Mary Barton Interview
This is file 43. This is Jean McMillen interviewing Mary Barton. Today’s date is April 3, 2013. The talk is going to be about Noble Horizons Auxiliary primarily, as well as her position of the Grove Oversight Committee and the Extras board.
JM:Mary, what is your full name?
MB:Mary Elaine Smith Barton.
MB:June 1, 1939
JM:Your birth place?
MB: Mill River, Massachusetts
JM:Your parents’ names, please.
MB:Edward Smith and Mary Ulman Smith
JM:Do you have siblings?
MB:Yes, I have 6 brothers, four are now living.
JM:I know you have children.
MB:I have two sons, Richard and George.
JM: Yes, I had both of them. What is your educational background?
MB:Just high school at Mount Everett, Sheffield, Mass. I graduated from Mt. Everett which was the first year of the new regional school. I went to New Marlborough in Mill River. It was called New Marlborough Central School.
JM:We were high school rivals because I went to Searles High School; we didn’t have anything to do with Mt. Everett. How did you come to this area?
MB:I started working summers at the White Hart.
JM:Who was running the White Hart then?
MB:It was Joseph Norton and his wife.
JM:Do you know who owned the White Hart then?
MB:The Nortons owned it then.
JM:How many years did you work there?2.
MB:From 1957 to 1963
JM:You were a waitress?
MB:I was waitress, hostess, bar tender whatever they needed.
JM:Then what happened after you left the White Hart?
MB:I had my children; then I went to work part time up at the Under Mountain Inn for Carl Isaacsen. That is long gone now too. Then I had started working as a home health aide in people’s homes taking care of elderly people.
JM:Were you doing that privately or…
MB:Privately, I have always been private. Dr. Brewer was the first person that got me a job. He needed help with somebody who was a heart patient. I say, “I don’t know anything about taking care of anybody with a heart problem.” He said, “Well, you’ll learn in a hurry.” And I learned in a hurry.
JM:I’ll bet you did. He was a good doctor.
MB:He was a wonderful doctor.
JM:He was just super. It seems to me that you are still working with Mrs. Brewer.
MB:I took care of Dr. Brewer when he had his first open heart surgery.
JM:Oh my word, you did learn. Anything you want to add about that or shall we go right on to Noble?
MB:We’ll go right on.
JM:What is the purpose of the Noble Horizons auxiliary?
MB:The purpose is to enhance the lives of the residents. By that I mean giving them the extras, little treats and things that Noble can’t afford to do. There are a lot of things we do for them.
JM:When did you start working with the Noble or the auxiliary? Was it back in 1975?
MB:1975 was the first I think that I started in.
JM:Were you an officer at that time?
MB:No not at that time but I quickly went on the board after that. I went on straight away just to help with the Christmas Fair. I went in and had time and she asked me if I would help with volunteers and that lead from one thing to another. Then I went on the board.
JM:You have been on the board ever since?
MB:Yes, I have been on the board ever since.3.
JM:You told me that when you first went on the board the budget for the enhancements was about $900. The budget now is $27,000. That is a lot of enhancement.
MB:Well, things have changed. It has gotten more expensive in life.
JM:How do you make your money?
MB:We do it through fund raising.
JM:What are the fund raisers that you do specifically?
MB:We do the Festival of Trees, the Christmas Fair, and the tag sales. We have two tag sales a year.
JM:You said that this was a very good year.
MB:This was the first year that we topped $6,000. We did $6,100 which is the most we have ever made so far.
JM:When you were President in the 1990’s, you did something special for the meal plan.
JM:Tell us about that.
MB:I decided, at that time the Masons had just started doing their lobster sales, and of course I love lobster, it is my favorite food. So I had thought about this and one of the thingsfor the auxiliary is to do special things for the residents. I thought many residents in the nursing wing can’t get out to buy a lobster. So we put it into our budget that every year we would give every person on the premises a lobster dinner.
JM:They were wonderful.
MB:Anybody who takes part comes with a guest who thinks it is the best.
