Oral History Cover Sheet
Interviewee: Jodi Stone
Narrator: Richard Petite Cleaveland Jr.
Tape #: 59A
Place of Interview: his home on Porter Street, Lakeville, Conn.
Date of Interview: June 3, 1987
Summary: His parents and siblings, education, work experience: jobs of parents, family cars, his summer jobs, classmates while in school.
Property of the oral History Project, Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library,
Salisbury, Connecticut 06068
RC:My name is Richard Petit Cleaveland Jr. I was born August 9, 1923 at Sharon Hospital. Petite was
the maiden name of my grandmother Mrs. Peter Cleaveland. My father was Richard Petite Cleaveland born in 1895 and died in 1964. My mother was Lillie Doyle born 1894 and died 1962. I had one brother, Hubert, born in 1920, died in 1971. My brother married Georgia Wilson from Millerton, New York. They had eight children: Hubert Jr., Richard, James, john, Carole, Beverly, Mary and Joseph. I have never married.
From 1923 to 1927 we lived on Wells Hill in a house now owned by Dr. Fred. Gevault. From 1927-1947 we lived on Sharon Road, Route 41, in a small house my father built. I can remember him digging the cellar with a team of horses pulling a scoop behind. There was no electricity on the road at that time so we had kerosene lamps, no running water, or inside bathroom or refrigeration.
1947 to 1949 I went to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to work as a journeyman electrician. I worked at several churches, hotels, condos, large homes and restaurants there.
From 1949 to 1965 I lived on Sharon Road. I sold the house in 1966 to my brother. I then moved to my home on Porter Street, which by working part time on it, had taken six years to build. I am still living in that house.
I attended school in a two room school house next to the Masonic hall in Lakeville during first grade. Miss hazel Flynn was first grade teacher. Miss Lila Standard was second grade teacher. I then went to grade school where the U.S. Post Office in Lakeville now stands. I attended second to sixth grade there. Mrs. Flynn, Miss Matheson, Miss Argali, Miss Sullivan, Miss O’Brien and Miss Wilson were teachers there. Mr. Murray was principal. This was in 1929-1934. Then I went up on the hill to the Salisbury High School for the seventh grade through junior and high school. My senior year was spent at the Housatonic Valley Regional High School. This was 1939-1940.
As I was only sixteen years old when I graduated from high school, my father loaned me his car and took me to Torrington to the Connecticut State trade School where I enrolled in an electrical class and graduated from there after forty-eight hundred hours of schooling. This was in 1943. There was no bus transportation to Torrington for students at that time so I had a room in a private house on Midgeon Avenue while I was in school. My parents would pick me up every Friday night and take me back on Monday morning. World War II was in progress at the time I graduated. After several tries I was rated 4F due to bad eyes and was not accepted by the services.
I then went to work for Clinton Electrical Company in Torrington. We did electrical work in defense plants in Litchfield County. Except for the two years in Florida, I stayed with Clinton for over twenty years. I worked at several fobs including the magnesium plant in Canaan, the Wash and Dry plant in Canaan, North Canaan Elementary School, B & D in Canaan, Geer memorial Hospital in Canaan, the Canaan sewer plant, the Salisbury Central School, the Sharon Playhouse, the First National Store in Canaan, Sharon Hospital, the Winsted Hospital, the Winsted sewer plant, Mechanics Savings Bank in Winsted, Torrington City Hall, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, the Connecticut Power Company buildings, and several Southern New England Telephone Company buildings, plus many other factories, stores, schools, and shopping centers in the area.
I also worked at an oil refinery in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, for a few months in 1979. These were all union jobs as I was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for 39 years. When I left Clinton electric, I worked out of the union hall. There I worked on the Uniroyal complex in Middlebury, Timex complex in Middlebury, the Southbury Shopping Plaza, Kent School for boys, Wamogo High School, Nonnewaug High School, Shepaug High School, and many other jobs. When I gave up the electrical trade, I went to work at the sewer plant in Lakeville and retired from there in 1985. I gave up the electrical trade because of the long travel time, living in rented rooms, and eating out all the time. I was getting too old to run up and down ladders all day.
