This is Jean McMillen interviewing Marion Romeo at her home at 28 Lakeview Avenue. The date is October 3, 2012.
JPM:What is your full name?
MR:Marion K. Smith Romeo.
JPM:When and where were you born?
MR:I was born at Sharon Hospital 1/27/37.
JPM:Your parents’ full names?
MR:Evelyn K. Mielkejohn Smith and Harold M. Smith
JPM:Do you have siblings?
MR:Yes, I have a brother, Clayton, who is 13 months older and lives on the same street as I do.
JPM:Would you tell me about your education?
MR:I went to Salisbury Central School which is right across the street from where I lived. Then I went to Housatonic Valley Regional High School, and then I went to the University of Connecticut, and did my hospital affiliation at Yale New Haven Hospital.
JMP:What did your father do?
MR:My father was a teacher at Regional High School. He was one of the first teachers when the high school was built (1939). He taught General Business and Bookkeeping, and I happened to be there at the same time as he was.
JPM:When the regional started, how many teachers were there, do you remember?
MR:No, I remember that they wanted to get the cream of the crop because this was a brand new school system where there were multiple towns. They wanted to get all the top teachers so that it would be sure to be a go. We had Dr. Stoddard of course who was a great leader. Most of the teachers had high degrees than the Bachelor’s Degrees. They were all Master’s.
JMP:Thank you. Now I’d like you to tell me a little bit about growing up in Lakeville. Could we start with what the street looked like, going up one side and coming down the other? Please tell me where you are going to start.
MR:I think I’ll start all the way to Salisbury Farms which is where the National iron Bank is (formerly the Milk Bar). That was a restaurant where people could go and get hot dogs, hamburgers, and sodas. My father was the bookkeeper for Salisbury Farms and john ran it. In the back of the restaurant Howard Bartram who was John Bartram’s father made the ice cream. So it didn’t take us long to figure out where the ice cream came from. So we used go around to the back and talk with Mr. Bartram. He
would occasionally give us some ice cream as it came out of the machine. (Next to that was the building that Parker Sylvernale ran as a part of Community Service and he also sold gas. Ed.) Then going up the road towards the school there were the miners’ cottages. (the Patch) They were small little homes where the motel now. Next to that was Mrs. Perkins’ rooming house and summer tourists place. (It used to be Jim Vail’s apartment house. presently it is yellow with a green roof. Ed.) She would take in a lot of people from New York City for the summer. I remember there was a family, a boy named Frankie Bloggout whose parents came every year to the Perkins house. We used to sit on our front porch waiting for Frankie to come out of the Perkins home so that we could play with him. I’ll keep going up to Salisbury Central School, the Lower Building was the only building there. In order to play our games we would walk up to the upper field which is now the school, the Upper Building. On the left half way up was Ed Stanton’s Poor House; this was where people who didn’t have a home stayed. To the side of the home they had a peacock, a peacock group that was fenced in. I remember the boys going up the hill would try to grab the feathers of the peacocks. That was a big catch if they could get it.
JPM:Now you are on Lincoln City Road.
MR:Yes, on Lincoln City. Now I’ll go down to Lakeview Avenue-the corner of Lakeview Avenue the big house on the left was the Cane sisters, Margaret and Mary. They were maiden ladies who owned the field from their home all the way down to where Rory O’Connor lives. (34 Lakeview Avenue) It was all field, and then gradually sold off. The house that I am living in, the fifth house on the left on Lakeview Avenue, as a youngster I remember it being built and being shooed off by the workmen for walking along on the planks. Then later on Ed Paavola Jr. had bought the house, and I babysat for his children, never thinking that later on I would be living, never in my life would I ever think I would be living here. During World War II I remember that on the back of our lawn was the watch tower, watching for planes because it was the highest area. It was a very simple little tower, but the men would take shifts climbing the tower and watching. Going down the street you came to Paavola’s Variety Store.
JPM: Now you’ve lost me, where are you specifically?
MR:I am going across from the Post Office. I’m out of Lakeview Avenue.
JPM:You’re now at the Post Office?
MR:Across from the Post Office, and that is Paavola’s…
JPM:So you are in downtown Lakeville now?
MR:Yes, nothing after it because of zoning. We still have zoning; there was nothing.
JPM:Then Newkirk’s Funeral Home, the brick building on the left corner of Lincoln City Road and Rt. 44 was not there?
MR:Yes, Newkirk’s was there (255 Main Street).3.
JPM:Was it a private residence?
MR:No. It was a funeral home.
JPM:It was a funeral home. (Arthur Lord?) Now we are across from the Post Office in Lakeville.
MR: I think I’ll stay on that side first and then cross. That was Paavola’s Variety Store. They had candy and magazines, personal items. The Hotchkiss boys would come there when they had time off. Ed Paavola Sr., his wife and his son worked there too. Then there was Danny La Fredo’s Shoe Repair Shop.
JPM:So you are going from the Post Office as if you were going toward the Catholic Church.
MR: I’m across the street from the Post office.
JPM:Yes, but you are going around the corner as if you were going up to St. Mary’s.
MR:Danny La Fredo was on the Main Street.
JPM:He was still on the Main Street, but that’s the direction you are going.
MR:Yes. Danny used to love to talk. He would be right in the place where everyone would gather. He would talk and work on the shoes. He would charge a dollar or two; I mean it was really very little. Then you come to the jewelry store.
