Oral History Cover Sheet
Place of Interview: her home at Geer Village. Canaan, Ct.
Interviewee: Katherine Chilcoat
Summary of talk: biographical information; schooling and teachers, St. Mary’s Convent School, the old high school on Main and Porter Street, and the Lower Building at Salisbury Central; her teaching career beginning with Rural School in Lime Rock, 1967 -1980 a librarian for Salisbury Central School; childhood memories; the Hub, the Jigger Shop and the drugstore, Hugo’s; childhood friends; Mickey Goslin, the Branch family on Farnam Road and the Dineens on Belgo Road; her grandfather worked for the Holley family for 40 years; shops across from the Holley House, Holley Block, Roberts Building, food stores; Maude Silvernale; local doctors Bissell, Peterson, Simmons, Brewer; the Stuart Theater both entertainment and fire; Bernice Burdick, Harry Bellini, Franklin Vaill, Jim DuBois; trains and train travel.
Date: March 9, 2004
Property of the Oral History Project
Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Connecticut, 06068
Oral History Interview 112 A Molly Kelly
KC:Molly, give me your full name, and when you were born, where you were born, and who your
parents were: all of the biographical information.
MK: Well, my full name and given name is Mary McCone. It’s now Mary McCone Kelly. I was born in Newburgh, New York, in January 5, 1919. I came to Lakeville with my parents at age 2, and remained in Lakeville in the house in which I was br…., the house I was brought to in 1921. (#22 Porter Street on the left side). I sold that house a year ago in December, and I have been here at Geer Village since May of 2003.
KC:So you have lived in the same house almost your entire life.
MK: Almost all my life.
KC:As a child, as a young person and as a married woman, raising a family.
MK:Yes, and my family grew, and left home and I was away for a while with my husband and my
family, but came back to be with my mother and father when my mother was ill. After she passed away, I stayed on with my father, who was perfectly able on taking care of himself. But we stayed there because I was teaching in Lakeville at that point.
KC:Tell me a little something about growing up in Lakeville, who your friends were, what you did,
where you went to school.
MK: Well, my early recollection of school was going to what we used to call St. Mary’s, or it was next to the Friendly House on Montgomery Street, now called Sharon Road, I believe. My next door neighbors were people by the name of Thompkins, and there were several boys and a girl, but one of the boys was in my class. His name was Frank, Francis Thompkins, he had a brother Eddie. He and his brother were about the age of my sister and myself, and I have a brother, as well. Francis used to walk to school with me. We went up Montgomery Street to St. Mary’s, and I had the first and second grades there. Then I was promoted to third grade and came down into the village to the old high school building which was where the present post office is, farther back on that property, but there. There I attended third, fourth, and fifth grade. About that time the new building, the new high school was ready to open (Lower Building of Salisbury Central), and for some reason or other they needed more room in the sixth grade, so they promoted us, skipped a grade three of us, skipping sixth grade so we went to the new high school. It was then seventh grade, eighth grade, and four years of high school. That should have been 1930. That school was open from 1930-1940 as a high school. Junior high and high school we would call it today.
My early teachers in the first and second grades were a Miss McCone, the same name as my maiden name: she was from Bridgeport and not related. There was a Miss Sullivan, I remember. In the lower grades in the high school building I remember best of all Bessie J. Bann, who was Bessie Argali. She was a wonderful teacher. I remember much of what she taught. In those days you could have a little religion in school, and she taught me the 23rd Psalm, which I think about and think about her often. Don’t have at the moment too many recollections of other people there. I think I remember Hazel Wilson being in that building and I remember Al Eggleston being in that building. But when I went up to the high school building, the seventh grade teacher was Maude as we called her, Maude Holcomb, Miss Holcomb, cause she was Betty really but most people called her Maude, and Al Eggleston was the eighth grade teacher. I think I remember the high school teachers, not according to subject, but being…Grace Crawfton, Miss Taylor, Tilley Fitts who was Tilley Gordon at that point, Dan Bohlman who taught math, Harold Smith some of the time, Charlie Fitts some of the time, through those years, and the principal was William Loring, as I remember. That’s pretty much high school.
KC:After high school?
MK: After high school I signed up to go to the Danbury Normal School which was a three year program at that point. I did the three years and then they opened up the fourth year and changed the name to Danbury Teacher’s College. The end of my third year I was offered the, what they then called and still do I believe, the head master’s, mistress’s job at Town Hill which was opening. But I opted not to take that position, and go back for my fourth year at Danbury Teacher’s College from which I graduated in ’39.
