Elyse Harney Sr. Interview:
This is file #5 cycle 2. Today’s date is October 20, 2015. I am interviewing Elyse Harney Sr. and her daughter, as I know her “little Elyse”. We are talking about the White Hart and John Harney Sr. and all sorts of things that go on in their life, past, present and future. This is jean McMillen and here we go! (I have got all the right answers and we will start with…)
JM:What is your name?
EH:Elyse Harney and we have been residents of Salisbury since the 1960’s somewhere in there.
JM:What is your birthdate?
JM:where were you born?
EH:North Bergen, New Jersey
EH:Elizabeth W. Deublein and my father Jacob Deublein.
JM:Do you have siblings?
EH:I have a brother not living unfortunately, but I had an older brother Paul and a sister Gertrude.
Now I am going to turn to “little Elyse”.
JM:And your name is?
EM:Elyse Harney Morris
EM:May 27, 1965
JM:Your birth place?
EM:Sharon, Ct. at our wonderful hospital.
JM:Your parents’ names?
EM:John and Elyse Harney.
JM:Do you have siblings?
EM:I have 4 wonderful tortuous brothers: John Harney, Jr., Michael, Keith, and then my younger brother Paul, one of your favorites.
JM:Oh yes. He has promised to give me an interview.2.
EH:Has he now?
JM:I called him unexpectedly and I said, “Paul this is your fourth grade school teacher, and I want an oral history interview. There was dead silence. “Miss Porter?” “Yes”, “Oh for you, absolutely!” It couldn’t have been better.
JM:Mrs. Harney, what was your educational background?
EH:I went to Holy Angels Academy in fort Lee, New Jersey which was an all -girl’s school. Then I went to St. Joseph’s College for Women in Brooklyn, New York. I started some graduate work at Columbia, but interrupted it with marriage.
JM;How did you meet your husband?
EH:Did I tell you that whole story?
JM:Yes, you did! You can give me the short version if you wish.
EH:My husband was living with his uncle in Manchester, Vermont. His uncle had the Wilburton Inn. When I was at the Holy Angels, I was visiting my very good friend Mary Summers up at their summer place in Dorset, Vermont. Her father thought we should be anticipating the needs of our college years and finding ourselves a summer job. He got the information about the Wilburton Inn; the requirements were that we were supposed to send in a letter of application with a picture. It just so happened that my husband was the one who picked up the mail for the inn opened it and sorted it. I passed muster on the picture. That summer was the beginning.
JM:Little Elyse, what was your educational background?
EM:I went to Salisbury Central School I graduated and then went to Berkshire School. Actually I did one year at Housatonic Valley Regional. In 9th grade I was at the high school and the last three years at Berkshire. Then I went to the Hotel Management School at Cornell University. Is that how you met your husband?
EM:No, it is not. We met elsewhere. He was a Cornell grad and I am a Cornell grad and Daddy was a Cornell grad. My two nephews are going to Cornell John Jr. Bertram…
EH:John Jr.’s son Becket is in his third year at Cornell. My middle son Bertram is also there.
JM:Becket is in his third year? I remember Becket. I met him when he was a junior in high school.
EH:Can you imagine that?
JM:Now I am going to talk about the White Hart. You bought it in 1960 from whom?
EH:It was owned by the Norton family. That would be Jim Norton who is still living in the area. His mother and father were there. We were minor partners in it with Reese Harris and Donald Warner. We were the working partners.
JM:You did the work and they got the glory.
EH:Exactly. They got the table they wanted in the dining room.
JM:How did you work the assignments? What did your husband do and what did you do for the White Hart?
EH:John was the General Manager and I was in charge of the dining room and the chambermaids and when we opened the Country Store I managed that as well.
EM:Daddy ran the…
EH:Daddy ran the whole operation.
EM:He ran the bar, the bartenders.
EH:I don’t think people work like that anymore, but he was definitely there 7 days a week, three meals a day.
EM:We never went on vacation; there was no Disney World ever. I am very happy that they never did that.
JM:What you were doing was so central to the town that there would have been a big hole if you had gone on vacation.
EH:It was terrible; John was always whistling and singing when he was walking around the inn. When he was gone and I remember it was so quiet I used to miss him terribly if he was a day or two. His personality was right there.
