ORAL HISTORY COVER SHEET
NARRATOR: Anne Langdon
INTERVIEWEE: Mary Bodell
TAPE: # 95
PLACE OF INTERVIEW: Noble Horizons
SUMMARY OF TALK: Discussion of George Langdon’s early days as Headmaster of Salisbury School, Mention of Jeff Walker, Horace Ceily-Brown, Hop Rudd, Jo Rudd, Gordon and Charlotte Reid, Maurice Firuski, Carl Williams and the Sports program.
Date; August 10, 1992
Property of Oral History Project
The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Conn. 06068
Interview of Anne Langdon by Mary Bodell
Location: Noble Horizons
Date: August 10, 1992
AL: Shall I say something?
MB: Well, let me say again: This is Mary Bodell talking to Anne Langdon at Noble Horizons. Anne is Mrs. George Langdon. Her husband was Headmaster of the Salisbury School and today is August 10, 1992. Anne, I would like to have you tell me about when you and George came to the Salisbury School. The year you came and what the school was like when you were here in your early days here.
AL: Well, Mary, we came in June, 1942. We had a five year old whoher fifth birthday was the first
party we had in the school, a predecessor of a great many more. And we had a son who was nine. He went to Indian Mountain and she went to Town Hill. We moved into the beautiful Headmaster’s House which is still lovely, lovely – and all of our successors have enjoyed it tremendously. The school had forty nine boys – it now has a great many more – two hundred and thirty, I think – and we loved it the minute we got here. We had to work awfully hard – um –
AL: Is it on now? –
MB: yes, it’s on now.
AL: There was a Main Building and there was Payson Dormitory and uh, an old building which was used as a gymnasium. It was a very simple place for the boys to play basketball. So everything that happened in the School happened in the Headmaster’s house. Which I thought was wonderful because we had plenty of room and we had plenty of things- silver and china, and things like that to have the parties. We had teas almost every Saturday afternoon after the game, which I loved – it was great fun to have people come into the house. Um, our contact with the village was a good one. We didn’t see too much of the village people during those years because we were terribly busy at school. Everybody – it was 1942, and everybody was working hard. We had a Victory garden. Eventually, we had an accelerated program to get the boys who would be eighteen so they would have their diplomas when they got through the school. We had war graduations in December which were shattering. They were so emotional and so, so -well, they were just very emotional. There were not many boys that graduated at that time but the whole school would come. Um –
MB: How about the faculty? Did they go off to war?
AL: The faculty? No, not many of them. They would teach – and, I mean, they weren’t ancient – but they – the faculty. Some went off to war but after the war, the faculty was increased and improved tremendously. Old – well, people that George knew already – that he had taught, actually, at Pomfret came. There were two people from Pomfret whom he had taught as boys, Jeff Walker and Wally Herry? And they added a great deal because we had a very, very strong faculty. Horace Ceily-Brown, who ran for Governor, came – he was a great scientist teacher – he went into politics and was in the Congress for 16 years. He taught at the School for a couple of years and helped design the laboratory at Payson which went up – not at Payson – but the Memorial Hall which was dedicated in 1951 to the boys who
had lost their lives in the war. I really can’t—
MB: Was Hop Rudd there then?
AL: Hop Rudd was there. He came – a great, great addition. Our faculty was exceptionally strong. It was just marvelous.
MB: And did Jo Rudd teach?
AL: Jo Rudd came and she took all kinds of courses and studied a great deal and was really an expert in her, well, she was perfectly wonderful. She was a wonderful person.
MB: Did she teach the boys?
AL: And she taught the boys. Yes, she was a regular faculty member.
MB: So you had women teachers back in the forties?
MB: Lots of schools, lots of boys’ schools did not.
AL: Yes, well, we had her. She was the only one. Can you —is this recorded – what you were saying?
MB: How about feeding the boys? Where did they eat?
