Peter Becket interviewed by Jean McMillen
JM:This is Jean McMillen interviewing Peter Becket at his home on 83 Sharon Road in Lakeville, Connecticut. The date is Tuesday, August 9th, 2011.
PB: Do you want to test it to see if it works?
JM: May I have your full name?
PB: You may have my full name. Peter Logan Becket, B-e-c-k-e-t.
JM: And your birth date and place?
PB: It is July 18th, l940, and Manhattan.
JM: And do you have siblings?
PB: I have two siblings.
JM: And would you give a little information about your siblings?
PB: My heavens. I have an older brother, James Becket, who was born in October, of 1936, and a younger sister, who was born in August, of l941.
JM: How did your parents come to Connecticut?
PB: That was prompted by my mother’s association with the Norfolk, Connecticut area. Her family summered in the area and, I believe, they were members of the Norfolk Country Club and I believe that’s where my parents first met. They did movies together.
JM: May I have the names, the complete names of both parents.
PB:Yes, my parents. George Campbell Becket., born in May of 1901, and, my mother, Elise
Granberry Becket, born July 4th, 1908.
JB: What kind of movies did they make at the Norfolk Country Club?
PB: Golly. These were good movies. 16 millimeter. Very professional. Done with titles and they were adventure stories of saving the damsel in distress kind of things. That’s all I can remember. I’ve seen them. I don’t remember much but they were quite well done in that era.
JB: And what year did they move to Canaan?
PB: Yes. They lived in Manhattan and, it’s my recollection that in the late 30’s – probably 1938, they bought a place in Canaan and fixed that up.
JM: Was that College Inn Farm?
PB: See. I have no idea. You have a better idea than I do.
PB: This is a period when my father worked for the Davis Polk Wardle and Green, I believe the name was, law firm in New York City. And he was weighing the idea of moving up to this area full time. There weren’t any lawyers around and George Milmine lived and worked next to Hotchkiss School. Said, “Cam, you’ve got to come up here and work as an attorney”. So my father was somehow juggling working between New York and up in this area and, at some point, did make the transition. And, that might take us to the next step where they rented a house in Lakeville, known as the Ferris House to us which is now known, I believe, as the Bissell House.
JB: And that is where?
PB: That was at the corner of, probably, is it Bissell Street and Main Street? And was moved back to – towards the Lakeville Journal present office and is where the Salisbury Bank and Trust Company had
its Trust Department. So, we were in that building in the early forties. And we have pictures to prove!
JM: I”m sure you do. Tell me a bit about your education.
PB: Let me see. I attended the Town Hill School which, I guess at the time was – you would know – an offshoot of Hotchkiss School?
JM: Yes, it was.
PB: And there was, what, a Mrs. Judy Smith was a teacher and, certainly, Mrs. Chiera. Mr. Chiera was
the Minister for St. John’s Church in Salisbury, and, I went there from 19, let’s see – Ebersoll — through 1950. I think that’s correct. And then went on to Indian Mountain. Went from Indian Mountain in 1950 to 1954, from there, to Exeter, in New Hampshire,1954 to 1958. You’re looking a little puzzled…but I think the dates are right…..
JM: I’m looking a little puzzled because Mrs. Chiera is my sister in law and I didn’t realize that she ever worked at Town Hill. I knew she’d worked at Indian Mountain but didn’t know she was at Town Hill.
PB: This was – I remember very distinctly her being there when I got out of the Kindergarten portion into the next room and she taught there. That would be with Mrs. Garrity.
PB: So the two of them worked together. So, let’s see, in 1958, I had done so poorly at Exeter, they felt I needed seasoning before going on to college. And I worked out at Squaw Valley, California. I was on the ski patrol the year before the Olympics and did construction work out there for the Olympics and then, went on to Yale for four years.
JM: And your degree was?
