Lynn Reifsnyder Interview:
This is file #10, cycle 3. This is Jean McMillen. Today’s date is November 16, 2017. I am interviewing Lynn Reifsnyder. She is going talk her grandfather who was a collier on Mt. Riga and she is also going to talk about Pony Club, growing up in town and anything else that tickles her fancy. But first we will start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
LR:My name is Lynn Rebillard Reifsnyder.
JM:When were you born?
LR:June 20, 1947
JM:Where were you born?
LR:In Hartford one month early.
JM:Your parents’ names, please.
LR:My dad was Paul Rebillard, native of Salisbury, and my mother was Esther Strauss born in Meriden, Ct.
JM:Do you have siblings?
LR:I have one older brother, Paul Rebillard Jr. but he goes by “Bing”.
JM:When you were growing up where did you live?
LR:We lived right off of route 44, just before the intersection with Taconic Road. It was Esther’s Package Store that my dad ran and was named after my mom. It is now the B&B Sassafras. (171 Canaan Rd., Salisbury, Ct. 06068 Ed.)
JM:It is run by Peter Oliver and his wife Sandy Gomez. You had some grandparents. First of all what were their names?
LR:The ones here in Salisbury was Ernest Frederick Rebillard and his wife was Julia Bonhotel Rebillard.
JM:Did they live up on Mt. Riga?
LR:They did indeed. My grandad was born in France in a little town Cheve Bier, France in October 1858. When he was a young lad, he and 5 other young boys from his town were put on s ship to go to America in 1872 to make a better life. ( He lived in Buffalo, NY for 7 years, returned to France and served in the French Army for 2 years and returned to the Us in 1881.This information was taken from an article Written by Paul Rebillard. Ed.) My dad knew all the names: Bouteiller, DeVeaux, Gobillot, Euvard, and
Goux. They ended up in Sharon. These were things that daddy told me because me grandad died before I was born. My grandfather came to the United States and entered through New York and ended up on the mountain. He was a collier there.
JM:What does a collier do?
LR:A collier creates charcoal. Daddy said it was the most artistic thing he had ever seen because apparently you had to chop down the right kind of trees at the right age of tree. You cut it into 4 foot long pieces of wood, then artfully make a circle with these pieces of wood leaning them up so air could get in, but no too much air. The thing was to grow to be about 12 or 13 foot high and anywhere from 20 to 30 feet in diameter. After the wood was skillfully placed, not toppling in or too loosely, they would put sod on it and leaves. They would burn it in such a way that the wood would not fully engulf in flame, it would burn just so far so that the end result was charcoal. Daddy said that there were some people that were so creative, he always called it a creative process, but it was tough work. You could get the pieces of charcoal and break it open and see the grain of the wood so that you could identify the type of wood and the age of the wood. It was a huge industry up there. Apparently charcoal is very light, so they would have these horse- or mule- drawn carts that stack the charcoal up on it. Daddy was just a little kid and he was observing this so he said it was stacked half way to heaven. These things would tower. The cart would be drawn to wherever it was needed. (The charcoal went to the Copake Iron works owned by Fred K. Miles, Mt. Riga and Lime rock blast furnaces. Ed. Paul Rebillard article)
For my dad’s 80th birthday he wanted to climb Bear Mountain one more time. We did, Rich, me, my brother and his kids we all went up. Daddy could still point out places where charcoal had been made by looking at round stands of trees and all of that. It was not only an effort in energy, but also a trip for Dad down memory lane to see and identify all these kinds of things. We learned a lot with daddy.
JM:There were no trees from here to Pittsfield at one time.
LR:The forest was denuded.
JM:It was an art to create these mounds of wood. They had to be careful that they left air holes and sometime they would have to climb on top of the mounds to open an air vent so that the wood would burn properly. No something I would have wanted to do.
LR:Hard work, but dad also said that the people that did it were sort of like a fraternity. They would help each other. There wasn’t competition per se, but if somebody needed something or if somebody was sick, they would all pitch in and work together.
