Oral History Cover Sheet
Narrator: Jodi Stone
Tape #: 75A & B
Place of Interview: Babs McLane’s home on Factory Street
Interviewee: Babs McLane
Summary of talk: her family, how name spelling got changed, her life and early Lakeville, business and people, Factory Street and early business and neighbors, Miss Margaret Holley Williams, the Beehive, Stuart’s Theater, town characters, Holley Block, segregation of sorts, end of side 1.
Abe martin, Bill Barnett, Charlotte Ried as 1st selectmen, garages in Lakeville, her dad’s gas station, services in Lakeville for those who need help of some kind, generosity and caring of members of the community, summer people vs. weekenders, Harry Miller’s Christmas party, end of side 2.
Date: October 24, 1989
Property of the Oral History Project
Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Connecticut, 06068
JS: This is Jodie Stone on the 24th of October, 1989, interviewing Babs McLane at her home on Factory Street in Salisbury. First question, which I meant to ask you before I turned it on. Were your McLane and the other McLain, were they once the same family and changed the – I’m thinking of Chuck.
BMcL: My father was Chuck’s father’s first cousin. So we were Lain, originally.
JS: Who changed it?
BMcL: My father was in World War I, and then his papers came back and everything was Lane, one of those things, so we just went by Lane. JS: No kidding.
BMcL: My father’s father is Lain.
JS: Okay, all right. Tell me about you, first. Who are you?
BMcL: Well, there’s a good question. I was born in Salisbury, up the Under- mountain Road, so I am a true Raggie. I spent much of my early years, until the fifth grade, I think, in Lakeville. So I lived there in Lakeville and name up to Salisbury to the Ashman house, which is where Sarum Village is now. And then, when I graduated from high school, went into nursing, and didn’t come back to Salisbury until 1968.
BMcL: I graduated in 1949 and came back in 1968 to resume my nursing at Sharon Hospital. By then, my folks had moved up Factory Street, as we -all it now, and two houses up where Gertrude IS: Yes, yes, the Countess.
BMcL: Then I bought this house in 1955 and moved back here, as I say, in L968, where I have been ever since. So, I was in Hartford, Pittsfield, so I haven’t been too far away.
JS: What do you do at the hospital?
BMcL: I do employee health now.
BMcL: That is, I do physicals for employment, and immunization shots, and general problems of compensation and workmen’s comp, and that kind of thing. I like it a lot because I deal with and I like people, you know, so S: Yeah. Tell me about your family, now. What does your father do?
Where was he born? Here?
BMcL: No, my father was born in Williamstown, and he’s from that neck of the woods. His parents lived in Williamstown, and I don’t know how things started migrating down here, but he eventually, when he married my mother, oved down here.
JS: She’s the Raggie, then.
BMcL: She’s the Raggie.
JS: Now, who is she? Who was she?
BMcL: My mother was a Ball, and her family was in and out of here. My maternal grandparents, actually they called themselves New York Dutch be- cause they always were more in New York, and that kind of thing. My mother had a sister and a brother, who were brought up in the Gilbert Home in Win- ted, and she was brought up by a couple on the Undermountain Road known as the Lamsons. That house is gone now.
S: That’s the Jim Lamsons?
BMcL: No, that was old Ern Lamson, and, I forgot the other Lamson, but we called them Gram and Gramp, I guess, or Uncle and Aunt, or something, but they brought her up. I guess that wasn’t uncommon in those days. My mother was married at 15, and I was the fourth child, and she was 22 by then, and she’d already lost her first child with, probably it was either diphtheria or pneumonia, when Mary was two I think. My mother was old at 22, and I’ve
-3- BABS McLANE
been through a lot, so – in total, we had seven children, and six of us are still living.
IS: Who are they?
BMcL: My oldest brother is Marshall. He’s in Florida – Daytona Beach. Re’s retired now. My oldest sister is Kay Casey. She’s the postmaster at Cornwall Bridge. And, then there’s me, and then my brother Roddy is crew leader on the state, Department of Transportation, and my brother Michael works at K and E, he’s the accountant. And I have a sister, Margaret, who is married and lives in Fishkill, New York. And she has about seven kids, I think. That’s a lot of kids. I don’t have any.
JS: So, really, she’s the only one who moved really out of the area. BMcC: BMcL: Right
JS: I don’t call Cornwall Bridge out of the area.
BMcL: No, no. Well, Marsh went to Florida.
JS: Retired, yeah.
BMcL: Well, no, he went to work down there.
IS: Did he?
BMcL: He just retired this year. So, he’s our first retiree. He said ^ie never would, but then he did.
IS: Now, when you were a child, was this area where we’re sitting very populated with Raggies, or had people started to buy in, vacation homes? BMcL: Oh, no. These houses, if you’ll notice, are all predominantly red. IS: Uh huh.
BMcL: Because they were all houses of the factory. I bought my house from Phil Warner.
