Oral History Cover Sheet
Narrator: Jean McMillen
Interviewee: Foster McMillen
Tape #: 115A
Place of Interview: 41 Chatfield Hill Drive
Summary of Talk: Early Sharon Hospital Conn. RR Historical Assn. Henry and Sally Chiera
Property of the Oral History Project
The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Conn. 06039
JM: Where were you born and when?
FM: I was born on Staten Island, NY, May 31,1911.
JM:What were the names of your parents and their birth dates?
FM: My father was Harlow McMillen born in Seneca Falls, New York, 1862. My mother Elizabeth Morton Boyce was born in New York City on the 4th of July, 1870.
JM:Foster, can you give us some early recollections of Sharon Hospital?
FM: The Sharon Hospital when I first knew it in the 1950’s was much smaller than it is now. It was a Sunday morning and as far as I could see, there was no one there in the ER Department. I don’t think they even had a reception desk. (Foster had been bitten by a squirrel, and his wife Thelma insisted that he get a tetanus shot.) Dr. Brewer was on duty and appeared to be the only staff around. He gave me the shot and that was my first encounter with Sharon Hospital.
JM:Can you tell us what it was like when you went to work at Sharon Hospital?
FM:I had several jobs. I distributed the mail. I ran the duplicating machine in the basement. I
escorted the one day patients around to the various departments when they came in for treatment.
JM: Now that you have talked a little bit about Sharon Hospital, could you tell us something about the railroad association to which you belonged?
FM: The Connecticut Railroad Association founded in the seventies, it was dedicated to the preservation of Railroadianna, particularly CNE Union Station in Canaan. It had played a major role in the Railroad Days that were held in Canaan. Under the guidance of Truman Crowell and Earl Smedick, the association grew until over the years the membership dwindled, as the active members grew older.
Collected Railroad artifacts: The main one being a 1918 wooden caboose purchased from the New York Central Railroad. It was sold for one dollar to Danbury Railroad Historical Club. In addition there was a tricycle handcar and another handcar, which both had been stolen from the station. There was also a huge oil locomotive headlamp, which is still around unless lost in the Canaan Depot fire. In which also resulted losses of artifacts that were on display on the second floor office.
The association held regular monthly meetings and an annual banquet, but these dwindled. The last banquet was held in the Depot Restaurant about 2000. After that an annual membership meeting kept the association legally alive. It had been legally organized under the Connecticut State Department.
I became the last regularly elected officer and as president was able to sign legal papers, transferring ownership of the Station from the private owner to the Railroad Association, which as a nonprofit organization could solicit funds for its restoration. The Connecticut Historical Railroad Association still exists as the owner of the Canaan Union Station. The present owners, all duly elected officers, are in charge of the effort to rebuild and restore that building. Various artifacts have been located and will be put on display to be located in the old waiting room and ticket office area.
JM: Now tell us about a relative that came into the area, your sister, Olive(Sally) McMillen
FM: Henry Chiera came to St John’s Church as interim pastor in 1925. In 1926 he was appointed permanently. Among his parishioners was Mrs. Haviland and her daughter Sammy Alex Daly. Mrs. Haviland lived on Taconic Road opposite the Whitridges. Sally and Dorothy, otherwise known as Dottie Daly, had been friends since high school; even though Sally went to Elmira College and Dorothy to Cornell University. Sally was visiting the Dalys in the summer of 1929 or ’30 and attended St John’s. She was informed that the pastor, Henry Chiera, was unmarried and considered a catch. She is reported to have said, “Wait ’til I get ‘im.” In the event, they were engaged. When my beloved sister Sally informed us that she was engaged to Enrico Guiseppe Chiera, I went through the roof, so to speak. The wedding ceremony was hilarious in a way. Henry’s brother, George, also an Episcopal minister, conducted the ceremony which took place in a small church in NYC.
It was planned to have it in a chapel, quietly, but so many of Henry’s friends and parishioners from Salisbury showed up, that it was at the last minute transferred to the main church to accommodate all of the visitors. It became very formal.
My father was to escort Sally down the aisle to the altar. Unrehearsed George Chiera started the ceremony when Henry, at one side, realizing the error sprang forth with a “psst” to stop George and realizing that he was in front of the congregation, looked aghast and stepped back.
Silence prevailed. Nothing happened: George trying to stifle his mirth and Henry apprehensive, Sally and her father just standing in the rear.
Finally my Aunt Marie McDonald, sitting in the front row, turned around with a full arm swing beckoned my father and Sally to come down the aisle. He did. They were married: then all repaired to the church parlor for refreshments. I added to the gravity of the association or shall I say the gaiety by demanding a second helping of the creamed chicken and tasty shells-and being refused, I loudly announced that my father had paid for this. I don’t know if he was. I observed Sally, Aunt Marie and my mother in a huddle. I strolled over to butt in. I was instantly dismissed. I later learned that they, mother and aunt, instructed Sally in the facts of life. Actually their first, child Lisa was born nine months later to the day. Sally is a small woman, and her pregnancy became quite evident. So much so that local gossip was concerned as to who would get there first the stork or the doctor.
The following summer 1931, I came up to Salisbury to get to know my brother- in-law. There began a life- long friendship. That visit was also my first visit to Salisbury, and I fell quite in love with the area. So much so that from that time every weekend and vacation was spent visiting Sally and Henry at the vicarage. Henry passed away in 1952 at the age of 64 holding the title Pastor Emeritus. I continued visiting Sally at every opportunity after Henry’s death. At that time she taught at Indian Mountain School. Then from there entered the public school system where she taught at Cornwall School until her medical retirement in 1972.
I might say knowing Henry Chiera was an experience. A characteristic he had was fast driving so much so that his local nickname was ‘The Flying Jesus’. His parish visits were frequent. How I well remember visiting Robert Scovilles. Elvia, their daughter, was at home for the summer. When being asked her plans for the summer, she was going to Europe with her LaSalle auto. This was in 1932. I was working when I could find employment, for as little as eight cents an hour. How well I recall a visit to the rectory on a weekend, when Henry burst out of his study with the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I need not give the date.