Windham Life and Times April 17, 2020

What are You Afraid Of?

Living a life without fear, even in fearful times.

In the 19th century people were tough and resilient in the face of adversity. The Clark family pictured in the photograph above look as if they could have taken on just about anything. Their barn was burnt to the ground by a passing train. Look how the son, arms crossed,  models the determination of his father. Fear is one of man’s worst, latent, emotions, that gives rise to all of the evil found in the world. It lies behind hate, racism and oppression. We live in this world in order to find a path which overcomes fear. Jesus of Nazareth’s most commonly uttered line, in the face of disease, hatred or difficulty was, “Fear not!” I was always impressed by that, considering he was destined to be hung on a cross. The Buddhist insist that we should live as observers of the world, detached and utterly calm. After all they claim, all sentient beings, living organisms and even inanimate objects are connected; and our very act of observing brings the world, with God within all things, into existence. The Campbell Family is pictured below. The son doesn’t even have shoes to wear. They too look like they also could take on the world. Today, with all that we have, we certainly can too; fearlessly, with dignity and grace!

    A mother in the 18th and 19th century, faced the prospect of losing half of her large brood of children in one plague or another, that often swept through America.  That’s why people had large families. Doctors were few and far between, people couldn’t afford them anyway, so parents often had to face down devasting viruses and diseases alone in their homes. If you were badly hurt in a factory or on the farm you likely died or were forever maimed. There was no ambulance to rush you to a nearby hospital and no safety net to pay your bills. Yet, Americans faced the peril and went to work, unafraid. In the nineteenth century, it was common for embers of passing trains to cause huge forest fires that burned down many farms, even right here in Windham. Nobody gave a thought about banning trains. Hell, the settlers of Maine had to face down Indian attacks, scalping and forced slavery, in order to try to establish a home in America.

Morrison tells us in his history of Windham that, “Spotted Fever” Plagued Windham in 1812. “This alarming disease first appeared in the spring of 1812, and prevailed to an alarming extent that spring, but subsided somewhat during the warm weather.” (Because people were in the sun getting Vitamin D3 into their systems) “On the return of cold weather, it broke out afresh, but not with so much violence. Persons attacked with it would die in a few hours, and the disease was generally fatal. After this it prevailed for several years, but not so extensively (Because people exposed to the virus built up anti-bodies and immunity.)  Many persons died, three adults and thirteen children, a total of thirteen persons having died (in Windham) in one eight day period.”

“In the paper, “Character Trials, Managing Epidemic Disease in 19th Century America, PhD student John Runge states, “ ‘There is nothing that deprives men of the natural use of their reasoning powers so quickly and entirely as fear,’ a New Orleans newspaper reported in 1878. These written words, intended for the eyes of local yellow fever hysterians, speak to an unending struggle to cope with fear and its consequences. For those suffering from infectious disease, fear twists and fits into the very essence of a person or population, shaping the malleable perspective of the afflicted.”

“In the nineteenth century, infectious disease ravaged humans across the globe. Typhoid, cholera, the bubonic plague, and tuberculosis, to name a few, besieged the people of the world in epidemics and pandemics, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Cholera, a disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, killed roughly half of those who contracted it. In the nineteenth century, epidemics in 1832, 1849, and 1866 in the United States alone were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, so many that physicians, in some instances, ‘did not even bother to report their cases.’ Similarly the bubonic plague, known for its fourteenth century decimation of the European population, resurfaced in late nineteenth century Pacific-linked port cities like Hong Kong, Bombay, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and elsewhere. Tuberculosis, meanwhile, was the number one cause of death in Europe and the Americas from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century…”

 

Windham Life and Times – April 3, 2020

Windham Mid-Century Modern

Miss Cobbett’s Pond: 1958-9

Left: Miss Marie Chadwick, Miss Cobbett’s Pond 1958, places the sash on Miss Cobbett’s Pond 1959. Above: The 1959 Miss Cobbett’s Pond Pageant. From left to right are unknown, Carol Drowns, (Miss CP 1959), Polly Ann Sanborn, and Marie Chadwick (Miss CP 1958). The little girl with the flowers is Ronnie Lou Thwaites.

