Scraps of the Past

In 2004 Mark Carmien, owner of Pride and Joy (the LGBT gift and book store on Crafts Avenue in Northampton at that time), got a phone call from a man saying that his gay uncle had died and in cleaning out the deceased’s home he had found some memorabilia. What, the caller wondered, should he do with it?

Carmien got in touch with Northampton’s unofficial gay archivist, Phil “Bambi” Gauthier, who collected the box of material dropped off at the bookstore. The box contained gay erotic magazines and several albums of undated color Polaroid photos.

These photo records, though undated, would probably have been from 1965 or later. Polaroid color cameras first became available in 1963, and they released their most popular low priced “Swinger” model in 1965. One obvious benefit of these cameras was cutting out the need to have the photos developed by someone else, and risk censorship or worse for any erotic content.

Two of the albums passed to Bambi were filled with no-face-showing close-ups, obviously in a private home, of erections and asses. As he leafed through the third album, browsing the selection of candid but more clothed snapshots from many home parties held or attended by the Springfield man during the 1960s and 70s, Bambi came across several snapshots of his own “grandmere,” R. Warren Clark, dressed as Sophie Tucker.

“Sophie Tucker” Warren Clark (on right) of Northampton at a drag party with unidentified escort, probably in Springfield during the late 1960s or 1970s. Source: Phil Gauthier collection

In 1987, the then-nineteen-year-old Gauthier had decided to join the local chapter of Integrity, and asked two Northampton gay “elder statesmen” to stand as his baptismal godparents. The two men, Warren and Ralph Intorcio, had for decades been part of a small circle of gay male friends who met regularly for little suppers. Many worked at the VA Hospital in Leeds, and were married with children, sharing their gay life only very privately with each other.

Interviewed in 2004, Bambi remembered Ralph coming home several years after his baptism with a few boxes belonging to one of those men. The friend had just died and, as per the contract this small group had with each other, Ralph used the key he had been given to go into the deceased man’s home and remove anything indicating his secret life before relatives might discover it. Bambi remembered getting brief glimpses of that secret life as he handed letters of WWII and Korean War soldiers—along with photos of them arm-in-arm, many with cheeky and loving notes on the back–to his godfather who fed them into a fire in the woodstove on the summer porch. Seeing this history disappear was one of the saddest things Bambi had ever witnessed.

Fifteen years later, because of a thoughtful nephew, Gauthier had a piece of the past that usually got destroyed. Most of us don’t think about the fact that as we live, we are making history. We don’t think about the history books that can be written only based on whatever documents have been saved or memories have been recorded. In recent decades many people have moved away, taking with them group records, flyers, news clippings and correspondence. Others have thrown out journals, letters or scrapbooks. Many boxes of documents are moldering in basements, attics, or garages.

__Gauthier, Phil “Bambi.” Conversations with, Sep.2004, Northampton, Mass.
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__Sophie Tucker, last of the “Red Hot Mamas”; very lovely tribute video on Youtube

__Integrity is a group within the Episcopal Church for LGBT people, formed nationally in 1975. The local chapter is St. John’s on Elm Street, founding date and other history still unknown. Do you know?

COMING NEXT: What else is currently known about Northampton’s gay world just before the revolution, the beginning of lesbian and gay political activism in 1970? Watch for Scraps of the Past part two surveying research literature as well as more personal anecdotes.

Changes and Closing: Hampshire Bookshop, part four

Historian Barbara A. Brannon notes a change in the working relationship between Hampshire Bookshop founders Marion Dodd and Mary Byers Smith that coincided with the arrival at Smith College in 1922 of Esther Cloudman Dunn, a professor of English. In 1925, Dunn became Dodd’s housemate. They were partners for the rest of their lives. The two rented joined apartments at 76 Crescent Street which allowed them each to have office space. The offices had custom bookshelves made by Marion. Since 1921, Dodd had been hosting summer reunion picnics at her restored farmhouse in Maine for invited Smith alumnae. Now Dunn and what Dodd called their “literary” cat joined her for summers there.

In 1927, Mary Byers Smith resigned from the presidency of the bookshop. Though she remained on the board, she withdrew from direct involvement with the business. Smith never married, but had family obligations, including an aging mother, in Andover. After she moved back there, she remained in touch with college friends, chief among them Grace Hazard Conkling, English professor, poet, and divorcee. She also continued to be active in Smith College affairs, particularly in the Friends of the Smith College Library.

Frequently in town for business, Smith often stayed with Margaret Storrs Grierson, a professor of English and college archivist at Smith. Grierson eventually met a life companion, Professor of French Marine Leland. They met among Esther Dunn’s close circle of women friends, and lived in a house near Dunn and Dodd’s final home on Massasoit St.

At home in Andover, Mary Byers Smith had a historic building renovated as her own home near the one she was raised in, employing a woman architect. She did volunteer social work at Tewksbury State Hospital, served the Andover community on the school and library boards in the local library. In later life, she returned to college at Radcliffe and bought a home in Boston, where she expanded her volunteer work and friendships with women in professions, particularly social work. After Smith’s death in 1983, her personal letters were destroyed at her request.

In 1931, the HBS opened a branch on Green St. to accommodate students more readily as the campus grew westward down Elm Street. Other notable expansions included the production of bookfairs, and a traveling bookshop (station wagon) that traveled to prep school campuses and other venues to sell books.

As she neared retirement age, Marion Dodd began training a successor. Cynthia S. Walsh (Smith ’39) joined the HBS board of directors in 1943, then was hired as assistant manager in 1947. Like Dodd, she was unmarried and shared her home with another woman, Frances Mayhew, in a discrete lesbian relationship. Dodd retired in 1951. She hired Walsh as manager, but stayed on as chair of the board until 1957.

Marion Dodd died in 1961, leaving her estate to Dunn, who in turn, after her death in 1977, donated a portrait of Marion to be hung in Wright Hall in a room bearing Dodd and Dunn’s names. Dodd did not live to see the demise of her beloved enterprise. After fourteen years as manager, in 1965, Walsh was forced by personal circumstances to resign. Within a year, the Hampshire Bookshop was sold. In 1966, Robert T. Hale bought it, only to resell it in 1969 to Ralph and Oudi Intorcio, who had no bookselling experience. The business had declined so substantially that it soon was auctioned for debt. Of note is the fact that Ralph later found fame in Northampton with the Young at Heart Chorus.

While I had visited HBS shortly before it closed its doors I had forgotten about this remarkable enterprise until reminded by Northampton resident and historian Jan Whitaker. And it seems particularly poignant that in 1979 when the Valley’s first feminist bookstore Womonfyre opened on Masonic Street none of us knew that the grandmother of all women’s bookstores had existed, gloriously, a few short blocks away. I like to think that the ghosts of the remarkable HBS proprietors still linger, even unrecognized, to bless ventures by women in Northampton that inform, inspire and connect us.

__Brannon, Barbara A. “No Frigate Like a Book”: The Hampshire Bookshop, 1916-1971. Unpublished Doctoral dissertation. University of South Carolina, 1998. Dr. Brannon has a new webpage

Coming Next: Scraps of the Past: Just before the Revolution