The Crabapple Tree Comes to Hampton

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By Michael Bisceglia

Seacoast Scene, May 23, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Herald Sunday and Seacoast Online.]

Allaire Nownes poses in front of one of Hampton's Bicentennial crabapple trees.

"My mom, Virginia, was just had the most amazing green thumb," sighed Allaire Nownes. "She loved color, she loved flowers, and she particularly loved spring when just so many local flowering plants are in bloom."

"My family lived just a short stone's throw from what is now The Old Salt. There were nine kids, five boys and four girls, so we did our best to keep that small yard looking worn. Mother did her best to bring color to the neighborhood."

"She had a beautiful Nellie Mosher Clematis woven around a trellis by the front porch on Lafayette. Hardly a day went by when someone would step into the yard to feel the leaves or the flower to see if it was real. That used to really tickle her, but one day she did post a sign in front of the plant. It read, 'YES, IT IS REAL!'." That put a stop to flower touching."

"My dad, Dr. Roger Blake, moved to Hampton on Election Day in 1948. He was a staunch Yankee from Vermont, so he never could forget the all-round importance of that day. He was a general practitioner, and after he had served in the Navy he joined the Naval Reserve in Portsmouth. We were living in Exeter then, but he was encouraged by his friend, Dr. Charles "Brickett" Bailey to move to Hampton. Dad thought this was a tremendous idea."

"He bought that old house and went about restoring it just the way any true Vermont Yankee doctor would . . . with a bucket, a brush, a ladder, and in between patients. Little by little, he would have the house completed, but by the time he would finish, the last section would have a vastly different shade of paint than the original section. The esthetics of his work wouldn't have mattered. The house had been painted, and that was all that mattered."

"He and mom must have coined the word 'thrifty'. They saved everything. Somehow, they always found use for whatever it was they saved. Everything from rubber bands to old nails and screws, and from paper bags to old sections of pipe was recycled for further duty somewhere in our house."

"I remember mom telling dad one day over dinner that she had a new dress, and that it didn't cost her a penny. When he asked how she had managed that, she told him that she had found all the material she needed around the house. She had managed to save enough scraps of material from different projects to fashion a dress. It worked, and it was beautiful."

"1976 was the celebration of America's bicentennial. Mom and Dad talked at length about wanting to do something special to honor the country and the community. Hampton was a sleepy little community then. It was a true 'walking town'. There were strollers everywhere, so my folks decided that it would be wonderful for townspeople to plant crabapple trees in their yards so that families would have something lasting to remember America's 200th birthday. Mom loved the smell and the spring blooms, and I guess Dad figured that it would somehow be patriotic for the town to get behind this idea as a workable project."

"They brought the idea to the Town's Bicentennial Committee and to the various other women's, civic, and church groups. Everyone seemed to think it was a marvelous idea. Each group endorsed the concept. Mom managed to have a local greenery sell her 200 saplings for very little money. Those saplings were no more than the size of a small stick. Then, Mom sold those saplings to interested Hampton families. I guess everyone was interested, because all of those little saplings sold." "There was only one stipulation that went along with the planting of each crabapple tree. It had to be visible from the street. They weren't much to begin with, but they did take to the soil and grow. And, most certainly, they gave folks something to discuss when they were taking their constitutionals around town."

There are still quite a number of those trees living very happy lives in people's yards today. They are fully-grown now, and Hampton can thank one very patriotic couple for seeing a worthwhile project to a beautiful conclusion.

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