JS: I was going to ask you. We’re talking his factory?
BMcL: This is the main house. You know who told me the history of this blouse is Ginny Terry, and her parents –
JS: Oh, Mrs. Terry!
BMcL: Yes, Her parents lived here. And they had come over from England to work the iron, I guess.
BMcL:’ They lived here, so my main house was probably 1860-ish, so it’s been added on and all that, but this is the main house. That’s why I have the well outside. The other houses came to use the well. And this pond was different then, but was part of the gristmill.
JS: Where was the mill?
BMcL: Well, if you see where those cars are parked –
JS: On that curve there –
BMcL: You can still see the remnants of the building, and that was part, and there was a big spillway with a water wheel. And then, there was
another water wheel gristmill, of course, and then Phil’s factory – JS: I remember that, vaguely? Now, Oogie told me – is there a road that goes across that water where there used to be houses?
BMcL: Yes, yes.
JS: And they just fell down?
BMcL: Probably when people – I think George Kiefer owned most of the land, and now it’s – we used to call it the Philippis, where Dr. Fink lives now. Philippis. There may have been houses in there, because there’s a bridge across there. I don’t remember any of that, but these are all the factory houses up here and the only new house added in my day is the Whalen house. JS: Right up there on the hill.
BMcL: Right up here across –
JS: That’s new, really new.
BMcL: And Reggie Lamson’s house is new, but the rest of them were here and part of Phil’s – and then’ he was a good man because he sold these houses very cheap, and even took the second mortgage if you couldn’t.
|which he did for me. I don’t know if he ever||expected||to get his||money|
|but I think he got them from every one of the||ones he||sold to, so||it paid|
|JS: I hear he was a wonderful man, for kids,||too.|
|BMcL: Yes. Yup. He always had a pipe and was always||friendly.||When he|
died, I paid off the rest of my mortgage, which was like eleven dollars a month, to him as a second mortgage. And I went to Millicent and paid up – I must have owed, you know, $300 or something. She didn’t even know anything about it, had to go through some of the papers there that he had done all of this, or what was owed to him, or anything.
JS: What a remarkable story!
BMcL: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of people didn’t know about – the first man to realize that low housing was important. People needed a place and it didn’t have to be a mansion and they would work and keep it up. I think if you look at these houses, it’s still primarily the first owners, and have done a pretty good job of it.
BMcL: Now it’s a high rent district, see? Ha ha.
JS: Of course it is. I know it is. What isn’t, around here? It’s true.
BMcL: I think it was Factory Street. I don’t get into the argument of Washinee and Factory Street. It doesn’t matter to me. But I think
people – like to – Washinee sounds a little more high falutin’
than Factory Street, but its history is Factory Street, or Mill Street, whichever you want to call it, because this was an important area then, and the artisans are still, you know, you can go in there and buy things and it’s quite interesting.
JS: Other than Phil’s, were there other factories on Factory Street? BMcL: I don’t know of any other. Even as a child, we swam in Factory Pond.
IS: Which is this pond down here, right outside your window?
BMcL: No. Well, this is called Webbs Pond, because Webbs lived here. In my day you knew houses by the family name – the Webb house, or the Ashman house that I moved to – things like that. We didn’t go by numbers and things, but the Factory Pond is down where – it’s called Vincent’s Pond now – now I think they’ve named it Pewter Pond.
JS: It says Pewter Pond.
BMcL: Yeah, I don’t know where the pewter came from, but that’s what they call it. That’s where – the Lovetts used to live there, and I think one of the Lovetts’ children drowned in that pond at one time, because we were unsupervised, you might say.
JS: Uh huh!
BMcL: Those were the days when you could go on people’s property and they didn’t have to worry about being sued, and you didn’t worry about being run off.
JS: Yes, that’s true.
BMcL: It was pretty open land. You didn’t have a lot of grass, but you tad a lot of kids, and kids played on the – Get down! Excuse me.
But, at the Ashman house, even, we had 12 acres there, so we could
have a cow and a garden and things like that. My father started working
in the defense factories and went to New Britain, and the guys from here used to carpool, and even had an apartment down in New Britain from Monday night through Thursday night, and would come home on the weekends and would come home with ninety dollars, which was like a million dollars. And I will tell you – there are a lot of funny stories – but they had the observation post for airplanes, and because we lived so close and everybody was doing their patriotic duty- my mother took the 2 a.m. – 4 a.m. she and Stell McLane. And I laugh at this. My mother couldn’t tell a Ford from a Rolls Royce. I don’t know how at night she could tell a Japanese airplane if it went over, and if they ever wanted to invade the Northwest Corner, they should have picked two to four in the morning! And she used to drag me sometimes because Stell wasn’t feeling good, or one or the other, just for company. I think I was about twelve. I was in the fifth grade when the war broke out. On VJ Day, we had a big bonfire down in the middle of, right in the middle of the street.
JS: No kidding! In the middle of Salisbury?