AL: Well, at a dining room and everybody went to meals. The faculty were more or less required, not really required, but hoped they would go. It was homey, we had tables: the boys waited on the tables. Up to that time, I think they’d had waitresses and during the war, they no longer had waitresses but the boys learned to wait on the tables – they waited very well- and we sat at long tables for eight – now, they sit at round tables, which I think, almost nicer. But ours were nice too.
MB: Were many of your faculty members married?
AL: Not a great many, but some were.
MB: Would the wives come to the meals too?
AL: Oh, yes. They were hoped – we hoped they’d come.
MB: And how about the children?
AL: No, the children did not come. We didn’t have very many children then.—
MB: You had your children
AL:our children and the Mulligans had children….but they didn’t come. Most of them were really
too small. I mean, in those days we didn’t take the children, little children around as much as they do now.
MB: That’s true.
AL: How about the Chapel? I know the current building is new but you were an Episcopal School so you probably had a chapel
AL: -—had a chapel, a perfectly darling, darling little chapel downstairs. It was in the basement but it was just charming and it had a dear little altar and eventually, it was paneled. Jack Peaceman who was a perfectly marvelous carpenter, paneled the sides and it was a charming little place and then, we were so spoiled when our new chapel – when we got our new chapel – it was a dream. In the meantime, there had been other buildings that had been built, including a gymnasium and I know that George got a letter, at one time, from an irate alumnus, saying, how could he build a gymnasium before a chapel? (laughter) and this was a bone of contention and we had a dear little chapel and then we had this sensational chapel now which is probably one of the most beautiful school chapels in the whole circuit. It’s just lovely, lovely, lovely. And the boys would go in every morning at eight o’clock – we had Chapel at eight every morning- They’d go in after breakfast, sing a hymn, I think they would read a psalm, and there was a prayer and that was Chapel. And they did it automatically, loved it —nobody ever fussed about it – it was just part of life. Too bad, it’s given up – but that’s modem thinking.
MB: Well, now on Sundays, did George conduct a service in the Chapel?
Al: Yes, eight o’clock we had Communion and then he had the ten-thirty service – and they all went. They did not ever have to go to Communion- it was not required. They went, a few, not many, but some went and there was a very active Chapel Committee.
MB: How old was the school when you came there in 1942?
AL: It was started in 1901, so it was like forty years old.
MB: I don’t understand. It is an Episcopal Church school, is that right?
AL: It is. It still is.
MB: Therefore does the Headmaster have to be an Episcopal minister?
AL: No. He’s not now. The Headmaster is not: Emerson Quaile was not. I understand he was perhaps thinking of studying to be a clergyman but, of course, he died so young and so tragically leaving four little children and his lovely widow, Charlotte Milmine Quaile who was a great friend of ours. We were very, very close and loved her dearly and, of course, her daughters were just Mary Anne’s age, – our daughter- and they were good friends.
MB: George Langdon succeeded Emerson Quaile?
AL: Yes and his father had founded the school. He was a clergyman. And Emerson was teaching at
Hotchkiss and he was asked to take over Salisbury, and they had some rough years. It was during the Depression but they added on to the house that was originally there. And the house, it stands right now, beautiful house – plenty of room. We had lots of guests. At one point, we had boys in the back of that house because we needed the space. We didn’t have enough. It was before Quaile had been built – Quaile Dormitory – which is right there as you come in the entrance. That was – I’m not sure when that was built – but in the fifties sometime
MB: Did you have an admissions person or did George do the admissions?
AL: He did almost everything in those days, (laughter) He was Chaplain, and Business Manager, and Headmaster, but he yes, yes, I think yes, we did. Gordon Reid was – did quite a bit of admissions when he came. These were in the early days when we had not as many people on the faculty but there was an Admission person: yes, there was.
MB: Did Gordon come after you did?
AL: Oh, yes, a long time -1 mean, not that long – four or five years.
During the war years everyone, as you know, as most people know, it was busy. He was in Washington I think, during those years, Gordon was, and then he came up and did a good job. Yes.
MB: Did he and Charlotte live there?
AL: No, they lived in the house – the big house – on the lake.
MB: Right, I know that house.
MB: So he came – he was a day teacher?
