Happy Days in Hampton
By Stillman Hobbs
Hampton Union, December 7, 1983
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
It was on Nov. 13, 1908, that I first met my cousin Wheaton at his 6th birthday party; thus our friendship has continued over many years. Hampton was then a place of less than a thousand persons, so we lived our early years in the special, though simple, kind of environment found in what has been known as small town America.
We were in the same grade in the Hampton schools where we got an excellent foundation for future education. As we have often agreed since, we had unusually good teachers, one of the best being our eighth grade teacher, Miss Mary Pollard, who demanded excellence in academic achievement and in behavior. She had an unerring sense of how to make us work – and learn.
And so we did! She knew the value of competition to spur adolescent boys and girls to give their best efforts. One of her devices was to divide the class into two teams of about equal ability which competed against each other in “parsing” sentences to improve our use of English grammar, or in working out arithmetic problems to sharpen our mathematical wits. So closely matched were these contents that we never lost interest. Wheaton was the captain of one team; I of the other.
When we were about 15 or 16 years old, Wheaton and I started to work after school weekends, and summer vacations in his father’s store, The J. A. Lane & Co., one of the two general stores in Hampton, which occupied the building where the “Hampton Village Hardware” is now located. We drove the grocery route by horse and wagon and did the work that the clerks did not want to do, such as filling the jugs of vinegar, molasses, and kerosene and putting the salt pork, an especially disagreeable task in wintertime when the salt brine was ice cold in the barrel.
Like boys all over America, we loved to play baseball. One of my most vivid memories is that of Wheaton saving the day for the Hampton team in a game played at North Hampton when he made a leaping one-handed catch of a long fly ball. Even at the age of 14 he was taller and more lanky than the other boys. It was lucky for the Hampton team that he was playing left field where the ball was hit.
Wheaton learned to play tennis at a very early age getting his practice on a grass court located between the Baptist Church and parsonage. His interest and ability at tennis led to a long career as a tennis player in school and college, culminating in his sponsorship for many years of the annual tennis tournament at the Bar Harbor Club, Bar Harbor, Maine, where he also was an avid player himself.
He and I attended our first organized football game when my father took us to Exeter by trolley car to see the Academy play the Yale Freshmen. Thereafter we went to Exeter games together every year until 1920 when we sat on opposite sides of the field, he then being a student at Exeter Academy and I at Andover. From these early experiences Wheaton became an enthusiastic football fan, attending most Princeton games right up to his final illness.
Next to school, baseball, and football, our great interest was the Hampton Boy Scout Troop. During World War I, our major activity was tending the garden in which the troop planted beans as our project in the war effort. Wheaton and I were industrious farmers and produced a bumper crop which gave us the patriotic feeling that our effort would be a big factor in bringing about the ultimate defeat of the German Kaiser and his armies.
As to all small town folks in northern New England, a trip to Boston was a great event. In the fall of 1919 we decided that the time had come for us to journey to Boston alone to see a couple of shows. We had gone there by train, put up at the old Adams House and attended a good show the following day. That evening, we phoned our parents in Hampton. When they told us to come home because of the threatened police strike our great adventure was regretfully ended.
At a very early age Wheaton’s intellectual and political acumen was sharpened by the many notable people who visited his parents in their Hampton home. Among these were Governor Robert P. Bass, a catalyst of the Progressive Movement in New Hampshire; the American novelist, Winston Churchill, John G. Winant, Governor of New Hampshire and later Ambassador to Great Britain; and Benjamin Mays, the future mentor of Martin Luther King.
Wheaton was indeed a man for all seasons – scholar, historian, writer, educator. His catholicity of interests is shown by the many organizations of which he was a member and the activities in which he was engaged. He is listed in “Who’s Who in American Authors”, was a member of the intellectual Franklin Inn Society of Philadelphia, an organization of scholarly writers, belonged to the Grolier Society of rare book collectors in New York City, and served as vice president of the American Numismatic Society. He held memberships in the Princeton Historical and the Pennsylvania Historical Society. His social activities include presidencies of the Nassau Club in Princeton, and the Bar Harbor Club, and memberships in the Princeton Club of N.Y.C. and the Links Club. Also of N.Y.C. where he was a nationally ranked backgammon player; the Rittenhouse Club of Philadelphia, the Bedens Brook Country Club of Princeton, and the Pretty Brook Tennis Club of Princeton. In addition to this impressive array of interests, Wheaton never lost his love for and loyalty to Hampton. Besides his major concern for the Lane Memorial Library, he served for over 30 years as a trustee of the Hampton Academy.
In 1947, he edited the “Pictorial History of Princeton.” When he autographed my copy he wrote “For Stillman – In memory of happy days in Hampton.” obviously the plagiarized source of the title of this piece.”