GREENWOOD — To many in town, Alcohol Mary Road is just a colorful name, such as Jackass Annie Road in Minot or Quite A Road in Lovell.
To the Hertell family, the name is offensive and desecrates a relative. The Hertells used to live on the road and had a grandmother named Mary, but they say she's not the road's namesake.
Blaine Mills, vice president of the Greenwood Historical Society, said the road, a short throughway near Route 219, is named for a woman who made and sold liquor during Prohibition.
“There was no big deal about it,” Mills said. “A lot of people made booze back in those days.”
But it's a big deal for Arthur Hertell of Bethel, who said he has been harassed for years by people who want to know if his grandmother was Alcohol Mary.
“These people call up and say, 'Oh, Alcohol Mary, she's your grandmother.' And I just hang up,” Hertell said. “I don't know why they have to bother me.”
Hertell has appealed to the Greenwood Board of Selectmen to change the name, but at the May 17 meeting they voted to keep the name as is.
Board Chairman Fred Henderson said he was concerned that changing the name would be a hardship to residents of the road. He estimated about a dozen people live there.
The Hertells offered to pay the town's expenses in changing the name. Henderson said the town's cost in replacing the sign isn't an issue. He said Alcohol Mary Road residents would “have to change all their checkbooks and they'd have trouble.”
Henderson said selectmen have invited the Hertells to the June 21 meeting to discuss the issue.
“It is very disturbing to them to associate their beloved grandmother with someone named Alcohol Mary,” said attorney Jennifer Kreckel, who represents the family.
Hertell, 76, said it wouldn't have mattered to him when he was young. “Now I've got grandchildren. They want to know about Alcohol Mary.”
He said Alcohol Mary was Finnish, as is his family, but that she and the Hertells aren't related.
Residents of the road were split. One man, who asked that his name not be used, said he opposed changing the name.
“It has nothing to do with being a hassle to change it,” he said. He said if there was a last name on the road, he might see things differently.
“You talk to people about the road and everybody has their own story,” he said. “It's kind of a fun thing.”
Resident Vivian Hoy said she doesn't care whether they change the name and wouldn't mind changing the address on her checks. “Those things can be done. It doesn't matter to me.”
Hertell said he wants to change the name and put the issue to bed. “It's just an ongoing battle and it'll never stop until the road is changed.”