Oral History Cover Sheet
Narrator: Bob Steck
Interviewee: Martha Chavous — Born 3/19/1914
Tape # 42
Place of Interview:
Summary of Talk:
Martha Chavous, one of the very few black people in the area, was born in 1914 in Lakeville, where she lived her whole life. Her Grandfather, Daniel Jackson, fought in the Civil War and was a member of the Grand Army of the Revolution. Her father, a chef, worked at the Gateway Inn. A Great Barrington employment agency recruited blacks from the South and brought them North to work in the inns. Though most returned to the South, some settled here.
She went to school at Lakeville High School, graduating in 1932. After she graduated, she worked, first, in domestic service, then for a local dress shop, then at Wassaic Developmental Center in Food Service, and finally as a private duty practical nurse.
Mrs. Chavous, nee Fowlkes, was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church and a member of its Women’s Society. She was involved with the group Concern, and was a member ofthe Community Club and of the VFW.
Date: January 16, 1986
Property of the Oral History Project
Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Connecticut 06068
Tape 42 recorded January 16, 1986
Interviewee: Martha Chavous (MC)
Interviewer: Bob Steck (BS)
BS: January 16, 1986. This is Martha Chavous, and it’s C-H-A-V-O-U-S in Lakeville.
Now, Mrs. Chavous, were you born here?
BS: Can you fix the site where you were born?
MC: Oh, yes. My sister-in~law lives there now right in our home.
BS: And where is that?
MC: Right in the Lakeville Lake down near the Community Service.
BS: So right across from the Community Service.
MC: Yes. There is a small house and you go across the little bridge that crosses the brook. Right there.
BS: Your maiden name?
MC: Fowlkes F-O-W-L-K-E-S.
BS: And are you a part of how large family?
MC: I had three brothers and two sisters. There were six of us and my mother and father.
BS: Your parents: were they also born here or did they come here.
MC: They. came when they were very young.
BS: Where did they come from?
MC: They came from Virginia. My mother came as an infant with her parents and my o father came as a young man in his teens.
BS: So your mother, that is to say your grandparents-your maternal grandparents-who came from Virginia, why did they Nme here? Do you happen to know what brought them here?
MC: No, I don’t really know. I’ve often wondered. There must have been some reason.
BS: Do you know what kind of work he did-your grandparent?
MC: No I don’t, not really.
BS: Your father, right, came as a young man, also from Virginia. Do you know what brought him here?
MC: I don’t. I do know there were two ofthem.
BS: Two of them?
MC: Yes. I still have fIrst cousins. They live right up the hill there.
BS: Okay. What kind of work did your father do?
MC: My father was a chef.
BS: A chef?
MC: Oh yes. And he worked at one place for, oh, about thirty years. The place is nolonger there. I don’t know if you remember the Gateway Inn?
BS: I’ve heard of it
MC: Well, they’ve torn it down now.
BS: Where was that? I had heard …
MC: Where it’s located … Do you know where the Community Fuel Oil has it? Right opposite there there was a space-you can’t tell now because, you know, once there was a big, large building, they tear it down, you can’t even tell that it was in there. The Gateway Inn, they called it. I don’t know why they tore it down. It was there for
years and years and years. And, of course there used to be a lot of tourist trade. Everyone came North. The passenger …
BS: What brought them this way? What brought the tourists this way?
MC: Well, I think the climate, you know.
BS: Did they come in the summers and winters?
MC: Oh yes, there were a lot of inns around at that time the Wake Robin Inn was open, the White Hart, and the Interlaken, and, oh, all over the place. Back in those days, of course, people had a great deal of money which they still have, but they traveled … chauffeurs, like that. And at the Gateway Inn a lot of the help came from the South because they’d transport them up here, pay their way, you know, and pay their way back, ifthey’d stayed that long. Oh, that had a history, that Gateway Inn.
BS: Did they, the people who came up from the South, to work here, did they stay and, you know, settle.
MC: Very few stayed. Very few stayed. Now my brother married a southerner. She came up to work at the Farnum Tavern. You know where that is? Yes, and she married my brother.
BS: Let’s fix the site ofthe Farnum Tavern, too.
