Marcia Rudd Keil
Transcript of a taped, interview.
Narrator: I-Marcia Rudd Keil.
Tape: 13 A.
Dates June 9, 1982
Place of interview: Mrs. Keil’s home, Indian Mountain Road, Lakeville, I-Interviewer: Ethel Thrall.
Until her college years Mrs. Keil lived in Lakeville and, upon her husband’s retirement, returned to her hometown. She was a close companion and observer of her father, Malcolm Day Rudd, an enthusiastic historian whose major interest ’-as the history of the town of Salisbury. She speaks, in the interview, of her father and her family in addition to describing the Lakeville community of fifty years ago.
Property of the Oral History project
Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Connecticut 06068
KEIL – 1
MK: I have been asked to say some things about my father, Malcolm Day Rudd, son of Maria Holley and William Beardsley Rudd. He was born in 1877 and died in 1942. He was at Hotchkiss in the Class of I896. He spent two years at Harvard taking all the history courses he could take and then transferred to Yale and was in the Class of 1900, and did the same, taking all the history courses. This couldn’t be done today for graduating classes.
He was always interested in local history from an early age, and he wrote pamphlets on gravestones and Indian history of the town at age eleven. Interested in who the early settlers were, where they came from, what had happened to their descendants. He knew more about people’s histories than they knew or cared about themselves.
He was descended from the Holley, Coffing, Porter and. Robbins families and some others who had come to the town early on, and who
had interests in the town, or mining, banking, railroading,
manufacturing, engineering, surveying, preaching, politicking and farming.
His idea of fun was to haunt bookstores in his spare time. And so, over fifty years, he collected a library of over three thousand books on Nev7 England history; one thousand being on Connecticut alone. Usually, when I mention this to people, people say, “Oh, I didn’t know there were that many books on Connecticut history!” A few thousand books, also, on American history in general. These were housed mostly in the large room in the knife factory, the Holley Manufacturing Company. I was helping him catalog this library at the time of his death in 1942. It was his wish that the town would house these books in a fireproof building, but no one seemed interested at the time and, as my mother needed money, the library was sold. Some books were given to Yale, some sold to bookstores, some to the Scoville Library, some sold to collectors. Sets were broken up and so some valuable information for the Town of Salisbury was lost in the procedure. It’s a shame, really.
KEIL – 2
I remember a truck from Whitlock’s Bookstore in New Haven driving up to our front steps. An attractive young man drove the truck, so we asked him for lunch after he loaded his truck. It turned out his last name was Yale and he was working his way through Yale on a scholarship set up by Elihu Yale for Yale descendants, and working his way by doing odd jobs.
Father was very accurate. Many of his books had lightly penciled corrections and connotations in the margins saying, ‘incorrect’, ‘not so’, or ‘might be some truth in it’ and sometimes dates were corrected.
He possessed what the family called his graveyard kit.
It consisted of a wide brimmed hat for shade, a folding camp stool to sit on, a satchel in which were scouring powder, water and steel wool for cleaning gravestones and a crowbar for prying up fallen gravestones. People came to him from miles around inquiring about their family history, and he would tell them, all he knew without taking any remuneration for the information. Lila Nash told me once that a great deal of what she knew of town history was due to E.D. Rudd’s information. This would have pleased him.
He used to recite the Gettysburg Address on Memorial Day. I remember one such time after an address, walking with him through the crowd at the cemetery walking behind us were two teenage boys. One said, “Who is this M. d. Rudd, anyway?” The other boy said, “Oh, he is one of those mouthy, booky Holleys.” This really amused us as one of M. D. Rudd’s attributes was a good sense of humor, especially about himself.
After his death, most of his historical data went to his younger brother, Charles Rudd, and so on to Charles Rudd’s son, John Rudd. He ■ wrote Men of Worth of Salisbury Birth, for the Lakeville Journal, as well as other historical articles for the old Connecticut Magazine. In later life, he was in the Connecticut House of Representatives and in the State Senate. He took great pride in the town of Salisbury. When I’d walk down to the factory with him, he would
KEIL – 3
carry a stick with a metal point with which to pick up papers tossed in the streets and gutters. These he put in the trash bin when he reached the factory. Now that is what I call local spirit.
Malcolm Rudd was born at Holleywood in Lakeville and after he was married for ten years he moved down to the white house next to the Holley-Williams house. During the first ten years of his marriage to Eva Cook Rudd four children were born in Holleywood; Richard Malcolm Rudd who died at sixteen, Alexander Holley Rudd who died when he was seven, Roswell Hopkins Rudd and Marcia Rudd. Holleywood and the knife factory were left to my father. He operated the factory until the 1930’s when the depression and. automatic and electric knife sharpeners came in. Then he went into politics and was at one time Deputy Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.
ET: OK, Marcia. Let me have a little bit about yourself, where’d you go to school in Lakeville?
MK; I went to Miss Stuart’s School opposite the Iron Masters Motor Lodge now. The gray house opposite that is where Miss Stuart’s was.
ET: And how did you get there from Lakeville?
MK; 1 used to walk and in the winter I’d have to ski or go on snow shoes. Sometimes my brothers would come and get me and pull me home on a sled in the winter.
