This is Jean McMillen interviewing Joan Palmer, at 41 Chatfield Dr. (my home) on Friday, August 12, 2011.
JM:May I have your full name.
JP:Yes, Joan Palmer
JM:When and where were you born, please?
JP:I was born in Canaan, Ct. on Dec. 20, 1934.
JM:What is your mother and father’s full name?
JP:My mother’s name was Ruth Johnson, and my father was Theodore Johnson.
JM:Do you have any brothers or sisters?
JP:No, I am the only child.
JM:Mrs. Palmer, what was your educational background?
JP:I graduated from the Housatonic Valley Regional High School in 195-; I went on to the Paier School of Art in New Haven and graduated from there in 1955. I moved to New York and studied and took courses at the Art Students League. That’s about it.
JM:How did you happen to come to Salisbury?
JP:Well, I married a man from Salisbury, john B. Palmer, and that is where we decided to live.
JM:How did you get involved with the Day Care Center?
JP:They were looking for someone who wasn’t working at the time. I had three children. My youngest had not really started school yet. So I was approached and I said,”I still have a child at home.” So they said,”You can bring him.” I thought that is great. The hours were good. I could leave after my children went to school, and I would be home before they got home. So that is how I got the job.
JM:Where was the first Day Care Center?
JP:The first Day Care was in the parish house of the Methodist Church on Main Street in Lakeville.
JM:How was it set up originally? How were the children divided up or were they all in one group?
JP:In the beginning we only had six children so they were altogether. They weren’t separated by age at that time or anything. We were there with just the six.
JM:Who started this organization and why?
JP:It was started by a woman named Betsy Harris from Sharon, Ct. She felt that there was a need for day care in the tri state area. When the day care started, it was just for working mothers. Then eventually we started taking in children for just socialization.
JM:Was there a board of directors at the beginning?
JM:Can you give me the names of some of those ladies?
JP: OK. There was Dorothy Warner of Sharon. There was Katherine Kellogg from Salisbury. Betty Leech was from Salisbury.
JM:What about Bunny Vincent?
JP:I think Bunny was more of a volunteer than on the board if I remember rightly and of course Betsy Harris. There were not that many. There were about 4 or 5 board members.
JM:When did the day care move to Wells Hill Road?
JP:We were in the church for about 3 or 4 years. Then they purchased the Wells Hill Building.
JM:What year did the day care start at the Methodist Church?
JP:That was in 1970.
JM:Then about 1975ish you moved to 22 Wells Hill Road.
JP:Yes around that time.
JM:Would you describe the house on Well Hill as far as where the different sections of children were and what the activities were?
JP:Now I had the older group of children which was the five and six year olds. They were in one end of the building, in a separate room. There was a middle room where the four year old were and then there was a big room that had the three year olds. Then the front room was also for the three year olds, for a while. After a few years they turned that into an infant room. We were able to take babies that were three months and older.
JM:Was there criteria for taking these children? Was there a fee? What were some of the formal things?
JP:Oh yes, they had to fill out a form. They had to put down which days of the week, or how many days of the week they wanted their child to come. The fee would center around that about how much they would have to pay every week. I don’t remember what that was. If they wanted to come, they had
to put down if they wanted their child to come all day, or half a day or a certain amount of hours. They had to stick to that. It wasn’t just a drop in place.
JM:You also told me they had to be potty trained.
JP:Oh yes. Actually that was right from the very beginning.
JM:That makes sense. What are some of the activities that you did with the older children?
JP:My job mainly was to get them ready for kindergarten. We did lots of games where they would learn how to count; they would learn their letters from these games. We did lots of arts and crafts, and outside play.
JM:Was there a lot of training to socialize, to get along with other children?
JP:Oh yes. That is one of the reasons I think a lot of the parents sent their children there because they had been home up to this point so much with their parents, and the parents realized that they had to be involved with other children. They wanted them to be able to socialize before they went to kindergarten. I think it was very helpful to a lot of children because at that age, three and four years old, they tend to be very shy. When they interact with other children, they really come out of that; it’s great to see some of the changes.
JM:They do blossom. Was there any staff training or were you just thrown into it?
JP:In the very beginning we were just sort of thrown into it, and then after we got up to the Wells Hill building, we had to take courses at Northwestern Community College, and this was at night. We all took courses in early childhood development.
JM:Which is necessary now.
JP:It is. Yes, it’s mandatory now.
JM:Do you know when the site moved to Salmon Kill, approximately?
JP:I don’t remember the date. (probably after 1989 Ed.)
JM;I’m going to say ten year ago. But I don’t know either.
JP:I don’t know. I think it has been longer.
JM:Longer than that? Very possibly. (Their land lease is dated March 17, 1995 Ed.)
JP:Day care has been going about 45 years. I would say close to 20 years.