MC: Oh, that’s still standing, but of course it’s been renovated. It’s right in the center of Lakeville. Do you know where the Lakeville Cafe is? (Now the Boathouse.)
MC: Right above that, as you begin to climb the hill, on the right, that large building. I think it has a rail around the second floor. That is the Farnum Tavern.
BS: So very few of those, you said, people who came up here to work settled …
MC: Oh, they didn’t stay. I think: that was an arrangement they made that.
BS: Were they mostly black people? Or were they …
MC: Yes they were. And they were sent from the employment agency. There used to be an employment agency in Great Barrington. And I think: they were the ones that, somehow or other, you know. I happen to know quite a bit about it because my aunt was living at the time and quite often these summer people would come to her house to visit because they never saw any colored people and they couldn’t understand it, you see. And I know people that worked in this town for years and they didn’t know there were any colored people. One day this woman saw my brother. She said “!” Oh, she was so happy, she just ran up and hugged him because everything is white, see?
BS: About how many black people lived in this area?
MC: Oh, not too many families, but the families that lived here are still here.
BS: Would you say there are as many today as there were or are there more today?
MC: I would say there is about the same amount. But I imagine the town has a record on that.
BS: Yes, they do.
MC: I bet. There may be a few more but I doubt it very much.
BS: When you grew up here, I mean when you were just a toddler-a child-what was life like for you in terms of as much as you can remember.
MC: Oh, it was great! We had nice parents and I had nice brothers and sisters. We had a
good time. We were right in the village and we were right there at the brook. And we had nice neighbors. And it was wonderful. I loved it.
BS: Did you have a good many playmates?
MC: Oh, yes, no end of playmates.
BS: By the way, what is the date of your birth?
MC: My birthday is March 9, 1914.
BS: So that, when you were growing up, that was still a time in many parts of the United States when black and white differences were accentuated.
MC: I don’t know because it wasn’t noticeable here because there were so few of us and no one paid any attention to color-that I could see. There was no such thing as “black.” You know. They didn’t even use the word. Like they do now. Now they do (laughs) and I still don’t care for it.
BS: Oh, is that so.
MC: No I don’t. But they said “colored” or they didn’t say anything. So often, I thinkyou’ll find it too, the townspeople here, they don’t emphasize too much, not now.
BS: The term, as I recall, I was born in 1912 so there wasn’t too much difference there, and as I was born and raised in Iowa. And as I recall the term “negro” was used.
MC: Yes, evidently, that’s …
BS: How.do you feel about that?
MC: It’s alright I guess.
BS: In other words, you prefer “negro” or “colored.”
MC: I prefer the “colored” because I think the race is colored. It is a mixed race. Yes.
BS: By the way, in terms of your own heritage, can you trace it back beyond your grandparents?
MC: Well, I didn’t really know my grandparents, but from the older people I’ve talked with, why, they were nice people, they lived here, in fact they lived right up the road here. And they were very nice people. That’s all I know. The only thing I knew about my grandfather is he was raised in the north and he liked the GAR. In fact, I think, you’ll find this history in the Town Hall.
BS: Oh, is that so? And what was his name?
MC: And at the time that he was still living, there were only four people that belonged to the GAR. You know, The Grand Army of the Republic at that time. And there was another man beyond him, Ball. Have you heard of Mr. Ball, the Ball family? He used to live up here. I don’t know if there is any of them left not around here but I think they went to Winsted or somewhere. And that… I never got to talk to them, you know, and my people did not talk about race. My father was a light skinned man with sandy hair, so you know he was a mixed race. He, the white people didn’t, in those days they didn’t emphasize … They would not tell you “Well, you’re different: you’re colored” and this is white. They didn’t seem to have that, thank God. They didn’J have to come up with any of that. It’s terrible to have to be so different just because your color is different.
BS: Or nationality.
MC: Or nationality. I don’t thil1k it’s necessary. And I don’t think people work hard enough to get rid of it. It’s a stigma that is attached to us that should not be there. My nieces look at me when they say that because they use “black” and they say “Oh, Martha, why do you say that?” I said, “I don’t believe in it.”
BS: Of course, uh …
MC: I haven’t seen anything to change my mind and I’ve lived these seventy years.
BS: Were there any kind of developments in the community that did try to do something to make for better relationships between people?
