Littauer, William

nterviewer: Jean McMillen
Place of Interview: Scoville Library
Date of Interview:
File No: 34 Cycle: 2
Summary: Lake Wononscopomic Association, Salisbury Forum, Civic Life Project, Salisbury Dog Park

Interview Audio

Interview Transcript

Wm. Littauer Cover Sheet:

Interviewee:William Littauer

Narrator:Jean P. McMillen

File #:34, cycle 2

Place of Interview: Historian’s office at Scoville Library

Date: July 14, 2016

Summary of talk: family background, The Lake Wonoscopomic Association, Salisbury Forum, Civic Life Project, and Salisbury Dog Park.

Property of the oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068

William Littauer Interview:
This is file #34, cycle 2. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Bill Littauer who is President of the Lake Wononscopomuc Association. He is going to talk about the Salisbury Forum, the Civic Life Project and the Salisbury Dog Park. Today’s date is July 14, 2016. We’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM: What is your name?
WL: Bill Littauer
JM: Your birthdate?
WL: June 10, 1939
JM: Where were you born?
WL: In Port Chester, New York
JM: Your parents’ names?
WL: My mother was Marita Oelkers Littauer and Frederick Jerome Littauer.
JM: And you have siblings?
WL: Yes there were five of us and there are four left including myself.
JM: Did you have a sister?
WL: Right my oldest sibling is my sister Marita named after my mother. Then I had 3 brothers, Stephen, the youngest, then Frederick, and Richard.
JM: Your education after high school?
WL: Brown University. I didn’t get one: I quit after three semesters.
JM: It was a sensible thing to do in your circumstances.
WL: In my circumstances it probably was because I was passing with a “gentleman’s C”. I didn’t really like it. I was bored to death, except for my participation in the college radio station. (For more on radio background see file #10, cycle 2 Marshall Miles of WHDD). That I loved
JM: You found your niche.
WL: Certain classes I liked as history, English; if I could write or speak it was great, but if I had to do math or chemistry or anything like that. I took Chemistry 101 and after 6 weeks the professor told me in the lab, “Don’t bother coming anymore; there is no way you could ever pass this course.” I shall never forget that!
JM: it was the rough end of his tongue, but it worked out ok.
WL: He was right.
JM: How did you come to this area?
WL: I came here because one of my close neighbors in Larchmont, NY just outside of the city where we lived had a house up here. We came to see him and his wife. (Also his son asked him to look for a house in the area.) On the way home we looked at a house and decided to buy it.
JM: You said that you had just bought a house in Larchmont.
WL: Yes we had bought one the year before. Well the problem was like many people, you have a family in a big house: they are all there and gradually they all move away, get married or whatever. You are left with a big house which becomes a hotel at Christmas time. We bought an apartment in Larchmont and I very quickly discovered that I am not an apartment person. There was nothing to do and I was bored stiff. The house up here was wonderful; we were right on the lake. We have enough grounds to have gardens. I could do vegetables and flowers.
JM: When did you buy the house up here?
WL: 1999
JM: How did you get involved with the Lake Wononscopomuc Association?
WL: Well it was easy because we came up here and the first summer in 1999 we tried to go swimming and go all tangled up in the milfoil. I said this is ridiculous so first we tried pulling it up ourselves. WE had the harvesters working out in the deeper water, but it was very hard to swim through. We have a lot of milfoil around our property. I tried to do something about it. That meant getting involved with the Lake Wononscopomuc Association. After the first year, I was all of a sudden President.
JM: When was the Lake Wononscopomuc Association actually formed?
WL: It was formed in Sept 11, 1988.
JM: Why was it formed?
WL: For that reason because the milfoil was a huge problem. Now I should go back. The first major study of the lake was in 1975. It was done by Union Carbide Inc. It was ordered by the town and the Salisbury Association. The reason was that over the years the lake has undergone an enormous transition. All of that is due to the watershed.
You know that Lakeville is a rural area. Before the 1700 there were just some Indians here primarily. (migratory bands ED) Then we had the iron ore industry development. Then farming was a major occupation. None of that really did any damage to the lake. You might think it would, but it really didn’t. Damage to the lake started at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century when railroads brought people here. People could come for extended stays. They also built houses. Our watershed started filling up with houses with people living there. People create waste. That is the problem.
