Pat Gomez interview:
This is Jean McMillen interviewing Patricia Gomez at her home 255 Main St. and the corner of Lincoln City Road, Lakeville, Ct. She is going to talk about the Methodist Church, the Fall Festival and anything else that tickles her fancy. The date is October 3, 2012.
JM:What is your full name?
PG:Patricia Pattengell Gomez
JM:Where were you born?
PG:I was born at home in Rosedale, Long Island.
JM:Would you give me your birthdate?
PG:January 8, 1928
JM:What were the names of your parents?
PG:Florence and Russell Pattengell
JM:Do you have any siblings?
PG:I have one brother, Russell Junior.
JM:What is your educational background?
PG:High school and finished Katy Gibbs Secretarial School in New York
JM;How did you come to this area?
PG:My grandparents had a home in Cornwall Bridge.
JM:What were their names?
PG:Carrie and Charles Pattengell. My husband’s family, well, let’s see the best way to approach it. After World War II my grandmother moved back to the home in Cornwall Bridge. She had been in New York to help my father out during the war. She was his secretary. She came back up to Cornwall Bridge. She was up here before that come to think of it. She ran a transient house which was like today’s motor inn, but she called it a transient house. My husband’s mother used to help her in the kitchen and serve guests their meals.
JM:What was your husband’s mother’s name?
PG.Florence Gomez and his father name was Wesley.
JM:So is that actually how you met your husband?
PG:After the war when she did come back up, my husband’s family had lived in the house during the war. They moved back to their own home when my grandmother came back, but they used part of our land to grow their vegetable garden. When I came up to be with her for a week, I met my husband in the bean patch picking beans.
JM:That’s a good place to meet a husband! When did you buy Quality farm on Wells Hill?
JM:What kind of a farm was it?
JM:How large was the acreage?
PG:It was around 75-78 acres, something like that.
JM:Whom did you buy it from?
PG:From Mr. & Mrs. Dilworth
JM:They had run it previously as a dairy farm?
PG:It was very well known in the Holstein-Friesian Association. Those are the black and white cows.
JM:Then how did your husband get into the funeral business?
PG:In his year book from high school, Housatonic (Valley Regional) High School, in the section where they predict the future, there was a little blurb in there about two of the classmates talking about, “Did you see Francis Gomez’s Funeral Home down in wherever?” I guess he had always thought about it.
JM:Really? Your daughter said that as a young man he used to dig graves.
PG:Oh yeah, he and his brother Bob when they were kids they would work in gardens and so forth for 25 cents an hour. Yes, they used to dig graves in the local cemetery, just the two of them with a shovel and a pick.
JM:Oh my word, that was hard work.
PG:Oh yeah, they worked hard for what they had.
JM:What kind of training did he have to actually become a mortician?
PG:He went to the McAllister Institute in New York City for his training.
JM:Did he do an internship?3.
PG:He really interned at the funeral home with Henry Pozzetta.
JM:This would be the funeral home in Canaan?
PG:Yes, he bought it from Roger Newkirk.
JM:When did he buy the business from Roger Newkirk?
PG:I think it was 1974, either 1973 or 1974.
JM:What are some of the responsibilities of a funeral home director?
PG:It’s been a while, to provide comfort basically. I think that is the most important thing. To do what is best for those who are left.
JM:To make the transition as easy as possible for the family or the people who are left.
JM:it takes a very compassionate person to do that I think.
PG:I think so.
JM:Did he have any staff while he ran the funeral home?
PG:Yes, Henry Pozzetta stayed on and so did Paul Driscoll for a little while. Then Susan our daughter got her…Back then you had a funeral director’s license and you had an embalmer license. You did not have to have an embalmer’s license to be a funeral director. So Susan got her funeral director’s license, but Henry oversaw his doing the embalming work.
JM:Did your husband actually get an embalming certificate as well?
PG:Oh yes, he went to the McAllister Institute for that.