BMcL: Yup, in front of Whitbeck’s drugstore and all that, we just hooted and hollered and everybody brought any alcoholic beverages: they could, and – All my family worked for the White Hart Inn. One time there were five of us working there. My mother was a waitress; my grandmother did the salads; my sister was a waitress; I did the silver and glasses; my brother did the dishwasher. And, I don’t know if you remember the Buchers?
JS: Oh, sure.
BMcL: So prim and proper and Nazi-like, excuse me, and his
JS: HA Ha.
BMcL: Mrs. Bucher was like royalty: my father grabbed her and
swung her around the bonfire when the war was over – really had a good time. It’s typical of kids. We enjoyed the war years because there was lots of excitement, and when the guys came home, and all us teenage girls were crazy over them. It was popular to join up and it was a popular war, so to speak, and we just wrote to them. Another person I think should be remembered was Charlotte and Bob Barnett. I don’t know if you know these people.
BMcL: Well, they lived in a little shack down beyond where McGarrys live on the other side of the tracks. And she wrote to every guy in the service, every holiday sent a card. When we were kids, we used to make fun of her because she was obese and a bit of a character. And Bob was thin, a very sweet, wonderful person. And there wasn’t a guy that came back that didn’t go down and say, “Hi” to them. They just appreciated them. JS: That’s a lovely story.
BMcL: I never knew what happened to them. And at Christmastime they went to all the poor houses and delivered Christmas presents, and he dressed up as Santa Claus.
BMcL: So they used to come to the Ashman House, and we’d just look forward to them – even though she should have been Santa Claus – but they had a gift for everybody. How they did that on a very limited income – I think she took in laundry and stuff like that.
JS: And they had no children?
BMcL: They had no children, but they were wonderful to kids, Maybe that’s why, but really good, good people. I think that’s what’s wonderful about Salisbury. There are a lot of characters in Salisbury – sort of dying
out – Oogie and Bam Whitbeck are probably two of the last, but we used
to have what I call, like Charlotte Barnett and Stella Thackett. She’d walk up this road with a dead squirrel in the pail hangin’ out of the basket. Ninety-eight degrees and she’d have on an overcoat, and pants and galoshes. And she thought she owned this whole street. She’d always say she’d report you to the Testator. We’d be outside and she’d say, “You’re on my property, and I’m gonna report you to the Testator.” And we 1d say, “Okay”.
JS: Where’d she live? Did she live up here?
BMcL: Yes. She lived up on, what is this called? Riga Lane. She had a house up there. She’s related to Pat Ongley, the Parsons, I think. A very harmless, wonderful person. But, you know, we don’t have a lot of those. They were probably – they were what you would call street people in the city. But they had shelters here and were very kind, and very harmless people. Well, Jerry Ashman was a character.
BMcL: He wasn’t so kind, but he was a character.
JS: Who else? Can you think?
BMcL: Oh, gosh, she used to write poetry for the Lakeville Journal.
Oh, what was her name? French poetry. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say Mi
say this on there, but she used to have down in that Doug Ostrander one time a bunch of the boys during the war, I guess, painted the flag on her gluteus maximus and she danced on the table – what was her name, now? Moved up into Taconic. Ha Ha, I’ll probably be sued for –
JS: You never gave her name.
BMcL: I’m not going to, now. Ha Ha! Yeah, that was a good story going around because one of the “boys”, one of the very respectable men who was there too, shall remain nameless. The other boys shielded him, protected
him, but they could always use his car after that, without much said.
So it was one of those things, you know, that happen. But they used to have good times, simple times, I think, before TV, and now everybody is so conscious of their property, and you see a lot of grass and it’s mowed, so you know there’s no kids playing out there. My brother-in-late/ tried to have a lawn once and he was complaining that the kids were playing ball out there in Cornwall Bridge, and my sister said, “The grass will grow after the kids are gone.” JS: Good comment.
BMcL: Yeah, and grass does grow after they’re gone. Now we want community fields for them, so there’s a lot lost in this “owning”.
JS: It’s true.
BMcL: And I do the same thing. I have my pond, and I used to let everybody swim in it until a few things were destroyed by one or two people. Most of them are wonderful. And then I was playing lifeguard, or my mother was, most of the time, and so then you worry about insurance. People say you’re crazy, and the next thing, you become more selective.
And I wasn’t going to be here, and I didn’t want them to be unsupervised, so it’s too bad. But you lose a lot.
JS: What do you do, then? Just pass the word that nobody’s watching, or what?
