Transcript of a taped interview
Narrator: Robert Hawkins.
Tape®: 54 R & B.
Date: October 31, 1986,
Place of interview: Hr. Hawkins’ home on the Hotchkiss campus.
Interviewer: Jodie Stone.
Since 1945, Mr. Hawkins has been a member of the Hotchkiss faculty. He recently retired, famous for having taught English grammar to generations of ninth graders. Over the years he became acquainted with many residents of the town, among them the Scovilles. In this interview he recounts what he remembers of friends – on and off campus. He is an interesting raconteur, but never malicious or critical.
Property of the Oral History ProjectSalisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Connecticut 06068
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JS: This is Jodie Stone on October 31, 1986 interviewing Robert Hawkins at his home on the Hotchkiss campus. Robert, when did you come to Lakeville?
RH: My very first trip here was in late June of 1945, and then I came as a master at the Hotchkiss School, the very first of September in 1945, and have been here ever since,
JS: Where were you born?
RH: I was born in Highmore, South Dakota.
JS: How did you get to Lakeville?
RH: Hell, to make a long story very, very short, I was born and brought upon on the edge of an Indian reservation.We call them superintending presbyter. The rector of our Episcopal church, really a missionary church, was a graduate of Trinity College and he thought Trinity College would be a good place for me.
So I went to Trinity College in Hartford on his recommendation.
Then when I was graduated I wasn’t quite sure what to do and somebody suggested teaching and somebody else suggested applying at Hotchkiss School and I did and here I am.
JS: That’s great. We’re all confused about the big Scoville family. Can you shed any light on all the people in it?
RH: I think I can do pretty well. The original Scoville to move here was Nathaniel Scoville. The family came from out near Buffalo, and they made their original money in wagon wheels for trains, and although there are some myths concerning other ways they made their money – one that one of Nathaniel Scoville’s granddaughters loved to perpetuate – and I’ll tell you about that presently – I think that’s where the fortune began and it was a very large fortune indeed.
Mr. Scoville had a house in New York, but his wife remained here most of the time and the house on Taconic Road, which was latterly owned by the deMarckens and now by somebody with an Armenian name. I don’t know the name. That house was built and then burned down and was rebuilt and that was where all
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the Scoville children were reared. There were six, two sons. They were the…, I’ve forgotten exactly the order in which they came. I think the oldest Scoville was Gracie, who never married, and the youngest of them all was Lois Warner and between were Robert, who was the treasurer of Hotchkiss School for years, and Herbert, who married Orlena Zabriskie of Brooklyn. There was Robert, whose first wife I never knew. I knew his second wife. His first wife died, and they had one daughter named Margot. Then there was Lois, who married Don Warner. She had five children, Don and Jonathan and three daughters, Frances..,. The other two names will come to me presently, I’ve forgotten them. Herbert Scoville and Orlena had two children. The older is Elvia and the younger, Herbert Scoville, Jr., everybody called Pete.Then there was Edie
Scoville, who never married, and Mary Frances Scoville, who about age forty-two married John McChesney, who had been a master at Hotchkiss for several years at the time they were married.
The family lived very fashionably indeed and had these two large houses here. When Mother Scoville, as she was called, the wife of Nathaniel Scoville, died, that house was taken over by the older of the two sons, Robert. Then Herbert and his wife built a house which is now… Well, let me go back a minute. Their first house is on the property where their second house, Hill House, is located. Their first house was a-building while they were on a year honeymoon around the world. When it was almost completed, it burned and they had to start all over again and everybody said the result was a very happy plan. I saw pictures of the original house and it was not very imaginative. It was somewhat like the other old house that still stands on Taconic Road.
Orlena Scoville was a personof exquisite taste. She had marvelous taste in what she collected, what she wore, what she said and whom she knew. She went to Portugal in 1935 and bought a 13th century quinta that belonged to one of the Portuguese kings and was in great disrepair. She bought it and restored it and was subsequently decorated by the Portuguese government for her work on that house. Sir Osbert Sitwell, in one of his books on Portugal, mentions at some length the house, which is called Bacalao. Sitwell referred
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to Mrs. Scoville as Mrs. Scofield all the time, but it really was Orlena Scoville.
The McChesneys never had any children. They were married relatively late in life.