JM:Tell me about the Methodist Church. I think you said you started in Cornwall.
PG:Oh well there was a Methodist Church in Cornwall Bridge that my husband had gone to, he and his family from when they were small. When we bought the farm here, Mrs. Fitts, Tilley Fitts, who was the Dean of Girls down at the high school and had known Francis in high school, I guess she heard we were coming and she extended an invitation for us to come to their church for one of their suppers. I can’t remember. Susan was only 5 and we came over and that’s how we got involved with the Methodist Church through Tilley Fitts. (See tape 16 Ed.) She was a lovely lady.
JM;I wish I had known her. This must have been around the time that Gerry Pollock was pastor because he came in 1963 and stayed until 1982.
PG:I am trying to think; right because he and Nancy, their oldest child, and our daughter Sandi were in the same grade. As a matter of fact, they still see each other. That whole group in that grade gets together all the time, at least once or twice a year.
JM:That’s great; it’s nice to have friendships from when you were growing up in your home town. What were some of the things that the Methodist Church did for community out –reach? Did they participate in church suppers? What did they do?
PG:Oh yeah we used to have a lot of church suppers and we had a big barbeque in the summer, ham dinners in the winter, roast beef dinners. Emma Pollock was just amazing, Gerry’s wife. She did the Rotary luncheons for the Rotary Club for years. She was just absolutely great. Beyond that there were a lot of things we used to have dances. I can remember a number of times we did dances. We were very active. We had a large group of children way back then. Unfortunately things have changed; not all but most ladies stayed home with their children, now it is a whole different ballgame.
JM:It was. What about either a sewing group or arts and crafts?
PG:We had Sunday School Mothers & Friends. That is what we did. We’d get together and we’d do handicraft at least once a month. We did a lot with the Fall Festival when it was the Antiques Fair. That’s all changed too. We would meet once a month; each of us would take some kind of a project and have everything together and we would all put it together, something different every month.
JM:I have a note here about apples? Did you give out apples for Halloween, or?
PG:Well, the first year that we went to the Antiques Fair was outside, I think on the library lawn. That’s when Gerry and Emma were here and we sold apples outside.
JM:Well, Cindy (Smith) and I are going to be selling baked goods outside. What was the Antiques Fair like when you were involved with it at first? I know it has changed.
PG:Oh it has changed. Both St. Johns and the Congo Church were where most things happened. We joined, in the beginning we were in both churches because each church had something different. Baked goods were in the Congo Church which we did. Arts & Crafts were in the Congo Church, the plant tent we did participate in that and dried flower arrangements. Cindy Barnett’s mom (Mary) she was great in that department. Then in St. Johns Church they had the Treasure Trove I think it was. The Treasure Trove was like a huge tag sale almost. We joined them for that because the Congo Church didn’t do that. They always had a huge round of cheese, and all the ministers would take turns welding the knife to cut the cheese.
JM:That I don’t remember. When did the Fall Festival start, in the 1950’s?
PG:I am trying to think; yeah it had to be in the late fifties because we didn’t move here until 1955 so it was probably late fifties. I don’t know if it was going on before we got here.
JM:What I remember in the 1970’s was in the Town Hall was an antique show.
PG:That’s where Trinity Church had their Antiques Fair. Then when the town hall burned down…
JM:That sort of ended that.
PG:It was never the same after that. They did tents on the White Hart lawn, but it was never quite the same. Trinity eventually bowed out. Now it is just the Fall Festival.
JM:Does St. Mary’s still participate?
PG:Well, up until the last few years, St. Mary’s joined in a couple of years after we were in. We were asked to come into the Congo Church. They did a lot of baked goods; they did arts and crafts and plants, too. The last few years they have been doing their lasagna dinner on Friday nights, and we’ve been doing the ham dinner on Saturday nights. I haven’t seen any publicity for the lasagna dinner this year.
JM:I haven’t either.
