Nancy Bayersdorfer Interview:
This is file 67. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Nancy Bayersdorfer about her father’s upbringing in Salisbury. Today’s date is Nov. 19, 2013. Here we go!
JM:What is your name?
NB:My name is Nancy (Russell Jones) Bayersdorfer.
JM:What is your birth date?
NB:My birthdate is April 30, 1947.
JM:Your birth place?
JM:Your parents’ names?
NB:My mother was Marjorie Hooven Jones and my father was Arthur Russell Jones.
JM:Do you have siblings?
NB:Yes I have a sister; her name now is Leslie Jones Allyn. She lives in Canaan, Ct.
JM:Tell me about your educational background, starting with Shadow Rock.
NB:I went to Shadow Rock Nursery School (Cleaveland St. Ed.) which was run at that time by Claudia Warner. Then Town Hill School, Indian Mountain School, Kent School and Syracuse University, and then I got a Master’s in Social Work at Hunter College School Social Work.
JM:Now we are going to talk first about your father’s background. Tell me all about your dad.
NB:My dad was born and lived in Far Hill, New Jersey. He had a brother, Foxy, (Foxhall Jones) who was a younger brother by 2 years. My father’s father was a stock broker. He died in a car accident when my father was 12. At that time my father and his brother still lived in Far Hills, but then, oh I know what it was, sorry. They were in France at the time. My father and his brother and his mother were in France because it was during the Depression and it was cheaper to live in France with their staff and everything else. But they were in France. They came back, obviously for the funeral; then my father attended St. Paul’s school; he actually graduated from St. Paul’s and foxy was away at school as well when their mother dies. She was a well-known horse woman in Far Hill. She died in a fox hunting accident. She rode side saddle and the horse fell over the fence and unfortunately landed on her and then she subsequently died. Then it got a little kind of complicated because my father and his brother had many loving relatives, aunts , uncles who wanted to take them on, but my grandmother’s will stipulated that they become the wards of a lady named Emily Fowler who was a maiden lady, just a friend of my grandmother’s and not even that close a friend. So everybody thought that was kind of strange, but that’s what my grandmother had said so there was lots of speculation about who was she
annoyed with at that time. So Emily Fowler who lived also in New Jersey, for whatever reason I don’t know why bought a house up here in Salisbury (75 Main Street. ED), deciding this would be a very good place to raise these two young boys and she brought them up here, but she had the great foresight to also bring along Jack and Mary Kiely. Mary had been the upstairs maid at my father’s house and Jack had been a groomsman out in the stables. He was very Irish, and she was very English, but they met and married. They came up too to work for Miss Fowler and really be surrogate parents as well for my uncle and my father. They came up here, and I am not sure exactly the date. My dad was about 14 so let’s see he was born in 1922, so it was like 1936, something like that if my addition is correct. They spent primarily summers here because both of them were in boarding school, but they were up here for the summer. Soon after that I guess it was about maybe 10 years later my aunt Agnes moved up her too. She was one of Emily’s older sisters. She moved up here; we always referred to them as Aunt Millie and Aunt Agnes, even though they were not blood relatives. Mimi and Jack were just Mimi and Jack.
JM:Tell me about your mother’s background.
NB:My mother was born in Detroit, moved to Nashville when she was very young. Her father was an insurance man. He died when she was 9 years old; she had an older brother and a younger brother. Her mother hadn’t worked, hadn’t been out of the house. When he died, she paid off the house, fixed up part of the downstairs, it was a large house, rented out an apartment, and went to work for the Post Office where she became eventually the secretary to the Post Master General in Nashville. It was a great job for her. She hired a wonderful big, round black lady named Mary to be the person to come in and sort of help with the house, but really watch the children until she got home from work. So Mary also became part of the family. My mother’s family probably couldn’t have been more different than my father’s. She lived in a wonderful city neighborhood in Nashville where everybody looked out for everybody else. Nobody had a lot of money, but they had a lot of fun. My dad’s upbringing was so much privileged, but sort of lonely, and strict. Not a lot of fun, I don’t think with these very nice ladies, but…
JM:Now how did your mum and dad met?
NB:Now this is great. They met in Nashville. My father was in the Army air Corp and he was stationed in Nashville. It was VE Day and he was with some buddies and they were celebrating in Nashville. My mother was with a couple of her friends. They weren’t really celebrating; they had gone to the movies. They came out of the movies, my mother and her 2 friends and my father and his buddies pull up in a car and say to them, “Hey girls where can a soldier get a drink?” My mother to my grandmother’s horror, really and truly, said, “Well, we’ll show you.” Off they went to club they called it, but they were bars, and that is how they met. It was sort of a year later they were married, but it was sort of a wonderful, my mother doesn’t like me to tell this story because, “It sounds like I was just picked up on the street.” I said, “But I think you kind of were.” It was fun.