How the milfoil came into the lake is really not known but we assume that there are only two ways that it could have come in 1) either on somebody’s boat or 2) somebody had an aquatic garden which they got bored with and tossed it out. Just a fragment of milfoil got down to the lake. It expands like crazy.
JM: Do you have a mission statement?
WL: Yes the mission statement is basically to improve, protect, and maintain the ecological status of the lake.
JM: There was talk of putting sewer around the lake back in 1916. It has never gotten all around the lake. (See file #33 John Whalen Waste Water Treatment Dept.) There are sewer lines someplace.
WL: There is and that is one of the major problems. Back in 1975 there was a huge study about where does the phosphorus come from? That is the major nutrient that feeds the milfoil. Also it leads to deoxygenation of the water. If you do not have enough oxygen in the water, things die but also the phosphorus rises up into the water column and feeds the algae. Then you get algae blooms. We have had blue-green algae in this lake, nowhere near as severely as the recent blooms along the Florida east coast. That was part of what lead to the formation of the lake association because we had these two problems: algae fed by increasing phosphorus in the lake and milfoil. By 1992 the lake association with a large donation from Hotchkiss purchased a new harvester for the town to use to clear the milfoil in the lake as much as possible.
JM: Does the state regulate you at all or are you private?
WL: Not really we are private. The state is interested in the lake because we have a public beach there and a launch. (See tape #40 Stacey Dodge, Grove Manager)
JM: Do you know how deep the lake is?
WL: 106 feet at its deepest point. It is the deepest lake in Connecticut. It is natural but assisted by man. There was a lake and when they dammed it first of all for a gristmill probably, but then the primary use of it was to work the bellows for the foundry at the base of the lake (Salisbury Iron Works ED.) which is how the lake became known as “Furnace Pond”. Lakeville was then called Furnace Village. In the mid 1800 the townspeople decided that that was not a very attractive name and they came up with Wononscopomuc. How they came up with Wononscopomuc is unknown. It means in the local Indian dialect “the marshy area at the bend”. Now if you are going to name a lake, they are not exactly…
JM: Like Washining and Washinee “laughing water and “Smiling water”. That is better. They did not have a good PR agent. By 1841 Samuel Church was referring to Furnace Pond as Lake Wononscopomuc. According to Malcolm Day Rudd “wonon” means “land at the base or turning of a pond” Ed.)
WL: So you can come up with whatever interpretation you want to put on it, but that is actually where it came from. I looked it up.
JM: How do you fund the things that you do?
WL: It is all by contributions from about 2/3 maybe less than that maybe 60% comes from property owners around the lake. Another 5 or 7-8% comes from Hotchkiss. The rest is from other people who are interested in the lake. They are mostly people who use it at the town Grove.
JM: Do you have a board of directors?
WL: Yes
JM: How many are on the board?
WL: 16 at the moment
JM: What is your term of office?
WL: It is really a year because we don’t have term limits or anything.
JM: You are on until you want to get off.
WL: Pretty much, yes.
JM: That seems to be pretty much the way it goes. You told me of four different things about how you spend your money.
WL: 1) We did participate in the town harvesting project; however a year ago in 2015 we bought what is called an eco-harvester. It is a small harvester which a very shallow draft, about 8 inches. So we can get in much closer to people’s docks and beaches to try and get the milfoil away so people can go swimming right off your area.
JM: You said that that cost about $60,000.
WL: It was $60,000 for the machine and trailer. The big harvester that the town bought the same year was $200,000. But of course with interest rates at 2% or less, it was not a bad deal. It was a good time to buy it and to extend the payments out 10 years. That is what the town did.
2) The other thing that we do is we also put down mats (benthic barriers) in the swim lanes at the town Grove to prevent the milfoil from growing at all. It is expensive so it is only useful in a small area like the swim lanes so you can have swimming meets without milfoil being a problem.
3) We also have someone stationed at the Grove on Saturdays and Sunday morning when most people come into fish and launch boats to check them for anything they might be bringing in and to make sure they are dry. We do not want them bringing in Zebra Mussels or any other invasive species such as hydria or lily ponds or whatnot.