PG:I guess maybe they’re not doing it.
JM:But we are doing the ham dinner.
PG:Yeah that’s what I have been told.
JM:Well, I’ve seen the big sign, and I do remember working the arts & crafts table which in the Congregational Church at one time was up on the stage.
PG:That’s where we were- the Catholics and the Methodists were mostly on the stage when we had all that.
JM:Then I remember working in the Country Kitchen which was down on the floor, and this year I guess we are having a tent outside on the lawn. We are selling baked goods for the benefit of the church. I am going back to the Rotary luncheons. There were two things Emma was noted for and they were what?
PG:One was her ice cream cake which all the guys just loved the ice cream cake. She used to say there was nothing to it. Now what was the other one?
JM:Oh the other one was meatloaf. I heard that from my husband; he really liked the meatloaf.
PG:That’s good. We had a good time with that.
JM:It was held in the Methodist Church from 1948 to 1998. That’s a long time.
PG:Yes after Emma left, Marion Haeberle took it over.
JM:She ran it for a number of years, but at that point I think she told me that Hotchkiss was preparing the food.
PG:Yeah, it got where she, I don’t know the details about that. We all got kind of old, you know, and it takes a lot out of you.
JM:It is hard work to prepare for 50 or 60 fellows every Tuesday for years and years, and to serve it and to clean up. I think you said the Pauline Silvernail used to take care of washing up the dishes.
PG:Yeah, she was always at the sink. We did and still do have a dishwasher, but there are an awful lot of things that don’t go in the dishwasher. She was always there; she was great.
JM:It is wonderful to have people like that. Tell me about the’ 55 flood. I know you’ve got a good story about that.
PG:I can’t remember but it must have been a Sunday, because we had every other Sunday off when we had the dairy farm. We would go to my mother-in-law’s at Cornwall Bridge, so I remember coming down off Wells Hill, and went to go around the old mill that was there, and the old mill wasn’t really there anymore. It was kind of a shock, but as far as we ourselves it didn’t affect us.
JM:Because you were at the top of the hill.
PG:But it was really devastating for a lot of people; we were lucky.
JM:You value that. I have a story from Bill Binzen and he was on the top of Britton Hill. They couldn’t get off the hill because of the flood. Some people were lucky and some people who were down in the valley weren’t so lucky.
JM:Did you at one time participate in civic activities: boards, or town organizations?
PG:When Noble Horizons has a program for Meals on Wheels, I did deliver Meals on Wheels to a lot of local people. That was many years ago; way before what they do now. But as far as other things, except for the church, I really…
JM;Well with running a farm, and the church and you had a few children, about 7?
JM:You were a busy lady. Is there anything, any memories or anything particular that you would like to add to this interview that we haven’t talked about, the business, the children, the church, the Fall Festival?
PG:You were talking about activities and so forth, I think my children especially my girls like Sandi have kind of made up for that. They have been involved in a lot of things, like town boards. Susan was on P&Z for a long, long time. Sandi ran with Peter Oliver for selectman; they ran for some town office. Francis ran for selectman one year, I can’t even remember when that was. But they kind of made up for what I didn’t do.
JM:It is interesting about families giving back. That is the one thing that I have discovered in doing this. So many people give of their time and nobody knows about it. You really do have to do a little digging because whether it is SWASA, or the Town Beautification or the Garden Club, everyone that I have talked with gives something back to the town, either because they were raised or they love the town or they have a particular interest, and it is so wonderful in this day and age to know so many people that are giving generously of their time, as you are with me this morning to give back to the community.
PG:Of course I was assistant Town Clerk for 17 1/2 years.
JM:Oh tell me about that.
PG:I started when Lila Nash was still there, and she was something I tell you. I had such fun with her. I really enjoyed my couple of years with her. She was great fun. She taught me a lot.
JM:What did you do as assistant Town clerk?