EH:There were so many people in town that worked for us. We were just talking with the new owners of the White Hart and I know life changes and the economy changes, but we had a lot of mothers who were able to work for us. They might work just the dinner meal; they would be home with their children during the day, but they were able to work the dinner meal. I guess husbands would come in, but they were able to work maybe one or two meals. Perhaps they did not work all week.
JM:But you made it a possibility for them to have flex time.
EM:We ran it as a family.
EH:We ran it as a family and the same with the youngsters. Mrs. De Marcken, who was a very formidable woman, approached John at mass at St. Mary’s and said, “John, it is time for Kiki to have a job.”
EM:Kiki was fabulous.
EH:She was fabulous and John said, “Yes, Ma’am.”
JM:At the maximum how much wait staff did you have in the dining room?
EH:Again the competition was so pertinent because this time of the year we would do up to 300 dinners on a Saturday night. I had a good core staff of waitresses, and then I would bring in as many young people. I can’t remember exactly how many.
EM:You would need us.
EH:Yes, we did because of the children, Salisbury School parent’s weekend. The boys were here waiting on table. Berkshire School our kids were waiting table. That was part of it; we had a lot of fun.
JM:You couldn’t be in that kind of business unless you enjoyed it. It is also good training for the younger ones.
EH:When my daughter said she was going into Food & Beverage, I said, “Oh my God, do you know what you are doing?” But she did.
EM:I did and I love it. My mom and dad loved it when they were my age. One of my daughters who just graduated from Elon college in North Carolina; she is at the Overtures Collection in Napa Valley being the Activities Manager for this fabulous resort. To me it has gone on to another generation.
JM:But you know what you are getting into; it is not like a pig in a poke. You have seen both sides. You have seen people in action and you have seen what is going on in the kitchen or the pantry. Did you have other than yourself as hostess; did you have someone hired as hostess?
EH:Oh sure, my goodness Jane Fitting, Jane —who used to do all the shows at Noble Horizon. Yes we did. One of these things too, we had some older women Pat Poleman was fabulous; she was absolutely fabulous.
EM:We had a nice group of older people and younger; we had all the right kids. We had all the Shanleys.
EH:Oh my god, poor Trish.
EM:We had Pauline Shanley; we had all those. We had all of the Lois.
EH:We had all of the Palmers, Mary Palmer who is the town clerk over in Falls Village. We had that whole family.
JM:You had my husband’s daughter Anne McMillen. She roomed with Mary Palmer when they worked here. Chambermaids, how many of those did you have?
EH:Roughly we probably had 6 chambermaids, but Frances Zlata is still alive. She is still living over in the housing by the ski jumps.
EM:She could do more rooms that any of the others.
EH:Along with that she had Paul taking his nap on one of the beds. She had to keep track of him.
EM:It was the year before they started the day care (early 1970’s See tape # 122A Joan Palmer) because they were talking about the daycare. I was so happy that it was going to happen. This year and then nothing, no, next year. I remember Frances still had to watch Paul when he would be taking his nap. The boys had a good time at the end, right?
JM:How many rooms were you renting at that time?
EH:We had 23 in the main building and then 7 in the motel.
EM:Then you had the Annex. (The Gideon Smith House Ed.)
EH:Which was another 4 upstairs and maybe 2 or 3 downstairs. It could have been a total of 8 rooms; it was probably 4 and 4.
JM:The Country Store, did you have a manager for that?
EH:I was the manager of the Country Store. The country Store was an interesting story. Reese and John bought it from the Dumfee family from the World’s Fair in New York. They bought it lock, stock and barrel. So we showed you the picture of John and the wooden Indian.
JM:Did the Indian come too?
EH:Oh yeah It came and Lester Hoystradt is the one who has the Indian, it you happen to want to know where the Indian is. They decorated the room, the hangings and the soap balls, I remember that. The bins that we had, Elaine La Roche has bought them from a woman in New York State who had bought them from us. You know where we had all the soap balls? I think Pete Hathaway has them in his bread store.
EM:The penny candy.
JM:It had such a homey warm feeling to it.
EM:There was always something for everyone to buy, whether it was the penny candy, the sheepskin coats, the slippers, and sweaters.
EH:That was where the tea company started. We used to grind our own coffee; I can still smell the coffee before the beginning of the meal.
EH:That was so good. That made such a nice small; we would grind the coffee for the meal coming up. That was where Stanley Mason got the idea that we should also be serving tea.
EM:But all the baked goods that we offered like sticky buns, that was our baker Fred Smith and our anadama bread.
