BETHEL — A variety of activities were offered under the tent on the lawn of the Bethel Historical Society’s Dr. Moses Mason House and inside the society’s buildings during the 2010 Summer Heritage Festival on August 13 and 14, beginning with the 19th annual Hall Memorial Lecture by Ardis Cameron, director of the American and New England Studies Program at the University of Southern Maine, who spoke on Friday evening about her forthcoming biography of Grace Metalious, author of “Peyton Place,” upon which she has been working with the support of a Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Humanities grants. Her topic for the evening was “Unbuttoning New England: Peyton Place and the Undocumented Past.”

Metalious was born Grace DeRepentigny on Sept. 8, 1924, in Manchester, N.H., and died at age 39 in Boston in 1964. Upon publication of”Peyton Place,” the book soon moved up in 1956 to become a bestseller for more than a year. Millions of people were attracted to Metalious’ exposure of the scandals, dark secrets, blatant sexuality and hidden behavior of residents in picturesque small New England towns. Condemned by clergy, banned in certain locales and dismissed by critics, the book became a publishing sensation.

In introducing the speaker, Stan Howe, Bethel Historical Society associate director, recalled as a young teenager overhearing the request for the Bethel Library’s copy of “Peyton Place” and seeing it being removed from a locked desk drawer and passed to a patron enclosed in a brown paper bag.

The following day, under the tent, there were antique and heirloom appraisals by Jay Boschetti of Steam Mill Antiques; special one-day displays; three panels prepared by high school students focusing on American history in innovative ways; a “What’s It” contest, won by Jan Stowell; craft demonstrations by Ginger Kelly, Lorrie Hoeh, Dawn Giroux and Eliza Barnes and Eileen LaPerle; a Songo Pond Book signing by Norma Salway; and a Bethel forest history talk and exhibit by Richard Hale, retired forestry professor at the University of Maine.

Exhibits in the two buildings were also open throughout the afternoon and a walking tour of the village was conducted by student intern Kate Stover.

The Antiquarian Supper with its origins extending back in Bethel’s past to the 1850s when the town’s Farmer’s Club established the tradition, began at 5 p.m. During those past events, a meal featuring some of the old “standbys” was offered, including baked peas, sage tea, election cake, hulled corn and bean porridge. Participants were also encouraged to dress up in old-time clothes, share stories of olden times and bring a relic to exhibit. Music was also part of the offerings. Randall Bennett, executive director, served as master of ceremonies and narrated the Magic Lantern show. Ben Conant played the piano.

For more information about the historical society, call 824-2908, 800-824-2910 or e-mail [email protected]


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