JM:Oh yes, I have been fortunate to be a guest three or four times.
MB:We do it every September. You just can’t have a lobster without having a little entertainment. There is a piano player or whatever.
JM:The atmosphere in the dining room is so pleasant. That adds to the meal. The waiters and waitresses are always pleasant.
MB:The staff is phenomenal. I don’t know how they do it with a smile on their face every day.
JM:Every day. It doesn’t make any difference it is always, “Oh Mrs. Barton, it is so nice to see you.” They really make you feel welcome which is wonderful. Now I imagine that those lobster dinners have gone up in price.
MB:I think when we started out our budget was $800. It is now up to $2,000.
JM:Now you also do something about taking them out for lunch?
MB:Yes, one of the things is because the cost of living today, a lot of people are on fixed incomes and they can’t afford it. I though how unfair that was. When the bus goes out to lunch, not everybody could take part in it. So therefore we set up a little Excursion fund we call it. Anyone who wishes to go out to lunch can go automatically and the auxiliary through fund raising will pick up the bill. If it is going out for ice cream when they go out for these rides, we pick up the bill for that. So it is really kind of special for the residents, and nobody is neglected, or felt out of place. Everybody is treated the same; that is what I wanted to get across because each president chooses something, and mine was to make everybody feel special whether you had money or not.
JM;Money wasn’t the issue.
MB:Money wasn’t the issue; everybody had the same. We are now picking up art supplies for people who don’t have money with our art classes.
JM:You also do something with the Companion Radio.
MB:We put in Companion Radio. We just do that completely; everybody gets a radio that wants one, and we just automatically pay for it year round.
JM:Do they have a radio station here?
MB:There are 3 radio stations that broadcast through the air ways that somehow comes in on cable and it is the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, the good stuff so that each generation can have their own music.
JM:That is comforting, too.
MB:It is. A lot of people including me of the older generation don’t understand the word of the music today. I can’t understand it. I like the Golden Oldies.
JM:They enunciated and sang slowly enough that you could understand the lyrics. What about the library and the computers?
MB:We also own the library; we put in all the books in the library and pay for all the books. We pay for the computers. We pay for the copier. The auxiliary foots the bill for all that. We work very hard.
JM:Yes, you do.
MB:It is very important. Most of our books are now large print which I donate.
JM:Who runs the library, the book part of it?
MB:Joan McCue is very good at what she does, plus she is as nice as can be.
JM:She used to work at the hospital when Foster was there. He knew her from being in the basement.
MB:We’ve just purchased three or four of those Kindles or Nooks of whatever. She is teaching the residents how to do that.
JM:That is great.
MB:It is fun for them in many ways, but they zip that finger across and lose about 4 pages. They are having a hard time understanding that it is not a book. At 90 years old you get very used to books. It is very hard for them to realize that it is a finger motion rather than turning the page. It is fun to watch them do it.
JM:You also mentioned something to do with flowers?
MB:We have a flower arranging course which we pay for; that comes out of Sharon. We buy all the flowers for the tables. Every week or every two days we have a flower arranging class and they do all the arrangements for the flowers throughout Noble and for the dining room tables.
JM:So all the lovely arrangements are done in house, and the auxiliary pays for the flowers. Wow, that is impressive.
MB:We go pick the flowers in the summertime.
JM:Tell me about your club house event.
MB:Oh that is really special. That has been really wonderful. We put a bar in several years ago; we have once a month a light supper with cocktails and a movie. That has a big turnout. We even give them popcorn. So it is kind of a fun evening; everyone turns out for that. We have an ice cream social down there. We have a social hour every week which is wine and cheese so everybody can come and mingle and meet cottagers as well as the rest of the residents and anyone who is able from the nursing wing comes too. Everyone is allowed out; they push you down in your bed if you can’t get up. Everybody comes. It is all inclusive.
JM:One of the things that really struck me is Christmas. What do you do at Christmas?
