Kathy Mera Interview:
This is file # 28, cycle 2. Today’s date is May 27, 2016. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Kathy Mera about several things including the fall Festival, the Housatonic Valley Regional High school where she was librarian, the office of Deputy Registrar for the Democratic Party, and the Salisbury Association Civic Activities Committee. First we will start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
KM:Nov. 15, 1941
JM:Your birth place?
JM:Your parents’ names?
KM:Donald McKee Anderson, my mother Elsa Cecelia Anderson
JM:Do you or did you have siblings?
KM:I have one sister who has passed away. I have a half- sister who lives in England and 2 step-sisters.
JM:What is your educational background after high school?
KM:I graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s in Education. Later on I got a Master’s in Library Science from southern Connecticut State University.
JM:What year was that, please?
KM:Good questions, I think it was about 1986, maybe.
JM:Tell me how you came to the area and when?
KM:We moved here in 1976. My husband at the time and I had a company that did all the preparation for Mobil Travel Guide. Because of the early days of computers we did not have to stay so close to New York. We were involved with Sports Car Club of America and racing at Lime Rock Park. We always thought that this would be a great place to live. When a building became available, the old bank building in Lakeville we bought that building and put our office in there and moved up here.
JM:The building that you bought was the Salisbury Bank and Trust building.
KM:The old building, the one across from the Holley-Williams House where the Founders Insurance Company is now.
JM:When did you go to the high school library?
KM:The high school library in 1981.
JM:How long were you the high school librarian?
JM:and you retired in?
JM:Would you tell me some of the local colleagues or principals that you worked with?
KM:Well Jack Mahoney was Principal when I first came. David Bayerdorfer was there as an Interim Principal. Of course he went back to Athletic director. He was interim principal a couple of times. As far as administration, Guidance Office was Roland Chinatti from Falls Village and Judi Moore from Lakeville. There were a lot of local teachers at that time.
JM:Tell me how the media has changed. In 25 years or less!
KM:Oh has it changed! When I first came to the library, we didn’t have any computers in the library. I think there were some PET computers in the lab, so they were there but they were at the very early stages. In about 1989-1990. I took a sabbatical to travel throughout New England and learn about how Distance Learning was being used. We thought it might work to give a wider variety of classes to our students. Just about that time the high school really started changing. We brought in a lot of computers; we had computers in the library. We actually automated the library circulation when I got back from my sabbatical. So in 1991 we put the whole library card catalogue and everything on a computer. We started using more data bases and then it just took off.
JM;what an awful lot of work that was.
KM:It was a lot of work, but I had good assistance. People were willing to work with us. I always laugh because early on before w even automated but we were talking about it, we moved every book in the library because we really needed to rearrange the library. I told the kids who were helping us move to be sure and look behind the books for the electrical outlets. There weren’t any outlets; they were all on the wall behind the books so where would you plug in the computers, if you had them. In 2002 when they really needed the library, they completely rebuilt the library and almost tripled its size. Then we really automated everything.
JM:Is there anything that you would like to add about the high school library before we go on to another section?
KM:The library when I was there like most school libraries was kind of a hub for learning. We worked with all departments. We had a math department that wrote research papers which was very unusual. We tried to work with all the departments; we tried to bring in and add other media as people needed it. We tried to kind of a center where people could meet and greet and have nice visiting time.
JM:Wonderful. Now we are going to move on to your position as Deputy Registrar of the Democratic Town Committee. Were you elected or appointed?
KM:I was appointed. The Registrar is elected. That was Margie Vail. Shortly after she took the office, she called and asked me to be her deputy. That was in 2005. (See File #2, cycle 2 Margie Vail)
JM:What are some of your duties?
KM:Basically I am there to fill in if the Registrar isn’t there, but with Margie we pretty much share them. The Registrar’s Office is open every week every Wednesday 9-12 so we kind of divide that. We are there to register voters and to make sure the records are all kept up. When there are elections, we are there to set up our elections and make sure that the elections run smoothly. We work with the moderator. At Town Meetings we have to be there if there is a vote going to be taken. We are responsible along with the Republican Registrar to make sure that all the records are correct and that the elections are run according to the laws of the State of Connecticut.
JM:Do you personally have a term of office?
KM:No I don’t. I was appointed at the discretion of the Registrar.
JM:What training do you have to have?