“The Cobbett’s Pond Association held its annual banquet, entertainment and Miss Cobbett’s Pond beauty contest Wednesday evening at the town hall. Out of 37 original entrants , eleven finalists were selected: Anne Marie Barron, Mary Brady, Marie Chadwick, Linda Donovan, Charlene Twaites, Jerry Spawkett, Jackie Robinson, Paula Kelly, Michelle Roy, Sharon Price and Barbara Murray. The contest then narrowed to five; the Misses Baron, Chadwick, Kelley, Murray and Roy.”

“The three finalists were Michele Roy, 14, third, Anne Marie Barron, 16, second and Marie Chadwick 16, winner. Miss Patricia Larrabee of Salem, ‘Miss New Hampshire,’ crowned the winner and received special thanks for her help and cooperation. She was made an honorary member of the Association and invited to ride in a place of honor in the boat parade. Each contestant was awarded a gift from the Association and runners-up received cash prizes. Miss Chadwick received a cash award, flowers and gifts. All three will participate in the annual decorated boat parade at Cobbett’s Pond on Sunday August 24, at 2 P.M.” (The Derry News.) (Photos courtesy of Charlene Kane.)

Windham Life and Times – March 20, 2020

Windham Mid-Century Modern

Childhood Vaccines: Polio

If you went to school in America during the early 1960s, then you remember those ubiquitous sugar cubes laced with vaccine that we were served up in a little paper cup in public schools. Polio was a fearsome virus. “Few diseases frightened parents more in the early part of the 20th century than polio did. Polio struck in the warm summer months, sweeping through towns in epidemics every few years. Though most people recovered quickly from polio, some suffered temporary or permanent paralysis and even death. Many polio survivors were disabled for life. They were a visible, painful reminder to society of the enormous toll this disease took on young lives. Polio is the common name for poliomyelitis, which comes from the Greek words for grey and marrow, referring to the spinal cord, and the suffix–itis, meaning inflammation. Poliomyelitis, shortened, became polio. For a time, polio was called infantile paralysis, though it did not affect only the young.” The most famous polio victim was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd. President of the United States. https://www.historyofvaccines.org/timeline/polio

According to Wikipedia, “The first successful demonstration of a polio vaccine was by Hilary Koprowski in 1950, with a live attenuated virus which people drank. This vaccine, however, was not approved in the United States. An inactivated polio vaccine, developed a few years later by Jonas Salk, came into use in 1955. Another oral polio vaccine was developed by Albert Sabin and came into commercial use in 1961…  During the early 1950s, polio rates in the U.S. were above 25,000 annually; in 1952 and 1953, the U.S. experienced an outbreak of 58,000 and 35,000 polio cases respectively, up from a typical number of 20,000 a year, with deaths in those years numbering 3,200 and 1,400. Amid this U.S. Polio epidemic, millions of dollars were invested in finding and marketing a polio vaccine by commercial interests…”

“In April 1955, soon after mass polio vaccination began in the US, the Surgeon General began to receive reports of patients who contracted paralytic polio about a week after being vaccinated with Salk polio vaccine from Cutter  pharmaceutical company, with the paralysis limited to the limb the vaccine was injected into. In response the Surgeon General pulled all polio vaccine made by Cutter Laboratories from the market, but not before 250 cases of paralytic illness had occurred. Wyeth polio vaccine was also reported to have paralyzed and killed several children. It was soon discovered that some lots of Salk polio vaccine made by Cutter and Wyeth had not been properly inactivated, allowing live poliovirus into more than 100,000 doses of vaccine. In May 1955, the National Institutes of Health and Public Health Services established a Technical Committee on Poliomyelitis Vaccine to test and review all polio vaccine lots and advise the Public Health Service as to which lots should be released for public use. These incidents reduced public confidence in polio vaccine leading to a drop in vaccination rates…Once Sabin’s oral vaccine became widely available, it supplanted Salk’s injected vaccine, which had been tarnished in the public’s opinion by the Cutter incident, in which Salk vaccines prepared by one company resulted in several children dying or becoming paralyzed. ”

 

