Flint, Michael J. Interview:
This is file #91. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Michael J. Flint about his boyhood and other things that he had s done throughout his life. Today’s date is March 11, 2015. We’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
MF:My name is Michael John Flint
JM:What is your birthdate?
MF:I was born on December 3, 1958.
JM:Where were you born?
MF:I was born at Sharon Hospital.
JM:Your parents’ names?
MF:My parents were Marion Ruth Butler Flint, commonly called Suzy, and my father was Calvin Coolidge Flint.
JM:Do you have siblings?
MF:Yes I do.
JM:Would you name them please.
MF:I have 2 older brothers, Calvin Coolidge Jr. and Raymond Henry, a younger brother Brian Keith, and a younger sister Susan Lorraine.
JM:Tell me your educational background?
MF;I went to Salisbury Central School and graduated! I went to Housatonic Valley Regional High School and also graduated. I did go to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana for about 2 ½ years or so. Ultimately left that and went into the business world.
JM:You were at Muncie from 1976 to 1979 roughly?
JM:Now I am going to ask you about your youth, some of the things that you were aware of and doing in Lakeville when you were growing up. Did you always live in the house on Route 44 (#301 Millerton Road) on the peninsula into the Ore Mine Pond?
MF:Actually no. At first we lived across the road. There is now a smaller house. The original house was burned, I believe. There was a small house with a garage right next to a little alleyway that went between and when I was a young child, we lived there.
JM:Was that called Strawberry Hill?
MF:The hill behind it yes.
JM:Why was it called Strawberry Hill?
MF:I have no clue; maybe it had strawberries on it.
JM:That’s what I am thinking.
MF:It beats me. I know at one time and they say there was a dump up on top of that. There you go, but everywhere around here there used to be dumps. If you go along Indian Mountain in the woods and you’ll find plenty.
JM:When was the house built that I knew which was on Rt. 44 (301 Millerton Road).
MF:That was the house that you knew was really where we grew up. I want to say, it is causing me to stress my brain at this point, that I must have been 6 or 7 years old when we moved over to the other house because we literally walked things down the road over to the new house when it was ready.
JM:So that would probably be about mid 1960’s?
MF:I ‘m going to say yes.
JM:Was that spit of land that goes into the ore pond there or was it man-made?
MF:Part of it was pushed out and made into it. Back in the day when you could basically do those things; today that is not the process that you can follow any more.
JM:That side of the road, as you are going towards Salisbury, the left side of the road, was that area called Pig Town?
MF:Up in the back. Where the Meehan s had a farm and other things were.
JM:Was that actually a pig farm?
MF:In all honesty I don’t recall they every having pigs there in my lifetime. They had cows up there and they probably had some pigs there, but that was a reference that you always heard. So I am assuming that at some point.
JM:We acquired a ledger from a large pig farm in the 1918-1928 and I’m assuming that was from the Meehan farm.
MF:I wouldn’t be surprised. There again as I say in my lifetime, I don’t remember actually many if any pigs. I am sure most farmers would have some pigs. It was all dairy cattle up there at that time.
JM:There is a small pond (we’re going on Rt. 44 toward Salisbury) on the right side opposite your house where you grew up. What is that, a run-off from the mine?
MF:That is. The actual ore bed drains over into that. That goes off and eventually it ends down in Lakeville Lake. (See Don Mayland’s File #77/89) The beavers build dams over in there. Even to this day we have to go over and break them up because they start to back up the ore bed. That is the only out flow it has.
JM:Do you remember anything about the mine working or people that owned the Ore Hill Mine?
MF:The mine was never operated in my lifetime; however when I was in high school I did an extensive research paper on the mine.
JM:Which you haven’t yet found.
MF:Unfortunately I cannot put my fingers on it; I am certainly sure I possess it somewhere. It seems to me that back at that time the then First Selectman charlotte Reid had taken a copy of that, but I really don’t know. Unfortunately one of the people I should speak to has passed on so I can’t talk to him any further on it. I remember a lot of what I pulled up in the research.
JM:Can you give me some idea of what you did when you were doing your research about that particular mine?
MF:Well yeah there was a lot studying done through doing into the archives at the Scoville Memorial Library and just looking for things. Unfortunately in that day we didn’t have the Internet as we do today. One of the biggest things that occurred was a map, a set of drawings I should say, that were in the attic of John Rudd’s house, commonly known as Holleywood.
