James Brazee Cover sheet:
Interviewee: James Belden Brazee
File #:18, cycle 3
Place of Interview:41 Chatfield Drive
Date; Dec. 21, 2017
Summary of talk: Family background, military career, Town Crew, Goshen Diving Team, family connections with Mt. Riga and the Lakeville Hose Company.
James Belden Brazee Interview:
This is file #18, cycle 3. This is Jean McMillen. Today’s date is Dec. 21, 2017. I am interviewing James Brazee. He is going to talk about his military career, his time on the town Crew, his family and anything else he wants to talk about. First we will start with the genealogical information.
JM: What is your name?
JB: James Belden Brazee. It is a family name.
JM: What is your birthdate?
JB: Aug. 22, 1970.
JM: Where were you born?
JB: I was born in Sharon, Connecticut, at Sharon Hospital.
JM: Your parents’ names
JB: Agnes Ulin Brazee and Paul Belden Brazee (See text copy done 1997 Ed and Paul Brazee)
JM: Do you have siblings?
JB: Yes I do. I have two brothers and two sisters. They are Thomas Edward Brazee and Dennis Paul Brazee. My sisters are Marie Louise and Catherine Anne.
JM: I am going to start with your grandparents, I think. The Belden name was a friend of your grandfather?
JB: I think it was a friend of your great grandfather because my grandfather had the same middle name.
JM: What was the name of your great grandfather?
JB: David Brazee who married Mary Garrity. (See tape #17A Dave Brazee)
JM: The photo album you just showed me belonged to her.
JM: Do you know how many children your great grandparents had?
JB: They had five, four boys and one girl. Their names were Edward, David, George, Bill, and Lena.
JM: Your grandfather’s name was?
JB: Edward Belden Brazee. (See tape # 116A/B Ed Brazee)
JM: Whom did Edward marry?
JB: He married Lorna Dennis from Williamstown. Mass.
JM: How many children did Edward and Lorna have?
JB: One, just my father.
JM: You told me that they came off the mountain when you father was born?
JB: When she was pregnant, they came off the mountain to give him a better education. That is what they told me.
JM; When was your father born?
JB: May of 1940
JM: You graduated from high school and went right into the military?
JB: Something I wanted to do. I always wanted to be in the military. I didn’t like school. I hated school. I would rather be out and do stuff. Once I get something, I knew what it was, but if I just read about it, I could not comprehend it. (I had James in my 4th grade. Ed.)
JM: You said that you joined up august 31, 1989. What branch did you go into?
JB: US Army
JM: Where were you stationed?
JB: I did my basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia and then I was stationed over in Germany.
JM: How long were you in Germany?
JB: I was there for less than 2 years. I did a 3 year tour and 6 month s of that I spent in the Persian Gulf.
JM: Were we fighting a war then?
JB: When I went to the Persian Gulf, yes. The Iraqis invaded Kuwait in August of 1990.
JM: What were you trained for?
JB: I was trained for many things but my main MOS was infantry, ground combat.
JM: Then you were in danger, weren’t you?
JM: Did that give you an adrenaline rush to be in danger?
JB: At the time, no. It was something that you didn’t think about. Then afterwards the adrenaline hit.
JM: How long were you in the service?
JB: Total with the Reserve I was there 12 years.
JM: When did you join the Reserve?
JB: It is kind of screwed up because I got out of the military and got my discharge in 1991. I was automatically put on what they call “Inactive Reserve” where I didn’t have to do anything, but I was still technically in. Then I joined the Reserves in 1995 or 96.
JM: You said that you were also trained in demolition?
JB: I was cross trained when I was in the active service in demolitions, fuel truck operations, and combat life saver which is a helper to the medic if they needed it. When I went into the Reserves, I went into a fuel supply unit headquarters as military intelligence and with that I cross trained with communications, the Intel.
JM: You also said you went to Drill Sergeant School?
JB: Oh yeah right before I got out of the military, I was trying to get my rank up and they wouldn’t promote me where I was. I transferred to a Drill Sergeant Unit to get promoted. I did that for 6 months and did not get my promotion so that is when I resigned.
JM: As a Veteran were you in charge of any of the military ceremonies at Salisbury?
JB: Yes, I did all of it for a while, anything that had to do with the military.
JM: Would that be organizing a military funeral as well as seeing the flags are on the grave, Memorial Day and Armistice Day.
JM: That is a lot of responsibility, James.
JB: It was. I wanted to be there and help out fellow veterans.
JM: Are there a lot of veterans in this area now?
JB: There are a lot more than you know. A lot of them stay quiet; they do not come out and they do not do anything.
JM: I am asking because we are trying to update the Veteran’s Memorial outside of the Town Hall. We have asked that any veterans that have not submitted their discharge papers DD 2-14 so they would get their name on the memorial. It is important.
JB: Oh yeah every other town in the area has kept their memorials up to date and Salisbury has let it slide since Vietnam update.
JM: When you got out of the military did you immediately join the town Crew or did you do something in-between?
JB: When I first got out in 1991, I was working at State Line Chevy in the dealership for my brother-in-law who did auto body mechanic work.
JM: Are you a mechanic as well?
JB: No I would classify myself as any type of mechanic. I basically did the sanding and prep work. It is important but tedious.
JM; When did you join the Town Crew?
JB: in 1992.
JM: Presently who is the foreman?
JB: Donny Reid Jr.
JM: When you started, who was the foreman?
