J. Mongeau Interview:
This is file 55. This is jean McMillen interviewing john Mongeau of 231 Main St. Lakeville, Ct. 06039. He is going to talk on several different things. Today’s date is July 22, 2013. We’ll start with the easy stuff.
JM:What’s your full name?
JCM:John C. Mongeau
JCM:October 6, 1946
JM:Where were you born?
JCM:In Westfield, Massachusetts
JM:Your parents’ names?
JCM:Mary and George Mongeau.
JM:Do you have siblings?
JCM:Yes, just Theresa is my only sister; she is about 10 years older than I.
JM:What is you educational background?
JCM:I have a BA from the American International College in Springfield. I got my MA from Trinity in English as well. I have a whole bunch of other credits probably 90 or 100 from the University of Hartford, UConn, West Conn, and Central Connecticut.
JM:How did you come to the area?
JCM:We came here because when we had graduated, I was going to be an English teacher at the high school level, and my wife was going to be an elementary school teacher.
JM:At Salisbury Central.
JCM:The reason we came here was one of her best friends at school was a secretary to the Superintendent of Schools. That was Pat Allyn who is now Pat Mechare. She said, “Why don’t you guys come out here and interview.” We did and we were both able to get jobs. It was really wonderful.
JM:You were fortunate.
JM:We are going to start with the work-study program of Regional #1. Who started it?
JCM:It was started by Edward Kirby who was the principal of the high school at that time. Peter Dakers and Betsy Hellman were the two co-directors that really began the program.
JM:You worked at that program how long?
JCM:I worked at that program starting in 1974 through 1982. I think it started around 1971.
JM:Did you have to have certification for it?
JCM:Not certification, but I had to be a certified teacher, but then I had to have another 24 credits in Labor Law and Labor Safety. It was like work-study; it was in the occupational education curriculum over at Central.
JM:What was the purpose of this program?
JCM:So that I would know that I would be certain that when I placed a student at a job, it was a safe job and appropriate for that student. That OSHA rules were being followed and things like that. I mean just labor laws primarily for business; the students were all usually under 18 years old.
JM:How did it operate? What was the structure beneath this?
JCM:The structure was for students who were maybe going on to college and most likely not going on to college. When they got to be seniors, it gave them an option so that they could have some occupational course work. They would take a regular academic course work, and they would have then one class period a day with me about work-study, work habits and things like that. It was a regular curriculum for that. Then they went to their jobs. We placed the kids on jobs in areas where they were interested where they could get some experience and maybe end up with a real job after that with this employer. This was in all 6 towns in Region One. The kids would be in school pretty much all day Monday, then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday they were in school until noon and then they went to their jobs until 4:00 or 5:00. They worked the afternoon at their jobs, and in many cases they worked Saturdays too.
JM:How was this assessed? Was there a form, was there supervision?
JCM:Yeah there was supervision. I had to legally at least once a month I had to see the students. That was the bare minimum to see they on the job. What I would do is because I have 40-50 students I would divide them up and do 25 a week. I would see each student twice a month. I would spend a good hour or so at their worksite wherever they worked. That would be part of my whole afternoon was doing that and on Saturdays and Sundays times too if they were working; whatever days they were there, I had to show up some of those days. Part of their grade was given by their supervisor.
JM:Who were some of the people involved in this, either as administrators or the businesses that these people worked with?
JCM:Pretty much everyone in the town that had a business or businesses was involved. An example for instance in Lakeville there were some of the garages, gas stations, grocery stores.
JCM:Yes, Frank Pogue some of the kids worked there, some of the banks. Noble Horizons was always a big employer and spent a lot of time educating the kids on all of the safety features that they had for running a facility like that, for the operation of fire equipment, elevators, and all that sort of thing. The kids really got an orientation over there about that work is really like. I had some students in the Falls Village area who worked at what was then Serenity Hills, now it is called Mountain Side. It was the alcohol rehab center. I had some students who had some difficulties with alcohol who were getting some counseling services over there for free, but they were working there.
JM:Oh that’s wonderful option.
