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Home by NineHome By Nine, The Real South End

by Harold Whitehouse Jr.

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Eighty years a Portsmouth, New Hampshire resident, Harold Whitehouse Jr. looks back on his childhood living in a very different South End from what we know today. Considered a poor neighborhood, the South End of the 1920s through 1960s was composed of mostly working families with many fathers employed part or full time at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and mothers stayed home with their children.

Whitehouse recalls his mother saying, “We were not poor. We just didn’t have the fancy things.” Always industrious, Whitehouse sometimes had both morning and afternoon paper routes and with friends would gather items from the Jones Avenue dump to sell at the junkyards located at what is today’s Strawbery Banke Museum. This was during the Depression and what money he could earn helped the family of six children. Nevertheless he remembers a mostly happy childhood, playing and studying with friends. They swam at Pleasant Point, sat on Peirce Island to watch World War II submarines being launched across the river, and played in the woods off South Street behind today’s Edgewood Center. He attended Haven school and spent many hours with friends at the South School Street playground.

Although his parents were “strict, very strict,” Whitehouse and his pals were not above occasionally pulling a few pranks on neighbors and merchants alike. The family rule was “home by nine,” enforced on Harold even after he joined the Navy at seventeen and came home on leave.

Whitehouse admits to not being much of a student, but at Portsmouth Junior High School he excelled in various woodworking and shop classes, skills he later used while serving in the Navy after the close of World War II when he was assigned to the famed battleship USS Missouri. After two different tours in the Navy, Whitehouse apprenticed at the Portsmouth Herald, where he worked for twenty-five years.

As an adult with a family of his own and community-minded, Whitehouse developed an interest in the schools, eventually serving on the school board for sixteen years, and, in 2007, “retiring” after twelve years as a city councilor.

Home by Nine is a reminiscence by a Portsmouth native of a time and a place mostly forgotten by all but today’s old timers who grew up in the South End, learned from the hardships of the Depression, and contributed to today’s Portsmouth.

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Also available through your local bookstore, or River Run in Portsmouth NH. 7x10 hardcover, 136 pages, ISBN13: 978-1-931807-69-2, $24.95.

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