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Ken Schuster
April 17, 2008

Selectman's meetings minutes here.

48 babies and a "Perfect Butt"

Barbara and John Fisher celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last September. They grew up in Massachusetts; Barbara in Malden and John in Quincy.

As a child, Barbara spent many wonderful summers at her grandfather's cottage on Lake Sunapee. By the time she was in high school, her grandfather had decided to give up the property. Barbara didn't want those memories and future dreams to disappear, so she struck a deal with her grandfather to buy the property. She got an after-school job at the local movie theater candy counter and saved enough earnings to buy the lakeside property, while still a teen-ager. She still owns that property today. 

When Barbara graduated from high school in 1944, World War Two was still raging, and John was in the Army when they met. Our nation was stretched almost to the breaking point. Food was scarce and tightly rationed with government-issued stamps. 

Volunteers were badly needed in non-combat positions. Barbara's sister joined the WAVES (Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service) and was stationed at Pearl Harbor. Barbara joined the Army Medical Corps, and asked to be on the maternity ward because, "I loved little babies." John went overseas, and Barbara went into medical training. She did so well as a student, the Army kept her there for another eight weeks as a teacher for 160 new students.

Barbara served at several hospitals, including Ft. Oglethorp, Georgia; Camp Atterbury, Indiana; and two in Massachusetts, Camp Edwards and Waltham Regional (Murphy General Hospital then). It was there that only she and one registered nurse were assigned to the entire ward for her regular 12-hour night shift.

The weekend that she got home after her Army discharge, her father had an infection that required penicillin shots during the night, but that required hospitalization, and her father refused. By then, Barbara "could give injections in my sleep," and she asked the doctor if she could administer the shots at home. The doctor, an allergist, asked her to come to the office with her father and demonstrate her technique. He approved, and immediately offered her a job with himself, and his father, a pediatrician.

Shortly after John was discharged and came home from the Army, he and Barbara were married. Then, as Barbara said, "I was married when I was 24, and I needed a rug when I was 25." She used any scrap fabric she could find, including draperies. "By trial and mostly error," she started inventing techniques and a style that she perfected so well that she began teaching it in the Braintree area.

43 Kids = A Full House

Meanwhile, her love of caring for infants had been left behind with her Army discharge, and she needed to fill that void. Coincidentally, an agency in Boston was looking for care-givers for illegitimate infants. Perfect timing! Barbara brought home Danny, the first of 43 more infants to come. Danny is 63 years of age now.

According to the rules, no more than four children under age 12 were allowed in one household, and usually the babies were kept for about 10 months until they were returned to their maternal mothers or blood relatives, or adopted. As years passed, Barbara and John were having their own children, which were included in the total household number. Eventually, they had three girls and a boy, and that meant a "full house."

Barbara has been concentrating on rug braiding since her "baby days." She has written several instruction books, and exhibits and demonstrates at the Annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fair in August, and other crafts fairs through the year.

The Perfect Butt

When I looked at examples of her work at her studio, I kept searching for a seam where the two ends of each braided ring come together ("butt"). I couldn't find it. She invented and trademarked the "perfect butt," and is happy to show everyone how to do it. She teaches classes at her spacious, beautiful studio on Route 103, about 2.5 miles past the Mt. Sunapee roundabout, going to Newport from Newbury. She also teaches an intensive "braiding camp" at Dexter's Inn, where everyone "eats, sleeps and breathes braiding for five days and nights."

Barbara Fisher explains how braid can fold sharply without deforming corner.

She gets calls from people all over the US about how to accomplish a particular pattern, fix a mismatch, or any number of other braiding difficulties for her to untangle. If you'd like to learn more about braiding, are interested in a class or have your own braiding question, call Barbara at 603-863-1139.

Barbara Fisher prepares cord to pull new braid tightly against previous braid.

Artists' Studio Open House

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring an Artists' Studio Open-House, May 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Barbara's studio is among 12 other area artists. The studios are in New London, Springfield, Grantham, Sunapee, Newbury, and Wilmot. Tickets with a map and detailed driving directions are available in advance or on May 3 for $10 per person. You can buy tickets at Little Brook Gallery in Colonial Plaza, New London, Morgan Hill Bookstore on Main Street in New London and Newbury News in Newbury Harbor. On the day of the tour, you can buy tickets at any of the studios. For more information, call Janet Krueger, at 763-9251.


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