Joan Bergdahl Interview:
This is file #11, cycle 2. This is Jean McMillen. Today’s date is December 10, 2015. I am interviewing Mrs. Joan Bergdahl at her cottage at Noble Horizons. She is going to talk about memories of Lime Rock when she came there in 1954.
JM:What is your name?
JM:What is your birthdate?
JM:Where were you born?
JM:Your parents’ names?
JB:My mother was Ann De Luca.
JM:And your father?
JB:He was Thomas Carvon.
JM:Did you have sibling?
JB:Yes I had a brother and a sister.
JM:The brother’s name was?
JB:Thomas Hubert Carvon.
JM:And you sister?
JM:What is your educational background after high school?
JB:After high school I went to Columbia University for three years, I didn’t get a degree but I went there for literature and stuff. I was a reporter and I needed… I was only 18 so I thought I had better do something.
JM:It was a good thing to do and it must have been interesting.
JB:It was very interesting; it was that time when Eisenhower was the President pro tem that was the time when people stood on soap boxes and did everything. It was really fun.
JM:How did you come to the area?2.
JB:Well I was married in New Rochelle, NY. My husband lived in New Rochelle. My father-in-law had bought the farm in Lime Rock in 1933.
JM:What was the size of the farm?
JB:I was trying to think about it; it was close to 300 acres on both sides of route 112.
JM:The Victorian house that Gordon Johnson owned was the main house? (520 Lime Rock Road)
JB:It is the big old Victorian house.
JM:Did he buy all of the property at once?
JB:Yes. He did.
JM:Do you know whom he bought it from?
JB:He bought it from the bank.
JB:I guess it was the Salisbury Bank; I have no idea what bank, but I think it was something like $300,000 so you can tell it was not expensive.
JM:With all of this land, how did he use it?
JB:He and his father built the house across from the big house. That is the little Cape Cod house across from the big house.
JM:That is the little blue one?
JB:No that was my house; it is a big house inside. It looks little but it is a big house. No, the cape on the other side of the river the little white cape and the teachers live there. They put an extension on it so they have a side piece that was not originally there.
JM:Did he do any farming on his own?
JB:No, he was an executive in New York City and he really came up for weekends, but he loved the place. He refinished all the dark wood in the house. They did everything. One of his barns he loved to tinker and he had all kinds of tractors and he did that just for fun.
JM:Did he lease the land to other people to farm?
JB:Well the Belters used to put their cattle on some of the land.
JM:Tell me about the 1955 flood.
JB:Well the ’55 flood really sort of put us in a hole. We were sort of lower and it went from route 7 and there was a huge eddy right between the cape and my father-in-law’s house and my house was on this side. The water never got into our house, but Poppy has a sump pump in his cellar so the water did not get into their house. I don’t think it got in next door, but it was so full in the road that people would come to see it and get stuck in the water. So my father-in-law was delighted to take his tractor and push people out of the water. They just came to be curious.
JM:Do you know of any buildings that were washed away?
JB:No I don’t think any buildings were washed away, but down below where there were miners’ cottages, those were really flooded because the land went down in the back. We had the only rowboat, actually it was metal. My husband and somebody else went down with him and they had a rope which they tied to a tree and they paddled into the houses to get the people out of the second story. Some people would not come, but others did get into the boat. Then they took up I think to the Episcopal Church. The people took care of them from there. The following days the people that were down below, you could see rugs hanging out. Everything was drying. They were really flooded. I guess it was very bad. My husband owned a liquor store in Canaan. I remember the night it rained and rained for a week, and my father-in-law came over and said, “Let’s move all the tractors and everything up to the top of the hill in back of the barns.” They did. Then they went down to Canaan and removed the bottles that were in the window because the water flooded in in Canaan and would have taken all the labels off the bottles. So they did all of that. He was pretty good about doing whatever he could. He liked to do that.
JM:He was a good neighbor.
JM:Now I am going to ask you about the shops of Lime Rock. Was there a dress shop?
JB:There was Girlie Elderidge’s.
JM:Where was that?
JB:It is around the bridge; it was the school house. (Brent, 323 Lime Rock Road Ed.).
JM:In that area was there a liquor store?
JB:Well there was a lady that lived there, one of the Lorenzoes.
JB:Yeah Wanda Lorenzo had a liquor store in a little section of her house. (Corner of Lime Rock road and Salmon Kill Road Ed.)
JM:That was near Salmon Kill Road.
JM:It is now part of it is Still Photography, I think.4.
JB:That is right. I see the sign there.
JM:Was there a glass shop?