My father was a farmer in his youth. He worked on his father’s farm on Town Hill. His father was Peter Cleaveland. Then he self-taught himself to be a civil engineer and did surveying work for the C.H. Nickerson Company in Torrington. He also did carpentry work. During the beginning of the Depression, he had a forest crew stationed on Music Mountain. He had a Chevy rack body truck loaded with forest fire equipment. Five or six men would meet at our house every morning, get in the truck, and go to Music Mountain where they made trails, picnic areas, cleaned up brush, and so forth. There was a farm there, and if there was a call for assistance for a grass, brush or forest fire, they would shoot off a 6 inch firecracker, and the guys would come running, jump into the truck, and go fight the fire. This was paid for by the State Forest Commission.
During the Depression he got a job as a foreman at Camp Cross in West Cornwall. This was a CCC camp. He got $25 a week there and room and board. He was home only 4 days a month, but with that big money we got electricity installed in the house which meant we had running water, lights, a refrigerator, and an inside bathroom. He had the Canaan Power Company put the poles in from the Hotchkiss corner to the house. I believe it was $10 a month until the bill was paid. He stayed with the CCC until they closed Camp Cross. Then he came home and continued his carpentry trade. He had part- time projects also.
He found time to raise chickens. We killed 200 broilers each week and got 200 chicks in which meant we had about 1000 chickens. He also sold cord wood. He bought wood from the state, piled in four foot lengths. This wood was mostly on Music Mountain and Norfolk Mountain. Then we would cut it up and deliver it for $8 a cord. Quite a few people never paid him so he stopped doing that. The last year he did this he sold 200 cords. When he retired from the carpentry trade, he sharpened saws for the carpenters. He would pick up saws from construction jobs on Friday and return them all sharpened on Monday. He also did chisels, chain saws, and circular saw blad3s. He did this until he became ill and passed away in 1964.
My mother came to town as a maid for Professor George Cloney of the Hotchkiss School. When he retired, she worked at the Infirmary at Hotchkiss as a cook and maid under Dr. Harry Wieler. She also went out evenings to people’s homes around Hotchkiss to prepare meals, serve and clean up afterwards. Most of the time she would leave the house at 7:00 AM and not get home until 7:30 at night, all for a few dollars.
Even though they worked hard and long, they found time to play cards with friends, go to the Masonic and Eastern Star meetings, church activities, and have relatives and friends in for a meal or a party.
I remember the following cars and trucks my parents owned. There was a Model “T” pick-up, a Dodge pick-up, an Essex sedan, a Real Flying Cloud sedan, a Real Speed Wagon truck, a 1931 Chevy sedan, a 1935Chevy sedan with a radio, (it was the first radio we ever had in a car).a 1937 Chevy sedan, a 1940 Buick sedan and several small pick-ups.
When I was 8-14 years old, I caddied at Hotchkiss Golf course during the summer. We got 50 cents for 9 holes. I used the money to buy school clothes and a bicycle. I also caddied at the Cedar Hills Country Club on Long Pond. If you behaved yourself, they would let you see the stage shows there in the evenings. I can remember seeing Eddie Cantor, Benny Gray, plus musical stage shows direct from New York.
During the winter I used to walk up to Hotchkiss on Saturday nights to see the movie show there. I was allowed to go there because my mother was employed there. Also during the winter I’d gather wood so I could have fuel to use to boil down maple sap which I gathered from the maple trees around the house. This was usually done in March when we had warm days and cold nights.
While in grade school and in high school some of my classmates were: Doris Bonhotel,—Van
Dyke, Bernice Atkins, Ellis, Isabelle Ostrander, Theola Whiting, Lillian Slater, (Larry) Lawrence
Perkins, James Litz, Harry Stanton, Sherwood Wright, William Fowlkes, George Schulman, Floyd Eggleston, Howard Parsons, Edward Tompkins, Alan Jefferies, Dorothy Gottliebson, Margaret Dempsey, Eleanor Smith, Lois Warner, Betty Brammer, Mary Houseman, Dorothy Marsden, Peter Flynn, Edward Clark, Alfred Whiting, Edward Brammer, and Clark Peterson.
The Cleaveland family has been in Lakeville since the late 1700’s. The lives of these people have been recorded for the Historical Society by Paul Cleaveland and Lucille Murray (tapes #2,4,). I hope what I have narrated here would have been a small addition to this history. I am also presenting the Society with a partial genealogy of the Cleaveland family from Lakeville.