Gracie and Edie were the most marvelous people, Gracie had a very bass kind of voice and was blunt in her manner, but she was a person of great generosity and great kindnesses. All the Scovilles have been. They’re really a remarkable family. Edie had a little squeaky kind of voice, but she was a marvelous person and did all sorts of kind things. They maintained the Barrack Matiff Farm, where Ollie Argall now lives, their grand-niece, and it was a real operating farm.
As a matter of fact, the Scoville brothers had lots of farmland. A farm on Route 41, called..,. I’ve forgotten what it was called? Some kind of Donne farm was theirs and they were the people introduced a breed of sheep. I used to know this as well as I know my name, a very popular breed now in the United States, He brought it from Scotland and I will perhaps think of the name presently. But they were great sheep breeders and brought this breed into the country. As you go along Route 41, there’s a magnificent… There are magnificent pin oak trees and those were all planted by the Scovilles just as a gift to the town. Then Grassland Farms up the road a way, now I think owned by…. Um, what is the name of those people?
It used to be a vet.
Yes, it used to be Hines, the vet, but I’ve forgotten who’s, there now. (Sydney Paine Ed.) Well, it doesn’t make any difference. But that was their cattle farm and they had prize Guernseys as l remember. Golly, I wish I remembered the breed of sheep.But
like a good many people of that sort, they had their own greenhouse to supply flowers for both houses daily. There are still all those little houses with kind of second story front porches, all tenant houses belonging to the Scoville family. Now the potting shed and the fire shed, and this shed and that shed have all been sold off and have been turned into very attractive small houses.
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Orlena Scoville was a hostess in the grand manner, and all of this happened before I came on the scene, One year, contrary to her usual custom, because she generally spent the winters abroad or in their town house on 57th Street, or 58th I guess it was, she had a series of entertainments for people. She had, for example, Ted Shawn and his dancers come and in the spring – this was the last thing she did – in early spring, in the beautiful formal gardens at Hill House, had these dancers perform. Then she had Virgil Thomson come out and give a musical lecture, people of that sort. So she was a person mightily interested in culture, as well as just in her lavish hospitality.
She was in the French Pavilion in the ‘36 [’39. Ed.] World Fair and loved the meal she had, and asked to see the cook and promptly hired the cook who turned out to be Elsa Knickerbocker. Elsa came here as Orlena’s cook. [For many years Elsa had a restaurant in Taconic, Elsa’s Kitchen, Ed.] Orlena was the person that really put Bob Osborn on the map, by having him come to Portugal and help with the restoration of the house. The Quinta is famous for its tiles and he helped do that. At the same time it gave him leisure to do some of his own art work. Before that he had been a master at Hotchkiss, but it did not provide him with the opportunity to flex his own artistic muscles, so to speak.
There’s a house out on Twin Lakes that John McChesney used to jokingly call the ‘house for fallen women’ because Orlena bought the house and then sold it afterwards, but provided a home for unwed mothers in the days in which that was, something that, well, was a terrible stigma for the girl involved.
JS: Were these local girls?
RH: These were local girls. She was a person full of quiet, good works. I think the thing that impressed me most about her was her smartness and elegant taste. In her later years, she wore a… Every evening she would wear a caftan. She had normal clothes for street wear and that sort of thing, but about any time after five, before she would appear for the cocktail hour, she would come down in one of these numerous caftans she had. The most extraordinary of them was one that some poor woman in Barcelona did. She took this caftan, which was in
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velvet, and then cut out all the little curlicues of an old paisley shawl and appliqued them on this in thread of gold. This was the most sensational thing I’ve ever seen. OrIena was not a beautiful woman. She was a striking looking woman, but she had such marvelous taste that she knew how to take advantage of every feature, good or bad, she had, I remember one, a striking piece of jewelry she had, which was a topaz that was about the size of a walnut and which she used to wear on her hand, on the fingers, When she did appear up street, her designer was Mainbocher, So, you see, she lived elegantly but she, that particular family, Elvia particularly, they were the people I knew best.
I’ve only seen Margot once, and I don’t know what her name is now. Then I knew all the Warner children. Don and Jonathan are the only ones I really know well.