MC: At one time there was but that has been recent. Well, not too recent, but not in my childhood. Of course when I went to school, everyone went to school and they still do, of course, and they have busing here, but there’s no mention of busing because you’ve got to use a bus in order to get to school. It’s only in the south that that term, “busing”, came about. In my day everybody walked to school. And then after awhile they had buses over to are Hill or Amesville, or some of the faraway places. It’s only in recent years when they built the regional high school that they had all these buses that people …… that all the kids walked. And we used to come home for lunch! You’d run …
BS: How much time did you have for lunch?
MC: Oh, we had an hour, but you’d run half the way home and then run half the way l back.. And at that time the railroad was here and you’d get on the railroad tracks. That was, a shortcut. Oh, it was great days. I think we had loads of fun in those days. I loved it.
BS: Good. Just before leaving here, you grandfather, he was, you said he was a member of the GAR.
BS: What was his name?
MC: His name was Jackson.
BS: His fIrst name was Jackson?
MC: No, the second name.
BS: His last name was Jackson. And his fIrst name?
MC: Dan, Daniel.
BS: Daniel Jackson. Now he was a member of the GAR. Does that mean he fought with the …
MC: Yes he did.
BS: Was that in Virginia or … Did he fIght with the North or the South?
MC: He fought with the North.
BS: With North, right, so that he was part ofthe Union Army. Of course if he was in the GAR. Do you happen to know how he got involved?
MC: I really don’t. I wish I did.
BS: Maybe in that Town Hall history will tell you about it.
MC: It might.
BS: Very good.
MC: I hope they haven’t lost that history at the town Hall.
BS: No. No they’re very good. They haven’t lost that. So where did you go to school?
MC: Right here in Salisbury. You know in
BS: The same place where it is now?
MC: Well, when I was a child, they had a school where the post office was. You heard of that?
MC: No? I’m surprised?
BS: No. I’ve only been here since ’69. So the first school was …
MC: Yes, there was a school there. And then there was another little school. Well, it wasn’t really a school. You know where the Masons have their Hall? On a … You don’t?
BS: No I don’t know the Masons Hall
MC: On Montgomery.
BS: So on Montgomery Street.
MC: Yes. They had another little place there. And then there was another little building there. Those buildings there. The Catholics had a little … Even now there are a lot of Catholics in town. Most of my classmates were Catholic, you know. And they had a little school there. We’d go there sometimes. And, but then, later on they built the first building of Salisbury Central School. And then they put on the addition. There are two schools there.
BS: Now the original school that was at the Post Office, how long did you go to that school? When did you …
MC: That was a grammar, that was a grade school. They didn’t keep that too long.
BS: How old were you when you started?
MC: Started school? I don’t know because they didn’t have kindergarten then.
BS: So you started in first grade.
MC: I would imagine first grade. Yes.
BS: And do you know how high up it went in grades?
MC: Gee, I don’t know. I would have to ask someone. I would imagine it went up to … I don’t know if it went up to eighth grade or not.
BS: And was it a one room schoolhouse?
MC: No, no, no. It was a nice building. You should have pictures ofthat somewhere in this …
BS: They may well have.
MC: Do you know Lila Nash?
BS: Oh, sure.
MC: She was good at history of this village, town.
BS: Someone has seen her. So far I think we have a good number of tapes. Someone has interviewed her. So you went to this school. Did you then transfer to the Salisbury Central.
MC: Qh, yeah, they got rid of that school and we all went there.
BS: Did you go on to high school?
MC: Yes, I went to high school.
BS: And was Housatonic Regional the high school?
MC: No, they had … I think about… I graduated from high school in, I think, 1932. And soon after,. that they had the regional. So I never went to Regional.
BS: So the high school that you graduated from was where?
MC: Salisbury Central School. (The Lower Building which later became 1 of 2 buildings named Salisbury Central.) Salisbury High School 1929 – 1939
BS: Oh, so it was part of the Central… I see. What kind of course were you involved in?
MC: Just the regular course. I took what they had …. And typing, that sort of thing. Of course we always had Home Economics too, for the girls, and the sewing classes. And the boys had the weaving. You know, in those days they used to weave different trades and different things. I was always sorry I didn’t have that course. I love to do things with my hands. But they had very nice teachers. Lovely teachers. There used to be a lovely teacher on this, right below me here. Mrs. Frink? Have you heard of her? Frink?
