Weirs Room & car collection just part of wonders in 'The Barn'

MEREDITH — Dick Dearborn grew up in the Weirs and has special memories of his childhood there, including the historic day when he was seated on his grandfather Leander Lavallee's shoulder and the Mount Washington II cruise ship made its way underneath the Weirs Bridge and out from Paugus Bay onto the main body of Lake Winnipesaukee.
That was August 15, 1940 and Dearborn was only four years old. But he still remembers how bystanders atop the bridge were called on by his grandfather to jump aboard the Mount in order to have it ride deep enough in the water to pass under the bridge.
''He had everybody on the bridge jump onto the boat so we could get under the bridge,'' says Dearborn, whose family lived on the same block at the Weirs and had a front row seat on all that happened there.
His grandfather had owned the original side-wheeler ''Mount Washington'', which had been destroyed by fire at the Weirs docks in December of 1939, but had managed to replace it with an iron ship which had been cut into 20 sections at Lake Champlain and shipped by flatbed rail to Lakeport, where it was reassembled and put into service the very next summer.
This Saturday invited guests to his "man-cave", better known to his friends as ''The Barn'', will get to see Diane Nyren's recently completed mural of the Weirs Channel Bridge on the wall of the structure's "Weirs Room", as well as Nyren's painting of the Mount headed in from the lake.

"The Barn" is actually a large metal building in Meredith. There's other reminders of the Weirs in the room and next to it, in a large room, there 's a wide-ranging collection of baseball photographs, including Ted Williams and Babe Ruth and even Bill Monboquette, author of a no-hitter for the Red Sox in 1962, as well as autographed baseball bats.
''I can remember sitting around the kitchen table during World War II and right after the war listening to the Red Sox games on radio'' says Dearborn, who at one time had a 10-seat suite over third base at Fenway Park and now has a 21-seat suite on the first base side.
''I reserve one day there for myself each year. It's a little hard to get around the ballpark for me these days but I still love to watch a baseball game. There are a lot of good memories for me at Fenway Park.''
''The Barn'' also houses Dearborn's auto collection, as well as the large collection of sports memorabilia, and has two bars — one upstairs and the other downstairs in an area known as ''Dirty Dick's Garage'' — where there's other memorabilia, including a collection of 200 Zippo lighters.
Five years after riding the Mount onto the lake, Dearborn says he can recall exactly where he was in August of 1945, when World War II ended with the surrender of Japan.
''I was in mid-air diving off from a platform at Irwin's Winnipesaukee Garden. Jim Irwin had put the tower up and I used to dive from there with my brother, Bob, and Bob and John Lawton to recover bottles which had been tossed into the lake. We used to get two cents a bottle. Anyway, I was in mid-air when I heard people cheering and singing. I got out of the water and ran right up to Tarlson's Arcade. People were gathered around singing and hollering. There was a big parade right down through the Weirs which was led by three former Confederate soldiers from the Civil War encampment at the Weirs,'' Dearborn recalls.
He said that his family, headed by Fred Hershell ''Tot'' Dearborn was always in the restaurant business and for years ran Dearborn's Diner, a downtown Laconia institution which was located where Sunrise Towers now stands,
Dearborn, who would go on to found Eptam Plastics and make his mark on the Lakes Region manufacturing scene, credits the American military with providing him with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. He joined the service in 1954, right out of high school.
''They sent me to electronics school and it made my life. I learned so much. After I got out of the service I worked for a year at the diner and then started applying what I learned in the service,'' says Dearborn, who worked for Kinsman Organ in downtown Laconia before the building was sold to Seeburg Electronics. He then landed a job with InsulFab, a plastic parts fabricator in Boston, for whom he worked for 27 years while living in Watertown, Mass., where he met his wife.
''It was a wonderful job but it was time for me to go out on my own,'' says Dearborn, who started Eptam with three other partners in the kitchen of Ernie Paquette's closed restaurant just across the bridge in West Franklin and that's where the Eptam name comes from — Ernie Paquette Tool and Machining — and moved the operation to Blaisdell Avenue in Laconia before building a 15,000-square-foot plant in an industrial park next to Lily Pond in Gilford, on Laconia Airport Authority property.
As demand for Eptam's products grew in the 1990s Dearborn added a 26,000-square-foot building and then relocated to Northfield, where the business is now located in a 186,000-square-foot facility which runs three shifts a day, seven days a week, and employs 148 people.
''When we got into the medical devices field that's when we really started to grow. Today our biggest concern is finding the right people to keep up with the demand for our products,'' says Dearborn, who says he was really pleased a few years back when Eptam was named one of the best companies to work for in the entire state.
He says that at the age of 77 and having lost his wife five years ago he has no intention of retiring. ''I get to work at 5:30 to 5:45 every morning. I intend to work as long as I can walk. I think I'd go crazy if I wasn't working.''
Dearborn says he started collecting cars about 10 years ago and his collection includes Packards from 1933 and 1948, a 1941 Studebaker, a 1960 Studebaker Lark and a 1963 Studebaker Avanti, a 1955 Ford Customline and a 1969 T-Bird, as well as a 1951 Plymouth Concord and other cars, including Oldsmobiles and Buicks.
''Once I started collecting cars, I went crazy. But I'm not looking for any more of them,'' says Dearborn.