A. Cooper “Bally” Ballentine

Almyr Cooper Ballentine, known to Kehonka-ites as “Bally,” was born in 1893 in Mt. Vernon, New York and grew up in Newark, New Jersey. Bally studied engineering at Columbia and Cornell Universities. He died September 14, 1984 in the presence of his family at the cottage at Kehonka. He was 91.

A. Cooper "Bally" Ballentine at age 91 in 1984

A. Cooper "Bally" Ballentine at age 91 in 1984

In 1911, while in his teens, he journeyed to Lake Winnipesaukee expecting to visit Laura Mattoon’s camp for a week or two. He earned his keep by caning chairs with campers. Bally and the camp pleased each other and he stayed for the summer. Then he returned for many summers, somewhat ashamed that his work seemed more like play. At length, he chose to stay with what he liked, joining the Kehonka staff full-time and becoming a Wolfeboro resident in 1925.

Bally worked at Kehonka for 68 summers, only missing time there while he served in World War 1 for two years in the Army Ambulance Corps. He aided in the Battle of Argonne and was among the first troops to enter Germany.

Bally’s interest in crafts started in grade school and blossomed at Kehonka. He was a silversmith and metalworker, and taught these crafts to generations of campers in his “shop” – one of the oldest camp buildings perched in a cove, on the edge of the lake. 

A. Cooper "Bally" Ballentine teaching shop at Camp Kehonka

A. Cooper "Bally" Ballentine teaching shop at Camp Kehonka

In the twenties, old crafts were still alive and active in New Hampshire, but the need for these crafts were fading as the country moved to industrial solutions:  oil rather than wood, refrigerators rather than ice. New processes and competition threatened, then closed, many of the mills. The Depression hit hard and, as everywhere, many people in New Hampshire suffered.

Bally volunteered as a copper craft instructor for the Rotary Club because he “wanted to help people.” Later, he served as president of the Club for two terms.  In 1981, the Rotarians named him a Paul Harris Fellow.

Bally believed that handicrafts in New Hampshire should be revived to preserve these art forms and also to produce needed income.  He emphasized that high-quality products would attract the interest of the many people who vacation in New Hampshire.  But how would he get these products to market?

In 1931, Bally joined forces with Mary Coolidge, a summer resident of Center Sandwich, and together they conceived of creating a statewide program of craft instruction and marketing.  They presented their case to Gov. John Winant.

In 1932, the NH Legislature appropriated $5,000 to launch the League of New Hampshire Arts and Crafts.

Mary Coolidge served as president of the League for its first 10 years.  The first official shop of the League was in a building at the entrance of Camp Kehonka.

For 40 years, Bally served the League, on its council, as its secretary and, beginning in 1950, as its president.

In 1980, Bally received the Charles Holmes Pettee Medal from the University of New Hampshire for “a lifetime of dedication to raising your camp programs and the New Hampshire crafts movement to the highest level of excellence.”

At the League’s annual fair, the Ballentine Award honors the best of the show.


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