George R. DelPrete Interview
This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Rick DelPrete who is going to talk about The Rotary Club, Hotchkiss, and various committees that he has been on. Today’s date is Sept. 22, 2021. This is file #35 cycle #4.
JM:What is your full name?
RD:George Ricardo DelPrete.
JM:May I have the story about Ricardo?
RD:Yes I was named after the doctor whose name was George Ricardo Galliardi. I was the first baby he delivered and he thought it would be nice…I am sorry my brother was the first baby he ever delivered. He thought it might be nice if my mother would name the baby after him. My mother said, “No, this time the baby will be named after his father.” So he became Arthur Eugene Thomas. But she said, “If I ever have another one…” four years later she had me and I became George Ricardo. She kept her promise.
JM:What is your birthday?
RD:August 2, 1939. (I am old!)
JM:No, you are in the prime of life.
JM:Where is your birthplace?
RD:Framingham, Mass. born and raised
JM:Good place to be
RD:Good place. It was a great town to grown up in.
JM:With your teaching career, where did you graduate from?
RD:I graduated from Framingham High School in 1957. I went to Bowden College in Brunswick, Maine. I got a Masters in History with a Minor in Classics. Then I actually went to law school at Boston College for a semester. But I did not want to be a lawyer after one semester. The only thing I saw was guilty people getting off and innocent people getting hosed. That did not interest me much. I always thought I wanted to teach and coach. I decided to do it with my wife’s help. She said, “Well, I want to be happy. So that mean you got to be happy.” OK so we threw everything we owned in the back of a Chevy 2, a pretty small car, drove to California. I started a Master’s program at UCLA. Why did we go to California? Well at that time it was tuition free, the university, state colleges, and junior colleges were all free.
JM:But you had to establish residence, didn’t you?2.
RD:Yes, I had to establish residence. My wife’s mother, my wife and I met in California, lived out there. The first semester I was a non- resident: it cost me $600. After that it cost me more for my parking permit that it did to go to school. That is why I don’t like Ronald Reagan since he did away with that.
JM:Where did you teach after college?
RD:First I taught at the University High School in West Los Angeles. I did student teaching: I liked it and decided that I wanted to teach secondary school. We started looking around. I looked at private schools and public schools. A fellow that had gone on to Bowden College was the Headmaster of Berwick Academy, South Berwick, Maine. He got my name from a history teacher. He interviewed me over the phone and hired me over the phone, sight unseen. We threw everything we had in the car and drove back to Maine.
JM:Did you still have the same Chevy 2?
RD: I think so. We drove to Maine. I started in teaching summer school, 5 classes and 6 days a week. I loved it. I didn’t know any better. We loved South Berwick: that’s when we started having children. They were all born in, I wanted them born in Maine, but there wasn’t a hospital on the Maine side so they were born in Dover, New Hampshire, all three of my kids. Dover is across the river. I taught there for 5 years I was coaching football and La Crosse, athletic director, teaching. We left Berwick because I wanted to try deal with better students and facilities.
JM:a higher caliber of students
RD:I looked around. I thought I was going to go to Deerfield, but that fell through. I got a call in the summer from Hotchkiss School, George Kellogg who was in charge of hiring, a great guy. (See George Kellogg’s interview) They offered me a job in the summer. I had told the Headmaster at Berwick that I would be back one more year; then I would definitely leave. So I went to see him and said, “Look I just got a job offer from Hotchkiss School and I told you that I would be back and I am going to keep my word.” He said, “No you are crazy. Take it. I am going to leave too.” So I took the job.
JM:When did you come to Hotchkiss?
RD:1970, the fall of 1970. I was there 34 years.
JM:So you retired in 2004.
JM:You had a variety of duties. What did you teach?
RD:I taught American History and Ancient History.
JM:Which did you prefer?
RD:Ah man, I liked the first half of American History, and I kind of liked Ancient History. I liked Rome and Greece. I have been to both places. It was great. I ended up teaching a lot of the second half of American History which I thought was not quite as interesting, other than the Civil War.
JM:What did you coach?
RD:I coached football. I started off as an assistant football coach and became the Head Coach in the late 1970s, I think. Then I became the Athletic Director shortly after that. I coached basketball for two years, not knowing what I was doing, other than the ball was round. I coached Lacrosse which I had coached before. I actually coached girls Lacrosse for two year-great experience for me. I found that girls were every bit as competitive as boys. The only thing we did not have was contact, but the rest of it was the same. They worked as hard, they ran. It was just a terrific experience for me.
JM:Oh wonderful! The girls came in 1974.
RD:Correct There were some good lacrosse players.
JM:Were there many changes when the girls came, as far as dress code or manners, anything like that?
RD:I think in terms of manners, I think teachers cleaned up their acts in classes. There were rules, but I am not sure that it was tremendously different.
JM:It didn’t change too much?
RD:No I think it made a good school better. It became more outstanding and diversity.