KC:Can you tell me what the term” normal” school means?
MK:No I can’t.
KC:Why they call it “normal school”?
MK:I hope we were normal. No, I don’t. Oddly enough my motherwent toaschool which they
referred to in her years as training school. It was not more than a yearor two.She went toaschool in
Pine Plains. I don’t hear that term and haven’t for many, many years. I don’t know we were under the state as a normal school, but I really can’t tell you the cause for it. You have really given me a chore. I shall look that up.
KC:OK you came back to teach in Lakeville. What grades did you teach?
MK: I was one of about half of our class who graduating from Danbury who received positions that year. It was 1939. The position open to me was Rural School Lime Rock, five grades. I was to have 20 children, grades one through five. I walked in the first day and there were thirty children to greet me. I had, as I have discovered in recent research, over those four years of teaching because they closed the school in ’43 and I left to be married in ’43, there were 54 children I had in those four years. To this day
I hear and have seen several of them. So it is very rewarding, but I went back to the Town Hall, found the registers for those years along with some others, and checked the names of all the young people I had.
KC:Now is that the school that later became a dress shop?
MK: It did and now it’s a private home. Yes, and Girlie Eldred has the dress shop, and she added on rooms to the back. It had been I believe at the high school level as well, and I might mention that you’ll hear this name in your town stories I am sure, Jo Cande preceded me as the teacher there. As did several others who…Marion Bears was there who would be the wife of Roily Bears in town.
KC:So you left teaching at that point to get married.
MK:In 43,I was married in July, and the school closed that year.
KC:But continued to live in Lakeville after you…?
MK: No, I went to Bridgeport. I taught for a year in Monroe, and wanted to do something different, and then I found that I was expecting a child, my first child who was born in November of that year. So I was at home for a bit, and then did some home bound teaching and eventually went into a school that they call, now they’ve changed the name, but at that point they called it Crippled Children’s Workshop, which some of us didn’t particularly like, but it was a lovely school. There I taught children who were handicapped who were in grades four through eight. I left that to go back into teaching under Connecticut statutes and went to Stratford and was there for two years before we came back to the Northwest Corner.
KC:How long a sabbatical did you take once you got back to Lakeville, or did you go right back to
MK: I went right back to teaching. The supervisor we had had been in touch with me right along through those years and kept saying when are you coming back? Finally I applied, and there was a position in Sharon. I was offered the fifth grade there. I taught there for a year and was expecting another child, had a year off for that child, and then went back for four more years. So then I left and came to Lakeville.
KC:So even in those days, and I say that not that many years ago, women didn’t just leave the work
force when they had children, at least you didn’t.
MK: I didn’t. I often say I was a liberated woman before they talked about liberated women. My husband knew that I loved teaching, and he was very cooperative in everything. We did many things together. I could work outside alongside him, and he could do the dishes for me, so I could do my school work. That’s well documented, too. So he was very happy to have me work and enjoy, and at the same
time I brought up the two children. When I came back to Lakeville in later years, I stayed with the family my mother and father.
KC:Let me ask this question, jumping ahead. At what point in your teaching career did you leave
the classroom to become a librarian?
MK: It was I believe the years 1966-1967. If we think back from 80 it was 67 because I had thirteen years in the library. That was the first library, and you helped start it along with Katherine Johnson and some other volunteers. We had the supervision of a lady from the Hartford State Board of Ed. That was 1967.1 think I had a year in the Lower Building in a one room library set up sort of to start things.
KC:Did you have to go back to school to get certified as a librarian?
MK:I did. I did. I had my Master’s Degree, but I was still required to do Library Science. I did 18
hours as we referred to it. That gave me 10 years of accreditation.
KC:Talk a little bit about the years you taught at Salisbury Central. Maybe speak briefly about some
of the teachers that you consider to be special people; some of the principals you worked under.
MK: Well, I went into the school and had as a principal Alice Eggleston who had been a classroom teacher of mine. She continued to teach and then became principal. So I had Alice. Betty Miner whom I’d had in the seventh grade in my high school was teaching there. There was a little lady from here in Canaan Betty Gandelli. She used to come over from Canaan. Virginia Thompson was also from here in Canaan. She taught fourth grade. One whom I shall never, never forget was Fran LeMoine. She was Frances Hamm, and she was brought up in Lakeville. She married a couple of years after I did so she became Frances LeMoine. She and I were very good friends. Until her more recent illness, I kept in touch with her all those years.
