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History Notebook

Drive-up theater

Drive-in movie theaters came into vogue in the early 1930s. But drive-up picture shows had a quarter-century head start. Ask folks in Salisbury.
“A moving picture company, who gave an entertainment in the Salisbury town hall Monday and Tuesday evenings of this week, provided a practical demonstration of the fact that the automobile can be made to ‘earn its salt,’ ” the Connecticut Western News said in its April 30, 1908, issue.

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The elusive Pentecost story

After casually searching for 35 years, I found a copy of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Daring Detectives,” a collection of short crime stories published in 1969. I purchased it for 50 cents at a library used book sale.
Why did I want the hardcover? It reprints a crime tale by Judson Philips (1904-1989) of East Canaan.
I will tell you a little about Philips as a companion to an essay about his co-founder of Sharon Playhouse, Guernsey LePelley (May 30 issue). The theater is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

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Sketching out the Sharon Playhouse

Guernsey LePelley (1910-1990) was the Northwest Corner’s busiest cartoonist in the 1950s, providing the Christian Science Monitor with two drawings a day.
“We moved to Sharon in 1940 because we liked it,” LePelley told The Lakeville Journal in a story appearing June 8, 1950. That was a compliment to the town, considering the LePelleys had lived at one time or another in Cambridge, Mass., Highland Park,Ill., Los Angeles, Dallas and Venice, Fla. The LePelleys also lived in Salisbury before building a cottage in Sharon.

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Telling the family story

A perc of being a newsman or local historian is you get to meet a lot of interesting people and sometimes gain access that gives surprising results.
Various of my writings have explored the black experience in South Berkshire County, Mass. Through my research into the story of Great Barrington native William E.B. Du Bois, I got to know his adopted son, the late David Graham Du Bois, and his great-grandson, Arthur McFarlane II of Colorado. And last week, I enjoyed a dinner with another great-grandson, Jeff Peck of Houston, Texas.

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‘Green Book’

Academy Award voters declared “Green Book” the film of the year on Sunday, Feb. 24. That happened to be one of the few nominated movies I have seen. For some reason, my picture attendance has run mostly to bio-pics. I thought Rami Malek captured Freddie Mercury’s drive in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I admired two non-nominees, John C. Reilly as the fading but determined Hardy in “Stan & Ollie” and Tom Waits as the shot-through prospector in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

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Solving little mysteries in local history

Who first said “a photo is worth a thousand words”? I doubt the phrase emerged in the caveman era — then it would have been “one stone scratching is worth three grunts and a whistle.”
Serious wordsmiths say the phrase came into usage with slight variation in the early 1800s.
A photo can help us visualize how something long gone functioned; how someone dressed; what an interesting event looked like; where a road once went.

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Simenon in Lakeville

A one-time Lakeville resident, the Belgian author Georges Simenon (1903-1989), has landed a new generation of fans.
Penguin Classics is reissuing the entire series of Inspector Jules Maigret crime books in new translations. 
Maigret figured in 76 novels and 28 short stories published between 1931 and 1972.

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Post riders of yore

John Saunders, who carried newspapers and mail from Hartford to Litchfield, had enough of the merciless job and gave notice in April 1794.
“For the want of health and money the subscriber is obliged to resign the benefits of Post-riding after this number, into the hands of Mr. Jonathan Woodworth of Litchfield,” Saunders said in a notice published in the Hartford Courant for April 28, 1794.
Saunders asked that his customers settle up.

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Salisbury’s other Cannon

Salisbury is known for the cannon cast at the time of the American Revolution.
But the town has another Cannon in its history: William C. Cannon.
Born in Andover, N.Y., Cannon (1873-1971) graduated from Harvard Law School and beginning in Buffalo in 1900 practiced law for 71 years.
He was a claims attorney for the Erie Railroad then joined Davis, Polk and Wardwell in 1906, becoming a partner in the Manhattan law firm in 1915.  

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Bad roads in old Sharon

With the arrival of the automobile age in the early 1900s, there was increased traffic between Manhattan and the resort community Lenox in western Massachusetts.
Motorists drove north from the city to Poughkeepsie,  veered to Amenia and Sharon, then cruised to Salisbury and through Sheffield to Stockbridge and beyond. They went the reverse route to home.

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