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Glory Days: Trio of LHS sports heroes recalls exploits from the 1940s

LACONIA — Sixty five years ago, a trio of Laconia High School athletes, who between them had earned 26 varsity letters, were featured in an article written by Sam Clevenson in the Laconia Evening Citizen which recalled their past exploits and detailed their plans for the future.
Those three men, now 83 years old, gathered recently to look at old newspaper clippings and reminisce in what might be called a Bruce Springsteen song ''Glory Days'' moment, about the Laconia sports scene in the 1940s.
The three ''Men of Letters'', as described in a caption beneath their photo, were Jeep Munsey, Milo Pike and Leo ''Pat'' McGrath, all of whom earned four letters in baseball.
''A lot of the seniors had joined the Army so we got to play varsity baseball as freshman,'' said Pike, who in his high school career would win 20 of 29 varsity pitching starts, including all five that he made against Franklin, described in the article as a major rival, as well as games against Cathedral and Central of Manchester and Nashua, while hitting over .300 in three of his four seasons.
''Laconia was a great baseball town back then.'' McGrath recalls, noting that his first experience at baseball was playing on an Industrial League team along with his father and grandfather. ''That's where we learned baseball. There weren't any Little League teams then and we learned in our backyards and in pickup games,'' says McGrath, who played the infield for Laconia High School for four years and hit .362 one season, and, along with Pike and Munsey, played American Legion baseball during the summers after the high school season was over.
He homered in one of those Legion games at Kelley Park in Bristol, pulling a ball over the right field fence off of Bill Marston, one of then best high school pitchers in New Hampshire. Marston outdueled Pike that die, though Pike struck out 10 in eight innings, in a 2-1 loss. Marston struck out 12 while allowing only three hits in that victory and was only 15 at the time.
McGrath, who earned three letters in football as well as two letters in basketball, recalls former Red Sox catcher Birdie Tebbetts of Nashua bringing a team of Red Sox players to the Pearl Street grounds in 1948, just after they had lost a playoff game to the Cleveland Indians.
''The major league pitcher pitched against the Red Sox hitters and out pitcher pitched against our hitters. It was really something to see big league players in Laconia,'' says McGrath.
McGrath also recalls Laconia hosting the House of David baseball team, who gained fame for their beards and barnstormed the country during the 1920s until the early 1950s playing local teams. Among those playing on the House of David team against Laconia was Walter Peterson, who would in 1968 and 1970 win the New Hampshire governorship.
''He wore a fake beard during the game and would keep lifting it up and smiling at us,'' recalls McGrath.
Munsey, who earned three letters in football and was a unanimous pick as an All-State running back, also earned three letters in basketball, as did Pike. He was the only one who went on to play sports in college, serving in the Navy before attending the University of New Hampshire, where he co-captained the football team, set punting records which still stand to this day and once gained 151 yards in 12 carries against Vermont while scoring three touchdowns. He also played basketball and baseball at UNH.
McGrath also served in the Navy, declining an athletic scholarship at Saint Michael's College after fellow LHS football player Peter ''Beau'' Lessard, who was also headed to St. Michael's, decided instead to attend Syracuse University. He would later work for Pike's paving company.
Pike, who had been in line for a baseball scholarship at Wake Forest, attended Norwich University but went into the family paving business in 1949.
''I had seven men, two trucks and a wheelbarrow to work with'' Pike says of his first summer on the job.
''We never saw a baseball, basketball or football until we got to high school,'' Pike recalls, saying that Munsey, who was a natural athlete, adapted the most easily to all three sports. Pike was frequently the high scorer for the high school basketball team, scoring 15 points in a come from behind 36-33 win over Spaulding High School of Rochester and 15 in a 36-35 loss to Spaulding which Laconia lost on a last minute basket.
Munsey, who once had a 29 game hitting streak in baseball, recalls that the city had at least four teams playing in a city league which featured players such as John Lyman, Warren McVey, Ray Simoneau, Peanut Lamere and Norman ''Farmer'' Hubbard, and an All-Star team which played teams from other cities.
''There used to 250 to 300 people at our games,'' recalls Pike, who says that the immediate post World War II era was a golden age of sports for Laconia, whose football teams competed against and defeated teams from cities like Nashua and Manchester.
Numbers tell a lot about the relative decline of Laconia's competitiveness. In 1950 Laconia had a population of 14,745 (not counting Gilford), compared to 13,776 for Rochester, 15,874 for Dover, and 34,669 for Nashua. Since then the other cities have doubled their population while Laconia has added only 1,000 residents.
''When we played sports there was no television to speak of and people were engaged in their community in a way that's just not possible today. It was a fun era, an exciting time to be involved in sports,'' recalls McGrath.
Pike says that until recently when Munsey had knee surgery the trio of 1948 LHS graduates frequently got together for golf and that he and McGrath were out on the Laconia Country Club course as recently as last week.
''We still like to talk about the good old days,'' says Pike, who jokes that ''the older we get, the better we were.''


Milo Pike, Leo 'Pat' McGrath and George P. 'Jeep' Munsey, members of the Class of 1948 at Laconia High School, earned 26 varsity letters between them during their high school careers. (Roger Amsden/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 02:33

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Gilford has spent $14.6K in legal fees in cases regarding suspended police officers

GILFORD — In the two months since Police Chief Kevin Keenan and Patrol Officer Holly Harris have been on paid administrative leave, the town has spent $14,683 on legal fees associated with their leave.

