, saloon, shop, dwelling house, or any other building, except for owners or tenants; no obstructions were permitted on any sidewalks, at the corner of any streets, or in front of the post office, town hall, or other buildings that would prevent passing freely; no one could sit on any steps to prevent free passage; and no bicycles could be driven on any sidewalks. The fines ranged from $1 to $20 and imprisonment of from five days to six months.
Serious crime was handled by county officials. For example, when En Blake was run over and killed by a streetcar in July 1898, the county coroner, who was in Hampton, assumed control of the investigation. Many people said that Blake had been robbed of money and murdered, then laid on the track to make it appear as an accident. Blake had been drinking with friends at the Beach, but, the Portsmouth Herald reported, "It has been said that Blake never became so intoxicated that he could not crawl home...." An inquest was conducted over several days but foul play was ruled out.
Local police did not spend much time enforcing temperance laws, although other authorities did look into this problem. On August 1, 1895, the News-Letter's Hampton correspondent wrote:
"We are pleased to learn that at last a move has been made that has accomplished something in the line of temperance. At the beginning of the season, the town authorities succeeded in closing the saloons at ten o'clock on Saturday nights and on Sundays, and a vast change was noticeable in the Sabbath quiet as compared to the previous summer. Last Thursday, Secretary Wheeler of the State Law and Order League with one or two sheriffs made a raid on six places where liquor was procurable. The proprietors were made to pay fines ranging from $10 to $50."
With the construction of the streetcar line, the Beach began to grow and with it came problems that the Hampton correspondent might not have imagined 50 years earlier. During 1898, four police officers were paid a total of $90, with Abbott Young receiving $50 of that amount. He had been one of several police officers listed in the town reports for a number of years. Clinton J. Eaton turned over $6.50 in liquor fines to the town. Eaton was considered one of the strongest men in New England, according to the Boston Globe. At age 18, he lifted a barrel of sugar and 16 bags of shot, weighing a total of 740 pounds, half a foot from the ground. One day at the Beach he carried five bags of grain (one under each arm, one on each shoulder, and the last two surmounted by the fifth bag) from his wagon several rods into a barn, and once he carried a 500-pound barrel of track oil from a car and set it down unaided. As police chief, Eaton reportedly had little trouble with the Beach rowdies, but he was banned from using the strength-testing machines at the Beach because he broke several of them. At age 34, Eaton was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 190 pounds.
In addition to police officers Eaton and Abbott Young, John Moulton was appointed as a special officer in 1898 to oversee bicycling regulations.
In 1899, however, with the completion of the trolley to the Beach and the construction of the Casino, new hotels, and many cottages, enforcement concerns increased. Police officer Clinton Eaton was paid $261 that year, and he turned over to the Town $109.50 in fines and court costs. Many of the problems, according to the local newspapers, came from a lack of temperance.
The 1900 town meeting elected John W. Dearborn chief of police, but he resigned soon afterward causing speculation as to who might be appointed by the selectmen as a replacement. The Portsmouth Herald commented, "The office will be no sinecure this summer, as the Town appropriated a sum of money to stop the sale of intoxicants, and with the increased amount of travel to the Beach, caused by the opening of the electric lines to Portsmouth, Exeter and Amesbury and Newburyport, Mass., considerable vigilance must be exercised to keep the resort as clean as has been the case in years gone by."
Although the newspaper speculated that George H. Elkins would be the "fortunate aspirant," Ellsworth Brown of Seabrook (who the Hampton Union said had no police experience) was appointed since he was listed as receiving payment of $217.50 as chief of police, the first time that title appears in the town reports, although other men were referred to earlier as chief by the newspapers of the day. There is no mention of "chief of police" in the next report, the matter of police appointments being left to the selectmen, but apparently appointments as chief were made. James Swift was identified as chief by the Union in August 1905 and credited for the good order at the Beach. The paper said intoxicated people were seldom seen.
In July 1900, the News-Letter reported that contractor Charles E. Mason built, for $100, a Beach police station adjacent to the Manchester House. "It is 12 by 16 feet, and contains three cells and an officers' room. It was built in four days, and has had one occupant."
Although various men continued to be paid for police services, not until 1907 was there a separate listing in the report for police. That year, $333.22 was spent for salaries and $1.77 for badges. That year also, William G. Chaison was appointed chief of police, and he was enforcing the 8-mph speed limit in the congested sections of town, including Winnacunnet Road between the Center and the Beach.
The following year, the police spent $682.97, with some $400 paid to Gerald A. Smith, who apparently was the chief. His appointment as a police officer expired in March, so for a while the Town had no police officer on duty. The Union commented that "his being on duty has a good effect evenings in the town... especially in the vicinity of the wholesale liquor establishment."
Smith remained chief until March 1915, when he and officer Ray G. Haselton refused to accept appointments after town meeting. There had been reports of a wholesale liquor business operating at the Beach during the summer of 1914, but in separate letters both men denied the rumors. Town meeting had voted to allow the selectmen to appoint officers as long as no out-of-town men were hired. Also voted was $300 to be used to stop the sale of illegal liquor at the Beach. In July, Selectman Joseph B. Brown was appointed chief, primarily for administrative duties, with Robert Tolman to serve as the officer. This was the first instance of disagreements between Hampton police chiefs and the selectmen. More such disagreements would follow.
Tolman's widow, Alice, recalled in 1972 that during 1915, the department had three regular officers for the main part of the Beach season. During Carnival Week, extra officers were brought in from Keene and Nashua.
When automobiles came to Hampton, the police assumed a new responsibility, one that dominates their activity to the present day. In August 1904, the selectmen posted notices for automobile speed limits, "owing to the reckless manner in which automobiles and other motor vehicles run through the streets." The speed limit was set at 8 mph. Motor vehicles approaching a team of horses, "which seem frightened," were supposed to stop. During the summer of 1905, 75 to 300 autos daily passed through the Village, far surpassing the number of horse teams.
