Miss Tracy’s School

Interviewer: Jodi Stone
Place of Interview: Scoville Library
Date of Interview:
File No: 68 A Cycle:
Summary: Miss Tracy’s School, Bissell Hall, Mary Helen (Sis) Holley Brewer, Carolyn Fisher Cadman, Adelaide Emery, Virginia(Ginger) Smithers Gilman,Charlotte Hall Reid

Interview Transcript

Ok, this is Jody Stone on the 13th of June, 1988, in the Scoville Library in Salisbury, Conn, interviewing the following women in this order: Mary Helen (Sis) Holley Brewer, Carolyn Fisher Cadman, Adelaide Emery, Virginia (Ginger) Smithers Gilman, and Charlotte Hall Reid.

Ok, what we want to know is what was this school? What was it called? How did it start at Hotchkiss?

Who started it? Mrs. Tracy at Bissell Hall.

Who was she? She was the wife of John Fisher, I mean, John Tracy.

Who was? He was one of the Masters. He was? I thought she was.Yes, he was. Do you know what he taught? Do you know anything about him? I think he taught Mathematics. Yeah.

And she started this all on her own? Yes, there was an accredited school which was called Miss Stuart’s School, where the 2 of us went, Sis Brewer and I, and it was in the house which Sherry Newkirk now lives in between Salisbury and Lakeville. And when Miss Stuart decided to give up, my memory is that Mrs. Tracy decided to take over, and because of her connection with Hotchkiss, she was able to get free space up there. Yeah. When you stand in front of Bissell, was the school on the left or the right. The left. In what we call the old Bissell study hall. Yes, with just one room. No, not the study hall. It was behind; it fronted on the back side on the golf course. Oh the golf course on the left.

Lots of kids? Approximately 15.
Adelaide, you didn’t live in Lakeville? No, Sharon. Three of us came from Sharon.

Who? My sister and Bettina Kluetfel. How do you spell Kluetfel? Kluetfel. Wow. So you got driven up every morning.

Half a day school, all day school? 1:00 Depending on — You mean you went in the morning. Yes. Did they give you lunch? No. Adelaide, did the Harts go there at some point? Yes, it is terrible I know, I played with them all the time. Tom went too. He did? Umhum. I figured. He went one year and that was it. And this was—

And she quit. Mrs. Tracy quit. No, she took it down to—Did she start Town Hill? Good, good. No Mrs. Tracy moved it down to the hill in Lakeville. My sister went there for a year. Montgomery Street? Where the apartments are now. Yeah, that’s Montgomery.

Then she went up to Great Barrington to the Barrington School. The three of us went. What was it? The Barrington School. It’s on the right hand side as you go. Searles Castle. Oh really! And Jack was the business manager there, Jack Tracy.

And the Town Hill started; after I was at Hotchkiss we had a little class in Sharon one year. It was foundational ministries with Mike Granite, and then the Buckleys had the tutors. They got them from someplace, and one of them was Miss Orian (?) …and after this little tutoring class …for another year.

Miss Orian started, or she was the first to found or major domo of Town Hill, which was started by Hotchkiss, pretty much. They paid for it. We were out of there by then.

So you only had one teacher at this little school? Umhum. Did you get divided into little classes? You were the only fourth graders. I was going to say you were all about the same age, but different ages. She had rows, and in the front row were the young kids, and as you got older, finally by the time you got to the back row, you were about ready to graduate. So it was a one room school. How did you learn anything? The little ones, we could, we did! I was ready for college at an extraordinarily early age. You could have actually gone to high school, no no. She was good. She was a good headmistress, too.

But that’s a short school day. Fourth graders they had a lot of homework, ah come on!

Who’s in this picture? Just to give us names? Charlotte was pretty well all the way through. Shall we start at one end? And go with Frannie Warner, and Mary Miles Houseman, I’m going to the back row. And myself, Ginger, Kiki Skinner, Adelaide Emery, Nancy Martin, and Carolyn Fisher. Then the front row there were the 2 Wheeler girls Nancy and Rosemary, Josie Emery, Waddie Tabor, George Quail, Bettina Kluetful, and I don’t know.;. Archibald Poolishf?)

