Elliot, Joanne

Interviewer: Jean McMillen
Place of Interview: Scoville Library
Date of Interview:
File No: #9 Cycle: 4
Summary: Twin Lakes Archivist, Friends of the Scoville Memorial Library, and Noble Horizons Auxiliary

Interview Audio

Interview Transcript

Elliott Cover Sheet

Interviewee:Joanne Elliot

Narrator:Jean McMillen

File #:9, cycle 4

Place of Interview:Office at SML

Date:April 23, 2019

Summary of talk: Twin Lakes Association Archivist, member of Friends of the Scoville Memorial Library and book sales, and member and officer of Noble Horizons Auxiliary.


Elliot Interview

This is Jean McMillen. Today’s date is April 23, 2019. This is file # 9 cycle 4. I am interviewing Joanne Elliot.  She is going to talk about being Archivist for the Twin Lakes Association, working at Noble, Noble Auxiliary as President and Friends of the Scoville Memorial Library, and anything else she wants to talk about. First we’ll start with…

JM:       What is your name?

JE:        I am Joanne Elliot.

JM:       How did you come to the area?

JE:        My husband and I were looking for a weekend home.  We lived in the city and we didn’t want to stay there.  He had children that would stay with us on weekends.  There was no place for them to stay, so we would have to take them off to a park somewhere. We went touring around looking for a place to have a house on a lake. Houses on lakes were more expensive than houses not on lakes.  We found a house near a lake. We went to the Catskills, the Adirondacks, which was a little bit too far, the Jersey shore, and finally we happened to drive down Between the Lakes Road on a rainy Saturday morning.  There were people out in canoes in the rain and they were having a good time.

JM:       Did you buy land or did you buy a house?

JE:        We bought land.

JM:       When did you buy the land?

JE:        In 1972.

JM:       Then you built?

JE:        We built in 1975, in between times dick drew up plans for our house and we collected money for a down payment on the land and to get started on the house. We looked at a couple of places that were already built but needed a lot of fixing up. We decided we would do our own thing.

JM:       `You did and you are still there and it is a lovely place.

JE:        Yes.

JM:       Is that how you got involved with the Twin Lakes Association?

JE:        Yes because when we moved in finally in October 31st, 1977/78? I am not sure, on Halloween. I told the staff at work that I arrived on my broom stick. I had found a job because one of our neighbors worked at Winsted Hospital and she said that there was a job posted for a Director of Nursing position. I was qualified so I went and was interviewed and got the position.

JM:       Wonderful! You stayed there a long time.

JE:        I stayed there 12 years. I went from Director of Nursing to Vice President of Winsted Memorial Hospital for Patient Care. In other words I had Social Services, Physical Therapy, and the Nursing Department which included staffing the Emergency Room.

JM:       When you joined the Twin Lakes Association, did you automatically become the Archivist?

JE:        No Mrs. Evelyn Firth was the President   The first time we became aware of the association was through a letter she sent out telling people in the area saying that Spring was coming and the ice was breaking up, and those people who went to Florida were coming back.  She urged that we get involved because the association, in addition to being family recreation through Twin Lakes Day (See Nina Mathus interview) was also the water quality and the prevention of weeds, weevils and all that.

JM:       When about did you become Archivist? About 30 years ago?

JE:        Well, after Dick died in 1995, so it was less than 30, maybe about 25 years. It was when we gave up the office in the building that was part of the Institute of World Affairs (See Charles Cook interview).

JM:       When you took over as Archivist, where were the records?

JE:        The records were in a 2 drawer metal file cabinet which was stored in an underground garage on the island of Isola Bella. There was at least a 2 car garage built into a hillside which was quite a damp place. When I pulled out all of the books that had been kept by each President, as they rotated through, they really needed airing, sunshine and a new binder and things like that.

JM:       What were some of the records that were kept? What would be in those books kept by the Presidents?

JE:        Their correspondence, anything that had to do with the state. There were very important materials about the land at the North end of the big lake.  They (the association) had received a promise from the state that it would never be developed. That is in there. Everything that covers correspondence with the DEP about the application of weed control, studies about water quality and also endangered species of plants. It seems we are the only place in the state that is a home for a very complicated Latin name for a type of pond weed that is very rare. It only existed in very pure water. (See Carey Fiertz interview)

JM:       When I was interviewing Carey Fiertz we discussed some of the endangered plants and animals that have to be protected which was fascinating.

JE:        Some of that is on our website also the things they found and where they were found. I don’t know if it is still there but any time we have permission to do an herbicide in the lake. A map is usually posted.

JM:       You do an herbicide in the lake which is different from Lakeville Lake which uses a weed harvester.

