Rusty Chandler Oral History cover sheet
Place of Interview:232 Indian Mountain Road, Lakeville, Ct.
Date:May 16, 2012
Summary of talk:Family background, education, Hotchkiss as student, faculty member at Gunnery School and Belmont Hill, administrator at Hotchkiss as Assistant Director of Admissions and then Director of Admissions, a sabbatical as Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Weston, Ct. returned in 1974 to find girls included in student body 1974; faculty then authoritarian, now more as friend, punishment system as a student, faculty friends made while a student, town & gown relation as a student, reasons for former students going into town, Benefits of Hotchkiss to the town, benefits Hotchkiss receives from the town, civic activities: Sharon Hospital Board, Salisbury fire commission & relocation of fire house, Salisbury Visiting Nurses Association Board, Trustee of Salisbury Association, future concerns for the town.
This is jean McMillen interviewing Rusty Chandler at his home, 232 Indian Mountain Road, Lakeville Ct. The date is May 15, 2012.
JM: What is your full name?
RC: John R. Chandler Jr.
JM; Where were you born?
RC: Cleveland, Ohio
JM: Your birth date?
RC: April 16, 1934
JM: Your parents’ full names.
RC: John R. Chandler and Elizabeth Chisholm Chandler.
JM: Do you have siblings?
RC: Yes, I have a brother and a sister, and I had another sister who is no longer with us.
JM: Would you tell us about your educational background?
RC: I went to grade school in Cleveland at the Hoffing School and then transferred to Hotchkiss in 1948. I left Hotchkiss in 1953 and attended Brown University where I majored in classics and graduated in 1957. Subsequent to my completion of the college degree I have had graduate work done at Columbia University, at Boston University, and at Fairfield University.
JM: How did you happen to come to this area?
RC: Well my father went to Hotchkiss as a student and graduated in 1923. Both of my parents had gone east to school, having grown up in Cleveland. They decided that it would be a good idea to send me east to school. So I followed basically in my father’s footsteps, and then eventually came back to the area to be in the faculty of Hotchkiss.
JM: Can you give me a memory of Hotchkiss when you were a student?
RC: I can give you many memories of Hotchkiss when I was a student. It was clearly all male. It was did not have a lot of frills in those days. Faculty was I think 100% male. Many of the teachers were bachelors. Wives of the few teachers chaperoned dances with their husbands, and poured tea. Other than that you rarely saw a woman on the campus.
JM: Oh my how different today.
RC: Yes, very different today.
JM: When you got your educational degrees, where did you go to teach?
RC: I started my teaching career after a very brief experience in the insurance business which I did not find to be particularly interesting to me. I started teaching at the Gunnery School in Washington, Ct. where I began teaching history and Latin in the fall of 1959. I spent three years at the Gunnery which I dearly loved. The experience was totally time-consuming; I was coaching three sports; I was running a dormitory, and I was the dean of one of the classes. I woke up one morning and said, “Geez, I’m being married to this school. There is no time for a social life or a chance to meet members of the opposite sex. “ So I left there in 1962 and moved to Boston. I taught at the Belmont Hill School, a day school in Belmont, Massachusetts, right outside of Cambridge. I taught England and history there for 2 years, and coached three sports. I had my own apartment initially, and then I got married the summer of my first year at Belmont Hill. Subsequently we moved to Weston, and I spent a second year at Belmont Hill before moving on to Hotchkiss.
JM: When you came back to Hotchkiss, what was your position?
RC: I was hired as the assistant Director of Admissions at Hotchkiss with no teaching or coaching responsibilities. I did have responsibility for a corridor in the freshman dormitory, the first floor of the freshman dormitory. There were really only 2 of us in the Admissions Office in those days; once again very much different the admissions situation today. You really spent your entire weekend doing admissions because many people wanted to visit the school on Saturday, and so you would interview flat out all day Saturday, and then Sunday you would spend half of the day writing up your interviews of the previous day.
JM: How did your responsibilities expand over the years?
RC: At the end of the third year of doing the assistant’s job, I went to the headmaster and I said, “I’ve done this admissions work for three years, and I am not particularly happy. So maybe I had better go back into the classroom.” The Headmaster at that time was Bill Olsen and he said, “Well, You know Steve Bohlmer who’s your boss has decided that he wants to go back into the classroom, and he has recommended that you succeed him as Director of Admissions.” So I swallowed my pride and went back and ran the Admissions Office from about 1967-1973 at which time I needed a sabbatical. I was given an opportunity to spend a year as the assistant superintendent of public schools in Weston, Ct. So I took my family which by that time numbered three, plus my wife and we moved to Weston, Ct. for the year. I spent that year in the public schools as the assistant superintendent with stints in both the elementary, middle school and the high school which was an interesting experience to say the least. I returned to Hotchkiss in the fall of 1974, and of course the school at that point had decided to go coeducational. So a very different school I came back to from the one I had left because there were now 68 girls that were included in the student body in addition to the 345 or 370 boys. It was a wonderful change. As I look back on it now as being a very refreshing period in the school’s history as it began to change into a full-fledged coeducational institution.