JCM:In lots of cases it worked really nicely. In many cases where kids worked in a restaurant, that was their lunchtime meal. They could go have lunch there or dinner too if they worked later. That was part of their working shift. They got paid at least minimum wage.
JM:Which back then was probably $3.50 or $4.00?
JCM:Something like that or even less, like $3.20. I had some kids who worked on agricultural places like farms because they weren’t in Vo-Ag but those were places that would help them.
JM:They needed it.
JCM:They needed it. They were getting about $2.35 an hour. That was pretty low, but that was a wage.
JM:Yeah, but that was a wage and a wage is better than no wage, and you are learning which is a bonus. You had a wonderful story about Norm Sills and George Kiefer and bucksaw.
JCM:This was actually during the Summer Youth Employment Program which is sort of an adjunct. I shall talk about that later. We had a group of students who were working on the Appalachian Trail, maintaining the trail. They were working with Keith Bond and David Lindsey from the high school. They were their on-site supervisors and there were probably about 10-11 kids. It was very hard work. It was a hot summer-like day; it was miserable up there. I guess it was the CL&P had given us a stand; there was an acreage where they had some red pine trees. They were smaller than telephone poles in size. They weren’t going to use them; they may have had some bugs or something. They would let us take as many of those down as we could. Everything had to be done by hand with hand saws. We were going to use those for some Adirondack shelters that the kids were going to build up on the Appalachian Trail. So George and Norm were showing the kids how to use those great big 6 foot long buck saws-two man saws. The kids weren’t really putting a lot of oomph into it, until finally George said, “Get your butts up
in the air and pull. I want to hear that saw sing.” From that day on they thought “this guy is for real here. This is serious.” After they had cut all the trees down, we had special bark strippers that they had to take all the bark off the trees.
JM:Yes, it is called a draw shave.
JCM:Those are hard work, and then load the logs into the trucks. They built some sort of a trolley, like a cart that you could carry these logs on. They had to take the logs one at a time up the Appalachian Trail to the sites where we were going to build the shelters. Then we had an expert from the Appalachian Mountain Club who came and spent a week with the kids up there. He would go up every day, and work with us, and showing them how to cut the logs and notch them with an axe. He also showed them how to make the shelter and orient towards the woods so it would get as much sunlight as possible. Some of those structures are still there.
JM:Naturally, they were done right.
JCM:Probably the worst thing they had was to do was dig some outhouse holes.
JM:Ah yes, la-la holes.
JCM:And they put in put plywood around it for modesty. Up on top of Riga it is all ledge; you are going through ledge and using pry bars. It was just a nightmare, but we got it done.
JM:Anything else you’d like to talk about the work-study program before we go on to the summer Youth Program.
JCM:One thing that I had actually forgotten about was that the work study program was for senior primarily at the high school. It was working out really well; the kids were learning. They were making relationships with other workers. Their bosses were like mentors to them.
Charlotte Reid said, “You know we have a cohort of kids in this town of Salisbury who need something like that but they are too young for the program. I couldn’t get them in there.” So she worked very hard and got a federal grant from the Juvenile Justice Commission; there wasn’t a lot of money only about 15-18 thousand dollars a year. It was a three year grant, and it was for about 10-12 kids in Salisbury who were just going into the high school. They were going to be freshmen there. They were either all adjudicated delinquent or they were heading in that direction. So we used this fund of money for them with the approval of the high school. We targeted the kids for just Salisbury, just those 10 kids. They were going to do like the work-study program, but they were going to spend their full day in school and then work at mentored work sites after school until about 6:00 and Saturdays. The program would pay for the funding, paid for their wage and the insurance; there was liability insurance and worker’s comp insurance. A willing employer would take these kids on, and all we had to do was really teach them how to work and to work with them. The pay was taken care of by the fund. Some of the relationships were unbelievable; I know that Carl Franson and Doug Reed had an auto shop over in
Salisbury, and I am sure Charlotte pressured her son into taking on some students, and he did a great job with it. The kids would learn auto mechanics from the bottom up. They would start them off with putting them in a corner with tools and have an engine on a big stand and say, “OK take it apart, ask questions, and put it back together again.”
JM:And don’t have any pieces left over!
