Leslie Tallarico

Leslie Tallarico -- Boston Post Cane Holder

Les TallaricoThe Boston Post cane was a publicity stunt dreamed up in 1909 by then editor Edwin Grozier. He invited 700 towns in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to become trustees of a finely-crafted, gold-headed ebony cane. That cane was to be presented to the oldest citizen, and then passed on to the next oldest. To Grozier, oldest “citizen” meant oldest registered male voter. Although several towns presented the cane to women earlier, Grozier did not officially change his stand until the 1930s. In Wilton, three women have held it: Lauren MacLennan, Polly Kennick and Kay Williams.

Boston CaneWilton’s first recipient was Michael Holland, 93, an Irish immigrant railroad worker. The town did not present the cane between 1984 and 2003 when it was presented to Rear Admiral Charles K. Khoury. The reasons for the lapse are not clear.

Leslie Tallarico, now 97, has held the cane since 2019, the 26th person to hold it since 1909. The cane was held by his grandfather, George M. Batchelder in 1950. In 1924 it was held by Aaron Clark for whom the road on Abbot Hill is named.

The Tallaricos live in the Kimball Heights section of town. “My parents bought the farm in 1915,” Les said. “Except for the year I was in Japan (while in the Army) I’ve lived at least part of every year here.” Les’ father, Pasquale Tallarico, was an instructor at Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. He was also a concert pianist. Les is the fifth of seven siblings.

“We came up here as soon as the school closed in June and stayed until Labor Day,” he said.  “All of us slept on the porch, and we usually had a cousin from New York.”

There were two pianos in the house. “And my father had a clavier in the kitchen which he played while listening to the ballgame.” The Red Sox, of course. It made no sound but could be used to practice on. A clavier is now usually called a “keyboard.”  “He came up here to live in 1942 to work for my Aunt Ruth Batchelder,” he said.  They raised apples.

From 1945 to 1948, Les was served in the U.S. Army, 11th Airborne Division, serving one year in Japan. “I was in the maintenance department, mainly repairing canvas covers for Jeeps and such.” But everyone was required to make monthly parachute jumps “to show the equipment was good.”

Les met his wife Phyllis while attending the University of New Hampshire. “My roommate was dating her roommate,” he said. “That’s how we got together.” They were married in 1950 and were together for 62 years. They had five children.

After graduating from UNH, Les went to work for the government Soil Conservation Service, assisting farmers throughout the county. He was led to the job by former County Agent Perley Colby and held the position for 31 years. “After that, I worked for Scarborough and Company for ten years, and after that at Frye’s Measure Mill doing maintenance work.” 

Over the years, Les has contributed to the town in many ways: Cub and Boy Scouts, The Youth Center and Goss Park, serving on the Conservation Commission, and the Town Barn Committee, “and I don’t know what else,” he said. Phyllis was very active with the Historical Society.

Les Tallarico and Liz ForwardFor several years, he and Phyllis attended an adult wood working shop conducted by former high school shop Teacher Ralph Dwire. Between them they made lamps and several pieces of furniture.  Following Phyllis death, Les reconnected with Elizabeth “Liz” Forward with whom he had worked for 15 years at the Soil Conservation Service.

“We had both lost our spouses,” she said. They enjoy traveling, which Les and Phyllis had also enjoyed, including a trip to Italy to visit the town where his father was born and several trips to Hawaii. “Now we just cruise up and down the coast,” Liz said.

The family has been holding a reunion since 1978, Les said, which attracts “a lot of people,” as many as 80. Although few in the family have music careers, one of Les’ cousins, Steven Tallarico is known professionally as Steven Tyler with the popular band Aerosmith. Les said he wasn’t into “that style of music.”

Before Covid, Les took part in an Honor Flight, the one-day excursion to Washington D.C. for veterans, which he enjoyed.

Over the years, he said, there have been a lot of changes downtown. “When I first came to town, there were a lot of different stores on Main Street, three groceries, a hardware store, and a drugstore.

“But not much changes up here on the hill,” he said. Much of it will stay the same since he has placed over 100 acres in conservation.

They like it that way.

 

Town of Wilton, NH | All Rights Reserved | Powered by CivicLive | © 2022 Intrado Corporation.