This is file 40. I am interviewing Stacey Dodge, the Manager of the Lakeville Grove. The location is at the Grove building and the date is January 15th, 2013. This is Jean McMillen.
JM:May I have your full name?
SD:Stacey Lynn Dodge
JM:Where were you born?
SD:At the Gt. Barrington Hospital (Fairview)
JM:May I have your parents’ full names?
SD:Henry F. Dodge and Linda L. Dodge
JM:Do you have siblings?
SD:I do, I have an older brother Michael and a younger sister Donna.
JM:Where were you educated?
SD:Region #1 at Housatonic Valley Regional.
JM:I believe that you also attended Salisbury Central.
JM:I am going to start with #1 if I can find it! I want you to tell me about your background at the Grove starting when you were a youngster. Who was the manager? What did you do?
SD:I was born and raised in this area so I grew up here. When I was growing up, the manager was Frank Markey (See tape # 78 A&B). I grew up and became a life guard and Jim Rutledge was the manager at that time (See tape #150A). Then I worked under John Pogue who was the manager before me. I took over after John retired.
JM:Did you do anything else besides life guarding as far as working for either Mr. Pogue or Mr. Rutledge?
SD:For Mr. Pogue I was the store manager, and under Mr. Rutledge I was just a life guard.
JM:That’s a very important job.
SD:It’s very important, and I agree 100%.
JM:He knew whom to pick.2.
JM:How did you get the job here as manager?
SD:I had worked under John Pogue as the store manager, and then he was due to retire. They weren’t sure what they were going to do. I went into the First Selectman at the time who was Bud Trotta and said,” I think I can do that position. If I take over, you do not have to advertise.” He said, “I’ll give it a try.” Hence 20 years later I am still here.
JM:Are you still on probation?
SD:No, I think I’m hired for good.
JM:that is incredible. How many staff do you have?
SD:It is just myself and one other maintenance man that are here full time. After summertime we go from 2 of us to around 26.
JM:That is a large staff.
SD:It is a large staff, but we are very busy and this is the hub of the town. In the summertime everybody is here. That included life guards and swim instructors, my store staff and maintenance crews.
JM:Let’s break that down a little bit. How many do you have for store staff?
SD:I have 7.
SD:There are 4 in the summertime.
SD:The rest is life guards.
JM:If I remember correctly, you said that the life guards stagger their hours so that not everybody is on all the time.
SD:Correct. That covers days off.
JM:What are your basic responsibilities? I know everything.
SD:We break it down actually into seasons around here. We have fishing season that starts in mid -April and runs to the end of October. Then we have summer season that is from when the children get out of school depending of the snow days which is somewhere around mid-June to the end of August.
Then we have fishing season again, and then we have our winter season. My duties cover a lot and a variety of things. Summertime is just basically overseeing the park and all the people here and the staff. Prior to the summer we are fixing things and repairing things and getting ready for the season and then we slowly get into fishing season and that kind of gears us up for the summer season.
JM:Now I want to ask you about fishing season as far as the youth of the community. Back when you were in my 6th grade, everybody was out here for fishing season. Has that changed?
SD:Yes, it has drastically. Each year we see have fewer and fewer youngsters.
JM:Do you still have the cub scouts doing the early morning breakfast?
SD:We have a Fishermen’s Breakfast every year, but it is not the cub scouts doing it. It is actually “On the Run “Coffee shop. They have done it now for 5 or 6 years. They come in and do a buffet, and it is a wonderful thing. For the kids every year we have a Fishing Derby. As we look back through the pictures, it is the same kids that have started when they were little and go right through until they are too old to be in the Fishing Derby.
JM:You may or may not remember when I was teaching 6th grade, I would say to the boys, “If you’d like an A in science, bring me a cleaned fish.” I got several cleaned fish, of course they also knew that I was being sort of facetious and that they had to earn their A, but it was a nice little joke. We had a lot of fun with that. What are some of the projects that you have put in place while you have been manager?
SD: Well the biggest thing is this new building. That was huge and that was the largest project. We have a new playground, we have new rafts, docks, swim team docks. We have gotten rid of the old wooden boats that were here forever. We now have metal boats. We have done a new dock system for our boats. We’ve instituted new programs for the children; they have sailing and kayaking and paddle boarding. We work closely with the Recreation Department so that is covered in both our departments. (See file #45 Lisa McAuliffe).
JM:Do you have responsibility for Factory pond and the ice skating?
SD:We do. Well when Mother Nature provides us with enough ice, we clean the ice there and then we are also responsible for the sidewalks in Salisbury. We take care of those and maintain them and the paddle tennis court here in the parking lot.
JM:I noticed coming in this morning “No Ice Skating”. Now because you have a varied schedule, your hours are varied. On average how many hours do you work?