Windham Life and Times – March 13, 2020

Windham | Mid-Century Modern

The Cobbett’s Pond Boat Parade

DERRY BOAT WINS IN COBBETT’S POND PARADE

The boat of Walter H. Robertson, 90 East Broadway, well known Derry jeweler, won the trophy for the ‘most beautiful’ entry in the second annual decorated boat parade at Cobbett’s Pond Windham, Sunday afternoon. Pictured above in close-up of the prize winning entry are left to right, Jacqueline Roberston of Stoughton Mass., and Carol Trayers of Windham, seated on the deck of the Robertson’ Cris craft, dressed in genuine Japanese Kimona, sent back from Japan by Mr. Roberston while serving in the Far East. The background depicts the Rising Sun and the sign reads, ‘Till Nest Year, Sayonara!’ Winning the most original was Roland Claremont of Lowell, Mass. ‘Most comical’ award went to Joan Theriault.

 

Windham Life and Times – March 6, 2029

Windham | Mid-Century Modern

Mason’s Super Market

Mason’s super market was a mainstay of mid-century modern life. Located on the Windham-Salem line, it had a full butcher counter which was very convenient for picking up something to barbecue, on a summer afternoon, overlooking one of the surrounding lake and ponds. It was a real, well stocked super market with five or six aisles with shopping carts. You have to love the mid-century modern architecture used to update an old country store! The building is still there on the corner of Range Rd. and Rt. 28

Windham Life and Times – February 27, 2020

Windham – Mid-Century Modern

Articles from the Derry News 1957-8

From Left to Right: A playbill from the Windham Playhouse showing the very photogenic, Pamela Law, who was an actress in production of “Second Threshold.” The middle photograph shows “Chic” A. Everett Austin Jr., on the ladder, as an actor in one of his stage productions in Windham. The photograph on the far right show the Windham playhouse as it looked in the 1950’s on Range Road in Windham.

WINDHAM PLAYHOUSE TO PRESENT “SECOND THRESHOLD”

“The Windham Playhouse, colorful summer theater located in Route 111A at Cobbett’s Pond in Windham, New Hampshire is presenting this week, Monday July 13 through Saturday, July 18, a comedy, ‘Second Threshold’ by Philip Barry. For this recent Broadway hit the Playhouse is bringing back three people who made the opening week comedy, ‘The Moon is Blue,’ such a success. Roy Mosell will play the role of rich and respected Josiah Bolton, a lovable though stubborn father whose life has lost meaning. Michael Lipton is cast as his son Jock, and Pamela Law will be seen as Thankful Mather, a pretty and unpuritanical girl who never dreams life is anything but a barrel of fun.”

“Gladys Richards, fresh from her triumph as Elizabeth in ‘The Circle’ will play Bolton’s daughter, an attractive girl who opens up for her father a ‘second threshold’ and in so doing becomes a finer person herself. As her admirer, a newcomer to the Windham Playhouse for this play will be John Conwell of the Chicago Company of ‘The Moon is Blue.’ He will play Toby Wells, the young doctor who helps in Bolton’s regeneration while seeking the affection of his daughter.”

“Following ‘Second Threshold’ the Playhouse will present ‘Gigi’ with Claire Kirby, a member of the original Broadway Company of the hit.”

BOY SCOUTS GO CAMPING

“Members of the Boy Scout Troop 266, left Monday, August 18 and went to Dolly Copp Park in the White Mountains and made camp. The following boys made the trip: Dennis and Timothy Butterfield, Gerald Corbin, Andrew, James and Robert Devlin, Myrvin Gilchreast, Kevin Hill, Raymond Lemieux, Alvin Peabody, 3rd., Roland Sousa and David and John West.”

“Scoutmaster Alvin Peabody, 2nd., assisted by Harold Gordon, were in charge…they started to climb Mt. Washington but were forced back due to severe winds and cold. They were told it snowed on the mountain.”

“They went to Glen Ellis where dinner was enjoyed. They then travelled down to the new Wildcat Aerial gondolas and visited Cranmore Mt. skimobile, turned off through Crawford Notch to the base of the cog railroad of Mt. Washington, they returned to the Dolly Copp park by way of Jefferson Notch, thereby completely circling the Presidential Range.”