BS: No can’t say that I did.
MC: Oh, she was old timer. And … very good. Everyone used to have gardens, you know, in those days. People raised their own chickens, you know, and ducks, and geese and you had food and there was no … Everything was great, I thought.
BS: Good. At school, apart from just going to the school, how ’bout after school activities. Were there extra-curricular after school activities as there are now?
MC: Well, we used to have a sewing class after school. And we’d go to the Bissell’s. Have you heard of May Bissell? She had a large house right there. Now they’ve renovated. It’s something else. She had a lovely wide porch. I remember she had this hammock. It used to hang from the ceiling of the porch, and she had a class of sewing. But the boys always had, you know, they just had regular activities. They didn’t really have …
BS: But as far as you were concerned, you participated in the sewing club?
MC: Oh, yes.
BS: Any others?
MC: No, none I can think of.
BS: And what were social relationships like amongst the boys and girls during the high school years when you attended? Were there dances and proms and things like that?
MC: We had … I don’t remember too many proms. They had activities and … I don’t remember having any proms. I guess they did have.
BS: Did you participate in these? Were you a participant?
MC: No. Far as I can remember.
BS: Right. Did you go on from high school?
MC: No, I didn’t. No.
BS: Did you go to work?
MC: I went to work, yeah.
BS: Let’s go back a moment, in terms of growing up, when you were a little older. Were you … What kind of chores did you have around the house. If any.
MC: Well, we all had chores because having three brothers, they had to chop the wood and feed the chickens and like that, you know. And in those days people did a lot of trapping and hunting and they’d have to clean the fish and different things like that. But we girls, we had the chores in the house. But I do remember helping my mother iron it little bit, because my mother never worked out, but she used to take in laundry from the hotel, you know, it was ladies laundry. And I remember sitting on a stool and helping her iron. And we didn’t have central heating at that time, but you had a big range and you’d heat your irons and you had a parlor stove and that sort of thing,
so it was quite different from now. But we had our chores and we had to do our homework. We did have homework in those days, I remember that, and you had to get that done, too. I mean we’d go to the library, we loved to read, my sister and I.
BS: What kind of books did you read?
MC: Oh, any kind we could get. She’d bring home three or four and I’d bring home three or four. Then two weeks later we’d get those switched.
BS: Like Little Women or … ?
MC: Yeah, all the books that they have now.
BS: So then the chores that you did around the house were generally ironing, helping …
MC: Helping with the housework.
BS: With the housework.
MC: We didn’t cook because Mother didn’t… She said we waste too much. I do remember that. We couldn’t … cooking … you know like the baking and that. In those days people used to bake a lot. I do remember … My people were religious and they didn’t believe in doing too much cooking on Sundays. They went to the Methodist Church.
BS: Oh, you were part of the Methodist Church. MC: Oh, yeah, and I still am.
MC: We had a little garden, our own little plot. We had a little vegetable garden here and little flowers there. And then they hired a teacher from the school who’d come down and check on these. In those days, people canned. When my mother was living we were canning so we’d help with the canning. And then they, too, would have an exhibit, you know how you’d get the blue ribbon.
BS: Did you ever win a prize?
MC: Oh, I suppose so! I don’t remember that. (laughs) I don’t know.
BS: You mentioned that you had no central heating, how about electricity and
MC: Yes, that we had. And water.
BS: And water.
Me: Because the Town has always had …
BS: Oh, yeah, Town water.
MC: We lived in the village.
BS: And how about a radio?
MC: I remember when we had a radio. Now, I don’t know, yes …
BS: Probably a crystal set radio.
MC: I remember even the shape of it, sort of a But, uh, I don’t remember. We had an old sewing machine, I remember, that you .
MC: Pedaled, yeah. We didn’t have radio when we were kids. It was later. I don’t know wilen the radio came out.
BS: I seem to remember that in the twenties, we first, where I lived, I seem to remember in the early twenties we had our crystal set for the first time. What else can you recall in the period prior… up to high school period. Any friends you can recall that are still around or not around?
MC: Yes, well, we have a reunion, a high school reunion, and I still go. We had it now, I think about three times. I graduated from a very small class and some of the people I went to school with are still around.