In June 1907, an automobile driver was stopped and fined $14 for speeding. A Union editorial said selectmen had appointed a police officer (Chaison) to enforce the speeding laws in the town. "On Tuesday, no less than 11 large motors were held up and cautioned to proceed within the limits allowed." The paper regularly carried comments about people in carriages being injured or the carriages damaged when horses were spooked by autos.
The 1910 town meeting voted "that the Selectmen enforce the law regulating the speed of automobiles." In July 1912, acting Police Chief George Philbrook banned motorcycles from the beachfront. By the summer of 1915, automobiles were becoming common, and police decided to crack down on speeding autos at the Beach. The speed limit was 10 mph between Jenkins's (the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Ashworth Avenue) and the Casino and 15 mph beyond to Leavitt's at the foot of Boar's Head. Police announced that no more warnings would be given; they intended to take people to court. "Several drivers ignored the admonition of the police and their refusal to obey resulted in the radical order made which goes into effect at once," explained the Union. By August, the Board of Trade was placing posters around the Beach announcing the speed regulations: "If these are disregarded, action will be taken by the proper authorities."
Lack of space for motor-vehicle parking also became a problem, one that continues to plague town and state officials. According to a parking regulation issued by the end of the 1915 summer season, "where there is a double line of cars parked, the person in front must leave someone in the car to move it if the car behind needs to get out, so that police will not have to move the front car." Perhaps from this situation, the towing business developed. In December, to relieve traffic congestion, the streetcar tracks in the area between Ashworth Avenue and the Sea View were moved 20 feet nearer the ocean. Since there was no room to do this between Ashworth Avenue and the Casino, it was suggested that Ocean Boulevard and Ashworth Avenue be made one-way.
The speeding problem continued the next summer. By August, huge canvas signs with the 15-mph speed limit noted were stretched across the boulevard at each end of the Beach in an effort to control speeding. The Union said, "Present conditions render it hard to catch the speeders as there are but two regular members of the force besides Chief Tolman, one of them being a night man." Police also raided a cottage on Ashworth Avenue, where four men were playing cards. Seven dollars and a deck of cards were confiscated. The man who rented the cottage was charged with maintaining a gambling nuisance and his case was placed on file, but he was ordered to leave the Beach. The others were fined $24, plus costs of $32.43 each. "This is the first of the crusade to make the beach free from gambling." After agitation by the Board of Trade, the selectmen hired H. P. Pitcher as an officer for the remainder of the summer. Although $700 had been budgeted for police in 1916, the Town spent $1,400. The department building and equipment had a value of $150.
Hampton River bridgetender Arthur Rowe, a special police officer well known for his years of directing traffic in front of the Casino, was struck by a car at the toll gate and badly injured in July 1914. Chief Robert Tolman commandeered a car to get to the accident scene, which also involved a motorcycle driven by Charles Chase of Smithtown. The driver of the car was Frederick J. Van Etten, who claimed the motorcycle hit Rowe, but there was blood on the car. Van Etten was fined $15 and costs of $25 by Judge Abbott L. Joplin of the Hampton Court. Rowe sued the driver for $2,500 in damages.
Police Chief Tolman and officers Daniel Brown and Ray Haselton resigned in July 1919. The department was left with only former full-time officer Arthur Rowe and Sam Jacobs, who directed traffic, as the force under the direction of Selectman Byron Redman. Tolman resigned due to differences with the selectmen, primarily with Chairman Joseph B. Brown. Jacobs had been hired as an officer without consultation with Tolman. Later, the building used as police headquarters was closed because "people have entered and used the telephone running up charges to the town." Tolman was also the local undertaker and embalmer.
The issue remained unresolved for the rest of the year. In January, a letter to the editor of the Union suggested that the three police officers had resigned because they didn't get a pay raise. Since the beach had closed, the town had had no police force. The unidentified writer said the town meeting should select the police officers, not the selectmen. Another January letter discussed the differences between poll taxpayers (meaning residents who owned no property) and property taxpayers. Supposediy, someone told the selectmen that it was wrong for Hampton to be without police protection. Apparently one selectman asked the speaker if he was a poll or a property taxpayer. On answering that he paid a poll tax, the man was berated for "being so bold as to mention town affairs while merely paying poll tax ($1 per year)." The writer continued, saying this was "the original one-man town," suggesting that Hampton's town affairs were controlled by Brown, chairman of the selectmen, who was "drunken with power [and] has been running affairs to suit himself." The following week, other writers also expressed complaints about selectmen and urged election of a new board.
The voters apparently heeded the call of the letter writers. At the 1920 town meeting, the three incumbent selectmen -- including Brown, who had been in office since 1908 -- were voted out and replaced by Edwin L. Batchelder, Walter A. Scott, and Wilbur E. Lamb. Tolman was reappointed chief. The meeting authorized the selectmen to appoint five officers, with preference to be given to World War I veterans. A "note" in the Union said that everyone was impressed with the dignity and businesslike appearance of the new board, explaining, "Don't think the change in the Board of Selectmen just happened. It was the result of a well worked plan and the untiring efforts of a few men, the leader of which was Thomas Cogger and he is receiving a good deal of praise for his work." The following year, with the police issue out of the way, the three incumbent selectmen were voted out. Brown and Elroy Shaw were reelected along with newcomer Harry Munsey. Changing the entire board at one election must have caused difficulties in conducting town affairs. At the 1921 meeting, the three new selectmen were voted to staggered terms, a system made possible under a new state law. That same meeting also voted $15,000 for a police, fire, and comfort station at the Beach. This money eventually was used to build only a combined police and comfort station on Ocean Boulevard across the street from the Casino. This building was a police station until 1963, when the current Beach station was completed.