But I have been a guest at Hill House for Christmas and other occasions, and family parties and birthday parties and celebrations more times than I can remember. Each time was an elegant occasion and, of course, the house was marvelously furnished and well-trained servants. It was the kind of life that I had never known before and perhaps will never know again in its elegance. But I loved going there because, above all things, Orlena was hospitable and she knew how to make everybody at home. She had just a slightly naughty touch to her, it was never vulgar, but it was just enough sometimes to be slightly titillating, if I can use that word. She had myriad friends in all walks of life. She was a marvelous person and I am grateful that I knew her,
Who were the portraits of the two Scoville sisters?
RH:In the Iibrary?
JS:Which is which?
RH: The taller of the two is Gracie and the other is Edie. They were not beautiful women, by any means, but they had such good taste and dressed so well that they were striking looking. I loved going out to Barrack Matiff Farm for dinner because these two little women always had their evening purses with them, even in their own homes, and occasionally would powder their noses, and Edie had a way of taking out a powder puff
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and just sort of slamming it here, so it was a sort of white, clown-like appearance. But, again, the family just had the greatest sense of hospitality. Of course, they’ve done all sorts of things for the town, and it’s easy to say, of course they could afford it, but I think they would have done it if they couldn’t have afforded it, because that was the nature of that family. Now I can go into one of their, well, sort of lateral relations, Maurice Firuski.
RH: Maurice came from Brooklyn and I think was not particularly proud of his heritage. He came from a Jewish family and I think he felt in this community that perhaps it was better not to advertise that. He went to Yale at a very early age and was graduated, I think, when he was nineteen or, at the most, twenty. And he went from New Haven to Cambridge, where he founded something called…[brief interruption]
RH: Maurice was married in Cambridge for the first of five times. His first wife was named Isabel Jennings, and he had two daughters, Betty Thatcher (Betty has recently been divorced from her husband). Betty was just about the age of Elvia Scoville, his third wife, and then Peggy, the second daughter, whom I’ve never met, married Walton Green’s son. And he was married to Isabel Jennings, who at last account, was ill. I suspect she’s dead now, I haven’t seen her daughter, Betty Thatcher, in two or three years, and her mother was very old and very sick at the time. She’d be well up in her nineties if she were still alive. He divorced her to marry Lizzie Brodie and Lizzie Brodie was a professor at Vassar. In those days there was no turnpike, Mass Turnpike, and so in going to Vassar to court Lizzie, he went on Route 44 part of the way and that took him through Salisbury and he was charmed with the town. He had to leave Boston because he sold, among other works, Lady Chatterley’s Lover under the counter in Boston. That was a no-no, and he became persona non grata in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
While he was in Cambridge, Dunster House was really an excellent place and it was one of those old bookstores that not only sold excellent books. Maurice ran the best bookstore
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I’ve ever been in the entire world, not that I’ve been in a lot of bookstores in a lot of places. But I’ve never even found one in England that could match this for just arousing one’s interest and having such a wide variety of excellent selections. Anyway, to get back to Maurice. He had, while he was at Dunster House in Cambridge, a little coterie of authors like, Conrad Aiken, Rachel Field, he published a couple of her books, Conrad Aiken’s first books, Blackmore, the critic, and T.S. Eliot. He published a couple T.S. Eliot works.
Maurice began to fall out of love, if that’s the term, with Lizzie Brodie, and sent her off to Europe one day, As he took her, she was on the boat waving good-bye, and he said, “Incidentally, I’m suing for divorce.” That was the kind of fellow he was, to let his wives into these things sort of at the last minute. She incidentally married Joseph A. Schumpeter, the great Harvard economist. I used to see her quite often because she had a good friend by the name of Lucy Talcott, who was a famous teacher at Vassar. Lucy Talcott had the house out in Taconic which Isabella Baldwin now has. Maurice and Lizzie had owned that house and in the divorce settlement the house went to Lizzie. He married Elvia, who was the daughter of the Herbert Scovilles, and this was a marriage that Orlena did not approve of at all, although a woman of her dignity did not go around making a great fuss about it. But she did demand that they, because Maurice had been married twice before, that they would go to France and be married. They were married in Paris. Somehow in that particular group, and in those days, if there were divorces, you got married out of the country and somehow it seemed to make the thing seem a little bit better in the eyes of everyone. He was married to Elvia almost eighteen years and, as Elvia used to say, she would have the longest term of office of any of his wives. I guess she did, Maurice divorced Elvia to marry Virginia Russ. Virginia Russ was married to a man by the name of Barnett, and they were divorced. Then Virginia married Fray or Ferarri, as he was called, Hard, who was the widower of Muriel Alvord, whose family owned the island on Twin Lakes. The Alvords were the people originally from Goshen. They had a large house in Hartford. They were the people who founded the Torrington Co. and a very prosperous company that has been. I don’t know it today, but twenty years ago when I knew, or before that, when I knew the Alvords, it was a very prosperous firm indeed.