EH:I can’t remember the name of the baker who did all those fancy stuff.
EM:He went up to Gt. Barrington.
EH:He was fabulous; we would have the buffets; I think his first name was Rolf.
EM:It was. But not Rolf Schenkel
EH: Rolf Schenkel would do the German nights with John which was an epic event.
JM:Next week I am taping him.
EH:Are you? Oh good. Is Barbara still with him?
JM:I don’t know; I have just dealt with Renee.
EH:The baked goods were wonderful; I don’t know if you could even have a store like that now.
EM:Someone was talking about doing something like that but on a smaller scale. They should.
EH:We kept it open at night and of course that was wonderful because …
EM:You add a little wine and they want to buy.
EH:Exactly and also it gave the people something to do while they were waiting.
EM: it would open first thing in the morning.
EH:If they were waiting for a table or something it gave them something to do.
JM:it was a very good marketing tool for a lot of reasons. Who ran the front desk?
EH: It is hard to describe Olive; she was everything.
EM:She ran dad. She was in charge of dad and she was the hammer.
JM:She would do it too.
EH:She would. She was there before we came to the inn so basically she knew the whole scoop. Jim Norton stayed on because he had not finished high school and he was living at the inn and also working with us. He then went on to Cornell. We had several people who had been in the previous operation. Frances, the chambermaid, had been there. We went into it with some degree of confidence because we had people like that.
JM:You had people with background.
EH:Olive was a straight arrow. You did not deviate from what was the right thing to do. She used to tell us this story about the owner during the war.
EM:Tell the story about when my brothers would do the night shift. They were supposed to be doing the accounting and all. Michael and John would fall asleep. Olive came in in the early, early morning and caught them sleeping. They got into so much trouble. “What is going on here?” They jumped up. What if someone had come?
JM:I remember Olive’s gingerbread village.
EH:Oh the gingerbread village was famous. The “Yankee Magazine” came and did an article; she was on the cover of” Woman’s Day”. They did an insert. We have it all. (They showed me an album of clippings of special events from the White Hart. Ed.) She used to make it fresh every year. She would leave the gingerbread for the birds.
JM:I think she brought it to Salisbury Central first and then come to you.
EH:She was very dedicated; she did it for the children because Jimmy her husband was a custodian at Salisbury.
JM:Oh I know I worked with him.
EH:Since he worked there that was another reason.
JM:It was a special treat at Christmas; we would schedule when we would bring our class down to look at it. Every year she had something new. She would shop all year for miniatures. The mirror lake with snowflakes and skaters…
EH:And the ski jump
EM:And the lady in the bathtub, occasionally.
JM:The kids would look at it and point out to each other “oh that wasn’t there last year.” It was a real Christmas treat.
EM:It was the type of thing that she created for our town, but really people came from all over to see it.
JM:I remember you had Danny Lee as a chef.
EH:Danny Lee I should tell you how we acquired him.
EM:It was a dream.
EH:John dealt with an employment agency in New York City so he would send out for a handy man or whatever he needed. They used to send him 3 at a time as for instance when Eddie Green came to us, they had sent three people. Eddie was the only one who stayed. The owner called John and said, “John you have talk to this Chinese chef. They had just sold a business in New York and he is available: Oh I know because we had a French chef and we did not have anybody for backup. We did not have a second to give the chef a day off. We needed someone to do the cooking. I had actually prayer to St. Jude for several years because chefs are an ongoing awful problem. Daddy could go in if the chef took it into his head to walk out, or daddy said to him OUT, He could do it; he could put a meal together. He was amazing. Danny came and was just acting as a proper second chef after the French chef. There were French items and American item on the menu. Danny adapted himself to that. It was Bill Kneznie who told us that we had someone absolutely extraordinary. We should let him try. On the day off of the French chef, when Danny was in charge of the dining room and the kitchen, we tried the Chinese menu. One side would be the French and the other Chinese. It was such a hit, and so good that it ended up eventually the French chef left and Danny was the top guy. He was unbelievable.
EM:That lobster with the snow peas, to get fresh snow peas and real lobster, not imitation crab, it was beautiful.
EH:As he said if his food was hot, it was Kung Fu hot!
JM:He had a nice mix of spice and medium items.
EH:it was the funniest thing because people would come in and they would order a shrimp cocktail, lobster with snow peas and a White Hart nut ball.
EM:a little of everything!
JM:Speaking of the white hart nut balls, we get to Bobby Day.