In September 1922, the conduct of the police again aroused the ire of the selectmen. In July, Chairman Brown fired 12 of the 15 officers, including Chief Sherman L. Blake. Brown said his decision was in response to sensational charges brought during the summer from vacationers and cottagers from Massachusetts. Blake refused to be ousted, claiming he was entitled to a hearing. Ex-chief Tolman, Marvin Young, and Uri Lamprey were appointed to the department. It is not clear just what charges were made against the police, but a November 1923 article in the Portsmouth Herald stated that since early spring the selectmen had not been paying the police department out of fines on rum-runners caught in Hampton and that no man had been assigned to assist the federal prohibition agents: "Not one in a hundred of the bootleggers caught in Hampton had any intention of unloading in that town or at the Beach but the number of arrests gave the town the name of being a bootlegging center and this the residents objected to." Although the Town lost out on the fines, "The people of the town, however, are perfectly satisfied for they have escaped a lot of the unpleasant notoriety they had last year which they claim was bad advertising for a well conducted summer resort."
Blake was eventually reinstated, but he resigned in July 1923, according to the Portsmouth Herald, "as the result of a disturbance the night before the Fourth in which the occupants of an auto and the chief had some words which ended more or less in a fight." Harry Munsey was appointed chief and held that position, while remaining a selectman, until 1930.
If Hampton residents did not consider rum-running to be a serious crime, they did feel strongly about bank robbery. On May 9, 1924, burglars blew up three safes in the Hampton Co-operative Association building, taking some $200 from the bank and the Tobey and Merrill Insurance Agency, and a small amount from the Town-owned street-railway safe. They failed to blow up a safe across the street at the Boston & Maine Railroad depot. County Sheriff Ceylon Spinney said he had no clues to the safe blowers' identities, and the robbers were never caught.
Increasing traffic in town led voters in 1924 to appropriate $795 for traffic beacons, two on Lafayette Road at the corners with Winnacunnet Road and High Street, and another at Elmwood Corner on Winnacunnet Road. In 1925, the department paid $15 for automobile hire; in 1926, County Sheriff Ceylon Spinney was paid $100 for a police car, perhaps a used county vehicle; and the following year, the Town paid Linscott Cadillac Company $500 for a police car.
In September 1927, Chief Munsey defended his department against charges of discrimination against Massachusetts drivers as a result of a letter of complaint from Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles Frank A. Goodwin to New Hampshire Commissioner John F. Griflin. Munsey said Hampton had the only regularly policed town between the Massachusetts border and Portsmouth. Goodwin said drivers from his state felt charges against them were often trumped up, but they had to pay the fines because the distance made it difficult to appeal. Hampton summer officers received $2.75 in witness fees for each case tried in court. Hampton Traffic Court Judge Howell Lamprey said he had been criticized by Commissioner Griffin for handing down too-small fees to drivers who pleaded guilty.
Police chief problems occurred again in 1930, when Munsey finally left the post, replaced by Frank E. Leavitt, a former Portsmouth police commissioner. A Hampton native and North Beach businessman, Leavitt served for the summer but resigned in the fall and was replaced by Uri Lamprey, a longtime police officer. In June 1931, Chief Lamprey said there had been no fatal accidents at the Beach since July 4, 1929. For the early part of the season, only three officers plus the chief were on duty; beginning in July, there were eight officers.
During 1931, the department budget of $9,500 was overdrawn by some $1,200, a department practice that had been common for several years. Experiencing the financial difficulties of the Depression, townspeople at the 1932 meeting cut the budget to $8,000 and the selectmen released Chief Lamprey to save money. Longtime officer Marvin Young was also dropped, and the two veteran officers were replaced with Jerome Harkness, a summer police officer, and William Stickney, a regular police officer off and on for several years. Harkness eventually became chief.
In 1933, William Elliot, soon to become famous as "the Singing Cop," made his first appearance with the department, earning $9.50 for part-time duty. Hampton also had a "Preaching Cop" in 1943 when the Reverend Lloyd M. Perrigo, pastor of the First Baptist Church for three years, resigned his pastorate the night after his ordination and joined the force full time. He had been a summer police officer the previous year.
The 1934 town meeting adopted a "resolution" that prohibited police officers from soliciting voters and driving them to the polls in police cars, and prohibited selectmen from serving as police chief. Residents also voted to mark Town-owned vehicles with the name of the department in question. The selectmen decided to do the same thing in 1989.
In 1939, Hampton became one of the first communities to install a pedestrian light. Placed at the crosswalk in the center of town, the new light was activated by pushing a button that changed a blinking green light to red when the automatic traffic light at the High Street and Lafayette Road intersection changed to red. Also in 1939, county and local police cracked down on illegal slot machines, confiscating devices at Burke's Diner, the Hampton Diner, Fred's Lunch on the marsh, and Johnson's Restaurant in the Village, the latter operated by Chamber of Commerce President Leslie Johnson. Those found guilty paid fines of $50. The following summer at the Beach, the owners of the Casino Arcade and Playland were also arrested, this time on a complaint from diner owner John Burke, who apparently felt he had been discriminated against the previous summer. Playland's owners said they awarded prizes for points received in playing various games and that they had been using the system for the previous six years.
In May 1941, Chief Harkness picked up the keys to a Ford panel truck. Painted maroon, it was the town's first paddy wagon. A year later, with the war underway, Hampton received permission from the rationing board to get a new cruiser, this one painted robin's-egg blue.
In a bizarre October 1946 incident, Patrolman Edwin G. Towne, a longtime state conservation officer who had recently joined the Hampton department, and William Powers were kidnapped and taken to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Towne had noticed a car proceeding strangely in Hampton Center, and he went over to talk to the occupants, three men and two women. The men said they needed a wrecker, but when they were unable to show documents, Towne took two of the men in the paddy wagon to the Beach police station to get them assistance.
En route, the men pulled a knife, Towne said, and grappled with him, forcing the paddy wagon off the road and into a tree near the intersection of Winnacunnet and Mill roads. Powers, hearing the crash, came out of an apartment house to investigate, saw Towne being held at gunpoint, and was captured. Norman Chambers' taxi was parked in the apartment-house driveway with the keys in it. The men took it and their prisoners back to the square to pick up the other three people. Then the group drove to Boston at high speed. Towne, who had been handcuffed, and Powers were tied to a fence and left. They soon freed themselves and went to the Cambridge police station, where Towne called Chief Harkness. Although the FBI was called into the case, the kidnappers were never found.
