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Be Glad! Littleton's 100 Year Old Secret

The people of Littleton New Hampshire celebrated Pollyanna Glad Day this past Saturday. The June 8th event also marked the publishing Centennial of the bestselling children’s classic about the little girl who always looks on the bright side. While a dubious meaning shadows the character name in popular culture, Sean Hurley reports that the residents of Littleton believe they know the real Pollyanna.  

A hundred people opened and closed their umbrellas in the rain and shine that came and went throughout Pollyanna Glad Day.  In the spirit of the day, they were glad for their umbrellas when it rained and glad for the sun when it shone.  As Pollyanna Glad Day Director Karen Keazirian says, that’s an easy way for the whole town to play the Pollyanna Glad Game.

This is the tradition of a Pollyanna Glad Day that the town has had for a decade. And today is extra special because it is a celebration of Pollyanna - the Centennial of when the book was published. It had been written by Eleanor Porter in 1913 and when the book was published it was the equivalent to a Harry Potter…

But the closest thing to Lord Voldemort in the book is the austere Aunt Polly, whose hair is too tight and whose hard heart gradually melts under the sunny sway of her recently orphaned niece.

Before dying, Pollyanna’s father makes her promise him that she won’t succumb to grief, that she’ll play their little game and find a way to be glad.

As John Hennessy of the Littleton Coin Company passed out commemorative Centennial Glad Day silver dollars, JiroTanaka from Japan posed for photos holding two copies of the Japanese version of Pollyanna. 

Yes, I came from Japan for Glad Day.

All the way from Japan just for Glad Day. 

On the library steps, Pollyanna of Littleton Chairman Jack Eames calls Barbara Ashley forward.  She’s this year’s recipient of the Pollyanna Signature Honoree award. 

In my day I have received several awards. It comes with old age and things that you do (laughs), but this is the first time I’ve ever been awarded for anything I’ve been so happy doing. You made mention of theater arts and music is where it is for me. So Stephen Cote? One of my favorite people on the keyboards…so it also adds to the delight of the day for me as well.

Dry beneath an awning, Stephen Cote plays the kind of music he loves the most.  Piano rags.  His first CD “What a Rag” contains standard and original compositions. 

Pretty good for 12 years old.  His performance here also winks at Eleanor Porter’s own musical precociousness.  She would have admired Cote’s songwriting method, which makes use of an old jazz trick.

Most of the ones I make up is I’m playing something I didn’t write?…And I make a mistake that sounds cool?!

Turning mistakes into new music is a perfect way to play the game Eleanor Porter invented a century ago.  Before there was Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking, before there was The Secret - there was Pollyanna’s Glad Game.  

Glad Day Director Keazirian says “gladness” itself occupies a curious rung on the ladder of happiness.  A little above contentment perhaps, a bit below jumping for joy. There’s something quiet about it, something quaint, something almost steely. 

Gladness comes from a decision. A decision to carry an attitude with you through life. It isn’t just a rush of happiness.

For Pollyanna, gladness isn’t a smile plastered over tears, but the hard work of happiness itself.  Something the people of Littleton plan to gladly - and steadily - remind us of.

Everybody ready? Yes!

At the bottom of the hill, in a moment of sun, photographer George Mitchell climbs a tall ladder and conducts the great Pollyanna Glad Day Wave and Cheer. 

How about a Be Glad! Be glad! Oh, maybe one more that they’ll hear all the way to the Massachusetts line? Be Gladddddd! How about Washington? Be GLADDD! I think we got it!

Even if they didn’t get it, all these gathered Pollyannas would find a way to be glad about it. 
For NHPR, I’m SH

Sean Hurley lives in Thornton with his wife Lois and his son Sam. An award-winning playwright and radio journalist, his fictional “Atoms, Motion & the Void” podcast has aired nationally on NPR and Sirius & XM Satellite radio. When he isn't writing stories or performing on stage, he likes to run in the White Mountains. He can be reached at
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