Other principals who came along were, I may not get these in order now, but we had Norm Stephens, who I think more recently is down in the Waterbury/Middlebury area. We had Jerry Nolan. We had Bob Sullivan, J. Robert as we call him, is over in Norfolk now. He’s great with E-Mail and I hear from him often, and we visit and he’s supposedly going to come to visit. We talk about many of the people, including Katherine Chilcoat, and Evelyn Bellini, and the various teachers. At one point, and I overlooked it at this moment, I should say we had Wilbert Hemmerly for a number of years. He, I think as I recall, used to come into to the school at that point, but his role through the years had changed from when I was at Lime Rock, he came to supervise the children, and I did the teaching of the games that he set up. But then in later years he was, I think at this point, did he not do something with the basketball team? Maybe not. I may have my years mixed up there. But he had been active all through these years, and his wife was a teacher in the school, Margaret Hemmerly.
KC:Well, I remember Mr. Hemmerly as the forerunner of Art Wilkinson, Director of Recreation for
MK: There you go. He had been the coach in the high school, and we had very good basketball teams, both good girls’ and good boys’ team at state level, some of the time. So I don’t want to overlook him. We had Frances McKee, and I had one of her two sons in my class. We had Evelyn Franson. We had Dot Jones. Am I remembering all of these people?
KC:I don’t remember that one.
MK: Evelina Peppe, oh and Jo Cande, who had preceded me in Lime Rock, also preceded me in Salisbury, and the grade that she was teaching, I had hoped I’d have was fifth grade, no sixth grade. I wanted fifth grade. She was teaching sixth grade in Lakeville, and then she wanted fifth so she got that, and I came into the sixth with her. Fred Romeo, I mustn’t forget some of the men. For one year we had Al Stiles, maybe more than one year, but we did departmental work at that point. I moved from the sixth grade to the seventh and eighth, and they kept promoting me and demoting me, I went from seventh grade to eighth grade and back to seventh grade as homeroom teacher for several years. I don’t know whether I covered that or not.
KC:Well, let’s go back. We sort of skipped over… I would like you to go back to being a child in
Lakeville, and talk about not so much schooling but what you did in your spare time, who some of your playmates were. You speak of Fran LeMoine who was a Hamm, and that of course brings up the Jigger Shop.
MK: It certainly does. We had three…
KC:So go back into those years and tell us about that.
MK: We had three places we could go to for ice cream Sundays; one was the Jigger Shop, and one was the Hub, the Dufours and one was the drugstore with Doc Leverty, as we called him. We had those, and that was always the big treat. 1 lived on Porter Street for all those years. I had some wonderful friends who lived on that street. One of my classmates lives in Sharon and I see quite often now had a family who lived there in Lakeville; Marion, she’s Marion Ried now, but she was Marion Branch of the Branch family who lived down on Farnam Road. I remember wonderful times going to the home of Mickey Goslin who lived up in the, I believe you call it, the gatehouse of the John Rudd property, Holleywood. The Dineens were farther up at the beginning of Belgo Road. We managed to get around. We got to the lake, although I was not a lake person as my brother and sister. I enjoyed being at home and reading a good book. Probably a little… I was more allergic to sun so I stayed away from that. I remember going to Hugo’s for the newspaper, at that point it was up on the street going down from the Holley Block, which is where the park is now (Pocket Knife Square). There is no Holley Block. I might mention that the Holley House across the way ties in with my family somewhat because my grandfather came from New York to work for the Holleys, and worked for Alexander Holley. I don’t know what the connection is but our property abuts and we had a right of way to the Holley property because of my grandfather’s working there. So that comes kitty corner to Porter Street.
KC:What did your grandfather do for the Holleys?
MK:He did just about everything.
MK: If Mr. Holley wanted to go to Millerton to the station, there would be a note, and I still have some of them. John should like to catch such and such a train, at such and such a time and I assume John did it. When we came to Lakeville to live, it was because my grandfather was blind, and he no longer worked for them. He worked there for over a forty year period.
Anyway back to that street across from the Holley House, I remember the Chinese laundry on that street. I remember later on a jewelry shop, naturally I mentioned the drugstore. In that same Holley Block building there were apartments. I remember Al Eggleston living there and going to visit her. There was a beauty shop, and the wife of Harry Miller who had the plumbing shop there where now the liquor store is in town,(2010, it is now a dry cleaning establishment.) next to the Roberts Building. I mustn’t forget the Roberts Building because not only did they have entertainment there, such as Chautauqua, but my recollection is sitting out on the back of our property and listening to some of the wonderful music that came from that building depending who was having a party or dance or some sort of a frivolous moment.