In May 1947, selectmen dismissed Harkness, expressing gratitude for his years of service with the department but calling him "temperamentally unsuited" to continue as chief. Harkness had been a member of the department since 1926, and his removal was accompanied by rumors of all sorts. The Union editorialized:
"No charges have been brought against Chief Harkness as are usually leveled against a man in his position. His slate is clean, and his record unblemished, which is a tribute to the manner in which he conducted himself during a long police career. The action of the Selectmen should not be taken as a reprobation of Chief Harkness, neither should the town officers be censured for their action. They have acted, to the best of their ability, for the best interests of the Town without fear or favor. The townspeople could not ask for more."
The selectmen appointed as chief 30-year-old John Malek, a native of Newmarket who was then the Conway chief. Malek, who had been a summer police officer at Hampton in 1946, brought stability to the department during his 12 years as chief, a term ended by his death from illness in 1959. Prior to Malek's appointment, the police department had been controlled by the selectmen. Munsey had been both a chief and a selectman, and, while holding the latter office was a bail commissioner as well. In commenting on the police situation, James Tucker, who had known every chief since Tolman, wrote in his Union column on October 28, 1954, "The main reason which leads one to look for improvement [in the police department] now is the fact that for the first time in the history of our town, as far as we know at least, a police chief [Malek] has the opportunity personally to manage and be individually responsible for his own department. As a rule he [the police chief] has been nothing more than a puppet of the Board of Selectmen." As time has revealed, the position of Hampton police chief has not been one for a person interested in job security.
Although the atomic bomb was credited with a major role in concluding World War II, the weapon's impact was reversed by the 1950s when officials feared that America's enemies would use the bomb against us. Hampton police maintained order at the Beach and patrolled the Village, but they also had a prime responsibility for civil defense. Malek was appointed head of civil defense, with Douglass Hunter as assistant director. The first practice alert was held in Hampton on June 10, 1953, when it was intended that all traffic would be stopped and motorists and pedestrians would go to the nearest shelters, one of which was located in the basement of the high school. The auxiliary police were briefed on the likely impact of an atomic war. People from Boston, they were told, would be brought to Hampton by buses and trains.
By 1954, fear of the Communist "Red menace" was widespread, at least in certain elements of national and local government. The Town voted $500 to build an airplane spotting station, which was erected at the north end of the Hampton River Bridge. There a volunteer ground observer corps would watch for the enemy. Malek hoped to recruit 350 people to staff the tower around the clock. Observers began watching on May 1, 1956, and to State Senator Dean Merrill went the honor of seeing the first aircraft, two F-94 fighter jets apparently sent over to christen the first watch at the post. Officially designated "Echo November 15, Black," the post set a record in October 1956 when watchers Mrs. Elmer Eldridge and Mrs. Frederick Fernald became the first to spot submarines offshore, vessels having been added to airplanes on the list of subjects to observe.
By the end of 1957, the station was staffed 80 hours per week. "Sputnik" was now circling the globe and the state civil-defense director was calling for 24-hour duty "for an indefinite period or until all possible ideas for emergency were passed." Volunteer coordinator of the post was Mrs. Ednapearl Parr, who accumulated 750 watching hours, while Mr. and Mrs. Douglass Hunter each had 500 hours, and Myrtha Emery and Grace Lambert each had 250 hours. Many other people were awarded certificates for hours spent in the tower, but in January 1958, the facility was placed on inactive status; it was "closed out" in January 1959. In 1975, the spotting tower was declared a public health hazard and hauled to the dump.
Civil-defense plans continued, however, with Hampton participating in various levels of alerts. Evacuation routes were mapped out in May 1958. Portsmouth, because of the naval shipyard and Air Force base, was considered to be a prime target, with Hampton rated a "B area" in the event of a nuclear explosion, with 70 percent casualties if no one could be evacuated. Of Hampton's roughly 5,000 population, 3,628 people would go to Epping, the others to Brentwood and East Kingston. Seabrook students at Winnacunnet High School (when it opened in the fall) would be taken home, since Seabrook did not have to be evacuated. Evacuation transportation officer Stanwood Brown was prepared to have 200 passenger cars available from local garages to assist. On the sound of a yellow alert -- a three-minute wailing siren -- all people without transportation were to go to the nearest corner to wait for one of the 200 cars.
The last major civil-defense alert occurred on May 3, 1960, as part of a national test. At 2 P.M., two sets of yellow alerts would be sounded and people were to tune to the Conelrad station on the radio to await instructions. A red alert (10 blasts of the sirens, repeated three times) would be sounded at 3 P.M., at which time officers would stop traffic and people were to take cover for 15 minutes until an all-clear was sounded. At 10 A.M., 15 children from Hampton schools were to be "evacuated" to Epping as part of the test. Residents were urged to maintain a two-week food supply and to have home fallout shelters, even though Hampton was in an evacuation zone. Some 60 residents joined local officials in a planning session at the fire station that was concluded with a serving of clam chowder made by Hunter and donuts made by Fire Chief Perley George.
Hunter termed the test a success, but, he admitted, "It remains for the public to be made aware of the seriousness of civil defense and learn its responsibilities in an emergency." A lower-level test was held in May 1961 and again traffic was stopped. People were asked to take cover for 15 minutes, although a group of teenagers in Hampton Center had to be asked twice. While the public has remained apathetic about civil defense, the subject of fallout shelters was to place Hampton Beach businessman William Kennedy in the headlines.