JM:His father (Charles Rudd Ed.) was the surveyor that did the tunnel elevations.
MF:Engineer, architect or whatever. Engineer I believe. At that time when we found those, they were on a large board. They were quite old at the time. We did take them to Fred Leubuscher at Keuffel and Esser. He had transparent positives made of them which are a type of copy which I do possess today. Those are the last known maps that show the tunneling system. They were drawn in the early 1900’s.
MF:I should have brought them with me. I have them. We did some looking. I know at one point back then Don Mayland had come and did some diving in the small pond on the other side of the railroad tracks because I had determined that that was where the main incline went down into the mine
shafts. They actually believe that they kind of found it, but it was not one of those things that you wanted to go into. Don had done a lot of diving around the area.
JM:He had one of those maps. He had interviewed Sid Cowles using the maps to try to find the main shaft and where the other pieces of equipment were. We have a copy of the Charles Rudd 1904 map as well as the transcription done from Don and Sid Cowles tape, so I am getting familiar with that part.
You went to Salisbury Central School; any memories about Salisbury Central, particularly? Or just that it was school and you got through it?
MF:It was school and I got though it?
MF:It was a great school.
JM:Was it you or was it Brian that played Abraham Lincoln in Hope Mongeau’s 5th grade?
MF:That was ME!
JM:I thought that was you.
MF:Hope Mongeau was the one who started my political career.
JM:I knew she was good for a lot.
MF:Once that gets out, she may not have as prominent place in town any more.
JM:I can remember, I do not mean to be offensive, but you were short then. You were little.
MF:I am only 5’7” now. Some people would think that short.
JM:You were short then and you had this tall hat. Somebody said why did you pick him? Why didn’t you pick one of the taller boys? She said because he’ll know his script and he’ll do a good job. That impressed me that she would go for somebody that would really do a good job which you did, by the way. I do remember the play.
MF:I remember that one. You know another play, I don’t know if you remember this one. We did “Hansel & Gretel” and actually sang in that play.
JM:That must have been Virginia Thompson. I worked with her on that one.
MF:It is a good thing you know the school from that era because you came in when I was a fourth or fifth grader.
JM:I think you were fifth grade. 5.
MF:Because I had played opposite the lead role with Sarah Gallup.
JM:What was your part?
MF;I was Hansel.
MF:for some reason I remember that, a singing role. Do I really want to remember that but at that age?
JM:But at that age you didn’t care and Virginia Thompson put together wonderful things.
JM:I was privileged to work with her for 7 years; a lot of prep and a lot of time, but it stood everybody in good stead because they were able to get up and either perform or do public speaking without being embarrassed. That is a life skill; it truly is.
MF:It is funny, as we talk about this; things start to roll into your memory, too. I recall too at that time you didn’t call it middle school as we do today. You went from the upper building to the lower building. That’s what we did. I remember too always when we were coming back from lunch; there would always be the fight between the buildings so Fred Romeo would come hauling down the hill to break it up. Now all of these things which you couldn’t possibly do today; it is a completely different scene. I remember as we headed towards the lower building as upper grade students, everyone worked at you. You were convinced when you first went into the classroom of Fred Romeo that he was going to chop you up and make you into cookies or something. We were deadly afraid. I remember distinctly again as you talk about the guy I remember that class walking in and feeling this fear of this guy. He got up there and he had his large lab table at the front and he was saying some things that were funny, but you didn’t want to laugh. He did this silly routine of walking down behind the lab table like going down a set of stairs. You didn’t want to laugh because you didn’t know.
JM:You had been brainwashed.
MF:You were terrorized. He was a great guy!
JM:And he was a good teacher.
JM:These are the things that because you were not one of my pupils, but you went through that same time that I was there that nobody can relate as well as somebody that was there at the time. That is why I wanted to bring up the plays. Nobody would know now what was being done back in the 1960’s and the 1970’s.
JM:That is as much history as anything else.
MF:I graduated in 1972 so that would be late ‘60’s and 70’s. It is worthy to note that we had a lot of students at that time; more than they have today.
JM:The classes at that time were, there were at least two sections or fourth grade and they were running 20-25 and sometimes there were three sections. So there were a lot of kids at that time.
