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Rockers and Hookers Keep Working the Lakes Region

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - February 20, 2012

Retirement is a time of life many people look forward to. But what if you don’t work a 9 to 5 job? What if you started your own business or you pursue a way of making a living that is all about creativity? For those folks, retirement just isn’t in the cards, nor would they wish it to be.

In a career that has spanned nearly 50 years, Anatole (Annie) Paquette sees no end in sight or slowing down. As the founder of the very popular NH band Annie and the Orphans, Annie began playing music as a teenager. “I am self taught,” he says. “I bought a set of drums after I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. I always thought music was fun, but it wasn’t until I saw the Beatles that I wanted to have a band.”

Any young person from that era would probably admit they too dreamed of forming a band, becoming famous and rocking the world like the Beatles. Few, however, have the talent and drive to make a dream of being in a band a reality.

“I bought some equipment and put some guys together to form a band when I was in high school,” Annie continues, saying with a laugh, “We were pretty terrible at first!”

Annie’s older siblings had listened to pre-Beatles music, such as Elvis, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, so the rock sound wasn’t new to him. “Being in a band was a good pastime. We rehearsed at my parent’s house, and my parents didn’t mind the noise. At least they always knew where I was!”

After high school, Annie attended art school in Massachusetts, learning the art of sign painting and design. “I excelled in art and woodworking in high school, and I liked signs and lettering, so it was a natural fit.”

Annie started his sign business in Meredith in 1970. He also served in the Army Reserves for six years. “I continued to do the band on the side, and at that time, neither the sign business or the band was particularly profitable!”

Things slowly changed, and Paquette Signs, located on Rt. 3 in Meredith and Annie and the Orphans both grew in popularity. Search any Lakes Region calendar of events for the summer months and you are sure to find the band scheduled to play outdoor concerts, as well as at venues such as the M/S Mount Washington.

“We have been playing on the Mount for almost 30 years. Last season, we did every Monday night on the Mount’s Swinging to the Oldies event. It’s a great time and we love being on the boat, watching the sun set over the lake and sharing our music with the crowd.”

Band members have come and gone over the years, but Annie and his friend Bob McNab remain the original members still rocking crowds all over NH. “Bob was the original bass player; at one time my brother Tom was in the band, but he moved to Florida years ago. We’ve had dozens of Orphans over the years. I stay with it because it’s fun. I’ve taken a few sabbaticals and played with other bands, but the Orphans always got back together.”

Musically, the Orphans have come full circle, according to Annie. These days they are playing lots of 1950s and 60s music. “We grew up with the British invasion sound and we played that music when the band started years ago. In 1989 I decided to change the band’s music to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary. I reorganized and learned songs of the 50s that I had heard my siblings listen to during the pre-Beatles years. There are not too many bands doing that sound now. It brings back fond memories for people.”

Annie and the Orphans can be found each year performing at Sandwich Fair, as well as many of the outdoor town band concerts during the summer. Annie says he loves the outdoor venues and the fact that people can hear them play for free. “We’ve had people sit out in the pouring rain to listen to us play outdoor band concerts.”

As well as the Mount and band concerts, the group plays many weddings and private parties. They also perform at the Belknap Mill’s Private Collections event, which Annie says is always a great time.

With the passing years, one would assume working in his sign business/shop all day and then performing in the band at night would be taxing. With a laugh Annie concurs. “Sometimes I wonder how I do it! I have to admit that after working all day, I am not always in the mood to go out and perform, but once we get to the venue I feel recharged and ready to go. I have to say we’ve never had a bad night. The crowds are always good and we finish each night singing God Bless America; it’s become a popular thing that we do.”

What keeps Annie going when he could choose to slow down at this time in his life? “I think it’s seeing the people. I love the applause and knowing people are having a good time when we perform. I see a couple on the dance floor and sometimes it’s people I know personally. I might know that they are stressed due to their personal circumstances. For a few hours, they can listen to our music, dance and have a good time and forget about their troubles. That makes us work even harder.”

He continues, “We try to keep it interesting by doing new songs and switching it up now and then. I love what I do. When we get invited to play at a new venue it’s exciting. While it can be physically taxing, many of our gigs aren’t late nights. We don’t play smoky bars anymore and we don’t have to drive home late at night!

“It’s almost like the more we perform, the better I feel. If I stayed home and didn’t play music, I would feel very unproductive. I would like to continue to play with the band and I have not really carved out an exit strategy for the sign business. I’ve made so many good friends by being in business and I’ve always stayed local.”

When you discover an art form that you adore, it is no longer qualified for the title “work.” That is just what Gilford resident Carol Dale discovered years ago when she made the decision to pursue rug hooking.

The craft is an old one and goes back many years when farm wives made rugs out of rag strips hooked on burlap sacks to cover the drafty floors of their homes. Over the years, interest in traditional rug hooking waned. Why spend time hooking rugs when carpeting more easily could cover a floor?

In some families, however, the traditional craft never completely died out. So it was with Carol’s family. She explains, “I have been making hooked rugs since early 1971, when my paternal grandmother gave me all of her supplies – dyes, wool fabrics, hooks, patterns, a handmade oak frame, and a few books. I was self-taught back then. My grandmother had lost her vision and when she gave me her rug hooking supplies, she told me I would have to figure it out!”

Carol was a natural at rug hooking, and soon mastered the basics of the art form. “Eventually I learned there was a world of rug hookers out there, so I started taking classes and subscribed to a rug hooking publication. Along the way, I met lots of wonderful, mentoring, like-minded people.”

She continues, “I love rug hooking for a number of reasons. It’s very tactile, and wool fabric is wonderful to work with and to dye beautiful colors.  It is very freeing – there aren’t too many parameters, beyond good basic technique.  Creativity can flow easily through color and design. It’s a fairly portable art form, so I can take my rug hooking with me when I go on trips, vacations, and to rug hooking chapter meetings.  I have tried lots of other mediums and have enjoyed them, but rug hooking remains my favorite and most satisfying.”

Carol teaches students of all ages and is often called upon to dye wool for special student projects. She has gathered a group of her students and fellow rug hookers together for drop-in rug hooking at the Gilford Public Library the first and third Tuesday of each month. Visitors and library patrons often stop by to see the latest rug projects and to perhaps learn about the art form; some have become “hooked” on hooking their own rugs.

When asked if she sees a time she will retire from rug hooking, Carol muses, “I doubt I will ever retire from rug hooking. I enjoy it too much – dyeing the wool, reading books and magazines about rug hooking, the relaxation of pulling the loops, and best of all, the friendships with other rug hookers.

“Teaching rug hooking has gotten easier and more fun as the years have rolled by.  The old adage of getting back more than you give is very true, and I always encourage students to think for themselves and to express their creativity fully. We challenge each other to think outside the box. It’s great when we get new rug hookers and can initiate someone into this fiber art form.”

What keeps Carol rug hooking? She says it is things such as the huge piles of dyed fabric just begging to be made into rugs. “I do have unquenchable curiosity about how a dyed piece of wool will look when hooked. That helps keep me going, plus the designs rattling around in my head, waiting for their day to be drawn out on backing and hooked. There’s an old saying amongst us, that we can’t die until all our rugs are finished.”

With a laugh she adds, “One can grow old gracefully in the rug hooking world, where expertise and a sense of humor are valued over a few stray wrinkles or hairs of gray! It makes for a very pleasant future.” 

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