In September 1961, Civil Defense Director Douglass Hunter conducted a meeting about fallout shelters at the courthouse. At that time, three shelters were already under construction in Hampton, one by Kennedy behind his restaurant at North Beach. The walls of the boxlike structure were made of 8 inches of concrete, 12 inches of dirt, and another 8 inches of concrete interlaced with steel. In late September, Kennedy and Robert Moore entered the concrete-block shelter for a five-day test. They almost did not come out alive. "Most of my friends thought I was crazy when I started building this thing," Kennedy jested just before he entered the $2,800 shelter, "but my wife thought it was a good idea. She never stopped encouraging me."
Just 18 hours after entering the shelter, the two men staggered out, suffering from lack of oxygen, and were rushed to Exeter Hospital. The men quickly recovered and, after making a few repairs, Kennedy and 56-year-old Adrionus van Hooijdonk of Exeter Road went back for a 48-hour test. After this success, and joined by Kennedy's son Ricky, the men returned to the shelter in November for 14 days. Kennedy said he wanted to find out what it was like to live in a shelter. As a result of this experience, Kennedy called upon the government to test and certify equipment so that shelters would be safe. The shelter was never tested again. A few years later, it was leveled by a crane with a steel ball because an engineering firm said it was "in imminent danger of collapsing."
After a long illness, Chief Malek died in September 1959. Considered a tough but fair police officer, Malek had a good relationship with the young people in the town, initiating the schoolboy patrol program for the crosswalks and bicycle registration and inspections. Malek Circle, off Landing Road, was named for him in 1987.
Malek was replaced by John Roden, former police chief of Lisbon, New Hampshire, in January 1960. On June 22, 1960, gunman James Edward Jones, 41, held up the Hampton Co-operative Bank, then located in the Odd Fellows Block, and escaped with $16,500. The robbery occurred about 2:45 P.M. A known criminal with a long record, Jones was quickly identified by police after the robbery and a widespread search was launched. By 5 P.M. the next day, Jones was arrested by Exeter police. They learned the man did not even have a getaway car. He had, in fact, called a friend from Exeter for a ride home from Hampton after the robbery. Just seven days after his capture, Jones was in Superior Court, pleaded guilty to Hampton's first armed bank robbery, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The early 1960s were a painful period for the police, especially Chief Roden and the Town. After Roden's first summer as chief special officer Neal Wiggin resigned, claiming there was a failure to control drinking and rowdyism by minors at the Beach. Town Manager Kenneth Boehner admitted it had been "a difficult summer," and, along with Chamber of Commerce officers, he agreed, "We all had it rougher this year." But Boehner said the arrest records indicated there had been no lack of police crackdowns to justify Wiggin's criticism.
The concern over rowdyism first occurred after Labor Day 1959. The following January, the selectmen, the police and fire chiefs, and the Chamber of Commerce developed a 12-point program to control unruly teenagers. The program called for two state police officers to be stationed at the Beach, routine closing hours for Beach businesses, noise controls after midnight, no overnight sleeping on the sand or in cars, no public possession of alcoholic beverages, and public cooperation with the police in reporting flagrant offenses.
The summer of 1960 was again problem-filled. As a response, in May 1961, Roden announced a further crackdown, especially on public drinking and the playing of bongo drums. He said, "Anyone seen playing bongo drums which caused so much controversy at the beach last summer would be charged with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace and the drums would be confiscated."
His 1961 budget had been increased by more than $10,000 over the 1960 budget, mainly to hire two more officers, but the problems continued, especially on Labor Day weekend, when Hampton Beach appeared to be a focal point for teenagers from throughout New England. Some 78 high-school and college-age youths were arrested after a disturbance at the bandstand, where 500 young people were holding liquor parties. Roden pleaded with the groups to disperse, and, when they did not respond, every available police officer came to the scene, resulting in the arrest of three supposed ringleaders, ending the half-hour near-riot. During the course of the summer, 98 minors were arrested and fined for illegal possession of liquor. "Where are the parents of these young people?" asked Roden. Similar Labor Day incidents also were reported at other American resorts.
On October 5, 1961, Tucker, in writing about the tough comments against rowdyism by the Laconia police chief, urged the Hampton authorities to do the same.
"Frankly, we feel that perhaps we have been a little soft on all types of youthful delinquencies. How can we justify such violent actions on the part of youth as making a shambles out of a beach cottage; of deliberately pulling down every display sign within reach; of congregating on street corners and elsewhere in loud and boisterous groups; of standing around in gangs and accosting passersby, especially women; of exhibiting open contempt for law and order and for the police; of drinking in public; of openly ignoring rules and regulations for conduct of the beach"
Tucker suggested further that when businessmen attempted to quiet unruly nighttime groups, they would be backed up by the police, but the police had not taken the initiative in quieting the groups. Part of the problem, Tucker believed, was that certain shopkeepers thought that cracking down hard on the teens would hurt business. Tucker rejected that logic and again called for a tougher police stance.
In December 1961, the selectmen authorized a K-9 (canine) corps for the police. In February 1962, three German shepherds -- Rasmussen, Cindy, and Shep -- joined the department under the control of Sergeant Paul Leavitt and officers Ray Whitcomb and Bart Seavey. The Labor Day ruckus of 1962 resulted in 55 arrests as youths again assembled along the beachfront, blocking traffic and giving police a difficult time. Highways at both ends of the Beach were blocked by police, and reinforcements were called in from Plaistow and from the state and county departments. The K-9 corps was credited with helping to keep the situation somewhat in control. Although not considered to be a riot, the Sunday-night disturbance caused Roden to order a new tear-gas riot gun. Another informal conference on the juvenile problem was held by town officials, with the Union calling on Beach real estate people to stop renting to large groups of teenagers.
In an effort to support the police, the 1962 town meeting increased the department budget from $69,000 to $90,000 to hire more summer police officers. Residents also voted to authorize the Planning Board to develop plans for a new police station, since the existing one was to be razed as part of the State's beachfront improvement project. There was much debate about where to locate a new station and whether to build two, one for the Village and another at the Beach. In the end, $90,000 for a new building, the first portion of the present station on Ashworth Avenue, was voted at a special town meeting in December. The old station on Ocean Boulevard had already been torn down as part of the State's beachfront redevelopment.
