David McArthur Oral History Cover Sheet
Place of Interview:408 Lime Rock Road, Lime Rock, Ct.
Date:April 25, 2012
Summary of talk:Personal background, memories of growing up in the area; fishing, sports, after school job, winter activities, Christmas at Barnett’s store, town shops, the steps, Dr. Jo Evarts, Mr. Wilber Hemmerly, baseball, ball leagues, rivals, local players, Doug the bat boy, Time Out Foundation,
This is Jean McMillen interviewing David McArthur at his home 408 Lime Rock Road, Lime Rock, Ct. The date is April 25, 2012.
JM: May I have your full name?
DM: Oh do you mean my middle name too?
JM: Oh go for it!
DM: David Arnold McArthur
JM: Where were you born, David?
DM: I was born in Sharon Hospital in Sharon, Ct. July 26, 1951.
JM: What are your parents’ names?
DM: My father’s name was Frank C. McArthur Sr. and my mother’s maiden name was Sadie May Reed. Of course her married name was Sadie May McArthur.
JM: Do you have brothers and sisters?
DM: I do. I’ve got 2 brothers, one is a twin and I had 3 sisters, but my oldest sister died.
JM: May I have their names?
DM: Sure, My oldest sister’s name is Cynthia McArthur; I’ll give just maiden names. And in chronological order oldest being first: Cynthia, Sandra, Frankie, my older brother, myself David, my twin brother Doug, and my younger sister, Deborah.
JM: Now David would you tell me something about your educational background.
DM: I attended Salisbury Central School, graduated from Central School probably 1965, went to Housatonic Valley Regional High School and graduated from there in 1969. I did a post graduate course at a local private school which ended after one semester because I was restless and didn’t know what to do with myself. Eventually I got a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from the SUNY system in New York at New Paltz. I went back to school later and got a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the SUNY system in Albany in 1998. Since that time I have worked as a social worker on and off and done various other things.
JM: Tell me a little bit about some of your early memories of growing up in Salisbury, and we’ve got a list.
DM: Let me just start with this because I had a fella here at my house earlier today, and he and I went for a walk in my woods. He has 2 young kids, and last Saturday, as you may or may not know, was the opening day of fishing season at the lake. So it was a perfect day; it was overcast skies but warm. I said, “Gary, did you take your kids fishing?” He said, “Oh my goodness, we went and the kids had a great time, but there were hardly any people there.” Which in my day there were kids there at the crack of dawn, there were adults there fishing in the lake, in the Grove Building people were eating breakfast, the whole 9 yards, bright, vibrant, busy, busy, it was great. So one of the things that I did a lot of as a kid growing up was to fish, whether it be in the lake or the brooks, or the ponds but that is one of the activities that a lot of us guys partook in. It was fun. We would be out there from morning until late afternoon; sometimes we’d go in the evening and go bullheading. Fishing was huge.
Sports, just sports in general, baseball I grew up playing baseball. I lived right next to the baseball field, on the other side of the tracks, if you will, in Lakeville. I’d walk over the tracks and I’d play with my brothers, sisters, friends, and we’d be there in the summertime all day long playing baseball, whether it was on a traditional field or we’d play against the screen, we’d play wiffle ball, we’d play hard ball, we’d play from 2nd base out; there just were many different ways we’d play the game.
JM: This was not organized Little League, this was scratch games, pick-up games.
DM: This was fun; this was what we kids wanted to do. There were no adults involved. This was how we lived our lives. This is what we found fun and entertaining. Yes, there was a time when I played organized baseball, starting with Little League, but even while I was playing Little League and all the others, we were just playing around, and we were motivated just by playing games because we just loved the game.
JM: That is so important. Now did you have any jobs when you were growing up, like newspaper boy?
DM: Jobs, funny you should say that, Jean.
JM: I did my homework!
