Haskell's(two)experiences at Cardigan Mountain School
Almost seventy years ago I attended Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, New Hampshire, class of 1949. Twenty-six years later, our son, Steve Morgan Haskell, also graduated from Cardigan, class of 1975--the first son of a Cardigan graduate to also graduate.
When I entered Cardigan in the fall of 1947, I was a short and shy boy whose twin sister, Mercy, had overshadowed in the small Connecticut public school we’d attended. I was ready for a change and Cardigan was the perfect school for me. There were six boys in my class at Cardigan, located at the former Canaan Street Lodge. We slept, ate all meals, attended classes, and studied, etc. all in one building. We played baseball in one field behind the school and skied out on the ‘Point,’ where we heard the school would ’some day’ have a brand new campus.
“Hap” Hinman, one of Cardigan’s founders and father of a boy who had died at age 16 in 1931, became a mentor to the seniors. On Sunday mornings he drove us to the local drug store to buy the New York Times and inspired us to read it. I thrived at Cardigan and won the Hap Hinman Prize at graduation for the best all around student and was mighty proud to do so.
My best friend at Cardigan was Fred Lippert, also from Connecticut. Fred and I competed in the classroom. Fred helped me learn good study habits and in the afternoons, Fred taught me how to ski, fly model airplanes, and relate to girls (this was back in New Canaan, Connecticut where I visited Fred and his girl friends). Fred went on to graduate from Annapolis (where his father had gone) and medical school. He become an orthopedic surgeon and head of orthopedic surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital as a U. S. Navy Captain.
The lessons and leadership skills I learned at Cardigan have been invaluable to me all my life. I went on to scholastic excellence at Tabor Academy, graduated from Bowdoin College and Harvard Business School. I ran a successful textile company, Brunswick Yarns, for forty years and in a sort-of semi-retirement, my wife, Pat and I ran a live theatre (South Carolina Repertory Company) on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for twenty-two years. I have written and published nine books and continue writing today.
In looking back on my first 82 years of my life, Cardigan Mountain School had a major influence on my modest achievements.
By the time our son, Steve went to Cardigan, the school had moved to a brand new campus on the ‘Point.’ Cardigan had grown to more than 100 boys and was truly the successful pre-prep school that “Hap” Hinman and the other founders had dreamed of.
Cardigan’s influence on our son was equal to mine. I’ll use Steve’s own words in a recent note he sent to Richard Clancy, Steve wrote:
I do remember you. Memories of my Cardigan days are vivid. And I remember your father. Clancy could not have been sweeter to me. I think the fact that he knew my father, ‘ . . .back when he was a little guy himself, made him a little nostalgic. I got special attention and helpful advice from your dad. He convinced me to take up ski jumping ‘because you’ll never get another chance’ he would say. And he was right. I was never any good at it but I walked those stairs and let myself go down the ramp, terrified, hardly jumping at the lip but taking flight just the same. And I survived. I even did the Dartmouth jump once. I had no business being there but I’m glad I did and I have your father to thank for giving me such a metaphor for life.
Cardigan opened up a new world for me. The world of sport. Coach Marion was another big influence on me. He tried to get me to play football because I was very fast and furious in pickup games, but respected that I wanted to figure out what soccer was. I was astonished when he asked me to MC the spring sports banquet. That was out of left field, to this day I don’t know why he asked me, and gave me new confidence I have taken advantage of all my life.
I coach soccer now, and I play all the time myself. I teach English and continue my successful career as a playwright/director on the side. I have young children – Morgan 8 and Emily 6 – and I was their primary caregiver before they started to go to school. Their mother, Michelle, heads the arts department at the French American International School in San Francisco. We met at my theatre in Los Angeles way back in 2005. Being able to begin a new family at my age has been a blessing.
Part of my heart is still in Canaan. . . .
Cardigan Mountain School prospers today in a their beautiful campus overlooking Cardigan mountain and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We regret that we have not been able to donate more to this great school that guided and enthused Steve and me in those ever-so-important early years.
Wehave three daughters—Steve's siblings. Later blogs will relate stories of schooling in their younger years!