This is file 74. Today’s date is May 2, 2014. This is jean McMillen. I am interviewing Ollie Firuski about her life and times in Salisbury, Ct. and we’ll start with the genealogical information first.
JM:What is your name?
OF:It is Ollie Firuski, also my real name is Orlena.
OF:May 21, 1936
OF:Actually in New York City, but I was whisked right up to the Housatonic Bookshop in Salisbury within a few days. So I consider Salisbury my place of birth.
JM:Your parents’ names?
OF:Elvia Scoville Firuski and Maurice Firuski.
JM:Your father ran the Housatonic Bookshop (See #73 A&B).
JM:Do you have siblings?
OF:No, I have two half- sisters. My father was married 5 times. His first wife had two daughters; one named Peggy and the other named Betty. I was very close to Betty. She just died recently. He didn’t have children by any of the others. My mother was his third wife. She always said she was the “longest in office”.
JM:The longest and the strongest.
JM:What is your educational background? Where did you go to school?
OF:I went to Town Hill, Indian Mountain, Fox Hollow School up in Lenox, and Smith College. Now I was only 2 years at Smith, I quit.
JM;How did you get interested in horses?
OF:I don’t know; I just always grew up with them. I always had a little Shetland pony that was a stinker called Sparkle! As a child it was kept at Charlotte Miner’s (“Pete” Miner’s) and then I got into horses and more and more I just lived to ride. But during the war when it was hard to get gas to get there, then it was difficult.
JM:Tell me about Charlotte Miner.2.
OF:She was a wonderful lady who lived with George Miner up at Gaywood Farm. In those days we could say that and it was fine.
JM:Where was Gaywood Farm?
OF:It is on 112, just near where Race Track Road begins on 112 and before you get down to Old Farms Nursery. It was on top of the hill there, and they had a huge wonderful riding ring, a big official riding ring for horse shows which was used for the Lakeville Horse Show which was held once a year. Then George Miner had a good herd, first it was Ayrshire that I remember he had. I remember the auction when he sold them off. Then he had Holsteins; even in those days he had a pair of work horses. They were stabled in straight stalls right with the other horses, big stalls.
JM:Did they have anything to do with the harness racing that was done?
OF:George Miner did that but it came later. They resurrected an old track about a half mile track. It was Dr. Bob Noble, Bill Ford, and George Miner and they built a stable across the street, but this was a good number of years after. (See Katherine Chilcoat file #53/65 for more on harness racing) When they built a stable across the street, they kept those horses there and had someone take care of them. They would go early in the morning, these Doctors and whatever, I can’t remember who else.
JM:You have covered most of them.
OF:Do you think so?
JM:Yes, those were the principals.
OF:These guys had a good time racing their probably mediocre trotting horses.
JM:Did Charlotte, was her nickname Pete?
OF:Yes she was called either Charlotte or Pete.
JM:Did she teach riding?
OF:Oh yes, she and Lucy Drummond were the ones that did that.
JM;Lucy Drummond was on Undermountain Road.
OF:Yeah, but she wasn’t always there. Where was she before she moved up there? She may have been at her family’s place in Lakeville? I don’t think so.
JM:Holley Hill Stables and that was 485 Undermountain Road.
OF:Yeah, but before that, I don’t know. I vaguely remember; I’ll think of it tonight.
JM:Did you teach riding locally?
OF:I did much later, after I had had my children and I built a big indoor ring up on Taconic Road where I was living.
JM:That was you own business.
JM:Did you ever teach for either Charlotte Miner or Lucy Drummond?
OF:No, the only way at Lucy’s was because I was teaching Pony Club which is a separate entity, but they were based at Lucy’s so I taught there. I also taught, of course occasionally I taught at Pete Miner’s. I worked with people out on trail rides, that kind of thing.
JM:But you did teach Pony Club?
OF:Yeah for a while.
JM:And it was Lucy Drummond’s Pony Club.
OF:That’s right but it really isn’t her’s; it is a national organization.
JM:It is a national organization, but it was located at her stables.
OF:Exactly. She was wonderful and let children ride her horses. It was great.
JM:Then you did eventually your own business, and that was up in Taconic.
OF:Yes, on Taconic Road near the intersection with Route 44.
JM;I believe you said that you started that about 1975ish?
OF:If I said it, I guess I must have thought that out. Yes, that is probably right 1974-1975.
JM:When did you end your riding business?
JM:Did you have a specific name for your business?
OF:Well it was always known as Barak Matiff Farm because of Barak Matiff Mountain. When my great aunt owned (Edith Scoville) owned the property, before that it was…Jake Rand always said that it was known as Barak Matiff Farm so we named it Barak Matiff Farm. That makes sense.
JM:Sure. How many horses did you have when you were in business?
OF:Up to 19
OF:Yes, I had a barn to put the smaller ponies in.
JM:I know zip about horses.
JM:Now you also got involved with dogs, and dog shows.
