G. Parsons Interview:
This is file 72. Today’s date is April 8, 2014. I am interviewing George Parsons at his home (20 Under mountain Road, Salisbury, Ct. 06068.) He is going to talk about his family and Grove Street School and anything else he wants to add. This is Jean McMillen. Let’s start with…
JM:What is your name?
GP:16, November, 1945
JM:Your birth place?
JM:Your siblings, if you have them?
GP:John Richard, an older brother, Karen Ann Parsons, a younger sister
JM:Your parents’ names?
GP:My father’s name was Richard E. (Earl) and my mother’s name was Hjordis.
JM:Her maiden name was Christensen. Was she born in this country?
JM:Was she from Norway?
JM:Tell me about… I am going to do some family connections. Who were these people? Charles and Ruth (White) Parsons
GP:Uncle and aunt
JM:Richie is your brother, John Richard
JM:Donald and Emma (Parsons) were…
GP:Uncle and aunt
JM:What was Emma’s maiden name?
GP:Emma was a Whalen.
JM:Oh alright, a local Whalen, all of the boys that played baseball?
JM:They had a son Tom.
JM:Who was William L. Parsons?
GP:William L. goes way, way back. He is the one that sold the school yard to the school district. (#7 Salisbury Center)
JM:We are talking about Center or Grove Street School.
JM:That was Salisbury Center/Grove St. School. I didn’t ask you this before but what did the neighborhood look like when you were growing up? Were there a lot of houses, here were there a lot of children? You were telling me about the…
GP:On Grove St. the only house that was there when I was a kid was, Jimmy Dubois’s house was built in 1955. Before that his house was where Donald Stevens Sr. lives now. Other than that the only other house was built in the 50’s was Kenny’s.
JM:What did the land look like? Were there trees?
GP:It looked pretty much as it does now.
JM:You called it Bushnell Forest.
GP:Bushnell forest goes to when they were making charcoal. It was back probably about the same time the Grove St. school yard was sold by William Parsons.
JM:Ok so that would be the 1860’s, 1870’s area.
JM:You said that there are still 2 trees on the property that are left from Bushnell Forest?
GP:In the Grove school yard, two oak trees, white oak, about 300 years old.
JM:There are some also at the Grove.
JM:Which is what the Grove was named for?
JM:Alright, tell me about Grove St. School. You went to Grove Street School didn’t you?
JM:How many rooms, what did it look like?
GP:Two rooms downstairs, two rooms upstairs, first second and third grade in the building. There was no kindergarten until they built the red building.
JM:The red building was the second school?
GP:Well, it was kindergarten building. It sat over next to Steven’ garage (14 Grove St. Ed.)
JM:Tell me about the dinner lady, the hot lunch lady. Who was it?
GP:Mrs. Senior, yes she used to live is where John Corbiere lives now (17 Grove St. Ed.) After her came the Wrights, and then the Corbieres bought it from the Wrights.
JM:What happened to the first school- the first Grove St. School?
GP:The first Grove St. School when they sold the land, part of the deal was that he would move the existing school, one room school house to the north. The north being where Don Stevens’ house is now. They added a second floor to it, and when Don Stevens was adding a room to the east side of the house, they cut into the wall for a door and they found an original backboard with writing on it.
JM:Ooh that’s nifty! I am assuming that you went to the second school.
GP:Yes, the white building, four rooms.
JM:What happened to that building?
GP:That building Calvin Flint took down.
JM:In the 1950’s?
GP: Probably in the early 1960’s, about the same time that they got rid of the church on Taconic Green.
JM:That would have been about 1860. I mean 1960 Ed.)
GP:No, the church on the green in Taconic, that was in the 1950’s.
JM:Yes, 1958 or 1959
GP: Yeah, somewhere in there. The same with this one; they did not want to pay to maintain it.
JM:They were both given back to the town for back taxes, weren’t they? The Union Chapel was.
GP:Oh was it? This is weird, I don’t know if you saw it in, you read the deeds and…4.
JM:Oh yes, I read everything. (George gave me all the data pertaining to the Grove Street property which had been researched when the town wanted to use the land for affordable housing. Ed.)
GP:The front part of it from the oaks trees to the main road did not belong to the school district. It belonged to the Pettees and the Russells. The town took that for back taxes.
JM:So they took half of that whole section.
GP:Yeah actually one of the selectmen owned part of it, George Bushnell. The Bushnells were related to the Pettees.
