We have had the pleasure of knowing Jim Hobbs now for several years. He is a true story-teller which, combined with his local historical knowledge, has led to a prolific body of writing. We asked Jim a few questions about the town where he grew up, moved away, and then returned to–Woodsville, New Hampshire (which is technically a precinct of Haverhill, New Hampshire).
We have also invited Jim to write here on Northern New England Villages to share his thoughts on past, present, and future of our small towns that we all cherish–stay tuned! But first, an introduction . . .
James Edward Hobbs (born October 24, 1937) is a graduate of Woodsville High school. After graduating his career started as a watch repair apprentice with McAllister Jewelers in Woodsville, New Hampshire.
In the late 1960’s Hobbs moved to Baltimore to work for a nationwide jewelry leasing firms and managed the jewelry departments in five Hutzler Bros. Department stores.
James retired from the jewelry business in 2000 and started a small business website call White Mountain Biz. He is a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Carlsbad, California and taught a 13-week course on gemology at Woodsville High school.
He is an accomplished author writing over 200 books of humor and local history (follow link to buy one of his books). One of his best selling books is, “If You Believe This I’ve Got a Bridge For You!”, which contains over 100 humorous life stories.
In 1993 his children’s book series was read to approximately 850,000 children in 93 countries. Teachers in some countries used his books for teaching a second language.
Hobbs’ great-great grandfather, a shoemaker in Warren, New Hampshire, Edward G. Hobbs, came to Haverhill, New Hampshire in 1870 and his son John Hobbs, a farmer on Briar Hill, joined him in later years. John and Bessie had several children including Edward G. Hobbs, a blacksmith, who later became Chief of Police in 1943.
James, now at the young age of 80, is the last surviving male of the Hobbs family living in Haverhill, New Hampshire and is currently operating a coin, jewelry, gold and silver business in Woodsville, New Hampshire called White Mountain Trader.
2) What is one of your life’s most memorable experiences?
In the late 1970’s James, as the buyer of antique jewelry, purchased a man’s 5 stone diamond ring. One of the diamonds had a strange appearance as it didn’t display the normal brilliance expected in a diamond. It appeared to have a hazy line through the entire middle of the stone.
James sent the diamond to the GIA and received a phone call from an excited Richard Liddicoat, then the President of GIA. He had received numerous tributes during his lifetime, including the naming of the tourmaline species liddicoatite. But he had one honor that stood above all: “Father of Modern Gemology.” Richard passed away in 2002.
Richard explained that the diamond was the only known example of what was termed ‘Gliding’. There were no known examples until this find. Theorists had determined that such an event could occur if optimal conditions in the earth such as heat, location, pressure, etc. were present.
More specifically, the rough diamond material had to be molten but in the cooling stage. Also, and most importantly, there had to have been volcanic action within a certain distance. If, at the time of the volcanic action, a portion of the diamond material contained a weak adhesion between layers of the atomic structure there could be a slight shift in a portion of the entire mass causing a cloudy line.
James and Richard had met a couple of times in New York City at the International Gem shows. We always went to lunch and talked for hours–once we were even told they were closing and we had to leave.
James recalls that . . . one day, Richard paused during our phone conversation and then continued by asking if I would consider selling the diamond to GIA. I said absolutely not! There was silence on the other end of the phone until he finally said he thought we were friends. I said we are, but I still won’t sell the diamond. He asked why. I said because I would gift it to him. He was very relieved and said the next dinner was on him. Unfortunately, We never got to have that dinner.
The event was published, as Richard had promised, in a magazine the Institute has published since the war ended in 1945 called “Gems and Gemology.” James no longer has the copy he received, or he cannot find it since he probably lost in one of his many moves.
The magazine displayed a picture of the loose diamond and it stated information about its formation in an event called a “Gliding” and that the diamond would be used as a teaching aid at GIA. And, it was named the “Jim Hobbs of Sawyers Jewelry” diamond!
The magazines were 5 3/4 x 8 1/2” until 1981 when the size was changed to 10 x 8”. James is sure the magazine he is looking for was the smaller size, therefore pre-1981. He has purchased 25 magazines ending in 1979 with no luck. He recently found the last two magazines published in 1979 and the first two in 1980. He has not received them yet, but is hopeful. If the article isn’t in them he will have to search for the last two copies published in 1980.
If you have any of these magazines of this vintage, James would love to hear from you!
3) What was Woodsville like when you were a child?
When I was young the railroad tracks, 4-5 tracks wide, ran parallel with Central street. There were as many as 75 trains a day rumbling through town. Downtown stores were busy with locals and those arriving by train.
Rooming houses were always full, especially with railroad men that were here for the night to return back home the next day. There were several hotels in town including the Parker House and the Wentworth! And there was the theater and the Dandy Diner as well.
In those days the street were tree lined and music from band concerts were a weekly event. Carnivals and circuses came to town and the grammar school playgrounds were filled with children playing every summer evening. Jobs were plentiful if you were willing to shovel snow, weed gardens, deliver papers and mow lawns.
4) Compare and contrast Woodsville to today?
In earlier days everyone knew everyone and drugs were only used in hospitals.
5) How would you change Woodsville moving forward?
I would put strict restrictions on those purchasing houses just to supply rentals to those too lazy to work. Most of the landlords are not financially able to maintain our historical buildings. Most are out-of-town owners. There should be severe penalties for unkept trash receptacles and a monthly fee paid to the precinct based on the number of apartments and the number of people living in each building.
There should also be a more aggressive program for removing dilapidated, abandoned, rat, skunk and raccoon infested buildings, instead of just admitting it is a town-wide problem and then ignoring the issue! And residents have to start realizing that zoning is needed. (Editor’s Note: We have previously discussed the potential of Form-Based zoning)
Young and old alike enjoy Jim’s free downloads of his Childrens short stories!