There was a rush to get the new station built, but all the contractors' bids were higher than the budget, necessitating changes. The delays meant that a temporary jail, a sort of bull pen, had to be built for the summer season in the Precinct garage on Ashworth Avenue. The prefabricated-steel jail building was lost in shipment enroute to the Beach and didn't arrive until midsummer. Fortunately, the Fourth of July holiday was quiet.
By Labor Day 1963, however, the youths were back and the near-riots of previous years turned into the real thing. The trouble was building up on Friday and Saturday, but Roden, according to the Union of September 5, 1963, told his men "to let them [the young people] burn themselves out as long as they stay on the sand." By Sunday afternoon, the youths were snake-dancing on the street, blocking traffic, pushing lifeguard boats into the water, lighting fires in trash baskets, and then throwing rocks -- one of which broke a window in the new Chamber of Commerce office. Firefighters with hoses were called out to drive off a group running toward the fire station. Apparently the youths thought the jail was located in that building. Roadblocks, police said, prevented 3,000 to 4,000 youths from getting to the Beach. Reinforcements were called in from police departments in Portsmouth, Kingston, Dover, Brentwood, Sandown, Derry, Londonderry, Epping, Newmarket, and Windham. State and county police were also on hand, and emergency equipment was sent from fire departments in Seabrook, Salisbury, Kensington, Hampton Falls, and North Hampton. Seabrook Fire Chief Henry Kendrick and Hampton Fire Chief Perley George were injured, along with many police officers who had to dodge rocks, sand-filled bottles and cans, cherry bombs, and other missiles.
When a Hampton cruiser, surrounded by the crowd at the north end of the Beach, was being pelted with rocks, police finally used tear gas, throwing some 14 grenades and shooting three bombs into the crowds. Slowly the mob dispersed, and police were again in control by midnight. In the aftermath, 54 teenagers, aged 18 and 19, were summonsed to court, and some 90 juveniles were released into the custody of their parents. Town officials met after the riot to map plans for the coming season. The Haverhill (Massachusetts) Gazette editorialized, "There were too many innocent victims -- business owners, residents and visitors -- who suffered from the misbehavior to allow a repetition of this Labor Day trouble. It must not become an annual event."
As a public-relations effort, Signal 46, a film on the Hampton department, was produced by Sergeant Leavitt. In 1964, the film received the outstanding photography award from Law and Order magazine.
Whatever plans were made, they were not enough. The "annual event" occurred again on Labor Day 1964. The new police station had opened in the fall of 1963, and the department went into the 1964 season with high hopes. Mrs. Marlene Gentry was hired as the first policewoman, serving as secretary-matron, and Roden unveiled the new police radar. But the summer of 1964 ended with a public tragedy that had been exceeded only by the Hampton Beach fires of 1915, 1921, and 1950. As in previous years, the Friday and Saturday of Labor Day weekend were somewhat uneventful, although it was clear that masses of young people were pouring into the Beach. There were reports of signs in the Boston area urging youths to go to Hampton Beach.
As the youthful editor of the Union, the author went to the Beach on Sunday to observe. About 7:30 P.M., a boy of about 14 walked up and said, "Be ready to go in ten minutes." Soon afterward, a group of youths rushed toward the Casino and tipped over a car, then a mob of anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 people ran out of control until nearly 3 A.M. The early part of the riot was an attack on the new police station and the fire station, apparently an effort to free people previously jailed. Chief Roden was there with just a few officers while most of the officers were elsewhere in the Beach area. Two attacks were fought off with fire hoses and tear gas, and for the rest of the night the action was centered on Ocean Boulevard. Here police chased rioters back and forth in an effort to break up the mob. Hundreds of people were bottled up on side streets by the police. Many false alarms were called in. While attempting to put out three fires started by the crowd, firefighters were pelted with rocks, broken bottles, Molotov cocktails, and other objects. Later, for the first time in his 40 years with the department, Chief George had to send out firefighters with shotguns to protect themselves.
The amphibious "duck" became a battle wagon, loaded with shotgun-armed police who chased the crowd down Ashworth Avenue shooting rock salt and bird shot. When the police officers ran out of ammunition and the duck returned to the police station, it was chased by a gang of rock throwers. The newly built McCoy's Restaurant was wrecked and looted, and many other stores received similar treatment. Some 100 plate-glass windows were broken during the melee.
Governor John King came to the Beach about 11:30 P.M. He finally acceded to selectmen's wishes, calling out the National Guard, who arrived about 2:30 A.M. to support the exhausted police officers. The selectmen had asked for National Guard troops to be stationed at the Beach throughout the weekend, but King had refused to issue the order. (After the riot, Precinct commissioners John I. Foley, Alfred V. Gagne, and Ralph T. Harris, in a letter to the Union editor, suggested that calling out the National Guard on Thursday, as requested by selectman Robert Danelson, would have created an armed camp and "could have precipitated a riot much earlier in the weekend." Mr. and Mrs. Harris later sued Town Manager Kenneth Boehner for $225,000, alleging damages when Mrs. Harris was arrested after failing to stop at a police roadblock set up during the riot to prevent more people from going to the Beach.)
The police were anything but gentle in their treatment of the rioters, and there were charges of brutality, but some 70 police officers and a few firefighters reported injuries, many requiring stitches and treatment by emergency medical teams. Among the nonpolice injured was a 16-year-old boy who suffered a punctured lung, chest lacerations, and the loss of an eye when he was hit by fire from a police shotgun. Probably other rioters were injured as well but they declined to seek formal medical treatment for fear of legal action against them. And charges were filed against about 150 of the hundreds who were arrested. Most who pleaded not guilty before Hampton Judge John Perkins were found guilty, and then appealed to Superior Court. There the police had problems. They had arrested every rioter they could grab, but so furious was the action that few arresting officers had time to fill out all of the forms at the time of lockup, and they had difficulty identifying those arrested at the time of their trials. The Superior Court dropped the charges or found not guilty most of those who appealed from the Hampton Court. One Connecticut teenager was found guilty of arson in the burning of the town parking lot attendant's booth and was sentenced to six months in the House of Correction.