JM:Was your father born on Mt. Riga>
LR:No, daddy was born up in Taconic, Chapinville at the time. My father was born in the house that (when I was growing up) was owned by Joe and Britain Henning, Swedes. There was a little Norwegian/Swedish community in town. If you go up Taconic Road and pass where Camp Everett used
to be and going up those little rolling hills and Elsa’s Kitchen used to be on the left, the dirt road just before Elsa’s Kitchen on the left goes up a little hill maybe a quarter of a mile. There is a house up there and that is where my dad was born in the front bedroom. My folks were friend with Joe and Britain so I remember lots of things up there, but I would always go into the room where my dad was born. Every time we visited I did that and I thought that was pretty cool that I could see the room that daddy was born in.
JM:Your father married whom?
LR:Esther Strauss Rebillard and she came as a very young school teacher and taught in the old school up in Taconic which was built by the Scoville family for the children of their community.
JM;How did your parents meet?
LR:I know how they met. What I thought was kind of fun. Daddy was working on the Union Chapel on the green in Taconic. Daddy was shingling the roof. At that time the trees were much smaller than they are now. He viewed what he thought was this really cool looking school lady going back and forth. She lived in the Onells at the time in the white house right next to it. Daddy checked that out and after a while got up enough nerve to ask the lady, who would be my mom, out for a date. They went blueberry picking up on Mt. Riga for their first date. Daddy in his younger years was a bit of a dude, not necessarily bright but a bit of a dude because he wore light slacks to go blueberry picking. My mom would still laugh years after daddy died telling about how daddy’s slacks were just a mess. They were never ever able to get the stains out. Then they came back and made blueberry pie with Mrs. Onell supervising. I guess she was a tough lady and supervised a lot.
JM:You were born and grew up in town and you were in Pony Club.
LR:I was but I didn’t start that until 6th grade. One of the things that is deceptive about growing up in Salisbury is if somebody were just driving through they would think it’s a little sleepy kind of town. It is a bubbling hotbed of all sorts of things, cultural, political, whatever. One of my mom & dad’s things as parents was to expose both my brother and myself to all sorts of stuff. Until 6th grade I took art lessons with George Baer here in the Scoville Memorial Library, and I took ballet with Helen Haines in Sharon.
JM:Did she become Helen Townsend? That was the one I remember.
LR:She was a lovely graceful lady with a wonderful smile and a very soft voice. That was wasted money from my folks because I had no talent in either. By 6th grade I was able to convince my mom that that was money just down the drain. I really wanted to ride horses. They gave up and let me join the Pony Club That was over on Lucy Drummond’s place at 485 Undermountain Road. I joined at the same time as my friend Kathy Coons. Kathy’s dad worked for Edith Scoville on that property. He was the farmer there and Kathy and I would ride out bikes faithfully from our home every Saturday morning over for lessons at the Pony Club at Holley Hill Stables. We both stuck with it all through high school.
JM:What did you actually do at Pony Club?4.
LR:In the beginning you either took lessons to learn how to ride but Pony Club is a wonderful organization that not only has you learning the skills to be a responsible competent rider, but you learned horse management, farm management, the anatomy of the horse, how to take care of it, responsible ownership, things about hunting, the manners of hunting and how fox hunting came to be. There was a history involved; it was a total look at the horse industry, horse management, the love of horses. It was great.
JM:When you were taking Pony club lessons, did you have written exams?
LR:Yes that is how you went up the levels. You start off at D level and then you work your way up toward an A level. Within each level there are 1, 2, 3, 4 quarters. It is very regimented so to speak, very developmental if you want to use educational language. You studies; you had this little green book and you studied it and your read it. There were written exams. You were not only graded on your knowledge but your riding ability and stable management, ability and knowledge and responsibility level. It was quite a comprehensive thing and it was just wonderful.
JM:Then it was not superficial.
