CONWAY — The show is in the can, to speak, for New Hampshire PBS’ “Our Hometown: Conway” program, which was filmed in late spring, with editing and production taking place over the summer.
“We’re slated for Conway to have its broadcast premiere on Channel 11 on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m.,” noted show producer Schuyler Scribner.
In a press release Thursday, NH PBS highlighted some of the stories told in the Conway show, including:
• Pink and green, those are the colors of the granite that was quarried from the mountain in the village of Redstone. Long time Conway resident Steve Swenson tells the story of how immigrants came to the village to work in the quarries and how the village that began as a company town is now a part of a rich local history.
• The story of the Conway Scenic Railway is told by two men, current owner David Swirk and founder Dwight Smith. In 1968, Smith saw potential in some dilapidated buildings, old trains and unused tracks. He, along with group of dedicated volunteers brought the old depot and trains back to life. Swirk’s relationship with the Conway Scenic Railway begins when he was a young boy on a visit to Conway. After missing the last train of the day, his parents had a creative solution which eventually led to a lifelong dream coming true.
• Caring, sharing and taking care of each other is a core part of the Conway story, and “Our Hometown, Conway” tells the stories of local organizations like Jen’s Friends and North Country Cares, which raise money for their neighbors to fight cancer and help kids in need.
• Today, North Conway is known for skiing, but it wasn’t always that way. Thanks to North Conway native and Wall Street financier Harvey Gibson and Austrian skier Hannes Schneider, North Conway has become a go-to destination for skiers everywhere.
• At the height of the Depression, Leon Bolduc built a 17,000 square-foot building right on Main Street in Conway Village. It became home to his movie house as well as many other businesses, breathing life into the entire area. Today, history is repeating itself, thanks to a local organization with a vision.
• And finally, learn about some of the covered bridges in the area, from a family whose roots in the region stretch back to the 1700s.
The “Our Hometown” series premiered in 2015 with a focus on Peterborough, followed by shows about Colebrook, Stratham, Wolfeboro, Milford and Littleton. The series explores the vibrant culture, commerce, history and people of New Hampshire's towns and cities.
New Hampshire author and storyteller Rebecca Rule hosts each 30-minute episode.
The series’ premise is that “each New Hampshire town and city has a unique story to tell, and the people who live there are ideal storytellers for their hometowns.”
Interviews for the Conway program were conducted over two weekends in May and early June.
About 47 local residents were asked to share their stories and photographs for the program.
In an interview last May, Scribner said his task was to edit down each of the clips to just 2 to 5 minutes, tops. He added, however, that as part of the process, unedited interviews will be posted on WENH's "our Hometown" website.
The first session was held at the Conway Public library, May 17-19, and the second was held courtesy of Joe Berry of the Eastern Slope Inn at the M&D at the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse in North Conway.
Scribner worked with NH PBS Production Manager Ben Sparling on the project. Sparling is the brother-in-law of Jackson resident Andy Rourke, who with his wife Ashleigh donated the use of their house in Jackson for the crew during the filming sessions.
Sparling helped to scan photographs and other material that interviewees furnished for the program, such as Skip Smith, former drummer for the legendary valley band, the Blend, who brought along some band photos from their career for his interview, conducted during the first session at the library.
Describing the interview process for both sessions, Scribner said it is a bit of a misnomer to say that he “spoke” with the interviewees:
“My greatest talent is to shut up, and let these good folks tell their story,” said Scribner during the process.
In an interview with the Sun in May after the first session, Scribner had nothing but praise for the people who shared their many stories.
“I am very pleased with what we captured. A lot of folks spoke to the big heart of the valley in a very eloquent way,” said Scribner, who is a 1978 University of New Hampshire graduate who, although not a New Hampshire native, has lived here most of his life and who cherishes the Granite State’s flinty character and rich history. "I’m most proud of taking on such a diverse group, and really reaching out to each and every one of them, so that they had a chance to tell their story of the Conways."
He added, "After looking at all of the stories I’m always surprised to see what ones jump out that might make the cut – and this program was no different. It’s a hard decision to make, especially in such a diverse place as Conway, with so many great people and stories, but there are some stories that speak most directly to the character of the entire town. Those stories always seem to rise. ‘Our Hometown’ is really like a patchwork quilt of people’s stories. When you stand back and view the sum of all the stories, a true sense of the town comes through. In the case of Conway the overall sense of caring really shines. From the folks who set up local charities to the town residents who brought some local landmarks back to life. It’s wonderful to see such commitment to the towns and to each other."
Many of those interviewed signed up at the Conway Public Library; others were referred by local officials and residents. Conway Public Library Executive Director David Smolen, Assistant Director Jeff Beavers and Henney History Room Curator Bob Cottrell have been heavily involved.
Local historian, Conway Public Library trustee, substitute teacher and Conway native Brian P. Wiggin — co-chair of Conway’s 250th anniversary celebration in 2015 — also provided assistance.
The list of notable interviewees includes former Conway Town Clerk Mike King of the Robert and Dorothy Goldberg Foundation; Jeff Leich, executive director of the New England Ski Museum; Ken Martin, co-founding executive director of M&D Playhouse; Kennett High athletics booster Kelly Jon Scruggs; Mary Vigeant, vice president of medical staff at Memorial Hospital; local historian and author Jonathan Hively; Victoria Noel, marketing director at Tuckerman Brewing Company; and community supporter Sut Marshall of Abbott’s Dairy.
Also interviewed were: Chuck Henderson, founder of the former Chuck Roast Equipment and now a special assistant to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office; local tour guide/historian Rex Wiley of Mountain Wanderings; ski coach Martha Coughlin of the New England Ski Museum’s Eastern Slope Branch; Peter Edwards, co-owner of Zeb’s General Store; Capt. Ray Gilmore III, speaking about ski programs in the valley; former selectman/past school board member Ray Leavitt and wife, Beth Leavitt, of Leavitt’s Country Bakery; retired educator Gary MacDonald of the Conway Historical Society and his wife, Karen MacDonald, a retired librarian; community actor and longtime volunteer Marshall Allan; Steve Swenson, formerly of North Conway and now of Exeter, who spoke about the history of the Redstone Quarry; local writer and historian Tom Eastman of The Conway Daily Sun; local historian/Civil War book author and Conway Daily Sun columnist Bill Marvel and Brian Fitzgerald, director of science and education at the Mount Washington Observatory.
“The stories generously shared for 'Our Hometown: Conway' shed light on Conway’s past and present. While it was not possible to include all 45 stories in the 30-minute program, everyone's story will be showcased online at nhpbs.org/hometown, creating a historical archive of life in Conway,” notes the press release.
Support for the production of "Our Hometown: Conway" comes from Eversource Energy; Conway Scenic Railroad; Cranmore Mountain Resort; Leone, McDonnell & Roberts, PA; Memorial Hospital; Settlers Green and Zeb’s Country Store.
In addition to its premier showing Oct. 24, "Our Hometown: Conway" is scheduled to be rebroadcast Oct. 25 at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.; and on "New Hampshire Explore" Oct. 27 at 8:30 a.m. For further information, go to nhpbs.org/hometown or email firstname.lastname@example.org.