BS: Did you … let me see, what was his name? Hezekiah Goodwin …
MC: Yes …
BS: Was he in school with you?
MC: No, but he went to school with one of my brothers.
BS: Oh that’s right. He mentioned that he was in school with one of your brothers.
MC: Yes he was.
BS: And they had a reunion. That was about a year ago.
MC: The last we had was about four or five years ago and they had it up at Mount Everett Country Club in Great Barrington, Mass. And it was nice. Very few of them in that class. We had a very small class. There was about seven, I would say. One of the Beebe Girls, the Ulins You’ve probably talked to them. The Ulins used to live on this street and the Beebes were down at the Community Service at one time. All his daughters got married. They live up in Salisbury there. And (Guard?) I went to school with … Well, (Thaet?) died in an airplane accident. And I think there were about thirteen of us that graduated. Now my sister, who was older than I, she gFaduated from a large class. I don’t know why the classes got so small at my time. But one thing about the townspeople, they’re nice, they always know that … no problem.
BS: Now, after high school, what did you do?
MC: After. high school I went to work, you know.
BS: What kind of work did you get involved in?
MC: Well, first I did domestic work and then, after that, I worked five and a half years for a very nice lady over here, Mrs. Hall, she’s right on the lake, big house right on
the lake. In fact it’s Charlotte Reid’s mother. And then, after that, I got ajob as a seamstress. There was a …. We had a movie theater here in town, have you heard of that? In Lakeville? Burned down one New Year’s Eve.
BS: Let’s fix the site ofthat. Where was that movie house?
MC: Now let me see. Do you know where the pizza place is? (Mizza’s)
BS: In Lakeville?
MC: In Lakeville.
MC: Opposite the railroad station.
BS: The railroad station.
MC: Right over there, there was a Stuart’s theater. And it got awfully rundown, but they c~ did have good movies. Of course I love movies, especially Westerns. And I would go every time the picture changed. But it burned down.
BS: Do you remember what you paid to get in?
MC: Oh, dear, I don’t. But it wasn’t very much otherwise I wouldn’t have been there.
BS: A nickel or a dime, as I recall, we paid back home.
MC: One thing about my parents, we could not go when they started Sunday movies. We were not allowed to go on Sundays.
BS: For religious purposes?
MC: Yes. No baseball on Sunday, no movies on Sunday or anything like that. But you could go ice skating and things like that. And the kids did go ice skating. Back in those days, even the older people used to skate. Now you don’t see too many.
BS: A little cross-country skiing.
MC: Skiing is the thing, now
BS: Skiing, yeah. So you worked as a seamstress …
MC: So the theater… Now there was this man who had a dress shop there. And was out of a job. So I went in there. And I’ve always been able to sew even when I used to make doll clothes. I had that old sewing machine, and I used to always trade, see, and my aunt used to give me a lot of clothes, because she worked for wealthy people, and I’d cut ’em up. That’s what I used to wear to school. So I went in and he was there, and he says … No, she was there, and she says, “Can you sew?” and I said, “Oh, yeah, I can sew.” And she said, “Well, my husband is not here, can you come in tomorrow?” And I said “Okay.” So I went in the next day and he hired me. I worked for him for twenty years. It was a nice job and they were nice people. They’re still down there in the Comwalls.
BS: They live in the Comwalls, but they don’t have a dress shop anymore.
MC: No, (she) got sick and he retired.
BS: And that’s when you were out of work. That is when you left there. What did you do then?
MC: Then I went down to Wassaic.
MC: The Developmental Center.
BS: At the school-the Developmental Center there.
MC: For retarded children.
BS: Right, and you worked with the retarded children?
MC: For ten years. Yeah.
BS: What kind of work were you doing?
MC: I was in the food service when I retired from there, so now I’m … because I live alone why I do practical nursing.
BS: Oh. At which point did you learn your nursing? Me: Well, there’s not that much to learn, you know. BS: So you learned it in the doing of it.
MC: In the doing of it, yes.
BS: When were you married?
MC: I was married in 1957.
BS: Did you marry a local man?
MC: No, he came from Philadelphia. I got this house in 1955.
BS: This house that you’re in now?