JM:They moved up here?
NB:Initially as soon as they were married, they moved to New York. They moved to New York because my father did have a job at Pan Am because after the service, he joined Pan Am. But they wouldn’t give him 2 weeks of to get married, so he quit. Now they didn’t tell anybody, because my grandmother would have a fit about this one! So they moved to New York, and they really lived off his trust fund and as my mother said, “We lived in a tiny little apartment; we had to walk down the hall to the bathroom.” But they saw every show on Broadway; they went to every club. About every ten days they would drive across the bridge to the Peapack Gladstone Bank and get money, and come back. She said, “This is quite the life!” But then my mother got pregnant. They were up visiting Aunt Millie one week or weekend, and she said, “Arthur (she had quite an accent), really you should try to get a job.” So he did; he got a job working for…He became general manager for the House of Herbs in Salisbury. They moved up to Salisbury where my mother didn’t know a soul. She still had her southern drawl. That is how they got up here.
JM:What did your dad do for the House of Herbs?
NB:He was the general manager which meant he oversaw everything as well as being part of insuring that there was quality control, the recipes and all that kind of thing; he sort of oversaw it from the time they picked to drying the herbs to packaging them and getting them shipped off.
NB:Not a lot, they didn’t do a lot of marketing that I am aware of. I think it was sort of a known brand. He was very friendly with Mrs. Winters who was the person ran the business.
JM:Can you give me a physical description of Aunt Millie and Aunt Agnes?
NB:My Aunt Millie was fairly short, always beautifully dressed. In the summer she wore lovely linen dresses; she never wore pants, always dresses. When she was out, she always wore a hat of some kind. She had wonderful shoes, she had lots of shoes, but she had wonderful little heeled lace up shoes and all different colors. I particularly remember in the summer she wore white shoes all the time. Jack Kiely who worked for them was always polishing her shoes; they were wonderful shoes. She was very sweet. She had a very sweet face, tiny little button nose. She wore wireless glasses. Her hair was always up in a little bun. I only saw her hair down occasionally when I would come in the morning, and Mary Kiely would be helping her with her hair; it was never really long. It would be down and they would fix it up. She had incredible soft skin because she never was in the sun or anything like that. Not a stern face, but sort of a serious face; I don’t remember her laughing a lot. She was kind and very soft spoken.
Aunt Agnes was so different. Aunt Agnes was bigger. She had red hair, but it was faded. It was a lovely red but apparently it had been quite bright red when she was younger. She was sort of heavy, not fat but they were sturdy and women of leisure, too. They were kind of pudgy. She was very tall, had huge feet. She was always a little bit disheveled. I mean she had lovely dresses; always her hair was a little bit coming down. She would have something untucked and hanging down or whatever. She wore
pants; she rode astride a horse. She is the one who drove the ambulance during World War I. She was always having an adventure. She went up to Alaska for salmon fishing. She’d go get friends and they would go in some wilderness adventure, and this kind of thing. She was very active and very interesting. She went all over the place.
Millie did more charity work. She worked with Dr. Grenville, somebody up in the Greenland area where she did sort of nursing work. She was very involved in the founding of the Henry Street Settlement in New York City. (See Kathy Shortelle on Salisbury Visiting Nurses Association file #56/68) She was very into home nursing and that kind of thing. She wasn’t trained as a nurse, but she always said, “I did some nursing.” So was much more quiet and involved with charitable kinds of things.
JM:Very different. What did Mary and Jack Kiely look like?
NB:He looked a little like a leprechaun; he was so Irish with that ruddy face. I remember him most when he was about 50 when I knew him the best. He always wore a cap, a little Irish cap, rode a horse like a real old fashioned Irishman, without any style, but you weren’t going to get him off that horse.
JM:Was he tall?
NB:No, he was quite short and sort of wiry, a little bit wiry with a wonderful twinkle in his eye. He still had that Irish brogue even though he had lived here for such a long time.
Mary his wife was a little bit taller than him, not big, very English face with that pale soft skin and beautiful blue eyes and a little gleam in her eye. She was devoted religious, devotedly Catholic; she was praying all the time. I do remember them; they typically at the time would not eat meat on Fridays, but I loved going to see them on a Friday. I would go riding with my Aunt Agnes; then I would go back to Mimi and Jack’s quarters at the house. She always made rice pudding on Friday. I was so smart that I got there always when it was coming out of the oven, and it was so good. They had their big meal at lunch time and then Mary and Jack would have a light supper; but before that they always knelt down by their bed and said their prayers. If we were there, we were supposed to kneel down too and we would sort of go along. She was also the one who whenever we went to church with them which if they were watching us for one reason or another; they took us to church with them. We had to put Kleenex on our head if we didn’t have a hat; Mary always had a handkerchief or Kleenex for our head to go into church. They were lovely people, much more smiling and sort of just regular folks than maybe Aunt Millie was.