4) Then we do studies on the lake on an annual basis. Last year we did an intensive year- long study measuring the oxygen and the phosphorus, nitrogen and temperatures and so forth because it all goes back to that 1975 Union Carbide study as to know what is happening to the lake. Is it getting better or worse and in what way? The idea is to try to catch any problems before they become a problem.
5. This year we are doing a mapping of vegetation in the lake so we know what weeds are wherein the lake. If we have any on the state endangered list, we can protect that if there is any action that we might take.
JM: What are some of the invasive weeds that we have in the lake?
WL: The only one that we have so far is Eurasian Water Milfoil. That is the major one. So far we have not turned up anything else. Hopefully this study that is being done at the very moment won’t show that we have acquired any new ones.
JM: RE: harvesters: the town has a big one and you have this little one, do they cut the weeds?
WL: The one we bought is supposed to pull the weeds out by the roots; it does not however. It does rip them out at the base. I can get the roller down about 4 feet so we can rip them pretty close, but they do grow back. On the other hand one of the methods that have been tried in the past was called hydro-raking. That is essentially a small barge with a York rake on it. A York rake just being one of those super large rakes that comb the lake floor.
JM; Sort of like a harrow?
WL: Yes like a harrow that you can extend down into the water. It rips up weeds and anything else that is there. Then they dump it on your shore. You have to get rid of it. It is also expensive because it leaves this big mass of mud, weeds and stuff. For most people it costs as much or more to get rid of this muck than it did to pay the guy to do the hydro-raking. Even so when you did the hydro-raking, a month later the weeds were starting to come back. It is like cultivating a garden.
JM: After you have harvested the weeds, what happens to it?
WL: They are taken to the site of the new transfer station and dumped. Milfoil when it dries becomes very light and feathery. While it is heavy coming out of the water, once it dries, it takes up very little space.
JM: Is it going to cover the footprint of the new transfer station?
WL: No I think it is just in one area. It is like at the current transfer station there is a site where you can take leaves just composed. That is what will happen to our weeds here.
JM: In order to get rid of the weeds, do you use any chemicals?
WL: No we don’t. The best way to get rid of the weeds would be with an agent using 24D; however, 24D raises the specter of Agent Orange. People get very excited. It is not Agent Orange and in fact it is used in Round-Up which many people use on their driveways. The other way is with a weed herbicide that suppresses them. Twin Lakes has used this for a number of years successfully. (See file #51 Mike Haupt on Twin Lakes Association) the problem is that you have to do it every year as they come back. It suppresses them, but doesn’t kill them.
JM: Ted Davis did some studies of the water in 1989.
WL: Yes he did them for at least 20 years. That is a large basis of the information that we have on the lake. In fact we discovered we did not realized it until fairly recently that there are files of his material at the State DEEP, but nobody has really looked at them. We got ahold of them; we are in the long process of trying to put everything together into one databank.
JM: That would make sense because then you would have past history right up through to today.
WL: Exactly if you don’t know what you have got, you cannot analyze it and predict what is going to happen.
JM: You really need the back story in order to move forward. I gather that you are the proprietor of running the eco harvester because you got stuck with it.
WL: I got stuck with it last summer; this summer the Interlaken Inn has provided someone to run it one day a week. Everybody agreed that probably the person running the machine like that should be younger than 77.
JM; Oh but you have the experience.
WL: I do have the experience; it is very useful because a machine like that to know where it has to be lubricated. There are 31 lubrication points that have to be done every time you use it.
JM: You do share your information with Twin Lakes Association?
WL: Absolutely, first of all they are on our mailing list so they get every e-mail I send out, they get a copy of. They come to our meetings; we trade information.
JM: Who is the President of the Twin Lakes Association?
WL Twin Lakes President is Cary Fiertz.
JM: Your communication: you have a website?
WL: Oh yes it is or
JM: You do brochures and pamphlets?
