Kenneth L. Farwell, Sr. Interview
This is file #38, cycle 3. Today’s date is June 19, 2018. This is Jean McMillen. I am interview Kenneth Lewis Farwell Senior who is going to talk to me about his family background, experiences in Korea, the ambulance company, and anything else he wants to talk about. But first we will start with…
JM:What is your real name?
KF:My real name is Kenneth Lewis Farwell Senior.
JM:What is your birthdate?
KF:April 24, 1931
JM:You came to Salisbury as a very young child. You were raised by the grandfather> what was his name?
KF:He was Lewis Samuel Farwell.
JM:As a young child where did you live?
KF:At that time it was Factory Street in Salisbury, Connecticut. (house on curve by Selleck Hill Road)
JM:What did your grandfather do for a living?
KF:He was supervisor at the Salisbury Cutlery Handle Factory on Factory Street.
JM:Who ran the company?
KF:Can you tell me a little bit about Phil Warner?
KF:Wonderful man. Always ready to talk. I used to stop in and talk to him. He always had candy for us. Every summer he would take a whole truck… He had an old ancient truck; I don’t know what year it was, probably in the 30s. He would load it up with us kids and bring them up to his camp on Mt. Riga.
JM:He bought houses around the area.
KF:Most of his employees lived in those houses and then would buy them.
JM:For a very reasonable amount of money.
KF:Reasonable price, of course back then it was a lot different than it is today.
JM:When did you go into the service?
KF:I went into the service in January of 1949.
JM:What part of the service?2.
JM:What was your rank?
KF:I was a corporal.
JM:Were you drafted or enlisted?
JM:What kind of training did you have?
KF:I went to basic training which was cut short because they were reactivating a second chemical and mortar battalion. They sent most of us from Fort Dix to Army Chemical Center in Maryland and we trained on 4.2 mortars, the heavy mortars and their operation.
JM:You said that there was a group of men that got more pictures and news coverage than your group did.
KF:We always felt that the first Cavalry division and the Marine Corps had a lot more media coverage that the Army did. We used to kid them about that.
JM:How many years were you in Korea?
KF:I was there 9 months.
JM:Did you see action?
KF:Yes, I did. I saw quite a bit.
JM:You told me a story about American prisoners that were trapped.
KF:It was supposed to be that the North Koreans has a train loaded with American prisoners heading north. There was supposed to have been an operation with the 11th Air Borne who was in Korea. They were going to parachute in ahead of the train and cut it off. Then we were going to spearhead up into Kaesong. It got mixed up or whether there were no prisoners. Exactly what happened I don’t know, but the Air Borne didn’t show and the offensives were never started while we kept going. We ended up surrounded by the Koreans. That is when the First Cavalry broke through to get us out. We were a small outfit.
JM:How many were in your outfit?
KF:We were way under strength. We had three companies so probably a couple of hundred men in one company. So that would be about 600 men.
JM:You had another story about hiding in a mud hut.
KF:Right. Well, we called them mud huts, but they were Korean homes. They were pretty much built up something like adobe. What they had was like a door in the front and a couple of windows in the front and nothing in the rear or the sides. When the Chinese overran the area we tried to get out of there, so we hid in this house more or less for cover to keep the Chinese from coming down the valley. We were there a night and the next day so for about a day and a half. They never came in the house. Like I told you before they came in a truck, backed up to the shed in the back, loaded the rice and other provisions onto the truck, and drove away. If they had come in, it would have been all over.
JM:But they didn’t.
KF:They didn’t. It was almost as if someone was watching over us/
KF:Then of course the artillery was putting borage right in front of the house and the Air force was hitting behind the house. What we didn’t know was that we were being searched for. We hid all day, and in the afternoon we got out. We went up the valley about a kilometer and a half. When we got up there we could see what I call the elevated railroad and just on the other side we could see American tanks. We ran toward them waving our arms. “Don’t shoot. We are Americans.”
JM:I understood from you the Phil Warner and Senator McMann got you out of the country.
