Tom Paine Interview:
This is Jean McMillen. Today’s date is November 19, 2015. This is file #8, cycle 2. I am interviewing Tom Paine who is going to talk about Grasslands Farm, the fire department, the ambulance, the town crew, and anything else that he thinks is interesting. We’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
JM: Middle name?
JM:When were you born?
TP:July 5, 1964
JM:Where were you born?
TP:In Sharon, Connecticut with Dr. Evarts.
JM:Your parents’ names?
TP:My mother was Lois Ellen Paine and my father was Howard Charles Paine.
JM:Your mother was a Sherwood wasn’t she?
JM:Do you have brothers and sisters?
TP:Yes I do. My brother Robert predeceased us. I have a brother Howard Jr. and a sister Holly.
JM:Where did you go to school?
TP:Salisbury Central, and Housatonic Valley Regional.
JM:I am going to ask you about Grasslands Farm first. Who owns it now?
TP:My sister–in-law Sidney Paine.
JM:What kind of a farm is it?
TP:Right now they are raising beef on it, but it was a dairy farm for the longest time.
JM:What kind of cattle?
JM:Robert Paine and Sidney Paine bought the farm from whom?2.
TP:From Dr. Charles Hines. (See file #1, cycle 2 Charles P. Hines)
JM:How big is the farm?
TP:300 and some acres, 350 acres
JM:Where is it located?
TP:On Hammertown Road, in Taconic, Ct. (Chapinville)
JM:How much of a staff or crew run the farm?
TP:Right now it is just my niece and her husband running it, but when I worked there, there were 6 of us.
JM:How many cattle do they have?
TP:They have about 100 head of beef cattle.
JM:That is a good amount. When I was interviewing Chip Hines, he was telling me about there was a stream down in the back that his grandmother had transplanted watercress. Do you know anything about the watercress?
TP:I have never seen it.
JM:Would you know what it looks like?
TP:Yes because there is a little patch of it out by the intersection of Cooper Hill and Twin Lakes in a stream there.
JM:I wanted to follow that up because he said he made a lot of money selling watercress.
TP:What is it?
JM:It is a green that you use for a garnish or use it like lettuce in a salad or you can put it on a sandwich. The English do a high tea and they have watercress sandwiches. It is something that is very uncommon.
TP:I never knew what it was.
JM:Fire department, when did you join?
TP:In 1987, no 1984 that is right.
JM:Was the Junior Firemen’s program that Larry Hoage ran was that going when you joined?
JM:So you were not in the junior program?3.
TP:I went through the ranks quick.
JM:Was you father involved in the fire department?
TP:No he wasn’t.
JM:So you came in on your own.
JM:You did not have family background?
JM:What kind of training did you have to have then?
TP:120 hours of firefighter #1 and multiple hours here and there of HAZMAT and whatever courses came along.
JM:You did more than one type of training?
JM:Procedures? What is that?
TP: Procedures are how you come in and size up a scene and lay equipment out and attack the fire and read what the fire is doing.
JM:It is like diagnosing the fire and how to handle it.
JM:Smart! Have you been an officer in the fire department?
TP:When I started out the first yea, I was a second assistant foreman; then I moved up to assistant chief for 10 years. After I got out of assistant chief, they changed the position from foreman to lieutenant. I was a lieutenant for three years.
JM:Why did you join the fire department?
TP:I am not really sure about that. It just struck me that that was something that I wanted to do. Something possessed me to do it.
JM:It is a very worthwhile thing to do, and we are all grateful. You are an honorary fireman?
JM:How did you get to be honorary?
TP:After so many years of service.
JM:How many years is that?
TP:I think it is 20.
JM:How had the fire training changed over the years?
TP:It has gotten more in depth on things and more procedural stuff, OSCHA mandates a lot, upped PA standards.
JM:So there is a lot more to it now than before.
JM:The equipment has changed too?
JM:A lot more, heavier air packs all that stuff.
TP:It is more sophisticated. Back when I first joined we had on demand air packs where you had to pull the air out of the tanks when you breathed. Now they are positive pressure so the air fills your mask, and pollutants don’t get into your mask.
