Lou Bucceri Interview:
This is file #61. I am jean McMillen, and I am interviewing Lou Bucceri on a variety of things. The location is at the Academy Building. The date is Sept 30, 2013. We will start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your full name?
LB:Louis Joseph Bucceri
LB:New York City
LB:June 28th, 1958.
JM:Your parents’ names, please.
LB: My mother was Dorothy Jean Richardson Bucceri M.D. and my father was Michael Anthony Bucceri, also M.D.
JM:Do you have siblings?
LB:I do, Joseph Michael Bucceri who lives in Glastonbury.
JM:What is you educational background?
LB: I have a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Hamilton College and a Master’s Degree of Secondary Education from the University of Hartford.
JM:I am sure there are other courses that you have taken to fill out your educational background. Now I think you came to the area in about 1983 to work at Indian Mountain.
JM:And you worked at Indian mountain about 7 years.
JM:That would be from 1983 to 1991?
LB:From the fall of 1983 until the spring of 1991.
JM:Who was the Headmaster when you came?
JM:What did you teach?
LB:I taught history. In the first year I taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade history. I was not a dorm parent initially, but I became so later. I also coached various sports through the years.
JM:When did you become Director of Admissions?
LB:If I remember correctly I believe it was 1987. The Headmaster Peter Carleton had been in charge of admissions for a long time. He gave me the responsibility of Day Admissions the year before and then when he took a leave of absence, I became the director and ran all of the admissions for both boarding and day.
JM:Would you tell me about mentor, Steve Carver?
LB:He is a very unique character, but he was always very dedicated to the students, to their welfare in many different realms. He also, and I don’t know if this was official or not, but he also took new teachers under his wing. He would do the classroom observations. He was very demanding, but he was very gentle in applying those demands. He was very clear about what he expected and what he thought were best practices in the classroom. I had not had any kind of formal educational training; I did not take more than a couple of education classes in college. My early experience was as a substitute teacher so there wasn’t a lot of training in that regard. Steve was really the first one to put me through any kind of teacher training.
JM:Are there any special memories or colleagues from Indian Mountain that you would like to share?
LB:Many but time prohibits. I think certainly the fact that I met my wife there was significant. She was a first year receptionist and I was a first year teacher there. We met and were married very shortly afterwards, and we began our family there. I think the colleague that I was closest to was the Chairman of the History Department for many, many years, Don McClanahan who was as far as my circle of friends was concerned; he was a very unique personality.
LB:He was and still is. He is probably the one I have kept in touch with more so than anybody else.
JM:I am trying to get his recollections too, but I am not sure I will, but I am trying.
LB:You’ll have trouble keeping to the 55 minute limit there!
JM:I know. Now you started your family at Indian Mountain and I understand you were a house husband for a while.
JM:Tell me about that.3.
LB:When I left Indian Mountain in 1991, we were then living off campus; we had been living off campus for about a year. It was definitely a time of transition. My wife Susan had been home with our oldest and our youngest had been born in 1989 so she was there during those very early years. It was a good opportunity because things at Indian Mountain for me just were no longer the good, positive feelings that I had had through my first 8 years there. It was a good time for a transition. When my wife got a job in the Development Office of Salisbury School, I decided it was time for me to get my Masters. So I was a house husband by day and a graduate student by night, and it was wonderful.
JM:Good. Then I think you went to Salisbury Central, and there you were for 17 years.