WL We do. We have a very nice pamphlet that one of our board members Mary Silks prepared which we send to all the new property owners in the watershed. We can also distribute them at the town grove and al events. We do some educational production. It just talks about good lake management and how to make sure that you are not pouring phosphorus down into the lake out of a septic system or dishwasher material.
JM: Would there be with P & Z regulations as to how far from the shore your septic system has to be?
WL: That is a state health department regulation. P&Z regulations are that you have to be 75 feet from a water course whether it is a lake or a stream or any body of water.
JM: Who were the early founders of the association?
WL: I shall have to look it up as I was not here then.
JM: You gave me Anne Cuddy, Judi Gott, Rod Aller, Bob Black, Gray Davidson, Peggy heck, Debbie Rathbun, Edgar Nathan, Giselle Piccolo, Lorna Brodtkorb, Ted Davis, Richard Haskell, Jim & Harriet Morrill, and Roseanne Niedhammer.
WL: Right.
JM: Did I miss anybody?
WL: You got them all.
JM: Is there anything before we move on that you want to add about the Lake Wononscopomuc Association that I haven’t asked you?
WL: Except that it would not be Lakeville if you didn’t have a good lake. The lake is now is what is called a mesotrophic condition. There are three general classifications for lakes: oligotrophic which means they are pristine, mesotrophic they are in the middle, they are not great but they are not awful, and endotrophic is like Lake Erie dead, no fish there is nothing living there. They are right here in the 1975 studies. The key is to prevent eutrophication; we don’t want the lake to deteriorate any further. As far as we can tell from all the studies that we have done since 1975, the lake is staying at about that level.
JM; Good then you are maintaining it then.
WL: We are maintaining it at about that level. The first part is that we have sewer about ½ the lake, just the east side up route 41 and around past Hotchkiss; then we are on septic systems for the other ½ on the lake the western part and all of the Belgo Road watershed area. One of the things we do is that every spring we send out a letter to every property owner in the whole watershed about 205 -210 property owners asking them to make sure that their septic tanks are pumped out on a regular basis, at least every two years. This is so they will not spill phosphorus and other nutrients down into the lake.
JM: That is a good reminder as people tend to forget.
WL: In the letter I put the number for Torrington flood Service; they had two people who can be called right off. There are some others as well. I think it works. We have discovered from the 1975 study that most of the nutrient loading in the lake comes from the watershed. It was worse before the sewage project of the east side of the lake; we haven’t been able to get the west side done because it is just phenomenally expensive. Then there would be some resistance from property owner who already have a septic tank who would then have to connect to the town sewer system.
JM: Shall we move on to the Salisbury Forum? When did the Salisbury Forum begin?
WL: That was after 10 years old about 2005-6.
JM: Whose idea was it?
WL: I think Franck de Chambeau was one of the founders and Claudia Cayne was one. (See file #27, cycle 2, Claudia Cayne, Director of the Scoville Memorial Library) I am not sure who else was involved since I wasn’t part of it then. The original idea was to provide a forum to bring in speakers on a major issue, a national issue to generate discussion and bring in a little information into the area that really wasn’t available at that time.
JM: So that we don’t become isolated and provincial.
WL: Yes but the population of this area is of a pretty high level; you have the schools and the people who teach at the schools and some of them retire here, probably many of them do. You also have all the people from the New York and some from the Boston area who come up here as weekenders and come for the summer and then retire and stay here.
JM: This is one of the reasons why the Taconic Learning Center was started because people wanted college level courses; they did not want basket weaving. They wanted meaty courses. (See tape #134A Marion Haeberle) It has been successful as the Salisbury forum has been.
WL: That is right; you want the intellectual meat.
JM: If you don’t keep the brain active, you will lose it. You did say that at the beginning of the Salisbury Forum there would be maybe three or four events.
WL: There were. I think the first year there were 4 Sander Van Ocher, the former NBC correspondent prominent during the Kennedy years, was the first speaker on the media and politics. Then there were three other speakers that year. Dan Rather was one of them a year later. We have had a number of professors from Yale on issues either on constitutionality or foreign affairs.
JM: Now you do more?
WL: Now we generally have 6 programs, three in the fall and three in the winter-spring, plus some film produced by high school students under the Civic Life Project.
