The Boy Who Fell to Sho

June 20, 2023


The Portsmouth Athenaeum is one of a very few, only twenty, membership libraries that are still open in the United States.  These libraries were created in the 18th century “for the mutual edification of their members and to elevate the educational resources available in the community.” Many of the libraries use the name “Athenaeum” because it describes an institution that provides more than just a library.  The term is derived from Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and the classical temple of the arts and sciences named to honor her.

The Portsmouth Athenaeum continues this long tradition of mutual improvement by maintaining a library of over 40,000 volumes and an archive that includes manuscripts, photographs, objects, and ephemera relating to local history.  The Athenaeum also has programing that includes exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and other educational and cultural programs.

I am what is called a proprietor of the Portsmouth Athenaeum. These are the individuals who have directed the library since it was founded 1817 and can serve on the Board of Directors.  I inherited this membership from my beloved Uncle Jim (James S. Millar) after his death. He joined in 1979 and was proprietor No. 62, first issued in 1823. The previous holder of his share was Ogden Nash, the poet known for his light verse and humor.   He was the man who wrote: “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” While Ogden Nash died in Baltimore, he is buried in North Hampton, New Hamsphire where he spent summers.

The Athenaeum is at 9 Market Square in Portsmouth and is a historic landmarked building. This summer if you are in Portsmouth you might want to plan a visit.

As my readers know, I love libraries and particularly libraries in New Hampshire.  I will be at the Athenaeum in Portsmouth next Sunday afternoon, June 25 for a program in the Sawtelle Reading Room.  I will be in conversation with Charles J. Doane, author of The Boy Who Fell to Shore: The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Thomas Thor Tangvald. Charlie lives in Portsmouth, and this is a fascinating look at the life of a child brought up on a sailboat and cast ashore as an orphan at age 15.  If you want a book that perfect summer reading, this is it.

The program begins at 3:00 pm in the afternoon. It would be lovely to see you there.

This is also a favorite time of year because it is possible to find rhubarb, one of the  first vegetables to appear in the early spring. I always smile when I buy it because it is not unusual for young store clerks, both in Manhattan and in New Hampshire to ask me where these strange looking stocks when checking out with a hand full of fresh rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum). Understandable, of course.

There is nothing particularly appealing about the thick, unevenly sized stocks in various shades of green and red. From the shape and sizes of the stocks it could be celery and although rhubarb is classified as a vegetable, many people think of it as a fruit as it’s used primarily in desserts. I love the tartness of rhubarb in jams and in pies or just as served with vanilla ice-cream.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy.  Sailing, fishing, eating ice cream and fresh fruits and vegetables.   So pleased we live a corner of the globe with changing seasons.