DM: I did in fact. 7th or 8th grade, probably 7th, I had a job. I delivered the Lakeville Journal throughout town because back in the day the Journal building was at a different location which is not where it currently is (used to be on Pocket Knife Square on Holley Street, now at end of Bissell Street Ed.) I would come home from school and I would go up to the Lakeville Journal Building and go inside.
JM: Now are you talking about the Journal Building at Pocketknife Square or Argazzi Art?
DM: Thank you. I am talking about the Journal Building at Pocket Knife Square. When I was a kid there’s where its location was. The administrative people, the people who develop paper work, so to speak, they were up on the first floor. Ray Fowlkes, Kay Weir, Bill Stanton, and all these other folks ran the big machines downstairs. I would collect my satchel upstairs, go downstairs where the big machines were making crazy noises, and I would stuff my satchel with extra newspapers. I had customers on pretty much every street in town. I would go to their homes and give them their papers, and they would give me my $.25 I think it was back then. There was a spot where you backed in right across from the Journal building called Keuffer & Esser (now Lakeville Interiors and other shops). The first place I would go when I got the newspapers was right there. Random people would buy x number of papers, but then I would be on my journey. I would go to the customers who were weekly and monthly, and it was great. I would walk up and down the town; when it was really nasty weather, on occasion my mother would drive me.
JM: Bless her heart.
DM: Oh I love my dear mother, Sadie. I remember one time I was delivering the paper; it was a rainy day so my mother was driving me. This happened on Walton Street. The family’s last name was Pitcher, they had a little picket fence, a small yard, and they had a little beagle dog, nasty little guy. So on this particular day my mother drove me up; I opened the gate of the fence and walked up with my satchel. I knocked at the door or rang the doorbell. Mrs. Pitcher came, paper/money exchange, as I begin to walk back down the sidewalk, the dog, I could see my mother in the car making faces like “Watch Out” and the next thing I know, that little dog jumped up on my side and bit me, nasty little thing. So I went to the hospital and got a shot, and I was fine. It was beautiful; I loved to walk around town and deliver the paper. There are other incidences that I think of right now, different people, different homes that are no longer there, people have obviously died. So that was one of my first jobs to deliver the paper throughout town. I enjoyed that a lot.
JM: It is a good experience for kids because they get to organize themselves, they get to handle money, they get to make change, and they make friends they wouldn’t necessarily make within their peer group. What did you do in the winter time? You couldn’t play ball in the wintertime.
DM: Oh come on, the winter time, are you kidding me? There were fields with hills so we would sled, we would toboggan, we would ski on some of these small hills; we built little jumps and we’d ski down the hill and hit a jump. We spent a lot of time doing that. If we weren’t doing that, we were over at the Factory Pond in Lakeville ice skating. We ice skated from, if there was no school, you would be over there from the time you got up in the morning until night.
JM: Did you play hockey?
DM: Oh yeah we played pick-up hockey all the time. There were always a couple goals over there on the pond. The town of Salisbury they would come and clean the ice off if there was snow; they would clean the ice off for us. They had these snow blowers or they would have a tractor with a blade on it; they would push the snow so that we could ice skate, whether we were playing hockey or just plain skating. That was something they did which was wonderful. So we did a lot of that; we played football on the ice. People would say, “What?” We played tackle football on the ice late at night. Oh it was just fun, and we played a game called “Crack the Whip”. Where there would be a bunch of us holding hands and the fastest guy usually leading. You would go as fast as you could and then at the end, you’d stop, and the thing would whip and the person on the end would go flying. Oh it was great. Back then some people may recall there was a swinging bridge that spanned across the Factory Pond. So we would skate underneath that; there was usually a separation at that point, the hockey guys would play on one side and the free skaters would play on the other side. The bridge was there and we would skate under it, but back to the fishing part, we would fish.
JM: You do ice fishing?
