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With the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, film and stage actor Marvin Einhorn performs as Henry Beston in a special ceremony to observe the 40th anniversary of the Outermost House being dedicated as a National Literary Landmark. The event was held at the Cape Cod National Seashore's Province Lands Visitors Center in Provincetown on Monday, Oct. 11, 2004. Nearly 200 brave souls endured a cold, gusty north wind to watch Einhorn's one-man act, written by Cynthia L. Cooper, along with audio clips from the first ceremony in 1964 and a display of Beston / Outermost House artifacts. (Photo by Jon March)

Henry Beston's 'Coronation' remembered 40 years later

On Oct. 11, 2004, the date could have very well been Oct. 11, 1964.

It was a windy fall day at the Cape Cod National Seashore. A tribute was being paid to author Henry Beston for his efforts writing the Cape Cod literary classic The Outermost House. On the stage, a man who had experienced eight decades of life was on stage, gazing wide-eyed at the vast October sky.

This was the scene at the Province Lands Visitors Center in Provincetown on Oct. 11, 2004. The Henry Beston Society was staging a re-enactment, of sorts, 40 years to the day (and the hour) from when the U.S. Department of the Interior dedicated Henry Beston’s “Fo’castle,” the 20x16 house that was the base for his experiences in his 1928 book, as a National Literary Landmark. The original ceremony, referred to the Bestons as "the coronation," was held at Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, a stretch of seaside sand that the elements have reduced greatly over the last 40 years.

Highlighting the program was a one-man act by film and stage actor Marvin Einhorn (A Beautiful Mind, A League of Their Own) of a script by playwright Cynthia L. Cooper of New York. The performance was centered on Beston during the 1964 ceremony, with the author reflecting on the events of the previous 40 years. Nearly 200 people attended the Provincetown event, according to Cape Cod National Seashore officials.

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With the image of Henry Beston looking over his shoulder, Marvin Einhorn brings the author of The Outermost House back to life on
Oct. 11, 2004 in Provincetown .
(Photo by Kerrie March)

“The Secretary of the Interior holds my book up in the air, as if it were a bird, a Northern Wheatear perhaps, ready to make flight, kindly letting it soak in the morning sun, the marsh and the moor, the unending sands and the matchless surf,” Einhorn reads.

Einhorn, 83, who also worked as a television  director at NBC (The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Mr. Wizard) for 30 years, bears a strong resemblance to the late author of The Outermost House, who died in 1968.  Einhorn first became interested in Beston and The Outermost House back in the 1950s, he read A Journal for Henry Beston by Winfield Townley Scott. This prompted Einhorn to contact Beston and ask his permission to re-enact his story, which the author happily granted. “I think Mr. Beston misunderstood me at first when I called,” Einhorn recalled. “He thought we were going to make a movie and that I wanted him to star in it.”

It took Einhorn several decades before he could finally act on his quest to play Beston. He eventually hooked up with Cooper, who undertook a massive research project, crafting together a script and  enabling Einhorn to fulfill his longtime dream of playing Beston. Einhorn performed the script in 2003 at Eastham’s Chapel in the Pines as a benefit for the Beston Society and WOMR-FM in Provincetown.

The reading begins with Beston at the 1964 dedication ceremony. “Slowly, Henry steps off the podium, reaches for sand and lets it run through his fingers, like a timer; he smells the sand, and rubs it all around his hands,” Cooper writes in her script. Einhorn follows his sand activity by exclaiming, “The duneland burns with the smell of sand, ocean, and sun. Solitary and elemental, unsullied and remote, visited and possessed by the outer sea, these sands might be the end or the beginning of a world.”

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From the 1964 dedication ceremony, from left: Elizabeth Coatsworth, Henry Beston, Toni Peabody. (UPI photo courtesy of The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.)

The story soon drifts back to the 1920s, Beston recalls his relationship to the woman who would become his wife, Elizabeth Coatsworth. He talks of his gruesome experiences in World War I: “On the loneliest of nights beneath the blackened skies of France with exploding torpedoes and landscapes littered with ripped bodies, I dreamt about my prim New England village. No thoughts, only longing, only pictures of my long walks down the beach searching for a hermit crab.”