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After Virginia and Maurice were divorced; he married Betty Wonder, the widow of Charlie Wonder, and then Maurice died during that marriage and Betty is still alive.
I have known all of Maurice’s wives except the first. As a matter of fact, I was at his fourth wedding and stood up for him and Virginia, if that’s the term that one uses. Well, so much for Maurice, except to say that he ran one of the best bookshops ever. He was a difficult man, a very strange man in many ways, but I have also spent many very agreeable hours with him and he was just another ramification of the Scoville family whom I’ve known pretty well.
Pete and Ann Scoville: Pete is Elvia’s brother, who died just a year ago, a man of great importance in the world. He had been in the CIA and then left, and was very important in the anti-nuclear business. They have been always very, very kind to me. They have four children: Molly, one daughter, who is married. Their oldest son, Tony Scoville, whose first wife is Alistair Cooke’s daughter, and his second wife is Sally Ellsworth’s daughter. Another interesting relationship in this family is that Ollie, Elvia and Maurice’s daughter…. Her first husband was Jacques Gignoux. Jacques had been married before to a woman whose second..,. After she and Jacques were divorced, she married Luther Loomis, who was…. Was it Luther Loomis? I think so. A very well-known writer and maybe it isn’t Luther Loomis, but a man by the name of Loomis anyway. But that woman and Jacques had four children, three sons and a daughter, And the daughter, Clodine, married Pete Scoville’s son – now let’s see – Nicky. And so, somehow, at one time Ollie was her cousin’s wife’s mother-in-law, as well as being her step-mother, or some damned thing. It got to be awfully complicated and I haven’t really figured it out, but that marriage is broken off and Ollie is no longer married to Jacques, so the strange relationship doesn’t exist.
Madeleine Beatty, her maiden name…
RH: B-E-Ai-T-T-Y… and she’s buried over in the Town Hill Cemetery, was divorced from, oh dear, what was his first name? And anyway she… His last name was Mrs. Beatty Wildes, W-l- L-D-E-S. She had been terribly ill early in her marriage and a
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Canadian by the name of Isobel Sutherland l-S-O-B-E-L came along to be her nurse and then remained with her as her paid companion until Madeleine’s death and then Isobel lived on seven or eight years later,
JS: When was this?
RH: Isobel must have died in the late fifties or early sixties. I am not quite sure of those, but thereabouts, They had the house at the top of the hill that Hrs. O’Connor has and the little red house at the bottom was the schooI house where Pete Miner went to grammar school, And that little red house up there,.,
JS: What was the name of the school, do you know?
RH: It was just sort of a local grammar school, and one of Pete’s teachers was Sadie Cleaveland, who married a Nickerson of the Nickerson Construction people. Sadie Cleaveland came from one of the old families in town, the Cleaveland family.
JS: Excuse me,
JS: Now this house is at the corner of Race Track Road and Route 112?
RH: Yes, that’s right. And that was Madeleine’s house. During
the war they moved down to the little place because they couldn’t get fuel for maintaining the larger house. Then they just stayed on. They moved back a couple of times, and toward the end of Madeleine’s life they didn’t even bother to move, That house has a kitchen that was never used because these two women ate all their meals out, mostly at the old Salisbury Farms. They had a marvelous 1935 Buick phaeton and Isobel drove it. They were noted in town for that car. It was black and it was always very well polished, a beautiful car, indeed. A lot of people wanted one. I don’t know whatever did happen to the car eventually, but it was elegant.
They would find local boys usually, occasionally a girl, and do very generous things for them.
Madeleine’s family came from New Jersey and they manufactured rugs. She was given all sorts of the most cockeyed coat-like things.
