Bellini, Evelyn

Interviewer: Marion Haeberle
Place of Interview: Wells Hill
Date of Interview:
File No: #34 A Cycle:
Summary: Bate Thompson House Lime rock 1941, Flood of 1955, diorama of Mr. Shaw, Salisbury Central School secretary, Harry Bellini’s banking career,, Bissell Fund

Interview Audio

Interview Transcript

Memoir of Evelyn Bellini

Tape #: 34 a Beginning of tape erased


Place of interview: Mrs. Bellini’s home on Wells Hill

Interviewer: Marion Haeberle

Summary: partial description of the Bate Thompson House, Lime Rock as it was in 1941, August flood of 1955 at Lime Rock, Mr. Shaw’s diorama, career of Mrs. Bellini as secretary at Salisbury Central School for 25 years, career of Harry Bellini and his civic activities, Bissell Fund, business changes in Lakeville.

Property of the Oral History Project


Salisbury Association, Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068

Memoir of Evelyn Bellini1.

EB:And most of it was just placed as it was, the barn the same way, dovetailed, very few nails. It

had no closets upstairs except for what Alex built in. It had an artisan well and septic tank, about ten feet of property in the front and about an acre up in the back, which was built on a hill. The second floor of that house, the hall of the second floor of that house opened up onto the back yard.

MH: Where about was this house located?

EB:Between Norton Hill, this is a continuation of Wells Hill, and the Salisbury Lime Rock Road.

The house is between the two, it still stands there with two posts with electric lights on the top; right in between those two roads, and a stone wall in front of it, and a small barn on the Salisbury Lime Rock Road.

MH:Yes, I know the house. You called the Bate Thompson House.

EB:They were the people who owned it. After that they lived in Taconic. The sister-in-law still lives

in Taconic, I believe.

MH: And this was about 1941?

EB:And that was about 1941?

MH: And you had 2 girls, at the time.

EB:I had two children. One was 7 and one was 3.

MH:Did you find that Lime Rock was more of a business community, at that time, than it is now?

That is, having a store?

EB:Lime Rock had one store, a general store which contained the post office, run by Philo Lyons and

his family. That was the only store in Lime Rock. I believe, as I recall, the only things he sold were food products. So as being a general store, it was only general as far as food went. He did not sell clothing, other than shoe laces, things like that. There was no other business in town, until the Institute of General Semantics took a house, but I wouldn’t call that a business. The mill was not operative at that time, and the race track was not yet built. That was property that belonged to Benjamin Franklin Vaill, and that was a potato field and a corn field, where the race track is now. We attended Trinity Church, at that time.

MH:Was the school still open, that one room school house? Had that been closed?

EB:No, that had been closed, and the children who formerly went to that went to the school in

Lakeville, and the kindergarten, first, second, and third grade were in the Grove School in Salisbury. Third grade and up went to Salisbury Central School, which is now the Lower Building. And my youngest child, who was in kindergarten at that time, went to the Grove School in Salisbury, and she had to get on


the taxi or the bus which picked her up in Lime Rock at 8 o’clock in the morning and did not get home from kindergarten until four in the afternoon because they had no double sessions, whereby they could bring the morning children home and take them back. The buses did not run that frequently. So she stayed in kindergarten from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.

MH: What a long attention span.2.

EB:She came home looking like nothing that went out.

MH: That’s a long time.

EB; Well, they changed that after a while, and then I began to, I took a position working at the school as secretary and when she went to first grade, I took her to school so she would not have to have that long bus trip both ways which added 45 minutes on to her day. She was too young.

MH: Yes.

EB:Would you like to hear one interesting thing about Lime Rock, and someone who lived there?

MH: Oh absolutely.

EB:There was a family Fred Shaw, and I’m sure people who lived here in this area, in I would say,

the 50’s, 52, 57, 58 would remember him. He was an artist, and he lived on the road that goes around a little circle, Old Iron Forge was in the back, and he lived in a little house on that road, and he had in addition to his painting he had made a diorama of the old iron forge, and it was a very beautiful diorama. It was, I would say, perhaps 3 feet in diameter, maybe 2 feet deep, rounded dome on the top. He had that in his home, and I believe at that time the town of Salisbury was negotiating with him into regarding buying this diorama to place it Town Hall. In the meantime in August in 1955 we had that horrendous flood which is history in Connecticut, wiped out Winsted and other cities, and it rained steadily for 5 days, and I remember at the end of the fourth or fifth day, the water was running down the hill behind my house, under and out and down the steps into the front. The brook across the street, the small brook there did not come up to the level of our place, but it did go over the lot just below where Mary Clark lives there now and the Franceforts antique place and Marcello and Wanda Lorenzo had a liquor store there, and that was down in that area. The water came up, and it covered the hedges. It also covered this artist, Mr. Shaw’s first floor, and he came, he could not get out. My 2 girls and John Berti, who lived in, Cilio Berti’s son, went over to Shaw’s property in bathing suits, and they swam over the hedges, across the fields in the water to Mr. Shaw’s second floor. They went into the house, swam into the house and rescued his diorama, and my girls held the diorama, treading water above their heads, while Johnnie came with a row boat, and they put the diorama in the row boat, and they rescued it. They brought to shore. Then they had to go back and get Mr. and Mrs. Shaw. They took them out of their second floor with a row boat, and after they were safely ensconced in my home, my girls and John went back, and they swam all around the house, and dove down underneath into the kitchen and found floating oranges, lemons, onions, and among other things, the reason they dove down, was because he was worried about his very good cameras. They rescued the cameras, how good they were after they


