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April 25. 2013 1:22PM

No electricity? - Hard to imagine for fourth-graders at History Day


Allenstown Historical Society member Dennis Fowler talks about the early types of transportation to a group of fourth graders during History Day. From left are Cadence Provost, Brianna LeBlond, Jack Schaefer, D’Andre Mitchell, Diamond Harrington and Fowler. (Leslie Thomas Photo)

It may not seem that long ago to some people, but living at a time with no electricity or refrigeration is an alien concept to today’s fourth-graders. When asked why kids in the past couldn’t bring milk to school, the answer that made sense to today’s students is that they were lactose intolerant or had allergies.

“The kids coming through couldn’t imagine washing clothes with a washboard,” said member and “rooted resident” Barbara Yakkey. “They wanted to know why clothes couldn’t just be put into the washing machine.”

April 18 marked the fourth year of History Day, put on by the Allenstown Historical Society. Fourth-grade students from Pembroke Hill and Allenstown Elementary Schools participated in the event.
Several stations were set up around the Parish Hall at St. John the Baptist Parish in Suncook.
Armand and Claudette Verville, president and archivist of the Allenstown Historical Society, were proud to host the annual History Day event.

“This day gives us a chance to work with the schools and to show the students a little history, which hopefully will pique their interests,” said Claudette Verville.

An old school bell rang every 10 minutes during the event, alerting and instructing the children to move to a different station. Each station offered visual displays and knowledgeable presenters who unveiled a little bit of history about Pembroke and Allenstown.

Students were taken back to the early 1800s as they learned about local modes of transportation from Dennis Fowler. They learned how Ferry Street received its name, thanks to the Ferry Street rope ferry which carried farm animals, people, cargo and stage coaches back and forth from the Allenstown shore to the Bow Shore across the Merrimack River.

An operator would physically pull the ferry across. This ferry operated until the 1930s and is reported to be the longest lasting crossing.

“The children asked some good questions,” said Claudette Verville.

”I’m also impressed,” said historical member Harriet Bean. “They might be fourth graders, but some of them were very sharp. Many of them listened and asked intelligent questions. We had great conversations on what games students played in the past and what they had for lunch.”

Student Mark Doucet was surprised to learn that kids were required to bring in firewood to heat the schoolhouse.

“I can’t believe that if they didn’t bring in the wood, then they would have to sit in the back of the room where it was very cold,” he said.

“It was strange to me that they had only one-room schoolhouses with kids from 7 to 17 years old,” added student Cadence Provost.

Many teachers were interested to find out that actor Michael Douglas attended the Pembroke Place School for Boys (circa 1948-1983). It is documented that Douglas attended the former private boarding school for a short period. It is now known as the Knox House on Buck Street in Suncook.

Denzel Soule, an Allenstown student, said he was amazed to see a photograph of his own home and to find out that it is historically listed as the Supervisor’s House. A former mill supervisor resided there.

The group of students were also told of a typical working day for a young mill worker which consisted of attending school until 3 p.m., working at the mills until 9 p.m., and finally returning home.

“I was surprised to learn that you could be 6 and work at the mills, later they made a law that changed it to be 12 years old and then to 16 years,” said student Madison Breton.

Currently the Allenstown Historical Society hasn’t found a building that is suitable to use on its own; however, “We are very fortunate to house all of our archives in one of the vaults (upstairs) at the Allenstown Police Department,” said Claudette Verville.

“History Day is a phenomenal program and it means a great deal to preserve history and pass it on,” said Yakkey.


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