OF:Yes because my mother before I was born in the 1930’s was raising and showing very good Dalmatians. This was not a common thing; but she got into the dog show world, and imported a couple from England. I grew up as a child with that and then during the war when she had to work at the bookshop, I would come home from school and have to take care of them and so forth, lugging the pots and pails of dog food, watered them.
JM:How many dogs did your mum have?
OF:I have to count; she might have 3 or 4 brood bitches and 2 male stud dogs and then you have puppy litters that are in between ages so it is hard to tell.
JM;There was a group.
OF:Yeah because it depended on how many puppies were around.
JM:Were all the puppies show dog potential or…
OF:That is what you hoped for; you still do hope for. You get the best one ever, but that is why you are breeding; you are trying to improve the breed. But you end up selling a lot. In those days she was adamant that in selling them not less than $50.
OF:Well because people sold them for a lot less and she wanted to make sure that they went to good homes. $50 made you think about it. That was a lot of money then, and this was during the war. Now the average pet Dalmatian would go for $1,000. They are not an easy dog to place because they are rambunctious, you have to make sure you place them right. And they shed; some people don’t like that. They like to run; they used to trot all day under a carriage and protect it.
JM:Do you show dogs?
OF:Yes I started up about 15-20 years ago. I found a handler who was around, a young guy just around when my mother was slowing down. My mother stopped when she was divorced; she stopped showing but kept on judging. So then I got in touch with this Wendell Sammet. He was famous in the poodle world and used to be in Dalmatians. He kind of helped me along; we got some good dogs. I took my mother’s kennel prefix name which was Sarum. We used that and I got some very nice dogs. I am still sponsoring a Dalmatian that is doing well and winning.
JM:You’ve got another type of dog.5.
OF:Now I have a Boston terrier so that I can show it at my great age.
JM:You are as young as you feel. Where do you show your dogs?
OF:I used to drive every weekend and I had a motorhome, a 36 foot Airstream motorhome, and diesel. I used to drive it and then I could take all the dogs with me. I had the crates right in there. There were a lot of us that did that in motorhomes. It was wonderful. But when I got to be a couple of years ago the transmission went and I was getting older; so that’s it. I’ll fix the transmission. It is so expensive now. In those days you would go up to Bangor, Maine and down to places in Virginia. Now I won’t bother. I have this little Boston and I am getting another one. The same breeder is giving me another one because they want me to train it and show it. I would say now I am going in a week to the other side of Connecticut, believe it or not down in Woodstock, Ct. That is a trek. I go to Springfield a lot where there are a lot of shows now at the big E. I go to New Jersey, but I don’t see myself going to Virginia or Maryland.
JM:Do you do New York?
OF:Oh yeah sure. The show we just did over in Highland, N.Y. I was down in Suffern, N.Y. where we got a Best in Show with a Dalmatian, one that I have.
JM:When you train a dog, how much time does it take and what do you actually train them to do?
OF:You can’t tell the time. I am still working with this little squirt that is wonderful.
JM:So it is on-going?
OF:Oh sure and with a small dog you have to put them on a table and that is another whole scary thing to a dog. I am learning too. The terrier is different from a Dalmatian. You have to train them to stand for the judges to go over them and look at their teeth. You have to get them moving correctly. If they don’t move well, it is not good. This little one she likes to do what is called “pacing” and we can’t get her out of it sometimes. You always have problems and that is part of the fun. My little now when she is indoors she hears too well and she will not put her ears up when she is supposed to. We are trying to retrain her because of the sound, the echoing sounds. That is always a problem; but it’s good.
JM:It keeps you busy which is good. Anything you want to tell me about horseback riding? You went to Portugal, l didn’t you?
OF:Oh yes, I lived in Portugal. I went to Portugal a lot. I was taken as a baby apparently, just before the Second World War. After the war I went in 1947 for about 3 months. My grandmother had a quinta there. It is a historical one; it’s now not in the family but she restored it. This is Orlena Scoville.
JM:What are we talking about her, a house?
OF:Like a big villa, I guess. I think they sometimes call it a villa. So I went as a kid as 11 year old as I remember. We didn’t go for a while, almost too long. As a child I wanted to be home with my friends, but then I went back later. I went back every summer; I even took Portuguese lessons from a man up in Pittsfield. I just went in the evenings. He worked at GE or something, Then I went over to live for 4 years and that would have been in late 1950’s, going on to 1960’s,1962 or something like that.
JM:Were you there for the riding and the horses?
OF:Yes because I was doing dressage for the bull fighter. The bull fighting there, they don’t kill the bull; they don’t have those picadors. These are horses highly trained; they are called Lusitanos. They are stallions and highly trained for dressage. I was doing dressage and I was with a famous bullfighter. He had me work just his horses and he worked with me. Then I also worked, this has nothing to do with bulls when I did. I also rode with a famous riding master called Nuno Oliveira. He since has died. He was famous worldwide. He would go to clinics in dressage all over and naturally I Had him come to my place here. That was a big draw for people from all over with very good horses. They wanted his style as opposed to some other styles.
