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Our Towns: Footage of Hopkinton circa 1930 screens at historical society

A composite of a few stills from the film that screened on Saturday afternoon, August 3, 2013, at the Hopkinton Historical Society show scenes from daily life in the town from over the years. The footage was shot around 19030 by then Contoocook United Methodist Church minister Oscar Polhemus and and was paired by Hopkinton resident Ken Wilkens with audio commentary from longtime residents that was recorded 30 years ago. 

Courtesy of the Hopkinton Historical Society

A composite of a few stills from the film that screened on Saturday afternoon, August 3, 2013, at the Hopkinton Historical Society show scenes from daily life in the town from over the years. The footage was shot around 19030 by then Contoocook United Methodist Church minister Oscar Polhemus and and was paired by Hopkinton resident Ken Wilkens with audio commentary from longtime residents that was recorded 30 years ago. Courtesy of the Hopkinton Historical Society

A crowd of some 50 wistful residents filled the Hopkinton Historical Society on Saturday afternoon to view snippets of daily life in their town dating back more than 80 years.

The footage was shot about 1930 by then-Contoocook United Methodist Church minister Oscar Polhemus and transferred
to VHS tape several
years ago. But it was only recently paired with audio commentary from longtime residents Jean Babson, Charlotte Duston and Don Rice, who recorded it about 30 years ago, said Ken Wilkens, who compiled the two recordings.

Appearing grainy and in black-and-white, the scenes depict daily activity – children on the street, outside the Contoocook School, racing through the snow; crowds exiting churches; a parade; the Hopkinton Fair; men standing outside the town hall, presumably after an election.

Babson, the principal narrator, and her counterparts offer a sort of yearbook recollection of faces in the street, offering surnames – Kimball,

George, Roberts, Billings –
every few seconds.

“There’s Mr. Smith,” Babson, who died in 2005, points out at one point, “the mailman, or something.”

The society’s executive director, Heather Mitchell, said the screening was meant to afford residents an “opportunity to come together and
see Hopkinton as it used
to be.”

Some of the scenes are more amusing – or unnerving, depending on one’s perspective – than others. Schoolchildren are shown at one point gleefully sawing blocks of wood, the saw blade inching ever closer to their adjacent hands.

After the film concluded, a few visitors discussed what they knew of the era as experienced locally, including narrator Don Rice, the
only audience member who had been alive at the time the footage was shot. He
talked of the house he had lived in and of some of the people with whom he had been friends.

Mitchell said the footage and audio may eventually be made available for the public to purchase.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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