LR:You worked hard. Many a parent said to those of us “If you would only work as hard at home or in school as you do at Lucy’s.”
JM:You liked what you were doing.
LR:It was great.
JM:What is eventing?
LR:Eventing is three days. It can be three days or a smaller unit of time. Basically it is three different events: dressage, cross country, and stadium events, jumping. Those involve a very different discipline and ability. It is quite challenging, and exciting. You have to be fairly competent to be involved in that kind of thing. All those events require different skills of horse and rider, but it is the same horse and rider that participate in all three events.
JM:What is cross country?
LR:Cross country is a defined course: defined both in mileage that you travel, distance, and the amount of time that a horse and rider can do that safely. There are parts of that on the flat and a series of jumps over water, off banks, over created different types of wooden structures or stone walls. It is awesome fun. Jumping is the communication part between you and your horse which is developed over time.
JM:What is dressage?
LR:Dressage is a very different kind of discipline. It is all done on the flat. It is done in a more collected way. Hopefully the communication between horse and rider is invisible, but it is happening all the time. Again the different levels it started on level C. I don’t remember dressage being offered on a D level. You are just learning the basics on the D level. You would enter a defined space. Things would be marked out with letters A B C D E F and G. X is in the middle. You would have a proscribed route to follow. You would walk in and go to the center point which I believe was X, drop your hands, salute the judges, and then proceed. You would go either left or right. You would do collective trots, extended trots, collected canter, and extended canter. You would do turns on the foreleg and if you got a little better in terms of height, turn on the hind quarters. It was very defined. That was judged every second that you are in the ring, both horse and rider are judged. It is very structured and elegant and very lovely, as well.
JM:Are you using an English or western saddle?
LR:All of these events are on English saddles and different gear too. The rider doing dressage is when you get good at it wears a top hat, tails, and white gloves. It is a very elegant, posh outfit. There is a different saddle if you are wealthy enough to have one; it is a flatter saddle and the leg is further back in the saddle so you have more contact with the horse using your whole leg because signals are given through your butt, your hands and your legs invisibly, if you are good.
JM:Did you take care of just one horse?
LR:After you reached a certain point at least with Lucy and different stables do different things differently. There were a number of us and we took care of all the horses. She had an excess of 70. We let them out, we brought them in, we groomed them, and we fed them. We did anything for her. We were the worker bees supervised by John Clark and Lucy. Generally when it came to showing and riding and going to the Pony Club rallies, everybody pretty much had their favorite horse. It was not written in stone, but most of us got to ride our favorite horse because not only did that work for harmony, but also you generally rode that horse a lot and built up trust with that animal. Everything worked better that way. The final determination was done by Lucy who told what and when. That was her property and these are valuable horses. Although we had a great deal of fun it was work and you could not be reckless with it. You had to be mindful and responsible.
JM:Those were the lessons that were being taught.
LR:Oh my gosh yes.
JM:Why do you love horses so, do you know?
LR:I am an animal nut for one thing: ask my husband and my kids. That is the thing that starts this. I think there is a mystery about the horse itself. So you might be drawn to horses, but it is not just oh I love cats or I love dogs, it goes beyond that. For most of us who have stuck with it through the years. Unfortunately I am not riding now, but I was able to pick it up after a hiatus of 40 years. It is almost a
spiritual relationship between horse and rider. Back in Virginia I was able to ride horses a lot and we trusted one another. We began to think like a team. His name was Doolin: he was part Connemara and part thoroughbred. He looked out for me. He knew me well enough to know that I would never put him in a situation that we could be hurt or that we could not handle. That was my responsibility. We really worked as a team. It is a spiritual oneness besides just having the privilege to be in that kind of close relationship with another being. Now this one had 4 legs and a tail but a wonderful heart. Anybody that rides horses enough cannot ride horses without knowing the heart of the horse and the mind. That goes beyond just sitting on a thing and making it go fast. It really does transcend the event. You are outside in god’s creation which is beautiful. The wind is going through you and seeing all the changes of nature and all of that, it is just an incredible experience. It is beyond experience, it is a privilege.