MF:There was less building then too.
MF:They have much more building today than they did when I was there. The new gymnasium that is today did not exist where there are now classrooms because that was the gymnasium. The year you came (1967) we were the first ones to go into the new wing up off the cafeteria.
JM:Now they have changed the lower building a great deal and they have put on the other addition now that looks like a factory to me which was done in the 1990’s.
MF:They did an entire overhaul to that lower building. Back in my day they had an auditorium down there.
JM:It had an auditorium, a projections room.
MF:It is all gone. We used to have our art classes down there with Mr. Bob Kofsuski. The kids called him turtle.
JM:Did you ever work… We had a teacher that he was dating that we called frog. So it was frog and turtle. Did you ever work in his audio-visual club?
MF:Probably, but it doesn’t stick out in my mind.
JM:Do you remember the Friday night movies that Fred and Bob Kofsuski used to patrol?
JM:How about sock hops at the Grove? Do you remember those at all?
MF:No really, I don’t think I went to those.
JM:Did you go to the Grove in the summer time for swimming lessons?
MF:We did take swimming lessons, but keep in mind we lived right around the ore bed and we had our own beach. What was her name?
MF:Yes, we did have swimming lessons that way. I know my brothers had been involved in the Little League. I was not so much of s sports person. I spent the bulk of my time from the time I was 9 years old the business man.
JM:Now that is the next part! That leads me right into the next part.
MF:That’s the problem see that while other kids were at these activities, which just weren’t my shtick.
JM:Tell me about being a business man from the age of 9.
MF:About 9, back in the days, this is one of those things that has disappeared as well is the door-to-door salespeople. Back in those days it was very common to have Avon ladies who sold the products to beautify the women in the neighborhood and the fuller Brush man. Actually ours was a Fuller Brush lady my mother, but inevitably I became far more famous as the little Fuller Brush man.
JM:Yes, you did.
MF:I had a bicycle which you would laugh at today, a Stingray bicycle with baskets on the back. I would have my suitcase of wares to demonstrate.
JM:I bought a lot of things from you.
MF:I would pedal from place to place and eventually as things went along, I would believe it or not, and I think many people today their hair would stand on end, as a young man at that age I would go as far as Kent to do my sales, on my bicycle by myself.
JM:It was not ordinary, but it was doable.
MF:Oh absolutely doable. It is interesting because in today you would never dream of that. In fact parents would be hauled away if they let a kid go out like that; it would have been child labor, and neglect. There was not a thought about it. I was out and about. People were ready. It was basically a monthly tour.
JM:You were missed if you didn’t show up about the time you were supposed to.
MF:I recall to that I would go with my mother to the sales meetings as they would have sales meetings for the area or the district. We would attend in Simsbury and sometimes in West Hartford. Actually at one particular thing, this is so silly that I remember this. Fuller Brush at one given point in time came out with this little sweeper that you could roll along the carpet. It was innovative for its time. It is something that you would laugh at today. I took this thing and I was able to market this around here and sell it. I was noted by the fuller Brush Company and even published in one of their little brochures and gave demonstrations at these district meetings. At that time I was 10 maybe 11, I wish I
could find one of the flyers because actually I was photographed in one of the fuller Brush brochures: I would love to run across something like that again.
JM:You were very good. You were persuasive; you were also persistent. I can see you coming to my door, either at school or at home with a beautiful smile which you still have, and you would hand me the brochure and you would say, “And what are you going to buy now?” You had a wonderful sales pitch, and you were so cute that you couldn’t say no to this really cute little boy that had this magnificent smile, big brown eyes, and you just couldn’t say no. It worked, too!
MF:It did. I know, years later down the road folks always remember me who have been around for a while. They look at me and they remember. I have people say that they had closets full of things that they really didn’t need but they just had to buy it. It was impossible to say no. I think in reality the experience itself which is kind of sad about the way things are today, it helped to develop me and my ability to deal with the public, my ability to be comfortable speaking to groups, all of this evolved from that. I have no fear. I walk up to a stranger’s door and knock on their door. I am here and I am going to sell you brushes whether you like it or not!
JM:You were good at it.
MF:Of course it didn’t come out that way.
JM:No, of course not.
MF:It was far more appealing.
