iral History Project: Property of the Oral History Project, Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library,
Salisbury, CT 06068
Interviewee: Walter and Marie Erickson
Interviewer: Stephen Moore
..Place of Interview: Bunker Hill Road, Salisbury, CT
Tape No.: 85A, August 12, 1991
Transcribed by: Lisa A. Wardell, 11/12/12
Walter- came to Hotchkiss as painter his mother & father boughtClark Hill Farm, milk route, contracting stone & gravel, towndump, Mt. Riga, Salisbury, early ski jumps, education, OutingClub, SWSA, kitchen dances, Satre family: Marie-father hadrestaurant in Boston, lost it in 1920|s, came to Salisbury asChef at White Hart, family life, Mt. Riga, town changes.
Walter and Marie Erickson – Tape No. 85A
August 12, 1991
Interviewed by Stephen Moore
SM: This is Stephen Moore interviewing my father-in-law Walter Emmanuel Erickson August 10, 1991 at his home on Bunker Hill Road in Salisbury, CT. Born on October 28, 1910, in Brooklyn, NY, the son of John and Yurda Erickson. In 1911, John and Yurda brought their family to Lakeville and lived at the Hotchkiss School. Dad, can you tell me a little bit about the early days with Hotchkiss School and your dad and how they came up from Brooklyn into this county?
WE: He was a single man when he took his job then they found out that he was a married man so he was
to go back to Brooklyn. Instead of that, the boss told him to take a couple days off and bring his wife and
family back. There would be a house for him when he came back. On the road from Lakeville to Hotchkiss
School we had a little house. I think that was owned by the Milmines. He painted and decorated it. Then he stayed for about a year or so. Mother got a job to make beds and take care of 13 school boys down to Dewitt Cottage
and stayed for a few years. Then we wanted the farm so then they went and bought a farm up in Salisbury.
Clark Hill Farm.
SM:What year was that?
WE: About 1924 or 25 around then. Pa stayed painting and mother was a farmer. Then we boys started to help out and we hired extra men to keep running farm, working on the farm until us boys were able to handle it.
SM: What was the mainstay of the farm?
WE: We had cattle then we went to the pig business. Then we had chickens, but mostly milk business. Then we chopped wood and sold wood. Then we ended up with about 200 head of cattle. It wasn’t big enough to handle the four families so we turned into contracting and that’s where we were down to Phil Warner’s Shop unloading train loads of Cocobolo and Ebony wood which they made knife handles in those times for quite a few years.
SM: Your farm now is located on what they call Bunker Hill. This has also been called Clark Hill Farms Road. Where did that name come from?
WE: That was on account of the two brothers owning the south end of the farm and the north end on the other farm there.
SM: That’s the farm your parents purchased?
WE: Mmm hmm. South farm mom and pa bought.
SM: They just continued on there with the name Clark Hill Farm? They never changed it?
SM:I understand at one time that you delivered milk.
WE: We made the milk bottles. Then in later years, we turned into the town dump which was 19… Well anyway, we run the dump for about 25 years for the town of Salisbury. Then when they came in, they wanted a new site. We didn’t have no more contract. They went up to Hotchkiss School. There is where the dump stayed there.
SM: What was your father’s role on the farm?
WE:My father was mostly the helper. Ma was about the best farmer because Pa painted. Weekends he
would help us put hay and stuff.
SM:Did he continue to work at Hotchkiss School as a painter when you moved to the farm?
WE: He worked at the school for about 13 years and then he turned around into his own independent painting business. Then he kept that up until he retired.
-SM: You had four brothers I’m to understand, correct?
WE: I had three brothers. Harold was the oldest. Frank was third, and Herman was fourth.
SM:You had like a contracting business. What did you do in your contracting business?
WE:Well we were drawing gravel and had the bull dozers and the back hoes and then we had the contract of
digging graves at the Salisbury graves.
SM:I’m to understand with talking with you earlier, some of the remodeling work or restoration of the old
town library was done that some of the rock was quarried from your farm?
WE: They came up to look for some stone which it came from the Clark Hill Farm. When they built the library and when they needed some new stones, they came up and cut a few stones and replaced on the stone work.
SM: So the town library itself, the stones built were from….