“While at Dolly Copp park the boys met scout groups from Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Philadelphia, PA. On the way home, they came through Franconia Notch, visited the aerial tramway there and observed the work about the old man of the mountain. Picnic lunches were enjoyed on the road…”

EDITORIAL 1958: ALL SET FOR INFLATION

“Barring another shooting war, the greatest problem this country must deal with is further depreciation of the dollar. The stage is set for a massive new round of inflation. This year’s federal deficit is expected to reach $10 billion. It may be much more.”

“Inflation can be compared to war in its destructive capabilities. It wipes out savings. If it goes far enough it can lead to internal disorder on a vast scale and even revolution. It can produce dictatorship and the death of all freedoms. It can bring on economic collapse…which is what our communist enemies are hoping for.”

“Labor and business are asked to show restraint in the important matter of wages and prices. This is certainly needed. But the foremost need of all can only be supplied by the government. Unbridled government spending, accompanied as it must be by huge deficits, is the most powerful of all inflationary forces. It bears the principle responsibility for the fact that the dollar’s value has been cut in half since 1940. A government which attempts to be everything to all its people, and do everything for all its people, is a government that can ruin all its people.”

 

 

 

Windham Life and Times – February 21, 2020

Windham Mid-Century Mode

Photograph of Witch Hazel fire from Rural Oasis

Articles from the Derry News | 1958-1959

GLOBAL WARMING EDITORIAL BY EDWARD TELLER FROM JANUARY 1958

“Dr. Edward Teller says the earth is warming up. Taking his stand in the controversy concerning the trend of the weather, Teller says that increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the air is warming our earth.

“Teller says accurate measurements show that there has been an increase of 2% in the carbon dioxide content in the air since the beginning of the industrial revolution. This has been caused by the heavy uses of fuels such as coal, oil, and its derivatives.”

“Unless there is a halt to the trend, Teller believes the earth will become overheated before the end of the twentieth century, He believes that when the amount of carbon dioxide has increased much further, ice caps on the Poles will begin to melt (they are already receding) and the amount of water in the oceans will increase, This will inundate such Port cities as New York and such countries as Holland.”

“The answer? Teller believes the answer is the use of nuclear fuel. The Associate Director of the University of California’s Radiation Laboratory says that we must put nuclear fuel to work powering electrical plants which otherwise would consume coal, or oil or other carbon dioxide producing fuels.”

WINDHAM TAX IS $54; NO CHANGE

“Windham held the line on taxes this year. In announcing the 1959 rate at $54 per Thousand, the same as 1958, Selectman pointed out that the line was held despite a sharp increase in state and county tax figures. A mild building boom which added $145,000 to the town’s valuation helped off-set increased costs. Veteran’s exemptions are $107,500 in comparison with $94,400 a year ago.  Total valuation is $2,263,000.”

DERRY SELECTMEN PLAN TO ATTEND HIGHWAY MEETING. 1958

“A delegation from Derry planned to join a group from Salem and Windham in attending a conference relative to the route of the new Interstate Highway scheduled to be held at 2 P.M. today at the office of State Highway Commissioner John Morton in Concord. Public hearings on the highway route have already been held in Salem and like meetings are expected to be conducted in Derry shortly. Planning to attend the conference in Concord are at least two members of the Derry Board of Selectmen and most legislators from Derry who will be in Concord for legislative sessions earlier in the day.”

WITCH HAZEL FACTORY DAMAGED BY FIRE; LOSS SET AT $25,000

“APRIL 23, 1959: A historic landmark on Route 28 in Windham went up in smoke early Wednesday morning when the old Witch Hazel Factory was discovered ablaze about 4 a.m. and was practically destroyed before the fire was brought under control about 8 a.m. Fire Departments from Windham and Salem responded.”

“The fire was believed to have started in the small building later spreading to the large building. According to the owners, Kachadorian and Bartanian, who used the building for the manufacture of fruit and vegetable boxes and crates, loss was estimated at $25,000, the building full of new stock for the coming season.”

