Interview by Nancy Reinbold & Bob Ottavi.
Interview date: 02-11-2014
She was wearing her husband’s ski shirt when she greeted us at the door. Very cool and colorful.
The focus of the interview was her political career but of course we digressed in other areas.
Her grandmother was born in the house. Betty grew up in NYC. and her husband in Concord NH. They bought the house from her folks in 1948. She has five children, 4 boys & 1 girl (I think).
When she saw things to be done she did it. For example, there was a one room schoolhouse in town and had no warm lunch so she organized a program with other volunteers to make hot soup to supplement any lunch that the kids may have brought.
She was the supervisor of the checklist and served on the school board, select board and the state legislature 14 times, seven times as a Republican and seven as a Democrat.
She noted how things were quite different from NYC when she moved here. If you’re willing to go out and talk to people you can do a lot. When you know a person, it makes it easier to get your message across to them and hear what they have to say.
She worked as chairman for Eisenhower when he ran. She got all registered voters on the checklist to vote, either in person or by absentee ballot. She seemed quite proud of that accomplishment. She said it as fun to get to know everyone.
She worked for Gov. Peterson. He wanted to form a Brookline party and since she was the only person to show up, she became party leader. There was not much Republican Party organization in the 70’s.
For reference, here is a list of NH governors.
Walter R. Peterson, Jr. January 2, 1969 January 4, 1973 Republican
Meldrim Thomson, Jr. January 4, 1973 January 4, 1979 Republican
Hugh J. Gallen January 4, 1979 December 29,1982 Democratic
- Hugh Gallen fell ill and yielded his powers to the president of the state senate, Vesta Roy; he died on December 29, 1982.
Vesta M. Roy December 29,1982 January 6, 1983 Republican
John H. Sununu January 6, 1983 January 4, 1989 Republican
Judd Gregg January 4, 1989 January 7, 1993 Republican
Steve Merrill January 7, 1993 January 9, 1997 Republican
Jeanne Shaheen January 9,1997 January 9, 2003 Democratic
Craig Benson January 9, 2003 January 6, 2005 Republican
John Lynch January 6, 2005 January 3,2013 Democratic
Maggie Hassan January 3, 2013 Incumbent Democratic
She went out to meet Hollis residents since Hollis was part of the district.
Her grandmother told her that the Democrats had a cannon that was shot to celebrate a Democratic party wins or during parades. The Republicans stole it and went missing for number of years. It was then found cemented into a foundation of a building (in Townsend?).
She found herself voting more with Democrats so that is when she changed from being a Republican to a Democrat. She votes on merits, not party affiliation. She said there is more partisan voting now.
She once had her name on Democrat and Republican sides of the ballot which was allowed back then.
We noticed she is still very sharp when describing how government works.
Several times she said how important and good it is to meet the people you represent.
Population of about 800 when she moved here, 200-300 when her grandmother moved here. She knew everyone and every kid.
Her husband put up a sign in front of her house, “danger live children”, as traffic got busier in town.
Kids used to sled from the top of the hill (near Kinney farm) all the way to the general store.
There used to be square dances on the second floor of the general store. There were a lot more town activities back then.
She used to go to the opera and shows in NYC.
Her grandfather was a minister in Boston. He started coming up in the summer to write his sermons, then built the Stone House. Her grandmother’s initials were carved in the rock.
Her husband made two large kites. The first one was named David. The second one was named Goliath and had five miles of chord which would sing in the wind. Kids loved her husband and would follow him everywhere.
There was a soap box derby from the top of Potanipo Hill.
The ski hill had a rope t-bar and sometimes kids would get spun right around the wheel of the t-bar,
She was on the school board for nine years.
Brookline was not an affluent town so after Thanksgiving, many people would go into the woods and make roping. This was income for a lot of people.
She liked working in Concord as representative. It was like a town meeting every day. People were polite and worked together. You could disagree without being disagreeable. She was there till Gov. Lynch (or maybe during his term?).
She went to the Democratic National Convention when President Clinton was running for his second term. She met him when he came to NH.
She worked hard for President Carter. She introduced Carter to Jeanne Shaheen, who later became worked for him (campaign manager?)
She was president of Common Cause of NH.
After serving on the select board, she served on the legislature. She went to every house in Hollis, Brookline and Mason on her bike and won the election to the legislature.
It made no difference if you were a Democrat or Republican, if you connect to people and the do the best for them.
She ran for state senate three times. There were 26 towns in the district and one Democrat and one Republican would run for the seat.
The first time there was no Democrat running. Both her and Roth(?), who were running as Republicans, got write in votes on the Democrat side. She got 72 and he got 73. Since he ran a newspaper?, there were many things written that she felt weren’t right. She sued him.
The second time, she rode over 1,000 miles from Brookline to Hinsdale during her campaign. She even had a big sign for her bike. The election ended up in a tie and she lost the coin flip.
The third time???
She ran for state chair of the Democratic Party but lost.
She introduced a bill into the NH legislature to impeach President Bush.
She has some pictures of her on her bike and in Granny D’s dress. ”If it’s the right thing to do, I’m going to do it.”
She was arrested for disorderly conduct. Sid, her son, bailed her out for $35. She was offered a plea bargain of doing community service but as she said she has been doing community service her whole life. It went to trial and was found innocent (or did the judge just throw the case out??).
Betty would like a picture of herself in Granny D’s dress in the book.
She plans on walking to change election campaign financing. Check out: nhrebellion.org
When she was a teacher, Mort Goulder gave her a computer for the classroom. It was the first one in a NH classroom.
She knew Robert Oppenheimer.
She attended Swarthmore College in PA and Barnard College in NY.