ELIZABETH (BETTY) PERKINS HAAS
Transcript of a taped interview.
Narrator: Betty Haas
Date: June 16, 1993
Place of interview: At her home in Lakeville, Connecticut
Interviewer: Robert Scribner
In this interview, Mrs. Haas relates her memories of the Salisbury Congregational Church. Her family had always been members of the church and she relates some church history and a few anecdotes told to her from before her birth. Although not covered in this tape, Mrs. Haas and her husband lived on Route 44 in Lakeville, and built the Ironmaster’s Motel behind their home.
Property of the Oral History Project
The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial LibrarySalisbury, CT 06068
Betty Haas Page 1
RS I’m asking Mrs. Haas for some of her memories of the Congregational Church in Salisbury; and also memories of Salisbury itself.
BH I was born and brought up here, so I go back quite a little way. My whole family had belonged to the Congregational Church. My great-grandmother and great-grandfather were members of the church, and that goes back a few years.
My earliest recollection of the church building itself was back in the days when the organ was up front, on the left-hand side of the pulpit as you face it. It was made of dark wood. I may be wrong about this, but I have the impression that the whole church was a bit gloomy in those days because of dark woodwork, in contrast to our light and airy appearance now. The organist in those days was Dr. Knight, who was head of the school by the Catholic Church in Lakeville, which had the horrible name “School for Imbeciles”.
BH I think the name was dreadful, but he did a fine job up there and he was a marvelous organist. One of the students at the school, named Ike, used to come with Dr. Knight and pump the organ for him every Sunday. He used to say, “Dr. Knight and I makes the musics”; and he really did, because you couldn’t play that organ without somebody pumping it.
There’s a famous story about Dr. Knight that I can’t swear is authentic, but I heard the story many times and it’s a good story. I think it should be kept in the files. Apparently, Dr. Knight was a graduate of Yale University, which for a number of years had had poor results at THE GAME (the football game with Harvard). Well, this one year Yale finally won, and Dr. Knight was exuberant. He always played a very good postlude at the end of the service; and he started out this Sunday, so the story goes, in a proper manner. He got through a few bars of it, and then couldn’t stand it any longer. The church emptied quickly to the strains of “Boola Boola”.
I went to Sunday school there as a very small child. We didn’t have Sunday school rooms. Our class met in the pews at the front of the church or in the back. We must have been a little obstreperous, because we had quite a few different Sunday school teachers in later years. They didn’t last long. But the earlier years, the kindergarten years, were simply wonderful because we had two teachers who put up with us and we knew they loved us. One was Mrs. Julie Landon, the wife of Judge Landon, and the other was Mother Hubbard. I don’t really know what her right name was, but everybody called her Mother Hubbard.
RS Yes, I remember. We called her Mother Hubbard too.
BH Everybody did. She lived in the house that was right next door to the then Maple Shade.
RS Yes, now the Ragamont
Betty Haas page 2
BH She was a motherly soul, and she loved us all. How she put up with us, I don’t know, but we thought she was great. In those days, Sunday school used to be after church. While mother went to church with me, she didn’t stay for Sunday school. She went home to see about Sunday dinner, I suppose. So I walked home (and had walked up) and it makes me smile…. The reason that we walked (it was a mile each way), was because the horse had worked all week, and the horse needed a day of rest! We didn’t, and the walk was good for us.
I had been sitting in church for an hour, and then Sunday school for an hour, and those pews were not very comfortable. (They haven’t improved any through the years, I might add). So I’d wiggle in my seat at the dinner table. Dinner started before I got home, because Grandfather was used to having it at a certain time and that was about 15 minutes before I could get home. My dinner was kept warm in the oven. I was very fond of my grandfather, but he was pretty inflexible. Maybe I was too, I don’t know. Anyway, I’d wiggle at the table, and Grandfather would look at me over the top of his glasses and wonder what was the matter; why couldn’t I sit still? I said, “Well, the pews weren’t very comfortable in the church”. Then he’d say, “Huh, you’re not supposed to be comfortable in church.” That was all the sympathy I got.
I have to go back another generation here. Dr. Goddard’s wife, the first Mrs. Goddard, held a young men’s Bible class that was very well known in those days. I think those young men were in their early twenties – very late teens or early twenties. My father was a member of that class, and so were Bert Roberts and Malcom Rudd. I was just talking to Malcom’s daughter Marcia on the telephone. They loved the class and thought Mrs. Goddard was someone very special. When they had finished this course, she presented each one of them with a Bible which had an inscription at the front in her handwriting. I had it for many years after my father died and my daughter has it now. It’s a cherished possession.
RS Good, good.
BH That’s sort of a nice thing to keep through he years.
RS Oh, Gosh, yes.
