John C. Hicks Cover Sheet:
Interviewee:John C. Hicks
File #:#67, cycle 2
Place of interview: Academy Building
Date:Sept. 11, 2017
Summary of Talk: Family background, Twin Lakes Beach Club, White Hart Inn, Community Service, and Appalachian Trail.
John C. Hicks Interview:
This is file #67, cycle 2. Today’s date is Sept. 11, 2017. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing John C. Hicks. He is going to talk about his life and times in Lakeville and where he has worked as well as the Twin Lakes Beach Club Treasurer and the Appalachian Trail. First we will start with the genealogical information.
JM: What is your name?
JH: John Clark Hicks
JM: Your birthdate?
JH: The day after Christmas, 1934 (12/26/1934)
JM: Where were you born?
JH: Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York
JM: Your parents’ names?
JH: My father was Clark Barmore Hicks. My mother was Marian Louise Bass. I guess I had a great uncle called Clark Barmore who lived over in the East Fishkill area somewhere.
JM: You had a brother and sister but they are both deceased.
JH: My brother died about 5 years ago, William Jay Hicks.
JM: And your sister?
JH: Louise is all I know because she died before I was born. There was one picture that my mother always had.
JM: How did you come to the area?
JH: I guess I was a resident of Millbrook for the first year of my life. My father was in the Millbrook bank. He went to work in the Amenia bank. I moved to Amenia. We moved to Millerton in 1944 when my father took over the Millerton bank. I went to the first four grades in Amenia. It was two grades to a room first and second, third and fourth. So you learned both grades at the same time.
JM: How did you get involved with Twin Lakes?
JH: Fred Hoots who was the President and owner of the Amenia bank had a camp on Twin Lakes. We used it in August and he used it the rest of the year. We shared boats and so on. I grew up on Twin Lakes in the summers. My aunt and uncle came up there and started renting places on the south shore. Finally in 1957 when I was in the Army, my father bought a camp on the south shore from Rod Coombs. It ended up as mine so we grew up there. My aunt bought the place next door.
JM: What were your aunt and uncle’s names?
JH: Waldo and Mabel Bass, who were also from the Willimantic area where my mother came from.
JM: How did you get involved with the Beach club then? (See file #51 Mike Haupt, file # 50, cycle 2 Nina Mathus, file # 60 cycle 2 Jack Silliman, and file #61 Kim Fiertz.)
JH: My father was the treasurer of the Beach Club way back, but I don’t know when. He was the treasurer when they first built the tennis courts. I guess I was a member then as part of his family. Through the Salisbury Rotary Club I was at quite a few events there. I got married in 1962 so it was just after that they asked me if I wanted to be the Assistant Treasurer. They had a token treasurer and the assistant did the work. So that is the way it started. After 2 or 3 years I became the official treasurer. I did the same thing as I have done before. I didn’t know there was any difference.
JM: Have you held any other positions in the Beach club?
JH: I have been Grounds Chairman for 3 or 4 years; I was Waterfront Chairman and built most of the docks for maybe 10 years while all the time being treasurer. At that time they had a tradition where the secretary moved up to be President the following year, so secretaries didn’t stay very long. They changed that after a while. When I got married to Marge, she had been the first female President of the Beach Club in 1976un. We always kind of grew up together anyway. Her kids and my kids always got together. They stayed in Millerton; I lived in Millerton at that time. We knew each other all the time. After I went through my divorce and Marge had gone through her divorce, we got connected. We had been married almost 30 years. (She passed away in January, 2017.) It would have been 30 years Sept. 19, 2017.
JM: There was a bog process of trying to get the shares back from the members of the Beach Club. Tell me a little bit about that.
JH: When I first joined, you had to buy a share to be a member. Back then it was $100 per share. That was a lot of money at that time. Everybody in the Beach club was local people from Salisbury, Millerton, and Canaan. It was a do-it-yourself club. That is entirely different from what it is now. Everybody had a share, but when people die, it was passed on. We tried to get it back, but there are probably 100 shares out there with people we can’t even find any more. Some of them want to hold on to the share because they think it might be worth some money. Still it is only $100 a share. Maybe about 20 years ago or 15, we decided that we wanted to get more control of the club with the active members, so we moved it up to the point where they had to buy 3 shares. If they dropped out of the club, they had to give back the shares within a year or the shares were null and void. I was in charge of keeping track of all the stock up until about 3 years ago. I guess I had it all worked out where we were limited to 500 shares so I was trying to pull in the extra shares. About 3 years ago I finally gave up and turned it all over to the new regime which is now all 2nd home owners.
JM: You said that you worked at the White Hart for 8 years. What did you do at the White Hart?
JH: I was more or less the business manager of Guardian Food Service which was a subsidiary.