JM:I want to go back to the art lessons with George Baer. What did he look like? What did he teach?
LR:He a little man. He looked like an artist, an artiste! He had a little bit of a tummy. He always wore a white shirt and slacks. His hair was sort of longish, not hippy-ish, but was longer and curly. My dad’s hair was always clipped short. When you would see Mr. Baer about town he always wore a little beret, either dark blue or black, cocked to the side. He would wear a scarf. He was sort of natty. He also just had a heart of gold. He probably transformed more pictures than mine into something that was respectable. My effort, I had not talent, regardless, he would say “Very good, Lynn, very good.” so often encouraging. Then he would take a few splashed of pint on the brush and it would actually loo OK. It was not mine, but it was OK. I would come home with this kind of stuff. This was Saturday morning, before I learned that I could go to the horses: there were probably 10 to 12 of us in there at a time. I don’t know how many classes he had in a week. I would ride down with the Durst family, with Barb and Joan and Eleanor Durst was the driver. Eleanor would drive us down and my mom would pick us up. The Dursts had talent; I had none. My brother also took lessons for a while. He had some ability.
JM:Tell me about Helen Haines.
LR:Before I get to that, this was before all the renovations, the library was different then. It was wonderful because you would always open the door and you smelled the oil point. It was a great fun. I had no talent, but it was still fun. He was such a gentleman that you never felt diminished. He would never say, “Oh Lynn maybe this should be your last lesson.”
JM:He was a gentleman and careful not to bruise your ego.
LR:Exactly. He was a good man. Helen Haines was a lovely lady. She was a lady. She even walked gracefully. She had a number of classes. She started with little ballet shoes. I eventually did get into toe shoes. I didn’t have much talent for that because I am not the most graceful thing. Most dancers are long and lean and elegantly formed. It was just how they walked. I am a tomboy. I do have rhythm and I do love music so that did help me a little bit. Those lessons again she started with young people and there were recitals at the end which showcased all kids, all levels of ability.
JM:How many wee in the class?7.
LR:I am going to say about 8 to 10. It was in two places: one as you are going into Sharon next to (130 Main Street Autosport ed.) a garage. On the other side of the road was a building that is near the school (Sharon Central School) a white building. I was in both places because I did it for maybe 4 or 5 years with her. She too was very encouraging. She was tough: heads up, shoulders back, but she was never unkind. She was just a lovely lady. Every once in a while we would sort of cajole her to dance for us. We would sit on the floor and she would do marvelous movements. The music was on a record player, if you remember what that is. That was fun.
JM:When did you start going to sock hops?
LR:You were only allowed to them in 7th and 8th grade at the Grove. It was organized by Mr. Wilbert Hemmerly, who was at the time Athletic Director. I think that was the title. There was a waiting period for that which was pretty cool. When you got to be a 7th grader you could go. High school kids were not allowed. We went in a group of girls. Again everything was car pooled. We all went with our best friends. For a while the girls were on one side and the boys on another. Then you would sort of get together,
JM: What were the times?
LR:It was from 7 to 9 on Friday nights. Refreshments were available. Every once in a while there might be hot dogs there too, but it was mostly chips and soda, that kind of thing. Sometimes a parent would provide cupcakes, if you were really good, but not often.
JM:You told me the last time that you remembered all of your Salisbury Central School teachers. Would you mind going through the list before we go on to High school?