MB:Everyone gets a Christmas gift, and every section Riga, Wagner, Cobble has their own Christmas tree. We have Santa Claus come in with entertainment in each area; he presents everybody with a Christmas gift.
JM:That is so wonderful. When my grandmother was in a nursing home years ago there was no socialization.
MB:Everybody is out and about. Especially the nursing wing it is very important. We just bought some new reclining chairs for that because everybody wants their own chair and they do not want to share it. It got down to the nitty gritty so we got them some wonderful chairs. I love them. I have tried them out.
JM:How about pet therapy?
MB:We always had a resident dog, but we haven’t had one lately. They have a regular training course that is offered at Noble, and it is one where you have to pay, but I forgot what it was. For anybody who can’t afford it, the fee is picked up. They also bring dogs into visit. It is wonderful to see after they have gone through this training to bring all these different sizes, shapes and colors of dogs in. We get everything from mastiffs down to tiny little terriers; it is wonderful to see the selection that is coming through the doors. Everybody loves it. We do have cats running around. We got all cats.
JM:Do you have problems with allergies?
MB:They haven’t so far. They have people who definitely do not like cats; they will chase them out of their room, and the cats know where to go now.
JM:People that go to doctors get some sort of transportation other than the bus?
MB:Yes, it is too expensive to take a big bus out for one person so we have cars. We just bought a brand new car to give Noble that takes you to your doctor’s appointments. We have some people who go all the way to Prospect, Ct. down to Dr. Zimmerman, the eye specialist. That takes up a car the whole day. If somebody has to go to Sharon for blood test or x-rays, they need more than one vehicle. Noble has a car donated to them; we’ve given them a car and they have the 2 little mini cars that they use.
JM:You have also done some remodeling?
MB:Yes, we remodeled the chapel, the community room twice, and we about to do the hair dresser’s shop. We did that the first time around; that was a bequest that was left us. We have been fortunate enough that people have donated money to us which is a help.
JM:Have I covered everything on the auxiliary that you want to talk about?
MB:I think just about.
JM:One thing I did want to ask is how many members are in the auxiliary now?
MB: I think it is 186 right now, and we’ve got 14 on the board.
JM:What is you term of office for the board.
MB:You can serve as President, Vice president, Secretary and Treasurer for 2 two year terms. Than you must leave the board or you must leave that position. For myself I have served every position but treasurer. I have been assistant treasurer, but I won’t do treasurer. It is a little bit much for me.
JM:Oh you are smart.
MB:I am not going into that, but I have done all of them and now I am on the board because I do the tag sales. I co-chaired the Festival of Trees 2 years ago. I am not doing that again. I co-chaired the Christmas Fair.
JM:Yes, you have done an awful lot; you did inspire me I did look through my glassware. It is a wonderful organization. Now you are on another board, the Grove Advisory Board. Tell me a little bit about that.
MB:We sort of just give ideas about how to improve the Grove: like putting new docks in or doing the swimming docks or doing the playground which we have been working on. What else we could do to bring in a little revenue, just to improve it.
JM:When did you join the Grove Board?
MB:Oh I have been on the Grove Board for probably 10-12 years, quite a while.
JM:How many are on that board generally?
MB:Usually there are 8 or 10.
JM:Who is the President now?
JM: The board and the manager get along alright?
MB:As far as I know.
JM:Well I got the same answer from Stacey as I asked her.
MB:Stacey is a neat gal to work with. (See file #49 Stacey Dodge) Being there all the time, she really knows all the ins and outs and what have you.
JM:I did an interview with Stacey and I haven’t seen her since she was in my 6th grade. One of my questions was “How long have you been Manager?” When she said 20 years, I almost fell off the chair. She loves it and does a good job; she is passionate about what she’s doing.
MB:She keeps a tight rein on everything; you don’t mess around with her. The kids over there sometimes you know, all she has to say is “OK cool it!” and they mind and that’s it. They don’t do it again.
