Kay Key Interview
This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Kay Key. She is going to talk about a lot of things including the Salisbury Garden Club, the Beautification Committee that was part of the Garden Club, the Salisbury Association Tree Fund, Noble Horizons Auxiliary, the Northwest Baroque Music Association, a little bit on Forest and Parks, but the main thing is going to be on the Scenic Roads Committee where she has a lot of information. Today’s date is Nov. 2, 2021. This is file #41, cycle 4.
JM:What is your name?
JM:Where were you born?
JM:How and when did you come to this area?
KK:I moved here in Nov. 1994. We had spent most of our married life outside of Philadelphia in Devon. We would go to Vermont in the fall, loved it. MY husband is an artist and has done many paintings of Vermont: he has had his paintings in galleries all over, as far as Delaware and Pennsylvania, New York State. WE loved up there in Vermont for a retirement spot and couldn’t find anything. We worked our way down here and just thought Salisbury was perfect.
JM:We are so happy you are here.
KK:Thank you. We have thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a great town where you can really get involved in things and not just volunteer for 2 hours a week or whatever.
JM:We need all the wonderful volunteers, like yourself, that we can get.
JM:The first organization you joined when you came here was the Salisbury Garden Club. Do you know when you joined? (See Jill Scott’s interview)
KK:Officially in Oct. 1995. From my biography you had to fill in and get voted whether you became a member. Back then Garden Club was much bigger. The President at the time Helen Issavitch called me that afternoon and asked if I could represent the club on the Beautification Committee. She was from the Philadelphia area: she was very aware of where I had gone to horticultural school down there.
JM:You have a degree in horticulture.
KK:Yes I went on the Beautification Committee. We changed the plantings 4 times a year. It was mainly garden club people who worked. It was sort of run by Juliette Moore who had the White Hart at the time and Joanni Ford who was at Garlands.
JM:How long were you a member of the garden club?2.
KK:Until it disbanded in 2006 so that is 11 years. I think 2006 was its last year. I have a directory from 2006 which was the last time it was printed.
JM:With the Beautification Committee did you work just in Salisbury?
KK:No Lakeville as well. The job was much bigger since most of the businesses had window boxes including the Town Hall as well as the planters. We replaced the planters in 1998 with the boxes. The Post Office in Lakeville also had window boxes. We did planters up around the old train station on Ethan Allan Street. We did a number of planters where Peter Oliver had his gym on Holly Street. Different restaurants back there. It was a big thing.
JM:How many members were then on the Beautification Committee?
KK:There weren’t that many people on the committee.
JM:But you had people that would work?
KK:Oh we had 15 to 18 garden club members who would come out and work. Then we would have to keep the plants watered. The planters don’t need that much weeding, that is the advantage of planters over planting in the ground. We changed the planting 4 times a year. At this time of the year (Nov.) we would put in the winter plantings in, and take them out in generally March or April and then put in the spring flowers. The summer flowers would go in before Memorial Day weekend and the fall plantings would be in by Labor Day. We’d take them out in Nov. before it froze. (See also Barbara Nicholls interview)
JM:That makes the town look so beautiful.
KK: It does. It was quite a group of women basically who did it.
JM:When I see someone on the Beautification Committee now working, I do compliment them because I think they should know how much we appreciate their work.
KK:It is a very different group now that is doing it.
JM:Now we are going to move on to the Noble Horizons Auxiliary. (See Mary Barton and Joann Elliot’s interviews)
JM:You were a member of that for about 12 years?
KK:Yeah I met Janet Bates who was President at that time about 1996 or 1997. The lady who was doing Publicity was moving and she asked me to take over. She had me working on the Christmas Fair if I would come on. AT the time we tried to have something in the newspaper each month. There were many things that go on there: the volunteer dinner, we had all the fund raisers, we had a big community picnic in June, we had the Auxiliary dinner in October when the officers went off and new ones came on, many things besides the Festival of Trees which Kathy McKnight started about that time and the
Christmas Fair. There were just many things going on all the time. Then I changed after I did that Publicity for 4 or 5 years, I was Nominating Chairman for a couple of years which is a very difficult job, and then I went on after Janet died, I think Katherine Chilcoat was Chairman of the store for a year or so before she become Town Historian. I took over the store from her. I worked with Sherri Schwaikert, mainly I kept the books and Sherri did the buying. I think she still does.