JM;Yes, but it was a way of developing you strengths.
JM:Using your ingenuity, managing your time, being efficient, handling the money, making the orders, sending them it, and making sure everybody got their products. If there was a complaint, you handled that. That is a wonderful early childhood experience that so many people don’t have today.
JM:I think that you had an incredibly unusual opportunity with doing the fuller Brush.
MF:It certainly was. That evolved out of just being bored. There wasn’t anything interested me in the off season. I wasn’t the athlete; I didn’t care about baseball or football. I didn’t want to.
JM:You were not musically, particularly.
MF:No, I wasn’t particularly musical. I liked to study, it was all mental work for me and that was a way to get out and do things and not be boxed up, sitting around saying, “Well, what do I do now?” It was a full experience; it was actually full business back to front.
JM:How many years did you do that?9.
MF:Probably 4 or 5 years.
JM:At least until high school?
MF:Probably into freshman year of high school and once I got past that, then there were new interests coming in, high school kind of interests.
JM:yeah, that is the way it should be. The Fulco Project is that something that was done when you were in high school?
MF:No, the Fulco Project that’s in the last few years.
JM:We’ll come back to that one.
MF:You are jumping years ahead.
JM:We don’t want to do that!
JM:Is there anything more in your growing up through high school that you want to add before we move on to later years?
MF:I could talk about high school. Housatonic was much bigger then than it is today. And a smaller building, by far. High school was great. I was involved with the academics where it was jack Mahoney who was a great inspiration to me, God rest his soul. Jack was my mentor in high school really. He was the person I really looked up to and he was responsible for the encouragement that was there to do a project like the one I did on the Iron ore mine. He was with us in Student Government where I was a member of the Student council and eventually President of it in my senior year. That is the one person who really stands out to me in my high school years. Jack Mahoney was like my mentor; that remained. I was in touch with him and worked with him later on right up until almost the day that he passed on.
JM:I am going to skip over a lot of time because you went to Ball State, you went to business, but I want you to come back to Salisbury as an adult.
MF:When I left here, I was 17 when I graduated from high school. I went to Ball State University, (Muncie, Indiana) I went as far away as I could possibly go; I was NEVER coning back to this place. NEVER, I want you to understand that. I just want you to know that I was NEVER coming back to this “hole”.
JM:But you did come back.
MF:I did, not once but twice.
JM:Why did you come back?
MF:Well, the first time I came back from Indiana, it was to go back into the trades. I did like doing carpentry work. While I was in Indiana I was involved in different levels of retail business and corporate level processes, the Midwest was becoming less appealing. Economically it was moving in the direction of being a mass disaster because it was at the time when the automotive industry was starting to condense. It was a huge economic thing in the end. We had full plants closing down with thousands of people being laid off in a town just like that. It was becoming a tough world, at that point in time I was really starting to yearn for some reason to come back to that “hole” that I had left. I had the opportunity to work with my father and learn the carpentry business.
JM:I bet he was a good teacher.
MF:Oh absolutely! So we packed up our goods. My wife and I we got married and the next day we had our stuff in the vehicle and we were on our way to Connecticut. That was our honeymoon driving from Indiana to Connecticut, hallelujah!
JM:It could have been worse. Someday I’ll tell you about mine! You didn’t always work in this area when you became a carpenter: you were down in the Panhandle area of Connecticut for a while.
MF:That was later. I worked with dad for a number of years; I can’t recall how many until inevitably I spun off on my own. I worked around on my own for quite some time; it was an individual here in town who worked in the city, he was up here on weekends. I had created quite a report with them; I did all their work on their weekend home. They decided that they wanted to locate closer to the city, but not be there so they bought a house in Greenwich. I went down there to do work for him. I really didn’t want to go, but he made me an offer that was just too insane not to go. Eventually that turned into one job after another and I decided to move down there because it just seemed easier that traveling down during the week. That was my line of thinking then; in retrospect I should have stayed the way I was and done the traveling it would have worked out better. You think the cost of living is high here, try out in Greenwich. Go ahead and try it out. It is insane. The only thing that is more insane is New York City itself. We were there and we were in Greenwich for 8 years or so. While we were there, we had our daughter Amber. It was coming just about the time for her to go to school. Here again economics played in; that was when the bubble was starting to burst. All of this plethora of work that was just everywhere in Greenwich was now starting to fade away. Jobs were coming to a halt without notice; it wasn’t so happy, plus my little girl was getting ready to go to school. Looking at my neighborhood grammar school which is hundreds and hundreds, just the grade school K through 6, forget about the huge middle school that had thousands and the high school. It became too big. You know what? We packed up and we came back to Lakeville. This is it. I am not moving again.
