Hope Mongeau Interview
This is file 50/62. This is Jean McMillen interviewing Hope Mongeau at her home 231 Main Street, Lakeville, Ct. The date today is June 17, 2013 and we’ll start with the easy stuff.
JM:What is your full name?
JM:Where were you born?
HM:I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts.
HM:It is October 12, 1946.
JM:Your parents’ names
HM:My father’s name was Paul and my mother’s name was Chrisanthe.
JM:Do you have siblings?
HM:Yes, I have two sisters and a brother: my sister Anne and a sister Kathryn and a brother Louis.
JM: Educational background?
HM:I went to Westfield State College which is now the university and got my bachelor’s of science degree for teaching. I afterwards got 30 credits towards a master degree at Central Connecticut State College in Connecticut.
JM:How did you come to this area?
HM:I had a friend Pat Allyn Mechare; we went to college together and she told me there were teaching jobs in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. So my husband and I came for interviews.
JM: And you both got jobs.
HM:And we stayed.
JM:How fortunate we are at that. How long did you teach at Salisbury Central?
HM:I was 2 years at Salisbury Central when I started teaching. I taught 5th grade. They I stopped when I had my children and stayed home for 8 years when I had my two sons.
JM:Then where did you go to teach?
HM:Then I went to Sharon Center School; I taught prekindergarten half time for 6 years.
HM:Then I went to North Canaan elementary: there I taught 5th grade for 20 years before I retired.
JM:After you retired you went back to work again.
HM:I did. Now I am at Indian Mountain School, the lower campus and I teach math, I help the teachers out on math so it is a supplementary, whatever they call it- supply teacher. I am a teacher, not an aide and I go into grades 1-4.
JM:How often do you work?
HM: Two mornings a week.
JM:Oh that is perfect.
HM:Yeah, it is great.
JM:When did you start there?
HM:I started there in 2007, the fall of 2007.
JM:So you have been there about 6 years.
JM:Now the main thing that I want from you is to talk about your house. Tell me everything starting at the beginning.
HM:I will try. Way before we were here I think it was the Davis Ore Mine that was down behind the Iron Masters Motel. There were a lot of cottages, miners’ cottages (the patch) blacksmith’s shops and what have you. Our house from what we understand was probably a blacksmith shop for the mine. It was located right in front of where the Iron Masters Motel is, right next to the little restaurant that is also a cottage. It changed over the years; somebody made it into a home. We think it was built in about 1825, around there. We have talked to Jim Vaill who owned the property at one time, and Betty Haas who owned the property and we found out a lot of information. A lot of things were added to the house to make it livable and from what we understand; no one had lived in there after 1925.
JM:When did you get involved with the house?
HM:We were renting an apartment from Jim and Gail Vaill in the large apartment house (formerly Mrs. Perkins boarding house ED.) It was small; I found out I was pregnant and we wanted to have more space. Jim Vaill said, “Would you like to live in the tool shed?” which was that this house was. I said, “No, not really.” He said, “No, I’ll fix it up,” We didn’t think he was going to move it; he moved the whole house up to the back which is the orchard which was behind the Perkins house. He put it up on the hill on a slab and added a garage and a porch. He didn’t add any rooms but we reconfigured the rooms so it was more doable. We had 2 bedrooms upstairs, one for the baby and one for us. Then
there were 4 small rooms downstairs. We rented for only $150 a month for 2 years. I got pregnant again and we wondered if we were going to be able to stay here. Jim really wanted to sell the house and he wanted to sell it to us. We thought ok well we have no money. So he loaned us money for the down payment and we bought the house in 1973. In 1977 we added on a bedroom downstairs for us and a family rood because it was really way too small. It was basically a cottage. The boys then each had a bedroom upstairs which was nice and private for all of us. Then in 1986 we put a garage, I mean a barn which is where we park our cars because we have no room in the garage for our cars. In 1995 we knocked out the kitchen wall and put on a big kitchen addition and that went all the way upstairs so that we have a big bedroom upstairs for a guest room. That was after our sons were out of school so we could afford it. Basically we have really changed the house; the original couple of rooms are there but it doesn’t look anything like it did except that we tried to keep the integrity of the house by keeping the same kind of windows and clapboards. We didn’t put aluminum siding on; we wanted it to be look like what it was supposed to have been.