PB: That was in History and that was somewhat of a checkered performance. I ended up not doing
terribly well. I was sick of school. And so, law school was not in my future. And I even had the Dean
of the Yale Law School tell me so. He said, “Peter, this may not be for you.” So, with open arms, the Marine Corps welcomed me and I spent three years in the Marine Corps. And, I don’t know how much further you want to go. That’s pretty much my education until—–
PB: —until the Columbia Graduate School of Business. And, the only thing I can remember about that was, I think in my Law Boards, I was in the 37th percentile and I took the Graduate Records Exam for Business School and was in the 98.6.
JM: You found your niche.
PB: Well, I studied ahead of time on how to take tests so that was good. I enjoyed that very much, did fairly well and I got an interview with Proctor and Gamble. Which was very exciting. I went out there and they said, “We understand you were in the top ten percent of your class at Yale”. And I corrected them and said, “No, it was the tenth percentile. It was the bottom ten percent”. They almost kicked me out the door at that point but I finished the interview and they decided I could probably do better elsewhere. So, that was, that completes the education portion.
JM: What are you currently working at?
PB: Working at. Well, I’m trying to retire but I have been a full time business appraiser for thirty years with one interruption. I worked at U.S. Trust Company in New York from 1970 to 1976, or I believe, 77, somewhere in there and then I had my mid life crisis to which we are all entitled, I’m sure, got divorced and remarried and worked in home repair work for about six years.
JM: A very useful profession.
PB: Very useful. Loved doing that, but I couldn’t make any money at it. So, I ended up back doing what I had done at the Trust Company, doing business appraising, and I’ve been doing that ever since and pretty much on my own since 1992.
JM: And you enjoy it.
PB: I am trying to retire. No, if you do the same line of work year after year after year, it’s gets –
JM: A little stale.
PB: Stale is the word. Certainly, meeting new people all the time is quite interesting and I’m very interested in entrepreneurial pursuits. So, you meet a lot of people who took nothing and built it into something.
JM: Created something. Have you been involved in any town activities here in Lakeville?
PB: I have. On two occasions I was President of the Salisbury Youth Hockey, and coached and
refereed there for thirteen years, getting our three boys through that program. I have been several years on the Firehouse Building Committee and ended up with the building of a 3.3 million dollar new Firehouse near the Lakeville -Salisbury property line. And, currently, I am the Treasurer of the Salisbury Republican Town Committee. And, on an historical note, back in the fifties, you had a preponderance of Republicans and the pendulum has swung where now it’s pretty much a two to one ratio in favor of the Democrats so I’m in the minority party at the moment.
JM: Things change. Things do change. Would you give me some recollections of growing up in Salisbury?
PB: Fortunately, this tape will go for several hours – I wish – Yeh, I think, on a sort of a broader view, I can give you an idea of what it was like – this was a time when parents could open the door and let their kids go out and play all day not worry particularly about bad things happening. Quite the contrary to today. So, we could take our bicycles and ride down into field, go to Community Field, and have a pick up game of baseball. This was, at one time, where Hop Rudd had his Rudd Camp and there was a Bandstand in the middle of the field where if it was raining we had boxing, otherwise, we’d be playing baseball. Rudd Camp had several locations. There was one at the top of Belgo Road, pretty much, I guess, with a view of the lake. And ultimately, let’s see….we went down towards the Grove. What is it now? Holleywood?
PB: The Rudd place. And then it moved to where the Rudds had their house on the lake moving more towards the Indian Mountain direction. So,
JM: What kind of activities went on at this Camp?
PB: This was certainly a lot of fun, I remember that. Probably the highlight would be we had kind of a cops and robbers. I can’t remember if it was the fox and the hound or whatever we called it. But you had a canoe and would go off somewhere on the lake and you were limited as to how far you could move away from the lake and hide the canoe. And then, after a while, everyone else in camp would then go out and try to find the hidden party which would then try to make a break for it and get back to camp before they got captured. So that was a fun activity, certainly. I mention the boxing and we’d have, I think, certainly, story telling. We played horse shoes when I lost a heart breaker to Bruce Bauman – these are things you never forget. I was about to win and he was getting very close and I think he was at a point next to the stake and didn’t want to disturb the horseshoes and his last throw, he just threw it to the ground and it then began to roll on its edge towards the stake and it kept going and going and finally arrived at the pit and landed against the stake for three points and he won.