JM:This would be about 2005, or 6?
MF:Right about there. Amber was born in 2001. Another motivating factor too was 9/11/2001. When you lived that close to it and there was an impact there. That’s a day of my life I shall never forget because of the town that I lived in at that time Greenwich, Ct. went from being this bustling, hustling
community to being almost a ghost town for a day, literally while everyone waited. Everyone said, “What the hell is going on here?” It is right here next door. I think one of the key things was getting my kid back into a system. I said to Tina, “What better system than the one I went through and someplace where we knew.” The whole town where the people were like us and the kids could go whatever they wanted. I said when I was leaving here that I was never coming back to this place.
JM:But your life changed. You are smart enough to change with it and go with the flow. Instead of being so rigid: I said I’ll not do it and I’ll not do it! I admire that.
MF:We could have gone to different places, but you know again for all the criticisms I will make to and I have been out there criticizing this community rather loudly in the years gone by.
JM: Not you?
MF:Not me! But your hometown and a town like this has an attraction, and although sometimes it is frustrating when it doesn’t want to grow with things. It is still home. I think for anyone, this is something that I see is going away today too, that people don’t really have a home town. This is a home town that gives back. I am proud to say that this is really my home town. I was born in this town, well Sharon but that is close enough. Most everybody was born in Sharon; they couldn’t help it, Sharon was the hospital.
JM:You didn’t have too far to go.
MF:Except for my second oldest brother, they were shopping in Gt. Barrington and they didn’t have a choice.
JM:So they were at Fairview.
MF:He was born in Massachusetts.
JM:Now when does this Fulco Project come in?
MF:The Fulco Project came in four or five years ago. That was something I was working with Marshall Miles at CATV 6/ HDD radio. He originally was working on that but because his plate was so full it ended up that I took over the project. The project had kind of stalled.
JM:What is the project?
MF:The project was looking at the history of sports at Housatonic Valley Regional High School.
JM:Oh that is right up your alley!
MF:That was ironic as hell because that was the last thing I wanted to be in. I worked with them to put together the videos and produce a few DVD on that. We worked a long time; the crew we had was Ron Dower, Ed Kirby, and Jack Mahoney. Who else was there?
MF:No, Bayersdorfer was not involved in that. There was another guy in Canaan but I can’t think of his name. Interesting that Kirby who I worked with on this not that many years ago was my Principal at the high school. Ron Dower was a teacher at the high school when I was there. Of course Jack Mahoney was the guy who meant all things to me.
JM:Was he at the time a teacher? At one time he worked up to being Principal, but at the time you were there he was a teacher.
MF:Jack was in the- what they now call Advanced Placement; we called it the Humanities for the kids that had it going on upstairs. Here we are years later and we have to be politically correct. Back then you didn’t, you just said it. Back in the day when the kids smoked in the portico and the teachers when into the rooms upstairs and they opened the door and more smoke poured out. Would you see that today?
JM:No. Now what are some of the civic responsibilities that you have handled, boards and other things that you have been on?
MF:Really the only board that I have really served on is right now I serve as an alternate to the Planning & Zoning Commission. Most of my civic duties have really been in the way of being a mouthpiece for people who don’t agree with the current philosophy. The bulk of time that I spent doing commentary on the area I was not a Republican; I had actually become affiliated and divorced myself from the party. Mine was more on the issues and what is going on in town; whether people liked it or not it was a concern. I see it in a different way.
JM:But you have been in the Republican Town Committee.
MF:The Republican Town Committee I have served on multiply times over the years since 1990. I worked on campaigns when John Harney Sr. ran for First Selectman; I worked with him.
JM:John Harney or Elyse?
JM:John ran for First Selectman? I know Elyse did.
MF:John did years before. Yes, ma’am.
JM:I am so far non-political.
MF:For me it has been in and out with different things. I have been a political activist, let’s put it that way. That has been my role in town to be the gadfly. That term has been used sometimes.