Perhaps the most obvious casualty of the riot was Chief John Roden, who was visibly shaken by the attack against his station. By the end of September, the selectmen were calling for his resignation. When it was not forthcoming, Roden was fired, the selectmen citing administrative deficiencies, especially lack of proper accounting procedures. Roden requested and received a public hearing on the firing. He testified on his own behalf and several citizens delivered support for him at the hearing. The selectmen presented no evidence to back up their charges, but the matter only showed, as it had in the past and would again in the future, that when the selectmen decide to replace a department head, there is little the fired official can do about it. Paul Leavitt was appointed as the new chief in April 1965.
To alleviate the teen problem, Hampton used two different approaches. First, the Town added more men and money to the local department and a state police barracks was set up at 69 Ocean Boulevard, the former Wentworth Hotel. Beginning in the summer of 1965, police cracked down heavily on young people, and at times it appeared that every possible law, regulation, and ordinance was used by the police to harass and/or arrest youths. Police did not give out warnings; they issued traffic tickets and summonses to the Hampton Court. Teens coming to the Beach for more than sunbathing got a strong message from the police.
Teens got another message as well. A 23-year Beach businessman, Walter Vanderpool, was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce just a few days after the 1964 riot, and he stated that the solution of the teen problem was his goal. A committee formed by Vanderpool joined with the Precinct commissioners and the selectmen to study the problem. As result of their work, the Chamber of Commerce received a $40,000 grant from the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare to study the cause and effect of youth disturbances.
Most of the grant money went for salaries for four consultants: criminology professor Stuart Palmer of the University of New Hampshire; youth psychologist Dr. William Kvaraceus of Tufts University; Paul Estaver, then editor of New Hampshire Profiles magazine, who was the youth coordinator; and the Reverend Manning Van Nostrand of the Hampton Methodist Church, the community coordinator. A number of local teens were also hired to work on the project. Their approach was to develop more communication between youths and adults and to let the local young people create a constructive program of their own to solve the problem.
By early June 1965, the Committee to Avoid Violent Eruptions (CAVE) was formed at the Beach with 549 members, each agreeing to make an effort to solve the problem. Eventually some 2,000 youths between the ages of 13 and 21 were enlisted in the project. In mid-June, Vanderpool was named Man of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce because of his leadership in developing the program. At the same time, a commission appointed by Governor John King said the Beach needed to establish a code of ethical behavior and that landlords who rented single rooms to large groups must change that practice. While this commission suggested that the riots were premeditated, it also said improving the training of police was necessary, citing "...some local police [for whom] the riot became a personal challenge. Once the riots started, both youths and some local police behaved in an irresponsible manner."
The Fourth of July 1965 was quiet partly because of a massive police presence. Salaries and room and board for some 600 state and local police and National Guardsmen totaled $30,000. The youth program sponsored concerts and other activities. While Chief Leavitt gave them credit for maintaining good order, others were not so sure. Beach businessman Joseph Flynn said, "I believe the answer [to the teen problem] is a great amount of police, plus stories of possible fines."
The teens had planned varied activities on the sand. The Chamber of Commerce decided to cut back the program and to move all events to the state bathhouse area or to the Sea Shell stage because of objections from some people who voiced fears of large crowds of teens. Some Beach residents objected to the possible noise and others felt the then-current teen dancing styles were "obscene." In late July, the selectmen notified the federal agency that they felt the grant was not needed. Board chairman Noel Salomon argued that since the Chamber of Commerce had been unwilling to let the teens prove they were able to run their own programs in an orderly fashion, the federal project would not fulfill its goal of determining the cause and solution of teen problems. Richard Stone, who was chairman of CAVE, resigned in opposition to the cutback. Nevertheless, the efforts of the four consultants continued.
Police were out in force on Labor Day weekend in 1965, but crowds were small. Hampton Beach had seen the last of the annual riots. By 1966, the 22-man state police contingent at the Beach was cut to 10 officers and the barracks was discontinued in 1968.
In March 1966, a CAVE report blamed local officials for causing the riots, citing community leaders who were a negative rather than a positive force in reacting to the young people. The latter, the report stated, "rebelled against the values of their parents." A building constructed as the CAVE headquarters on the beachfront was moved the following year to Ashworth Avenue and then to Tuck Field, where it continues to be used by the Hampton Parks and Recreation Department. The CAVE program lasted one year, replaced in 1966 by a voluntary committee sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
There has never been a solid explanation for the riots. No ringleaders were ever caught, and it is likely that none ever existed. In its simplest form, it was the youth of the 1960s rebelling against the authority of the 1940s and 1950s. It happened at Hampton and at many other places throughout the country.
John Christie was part of the 1964 Hampton Beach crowd. Later, as a newspaper reporter, he remembered the riot. As he wrote in the September 2, 1981, Union, "Why did we do it? Two basic reasons: first, the natural inclination of any adolescent to be where everyone else is, to be part of the crowd and to have a story to tell afterwards. Second, we didn't know it at the time, but we were in the vanguard of the youth culture. We had cars and a little money. We had mobility and freedom. Adults were uptight, making rules that pinned us in. Given those circumstances, the beach riots and what followed were inevitable." But for the police and firefighters who faced the rioters, for the businesspeople who had their stores damaged, and for many town officials, the events of the early 1960s are still remembered with anger.
If police had "solved" the teen problem, they began to face another one—one that concerns law-enforcement agencies throughout the world. In August 1965, Chief Leavitt announced the arrest of two girls for possession of marijuana, and he warned parents to keep an eye on their teenagers to prevent drugs from spreading into this area. He said there was no drug problem yet, but in August 1966, 11 young people were arrested for possessing drugs at the Beach. Leavitt said they had hoped to catch two local boys who were not present when the arrests were made. Police believed there were six local boys involved in drug trafficking in the area, and three of them were arrested in a February 1967 raid. During that year, the department made 24 drug arrests.