EH:We get to Bobby Day. Bobby was here and helped us. The lady from the Southbury Training School called John and asked if she could speak with him because she felt that there were young men at
the school who were capable of holding down jobs with some supervision. What that would accomplish was that it would take them off the support by the state of Connecticut, it would put them someplace where they might have more of a feeling of responsibility, accomplishing something, be in a nice community and being out of the institutional setting. Bobby came and he has been part of the family ever since.
EM:Longer than I have been born.
EH:Oh yeah he was here before Elyse was born. Bobby has an extraordinary mind. The stuttering problem I think if Bobby were born today, that probably would be cured and he would live a normal life.
EM:It is so funny; he would be wanted for Jeopardy.
EH:All the owners of the White Hart, starting with us and then after us, Bobby was the one that knew where everything was. He knew where all the switches were if the electricity goes off, or the furnace goes off or whatever happens, bobby has a memory.
EM:His job when he had it he did the mail twice a day.
EH:He did the mail twice a day but he was working in the kitchen.
EM:and the pantry.
EH:No he wasn’t in the pantry; he was in the kitchen. But we did have a man by the name of Knight who was the pantry man. He for whatever reason, daddy was returning chairs or something to St. Mary’s Church which we had borrowed for a party. He dropped dead right under the altar at St. Mary’s. Daddy came back to the White Hart. He had to tell everyone what had happened. Then he said, “So what follows night, day.” Bobby was the new pantry man.
JM;He had a special birthday party.
EH:Oh they had a big birthday party for him over at the White Hart, his 60th birthday.
EM:Who really helped do so much of that was Joanni e Ford. It was so nice.
EH:The whole town turned out.
EM:The White Hart in it and he got the famous shopping cart and a lounge chair.
EH:He wore it out.
JM:I saw him going to the library shortly after we had our talk session. I told him how much I appreciated the fact that he was able to participate. He was so pleased.
EM:He gets that smile.
JM:He has a beautiful smile. I wanted to make a point to him that I appreciated that he was participating. That makes it so much more interesting to have everybody participate.
EH:Absolutely and Bobby was a definitely a big part of our family. He stayed on the first time around when the white hart was closed for that long period of time. He stayed on at the White Hart and sort of acted as caretaker.
JM:Did you tell me that he shoveled?
EH:He does; he shovels. He and Scotty Allen was another one from Southbury Training School.
EM: I think we told you about him. He went to the Riverton Inn and gave a big donation
EH: to the town of Salisbury for the row boats. That is all he would do on his day off was go down to the lake and fish.
EM:He would bring all those sun fish back.
EH:He would eat a whole cookie tray of fish.
JM:Now if I remember correctly, Bobby’s specialty was the nut balls.
EH:The famous story was that Bobby and Michael being closed in the freezer for preparing 100 nut balls for a special party. Daddy just put them in there.
JM:Describe the nut balls.
EH:Vanilla ice cream rolled in nuts with hot fudge sauce.
EM:They were rolled in walnuts. With a little shipped cream and a cherry on top.
JM:When you sold the White Hart in 1983, to whom did you sell it?
EH:That was the people from California who ran into trouble; they ran into legal problems so we …
EM:We had to take it back.
EH:When it was closed for the longest period of time, it went to auction. At the auction it was right on the front porch of the White Hart Inn. Juliet Moore and a group of investors were bidding and Jay Metz was bidding. It went up in increments of $5,000.
EM:Juliet Moore and Terri Moore were married then: Juliet works for us now.
EH:They had a pause in the auctioning and Juliet got her group together and she did prevail at the auction. (Juliet and Terry Moore ran it from 1990 to 1998.) What I need to do is get you the name of the two people in between.
JM:Is there anything else you want to talk about the White Hart before we go on to your husband’s many firsts?
EH:Well we should take about Salisbury’s connection with Salisbury Winter Sports.
JM:That I have under John Harney’s firsts: what I have for that section is the Christmas tree, the Snow Ball, the German Night, the buffets, the Peter Duchin party, the fashion shows and anything else you can think of.
EH:I do have one bit of information for you about the Peter Duchin dinner. The Taft family was there.
JM:Let’s go back and talk about the Christmas tree.
