Thomas James 0’LoughlinTranscript of a taped interview
Narrator: Thomas James O’Loughlin
Date: July 23, 1986
Place of interview: Mr. O’Loughin’s home on Woodland Drive, Lakeville, CT Interviewer: Jodie Stone
Mr. O’Loughlin’s grandfather immigrated to the United States from Ireland. He came to Lakeville to find work in the iron industry. Tom’s oral history describes the Lakeville of 40 and 50 years ago. He grew up here and attended the local schools. He was employed at The Hotchkiss School and recently retired from the U.S. Postal Service. At present he is a part-owner of a catering service.
Property of the
Salisbury Association atSalisbury,
Oral History Project
the Scoville Memorial Library.
This is Jodie Stone on the 28th of July, 1986, interviewing Thomas James O’Loughlin at his home on Woodland Drive in Lakeville.
TO’L: Good morning, Mrs. Stone. I just thought I’d try to bring back some of my family when they first came here from Ireland during the potato famine over there. All the Irishmen were looking for a place to go to make a living, and my grandfather wound up over in Ore Hill working in the ore mines, the old Davis bed over in Ore Hill, and my Dad and most of my aunts and uncles were born in Ore Hill. Up on top of the ore bed, there are houses up there where all the people lived. From there we migrated down into the town eventually.
My Dad played basketball and baseball and everything for the old Ore Hill Boys’ Club and things like that, and grew up around here as did my Uncle Joe who eventually became Postmaster of Lakeville, but before that they had a meat market underneath the in the building in back of the old Holley Block. Then they had a garage that sold Hudson Terraplanes and a garage in back of Dennis Smith’s old house which is on Main Street here in Lakeville, and they had a two-lane bowling alley [unclear. Ed.] …. duck pins and also had a little restaurant-type thing in there that a fellow called Marty Goggins used to run at the same time in there.
It was a lot of fun growing up in town. We were talking the other day, a bunch of us, and back then I don’t think anybody ever had a lock on their front door. If it did, it never worked because you could walk in about anybody’s house you wanted to and visit somebody. And things like that. It was a pretty easy way of life, and there were a lot of stores you could go shopping around here, where there isn’t any more, and you could buy gas I guess about any corner you wanted to. It was more or less a self-sufficient area. I guess we didn’t realize how good it was until we see all the changes we got today.
JS: Where was the bowling alley?
TO’L: In that same building.
JS: Which is?
It is the parking garage
in back of the building that
Harry Campbell owns.
JS: The apartment building.
TO’L: In back of that there’s a big, a brick building, and there used to he two bowling alleys in there and a little restaurant, and there’s also a mechanic’s area in the back where they used to work on cars. Out in front, on the driveway going in, they used to sell gas out of the same place, too. The building would be on the northwest corner of the Farnam apartment building. You can jump on the roof of the building from there.
What was the Farnam Tavern? Farnam Apartments?
0*Loughlin – 2
TO’L: That was an old stagecoach stop at one time, long ago, and then it was a lot like a hotel, where they used to have rooms upstairs. There was a ballroom on the third or fourth floor. Third floor, there was a ballroom which I think is still there. There’s an oval-roofed ceiling and a stage and everything like that, and that was there, and they used to use that for small plays and things like that. I guess back in the olden days. But it was a stagecoach stop at one time on the, 1 think it was the Hartford to Albany run.
JS: And then up the hill from that?
TO’L: Well, there was the Gateway. It used to be a big hotel up there that was eventually torn down. I can’t remember the name of the people. I keep on wanting to say Collins. Collier? Something like that, but the gentleman who owned it eventually went up to Great Barrington and built a motel up there, after he tore that one down.
And then I can remember as a boy with my uncle’s meat market helping him put ice in the storage room up over the market and going up Belgo. Tile Drummond property used to have an ice house on it, and they used to use that for storing ice for the summer time, too. And we used to go in there as kids and do nothing but throw the sawdust over the layers of the ice blocks as they put ’em in so it wouldn’t melt so fast in the summer time. And that was always a lot of fun. Of course, we were always in the way, but that was fine, too.
And I can also remember, as a boy, the cars that my uncle and Dad used to sell, used to come in on railroad cars, in enclosed box cars, and there used to be five of ’em within the box car. And they would have ’em one in the middle right in the doorway that they used to have to put jacks under and maneuver it so they could get it out, and then they would have two on either end, right next to it, and then they’d have two suspended above them, so it was all block and fall work to get ’em out of there, and they used to take Back in those days there was the railroad station is now the public nurses’ offices, and. going toward the lake where the road is now, there was a freight building where they used to take the freight off, and on the other end of the freight building there was a dock. They used to drive the cars out on to it and down a ramp on to the ground! And I can remember watching ’em do that, and I can also remember when Lee Dufour had the contract to tear up the old railroad tracks. At the same time, I can remember all that back in those days. But it’s a lot different than it was then.