JCM:And don’t have any pieces left over. Part of the deal was because I was in school with the kids, I would check up every day on the kids in school. I would check on them with their teachers, how they were doing. I would visit the work place and talk to the employers every day. Then I would talk to the parents pretty much every day. So if a student decided to stay out of school and go to work, I had to be the first one to know about that, and get the triangle together so that the workplace knew that ok they didn’t go to school today, and then they can’t go to work. Anecdotally we didn’t do a lot of formal research, but it did help these kids. Charlotte’s tenacity got this money and made it work.
JM:Was it Charlotte that was actually running this or was it you?
JCM:It was me. She was taking care of all the finances and the town actually put these students on the town payroll so they got their check from the town of Salisbury signed by all the selectmen and the town treasurer. Each signed the check.
JM:It is still done that way and the program is still going on now.
JCM:No this was just for adjudicated youth; this was just for pre delinquent.
JM:This was for at-risk students.
JCM:That is over with now; the funding for that was stopped. It was done a just a demonstration project to show the Feds, it was part of their study that it did work. You have to have this, they call it triangulation; school, family and employer.
JM:When did this program end?
JCM:It ended probably in 1980.
JM:The Youth Work Program that we have now is a different program.
JM:Because that one takes everybody in Salisbury; they are not targeted.
JCM: Yes, that is different too. When we started that one, I was through my work at the high school. I got involved with what was called Rescue, the Re Educational Service Center. They came to us at Region #1 high school and said, “We want to do a federally funded through the State Department of Labor a program to provide summer work placements for kids who had economic disadvantage or
academic disadvantages.” What they meant by that was either your family had to meet certain poverty guidelines or the student had to be either physically disabled or seriously special education. He or she really needed some serious academic services. That was just for those kids, so we were able to do the five towns in Region #1 because Kent was in a different labor market. Kent kids had to work out of the Danbury labor market. Our kids were working out of the Torrington labor market. So we started that.
That very first year Charlotte Reid said, “It doesn’t seem fair that it is only for the disadvantaged kids. I think any kid in Salisbury who wants a job should have one.” So she went to some prominent families, 3 or 4 prominent anonymous families in town and raised the money for what is called the Salisbury Youth Employment Program for the summer. The two of them meshed together and it was just the perfect match; public funds, private funds and the town is involved in it. With the State labor Department money we were able to hire work site supervisors for these kids. So you could have a crew of kids maybe 10 or 12 they had somebody who was reporting to a supervisor. In Salisbury the deal we made with them was- ok we are going to have so many kids from the State program but we are also going to have so many kids from Salisbury. The kids were just kids; they didn’t know who was in which program; it didn’t make any difference. Some got paid by a check from Litchfield, and some got paid by a check from Salisbury. They had the same rate of pay, the same standards, and the same requirements. We had places like Noble Horizons which was terrific. We had places where you could have congregant groups like the Appalachian Trail. We had 2 supervisors paid by the Federal grant; we had probably 8 kids paid by the Feds, 4 paid privately; the town provided the equipment and our supervisors with a WWII or maybe Viet Nam surplus 4 wheel drive ambulance troop carrier that they could use to carry the kids and all their equipment up onto the trail any place they wanted to go. Every time it broke down, the town would send somebody up to haul it down and fix it, no questions asked. We had kids at Noble Horizons, Salisbury School, Salisbury Central School, Hotchkiss, and Camp Sloane. It was wonderful. As far as I knew there was no other marriage of public-private funds like that in the state and that was because of Charlotte. She wanted things done that way, and that was the right way to do it. She put money behind it.
JM:She put her money where her mouth was.
JM:So if I have this correct, the RESCUE program was sort of the parent for the Salisbury Youth Program in a way.
JCM:In a way, it was just the idea of…
JM:It was a spin off because everybody that wanted to do this could.
JCM:Exactly. Even my own kids were involved; every kid who wanted a summer job, there was real It was more than just mowing somebody’s lawn, or babysitting. It was a real job with work skills and pay,
JM:Is this the program that Patty Stevens now administers?
JCM:Yes, Dave Bayersdorfer took it over after I left. Then Patty Stevens took it over. As far as I know it is still going, funded by the town. I think there are still private funds involved.