I remember going once there and a woman could see- what were they called?- but somehow little emanations over people’s heads and she would draw them and Isobel would pay her for these and you would come away with one of these things. If the colors were vivid, it meant you were a new soul and if they were sort of pale, it meant you were an old soul and had gone through your cycle of lives and pretty soon were going to be one with the infinite, I’ve really forgotten what the color of mine were, but as I remember, they were rather garish and I think they were rather more vivid than perhaps they should have been. They didn’t indicate that I was a very old soul. Connie somebody was that woman’s name who did those things. But Isobel had a marvelous capacity for getting…. Not Isobel, Madeleine… for the kookiest people in the world around, and the two were called somewhat unkindly by locals as Madeleine and Padeline, But they were good citizens and generous people. They were great book readers. They bought lots of books and then gave them away,
Also, I know Russell Carrell has a very soft spot in his heart for them because he started out in a very small way here in an antique shop and they and the Donald Blagdens really kept him going. They purchased and spread news about his things and he thinks very highly of them. As I do, too but I was more impressed by some of the kookiness than I was by anything else.
JS:Madeleine is still alive?
RH: No. She’s been dead now I think ten or twelve years. She [Isobel, ed.] was Canadian and she had six sisters, so they’re known as the ‘seven Sutherland sisters’. I think there was a dance group called the “seven Sutherland sisters’, but this wasn’t they.
JS:Who’s in their house now? Do you know?
RH:I think someone who works for the Belchers. Madeleine had a
funny way of getting terrible crushes on people and changing her will and then forgetting about the person and changing her
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will. As far as I know, she really kept Tom Wagner doing a lot of business because she was in and out, changing her will almost monthly.
That’s what I remember about them, except for their hats. They always wore hats. When they went to the Salisbury Farms, they were properly attired in hats, not the latest hats, but hats, anyway.
I’d like to mention a little bit about the Cleaveland family and then I think that will probably be enough for today, don’t you?
JS: Well, what’s with the Cleaveland family?
RH: They are a very old family here. I think there remains in the family now about seven or eight acres. They once owned a great deal of land and this was land that was a crown grant. They moved to this town before 1741. I don’t know, I think it was a couple of years before that, and the family have never distinguished themselves particularly, except that they have that kind of Yankee ingenuity. They are awfully good mechanics and one branch of the family, I think his name was Paul Cleaveland, was really quite an inventor and he worked at Hotchkiss for a while.
JS: Quite good with wood.
RH: Yes. Dick Cleaveland is marvelous with wood, too. I mention them just because they have been here for so many years and the younger generation are around and vital. The house in which the DeMelles now live was built by Dick Cleaveland’s grandparents. There were his grandmother and his old maid aunt, Annie, still living when I first came to Hotchkiss. Mother and daughter fought terribly and the old lady was deaf as a doorpost and if the weather was right and the wind was coming from the south, you could hear them fight all the way up to the dormitories at Hotchkiss, and sometimes it was rather entertaining to hear them yell at each other.
JS: This is the first house after the Hotchkiss corners, going south toward Sharon, the first house on the right.
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RH:Yes. It is not a very old house, but there’s a street in
Lakeville named CleaveIand Street, and the spelling of the name is the same spelling that President Cleveland’s family originally had, but the newspapers for some reason or other- started spelling his name without the ‘A’. So they and the city adopted that spelling, but this is an old-fashioned spelling and these people have retained it, I think they and the Bushnells are probably the oldest families in the town and I think they would be the first to tell you they are not Raggies, a distinction they don’t want applied to them, and I don’t blame them. It’s not particularly very complimentary.
The property next to the Hotchkiss golf course originallybelonged to a man by the name of Smith CleaveIand. Somehowthat property passed into the hands of Mrs. Hotchkiss. Idon’t know if she bought it or what happened. But that waspart of the original grant. The house on the intersection of112 and 41, the house on the northwest corner, is still calledCleaveland Cottage, in which the Hughes live. As I say, theCl eave lands were a family that wasn’t particularlydistinguished. They never had the wealth of the Scovilleseither, but they have been here for a very long time and DickCl eave I and has a good many things in his possession that arevery interesting, mementoes of the town, pictures of one thingand another. So he has a little sort of Salisbury Associationall of his own in his house and these things are fun to see.
