Berry, Charles

Interviewee: Charles Berry
Narrator: Jean McMillen
File No: 19
Place of Interview: Scoville Memorial Library
Date: Sept. 16, 2023

Summary of Talk: Family background at Hotchkiss, Town Hill 1939-43, Salisbury Central 1943-46, Salisbury School for Boys 1946-51, and summer job at Interlaken Inn 1958.

Interview Transcript

This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Mr. Charles Berry who is going to talk about his education in Lakeville and Salisbury. Today’s date is Sept. 16, 2023. This is file–.

What is your name?     Charles Berry

Where were you born? I was born in Dexter, Maine, April 11, 1934 to Charles and Erma Berry, their first child. We relocated to Lakeville in 1936 when Dad took a job at Hotchkiss to teach Latin, German and history.

Who were your parents and what did they do?  My father was Charles Berry, a member of Hotchkiss faculty at Hotchkiss 1936-1970. He taught Latin, German and History. He was also an avid photographer. My Mother Erma Berry was Librarian at the Edsel Ford Library at Hotchkiss from 1964 to 1970.

What is your educational background? I attended Town Hill School probably 1939-1944, Salisbury Central School 1944-1946 (3 grades, 5, 6, 7,).  My close friend was Peter Gurney (faculty brat). Salisbury School graduated class of 1951.  I attended Bowdoin College 1951-1953. Babson College 1960 Degree in Economics

Did you have any military service? US Army Military Intelligence in Germany 1954-1956

What was your career path? I was employed in the Boston area 1960-1963, New Haven & Hartford, Ct.1963-1975, Syracuse, NY 1975-1980, Minneapolis, Minn. 1980-2000. Retired in 2000 and moved to Florida.


Specific detailed questions:  Hotchkiss 1936-1946

Who was the Headmaster? George Van Santvoord He was an authority figure who observed sometimes the little stunts we faculty brats concocted, but never confronted us. He always passed the word to our fathers who would mete out discipline.

What Faculty members do you remember?  Richard Gurney, William Fowle, Charles Demerest,  Russell Birge, Edgar Parsons, William Stakeley, Larry Murphy, Arch Coolidge, Howard Taber, John McChesney, Robert Hawkins, Stephen Bolmer, Ted Hale, Richard Bacon, Gil Smith and Jack Bodel.

Do any of them stick out in your memory? Gurney, Bacon, Coolidge, Bodel, and Stakeley

What did the campus look like? Pretty original the main building, Bissell, Infirmary, Memorial, Alumni: Dorms Beuhler, Coy, Headmaster’s House, Track Field House, golf shop, woods cabin and ski jump

What was the student population?  325?

Do you remember any of the staff?  At Hotchkiss we had a staff of employees: ”Elmer the painter”, ”Ben the plumber” and others all of whom worked for John Cardoza, an enigmatic bachelor who was responsible for removing the headmaster’s swans from the pond on the ninth hole, and penned them for the winter. Frank Ingram was the school chauffeur and had a dark green Buick sedan at his command with a plate “HS 10”.  Lee Dufour was the Hotchkiss postmaster, presiding over a kiosk of lockable boxes located in the rotunda.  There was a man who tended the horses used for daily work and tended things in the school barn.  He always befriended the faculty kids and would ride them around on the various wagons. There was a golf course employee  Ed Melius who did all the mowing and maintenance who I think used the name ”Cock Robin” and may have had a musical group who played locally. Tony ran the ford tractor and mowed the ball fields He also had a small bulldozer which was used to scrape all the internal roads, which were not blacktopped, but surfaced with cinders, created by the coal burning powerhouse.  I think I still have cinders in my knees from bicycle spills onto the cinders.

What do you remember about Lakeville? The Jigger Shop was across from the rail road trestle opposite Ethan Allen Street.  Both the Jigger Shop and Bessie’s diner were frequently used by the sales people from New Haven men’s clothing stores to display things to the Hotchkiss and Salisbury students on Saturdays when they were free to go to town.

Hugo’s Novelty Shop had a record department where you could enter a booth and listen to your choice of music before purchase. I think there was a lot of shoplifting as I recall Hugo, his wife and son all sort of hovered and watched us very carefully. It was always a required stop when in the “Ville”.  We were required to walk to town, take a taxi or get a ride with faculty or relatives. Riding in other personal vehicles was prohibited.

Danny LaFredo has a shoe shop. He was a very pleasant man who had 2 boys at Salisbury Central when I was there, maybe twins?

Argall’s Barbershop where as a small child I would sit on a board placed across the arms of the barber chair to bring me up high enough. I always got a lollipop after the haircut.