JM:When this started with Charlotte, how many students were involved?
JCM:I think there were at least 25-30. We probably had that same number in the Federal program. We had so many kids because the ages for that were14-18, but we never really had any kids that old. When you are working with kids aged 14 you had to really be careful what kind of work site you chose for them.
JM:Did you have any children that were put into the library?
JCM:I believe so; I know we had some kids who did some work at the library and we had some kids who were physically handicapped who were able to get over to Sharon Playhouse. They worked in the ticket booth over there in reservations.
JM:Excellent. When I was working at the Scoville Library we did have one student that put there through the youth program.
JCM:I think the historic commission had some; obviously the town grew up and there were a lot of kids who work. There were always things going on. I think maybe they did some work for… we had to watch out for unions, but that wasn’t too much of a problem here in Salisbury. They wanted the kids to get a good experience and people just went out of their way to help the kids.
JM:That’s the way it still is. People do go out of their way to help whether it is kids or a program that they see is valuable. Is there anything more that you want to add to that?
JM:Let’s go to the church over in Twin Lakes.
JCM:Yes, it is Taconic technically, but it is all part of Salisbury. We call it Taconic.
JM:What is its name?
JCM:It is All Saints in America Orthodox Church. (313 Twin Lakes Road Ed.)
JM:How many in the congregation?
JCM:there are about 40 or so.
JM:The language of the Mass is?
JCM:It is English.
JCM:Rather than Greek or Russian. It is American Orthodox so that people come to out of the tradition of Greek Orthodox, Albanian, Russian, Ukrainian, or Syrian, but it is American so it is in English.
JM:Tell me about the physical building.
JCM:The building was built in 1930. I don’t know when it was started, but it was finished in 1930. It was built by the O’Hara family. They had a construction company.
JM:Was it built as a Catholic chapel?
JCM:Yes, it was built as a Catholic chapel; it was called St. Francis Chapel, a summer chapel. They story that we heard through the O’Hara family was that it was during the Depression and their construction company were working at Holy Ghost Orthodox Cathedral in Bridgeport. They didn’t want their men to go without work, so they brought the men up here and they built the church. When we got the church, it had been not only abandoned, it was really kind of a mess. We always thought it was owned by St. Mary’s in Lakeville; St. Mary’s in Lakeville thought they owned it too. When we got to the point that we were going to be able to buy the church, we found out that it was owned by St. Joseph’s in Canaan. So they had to get the two priests together and decide that they were going to sell it to us and split the proceeds. Neither one of them really wanted to get involved. It had been set up originally for people at the O’Hara lodge so that they could have someplace to go and wouldn’t have to go into town. It wasn’t winterized; it had some water in there and there was some electricity. There was no bathroom, no heat, no insulation, so there really was a detriment to them. They loved the church, they didn’t want to tear it down; they wanted it to go to some good denomination that would be able to use it. We got the church (They purchased it in November of 1993. Ed.) and over the years be have been adding to it. We put in a heating system, right now we are in the midst of putting in some air conditioning after this horrible summer. We upgraded the electrical, put in a septic system, a gigantic septic system and bathrooms. We renovated the entire inside and had it brought up to date and up to code. It has all kinds of new icons; and it is a gorgeous little place.
JM:How big is the structure itself?
JCM:The structure is 30’ and 60’.
JM:How much acreage?
JCM:Only one third of an acre.
JM:That’s a problem.
JCM:Yes, that is a problem; there is not a lot of place to park. At one point we were looking, we were thinking maybe if we sell the church, we might be able to get something that would be a little bit larger and larger land so we could have a parking lot. So we got a bunch of the realtors in town who were very helpful and said, “You know you are not going to be able to sell this for anything other than a church. “
People really couldn’t buy it for a house because the lot was too small. It really didn’t have a lot going for it. So we’ll stay with it as a church. It is a beautiful little structure and people just love it. It is sort of a little baby cathedral out in the wilderness.
JM:Where specifically is it located?
JCM:It is located on Twin Lakes Road about 400-500 yards beyond O’Hara’s Marina. You can’t miss it. It is the only white church on Taconic Road. It is right at the base of Mt. Tom Hill Road where that comes down.