And then there was the Jigger Shop where Hamm and his wife used to run, and all us kids used to hang out in there and have a lot of fun in the summer time out in the yard, and we’d go inside in the wintertime and bother everybody, but it was all right. Nobody seemed to mind too much.
JS: What about the Stuart Theater?
TO’L: Well, that was Mr. Stuart used to run that. That’s when we were kids, and he used to let us all into the movies for free and give us a candy bar if we all stayed after and picked up all the candy wrappers and all the paper and everything else. In other words, we made the mess and had to clean it up and got to see the movie for nothin’. That was on Saturday, you know, and then as I got older I was an usher for about a year, I guess. I ushered in the theater, and that’s when people would walk in, and we had a little flash-light and we used to take ’em down because it was so dark in there, and find a seat for ’em, and that was a lot of fun. Naturally we got to see all the movies for nothin’ like that, and we used to Bill Conklin was the projection operator back in those days. We used to have to take a block and fall like, with a piece of rope over a pulley and drag the film up in the metal case upstairs to him, then he’d lower it down when he got through with it. And I can remember sometimes where they’d have a movie playin’ both in Millerton and in Lakeville with the same show, and they used to run the film back and forth, and they’d get through with it in Lakeville and send it over to Millerton quick and then get it back for the second show. That was a lot of fun back in those days. And that was the thing to do!
JS: Tom, when were you born?
TO’L: I was born in 1926.
JS: In Lakeville?
TO’L: Yeah. Well, I was born in Sharon Hospital. Resident of Lakeville.
JS: Where’d you live when you were a kid?
TO’L: We lived up on Lakeview Avenue in the house that Dick Fitzgerald owns now. And then Mr. Monahan, who was the Athletic Director at Hotchkiss School, lived next door to us for a period of time, and Bill Barnett lived down the road. He built a house down the road from us, and the Kane sisters lived on the same street, the house on the corner where Ellis Laitala lives now, and then old Doc Leverty used to live on the same street. I don’t know who owns it now, but John Virden just, moved out of it, and sold it to somebody else. He moved up on Wells Hill Road. Doc Leverty used to have an old Hupmobile, and about two days after Labor Day he put snow chains on his car and keep ’em on, I think, almost into Memorial Day. He was always afraid he’d never get to work in his drugstore. He just wore chains out, one pair after the other. He was a lot fun. A fellow named Mike Auditat. He used to work the soda fountain for Doc Leverty, and he was quite a stamp collector. He had a very extensive stamp collection, and I don’t know what ever happened to that when he passed away. At the same time, Mike used to work also at the Lakeville Grove, the swimming hole over on
O’Loughlin – 4
Lakeville Lake that Dave Timmins used to manage or own or operate at that time, and he used I can still see Mike Auditat out. in the back room with a hammer and a whole pile of nails that Dave Timmins had torn something apart and had Mike take all the nails out and straighten so he could use them again from one dock to the other. I don’t think Dave Timmins ever threw away five cents worth of old nails! But, we used to hang around over at the Grove all the time in the summer time. If you didn’t have anything to do at home, you’d sneak down there and go swimming and spend the rest of the day until your parents caught you and brought you back home again.
JS: What about, you told me that your grandfather camehereand
settled in Ore Hill. Are the houses still there?
TO’L: The house that he lived in is still there. It’sbeen throughI
don’t know how many owners, but Bob Winters who owns it now,tookand
extensively remodeled it. He and his family live in it now.
JS: What was your grandfather’s name?
TO’L: Peter, if I remember right. And then my father was Thomas, and I’m Thomas. No, my grandfather’s name was Thomas, also. And Peter was my uncle. I had Uncle Joe, Aunt Margaret and Aunt Hannah. There were one, two, six in the family. They’ve all gone down the road now.
JS: Where’d you go to school?
TO’L: I went to school in the public school in Lakeville. It was down where the Post Office is now, and my first grade teacher back then was Mrs. Flynn, second grade was Mrs. Matthison, and the third grade teacher was Miss Hamm who is now Mrs. Le Moine. Fourth grade teacher was Miss Metcalf, and fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Eggleston, sixth grade teacher was Mrs. Wilson, and my eighth grade teacher – I was in a lucky class.