Who sat behind you Ginger? No, WaddieTabor did because three of us had pigtails. Mary Mlles Houseman, Ginger, and Kiki. And they used to put our pigtails in the ink well.

Adelaide, did you talk to your sister? Did she remember the school? No, she doesn’t, no, she didn’t.

What? Do you remember the school song?

We didn’t have one. That was when they moved down to Lakeville. They had some kind of a little tune or something. I have no idea what they did.

Did you ever use the school facilities? I mean did you … Yeah. Did you play in the gym? The music…

Vaguely I remember we had something, I don’t even remember who taught it. Fitch, Yeah, Denny Fitch, that’s exactly who it was. And we put on plays, just like the one in the picture. Yeah, ’cause I was dressed for Alice in Wonderland in that. That was a Graduation play …and made by members of the family.

I remember playing out back on the school very near the coal bin, and coming in very dark. It was very messy. That was the result of play. So the school was powered by coal? Uhhum, when I was going there. The old power house. Yes. That was where you played? Yes, around there.

Well, we were allowed to go on the track on special occasions on recess. You know the little round track that was up there, where the tennis courts are. You mean the old? Where, where the tennis courts are now? Yes, the lower courts. Oh yeah.

There was a boardwalk type of thing, as I remember. It was a round track with a roof… able to run. The school at that time I think the buildings were connected by a boardwalk isn’t that…No they had…Yes, they had covered stone wings. I remember that. They were really made out of …Were they? Yes, the corridor it was a connection between Bissell and what’s the name of the main building? The Main Building. Right.

Do you remember who lived in the big house next to it? ‘Cause I lived in it for 14 years. Bodells did at one point. Yes, the Bodells, John Bodell. And so their children never went to the school. No, they were younger than we. I remember when they had one of them, and I was at school then, so obviously they weren’t around for that school when we were there.

And then next door, uh, Mrs. Tracy lived in the house on the right. Right. Where Bob Royce lived. Yeah. Then came Tabors, no, McChesney. McChesney had the great big house, and then….down there.

Ginny, do you have something you want to ask? I know I can see it. No I just happened to find out where it was. Is that the same Mrs. Tracy who lived out in Taconic in later years? No, that’s a different one.

What do you have there, the change in landscape? Yeah. And the Hotchkiss School. They mentioned that it covered a long way between the wharves.

We were allowed to go into one of the big study halls. It seemed immense at that time. Do you remember that? We were sent in there. That’s why I asked you if you were in the study hall because when I first knew Bissell, the people who worked, secretaries and maintenance staff, lived and that was all it was. And at the end you’re talking about was this enormous room, it was, with great columns and that was called the Bissell study hall. That’s where we were allowed to go on occasion, and it was scary, really, it was so big. We were in college then….Yeah. But I…That’s now a faculty apartment with the columns still in the middle of the living room, so hard to decorate around those columns.

Where…What do they call that building next to the grange, the uh, what do you call it? on Montgomery Street, the big white building, the Masonic Lodge. The Masonic Lodge was where we had graduation. So did we. Oh did you?

Maybe that picture is where that is. I think that’s where it is. I think so, too. That it isn’t the old main building at Hotchkiss, ’cause you wouldn’t have been brought up there from the school. No. There were only two of us in our graduating class. That is not the Masonic Lodge, though, either, No, then maybe it is… I think it is…I don’t think that is Bissell. Bissell doesn’t have columns. Yeah. I think it’s the front of the old main building.

Ok, ladies, anything else you want to say that you can think of in your memory? Reaching far back little school girls that you were. I learned how to knit, I told you that. Did you really? In school? Good for you. Mrs. Tracy had some kind of a little…weaving machine. Yes, we did. Oh, that’s right, we did have weaving. Looms, little table looms. I have pieces of that. Do you? Yes, I still have, yeah. What did you make potholders? I made a rag for my mother. It had a design on it. I only made a runner. I wasn’t… I made a runner, too. Yes. I don’t remember any of that.