Adding to the program was the appropriate timing of the descent of airplanes at the nearby Provincetown Airport, one of which flew by as Einhorn read of planes dropping bombs on the French countryside. 

“He concluded with the line: “For the gifts of life are the earth’s and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach or from a little house on the outermost reaches of the outermost shore.”               

The program, which ran slightly over an hour at the Province Lands amphitheatre with a stiff north wind blowing in off the Atlantic Ocean, began with an introduction by Suzanne Haley of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The program opened with an audio clip of former Massachusetts Governor Endicott Peabody opening the 1964 event. Several audio clips, most provided by the Seashore, were played throughout the program, all produced for the program by Beston Society board member Jon March, an entertainment professional from Connecticut.

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Henry Beston Society Executive Director Don Wilding addresses the masses.
(Photo by Kerrie March)

Don Wilding, author of the book Henry Beston’s Cape Cod and executive director of the Henry Beston Society, served as master of ceremonies. Wilding talked about the history of the first event, leading into another audio segment of the late governor talking about the influence of Beston’s words.

After Wilding recited many quotes about The Outermost House, a special taped message by Endicott Peabody Jr. – made especially for the occasion – was played. The governor’s son recalled the events leading up to the first occasion, and how his mother, Toni, also played a large part in the organization of that event.

Following Einhorn’s performance, which received a standing ovation, Wilding extended thanks to Carol Green, Doug Green, the local media outlets, disc jockey Tom Tuttle of Orleans, the Cape Cod Community Media Center in Yarmouth, Beston Society directors Kerrie March, Jon March, and Nita Wilding, and Annie and Marvin Einhorn, who were provided transportation to and from New York and lodging for the weekend by Carol Green.

The event closed with a recording of Henry Beston himself from the 1964 ceremony – reading from the final paragraphs of The Outermost House.

After the ceremony, Wilding invited guests to parouse the exhibit, ask questions, and discuss the Beston Society's plan to rebuild The Outermost House -- a notion that was met with spontaneous applause.

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Beston artifacts on display during the Henry Beston Society / Cape Cod National Seashore event on Oct. 11, 2004.
(Photo by Don Wilding)

 

The Beston Society also provided a display of artifacts, which included photographs of Beston and The Outermost House, fragments of wood from the original house, a first edition of The Outermost House and a U.S. Armed Forces Edition of The Outermost House, and a copy of an original invitation to the 1964 ceremony from Governor Peabody. A miniature version of The Fo’castle, of which several were made by Jack Wallace of Eastham in 1965 after the house was re-shingled, was provided for the day by David LaPierre of Nauset Market in North Eastham, and a piece of the drawer from the Fo’castle provided by Robert Prescott of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Among those in attendance were Cape Cod author Robert Finch, and Henry Clark, who recalled meeting Henry Beston was Clark was a child in Eastham. Clark often talked about the Indians to Beston, who was enthused to hear about it. Beston spent many months with the Navajo Indians in New Mexico prior to his “year on the beach,” and is believed to have learned his keen sense of the natural world from them.

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Marvin Einhorn performs as Henry Beston while the audience listens attentively -- and tries to keep warm as the north wind blows in off the Atlantic . (Photo by Don Wilding)

 

 

P.O. Box 407, North Eastham, MA 02651. Phone: (508) 246-7242. E-mail: henrybestonsociety@yahoo.com


BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Nita Wilding, Don Wilding, Jon March,
Robby McQueeney, Bob Seay, Tim Sweeney, Glenn Mott, Sheila Mott
.

SITE DESIGNED BY MARC McHUGH

2015
The Henry Beston Society , Inc., unless noted.

 

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"A Cape Cod Icon Returns"

 

 

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Beston Society co-founder Don Wilding tells the story of how the author of The Outermost House became the spiritual father of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

 

 

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