JM: My next question fits beautifully. Tell me how Hotchkiss has changed over the period of time from when you were a student to when you actually left Hotchkiss. What are some of the changes which have occurred?
RC: I think one of the big changes since then Hotchkiss when I was a student was a totally faculty run school. Faculty meted out discipline; it was a pretty severe disciplinary system which was called censure and sequestration system. Censures were given for all sorts of infractions such as not cleaning your room, or after repeated warnings you were brought up in front of the faculty. Your case was brought up in front of the faculty; you weren’t brought up in front of the faculty, but your case against you was brought up. The faculty voted on it, and then they assigned a censure if they felt that the offense was egregious enough. If you got three censures, you were then placed on something called sequestration. This was a punishment that took you out of the mainstream of the school. You weren’t allowed to participate in athletics, you had to go to classes; you had to go to study hall when you didn’t have classes, you had to wait on table for 6 weeks, you couldn’t go to a Saturday night movie, you had to go to a detention study hall. It was just dreadful punishment, and frankly it was a deterrent for getting into trouble. You could come right up to the edge of that, and by then you began to mind your P’s and Q’s to make sure that you didn’t get sequestered. Another way of getting sequestered was to amass over 25 tardy marks. You got a tardy mark if you were a minute late to class or study hall or if you missed a meal in the dining hall; that was 5. You got 5 tardy marks for an unexcused absence. It was just a very regimented institution. That just isn’t true today; it is much more relaxed feeling. Faculty today is considered much more the friend of the student than probably the big figure of authority that they were back in my day. This is not to say that you didn’t formulate relationships with faculty that were really positive. I considered myself very fortunate to have had 4 or 5 very good friends on the Hotchkiss faculty during my student days. Most often in my case they came about because I enjoyed athletics, and so my coaches wound up being my supporters and friends. I also had a favorite corridor master, Bob Hawkins who was a great English teacher here for many years. He was my corridor master during my upper middle 11th grade year. He was a very dear friend of mine, as was Tom Sterns who was my corridor master for 2 years prior to that. I think that the relationships that I formed with 4 or 5 members of the Hotchkiss faculty were very instrumental in making my experience at the school better that it would have been otherwise.
JM: Good, I am glad to hear that. I really am. Now what about the relationship between Hotchkiss and the town, has that changed again from the time you were a student until when you retired?
RC: Yeah, I don’t think there is any question about it that in my time as a student at Hotchkiss, I remember Lakeville, Ct. as being about a mile and a half away from campus. You walked to town and you walked back right along Rt. 41. This was before the Woodland was built which was called the Halfway House. If you wanted a hamburger, a nice hamburger and you had time on a weekend or if you weren’t assigned to do anything in the afternoon, you could go down to Carl’s Lunch which used to be in the old building which housed Argall’s barbershop, and a few other things. Carl’s Lunch was sort of in the basement of that; it was right where the road which now leads by the Patco Station goes into the the town field. That was one place that was frequented by students; another thing was Hugo’s novelty shop which was in where the White Gallery was or maybe where the liquor store on the right hand side of 41/44 as you head toward Salisbury. They sold records and magazines and so on and so forth; then up next door across the street (Holley St.) from the old Salisbury Bank & Trust Co. where founders Insurance is now located, there was a drug store called Doc. Leverty’s. You could go there and get milkshakes, sundaes and things like that. Then there was a movie theater where Mizza’s Pizza is today. On a Saturday afternoon it was permissible for Hotchkiss students on a rainy Saturday and go to the movies there. Those were the only reasons you would have ventured into Lakeville.
JM: Entertainment and food.
RC: Entertainment and food, exactly. I don’t think that the town and the school intertwined at all in comparison to today which I am happy to say that the school has played a much more important role in the town today than it did back when I was a student. No question about it. People attend concerts, lecture series, the athletic facilities of the school are open to town folks; the swimming pool, the indoor track, the skating rinks, the tennis courts by the gym, the 49 fields are used by the town folk without charge, actually a modest charge for swimming or for walking on the indoor track. I think that the school has reached out far more today in the town-gown relations than they ever did back when I was a student here. I think also the members of the faculty often times have been involved with various different parts of the town, whether it’s the Lakeville Hose Company, or Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Squad, or the Recreation Commission, or any of those things where faculty or faculty spouses are today playing a much more important role in the town.
JM: You see it as a symbiotic relationship?