JM:Who were some of the people who were involved with the renovation of this building?
JCM:It was Father John Pawelchak, who was from the Terryville area. He was sort of a supply priest in this area, but the real start was Paul Leka who was a music producer in Sharon. His brother-in-law who is our priest now is Father John Kreta. This is before he was a priest; he had not even been ordained at a deacon yet, but they wanted to…His family was from a big orthodox tradition, a missionary tradition. His father was a missionary in Russia and in Alaska. His father was the one who translated the Russian language service into English. They really wanted to get sort of an orthodox presence in this area. Hope and I got involved because I was a Catholic at St. Mary’s Church, and she was Greek Orthodox. The closest Greek Orthodox Church we could go to with the boys was up in Pittsfield. So we said, “We’ll look into it.” The more we got involved in it…We had the services originally at Paul’s house; he had a big mansion in Sharon. Then we found out about this church. Then we had to buy it, and slowly renovate it, cleaned it up, and change it.
JM:What a wonderful project!
JM:My brother-in-law Henry Chiera used to preach to the Union Chapel which was on the green in Taconic. Of course that got torn down, so it is a wonderful sort of rebirth of a church in that area.
JCM:When we went in he had to literally get rid of the squirrels that had taken up residence in the attic and all that kind of thing. It has been ongoing; it is an older building which constantly needs work, and I am sort of one of the maintenance guys. We love the church.
JM:Oh, that is wonderful because it’s so unusual to have a new “church” developed. That is a marvelous thing. We are going to go now to the Fire District. When did it begin?
JCM:It began in 1905.
JCM:Well there were some, not only in Salisbury but in other towns in Connecticut, a rash of fires that really just got out of control. I think the State legislature started developing some fire districts.
They may have given money, I don’t know. Lakeville Hose Company was formed; they had the hoses. If there was a ladder company, they had the ladders. That is why Lakeville‘s museum piece is a rolling hose thing that they have, the hose carrier. So they had the beginnings of the fire company, and they started the Fire District. The fire district was only in Lakeville. What happened slowly over the years is that things just got more and more complicated. We needed fire service in Lakeville, but you also need it is Salisbury as well and even in the outlying towns or villages.
JM:Now my historical background said that it started because the whole center of Salisbury was burned in 1903.
JM:But this is a Lakeville entity?
JCM:They started it in Lakeville. I don’t know why they didn’t have a Lakeville and Salisbury Fire District, but it started in Lakeville.
JM:The purpose of it was?
JCM:For fire protection or maybe because of the proximity to bodies of water. You had Factory Pond, and the lake.
JM:What were the responsibilities?
JCM:The responsibilities were to provide fire protection, originally I think they had some sewers involved, they had street lighting, sidewalks, and the foot bridges in town. It was always very confusing for people because people who were in the District…As it got more complicated and more expensive to run the operation, they were thinking that their taxes in Lakeville were running the whole Fire Department. It wasn’t; all the money to run the fire protection came from the town. The Fire district was simply a fiduciary agent to run the money. We were the business office for the Hose Company because they couldn’t handle the town money that way. They would lose their nonprofit status. Even when they had to buy a fire engine, the money would come from the town to the Fire District; the firemen would pick out the engine they wanted, and the District with town money would buy the fire engine. Then the Hose Company would outfit it which almost in some cases cost as much as the piece of apparatus. It was a very unusual arrangement; when fire trucks aged out, we would simply turn them over to the Hose Company and say, “OK why don’t you sell this.” Then they could use that money and put it back into their firemen’s fund, the Hose company fund. When I started in 1982 or 83, Chris Dakin was the Chairman and before that a long time chairman was Gordon Card. He was chairman for a lot of years. It was a very small budget when we started but as things got more expensive, like the cost of street lighting got to be like $25,000 or $30,000; we couldn’t handle that any more. We turned that over to the town. Pretty quickly the cost for renting of fire hydrants went way up from $5,000 to $10,000. Now it is up to $50,000 a year. We really couldn’t afford that any more doing it that way, so we had to do things differently. When our taxes were very low, when I first started, our tax collector
was Betty Terhune. She would sit out in front of the fire house three Saturday mornings in July at a little card table in a little folding chair and collect taxes. People would come and pay usually in cash or small bills. Taxes were like $50 or $25 a year. That changed abruptly. Over the past 10 years there have been times when we have been looking at trying to phase out the Fire District and get rid of it. We were concerned about the relationship with the Hose Company. When the town finally got to the point where they said< “We need a new fire house.” Luckily they looked at where is the center of town, fire protection-wise. Where the new fire house is is just outside the Fire District so at that point we said we can’t be involved any more. We turned everything over to the Fire Commission which is fine. We dissolved the Fire District; we finally completed that process, the very legal process, last year because we kept making mistakes. I think it was four years to get it right.