JM:That is a lot of work.
KK:Oh yes it was. She would go down to buy the stuff in New York a couple of times a year. We did a lot of moving stuff around. We moved the cards from one side to the other. We got new racks because I felt the cards you came in for, you need to see those as you walked in. You need to see also the gifts that Sherri bought. We did a lot.
JM:I should have mentioned before we went to Noble, about the Salisbury Association Tree Fund. Tell me a little bit about the fund itself and what you do.
KK:The fund I think was officially started in the early 1980s by Mrs. Powell who lived down on Housatonic River Road. It is a designated fund for trees planted really anyplace in the town of Salisbury. George Kiefer ran it since the beginning. He was the forester and was very interested in the town. He had been here a long time. I think he attended Salisbury School and then the Navy during the Second World War and then came back here after Yale Forestry School. (See both of his interviews) We planted trees in town in different places. People would ask for trees. Gradually so many of the members when I first went on died. We decided to plant only native trees and shade trees because we were losing so much of our canopy. When George went off the committee because he could not do it any longer, Mat, his son- between his business, his farm and his family and taking care of his father, but he did stay on as Tree Warden (See his interview) I became Chairman of the Tree Committee in 2019.
JM:Who is on your committee now?
KK:Janet Kaufman, Chany Wells (See her interview) we do not actually do the work.
JM:Where do you get your trees from?
KK:We decided to keep our money local so we always get them from Salisbury Garden Center, Eric Mendelson. With our local money we support our local businesses. He has been great to work with.
JM:Does he actually dig the holes and put the tree in?
KK:Yeah he does the work. I meet with him. We are going to have 4 trees planted this fall at the end of Walton Street which is part of the Bike Path, but people don’t realize that because it is paved to go to the sewer plant. We will try to make it feel like the Bike Path. I’ll mark the trees and then we have to get “Call before you dig” people come in to make sure there are not utilities underground. We do
that also with overhead utilities. We have planted 21 trees over the last 3 three years along our main roads in Salisbury and Lakeville:
JM:You said you had planted 21 trees. Did you do 2 at Cannon Park?
KK: We planted 2 in Cannon Park, and I would love to do 2 more in there, but Lakeville Garden Conservancy which was formed later really does not want more trees. I would love to put 2 more of the same Sugar Maples around the perimeter as the two we’ve got.
JM:Where is Cannon Park?
KK:At the intersection of route 44 and 41 in Lakeville, when you come down the hill, where all the Chrysanthemums are right now. It is not named that because of a cannon in there. People think that and have gone to look for it. It was named for Mr. Cannon.
JM:Right he originally ran the town poor farm on his property.
KK:The Dark Hollow Land Trust property was also land from his family.
JM:You have also planted 2 trees by the old firehouse (Rt. 41/Sharon Road Ed.)
KK:We planted 2 just to the right of the old firehouse. That property now belongs to the town. I call it the Lakeville Green. It never had a name before.
JM:What kind of trees did you plant?
KK:The same- Sugar Maples real Sugar Maples, not the Fall Fiesta cultivar, nor the Green Mountain because that is not truly a Sugar Maple. It is a hybrid of Sugar Maple and Black Maple.
JM:On Belgo you put in what?
KK:Three tulip Trees, they are a good native tree and that is a wide open place so it is good for them there.
JM:Like a specimen tree
JM: Did you plant near the Litchfield Bancorp?
KK:We did the same- Sugar Maples. The bank gave us permission. We have had trouble planting on private property. Then the trees are cut down. We got permission and we felt confident that they would stay there. On the other side of Main Street in Lakeville, from Porter down towards Bissel, we have put in 4 Red Oak. They have very deep roots and are not susceptible to salt like Maples are.
JM:What did you plant on Lincoln City road?