JM: What a heartbreak! Oh, dear.
PB:I can tell you a lot about Bruce Bauman. His father ran the plumbing service which became Bauman and Garrity. And the Garrity was what married to the Garrity at Town Hill. He was not so good on—-He was what, Dolan Garrity?
PB: When you’re a kid you don’t know first names – it’s always Mr and Mrs.
JM: Was Hop Rudd’s Camp co-ed or just boys?
PB: Just boys. Yes. I remember, certainly, Hop’s kids were around – Priscilla Rudd Wolf. The only thing I remember that was she was tended to whine and I don’t blame her because she was stung by bees.
JM: Anyone would whine.
JM: What were some of the shops that were in town. Were there any candy stores or hang outs?
PB: Oh, yes. I was trying to think more about what we did as kids. To get back to that. I’ll go into that. Some of my friends in town, you had Jerry Clark – his older brother, Pepper Clark, his father, John Clark, whom you need to interview.
JM: He’s been done twice.
PB: Done twice. He’s now ninety seven and I gather, sharp as a tack. Bruce Baumman who lived next to the plumbing service there, is that Bostwick, I guess, the street.? And Rip Noble, who – his house is directly across from Bostwick. Is that Burton Brook? (Yes) That runs between now the Bank and his house. And, we as children, we boys would play at the Nobles. Pick up baseball games, Sandy Matheson would come down from the hill. He had a younger brother. But Bruce is the one I got in trouble with all the time. And those are stories that I just have to quickly tell because they are burnt into my memory. I had access to a small twenty-two rifle and it belonged to my grandfather and I was shooting from the roof outside my window at a croquet ball on the lawn and the neighbors complained that they could hear bullets whizzing through the trees, so the gun was taken away and ended up in my mother’s closet in her bedroom. Bruce wanted to see the gun and I knew where it was hidden. So he took it down and my mother, not knowing much about guns hadn’t known that it was loaded. So, I was standing next to Bruce and he, instead of hitting me, he fired a round through my father’s closet and it hit a – beside a closet door – so it went through the door and hit a framed picture set on top of a stack of drawers. And it was his favorite poem. So, there’s no way we can hide what had happened when you break the glass and have a hole through the door –
JM: It’s pretty obvious.
PB: Pretty obvious. So that was very lucky. The other incident was we had tunnels all through our yard. We had 7,8 acres up on the hilltop so there were places to dig forts, pits.
JM: Where on the hilltop are you referring to?
PB: At what point? Around the house?
JM: What house are we talking about?
PB: This is my parent’s house.
JM: Which was located where?
PB: Which was located at 151 Millerton Road. And my parents owned from Belgo Road down to the lake. So that was probably about twenty-six acres roughly. My brother liked war games so we had war games and we had BB gun wars. We weren’t allowed to have BB guns, so of course, we had BB guns and this was great fun. And as you have read in that book that was done for me which others won’t see or hear, we had wars and my sister shot my brother once at point blank range…that was exciting. Anyway, back to Bruce. We used to shoot hunting arrows into trees. That was great fun. Fortunately, this particular day the hunting tips were absent, just regular arrows, and we were shooting arrows into a pit from the raspberry patch. We used to sell raspberries at the foot of the hill. And, the arrows would come over the top of the pit and stick into the back of the pit in the dirt and we would be huddled below the impact area. And my sister tired of this and decided to seat herself at the side of the pit and watch the arrows fly by. Well, there was an errant arrow and I am waiting for the next arrow to hit and I hear, “Ouch”, and I look up and the arrow was stuck through my sister’s head, or so it appeared. It got stuck in a tuft of hair in the back of her head and I could see the arrow on either side and Lord knows, it could have literally killed her. Obviously, put out an eye or something. So that was the kind of excitement we had in those days that one can no longer have. So, what did we remember about shops in the area?
JM: When you got on your bike and went into town, was there a place that you got ice cream or comic books or –
PB: This was Carl’s Luncheonette.
JM: And where was that located?