JM: Who ran Guardian?
JH: Actually John Harney Sr. with Don Warner, Jim Norton and Reese Harris were all involved in it. (See file # 100, Tom O’Loughlin #2, file 12, cycle 2 John Harney Jr. and file # 15, cycle 2 Lorraine Stevens) I can’t remember the man that was really in charge of it. He lived up on Wells Hill on Robin Hill Lane. We had Indian Mountain School, Franconia College in New Hampshire, Sprague Electric all over New England, J.C. Penny in their Treasure Island division setting up snack bars and stuff. We ran the food service at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont. We ran the food service Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y. We did the Waybury Inn in East Middlebury, Vermont.
JM: When you worked at the White Hart did you know Bobby Day? (See file # 5 cycle2 Elyse Harney)
JH: Oh I knew Bobby very well. He lived right down the hall from me.
JM: Do you have a good story about Bobby Day. (His Memorial service was at St. John’s church Sept. 8, 2017 Ed.)
JH: He was there all the time. I remember when John Harney Sr. hired him.
JM: Tell me about that.
JH: I think he came from the Southbury Training School. John had him and he had Scotty Allen. He took care of them. They were always there and lived there. Whatever John asked them, they did.
JM: They were very well taken care of. Scot went on to the Riverton Inn. But Bobby Day stayed here. Then you said that you worked for Community Service.
JH; Through Rotary I was always good friends with Mike Tenure. I was getting tired of doing 1,000 miles a week driving for the food service. I used to go to Sprague Electric plant in Sanford, Maine and then do on across Northern New England all the way to Lake Placid and then back down every other week. Finally Mike bought J. B. Reed’s over in Millerton and I lived on Simmons Street in Millerton at the time. I knew Clark Dennis and shared the driveway with him. He worked at J. B. Reed’s. Mike asked me if I would take over as manager at J. B. Reed. I left Guardian and went to Community Service. We could not call J.B. Reed Community Service because that was the name that was used in New York State. That is why we changed it to Community Lumber and Hardware after a while. I was there about a year.
JM: Did you ever work in either Lakeville or Salisbury?
JH: Mike asked me to rearrange the books so I became the business manager for the next 25 years in Lakeville until Herrington’s bought us out. I worked for Herrington’s for a couple of years until I was too old to look for another job. I retired finally.
JM: We are now going to talk about the Appalachian Trail. How did you meet Norm sills, through Rotary? (See file #44 Norm Sills)
JH: No I knew Norm for years hiking; we hiked together a lot. I was very active with the Connecticut chapter of the Appalachian Mountain club.
JM: What is that?
JH: It is a member organization with about 100,000 people now. It is based out of Boston but they have chapters all over the East coast. Connecticut and New Hampshire chapters were some of the bigger ones. Then I just go involved with trails. The next thing I know I am doing a lot of trail work in New Hampshire and Connecticut. I finally took over the Undermountain Trail. By that time I had moved to Salisbury and built my house in 1977. (#12 Foothills Road)
JM: How big is this section?
JH: The Undermountain Trail and the AT goes to the top of Bear Mountain so it is about three miles. The Undermountain Trail is 1.9 miles and then it is another ½ or ¾ up to Bear Mountain. I took care of that for about 4 to6 years. Then I took over Sages Ravine and Paradise Lane Trail. Paradise Lane was on Mt. Riga Corp. land. It was kind of a secret Connecticut Chapter trail, not really open to the public.
JM: What is the Northwest Camp?
JH: That is about 130 acres right on the Massachusetts/Connecticut line on the Mt. Riga road. It goes right across the north side of Bear Mountain so it is on both sides of Bear Mountain area. The Connecticut chapter at that time allowed us to buy that land from Mt. Riga Corporation. (See file #44 cycle 2 Charles Vail). Of course at that time Frank McCabe (See tape26 Frank McCabe) and Don Warner (See tape 44 Don Warner) were very active in the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Mt. Riga Corporation. We had been renting it for about $1 a year; some of our records say $1 and some say $100 a year. I can’t find any records where any payments were made. We built a cabin which started out as a lean-to but became a cabin while we were building it using the chestnut logs that were lying out in the woods. It is still there. We have our 65th anniversary about 3 years ago of the building of it. We even had a couple of the original people who built it come to the little celebration we had.
JH: It is still a nice little cabin. People rent it all the time. We allow 6 people inside and 4 out on the tent platform. I am still active with it. I am the Trail Chairman of that. I was the former chairman of it for 3 years.
JM: Do you still have this Sage Ravine section?
JH: I finally gave it up. My legs are getting bad so I gave it up 3 years ago. Now I take the trail Rt. 41 to Rt.44 which circles around behind Noble Horizons and down Cobble Road. That is much easier.