got them out, I don’t know. But they brought them over in the row boat, and they sat in our house. Mr. Shaw had a marvelous sense of humor. He sat there laughing, and he was so positive about every- 3. thing. He figured there was some reason for this. But what happened to the diorama after that I don’t know because Mr. Shaw’s house went up in flames about 3 or 4 years later, and everything was completely ruined. He did not die in the fire. His wife had died, I think, just a few months before, but the house was totally totaled. I believe he went to live, (they had no children), with a nephew, or someone. I don’t know what happened to him after that, or what happened to the diorama. I don’t know whether that went up with the flames or not. I don’t recall.

MH:It never did end up in the Town Hall?

EB:It never did end up in the Town Hall.

MH: What an adventure for your girls to remember.

EB:Well, they had been very good swimmers. They were about 12 and 13 or 14 at that time. No, 12

and 15. So they were not little, but they were good swimmers so was Johnnie Berti, and he’s the only other child in the neighborhood around that time, except for Patchins.

MH: That creek’s the one that comes down to 112.

EB:That’s right.

MH: So there must have been extensive flooding all over.

EB:Oh yes, all through there, but we were just high enough so that it did not hit our house except

to go under it, because we were on the side of a hill.

MH: That can be disastrous for your cellar.

EB:We didn’t have a cellar.

MH: Fortunately.

EB:We had a root cellar, a dirt root cellar in that house.

MH:You say, to get back to the house for a minute, you say that you thought, it had been built on a


EB:That’s what I had been told. Whether that was folk lore or truth I never knew. But many people

who lived in that area claimed that it was built on the cemetery. Had I known that I probably wouldn’t have been for it.

MH: Just as well you didn’t know it while you were there. Mostly there was very little business going on in Lime Rock, just residential.

EB:There was no business, no business at all.


MH: Considering the flourishing community it had been, that’s quite a change.

EB:Farming, the Belters had a big farm there, and Franklin Vaill had one, where the race track is


MH: The railroad depot had gone by then.

EB:I never saw that.

MH: I think from other interviews that I heard and listened to, it was further up. Or further east along the Housatonic, I’m not sure.

EB:I think it was, yes.

MH: But it had been a milk collection point.

EB: That was before I went there.

MH: That was before your time. And how long did you live then in Lime Rock?

EB:About 20 years, 25 years?

MH: So your girls went from Lime Rock to through all of their schooling.

EB:Yes, they all did, through high school, the regional high school.

MH: The regional, well, that was quite a trip for them.

EB:Well, we were close to regional, but it was a trip to the public school, but they had buses. It was

just that one year of kindergarten.

MH: Where was, you mentioned the Grove Street School was for the primary. It is no longer standing is it?

EB:I don’t know what has happened to it. It was on Grove Street, near Jim DuBois’s house. It had

been a private house. It was made into a school, and we used to send the hot lunches from Salisbury Central School up there every day by bus.

MH: Oh, I see.

EB:When they built the new school, the upper building, then they discontinued the Grove Street


MH:Could you tell us a little about the school, then, Salisbury Central or Grove Street?

EB:I don’t know much about that except that my younger daughter when there. Mr. Charles Fitts,

who was the secretary of the Board of Education, informed me that they needed a part-time secretary to work in the principal’s office. She had to know how to mimeograph, of course, and typing and all of


