New England on a Pedestal

203. Plymouth NH

October 13, 2023 Doug Farquharson Season 2 Episode 3
203. Plymouth NH
New England on a Pedestal
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New England on a Pedestal
203. Plymouth NH
Oct 13, 2023 Season 2 Episode 3
Doug Farquharson

While traveling to attend a wedding, we meet a poet and a boy scout in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Show Notes Transcript

While traveling to attend a wedding, we meet a poet and a boy scout in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the New England on a Pedestal podcast. I am your host, Doug Farquharson.  If you have returned after listening to previous episodes, thanks for sticking with us! We purposefully design each episode of our podcast to be a stand-alone chapter in the story of New England as told through its many and varied statues, sculptures, monuments, and memorials. And we hope that once you have heard one of our podcasts, you’ll be inspired to take a listen to our other episodes. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to us through your favorite podcast platform and consider leaving a review for us. It will help us reach more listeners and expand our audience. Thank you!

New England is home to many institutions of higher learning. Some have been around since before the States gained independence while others are newcomers. Some are private and some public. Some are massive and world renowned while others are known pretty much only by the alumnae. I’d venture to say that tens of thousands of professors, teachers, and lecturers have passed through those halls. Some quite famous. Some have been teaching to just pay the bills. New England has also been home to many talented writers. Authors, biographers, poets have all claimed New England roots.

The White Mountains of New Hampshire and the National Forest there are incredibly beautiful areas. Over the years, I have spent many a time there relaxing, hiking, kayaking, eating and just enjoying the views. Many of New Hampshire’s 48 4000 footers are there and I’ve spent time hiking many of them. The Franconia Ridge Trail Loop is one of my all-time favorites.

This episode, number 3 of season 2, takes us up to this area, to a university and town where one of America’s most beloved poets once lectured. While in town for a wedding, we decided to do some exploring.

(Recorded live in the field.) On a beautiful, early Fall morning, we find ourselves in Plymouth, NH on the grounds of Plymouth State University. We parked down the road near the campus police office and walked up through a just an iconic New England college campus. Wide red brick paths surrounded by lush green grasses, trees, and shrubbery. There’s Adirondak chairs all over the main campus grounds, picnic tables. There’s college students out here today kicking a soccer ball around. There are granite benches with various dedication plaques on them all over the place. And we’re surrounded by old, old school, red brick campus buildings with a few newer ones scattered in. So, why are we here? Well, walking up this particular path, we come across a statue of a man in…well, let’s see, he’s in a shirt with suspenders. He’s got a kind of homemade desk in front of him. It looks like it’s a piece of wood attached to a walking stick that he’s carefully balanced across his lap. He’s sitting on a granite base, looking off to the side as if he’s in deep thought. Has an old school fountain pen in his hand. And on that in bronze is a piece of…what’s depicted as a couple of pages. And he’s writing his poem right there. This particular bench sits in the middle of a bunch of plants and shrubbery on a nice granite bench with brick all around it. And right out in front, inscribed in a large granite curbstone is a quote that will give it away. “And that has made all the difference,” Robert Frost. An iconic New England poet, he actually lectured here at Plymouth State for a short period and that’s why his statue is  here. Um, all around us is just iconic New England. We can look down and see the main street of Plymouth. All kinds of fantastic restaurants, stores, pubs. The Flying Monkey Performing Arts Theater is there. Great bands, they show movies there, etc. The Common Man is here. They have the Inn, the Lodge, and the Wedding Barn. Just a fantastic place to visit. We’ll be walking downtown shortly to check out another fun statue here and extend our day in Plymouth New Hampshire.

The statue was dedicated in 2005 to commemorate the time that American Poet Laureate Robert Frost lived and taught in Plymouth back in 1911. George Lundeen is the artist behind it and is well known and respected for his realistic human figures, in particular of famous people. Among some of his other works are Ben Franklin at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and many other prominently displayed works of art for both private and public entities.

A newspaper article from Foster’s Daily Democrat quotes then Plymouth State University President Donald Wharton speaking at the dedication. “It is very appropriate that we have this statue here at Plymouth State," said Wharton. "It reminds us of the very innovative teacher and writer that he was." Wharton shared a story of Frost's innovative methods of teaching at what was then Plymouth Normal School. Wharton said students dutifully [took] all the necessary textbooks…to the first day of class in anticipation of a "from-the-book" lesson. "The first thing Robert Frost did on the first day of class was to tell the students to bring all the books back to the basement," said Wharton. "He said, 'We're going to do it a different way.'”

Frost was born in 1874 and died in 1963. He was known for writing about rural life, mastering American colloquial speech, and using it to examine complex social and philosophical themes. His early life found him in Mass and NH, first as a student at Harvard, then as a farmer and later as noted, a teacher in NH. He and his young family moved to England for a time and that’s where he first met with some publishing success. He later returned to the US during WW I and over the course of his life lived and worked throughout the country. He received numerous awards and even performed a reading at JFK’s Inauguration. There are other statues of Frost in New England as well. I believe there is one in Amherst, Ma and at Dartmouth College in NH.