LR:My kindergarten teacher was Miss Condon from Canaan. Then I had Mrs. Frances McKee, Mrs. Matheson, Mrs. Frances Hamm LeMoine, and Miss Crasper who taught 4th grade. She had a sister who taught 6th grade, but they only there for one or two years. Mrs. Ilse Olendorf was a delightful lady. I loved her. That 5h grade year two new girls came into my class: they became my best friends; Dede Warner (Edith Church Warner) and Pam Dunning. In 6th grade I had Mrs. Molly Kelly (See tape #112 A Molly Kelly). 7th grade Betty Miner and 8th grade Elizabeth Gandelli. Music etchers were Mr. Bill Meder and Mr. Philip Garavoy from Sharon. Mr. Nania from Canaan also taught music because not everybody stayed all through the 8 years. There was a lady that I had one year that I really liked a lot. She came from Cornwall, but I can’t remember her name. One other thing about school our grade was the first kindergarten grade the new building (upper building). We were the very first. It was all day kindergarten. We took a nap. We had to bring our little mats to put on the floor, but we napped afterwards. Sometimes we would pop off and sometimes we wouldn’t.
JM:When did you join Salisbury Band?
LR:I joined Salisbury Band when I was in second grade, the summer of my second grade, which is a little early. Mr. Meder was the teacher: I had been begging to play a musical instrument. It had to be
trumpet because at that point in time our family lived on the bottom floor of our house and my folks rented out the top floor. They rented it out to Georgie Crawford; her husband was in the Army and away. She had a son Kenny who was four years older than me, the same age as my brother. He played trumpet. I could hear the trumpet and I wanted to play trumpet like Kenny. My first instrument was trumpet. I had to do to the dentist, Dr. Barr to make sure that my teeth and jaw were formed enough that I wouldn’t do damage to that development. Dr. Barr said, “Oh that would be great!” so I started trumpet. That summer I was allowed to march with the band.
JM:You were one of the younger ones.
LR:I was the youngest one. They had to order a special uniform for me. That was funny. In those days the band marched a lot of places with the firemen. The firemen marched in parades and there were firemen parades in all the small towns so we went as far as Beacon, New York. We went to Kingston, New York. We went to the Chatham Fair, Amenia, Red Hook, Pine Plains, all of those places, not just Sharon, Falls Village, Lakeville, and Canaan. We went all over by bus. Some of those were long for a little kid, like 5 miles. On hot days in those old wool uniforms it was rugged.
JM:What did the uniforms look like?
LR:They were black pants with a red stripe going down the side with a gold cord on the outside, all wool. You wore black shoes with black socks. You wore a white dress shirt with a black four-in-hand tie. You had a red wool jacket with black cuffs and collar with gold trim, epaulets and a gold braid that went around and a patch that they still wear for the band. You had a black military Army hat with a little insignia on the top. It looked quite military. You wore it whether it was 90 degrees or 50 degrees. They held up many a year. Somewhere along the line on really hot days, they got ugly blue shirts which were grey with the insignia. We wore the grey shirts with the tie and the hot, but no jacket. It was brutal sometimes.
JM:Was Bill Meder the director of the band?
LR:Yes, he was not the original director, but he did it for many a year. Jimmy DuBois was the main honcho for a drummer. My mom was treasurer for a good 20 years or so. In the good years and the lean years like anything else, there are ebbs and flows in everything.
JM:You had a wonderful story about Jack Rogers.
LR:Jack Rogers was a gem. He played a bass drum. On some of the longer marches and hot, I couldn’t do it. At one point the Chatham Fair you had to scoot through a field to get from where you were going to where you needed to be and Jack would hoist me up on his shoulders. He has the bass drum and I am on his shoulders because I could not walk it all. He was great. The band experience was nothing but positive for me. I kept up with it until after I was married. Our first home was in a little town called Schaghticoke, New York outside of Troy. I still came back for the parade and all of that. From 2nd grade to age 32 when we moved to Princeton, I was still playing in the band for all those years.
JM:Good for you.9.
LR:No it was fun and I loved it. I felt a responsibility because there were lean years. I played everything from trumpet, French horn, baritone horn, snare drums, bass drum, cymbals, bells and glockenspiel and played sort of what was needed at the time. Sometimes I did not even know what I was going to be playing until I showed up. Mr. Meder said, “Hey, Lynn, do you think you can play____?” “I think I can.”