LB:Actually I was there for 19 years, but 17 as a teacher. That was also an interesting transition. When I started there in the fall of 1994, I filled the position of not only7th and 8th grade Social Studies teacher, but also I was an 8th grade English teacher. I learned very quickly that English teachers have to work very hard if they have any hope of being at all effective. Though I don’t mind working hard, the work itself of constantly writing evaluations was just more than I could deal with. Unfortunately it coincided with the death of my mother who was living in New York City at the time and there were apartment buildings involved, her estate was very complicated, and it was practically a full time job being the executor of that estate in and of itself. After juggling all that for a couple of years at the end of my English certificate waiver period, in those days and I don’t even know if they still allow this anymore, the State of Connecticut allowed a two year waiver in certification area I would imagine to help out with small schools. I had no intention of extending that, but I couldn’t anyway or of going back to school to become certified in English. I was certified in Social Studies already. I needed a break so I resigned from teaching, and a couple of months later, the principal of the school Tom Bradley asked me for some help filling in in a clerical position essentially. The receptionist of the middle school building had been let go, and circumstances warranted that she could not be replaced until the very last minute, so he was stuck. He knew me and he knew that I knew the building and the procedures so he figured that I could step in as a stop-gap measure.
JM:We’re talking about the Lower Building at Salisbury Central.
LB:Correct, the old high school building, the original high school building. I did that for two years, and then I got back into teaching, and doing not English as well as Social Studies anymore, but Technology and Social Studies. I did that for several years, so all told I was there for 19 years, but taught as a classroom teacher for 17 years.
JM:You did some coaching too, didn’t you?
LB:Oh yes, I coached soccer for all of my 19 years at Salisbury Central and coached baseball for probably 12 of those years as well.
JM:Do you have any special memories or colleagues that you remember particularly?
LB:I have been very lucky in my professional career to have been associated with two, no three fabulous schools. The one in New York that I first started by teaching at (St. David’s, NYC Ed.), then Indian Mountain and then Salisbury Central. I have known so many wonderful, dedicated professionals who really were all about the kids, and all about making better people which is exactly why I got into teaching in the first place.
JM:That should be the function of a teacher anyway.
LB:No question, but that, as you know, it doesn’t always work; it is not always the case. I have had connections to several people. There is a young man; well he is young to me, who has been at Salisbury Central now for 15 years, a 7th & 8th grade science teacher named John Conklin who has been a tremendous friend through the years. He actually gave me the opportunity to do for him what Steve Carver did for me at Indian Mountain, not to the same degree because he was a trained teacher when he got here. But just to be able to mentor John and help him through the bureaucracy and help him to deal with troublesome kids and troublesome parents and administrators through the years. That was always good. I have had a number of wonderful connections; there was a lady by the name of Jeannie Myers who was at Salisbury Central for ten years. She and I were essentially the information technology people of the school for about 6 years together. She was the K-5 computer teacher and I was the middle school computer teacher; then we each had our own individual responsibilities with regard to the technology and the infrastructure of the technology of the school. We were a very good team.
JM:Now I am going to move on to history and tell me about the Cannon Museum. Who started it?
LB:I am assuming that the Cannon Museum was the brainchild of Whitney North Seymour Jr. whom we called Mike Seymour. He is a man who I knew about because when I was growing up in Manhattan I was very politically aware. I though government and politics were fascinating. I lived on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan, and I remember very clearly when Whitney North Seymour Jr. was my state senator. So I knew of him, but he didn’t know me from a hole in the wall. I am trying to think, it was Jennie Law who was s working as a teacher at Salisbury Central at the time who learned of Mike’s interest in history. She recruited me to work at the Cannon Museum. She was drawn in by Mike Seymour. So I was introduced to him back in 1994; the Cannon Museum opened as another portion of the Holley-Williams House Museum in May of 1994. I had a wonderful time; it just, the whole idea of that part of the museum, even as a whole idea with the Holley-Williams House was to promote living history, to do living history tours of the house so there were women in costume who played the role of Maria Holley-Williams. Even though it was a strange chronological juxtaposition, the Cannon Museum was in the carriage house of the house, and I was to fill the role of one of Ethan Allen’s younger brother, Heman Allen. I dressed in costume every weekend that the museum was open. Although ultimately I modified the role to be a little less in the way of living history so I wasn’t completely in my role all the time. Given my other duties to the museum, it was still a lot of fun. The Cannon Museum itself was geared toward children, but even in saying that its design was intended to bring adults and children together to talk about history.