BMcL: Yeah. If somebody sneaks in there, skinny dipping, I don’t know. But Bam Whitbeck, when he lived up here, and Shirley Kidd and her mother used to do the night bathing in there with a cake of soap, and enjoy it, and Bam had a little raft up here, a float that he could float around on. You just don’t do as much. I do have people here, but it’s my friends,
So, it’s sad in a way. See, everybody wants Lakeville Lake to take care of Mount Riga, and when they sold this place across here, the first time they sold it, – well, to show you how the property has changed – across from here was a Brazee house. She died, or he died in a nursing home, sorry. I guess it went for like $9,000. And they fixed it up and sold it for $44,000, and then the next people that bought it put in a bush and sold it for $55,000. And then she died and he sold it for $90,000. And the last time around, I don’t know the exact price –
JS: Excuse me. Wasn’t there a trooper? One of our troopers?
BMcL: Yes, our future Third Selectman, I think.
JS: That’s right.
BMcL: Or our Second Selectman, either one. He sold it and these people asked me over for me to tell them a little bit about the house. But, when they advertise it, they always say, “overlooking a pond”. And one realtor said, “and beach privileges”. I called the realtor and I said, “Where are the beach privileges for that place on Washinee Street?” And she said, “Oh, Mount Riga or Lakeville Lake.” I said, “Thank you very much.” Ha Ha. It’s interesting.
JS: Is it deep?
BMcL: It’s about eight feet deep in the center.
JS: Is it really?
BMcL: Yep. But it’s very gradual and it’s about 400 feet around.
JS: What’s the bottom?
BMcL: Well, at one time, this is what I would call a man-made pond, because I put the dike in there, and the brook used to go right through there. The bottom is gravel, and I bet has some springs in it.
BMcL: When the flood in ’55 came, I didn’t own that part. I only- owned to it, and my father said to me, “You better buy up that. Suppose somebody buys that up and fixes it up.” And I said, “I don’t have the money.” And I went to Phil, and I said, “Phil, how much for the next acre and a half?” He said, “A thousand dollars.” I said, “Well, I’ll try to get it.” Got the thousand dollars and the next day, the Ericksons probably would have given him three thousand, but he’d already sold it to me. And my father and everybody else did a lot of changing, and the Ericksons had made the pond, but I was lucky I did that. Because I’ve had people come since who’d say, “Well, we’ll buy down there and do a lot of land fill.” And I don’t think it’s legally able to, but anyway, “and then we could share the pond.” I said, “No, I don’t need to share the pond – yet.” So – JS: What do you mean, the Ericksons worked on it?
BMcL: Well, they’re the ones who built the pond for me. JS: Oh, they did! Oh, I see.
BMcL: Yup, they bulldozed and Harold and Frank and Walt all made that pond. And when it went out – I had problems in the ’55, no, in the ’60 some flood. And they declared it, when they were declaring every dam condemned – and it cost me – I had three choices: to make it like Boulder Dam with all the cement, or to open it up wide, which I’d have a gaping hole there with a muck pond, or to do what I did, put a dike there and put a pipe in from the brook so that it’s not a flood threat. And the only way I could get it through the State was to hire – talk about politics – one of their engineers, and it was really Harold Erickson who told them how to do it. But it cost me $2,000 to get the State and this guy p
to get it approved. And then Harold said, “Well, the simple thing to do” –
2nd they drew up all these elaborate pictures of the trees – and I said, “That’s fine, that’s fine.” And Harold said, “No, you just put a tile lere, do this, do that, do the other thing.” “Oh,” the guy said, “you think that’ll work?” But Harold has made a lot of ponds, so, from experience he knew.
JS: That’s classic, simply classic. Do you think you could remember who lived in all these houses when you were a child? Do you remember names of them?
BMcL: The Webbs lived here. The Malleys lived where Gertrude lives. Henchlocks still lives where he did. The Whitbeck house is where Janet Swing –
JS: Oh, that was the Whitbeck house. Does she still own that house?
BMcL: Yes, Janet Swing’s still there.
JS: How interesting. I thought she was off Belgo. Oh, I’m thinking of Atchley. Okay, all right.
BMcL: And, of course, George Selleck had the mill and his house. And the little red house beyond that has always been known as the Carter house. And the Philippis, and as I said, Junie Lovett lived in where the Pewter Pond people are now. And the grey house where Carl – was known as the Farrell house.
JS: Oh, Oogie’s mentioned that.
BMcL: Yep, the Farrell house, where John Higgins’ grandparents, Evelyn – JS: John Higgins of the Village Store –
BMcL: Yeah. His mother, Evelyn Higgins, was a Lovett. How was that a Farrell house? I don’t know, but the Farrells and the Lovetts were related back there somehow, so – but that was always known as the Farrell house.
And I think, you know, the Kiefer land has always been there. I don’t re-
member all the houses. I don’t
Jim Lamson bought this the same time.
around the same time he rented, and then he bought from Phil, I’m pretty sure, and I don’t know what year that was, and I can’t remember who lived there before that because – they were our neighbors, and that was it.
I was away then, too. But prior to the Ashman house, I lived in Lakeville, in the Allen house. Allen house was next to Stuart Theater.