JM:That’s good. You had a nice combination. Now I would like you to tell me 2 stories about your husband. The first one is about eating dinner and the second one the engagement party.
NB:David actually loved coming to my Aunt Millie and Aunt Agnes’s house for Sunday lunch. I remember we had to go through the whole thing about the fingerbowls. I said, “Now don’t David they’ll have fingerbowls there. This is a finger bowl. You just dip you fingers, don’t drink it. Don’t do anything like that. It is not soup.” He got that. Of course the staff loved David because he was just so down to
earth and not stuffy. They would be serving us, serve from the left and take from the right and all this stuff. They would reach down to David and would whisper, ”Come to the kitchen when they are all done.” So he would have his dainty little portions and be so well behaved and then after lunch he would always sneak back into the kitchen where they had piles of food waiting for him. He would just sit down and talk to the cook and the serving maid and have the time of his life. He loved it; he loved both; he loved my aunts and the people in the kitchen, too. So that was fun.
JM;Now tell me about the engagement party.
NB;My aunt Agnes decided that we would have an engagement party in their back garden behind the house which was a lovely space. They invited lots and relatives and all of David’s family from New Jersey and off we went. We are doing this whole big thing, and Jack Kiely comes up to David and says, “See me after in the barn.” in his brogue which I can’t imitate. So David goes in, and jack says, “Aye I want you to tell me are you going to be good to my Nancy?” David says, “Yes, of course I love Nancy. I shall always be good to her.” “You better be good to her because if you are not good to her, I’ll find ya and I’ll kill ya.” David says, “I don’t want that to happen.” So Jack reaches up to one of his cupboards in the barn and pulls out a bottle of whiskey. “We’ll have a sip of whiskey on it.” “Fine” so they are out there drinking. Jack always looked after me; he really did. He and Mary were two people in my life who loved me unconditionally, absolutely unconditionally.
JM:You were very blessed.
NB:I was incredibly blessed. Jack taught me how to ride. I have pictures of myself on a horse sitting in front of my dad, but jack taught me how to ride. I was tiny; I was a little girl but no fear at all. They were great people. They were also fun, they really were.
JM:Now tell me about the tea party, your sister and the dog.
NB:My Aunt Millie always had afternoon tea and frequently my sister and I would be there if my mom and dad were away or whatever. We would often stay there. It was wintertime and one afternoon we were sitting in the little red room right off the dining room having tea. Aunt Millie is pouring and we are chatting. Aunt Millie had this little corgi: she always had corgis and Aunt Agnes had big dog, Seeing Eye dogs, but Aunt Millie always had these little corgis. They were usually kind of misbehaved. This one was named Drum. My sister was terrified of this dog. Leslie was then not so big on the animals, but kind of other things. This dog was really over there with Leslie. He got up on the little loveseat where Leslie was sitting. I am sitting next to Aunt Millie having a conversation with her. I can see my sister is trying to get away from the dog, and the dog is like moving. Leslie falls off the loveseat and is trapped between the loveseat and this little table in front of her. Aunt Millie doesn’t see a thing. The dog is going after her and nipping away, and Leslie is trying to get away. I am laughing at this. She is not getting hurt; she really is not getting hurt, but I keep talking to Aunt Millie because I thought if she sees this, she will blame Leslie right away instead of the corgi. It was just… My sister still says “Thanks a lot for helping me with the dog biting me.” The dog one time, we went with Aunt Millie shopping to what
was at that time Shagroy’s which is now Beck’s place, but it was Shagroy’s then. We would go in there and she would bring the dog into the market with her all the time. Leslie and I would be in there and sometimes she’d make the dog wait outside, but she didn’t like to do that. The dog peed right in the store. Leslie saw it. We would just go away and pretend we didn’t know her. I thought that was awful. Aunt Millie was oblivious to the whole thing.
JM:Both of your aunts died in rather a unique fashion. Would you tell about each of their deaths?
NB:Aunt Millie one day she was on her way down for lunch. She stopped at the top of the stairs, sat down, and died very quietly and fell to the floor. Everyone was called. I remember having to go to the golf course and get my dad and say, “Aunt Millie died.” So we all came to the house, the minister was called. It was Jim Hyde at the time. She had donated her body to Yale Hospital so while they were on their way, we had this little service at the top of the stairs. There’s my little Aunt Millie just looking like she was asleep. Mary and Jack were there, Aunt Agnes, my mom and dad, my sister and I and David because he was in the picture too. Then they came and collected her and off she went to Yale, New Haven. It was the simplest and direct kind of thing.