PB: That was located towards the entrance of Community Field. So this is at the intersection of Route 41 and 44 – a whole series of buildings there that have since been removed and replaced and they had a pinball machine and it was great fun. But I remember all stores in that area and—-.
JM: Could you give me a picture of the shops in that area?
PB: Let’s see. If you work from Farnam Road, going towards Route 44, so we’re moving up Route 41, called Sharon Road or Montgomery Road, whatever it happens to be now, was the Gulf station run by Ward Finkle. I think he was certainly high up in the Fire Department which was directly across the street. And, what I remember from that is the coke machine which had this big rotary rack and when you lifted up the door, it moved the coke to where you could pull it out and it cost five cents apiece. Great thing to have on a hot day. And that’s where my grandfather tripped on the grease pit edge and broke a hip and died on the operating table several weeks later, I guess. That doesn’t quite follow, does it? But, – the timing. But I seem to remember soon after that accident, he was gone. 79 years old. He was a doctor in New Jersey.
JM: Was that Dr. Becket?
PB: That’s Dr. George Becket who lived in town from l945 until 49, when he died with his daughter, Jean Becket..
JM: After his wife died, he moved here to be with Jean?
PB: Correct. And Jean died at Noble Horizons three weeks short of age 100. She was born in l907.
JM: A wonderful lady.
PB. And a writer of 17 books of her short stories and she was published in major national magazines such as Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post and Redbook.
JM: And she had a movie with RKO…. There was a contract.
PB: Oh. I remember something about that. I think she was disappointed about what they did to her story. Moving along, we had I think, a liquor store, maybe a meat market, but next to that was the three story building of Barnett’s five and dime, which became Ben Franklin. And, that is where every Christmas Bill Raynsford, the First Selectman,was a carpenter in town whose shop was a small building next to the fire station. At that time, we had the railroad tracks going over the brook past the fire station and going to what is now a radio station, but it was the railroad station. And that is part of the RailTrail that runs through Lakeville-Salisbury now, and that had a bridge, and trucks would get stuck under there and they’d let the air out of the tires so they could move through. Bill Raynsford was Santa Claus and so, year after year, many years, he was the Santa Claus up on the third floor of Barnett’s.
JM: And he kept ledger books of every child – what they wanted for Christmas ( Oh, my!) and I would love to find out where those books are. But nobody knows. But at Christmas time if the parents weren’t sure what their little Sally or Johnny wanted, they would have a quiet word—- and lo and behold, Christmas morning, they would get what they wanted.
PB: One would hope. We have a Bill Raynsford story. Back to BB guns. I built tree houses. I had five tree houses on our property. One was in the crotch of a maple tree overlooking Route 44, near our driveway. And complaints were coming in, apparently, that cars were being hit by BBs. I had NO idea how that could have happened. So, Bill Raynsford was parked outside below my tree house and in attendance was Chick Brammer, a policeman. He was elderly, of slight build and I think he was called Chick, the rumor goes because he stole chickens in a former life. And, for some reason, I just had to open up and I shot Mr. Raynsford’s car. And took off for the house up the hill, Followed in pursuit by Mr. Brammer. And, of course, he got to the house fortunately, no one was there. I was hiding out in what we call our barn next to where we had a football field with lights put in by my brother. So, lo and behold, that evening my mother says, “ Mr. Raynsford called and would like to see you”. Scared to death and I took my sister with me, bless her heart, for moral support. Went down there, expecting to be chastised within an inch of my life and you would have never guessed what happened. Couldn’t have been nicer. And said not to worry and went out and looked at the car and said, “Well, maybe, here’s a little scratch but it’s nothing”. Course, I didn’t tell him, he was looking at the wrong side of the car. And Mary Raynsford, his wife, showed me how to get worms to go fishing, pouring coffee on the ground and lo and behold, worms would appear, probably drowning. So that was a very memorable time with Bill Raynsford.
JM: What a wonderful story!