“According to older residents the building has a long and interesting history. It was believed to have probably been a saw mill originally but for many years, from about 55 years ago to shortly before World War I, it was operated by the Gould Witch Hazel Company,  which cut brush with permission of local woodland owners and distilled the processed liquid obtained from it. Other sources say the building was moved from South Windham about the time of the railroad’s coming in the 1880’s and then it was used as a woolen mill.”

“The full apparatus of the Windham department was at the scene with firemen under the direction of Fire Chief James Brown. Some of the equipment returned to the fire station after the blaze was brought under control. The spectacular fire attracted a large number of spectators to the scene and traffic was up on 28, State and local police were up for a time on busy the busy Route on the scene promptly to keep traffic moving.”

“APRIL 30, 1959: BURNED MILL DATES BACK 109 YEARS: “Research has revealed that the Old Witch Hazel Factory which burned in Windham recently dates back to as early as 1850. From Morrison’s History of Windham New Hampshire, page 188.”

“‘BROWN’S MILL, 1850 This saw-mill and grist mill was started in April 1850, by John Noyes Brown, located in the east part of town, on the Turnpike , (now Route 28) and Flat Rock Meadow Brook. It was burned in 1871, and rebuilt by John S. Brown in 1877.’ Morrison also gives names of various owners. In recent times this place was known as Meserve’s Mills, and more recently as the Witch Hazel Factory.”

The photograph above shows Charles E. Harrington and Ernest Harrington delivering a load of witch hazel to the Gould witch hazel distillery on the turnpike. Carefully selected green twigs were boiled in huge vats and them mixed with alcohol.

The Indians thought that witch hazel had magical curative properties because it blossomed at the wrong time of the year. If you want to see witch hazel blossoming in November, it can be seen at Griffin park between the walking path and the stone wall of Johnson’s farm.

EVENING WHIST: Eight and a half tables were in play at the Neighborhood Club evening whist on Thursday. Mrs. Pearl Urquhart won both the half score and the door prize. Muriel Bistany won the special….”

 

 

 

Windham Life and Times – February 14, 2020

Windham | Mid-Century Modern

NEW BOWLING ALLEY PLANNED

March 1959: “Plans to provide local bowlers with a new and modern 24 lane Candlepin bowling center were announced today by Frank V. Sandberg, Windham NH. The new establishment to be known as Sandy’s Bowl-a-drome will be located at located on Route 28 in Windham, N.H., just north of the junction of Route 111. Construction will start immediately with completion scheduled for approximately July 1st. Mr. Sandberg said the cost of the project is estimated at $300,000 which includes the construction of a 18,000 Sq. Ft. building and installation of Brunswick bowling equipment and Bowl-Mor automatic pin setters…”

GRAND OPENING OF GIANT BOWLING CENTER AT WINDHAM ON WEEKEND.

September 1959: Governor Wesley Powell has been invited to cut the ribbon and officially open Sandy’s Bowladrome, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The Bowladrome north of Route 111 in Windham is co-owned by Frank V. Sandberg and Benjamin Siegel.

The Grand Opening, which begins at 10:30 on Saturday will continue through Sunday. Prizes will be awarded to those in attendance. The first prize being a 100 U.S. savings bond.”

“The Bowladrome which features Candle-Pin type of bowling, will be New Hampshire’s newest and largest bowling center and will include 24 beautiful lanes. It will feature automatic-noiseless pinsetters, range finders, Tel-E-Fouls, subway bowl returns and electric hand dryers. Sandy’s is completely air conditioned by an 80 ton unit and the new spacious building (140’ x 127’) is housed in concrete and tile steel with more than 18,000 feet of floor space… Other conveniences for the bowler are the 150 car capacity parking lot and refreshments which are available at the Snack Bar and in modern vending machines.  One of the most unique innovations at Sandy’s is the drive-in canopy under which cars can discharge their passengers in the event of rain.”

“…The Bowladrome encourages bowling teams and is ready and willing to give assistance in forming bowling leagues. Regular lessons for bowlers will start in the near future. Leagues are now being formed…Wall to wall carpeting provides a soft-toe effect and feels as though you’re walking on air as you glide across the vestibule. The carpet is a bright color and depicts pins and bowling balls which is an ideal theme. All in all Sandy’s Bowladrome will add a great deal to this section of New Hampshire.”

