In 2010, my best friend, Adele Wick, and I commenced our journey from New Hampshire to Pugwash to begin a series of interviews with people who worked behind the scenes at Thinkers Lodge over the last half century. We acquired a digital recorder from Craig Cushing and stopped in Moncton, New Brunswick, where distant cousin, Margaret Eaton, provided tips on how to conduct interviews.
Our next helpful advice came from Bob Messenger, the fire chief who helped save Thinkers Lodge when fire threatened to consume the building. He shared the idea that memories about the fire were “stories,” not histories. This observation helped me realize that we were not recording history. Instead, we were collecting stories from people about their experiences that might have occurred sixty years ago or in the last few years. Memories are not necessarily factually accurate, but instead are formed from glimpses and interpretations of the past that have stayed with us. While researching the people, events, and buildings connected to Thinkers Lodge, I have utilized information I have read in newspaper and magazine articles, biographies, and interviews. These also are stories because they are formulated by reporters or authors who share what they hear or observe tinged with their agendas and preconceived notions.
Bob Messenger also asked what Adele and I planned to do with the interviews. We had no plan. All I knew was I wanted to preserve the stories of the people who worked behind the scenes before they disappeared. Our process evolved. Vivian Godfree, historian at the North Cumberland Historical Society, put us in touch with people to interview. Adele and I interviewed these folks at Thinkers Lodge. Next, Mandy Jamieson from the Wallace Museum and I transcribed the interviews and gave copies to the North Cumberland Historical Society in Pugwash. Fortuitously, Susie Chou, daughter of 1957 Pugwash Conference attendee Pei-Yuan Chou from China, and speaker at the “Building a Culture of Peace Conference,” took marvelous photographs to document the people and Thinkers Lodge that July week in 2010. Paolo Brenciaglia also shared his photographs.
Sadly, my beloved friend, Adele Wick, can no longer share this quest. Cancer stole her life. I mourn her loss but celebrate her adventurous spirit. Therefore, I had to go it alone. Over the next few years, I reconnected with some of the people we interviewed and gleaned more memories and details. Each summer, I interviewed additional people. I tried to ask open-ended questions like “Take me back to the day of the fire” or “Tell us what it was like to wait on tables at the conferences.” My brother, John, suggested we put photographs of the participants and brief quotations that captured the essence of their experiences on the Thinkers Lodge official website. However, I’m all about stories, and always I am fascinated hearing about people’s lives. Some suggested I write a book, but that seemed daunting. Besides, I knew there would be more people to interview, more stories to hear, more articles to read.
Twice a year, I spend a few days at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio, where Cyrus Eaton’s papers are archived. I discovered an unpublished biography of Cyrus Eaton by Fred Knelman. I located the Lenin Peace Prize now displayed at Thinkers Lodge, and I discovered numerous photographs that have become part of the interpretative displays. Each trip, I bring home to New Hampshire hundreds of pages of new material, which I scan and have begun organizing in notebooks. I suspect these notebooks will find a home at the North Cumberland Historical Society or upstairs at Thinkers Lodge where I have created a library. Perhaps someday, curious people will climb up the stairs, sit in comfortable chairs, and journey back in time to peruse the fascinating stories.
Finally, it dawned on me that I could create a website where I could share all the interviews, articles, speeches, activities, and photographs – newly snapped or mined from the Western Reserve Historical Society or shared by other photographers. Creating a website involved a major learning curve. Over the years, I have added massive amounts of material (interviews with over 60 people, 50 articles and speeches Cyrus Eaton made, 32 letters he wrote to the editors of the New York Times, 110 articles about him, interviews, articles about Joseph Rotblat, Bertrand Russell, the 22 scientists, Yuri Gagarin, Charles Eaton, Anne Eaton, the Pugwash Conferences. Then, I began adding current stories like the contributions and activities of the students from the high school, like the 2017 Climate Change Retreat held at Thinkers Lodge. As I added more materials, I tried to create a site that was user friendly and not overwhelming. This is a work in progress. Luckily, the website has a search function which helps users locate useful information. I have created a thorough index that eventually will allow visitors to click on titles and link to a specific article or interview. I want the information to be accessible to anyone who has an interest. I even made a short video on Thinkers Lodge.
Oodles of pages still need to be scanned and added to the website. My grandfather’s archives are a treasure trove. One could dig forever.
In 2017, Teresa Kewachuk, Pugwash history teacher and onsite manager of Thinkers Lodge, came up with the idea to have short segments written and taped as part of a virtual tour that visitors to Thinkers Lodge could access from smart phones, so I wrote and recorded a dozen. This triggered my confidence to write this book.
What will I do with this book? Good question. After publishing both print and e-book editions, we will make copies available at Thinkers Lodge, the North Cumberland Historical Society, the Pugwash Library, Pugwash Schools, and interested family and friends. Copies will be sold at Thinkers Lodge.
I miss my friend, Adele, who left this life with so much living to do. However, I’m not really alone in this project because so many people generously share their memories of Thinkers Lodge. I never know when someone is going to knock on the door of the Lodge with a fascinating piece of the puzzle to add. I am thrilled when I receive an unexpected email with a new story. Members of the North Cumberland Historical Society help me find more people to interview, unearth photographs for me and answer my questions about the history of Pugwash. Teresa Kewachuk involved her history students in the project by guiding them to interview people. She also reaches out to Nova Scotia teachers about how to incorporate Thinkers Lodge into their curriculum and encourages them to use the website for research their students tackle.
I hope you will contact me at Eatonmurph@aol.com and tell me your stories and memories about Thinkers Lodge. To learn more about this fascinating history, go to Thinkerslodgehistories.com.
Cathy Eaton, June 18, 2018
Both Craig Cushing, my teaching colleague, and Margaret Eaton, poet and journalist, have continued to support my journey with their insightful editing assistance. I am very grateful to them for helping making my manuscript flow. Others, like Vivian, Lisa, Glenda, Bob, John, Giovanni, and Thelma have checked for accuracy. Sandra wrote two sections. It takes a village. Paolo, Susie, and many others have contributed photographs.