JB:I don’t know if there was any. There might have been a glass shop but I don’t know where that was. (See Jeffery Silvernale #95/107) (The first glass shop was at 432 Lime Rock Road, Northwest classic Cars. Ed.)
JM:How about a post office?
JB:Well later on there was a post office, no maybe that was there before, but there was a post office on the opposite side of the street. It was a little building and I can’t tell you the name of the people that ran it, but it was a post office. I don’t think they sold anything in there unless it was cigarettes or bread or something. (Opposite the Lime Rock Lodge, corner of Forge Lane and Lime Rock Road Ed.) That then passed. I know that Elsie Lorch took that over when they closed it. She tried to do it in her home, but it didn’t work out. They moved all the people from the church to route 7 were RFD Falls Village, and the rest of them were Lakeville. So I got my mail from RFD Falls Village, even though we were in the town of Salisbury. They cut the mail so they could deliver it.
JB:There was a restaurant when I came there and it was down the street. The building is now apartments (Rocky Dell/Lime Rock Lodge Ed.) It was Lime Rock Lodge (just over the big bridge on Lime Rock Road and Forge Lane across from the old Post Office building Ed.)
JM:Did you ever eat there?
JB:Oh yes we went down there a lot; my father-in-law always had a lot of company on the weekends and they would go down there to dinner. It was a very nice place for dinner.
JM:How about the Surrey? Did you ever eat at the Surrey?
JB:I never ate at the Surrey, but I know people who moved into it.
JM:I have one or two of her sons. I know I had one Stephen Kowalski.
JB:Stephen was probably Brian’s age.
JM:Right about that time. No grocery store, though?
JB:I don’t know that there was a grocery store; Oh there was a glass shop and I know where it was. It was where…
JM:Is it Sheldon?(An earlier glass shop run by Mr. Evans was located where Northwest Classic Cars is now. Ed.)5.
JB:Yes it is. He worked and lived there too. He had a little cottage. He is a very nice guy.
JM:You said that you were a reporter, but you also worked in Real Estate.
JB:When I was very young in my other life when I got out of school I wanted to be a reporter and I did get the job because it was during the war and there were not men. That was one of the reasons as I was going to school at night.
JM:When you became a real estate agent, how did you go about that?
JB:After I was a reporter and I was still young my father was a commercial artist. He got me a job in an art studio on 5th Avenue in New York. I was doing secretary work; I knew how to do my own form of shorthand because I had to take a lot of notes. Then I got another job with Adler Elevator Shoes. They did a real business. They sold shoes to people in India and everywhere. The heel was lifted from the inside. I worked for them until I got married in 1954. Then we moved right up to Lime Rock. The house we moved into was the caretaker’s house, but he moved to the house next door. I lived there from 1954 until 2012 when I moved here (a cottage at Noble Horizons).
JM:So you were in that same house from 1954 until 2012?
JM:As you go by on 112 is it the blue one?
JB:Yes, it is the blue one on the right hand side.
JM:It is a pretty house. As a real estate agent, did you get your license locally?
JB:Yes, when I had my kids, I stopped working. Then I went to work for Devoe Realty as a secretary. That was in Sharon. When I was there I thought maybe I ought to get a license. Elyse Harney and I both went to school together to get our real estate license. She is still doing very well. I worked there for about 8 years and then they closed that. There was a Devoe in Kent and one in New Milford. So we went to Kent; I wasn’t really familiar with the Kent area and did not like driving down Route 7 at night. The deer are always jumping out. Then I went to Pepper-Scholl. They had a real estate office on Route 4 in Sharon.
JM:It had been a dress shop.
JB:That man who owned the dress shop; he kept a little thing in the back. His name was Bill Conrad and he then became a building inspector. I did all of his work while I was there. I hated it, but he would bring me all his stuff; he was really great. He paid me so much more that I was worth. He was a very nice man. He has been gone about 3 or 4 years now. Pepper & Scholl bought it out afterward.
JM:What did you like about real estate?
JB:It was fun. You met a lot of people and it was kind of nice. I really enjoyed it; it was something to do after the kids are gone from the house.
JM:You are a people person.
JB:I like meeting people. I had a great time. I sold a house actually it was Meryl Streep’s house in New York State, Borden had it. I did sell it to a New York City neurosurgeon. She wanted to be away so she could not get any calls from the hospital. Now they can trace you for everything. She bought it. It was beautiful inside. It was in Millerton but was way up on a hill. They had a huge swimming pool. She had worked her way through medical school teaching swimming, but her husband had infantile paralysis so he could swim in it. That is why and she wanted to come up as it was far away enough from her work. I did a lot of things; I sold George Segal’s house; there are a lot of celebrities in the area.