DERRY PHONE SERVICE INCREASE MEANS DIAL SYSTEM BY MAY 5TH.

“Improved service to keep pace with the town’s continuing growth is the keynote at Derry’s telephone office on East Broadway.”

“Serving not only Derry, but also Windham, Londonderry, East Derry and Derry Village, the local office has seen and impressive climb in consumer figures during the last decade and a half. Chief operator Barbara Berry reports that since she joined the company in 1945 the number of lines in local use has shot from about 600 to more than 1200. Most of these lines are not single party, but have as many as eight customers. Accordingly the number of operators has gone form 10 to 22 over the same period.”

“Derry ranks third in this state in sales increases. The term ‘sales’ includes addition of lines, installation of extension phones and sales of new colored telephones. Miss Berry speculates that the spurt is due in part to the influx of new families moving into various housing developments around town. She predicts that the growth will continue undiminished. ‘The demand is always greater than we estimate,’ she says.”

“The pronounced and constant increase in demand could have only one result: Derry’s conversion to the dial system. ‘Derry is growing to the extent that if we were not changing to dial, we would have to add more switchboards and operators,’ noted Miss Berry.”

“The town will go dial on May 5, 1960. Preparations are already in full swing. Workman swarm through the pleasant stucco building that houses the offices, drilling, hammering, and even tearing down inside partitions in the process of preparing to receive the complex dial equipment. In October the component parts of the physical plant will arrive. They will be assembled during the seven months before the conversion date.”

“After May 5, Derry will no longer need any operators. Although the girls have been guaranteed new jobs in nearby towns like Manchester or Lawrence, they will miss the friendly, informal closeness of a small town.”

“ ‘Since everyone knows everybody else,’ says Miss Berry, ‘we think of the townspeople as our friends. We are lucky here in Derry,’ she continues, speaking for the other operators as well as herself. ‘The customers are very polite. In return we try to bend over backwards to give good service and little courtesies.’ These ‘little courtesies’ will be what townspeople will most miss after Derry goes dial. No longer will Mothers be able to pick up the phone on a snowy morning and find out whether school is in session. No longer will the curious be able to discover where the fire is when they here the siren.”

“Nor will housewives be able to check their clocks when they run down, or ask directions for basting a turkey at Christmastime. Puzzled young scholars will have to use the dictionary to figure out spellings—and small children will not be able to call Santa Claus and hear the deep voice of some willing Derry resident answer their questions about the North Pole.”

“All of these service will go out with the advent of dial. But emergency service—always the pride of telephone offices everywhere—will remain reassuringly dependable. By dialing ‘O’ a telephone may reach a Manchester operator who has the numbers of all the Derry emergency facilities at her fingertips. Miss Berry thinks that most of the 22 operators in her office will take telephone jobs in other localities rather than give up the work they know. ‘There is something about telephone work that makes operators want to stay with it,’ says she. An operator is always learning. There is no monopoly on her job. When working with the public, there is something new every day. New ideas, new ways…that’s progress.” (You could listen in on the calls of all 8 people on the party line.)

WINDHAM PLACES STRINGENT RULES ON TRAILER HOMES.

“Windham elections were held on Tuesday as is customary but the business portion of the annual town meeting was delayed to the following evening after voters expressed this to be their desire in action under Article 2 of the warrant. There were no election contests. The following being re-elected unopposed: Town Clerk, Eleanor Zins; Selectman, Thomas Waterhouse Jr.; Treasurer, Richard Fellows; Tax Collector, RoseBoda; Trustee of the Trust Funds, Emma Jackson…”

“At the Wednesday meeting the town voted for strict control of trailers, zoning regulations being adopted for both trailers and mobile homes. It was also voted to give the planning board added authority under Article 15. A vote was taken approving the holding of Town Meetings hereafter on the Wednesday evening following the annual election day as was done this year. Under Article 26, it was voted to raise $1,500 to construct an office for the police department.