JS: Ooh! Ethan Allen House, yes. Now, maybe you know this. These weird people told me this so many times, and nobody can figure it out. I’ve been bold that half of that house is somewhere on Belgo Road, that it was cut in half – years and years ago.
BMcL: Well, when I lived there – we lived on the second floor – it had three rooms and a bathroom, and the biggest room was the bathroom. Then there was an attic. We had one bedroom down there and the rest of us slept in the attic, and then, downstairs the Lorenzes lived there. They had L2 kids, and the Goldens lived there, and they had 12 kids. There were only the two apartments.
JS: When was that?
BMcL: That was 1936, ’37, ’38.
JS: Did your mother work?
BMcL: My mother didn’t work until we moved to the Ashman house. Then she got a job at the White Hart as a waitress. But, nobody worked in the thirties.
JS: That’s true.
BMcL: But if you gotta be poor, be poor in Lakeville, and live next to – Well, prior to the Allen house I lived in the Beehive. The Beehive is :orn down now. It was behind the K & E.
up there in the Holley block, where Community Fuel is now. And the Bee- tive was called the Beehive because it was built peculiarly. Where we lived, it was three flights up. I mean, we had one room on top of the other, which was handy because it took a lot for my father to come up- stairs to straighten kids out on the third floor. But when he came, it was meaningful. And the Washingtons – I think there were about four famines living there. They nestled in, closely. But one time – and it was pretty rundown – Mrs. Fish was trying to sell it to some, I think, New Yorker, and accidentally Izzie was listening in and she said, “You’d love this old colonial overlooking a lagoon.” Ha ha ha, a lagoon. Well, I guess Izzie fell off the stool. I don’t know who else was working with her, but, anyway, when I lived in the Beehive overlooking the lagoon, it wasn’t bad because it had a swinging bridge that went very close to us. McCues had the livery stable’ there, which is gone. There was a boarding house, and across from that was the Gateway, and in those days we called them “summer people”, not “weekenders”. And so the summer population –
I think that’s why the swinging bridge
JS: It was for the Gateway Inn people, wasn’t it?
BMcL: Yeah. And you know people wouldn’t have to walk all the way round. And the Factory Pond, because nobody was working, was an excellent kating place, because everybody kept it cleared off in the winter. And o matter how poor you were, we had skates, we had a sled, and we had a ^thing suit, so we would swim all summer, and it was not a bad life.
and it was quite busy then because we had – where the K &E is was the China- man who did the laundry. And the Harveys had a – the Lakeville Journal as over there, in addition to – the Harveys had the fish and tackle –
they used to make their own flies, employed quite a few people. The Holley
Block had Doc Laverty’s pharmacy; it had Hugo’s, which was a Victrola place. So, looking back, to be funny, we were living condominium, you see. We had no upkeep because there was no grass to mow, nobody had a car so there wasn’t anything to plow, and you could wander around there, because we could sneak into the Stuart Theater, and the railroad station was quite active, and there were trains and people could get off the trains and you had the summer people. I can remember setting up carnivals for the Manor girls – where Metz has fixed into an apartment, was a manor for, I don’t know, I don’t think they were camp kids from under- privileged, but I think they were rather Catholic kids, and they were city people, I think, so we used to dun them easily. We used to nail things to the board and have them throw balls at it, and if they knocked it off, they – and so my mother would make fudge and we’d sell it and that kind of thing. I think it was lid Saturday matinee to go to the movies. But re could sometimes sneak in the hack, and we were such pests that they used to let us in just to be quiet sometimes. And the guy, we used to call .t a put-put, but he was the guy that checked the railroad tracks –
JS: That hand operated thing.
BMcL: Yes. And he used to give the kids rides. And we had a trestle, md my father used to put rabbit traps along the railroad track, and we ised to eat a lot of rabbit – rabbit stew. My mother was an excellent cook. We ate a lot of rice. It’s a wonder my eyes don’t slant. But like it to this day. Then, one day I was swinging, I think upside down, on Leverty’s rail there, and Miss Williams, Margaret Holley Williams, told me that wasn’t dignified for a young lady, and I was also chewing gum. She sort of became my Mr. Higgins. She took me in and tried to make
a lady out of me, and sort of adopted us kids. She had a chauffeur. She
never drove. She never worked, either. Ha Ha. So she had a lot in common with us. She used to take us to G. Fox, my sister Kay and me, to do our school shopping. And one time she stopped in the bargain basement and picked up something for us which didn’t last, and she met Beatrice Auerbach face-to-face, to tell her how bad bargain basements were and how it ripped off the poor people by misrepresenting quality. Didn’t change, you know, bargain stores were still there, but that was Miss Williams. She had a sandbox. I don’t know why we needed that with all of Lakeville Lake, but we used to have to get dressed up and go up there and JS: This was in the Holley Williams House?
