This is Jean McMillen Interviewing Mrs. Marion Haeberle at her home 95 robin Hill Lane, Lakeville Ct. 06039. The date is February 8, 2012. We will be talking about the history of the Taconic Learning Center.
JM:May I have your full name?
MH:Marion Louise Reichardt Haeberle.
JM:Where were you born?
JM:Would you give me your birthdate?
MH:August 10, 1919
JM:What is your educational background?
MH:After elementary school, that’s obvious, a BA from Adelphi University, and a MA from Columbia University, then a MLS from Long Island University.
JM:How did you happen to come to this area?
MH:We were ready to retire; actually Franklin had taken early retirement before I was ready. We had always liked this area. I was associated with Connecticut because my mother was born here and her parents had a farm in the area near the river.
JM:Near the Connecticut River?
MH:Yes. We liked New York State and became very familiar with lake area because we had two sons. One went to college in Albany, and the other two went to Cornell so naturally we did a lot of traveling through central New York. We really thought that would be a good place to retire to, but at the time Franklin said,” No, the New York State taxes are too high. So let’s go into New England.” The upper parts of New England didn’t appeal; we didn’t want to go too far north figuring that Massachusetts and Vermont would be harsher winters. So we decided on Connecticut. Of course the income tax came to Connecticut within a couple of years. We just looked around; we had some friends who had bought property in Sharon. We visited them and we visited around here. We became interested in what was shown to us.
JM:Good! Now I know that you worked at Salisbury Central School for a while. How did that come about?
MH:My neighbor was Katherine & Bill Chilcoat. In speaking about it I had said that I had just retired as a librarian. Katherine who worked at the school said, “Oh we have a librarian who’s going to be on leave, a sabbatical, and we need someone to cover that. Would you like to do it?”
JM:And you did. Do you remember was it just the one year that you were there?
MH:It was either one or two.
JM:I think it was two. Then you got involved with oral history. That happened about 1982.
MH:Yes, I think right away I was interested in oral history. It was something that fit into the things I enjoyed doing, and I was also anxious to learn more about the history of Salisbury because this was new to me. There probably had been a little notice in the paper about a meeting, and I went to it at the library. At that time there were some of the people with whom I became interested and associated. I began to take part in it. I think it was Holly Palmer (Daboll) was the Chairman, and she was leaving so they asked if I would do it.
JM:You said yes and did it for many years. You had a committee that worked with you.
MH:Well, that’s the way we functioned. I didn’t do as much as you’re doing.
JM:I don’t have a committee; it is just me.
MH:I realize that. We would meet once a month at the library, and talk about people who should be interviewed. In many cases one or more of the members were interested or knowledgeable about these people. That’s what led us to start doing the interviewing. So I just took on the job of providing them with what they needed; the recorders, tapes and so on. They took care of contacting the person because generally it was someone they knew. That’s the way it progressed; we did a lot.
JM: You did 117 interviews and a lot of them had been transcribed. When I took over in October in 2010, we only had 55 tapes that needed to be transcribed. You and your committee had done a fine job.
MH:Yes, the way we transcribed, I didn’t do it as much as you do, but I did transcribe a great number of them. That was most interesting to me, but there were some of the committee people who were willing to transcribe or who knew someone who would do the transcription. That was a great help because as you know there are steps in doing it; it is not just putting a tape in a recorder and then taking it out and listening to it. There is a lot more to it than that. Unfortunately I couldn’t do as much as I should because I got involved in other things.
JM:Yes, and that is going to segue nicely into the Taconic Learning Center.
MH:Well before that there was something else I was interested in. But at any rate I asked for help in the transcription, and when I got it, I would go over it to edit it. One person who did the most as far as that is someone whom I think you probably know and that is Libby Sisson.
JM:I lived in her apartment in her house for 4 years. She was a fine lady.
MH:Absolutely and she did a fine job. When I had to retire from Oral History, I wasn’t able to do much more than give a folder full of her original transcriptions to Norm Sills. So what happened to those I don’t know?
JM:They sat in a box until I got on board, and then I did some of them. Can you tell me the year you gave up the Oral History? Was it in the 1990’s?
HM:I’d have to look it up, but I think it was 2004. I became interested in other things; one in particular was related to the church. That year was 1984.
JM:Now that church was the Lakeville Methodist Church.
HM:The minister was being transferred after being in the church for a long time.
JM:That must have been Gerry Pollock.
HM:It was Gerry Pollock. I had started to help with the serving the Rotary lunches which had been started by one of the women in the Methodist Church. “Why can’t we women in the Methodist Church serve the luncheon to the Rotary meeting?” So Emma Pollock, Gerry’s wife, certainly was in charge. I offered to help serving. This is something I did a great deal of, not serving, but offering this sort of work in the church I had been in in Floral Park. So that was just routine for me. When Emma and Gerry had to move, they asked me if I would take over.
JM:The Chairmanship of the Rotary lunches?
HM:That’s right, organizing it completely, and I did that for at least 13 years. If you want particular date and time, I’ve got that, but I don’t recall all of it.