EH:There was this big beautiful Christmas tree in the middle of the green. If I remember correctly it was on White hart property because the town owned the very end of the peninsula. I think Annie Harris was dating one of the Rockefellers. That put the idea of the Christmas tree that they light down in At Rockefeller Center in my husband’s head. God forbid that any tree down at Rockefeller Center should be more beautiful that a tree that you would have in Salisbury. He at that stage of his life the first 2 or 3 years shimmied up the tree and put the lights on it himself. He was in good shape. That would have been in the 1960’s probably.
EM:Annie Harris might not have been the reason.
EH:Well there was a connection between the Rockefellers and the Christmas tree, somewhere in there.
JM: I did not come to town until 1967 and I always remember the Christmas tree being lite.
EH:It was lite because then it might have been within two years of our being there. He finally realized that someone might be able to do a better job. That was when they started getting the cherry pickers in to do the tree. It was beautiful. With the tree we had the band, the Salisbury Band came and sang Christmas carols and we candles and then we would give everybody hot chocolate and cookies.
EM:There was a very strong community base, always.
JM:The White Hart was the center of town.
EH:Did I talk about sheep shearing? Daddy did sheep shearing on the front lawn at the White Hart. That was an event because Aunt Susan had this friend who had a farm in Litchfield with sheep. We were selling her wool in the Country Store so Daddy got the idea of sheep shearing on the front lawn.
EM: He had like a little cage and the sheep were all there. All of a sudden the sheep were naked! It was really funny.
JM:The Snow Ball 12.
EH:That was Salisbury Winter Sports; we were just trying to really make the ski jumps a weekend event. We got the idea of having a snow ball.
EM:They could wear jeans too.
EM:You didn’t have to be in a ball gown.
EH:I think I came up with the name of the girl who was the first Queen; wasn’t she…Martha Miner’s daughter the first Snow Queen. Olive would sit there at the ball and she was the cash register she would sit there right at the bar and she sat through the whole thing. She would be pouring drinks out as fast as they could. Olive took the money. She was right there. The admission was all donations to the Salisbury Winter Sports. We used to have the, I know I talked about it when the kids would come home from the various events and they always would go through the Sunday night buffet line because they were coming back on Sunday and were hungry.
EM:Daddy with the Snow Ball was one of the announcers; he must have done such a fabulous job that they asked him to be the 1980 Olympics announcer. Poor mother she was a marker on the hill.
EH:I was outside the whole day and Daddy was in the tower the whole time with the beautiful international women telling him how to pronounce the names on the ski jumpers. Victor Clarke, George Kiefer…
EM:Audrey Whitbeck and Bam
EH:Kay Phelps, I ran into one of the Phelps boys that other day; Jim was the father, John was one of the sons. He is in town.
JM:Yes, he is on my list; I still have about 30 people to interview. People will say, “You haven’t done so and so”, so I keep adding to my list. I want to get Lorrain Stevens because she was one of your waitresses.
EH:She was one of our waitresses, absolutely.
JM:German Night, when did that start?
EH: It was in that wonderful phase in there when we had Danny Lee so we had a good chef. We had a baker who was doing all those beautiful cakes. It was Bill Kneznie again, because he was a good friend of Rolf Schenkel. Rolf could probably give you the details. That was the first thing Rolf would do some of his specialty German foods: spaetzel, roasty potatoes; Oh John loved those potatoes. And then we had German music, singing and beer; it was more fun. It really was.
EM:We found that Reese Harris decided that the uniforms should become dirndls which we got from Lime Rock from that man in Lime Rock that had the house where the lawyer is now, that beautiful old Victorian building.
JM:The painted lady
EM:We got the uniforms from him?
EH:We got the uniforms.
EM:They were real dirndls. Kiki wore it. They were cute.
EH:Everyone loved it. Well they were perky and cute.
JM:When I was doing Gudrun Duntz, she had an authentic dirndl and she gave it to the owner of the Hopkins Inn.
EH: Did she?
JM:Yes because they were friends.
EH:They were friends of Rolf’s.
JM:She said they were so pleased to have this as a pattern for other things. It makes it so much better to have it authentic rather than something stuck together. When I asked Mr. Schenkel about his inn, he talked about his rolls and some of the other things that he did. I asked him, “What was your favorite day of the week?” “My day off!”
EH:Rolf was a hard worker. He really was.
JM:When did you start the Sunday buffet?
EH:If we try to figure it out. We were at Berkshire School.
EM:Oh we started way before that. We did Sunday morning buffet and then you did a Sunday night buffet.
JM:But not a brunch?
EH:No, we never did a brunch.