JM:Did you even have private music lessons other than the band?
LR:Oh yes. From 2nd grade on all the way through high school I played I played instruments in college, too. I had private lessons always from 2nd grade through high school with Mr. Meder. I basically switch my major in instruments to cello and French horn. I played those through college, but coming back to Salisbury, it enabled me to pick up the baritone horn again. I play our son’s baritone because both of our boys can play a little. A baritone horn is the one you wrap your arms around, it is not a tuba and not as big, and not a sousaphone with the big circular enclosure that you put your body into, but you hold it on your lap.
JM:Memories of high school?
LR:It was a very positive thing. It was great meeting kids from the other towns. That was a fun thing because there was a whole new set of friends. It was also fun for me to hear horror stories about the kids who had my mother as a teacher in Falls Village. My mom was an excellent teacher, but she was of the old school and there was order and there was structure and there were manners and expectations. She was the one, one of the ones that the kids would love to go back and talk to.
JM:I get the same thing doing the oral history because a lot of my kids are part of the project. “Boy, you were tough, but I learned a lot.”
LR:She taught first and second grade for years and years, over thirty years at Lee Kellogg and then she ended up doing math for 7th and 8th graders in Canaan. Maybe the last 10 years of her career. She taught for 46 years. She had a lot of kids and she always knew their names when she would see them afterwards. She could tell you where they sat in the classroom. She was great. In her day she taught all the disciplines, but also art, music and she was out on the playground. Elementary teachers then did not get a planning period and didn’t get not to eat with their kids.
JM:That was the way I was trained to be able to do art, music and gym with the kids. When I came to Salisbury Central in 1967, I did not have to do that but I was trained that way.
LR:Right, that was the way it was.
JM:Do you remember Barnett’s store at Christmas time? (See file#20-22 Cynthia Barnett Smith)
LR:Oh I loved it. You got to go up to the second floor to meet Santa Claus and see the trains that they had and all the things that eventually could be under your tree at Christmas time.
JM:Do you remember visiting with Santa?10.
LR:Oh absolutely. It was the scariest thing that I ever did at the beginning. But then once you knew it was Mr. Barnett, it was a piece of cake.
JM:I thought it was Bill Raynsford.
LR:And it was also Judge Raynsford. It depended on the hour of the day and day of the week: they would go back and forth. You could tell by the size. Mr. Raynsford was a little rounded, and Bill Barnett was tall and thin.
JM:Do you remember if Santa Claus recorded your requests in a book?
LR:If he did, I don’t remember that.
JM:I have been told that he did and we cannot find those books.
LR:I was always nervous doing that so don’t remember.
JM:What else would you like to tell me about your growing up in Salisbury that I haven’t covered?
LR:Looking back at it and being 70 plus now and having talked with a lot of people and friends from all over the country, I realize just how special a place Salisbury is. I said earlier it looks sleepy but you know what I was not denied any opportunities and my folks were not the wealthy one, but I realized that their parenting was a priority so Bing and I were exposed to a lot. It was a good time to grow up; I don’t think I had fear of the world even in high school. None of my friends had cars or access to them. The only kids that really drove to school were those in the Ag courses. They could drive. If we went any place it was on a bike. There was no notion that it was not safe to be at the other end of town. I rode my bike from my house to Lucy’s, I bike to the Grove to swim, and I rode to Canaan. I was a candy striper in high school. I rode my bike to Sharon. There wasn’t the notion that people weren’t going to look out for you. As a matter of fact, it was the flip side. When I was allowed to drive the family car, if I was going too fast, my folks would have 4 phone calls before I got home. “OH I saw Lunn going by!” People looked out and knew everybody. For me it was a great experience. That was one reason why I extracted the promise from my husband;’ I’ll go anywhere we need to go, but when we retire, I want to go back home to Salisbury.
JM:Wonderful! Thank you so much for your reminiscences.
LR:You are more than welcome, my pleasure.