JM:Something I didn’t ask you before, at the time you came to Hotchkiss, were the boys all from the United States or were there student from Europe and Asia?
RD:There were foreign students, but they were primarily American kids.
JM:It has changed now.
RD:Yes but they did have student from abroad. Now there are a lot of foreign kids.
JM:Anything else you want add about Hotchkiss before we move on to something else?
RD:No other than I was fortunate to work with Bill Olsen. He was certainly the best Head Master I worked for. I worked for a whole bunch of them. Arthur White was there: he was Head Master for a while. He was one of the best people on the face of the Earth. So I was lucky: I was there at a good time.
JM:You were there at an excellent time.
JM:I am so glad. 4.
RD:Thank you. It was great: it was a great experience.
JM:You went on the Salisbury Board of Education. Why?
RD:Correct I was always raised that if you lived in a town, you owed something to the community that you lived in, to serve. That had come from my parents. My brothers and sisters are all on the something in Framingham. My brother was a selectman. They were town representatives, whatever so I just thought that was important to serve. I had had kids who had been at Salisbury Central. I don’t think they were there when I ran.
JM:No then only one I had was Jenna.
RD:Right. She’s a teacher now.
JM:Yes, I think that is wonderful! I am so pleased. How many terms did you do?
RD:I think I did 2. I was naïve I thought the term was a 2 year term, but it was 4! I didn’t even know. So I served 2 terms. (He served mid-1980s. Ed.)
JM:So you were there for 8 years,
JM: The Chairman of the Board at that time was who?
JM:There were some other people on the board…
RD:John Lee, Mary Davidson, and Sharon Hurlbutt: I am sure there were others.
JM:I am sure. Were you on a specific committee or did you all work together?
RD:Well we worked together, but there were different committees. I did the oversight of the principal. We have to get this thing done.”
JM:The principal at that time was Thomas Bradley.
RD:He was a very nice guy, but he was slow to get into action.
JM:I know you have been on a lot of different committees. Tell me a little bit about the Town Recreation Committee.
RD:Actually a school board member is appointed to the Town Recreation Commission: I was appointed by the school board to the Town Rec. Marty Whalen (See his interview) was the Chairman at the time. I kind of liked it because athletic was the business I was in. so I stayed in that. When Marty
retired, I became the Chairman. I served for 20 years. Lou Bucceri followed me. I gave up all my boards and so forth when I hit 80. I felt I had done my time.
JM:That a good thing. Oh gee I’ve got some time to go yet.
RD:It was good. Town Rec was good.
JM:What does the Town Rec Commission do?
RD:That’s a good question.
JM:That is why I am asking.
RD:They keep an eye on the Town Rec Director (Lisa McAuliffe See her interview Ed.) Give reports and decide what we want to do in the summer, summer programs. There is a Grove Commission.
JM:The Town Recreation is just recreation.
RD: Yes, just recreation for the community.
JM:Do you remember how often you met?
RD:I think we met monthly. We also kept an eye on Little League baseball and things that weren’t necessarily town sponsored, but sports.
JM:And then you were on the Grove Oversight Committee?
RD:I was on the Grove Committee. That was good: in fact I am still on that because it only meets 4 times a year. I was away for one of them.
JM:What do they do?
RD:They oversee the Grove and what is going on there and Stacey (See her interview, Stacey Dodge Ed.) They talk about the weeds in the pond, how to get rid of them, getting rid of the geese-not shooting them, but getting rid of them.
JM:Stacey has been there a long time. I interviewed her: she said that she had been there 20 years. I almost fell off my chair.
RD:She is great. She actually worked for us. My wife had a summer camp, Camp Hilltop. We took it over and ran it at Hotchkiss on the water front. We took kids 6-11 and Stacey worked for us for a year or so.
JM:How long did you run that camp?
RD:I don’t know: it was my wife’s thing, 10 years maybe? We used the Hotchkiss facilities: that was nice about it.
JM:What type of activities swimming, boating?
RD:Boating, sailing, swimming. We would have one overnight up on Mt. Riga; we spent one night up there.
JM:Oh that would be a treat.
RD:Yeah that was fun.
JM:Democratic Town Committee 20 years again?
JM:You are a sucker for 20 years. Are you still on it or did you get off?
RD:I am on it, but I am not an elected member, but I tune into it every now and then. Now they meet at 6:00 which is kind of tough.
JM:Oh yeah, do you meet once a month?
RD:They meet once a month. They wanted to meet earlier rather than later-so fine.
JM: It used to be that 5-7 was sacred for dinner: nothing is sacred anymore. Not even Sundays. Are there any other town committees that we haven’t talked about before we go on to Rotary?
RD: I don’t think so. That’s enough! That was a life time sentence.
JM:Yeah, It can be. I think you said you didn’t join rotary until after you retired?