JM:Whatever, if you get too comfortable, you need somebody to shake it up a little bit.
MF:For myself I have been on the ballot a number of times.
JM:Yes, I know you have.13.
MF:Today I am chairman of the Republican Town Committee, for what that’s worth.
JM:You have done many different things and most of them extremely well, I am sure. Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview before we close?
MF:There is not a lot I can think of. I mean if we are talking about the history of the town, I think the biggest thing I want to note to people, and it has to do with change. It is something I hear a lot today. We don’t want things to change; but things have changed markedly and they do all the time. From the day that I listened to stories from my mother and father as to what these towns looked like when they were children and they go back talking about things that I never saw, like a bowling alley, and other large things that were not here when I was a child. When I was a child, each of the villages Lakeville and Salisbury were viable villages with everything in them, and they have changed markedly. While the town keeps a certain feel, it is constantly evolving. I think people need to note that and not be so afraid and think it is going to spoil the ambience because it is still here. I think people need to be mindful of that; that is going to change and gravitate, but it is always going to be a nice little small town.
JM:Where people care about one another.
MF:People know each other, watch out for each other or should, that was a big thing when I was a kid. That was another thing. When we were kids, if we went out and did something we ought not to have done, believe me, it was not going to be a secret for long. It was going to be home before you knew it. You would know when you walked in the door and you got the “LOOK”. It was like oh boy! I got nailed again.
JM:If you got it at school, you got it at home.
MF:Even though we knew that in this place you weren’t going to get away with it, try it anyway.
JM:Oh sure, that is youth, absolutely.
MF:It is a great place, but it will change and it will evolve but that doesn’t mean that it has gone away.
JM:No, that is the purpose of doing the oral history because I don’t want it just to be the 80 and 90 year olds; I want it to be the teenagers, if I can get them, the 20’s and 30’s, the 30’s and 40’s, 40’and 50’s, the 60’s and 70’s. I want the gamut because yes, it has changed even in the short amount of time that I have been here. Businesses have closed; businesses have changed hands. Things have come into the village; things have left the village.
JM:It has changed but the core of caring, looking after one another, being responsible for yourself and your actions that are still here.
MF:It is still here to a certain degree. That is one of my biggest fears. If I say anything that stays on the record that is the one thing I want to say. When you come to these small towns, become part of that. Forget about the others that is what we are supposed do. We are not in the concrete jungle; we don’t have to watch out. It is still a place even to this day I still feel safe. I leave my keys right in my vehicle. I just have never reached that point. When I was a child growing up, we didn’t even have keys. We came home from school and walked in the door. That door was open, it was always open. That is the way it should be. That is all part of watching out, so when you come here and you decide you are going to live here in your little world because you have come here to get away. All part of this is for why and that is what keeps us safe. That is why we don’t need a police force and any of these things because they all know one another or we should. It is not like it used to be, I am sorry to say, that people knew each other. Everybody is off into these little lives today which distracts us from remembering where we are which a great little place. I would like to see us go back as I was growing up and even in my younger years we had festivals and things we don’t have any more. We used to have carnivals at the ball field. Again in looking at the historical content, the firemen always had one. We looked forward to the big carnival, the parade in Lakeville, it is all gone. That is what is sad to me; forget about the changing faces of the village and the fact that there is not grocery store in Lakeville. The fact that we don’t have all of these things, so much has changed because of liability insurance and all this hoo-ha. That is what it is to me; it has taken away one of the most precious things of a small town is these gatherings where everybody went.
JM:Everybody was on the same level.
MF:Drinking beer over at the beer tent, going out and gambling at the spinning wheel, and riding the rides, and having a good time, no pretenses we are all the same here. Kids used to make a float to go into the parade and so much of that is gone. That is the thing that bothers me most is those things are gone. Unfortunately it is a changing world but that is some of the glue that binds small towns. Some of the small towns still have their carnivals and stuff, but many of them have abandoned them. Even those left are getting weaker with less attendance: it is sad. That is community.
JM:A good place to end this.
MF:The one thing I felt when I was growing up was there was a very strong sense of community in that era. It was a small town and everybody knew everybody. Everybody watched out for each other which made it a safe and wonderful place.
JM:Thank you very much. A wonderful way to end it.