Bayswater's Find of the Week on the Used Book Floor Blog

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Let’s Dance!

    Our latest find of the week on the used book floor is a true New Hampshire gem!  Tucked into the pages of a 1972 first edition, signed copy of Newt Tolman’s “Quick Tunes and Good Times” was a letter (typed on a typewriter, no less!) from the author to his cousin in the same year.  Who is Newt Tolman, you may ask?  Doesn’t ring a bell?  Well, if you are from New Hampshire or have interest in NH history, you will want to hear this one.   

     Tolman, a resident and member of the founding family of Nelson, NH, (pop. 4,200) was born in 1908 and helped to run the family farm that was later converted into a four-season resort at Tolman Pond in the same town.  He became an accomplished flute player and admirer of contra dance music (formerly known as square dancing before the term became known for being too “square”) throughout his young adulthood.  Contra dance had been around the Monadnock area since the mid 1800s, but lost favor when the waltz and ballroom dancing became popular in the 1840s. 

     Nelson, NH, became a contra dance revival location in the 1930s when former summer people and city residents came to live there full-time in response to the stock crash of 1929.  This new population of people was looking for new customs, and Newt Tolman and skilled musician Ralph Page were ready with their over 100 composed and reworked contra dance tunes.  Tolman’s book, “Quick Tunes and Good Times,” the holder of the letter we found, contained many of these musical selections.

The weekly contra dancing, complete with live music, became a staple in Nelson and by the 1970s, the Nelson town hall had become world famous for being the Mecca of contra dancing and music. Yes, you read that correctly – world famous! Some people even came to simply kneel while revering the dance floor.  For decades until his death at the age of 78, Tolman rarely missed the chance to play the alto and C flutes at the famous Nelson town hall contra dances.

     While the contra dance craze is not quite as popular as it was during Tolman’s heyday, the town of Nelson still hosts the weekly dance, complete with live music, every Monday night.  In fact, April 28 marked the 40th anniversary of the popular weekly event – an event that began in 1978 with the influence of Newt Tolman.  Some consider New Hampshire resident Tolman to be one of the world’s most influential contra dance contributors during the mid-twentieth century, and not only do we have his first edition signed book, but it contains a letter from him!

     Tolman’s 1972 “Quick Tunes and Good Times” is for sale here at Bayswater for $15.00 and includes the letter (of course).  Just a reminder that we will be publishing one blog at the beginning of each month until summer is upon us, but you can catch up with our previous finds of the week from the used book floor at and on facebook.  Better yet, stop by the store in Center Harbor and check out the used book floor for yourself!