THE WINDHAM COUNTRY STORE
Coffee, Donuts, Conversation & Ray Barlow
There was once a wonderful gathering place in Windham, where the townspeople met to discuss politics and all of the interesting goings on in town. Back then, in the 1970s, Windham was still, a genuine, “rural oasis” and the morning meeting of the town notables was presided over by the venerable Ray Barlow, who often cut to the quick, with his wry wit and conversational abilities. I recently came across this article, from the Lawrence Eagle Tribune, August 9, 1979 announcing Ray’s retirement and sale of the store.
“WINDHAM, NH.— Ray and Grace Barlow are the Windham Country Store. But come the morning of Sept. 5, the familiar faces of the couple who have owned and operated one of Windham’s favorite spots for the past 7 1/2 years will be replaced by those of the Thomas Klemm family.”
“ ‘When I bought the store I said to Gracie ‘8 years and we’ll get out,’ Ray Barlow 55 stated. ‘It’s 7 1/2 years later and we’re selling out.’ ” But in those 7 1/2 years the Barlows have built a business that caters to 2,500 customers daily, seven days a week. Eleven hundred of those are regular customers, and all told, from 5 a.m. when the Country Store opens its doors until 9:30 p.m. when the Barlows finally head home, 30 dozen doughnuts and 600 cups of coffee plus a variety of grocery goods, cigarettes, newspapers and magazines, wine, shiners (over 6,700 dozen were sold to fishermen last winter) and worms are sold to patrons.”
“Originally, the Windham Country Store was a house that was converted into a small store in the 1950s. It catered to the summer trade and was closed during the winter.”
The Barlows, thanks to what Ray refers to as simple ‘Yankee ingenuity,’ took that small store, expanded it at least four times the original size, bought milk trucks and converted them into cooler compartments, took the garage and made it into a storage room, and took the sheep shed and made it into a coffee-klatch room.”
“ ‘People who come in every morning now have a place to sit without having to get dressed up,’ Barlow said. ‘We’ve got construction workers, businessmen and housewives who come in for a cup of coffee and chat.’ The conversation covers a wide variety of topics
‘We fired Nixon three weeks before he had the brains to resign,’ Barlow recalled. ‘This is not a gossip shop. It’s above that. The people that come in here have a wider spectrum than just Windham.’ ”
“The Barlows run the Country Store as a family business. Ray puts in 84 hours each week and Grace works 77 hours. The Barlows’ son-in-law Gary Carpenter, sic. (Carbonneau) helps to run the store, and their daughter Nancy Guilfoyle, runs the food stand just to the side.”
“ ‘We’ve only been on four two-week vacations together since we came here,’ Barlow said. ‘It never was a second home. It’s all been fun— every day has been enjoyable — because it’s always been different.’ ” Barlow has had five different and distinct careers since World War II. After his discharge he worked for H.P. Hood as a bottle washer, working his way up to head foreman. Then he had a lumber hauling business. After that he became an administrative supervisor for Sanders Associates in Nashua. He developed Windham Estates, building 100 homes. Certain things stick in Barlow’s mind.”
“ ‘Rosalynn Carter came in here back in 1976 and told Gracie it was too cold to use the pay phone outside and wanted to use the store phone,’ Barlow recalled. ‘Gracie told her no one used the store phone, kicked her out and told her to go outside and use the booth. Mrs. Carter told Grace her husband was running for president, but that didn’t make any difference to Grace. When she saw Mrs. Carter on TV later as the president’s wife, she nearly died.’ ”
Barlow continued, ‘Then one day Bob Newhart came in and had coffee with us. We had a heck of a time.’ He was staying at Cobbett’s Pond for a week.”
Ray is a collector of and lecturer on Sandwich Glass. After the store is sold he will devote full time to writing six volumes on that subject.” Karen Breehey, Granite State Reporter. And Ray did go on to write his Magnum Opus on Sandwich Glass.
WINDHAM ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
August 7-30 1992
The Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the incorporation of the settlement of Windham NH took lace on June 9, 1892. A beautiful, hard cover book of 124 pages was published to commemorate the event. On the title page is the quote, “There comes a voice that awakens the soul. It is the voice of years that are gone; they roll before me with their deeds.—Ossian.” “To the descendants of the first settlers wherever in the wide world scattered, this record of a celebration in honor of the names, the virtues and deeds of the Pioneers. that gallant band of people of Scotch blood, who founded the township of Windham in New Hampshire, this volume is inscribed by the executive committee.” Of interesting note, on the invitation, is that the town was settled in 1720 and incorporated in 1742. The invitation states, “It is proposed to make the most interesting celebration ever held in Town. Tents will be erected, and everything done to make the occasion worthy of those in whose honor we celebrate. Descendants of the early settlers, wherever located, natives, and former residents, are cordially invited to return to the old home, and with the citizens of Windham participate in the festivities of the day. Your presence is requested. Please notify the Committee of your acceptance. William Harris, Leonard Morrison, William Cochran, Alphonso Campbell. The photograph above shows the Windham Glee Club, which performed at the celebration.
Windham Anniversary Celebrations
June 9, 1892 | August 16, 1942 | August 7-30 1992
THE WINDHAM 200TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION—1942.
“In 1942, Windham was a sleepy little town of farms and woodlands and a population of about 735 people. The town had one industry, a tack factory, manned entirely by the gentleman who owned it. There was no regular fire department and the one truck, that had recently been purchased, was manned entirely by volunteers. There was one place of worship; The Windham Presbyterian Church. ‘And Windham laid claim to only four street lights, all located near the Canobie Lake Railroad Station. Somehow or the other the town gets along without streetlights and will not have to worry much about blackouts.’ ”
“Windham at that point was dependent on the summer resort business. And 1942 was a bad year as a result of the war and rationing. Many of the visitors who spent the whole part of the summer there were staying home, not being able to make long trips with their cars. The folks who were living in cottages at Cobbett’s Pond, Shadow Lake and Canobie Lake, were driving from their camps to catch the train at the Canobie Lake Station, rather than driving the full distance to work.”
“At the time of the celebration there were nineteen Windham men wearing the uniforms of the armed services and fighting in World War II. Because of gasoline shortages and rationing, Windham was forced to limit the size and length of the long planned celebration. ‘Instead of three days of merry-making, water carnivals, historical pageants and old homestead reunions, the town will keep the celebration down to one day.’ ”
“Giving orations that day were clergymen, prominent citizens and Governor Blood. The highlight of the celebration was the dedication of the war service flag containing nineteen stars and honoring the boys that were fighting in the war.”
“Lester Evans, Presbyterian pastor, presided over the morning and afternoon rites. J Arthur Nesmith, general chairman of the observance, and a direct descendant of one of the 16 original settlers of the town welcomed the crowd in the afternoon and spoke about previous anniversaries. The dedication of the service flag was conducted by Maurice Tarbell, a World War I veteran. Ironically, his son would be the only Windham casualty in World War II. There were papers delivered, more speeches made, letters of congratulations read, poems spoken and more prayers offered. Music was provided by the Masonic Band and a chicken dinner was served to nearly 400 people at town hall.
The Windham 275th Anniversary Celebration will be August 4 – 13 , 2017.