WE: I’m pretty sure all of it.
SM: In addition to the stones there for the town library, you quarried gravel?
WE: Yea, we sold gravel to the state when they built Route 41 and 44 to Canaan.
SM: When they blacktopped that?
WE: No, when they cemented it and built the road before black top and cement.
When the road was originally built
WE: Originally yes.
SM:Do you have any idea about what year that was that the road was built?
WE:Around 1928 they built it from Salisbury to the Massachusetts line and from Salisbury to the town of
Canaan, Smith Hill: the first real state road.
SM: Dad, this road you live on has also been known as Knife Shop Road.
WE: Well, they had lots of names for it.
SM:Where did the Knife Shop come from? Knife Shop Road?
WE:Well years and years ago, there was nothing but knife handle shops. Two or three were built by I think
the Warner Corporation.
SM:Do you know what year that might have been in?
WE: No. That was before my days. It was still working when I came about 1926? 1925(another person answered). Then they had a (bicycle shop) and they had a cider mill on the road. George Selleck’s father run a feed mill. That used to all run by water power from the Mount Raggy Brook.
SM: Speaking about Mt. Riga, what can you tell me about Mt. Riga as far as the history of it and any participation you might have?
WE: I can’t tell you too much about Mt. Riga. The only thing we draw gravel on the private roads from one staying on Mt. Raggy Road for a while. Then that was the town when they took care of the Mt. Raggy Road some way in between the corporation and the town.
SM: Back in the early days, your family had the farm. You had the cows, you had a milk route. With the town dump on your property there, you also had a rubbish route that you collected on it. Am I to understand also that one time you sold feed?
WE:Yea, we were in the feed business – Checker Board. Purina (unknown person).
SM:In addition to your family, back in those days, did you remember growing up? Were there other family
owned businesses like that? How was the town ran back then?
WE: Well, there was not really too many businesses. I think years and years ago, they used to have a lot of carriage and teamwork on the edge of Salisbury. Then I think Occy Christie was the main thing down Railroad Street. I didn’t know too much about that. That was trying to make some kind of powdery medicine, wasn’t it? Or something?
^^M: What were the stores down town Salisbury that you remember when you were a child?
WE: Well, when I came here, we had a butcher shop, and plumber shop, a little post office, a little school house, Clark’s Grocery Store and Dry Goods. Then we used to have a little old shoemaker. The Ragamont Inn had been there for years before I remember and the White Hart Inn. Then there was a few farms around town.
SM: Dad a lot of people come to Salisbury to see the ski jump. Do you remember back when that was being built?
WE: I think the ski jump was built around 1929-30, when that started a year or two when the Satres come into this country. The first ski jump we had in Salisbury was down along the property, back of his house there on the mountain brook. He used to go up to a cabin and get started off, take off, and jump towards the mountain brook. I think we used to jump about 20 feet. That was really jumping in them days. Then after a year or 2,I think they started with the big ski jump. That still was Railroad Street wasn’t it? They built down there and we used to jump. The highest we could jump was about 50 feet until they rebuilt it.
SM: In addition to the ski jumps were there any other local ski activities that you remember? Cross country or anything?
WE: A few years we had A and B class used to jump and race two days for the championship. Then we turned around when our children started to ski. We formed the younger ski club.
SM: What was that called?
WE: It first started out as Salisbury Outing Club and then years came they changed the name to Salisbury
SM: Obviously you received your formal education here in Salisbury. What were the schools like then?
WE: They weren’t too bad. They were kinda normal.
SM:You went to school in Lakeville?
WE: We first lived in Lakeville and we went to first and second grade. Then when we moved to Salisbury, wewent to Salisbury Town School.
SM: There was just one school building there?
WE: Well, there was a small building for what they called a kindergarten. What they used to call theAcademy Building. Then we had up by the White Hart, we had regular school from 4-8th grade. Then finally webuilt, that was high school in between Lakeville and Salisbury where the post office is now. The post office weused to go to school. Then they tore that down and put in a new post office. Then they put the school house upthere where the first town dump used to be up on Lincoln City Road. Then they went to Lime Rock and went tothe high school. Falls Village they went to.