BH Well, then we go on to the war years, the First World War. I don’t remember who had been organist after Dr. Knight, but during the war years Laura Chapin Allen substituted a great deal. Her father had sung in that church as a soloist during the summertime. In the winter, he was a soloist in a big church in Brooklyn. Mrs. Allen played the organ at least part of the time in the war years; her husband was serving overseas in the Field Artillery. She also had the children’s choir, and she trained us to sing simple songs that we rendered rather well, as I remember it. One Sunday something happened to the electricity and there was no organ. Dick Rudd and I volunteered to pump the organ, which by that time was in the back of the church. The sun was just pouring in to that power room where the organ machinery was kept; and Dick and I had to pump in there.
Betty Haas page 3
Our mothers had sent us to church, clean and fresh and neat and tidy. I don’t think either Mrs. Rudd or my mother recognized her child. Oh, it was so hot!
I’d like to go back to Sunday School and talk a bit about Thomas Lot Norton, whose plaque is on the wall in the sanctuary. We didn’t know him as Mister Norton, and certainly not Thomas Lot Norton. He was Uncle Tom to everybody, superintendent of the Sunday school, and everyone loved him. I don’t think there was a child in Salisbury who knew him, who didn’t love him. When he died the whole town grieved. It was my first experience with a funeral. The Sunday school marched from the church to the cemetery, carrying flowers. And all the way up we sang his favorite song, “America the Beautiful”. Do you remember that?
RS No, I don’t.
BH That must have been before your day.
RS No, I remember him and can just remember when he was superintendent.
BH Do you remember any of the Christmases in the church?
RS Oh, yes, I remember the tree.
BH The tree was in front of the pulpit; and, as I remember it, there were buckets of water behind the tree. There were real candles burning on the tree and the Sexton stood by the tree with a long pole with a sponge on the end to dip into the buckets of water and put out any sparks.
I think the deacons passes out the stockings. They weren’t really stockings, but little packages that had an orange in each one. An orange was a great treat.
RS It was in those days.
BH There was also something that I haven’t seen in years – ribbon candy, little boxes of ribbon candy. I don’t remember much of a program other than passing out those things, and perhaps singing.
Of course, I grew up, went away to school, went away to work and then got married and moved out to the Midwest. But my roots were always here; and every time I came back I went to church up there. I never took my membership out; somehow it was home. There was quite a class of us when we joined the church; I think there were six or eight of us, mostly girls. The only boy I remember joining at that time was Dick Rudd, Lawrence’s brother. He died when we were in High School.
The women of the church were pretty active with the Upkeep Society. Was your mother involved with Upkeep?
RS I don’t think so, not that I know of.
Betty Hass page 4
BH My mother got quite involved with Upkeep, she and Miss Hattie Roberts. The first President of that was Mary Williams, who lived on the comer of Lower Cobble Road and Undermountain Road. She later sold that property and built the little cottage behind it. Mother and Miss Hattie were the ones who prepared the work that the women were going to do. They’d meet at Miss Hattie’s or at our house and cut out the material and get it all ready for the sewing. I don’t remember how often they met, but regularly, and brought sandwiches with them. Ma Erickson would come down with her sewing machine, an electric sewing machine. Two of her boys, young men of course, would bring her down in the farm truck with her electric sewing machine in the back. They’d lift Ma down out of the cab and she’d go into the back room of the church. Then they’d lift down the electric sewing machine and carry it in. That was really quite a task for those young men – transporting their mother and then the sewing machine. The women sewed for Sharon Hospital, and also for an orphanage out in the far west. They did good works without preaching about it.
We had no place in the church at that time to hold covered dish suppers, so we’d have them over at the Town Hall. I’m speaking of the old Town Hall, where you could do that sort of thing.
RS That’s right!
BH I think that pretty well covers my memories of the church and its activities except for Children’s Day. Mrs. Landon was really wonderful. I called her Auntie Landon. She and Mother Hubbard, my first Sunday school teacher decided that, because I could learn a piece and had a voice that carried (even in those days), I would speak pieces on innumerable Children’s Days. In was always in the spring, and it was always hot, and I always had a new dress with a starched collar. My curls had to be just so. I really didn’t like Children’s Day, but I loved Auntie Landon. Mother said I was to learn the piece, and when Mother said that, you did it and that was it.
So, years later, after Mrs. Landon’s husband died, she’d got to Florida for the winter. She would come spend the last few days with us, while her house was being closed up here in Salisbury. In the spring, she’d be back for a few days while in was being reopened for the summer. And, in that spring period, there was always a Children’s Day that came up. She’d say, “Elizabeth, will you go to church with me tomorrow? Tomorrow is Children’s Day.” And I’d say, “I’ll take you to church, but I won’t go to Children’s Day”. Then she’d ask, “Why not?” and I’d answer, “Because, all these years I’ve been telling you that after my last piece at Children’s Day, I’m not going again”. I’ve kept my words. I’d take her up to church and leave her on the back porch and she understood.
RS Very good. Very interesting.
This is Robert Hollister Scribner, aged 82, interviewing Mrs. Betty Haas at her home in Lakeville, CT on June 16, 1993. Betty, now age 88, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Perkins. She told of her memories of the Salisbury Congregational Church.