I was reasonably astounded at the misinformation in last Thursday’s column by Mark Hayward, which appeared on the front page of the Union Leader. The author’s confusion became apparent before I even began to read. Though the column is intended to compare Derry and Manchester, it starts off by comparing Derry’s Gen. John Stark to Londonderry’s Matthew Thornton. Immediately after, Dean Kamen is claimed as Manchester’s own and compared to the first American in space, Alan Shepard.
Now, growing up in Derry myself, I remember my elementary school bus driving daily down Stark Road and past the place of General Stark’s birth, right here in town, marked with a sign. His roots are so deep in Derry that his parents hail from our sister town of the same name in Ireland. The one claim Manchester may have to him would be that his family relocated to that area during Stark’s youth. Amusingly, however, the city was at that time known as Derryfield.
Dean Kamen is frankly another confusing claim. For those unaware, Dean Kamen is the founder of a breakthrough high school robotics program and the creator of the much-lampooned Segway (See: “Arrested Development,” “South Park”) shown in pictures of the downtown area. The man was born in Long Island, N.Y., and currently resides in Bedford. Bedford is situated quite close to “ManchVegas,” as the author refers to it, but I’m not sure that grants the city claim to this genius.
Manchester does indeed have claim to Hayward’s third boasted persona, however, pictured in the paper only as a bobblehead figurine. Grace Metalious attended Manchester Central High before relocating to the Gilmanton area and writing a prominent novel about the dark side of a New England town modeled after Gilmanton and borrowing Manchester’s Main Street. However, any reader of modern fiction will tell you that Peyton Place isn’t quite as memorable as “Derry,” the pen name lent to a fictional city based on Bangor, Maine, in several Stephen King stories.
Now all this seems rather far from the point of the column, a discussion about Hooksett parents and officials considering sending their students to Pinkerton Academy over Manchester High Central School. The column laughably refers to Pinkerton as an “upstart” when the school will be celebrating its 200th birthday in less than a year.
Perhaps the column should have spoken about notable members of the institutions themselves. Alan Shepard, the first American in space, is pictured, and did graduate in 1940 from Pinkerton Academy. Perhaps Adam Sandler, a Manchester Central graduate and actor in such films as “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore,” should appear next to Shepard. Robert Frost, graciously conceded by Mr. Hayward as a point of pride for Derry, taught at Pinkerton Academy. While no Manchester Central students had such an esteemed teacher, it is true that Matthew Broderick’s father attended there and went on to raise a son we all loved in the 1998 remake of “Godzilla.”
While it is honorable to take pride in your town, Mr. Hayward, the claims you’ve made for yours seem poorly thought out and a bit misguided. I do hope that if Hooksett turns its kids away from Manchester that the school district does not suffer financially for it. And while I commend you for proposing a solution as sensible as the creation of a toll road to make Pinkerton less appealing, I will remind you that the school is every bit as credible as the 32-years-younger Manchester Central, and that Hooksett’s kids would receive a quality education there.
On the subject of quality, I am willing to submit a resume if Mark Hayward’s column suddenly finds itself in need of a new writer.
Chris Braley of Derry is a 2005 graduate of Pinkerton Academy.