SD:If we averaged it out over the year, it is probably 45 hours a week.
JM:That sounds like in summertime you are doing more.
SD:Sometimes it’s 60 and then in the winter it is sometimes 30.
JM:Why do you like this job?4.
SD:Well, growing up here, I know a lot of the people. I have a lot of rapport with the younger people. Working in the Rec Department you see them in different venues. I worked as ski instructor so I had them in ski programs, soft ball and soccer. Then they come here. You kind of want to watch them grow. I have been here long enough that the children I babysat for now have children so you kind of…
JM:it’s a little daunting isn’t it?
SD:Yes, it is but you see it go full circle and that’s the nice part.
JM:When I was teaching my last class, I had 5 children whose mothers or fathers I had had.
JM:My mother says you’re mean. I am. Sit down and don’t breathe. They knew what to expect.
JM:It makes it a lot easier. Now you gave me a wonderful fee schedule so I don’t have to ask that. What are some wishes for the future?
SD:We’d like to incorporate a new playground that actually caters more to the older children. It now is geared towards little ones, and we’d like it to focus on the older kids a little bit.
JM:So that there is a progression. You told me a couple of wonderful stories. I am going to ask you about the snow hut.
SD:Art Wilkinson was our Rec Director and I worked under Art teaching ski lessons. As Art got busy with other things, basketball and all, I took over the ski program. I had although he is not young anymore, but at the time I had Kevin Cantele who was about 5. Every year Kevin would come and do ski lessons with me. I would also see him here in the summertime. He said to me one day, “Is this your winter home? And is the Grove your summer home?” I looked at him and said, “Yeah, it pretty much is.” That just started the whole thing, and at the banquet at the end of the ski season, we had an awards banquet and I called Kevin up and I said to him, “I just want to clear the air. I don’t live at the Grove or the ski hill. I do have a home. I don’t have a country and two homes.”
JM:That’s typical kid. That is wonderful. Getting much more serious, tell me about getting street lights in Salisbury.
SD:Well, I was told this story by Jim Dubois. We were just talking and Jim was very close to the family. He was just telling stories. He said, “Oh yes, my niece came to visit, and she went downtown with one of the Whitbeck girls” I don’t recall what Whitbeck he had mentioned. Back then they used to have people who would wander through. Men going from town to town looking for work or just traveling. So they were downtown and this gentleman chased them home. I don’t know if he was looking for money or what the story was, but they came running back to Jim’s house and were very
upset that they had been chased by this traveler. So Jim went to the town, and they put in street lights to make it safer for the young people to walk downtown.
JM:I think that is absolutely wonderful.
SD:Who would have even known if Jim hadn’t just one day, we were just talking, and mentioned it.
JM:I am going to ask you about the trees that were dedicated to George Kiefer. Would you give us some background on the grove.
SD:Sure, it is the oldest natural grove of oak trees in the state of Connecticut. These trees have been nurtured and taken care of for years. They have been overseen by George Kiefer.
JM:These are white oaks?
SD:Yes, they are. So we take a lot of pride in the trees and make a huge effort to try to maintain these trees. They are all about the same age, so as they start to die off and get diseases and all, we’d like to keep the strain going. We collected a number of the acorns, and passed them out to different people: Curtis Rand took a few, George Kiefer took some, and I took some. We grew these small saplings and the cub scouts came down and planted the trees with George Kiefer, Curtis rand and myself. We have 12 of the trees that we are trying to nurture ‘til they get large enough to be permanent fixtures here in the park.
JM:When I asked Curtis Rand about this, the grin was from ear to ear. He was just so delighted, and again this is local history that is being perpetuated which is so important.
JM:This is so important. Civic responsibilities, what do you do besides the Grove? Are you in SWASA?
SD:No, not any more. I was in SWASA but not anymore. I don’t do a lot of it anymore only because I have a 13 year old daughter who is very active and busy.
JM:You need to be focused that way.
SD:Yes, it is not as prevalent as it used to be.
JM:It goes in cycles. You were in SWASA; you also said that you were involved with the student work program which is privately funded. There are a few other things which lay fallow now but you may go back to later perhaps. Are there any other things that you would like to add to this interview that I have not covered?
SD:I think we have covered everything, but it is very near and dear to my heart being here. I grew up here. The staff that I have also grew up here or their children have grown up here. Holley Reid is one of my staff members. I babysat Holley’s children when they were little. Holley’s children both worked for me, and now Holley is here with me. I have multiple staff members that have a similar scenario. We take it very personally here; it is very near and dear to our hearts that this is our Grove and we nurture it. Yes, we are town employees, but it means more to me that just that.
JM:It has to. The care and love, I mean that, that goes into nurturing this wonderful asset that we have.
SD:Absolutely it is.
JM:Thank you so much.
SD:Sure, thank you.