JM:So it was actually dissolved in 2012. The new fire house is on 4 Brook Street.
JCM:Right, it is in Salisbury, the brook from the Davis Ore Mine Company is the boundary between Lakeville and Salisbury.
JCM:Right that was the boundary of the Fire District. We had no choice at that point but to put the fire district out of business.
JM:What is its new name?
JCM:That’s the Salisbury Fire Commission. Basically all the money that we use to run the fire protection budget comes from the town. The only small piece that we have is we still bill out to people in Lakeville who are part of the fire district as small fee. I think it is $100-$150 a year for the fire hydrants in Lakeville. That is only because it was set up that way a long time ago. We got one bill from Aquarian for the Lakeville hydrants. Actually it used to be Lakeville Water Company, Bridgeport Water Company and now it is Aquarian. They send us one bill and we divide that out. In Salisbury people are sent bills individually by Aquarian to people who have fire hydrants near their homes. They are trying to phase that out, too. The Public Utility Commission doesn’t want these big utilities to sending out little bills; they would rather have them send a bill to Salisbury. Then Salisbury can parcel it out to people’s taxes. There are people in Salisbury who are not near a fire hydrant; they really don’t pay fire engine costs.
JM:I am not near a fire hydrant. I belong to a private water company. We technically don’t have fire protection unless we use the pond or the bed of the Ore Hill Mine.
JCM:That’s why we have the big rolling 5,000 gallon tanker that can bring water to the scene.
JM:That was one of the questions with insurance.
JM:At that time I was within 3 miles of the fire house, but then you moved the fire house! Their purpose is actually paying for the fire hydrants?
JCM:The Fire Commission is the fiduciary agent for all the expenses for the Hose Company, the fire equipment, the fire protection expenses. They take care of their own fund raising for their own purposes like for scholarships. They run their chicken barbeques and they give their money away pretty much. They give money. Every time there is a new truck or new pieces of equipment, they outfit it with hoses, ladders and whatever.
JM:Let’s go on to the Grove Oversight committee. Who started that?
JCM:That I believe was started by Ben Belcher and Bill Barnett because the Belcher family had given the land for the Grove initially.
JM:No the town bought it from an offshoot of the Rudd family, Frances Fanny Rudd Cantyne. (See Belcher tape #36).
JCM:I guess so, but it was sort of given for the purposes of Salisbury children.
JM:Yes, and Ben Belcher was involved in that part of it, but the actual property belonged to the Rudd family.
JCM:Ben Belcher was always the chairman of that and I have been on that for a lot of years.
JM:When did you start on it?
JCM:I started on that probably in 1975. We would meet only once a year for one hour on a Saturday. Ben said,” If you couldn’t get business done in an hour, it wasn’t worth it.” The Grove got more complicated; there are more features there, it has gotten larger, so we have a larger group. We are still an advisory committee. I think we come under the parks and recreation group. We advise on things like the fees that we should charge for people doing the launching of a boat there, the sticker fee for people in town or not in town.
JM:What is the purpose, just to see that it runs smoothly?
JCM:Yes, to run smoothly and to provide support for the Grove staff or the Grove Manager needs. We can just give that person a larger group of people to talk to and to work with. for example if we are looking at things like how to raise money for a new playground, we can as a group go to Rotary or someplace like that and say, “ You know we talked about this and we can do this together.” The Manager’s day is filled with day-to-day activities because there is so much that goes on up there.