KF:Yeah, My grandfather was great friends with Phil. This was not known to me at the time. At that time McMann was Senator from Connecticut. He was friend with Phil as a Democrat .I was in Korea with one of the vans, and someone from the Air Corp said, “Ken, pack your things; you are going home.” “Don’t kid me. I want to get out of here, but don’t make a joke of it.” “No, you are going home.” I still doubting that it was true. The Company Commander came over to the drive whom I knew, “You are leaving Korea, you are going home, Ken” I said, “You too?” “No, I am serious. You are going home on Emergency Leave.” I couldn’t figure out why. I found out that my grandfather was very sick. When I got home, they had a parade for me and the whole bit. Phil’s wife Millicent Warner came to the parade. They told me later that her son went down in a boat in WWII and she had not been to any military operation since. That was nice of her.
JM:When you got back home, where did you go to work?
KF:When I got home after being discharged from Fort Devens, Back then that was where I went for reassignment. Every morning for 2 weeks I would go and check to see where I was assigned and then go back and sleep for the rest of the day. They had just activated the Tennessee National Guard. It was pretty much all set up. I guess they had been there about a year and then they were released. After spending a winter in Korea they sent us north in the states. The difference was we had every piece of equipment we needed whether it was winter or summer. In Korea we just had our down sleeping bags.
JM:Korea is a cold country where you were.
KF:Yes, we were in the mountains. It was at times thirty below zero.
JM:When you got home, where did you work?
KF:A friend of mine was working for the railroad. We were putting stone down from Kent, Cornwall all the way up to Falls Village. I worked putting stone down. I worked there a couple of months and then an opening came at the Salisbury Post Office, the Postmaster had passed away. At that time there was a political decisions that if the spouse passed away, then the other spouse got the job. I went to work there about a couple of weeks. Mrs. Barton, George Barton’s wife, at first said she didn’t want the job. I guess she changed her mind.
JM:Mrs. George Barton in Salisbury? Not Mary Barton, wife of Richard Barton?
KF:No, Old Mary Barton
JM:I knew Dick Barton at the Lakeville Post Office. He and Earl Johnson are the only men who talked about the Korean War. (For more information of the Korean War see Tape # 65A Richard Barton, Tape #39 A & B Earl and Laura Johnson.)
JM:What did you do after the Post Office?
KF:I went to work for a soda distributorship, Kott Quality Beverages. My boss got me through the VA more or less on the job training and I became the district manager for the soda company. I got the title.
JM:Maybe not much in pay. When did you go into the ambulance company?
KF:That’s a good question! I joined when it was established in about 1971. I wanted to be an EMT like I told you for the race track. Then I was EMT at the race track on Tuesdays and Fridays.
KF:Mostly on Tuesdays when they had practice. Fridays we worked when they had events. They were pretty much solid with events on Fridays then.
JM:You were there in case something happened.
KF:That’s it, more or less. If someone got hurt we would stabilize them until the ambulance arrived. It was more like a truck, not with all the equipment they have today.
JM:How did you get your training for the EMT?
KF:At Sharon Hospital.
JM:It was Dr. Peter Reyelt?
KF:He got all the doctors to train us. We would meet there once or twice a week.
JM:The other gentleman you said was important was who?5.
KF”I know you said in your article about the Ambulance you said there was a bad accident in Salisbury and had to wait for the ambulance to come from Sharon. I guess the accident must have been in the area of the White Hart because Reese saw it and called to get the Sharon Hospital Ambulance. Reese was one of the first organizers and really got things going. He had the connections. Between those 2 Reyelt and Harris they were the backbone of the ambulance squad.
JM:Back then Salisbury ambulance just took care of the village area.
KF:It depends. They have what they call a Mutual Aid. Say if Canaan or Falls Village or Sharon had a real serious event, then we would respond. Basically it was Salisbury with the understanding that we would help others if needed.
JM:How did you know when to go on a call? Did you have a specific day you were on call as they do today?
KF:When the fire siren went off in Lakeville, you would listen to the radio and go. The firemen got the calls too. They had the radio calls which would tell where the fire was. The siren would alert us all. I lived half way up Montgomery Street so I could hear the siren! I used to have a radio in the bedroom so shut off the noise of the kids. Sometimes it shut out the siren and I slept right through it.