MC: Oh, yeah. This house that I’m in. I bought this house in 1955.
BS: And you were married when, again?
BS: ’57? So he moved up here.
BS: And what kind of work did your husband do up here?
MC: Well, at that time he was a chef.
BS: Oh, also a chef?
MC: And he worked up in Lee, in South Lee.
BS: How many children did you have?
MC: I only had one daughter.
BS: One daughter. And was her growing up in the community different than your’s in any ways, would you say?
MC: Well, she went to Regional which I didn’t go to. And she was pretty smart in school, but she didn’t go on. And then she … You know when they get to be eighteen they like to get out on their own. So she worked around in the city, and around. So after eighteen why she sort of has been on her own. She’s married now, and very happy.
BS: And she didn’t settle in this area?
MC: No, no, she lives in Massachusetts.
BS: But outside of the city or…
BS: Oh, in Sheffield? So she’s close by. That’s interesting. So she also preferred a rural setting.
MC: Oh, yes, I think so.
BS: How do you account for the fact that, in a setting like this, that the-again coming back to the black and white relationships-were better, let us say, than they are in New York City or Philadelphia or …
MC: I don’t know.
BS: What makes all the difference?
MC: I think it’s because people know you, you’ve always been here. You’re just like they are. You’re just like they are and they don’t see anything different.
MC: I think in the city they do it because there are so many. I don’t know what makes the difference. I think I don’t know. I think there are so few and they don’t… There’s no problem. We don’t have the problem.
BS: About how many black families are in this area? Do you have an idea?
MC: I did have. I used to have. I kind oflost track. But then … Ofthe older ones or just…? I don’t know about the …
BS: Just generally, you know.
MC: I don’t know. But you can find out from the Town.
BS: They must… They must …
MC: They probably know. In fact I think it’s been in the paper some time ago. I should have clipped it out.
BS: You mentioned before that there were some groups that got together in order to try to even make better relationships.
MC: You’ve heard of Concern?
BS: I was a member of Concern.
MC: Yes. I was, too. And that was great.
BS: I agree. I’m sorry it disappeared.
MC: So many nice people.
BS: Do you remember the dances?
MC: I certainly do, at the Mohawk Ski …
BS: At the Mohawk Ski Area.
MC: Yeah, and people were really concerned. And I think they still are, but they don’t stay active, you know.
BS: What, uh …. I went back-I was teaching in New Jersey, then – what happened to Concern?
MC: I don’t really know. It’s just like any other organization, now I belong to the VFW. But, gradually, it’s just sort of… people don’t attend and always fewer members come out and everything is … just goes away … to nothing. I don’t know exactly why. I really couldn’t say.
BS: I wondered about that.
MC: It was nice, wasn’t it?
BS: It was very nice, yes. You mentioned that you are a member of the VFW.
MC: Oh, yes, I still am.
BS: Veterans of Foreign Wars. Does that mean that you are a veteran?
MC: No, I joined through my brothers.
BS: Oh, through your brothers.
MC: Oh, yeah.
BS: And you became part of that . So your brothers were veterans.
MC: Two of them were veterans.
BS: Of which war?
MC: Oh, let me see. That was 1946, that was the Second World War.
BS: World War II.
MC: World War II, yeah.
BS: There was a lady with Concern, I remember, who was a very great, active lady. Her name was Andy Casalli who was very active with it, but there was another lady, who
I thought kept the thing really going. Do you remember who that was? I can’t remember her name. Such a nice lady.
MC: Was she an older lady?
MC: Not passed?
BS: No. But this was ’69, ’70 … So is Concern the only effort that you can recall in the community to, so to speak, advance relations further?
MC: As far as I can recall. I never heard of any other.
BS: Now, when I taught at Housatonic Regional, in ’96 and ’97, we had, I think, seven black students then. By the way, one was a Fowlkes that was in my Contemporary Problems class. Was his fIrst name Ray? Is there?
MC: Yeah, Ray. First cousin.
BS: I see. So there were seven students in Housatonic Regional. In your time-at Lakeville High School-about how many black students were there? Do you recall?