ET: And from that school, where did you go?
MK: At twelve I went away to boarding school to Abbott Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. The reason I went there, Miss Bailey, who was the principal at Abbott had been a teacher at the Interlaken School for Girls here in Lakeville, which was a sister school to Hotchkiss. My mother had come to Lakeville to teach at the Interlaken School.
ET: Which is now Wake Robin Inn?
MK: That is now where the Wake Robin Inn is. As my brother, Dick, had just died it was a pretty hard time for the family so I was sent off to school. Then after going to Abbott, I went to Wheelock College in Boston, which was a regular
college plus training for primary teaching. Then I went to Port Washington in Sands Point, Long Island and taught for four years third and fourth grades there before I was married in 1938 to Carl Keil.
ET: Mr. Keil, What did he do?
MK: My husband was in the lumber business in Darien for thirty- five years. Then he retired and we moved up to Lakeville as he said I was like a salmon spawning and had to return to the land of my birth.
ET: You have one son?
MK: I have one son, Charles Keil, who has his doctorate in anthropology and teaches at Buffalo University and his wife teaches psychology. They have a daughter, 17, Aphrodite and a son, 14, Carl Michael.
ET: What did you do for entertainment in your youth?
MK: Well, we knew several musical families, the Allen family for one, and we’d meet and everybody would play instruments or the piano, or sing, or we’d play cards or we’d play games – charades, things like that, guessing games, dominoes. Families got together for supper and for playing games, you know. There wasn’t the TV and all.
ET: There did you swim in those days?
MK: At the Grove. Everybody went swimming at the Grove, as they always have. Young people find that a nice place to meet and get to know one another.
ET: And. now about the musical part. Hop was very musical. .where does that come in your family, anywhere?
MK: My father had a lovely tenor voice. I used to accompany him on the piano. In later life when he couldn’t reach the high notes, he sort of take hold of his Adam’s apple and shake it a little to get the high note. My mother, who was really very modest, played the piano, the guitar, the violin and sang.
ET: Where’d she come from? Up near the Cape somewhere?
MK: She came from. Gloucester, Massachusetts. My father always said she had webbed feet because she sat in the surf.
ET: What about the movies? Where did you go to the movies in
MK: When I was growing up, that would be in the twenties, there were two movie-houses in Lakeville – one over Roberts’ store and the Stuart’s Movie Theater.
ET: That’s where the laundromat is now?
MK: Yes, near there. You could tell what was going on in the movies. You didn’t always have to go in, you could stand outside and you could hear the player piano or somebody playing the piano. You could tell if it • .as a love scene or, if there was a galloping thing, that the troops were coming, just standing outside and listening through the door.
ET; Was there like any ice cream parlors?
EK: There were three ice cream parlors. Leverty’s Drug Store had the best ice cream sodas and little white tables, wire seats and so forth. The Jigger Shop had sodas and sundaes.
ET: The Jigger Shop was where?
MK: The Jigger Shop was where the Bauman Electric Heating is now. (At present the laundromat is located in that building. Ed) And then Ma Dufour’s which was down on the corner.
ET: – Where the jewelry store is?
MK: Where the jewelry store is. She also had penny candy that we used to buy on the way to school. You know, you would get ten or twenty little candies for a penny or something. Great decision as to what to buy at Ma Dufour’s. Ma Dufour was a little plump and sturdy and she wore her hair piled up in a big knot on top of her head. She was so kind and loved children and they always got a few extra candies in their bags.
ET: What about Main Street, What it was when you were little?
MK: Main Street, when I was little, all the houses housed families and people. The store section was across from the fire department and. there was a whole row of stores there – Heaton-Barnett’s Department Store, the barber shop and a delicatessen, with two little old ladies had a knickknack shop, and Ma Dufour’s was flourishing. It was a busy place.
ET: Where did you get the groceries? Was there a grocery store
KEIL – 6
MK: Oh, there were two or three grocery stores, there -as an A&P and a couple of butcher shops and a jewelry store and a couple of drug stores. This place was really flourishing.
The Hotchkiss boys used to come down from Hotchkiss to go to the movies and to eat and there were a couple of clothing stores where haberdashers came up from New Haven once a week or something and the Hotchkiss boys came down. There was much more going on between Hotchkiss and the town, much more interest in local feeling because they would come down to the town for things. Once in a while, they would put on a Hotchkiss play down at the Robert’s Hall and the whole town would go to see the Hotchkiss play.
ET: Robert’s Hall is where the food center is now. Wasn’t it that building in there?
MK: Yes. There was much more rapport between the town and the school.
A good many people have asked me about Holleywood and they said, “Oh is that named after Hollywood, California?” I was reading a biography by Lillian Gish, about her early days in the movies and she said that when she first went to California she was with a David Wark Griffiths. Mrs. David Wark Griffiths said that she had been up in northwestern Connecticut visiting an old school friend from the Spence School and this was my grandmother, Mrs. William Rudd. They were thinking of a name for this movie studio and she said, “Well, why not call it Hollywood after this place where I have just been visiting in northwest Connecticut?” I have been trying to find a copy of the Lillian Gish biography ever since and so far haven’t come up with one. I would like to have this statement in writing.