SM: About when was your outing club started? About what year do you think that might have been?WE: The SWSA was when our kids, Whitbecks and all them. When was Joanne born?
WE: 1957 so you figure that were anywhere from 5 to 6 years old. We started a club with all them.
ME:It was already them. It was called the Salisbury Winter Sports.
WE: There were no young children in then. That’s when Whitbecks and Kiefers and the Miners, and Phelps? We really started the club all over again. Finally from then on they kept the club going. It is still going.
SM: When you were young obviously growing up on a farm, there was a lot of work for children. What did you do for fun?
WE: There wasn’t too much fun. We worked from pretty near every day by cutting hay and taking care of potatoes, feed for the cows. We raised pigs for a few years. Then we turned around again and kept the milk until we got to the age to retire and we went into the contract business for a few years.
SM: I’ve heard rumors around here something about some of these kitchen dances.
WE: Years ago they had what they called kitchen dances. We were too young for that. Mother and Dad used to go once in a while to the kitchen dancing. Then they started to turn around into the town hall.
SM: What is a kitchen dance?
WE: Well it is just an ordinary family putting on a dance on Friday or Saturday night in their own homes, then they would later on go into the town hall. That would be every Saturday night almost. A couple nights a month then coming back to the Satres, they started what they called a mid-summer dance.
SM:Speaking of the Satres, now what can you tell me of the background of the Satre family?
WE:Well I can’t tell you on the background, but they were just an ordinary family caretaker from Norway.
John came over here as a caretaker and he worked for a few years.
SM: What part did your parents play in their coming to this country?
WE: Well John wanted to get his parents back so Don Warner and my father what they call sponsored them. If something happened to them, they would have to take care of them or go back to Norway.
SM: Where did they live?
WE: They went up on what you call? on the north end of our farm they had a home. Finally they lived there a couple of years. Then they moved down in to Salisbury. Then all the boys and girls got their own jobs. Some of the boys were painters, brick layers, caretakers.
SM: What did Mr. Satre do?
WE: The dad was dead. He died before they came to this country so they were all on their own. The girls were chamber maids, waitresses.
SM: Was there a ski shop ever involved?
WE: The Satres started the ski shop making skis for a few years.
ME:The mother and sisters used to do a lot of knitting.
WE:Yea, the mother and sisters used to do a lot of Norwegian knitting for gloves, scarves, and sweaters.
SM:So everything back then was pretty much handmade?
WE: Yup. They were all hand made.
SM: What were they made of?
WE: Almost any kind of wood. Oak, maple, depends on what they figured would be best for skiing with.
SM: Did they get the wood from around here?
WE: No. They got that kiln dried and then they would shape them into skis. That only lasted for a couple of years. Then finally the boys all went. The boys were caretakers. Olaf was a brick layer stone mason. Ottar was a painter. Sverre when he came to this country, he worked for my father as a painter and learned the trade. ? was a carpenter.
ME: Ingrid came when she was in grammar school.
WE: She never really worked. Did she ever work? She got married? She got married early and she went to Florida. I think that’s about the only thing I could tell you about the Satres, but they were a very nice family. They always took care of themselves.
SM:Of everything that you remember from the time when you first came to Salisbury, what would you say
would be some of the major changes from the early days to a life in Salisbury as it is now? Outside of the standard, the automobiles that have come about, electricity, and things like that. Would you say that the community was more local support back then? I mean every family had their own business that supported them then. Either a farm or
WE: Yeah, that was pretty close that they took care of themselves and had a business of one or another. Then in years came like we’re going to say that Salisbury started to change by the New Yorkers came and the rich started controlling the town and it changed a lot since I was a boy.
SM:What do you think the major changes have been? Just the local businesses?
WE:No. The families changed. A lot of people had to come out of town to get work. There’s not too many
businesses in town like there used to be.
Not many to keep the generation around there.
Not many to keep the generation around there.
Now dad, we understand that on October 11,1944, you married a young lady at that time, Marie Louise Therese Muckinstern, my mother-in-law. We’re going to talk to her for a little bit now. She was born on June 19, 1917 in Jamaica Plains, MA. She was the daughter of Paul Mathew and Marie Josephine Muckinstern. Ma,can you tell me a little bit about how you came to Salisbury? What brought you to the town of Salisbury?