JE:        The herbicide that we are using is only prevents use of the lake for one day, before it used to be three days of no usage. It is now quite a different chemical.

JM:       Do you enjoy being Archivist?

JE:        Yeah, it is very interesting. I did a program for the membership and presented it on Twin Lakes Day (See Nina Mathus interview) in the room where they were going to have square dancing over at the Beach Club. (See interviews by Jack Silliman and/or Mike Haupt) A lot of people got a kick out of seeing the old pictures of the fishing camps and the paths that went all around the lake that people kept on their lakefront property free of trees or bushes so people could walk around the lake.  That was considered almost public footpaths, even though it was private property.

JM:       Is there anything else you would like to add before we go on to another section?

JE:        No really except that I hope there will be someplace to be able to put the records or the collection that I have in 4 big plastic bins when I am not able to do this anymore.

JM:       Start training somebody. I do know what you mean. You retired from Winsted Hospital in 1990. You went to work someplace else.

JE:        Yes I came here to Noble Horizons as part-time Evening Nursing Supervisor.

JM:       How long did you stay there?

JE:        I stayed there 7 years and retired in 1997.

JM:       During that time you joined the Friends of the Scoville Memorial Library?

JE:        Yes

JM:       How did you get involved in that?

JE:        It is strange with a nursing background, but I was a reader. I enjoyed fiction. So I got a library card when I retired. Before I had just been picking up the odd books on my way to a vacation spot.  It was the only time that I had to read. I got interested because they were looking for members of the Friends of the Scoville Library. I joined a meet that they had out on the lawn in front of the library. I got recruited; I attended a couple of meetings. I told that that I would be interested in helping with the book sale. After I had helped with one book sale, the President of the association Judy Linscott asked me to join the board.

JM:       Do you know either when the Friends started or some of the early founders? (See Inge Heckel interview)

JE:        Laurie Batchelor was one of the young mothers that was involved and Libby Watterson.

JM:       I thought Libby started it?

JE:        She started the on-line book sales which I took over in 2005.  Before that I was asked to be secretary almost immediately because nobody wanted to write the minutes.  I was first secretary and then I ran the book sales once a year which was an all year project to sort books.

JM:       I worked on that for 2 years when I was a member of the Friends.  It was a lot of work, but it was worthwhile.

JE:        When I got to be 70 years old, it was a bit much lifting those heavy boxes. I told the board to get somebody else. At that point I was free to join the Noble Auxiliary.

JM:       When you stopped doing the physical book sales, is that when you started with Alibris.com?

JE:        It was right after Judy Linscott died; we had had it for about one year.  She became a resident of Noble Horizons and really couldn’t keep up with all the checking back and forth so I did a lot of mailing for her and got to know the programs.  She knew she would not be able to carry it on very much longer, so she turned the whole thing over to me, my credit card and so on. So it was not a big shock to take it over.

JM:       You are still doing it?

JE:        Yes

JM:       Didn’t you say that you had something like 250 books on sale?

JE:        I have 225 books at the moment. At one time we had a room at the library I had up to 500 books for sale.

JM:       These book sales, both the physical and the on-line book sales which you do, it sort of a fund raiser for the Friends.

JE:        Yes

JM:       When the Friends started, what was the purpose of raising money?  What did they want to use the money for?

JE:        For little extras and to augment the collection, buying DVDs or musical CDs and things like that.

JM:       You retired from Noble in 1997: then did you join the Noble Auxiliary?

JE:        Actually I had to finish up with the book sales and find somebody to replace myself there at the library.

JM:       Was that when Anne Kremer took over?

JE:        Yes

JM:       OK I worked with her for two years on the physical book sales. So after you off-loaded the book sales you joined the Auxiliary.

JE:        It was probably around 2002 because I spent an extra year with Anne because I couldn’t just drop it into her lap.

JM:       Oh no you had to train her.

JE:        I was 71 when I left so it was probably 2010-2011 when I joined the board of the auxiliary. I had been helping out volunteering at the Holiday Fair for many years, but never got involved with the board until after I left the Friends and the book sales.

JM:       What offices have you held with the auxiliary?

JE:        I was Vice President for 2 terms of 2 years each. I was President for 4 years.

JM:       You just retired from being President?

JE:        I retired as President a year ago October.

JM:       How many members of the auxiliary are there?

JE:        On the board there are 14, but the general membership paying dues who attend the annual meeting is about 97 right now. It is usually around 100.  We encourage families of residents to join and if they want to volunteer at any of our fundraisers.

JM:       What are the dues for an ordinary member?

JE:        I think $15. A lot of people give more than that. On the form is a space to add more if you feel so inclined.

JM:       The budget that you recently had was about $28,000?