JM:Have I missed anything as far as the day care before we go on to other questions? Anything that you would like to add?
JP:No, I don’t think so.4.
JM:I want you to talk a little bit about your painting career. What kind of media do you use?
JP:Right now I do mainly watercolors, and when I started out years ago, I was an oil painter. Eventually breathing turpentine took its toll on me. So I switched around to several different things, and then discovered this wonderful woman in Gt. Barrington who taught watercolor. She taught me everything. I think I studied with her for about three or four years and learned the basics of watercolor and all the tricks.
JM:Oh and there are, there are.
JP:So now I love watercolor and that is what I do mainly.
JM:Do you have a scheduled time during the day or does the spirit have to move?
JP:Well yes, there are days when I don’t feel like painting; there are days when I can’t paint, when nothing works. Actually I prefer to paint in the morning.
JM:That makes sense. Is the light better in the morning?
JP:It seems to be; the north light coming in.
JM:It is supposed to be the best light. Do you have any of your paintings on show now?
JP:I do, yes. I’m involved with the Housatonic Valley Art League that is based in Sheffield, Mass. In the past I have shown all over the Tri-state area. I also have some of my painting in the Lady Audrey Gallery in Millerton, New York. I do a lot of group shows, and also I try at least every two years to have a one person show.
JM:That’s a lot of work.
JP:It is, but I enjoy it. It is fun.
JM:Now you moved to town probably in the 1960’s?
JP:Yes, 1961 we moved to Lakeville.
JM:Has your neighborhood changed any because you have always been on Porter Street?
JP: Right. We have yes. Well, the neighbors change. That’s about it.
JM:But I think you told me that the town garage used to be across the street.
JP:Oh right, when we first moved to Porter Street, the town garage was across the street from our house.
JM:It is now a lawyer’s office.
JP:Now it’s a lawyer’s office.5.
JM:Shipman & Goodman, I think. How has the town changed over the years that you have been here? Do you notice anything different?
JP:In Lakeville yes. When we first moved to Lakeville, there was a grocery store, our post office which is still there, next to that was a drugstore, and next to that was a grocery store where the Boathouse is now. Down on Route 41 there were shops, there was Barnett’s 5 & 10, there was a restaurant down there, a little café, then there was a music store, a shoe store, there was a jewelry store.
JM:They are all gone.
JP:Now they are all gone. Everything is gone.
JM:They are either art galleries, no offense, or some restaurants, but you can’t get needle or thread.
JP:No there’s nothing where you can go and pick up something that you need.
JM:There are no notion shops or anything like that. The buildings have pretty much stayed the same, other than the Bissell House that got moved back to put the bank in. How about the people, have they changed any as far as what you’ve noticed? Do we have more senior citizens; fewer senior citizens; more children; fewer children? Anything that sticks out?
JP:Yes, for instance on our street, when we first moved in, there were a lot of children, my children and neighbor’s children. Now of course they are all senior citizens on that street. Practically everyone on that street is a senior citizen.People come and go; houses have been sold. Neighbors have changed. Right now I am not sure who my neighbors are.
JM:I can understand that.
JP:Actually when you go out on a weekend to something, there isn’t anyone there you know.
JM:Yes, you are right!
JP:They are all strangers.
JM:You have been in town a little longer than I; you don’t know anybody.
JP:No, you are walking among strangers, even in the post office. So we have a lot of new people that live around who are in the town. Very rarely do you run into the people that you used to see years ago. I know they are still around, but they are not…
JM:They are not as visible as they used to be.
JP:Not as visible, right.
JM:Do you think the spirit of volunteerism has changed over the years? Do we have as many people who are willing to be on boards, or committees, or SWASA or the Day Care?
JP:I know a lot of people who are still volunteering for a lot of things so I don’t know. I really can’t say, if I don’t know.
JM:Yeah, but it seems to you that we still have enough people.
JP:I think people, yes are willing to volunteer to do things. I know myself volunteer to do different things since I have the time.
JM:Yep.Is there anything else that you would like to add about the town, the neighborhood your art, the day care?
JP:Well, I just want to say that I loved working at the day care. It was really a great job; I hated to leave when I did, but it was just something that I really had to do, so to make room for younger people.
JM:But isn’t it nice that you enjoyed it so much that you hated to leave, rather than I can’t wait to get out of here.
JM:That is the best reward for a job well done in a job that you loved more than anything I can think of.
JP:It was a very rewarding job. Now I see the children that I had back then. Actually most of them, I am not crediting myself, but.
JP:They started with us; and they are just going on to college and doing really nice things.
JM:Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that wonderful to know that they bloomed and you know that you contributed to that because you were in when they were so impressionable.
JP:Right, yes. It was a great job. I loved it.
JM:And you did it so well.
JM:Thank you for sharing your recollections with me, and I very much appreciate your time.
JP:It’s my pleasure.