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By April 9, 2021 Read More →

Back in Time for Breakfast with Bette Davis

I first learned about Bette Davis’ summer in Peterborough from the timeline history in the Monadnock Center’s entry gallery. Later, I attended a talk by local historian Tracy Messer called, “Peterborough Seen Through Bette Davis Eyes.” That got me thinking about what it would have been like to meet Bette and her family.

Here’s what we know…

In the spring of 1925, Bette’s mother Ruthie and Ruthie’s sister Mildred took a motor trip through New Hampshire and happened upon Peterborough. Ruthie was enchanted with what she saw and felt the area could provide great opportunities for herself and her daughters. She

Young Bette Davis

Bette Davis in costume at Mariarden Theater in 1925. Photograph by her mother, Ruth Favor Davis.

hoped to involve her daughters in one of the town’s two dance and theater groups. Ruthie thought her skills as a photographer would be enough for her to earn an income and decided to spend the summer in town.

On June 4, 1925, Ruthie, her mother, and her two daughters Bette and Bobby moved into an 1858 brick house at 5 Vine Street. The property was large enough to accommodate the family, provide a dark room for Ruthie, and allow her to open her studio which she called, The Silhouette Shop.

At age 17, Bette’s talent was immediately recognized and she was offered free tuition to the Mariarden Theater on Middle Hancock Road. Mariarden hired younger sister Bobby to play the piano three hours a day at the theater’s rehearsals for $5 a week. Bette worked eight hours a day, every day, and loved every minute of it.

When the rehearsals were over and I dare say their mother was busy in her dark room, Bette and Bobby entertained themselves in other ways. In Bette’s autobiography, The Lonely Life, she wrote, “The greatest excitement of all this fabulous summer was the fact that the Shawn Dancers were living on the same street with us and were nudists who never pulled down the shades. Bobby and I were fascinated as we stood across from their house, well hidden under a leafy elm, and learned about life in the raw!”

After the summer break was over, the Davis girls returned to school at Cushing Academy and Ruthie Davis went home to Newton, MA. The family had planned to return to Peterborough the next summer, but fate took Bette in a different direction. Although Bette loved dance, she put it on the back burner to pursue a career in acting. And the rest is Hollywood history!

Here’s what I imagined…

It’s the summer of 1925 and I’m walking on Vine Street. I spot Bette and Bobby Davis hiding in the bushes, peering up at their neighbor’s house.  The girls are startled when I catch them peeping. I set their minds to ease with my promise not to tell what they were doing. They invite me into Silhouette Studio to meet their mother and grandmother. We immediately hit it off.

I can quickly see these are strong, independent women and I jump at the chance to invite them to dinner. Their evenings are tied up so we decide to make it breakfast at 7:30 am the next day. Now the question is, “What do I serve them?”

Here’s what we ate…

Knowing the Davis family has always lived in New England, I decide to go with what should be very familiar to them – Red Flannel Hash.  Historically, hash has been a mainstay for families that used up the leftovers from another mainstay, boiled dinner. Since we are having the hash for breakfast, I will serve it with a 3-minute poached egg.

New England Boiled Dinner

Red Flannel Hash

Click for the recipes


Next week, we will be Back in Time for Dinner with Mrs. Tom Thumb!


Lorraine, the Monadnock Center's Resident Culinarian  

Lorraine Walker is the Monadnock Center’s resident culinarian. When she isn’t serving up tasty treats from the Phoenix Mill House hearth, she can be found poring over historic cookbooks and local history documents in the archives.