JM:She is extremely good’ we are so fortunate. She grew up in the system. She knew Frank Markey, and the others (Jim Rutledge. John Pogue) so she knows the system and what works. She is so proud of what the Grove has become.
MB:Yes, it has become very special.
JM:It has become extremely special. You recently joined the EXTRAS board.
JM:I will talk to Steve Moore about that later, but when did you get on that board?
MB:I have only been on it a couple of months.
JM:How were you recruited?
MB:Because of my tag sale and making money at Noble, they wanted me to help them figure out how to raise money. They asked if they couldn’t have a tag sale over in the Community room at Noble at the same time I had my sale to raise money and also to bring a crowd of people in. The first time around wasn’t very good. They said what went wrong? Would I go on the board and help them do that, sort of to be there as a fund raiser. They did spectacularly this last time.
JM:All they needed was an expert.
MB:All they needed was a little help. They have a bunch of wonderful young people, who are ambitious and want to do so many things. They have wonderful and great ideas.
JM:How many are on that board?
MB:We have to get it up to 12; we’ve only got 8 right now. We are trying to increase it to 12.
JM:After they raise the money, what do they use the money for?
MB:They use it for the EXTRA programs. The EXTRAS is for we used to call them latch-key children. The after school programs and they run it all summer, too. It is just to provide some things for the children whether it is art supplies or a little trip someplace or something along that line.
JM:Primarily for children of parents who work between 3 and 5 during the school year.
MB:During the summer it will be from 9 to 5.
JM:I even hate to ask but are there any other civic activities which you are in?
MB:Not if I can help it.
JM:You don’t have any time. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you Mary that you would like to add to this?
MB:No, not that I can think of.
JM:We’ve covered the bases fairly well?
MB:I enjoy doing all these things. I enjoy Noble.
JM:Every time I see you at Noble, you have a big grin on your face.
MB:Well something kind of fun has happened. It is nice when everybody thinks you are part of the family. All the residents ask, “Where is Mary today?” “Did you come in for a cup of coffee?” so I’ll sit down and have one. The neatest thing is the little coffee machine which is right across from the exercise room and it is a little social group. There are a bunch of people there in the morning, and it is for anybody who wants to go in and sit down and have a cup of coffee. They love to push the buttons and it is kind of fun and you never know who is going to congregate. People who haven’t every really socialized are all of a sudden wandering down and sitting there waiting for somebody to have a cup of coffee with them. It is nice because sometimes if it is somebody that I know hasn’t socialized or hasn’t gone out, just sitting down there I’ll say, “Gee isn’t it time for a cup of coffee?” They’ll say, “Well, yes maybe.” I’ll sit down and have a cup of coffee, and the nice thing is because of their age and being so old, they have so many wonderful stories that they have lived a lifetime. It is really fascinating to hear some of the things they these people have done.
JM:That is exactly right because you look at these little women or men and think, oh what the heck did they do, and then you find out that they were a ballerina or a race car driver or something and it is like WOW! Because usually they remember the things that they did, they can spin wonderful stories. It is incredible for them as well as for those of us that are listening. It is absolutely wonderful.
MB:It is; they have so many wonderful memories. I feel they are teaching me something that I never knew; I am fascinated by it. I wish I had the talent to write a book.
JM:Get yourself a voice recorder.
MB:And just start rattling?
JM:I am having the same experience with this oral history project because I’m doing everybody. I have learned so much about how the town runs and how people have come to the town and given of their time. It just makes me feel so proud that I am part of the town and of course I am having so much fun doing this that I am not going to give it up.
MB:I know what you are saying; it is great, wonderful. It just amazes me that when you look at you map, Lakeville isn’t even on a map and look at the people who are finding us up here. I feel like saying,”Close the gate. We have enough here.” It is amazing.
JM:It is amazing and it is a wonderful microcosm of people giving of their time and their talents to make the town work. That is wonderful.
JM:It is people like you that keep us going. It truly is, Mary.
MB:Well, I don’t know about that.
JM:I do and I thank you so much for your time and your wonderful interview.
MB:You are very welcome.