We had Mrs. Eggleston again in eighth grade. She was a very tough teacher, but she was a good teacher. She was very square. And from there we went, that was in grammar school, and from there we went up to what used to be the high school for the last two grades, seventh and eighth, before we moved down to high school in Falls Village. My class was the second class into high school in 1942, I guess it was. [unclear. Ed.] From there I went into the service.
JS: Who was in your class?
TO’L: Oh, Bob Thurston, Jim Casey, Ray Fowlkes, Francis Hines, Betty Stanton, Joyce Brennan. You’re asking for ancient history now.
JS: Your class going into Regional, second group in, was it a big class from all the towns by then, or was it small? It’s so big now.
O’Loughlin – 5
TO’L: They were still relatively small, maybe a total of seventy or eighty. I can’t remember right offhand just how many now. Naturally, it was during the war, and out of our class I think when we got ready for graduation, about a third of the boys, myself included, had already gone into service, before the graduation exercises were held.
JS: And buses, even with the gas shortage, buses still picked you up?
TO’L: Oh, yes, we rode the bus from Lakeville down to the high school and back. I think there were three busloads of us from Salisbury area. Three buses to take us back and forth. One went through Salisbury and the other two through Lakeville, came up by Hotchkiss and around that way. The other went up by Salisbury.
JS: Did you tell me about when electricity came in, Connecticut Light and Power?
TO’L: Back then, if my memory serves me right, my mother used to give me a burnt out bulb and it seems like I used to go down to the building where Robo Leech’s real estate office is now, and that’s where the Connecticut Light and Power had their office here, and we used to swap an old bulb for a new bulb, and I’m trying to think of the name of the people who were there, but I can’t for the life of me think who it was. The only thing that rings a bell is Parker, and maybe that’s right and maybe it’s wrong, I don’t know.
JS: What were the other stores that you went to when you were a kid along Main Street?
TO’L: Along the main street, there was a lot of ’em then. There was Louie Rudman’s market, First National, and up on Holley Block there was Robert’s Store, and Doc Leverty’s pharmacy was up there on Holley Block, and E. 0. Wagner had a real estate office in there, and R. C. Miller had a plumbing shop in there, as well as one down on Main Street. Where the package store is now, there used to be part of R. C. Miller’s plumbing operation, too. And then there was Heaton Barnett’s store was there then, and there was the ASP package store which was also part of the ASP grocery store. And then there was Bessie’s Lunch. It was in a building that Dufour Brothers used to own. It’s gone now. It’s where you drive into the ball park. And Bessie Miller used to have a little lunch stand on the basement level, and above that Paul Argali had a barber shop, and Western Union was also in that building back then, and there was an apartment up on the third floor where Barney Neilson used to live. And then up past the Holley Block Bob Thurston’s father, Chet, used to have a barber shop, and Mr. and Mrs. Singleton Fish used to have a real estate office in there, and then further up Harry Ablahadian used to have what they called Lakeville Livery. He used to run taxis and run buses back then in those days. Then there was the Jigger Shop which was a soda fountain, and we used to get the newspaper there and things like that, and then the Goderis’s, Andy Goderis and Louie used to have a fresh meat and produce
O’Loughlin – 6
store just by the Jigger Shop where the—(Bubbles and Bows. Ed.] children’s shop is now, and then right next to that was the old Stuart Theater.
And Hugo Paavola back then used to have a novelty store, and when he first had the novelty store, he had the basement score in the Holley Block up on the hill, and then he moved down and bought the building across from the post office which is now April 56. He used to have a novelty store in there, and his son, Eddy, used to take care of all the records. Sack then he had quite an extensive collection, and Hotchkiss boys used to come down and try to buy two for the price of one back in those days. And Hugo used to lay linoleum and make window shades and things like that. He was kind of a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Also, back around the corner where Argali’s barber shop used to be and the Western Union, Herb Beebe used to have a window, no, not a window, but a picture framing business. You used to take your pictures in there and get ’em framed. Used to do it the old-fashioned way – cut ’em by eye. And Dufour’s had a garage on the corner’ at the intersection of 41 and 44, and then there used to be a place called the Hub which was also owned by Ma Dufour which was another soda fountain which later became a grocery store. There was any number of gas stations. I bet there were six or seven gas stations anyway in town back then, but down to one, now. And there’s not a grocery store left in town, where there was at least three or four, five, you know, that you could get groceries from back then, but there’s nobody here now.