JM: How often do you work on your section?
JH: I would say about at the least once or twice a month. I donated a DR mower to the trail crew, but in the past I have gone down to our tool shed which is behind the HVA in Cornwall. I take the big DR mower and mow the grass in that field around Noble and the grass in the field on Rt. 44. It is not my section but I always do it. Also I do the grass up at Bunker Hill on the Lion’s Head Trail.
JM: Do you have a crew or do you do it by yourself?
JH: Most of the time I do it by myself. We do have work parties.
JM: How large would a work party be?
JH: We would like to have it about 7 or 8 people, but now with us old people…
JM: Let’s say mature gentlemen.
JH: I would say our average age is about 70.
JM: When you work on a section, what are some of the things that you do?
JH: Most of the time we are just brush cutting and making sure there are no blow-downs across the trail. Drainage is the most important part. We are cleaning the leaves and brush and branches out of our drainage ditches. We try to keep the water off the trail. We try to keep it so if you were crazy enough to carry a 4’ by8’ sheet of plywood through the trail so the backpacks don’t brush the trees and so forth.
JM: So you have to clear it 4 feet wide and eight feet high?
JH: That is our intent. I have a section in New Hampshire that I still take care of. I am hoping to give it up this year. It is up and down hill so much that it is hard. I did it two weeks ago completely. It should stay that way for another 2 weeks. I was very surprised as I had cleaned all the drainage earlier this year and there was nothing in it. The water had run off the way it is intended.
JM: Is the trail bermed or rounded so the water runs off?
JH: No it is just through the woods.
JM: What happens with a swampy area?
JH: Most swampy areas we either build it up with gravel or whatever we can find. We have to get the water off so we put drainage along the sides if we can find a place for the water to run off. We also build bog bridges which we just finished one. We have a beautiful bog bridge up in northwest Canaan that goes across the bog on the Bog Trail. It is 258 feet long. Because a lot of people ski in there in the winter from the Undermountain Trail or in from Mt. Washington, we made it so it was three planks wide which is not what we usually do on other trails. It is a beautiful trail.
JM: Do you ever build steps?
JH: Oh yes.
JM: Out of what, rock?
JH: Yes if we can find them. We use grip hoist system.
JM: What is a grip hoist system?
JH: It is more like come-alongs. Sometime we use cables and bring great big rocks across the ravine to get them over there. It must be the paid trail crew out at Pinkham Notch in New Hampshire. They all must be 7 or 8 feet tall. If you have ever been down to St. John’s Ledges, the steps are huge.
JM: I would not be able to manage them.
JH: I have a much harder time now with both my knees are arthritic.
JM: Did you have anything to do with the Appalachian Trail Youth Hostel that was on Route 41?
JH: If you call Lavender Lovell’s house that, but it was never a hostel. (130 Undermountain Road Ed.)
JM: But it did have an office in it.
JH: We had our office in the middle of the two wings of the house.
JM: Were the two wings rented out? Were they like apartments?
JH: Yes, they were two apartments. We had one main house part and then when Lavender Lovell built a kennel. That was separated from the main house by a 20 foot walk way which was what we used as our office. Norm Sills had it. He first worked over at the top of the Auto Shop (on Railroad Street, Salisbury Ed.)
JM: Oh yeah, Steve Ohlinger’s place.
JH: Then we moved up to the Undermountain House as he called it.
JM: When did you give that up?
JH: We gave it up because AMC’s head at Joy Street in Boston would not let us keep the rental money to repair the house. The roof needed to be repaired because it leaked. They wanted to keep that money in Boston. We just said, “If you want to do that, you take care of it.” The Connecticut Chapter and the Trails Committee said, “No way!” So we stepped aside. A year later or so, they sold it.
JM: Can you give me a year when you stepped aside?
JH: I have no idea but I can look it up in my files. The town of Salisbury took it over. Then they sold it privately. The National Park Service bought it originally to get across Route 41 to take the road off Cobble Road which used to be Upper Cobble Road. Now we have moved it straight up Bunker Hill. We have moved the trails so many times.
JM: It has moved around a lot. Is there anything that you would like to add before we close?
JH: I was Salisbury Representative to what we called Cat Mak. That was planning out where we were going to move the trail. Norm did most of the surveying of it. I helped quite a bit. Actually we moved the trail out of Mohawk Mountain area over the mountain to come down by the High school in Falls Village. We did all of Sharon’s side of the Housatonic. That section was completely rebuilt. We still come down over Prospect Mountain as we always did. We have changed 50% of the trails in Connecticut. In Duchess Country it used to be all road walking; now it is all on private land and trails. Most of it was to get it off the public roads and be protected in the future.
JM: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068