KK:We put in 2 Red Oak there. We had to put them back further from the road because of the power lines. We also put one of the same Sugar Maple back along the paved path between the two buildings of Salisbury Central School.
JM:You told me about the Sweet Gum trees by the Bike Path on Walton Street.
KK:They were planted this year. WE also put in 2 sugar Maples in front of Ascendant which is now CSS near Brook Street.
JM: What about the Salisbury Cemetery on Route 41?
KK:We put in 3 Red Oaks there by the cemetery fence. George Kiefer had already put in 2 or 3 trees about 15 years ago. We are losing those great big trees over time. That is how we are thinking in a lot of areas, looking at trees we have lost in the center of Lakeville. Klemm’s lost one of the great big trees in front of his business last summer. They took the top down but left the trunk.
JM:Now the Rotary Club to celebrate their 75th Anniversary.
KK:They donated trees to all the towns. I had that put into Washinee Park up behind the cemetery behind the town hall.
JM:What kind of a tree was it?
KK:That was another Sugar Maple. I don’t know what cultivar it is. We didn’t buy it. I picked the spot, but they planted it. I hope it makes it.
JM:It probably will.
KK:The town has kept them watered for us during the summer which is a big help as I have no means to water them. Then we would have to pay somebody with a tank truck to water them.
JM:Is this something the town crew does?
KK:Yes the town crew has helped us with that.
JM:I am going to go back to the Northwest Baroque Music Association. You have been of that board for a while.
KK: I can’t remember when I first went on, but probably as long as 7 or 8 years.
JM:It was done under the asepsis of Rev. John Carter?
KK:Yeah it was started as a function of the church (St. John’s Episcopal Church) with the intention that the community take it over. I guess it was for 3 or 4 years, but I was not on the board then.
JM:When did the concerts take place?
KK:The last 2 Wednesdays in July and the first 2 Wednesdays in August. Their music is arranged and selected by and the musicians by a man down in New Milford. Sometimes we might have 6 musicians and sometimes 10 depending on the piece and the arrangements. They are mainly from New York City. They are very professional and have traveled all over the world performing.
JM:Is it still going?
KK:Last summer was thru Zoom due to the pandemic, but I resigned from that board 2 years ago through 2018. But it is also has several board members from New York State too. People come from the three states. There is no charge for the concert: it is all by donations ahead of time. People make donations on the afternoon of the concerts.
JM:They are held on Wednesdays at the church at 5:00 PM?
KK: Yes which is great because there is so much music around here but it is all on the weekends, generally and people really do enjoy these concerts.
JM:You get a good turn-out, too.
KK: Very good
JM:Tell me a little bit about the Forest and Parks committee. What are they supposed to do?
KK:Maintain our forests and parks.
JM:There are what 10 parks in town?
KK:Oh at least that many, a lot more than we think there are. The town owns a lot of property.
JM:But you don’t have a budget to work with?
JM:Not yet and how many people are on that committee?
KK:I really don’t know at this point. I am on it: people have gone on and off like any committee sometimes it is more active than others. One of our biggest problems is our invasive plants.
JM: I want to spend quite a bit of time on Scenic Roads because there is a lot more to that then I realized and I think the people should know what you do. I believe that you joined in 1999?
KK:Yes the first meeting I went to was in January of 1999. I did not realize that it was a subcommittee of the whole Scenic Roads committee, specifically when Val was First Selectman. (Val
Bernadoni was First Selectman from 1999 to 2005. See his interview) Curtis was the selectman who ran this committee.
JM:Curtis ran the committee because he has a forestry background. (See his interview)
KK: We mainly got rid of the perpendicular parking in Salisbury. That was our first achievement.
JM:What about the Lock-Up?
KK:In doing that we made the Lock-Up a real entrance to a real street. There is parking there next to the building (Neo’s Ed.) We put in the grass strip where parking used to be and planted 3 Sour Gum trees. We did have a couple of Crabapple trees in front of Sweet Williams’s. Those trees are gone and they have gravel out there for tables now. But we only went that far. It was just really good to get rid of that parking: the state was very happy to get rid of it too. The three sour Gums are still there, beautiful color right now.