those skills which are nothing compared to what you have to have now. So he asked me if I would be interested, and I said I thought I wouldn’t. My youngest child was only 5 and was going into first grade. I couldn’t quite see how I could get her to Grove Street School there where she’d have to stay for 2 years, and work in the other school. So he had her put in the other school even though she lived in Lime Rock. All the Lime Rock children had to go to the Grove School. As long as I could transport her myself, she was allowed to go to the Central School where my other daughter was. So I worked there for 5 different principals, starting right after Paul Birch, and anybody lived in this town very long remembers Paul Birch. He was one of our first principals up there; and after Paul Birch, Tom Boden, and after Tom Boden came Henry Ford. He lived in the house which is now the Housatonic Mental Health Center. Then after Henry ford came, I think it was Alice Eggleston, after Henry Ford. I worked as Alice Eggleston’s secretary for 10 years. Then we had Mr. Robert Sullivan, and then Norman Stephens. I worked under five or six different principals. The job moved from being a 4 hour part-time job to a full time job, plus a couple of weeks after school, some in the spring and summer and before we opened in the fall. I worked there until I took early retirement at the age of 62. So I worked there for 25 years, and ran the hot lunch program, the federal hot lunch program which was part of the job, which I did not know when I took it originally, until I had been in it for a week or two and then…

MH: What did that entail, running the hot lunch program?5.

EB:Now they just discontinued that this year. It entailed buying all of the food, hiring the, with the

Board of Education’s approval, the people who worked in the kitchen, making up the menus, taking care of the money, depositing it in the bank, keeping all of the records, and since it was a federal program, the taxes and the monthly reports to the federal government. It was run by the United States Department of Agriculture; just keeping the records of the hot lunch also, in addition to doing the buying and supervising the cooking, and the money.

MH: You had to supervise the cooking, as well?

EB:Not actually in the kitchen, but just be sure that they used the things that we were compelled to

use that were USDA donated, and they had to be preserved under certain conditions, they could not be defrosted under adverse conditions, and just generally supervise, that type of thing, not the actual cooking. Planning the menus and doing the buying.

MH:Did the federal funds take care of the whole…?


MH:All of the food?

EB:No, never.

MH:Certain foods?



EB:They subsidized the program at that time. It was subsidized on a percentage basis. It never

covered the cost of operating the federal lunch program. But the Board of Education used to allocate funds each year. It was audited every year.

MH:Was there a cafeteria, a regular cafeteria?6.

EB:Yes, there was always a cafeteria, even in the lower building. That’s where it started. There was

a cafeteria there, a small one, and there must have been a kitchen. I don’t remember seeing a kitchen, but there must have been a kitchen. Yes, there was a cafeteria and that was when we sent the meals up to the Grove School on the bus that took the kindergarten children home, delivered the food up there. We only had one lunch worker at that time, one woman who did all the cooking.

MH: She did all the cooking.

EB:When we were down in the lower building, but we didn’t have that many taking lunch. Then in

1954, I think it was, when the upper building, the new building, was built, and we had a larger cafeteria. They sent all of the children to Salisbury Central School, not just those who were in the district, but the children from Grove School came up there also. We had a, we averaged a couple hundred a day, eating in the cafeteria. We used to put those lines through in about 12 minutes each, three sections.

MH: That’s fast.

EB:It was fast but you know pretty good…and we had many workers.

MH: Yes, so how many children were enrolled in the school, the average?

EB:Well, when I was there it went from about 250 up to close to 500, now it’s decreased again.

MH:Yes, yes, I think that is common all over.

EB:We were close to 500 just before I retired, I remember.

MH:Oh you were? Was Grove Street the only other school in the district that was used at that time?

EB:To my knowledge. All these other smaller schools, like Lime Rock and Taconic, had all closed.

MH: They had been closed. I see. That’s very interesting. About how many classes, well you had from kindergarten to…

EB:We had from kindergarten to eighth grade.

MH:Yes and the number of classes would fluctuate with the enrollment.

EB:It varied from year to year, of course as it does now.

MH: Well that was a long time. You got to know the school very well.



EB:Yes, quite well and the children. You know it’s time to retire when you see the children’s

children coming to school.

MH: Yes, how true. I’ve experienced that myself. In fact I did have some children whose parents I had had when I first started teaching, quite a feeling.

EB:Right, you still have some funny experiences, don’t you?7.

MH: Yes, well, could you tell us anything more about the school or shall we go on?

EB:I think that’s about it for the school.

MH: Well, then when you married Mr. Bellini, you yourself moved to Lakeville.

EB:I moved from Lime Rock up here to Wells Hill Road in Lakeville.

MH: And have lived here ever since.

EB:And have lived here ever since, not that long, actually.

MH: I see. Well, now you mentioned something when we were speaking earlier about how he worked his way up in the bank. I remember him being referred to as the Bank President here.

EB:Well, he started in when he moved up here from Winsted after he graduated from the Gilbert

School. He took a position in the Salisbury Bank & Trust Company when it was up where the Wagner- McNeil Insurance place is now.

MH: Oh.