JM:What were some of the exhibits or displays in the Cannon Museum at the carriage house when you were there?
LB:We had 7 boxes mounted on the wall; each box represented a different person from history connected to the Salisbury Furnace. Each of the boxes had a bit of text which said something about the individual or trade there and their connection to Salisbury and to the American Revolution. Inside the boxes were various different artifacts; some of them toys literally, others real historic artifacts with dioramas and various different other things that you could view through little peepholes. That was supposed to be the children’s connection. We had little stools so that the children could stand up and look inside the peepholes. Each of the holes had a little bit of text as a caption underneath it. We also had a couple of video displays; one that showed charcoal making and the mold making along the lines of what had to be done at the Salisbury furnace. Another video screen talked about cannons specifically and their role in the American Revolution. We had a lot of hand-on artifacts; we had a display of actual cannon balls that had been dug up in town. We had examples of lime stone, and charcoal, and iron ore as we told children about the process of making iron. We had some dress up coats that had been modified by a seamstress to look a bit like continental soldier coats, and toy tri-corn hats and toy muskets. One of the things what we used to do was we used to lead the younger children on a march up the hill to the back lawn of the house in a fictitious attack on Fort Ticonderoga honoring Ethan Allen who was one of the builders of the original Salisbury furnace.
JM:What were the hours at the Cannon Museum?
LB:We were open weekends during the summer from 12 to 5. Occasionally depending upon the year we would open for holidays at other times. We often were open for Columbus Day Weekend, trying to tie in with Fall Festival and things like that.
JM:How long did the Cannon Museum operate?
LB:It was open for 13 years. It closed in 2007.
JM:Now we are going to go onto the Salisbury Association. You became a trustee I believe?
JM:How did you become involved with the Salisbury Association?
LB:That was through the Cannon Museum. For a few years towards the beginning of the Cannon Museum’s time we had a paid director, a lady named Kerry Keser. She was officially Director of Educational Programs, so it wasn’t just limited to the Cannon Museum. When she left to start a family, the Salisbury Association chose not to replace her. Those of us who had worked at the museum essentially became de facto directors, and we worked with the House Committee. The House committee was composed of trustees of the Salisbury Association. Through my connection to these people, I was invited to become a trustee.
JM:I see. You were curator of the Cannon Museum for how long?6.
LB:Technically I was curator of the Cannon Museum for the entire time, for those 13 years. The first year, I misspoke, the first year I shared those duties with Jennie Law the lady I mentioned earlier who recruited me to be involved with the Cannon Museum. The next year I was not involved and when I came back in the third year of its operation, Jennie had gone on so I was in charge.
JM:What year was that, please?
LB:That would have been 1996.
JM:What was the purpose of the House Committee?
LB:The purpose of the House Committee was to direct the operations of the Holley-Williams House Museum. They were the people who, and they went beyond that, they were also the people who were in charge of the maintenance of the house; they were the people who worked with the care takers of the house. In later years they helped to create programs, educational programs, and they also were in charge of fund raising.
JM:That is always an issue, is fund raising?
LB:Oh absolutely, especially when the house was viewed by a number of trustees of the Salisbury Association as a money pit.
JM:I remember well.
LB:Yes, as do I, unfortunately.
JM:I know that you have lectured on Heman Allen and you have done other historical lectures, can you give me a little bit of background on some of the other venues that you have used for your speeches?
LB:Well, I have been fortunate enough to, through my connections to the Salisbury Association, been asked to give talks at the Scoville Library on various different subjects, everything from the Allens to a man named Richard Smith, who was the actual owner of the furnace during the American Revolution.
LB:Oh excuse me, the Salisbury Furnace. I have spoken about Irish immigration to the Northwest Corner; I have spoken about historic preservation.
JM:So you have spoken on all areas of history connected with this particular area.
JM:Now we are going to move on to your latest endeavor which is the Extras Program. What is it?