JM:Did you do anything on Library Street?
KK:The tree committee did, but not Scenic Roads.
JM:The trees were planted on Library Street and the Scenic Roads work came later.
KK:Yes The tree committee planted several trees on Library Street: the two Lindens at the entrance to the parking lot and there is one Sugar Maple, the smallest one, and the tree committee also put the Sugar Maple out in front, to the left quite a ways between the entrance and the creek.
JM:Do you remember who was on that first Scenic Roads Committee?
KK:The Scenic Roads at that point? Jane Kilmer, George Massey, Judy Swanson and me. Those are the only ones I can remember.
JM:It gives a general idea. When did the granite curbs come into Salisbury?
KK:That was quite a few years later
JM:About 2005 say?
KK:A little bit later than that. I can’t remember.
JM:What about the bump- outs?
KK:The bump-outs, the lanterns at the cross walk, all the granite curbing from Library Street up to the intersection of Route 44 and 41.
JM:You worked on the Natural Resource Inventory in 2009?
KK:No it was not part of the Scenic Roads; it was the Scenic Roads Committee which contributed to the NRI. George Massey asked me to be on it. He and Lou Hecht at the time were head of Land Trust and Charlie Vail was also on it. We drove every road in town and had a list of things to grade them on to decide whether they were a scenic view, were they dirt roads, old stone walls, the trees, many things like the view from them. There were a couple of places that were recommended to become scenic roads by the state, but it was never done.
JM:When did you do Academy Street?
KK:After that, about 2012 about that again was curbing and we put the same ornamental lighting and the sidewalk on one side. We tried to do away with the parking. Actually we tried to make parking because that was what people wanted, but in the end it was not done.
JM:You had said something about Academy Street was not made narrow enough to slow the traffic?
KK:That was way before that when Val was in office. They made real parking on either side of
Academy Street. I just convinced Val not to make it 4 lanes wide all the way to 44 so we had bump outs at either end. It made half the distance to cross and it protects the cars parked there and it slows the cars down turning in. I wish more of our roads were that way.
JM:It would be a lot easier to cross the street. I tried to cross Academy Street to the Salisbury Association building. The cars come around so quickly that…
KK:They turn in too fast
JM:If I am not careful, I could get hit.
KK: Oh yeah
JM:They don’t really slow down
KK:Not at all.
JM:You put the granite curbing in Lakeville about 2016?
KK:Four years ago.
JM:We did the curbing to beyond Deano’s Pizza (a block or two beyond Holley Street Ed.) and as far as Bissell Street: it also goes up as far as Ethan Allan Street.
JM:Why was granite chosen?
KK:Because it is so permanent. It was black top before and it just doesn’t last.
JM:It doesn’t last because of the snow plowing: they can’t see.
KK:There is already some on Academy Street that was damaged last winter. After a while it just goes away. We had an engineering firm, the same one on all 3 projects, and then we also had a work permit since the center of Lakeville and Salisbury are state roads so we had the state involved as well.
JM:Did you work with DOT?
KK:You have to. They own the roads. Their easement, if you want to call it that, is a lot wider that the actual paved road. The paved road is not necessarily in the center of the easement either, especially out here. I think the town hall steps are actually on DOT property. ( One thing she mentioned later was that they got DOT to narrow the state roads thru Lakeville and Salisbury to 11 feet to slow down traffic, but she was not sure that it was working. Ed.)
JM:I am going to ask you an odd question. I received a request from Salisbury Central School a couple of years ago asking if there was a map of old stone walls in Salisbury.
KK:Not that I know of
JM:I didn’t think so. But you would be a good one to ask.
KK:I know that when we moved here somebody was stealing old stone walls. We had some that were stolen from our property. Roberta Willis was our representative at the time: (See her interview) she had helped make a state law that you cannot move a boundary wall. I am pretty sure that is correct.
JM:Before we close is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered?
KK:Not that I can think of. It has been great talking with you. I have enjoyed doing it. I hope people continue taking pride in the town.