“Around the Town in 80 Years” Fourth of July Theme Evokes Memories

Cost of fireworks has skyrocketed since 1964

Press release

As we thought about the theme for Andover’s 80th Fourth of July celebration, Around The Town In 80 Years, we thought it would be fun to talk with someone who was there in the early years.  So, this month we met at the home of Dennis Fenton to hear memories he has about the celebration which, at the time, was put on by Andover’s Blackwater Grange.

The parking area in front of the Grange Hall, which is now Ragged Mountain Physical Therapy, was used for the event.  Tables were set up and a string of lights surrounded the area which extended over near the town scales. (Yes, Andover had scales for public use.)

Dennis’ first memory was of an early celebration (mid-1940s) during the ham and bean supper that was put on by the Andover Grange every year.  The supper, consisting of baked beans, ham, and pies, was prepared by the ladies in town. 

There would be games for kids, such as bobbing for apples, turtle races, and a spinning wheel.  One of the prizes won at the wheel was a five-pound bag of sugar! Dennis remembers Hoodsies (ice cream cups w/wooden spoons) provided for the kids. 

For a few of those years, he recalls Wally Currier visiting his grandmother at the Fenton farm, where he was able to catch painted turtles for the turtle races.

On one particular Fourth of July evening, as Dennis recalls, a person was upstairs in the Grange Hall washing dishes to keep the meal moving along.  In order to get the clean plates down and outside for the next round, someone had to run upstairs and get the plates and bring them back down.  

Apparently, the dishwasher heard some complaints about how fast (or slow) he was washing, so he said: “You want them faster … here you go!” He began tossing the dishes out the window from the second floor to those below.  The person or persons down below were able to catch most of them and rush them to the waiting tables.

After the supper there would be a street dance in the lighted area with music provided by Herman Seavey’s Band.  Occasionally the lights would go out and if so, Vic Phelps, Sr. (Doug’s grandfather) always had an extra fuse in his pocket.

The first celebration was in 1942 and there were maybe 100 people in attendance. Everyone in town went, but it was mostly Andover folks as, back in those days, it was a long way for folks from other towns (even East Andover folks) to travel as some didn’t have cars, and gasoline was hard to come by.

After the first celebrations on Lawrence Street by the Grange, the celebration was moved to the Proctor tennis courts on North Street (where Proctor’s Theater now sits); later they moved to the high school and finally the Village Green, where there was an art show during the day and the midway at the school at night.

After the war, there was a baseball game every year.  Andover had a team with the Central New Hampshire Baseball League.  There were eight teams in the league.  Andover had a good team with many talented players such as Glen Currier and Tink Reed. 

Glen was reputed to be an excellent pitcher, as Dennis remembers.  One year Glen single-handedly pitched a double header in Wolfeboro – 18 innings!  

Sometimes a team would come to town with a player they called “a ringer.”  The team would say he was not a very good player, but it would turn out that he was very good, sometimes a professional player. He would hit and hit, and they would crush Andover’s team. 

Lots of baseball was played on Carr Field over the years. Sam Clark hit a home run on Carr Field and the ball went across Route 11 and over the roof of the Carr House (which sits not too far from the entrance to Proctor Field House). That hard-hit ball is still talked about today.

There was no parade in the very early years.  But as time went on, interest grew, and the parade became a staple of Andover’s Fourth of July celebration.  Dennis remembers the first time that Leapin’ Lena came to be in the parade; folks were astounded.  It was the talk of the town for quite some time afterward.

Dennis remembers there was a year, sometime in the 1970s, when the New Hampshire Department of Transportation refused to issue a permit, stating that the road through Andover could not be blocked for the hour or so it took to run the parade.  A few strings needed to be pulled, and eventually the issue was resolved, and the parade was on.

Frank Poblenz was the first Master of Ceremonies and continued on for 34 years. In 1983, Frank was awarded a plaque for “outstanding and devoted service from 1949 to 1983”! He loved the job, and the townspeople loved having him on the reviewing stand. Others have followed in his footsteps, most recently, Bob Ward and Steve Smith.

Dennis remembers that the Fenton family always had a farm float in the parade, and in 1962 they won the grand prize.  Riding on the float were Les Fenton, Ellie Fenton, Margie Fenton, and Cheri Fenton. Dennis remembers Amos Johnson’s band in many parades, as well as Bill George and his livestock, both of which were always enjoyed by the crowd.

There were originally no fireworks.  In fact, they were banned during the war, but kids did have sparklers and little firecrackers.  After the war, sometime in the late 1940s, the first fireworks were launched from the “Number 9” railroad yard, which is now Blackwater Park.  

Just a fun fact: In 1964, the cost for the fireworks display was $635. In 2022, the committee will pay $15,000 for the display!

Anyone who would like to join our committee, please come to a meeting. We meet on the first Wednesday of the month at the Andover Community Hub at 7 PM. 

For more information, contact Doug Phelps at 603 977-0037 or Doug.Phelps80@nullgmail.com; Donna French at 603 735-6131 or DonnaFrench@nullcomcast.net; or Beth Frost at 603 455-2882 or BFrost99@nullicloud.com.