JM:The reason I know a little bit about the Union Chapel is because we found the engraved plaque of the Union Chapel in one of the Sunday school room closets in the Methodist Church (the building where the Pastor’s study is Ed.) It is now stuck to the back wall of the sanctuary of the Methodist church. That’s where it wound up. I don’t know why.
GP:God knows how long. My aunt used to have; I think she gave it back to the town or the Salisbury Association. She used to have the bell, the hand bell that they used to ring at town meetings. It was this big around and about that tall and it has a wooden handle on it- ding, ding, ding. (It is sitting on the right hand corner of the second desk in the History Room Ed.) She had that for years.
JM:Virginia Terry is also.
GP:It was Virginia Parsons.
JM:She was the one who ran the Country Store at the White Hart. (She also was assistant Town clerk with Lila Nash at one time. Ed.)
GP:You are getting more information today than you got last time.
JM:That’s the point!
GP:I have been remembering stuff.
JM:That is the whole point because you do think about it and oh my I didn’t tell her this or I thought about that. That’s what makes it so interesting to me anyway. While we are on names, tell me a little bit about Ernie Garnes. Who was he?
GP:Ernie Garnes was the garbage man in town, especially in Lakeville, not so much in Salisbury because Walter Erickson did Salisbury because the Ericksons owned the dump (up on Bunker Hill Ed.)
JM:You also said the Ernie Garnes was one of the first black families in town.
GP:One of the first black families in town.5.
JM:Did they live on Farnam Road?
GP:No, they lived where Raynsford used to live, on that street there next to Bauman and Garrity.
GP:Maybe I am not sure I am not astute on names.
JM:Tell me about Buster Washington.
GP:Buster Washington was my father’s cousin. His mother was Annie Washington. Buster was an illegitimate child. They lived on Echo Street where Bob Smith lives now.
JM:What was his job?
GP:Buster was a jack-of-all-trades; he ran the projector at the old Stuart Theater in Lakeville. I think he ran the projector at the movie house, or theater in Millerton, too.
JM:You mentioned the House of Herbs. Who started that? I had thought it was Mrs. Winters.
GP:The one that sold the land that is mentioned in the deed. I think Mrs. Winters bought it from him.
JM:She had done a deodorant product Odor-oh-No. Then she came up here and bought apparently the property, and that is where she developed her House of Herbs with her herbal products, spices and herbs.
GP:Well there used to be a place called Oxy Christine in this town too.
JM:Oh yes but that was down by Library Street.
GP:Yup, the Griffiths used to run it.
JM:Because Howard Clayton Morey worked there, and he gave quite a long dissertation about working there.
GP:the Griffiths used to live on the second floor.
JM:Who was that who used to live on the second floor?
GP:Doug Griffith, it was in his family, but they are not around here anymore. Before that he was the Post Master in Salisbury too at one time. That is where he retired from.
JM:Let us now move on to the Olympics. Your father was an Olympic cross country skier?
GP:Yup, 1932 and 1936.
JM:1932 was at Lake Placid, and 1936 was at Garmish, Germany; I am sure that there were others from the area who were in the Olympics.
JM:Was it all the Satres or…
JM:How about Ole Hegge?
GP:Yes, he was there too.
JM:And the Sherwoods?
GP:No, Roy Sherwood was the only one who went to the Olympics and he was a ski jumper in the 1950’s.
JM:I am working backwards here, but your dad worked where?
GP:My father worked for Salisbury Artisans.
JM:Was that the name of the Knife handle factory? Which name came first Salisbury Artisans or the Knife Handle Factory?
GP:Knife Handle factory, but they were doing the Salisbury Artisans business at the same time because dad was the Salisbury Artisans part of it, him and Lucy McLane.
JM:What was the difference in products? Did Salisbury Artisans do only wooden products, and the knife handle factory only made knife handles for the Holley Manufacturing?
GP:Not for Holley. They had no connection at all with Holley Manufacturing.
JM:Alright explain that to me then. Where did their products go? If they made knife handles where did they go?
GP:They made them for different companies. They had their own product line. They used to ship in, and I’ve still got some out in the shop, the knife part used to come in in boxes, and they would put them together.
JM:The blades would come in boxes?7.
GP:Yup, already made and everything else.
JM:How were they shipped out, not by train; they would have to do it by wagon?
JM:The product that they finished, how did they ship it?
GP:By mail, truck
JM:When you dad worked there, how many men approximately worked there?
GP:I would say, well, there were two people in the artisan part who made bowls and stuff like that. The knife handle part, there were probably 10 or 12.
JM:You said that your father and Lucy McLane worked for the Salisbury Artisans, so there would be total about 16.