PB: Yeh. So, there was a break between the Barnett’s and the next building because there was a huge, probably an Elm tree, in between as I recall. I’ m pretty sure there was a tree there – that would explain why there was no building – and above the luncheonette, you had Paul Argall’s barber shop, and Fish Real Estate and I think that’s all that was there. And then you had Dufour’s Garage right at the corner, and then going around the corner, you had Salis-Lake and only recently did I realize that that meant Salisbury – Lakeville, in truncated, hyphenated form. And then,, I guess, a legend in his own time there – Danny La Fredo’s Shoe Shop.
JM: He was a love.
PB: – and, you know, short fellow there, still with the Italian accent. Let’s see, I’m thinking of someone else – that’s why I paused here – trying to remember what was further on down but certainly across the street was First National Stores.
JM: And, First National then. It wasn’t Morris Brickman’s?
PB: No. And so in 1956, that’s where I got my first job other than mowing grass for a couple of years for people. Golly, my mother would take me around town and help do the edging when I did Mrs. Fish’s properties and I think I got something like two dollars to mow the grass and then seventy-five cents for edging. So, I think by the end of the summer, the mower had about had it and what I had earned probably would have bought almost a new mower. So, that was a wash but I had job experience. And, uh, so the fellow’s name was Johnson who was the store manager who married one of the Walsh girls who was related to Dick Walsh who was working up at Indian Mountain and was a baseball referee. And, then let’s see, moving down on that side of the street, was that a liquor store way back then?
JM: It may have been a liquor store at that point but I think it had been a plumbing shop before that. But this is going further back than you.
PB: I wonder who that could have been. And then we had—what’s that—-see now, I thought that was Brickman’s – that building which is now the Chinese food restaurant.
JM: That was Gentile’s Pharmacy when I came here.
PB: Right. But before that, it was a grocery store – during the war, we had coupons and that was the store where you gave a slip of paper with your order and then they would take that long stick with a little squeeze thing on the bottom and a claw at the top that would pull the Quaker Oats off the top shelf and that then became, after Gentile’s, would be Dick Walsh’s Pharmacy and then, I suppose, what’s with the Chinese Restaurant had come in after Dick?
JM: I think so, yes.
PB: Probably. Dick Walsh, I know, had married Carol Fenn, —-begins with F, Flynn or something,then Patricia Dell. Can’t remember the name. And then, the Post Office. So, then, back across the street, we had at some point, very early on, it would have been Borden Real Estate.
JM: Did you remember when it was an ice cream parlor or was that before your time?
PB: When what was an ice cream parlor?
JM: Bordon’s Real Estate.
JM: Because of the Borden milk connection.
PB: Oh, heavens! No, I don’t remember that. It’s now an art gallery as you know. And then, that’s pretty much it. I just remember everything going down the street. You have the Methodist Church which is still there; you had a sewing shop next to the gas station which is what now, Dave Jones’ Automotive?
JM: That was – the sewing shop was Gudrun Duntz’s , the seamstress, wasn’t it?
PB: She wasn’t running it then. She came later.
JM: She came later.
PB: This reminds me of the Salisbury Ski Jump and how we were all in those sports programs.
JM: Would you tell us a little bit about the ski jumps?