EM:It was right after church.
EH:We would do from 8-11, 8-12 maybe. I don’t know. It was a big buffet.
JM:I can remember the Rotary Club used to have one.
EH: Oh yes we would do a buffet for the Rotary Club, the Bridgers came on Tuesday. We always had them.
JM:Now the Rotary Club came to the buffet about 1982 because that was when Foster and I got married and he was teased by the rotary men because he was marring somebody so much younger. He remembered that. That was at a buffet at Rotary. They were wonderful. The carvery with the roast beef and the ham and all these wonderful things, salads; there was such a variety.
EH:It was. Danny was amazing; he was doing all that.
EM:He had a whole separate table just of desserts, all different.
JM:It was beautiful. It wasn’t just food. It was beautiful food and well displayed. He was making something that you would want to eat.
EH:It was a good combination, it really was. The Sunday buffets went on for years.
EM:Actually we suggested it for the White Hart because that was such a positive thing.
EH:I still do not know how people feel about buffets now.
JM:Back when I was waitressing, I like working the buffets; it was easier for me to work a buffet that to work 5 or 6 tables. But I did not have a bus person; I was doing everything from taking the order to the check. The only thing I couldn’t do was to serve drinks because I was under 21 and I was in Massachusetts. So I had to have somebody serve the drinks for me, but I did everything else. Oh the feet!
Tell me about the Peter Duchin party.
EH: That was the completion of the new addition on the end. That was our first party and the first wedding party. As I said it was for the Taft family. I think they had a house on old CNE Road; it is a very contemporary house and is still there. It was designed by some architect from Yale University. The Tafts were here. This was a family wedding. Peter Duchin was there with his band and there were two grand pianos angled side by side. When the rest of the band would take their break, Peter Duchin would sit there playing two pianos. It was absolutely amazing. It was one of the first weddings that was not a formal sit down dinner; it was with heavy hors d’oeuvres, small tables, causal seating. It was a huge success. It was really great. That room was a great party room because we had the old barn board on the walls then; it acted as an acoustical buffer so the room although it was big, it wasn’t too loud or echoey. We also had the spill over space going out to the patio. You could accommodate a lot of people and we also had lots of flexibility. We were not packing people in. It was a lovely wedding, it really was.
JM:Where did you have the fashion shows?
EH:The fashion shows were in the big dining room as well. When they did the seven motel rooms in the middle room there was a door connecting to the dining room so that the models could use that room as a changing room. There were 2 people in town Margarita Giordano was one of our famous models because she was actually a model, and then Mary Kirby and Ed Kirby’s daughter who lived in Sharon. She had the Connecticut Yankee for a while. She was involved in the fashion shows.
JM:You have a wonderful story about your husband’s generosity to a woman who was trying to get her husband to the hospital and her car broke down.
EH:Her car broke down and daddy gave her his car to continue down to the hospital, got her car fixed, and just had it for her when she came back. He just said, “Take my car.” She could not believe it, but he was that kind. He would not take a thing, not doing that.
Another time of generosity, I remember we had the blizzard of 1968, Elyse can tell me because she can tell how old she was. The roads were closed and John gave them the inn. It was open all night for the road crew and the utility people who were out there. They were serving them food, hot food all during the night and that went on and I think Daddy was away from home for almost a week. Elyse when was that big snow storm when the roads were closed for a week.
EM:I was three because the boys all talked about it when they jumped off the roof.
EH:They were jumping off the roof of the house.
EM:That was not Paul and I as he had just been born and I was three; they may have tried to throw me off.
JM:I remember that one. Now I would like to go on to the Ambulance Service.
RH:That was what I was just going to say so actually along with that about caring about the community and taking care of people, Reese Harris and John started the Ambulance Service.
EM:Reese bought the building (the brick building on Rt. 41 right across from the White Hart).
EH:Reese bought the building at 8 Undermountain Road, Dr. Reyault who was a surgeon at Sharon Hospital was absolutely fantastic and Rosemary Fudali. There is someone you should interview.
JM: I have. She could not do a taping, but she did a memoir.
EH:Oh did she.
JM:I get them one way or another. She was delighted to do it, too.
EH:Rosemary was wonderful because she was one of the original founders and Ted Davis at Hotchkiss School. The White Hart was acting as Olive on the switchboard, a plug in switchboard; we were the dispatchers. We were the ones that were here for the emergencies, medical, fire, burglaries.