BMcL: Yes. She would play tiddlywinks with us and read Winnie the Poo. I guess she was lonesome. And we used to go for tea at Miss Coffin’s house. I think the McDonalds live there now. That wasn’t so much fun, although I guess she did have horses, but Gertrude Drummond’s was more fun because there was more for kids. She was a grand lady. My sister Margaret’s named after her, Margaret Holley.
JS: Isn’t that nice!
BMcL: Yeah because she did so much for us. There’s a Margaret Holley
Williams fund at the hospital, for certain things. So, they called me about it and I started to tell them the story, but they just wanted to know, “We just want to know, are you going to sign that this is okay?” “No,” I said. “I gotta tell you about Margaret Holley Williams.” And she died in a four-bed ward at the hospital at 92, I think. And I was heartbroken. She was blind and deaf and didn’t know who I was, so I couldn’t communicate to her. And there were just no beds at the inn.
JS: But that’s upsetting.
BMcL: This dignified, wonderful, single lady, who had done so much, so
quietly, really. She never
I think she was an inspiration to my mother.
My mother and father were always – had class, anyway. They were just poor. I think Miss Williams was an example of how true ladies behave, and even ‘though you have money, you don’t flaunt it. You just are very dignified about it, true wealth, I think, in many ways. And one time when Stewart Hoskins first took over the Journal, he wrote some derogatory remark about the ragamuffins around the railroad station and around the Stuart Theater and around that – my mother stormed right down there and faced him, and there was a retraction the next week. He did not mean to say that – anything bad about the kids. And that’s the kind of spunk she had, and to be so young and to do all that kind of stuff. But she said, “Just because you’re poor, you don’t have to be dirty, and you don’t have to be impolite” and all this stuff. The other wonderful thing we had in Lakeville was the Jigger Shop. That’s where the laundromat is now. And Frances LeMoyne’s parent, mother, ran that. And she was a wonderful, wonderful woman. I had Miss Pam in the third grade and we loved it because we had the best parties, because she’d bring everything from the Jigger Shop. I don’t know why they called it the Jigger Shop.
I think Lakeville’s changed more than Salisbury, because we had a First National and the A & P, and Casey’s Market and Godrusses1 Market. I finally figured out what’s a store and what’s a market. JS: What’s the difference?
BMcL: Wealthy people go to a market; poor people go to the store. JS: Ha. Ha.
BMcL: The markets are more expensive, and now people say, “Well, I have to go to market.” I say, “Well, you go to the market and I’ll go down to the store to pick up what I need.” But we used to go, when we could, to
the First National or the A & P. And Godress’ Market even in those days
was ‘way out of reach, although we used to pester – they were characters, Louie, you remember the Godresses?
JS: I guess that’s the place where “On the Run” is how. When I moved here 40 years ago this past summer, it seems to me the only thing in the window was a roll of brown butcher paper.
BMcL: Louie, in his older years, used to go there every day, even when it was closed, and wrap up things. And they must have had a high-quality market because the brothers ran that for years and had tremendous customers. But I don’t think they ever married – I’m not positive of that – or ever had any –
JS: One of them was alive when we moved here.
BMcL: Yeah, I think it was Louie.
JS: Now, where was the fourth one you mentioned? First National,
A & P, Godresses, and Caseys, where was he?
BMcL: Casey’s Market was across from Peking House, or whatever it is, the Chinese house now, where the First National was.
BMcL: There was a market there, in the old Dufour building.
JS: In the hub, okay.
BMcL: So you had a lot of activity there. We even had a Western Union. JS: That’s right. You went up steps, where the barber shop –
BMcL: Paul Argali, Tenby Argali is a doctor at the hospital. And my sister used to babysit for Ollie, and I used to babysit for Tenby. I’m not that much older, but in those days it didn’t take much to just, you know, it was, by the time you were seven, you could babysit. It’s called benign neglect, I think. So, now I kid Tenby and Ollie, and I’d say, “Now don’t you two misbehave, because I’ll call my sister.” And Tenby says,
“Whatever you say.” Tenby remembers a lot of the people. It’s marvelous. He has a terrific memory. And it’s nice to see. His father was the barber and his father recently died, remember in Florida. He was a wonderful man. … I don’t know, where does this go?
JS: This? Start with the civil rights.
BMcL: Well, we recently had a civil rights march. I say “recently”. It could have been in the seventies, or whenever that was in vogue. And I wondered about that because I didn’t think we had a problem. We had an equal relationship with the blacks, or Negroes, as we said then. But I have learned that the barbers would not cut the blacks’ hair, and all of those families went to Poughkeepsie to get a haircut.
JS: Uh! Understandable then
BMcL: I guess, yes, just nobody made anything about it. Whether they felt something, it wasn’t voiced, I guess. It was just an acceptance. Everybody said, “Well, I’m goin’ to Poughkeepsie to get a haircut.”
BMcL: Since I didn’t get haircuts, I never noticed that there was never one of the Fowlkes, or the Palmers, or those people who have been in town a long, long time. And we didn’t have so many streets then. We had nickname streets. It wasn’t Farnum Road. It was called Muck Alley, you know? And I kid some of the people who live on Farnum Road now.