DM: No, not ice fishing; I was just saying that when I was a kid we fished a lot, too. One of the things we would do at the Factory Pond we would be on that swinging bridge fishing. In the wintertime we spent a lot of time ice skating on that pond, and because winters were winters back then and there was tons of snow all the time, Lakeville Lake was always frozen. We used to glide around the lake and spend hours skating on black ice around the lake, across the thing; it was great. So we spent all of our time growing up outside, outdoors. That is just what we did because it was fun. Besides especially in the summer time your mother would say, “You kids go outside.” Whether it was playing Kick the can, it didn’t matter, we were outside.
JM: Tell me about ”the steps”.
DM: The steps: when we were growing up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in Lakeville, Lakeville was a real town, a self-contained town; we had a couple of different stores, we could buy food stuffs, there was a place called the 5 and dime, Ben Franklin, which was owned by a man named Bill Barnett. You could buy clothes.
JM: Bill Barnett or Dwight Miller?
DM: I thought it was Bill Barnett owned it for a while.
JM: He may have.
DM: We used to call it Barnett’s. I know who you are thinking of, Darwin Miller. He came after because Bill Barnett owned it first. So they had this great store there; upstairs one of the great things about the upstairs was in the winter Christmas time, they had wooden floors, but they had all the toys up there, sleds and toboggans. A man named Bill Raynsford who was a judge, a big man, would play Santa Claus up there. So we kids loved to be up there on the second floor because of what it represented: toys, games, Christmas. They would decorate it so it was a very fond memory.
JM: Do you remember the train layout?
DM: Oh the train layout was there. It was beautiful; the kids loved it. I used to like to look out the back window overlooking the ball field and the railroad tracks and all that because there would always be a ton of snow. There was that store, there was an A & P food store, there was a package store, there was a park lunch, there was a couple of barbershops in town, there was a jeweler, there was a real cobbler, Danny La Fredo. He was our shoe man. You could actually take shoes there; he could fix them, or you could buy new shoes really cheap back then. There was a pharmacy in town; we had a regular pharmacy in town. Salisbury Bank & Trust was located up on the hill where Wagner & McNeil Insurance is today. (Founders Ed.)The town was very different back then, a self-contained town. You really didn’t have to go anywhere, you didn’t have to leave town to buy clothes or do anything.
Right there where the park once was there were these steps that lead up to Paul Argall’s Barbershop, and then there was an apartment above that. The steps: it was the center of town and we kids would often meet there on the steps. We would sit on the steps and watch people come through town, our friends would come up; it was our gathering spot, right across that little park by the firehouse (old one on Sharon Road/ Montgomery Street Ed.) We’d sit and plot the plan, what we were going to do that day, good, bad, or indifferent, right? It was a great place to sit, it was a gathering point and we loved that. That is a very vivid memory that sticks out. Images, I see images of people coming through town. There’s a guy named Peter Marks who was older than me, Sonny Brazzale who was older than me, and all those guys had their fancy big hot-rod cars, like Ford Fair Lanes, convertibles. You know just these beautiful cars that they maintained, they were shiny and beautiful. Of course they made noise! They were a real muscle car; that was great. It was very different back then; it was a great time to grow up.
JM: Now I am going to ask you about some people. Tell me about Dr. Jo Evarts, please.
DM: First of all Dr. Jo brought me into this world. She brought all my siblings and me into this world. She was a wonderful woman. She would come to our house; she made house calls. She was very strong positive woman. I think she was one of the only women doctors around at the time, but she wasn’t like a doctor. She was somebody you could talk to; she was more like a friend someone who really cared. The woman had compassion which made her different from some of the others. So she was just someone who was just part of your family. On occasion she would come to the house at dinner time, and she would sit down and eat with us. She was a wonderful person whom we all loved and respected.
JM: Tell me about Mr. Hemmerly.