ME: My father had a restaurant in Boston for a good many years. With the advent of Prohibition, he more or less lost his restaurant. He had been in business with his brothers. He took a job here in Salisbury as a chef with the White Hart Inn. I went to a private Catholic School all through grammar school. I used to come in the late 20s for my vacations in the summertime.
SM: You come up to visit your father?
ME: I came to visit my father at the White Hart.
SM: Your father worked at the White Hart in what capacity there?
ME: He was a chef.
SM: This would be in the late 20s?
ME: This was in the late 20s, right.
SM:Let’s talk about a little bit about the White Hart and life as a chef. The things like food, dishes and things
that might be a little bit different back in the late 20s from what they are today. The main course for the meals, where did the food come from back then? Do you remember?
ME: Ah yes. A lot of the food they served, nothing but the best. It came from stores like SS Pierce in Boston. They used to cook a lot of fish that was caught locally. In these days, the meals were a lot different than they are now. I mean, they had more courses. Whatever the people wanted was more or less freshly cooked for them. My father used to get something from the people at the farm. They used to get flowers from there for the dining room. In those days, they used to have afternoon tea. The elderly ladies then used to like their afternoon tea.
SM: So it was kind of like the elegance we see on the television now of what life in the 20s used to be.
ME: That’s right.
SM: Did your father have any special dishes that were favorites to the locals back then that you could remember?
ME: No. Not that I can remember. He did make his own ice cream. Of course those things there. In those days there weren’t many prepared foods. They were all cooked there at the inn.
SM: From locally they received like fish that was caught here in the mountain brooks. How about other types of meats? Were there any types of local meats?
ME: I’m not sure about that.
PM: A lot of people around here are in love with the venison. Was venison served at the White Hart years ago that you remember?
WE: I don’t think so. Special people had dinners like that once in a great while.
ME: They used to have a Hunt Club. That was even before I came around here. People used to have horseback riding then. There were people who came for a long stay. Where the tap room is now, there was an elderly lady that had a suite of rooms that I can remember. People used to stay for long periods of time.
SM:Coming to this area from where?
ME: They came from all over.
SM: Like as a vacation place and then they would rent a room for an extended stay at the White Hart.
SM:How did you meet Walt?
ME: After 1 had finished grammar school, I came here to Salisbury to live with my father and I went two years to school, my freshman, sophomore year.
SM: About what year would that have been?
ME: This was the early 30s. Then we moved to Greenwich, CT. My father worked for the club in Greenwich. J finished my high school education and business school: then I went to work in Stamford, the Schick Shaver and also Pitney Bowes in Stamford. Then I had my appendix taken out. My good friend Olive Dubois who I had met when I was in high school. In fact, I was maid-of-honor at her wedding. She had her mother come down and take care of me in Stamford and insisted I come back to Salisbury, which I stayed at their home for a few weeks. My husband-to-be had come in to deliver milk. 1 had never met him before. I had lived in Salisbury. He had invited me up to the farm, and I met his parents and his brothers. We started going together. I came up on vacations. In October of that year, we were married.
SM: What year was that?
ME: That was in 1944.
SM:You had how many children?
ME:We had five children.
SM: You moved into the home that you are living in now in 1944.
ME: That’s right. After a two-day honeymoon in New York.
SM: How many children did you have?
ME: 1 said five. Our oldest is Mary Louise. She was born in 1946. Then our daughter Pauline was born in 1.948. Then our son John was born and our son Paul. His real name was Walter Paul. Then our daughter Joanne was born in 1957.
SM: Back in the late 40s and mid 50s then what were some of the community activities that your children spent with you?
ME: We were very active in Cub Scouts. My husband and I participated in that for 10 years and 4H and of course, Salisbury Winter Sports and the church. Actually both churches because his mother was quite involved with the Congregational Church. Of course, I was involved with the Catholic Church. We used to have dances when I was in high school in the Town Hall. They used to be called round square dances. They used to be usually on Friday night. The firemen also used to give dances. There were quite a few dances years ago. There was a movie house in Lakeville.