RD:Correct. In 2004 I worked for NBC at the Olympics, the Athens Olympics which was a great experience. My wife and I had been to Greece before. One of the great things about teaching is you get the summer to do things. We had been at Greece for a summer. So I went back and worked at the Olympics. I came back and was hanging around the house. My wife didn’t want me hanging around. I think she whispered in Jerry Baldwin’s ear (See his interview) “Get him out of here!” He said, “Have you ever thought about coming to Rotary?” I didn’t know what Rotary was, Jean, honestly. I thought it was some religious Rosa Crucian Society. I had no idea. I went. I kind of liked it. I met John Neufeld, a smart guy and a bunch of other bright people and hard- working people doing good things locally, for the country and the world.
JM:It is a service organization.
RD:Service before self. I thought it was a terrific organization. It still is. Now at the time we probably had 60 members: now we are down to half that. People don’t join things any more. Young people don’t join any more.
JM:Now they have women in Rotary.
RD:Now they have women. They had women when I joined.
JM:Oh they did?
JM:Foster was in it from 1976 before there were women. Laura Hawks Flores (See her interview) was the first Woman President.
RD:That was great.
JM:No offense, but sometimes the women push things along a bit.
RD:Again I think having women makes a good organization.
JM:It does. You have the responsibility of the fireworks display.
RD:Right, that was the first thing I did the fireworks. So we are out there at Lime Rock Park: there is a huge electrical storm and I think, “Here I am serving Rotary and I am going to be electrocuted!” But I didn’t and the fireworks did go off. We did that every year. It is our biggest fundraiser.
JM:Oh it is a wonderful one.
RD:This year not so much because it was postponed twice. We about broke even. We may have even lost a few bucks, but it is still a good event. People like it.
JM:They come and tail gate.
RD:They tail gate. Once we are back to normal there will be more food trucks and things for the kids to do. It is a good thing.
JM:Why did you become a Justice of the Peace?
RD:I have no idea what it was about. We talked about it. I think the guy that I replaced, Dick Gurney a Hotchkiss guy, I have replaced on Town Rec. and a Justice of the Peace. It’s OK, why not? So I became a Justice of the Peace.
JM:Do you remember when?
RD:I don’t. a while ago.
JM:Do you have to have any training?8.
RD:They send you a book. You do three things. You prevent riots, marry people, and one other one.
JM:Have you prevented any riots?
RD:I have not. I’ll stand at the border with a weapon defending Connecticut against all invaders.
JM:Oh Lord, well I am going to Sheffield on Saturday.
RD:That’s OK so the next time you get married…
JM:I’ll do it. You do weddings.
RD:I do weddings. I did one a couple of weeks ago in Sharon. I don’t do too many of them anymore. I did one with this young couple. God, they were so clue-less. They had a baby so they wanted to get married. OK I’ll meet you at the Town Hall. Do you have a license? Huh? You need a license. Go over there and get a license. So they did. They had obviously paid for the license but they did not have enough money to pay me, but it didn’t matter. I married them anyway.
JM:Oh my word, my goodness. You are on the Salisbury Association Historical Society.
JM;with ME! You lucky man
RD:Correct that’s right.
JM:When did you join that one?
RD:I have been in the Salisbury Association for a while. Lou Bucceri was Chairman and we talked about some things. We would go to a meeting. I kind of liked it. I like history obviously. I don’t think we do enough of it with the town- town history.
JM:I am working on it: that is why I am doing oral history.
JM:You have probably been on this since 2010 or before? I was on with Ron Jones see his interview) and then Lou took over. Now we have rick Reifsnyder (see his interview)
RD: I was on it with Ron Jones, but I can’t remember if he was chair or not.
JM;He was not chair of the Salisbury Association, but chair of the Historical Society. So you have been on it for quite a while, but nor for 20 years, but at least 15.
RD:Another one. I am old
JM:No you are not! 82 is not old, no way. Is there anything that you would like to talk about that we have not covered?
RD:The only thing is I wish could have a dig in town because as you know the Convention Army which was Burgoyne’s army who lost at Saratoga, spent a night or two in town somewhere. It would be nice to find out where. If we had a dig we might find out something. I thought about this also for the Indians. I guess we say Native Americans. I found out they had some wigwams on the banks of Factory Pond at the end of Ethan Allen Street and the railroad tracks. The Indians didn’t really live here
JM:They were migrants sort of.
RD:They were migratory, spring and summer or summer and fall and then moved on. There were probably a few.
JM:Yeah, but not a large group. I think the general thought is perhaps the Convention Army may have camped out at Community field behind Patco?
RD:Yes I think that makes the most sense. First of all they talked about Stiles Meadow, but I have been through that and found nothing. Then maybe Lion’s Head, but Community field makes the most sense. There was water, near the lake. There were troops guarding them, the foundry…
JM:There is a monument in Canaan before the cemetery on Sand Road that is where they camped, so it might make more sense to be down by Community field because of the distance.
RD: I would think.
JM:Well that’s a mystery you will have to solve. Thank you so very much.