RC: I do today, yes, but although I am sure there are still pockets of feeling that Hotchkiss doesn’t do enough for the town. For instance one of the motivating features of going to the Board of Trustees and asking them to come up with a challenge gift for the new firehouse was trying to impress upon the people in the town that Hotchkiss does indeed play a very important role and has over the years done an awful lot. The other thing is that has interested me is the role that the school has played in the lake conservation of Lakeville Lake, and the payment of the expenses for a weed harvesting machine and the lake study that has been carried on by the Hotchkiss limnology department over the years. So there is really an awfully lot going on, a lot of it sort of below the radar, and if you start adding all these things up, it comes to a fairly substantial amount of benefit which the town of Lakeville-Salisbury receives as a result of our presence here.
JM: What does Hotchkiss receive from the town?
RC: Well, I think they clearly receive the very fine education which is provided by Salisbury Central School for faculty kids, they receive terrific fire protection from the Lakeville Hose Company and the Volunteer Ambulance Squad is on duty to take care of any emergencies that come up on campus, as for instance a youngster being hurt in a football game can be transported by ambulance very quickly to Sharon Hospital for observation. Those are the things which come immediately to mind, but I am sure there are many more.
JM: What are some of the civic activities that you personally have been involved with?
RC: First of all I played back in the 60’s on the Lakeville Fireman’s Baseball Team which was a lot of fun. My wife didn’t appreciate it particularly because it took us away most every Sunday which was one of the few days off. Otherwise I was working, but I enjoyed that enormously and I got to know a lot of people in the town as a result of that involvement.
But I think the first real involvement that I had came when I was asked by Bill Olsen to join the Sharon Hospital Board in 1987. Several years later I was involved in, the year after I was Headmaster, I spent a year as the Vice Chairman of the Sharon Hospital Board, and the following year I ended up being Chairman. It was a particularly contentious time because at that point the hospital was running into significant financial difficulties. As the board looked ahead, they saw a fairly bleak future for the hospital. After a couple of years we eventually decided that we would sell the hospital before we ran out of cash and to a for-profit company, although we looked at non-profits as well. Frankly they were not interested in Sharon Hospital for the most part, or if they were interested they would have turned it onto a band aid station. Our only recourse wound up being that we would sell to Essent, a central health care out of Nashville, Tennessee. That was about 4 to 5 years of intensive involvement, trips to Hartford, countless meetings at the hospital, and also coping with the negative reaction from a group called CASH, a group of people who were very much opposed to turning Sharon into a for-profit hospital. The problem was that they could not come up with a viable way of preserving it as a non-profit. So we did that. Following that I think I took a year or two breather. It was 2003 or 2004 before we wound up the details of that.
Then I got involved with the Salisbury Fire Commission which was formed by the Selectmen to study the possibility of relocating the Hose Company to a different spot. I wound up chairing that group which was a wonderful group of people who put countless hours in to studying all sorts of aspects of this move. They finally came forth with a report to the Selectmen and the town which resulted in relocating the fire house to its current placement half way between Lakeville and Salisbury. (corner of Brook St. and Rt. 44 Ed.) Then of course we had to wind up paying for that, and so I started a fund raising group. It was a chance to help defray the cost of that new fire house by going to people in the town and asking for their participation. To get that started I lobbied the Hotchkiss Board of Trustees to come up with a grant which they did of $400,000 on the condition that the town come up with $600,000. We were able to get that amount fairly easily, and we wound up eventually raising just about 2 million dollars of the cost of the new fire house.
Then I joined the Board of the Salisbury Visiting Nurses Association about four years ago. We have been going through a series of changes there in terms of leadership, and coping withal of the mandates that come in from the state, in terms of how you operate a situation like that. That’s been very interesting because it is sort of tied into the work of the hospital I had done a few years earlier. We’re dealing with people in this community who are elderly people who need services of the Salisbury Visiting Nurses Association but not in all cases. It is a valuable non-profit servicing not only to the residents of Salisbury, but also many of the towns here in the northwest corner. We serve 9 towns as I recall.
For the last three years I have been involved with the Salisbury Association, serving as a trustee of that organization which has been very interesting and has given me once again contacts with people in town that otherwise I would not have met. That about sums it up.
JM: Good Job! Do you have anything else that you would like to add to this interview that I haven’t covered?
RC: Not that I can think of. I am not sure what people would be interested in, but to me the biggest change that I have seen in my 40 some odd years here, I came here in 1964; what I have noticed is that the area has become much more dependent on weekend individuals who have bought home here. I find my concern with the area is are we going to be able to maintain our volunteer services because those depend upon people who live in the area and are interested in giving their time to either the ambulance or the fire department. I find that a lot of the people who escape to Salisbury for the weekend from New York and other places really come here to relax. They are less interested in becoming involved in town politics or town services.
JM: Not until they retire.
RC: When they are up here full time, then all of a sudden they find that “Gee whiz, maybe I’d better get involved. Maybe I had better participate in the town.” I wish there was some way we could convince those people who are part time residents of Salisbury that they have more active involvement in the community.
JM: Hope springs eternal. Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Chandler.
RC: You’re welcome. Thank you for your time.
Property of the Oral History Project. The Salisbury Association at the Scoville memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068