JM:So there had been some improvement.
JM:You joined the fire department in 1984; then did you work the fire at the Town Hall in 1985?
JM:Can you tell me anything about what you remember about that?
TP:I remember that morning we were getting called out for an alarm system and just like any normal alarm system you are not in the mode of something actually burning so we drove down and pulled up in front of Buddy Trotta’s package store and looked at it and saw smoke coming out. That is
when things changed. It just progressed really fast, everybody was rushing and trying to get stuff out of there and equipment coming in. I remember being in the front doors where the hoses are and trying to keep it open for people going in and out; that is the only place where I saw fires coming down the walls outside the town hall. I had never seen that. It was what they call a balloon structure so all the walls were open. The fire was just all around. I remember getting out of there a little bit before it collapsed. Then we started seeing everything giving. I remember Sharon’s fire truck was parked in front and it did not have time to unhook the hoses, so they just dragged the hoses across the road to get out of there before the pillars come out and cut the power lines.
JM:That was awful. Now I am going to move on to the town crew. When did you join that?
TP:Actually that was Friday the 13th of March, 1987.
JM:Good Day! How did you get the job?
TP:I just left the farm and I kept going by Charlotte Reid. She kept pestering me to fill out an application. I never did. One day just after the town hall burned, she was in the court house. I had to go in for a hunting license. She grabbed me and pulled me in the office and she filled out the application for me. Next thing I know in two weeks I get a phone call that I was starting.
JM;She knew a good man when she was one! How is the work assigned? Do you have a foreman who tells you what you have to do day by day?
JM:Who is that?
JM:Who tells him what needs to be done?
TP:It is basically up to him. He may get some stuff here and there from Curtis.
JM:He makes the decisions.
JM:What kind of work does the town crew do? I know it is seasonal.
TP:We do every year dead tree removal or hazardous trees, summer time we blacktop roads, do drainage and road side mowing. Wintertime it is brush cutting, plowing snow and hauling sand.
JM:Do you have plow route?
JM:Your plow route is what?6.
JM:Oh that steep hill.
TP:It is fun.
JM:Going up or coming down?
TP:I would rather go up; coming down I have had fun!
JM:Oh I’ll bet. How many hours a week do you work?
TP:At the town it is 40 hours, but wintertime more.
JM:Because you get overtime for snow storms. When do you start and finish work normally?
TP:Our hours are 7 to 3:30 with a half hour for lunch.
JM:You worked at Lime Rock Race Track for a while, didn’t you?
TP:That started in 1982 and I just gave it up for another part-time job about three years ago (2012).
JM:What did you do at Lime Rock Park?
TP:I was a security guard and I was the only EMT at that time. I did maintenance.
JM:Was Roy Sherwood involved at all?
TP:He was the one that hired me for security. He was head of security at the time.
JM:Did you like working at the track?
TP:You have different people that come in there and it was fun.
JM:You see a lot of famous people I imagine.
TP:Yeah, I have run into a few: Tom Cruise, Paul Newman, Chris Economaki, and a few others that have been there. Also some NASCAR stars have been there Jimmy Johnson.
JM:I had no idea it was so large. It is huge. I did an oral history with Skip Barber.
JM:I had to go over to the Hospitality House: it is in the middle of nowhere. It was quite an experience.
TP:He is very nice.
JM:Oh he was excellent. For me it was a very interesting experience because I have not been to the track for a race so I had no idea it was so large.
TP:It is amazing.
JM:He does a lot of beneficial things for the community that a lot of people do not know about.
TP:I know when I have asked the track for things to do with the fire department or the ambulance, they have come through.
JM:He is very good and very supportive. You are also on the ambulance; you are busy! When did you join the ambulance?
TP:I think it was 1994.
JM:You have all the right answers. How did you get involved with the ambulance?
TP:In the summer of ’94 I heard they were short-handed with people because of lot of their EMTs at the time worked in the private schools during summer break a lot of them left. They were so short-handed that I would help drive or whatever they needed me to do. They kind of corralled me, shanghaied me so to say into the program and everything else. I thought it would be just a stepping spot or whatever. They put me to work.
