New Neighbors: Nutts and Balls

Long before my parents became innkeepers at Pierce’s Inn, they brought our family as guests to the Keene’s Lodge. My oldest five siblings attended Keene’s Ski School and learned to ski on the rope tow behind the Lodge. The Ashley family owned the place when Winston, the fifth child in our family of seven attended Ski School. At the time, we were living in Greenwich, CT. My dad was at the end of his rope with his high-pressure life of commuting into Manhattan as an advertising executive for Compton Advertising. Despite his conventional success, he was looking for a change of lifestyle.

On New Year’s Eve in 1970, my sister Winston arrived home from Ski School and announced to my parents that the Ashley’s were selling the Inn and thought my parents would make great innkeepers. My dad laughed out loud and said, “I am looking for a change, but I am certainly not looking to be an innkeeper.” My mother suggested they consider it. This shocked my dad, but within ten minutes, she convinced him to take a visit and discuss it seriously with the Ashley family. My mother’s main concern was how their lifestyle affected my father’s health.

To the shock of all my parents’ friends and my dad’s co-workers, they made a drastic leap. In July of 1971, our family moved to New Hampshire to run Pierce’s Inn. This was particularly bold because they had four of their seven kids in college at the time, and they knew the inn business would consume most of their financial security. However, they were motivated to live a healthier lifestyle and spend more time connecting with each other and their children. My father went from running ad campaigns for US Steel and Chase Manhattan Bank to scrubbing toilets and making beds. His health improved immediately, and he was genuinely happy.

On one of our first nights at the Inn, all seven children, two sisters-in-law and my parents sat down for dinner. My sister Winston had just done a little neighborhood tour. After announcing that she met our two neighbors, she said, “Guess what! We live between the Nutt’s and the Ball’s.” Everyone at the table howled with laughter except my parents, my 8-year-old sister Sarah and me. My parents were not testicle humor types, but this surprising fact even made my mom smirk. Normally, my family held back on the naughty humor with my dad present, but this news was so outrageously funny that it took some time before the jokes and laughter subsided. Needless to say, by the time dessert was served, Sarah and I knew all about testicles.

It seemed like a hilarious coincidence that both our neighbors had slang names for testicles. Looking back, the cosmic alignment of our neighbors seems very fitting for a number of reasons. The last forty years has been nothing short of a nutty life. Everyone told my parents they were nuts to become innkeepers, and they also admired their guts (balls). The array of guests added to the nuttiness because they were a constant source of a human study for all of us. The building was always in need of creative solutions to endless problems. My dad and brothers made an adventure out of keeping the place from falling down. It took balls to start any project around here because you were quickly faced with a much bigger project than you ever intended to get into in the first place. The nuttiness got nuttier.

Bruce and I took over Pierce’s Inn in 2002. We knew we were nuts getting into this. Everyone made a point of telling us we were nuts, even my siblings. Choosing to become innkeepers takes balls, and mustering the balls to face the tasks of slinging chow, unclogging toilets, making beds and wrangling guests is a daily challenge. The good news is that our children have embraced the nuttiness of their upbringing, and it is not out of the question that one of them will be writing or speaking about it sometime in the future.

Leave a Reply