JM:I think you bought property in 1978 you bought?
HM:Oh I forgot about that. The front lot, the house was only on a half-acre, and there is a half-acre that goes out to the road and Jim wanted to sell that. We didn’t want to be in anybody’s back yard so we bought that from him. That’s when I went back to work at Sharon so that we pay the loan.
JM:Then you bought more property,
HM:Right in about 2000 Jim again had 5 or 6 acres, about 51/2 acres up in the back of the house that abuts the school, the lower building of Salisbury Central School and the motel. He said that there was somebody interested in buying that to put some homes there. We said that can’t happen because our driveway is going to be in the way. So we bought that few acres; we pretty much own everything that Jim owned except for the motel which he owned at one point and the apartment house.
JM:I think in other oral histories that I have done this area of small houses that you talk about was called “the Patch”.
JM:Now I’d like to go on and have you talk a little bit about your art work. Your dad, start with him, please.
HM:My father owned a restaurant but in his spare time he always painted. He started with oil and then he was doing watercolor when he retired. I always watched him; I always loved to draw. I did drawings my whole life growing up. My sisters remember my asking, “What did we used to do when we were young?” My sister Annie was always reading; she said, “You were always drawing.” I kind of do remember that, but I always wanted to see if I could paint. When I retired, I finally said, “I am going to try it.” I decided that watercolor was what I wanted to do. I asked my father to give me some lessons; that didn’t work out because he kept taking the brush out of my hand and doing it. “You are not doing it
right.” So then I said OK I could tell that I was enjoying it so I decided to take some more lessons from Harold Brien. He was teaching at the high school. I did that for about a year and a half; I didn’t feel that I was really… He gave me a good start, but I felt I needed more. Then I went to take lesson with Lois Van Cleef who is in Ashley Falls. She is an award winning artist and is very good; she is terrific at watercolor. I still go; it has been about 5 or 6 years, and I go once a week and it is great for me because it keeps me painting.
JM:You won an award.
HM:I did. I won Honorary Mention in the Trinity Art Show that they had at the Trinity church.
JM:I think that is wonderful.
HM:I have been in other shows and I have sold 3 or 4 painting so that makes me feel pretty good.
JM:Of course. What are some of the civic activities you have done over the years?
HM:I was on the Salisbury Family Services board for a few years; I was on the Recreation Commission for about 12 years, and I was on the Housatonic Child Care Center board for 6 years. I think that is it.
JM:You also told me about your church. Please tell me about that.
HM:My husband and I and a few other people that were local Orthodox Christians; we were hoping that we could have a church that was local. We bought the little chapel in Twin Lakes from the Catholic Church and we converted it to an orthodox church. We have had it since 1994. We have a nice little community of about 30-35 people; we feel pretty proud that we started this little church. We have put water in, a bathroom, a little kitchen and it is a lovely place. To drive there by Twin Lakes and to go to that little chapel on Sunday morning is quite nice.
JM:It is quite uplifting. Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview that we haven’t discussed?
HM:I think the only thing I can think of and it has to do with the house is that before this house was here, it was just a field with apple trees and that is it. When I look around at everything that John and I have done with planting new trees, putting in plantings, flowers, it is just kind of neat.
JM:It is very neat having seen it as it has been transitioning.
HM:The only thing is the deer still think that they belong here, and if I had to name my property, Jean, I would name it “The Salad Bar”. Because they go from one thing to another; I have said that many times. We love living here; the school is quiet all summer, we don’t have the noise. The motel is quiet; we have nice neighbors; it is just a great place to live.
JM;Thanks you so much for giving me this.