HOWARD KNICKERBOCKERTranscript of a taped interview
Narrator: Howard Knickerbocker
Date:September 26, 1982
Place of interview: Mr. Knickerbocker’s residence at
Noble Horizons, Salisbury, CT
Interviewer: Lila Nash
Mr. Knickerbocker was for many years the surveyor for the Town of Salisbury. Born and brought up in the area of Factory Street, he has lived in the town all his life. Possibly from a recent illness, his voice is weak or indistinct. As a result, many parts of this tape are not clear.
1982Property of the Oral History ProjectSalisbury Association and Scoville Memorial LibrarySalisbury, Connecticut 06068
My name is Lila Nash and I am interviewing Howard Knickerbocker at Noble Horizons. Nick, as he is called, is a native of Salisbury and a lifelong resident and he has been the town’s surveyor for over 30 years. I am sure he will have some interesting things to tell about the land, the natives and the simple life when he was a boy. Howard, tell me about the beginning of your life in Salisbury.
LN: You were born on…
HK: December 15, 1906.
LN: 1906. Up on Factory Street? What they then called Factory Street?
LN: Why was it called Factory Street?
HK: There used to be a factory up there, Salisbury Cutlery Handle Co.
LN: And other factories?
HK: Up and down the hill were some others.
LN: Anything else? Can you tell me about the Salisbury Cutlery Handle Co. as one of the first industries in town?
HK: Well, they made knife handles for jack knives, cutlery.
LN: Weren’t your grandparents involved there?
HK: Yea, my Grandfather Washington.
LN: Your Grandfather Washington.
LN: And where did they…
HK: They came from England. (inaudible)
LN: They came over from England to work for Charlie Keesler first, and then it was sold to the Warners. Your Grandfather was one of the leading men at the Cutlery Handle?
LN: Who else worked there? Any more of your relatives?
LN: Oh yes, the Parsons boys–they are all your cousins, aren’t they?
LN: Your mother’s sister married John Parsons. J. R. Parsons.
They all worked there at the Cutlery. Can you tell me anything more about the family and when you lived up on Washinee Street, what is now Factory Street? You can tell me about the little house you lived in: the little house there.
LN: I t*s right in the little triangle with Bunker Hill and Mt. Riga, is where you lived when you were a young boy.
HK: As a young boy I lived with my Grandpa Washington there.
LN: Oh, you lived with Grandpa Washington. And he lived across the way?
HK: Right by the pond there.
LN: Oh yes. I see… What was your youth like when you lived there? What was the town like then? The neighbors?
HK: I don’t remember much.
LN: You don’t remember much about it. You told me once there were no toys in those days for children. What did you do? You said you used to play with your brothers with the black snakes on the mountain.
HK: You put them around – inaudible – we put them around. We used the black snakes for a belt.
LN: You used the black snakes for a belt!
HK: They used to grow about six or seven feet long.
LN: They did! Six or seven feet long. Now, after school and graduation, what did you do then?
HK: I think I went to Pittsfield Co. for a little while.
LN: When did you become interested in surveying?
HK: Well, when I went to work for Community Service with Sid Cowles. He did a lot of surveying. And then after that when he asked me to walk around with him he gave me the business.
LN: You got the business from Mr. Cowles.
HK: At Community Service at that time.
LN: And how about Mr. Pettee. William Pettee. Did you happen to know him?
HK: No. He, I guess… Mrs. Pettee, Julia Pettee.
LN: Miss Julia Pettee was his daughter.
HK: I got the records from her about the maps.
LN: I see. The maps, you mean. You have all those maps now. About how many of them?
LN: How many did you have altogether, land maps?
HK: Must have been three or four hundred.
LN: You did a lot of surveying all through the village?
HK: Oh yes, Canaan and Sharon. They’d send me there.
LN: Nothing has been done compared to…. when you speak about the landscape. It’s about the same as it was before.
You have been a member of the Rotary Club now, haven’t you? For how many years?
HK:Aboutsix months after itstarted.
LN:I seeand you havebeen amemberthere. What was your
recreation in your later years? The young men of the town, where did they congregate?
HK: Sam Parker’s, I think.
LN: Sam Parker’s, that’s over on the Millerton line. And they used to congregate over there. What were your experiences there? I understand that you used to drive the late Howard Hughes back up to Lansing Hill when he was courting Mary Lansing.
LN: You would drive him up there and leave them there. They would come and get you? How was he and what did you think of him?
HK: I used my car I guess.
LN: You used your car to take him home. To take him back up to Lansings after he imbibed too much?
LN: How did he feel about that? Was he, what kind of a person was he as a young man?
HK: Oh, very nice. Kind.
LN: And generous?
HK: Oh, yes.
LN: Before you retired and came up to Noble Horizons you were very active. You lived over on Interlaken Road next to Interlaken Inn?
LN: And you were married to a Sharon girl.
HK: Oh, yes. Virginia Middlebrook.
LN: Virginia Middlebrook. And you have had two sons.
HK: Two sons, Douglas and Perry.
LN: Douglas and Perry. What is Douglas doing now?
HK: He works for IBM in Poughkeepsie running a computer.
LN: How about Perry?
HK: He is a civil engineer in (inaudible).
LN: You had anticipated that Perry might pick up your surveying in Salisbury.
LN: What happened?
HK: He’s got a wonderful job up there.
LN: Now that you have sold your property, your home, and you are now a resident of Noble Horizons, how do you like it here?
HK: It’s very nice.
LN: Uh huh, you think that now that you are settled in now, that you like it.
HK: Can’t live alone.
LN: When we get older we can’t live alone more or less and Noble Horizons is a good place to be.
LN: That was nice. Are there any other stories that you know about the town that you would like to relate?
HK: Not that I can remember.
LN: Well, then I guess we can close the interview, and I can thank you, and I would say, Cousin Howard.