DM: Skull! Mr. Wilber Hemmerly was a wonderful man. In my opinion he was a great asset to this town, Lakeville. He was as far as I know the first Recreation Director in this town. He was a dedicated man who made things work for young kids. He would always be at the baseball field, working on something so the kids could play whether it was swings they had down there or the sand box. They would have other games that Mr. Hemmerly was always sort of putting together and coordinating. He taught us basketball at the grammar school. He was very much into baseball. My father was younger than Mr. Hemmerly so my father learned a lot from Mr. Hemmerly because Hem, as my father used to call him, he was all about the outdoors, baseball, and making things work for kids, giving kids fun things to do so that they didn’t get into trouble. We used to have these carnivals all the time; if it was the Fourth of July, a big parade, Memorial Day, a big parade, and then the carnival over at the ball field.
During these parades I can see Mr. Hemmerly driving his old Ford Fair Lane, it was a two tone yellow and white car, the top would be down. Mr. Hemmerly got the nickname”Skull” because that’s what we kids did. He had a bald head, and I can see him now riding in the parade with the top down and his bald head shining. Mr. Hemmerly was a fireman; he gave a lot to the community. I can see him marching with the firemen. He was a great man and his wife was a school teacher at Salisbury Central, another great woman. He was a strong character, somebody whom I looked up to a lot. Again I think he did a whole lot for the town, especially the town’s kids.
JM: Now I’d like to get into your father’s coaching baseball, some of the baseball background.
DM: Yeah, my father said probably when I was 2,”Ok you guys are going to start playing baseball.” As I said earlier I have a twin brother and an older brother, and my father was a baseball player from when he was a kid, so he loved the game like we did. He passed that on to us; as little kids we began playing ball in the back yard, in the front yard, over at the ball field. Wherever we could play, we played. My father was behind that. He would take us over to the ball field; he would hit us ground balls, or hit fungoes. People were going, “What the hell are fungoes?” Well fungoes are long skinny bats that coaches would use to hit fly balls to the outfielders for practice. My father would hit fungoes to us, and we’d be out there learning how to catch fly balls, ground balls and the like. We were playing a lot of baseball just on our own. Then when I was old enough to play Little League, of course, my father was behind that. So we played Little League ball for a number of years. After I was too old for that we Babe Ruth which was a league for kids who were probably 13-15, I played that. Then I played high school ball, legion ball, men’s league ball. Because my father was such an advocate of the game, I began playing and I think Doug, too we began playing in a men’s league at age 15 because we had a little bit of talent and my father was such a good coach. We were able to compete on a level with these older guys so we did, and it was a whole lot of fun. My father was very influential, not just for my brothers and me and my family, but for all the guys in town. Today my father died back in 1998, I’ll see guys who will say, ”Gosh, you know I remember your father being at the ball field coaching third base, or coming out to take the pitcher out of the game, or just to give you guys a pep talk.” That is what my father did. When I was real little, my father played on the organized men’s league. We used to go and watch him play, and he was very fast. My father played third base. He was very quick; he’d steal a lot of bases. One of the bad habits my father did not impart on us was his love of trying to hit high fast balls. I can see my father now striking out, going after the high hard ones going over his head. He’d just swing at it, and he would never hit it. Now my father was not a big guy, and I was certainly a small guy. My father used to use his bat, everything was wooden back then. He used to bat; it was called “the Nelson Fox” who was a famous professional baseball player. It was a fat bat with a fat handle and a fatter head, but he used that bat and he taught me how to use that bat because I was a small guy. My father taught me how to just hit; how to be a hitter, not a slugger but somebody who would be a good contact hitter. Throughout my life I was a pretty good contact hitter, and I would also use a big handled bat for much later in life. Then I began to use a thinner handled bat, but my father also said that because I was small, he taught me that when I held my hand on the bat because I didn’t have a whole lot of power, to separate my hands a little bit and hit the ball that way. 1. I would have more control. 2. I would be able to contact the ball better. I was able to punch the ball right field, left field, pretty much anywhere I wanted it to go. So that worked for me throughout my baseball time. Baseball was huge; my father was a great influence. He loved the game. He coached men’s league for probably 30 years. We won championships. They won many different championships, and they were in different leagues. The earliest league I can remember my father being in was the Interstate League; they played teams in Poughkeepsie, Arlington, Winsted, Amenia, Pine Plains, Millerton, Litchfield, all over. We played teams out in West Hartford, Hartford: they played a lot. As I got older, I would play out there as well. There was the Interstate league, Pomergog League, and then it became the Tri-State League; there were just different leagues. All the rules were pretty much the same, just different teams and different areas. It was a mainstay in all of our local communities back in the 50’s, 60’s and even early 70’s. We would play our games on Sunday afternoons @2:00. The ball field in Lakeville would be full of people; people would be sitting in their cars, people would be sitting under the trees. We had grandstands back then which are no longer there. People would come from near and far and root for their teams; the opposing team would bring people. So this was a big thing. Sunday baseball was a big thing; it was like part of America. Part of America filtered down into small communities, and this is what people did.
