Half the fun of writing an historical novel is doing the research. The Parrish Women is set mostly in the early 1900’s, perhaps my favorite historical period. As I was writing a chapter that takes place at a July Fourth celebration in Plainfield, New Hampshire, I found this photograph, which translated into the following:
A horn blast erupted from somewhere behind the grange hall. The exodus paused. A shout went up, and from the back of the hall, a horseman rode forth, holding a rag-mop high. He wore a bedraggled, filthy uniform of unknown vintage, but everyone knew he was the leader of the Parade of Antiques and Horribles, known simply as the Horribles. Quickly, the crowd reformed on either side of the street, with much laughter and cheering. A parody of the august Ancient and Honorable Artillery Companies of parades long ago, the Horribles had not made an appearance in years. Kimball let out a laugh, and ran, waving to Earle to follow.
With some quick costume changes, many who had just marched now reappeared in different guise. The first wagon had banners proclaiming “Antiques and Horribles” in suitably old-fashioned lettering. Upon the wagon stood, sat, and reclined a thoroughly dishonorable-looking troop of soldiers. These struck poses and placed hands in their coats. This was followed by the Horrible Band, members of the Plainfield marching band who had switched instruments, so that no one was playing an instrument that they knew how to play. The resulting cacophony was met with uproarious laughter.
Next came a carriage driven by Mr. Dunn doing a creditable impression of President Roosevelt. He kept standing up to wave, flashing his teeth and shouting “Bully!” then falling back into his seat as the horse pulled along. Many in the crowd remembered seeing Roosevelt during his Cornish stopover in 1902. He had arrived, shot a boar in Corbin Park, made a speech, and left.
But then there was a pause. Children groaned in disappointment. At last, a horse appeared pulling a very strange vehicle. Soon it became clear that it was a four-seater carriage made over to look like one of the new motorcars. There was a barrel lying on its side in front for the engine, with washboards on either side. A window sash was placed to look like a windshield. On the glass appeared the words “Cornish or Bust!” Wooden siding was nailed on to complete the effect. Every few feet, a wheel would drop off, and the horse would stop. The men would jump out, loudly cursing the “unreliable motorcar,” scratching their heads, playing it up for the crowd, which was howling with laughter. Helpful (and some not-so-helpful) suggestions were heard from the sidelines. The “motorcar” and its occupants, who were dressed in three-piece suits and straw boaters, was meant to poke fun at the summer people. Several motorcars had been seen in town recently. Fred Parrish had just bought one, and Doc Churchill drove a 1903 Matheson touring car. Parrish was well-liked among the Plainfield natives. He loved to stop and talk, especially about his new motorcar and its many quirks. Since he was known to be very mechanically inclined, it made sense to the villagers that a wealthy man such as he would enjoy owning such an expensive—and time-consuming—extravagance. Most everyone, though, considered the motorcar to be nothing more than a rich man’s toy.