EB:That white building across from the Holley-Williams House. He started in just as a teller, and

doing other odd jobs, and gradually worked his way up. He was President of the Salisbury Bank & Trust Company for 26 years, 28 years I’m wrong.

MH: Oh, well he saw that bank grow, also.

EB:He saw that bank grow, and he retired just before they moved into the new bank where it is

now located.

MH: Oh I see. He was quite prominent and active in other organizations, wasn’t he?

EB:Yes, he was really a civic leader, very definitely. He established a great many organizations or

helped in their establishment, such as the 4H here, which was not in Lakeville but connected with it, Boy Scouts, and I couldn’t begin to mention them all, but most everybody knows just about everything, all the community affairs and the Homemakers Aid Association out of West Cornwall, and of course the Masonic Fraternity.

MH: Wasn’t he Grand Master?


EB; He was Grand Master in 1967 & 8, Grand Master of Masons in Connecticut. The Bissell Fund, I just couldn’t begin to enumerate all the things he did.8.

MH: Did he help administer the Bissell Fund?

EB:I think at one time he was on the board, but it was way, way back, right after Dr. Bissell

established that. I was not married to him at that time so I do not remember too much about that.

MH:I have heard references to the Bissell Fund, but I am not sure exactly what it is.

EB:It is a philanthropic fund that was established by Dr. Bissell to aid people who could not afford

to pay their total medical bills. It may have been changed in past years, I don’t know, but that was what it was originally, I believe. I wouldn’t want to be held to that.

MH: That’s in the town of Salisbury?

EB:Uhum, I don’t know that might have been extended to other places now, also.

MH:That’s very worthwhile. Well, I think we’ve covered a great deal. Is there anything more that

you can think of.

EB:No, my life has not been all that exciting.

MH:I imagine that you’ve seen a lot of changes in Lakeville.

EB:Well, yes. Of course where the Lakeville Cafe is now, when I came here, it was a First National

market, and we used to have to stand in the meat line, the ration line, during the war.

MH: Oh.

EB:For meat rations. I met a lot of interesting people in the meat line, and we became very good

friends. You just had to get there early and stand in line.

MH: I guess you had to come up here to shop from Lime Rock?

EB:Oh yes.

MH: There was another food store here.

EB:There was an A&P down by where the Shell station is, and Darwin Miller had a little restaurant

down in, no, he ran the department store. I am wrong about that, where the Salis-Lake Jewelers was, around the corner there. So they were all in a row there by the Shell station, in that corner.

MH: Was the Barnett Store still there?

EB:The Barnett Store that was the one that Darwin Miller ran.

MH: I see.


EB:That was there at that time. Then a garage on the corner, DuFour’s Garage, was on the corner.

So about that I am sure.9.

MH: DuFour has been mentioned. Someone in one interview mentioned that Ma DuFour, or the mother, ran a store called “The Hub”?

EB:That I don’t know.

MH: Maybe that was before your time, again.

EB:Yes, it must have been.

MH:Yes, probably.

EB:I know Frances LeMoyne’s father, when she was Frances Hand, she was one of a pair of twins,

her father ran a little store called “The Jigger Shop”. You have heard of that.

MH: Yes.

EB:And then where Gudrun Duntz’s apparel place there, her sewing place that used to be a little

stationery store.

MH: That type of store has gone.

EB:He had records, stationery, and things like that. It’s amazing that I can’t remember his name

because l….often.

MH:I think the interesting thing is that the type of commerce in Lakeville has changed.

EB:Yes, because that was one little stationery store, the post office, 2 food markets, a liquor store,

and a drug store. Tony Gentile had the drug store.

MH: Yes.

EB:But none of these small shops, as we have now.

MH: No, they are more boutiques now.

EB:Yes, there is nothing like that.

MH: Where the Apothecary Shop is, is that always been?

EB:That used to be Rudman’s Meat Market.

MH: Oh.

EB:And that was bought by Tony Gentile, and it became the Apothecary Shop.

MH: I see.


EB:And it is still the Apothecary Shop.10.

MH:Yes. There have been changes, and probably more residential along Main Street than it is now

because a number of those houses have become businesses and offices.

EB:That’s right. Pavola, that was the name of the stationery store, and I don’t know why I couldn’t

remember that name. Pavola, the Hotchkiss boys used to come down all the time and buy all their little knickknacks and things down there. It was just a little place. They sold linoleum.

MH: Linoleum?

EB:Yes, linoleum, and records, and crayons, pencils, paper, all kinds, a novelty shop.

MH: Well, now that is a, I think there are three shops.

EB:Yes, there are three shops in there now.

MH:The Confectionery,

EB:Mrs. Duntz is in the back.

MH:And the stockbroker has an office there. Well, thank you very much. I think we appreciate this.

EB:You’re welcome.