MC: I don’t recall. I know I was the only one in my class and I think my sister was the only one in her class. I don’t know. Not too many, I would say, but, you know … Perhaps a lot in … I don’t know. I have no idea. I never …
BS: Now one of the big activities we’ve always been involved here is at the lake. Were you very much interested in the lake? With your children … Did they … ?
MC: No, you know, I never really had the time to get involved. Oh, we used to go in swimming. My cousin and I, we’d take water wings and rubber tubes and everything. We couldn’t go in until Memorial Day, I think it was then. My mother wouldn’t let us go in.
BS: A little cold.
MC: And that sort of thing. The water’s too cold and after that we always went over to the lake, but I never had a chance to fully enjoy the Grove, like I liked. I loved to go over. We’d go, my cousin and I, (?) Mary and I, we’d go out once or twice every year and I went to try the senior citizens meals once …
BS: Oh, yes.
MC: But I haven’t been able to get back to that. My problem is work. If! didn’t have to work, I could take advantage of some of these things.
BS: Now in practical nursing, you work with individuals at their homes?
MC: Yes. Yes.
BS: Is that in the area here?
MC: Oh, yes, yes.
BS: Yes. How does that come about?
MC: Well, they’re elderly people. I help with one man, he’s ninety-five. The other man, on weekends, is one-hundred and two.
BS: Living at home?
MC: Oh, yes. They’re living at home. They both live in their home. And they have people around the clock because, see, they’re not able to be alone. So I take a daytime shift usually from three until eleven at night. Sometimes, Anne, the other lady, -she takes them from seven to three. And sometimes we just reverse that. It depends on the circumstances, what you want to do. You know, if you have something to do. It’s five days a week.
BS: Do you have time, or do you find time, to participate in any of the Town Hall meetings or community activities?
MC: I do not. I’ve always regretted that because I don’t have time. I really don’t have time for it.
BS: You’re aware of what goes on in the town?
MC: Oh, yes. I get the Lakeville Journal and I read that, and I’m interested in it. But, I thought when I retired, which I retired, oh, two years ago from Wassaic. I thought would But then I got these other jobs. I need the money to live on, really. I cannot live on You know … It’s uh …
BS: You’re living alone here.
MC: I live alone. On my own.
BS: How about friends? Do. you do things with friends?
MC: Oh, yeah, occasionally. We do things, we have clubs. We had a club.
BS: What kind of club is it?
MC: We have what we call the Community Club.
BS: Oh, Community Club. What is that?
MC: It’s just a ladies club. There are twelve lady members and the club has been going for about forty-some-odd years. I’ve belonged about thirty-five, I guess. And we’re not so active now because most people have gotten older and they don’t feel like working. We used to …
BS: What was the purpose ofthe club? What did they want to accomplish?
MC: It started out as a social club. But then, of course, we got to a place where we would help people, at Christmastime, you know. Cash, money, or food. And we had affairs. We had raffles, and we had dinners. One time we gave dinners. We used to give dinners in the Town Hall.
BS: In the Town Hall?
MC: In the Town Hall. And we gave dinners … We finally went down the Sharon Central School, they have a lovely cafeteria, Sharon Central SchooL And where else did we give them? Different places … VFW. Rummage sales, we did, food sales. You have to do something to raise money, otherwise you can’t make it, you know.
BS: Was this related to your Methodist Church activities?
BS: It was a separate thing?
MC: It was a separate thing.
BS: And what was your participation in the Methodist Church? Did you ever participate in activities there?
MC: Well, I belong to the Women’s Society, but I never get a chance to go because they have their meetings on a weekday in the afternoon. And I have been to some, a few, but not too many. I don’t even get a chance to go to church like I’d like to.
BS: You mentioned, I think, that most of your friends when you were growing up were Catholic?
MC: Well, most ofthe school children. I think the majority of school children … I don’t know about now, but at that time. My neighbors, around us, were Catholic. All the people there, mostly, not all of them, but most of them. We used to go up to their
church. We still go to their funerals and different things, you know. People in town are friendly.
BS: Yes, they are.
MC: Don’t you find the folks … ? I think they are very nice.
BS: Yes, oh, yes.
MC: That’s the nicest part about it.
BS: I do think so.