JS: The building that they’re moving, the Dufour building, right now they’re moving it. What was that?
TO’L: That was the Hub where we used…
JS: On the first floor.
TO’L: On the first floor, and then Jim Casey, who used to work for the First National right across the street, started an IGA store in competition with the First National, and then it lay vacant for a while and then Ronald Barry went in there with a jewelry store, but there was something in there in between, I think, but I can’t remember what it was. Doc Gott’s wife has bought that, and she wants to go around the corner, I think.
JS: What about Salisbury? Did you go there often?
TO’L: Went up there on occasion, yeah, and used to go, and Bam Whitbeck, not Bam, Walter Whitbeck was in the class, too, and his father had the drugstore in Salisbury. But there was always a little rivalry between the people from Salisbury and the people from Lakeville, and before the war, interstate baseball was very prominent around here. Salisbury and Lakeville had a very tough rivalry as well
O’Loughlin – 7
as Lakeville and Canaan, and my Dad was manager of the baseball team back before the war and during the war. If my memory serves me right, Lakeville firemen’s baseball team were the interstate champs for six or seven years in a row back when he was managing the team. They used to have, the four Whalen brothers used to play, Brick Whalen, Buck Whalen, Turk and Babe Whalen. Turk, yeah. Brick was a pitcher and Turk was a pitcher, and Billy Hines played shortstop and I think Babe played third base, and Dick Gurney used to be the catcher back then, and [unclear. Ed.] was a pitcher. They imported him from the Poughkeepsie area, but Community Field was where the baseball back then was, and in Salisbury the baseball field used to be, I think, approximately where the town garage is, or in that area right now. That’s where they used to have their baseball field.
JS: Did you go to Sharon and Millerton much to shop? Canaan?
TO’L: We used to go, we used to buy most of our clothing over to Bianchi’s back then. That was, 1 guess you want to call it, the store to buy your clothing in, I guess it still is today. It just goes back through the years. We never We used to go to the movies in Canaan, the movies in Millerton, or if we had something different to do we went to see some of our friends we had got in high school. We didn’t go there much before high school because we were more or less within the township and that was it, you know, until we started expanding, and then they started the regional high school, and then we started meeting friends in Sharon and Canaan and things like that and move around a little bit. Before that, we pretty much stayed around home. We could always find somethin’ to do and make our own fun.
JS: You can start talking about your chickens and the fact that there weren’t any houses.
TO’L: Back when I was first in school in second and third grade, Esther Frink, who lived on Prospect Street which was across the lot, I call it, from Lakeview Avenue where I lived, got me interested in raising chickens, and Dad built me a chicken house down in back of our house, and I used to have maybe forty, fifty chickens going all the time, and I used to sell the eggs to all the neighbors. It was a very quiet street, and nobody seemed to mind, but back then the Kane sisters lived on the corner, and Mr. Martin lived on the opposite corner where you first enter Lakeview Avenue, and then the. next house in back of Mr. Martin’s was where Doc Leverty lived, and the next house was where Mr. Monahan lived, and our house was on top of the hill, and across the street from all these houses there was nothing but a great big lot, until everybody started building up there. On the opposite side you went down on the other side there was house where Mr. Loring, the school principal lived in one, and on that corner was where old Mr. Barnett used to live, and then his son, Bill, who was our selectman for a good many years, built a house opposite his, and that was all the houses that were on that street at that time. So, all us kids in the neighborhood had the whole big lot to play in if we wanted, and the
O’Loughlin – 8
Kane sisters didn’t seem to mind as long as we didn’t make too much mess and destroy everything. In the winter time The Vosburghs use to live. Sonny Vosburgh, his parents lived on the corner across the street from old Mr. Barnett. They had a great big ripper, and in the winter time we used to start, up on top of the hill just, past their house, and the Vosburghs and John Bartle and his sister, and myself and all the other kids and Eddy Tompkins and Bill Stanton and his sister, Mary. We used to ride the ripper down from, that would be Bostwick Street, all the way down Bostwick Street up to the main street where the brook is on Main Street back then, and nobody seemed to mind. They never seemed to sand the roads so if they did it was ice and we could still slide down that hill. We had a lot of fun in the winter time up there.
JS: Ripper being a big sled?
TO’L: Yeah. They used to get eight or ten of us on it at one time. It was nothin’ but a big, long board with runners on either end, really you know, and we used to have a lot of fun when everybody had their own sleds and so if you couldn’t get on the ripper, you’d chase them down the hill on your sled.