I recall a men’s store, “The Cock’s Feathers” being in town for a few years.

Oliver Marston (daughter was Joyce, a first heartthrob and Salisbury Central classmate) was at a local filling station as a mechanic and fixed my bicycle at no charge.

The Stuart Theater was further up Ethan Allen Street.  We would walk or hitch a ride. Picked up return bottles on the road on the way, turn them in for cash to buy lunch at the Jigger Shop and go to the movies. Movies then were 11 cents. Always cartoons before the matinee western.

With whom did you play? Mostly Hotchkiss family boys: Peter Gurney was my best friend. He was the son of Richard Gurney dorm master at Beuhler dorm, Teddy, son of William Stakeley, Julian, son of Arch Coolidge who taught English and Brick Bradley, son of Leveret Bradley, an IMS faculty member.

What did you do as pre-teen boys? We were minor juvenile delinquents!  We ran around campus getting into all the buildings, basements and attics. We hunted in the woods at age 12 with real guns. We spent overnights in woods cabin, getting the carpentry employees to smuggle us beer. Industrial strength sling shots were in vogue. Peter’s dad was dorm master and used to confiscate them, but we knew where he kept them and got them back. We used marbles pilfered from Barnett’s store to break windows and act as snipers. We (as SCS students) smoked cigarettes on the school bus* pinched from the Red Cross boxes we prepped for the POWs in Germany. We played endless baseball, finding lost balls behind the ball field backstop, hunted for lost golf balls and sold them back to the golfers on the 8th tee to the chagrin of the golf pro, Frank Merser*. There was sledding and skiing on the golf course in winter.

Town Hill School 1939-1943

Where was the school located? It was further down the hill close to the Tee box #7 hole and adjacent to the building used by Roy Selfridge who ran the power plant and John Cardoza who was the superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. It was a two room school. (It was razed later and a new building was built further down Rt. 112 and that independent school merged with IMS about 2003. ED.)

Who was the Headmistress? I remember Miss Penelope Oyer.

Who were the teachers? Miss Oyer and Mrs. Connie Garrity

How many pupils at that time?  About 20

Did you eat lunch there or go home? I think we brought our lunches.

Salisbury Central School 1943-1946

Who was the Principal? Alice Eggleston and in my last year Paul Birch

Who were your teachers in grades 5, 6, 7? Teachers may be incorrect but here is what I remember. 5th grade Miss Hamm (later Frances LeMoyne), 6th grade Mrs. Schutz, 7thgrade Mrs. Hemmerly. Maybe 5th and 6th grades were reversed. After 7th grade I got a scholarship to Salisbury School.  They would award the annually to a promising 7th grader. My dad could have sent me to Hotchkiss at no charge, but chose instead to send me to Salisbury School for Boys so as to avoid any conflicts that might arise with Hotchkiss teachers dealing with the offspring of a colleague.

Do you remember any classmates?  I recall from Salisbury Central Billy Dufour, John Garnes, John Palmer, Marcia Dowd, Mary Barton and Claude Marks

Were you departmentalized or did you stay with one teacher for the whole day?  I think we stayed with one teacher all day. I do recall one breakout session with Mrs. Eggleston on Civics.

Did you have specials like PE, Art, Music taught by a different teacher or did the homeroom teacher do it all?   I think the homeroom teacher did almost everything.

Lunch-did you brown-bag it or was there “hot lunch”?  There was a lunchroom run by Mrs. Blanche or Branch Unsure of that

How did you get to school?   We were bussed to school from Hotchkiss location real old silver colored Chevrolet bus run by Dufours and driven by Jimmy Van Deusen. We called it the Cheese box.

What was done for the war effort?  During World War II the local schools did various things to enhance the war effort.  The upper grades at Salisbury Central packed Red Cross boxes for the POWs in Germany.  One of the items included were cigarettes. Peter Gurney, my best friend, told his dad that he needed cigarettes for the war boxes, so his dad gave him 3 packs. The next morning on the school bus, we cracked a box and started smoking. We were in 5th grade at the time.  Shortly after class began, we were called to the office of the principal, Mrs. Alice Eggleston, a real “Iron Lady” of whom all students were in fear. A first grader on the bus had tattled.  “Call your parents and tell them what you did.” I called home, “Mom, I was smoking on the bus to school.” “I’ll tell your father.” When I got home, my father gave me lecture 285 about the horrors of smoking.  Then he told me that if I wanted to smoke, I could take my things and go live under the railroad trestle with the rest of the smokers.