OK, ready to go.
The first person I would like to talk about is Frank Ingraham,simply because I found him such a marvelous person. I suspecthe spoke with a real, old Connecticut accent. He had beenborn in Dover Plains, but that’s close enough to theConnecticut border, so I think the accent they have wouldqualify. It was one that I’d heard two or three other peoplespeak with and I think it’s extinct now. He told me that hisfather was a drover. He became Mrs. Buehler’s chauffeur andthen became the school chauffeur. He was not Mrs. Buehler’scoachman. She did have a coachman. He wasn’t it, althoughpeople used to think he had been that. But for years he woulddrive the secretaries home, pick them up in the morning, anddrive them home. But there were only three or four, and theywere local people. He would pick up any kind of visiting
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lecturer at the trains and take them back. He always picked up the Sunday preacher and took him back if that was necessary, if the preacher didn’t come under his own steam.
In those days a good many people came to Millerton by train and Frank would always be there to meet them. He was full of stories and never once did he ever tell a story that even bordered on being smutty. They were all terribly funny stories and ones that one could tell one’s most priggish maiden aunt. He loved to tell the story about driving Dr. Buehler, Father Sill and a third clergyman someplace. He apologized for telling this because he was such a discreet servant, he did not report what had gone on in the car, but this amused him so, he thought he could tell it. (George Stone would have been interested in this.) The third clergyman looked at Father Sill, who was in his holy cross and habit, looked at him and said, “You dress like Mother, but they call you Father.” Not a very gracious but a very fundamentalist Protestant. Frank was full of stories of that sort, just old-time amusing anecdotes, and as I said, were never, never anything but in terribly good taste and awfully funny. Toward the end of his life, he was in a Masonic home down in Wallingford: I think that’s where it was. But he died a rather old man and had been around since the very early days of the school and was employed just about the time the Buehlers came on the scene.
Another man who was extraordinary was John Cardoza, who was the head grounds man. He walked about as fast as any man I’ve ever seen, and he worked along with his men from sunup until sundown. He was given carte blanche at Hotchkiss. John Cardoza could do just about what he wanted and the result is a very beautiful campus with some marvelous trees that most schools can’t boast of. I remember one morning after an electrical storm, coming along and noticing that a Japanese temple tree…. We had two of them, they were on either side of those bow windows in the old building. This one was near the Headmaster’s office and had been struck by lightning and really split down the middle. They were beautiful trees that looked something like the mountain ash, but much larger. The only place I’ve ever seen another Japanese temple tree is in the Public Garden in Boston. This tree was completely verdant and so it was killed. I was the one to break the news to Mr.
Cardoza and, I think, had he been a married man and I told him that his entire family had been killed; he wouldn’t have reacted quite as strongly as he did about this tree. It really devastated him. Then when the new main building came in the other tree was rotting away and the school tried valiantly to transplant it, but it died.
We were the first people to have ginkgo trees around because of John Cardoza. One of the prettiest spots, I think, on the campus is that avenue of English elms that goes down to Hoyt Field. That was John’s planning, He didn’t have a degree in architectural landscaping or anything of the sort. He was just a natural gardener and a superb one.
I remember with some affection Susan and Victor Blanco. Susan was Scottish and weighed about six thousand pounds. Victor was Spanish, I guess. I don’t know if his parents came from Spain. I don’t think he did, He was rather a small man and he was the cook and Susan was the champion baby-sitter in Litchfield County. She was like a good many of the people, either Scots or Irish. There were a lot of Irish maids and they worked for practically nothing. I am thinking of Lila McQuade, for example, who was a very sweet person.
Of course, in later years, the den mother of all these maids was not Irish, but Elizabeth Cate, who really was an awful old trouble maker. She had set her cap for Harry Jones, who was bachelor business manager of the school and never succeeded in… Apparently she was a real nuisance to him. She embarrassed him and he eventually married Helen Lorigan, who was a secretary at Hotchkiss, after his retirement in 1946, or ‘7. He retired in 1947. They were married. I’m getting a little ahead of myself as far as school help is concerned.
