Monday, December 22, 2008

Grace Metalious - Part I (July 17, 1994)

I call the Town Clerk in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, one Betty Smithers.  She tells me that Grace Metalious is buried at Smith Meeting House.

"Is that a cemetery?"


"Is there any memorial to Grace in Gilmanton besides her grave?"

"What do you mean, memorial?"

"You know, like a plaque on the Town Green, or a sign at the entrance to town that says she lived there."

Betty Smithers issues a honk of derisiveness.  "No ... no likely ... it's not as if she's highly regarded in these parts."

"You're kidding me!  Peyton Place is great!  She was a big celebrity.  I'd think the town would be proud of the connection!'

"Well, let's put it this way ...  she didn't do the town any favors by writing that book."

"But it wasn't Gilmanton she was portraying in the novel, was it? The town of Peyton Place in the novel seems much larger than Gilmanton must be."

"Well ... who knows what she had in mind?"

"There's a library in Gilmanton, right?"

"Three of 'em."*

"Is there any special display devoted to Grace in any of them?"

"Nope."  That's a flat out punky nope.  I'm taking a liking to Betty Smithers.

"Did you know Grace?"


"I'm kind of shocked!  I just assumed you people there would be kind of proud to have been put on the map by Grace ... so to speak, I mean."

"We were doing just fine long before she came to town."

"A couple friends and I are planning to drive over and visit her grave on Saturday.  Could we maybe get together with you and talk about Grace?"

"Depends ... first of all, you'd have to catch me in the right mood, plus you'd have to come on a day when I'm not going to be in a golf tournament.  I'll be on the golf course all day Saturday. Why don't you try Marian McIntyre?  She's the librarian.  She'd be a good guide."

I call Marian McIntyre.  She says she'd be glad to meet us.  I chat a bit with Marian.  She is more kindly disposed toward Grace than Betty Smithers.  "It seems pitiful now," Marian says, "because Grace was just head of her time.  If that book were to come out today it wouldn't be shocking at all ... it'd be like reading the Bible."

"I haven't read the Bible much," I say, "but I understand it can be pretty smutty in parts!  And Peyton Place is not really about Gilmanton, is it?  I mean, the town of Peyton Place is much larger than Gilmanton.  Why are some people in Gilmanton still upset about the book?"

"Well, yes, in some ways it is about Gilmanton and the people here.  I can point to a lot of characters in the book who are based on real people, people who lived right here, and let me tell you, some of them didn't appreciate it."

I would learn on my visit that, boy, is it ever based on some real Gilmanton people!
*The town of Gilmanton, as it turns out, is composed of of 3 villages:  Gilmanton, Lower Gilmanton, and Gilmanton Iron Works (a unique name for a village); each village has a tiny library.