JE:        Yes that covers all of the usual expenses that we budget for.  Then if we have extra we can buy more things like patio furniture for the decks or extra books for the library, but that is a budgeted item.

JM:       I have you wonderful letter with the budget expenses on it. There are some items that I want to ask you from that.  Your fund raisers are the Festival of Trees, the Holiday Fair, and 2 tag sales, and the proceeds from the Country Store.

JE:        Right

JM:       Tell me a little bit about the Holiday Fair.  When did that start?

JE:        That was maybe the first fundraiser way back maybe 40 years ago.  Mary Barton (See Mary Barton interview) said that she was involved with that.  It was called the Christmas Fair at that time. I don’t know exactly what they sold.

JM:       What do you sell now?

JE:        We have jams and jellies table, a knit goods table, we have a jewelry table and two Christmas ornaments tables. One of which is more upscale and the other is from donations and any ornaments we can buy at the Christmas Tree Shop.  We also have Mrs. Claus making holiday balls for a Christmas tree. She paints them: they are colored Christmas ornaments. She paints them with little animals or the child’s name if a grandparent wants it to hang on their tree.

JM:       Who does that?

JE:        Nina Mathus does. (See Nina Mathus interview)

JM:       I knew that she read to the children because I have seen pictures. She is a cleaver lady.

JE:        She sometimes dresses up as Mrs. Claus for that table, but always for the other thing when she reads “The Night before Christmas”.  We also have a greens table, but we haven’t been able to have too many live greens because the residents can’t buy them to decorate their rooms. It would be a fire hazard if they have candles. Outsiders can buy centerpieces with candles. The thing is our Holiday Fair the last couple of years had been held before Thanksgiving so we don’t really have a demand for Christmas ornaments.  If we held it after the Festival of Trees we have to have a week to set up and clean up from the Festival and that makes it too close to Christmas. So we have made it a little smaller because it is condensed into that smaller room.

JM:       It is only one day affair, isn’t it?

JE:        Yes the residents have a few hours on the day before to do their shopping if they want.  A lot of them buy little presents for grandchildren or things to decorate their rooms or to hang on their doors.

JM:       Now from your budget that you did in your President’s letter I want to ask you about the Audrey Whitbeck Fund.  I know who Audrey Whitbeck was, but why was there a fund named for her?

JE:        She died: we have a memorial fund which is on-going to support arts and crafts programs for the residents.

JM:       Was she particularly interested in arts and crafts?

JE:        She enjoyed that. For the Holiday Fair she made us all these little name tags like Christmas Trees out of green felt and pasted our names on them so we could be known to the shoppers.

JM:       That is about $5,000.

JE:        Sometimes we have outsiders come in to do classes, painting. We had a live chicken come in once.  The artist used her as a model and everybody drew the chicken.  This chicken had been a model before because she was really good.

JM:       Then you have and Employees Scholarship Fund.  Is that for the education of the employees?

JE:        That is a Noble fund, it is really not ours, but we contribute $2,000 once a year to it. Any employee who is studying a health profession topic can apply for the scholarship.

JM:       Some of the other budget items are a chapel renovation.

JE:        `That was quite extensive. The room had become a little bit too small for the number of chairs. They bought chairs that could be arranged differently and took up less space. That left more space for wheel chairs. A lot of people arrived in wheel chairs and needed more space.

JM:       You also do pet therapy.

JE:        That pays the vet bills for our pets.

JM:       How many pets do you have?

JE:        I am not sure how many they have now.  When I worked there, there were two cats and a dog, and a bunch of fish. Sometimes we had birds in the aviary near the chapel entrance. We have finches there.

JM:       The items I liked particularly are the Christmas gifts for all the residents and flowers. I love that.

JE:        The flowers usually arrive at the first of the week from all the florists in town. The residents do the arranging of them.

JM:       Oh they do it themselves.

JE:        It is an activity as part of our recreation department. They sort the flowers and put them in the vases.

JM:       There is also the library with the DVDs and the computer and that sort of thing.  What is the Excursion Fund>

JE:        That pays for people to go out to lunch or to a movie if they want it as a group.  We take the van and the people who are ambulatory can do that.

JM:       Is this just for the residents or can the cottagers go too?

JE:        Yes, mostly cottagers because they are more ambulatory.

JM:       Oh the lobster dinners, I loved the lobster dinners.

JE:        Just one a year, but the cottagers do have to pay for their meal if they want to come. It is not that much that they charge.

JM:       I had a friend who was a resident and she would invite me for the lobster dinner.  That was wonderful. Is there something else that you would like to add before we close?

JE:        I think that probably covers it.

JM:       Thank you so much.  This has been wonderful.

JE:        You are welcome.









Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068