JM:What kind of training did you have at Sharon Hospital?
KF:Basically everything. Each doctor has his specialty. Sometimes it was broken bones, heart attacks, child birth, everything. Reyelt was a surgeon. He would often show us films on something. One time he started the film and then he left for something. It was really weird because the film showed at first what looked like a white ball. Pretty soon here comes a guy with a drill. He was drilling into the skull. About then Dr. Reyelt come back and he looks at the film and turned it off. He said, “This is a little beyond you guys!” Then he put the right film on.
JM:I think you said that you did not start doing intravenous …
KF:They started the year I retired in 1985 or 86 to go to Los Vegas.
JM:How long did you work at Lime Rock?
KF:I worked there part time I suppose, Just on Tuesdays from 1 to 5. That is when they did their practice. The Lime Rock Association and the track never really go along. (See tape# 56 A/B James Vail, File #11, cycle 2, Joan Bergdahl)
KF:They had all kinds of restrictions. One of the restrictions was that they couldn’t do anything in the morning. They could not do racing on Sunday.
JM:They are still feeling strongly about Sunday racing. You had a story about Paul Newman having an accident.
KF:One of these guys driving was Bobby Sharp who was an associate of Paul Newman. Bobby would fly in and put his Piper Cub behind the dump at the track. Paul was practicing one day. He was coming down the straightaway in his racing car. They were practicing for a Trans-Am event in one of John Bolson’s English Fords. When he lost his brakes, Paul tried to turn sideways to slow down. Once he got to the end of the straightaway, he hit the dirt, spun around and the car went up against a tree. Luckily all the men wear helmets and other protective gear. The tree came right into the door where the driver would be in an American car. I got down there and Paul was outside the car. ”Paul, are you OK?” “Yeah there are no brakes on that car.” By that time Bob Sharp comes down. Paul told him too there were not brakes. So bob got into the car and started pumping the brakes. All Paul could think of was that he would hit Bobby’ airplane.
JM:Oh dear, but he didn’t. Is there something else you would like to tell me either about the ambulance or your work at Lime rock?
KF:Another thing with Lime Rock they had a couple of old ambulances there. They were equipped that way the state required them to be. The state would come an inspect them. Of course the Salisbury ambulance they had all the latest equipment. They even had the “Jaws of Life”. Do you know what I am talking about?
JM:Yes, I do. How many were on the squad when you were working there?
KF:8 or 10. It was sort of a rotating system.
JM:Did you enjoy doing the ambulance and EMT work?
KF:When you were doing your training you had to spend 8 hours in the Emergency Room at Sharon Hospital. We had one kid come in from Hotchkiss, a hockey player. He got hit with a stick over the eye and needed stitches. So I watched the doctor stitch up his eye. One guy walked in and said he was having a heart attack and he was! It was just a walk-in thing. Another kid came in and had a pain in his chest. He had a pimple and this doctor (we laugh about it). He wasn’t the cleanest kid in the world. So the doctor tried to stick the bandage on, he washed his chest so the bandage would stick to the skin. After the kid left, the doctor said, “Well, there is one clean spot on him.”
When I was working at the track I had another story about Dr. Gudernatch. I was working at Lime Rock at an event. These guys roll their cars over frequently. They have a helmet on but they sometimes break their collarbone or hit their head. So usually the doctor would say, “Just go over there and sit for a spell in the ambulance.” Then we had a guy break his leg. The doctor at the race track sent him along so
the hospital could check him over. We drove him over to Sharon Hospital. When I backed up to the Emergency Entrance, 5 guys came out. Dr. Gudernatch knew me I guess. He looked at me and said, “What do you do, wait until you have a full load?”
JM:Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure.
KF:You are welcome.
Members of the early ambulance corps included: Reese Harris, Mary Louise Kiefer, Joan & Art Wilkinson, Nelson Whitbeck, Jack Lloyd, Newton Davies, Joe Rossiter, John Harney Sr., Ken Farwell Sr. Dick Barton, and John Hicks. The registered nurses were Anne Lloyd and Barbara Garrity. (ED.)