You name it and it all came in. Were you able to interview the telephone operator who died a few years ago? Izzy?
JM:Izzy Decker? We have one from her, but I did not do it.
EH:Izzy Decker was the telephone operator; I remember when my mother died before the ambulance started, I got on the phone and I said,” Izzy I got to have Dr. Smith.” She said, “Oh my gosh I know he just went to the train station to pick up his daughter.”
JM:Again that is small town when the operator would know what ever was going on.
EH:The White Hart was just amazing. The transition then from the white hart to the ambulance service was really wonderful. A lot of the early meetings would have been in the White Hart. Then Reese Harris was asked by Governor Meskill to write the regulations for the state of Connecticut for the ambulance service. The reason Ginny Harris for a whole year traveled all over the state interviewing other services like fire department, or an ambulance service. But Reese actually wrote the regulations for the state of Connecticut.
JM:I imagine they got tighter and tighter and more and more complicated over the years.
EH:We had to fight for them.
JM:I have done a few people on the ambulance squad and I was amazed at the amount of training and work that these people put in.
EH:I know the requirements are amazing. As an important integral part of the community, it has a lot of things that contributed.
JM:It still does. The board honored your husband. Tell about that, please.
EH:Yes, the latest new utility vehicle for the ambulance which allowed them to go up the mountain to do mountain rescues. John got the worst driver’s award; they dedicated it in his name.
EM:This Elyse is now on the board pf the Ambulance Service. I have had my first year on the board. We just sent out our first letters asking for people to support it. That is an important item; Caroline Burchfield asked me to join; Daddy was so much a part of the beginning. I am so glad he was honored. He always gave back to the community.
JM:Well it is a family tradition. I said when I did Jackie Rice, I knew nothing about the ambulance as I have never had occasion to use it, she took me through all the equipment and talked about the training and this that and the other. I said, “The next time I get a letter, close your ears, Miss Elyse, I would increase me donation, if I can.” If you do not use the service, you don’t know about it. There was a wonderful article in the Journal last week about the Visiting Nurses and the Salisbury volunteer Ambulance Service. It is so important, but you do not realize it until you need it.
EM: On our end with the real estate that is one of the things that people want to know. It is a huge asset. We have not just a volunteer ambulance, but an extraordinary ambulance.
JM:All of the volunteer services that we have in town are marvelous. Now please talk about real estate. How did the real estate business evolve?
EM:Well my mother, actually her mother, always told her that she should be (while they had the White Hart) selling real estate instead of doing what she was doing. It seemed a very natural outlet for her. Her mother always told her that she should be selling real estate. She didn’t listen. It was not until the inn was sold that Mom decided to finally listen to her mother and get her real estate license. She got her license and immediately started working for Devoe Real Estate which was based out of Sharon, Ct. At the time it was the most incredible power house of agents; they were all new agents: Carolyn Klemm, David Bain, Mary Kirby, you, Barbara Roth.
EH:Barbara Roth was here, but down in Sharon was Carolyn Klemm, David Bain, Marty Cavalaro, Mary Kirby and myself.
EM:All of them who were there are still selling real estate and doing very well.
EH:Some have their own companies.
JM:Now you said that you bought this house in 1985.
EM:I got married in 1989 and the house was bought in 1987.
JM:Your business had grown over the years tremendously.
EH:Yes. Gail Zabriskie was the first person in my office; she came into the office with me then Barbara Roth.
EM:At the time that you got your license and then 2 years later because you had to wait at the time.
EH:I went for a broker’s license. We bought this house (11 East Main Street. Salisbury) which had been the old Housatonic Bookstore with Maurice Firuski. His wife had been in the house for 8 years; they retained the commercial zoning on it by having an antique shop in the front. I think it was one of the Palmers who kept it going. The house was a disaster. At that point the White Hart was on the market again so that was in the 1980’s. I had just gotten my real estate license so this house came on the market and was listed for sale. I showed it to someone who was looking at the White Hart. There was round the clock nursing service, all they did was smoke, the house reeked of cigarette smoke. It was terrible; the people that I took through it to show it to them because my husband always felt that it should be part of the inn because this has two acres. The inn doesn’t have much of anything. The woman, I shall never forget, she said, “Oh get me out of here!”
EM:You paid full price.
RH:I went home and I said to John, “Why can’t we buy that house?” It was so funny because I was new and had just gotten my real estate license so I was fairly new at the game. I tried getting my own listing on the house because I knew it. No for whatever reason Petei Robinson had the listing on that house. I could not get the listing. I ended up paying full price for it.