JM:In talking with Stacey (Dodge See file #49) it is sometimes a 60 to 80 hour week.
JCM:Oh yeah, it is crazy. It is a beautiful facility and it is getting a lot more pressure because there are people from other towns, there are school groups, summer school groups that come all the way from Great Barrington, Rudolph Steiner School. They pay for it but they’ll send 2 or 3 student busses there because it is such a great spot for kids. They can have the water front, or they can get into the shade.
JM:They don’t have anything in Barrington because you can’t use Mansfield Lake and you can’t use Lake Buel or Prospect Lake. Well, again it is a different area.
JCM:Some of the people on the committee became sort of the ad hoc committee that helped to work with the architects, with the town, and the Committee on Aging to develop that new building that they have over there.
JM:Which is a beautiful building.
JCM:It is gorgeous; it is a nice facility.
JM:So that’s in this area our senior center, actually. What are some of the responsibilities of the oversight committee?
JCM:Yes, we look specifically at things like staffing, winter staffing and summer staffing, staffing for the waterfront, the life guards, training for the life guards, staffing for the little building, the Grove house. We are involved in things like the cleanliness of Factory Pond and as we call it the Kiddy pond. That is one of our goals right now to work with the town to figure out how we can get those little bodies of water cleaned up. They are mud holes right now. The rain and this terrible heat really haven’t helped the situation any.
JM:How many are on this committee?
JCM:I think there are 10 of us. Stacey is one of the committee members, she is the Grove manager. Lisa McAuliffe who is the Recreation Director has to be on there. A bunch of others Curtis (Rand) is an ad hoc member. Usually not everyone can come to every meeting, but enough of us come that we can meet every other month for one hour, Thursday afternoon at 5:00 to 6:00 seem s to work for most people. One of the biggest bones of contention is how to have a traffic pattern at different times of the year, when the kids are there. We are trying to figure out how to get people into the Grove by that fire gate, but still have the gates that you can maintain as gates to keep people out if they don’t have stickers, or make them pay if they are going to come in without a sticker. It gets very congested down at the Grove store when you have people backing their boats in, kids going to the store and to try to manage that. We are working with the Grove staff on how to make that work smoothly. It is a tough problem.
JM:You told me a story and I think this piece of timber is in the Grove building about George Kiefer and the yellow oak.
JCM:This is over two years ago when the new building had been built and finished. I think George called it a yellow oak. There was this gigantic tree that came down with a microburst. It didn’t take any other trees around it, but this one big tree fell down narrowly missing the new Grove building. They cut it to get it out of there. It was a perfectly healthy tree; George told us about how rare this tree was. He took the time and had a slice of it cut and counted all the rings and measured them and put pinpoints at certain rings. I think it was pre Pilgrim I think and landmarked dates in some there and then he had it shellacked and preserved so people can see where the growth rings are and what was happening in the world at that point. It is amazing.
JM:Somebody like George would be able to do that.
JCM:Right. George and Curtis worked with the boy scouts and with Stacey started with a bunch of acorns and made little saplings from this tree.
JM:Those were white oaks.
JCM:I think they are going to make a bench out of it too, and use the wood. It is hard to mill and it is hard dry it out. Any time we had anything to do with the trees, like when we were looking at the Grove building in itself, the old Grove building. We wanted to get rid of that but we couldn’t make it much larger. We had stay within the footprint because of the trees which were all around. So the architects had to stay within the footprint; they put a cellar in there which gave them more space. I think Curtis & George told us that it was one of the oldest stands of native oak trees in the state.
JM:It is; it is the oldest one in the state which is why they wanted to preserve it. They have these new saplings because I got that story from Stacey and then when I did my interview with Curtis as I asked him about it, he grinned from ear to ear and gave me more information. So you are verifying the two other interviews that I have done. Now tell me about the Bissell Fund.
JCM:The Bissell Fund was started by admirers and friends of Dr. Bissell (See tape #49 A house #17). It was started around 1915 or 16, around the time just before his death because they wanted to honor him as one of the premier doctors. He was one of the very first doctors in town. The purpose was he always wanted to have a fund available so that people who didn’t have insurance didn’t have the money could medical service. He wanted to have a bed, a Salisbury bed, available at Sharon Hospital. It was a way for people who didn’t have the means to pay for their health care. The initial part of the fund was I believe $1200.