Aunt Agnes was having a dinner party which she frequently did. She loved to have people over on Saturday nights. All of a sudden Aunt Agnes, sitting at the head of the table, just sort of plopped over into mash potatoes. She did go to the hospital; they sent her to the hospital because she had had a massive stroke. She didn’t last very long; she lived about a day or so. That was just about it. She too donated her body, but they did that from the hospital rather than from the house. Right during dinner, it kind of put a damper on the dinner party.
JM:They never got to dessert did they?
NB:They never got to dessert.
JM:What happened to the house after that?
NB:After they died, there was a whole big thing about the family coming up and some of Aunt Agnes and Aunt Millie’s relatives having to…The executor of the will was woman named Mary Barns who was a cousin. Then a friend of my aunt Agnes was a co-executor I can’t remember her name right now, but they had to inventory everything and photograph things and disperse it all around the place. I remember they had beautiful Chinese sculpture of a horse, it was like Tang or Ming or something valuable. My father had to bring the thing down to Jane Basset was the other lady who was a friend of my aunt. She was the one who was given the horse. My mother and father had to drive the thing down to Maryland where this woman lived. They were terrified; my mother said, “I was so afraid because this horse was worth more than our car, our selves, or anything.” After they did all that, and that took a long, long time. The house was put on the market and Calvin Klein, the designer, bought the house. Mary, at the time I think Jack had died, didn’t know what she was going to do, He said, “No Mrs. Kiely you can stay here for the rest of your days. This is your home and you don’t have to leave or go
anywhere.” This was lovely. So she kept her apartment there. He never really bothered her, but he made sure that she was ok. He really did look after her. It was during that time that something had gone on with Calvin Klein’s, I think it was his daughter and been kidnapped or something crazy, but it was during that time. He never actually lived there; he moved in a little bit of furniture but never decorated or actually moved in. After he sold the house, I am not sure if it was Mrs. Ellsworth, the connection with the Whitney Ellsworth who is living there now; there may have been somebody in between. I knew the house like the back of my hand. Mary was still living there, but I haven’t been back inside the house since then, an extraordinary house.
JM:Do you know the number of the street? (75 Main St.)
NB:No, but I do know the date on the chimney is 1776. That is kind of cool. It is right next to Stiles Meadow.
JM: Anything else that you would like to add?
NB;I do want to say about the Fowler’s house. They had an extensive network of friends, far and wide, and people would show up at Christmas time; we didn’t know who they were. We always went there for Christmas. We had our own Christmas at home and then we always spent Christmas day down to the Fowlers which was always very funny because my mother and my sister didn’t get very good presents at Christmas time. My father and I always did. We used to get these little red leather calendar books; I think I got one when I was 8 years old, and there would always be a check inside. It would be engraved with our initials. My mother and my sister never got them, they never ever got them. I shared, I was supposed to share with Leslie. It was so crazy. There would be these strange people who would just sort of show up from nowhere so that was always fun.
Thanksgiving was a really cuckoo time there because they had so many relatives. They would have their big dining room table and then these tables all over the place. It was a big house. Then Harold somebody, one of the Harold Fowler’s I guess would play the piano and we all had to join hands and sort of march around, singing and all this kind of stuff. As young kids we thought this was ridiculous; I mean now I would have loved it. I would have thought how fun, but as kids it was not. There was never a kids’ table; you sat with stuffy old Uncle Robin, but it was kind of a kick.
The house was an extraordinary house. I remember staying there for the night, so comfortable. Mary would always put hot water bottles in our bed, so nice. They had a room upstairs; it was two guest rooms when my aunts were living there, but initially the wall between the two rooms was a swinging wall. The things were still there to attach it and it became the ball room. It was absolutely so neat. When the wall was fixed and became permanent, there was a little side door. You could go in a passageway if you didn’t want to go through the main door, you could go through this little passage way which was so cool. It was really very neat, full of history.
JM:You have wonderful memories.
NB:Wonderful memories of there, having a great time, having wonderful memories of going down in the morning and joining my Aunt Agnes, who would always be having her breakfast out on the terrace. My Aunt Millie would be having breakfast in bed and giving instructions to the cook. Then my Aunt Agnes and I would haul off on horses. She would like to bushwhack her way through the whole thing. I would come back and visit with Aunt Millie, and then I would go see Mimi and Jack. I was having the time of my life; I loved it.
JM:What a wonderful childhood.
NB:It was fun, it was really fun.
JM:Thank you so much for sharing.
NB:Thank you for giving me the chance.