There was a wonderful old couple from Lancashire by the name of the Stevensons, and they spoke with a lovely Lancashire accent. They were sort of custodians, and I use that word advisedly, of Buehler Hall. She was the maid and he was the houseman and those people took such pride in their work. They came in when the building was new in 1935 or 1936, whenever that building was built, and were there until their retirement. They were superior people. It was just extraordinary, the devotion they gave to Hotchkiss School.
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Margaret Hogan perhaps was the most interesting of all of these old-time servants at Hotchkiss. She was Irish and she took care of bachelor masters at the school. She was famous for a kind of horsiness, but she was a very loving sort of person. When they were building Memorial Hall, she went in and supervised the building of where they put the toilet fixture, where the toilet was to be, because Mr. Murphy was going to live there, and Mr. Murphy was such a tiny man. She told them where to put the toilet paper receptacle so he could reach it conveniently. Her interest in people was very thorough.
I remember two or three… There was a woman called Julie, who cleaned the housemen’s rooms. I had a houseman by the name of.,.. Don’t tell me I have forgotten his name. Maybe it will come to me. But he had been some rich person’s valet and he came to work at Hotchkiss because he retired up here. He had a niece with whom he came to live. When I would go away on weekends, wherever it happened to be, he always packed my bag and unpacked it. He would have shined my shoes and brushed my coat if I had permitted him to do it. But not having been used to any kind of servant, it seemed to me unfair to let this man treat me that way. Bliss, his name was George Bliss, now I remember, and it was blissful to have him as a houseman. He put my laundry away, and took it down to the laundry, just a terribly nice person with very good sense and good manners.
I suppose there are other help that I should recall. They all lived in Bissell Hall and Bissell Hall was a school building whose only function was the old Bissell Hall study, as you will remember. It’s still going. The building was the residence of numerous cats and the odor was perfectly dreadful, but somehow these people managed to live there without complaining very much about that. They all ate in the basement, In the old dining room in the kitchens. They had their dining room down there. There was great separation of help, gradations in help in the basement: secretaries at a different time, but upstairs, and then the faculty and students at yet another time. So there was a great deal of social gradation.
End of Side A.
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Ben Sanford was, I suppose, now what we call school engineer. I don’t think he had such an exalted term. I think Ben would be the person to laugh at that term. But his wife was Lucy and after her death he married a woman, who had been a Mrs. Decker, and she has since died, Ben was a very obliging fellow, but he didn’t believe in knocking on doors. More than once, one of the ladies taking a bath or functioning in the bathroom was surprised by Ben’s walking in without knocking. I guess that was a habit they never got him over.
Mary Finney came, I think, in 1918. Helen Lorigan in 1917. Now, I may have those dates wrong. I know that Helen came in 1917, and was Harry Jones’ secretary. The business office consisted in those days of four people: Harry Jones, who ordered all the food and did everything, lie used to have real maple syrup and always had real cream on the breakfast table because he was an old Yankee and he thought these things were absolutely essential to decent living. Downstairs, there was Milo Martin, who was the bookkeeper, and then he was assisted by the most disagreeable little man God ever made, Edward Carter. Edward Carter was the most cantankerous, curmudgeonly old fellow, who was about as big as a minute; He sat on a high stool and put everything in books in longhand. He had a fine Spenserian hand. He was not a stupid person, by any means. He was not uneducated, but he used to rail against hearing a lot of Bach all the time because, after all, we had Edward McDowell who was a great American musician and why we had listen to Bach and not listen to McDowell. But, to have a man who knew about McDowell and championed his cause, I thought was pretty impressive.
Helen Lorigan was Harry Jones’ secretary and they were married when Harry retired. She retired at the same time. Mrs. Finney came in as Dr. Buehler’s secretary and was, I think, secretary for five or six years. Dr. Buehler died In 1924 and I think Mary Finney had been his secretary for about five or six years when he died.
JS: She was Mary Meehan then?
RH: Yes. She was Mary Meehan. Then she married Bill Finney, who worked for the railroad. Bill was a tall, good-looking
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Irishman and she was pretty as a picture. They really were avery handsome couple. She was red-haired and rosy-cheeked andBill was tall and handsome. They were just something to lookat.
He’s no relation…. They didn’t have children?