 

 

Windham Life and Times – February 7, 2020

Cobbett’s Pond Road about 1910

This photograph was taken by Herbert Horne about 1910. It is a nice view of Cobbett’s Pond Road from the meadow near the flume on Cobbett’s Pond. The back of the “Red House,” which was a summer house of the Horne family, is to the far right. The house on the left would become the Burrell family summer home in 1915. The Gavin McAdams house was built around 1810 and is the property facing the photographer. The hill in the background is where Farrwood Road is today.

 

Windham Life and Times – January 31, 2020

The Best Advice I Never Took!

Woodland Ridge was built as an investment by my Dad in 1982, on the Route 111 in Windham. It was one of the first commercial office buildings in town. Some of the early tenants included Prime Computer, SummaGraphics and Dave Wetherell’s Softrend.

Dave Wetherell and Softrend

I can still remember the “T” Ball games of the late 1990’s where various parents would brag about all the money they were making with their investment in a company in Andover known as CMGi.  The driving force of CMGi was David Wetherell. He was one smart son of a gun! A true visionary. He rented an office in Windham from my dad at Woodland Ridge, soon after it was built in 1982. He lived in Derry NH and that was his SAAB pictured in the parking lot. At that point he was running a company called Softrend.

Reuters, in their article titled, Big Personalities of the dotcom boom– where are they now?, writes the following about Wetherall and CMGi: Then: David Wetherell was CEO of the public holding and venture capital company CMGi, which helped grow to more than 1 billion in annual revenue with his energetic buying of then-notable internet companies, including Lycos and Alta Vista. He developed a tool called Engage to sell data that aided early versions of targeted advertising on the web. But shares of CMGi topped at $199 in 1999 and fell to about $6 in 2000. CMGi later became ModusLink Global Solutions via a merger.

On a Blog for VentureFizz, Keith Cline discusses Dave Wetherell and CGMi: You may remember that CGMi had the naming rights to the home of the New England Patriots which was known for a time as CMGi Field. Cline says that “at its peak, the company had over 70 investments, 20 subsidiaries, 5 thousand employees, and 1.5 billion in annual revenues. Its market cap was 41 Billion and ranked somewhere around No. 7-9 in the world in terms of aggregate traffic to all of its properties”

“Wetherell became Chairman, CEO and orchestrated a leveraged buyout of the company in 1986. CMGi’s core business was focused on selling mailing lists of university faculty and information buyers to educational and professional publishers. After taking over, Wetherell built up the company’s revenues and market share, and took the company public in 1994. Shortly after its IPO, Wetherall founded BookLink Technologies, a web browser company, which was sold to American Online for an all-stock transaction that yielded $72 million for CMGi from and initial $900 Thousand investment.”

“The proceeds from the sale of BookLink allowed CMGi to focus on a two pronged strategy . It would incubate its own startup internet companies and also have an investment arm, CMG@ventures to fund early stage internet companies. As the business grew, CMGi became a NASDAQ 100 company and market leaders like Microsoft, Intel, and Sumitomo held minority positions in it. CMGi’s portfolio included companies like, Alta Vista, Engage, Lycos, GeoCities, Raging Bull, NaviSite, Furniture.com, MotherNature.com, MyWay.com, Snapfish and others…” “AltaVista was developed by researchers at Digital Equipment and was the Google of its time…According to Wetherell, Novell and CGMi were planning a merger and Eric Schmidt would have been CEO of the combined entity but the merger was put on hold when the market crashed during the Spring of 2000. He also mentioned at one point CMGi discussed acquiring Google, but the board was against it.” (They also looked at investing early on in ebay but the board thought the valuation was too high.

Are you wondering where Dave Wetherell is today? After retiring from CMGi he “started as a sole angel investor, (in Biotech) and it blossomed into an investment firm with $200 million under management, called Biomark Capital.

    So what was the “best advice” that I never took. Dave Wetherell told me to invest in software companies. This was when the likes of Wang and Digital ruled the  technology scene. Microsoft Windows would be introduced in 1985. Well there is good news folks, I still have my Pets.com sock puppet; that must be worth something. Speaking of SAAB’s, I also drove a SAAB during the eighties. My SAAB had an odd quirk; it would suddenly come to a stop on the interstate.

Personalities of the Dotcom Boon…Reueters

VentureFizz: Dave Wetherell and CGMi