Other war effort stuff I recall my dad going out to a small building on Miner’s farm on Lime Rock Road where they , with volunteers, manned an airplane watch 24/7. He wrote poetry to pass the time. Some of it was published in the Lakeville Journal.  Dad was draft exempt because he was essentially blind in one eye. He was also an air raid warden carrying a big night stick and enforcing nighttime blackout regulations.


Salisbury School for Boys 1946-1951

Who was the headmaster?  George Langdon

What teachers do you remember and why? Edwin Tappert, Dormitory Supervisor. Salisbury had a prohibition of leather heels on shoes due to soft wood floors which marred easily. Tappert was the absolute demon on enforcement. I can probably recall all of them without any specifics. Willem Keur, Wally Herrick, Jeff Walker, Peter Ogilby (upper classmen would borrow his car and go to NY night-clubbing), Harold Corbin and Tom Dorsey.

How many pupils were in class of 1951? 30+

Were the students at that time local (Ct. and US) or were there some from foreign countries? I recall we had one from Cuba.  There were several from Latin America

What was the school’s atmosphere (good comrades or rivals, hazing?)?  No hazing, everybody knew everybody, school population was probably 125.

What sports did you play?  Baseball, Football, Crew I was so small the crew folks wanted me as coxswain. I did that in subsequent years.

Do you have any special memories from those school days? I started in 2nd form (8th grade)-undistinguished and not much to remember from that far back. One year I had a roommate named Lester Tillman. Lester distinguished himself by starting a fire (smoking) which burned down an abandoned farmhouse behind the school property. I am not sure the school authorities every really knew what happened.

We were known for exiting our rooms from North dorm via roof gutters and fire escapes, raiding the kitchen for snacks and vanilla extract which had high alcohol content. We would bring back gallons of cider from our outings, hang them out the dorm window at night, pour off the next day what did not freeze and get an illegal buzz on.

Did you ever have a summer job locally?

Yes, I worked at the Interlaken Inn in the summer of 1958.

What did you do?

I was kitchen help: make coffee, peel potatoes, wash pots and tell jokes to the salad girl.

Who was your boss?

Nominal boss was the chef, but really Bill Peters. He was the family go-fer.

Can you tell me anything about the Peters family?

Peter’s family descended on weekends and filled many rooms.

Do you remember any other staff?

Grounds keeper was Milton Ross? (Rossman) from Falls Village and other locals were                                           Barbara Friis and Alex Chappell

Did you have any summer fun?

Yes, I had girlfriends/waitresses.  We went one night a week to a bar in Amenia (some underage) for “group therapy”!

Did you ever work at the golf course?

*We lived in a house which overlooked the 8th hole on the Hotchkiss golf course.  My dad was a golfer and I sort of emulated him by my participation which was looking for lost golf balls on holes 8, 9 (bonanza) and 1. Said balls were washed and then presented by me on the 8th hole Saturday mornings to golfers coming though in hopes of a sale.

The golf pro who ran the place was Frank Mercer. His wife, Jane, ran the clubhouse and supervised the caddies. Frank would arrive early on weekend mornings and drive the course backwards to see if he could pick up early bird golfers who had come early to evade the entry fee collected by Jane. It was amusing to us to see Frank in his Chevrolet coupe bouncing over the moguls and swales.

The golf ball selling came to Frank’s attention as probably impacting his revenue from used balls sold at the clubhouse. Mine sold for 10 cents: his were higher.  At one Hotchkiss faculty meeting he approached my dad to complain about this impact on his income, and my dad, tongue in cheek, advised me that I probably should stop this effort.

As I became a teenager I was big enough to carry a golf bag so took up caddying along with my friend Peter, Rich, and Lenny Golden and several others. We had our ”headquarters” under a large tree in the parking lot where we traded swear words, had fights, and generally were rowdy until the golfers appeared who wanted to take a caddy. Sequencing was generally decided by time of arrival of each of us in the morning. The clubhouse had a coin-operated soft drink machine which we used frequently.  Jane Mercer functioned as caddy-master, as needed, to sort things out.  I recall her as being a bit intolerant. Caddy fees were $1.25 for 18 holes, $.75 for 9 holes.  Most golfers played 18 holes and would give you $1.50, or on good occasions $2.00. If you caddied “double” (carrying 2 bags) you might get as much as $4 per round. If you could duplicate this in the afternoon (unlikely) it meant an $8 day.

We were at the time going off to our summer cottage in Maine usually mid-June.  This meant my caddying time was April to June. I was saving money to buy an outboard motor for use in Maine. Over several years I socked away $120 which was what was needed. After that, caddying vanished as a source of income.

Thank you very much.