Additionally, the town has paid Keenan $14,373 in salary since his leave began on August 29. Harris, who has been on leave since around Sept. 15, earns $24.33 per hour and has earned approximately $6,810 during her leave.

To date, other than confirming the amount of money spent on lawyers and salary, town officials have remained silent about the reasons behind the administrative leaves and or how long they expect it to continue.

The Daily Sun has learned that an independent assessment of the police department has been performed however it is not known what costs, if any, are associated with it.


Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 02:26

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Alton going after alleged 'junkyard'

ALTON — The town has petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court for a permanent injunction to stop a local man form operating what the town calls a junkyard on Church Street.

In the filing, Town Code Enforcement Officer John Dever III, said that Mark J. Hanson of 28 Church St. started using the property "for (an) automotive and truck junk yard, motor vehicle repair yard and motor vehicle/parts storage or dealer facility" shortly after he purchased it on December 22, 2005.

Dever said this week that operating commercially is "primarily a zoning issue," and operating a junkyard is against town regulations and violates the state laws regarding junkyards.

The town issued Hanson a notice of violation on May 6, 2013 ordering him to immediately stop using the property for commercial use or as a junkyard. Dever said Tuesday that Hanson was told he had 30 days to appeal the violation notice with the Zoning Board of Adjustment but never filed for a hearing.

When Dever was asked why the town waited eight years to cite Hanson when the paperwork said he began the alleged illegal activity in 2005, he said the activity on the property had escalated within the past few years.

He also said an investigation revealed some items listed for sale on Craig's List (an Internet exchange and sales site) and Hanson had been seen hauling scrap from the site. Dever also said that while Hanson hasn't officially responded, the Church Street property is neater now than is has been in the recent past.

The town, said Dever, considers any commercial use of the property a zoning violation because it is in a residential-zoned area. He said under the former zoning ordinances, the property was zoned as residential-commercial but noted that any commercial use needed a special exception and Hanson never applied for one. He said he also would have needed a site plan approved by the Planning Board and that never happened either.

The town, wrote Dever, is entitled to assess a civil penalty of $550 per day for each violation after issuing the second notice, which was issued on June 25, 2013.

Efforts by The Daily Sun to reach Hanson by telephone were unsuccessful.

CUTLINE : (Church Street Property) Rain falls on cars parked in the front and side yards of a house on Church Street. The town claims the property is being used as an illegal junkyard and has filed for an injunction against owner Mark J. Hanson in Belknap County Superior Court. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 02:20

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Group of lawmakers renews effort to keep State School land in Concord's hands

CONCORD — A bipartisan group of lawmakers have again introduced legislation to repeal the provision of the 2012-2013 state budget requiring the sale of the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street. Last year a bill to same effect was adopted by the Senate but rejected by the House of Representatives.

The bill is sponsored by Representatives John Graham (R-Bedford), Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) and Candace Bouchard (D-Concord) and Senators Jim Rausch (R-Derry) and Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester).
Both Chandler and Rausch believe the state should retain ownership of the property.

In 2011, the Legislature directed the New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to offer the entire site to the city for "not less than $10 million" and if the city failed to accept the offer, to offer it to Belknap County "at fair market value." If neither the city nor the county purchased the property, it would be put on the open market for no less than its fair market value. The law specified that the property was to be sold by May 1, 2013.

City Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), then mayor, chaired a commission convened by the Legislature to consider the future of the property and has led the city's effort to acquire some or all of the tract. He said that with the passage of the deadline of May 1, the state remains open to offers for the property, which Linda Hodgdon, Commissioner of Administrative Services, may present to the governor and Executive Council at her discretion.

With the repeal of the current law, the property would become subject to the statute governing the disposal of state-owned real estate (RSA 4:40), which stipulates that the department with jurisdiction over the property — in this case the Department of Corrections — must recommend its sale or lease to the Long-Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee. Composed of legislators together with a representative of the governor, the committee, with the advice of the Council on Resources and Development, consisting of officials of various state agencies, must approve the recommendation and submit it to the governor and executive council. If the governor and executive council also approve the sale or lease of the property, it must first be offered to the municipality or county where it is located and can only be placed on the open market if both refuse the offer.

The sale price may not be less than the current market value of the property as determined by the governor and executive council. In June, 2011 the state appraised the property for $2.16-million. The next year the City Council offered to purchase it for that amount, but the offer was not considered.

The property consists of four tax parcels. The largest, some 200-acres, is bounded by North Main Street to the east, Meredith Center Road and Eastman Road to the north and Ahern State Park to the west and south and divided roughly in half by Right Way Path. This parcel includes some 60 acres adjacent to the Robbie Mills Sports Complex bounded by Eastman Road and Green Street known as Risley Field, which the city leases on a short-term basis to provide parking for the sports complex. It excludes some 17 acres housing the 911 call center and the building vacated by Lakes Region Community Services that would remain the property of the state. The parcel was appraised at $1,760,000,

There are also two smaller parcels. An undeveloped 10.4-acre lot at the junction of Old North Main Street and North Main Street was appraised at $300,000. An unimproved wooded lot of 7.5-acres at the corner of Lane Road and Meredith Center Road was appraised at $100,000. The state also leased both smaller parcels to the city in 2000 for 99 years at $1 a year.

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 02:14

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