LB:Extras is an after school day care center that was created back in 1998, sorry 1988, to provide for working families here in town with an alternative after school program for their children. At the time and if Extras didn’t exist this hole would still be there. There is a gap between the preschool daycare center that focus on younger children all the way up to the 7th grade when the public elementary schools sport afterschool sports program picks up kids again. So there was that gap and for working families, they were looking at the prospect of having “latch key” children. That’s a problem; it was a growing problem in this town because…
JM:There was no place for them to go.
LB:There is no place for them to go. Maybe in past times local neighborhoods would band together and sort of look after each other, but that was clearly starting to disintegrate by the time I got up here. So working families needed a safe place for their children to go after school and that is why Extras was created. Last year I decided it was time for me to do something different; the Extras Director at the time had recently given her notice to go run a large daycare facility in Winsted. I thought, “You know what? Having fewer hours of that kind of teaching would allow me to involve myself in some more historical activities and I decided that was the way I was going to go.”
JM:Who was the Director that left?
LB:A lady by the name of Rachel Tway Grant.
JM:Are there other directors with this program?
LB:No, I am the director thereof; there are other staff members. There are a couple of other primary teachers to also work as educational paraprofessionals at Salisbury Central.
JM:Who are the staff members?
LB:A lady by the name of Rita Ezersky, and then another lady by the name of Jennifer Hill. They have been there for quite a c while. Rita has been with Extras for 17 years, and Jen has been there for 12 years. Besides being good people they are also good teachers and what they do as paraprofessionals puts them in direct contact with exactly the age groups that we work with at Extras, especially the younger ones. My coming to Extras has worked well because of my experience with the older kids. So we really have them covered and we know them all. That means a lot, so it makes for a pleasant atmosphere.
JM:The age range is?
LB:5 through 12 and that is not grades but ages.
LB:Well during the regular school year we are open after school until 5:45, and then we are open a 7 or 8 week program depending upon the school year beginning and ending summer program. We are also open for quite a few school holidays and for the 1:00 o’clock early dismissals.
JM:What are your responsibilities as Director?
LB:I am in charge of the organization. Of the unit I am in charge of the hiring and firing the staff members. I am in charge of professional development, making sure that the Connecticut state regulations for day care facilities are followed. I’m in charge of registration and all of the bureaucratic aspects of running a day care facility.
JM:A lot of paper work.
LB:True, but not like grading papers.
LB:It is not like grading papers, and it is far less onerous. I am in charge of arranging for field trips and all of those other things as well. Plus I get to play as long as I have done all my homework; I get to play with the kids.
JM:And get snack, too!
LB:That is one of the things I have to do; we do offer the students snack during the afterschool portion of our program and so I get to go grocery shopping which is pretty cool.
JM:That’s right as long as you don’t give them Twinkies.
LB:Well, I do have to be careful because I have to follow the same state regulations that school cafeterias have to follow in order to provide nutritional content for the kids. So I have to watch the sugar and other things like no nuts at all. Technically I could as long as I kept kids separated during that time, but we just err on the side of caution. We do not do nuts. Whole grains, low calorie and all that stuff. In fact it is funny there is a young lady who was in the 6th grade that has been with Extras for a number of years, after one afternoon where I served them dried fruit, raisins and dried blueberries and craisin, the dried cranberries, along with granola, she is not a big girl, but she the hormones have definitely kicked in so she eats her mother out of house and home, so she is always hungry. She came up to me in the second or third week of the after school program, and she said,” What’s with all this healthy stuff for snacks?”
JM:Recreation Commission. How did you get involved with that one?
LB:Art Wilkinson who was the Director of Recreation for a long, long time here in Salisbury knew that I was a house husband and graduate student at that point in time. He knew me just because my girls were young and participating in town recreational programs. He asked me if I would be interested
in being a commissioner. At the time it was before I had gone back to full time teaching, and I said, “Sure.” I have been on the commission ever since. I am now the Chairman of the commission. I also served as secretary for quite a while.
JM:What is the purpose of the Recreation Commission?