JM:and it was worth every penny.
JM:You ran for a selectperson.
EH:Yes, Charlotte Reid It was her third term. I ran against Charlotte; it was a wonderful experience. It was one of the best things I ever did in my life.
EH:Because it forced me to debate Charlotte Reid in the town Hall in Salisbury which no one in their right mind would ever think that I would dare to do.
EM:My mother is one of the most rad person. She is brilliant.
EH:You were here from college so one of her boyfriends was there. They had to get out here on Main Street and hand out brochures. “Vote for my mother” It was Harney and Kiefer, right. Then when I was doing the debate at the town Hall, Paul was at Salisbury School and I said, “Paul, you really do not have to come. “ “No, I’ll be there, mom.”
EM:Family is important.
JM:You were voted in for what 2 years?
EH:I had been on board, I had been a selectman, I had been on the board of selectmen, but I did not become First Selectman.
JM:Now tell me about Sarum tea.
EH:That was at the White Hart. Stanley Mason was aware of what John was doing and he just approached him and said, “Don’t you think it would be wonderful to also be able to serve your customers a good cup of tea?” Stanley was living in Salisbury (Taconic) Ct.; Salisbury, England was the home of his birth and Salisbury, Ct. was the home of his choice. He imported excellent tea, loose tea so he got Daddy started on loose teas. This was done in the same partnership with Reese Harris and I am sure Donald Warner. I don’t know if Donald was involved.
EM:I don’t think Donald was involved, just Reese and Ginny.
EH:Reese and Ginny and one other person involved in it. It was the beginning. When we sold the White Hart, then we had to be distributed so Reese and Ginny kept Sarum Tea and we went on and started Harney Tea.
EM:I think one of the most amazing things about that whole thing is just how mom was saying how he would always look at what is going on in the kitchen and what can you use? He used to do this about fresh squeezed orange juice. From the fresh squeezed orange juice we had all these orange rinds. After baking them off and heating those up we made things like hot cinnamon spiced tea which is number one selling flavored tea to this day. It all started because we served fresh orange juice at the White Hart.
JM:That was a nice plug, I like that!
EM:The thing is Dad would think things up. Until the last days of his life, he could make a meal that everyone was welcome no matter what. He could make a dinner that truly was for 10 people, but he could slice it so everybody felt that they got the whole thing. He could do it. That was just who he was.
EH:Everyone was welcome.
JM:That is one of the things that I remember about the inn, but I did not come that often. It was always a very friendly warm welcoming place.
EH:That is so important and it is a very hard thing to do for guests. She has it and her daughter has it.
JM:It is an inherited gift; like teaching it is a gift. You have to be able to have that gift, book learning is not enough.
EH:You have to have that contagion that you share with other people.
JM:and the desire to make people feel welcome. That was what was always at the inn.
EM:I remember my first job offer that I had when I was still in college. I had no experience except here at the inn. I did everything at the inn, but I had no experience except that I knew how to write a resume. I put that my parents owned this family inn and that I had worked my way up. I remember getting this first big job at Rock Resort at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. When I asked why I got the job, he gave me the general manager’s job for a five star restaurant. “Why did you give that to me?” He goes, “Because I knew you could walk into a restaurant and you would notice that all the salt chambers are filled and pepper or they need attention. Silver is on the table, you would see that the water glasses were filled.
EM:You knew that you had it in you,
JM:You did not have to be told.20.
EH:You know that is something that you don’t shut off; I still can get very uncomfortable if I see someone not doing something they should be doing. Or something is being done which should not be done. I just have to make myself sit there, but it does make me uncomfortable.
JM:I waitressed professionally for about 8 years; I was someplace recently and this was a very good waitress because my friend did not eat as quickly as I did, and she waited. After we got ready to leave, I saw the waitress, she was an older woman, and I said, “You are a real pro.” She looked at me and asked, “How could you tell?” “You waited until my friend had finished.” How many restaurants do you go to where they grab the plates? That is not the way it should be. They should come back and check for the water, how was your meal, is there anything I can get for you, but they do not always do that.
EM:Mom did a nice training there.
EH:How much more do you have?
JM:We can end right here.
EH:I do have a 4:30 appointment in Sharon.
JM:Thank you so much. I do appreciate it.
EM:We certainly appreciate it.