JM: You send to me a lot of material on the Salisbury Forum and the list of speakers so I have that in your file. Thank you so much. Is there a board for the Salisbury Forum?
WL: Yes there are 14 on the board.
JM: Is there a term of office?
WL: Yes, there we have a six year term. Mine expires in 2017; I just took over as treasurer this month so I may have to stay on as voluntary treasurer.
JM: That bring us to how do you fund this, is it again private?
WL: Again it is private and all by contributions. The forum events are all free and open to the public. We pay for speakers, travel expenses, lodging for speakers and in some cases, the movies the films we present there are rights we have to buy and that sort of thing. It is not terribly expensive. What is happening with the forum is that since the forum started 10 years ago, more of these kinds of events are being conducted by other organizations. The library has something going on almost every Saturday afternoon.
JM: Yes, the Salisbury Association does Historical lectures and the library does more of the literary lectures.
WL: Exactly and then the White Hart is having people now, almost all authors. (Some of these lectures are coordinated with the library and others are coordinated with Oblong Books of Millerton. Ed.) We are trying to bring in people that will draw a larger audience and maybe be people that you would not get to a smaller event.
JM: Right, now you told me that in September the President of the American Collegiate Association is coming in and in October is Anne Garrels, and …
WL: And Adam Gopnik will be in December. He is a writer for The New Yorker; he has done a number of subjects and has spent quite a lot of time in France and Paris. He wrote on Paris and living in Paris.
JM: Anything that you would like to add about the Salisbury Forum?
WL: Only that we are now trying to broaden our interest so that we are expanding away from foreign affairs and constitutional issues as event we have had in the past. We now have had the Cuban poet who was the poet at the Obama second inaugural. We had a lecture on architecture from a fellow who just wrote the Frank Gehry book. We have the woman who works for NASA who is the chief electrical engineer on the Mars rover project. She was really fascinating and brought some toys to show.
JM: That is wonderful.
WL: Besides the graphics to show how the Mars rover works and how they get information back. First of all how they got it up there. It was kind of interesting. To me it just boggles the imagination that they can send a rocket with a lander 5 years into space and then get it to land successfully. During that landing period of about 14 minutes, there was no communication back to Earth. They had to just sit there with their fingers crossed, hoping that everything worked until the thing landed and could start transmitting back. Even then it took another 15 minutes for the information to get back. It is amazing what they do.
JM: Good engineering. Now tell me about the Civic Life Project. How did you get involved with that one?
WL: It was through a friend. The Civic Life Project was started by 2 documentary film producers, a man and wife Dominique Lasseur and Katherine Totage. They live in Cornwall Bridge. Their idea was that if you get high school students to produce mini documentaries on a civic issue; then they have to learn something about their government and how it works. For example this year a couple of the students at Housatonic wanted to do: “Why do so many convicts keep going back to prison?” They turned out a really interesting little document, partially by luck. They managed to locate a former convict in Bridgeport who was with an organization that deals with former felons. He, when they went to interview him, had rounded up two other guys. So they got the story from all three of these men about why they kept going back to prison. What was the prison doing? Was it doing anything to try to reform them? The answer was no. It was merely to hold them and punish them. They got into this because one of the kid’s fathers had been a prison guard. He gave the opinion from the law enforcement side, the corrections officer side. They talked to these men, to somebody from the American Civil Liberties Union about incarceration, and a State Representative. If you are going to go talk to a State Representative at the State Capital, you are going to have some idea about what you want to ask.
JM: You do your homework.
WL: This year there were 17 films and we showed 5 of them at the Salisbury Forum in June at the Movie House in Millerton.
JM: Do they have a faculty advisor?
WL: Yes in all schools they either have a faculty advisor or it is part of their regular civics or social studies courses.
JM: Do you know who is advising from the high school?