KM:When I first started, we were train on the spot and learned the job. In the last year and one half the Secretary of the State and the state legislature has set up certification requirements for Registrars of voters. Now we have to attend 8 training sessions running anywhere from 2 to 4 hours vie close circuit television from UConn in Stanford and go through all the responsibilities of Registrars. That is going to be required for all Registrars and Deputies that they must complete that within 2 years of their election or appointment. Then there is going to be something about how you renew that after it has been done.
JM:They keep giving you more and more training.
KM:Yes they do.
JM:Is there anything else you want to add to this section?
KM:No except I think I would encourage anyone who is interested in it. It is always interesting to work on elections. First you get to see people you never see any other time, but we are fortunate in our town that the registrars get along and work together. They do here, and in some towns they don’t. I
like it. I enjoy being in town hall. I enjoy seeing the people. We have really great people working in our town hall.
JM:We certainly do!
KM:I enjoy working with them.
JM:Then we will move on to the Salisbury Association Civic Activities. How did you become involved with the Salisbury Association?
KM:A number of years ago I was asked by Carl Williams I think who called me and asked if I would serve a term or two on the board of the association. I did. I was on the Trustee board of the Association. I went to the meetings, but I was working at the time; I didn’t get really involved. So when they asked me again, I decided not to because it did not seem as if I was doing anything. After I retired, they came back and asked me again to serve and I said that I would. It is an interesting committee because it gets into all parts of Salisbury, with the Land Trust,( See file #18 Cycle 2 David Heck and File # 21 Tom Key) and the history (See file #22,cycle 2, Ron Jones), and the Civic Activities. There are a lot of very interesting people who are very interested in the town. They make things work.
JM:What are some of the civic activities that you are responsible for as a committee?
KM:The Civic Activities does Town Beautification (See file #19 cycle 2 Barbara Nicholls and file #24 , cycle 2 Chany Wells) does Tree planting and those are pretty much taken care of by some subcommittees. It also is involved in running civic activities as for instance the fourth of July which is always a big town celebration, the party at the Grove. We also do a concert at Christmas time which is held in the Academy Building. It is always sold out. We in the last three years have a scholarship in recognition of Carl Williams who was such a great volunteer and supporter of this town. We have a scholarship that we award to a graduating high school senior that is renewable for their full four years. We get applications to do that. We just finished receiving them.
JM:How much money?
KM:$2,500 per year it is based on service in the community but we also recognize that for most of our high school students their community is their school. It is hard for them to do too much service in town. It doesn’t have anything to do with need or grades; it is really based on service.
JM:Have you started interviewing the applicants?
KM:We have finished it.
JM;How many applicants did you have this year?
KM:We had 5. Last year I think we had 6 or 7. The first year we didn’t have very many because it was not known. Part of it is convincing kids that it is really based on service: sometimes kids opt out because they think well I am not a top student. We have sent out our letters and we have chosen this year’s recipient. We always like to be able to award this at the 4th of July celebration, but for the last 2 years the recipients were not in town. This young man works at the Grove so he will be there.
JM:Is he part of the Summer Youth Program?
KM:He may have started out that way, but now that he is over 16 he does maintenance.
KM:How many are on your committee?
KM:Our committee is made up 6 of us.
JM:Who are some of the other members of this committee?
KM:Lou Bucceri, Dave Bayersdorfer, Terry and Joel Cohen, me and Judy Dansker.
JM:Is there anything more that you would like to add to this section before we go on to something else?
KM:I like this committee which is the newest of the three of the Salisbury Association. For a long time the Salisbury Association really dealt with Land Trust which is still a very big part of it. More recently the history part of it has become very important (See file # 22, cycle 2 Ron Jones). I think it is great that we recognize civic activity. Salisbury Association kind of fills in and does things for the town that the town government can’t do. It is great that we are able to do this.
JM;All three sections work together.
KM;Yeah we all work together and we are all members of the Board of Trustees, although people on our committees don’t have to be on the Board of Trustees.
JM:I have worked with the board of Trustees as Town Historian I am ex officio. Everybody has been very supportive of whether it is inspecting the cemeteries which I do or the Oral History Project which I do.
KM:it is a group of people who are very interested in the town of Salisbury; they are people who have connections with others who have funds who can support our activities which may not be supported by our taxes.
JM:It is a great group of people that really care about the town.
KM:The Salisbury Association has been around for over 100 years. It started in 1904.
JM:One of the other things that you do that I was not aware of before is that you are co-chairman of the Fall Festival. Who is your co-chair?
KM:Jeanette Weber; I am actually co-chairman for the Salisbury Congregational Church. There is no over-all committee anymore for the entire thing. Each of the churches has their own committee. We all work together.