PB: Yes. Back in the forties and fifties we had far more snow than we now have so the SWASA
(Salisbury Winter Sports Association) was quite active. And in that era, this was run by Bill Doolittle, the Headmaster of Indian Mountain School. And I was active in that that’s where I learned to ski and I did jumping and cross-country and they had a cross country course – they may still today. It started at the bottom of the ski jump and went up over the back of the ski jump and then returned to the bottom of the hill. And I used to jump – all I can remember is the 12 and under – those were the miracle years when I was raking in the trophies and the ribbons and the little silver and gold ski pins and Tommy Atkins lived in town, would always win the ski jump and I would be second. Tommy did not do cross country so I would win the cross country and since he didn’t go in both events, guess who would win combined trophies! And, the big super star of that era was Harold Jones. His father, I think, was also Harold Jones, and worked on the town public works crew as I recall. Harold was know as Jonesie and may still be today but he was the best in cross country bar none. He was the best in jumping and, I believe, went on to the Junior Nationals. And in that era, we had Roy Sherwood, who was on the U.S. Olympic Jumping Team, and, I think, was certainly most active in helping raise $750,000 for the new ski jump. But what sticks in my mind is the big jump. You had three jumps, side by side. A twenty meter, 40 meter and a sixty meter. Sixty meter means you can go about 200 feet for the jump. And jumps nowadays are designed where the take off is quite low to the knoll of the hill, so when you are in the air, you are following the contour of the hill. Back then, I would suppose the take off was probably about 15 feet above the knoll so that you were really thrown way out into the air. My brother and Billy Doolittle, young, the son of William Metcalf Doolittle – he and Jimmy were going off the jump they’d go a little bit up the in-run, the take off , start part way out so they wouldn’t go too far and I was at the top of the knoll, waiting for someone to come down the hill and then, lo and behold, I see Billy
Doolittle coming in a prone position – that flat – with his skis pointing 90 degrees in the wrong
direction, laughing himself silly because see, he chickened out and tried to christie into a stop and went flying off the top of the take-off and bounced off the knoll. And it was – he was more embarrassed than anything else. My brother was thirteen when he was a forerunner for the, I guess they call it – the Eastern Championships, or something, it’s part of the Nationals. He asked if he could be a forerunner and he didn’t find out until the day of the jump. So, he was out until three o’clock doing something or other the night before. And it was either on his second or third jump, he was just plain tired, went off the take off and his tips dropped and that’s when the crowd gasped. I was not there, my mother was not there, but my father was. So he went head first down the hill, put his arm out to break the fall and broke his wrist and was promptly taken to the Sharon Hospital and, I gather, they had to have some kind of a rig to straighten the arm out so my father was pulling on that to reset the bone and I was told that he passed out. (JM: Oh, my!) I don’t know if that’s true but you’re talking about a Yale quarter back who is a pretty tough guy…(JM: But it was his son!) So that’s what I remember about the jump.
JM: That’s pretty impressive.
PB: It was good fun. A very active program and that’s been pretty much supplanted by Salisbury Youth Hockey because then you had Berkshire, Salisbury and Hotchkiss with indoor artificial rinks. Golly, we used to go up to Salisbury School back in the fifties and have pick up hockey games on Sunday afternoons with Hop Rudd, his sons, Roz Rudd, who was a famous trombone player, Ben Rudd ,who married Patty Thrall from town. Good times. There’s a whole different flavor from what you have today with everybody so darned worried and I had talked to you earlier about this. I think her name was Connie Smith who went to Camp Sloane and she was ten years old –so this is early 1950’s – walked into town and was never seen again. And, quite traumatic for the town and really had people starting to think , “Is this a safe place to be?”They never found her.
JM: It would be a traumatic situation because things like that hadn’t happened here in town.
PB: I think her parents were from Wyoming or something. Oh, it was dreadful. We’ve had drownings in the lake – those are other stories…
JM: And, of course, there are always stories from Mount Riga…
PB: Did you just trigger one for me we talked about?
JM: If you have one, sure.
PB: My brothers’ friends, Johnny Desmond who is still active running Deep Lake Farm on Indian Mountain Road, John and Joel Brightman, who are tied in with the Ingersolls, Webster Newkirk and his father, Roger Newkirk, ran the Newkirk Funeral Home by Salisbury Central School.They were a wild bunch for sure – had good fun. They’d be in bike races on Community Field, they’d be in swim races at the Grove, and going up Mount Riga Road, they – some of them, you see, had driver’s licenses – and so, they’d take several cars up there and then, coming back down the hill – and not everyone might be familiar with the road – it’s a narrow, steep dirt road in places and the road runs along a brook so there could be a sharp bank in many places – they would go tooling down the road with someone between the bumpers so on one back bumper and the front bumper of the back car – they did daring activities of that ilk.
JM: And, probably, they never got hurt doing it.
PB: Not that I can recall. Just a miracle.
JM: That’s always the way. They had a guardian angel.
