Hampton Mothers' Circle / Seacoast Youth Center

Chapter 23 -- Part 12

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Hampton Mothers' Circle / Seacoast Youth Center

The Hampton Mothers’ Circle, an unusually democratic organization with a membership embracing all classes and creeds, was founded in July 1916 by Mrs. Christopher Toppan, at a meeting held at the North Beach cottage of Mrs. Marilla Brown. Present were five other friends, Theda Hobbs, Gladys Perkins, Ethel Munsey, Elizabeth Howe, and Alice Gilpatrick. From the original seven members -- all concerned with the welfare of their own and other children of the town -- the club grew rapidly, increasing to almost one hundred members in 1928, as "all you need to join the Mothers’ Club is a baby and five cents!" Upon becoming a federated member of the Congress of Mothers in Washington, D.C., the name was changed to Mothers’ Circle. The Congress of Mothers grew into what was the Parent-Teachers Association. In 1921, the Mothers’ Circle held a reception for the Hampton schoolteachers that resulted in the organization of the Parent-Teachers Association in Hampton.

The members sponsored the community’s first Christmas tree in 1917, and through a committee representing the club, the members furnished hot lunches at the school. Always adhering to their prime interest, the health and welfare of its members’ children, the programs included talks by well-known educators and social workers. As early as 1920, a "dump committee" was formed to eliminate unsightly roadside dumps. The Mothers’ Circle through the years has sponsored lectures, supplied clerical help for the mobile chest X-ray unit, held Red Cross swimming courses, and started a fund to purchase a piano for the Centre School and a stage curtain for the auditorium. For many years, members conducted the March of Dimes crusade. At Christmas, in addition to providing fruit baskets for patients at local nursing homes, members assembled and mailed gift boxes to men serving in Korea and Vietnam. In 1977, as part of the Civic Improvement Program by the Hampton Monday Club, the Mothers’ Circle contributed to the Park Bench Project. Also that year, club members did volunteer work at the Swine Flu Clinic and baked for the Exeter Hospital snack bar.

Popular events sponsored by the Mothers’ Circle were the annual children’s picnic at North Beach; Fathers’ Night; and Past Presidents’ Night, when past presidents were honored with a reception, dinner, and entertainment. From the first meeting in 1916 to June 1979, when the club was discontinued, the Hampton Mothers’ Circle maintained an excellent selection of programs and became involved in many projects displaying an abundance of community spirit -- due in part to the fine caliber of officers.

Those serving as presidents during the 63 years were Jessie Toppan, Marilla Brown, Alice Tolman, Jessie Myers, Maude Nudd, Evelyn Dennett Penney, Mildred Young, Mary Blake, Alice Norton, Elizabeth White, Helga Clay, Alice Elliot, Anna Elwell, Alice Johnson, Dorothy Cate Chase, Elsa Johnson, Marion Winchester, Ruth Snider Bragg, Janice Warburton, Virginia Bailey, Elizabeth Hoyt, Thelma Woodes, Isabelle Bourgeault, Edith Cunningham, Kathleen Barron, Grace Hoyt, Mary Howe, Elizabeth White, Eleanor Dennett Young, Kaye Gunther, Dorothy Smiley Silveri, Barbara Bogrett, Virginia Blake, Dorothy Cashman, Doris Kopanski, Constance Kelly, Rita Nudd, Marjorie Henderson, Sylvia Robinson, Natalie Hockenhull, Shirley Palmer, Eleanor St. Pierre, Ethel Hamilton, Ann Woodard, Margaret Dennett, Rae Schwotzer, Graceanna Cobb, Camille Connor, Elaine Beaudette, Maureen Palmer, Barbara Myers, Ruth Brooks, Dorothy Trofatter, Carol Hutchins, Cynthia Durant, Barbara Durant, JoAnne Ault, and Louise Mason.

  -- Excerpts taken from the Mothers’ Circle scrapbooks
and written by Eleanor P. Young

Seacoast Youth Center

Founded in 1970 as the Seacoast Boys’ Club, this organization began with the high hopes of many people in Seabrook, Hampton, North Hampton, and Hampton Falls. The club first purchased a five-acre piece of land off Park Avenue, where it intended to build a youth center, including an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool. By 1972, when the name was changed to the Seacoast Youth Center, many community leaders from the four towns joined to conduct a $300,000 fund drive, but two years later, when interest rates and construction costs had increased substantially, the club’s directors had to halt the project for a few years. This delay caused many people to withhold payment of pledges and diminished the ongoing fund-raising campaign. Finally, the directors decided to build and operate the facility as an outdoor pool, which opened in 1976. Financial problems continued to plague the pool, however, and attempts were made to sell the facility to the Town, the Winnacunnet Cooperative School District, or the Seacoast YMCA. The 1982 town meeting voted against buying the pool for $82,000 -- the amount owned on its mortgage. In June 1982, faced with a foreclosure sale by the Seabrook Bank and Trust Company, a group of local people made a private arrangement to guarantee the mortgage, in effect purchasing the pool and land for the amount owed to the bank. This group attempted to operate the pool, but did so at a loss and, finally and reluctantly, sold the facility to developer Thermo Homes, Inc., in 1984. For the lack of $82,000, the $350,000 pool was destroyed, and its remaining acres adjacent to Town-owned Tuck Field became another housing development. Ironically, the Town later considered building a recreation center at Tuck Field. Voters at the 1988 town meeting indefinitely postponed an article calling for $2.9 million to build a community center, a proposal rejected partially because many residents did not believe there was enough space at Tuck Field for the building as well as various sports fields and courts.
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