Did we mention the years of the school. No, I was just about to ask them. Do you know when it started? Well, Charlotte, young lady. I’m the oldest. I think it must… I must have been there… one, two, three, my mother taught me at home for the first three grades. I only went in in the fourth grade, when I was 8. For one year. No, I stayed through then. That must have been 1927. That sounds right. I was there 33, 34…. I was first and second grade, I remember that, and then fourth. Well, I went to public school until second grade and then from three on at Mrs. Tracy’s. Now wait a minute. No,’cause I went to Miss Stuart’s first with you. Uhuh. How long were you at Miss Stuart’s? Three years? At least two, maybe three. So that would have been…Are you counting kindergarten? No ’cause I didn’t go into kindergarten, first, second, and third. Ok. And…Now my dates are wrong. I left around in 1929. That’s when I went…Miss Stuart’s.Oh, I went in 1929 to Mrs. Tracy. Yeah. I don’t know. I am mixed up on dates. What would you guess? 1927? 1927, maybe? I don’t know. What’s the …she was there before I was. She had Miss Stuart, that was in ’33. She had an assistant. That was in ’34? …33, 34….

I guess she just decided to… She had always wanted to. And she had never helped Miss Stuart. She might have. I don’t know. I don’t think she was ever down there. Now remember she should be easy to remember. Although, she was a very heavy lady. Yeah. Who? Mrs. Tracy. Was she? Yes, very, very heavy. I can probably look it up in the school…. when they were at Hotchkiss.

And then I ended up teaching her two children. You did? Where? Up at a little school in Great Barrington, similarly run, although there were three or four teachers, not just one. And it was Mrs. Mills School in Great Barrington. And by this time Mrs. Tracy had moved to Great Barrington, and I guess, she adopted two children. She adopted two very lovely children. Can you believe…overlapping… Egbert Howell, Oh my word, Eggy Howell…this is in 1920 get on the list…No!

Manners were extremely important to Miss Stuart. Yeah. Were they? I think a lot of people sent their children to Miss Stuart’s. It must have been THE… Was it private? Of course it was private. Yeah. Before Town Hill, Charlotte? Before Town Hill?

Oh there’s Jack Hawley. This is really terrific. What’s that?” Alice in Wonderland “at Miss Stuart’s School: Robert Borden, Mary Rudd, Marcia Rudd, Wendy…. Harry Garretson, Henry Peterson…We went down the aisle, we only went along.What? …Peter Baum was my… Well said…. Oh he used to be so mean to me. He chased me once with a fake snake. Oh, that’s cruel. And I ran out into the other room, and Miss Stuart said,” I said for you to sit down in your place and don’t get up.” Oh it was awful.

Well, this was marvelous. This has nothing to do with…That’s alright. It’s a local school. We’re getting a tour on this instead. Betty Raymond… Here’s Jack fisher with a tiger lily. That’s a change. That’s what it says. Now this group was slightly older than ours like about three years. What are you looking at? Oh, look at Bill Rand. I mean you could recognize him anywhere. Chris Rand, Oh, you were little Indians. Tom Wagner, Mary Lee Borden McCabe, yeah, I mean too much. This is the wrong school. Yeah. Sarah, that’s alright. Now you don’t have to do a tape on Miss Stuart’s School. That’s right.Oh, that’s a good idea. My, they don’t look very happy. Look at the little Indians. That is darling. Who made those costumes? Yeah, a lot of work in those. At the end there she is….right next door. I thought there might be an overlapping of the student in one of these…No, well maybe there’s… quite a nice…Yeah there’s a difference in age there. Yeah this is all an older group.

When Town Hill was founded, Miss Stuart stopped? Yes, she could not have lasted. Ok ladies, anything else? Nope. Ok. Thank you very much.