No, no children. She has one sister, I think, Katherine, wholives here in town now. Katherine has a Russian name. Shewas married. I1rs. Finney is still a very pretty woman at ageninety-two. Her sister is a very pretty woman, too. Theywere like a good many of the people who had been brought inhere to work in what little manufacturing there was. Theywere Irish people and Meehans became farmers.
Helen Lorigan’s father was a coachman and he drove people from the Millerton station and things of that sort. I remember Eleanor Prendergast telling me that when they would come up from Hew York, they would come to Millerton and Mr. Lorigan would meet them in a carriage and drive them to their house near the Interlaken.
Lizzie Hartford was the Buehler’s cook, a black woman who apparently made the best peach ice cream that’s ever been made, and other delicious things. After Mr. Van Santvoord came, he didn’t have a cook, He hada houseman, a fellow by the name of Thomas. Was it Thomas? No.Mantus was his last name. Mantus’ brother was Thomas, who was Ella Belcher’s butler. Thomas Mantus’ wife was a devout member of St. John’s and was, of course, called the ‘praying mantus’ by everybody. Lizzie Hartford, after the Buehlers left, retired to her own house down on Farnam Road and occasionally she would have a benefit supper. They would say, “For whose benefit?” “My benefit” She would give the supper and charge people five dollars or something and all of the cream of Lakeville society would be invited and would go. It got to be quite an important social function. You were really somebody if you got invited to one of Lizzie’s dinners,
The Buehlers were extraordinary people. I, of course, never knew either one of them. I did not know Reginald Buehler, Dr. Buehler’s son, but Barbara Buehler Robinson I knew very well, indeed, As a matter of fact, was having, had, lunch with her one day a couple of years ago and at three o’clock the next
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morning she died of a heart attack. Mrs. Buehler was the power behind the throne. Apparently she was ugly as a mud fence and had a very deep voice, but a woman with a great deal of energy and who made a lot of crazy mistakes in her life. She ended it by jumping out of the seventh story of the Bellevue Stratford in Philadelphia. She was an alcoholic and, during Prohibition, it was a little expensive for Dr. Buehler to pay the bootlegger and keep his wife in her habit. She and Barbara went to Paris after Dr. Buehler had died and they were really very poor, so they staged a fake robbery to collect the insurance from their jewels. She was, she was something. But those are the awful stories about her,
The good stories are that she decided that Hotchkiss had to be put on the map and so she wined and dined the mighty and she put this school.,., made this school a fashionable place, It cost the Trustees, in the early twenties and the late teens, when the Buehlers were at Hotchkiss, forty thousand dollars a year, forty thousand dollars a year to run the Headmaster’s house. But the china matched the bedroom wall paper, and if you came as a guest there you had breakfast in bed. There were a lot of servants and you were treated about as royally as one could be. So that forty thousand dollars paid off. Because Hotchkiss might have been just another little school had Mrs. Buehler not set out to get people of wealth and position here. She apparently was a marvelous hostess and, at the last, had taken to the bottle and committed suicide in the end. But she, she and her husband, really made this school, and then Mr. Van Santvoord came along and gave it its academic, ah, reputation. But they had certainly done the right thing by getting people, rich people to patronize the school.
Now, let’s see. Are there some other people who were around that I’ve…? Of course, I didn’t know the Buehlers, but I knew all the servants I’ve talked about, every one of them, quite well and all the people who worked in the business office.
The headmaster’s office did have, as you will remember very well, Miss Gladys Sheldon, whose position was somewhat anomalous. One was never quite sure what Gladys’ position was.
Mrs. Finney and she didn’t get along. I don’t know how Gladys felt about Mrs. Finney but Mrs. Finney certainly didn’t like Gladys. Then Martha Shouse came
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along as Alumni secretary and that was just about the secretarial help. I think Dr. Wieler had a secretary, a woman who was Irish, a very snooty Irish type. She was not like Margaret Hogan in that she wasn’t here as a maid. But she, I’ve forgotten what her name was. But one of the old-time nurses in the Infirmary was Miss Hagerty and Miss Hagerty was a marvelous person. Do you remember Miss Street? Miss Street was really quite a handsome woman, but she needed something she’d never had in life, I don’t know what it was, but she was not friendly and not happy and then [Dr.] F.E. Smith came along and she was fired summarily, but you can see how those two wouldn’t have gotten along. I think we should stop it, Jodie, because I’m really worn.