My October 2006 essay was called “My Small World and a Trip to the Past.” It told the story about meeting a woman from New York and telling her that my roots were in New Hampshire. She told me that she had spent her childhood summers on Lake Sunapee, and still goes there with her family. When I said I had spent my early summers there, in a cottage my parents owned from 1937 until the early ‘60s, she asked me where. I told her the general location, Perkins Cove. She asked me who were our neighbors, and I told her our house was right after the Holmes family. She paused, smiled, and said “That’s my house.” Her father bought it in the late 1960’s, and she has gone there ever since.
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but I’m not so sure. This will be, in a sense, a tale twice told.
Except for two months at “the Lake” (when I was young I thought that was Sunapee’s name), we lived in Claremont, where I spent my first four years living at 26 Francis Street. In 1944, we moved to a house at “Edgewood” – not street, not circle, not drive – simply Edgewood. It was really just a long driveway, with a fork that went to two houses on the left and to a third house on the right. Our house was the one on the right, and when my parents bought it they ruined a perfect symmetry. It had been an enclave of the “3 F’s” – “the Fosters, the Freemans, and the Frys.” We were an “S.” I never forgot the name of the people who owned our house before we did. The Frys.
It was a very nice house, with a lot of land that was ideal for the baseball games of my youth, and it even came with a clay tennis court, which was the last thing we needed. Until he got sick, my father spent most of his time at the mill (or at the Elks Club), and my mother stuck to bridge, canasta and volunteer work. I lived there until I went off to college in 1957, and my mother remained for many years beyond that, living alone in a large house. It may have still been known as “the Fry house” (as our house in Jaffrey, after 22 years, is still “the Cann house”).
Earlier this year lightning struck for the second time, so to speak, when Jeff Pyle, a young lawyer with whom I have worked for several years, returned from a memorial service for his grandfather, known as “Toke.” Toke lived his entire adult life in Plymouth, Massachusetts. After the service, Jeff was looking at Toke’s “baby book,” and he ran across an envelope with a Claremont return address. Jeff knew I was from Claremont, and the next day he asked me, “Did you ever hear of the Fry family?” “Why yes,” I said, “my parents bought our house from people named Fry.” He then told me what he had learned the day before. Toke’s father, Russell T. Fry, Sr. (Jeff’s great-grandfather) was the son of Thomas W. Fry of Edgewood, Claremont! So, it seems that my friend Jeff’s great-great grandfather, born during the Civil War, owned our house. I’m sure he built it, sometime around the year 1900. (Thomas, incidentally, was in the New Hampshire legislature in 1909).
You might even say that lightning struck three times. The letter that Jeff found was dated February 18, 1946. The sender was Mrs. Thomas W. Fry, Jeff’s great-great grandmother. It looks like Edgewood was not the only house that our two families had in common. The return address read: 26 Francis Street, Claremont, New Hampshire.