SM: I’d like to ask you all one more question as we close this up here. The information in the recording here is going to be placed from my understanding into the town hall like a history of Salisbury. This is 1991. Dad, you’ve been here since 1911?
SM: This is going to be in the town hall for a longtime. From a historical point of view, things that people would read later on in years is there anything in particular that you would like to mention on regarding the town of Salisbury? Something that it might be noted for? Something that happened here or something you think the area should be real proud of?
ME: Did you tell about the library?
ME: We’ve seen a good many changes. We’ve seen the different businesses change and good many of the businesses in Lakeville we’ve seen almost all the old businesses gone.
SM: What businesses have stayed? The Ragamont, Dad you said? The White Hart has been here for years. Can you always remember the White Hart Inn being there and the Ragamont?
WE: Oh yea.
ME:The Ragamont was closed for a good many years.
SM:But it’s opened again now so it’s still there. What other business downtown?
ME: The drugstore has been there.
WE: The grocery store has been new. It has changed back and forth but otherwise. There’s no gas stations. Mt. Riga is probably almost independent. There are only a few private people left. I think the state
ME: We used to go swimming there a lot. We used to go swimming, camping and also skating and skiing up there. Things I don’t think people in town do anymore.
SM: Years ago was Mt. Riga more of a community area than what it is now?
WE: It’s very quiet. Few people go and come. Private area. I think the state has got quite a little of Mt. Riga now. That was never heard about.
SM: What would be some of your best memories when you look back on growing up in this area? Was there a lot more snow when you were a child than there is now?
WE: Oh yea. Lots more snow then we used to have.
ME: There was a lot more visiting when our children were growing up.
WE:People kind of entertained and come together years ago, but I think the TV. has changed the public a lot
but otherwise we would really kind of hunt or fish. There wasn’t very much of activity in town.
ME: There was a lot of entertaining on their own.
WE: Almost every summer we had football, a few football games and baseball games. In the wintertime I don’t think we really did… except when we started skiing. In the later years, ski club. A few clubs started up. Some of the schools put in hockey rinks for themselves and the public. We’d get to use them once in a while. Then we all would play soccer, get together.
SM: Did a lot of farmers help each other?
WE: Yea, a lot of farmers was always working together.
SM:What were some of the families you remember working with on the farms?
WE: WE had two or three families that tried to help each other and we helped them. The Miner Brothers, the Belter Brothers. I think Bushnells had a nice farm but we never associated with them too much. They had their own farms. When we had to go farm, we had to go cut hay wherever we could get it because our farm wasn’t fertilized enough to keep all our cattle. When we started, we had to go collect hay in everybody’s back yard. Cut the hay off and clean the fields off.
ME:Who was some of the people you had work on the farm?
WE: Well, nobody would ever know they were kind of elder fellows.
ME: We had a good many.
WE: Well Bennett and Hubert Scott worked for us for a while and then a couple of other drifters used to go back and forth for work in the summer. That’s about all though.
ME:Years ago, you used to have a lot of company come in from the city and help.
SM:You and your three brothers are still locally here. How did that come about?
WE: We all stuck together. We built our houses and bought our own places afterwards.
SM: When did the farming end for the Erickson brothers?
E: Well, it was in the early 60s we started to retire.
ME: We didn’t retire; we just went into other businesses.
WE: We went into different businesses until we retired.
SM: That’s when you went into the construction business and hauling gravel?
SM: So now the farm is split up?
WE: Yea. The main farm is sold and divided: four pieces of property for each brother.
SM: So you each have your home and property still located within the area where the farm was.
WE: You know then we would go to movies once in a while or go out and visit. Later on when we got older, we used to go to different people and visit once in a while. Pa had painters. We used to go and visit back and forth.
SM:I think it is important to note that the four brothers now, you’re how old Dad?
WE: Be 81.
EM:Your oldest brother is Harold.
SM: But I think it is important to note that you four boys grew up in this area. You know coming to the area, jeez, around the turn of the century here and you all lived here all your life and you’re still here. You’re all still alive and you’re all still living in the same area. I think that has something to say for the family. I think we’ll conclude this now. Thank you so much Walt and Marie for helping us put this on tape and we appreciate your input as to the history of Salisbury and the part the Ericksons played in it.