JM:Oh yes they always do. Did you have to do more training for the ambulance?
TP:That is 180 hours of EMT training and every 2 years for the first 10 years you have to re certify. After that it is every three years. There are adjuncts that you have to do every year to keep up with the certification. CPR and other things
JM:That is a lot of work.
TP:It is. It takes up a lot of your time; it is hard for families.
JM:It would be because you have night meetings, you have got unexpected calls; you can’t ever plan on a family holiday, and you still go to work.
JM:You have to be dedicated to do that, you really do because it is a lot of…
JM:You have to know what to do instantly; you can’t stop and think about it.8.
TP:You can’t look in the book.
JM:You really have to know. What was your first call with the ambulance?
TP:It was a car accident of my mother’s best friend.
JM:That is hard.
TP:She did not survive.
JM:I would think it would be difficult when you come to an accident or a fire of somebody that you know, but you have to put down this wall and go on automatic pilot. You can’t let your feelings show.
TP: No that is very hard.
JM:You were going to tell me about Camp Washinee Woods.
TP:I did not get to find out more on it; I do not know who else to ask.
JM:Where was it located?
TP:It was do you know where Adam Murray lives?
JM:No, but it is someplace in Taconic.
TP:Do you know where the old Camp Everett was?
TP:As you come around the sharp corner there the buildings, right across from that down in there, there is a little sign that says Washinee Woods.
JM:What kind of a camp was it? Boys? Girls?
TP:Yep it was like a day camp.
JM:When did you go there?
TP:In the late 1970’s.
JM:Was it for a week or a month?
TP:A week but then because I enjoyed it so much, the counselors let me come back as a guest counselor.
JM:How many counselors were there at that time?
TP:I can remember 4 or 5.
JM:About how many kids?9.
JM:That is a good size. Was there a main building?
TP:There was a small building where you did arts and crafts. I still have it someplace, a rock I painted in different colors.
JM:Did they have a dining hall?
TP:No, most of the stuff you did outside; when it was bad weather, there was this one building.
JM: You would use that one building. You would go from 9 to 3 or something like that?
JM:What have I forgotten to ask you? What do you want to talk about?
JM:That is always a pause.
TP:Yeah, we have gone over the farm, the race track, for a time I worked at Salisbury Central School with my father. I spent a lot of summers there with him.
JM:Your dad was Head Custodian for 20 years?
TP:I believe so
JM:He was a nice man; I enjoyed Howard. If there isn’t anything else that you want to talk about…Are you on any boards or commissions or anything like that?
TP:I was on the Hazmat plan for the town; I was on that for a while until Jackie took it over. That was back when Bob Smithwick had me doing it where I kept updated about it.
JM:The emergency plans for disasters, that sort of thing?
TP:Not the disasters, but hazardous materials; You have to meet those standards and you have to have a plan in town that if a hazardous incident happens, what to do, how it take care of it, what your resources are, and what other fire departments have for equipment. We even call here and there to learn the access to equipment in your town, not necessarily town equipment but other equipment.
JM:So you need to know what you have available to solve the problem.
JM:That is a lot of responsibility, Tom.
TP:Keeping up the Hazmat books so if you have anything that happens you have the right references to try and figure it out.
JM:More paperwork Thank you very much for your time and your information. I have enjoyed it.
Addendum: Tom told me about the fire at the Post Office in Taconic. Here is his written memory.
“What I remember is the night before it happened, I was sick and I was not going to school the next day. At some point during the night, my father came in to get me up and I was arguing with him that I didn’t have to go to school. That’s when he told me I had to leave the house because the store was on fire. I remember going by my bathroom window being carried by my father and seeing the store burning with stuff falling off of it. He put me in the car and my mother and I went to George Bushnell’s house to stay. I remember Freddy Bushnell telling me to watch out for the ghost in the house. At some point during the night, I still think I saw something floating in the house. The next afternoon I remember going back home. The fire was out but the building was pretty damaged.”