AL: Yes, oh yes.
MB: Moreover, Maurice Firuski taught for a while during the war.
MB: What did he teach?
AL: Brilliant teacher.
MB: Yes, he would be.
AL: History, marvelous teacher.
MB: Oh, I think he’d be wonderful. He lived—
AL: In the village.
MB: In the village yes.
AL: He was really a brilliant teacher. George felt he was almost one was one of the best.
MB: I would think he would have been.
AL: The boys liked him very, very much.
MB: How about Carl Williams?
AL: Carl was marvelous. Carl came at a very crucial time in the school and added, oh, so tremendously, marvelous teacher, marvelous teacher. We all know about Harold Corbin. He was the first teacher that George engaged in the School and he was there – he and Florrie were there in those critical years of the beginning of the School and our friendship has lasted—
MB: Did they live on campus?
AL: Yes, they lived in the Lake Cottage. And the boys adored them both, of course.
MB: I’m sure they would, wonderful people.
AL: And they were wonderful, wonderful additions to the School in every way.
MB: I have a cousin from Baltimore who went to that school. Did you advertise the school or was it sort of word of mouth that people heard of it?
AL: Well, I think people heard of it that way. It’s funny that you mention that because I was thinking today if you were going to ask me what did I do at the School and you haven’t, fortunately, because I think you probably know (laughter). When I became a Colonial Dame, I wasn’t a bit interested in it and then I thought, well, I’ll be around, see more people in the State and maybe they will know about Salisbury School that way and then, when I became President, I had the same feeling, I wasn’t a bit interested in it but then I thought, well, I’ll get to Washington and see some people and they’d hear about Salisbury School.
MB: Well, I had that in my mind but I wanted you to say it. So, thank you for hearing it. And you had Baltimore connections because Baltimore boys have always come to the School.
AL: We didn’t have that many.
MB: The ones I know did.
AL: I wish we had.
MB: Well, they had Gilman there.
AL: We had Gilman, yes, yes. I used to go to dancing class at Gilman, had a lovely time.
MB: How about the sports at Salisbury School? Was that a big –
AL: They were absolutely important and good and marvelous and it’s incredible when you think back of how few boys there were –
MB: yes, it is.
—and when George put in soccer, people were just having a fit, they said it would take away from the football and, of course, it’s a very important sport now and the same way with the wrestling. When he started the wrestling, people would say there are too many sports here but there were boys who were interested in other things besides football and baseball—
MB: that’s right.
AL: —and the rowing, of course, the rowing was absolutely wonderful. Jeff was the Coach – Jeff Walker –
MB: Tell us a little bit about the rowing—
AL: Well, there’s nothing really that I can tell except that we had good crews.
MB: And, who did you compete against?
AL: Oh, we competed against all the good schools South Kent and a lot of the – we competed against Pomfret and I’m trying to think of –
AL: Mary, I was just thinking about the dances at school. They were the old time dances. They were card dances and the boys invited their own friends – their own girls – to come up and join us and I would write them and invite them to come.
MB: You’d write a personal letter to each girl?
AL: A personal letter to each girl- and it was so strange. Years and years afterward someone said, you know the one thing I remember about Salisbury School was my daughter getting a letter from you. I was so pleased it made it all worthwhile – when I thought of those hours that I used to write letters to the girls but it was fun. We had a lovely time.
MB: Did the girls respond?
AL: Yes, they did. And often, they would write back and say what a nice time they’d had.
MB: How lovely.
AL. But all of that protocol, I don’t know—
MB. Where did the girls stay when they came?
AL. They stayed in our house, mostly, and then they – we turned over a dormitory at one time in the beginning when we had very few rooms, places, for them to stay. We turned over a whole dormitory on the third floor and I went up to chaperone and I hated that. (laughter)That was awful.
MB: Anne, it’s wonderful of you to have taught the Oral History Group so much about the early days you were at Salisbury School and this will be an important and very useful part of the social history of the town of Salisbury. Thanks ever so much I really appreciate it and so do we all.