December 11, 2014 | post a comment | Betsy Woodman
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” So goes the first line of L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel, The Go-Between.
In New Hampshire, you can often take a day trip to that foreign country and do things the way they do them there. You can dance traditional square and contra dances on the scuffed wooden floors of grange buildings or squirm through lectures in the back-breaking pews of village meeting houses.
Photo credit Betsy Woodman
Over many years, the auditorium had been taken over for use as town offices, until a group of citizens decided to revive it as a venue for arts and entertainment. Last weekend, it was also used for a “festival of trees,” which created a colorful holiday setting for our show.
Photo credit Evelyn Roberts
As I went up and down the creaking flights of stairs, explored the warren of rooms in the basement, and helped rearrange chairs on the stage, I was moved by a feeling of going back in time.
My grandmother, Ethel Everett, was one of the fifteen students–-ten girls and five boys–to receive her high school diploma on that stage, in 1901. According to the Franklin Journal-Transcript (oh, browsing through that is really time travel), she was the class secretary and got an award for “highest rank for two years.”
For some reason, after high school she did an additional year of college prep, before going on to be a German language major at Wellesley College. This was years before women got the vote in this country.
Ethel Everett, age 14, Berry Photographers, Turners Falls, MA
After college, Ethel returned to Franklin to find a young doctor, James B. Woodman, very busy with his country practice–setting bones broken in factory accidents, doing emergency surgery by kerosene lantern in isolated farmhouses, and using what little tools medicine could offer to combat tuberculosis, smallpox, diphtheria, measles, and typhoid.
I’m wondering if their romance started at the Franklin Unitarian Society, where both took part in an amateur theatrical in 1907. (They’re on the right, center and back rows.)
“A Case of Suspension,” Currier Studio, Franklin, NH
Anyway, they married in 1910, and took off on their wedding trip in Dr. Jim’s Pope-Hartford. (My dad always said that my grandfather drove too fast, and I can believe it from this photo.)
Photo credit Woodman Family Collection
Early during their marriage, my grandmother would accompany my granddad on some of his rounds and even assist in surgery. I can just see them skidding into a farm yard now, and leaping out of the car with bags of medical supplies.
As I was saying, the past is a different country.