JM:What was the Lime Rock Protection Association?
JB:Well that was because the track came into being. It was just the worst upset that ever happened to that little town.
JM:About what year was that?
JB:That was probably 1955 because the people that had lived there, my father-in-law didn’t and all of the other men that had lived there and had money paid lawyers’ bills. We tried to get it stopped because they races every day and night. It was just unbelievably insane. They finally got an injunction that they could not race on Sundays.
JM:Now by track you are talking about the Lime Rock Race Track?
JM:Because there were other race tracks in the area so I wanted to be very specific.
JB:I didn’t know there were any.
JM:Yes, there was one in Lakeville; it was not as big as Lime Rock, but it was harness racing.
JB:So anyway that held and now you have probably read the paper they are fighting it again.
JM:Who was involved do you remember any one?
JB:Vaills owned the property (See #56 James Vaill). Vaill’s sister, (See #148A Janet Maus) her son was one of my oldest son’s best friends and they used to say it was like the Hatfield and McCoys because it was his uncle… My father-in-law made a bid on the land to protect it; he made a high bid, higher than normal. Then the town officials and got together with Vaill and they said it is going to bring a lot of business to the area, and you ought to buy it. So they took a lower offer from the Vaills. Janet used to say, “You probably hate us. I am surprised that you guys are so friendly.” It was a shock because
we really thought that we could protect the land. They did fight it. When my father-in-law died, I took over as President of the council.
JM:What was your father-in-law’s name?
JB:Herbert Oscar Bergdahl.
JM:Were there other people on the committee?
JB:On yes the Tilts were on the committee, the Sharfs, Walter Sharf; we had a lot of members. They lived in a beautiful house on Salmon Kill Road that had belonged to the Pabst beer brothers or something (Piels beer Ed.) There were a lot of big names that stuck up for us. Salisbury really wasn’t interested because it wasn’t affecting them, but now it is. I think they are coming to their senses.
JM:Under civic duties you said the you were on the board of the
JB:Salisbury Public Health Nursing for 9 year.
JM:How did that come about?
JB:My mother and father came to live with me. I had a full apartment downstairs with a little fireplace and everything. My sister had died and my brother had died, so I took them. It was fine. The apartment came in very handy. It was a large apartment with a small bedroom but they fixed it nicely. My mother had Parkinson’s disease so the nurses would come and be with her. Eventually she went to Geer. My father had cancer, but he outlived her. We thought he would go first. He did outlive her but not by much. When she died, they had been married 60 some years; he was really at a loss without her. Then he died. They are both buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery along with my in-laws and my husband. My husband died 26 years ago. So I have been a widow for a long time. So that is why I stuck with working too; I liked it. When I stopped, I had both my knees replaced. It was hard for me to go up and down stairs. So I did not go back. I did some of it, but then I didn’t stay. The young man, son of Mr. Scholl who died, took over and they sold it. So I did not work there anymore.
JM:Do you remember the years that you were on the Visiting Nurses Board?
JB:It is funny because Marion Schwaikert is here and she was on the board with me. It had to be in the 1960’s or early 1970’s.
JM:Is there anything else before we close the interview that you would like to add about Lime rock, or your life?
JB:My life, I am actually writing a book for a long time for my kids, only because I had sort of an interesting life. My father was a commercial artist at Universal Studios in California so we lived there. I was born in Ohio, but we moved to California, Glendale, California. We were kids because he went out ahead and mother and Tommy and Adrienne and I went on the train. We had great fun with the
porters. We stayed there for a while and then we moved back to the city because he got a job with Columbia Pictures. We moved to Scarsdale, New York. Then we moved to New Rochelle. When we moved to California the schools were pretty easy, but when we came back to New York, they had the New York State Regents. The parochial schools were really a year ahead of us; I was in 7th grade and I thought that was a hard grade. When she took me into the room, the Priest brought me in and said, “This little girl came from California.” “Mother, you know everyone stood up.” She said, “They did not stand up for you, they stood up for the Priest.” I loved the nuns, I really did. They were charity nuns and I am so glad I went there. They were very nice people. That is how we got back to New Rochelle. Then I married Herb and we moved to Lime Rock right away. He had a liquor store in Canaan and another one in Norfolk. That is why we were here. His family would come for the weekend.
JM:Thank you. This has been such fun.
JB:I am glad to do it. I hope it is OK.