Holman on the Write Side of History

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Column Returns to Hampton Union

By Liz Premo

Hampton Union , March 26, 2013

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

John HolmanSitting in the staff room at the Lane Memorial Library, library volunteer and Hampton historian John Holman recently thumbed through a thick blue binder filled with historical articles he has penned over the years.

Holman, 84, quietly reminisced as he turned each plastic-sleeved page, reading aloud the titles of his many articles — "The Turnpike Versus the Shun Pike," "The New Hampshire Marine Memorial at Hampton Beach," "Whatever Became of...;?"

Posted online by Holman in the Hampton History section found on the library's website, many of these articles appeared in print in local newspapers decades ago.

As a United States Army Serviceman in the early 1950s, "I did a lot of writing while overseas and sent them to the Hampton Union," Holman said. "It came pretty easy."

Now, much to Holman's delight, his vignettes about Hampton's past are making a comeback to the Hampton Union as a semi-regular feature.

Readers will be treated to the works and words of the well-known, award-winning volunteer, whose topics range from the history of Hampton's schools, to memories of Hampton Beach, to local landmarks that include Marelli Square and Founder's Park.

He has also written about Wayside Farm, his boyhood home on Mill Road where he grew up as the son of a farmer named Marshall and his wife Dorothy.
"My mother was a writer. That's probably why I write," Holman said, adding that his late brother Bill also shared the family talent, writing about his experiences in Okinawa, Japan during World War II.

A graduate of the Class of 1947 at Hampton Academy & High School, Holman was married to his wife Connie for 58 years before becoming a widower on July 8, 2009. Together they had two children, Mark and Melanie. (Mark was killed in a single car accident at the lower end of High Street on May 6, 1981.)

They became grandparents with the arrival of Melanie's children Brian and Casey, and have three great-grandchildren as well.

Holman said his family ties are among the "accomplishments I am most proud of," along with his 60 years of continuous membership with in Hamptons’ American Legion Post 35.

The former co-curator of the Tuck Museum with his wife from 1970-83 and a volunteer at area nursing homes, Holman has been a dedicated volunteer at the Lane Library for about 15 years.

During that time he has conducted countless hours of research and faithfully maintained the history portion of the library's website, including posting Joseph Dow's "History of the Town of Hampton, NH."

Among his many projects was typesetting Peter Randall's 847-page "Hampton: A Century of Town and Beach, 1888-1988" and posting chapter after chapter to the Web site.

"It's huge — it goes on forever," he said. "A lot of it was done by typing, not scanning." Thanks to his efforts, readers can link to the online version of Randall's book to view the text and the photos accompanying it.

A little bit of Holman's own personal interests have their place in Hampton's history: There is one section dedicated to "The Trolley Era of Hampton," featuring stories about "The $80,000 Clock," "Street Railway Duplex Car #20," and how an "Old Trolley Car Becomes a Little Stone House" — a structure which still stands on Mill Road.

"I like trolleys and trains," said Holman, who once gifted a decorative wood-framed trolley car ventilation window and a bell to a friend living in New York.

The friend hailed from the family who owned the Briggs Carriage Company in Amesbury, Mass. The window was from the original Briggs Trolley Car #8; the bell was from Car #6.

Holman has generously gifted the town as well: He has made many donations to the Tuck Museum's extensive collection, including the wedding gown Connie wore when they got married.

He donated an Army uniform that's now in Post 35's museum and many books of an historical nature to the group's library.

Additionally, the Lane Library has two decorative plates from the Holman family on display in the New Hampshire Room.

And, just recently, Holman revealed that he was planning on donating a model Pepsi-Cola truck to Marelli's store, and took time to sing a jingle from the 1930s to seal the deal: "Pepsi-Cola hits the spot, 12 full ounces, that's a lot!"

It's not unusual for Holman to share such little historical tidbits during any casual conversation, and he can take one look at a structure (for example, those in downtown Hampton) and list the different businesses that have come and gone over the years.

One example he gave is the corner spot of the Cogger Building, the brick structure right on the corner of Marelli Square and Lafayette Road. Currently the Hampton Kat Dancin' Studio, the building block has housed a number of businesses; Holman named several, including  Tobey's Drug Store; Tobey & Merrill Insurance; Hampton Diner; First National Stores (FINAST); Miller Stove Store; Fearer’s Shoe Store and Foley’s Restaurant which was completely destroyed in a fire on February 15, 1943.

"My brother, Bill,  worked at Tobey’s Drug  Store for many years," he said.

Speaking of structures, if there is one item that is on Holman's wish list, it would be "photographs of houses being moved from Exeter Road to downtown Hampton." Anyone who may have photos of that nature is welcome to contact him at the Lane Library.

John Holman loves his town; it shows in his words and actions, and in the ways he has helped to preserve Hampton history for generations to come. Asked why he is so dedicated to this effort, he simply replied, "It's my job."
Watch for his columns to appear in select issues of the Hampton Union, or visit his "Historical Happenings" on the Lane Memorial Library's Web site.

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