PG:Well the usual the dog licenses, the fishing licenses, I did all the recording of the land deeds, this that and the other thing, maps, just whatever a town clerk does. The only thing that I really was not totally involved with was the elections. I always left it to Lila. She was busy with that so we just left it at that.
JM:She gave me the oath when I came to town, and that would have been back in 1967.
PG:I started with Lila in 1979, at the beginning of July in 1979.
JM:Then you were involved with the town hall when the fire happened.
JM:I can remember you were in the basement of the Scoville Memorial Library giving out absentee ballots in 1987 because Foster and I were going to England for a year and we needed absentee ballots.
PG:Yeah and then they had the trailer over there for a while so that we could use the vault.
JM:The vault didn’t get destroyed.
PG:No, it didn’t.
JM:Were they able to get out some of the artifacts, the pictures and things like that?
PG:I think they saved quite a few things. It was the middle of the building, and we were kind of on one end. We didn’t get as much damage.
JM;All of the murals in the second story went.
PG:Yes, I am pretty sure that the second story went. That is a shame.
JM:Who were the selectmen that you worked under?
PG: Charlotte Reid most of the time, and after Charlotte was Buddy Trotta; I am trying to think who was there when I left.
JM:Was it Val Bernadoni?
PG:Yeah, maybe it was Bob Smithwick.
JM:What kind of management style did Charlotte have? Was she very hands-on?
PG:Yeah, she was.
JM:And she would make sure that everything was running in shipshape order.
PG:She did her best; it is not easy running anything.
JM: She did a good job.
PG:Yes, I didn’t always agree with everything she did, but that’s the way it is. You don’t have to agree all the time.
JM:You can agree to disagree, but you don’t have to be disagreeable about it.
PG:That’s right. Doretta Belter was her secretary; well she was the secretary to Henry Rossire, and Joe Pinkham, and Charlotte. Doretta did all three of them.
JM:Doretta was the wife of…
JM:Henry Rossire was Building Inspector, and Joseph Pinkham was Sanitation. How many people were in the Town Hall at that time, as far as staff was concerned?
PG:Well, Denise Rice was Tax Collector, and Doretta, George Bushnell was one of the selectmen…
JM:How about George Kiefer?
PG:Yeah, I guess George was also one of the selectmen; I can’t remember exactly, but he was in there. Buddy Trotta was a selectman after.
JM:Who was the Assessor at that time?
JM:The Town Clerk would have been Lila and you were assistant Town Clerk.
PG:After Lila came Weezie Keifer McGrath, Louise McGrath.
JM:She did Foster and my marriage license; we were the first ones to take out a marriage license with her.
PG:Was it Dick Fitzgerald who was the probate Judge, at the time of the fire.
JM:I think so. Did Bill Silta have an assistant?
PG:I can’t remember.
JM:What are some of the things after the fire, I am talking about damage control that you had to do either to refurnish the records or change things. What are some of those things?
PG:Our vault didn’t suffer too much damage, a little bit but not the way the vault in the basement did where the Probate records suffered. There was a system of putting books or pages in like a big plastic bag and there were some kind of crystals or something to put in it and seal it up and it would dry it out. To my recollection I don’t think we lost a whole lot.
JM:Was it smoke damage or water damage?
PG:A little bit of both.
JM:How long did it take, not to build the building, but how long did it take to get up and running again after the fire?
PG:Well, I don’t think we were held back too much. We just moved whatever we could. We I mean the town crew and set up as best we could and just kept on going.
JM:All of the people in the community I am sure helped.
PG:Yeah they did. It was pretty much of a shock; the town was agog. It was hard to understand why it happened.
JM:We went through town that morning after the fire, and it was like “What?” 10.
JM:It was such a shock, and just incredible, but like the Phoenix it rose from the ashes.
PG:Yes, it did.
JM:This has been such fun. Thank you so very much for giving me your time and your knowledge.
PG:You are more than welcome.
JM:I have enjoyed it thoroughly.
PG:I have too.