Last Saturday I was in New Hampshire. I felt like doing some meandering so thought I'd return to Gilmanton, the small town where Grace Metalious lived when Peyton Place was published. I stopped at a Rest Area/Information Center along Interstate 89 to check a map. There was an attendant but he was off to a side arranging brochures. I got a map of New Hampshire and spread it out on the counter. The attendant came over and asked if he could help
"I want to go to Gilmanton but I'm not sure what's the best way from here."
We studied the map together and decided that one way was as good as another. "What would take you to Gilmanton, if you don't mind me asking? You'll be going by both tracks!" He was a man of maybe forty-five or fifty, black hair, swarthy skin, surely of French descent, as are so many up that way; and, as for tracks, he was referring to the famous NASCAR track at Loudon and then a dog track further up the road.
"Gilmanton's the town where the woman who wrote Peyton Place lived ... Grace Metalious."
"Really? She was from Gilmanton?"
"Well, she wasn't from there but that's where she lived when she wrote the book. Her husband was the school principal ... at least until the book came out. A lot of the locals didn't appreciate how she'd portrayed the town, and her husband got fired."
"No, they wouldn't like an outlier."
"Well, she wasn't exactly what I'd call an outlier. She was born and grew up just down the road in Manchester."
"Oh, up here we don't even consider that to be part of New Hampshire. Anything below Concord is just part of Massachusetts as far as we're concerned."
He was serious. "You're kidding me!"
"Most of them are from Massachusetts anyway. And they're just different! For instance, my nearest neighbor is two-and-a-half miles way, and I wouldn't want one any closer. But them people down below Concord don't care; they'll build a house almost right on top of you. They don't appreciate independence and privacy."
"Oh." Part of the live free or die mentality maybe.
"By the way another author lived not far from here," he said. "Robert Frost's farm is down in Derry."
"I've been there before. It's nothing much to see. Frost wasn't even a published poet when he lived there. He moved from Derry to England and that's where he became famous. After four years or so he came back to the states as a famous poet and bought a farm up north in Plymouth."
"Really? He went to England to become famous? That's like Jimi Hendrix! He went to England to become famous too."
"Well, I don't think that connection ever crossed my mind, but I guess you're right."
I was enjoying chatting with him but thought I needed to get going. Then when I got going and was 5 or 10 miles down the road I had a bunch more questions for him and wished I'd stayed longer. But Gilmanton beckoned. I didn't feel like turning back.
|Gated entrance to Smith Meeting House (S.M.H.) Cemetery.|
|Grace's Grave, adorned with three pennies and a cheap pen.|
|Grave near Grace's of Charles B. Roberts, "England's Youngest|
Boy Orator," 1892-1992. A Roberts family in Gilmanton is politically
prominent in the state, but this fellow clearly was an outlier.