LB:The Recreation Commission organizes and provides recreational opportunities for both young and old in the town of Salisbury. We have a full time paid Director of Recreation (Lisa McAuliffe file #36/45) who organizes various different teams both recreational and travel for youth. She is in charge of the programs are conducted in conjunction with Sharon Recreation, at Hotchkiss the Lap Swim, and the walking club for older folks. She creates and runs the competitive summer swim team that takes place at the town Grove as well as the various different lessons in tennis, sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding that we conduct every year.
JM:How many are on the commission?
LB:I believe there are 7.
JM:Are there any new programs that are coming into being?
LB:The newest program that we added to our line-up, if you will, we did this 2 years ago with a Lego Camp of all things where professional retired engineers and designers run these little sections with younger, well, there are different age groups, students using Legos. They design all manner of things, not only using the robotic elements of Legos, but the architectural aspects of Legos. It has been an unbelievably popular program.
JM:You also mentioned that you were doing trouble shooting for existing programs and creating guidelines for coaches?
LBWell, you know no program is perfect; we are always trying to find different ways to make what we offer better. You always have to walk a fine line in any community, but certainly in this one between competitive athletics and recreational activities. I think there are a lot of families who are driven in many different ways and they see athletics as another way for their children to achieve. We like to promote the recreational aspects of movement, try to give kids a lifelong interest, and that sometimes it is difficult to balance those two so we have had to tweak programs here and there through the years.
JM:Tweaking is good.
LB:Tweaking is good as long as you don’t tweak too much. You can ruin a program. All of the coaches that we have are volunteers. Sometimes you have to provide a certain amount of training for volunteers on how to handle kids. We also teach the content area for lack of a better phrase to teach them the skills of a sport because as volunteers they may have the energy but not the knowledge. We have been very luck in this town so have had through the years to have a large group of volunteers. I can
really only remember one or two in all of my years of being on the commission that we had to counsel out people who were inappropriate in their intensity or just didn’t bring the right strategies to working with young children.
JM:Very diplomatic! What year did you join the Recreation Commission?
LB:I don’t know if this is going to jibe with what I said last week, but I believe if I am remembering correctly it was in 1992 or 93.
JM:Now we’ll talk a little bit about St Mary’s. What are some of you responsibilities with your church?
LB:Currently I am the leader of the Confirmation class; I have just become that. I have been through the years connected with young people at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church. I have taught catechism classes to 7th and 8th grade level on a number of different occasions. For a brief time I was the director of youth group that used to exist at St. Mary’s, in fact in the year 2000 we took about 12 or 14 young people to Italy. It was one of Pope John Paul II’s Youth Days. They were much more than one day. I believe we were in Italy for 2 weeks, one or two weeks. What an experience! An incredible experience! So I have been involved in that way.
JM:Who is the Priest presently?
LB:Rev. Joseph Kirnath is the current priest at St. Mary’s. He is a wonderful and funny man who in an earlier portion of his life was an actor. He loves to sing, and he loves his music, and in fact when his mother passed away several years ago, he set up a fund for music at the church. So every year they try to put on at least one concert that is funded by those moneys.
JM:Is Denise Rice still playing the organ there?
LB:No, she is not, unfortunately. She did for a long time, she and Denise Restout played for a long time together. But the priest who preceded Father Kirnath was at times difficult to get along with. Unfortunately Denise was one of those people who became disenchanted and to a certain degree, he sort of forced her out. It was very unfortunate; she is still a member of the church, but I think she has stepped in once or twice to fill in, but she has not been the organist for several years now.
JM:Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you would like to add to this interview?
LM:Oh my. Yes, there is just a very quick story of my introduction to this area because having grown up in Manhattan, I was like the cover of “New York Magazine”. Many years ago there was this big portrait of Manhattan; then you have the Hudson River, then you have Fort Lee, New Jersey, and then you have the rest of the United States. That was sort of my view. I had never heard of Salisbury or Lakeville before.
JM:I am so surprised!