PB: A guardian angel. Back then, we had, what? We had Doctor Weiler who was the Weiler doctor at Hotchkiss. And Paul Argyll cut the hair, I believe, of the boys up at Hotchkiss. This was an era when you had”Estates”. Well to do people who had retired in the area and if there was any emergency or campaign to raise funds for something for the the public good, these things just got done, quietly, by passing the hat and a little arm twisting. And, that era is pretty much gone. The estates are split up and of course, today, people are scrambling for work.
JM: Oh, yes.
PB: It’s very tough now to raise money – (JM: for anything ) For anything. We’ve been lucky, successful so far, but it certainly is not going to get any better.
JM: Now, the gentleman that you wanted to talk about, the lady that came to do research on him.
PB: Ah, yes. Now I am trying to remember her name. There was a gal in Baltimore who is doing some research on a very famous French mystery writer called Georges Simenon – S-I-M-E-N-O-N- and he lived in Arizona for a while and then, for whatever reason, moved to Lakeville in the end of, I can’t remember the street, but it is off of Farnum Road. And it’s the Ingersoll Farm, I believe. And, he, I guess, is probably the most prolific writer in modern times from France and his son, Marc, went to Indian Mountain School. And, he also went to Hotchkiss and then, it would be the Harvey School for a short time. (JM: yes) I think he got, was asked to leave Hotchkiss for an encounter with a young lady – things were different back then as well – I guess less forgiving for errant ways. These were the days of George Van Santvoord was the Headmaster and a nice story about him–(JM: Oh, please!) I can remember. He was a woodsman and would take the boys out into the woods and show them how to chop wood and I gather he took a swing and put the ax into his foot, then drew blood and, as the story goes, acted as if nothing had happened. Certainly, an embarrassing moment. But, I remember his wife and the Christmas parties they had for the local kids in the Headmaster’s House, where they had these marvelous presents. And my wife is now here, maybe we have to stop this for a moment.
JM: Let’s go back and talk about the Van Santvoord Christmas parties at Hotchkiss.
PB: Gala affairs. You’d give your right arm for an invitation. And,as I recall, she had these little toy trucks and things that were made out of metal that were beautiful things – they were works of art. And so, those were great treasures. That’s about it for the Christmas parties.
Now, I guess we go back to Georges Simenon. ( JM: O.K. Let’s go back). Just to mention that he would walk into town every day. And pass all these stores and shops that we have just been talking
JM: Where did he live?
PB: He was off Farnam Road and I knew Nick Colin used to live down there and the Bayersdorfers.
This is going way, way back. And, all I can remember about my times with Marc is that in his bedroom, he kept a big, black snake. And, he was very much into nature and so, he would take that snake out and wrap it around my neck. I am not a snake person and then, he would laugh and tell me about how this particular snake likes to strangle its prey – ( JM: It’s a boa! It was a boa constrictor!) Well, it wasn’t but he pretended it was. That was that. Oh, yeh! This reminds me. He and Judy Wagner were a number. My father was a law partner with Tom Wagner, so they had Becket and Wagner in the middle of town where Robin Leech now has his office, across from the Methodist Church. (JM: O.K.) And we set something up. My father loved gadgets so we were one of the first to have a tape recorder. So, my sister recorded our talking about our girlfriends and she said, “Oh, I snuck in and I recorded this conversation, Marc talking about Judy Wagner and my brother, Peter, talking about Debbie Clark”. Debbie and Judy were best buddies and so, my sister – this was all set up, you see – and she called Judy and said, I’ve recorded this, you’ve got to listen to this. So, we were filled with superlatives about how wonderful these girls were and on it went. I don’t know what became of that but I gather, they actually were a number. And that reminds me of Webster Newkirk because Webster and Marc were close friends and I gather got into a bit of trouble now and then. And, Sherry Newkirk, married to Webster, worked at Indian Mountain School for quite some time. Anyway, Marc was yanked back to Paris. He was a film director for a while. I think he – his father died, I believe, in 1989, and he died in l998, if I remember correctly. But, to put this in some context, you see Georges Simenon was the Meryl Streep of our present day of having someone in town of some notoriety. That’s that. Do you have other questions. Steer me in a good direction.