JM:Well, Foster used to love Emma’s meatloaf, and he wanted me to get the receipt. I asked one of her daughters, and she said she couldn’t give me the receipt because, “My mother can only make meat loaf to serve 50. She can’t cut it down.”(Emma Pollock cooked all the Rotary lunches while she was at the church; she did all the catering. Ed.) Now would you tell me how you got involved with the Taconic Learning Center? This is after you stopped serving lunch to the Rotarians at the Methodist Church, you moved into another area.
HM:Yes, somehow there was a course given at Winsted at the college (Northwestern Community College ED.), and some of the people who were instructors started to give them here in Lakeville; a few of the courses were actually given in the Fellowship Hall of the Methodist Church. Many of the courses were on art or traveling; it just seemed to evolve from the interest that people had in going to hear about places like Machu Picchu. A number of people in town went with a sponsored course by Winsted to visit to Peru. When they started the college itself, and started to get some courses organized of history and so on, the people in town went to it. Two people who were very interested in it and thought that it would be very worthwhile to start something here in town -Salisbury, Lakeville-were the Wagners
and I think Jean Wagner took a few course at Winsted. She and her husband were really the motivators in organizing and getting people together.
JM:What was her husband’s name?
JM:Were they from Lakeville?
HM:No they had moved here when they retired to the apartment in Sharon (on Sharon Green?) Eventually they took an apartment in the Buckley complex (Great Elm Ed.) They really were motivated in getting it started. For a time were not only the organizers, but also the Chairmen of that.
JM:I know you have a piece of paper from the early beginnings of this. Could you tell me who were the officers of the TLC back in 1989?
HM:With the motivation of the Wagners, we organized into a group that would present instructors and courses. We really didn’t get that formal but worked around to it in order to get people organized and to attract others in the community. Jean was the President, but Herb never had an office, but he certainly was in there. He also organized some of the courses. We had a lot of them on American History. When they finally decided to organize as a group, Jean Wagner became the President, someone else who lived in Sharon Torrey Somers became the Vice President; I was Secretary-Treasurer at that time. We always felt a program committee was important, and we still do. Robert Steck and a man by the name of Thomas Maxwell organized the programs the first few years.
JM:Was there a fee charged to attend these lectures in the beginning?
JM:What was the fee?
MH:I don’t think they set more than $25 or $30, but I am not sure. I had the job of Secretary-Treasurer so I had to write down who was giving money. It would be a fee for everything that you attended; every interest that you wanted to take part in.
JM:I am assuming that that money went for mailings and publicity. It did not pay the instructors.
MH:No, and it still doesn’t.
JM:The fee now is $60.
JM:But you can take as many courses as you wish.
MH:Absolutely. The courses are not charged individually. The $60 covers not just the term, but the whole year-spring and winter terms.
JM:What a wonderful program it is that it has continued since1989 and is still going very strong.
HM:The beauty of it is where we live. It is the people in the community who have an interest or the ones who were interested in TLC and have continued and their friends have continued, and they know somebody, who had been a professor at a college, who had a business, whatever. We have been able to draw on their brains.
JM:It spread from Lakeville-Salisbury being the center; they now have a satellite in Canaan at Geer so that people from the Norfolk area as well as Sheffield and Ashley Falls can come so you have spread in the area extensively.
MH:Actually we can’t say that that spreading started right at the beginning, but that spreading came as we have organized and became known. At the beginning as I look over this list, there are Cornwall peopleand Norfolk people who were in there originally.
MH:Yes, it did draw from a wide area right away and it appealed. It appealed because we had the talent who were giving the courses. They really did a wonderful job.
JM:Now you are still involved with TLC are you not? What is you r function or position now?
MH:I have been working with TLC for a long time, but specifically I have been handling the membership that comes in, recording the money that comes in, and sending it on to the treasurer. (At the time of this interview Mrs. Haeberle and Dr. Carl Bornemann are the only living members of the original list of officers and board of TLC. I was not able to complete an interview with Dr. Bornemann. Ed.)
JM:Has the membership stayed the same or has it grown?
MH:It has always been about the same, on a level thanks to someone who has a course that is very popular, very interesting. It has grown because I know names, but I don’t know faces unless I really make a point or are introduced to people. “Oh yes, they were a member a couple of years ago or something like that.” There is an instructor who has attracted so many people who must have known him elsewhere. We have a lot of new names on our list. Robert Woodward who is the Chairman this year keeps track through our website, of how many are on our contact list which is where we keep the information about members. He says that this year we have increased our membership for the first time. It has been on a level for so long, but there have always been people who join and who wanted to join. In fact people keep calling in maybe July and August “What are the courses going to be next year?”
so people look forward to that. There have been steady names, people who have always been members from the very beginning almost. Now we also have a number of new people, not just the instructors but also the places where we have our classes. (The venues are Geer, Noble Horizons, and Scoville Memorial Library. Ed.) We now give a number of course in Geer. That makes it closer for some people to come from Sheffield, Mass. or Norfolk, Ct. to come to a class. The Norfolk people have increased lately. Things have been looking up. It has been a wonderful thing that the Wagners started. The theory, the philosophy, and the essence of it haven’t really changed. We still have people who ask are we going to give bridge lessons or how about knitting lessons. The answer is always the same; that is not the sort of thing we do.
JM:Thank you so much Mrs. Haeberle. I appreciate your time in giving me this interview.