JM:What specific duties do you have?
KM:We coordinate all the activities that come out of this church; we are organizing the hay rides, setting up the Salisbury Band that plays, also the kids’ games. We are getting chairs for all those committees as for running the Treasure Trove. Jeanette Weber is my co-chair who is excellent with publicity. She gets a lot of publicity going. We meet with the other chairs the ones from St. John’s and the one from the Orthodox Church to set times and get things going. Most of our activities are within this church.
JM:So it is the 3 churches St John’s, you and the Orthodox.
KM:Other churches have other activities, but they are not right here.
JM:They are in this church?
KM:No just the Congregational Church, the Orthodox Church and St. John’s are at St. John’s.
(Trinity does an Art Show, St Mary’s used to have a lasagna dinner Friday night, the Methodist Church used to have a ham dinner on Saturday night and sell bakes goods in a tent near the pharmacy. Ed.)
JM:Do you do the lunch anymore?
KM:No we have not done the lunch for the last 2 or 3 years, but they are talking about bringing it back. I think there is a Latin lunch set up by St. John’s. I don’t get out to see most of the rest of the fair because I am so busy. It used to be three days, but we have pared it down to two days. We used to use all of the upstairs and have all kinds of things. We don’t do that anymore so it is all downstairs. There used to be used clothes and art and lots things like that. What we have run into is there are not as many people that have as much time because it was usually all the women who were home all the time. There aren’t many women home anymore. The other thing that is happening is because it is Columbus Day weekend the schools take advantage of the three day weekend to have a five day weekend. They are often out of school like Thursday, Friday and Monday as you have people that go to college visits and are not available to work. Originally I think this was the only fair going on, but now everybody has one.
JM:When I was working for the fair there used to be a bake sale by all the churches.
KM:We still have baked goods but only from our church.
JM:There used to be an arts and crafts table.
KM:Arts and crafts are pretty much gone. There used to be dried flower pictures, and a lot of those handcrafts are just not seeing them.
JM:Nobody has time any more. You did not do books?
KM:We did books, too. We used to do books in a bid way, but we don’t. We worked together with the library for a while. Books take a lot of time.
JM;Tell me about it!
KM:Sorting books and putting them out. We used to do them with Habitat for Humanity and it took a lot of time. Finally just the library started doing them; now I don’t think the library does it book sale the same weekend as the Fall Festival.
JM:No they do a mini and they do their big sale in June.
KM:Yeah, right so they are not even doing it.
JM:I worked on that for about 3 years.
KM:Books are its own drawing; the book dealers rushing in and they know exactly what the deal is. It just got to be a space thing. When this room (small conference room by the kitchen) extended all the way over there books just took all week long to set up.
JM:Lucie Collins, Anne Kremer and I used to sort books once or twice a week forever.
KM:They take forever. Even with the Habitat sale and then getting rid of them those you don’t sell. That is a hard part too. That is what happened to us finally. We had to stop selling books because we took van loads of them down to the Goshen Fair because they had a big book tent down there. Then they stopped doing that.
JM:Oh well books are going out: everything is on line! Anything else you would like to add about the Fall Festival.
KM:My approach here for the last 7 or 8 years Fall Festival is the time that you see everybody working together. You see all these people that work together and doing very well. For out of towners it is a small town kind of thing.
JM:In a way it is something like the ski jumps. Everybody comes together and does their one thing. They know what they are doing; they do their thing and then they go back into the woodwork.
KM:Yeah that is very true. As we talk about making it bigger or making it smaller or doing away with it, but it always comes back.
JM:It is a perennial. It is a wonderful activity for all ages.
KM:We have the kids of the church run the kids’ games and they do a great job.
JM:It is a wonderful experience. Before we close, is there anything that you would like to add in general to this interview?
KM:I think since I moved to town about 40 years ago I have always enjoyed Lakeville-Salisbury because it is a town where you can participate as much or as little as you want. People understand when you can do something, but they always want you to do things.
JM:Yes, but they are understanding.
KM:They understand; it is a great town to live in. There aren’t too many towns that have a supportive government of the things that go on.
JM:It is a Salisbury tradition; everybody works together.
KM:Yeah and there are lots of thing available in this town like the town grove and the tennis courts and all those kind of things. When my kids were little where we had been before in New Jersey, you would have to belong to a country club and pay big dues to use their facilities. Here they are available.
JM:What a wonderful way to end the interview. Thank you so much.