I say, “Don’t kid me. I knew you when you lived in Muck Alley.” Like Oogie said to me, “You may call it Washinee, but I know it’s Lower Dump.” The dump was up here. Ha. Ha. But Lakeville, when you think of it, in the Thirties was quite hectic, with all the markets – the schoolhouse was where the Post Office is now. I went to school there for three years.
And in the Stuart Theater area was the Post Office, which then later
Charlie had as his TV station. The Godresses and the Jigger Shop and the busy railroad station, and the Holley Block being busy, with Doc Leverty. And where the wine shop is now – that same house was moved back – but that was Millers Plumbing, and my father worked there. Bill Stanton and some characters, I’ll tell you, used to work at the Scoville mansion up in Taconic. They were supposed to be putting in a furnace, and I don’t know, Harry had gone somewhere, so he was going to see that the furnace was delivered, so the guys got drinkin’ beer, I guess, and playin’ cards. It started to snow and Harry came and he said, “Where’s the furnace?” They had about an inch of snow, and they kept scuffin’ the snow and said they couldn’t find it. Ha. Ha. But, they had some wild times. Barnett’s store was very busy, and a wonderful place, too, because Bill – everything was the lay-away plan, and he sold everything from candy to dresses to, you know, spools of thread. Again, the kids would march through there and steal some candy, and he’d run ’em, and then there was a package store next to the First National – I think Bob Considine’s father used to run that – and we’d collect beer bottles along the brooks and things like that, and he’d say, “Not supposed to be bringing these”. I think you got two cents for returning beer bottles, and we’d hound him and hound him, and he’d finally give us the money so that we could go to the movies or do something like that. And then, Lakeville Lake was a lot different. Charlotte Reid and I were talking about that the other day. They’re so worried about Lakeville Lake. Bud Timmens used to drink out of it, it was so pure, you know. Charlotte was saying that in the spring this water is the cleanest water around. And it wasn’t so fancy then. We had bath houses there and, as I say, a lot of
summer people. The only places you could see on the lake were the
Hotchkiss boathouse and the Hall place, as we called it.
JS: Charlotte Reid’s house.
JS: And that was it?
BMcL: And that’s about all you could see. The McChesney place would loom up, but you couldn’t see down, and now you sort of feel lost – particularly on the right-hand side: all that seems to be developed.
JS: Okay, Side Two.
BMcL: Side Two. Then Abe Martin ran the town when I was a kid. I’ve only known three people to run the town – Abe Martin, Bill Barnett, and Charlotte Reid. So, I guess once you get in there, you can keep it as long as you want. Ha. Ha. But I guess they were all good in their own way. I think the break in our financial situation was when my father got in the defense plant, but the best break was when he ran the Sunoco station next to the White Hart.
JS: Oh! Not across the street, but next to –
BMcL: Next to. Now, you talk about garages. We had the Hamzy garage, my father’s garage, the Coons’ gas station at the foot of Smith Hill. We had Coons’ over on the Ore Hill line; we had the Mobil station, which was Abe Martin’s? We had, where the Shell station is, only a little further down, I think, was Chases. Chases’ garage was there. We had a garage by the Farnum Tavern, mainly repairs –
JS: That building that’s ‘way back in, still there, brick building.
BMcL: A lot of cars, yeah, submerged, practically. So, you think of all that – My father had a lot of fun runnin’ the Sunoco station, because he
was a character. When he knew Lena Neville was comin’ by, right on time
on Friday nights, and she had her check to fill up the gas – he’d put a chair, lean back a chair, and he’d put a bandana on, and put a pipe in his mouth and make believe he was asleep, or he’d have a flower that would squirt out when she got close by, but –
JS: Who was she?
BMcL: Lena Neville lives, lived, she just died this year, across from the cemetery, up on the hill.
JS: Oh, I know Neville, all right.
BMcL: Yeah. She worked with my mother for years at the White Hart Inn. Those two used to run it during the war, as far as the waitresses were concerned – pretty much. Simonson and Flo Keeler – but, basically it was my mother and Lena Neville. And those two were characters. They went to school together. They lived side-by-side, so pretty good girlfriends, so to speak. But, my father would have that Sunoco station goin’ – I used to have to relieve him. The worst thing you could ever do was to give a man who’s used to workin’ seven days a week, 365 days, a day off, because then he looks forward to the next one – no – The next thing you know, it becomes a habit. Ha Ha. So, we’d have to plan each week who’s going to relieve Dad for a day? And he spent most of the day up here calling down to see what we were doing. Ha Ha, and checking on us, but he used to let Sterling Baer park his Cadillac in there, and I had to move it one day, and I shifted it wrong and and ran right in the wall and broke the headlights. I thought my father was going to kill me. But he said, “I did the same thing two weeks ago!” I said, “Thank you, Jesus.” So I got out of that pretty easily. But, one day we had – we had quite a few clambakes here. It was a Fourth of July party. It was about 90 degrees. He had an old bear coat and a hat on, and rode the
bicycle down street, you know, just to get people goin’. But I think poor people do have more comedy. I think if you look at the comics that are successful on the long haul came from poor times – poor times in the sense of financial times. My sister and I kid and say, “What are you goin* to give up this year?” We say, “We gave up the first nine years and now we’re gonna live it up.” But we didn’t realize how poor we were. All those jokes about, “We were so poor we had to borrow the neighbor’s garbage” and “My sister was born in Taiwan.” We were poor, but when everybody around you is poor and you live in Lakeville with the lakes and the sliding and the skating, it’s not as poor as being in an inner city, I think, where there’s no help. And to this day, when I have employees or patients who have problems, I say, “If only you could move to Lakeville or Salisbury, we could do something for you.” And. there is a lot here, and always has been.