JM:That was a lot of money back then.
JCM:Oh yeah and then it sort of grew over the years.
JM:I assume the money was invested and they are using the interest.
JCM:Now even now that had to change because the world changed. The rules for tax exemption for foundations changed maybe 10 years ago. So we were at a point where when I joined the Bissell Board…
JM:When did you join that?
JCM: Oh maybe 5 or 6 years ago. When I was asked to join the Bissell Board, it used to be a much larger group, and they would get together and talk about people who needed services. With the advent of HIPPA legislation that held privacy, we couldn’t do that anymore which is fine. That’s the way it should be. When Patrice McGrath, our Social Worker would come to us once a month, we didn’t know who was receiving services.
JM:Is she the gatekeeper?
JCM:She’s still is, right. We would just find out that we had set aside this much money to be spent for the health services. Primarily it was like dentists, some doctors, and a lot of prescriptions where people couldn’t afford them.
JM:So it would be medical expenses whether it was prescription or vision or hearing.
JCM:We even did one we had worked with one of the Veteran organizations to help put one of those Stair Master things in somebody’s house. That was the only way it could happen. As the foundation rules changed, we were in a position where we were getting taxed out of existence over time. We didn’t want that. We figured out a way that we were able to with the town’s blessing. The town had to work with their town attorney, we were able to turn the fund over to the town so that it is managed by Joe Cleaveland and the Salisbury Bank and Trust and their Trust Department. That way now it can be used in perpetuity we hope. We meet quarterly; there is a small board of 3 as an oversight committee. We just hear reports from Patrice about over that quarter of the year how many people were helped, and how much money was spent.
JM:So no names are involved, it is just data.
JCM:Just data, not even the names of the pharmacies. We don’t really care. We just set aside this much money so that that this much is available on a monthly basis.
JM:Who is on the board besides you, John?
JCM:Dr. Bill Hayhurst and Denise Rice who used to be our Treasurer, although she is still sort of our Treasurer and myself. Joe is the fiduciary agent for the town. He sees to it with Salisbury Bank & Trust. The money is invested very carefully. We can take from the interest, and we can take a little bit more from the interest because it is doing better. Now we are hoping that that will be there for the long term because that was the original purpose was.
JM:Yeah to help people who couldn’t help themselves.
JCM:I think other towns have something similar to this.16.
JM:I am not sure. We are a pretty special town.
JCM:We will try to get this now into the Town Report so that people know that they can still donate to this. It is still tax exempt if they donate to it; their money will go into that fund. Every now and then someone dies, usually someone older person who remembers the Bissell Fund and as part of the bequests in their will money will go in there. It is just for the needs of Salisbury people, as in some cases even if we find out that they moved away; not too far away and they still have needs, we can help out. Yes, Patrice is the gatekeeper.
JM:You had a wonderful story about Dr. Bissell going up to Mt. Riga.
JCM:This was in the Lakeville Journal a long time ago; I think it went back to one of his real stories, not ephemeral. He had a reputation for delivering babies in people’s homes and things like that. There were people up on Mt. Riga during a blizzard at night and they needed a doctor. He went up there with his buckboard and his old trusty horse. I wouldn’t go up there with a car or a truck! The people didn’t know who he was and they were shooting at him as he was coming down at night. He said something about he didn’t think he would go up there again in the dark.
JM:That makes sense. Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview?
JCM:The only thing I had forgotten about was with the Work Study program, the Youth Program for the adjudicated youth that we had, the one that Charlotte started with the Juvenile Justice money. One of our first people who served as an employer and mentor, we had a student who was interested in being a forester, and he spent his afternoon and weekends with Curtis Rand. Curtis spent a lot of time teaching this kid what the work of a forester is all about.
JM:That’s wonderful. We got into it a little bit because I had done woodlot management when I was in England on sabbatical so I knew something about it from the English point of view. He was quite pleased that I knew a little bit about forestry. John, thank you so much for your time and your information.
JCM:You are very welcome. This was fun.