JM: When would it start, April, May?
DM: We’d be out there practicing in April. We practiced on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6 o’clock until 8:30. We had batting practice, infield practice, the whole thing. The season would end sometime in September, the end of August or early September.
JM: Were there any towns or teams that were your rivals?
DM: Oh yes, there was. Our prime rival throughout my career was the town of Amenia! Amenia Monarchs they were called. We were rivals; they were very talented ball players, as we were. We had great games, tough games. People would come out and bet on games. All of our games were close like one run ball games. We didn’t score a lot of runs because the pitching was very good so there was a lot of fast paced action, a lot of people on base would steal a base. Those guys were our number 1 rival. T. They loved to beat us, when they could; we enjoy whooping them. Then we would always play for a championship. Typically we’d be playing down in Ossining.
JM: It was a good evenly distributed talent pool.
DM: Yeah I would say so. Amenia, yeah.
JM: Can you give me the names of some of men that you played with in this league?
DM: Just local guys? When I was probably 15-16 there was a guy playing named Steve Griggs, whose family is up on Mt. Riga. They used to call him Radar because he played shortstop and nothing ever got by this guy. He had a decent arm. Andy Russo lived in Lime Rock, and he was a heck of a ball player. He did a lot for the recreation in Lakeville, too. There were guys from Hotchkiss School Geoff Marchant; he was a colleague of mine. He came here in 1973, I believe it was; he’s up at Hotchkiss School teaching, still teaching there. He played with us from then until I stopped playing. Pat Dineen, another local kid I grew up with, Johnnie Gardiner, a kid from Salisbury School who played great baseball. He was a mainstay. My brothers played. Bullet, Bob Sherwood, played; he was a great guy to have on your team. Mike Boskoby, Gary Smith played a couple times. The older guys when I was a kid I used to watch them play: Rust Chandler, Art White, and Blair Torrey. These guys were all from Hotchkiss School. Chris Getman, a big left hander, he was tough. He was about 6’7” a big guy who threw a ball hard. He was a guy from Hotchkiss School as well. There was a guy named Johnnie Neville and Bob Constantine were my father’s peers, so I used to watch them play.
One of the things that really stands out in my mind is that pretty much every kid, or at least we did, had a bat boy or a bat man. That person was responsible for keeping your bats in order, keeping your helmets in order, the equipment, the balls, and making it very neat and orderly. We had a guy at least when I was a kid and when I began to play too, he was still around. His name was Dougie Ostrander, and we used to call him Doug the bat boy; he was a great guy. This old guy from Salisbury a big guy used to wear coveralls. He was a little bit humped over, but a big guy. He wore a funny hat which was always cocked off to the side. He maintained those bats with dignity. He really respected the game, and respected his position as the bat boy. He took a lot of pride in that and he maintained it well. He was a good guy, and that really sticks out about how well he maintained the equipment.