JM:Are there different styles of dressage?
OF:Oh gosh yes. Don’t worry about it.
JM:But it is interesting to learn that there are different varieties.
OF:I mean there are certain different approaches: he had a very different approach than say the Germans, but maybe not now. I am not up on that now.
JM:do you ride still or not?
JM:Anything that you want to tell me about the dogs or the dog shows that I haven’t asked?
OF:No, I don’t think so.
JM:Who was Madeline Wilde?
OF:She was a wonderful lady. She and Isabelle Southerland lived up near Pete & George Miner. They had a wonderful big white house I don’t know who owns it. It is right on the corner of Race Track Road and 112.
JM:I know the house.
OF:Wonderful ladies. They drove this wonderful old convertible Buick. They would go every day-she had lots of money, but they drove down to the Milk Bar to eat. Do you know about the Milk Bar?
JM:Oh I remember the Milk Bar.7.
OF:When Julie Durand had it? This was Julie and Gert’s time. They would go there and eat their lunch, a very simple lunch. They then would go up to my father’s bookstore to see him and maybe buy a book or just wander around. I don’t know where else they went, but I know that was part of their tour every day. During the war, they built that beautiful little red house down at the bottom. They did that over so they could live there and use less oil for heat. They did everything to save. It was a charming house how they did it over; I have no idea what it is like now. I can remember they had painted cupboards and it was just charming. I remember my grandmother and I would go to see them. It was wonderful. They were good friends of my grandmother. I remember they day we heard that she had died. I was with my grandmother, we were going down on a plane to Virginia where her son was. Isabelle lived on for a while. We used to call them “Madeline & Padiline”; not to their faces.
JM:Now who were the ladies who ran the Milk Bar?
OF:It was a man and his wife Julie and Gert Durand. They had a house at the end they had a house up by Twin Lakes.
JM:Did either of these ladies give a scholarship?
OF:Yes, Madeline left, it was really Madeline’s money. She left this wonderful fund for the benefit of Salisbury people in need with the Berkshire Taconic Foundation.
JM:Do you remember roughly when she died?
OF:Let me try and figure this out. Madeline died it would have been in the winter, we were going down for my grandmother’s birthday. So it would have been January of (I wasn’t married). I am trying to relate it. I would say the early to mid-1960.
JM:That is close enough.
OF:There is a record of it here I expect.
JM:Yes, but now that I have you here. You went to Indian Mountain School. Who was the headmaster when you went there?
OF:Bill Doolittle, Connie Bancroft wasn’t married to him when I was there. She was a wonderful math teacher, and she taught all of us, the girls, because it was Indian View then. She did all the sports with us. She was a wonderful field hockey instructor, wonderful soft ball instructor.
JM:later you went on the Indian mountain Board of Trustee?
OF:Yes, when I had children there. I had two children.
JM:Did both children go there?
JM:That would have been in the 1960’s?8.
OF:No, wait a minute it would be in the 1970’s because Sam was only born in 1972; Elvia was born in 1969. I don’t know their graduating year. They did not go on to 0th grade which they had then. They went off to Berkshire after eighth grade. Isn’t it awful that I can’t remember?
JM:There is so much in your life, that you can’t remember everything.
OF:Do you think so?
JM:Who was the Headmaster when you were at Indian Mountain as a board member?
JM:How many terms did you serve?
OF:I think two as I remember.
JM:So you would have known… Well Foster didn’t go to teach there until 1979, but you knew him through Indian Mountain.
OF:Well Elvia would have been ten so she went a year later so yeah.
JM:Because Foster was there from 1979 until 1982. Is there anything else that you would like to add to this about your wonderful varied life?
OF:Is it varied?
JM:I think it is wonderful! I am very impressed.
OF:I am glad for every day that I am alive and that I am kicking. I am living here, how wonderful.
JM:It is a beautiful area.
OF:I was born and brought up here and how lucky I look across the other side of that empty White Hart Inn. I see the house where I lived from when the White Hart was going full strength. John Harney came before I left; before my parents were divorced. The things I saw. I can remember the big snowstorms in town, and everything stopped. People being heaved out as my bedroom faced the Tap Room, seeing people being heaved out, drunk, at night at the early hours of the morning. I am not kidding!
JM:I know you are not. That is the way it was. Have you ever been on any town boards or political or…
OF:I was on the Democratic Town Committee. Oh yes, I have been on the Day Care Center Board a couple of times, Oh I have been on so many boards. I have sort of gotten away from all that. I am now on the Cemetery Committee Board.
OF:Well I walk my dogs through it; that’s where I take them to walk them. it fascinated me and I wanted to know how it all worked. Before I knew it I had asked enough questions, that Bingo I was put on the board.
JM:That can be a problem. That is how I got into the Oral History.
JM:Yeah I asked too many questions. Thank you so much for your time and your information.
OF: I didn’t give you much did I?
JM:Yes, perfect it was wonderful and I thank you.
OF:Well I enjoyed it very much. Thank you for having me.