, Derry, New Hampshire


June 20, 2013

Column: Robert Frost really was a telephone eavesdropper


Based solely on me being the local Frost expert, Bill Gleed, the jovial Frost farm manager changed the script of the tours to say that the idea that the story of Frost’s eavesdropping was likely apocryphal about Derry.

Then came that dark day in February 2013 when my qualifications as a know-it-all came crashing down. There on eBay was offered a 1907 telephone book with a listing for Robert Frost of Derry. I knew I had to have it, even though it proved me wrong, proved as usual, that Lesley was right and I was a foolish pup for having doubted her.

I first checked the collections of all the major universities that I knew to have Robert Frost material. I checked every book dealer with listings on the computer. No one had one. This phone book appeared to be unique and was apparently unknown to all the other Frost researchers. I’d be able to trump every other the biographer by mentioning that Rob Frost did indeed have a phone while living in Derry. I was salivating with the idea of getting it!

I immediately called my friend Hercules Pappachristos of East Derry, the co-chairman of the Frost Farm trustees. Without explanation, I asked him how deep his pockets were. He answered “Pretty Deep.” He had been very generous in the past in donating things to the Derry Museum. Soon he was sharing my excitement over the telephone book.

We discussed how much to bid. I told him the opening bid was $45 but no one knew how high it would go by the end of the 7-day auction. I told him I had researched other phone books from that period and told Herc the going price seems to be about $350 to $400. The tall, lean and usually laconic Herc simply said “Go for it!” He agreed to pay what it cost.

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