JM: How wonderful. Now tell me about some of the civic activities that you do coaching or…
DM: There was a time, I haven’t done much coaching in later years but I have coached Little League baseball; I used to umpire baseball games, and I would sometimes referee a little bit of basketball in the wintertime. I did some of that but I was too busy doing other things.
JM: But you have given back to the community.
DM: Sure, I’ve done that but with the sports, I have always taught kids on the side; I have always done that kind of thing. My wife and I have this foundation: “Time Out Foundation”. This foundation we have had in place for 3-4 years. It was an idea of my wife’s; she always wanted to give back to the community to the kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to ride horses. So we have a bunch of horses. We started this foundation with the main emphasis being equine therapy, we have a wonderful instructor whose name is Glynes Simon. We have reached out to the community, and we have a bunch of kids that come locally, kids from Winsted, a couple of kids from Torrington come out here, and they learn how to ride a horse. They learn to ride, they have to groom the horse, they have to muck stalls; they do the whole bit which gives them a better sense of responsibility, a better sense of self and a better picture of what it is like to have their own animal.
JM: And it is also discipline.
DM: And it is also discipline. So that is a wonderful program. We have the Time Out Foundation. The equine therapy is a piece of it. Our director Ed Doherty has a mentoring program so we have a few people who serve as mentors to these young kids. Ed was very instrumental in that; Ed will take some of these kids who are in school, like elementary and middle school, who may have some behavioral issues once a week for four hours and mentor them. He’ll take them for a walk in the woods, do kayaking whatever it is to get that one on one stuff with a responsible adult.
JM: That’s a good long time, and time to build up trust with a responsible adult t so that you can express your concerns, your issues to somebody who is going to take your side.
DM: That’s right, someone who is not going to judge you or discipline you in any way. The other piece is we do substance abuse treatment here. I am a therapist and I do a lot of work with people with addiction issues so I am very busy with that. My wife being a physician can prescribe medication for these folks so we have reached out to the community at large with that piece. Unfortunately there are a lot of addiction issues out here today with all the pain medications and all the other opiates that are out there, and heroine and all that other bad stuff. There are a lot of people in our community, the community next to us, and every community across the country where we have these big problems with opiate abuse and alcohol. So in a snapshot that is what the foundation is. It is very powerful, it is growing and we are getting lots of recognition.
For the past two years we have had what we call a Family Festival which is a fund raiser to help us with moneys to fund the program. That has been very positive. This summer on June 10, 2012, which is a Sunday the Family Festival will go from 11in the morning until 6 in the evening. There will be horseback riding, we now have a ropes course on the property so there will elements of the ropes course that will be open to the public, or people who come to the festival. We have a couple of guys who have working with school system for the past 15 years, and they do reenactments of things like the French and Indian War period. They will come here the night before the festival and they will dress up in period clothing, they will dig a fire pit in the ground and have a tent from that time period. They will teach people the next day during the festival how to shoot a bow and arrow, how to throw a tomahawk, then if you have questions about that historic period, these guys can just give you all that information. That is a very positive part of the festival. Somebody will be painting kid’s faces, there will be a llama that people can pet, there will be hula hooping displays, there will be musicians playing. We’ll have our good friend Dylan Baker who is a Tai Kwando teacher; he’ll be here with his school putting on displays. So it is a great family fun day. There will be food for sale, so it is a great day to come and just have fun.
JM: Sounds wonderful. Is there anything that I haven’t covered in this interview that you would like to add?
DM: Well, let’s see, Jean. Let me count the things. I could go on and on. . But to just wrap it up, when I think about my time as a kid growing up in this community, and I look at today’s community, I am just very thankful that I was born when I was born, done the things that I did and had the parents that I had, and the other adults and people around when I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s because it seemed, and I hope it is not just because I was a kid that things were safer; people were more open, and people were more giving. It was a good community.
JM: It was a good time to be a kid.
DM: It was a good time to be a kid.
JM: Thank you so very much.
DM: You’re welcome.