Windham Life and Times – May 22, 2020

Windham Mid-Century Modern

1960 | Rockingham Park goes Upscale

If you spent any time at the Rockingham Park Clubhouse, like I did once and a while, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, it would be hard to imagine that this was once considered an upscale public venue. The Rock was a popular and profitable place in the 1960’s. The Edge of Megalopolis states that, The history of Rockingham Park through the 41 years since the beginning, have been for the most part a recurrence of that kind of pleasant surprise. A promotional pamphlet for the Town of Salem, prepared probably in 1939 although it does not carry a date, listed the track’s earnings for the state as $2,813,198. A history of the park drafted in 1957 used the revised figure of ‘more than $36,000,000’ and an edited copy of that printed history possibly used in the preparation of an updated account, carried the amended notation ‘nearly $49,000,000.’ ” In other words, Rockingham Park was incredibly lucrative for Lou Smith and his partners but also for New Hampshire.

“The new clubhouse was started in 1955, completed the following year, with a price tag in round figures of $1,000,000 and said to be the ‘finest anywhere.’ The opening day attendance was a new record with 2,700 more people than had ever before activated the turnstiles.” Of course the first-in-the-nation sweepstakes program (or lottery) was started right here at the Rock in 1964. I remember in the summer of 1971, I was parking cars at Dunkin Beach on Cobbett’s Pond, when a gentleman pulled up in a big ole convertible, dropped off his family, and asked me to hold a space for him so that he could go to the track. I put a barrel in the spot and when he returned a couple of hours later, I let him pull right into the spot. He gave me a twenty for my trouble because he had won big! I was 14 at the time and was pretty impressed. Of course, “horse people” rented or owned several cottages on Cobbetts.

Big Time Talent on Display At “Rock” For Charity Spectacular.

“The Derry News 1960: A glittering array of talent which would do credit to televisions most elaborate spectacular has been pledged for Lutza Smith’s annual party for the Crippled Childrens Non-Sectarian Fund at the air-conditioned Rocking Park Clubhouse on Sunday August 7.”

“Such show stoppers as Frankie Avalon, Jerry Vale, Errol Garner, and Lonnie Sattin, top a solid production worth many times the contribution price of ten dollars. And all receipts will be dedicated to Mrs. Smith’s charity which has expended more than $600,000 on crippled and handicapped youngsters.”

“From these mid-summer parties at the clubhouse the fund has derived to date more than $125,000, with the remainder accounted for by donations during the year. Virtually every horseman, jockey and employee on the grounds has reserved a tickets for the big affair, and Mrs. Smith is looking forward to another financial and artistic success. Aunt Lutza as she is known to her many ‘exceptional children’ has never let them down.”

According to Franciscan Childrens, “A new building, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, was constructed to help meet the needs of an expanding population and affiliations with area universities began. As the hospital’s reputation spread far and wide, so too did its list of friends. Lou & Lutza Smith, dear friends of Cardinal Cushing, became part of the hospital’s family, providing financial support, countless parties  and entertainment events for the children…In 1961, our first surgical suite opened in a new pavilion, named after Lou and Lutza Smith.

 

 

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