BS: So in terms of your life now, you’re largely involved with work. You have one or two days off a week? Or …
MC: Right now I don’t have any off. I did take four days off at Thanksgiving because my nieces were on the telephone, they said, “Aunt Martha! What do you think you’re doing?” And I said, “Well, Maryann, I work and I need the money. My garage is falling down. I’ve got to have a new floor, a new roof.” And she says, “Aunt Martha! You’re doing too much.” She says, “I’m having Thanksgiving at my house. I want you to be here.” So I had to take four days off. And, unless, I uh … On weekends, the elderly man, that’s one hundred and two, he has a lot of relatives, sometimes they come and I don’t have to spend quite so much time there, but [big sigh] it’s been going on now for over a year, so. Anyway, I’m glad to have the money because I’ve got to do something.
BS: Sure. Now, have you traveled much?
MC: No I never did travel too much.
BS: Have you ever gotten to Virginia to …
MC: I think so. Twice. I have a friend in New Jersey. And her mother lived in Alabama … And it was quite an experience for me, because, never having been in the South. And 1… We enjoyed it. She had a … This was … can’t think of the year, but it was a long time ago. And we drove. We drove down. I thought I’d never get there. Such a long way. Such a …
BS: Beautiful trip, though.
MC: Yes it is. Especially nice in the spring. And, let’s see, she lived in a rural part of Alabama, but the village was twelve miles-ten miles-we’d go out from the village. And she had a nice, comfortable home because her father’s family had come North. They’d go back and they’d fix up there nice. But the some of the places people lived were just scandalous. I mean it’s just … oh, just… oh, makes you cry, you know. The porch is falling down and the steps. People would be sitting out and they’d have the laundry on the fence. You’d have to see it to believe it. Make you cry. Ijust … I never wanted to go back there again.
BS: You’ve never been back to look up your Fowlkes, then?
MC: No, I never did.
BS: Do you know of any still there or … ?
MC: I don’t know. I imagine there are some there. Now, some of my cousins up on the hill, they did go back. I never did, I never did. Because I just never have wanted to do it .. but some of them did go back so there are Fowlkes there. Now my niece, she’s quite interested in history and she, uh … I don’t know if she’ll get a chance to look up any people. She may eventually because she’s quite interested.
BS: She’s living here?
MC: No, she moved to Schenectady.
BS: Oh, she … And, what’s her name?
MC: Her name is Sherry(?) See, my brother married a girl from Millerton.
BS: Oh, yes?
MC: And ???? she goes to school up in P???
BS: Oh she goes to schooL.
MC: No, she went to school at Webutuck. And she went to P??? University. University of New York, P????
MC: ??? She travels all around. ??? world. And every so often they have to go on little maneuvers???
BS: And your family here, the Fowlkes people, they were … I remember, as I said before, there were Fowlkes at Regional.
MC: Yes, my first cousins and my brothers.
BS: Are they still here?
MC: Oh, yes, they live right up there on the hill.
BS: ???? still here
MC: Oh, yes.
BS: What’s he doing? Me: He works for the gas.
MC: Ray??? He works for the Lakeville Journal
BS: I recall, the time when I was teaching at Housatonic, it was an era when there was a good deal of movement, a good movement, in many ways, thanks to Martin Luther King, very celebrated now. But there was also … Some people were interested in the Black Panther group. Was there any interest, to your knowledge .
MC: ??? I’m the … only read in the newspaper. ??? Black Panther was… What was that about?
BS: Well, they were more … Of course, I think that in some ways their purposes were maligned. They did some noble things at least in California with their breakfast programs … But they were very anxious to… They were the ones that coined the phrase “black is beautiful.” I think they were much c1oser–of course I’m just guessing-to, let’s say, Malcolm X than they were to …
MC: Oh, yeah, yeah, I did know Malcolm X. He was a … Thank goodness he’s not here now. We don’t need him.
BS: So, that it’s very interesting. So Concern is actually the only …
MC: The only one I can …
BS: That was such a good group.
MC: It was nice. It really was nice.
BS: Some of us really enjoyed that. But what was your feeling in terms of some of the activ.ities that took place here against the Vietnam Warlike the vigil in Sharon. Were you awaxe of that at the same time that Concern was going on?
MC: I don’t know. It didn’t concern me too much because … I don’t know. I don’t think any war is really necessary. I think it’s a shame that people can’t sit around a table and discuss …