JM: Do you have anything else that you’d like to add?
PB: Oh, anything else.
JM: But, you’re limited to fifteen minutes.
PB: Why don’t we hit the pause button and think about this.
JB: Can you tell me something about horse back riding?
PB: Yes, indeed! My sister loved to horseback ride like a number of young ladies and I horseback rode with her as well. We’d go up to, is that Lime Rock Road? – where the Miner farm was which now intersects with, I guess, Race Track Road, that area. And, they had horseback riding shows and it was always great to get a ribbon. I don’t think I ever got above a white which was fourth place or something. My sister did better. It was George Miner and his wife, whose first name escapes me – but you have to remember, we were a little more respectful in those days, and always addressed older people by their last names. And, I guess, a generation before that, best friends would address by the surname. “Mrs. Jones, my best friend”, that kind of thing. This was also an era, while I think of it that, I think we all had rather formal relationships with our parents. They weren’t your best friend. It was not much communication and not much attempt to know what was going on beyond superficial things. Now, of course, it’s, “What are you thinking?, What are you feeling?” Also active at that time I guess was Lucy Drummond , who later had a horse farm and her horse shows up Under Mountain Road. And that farm was right next to where Carl Issacson moved his restaurant. (JM: Undermountain Inn; Stone Ledge Inn) Good for you, yes. Next to where Meryl Streep now has her lake which, I guess, that belonged to the Schwaikerts?
JM: Yes,it did. And it was also called Fisher Pond.
PB: I think that’s about 63 acres, something like that? (JM: Something like that) It’s large. And, as I recall, would the word be apocryphal? The intersection of Belgo Road and Millerton Road were where Lucy Drummond had her house, next to our old Victorian. There are two grave markers, rather large and, as I understand it, two horses are buried there. I don’t know how you would bury
a horse, you’d be digging for weeks but, that’s the story, at any rate. And, it probably is true. Because, it wouldn’t be humans . They’re unmarked markers. So, we want to discuss, perhaps, a bit more about the
lake. I remember Rudd Camp. We would go from Camp, which was next door to the Grove across to the Hotchkiss Boathouse, swimming. So you’d be accompanied by a boat – and this would be about a ½ mile across. And this would be a big deal to be able to say that you swam across the lake. (JM: It would be.) It would be. And, back then, we had a substantial raft with a diving board and that was further out than what they now have and I don’t know what the requirements were to go out there but that has been the scene of some tragedies of people going under the raft and getting their heads stuck between the buoys or whatever kept the raft afloat. I remember we built our own raft that we had out on the lake with a huge diving board and it was such that when you went to the end of the diving board, it just about touched the water. We were five or six feet off the top of the raft but it wasn’t designed too well. (JM: Oh, well) That was a time when I learned to swim by they would take me out in a boat and they would throw me into the water- (JM: A lot of us learned that way!) which is how I became fearful of water. Almost drowned when I was at Exeter when some kid held me under. (JM: Oh, goodness!) And I guess we’re going to wrap this up talking about Millerton and trains. Back then, Millerton was, I don’t know how to best characterize it, but was where the poor folks lived. It was the other side of the railroad tracks, only the tracks were just on the other side. For the record, Millerton is now the happening place. (JM: Oh, yes) A lot going on thanks to the Harney’s, I would say. There’s Harney Tea and other shops. At that time, the railroad ran up to Chatham, N.Y. So one of the stops was Millerton. And my father commuted to New York City on that train. And, I always remember this Irish John, the conductor, who we’d say hello to as my father would disembark. And Phil Terni, who still has his store in the middle of town remembers John well. I just spoke with him, and he said, “Oh, yeh, that’s John so and so,” and then he can relate when the railroad ceased to be that far and it now is in Wassaic, That’s the end of the line, isn’t it? I believe just south of Amenia? (JM: South Amenia, yup.) So, that was the end of an era. Now, we have the RailTrail and that has helped revitalize the town. (JM: Which is a good thing.) You know, we could talk for hours but I think that brings us to the end of the tape.
JM: And I thank you so much for your time.
PB: Thank you.