(Recorded live in the field.) We walked down from visiting Bob Frost down towards the center of town and we came across the common after walking past the town hall. Out front is a huge cannon from the American Revolutionary War. A sign on it says it was captured by American troops from the British in August of 1777. Further over we come to the common. Beautiful, small grass area featuring a bandstand and I think momentarily you’ll hear some music coming from it. There’s a two-piece acoustic band playing today. It’s part of their summer concert series. There’s probably a good 30 or 40 people hanging out in this beautiful park, beautiful day with coffees, food, dogs, kids running around, playing. There’s a sign here from the Lakes Region and White Mountains. It says, The Commons. In 1892 voters established this park and voted to improve and ornament. In 1903, the town built a bandstand designed by F W Bullfinch for use by the John Kinston Band. At G Clarks urging in 1932 the Pemigewasset Women’s Club created a Boy Scouts statue, one of two in the USA. Sculptured by G H Borst and donated by the D W Borrows. The boulder base came from Franconia Notch and the pot hole basin from the Baker River. A plaque notes the inspiration Nathaniel Hawthorne drew from Plymouth. The Common remains a work in progress of this proud community. Sponsored by the Plymouth Historical Society.

As I walk down the path a little bit, you come right to the statue. It’s in a little flag stone patio area two steps down on top of this massive glacier rock. Meaning that it was left behind after the glaciers of the last ice age started receding. Sitting atop of it is a bronze statue of a Boy Scout wearing a 1930’s era uniform. Oxford shoes, knee socks, and he’s looking down at, presumably a dog with his hands cupped. And it is a symbol of ongoing kindness especially to animals. There’s a small plaque on the side that says Local Boy Scout Harold A Webster Jr. Born in 1919. Died in 2020. And on the other side is a small thing that says Daniel Webster Burrows to his boyhood home. At the bottom of the rock is a small pool of water where pets could take a drink and there are two small fountains next to it where humans could take a drink when the water was actually flowing. Right next to it is a plaque on another stone that says, In memory of Nathaniel Hawthorne 1804 to 1864. In this community and adjoining territory he gained inspiration which later reflected his contributions to the American literature. Died in Plymouth May 19, 1864.

In the background you can hear the music of Peter Downing who can be found at I chatted briefly with him and obtained his permission to use his music while recording the In the Field portion of this episode. I also got to chat with some curious youngsters who were very interested in my Zoom H4N Pro and its windscreen as well as someone who wasn’t actually their mom.

Harold Webster, the boy scout who posed for the statue, grew up to be quite the busy and generous, kind man. He worked for the Seismographic Service Corp during WW II. He taught in the geology department at the University of New Hampshire. He was an engineer for the NH Highway Department and in later years ran a lumber mill. In the winter months he would volunteer in the Arizona State Park System. In 2002 he was named Arizona Volunteer of the Year. He spent many decades as a Mason and earned many prestigious awards for his service. He died in May 2020 at 101 years old in his home surrounded by family. Due to the worldwide pandemic at the time, services were private. He was laid to rest in the Pittsburg NH Hollow Cemetery.

After enjoying a few more songs, my wife and I decided to wander the main street a little more and enjoy some fantastic ice cream cones from the old-fashioned ice cream parlor, M’n’M Scoops. So good! We wandered back through the campus, stopping to admire the Frost statue again. It made me think of another famous writer and his statue near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. In a future episode, we will have to visit Henry David Thoreau. As for now, time to dress up fancy like, and get to that wedding!

Well, Corinna and Alex’s wedding was one for the books! A beautiful young couple surrounded by family and friends in a gorgeous setting and an awesome celebration the lasted well into the night. Congratulations to you both!!

The beautiful setting in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the families and kids playing on the common, and the statue of the Boy Scout portraying an act of kindness got me to thinking on the long ride back home. We could all stand to be a little kinder to each other, to our families, to our loved ones, to our friends, to complete strangers, and just as importantly, to ourselves. A little kindness goes a long, long way and it doesn’t have to cost you a thing. A simple smile, saying hello, holding a door, letting someone merge in front of you while driving. Simple acts that could be the bright spot in someone’s day. I need to remember that sometimes, too.

I think I’ll provide you listeners with a slightly different recommendation this go around. On the day before the aforementioned wedding, Gail and I hiked up to Artist Bluff on Bald Mountain in Franconia Notch, just off Route 93 by Cannon Mountain. It’s a relatively easy hike with a massive payoff when you reach the overlook. Bring a snack or lunch or perhaps a flask. Spend some time there and enjoy the view. The wedding was at the Common Man’s facilities. I’ve been to their Flying Monkey Theater and restaurant many times. There, you can catch everything from concerts to comedy acts to silent movies and have dinner to boot. The Common Man also has a couple of hotels in Plymouth and a fabulous bar and restaurant at Foster’s Boiler Room. Definitely worth checking them out if you’re in the area. In fact, you can check out many of their locations up and down the state of New Hampshire including a great one in Ashland and of course, the Tilt’n Diner off I-93 at exit 20. We stopped there for a delicious brunch on our way back home.

We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think. What are we doing right? What can we do better? Let us know of a statue with a story near and dear to you. We can be reached via email at That’s New England on a Pedestal all one word at F A R Q I E dot com.  Go to Facebook and like the New England on a Pedestal page. Follow us on Instagram. We post photos and links on those social media platforms.

It takes a lot of effort to produce something like these podcasts. I want to thank Jason, Sam, Jake, and Bekka for their talent and help! Join us next episode when we venture to another New England state and dig into some more local history. Until next time, be safe, be well, and keep discovering.