JB: Bill Pickert
JMN: Who is Crew Chief now?
JB: Rodney Webb
JM: Who was Crew Chief in 1992?
JB: Rodney Webb
JM: He has been crew chief right along.
JM: You are now going to tell me all the members of the Town Crew!
JB: OK I’ll start with family. There is myself, my brother Thomas, Ray Flint, Bob Flint, Tommy Paine (See file #8, cycle2, Thomas Paine), Russel Hoage (See File #87, Russell Hoage), Darin Reid (See file #85 Darin Reid), and Donny who is the Foreman. This is it.
JM: The only one I did not have in school was bob flint, but I had all the others. All are good kids.
How do you get your work assignments? Do they come through Curtis or through Donny?
JB: They come right from Donny.
JM: I assume Donny confers with Curtis as to what needs to be done.
JM: What are some of the specific jobs that you do?
JB: We do drainage pipes, black topping, road grading, signs, plowing, leaves and mowing. We mow all the cemeteries and the 10 town parks.
JM: What is your snow plow route? It is a sticky one.
JB: Yeah, it is Belgo road, Reservoir Road, Ore Mine Road and Ore Hill Road, State Line Road, Diamond Road, Chatfield Hill Drive, Indian Mountain, Long Pond Valley Road, and the Transfer Station when it needs it.
JM: That is a huge area and they are all hills. You have some real sticky hills. You said that Ore Mine…
JB: That one comes right straight down onto Route 44. My roads are the furthest away from the town garage to get to.
JM: so you have to do trips for sand and so forth.
JB: If I go back in for sand a round trip is ½ hour at least.
JM: Well, I am glad we are doing this today because tomorrow you probably will be plowing.
Tell me please about the Goshen dive Team that you have gotten into.
JB: I was in the Fire Company and they have been calling for help because they had run out of people. So I went down and talked to the guys and tried to get involved with it to help them out because I am certified to dive and I love to dive.
JM: You have been diving for a long time.
JB: I have been diving for about 5 years.
JM: Where do you dive?
JB: Mostly now I dive at Lake George, but I did do diving at Twin Lakes and Lakeville Lake. I even dove in the Housatonic River underneath the dam.
JM: You said that you can do Search and Rescue, but you can’t do Recovery.
JB: The way the Goshen dive Team is set up is all rescue dives. Recovery means that there is something that needs to be investigated by the State Police so they don’t do that portion of it. It is just a rescue operation.
JM: How long have you been involved with that?
JB: With the Goshen Dive Team about 6 months.
JM: What area does it cover?
JB: It covers the whole Northwest corner, Litchfield County. They have another team out of Middlebury.
JM: I am going back to your family. Which one of the Brazees is Bud Brazee?
JB: Bud is my Grandfather’s oldest brother. His real name was David after his father.
JM: He had 2 wives. Do you know the name of his first wife? Who was Peanut?
JB: Peanut was his first son. I am not sure of his real name. I don’t know the name of his first wife.
JM: His second wife was who?
JB: She was Kathleen.
JM: Was she called Cricket?
JB: No, Cricket was Elizabeth, his daughter by Kathleen.
JM: Kathleen and David had other children?
JB: Yes, they had Elizabeth, Ted, Margaret (Peggy) Danny and Kathleen. Kathleen lives up in Albany.
JM: Do you know when the Brazees first came to Mt. Riga?
JB: I was told ever since it was established, but I couldn’t tell you a date.
JM: We know they left in 1940. What did they do up there, were they colliers or famers?
JB: I know my grandfather was a laborer; I am not sure what they did before that. I have pictures of them out there with their shotguns. They might have been mill workers, but I am not sure.
JM: I want to talk to you about the fire Department. When did you join them?
JB: The first time I joined the Lakeville Hose Company in 1992.
JM: How about training.
JB: I went through Firefighter #1, Hazardous material training, Ice water rescue, and Forest fire training.
JM: Were you at the Red Mountain fire which occurred recently (Nov. 11, 2017).
JB: Yes I wear all the heavy equipment and an air pack.
JM: Those air packs are checked regularly, aren’t they?
JM: Are you an officer in the dire department or just a crew member?
JB: Just crew
JM: How many are in the fire department?
JB: Over 50
JM: How about the ages, are they getting older?
JB: Yes they are.
JM: Are we looking for younger members?
JB: We get a few here and there, but it is a big time commitment.
JM: Never mind the fire, it is the training which takes up so much time. Do you have to be recertified every so often?
JB: In Firefighting #1 you don’t. You do have to keep up training like Hazardous Materials which you have to keep up every year. There is always something new coming along.
JM: Do you have to do anything with drug overdosing or anything like that?
JB: No that is the medical team. We know basic first aid and CPR. Even that changes every year.
JM: is there anything else you would like to add to this interview before we close?
JB: Nothing really that I have to add other than trying to get information about the Brazeeville and a little bit more about my own past. I am not into it like my father was. When I do get to that point, I am going to go through all his papers and try to decipher them.
JM: We have a large genealogy on the Speed and Brazee families. We also have 3 oral histories: David Brazee, Edward C. Brazee (1996) and Edward B. and Paul Brazee (1987).
JB: Edward C.? I don’t know of an Edward C. The C makes no sense to me.
JM: It could be a typo too.
JB: If it were Edward B. that would be my grandfather.
JM: Thank you very much, James.
JB: Not a problem.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068