Recalls Day When Bell Did Not Toll

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The Hampton Union and Rockingham County Gazette

February 13, 1958

A former resident of Hampton, Mr. Carl E. Joplin, writes from his home in California some interesting recollections concerning the historic bells of Hampton Academy and the Town Hall, the neglect of which was the subject of the recent Union editorial, "Who Tolls For The Bells".

Mr. Joplin says, "Your good and very active citizen, Mrs. Fred Burnham quite often sends me copies of your paper and I find the issue of Jan. 9, 1958 particularly interesting. Your editorial,"Who Tolls For The Bells" brings up many memories.

During the school years of 1900 and 1901 I was janitor of the old Hampton Academy and one of my duties was to ring the bell. There may be some, but not many now living that know that the old Academy bell does not have the original tongue and some will recall the day the bell did not ring.

In 1901 the Academy building was being painted and the painters left a long ladder extending from the ground into the belfry. During one night someone climbed the ladder and removed the tongue from the bell. The next morning I pulled the rope as usual at 8:45 but there was no sound and several of the students on the playground came running in saying, "The bell isn't ringing." I reported to the principal. He got the key to the door leading to the lodge hall on the second floor and from there we had to climb a ladder to the belfry. We looked all around and I climbed up as high as I could and looked about the dust rafters but no tongue.

The principal sent an order to Boston for a new tongue and when it arrived I had to go to the express office and bring it to the school; also take it to the belfry and put it in place. It wasn't light. There are still some alumni and alumnae of Hampton Academy who will remember the day the bell didn't ring.

"The old 'Town Hall' bell also brings back memories. I rang it many times but on the night before the Fourth of July it was the custom among the men and boys of Hampton to keep the bell ringing all night. We would go up to the belfry, remove the rope and with two of us working at a time we would take turns in keeping the bell turning over and over all through the night.

"Another article which I find very interesting is "Our Town" by James W. Tucker. The part that brings back memories is the quote from Miss Dow's brochure. Although I was there seventy years ago I was a very small lad but Miss Dow describes the Hampton as I knew it, the town I grew up in. All of the Toppan family were good friends of mine. My father was well acquainted with Col. Dumas and the old Boar's Head Hotel was quite familiar to me as a boy.

"The day the hotel burned I was attending the East End School. The fire started before noon and when we saw the smoke some of the boys left school and ran all the way to the fire. We had fire equipment at that time and when the fire started the neighbors and townspeople combated it the best they could, but it was most often a losing battle.

"I was well acquainted with Charles Francis Adams who started the "Hampton Union" many years ago. It was not easy to start a newspaper in a small town and I think the first few years were pretty rough. There was a lot of competition from the Exeter News-Letter and the Portsmouth Times.

"I want to congratulate you on the Hampton Union of the present time. It is a fine weekly, newsy and well printed and well edited although I find few names now that are familiar it is interesting to keep up with old town. I recently paid a brief visit to my old home, after an absence of fifty-two years. The changes I found were astonishing but I did find many of the old landmarks much as I had known then.

"With best wishes for continued success with a very fine paper."

Carl E. Joplin
2064 Greenbrier Road
Long Beach 15, Calif.

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