KC:I have read about the Roberts Building that there were things in it like a dentist office?
KC:It was a multipurpose building.
MK:I would say so, yes, but a hall especially where you could still hold dances and so on.
KC:And do I remember correctly that it sort of…the top floor burned off?
MK: I believe so, yes.
KC:And then they ultimately tore down the rest of the building.
MK: That’s right, yes. At one point in more recent years there was a, I think it was a First National in
there, and across the way there was a market. We had several places where we could go for…well and
Rudlen Market on that street just where the Chinese restaurant is now. We had several stores and
shops where we could go for our food. Over on near the railroad station was the Godress Market. So wehad Louie and Ernie Godress and their father. They were next to the Jigger Shop.’
KC:Do you know the derivation of the name Jigger Shop?
MK: I don’t. I have no idea. No.
KC:Nobody seems to know.
MK: Some people will remember Maude Silvernale. When I say Jigger Shop, I think of Fran and Tel Hamm, and Floyd Hamm and Mrs. Hamm whose name I can’t recall. But also they had an aunt and then there was an Amos Silvernale, but Maude Silvernale worked in town. I think she was up at the Harrison House some of the time. Grey, was it called the Harrison….
KC:Did she work for Margaret Williams?
MK: I don’t recall that, but she worked for, eventually she was down in town with the Edmonds, Reverend Edmonds and his wife. She was a wonderful person to see: she walked rapidly, often daily; I would say, and with great speed, alacrity. She was just an outstanding person whom we got to know.
KC:Do you have any memories of any of the doctors in town? Dr.Bissell? Dr. Peterson?
MK: Vaguely Dr. Bissell, but I knew more of the name. I won’t say that he didn’t tend to us. I do know that the weekends and some of the time the house next to where the bank is now (Northwest Center for Family Services) was a Dr. Simmons, who came from Brooklyn, and would be there and he often tended to my family.
KC:And he was a general practitioner? a family doctor?
MK: Well, more in the field of…yes. But we needed him for a few special things sometimes. My brother had a problem at one point with his eyes, and so he would tend to us. Dr. Peterson of course lived right in the corner where Orchard Street is now. I remember him. I guess my first recollection being in town beyond that would be Dr. Brewer, but that was in later years.
KC:Well, what haven’t we touched on, Molly, that you…
MK:Probably lots of things.
KC:Remember any disasters, or…
MK: Oh yes! But that’s later years. I remember the fire that took the Stuart Theater, but I also remember some wonderful things about the Stuart Theater, and what happened there. We often, as I mentioned earlier, Chautauqua came into town, but we also had some groups who came in and had us put on plays and/or entertainments. Getting back to the high school we had a music teacher whose name was Bernice, oh it’s gone right out of my head, Burdick, who lived in the house where the former funeral home was(brick house left side)on the corner of Lincoln City Road. She often did solo work in some of these programs. We had a wonderful couple by the name of Charlie Turner and his wife, who lived where the Robbo Leech building is now and they were wonderful singers. So we had programs, in those days you did black face as well. I think I recall Harry Bellini, maybe Franklin Vaill, and Jimmy
DuBois possibly, I could be wrong, but I think that they did some black face, but we did vaudeville. Those of us in the high school age were either chorus, I did some solo work at that point.
KC:Did you do this at the Stuart Theater as opposed to Roberts Hall?
MK: Stuart Theater. No, I do not remember performing at Roberts Hall. So I remember the burning of that, and my husband was not a fireman, but he spent the night going back and forth helping the firemen keep their wits and have something warm to drink at that point. That was a disaster.
I remember the trains coming into town, and I remember when they took the trestle down.
KC:Did you ever use the train for local…you hear people talk about going from Lakeville to Canaan.
MK:All the way to Poughkeepsie. I had a friend, my mother’s friend, who lived in Pittsfield who
taught in Poughkeepsie, and I would often meet her in Millerton and go, after she came from Poughkeepsie, I would go up to North Adams with her on that train, and also went out toward Hartford. Do you remember?
MK:What have we not covered?
KC:I don’t know.
MK: We’ll need another session, probably. But it’s fun to recollect, and I will mention that I think there are others who have lived in Lakeville/Salisbury who will do even better than I as far as remembering because I, even though I was there in my days from age 2 to say age 19-20-21, and I was married at age 24,I was gone for a period of time, and came back in the 50’s.
KC:Well, I can’t think of anything that we haven’t covered and if you can’t, I guess we will….
MK: It’s always a pleasure to see you. It’s not necessarily a pleasure to recall all these 80 some years. Now I’m giving you my age.