It was several years ago that a smarty-pants professor named E.D. Hirsch Jr. wrote a book about the things you need to know if you were to be considered an intelligent individual in our society.
The book was called ”Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.” Essentially, it offered a list of the kind of things your teachers always said would be important to remember in later life.
But you knew better, didn’t you?
You didn’t pay attention in class. So now you think the Alamo is an epic poem. You think Katmandu is something you order in a bad Chinese restaurant.
Do not despair.
You may not be culturally literate, but if you grew up in Manchester, you can still be ”city literate.” Consider this: If basic literacy means you need a base of knowledge that is shared by other people, city literacy only requires a base of shared experience.
For instance, if you’ve ever jumped into Manchester’s most famous swimming hole, we have a shared experience. On the other hand, if you think ”The Ledge” is a clothing store, well, we’ll need to work on that.
In any event, to be a true Manchester resident (and city literate) you should probably have done at least 10 of the following things:
- Cursed under your breath while waiting in line at City Hall to pay your automobile tax.
Reveled in the brassy music of the Muchachos Drum and Bugle Corps in an Elm Street parade.
- Lost a mitten on the rope tow at Mount McIntyre.
- Wolfed down a Perillo’s hot dog while waiting for an MTA bus at the old Moreau’s Hardware on Elm Street.
- Thrown sour balls from the balcony during a Saturday matinee at the State Theater.
- Watched submarine races at Lake Massabesic.
- Spied on fellow shoppers from the mezzanine level at Leavitt’s.
- Drank root beer out of cardboard containers served by car hops at the A&W next to the scary Amoskeag Bridge.
- Leaped into the Piscataquog River from the railroad trestle at Kelley Falls.
- Ogled members of the opposite sex while cruising on Elm Street.
- Risked your manhood (or womanhood) by riding your bike down the cobblestone surface of Cumberland Hill.
- Shuddered in fear as you peered through the grating on your maiden stroll across the Notre Dame Bridge.
- Dined on St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage at Bobby’s Lunch (before it was Billy’s Sports Bar).
- Extra points for having spicy fries at Sabo’s; Same for a steak and cheese from Bob Nadeau’s.
- Hooked your drive into the pond off the first tee at the Intervale Country Club.
- Waited on the corner for a chance to pat the rag man’s horse.
- Listened to the latest Beatles’ record on the headphones at Manchester Music.
Trudged home with numb fingers and toes after a marathon skating session at Dorr’s Pond.
- Had your car broken into at the Mall of New Hampshire.
- Wept over the grave of a loved one at Pine Grove Cemetery.
- Endured endless lines to buy Mother’s Day chocolates at Van Otis.
- Paid a fine for an overdue book at the Carpenter Memorial Library.
- Tingled with excitement as you trotted onto the turf at Gill Stadium for your first game under the lights.
- Posed for wedding pictures at Pretty Park.
- Gotten your change from the vacuum tube at McQuade’s Department Store.
- Created a garish ceramic ashtray at in the crafts room at the Manchester Boys and Girls Club.
- Skinned your knees on the coarse bottom of Livingston Pool.
- Nursed an icy 10-cent mug of root beer from the soda fountain at Squog Fruit.
- Zipped down the slide in your pajamas while awaiting a double feature at the Manchester Drive-In on South Willow Street.
- Scrambled atop the cannon balls as autumn leaves swirled about Stark Park.
- Puzzled over Picasso’s ”Woman Seated in a Chair” at the Currier Museum of Art.
- Feasted on a post-midnight side of beans at the Red Arrow.
- Pounded down the stairs for music lessons at Ted Herbert’s Music Mart.
- Recommended the chicken tenders at the Puritan Backroom.
- Wobbled atop eight unsteady wheels at the Bedford Grove Rollaway.
Introduced a Popeye cartoon on “The Uncle Gus Show.”
- Helped pitch tents for a free pass to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus at Gossler Park.
- Searched in vain to find your picture on the back page amongst The Union Leader’s ”Monday Night Shopping Winners.”
- Explained your reason for attending the old New Hampshire College thusly: ”If you can’t hack it, CAC it.”
- Trooped down to Rheault Photographers for your high school yearbook picture.
- Looked on in awe as ski jumpers flew through the air during Winter Carnival events at Blueberry Hill.
- Placed pennies on the railroad tracks so the B&M trains could mash them beyond recognition.
- Tried in vain to pick up the 7-10 split at Queen City Lanes.
- Dressed to the ‘nines for your Friday night dinner date at Aurore’s. Or the 88. Or Verani’s. Or Angelo’s.
- Popped a balloon for a bargain banana split at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s on Elm Street.
- Checked out your favorite book from the Bookmobile.
- Figured out the hard way why they referred to the Granite Street Theater as ”the spitbox.”
- Shot a rack of balls at J.B. Conner’s Pool Hall at Bridge and Elm.
- Purchased your first Boy Scout uniform at Floyd’s Department Store.
- Hummed along to the radio jingle for Tren Furniture.
- Dickered over the relative merits of Ferretti’s, the Federal Market and Grand Union Champagne.
- Tried to sneak up the down escalator in the old Sear’s Department Store on Elm Street.
- Rejoiced when WKBR morning man Bill Morrissey announced that school was cancelled by a snowstorm.
So how did you do? Even if you weren’t city literate when you started this list, I figure if you made it this far, you are now.
Your diploma is in the mail.
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