By May 1968, Leavitt admitted the drug problem at the Beach had reached major proportions. There were 33 arrests in four weeks and "almost daily committing people to the State Hospital in Concord because of narcotics abuse." The Hampton area, he said, had the heaviest volume of narcotics abuse in the state. Some 71 people were arrested in Hampton in 1968. To respond to this problem, Winnacunnet High School sponsored a series of drug programs for students and adults.
Leavitt resigned in January 1969 and was quickly replaced by Calvin Leonard, a former Hampton police department captain who had left for another job in 1967.
By the summer of 1969, Beach landlords were again accused of renting every available space to teens. Panhandling young people were a Beach problem, and the Town passed an antiloitering ordinance that gave police the right to arrest anyone in or near a public place who disturbed or annoyed another person. The Herald's editor said the ordinance meant, "... don't laugh, cry, or otherwise enjoy yourself on a Hampton street or you can find yourself on a fast trip to the cooler, there to contemplate Hampton's eagerness to suppress all pleasure." Mothers called the selectmen to ask whether or not their children playing loudly near the street would be subject to arrest.
Meanwhile, after complaints about low pay for police officers, and support for raises by the chief against the wishes of Town Manager Norman Cole, Leonard resigned as chief in March 1970. He was succeeded by Lieutenant Clayton Bousquin.
In September, residents were frightened by the news that bank robber William Gilday of Amesbury, Massachusetts, had been seen in the area. The robbery, part of a money-raising scheme by underground revolutionaries, resulted in the death of a Boston police officer. Hampton became the center of a massive manhunt, especially after Gilday made an appearance on a Wednesday night at William Kennedy's restaurant at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Cusack Road. The fears were justified: Gilday eluded police, and then early Friday morning kidnapped 79-year-old Ruth Leavitt Palmer from her home on Mill Pond Lane. Driving her car, Gilday forced her to ride with him to Salem, New Hampshire, where he released her unharmed. Gilday remained on the run until the following Monday, when he was caught by police near Worcester, Massachusetts, and is now serving two life sentences in Massachusetts.
In the fall of 1970, amid reports that the Hampton police station, which had been built on filled-in marsh, was sinking, Chief Bousquin released statistics showing a dramatic increase in crime in Hampton. There were 101 drug arrests in 1969, and 85 arrests through the end of August 1970. Most important, Bousquin said juvenile crime was up 90 percent, and he asked for a full-time juvenile officer. He also asked for three more full-time police officers and another cruiser. The problems of the station itself were partially solved in 1974 when a $95,000 addition and renovations were completed.
Questions of low pay continued to plague the department. By 1973, the officers were attempting to form a union. In January 1975, the Town and the Hampton Police Relief Association signed the first collective-bargaining agreement of its type in the state. Calling for a 10 percent pay raise, the contract also included a grievance procedure. Both sides said the agreement protected the officers and the Town.
In March 1976, Sergeant Robert Mark became the town's first deputy police chief, serving under Clayton Bousquin. The latter resigned in November, citing health reasons, and Mark began his first term as acting chief of police, a role he would fill several times before being made permanent chief in 1980. Although there was strong citizen support for Mark in the form of petitions and presentations at selectmen's meetings, Town Manager Peter Lombardi insisted there was no one in the department qualified to become chief. (Under the manager form of government, the manager hires and fires department heads.) Lombardi eventually appointed Robert Picucci as chief in March 1977. By September 1979, Picucci was fired by the selectmen, Lombardi having left his position, and the new town manager was not yet on the job. Mark was again named acting chief Picucci sued to regain his position and the Town was prohibited from naming a permanent chief until the case was settled. In February 1980, Picucci had a hearing before a Superior Court-appointed master. After two days of testimony and a day of negotiations, Picucci and the Town settled on a $9,000 payment to the chief plus his reinstatement and immediate resignation. Robert Mark was finally given the job permanently by Town Manager Roland Sevigny, who began in September 1979.
Hampton saddled up in 1981 when then-Sergeant Dennis Pelletier raised some $20,000 in donations to purchase four Tennessee walker police horses. Efficient in helping officers patrol the traffic-clogged summer streets, the animals became popular with Beach visitors of all ages. So successful was the program that first summer that a citizens' petition passed at the 1981 town meeting appropriated funds to support the mounted patrol. A barn for the horses was built in 1983 through the generosity of Wallace Shaw at Shaw's Campground on Lafayette Road.
Hampton resident George Iverson, a member of the state police for 34 years, was named the department's colonel and named commanding officer in 1986.
As Hampton continued toward the end of the twentieth century, the police department increasingly became involved with all of the types of crime associated with large cities. In 1984, for example, a prostitution ring at the Beach was broken up with a few arrests, illegal Hispanic aliens were found in a Beach motel, and police were concerned that the Beach was a destination for runaway youths. The department offered a fingerprinting program for schoolchildren after an Exeter grammar-school girl vanished while walking to school one day. With many cocktail lounges and "convenience" stores selling beer and wine, to say nothing of illegal drug sales, rock bands at Club Casino and other lounges, and the selling of fireworks, the character of Hampton, and especially the Beach, has changed, necessitating a large police force. During 1988, the police recorded 2,384 traffic—related arrests, 3,684 criminal arrests of which 1,975 were alcohol related and 489 were juvenile arrests. In total, the station log recorded nearly 15,000 individual police activities. In that same year, when the police department expenditure was $1.934 million, there were 34 full-time uniformed officers, authorization to hire as many as 60 part-timers (mainly special officers hired for summer duty at Hampton Beach) and 19 full- and part-time civilian employees, the latter including the janitor, dispatchers and secretaries.
Was it just over a century ago that the local correspondent wrote, "...In a country town like Hampton, there is little need for a large police force to keep all in their place and maintain order...."?