JS: What about the tower during the war?
TO’L: Well, during the war used to be, if I remember rightly, there used to be air raid and airplane lookout tower across the street in that lot. And, I don’t remember, I guess because I didn’t pay much attention because I guess I was in the service at the time, so I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure that’s where it was back then.
JS: Who manned it?
TO’L: All local people. You know, they had four hour shifts, I guess.
JS: Civil Defense.
TO’L: Civil Defense. Yeah. That’s who took care of that. And I don’t know who was in charge of it back then, but they used to have a lot of fun doing it, I guess.
Back in those days, we used to have our milk delivered because there was a lot of farmers around here like Paul Cleaveland who used to have a milk route, and his farm was up here on Wells Hill, and his home is where the Neil family lives now, and the barns are still standing from his farm,, and I think they’re still farming it. He had a milk route, and just past that was Quality Farm which the Dilworths used to own. Mr. Brazee used to manage that, and they used to have a milk route and used to deliver milk out to the house. Then there were two or three other farmers that had milk routes. I can always remember Paul Cleaveland and his son, Brad, used to deliver the milk up to our house on Lakeview Avenue, and I can remember in the winter time that
O’Loughlin – 9
the truck wasn’t running or they couldn’t get through, they used to have the milk, and I can remember one year it was snowin’ so bad that they brought a Vee plow behind two horses to open the road and deliver the milk at the same time. You could always figure on gettin’ your milk no matter what happened. Paul and Brad would be there with the milk. That goes back. I can remember that.
JS: Talking about milkkert’ s . What was that ?
deliveries and what was once Ralph Schwaikert’sa farmhouse?
TO’L: Weil, on the corner where you turn into Beaver Dam Road, there used to be, a fellow used to farm that, I can’t remember his name, but I can remember that he delivered a small amount of milk. He delivered it, if my memory serves me right, in a four door Buick sedan, and back in those days you had the flower holders within the car, and he always had fresh flowers in it when he delivered his milk. And then old Burt Clark used to deliver milk also, and if I remember right his farm was down where the village housing is now in Salisbury. I can remember him delivering milk. And then what little I remember about the milk business, all the farmers got together, and John Rand used to also deliver milk. Quality Farm and the Cleaveland Farm, and Frank Vaill used to deliver milk also, and then John Rand had a farm up in Salisbury, and they all got together and formed kind of a local co-op, and that’s when they started the Salisbury Farms Dairy. Then they all took their milk down there and they’d bottle it down there. Bill Schlock who used to work for Paul Cleaveland in his milk processing plant and delivered also, went down there as, I guess you want to call him plant manager, because he did all the bottling and took care of making sure that everybody went out on their trucks and stuff like that, and they also started the milk bar up front. Now, it’s the National Iron Bank where Salisbury Farms and Dairy bar used to be located. Right next to that was also a branch of Community Service which is now Service Plus. They used to sell Park Sylvernale ran that, and they used to sell a lot of fishing equipment because Park was a very avid fisherman and a great story teller, and things like that. He used to repair your lights or your irons or your toasters and stuff like that, used to take ’em in to see him. Used to have a lot of fun up there with him because us kids used to go up there to buy a lot of our fishing equipment a lot of times, and you’d get your line all tangled up and this and what have you, the reel stuck, you’d take it back to Park and he’d sit there and tell you a story and straighten it out for you. Well, that, got to be kind of a meetin’ place, when you wanted to get a good story sometime.
JS: Where’d you fish?
TO’L: In Lakeville Lake, and all the brooks around here.
JS: In your own boat?
TO’L: No, we’d just fish from the shore. But I used to like to go.
O’Loughlin – 10
back when I was a kid, we used to go to Burton Brook and down Farnam Road, they had a brook down there, and get all the fish you wanted, no problem at all. Used to fish also in Factory Pond and you’d catch all you wanted to, no problem. You know, it was very easy to catch fish back then.
Back long ago, I was still kinda young, but I can remember’ the older guys in town, they used to play a lot of hockey, and they used to play not only on Factory Pond, but 1 can remember, 5 f my memory serves me right, there used to be a place down on Farnam Road. Just past Perry Street there used to be a swiming area there, and they used to keep that clear to play hockey down there. Mike Auditat used to play down there, and then fellows older than I was used to go down there and play until it got safe up on Factory Pond.
JS: Anything else that comes to mind?
TO’L: I can’t think of anything else right now. Maybe I should go listen to all these tapes and read some of the history and try to find out a lot of things I forgot!
JS: Thank you, Tom.