This is Jean McMillen interviewing Rachel Bonhotel Lamb at the Salisbury Town Hall. The date is Sept. 17, 2012.
JM:What is your full name?
RL:Rachel Eleanor Bonhotel Lamb
JM:Where were you born?
RL:In Sharon, Ct.
RL:Sept. 5, 1959
JM:Your parents’ names, please.
RL:Earl Eugene Bonhotel Sr. and Gladys Caroline Kellerhouse Bonhotel
JM:Do you have siblings:
RL:Yes, Earl Eugene Bonhotel Jr., Doris Virginia Bonhotel Parsons, John Windsor Bonhotel.
JM:What is your educational background?
RL:I graduated from Salisbury Central School in 1974, and I graduated from Housatonic Valley Regional High School in 1977. I went on to the University of Connecticut and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in Psychology.
JM:Well done. The first part of this I am going to ask you about family background and the second part I am going to ask you about your job as Assistant Town Clerk for the town of Salisbury. I am going to start with what are the names of your great grandparents? Do you remember them?
RL:I never knew my great grandparents and I barely knew my grandparents. My grandmother on my father’s side, my paternal grandmother, was an Ostrander.
RL:Tryphena was my grandmother. My grandfather was Charles Bonhotel on my father’s side.
JM:What did your grandfather do?
RL:I believe he worked as a collier with coal on Mt. Riga.
JM:Was he the gentleman who was drowned?
RL: He was drowned in the lake on Mt. Riga.
JM:Do you have any knowledge of Mt. Riga as a village?2.
RL:My mother used to tell me that my grandmother spoke often of living on Mt. Riga when the village was up there.
JM:Did he farm or…
RL:I don’t believe they farmed.
JM:Which family is the older residents the Bonhotels or the Ostranders?
JM:Can you tell me a little bit about their background? Where they came from?
RL:I don’t really know. The Ostranders were here earlier; the Bonhotels came from France.
JM:Is there a family burial plot on Mt. Riga or Salisbury Cemetery or the Ole Burial Ground?
RL:I believe they are scattered; there are definitely Ostranders buried on Mt. Riga. I don’t know about Bonhotels. The Bonhotels are buried in Salisbury Cemetery on Undermountain Road.
JM:Are your parents both dead?
JM:When did your father die?
RL:June 26, 1980.
JM:And your mother?
RL:May 31, 2000
JM:Do you have a definition of what a “Raggie” is?
RL:A Raggie would be someone, in my opinion since I have been called one, who has their roots tied to Mt. Riga. They probably are not very high class in town, but are considered a typical local rural character.
JM:But a native.
RL:A native, for sure.
JM:Not an incomer like I am.
RL:Someone who has been here or whose roots have been here for probably one hundred years.
JM:Now I am going to ask you about the Town Hall. Name the Selectmen that you have worked for.
RL:When I first started here at Town Hall in March of 2003, Val Bernadoni was the First Selectman. There has only been one change since him and that was to Curtis Rand. He is still the current selectman.
JM:How did you get your job?
RL:I saw an ad in the newspaper, and I knew that the Town Clerk was Patty Williams who had just taken over from Sue Spring. I applied, and I had a recommendation from Matt Kiefer. Patty interviewed me, as did a group of people here at the Town Hall. I was chosen for the position.
JM:How long have you worked here?
RL:I have been here since March of 2003 so I am coming up on my tenth year.
JM:Who was the Assistance Town Clerk before you?
RL:Patty Williams, she took over. She was here I believe a year or a year and one half when Sue Spring retired.
JM:Do you have any intentions of become the full Town Clerk?
RL:No ma’am, I enjoy second seat.
JM:What are your duties as second seat?
RL:I do everything that the Town Clerk does in her absence. My job is really to take over for her so I sign everything that she signs. We do absentee ballots for elections; we do dog licenses. We create birth certificates for people who are born here in Salisbury; we process death certificates, burial permits, cremation permits, and marriage licenses. We also do trade name certificates, land records; we record deeds, and mortgages.
RL:Those are part of the land records. We maintain current voter lists.
JM:Now there are some public records that are not open to the public. What are those?
RL:Military discharge records are confidential for 75 years, and birth certificates are confidential for 100. Anything with a social security number on it; as for instance, marriage license or death certificates very often have social security numbers. They are public records; they can be looked at or copied for the public. Social security numbers must be redacted first.
JM:When you have to create a birth certificate for a home birth, how do you go about that?
RL:There is an entire packet of information which comes from the Department of Public Health of the State of Connecticut. There are affidavits, witnesses to the birth, doctors who have to observe the bay after birth and they have to do a report. Usually there’s a midwife’s report and an affidavit as well.
After we gather all that information together, we send it off to the State of Connecticut because they have a computerized system that we don’t have access to, but it is our job to get all of the affidavits, the father’s statement, the mother’s statement; all of that together. It is a lot of paperwork for that.
JM:On average how many home births do you have a year?
RL:Well, it depends. There is one family whose children are all born in town; they have had three in the last 10 years. I think we have done possibly three others. In the last 10 years, we have probably done 6 or 7 of them.
JM:Oh my, more than I would have expected. I don’t know why I put down Katrina and King Martin; help me.
RL:Oh I know why because we were talking about Ostrander Beach on Mt. Riga. I was saying that now the beach on the top of Mt. Riga is used by the Town of Salisbury residents as allowed by the Mt. Riga Corporation under special permit. It used to be called Ostrander Beach; George Kiefer had told me that there was something in the land records when that was given by the Ostranders that that was to be maintained as a public beach for the residents of Salisbury. But somehow over the years Mt. Riga has acquired that, and I would like to investigate that further whether or not that is still a beach that should be controlled by the Mt. Riga Corporation, or maybe Salisbury residents have somewhere in history the right to continue to use that beach without a permit.
JM:Do you have anything that I have missed either about your family background that you would like to add or your job as Assistant Town Clerk?
RL:I think that the only thing I wanted to add was the change that has taken place in this town since I grew up here. How when I was a child, everyone knew everyone else, and today it is a different population, more of a New York City part time vacation kind of resort area. There is not as much local community as there used to be. There was a change and it really started to become evident around the 1980’s.
JM:That would be about right.
RL:I think that the local population, at least I know myself in particular at that point I started to feel a little displaced by the population that was coming in and purchasing homes, dropping them down to ground level and building bigger houses on the land. I did say while I didn’t agree with the burning down of the Town Hall, the fact that the Town Hall was burned down by what I consider a local, a Raggie, like myself might have been partly through frustration from that sense of displacement.
JM:It’s a good possibility. Thank you very much for your time Rachel; I enjoyed it, and I appreciate it.
RL:Thank you, Jean.