WL: Yes it was David Bayersforfer.
JM: Who participates in this program? Do the students volunteer for this?
WL: Yes, I am pretty sure in all cases they can volunteer to be part of this. In the magnet school in Hartford, the Classical Magnet it is part of what they call an enrichment course. There it is an after school activity primarily.
JM: Is there a limit on how many students participate?
WL: No really the first year that I worked with it which was five years ago, we had one documentary done at Housy, one in Torrington and Hartford.
JM: This year there were 17?
WL: This year there were 5 that actually got completed 5 or 6 when I think of all the titles. There were 5 at Classical Magnet. Now there are festivals being developed also; they are trying to expand this to a national program. It also encourages the kids to do this because if you are going shown somewhere outside of your classroom.
JM: It is an independent study that is going to be given to a wider audience.
WL: It is to a wider audience, but it also gives you a feeling that you are doing something important. I even tell the kids when we first started that this should be a lot of fun. 1) When you do a paper for history class, you hand it into the teacher; he files it and that is the end of it. 2) In this case you have a documentary that you can show in your resume or show it to your college recruiter. You can show it to other people. If you are really serious about this and want to go into this business, you can use it as part of your portfolio. “Here is what I have already done.” You can see that I am serious about this.
JM: This is why I try to get teenagers interested in the Oral History Project because they are now.
WL: Good idea
JM: I have done 4 on various things and they enjoy it. They say, “Gee, I am part of history.” That is the point. How is this project funded? Is it through the school?
WL: Partially the school does contribute something; there is a state grant that they have been able to get. They also seek contributions from either individuals or foundations. This is becoming a little sticky because as all budgets are being squeezed, particularly in the state, this has become a very big problem. In fact Lynn Passarella, the former President of Mount Holyoke, who is speaking for the Forum in September, is speaking on the subject of the importance of a liberal arts education in the 21st century.
JM: It is important. Is there anything else you would like to add to this section?
WL: No I think you have it pretty well covered.
JM: We will go on to the Salisbury Dog Park. Whose idea was that one?
WL: That was Wendy Hamilton who started the dog park a couple of years ago. It is located over at Mary Peters Park the entrance to Long Pond off long Pond Road. It is about 2 acres. The dog park is enclosed in a chain link fence; it is split between a small area for small dogs and a larger area for bigger dogs. There is a black screen along the divider between the two areas so that the big dogs and the small dogs don’t get intimidated or intimidate each other. Wendy did quite a lot of homework to learn how a dog park should be built. I have been to a couple of them. This is by far the nicest one that I have seen. It is kept up very nicely because we have it mowed every two weeks.
JM: Then there is an oversight committee?
WL: Oh yes there is a board of about 7 people. That is supported entirely by contributions. The land is owned by the town as part of a town park so we did not have to buy any property, but we do have to maintain it.
JM: Do you have a dog?
WL: Oh yes I have two Dudley and Buckley. Buckley is a 19 pound cockapoo, cocker spaniel /toy poodle. Dudley Francis is a golden doodle, golden retriever/standard poodle mix.
JM: Again anything that you want to add before we close?
WL: No, I just hope people will use the dog park. It really is a nice little facility and it is free. Obviously we are looking for contributions to keep it running.
JM: How many clients are using it?
WL: Well there are at least 30 to 40 now who come on a fairly regular basis. There are two reasons for going to the dog park. For some people if they live in a more congested area where the dogs can’t run arounds, the dogs are free of restraint; they can run and play. The other reason is that they can engage with other dogs because socialization for dogs is very important. Also there are people who go there who also are good at training dogs. We have had and will have days of dog in training instruction. There is more to the dog park that just going there to let your dog out.
JM: Do you have hours or days?
WL: It is open from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week. I for three months have been the Poop Czar to go in and empty the trash bins a couple of time a week.
JM: This has been wonderful. Thanks you so much. I have enjoyed it; I have learned a lot.
WL: Good it has been a pleasure talking to you.