GP:Phil Warner owned the whole thing; different divisions.
JM:Different divisions but the same owner. Now you mentioned someone who came over from Sheffield, England, one of your relatives. Who was that?
GP:That was my grandmother’s father.
JM:So that would be your great grandfather; and he came from Sheffield, England. His specialty was doing knife handles.
GP:Knife handles and knives, and the blades.
JM:So he could do the whole product.
GP:Yeah, but he actually ran the knife handle part when it was up above. It was up by where the Brazees live, up in there, by that pond up there. That is where it was before above Selleck’s gristmill.
JM:What was your great grandfather’s name?
GP:Ho ho ho
JM:I knew I would get you on one of them! Now the Salisbury Artisans is being rejuvenated.
GP:Trying to be.
JM:Trying to and that’s David Bowen.
GP:Yeah let me tell you a little story. David Bowen came down here when dad was still alive, because dad used to have a garden out back. He came down here and he said to dad,” You‘ve got to
come look at something.” Dad says, “What?” he said, “We have uncovered a couple of tree logs out in back of the shop.” “OH I know about those logs; we buried them back there.” He said, “They’ve really heavy right?” David said, “Yeah!” Dad said, “So we tried to cut those logs (because they used to have their own sawmill) and it took all the teeth off the saw blade. You could put on the teeth onto the saw blade; it took all the teeth off when they tried to saw them. So they took them to Falls Village, and the guy wrecked his saw on them. So they brought them back and we buried them out back.” They are so hard; they are some kind of Brazilian teak, something like that and they call it Ironwood, and you can’t cut it. So anyway they are buried back there still. David reburied them.
JM:Good for him!
GP:He tried to cut it with his chainsaw, and it took all the teeth off the chainsaw.
JM:It is like the ancient English oak that was cut for ship masts. As it oxidizes it get so hard, that you can’t drive a nail into it, you can’t cut it. It just becomes so dense that it is a real challenge. That is nifty.
GP:Same as loblolly pine; loblolly pine does that because we used to try to drive nails in the walls at the lower building at the school. You couldn’t drive a nail; it would bend. You had to drill it first.
JM:Tell me about this house. Now you said it was built in…
GP:This house was built in the 1860’s; didn’t I give you a picture of it?
GP:The one where there is 2 different versions of it? I didn’t give you that; then I’ll give you that. It started out with there was, I’ll show it to you later, the kitchen was down in the living room, the living room was divided into two parts. There was a dining room. There was a bedroom. In the 1930’s they added the kitchen on, or not in the 30’s but around 1910 they added the kitchen. The kitchen was a chicken coop that they cut in half and slit it up against the other part of the house because when we went in to remodel the house when we moved in, we got into one of the walls and the original clapboards; they never took them off. They left them there.
JM:This is very typical
GP:They put two houses together. The other part of the second story was added in 1936-37 when they built Wassaic State School. The guys that worked at Wassaic came up here at night and plastered and did stuff like that.
JM:That was a WPA project, the Wassaic State School? The men were moonlighting up here. When was the cedar siding put on?
GP:The cedar siding was put on by I forget who, but the cedar siding was painted by Uttar Satre, the first time it was painted.
JM:That was the name I was looking for.
GP:Uttar Satre was a painter and his brother was a painter and the other one was maybe a carpenter.
JM:Who was the other brother who was a painter, do you remember?
GP:there were three of them Magnus, Uttar, and the other name doesn’t come back. Ask Paul, he’ll know.
JM:You mentioned a traveling minister and pulpit rock.
GP:Reggie Lamson said to me about a month or two ago, the he was reading a book and that there used to be a traveling minister that came around here in the summer time, every summer. Somewhere in the back of the old Grove School yard they used to have sermons and stuff on Sundays. The guy would stand behind a rock that looked like a pulpit and preach right out back. I am quite sure that is what it is because there were flowers around it and everything else.
JM:That would make it look a little bit like an altar.
GP:Yes and there were steps leading up to it; so I don’t know exactly what …
JM:When you worked for Frank Bogue Service Station, where was that located?
GP:Where David Jones has his business now. Right next to the Health food Store which used to be Herrick’s Travel Agency.
GP:Because Bogue used to rent the back of Herrick’s Travel Agency; there’s another garage in the back there. I don’t know what they use it for now. It used to have a lift in the floor and everything else back then.
JM:Is there anything that you would like to add before we close?
GP:No, we pretty much covered everything.
JM:Wonderful! Thank you very, very much.