JS: What do you mean by that – your patients? Are you talking .about Salisbury Public Health?
BMcL: I’m talking about patients in need, whether they’re Hospice patients, or whether they’re just financially down, or mentally down, or just need somebody to guide them. I mean, how many towns around here have Salisbury Family Service, with a social worker, or has the extent of Salisbury Public Health, or has the Bissell’ Fund, or has the Margaret Holley Willisms, or who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody? It’s unique, and the rest of the towns don’t have it. JS: Not to mention the Mental Health Center.
BMcL: That’s right.
JS: Which is bursting its seams.
BMcL: Yup. And a lot is given away, graciously, not a welfare program.
And I think it’s a credit. And I get fearful of that, because – not all weekenders, but a lot of them think this is a free ride, and that won’t continue. I remember when Charlotte was running, and we had a meeting down at Bam Whitbeck’s, Audrey’s, what to do about each little section of town, and my suggestion was there should be a one-way street, especially when the dump was here, from Swings’ to Barn’s, and one way from the cobble, for that kind of traffic. And I see now they have had to fortify that corner, so I think they should have listened to me. But – at those times we were discussing modern and low housing, etc., and so one of the newly arrived people here said, “Well, we don’t need low housing. It brings down the value of other housing.” And I said, “Well, who’s going to mow your lawn? Who’s going to volunteer for the Fire Department?”‘ And he said, “Well, can’t they come from somewhere else?” I said, “What do you want us to do, bus them in for the fire?” And it just shows you that they come, and I’m not trying to – I hate to stereotype them all, because there are some good ones. I think weekenders are worse than the summer people. That used to be. I think summer people took a responsibility. They were old money, not nouveau riche, and their main concern, at least part of their concern, was here. And these people, sometimes not knowingly, say, “Well, what do you mean? What do you want us to do?” Etc. But in the days before this got to be about 52% weekenders, or New York owners, there was more camaraderie, even though the population was probably less. But the names didn’t change. They were the same names. I mean, the Hall family was there a long time. They used to run us off the yard, but – The concerns and the old family names were passed down, and you knew who to go to – Phil Warner, Sam Whitbeck, those people carried a lot of people,
You didn’t have any paperwork with it – it was just done. I was too
young to be involved in that in Lakeville, but I’m sure, as I say, with Margaret Holley Williams the mechanism was there, too – the Drummonds and those people were very caring and very aware of the plight of the less fortunate. Now it’s become again a system. I mean the mental health and – the ministers were responsible for mental health in those days. And Ruth Minor was responsible for the physical health. My God, what a dedicated woman – probably my idol. And you just couldn’t do that anymore – legally you couldn’t do it anymore. We never went to a doctor unless we were really down and out, and I guess we had enough exposure to bacteria, became immune, sort of. Doc Herrick and Doc Pete – It worked! It wouldn’t work today. They wouldn’t let it work today – the bureaucracy and that kind of stuff. But we’ve lost a lot, it’s too bad. We’ve lost trust is the big thing. But anyway, that’s the way it goes today. But in those days, what more could a kid want than to play in a railroad track, swim in a lake,take a ride in a put-put, and torment the busy people in the shops, who put up with it? Harry Miller used to have his Christmas party Christmas Eve, and I’ll never forgive any company that does that to men who have children at home. And that’s the day you’ve got to pay off Bill Barnett for the sled and whatever. So, I used to say, “If you’re going to plan a Christmas party, make it a week before, and not Christmas Eve.” Because naturally, the men celebrated and it was a chance – they didn’t have much chance otherwise – so you’d be waiting. Most of the time my father was good-natured, but my poor mother would have to go down to Barnett’s and delay, but take the stuff, and he was good about that, knowing the situation. I remember that, so it must have stuck as one of the things that – and, again, I think Harry Miller
meant well, but was not aware of total family commitment, like maybe
businesses are now. But it wasn’t a bad time.
JS: It sounds like a good time to me. Thank you very much. It’s been wonderful.