MR:Yes, that was…
MR:Yes, Barry’s jewelry store then would be Dufour’s Garage. It was an auto repair shop. Then you came to a large white building just before you would go down to the ball field. On the first floor was the telegraph office (Western Union), and then on the other side was Paul Argall’s barbershop. Underneath was Bessie’s luncheon. She would have homemade soups and sandwiches. A lot of the working fellows went in there for their lunch. It was always very good homemade food. Then there was the ball field, and that hasn’t changed much at all. Then you came to Barnett’s Variety Store; he had a little bit of everything. That was when you could go get a needle and thread, shoes and anything you needed. Next was a liquor store. (area around Patco)
JPM:Do you know who owned that?
JPM:But you weren’t in there very often were you?
MR:Never even, held my breath going by for heaven’s sakes. Then there was Finkle’s gas station, and that was just basically a gas station. Then there was a railroad trestle and the trucks used to get stuck on the overpass because they were too high. They would come roaring through and get stuck. They would let the air out of the tires so that they could bring the truck down; hopefully that would do the trick. Now I think I’ll go all the way up to the Manor. We are crossing the street now (Montgomery St. /Sharon Rd,)
JPM:You are across approximately Dufour’s garage-ish?
MR:No, Dufour’s Garage was on the curve. The Manor is where the Masonic Hall is. I am coming down from the Catholic Church.
JPM:Are you coming toward Lakeville? Are you starting at Lakeville Manor and coming toward Lakeville?
MR:I am starting at the Manor and coming toward the Jigger Shop. (The Black Rabbit on corner of Ethan Allen St. and Sharon Rd.)
JPM:Well, I don’t know where the Jigger Shop is. I am trying to keep this in sync.
MR:Alright, where the Fire House (old) across Ethan Allen St. You go up the hill on Sharon Rd. to the Catholic Church.
JPM:That is where the Manor is. Are you going to start with the Montgomery Lodge and Little Scholar School building and then work down?
MR:Yeah, the Montgomery Lodge and there was the Manor. I remember going into the Manor later as a visiting nurse and seeing the Chapel that is still there. There is a little kitchenette where the chapel is. That was a private catholic school, Mt. Mary’s. I didn’t know much about it except that in the summertime the girls would march down to the lake and swim in a special area. The whistle would blow, and they would march out. That’s all I know about the Manor.
MR:Yes, oh very. Now I will start on Ethan Allen Street. That was called the Jigger Shop. Why it was called that I don’t know. (Where the Black Rabbit is now.) That was a wonderful place; it would have the old soda chairs and tables and a place where you could get sundaes and sodas, buy your newspapers.
JPM:Was that run by the Hamms?
JPM:That would be Fran LeMoine’s mother and father.
MR:Yes, her parents and when she started teaching at Salisbury Central, she was Miss Hamm. She taught first grade. After church we used to go there every Sunday and get a pint of hand packed ice cream. My children don’t believe that that was the only time we had ice cream. On Sunday we went and had our ice cream and that was it.
JPM:But it was a special treat.
MR:Yeah, that was part of the going to church thing and coming home to get your ice cream. Then there was Goderis Meat market with two brothers, Ernie and (Lou). Ernie Goderis was a good friend of mine; we were 9 or10 and he must have been 40 or 50. This is going back a little bit but he lived on Pettee Street, and he had a little shop that he fooled around with. It had a pot bellied stove. It is where Polly Rodie lives now (16 Pettee St.) As children we used to go down there and talk to him. He used to tell us the most fantastic stories, we’d crack nuts, and occasionally he would give us a ride in his rumble seat. He had an old car; we’d get in the back seat and he’d drive us around the ball field in the rumble seat. Those were the days when our parents just let us go. Oh we were talking with Ernie, but that’s Ernie Goderis, that was his meat market. Then going up the hill was the Stuart Theatre.
JPM:That is right across from the railroad station.
MR:Yep, right across from the railroad station.
JPM:That burned. (Christmas Eve, 1958)
MR:That burned in the 1950’s, and that was when I decided that I was never going back to Lakeville. That was it; the theatre burned down, and there was nothing there. So little did I know? We are headed toward the lake, there is the swinging bridge. We used to have more fun on that because we’d get children that weren’t used to it; we’d start swaying it, and they were terrified.
JPM:Nasty little monsters, weren’t you?
MR:Yes, and then there began to be boards missing on it so we would have to hop over the boards to get across. Two or three boards were missing, and you could look down. That was the connection to the Gateway Inn where the summer tourist would come from their inn across, when it was in good condition.
JPM:The Gateway Inn was where the Founders Insurance Building is, in that area?
MR:Yeah, in that area
JPM:I am trying to relate to what is now.
MR:It was across the street.
JPM:Because if somebody listens to this 10 years from now, they are not going to know any more than I know where some of these things were.
MR:To me, it seemed that very elegant people that lived there. Then we went to the Town Grove which we called Timmons because Mr. Timmons ran it. I think basically at that time it was a place for the fishermen to go fishing. There was no sand on the beach, there were not life guards; there was a row of small changing booths that looked like outhouses so you could change your clothes. There was a raft out in the lake but no lifeguards. We would go down for the day and play in the water, and no one seemed very concerned about us at that point.
You had mentioned Mrs. Raynsford. Mr. Raynsford was a big man, rotund, jolly man. He had the little white building next to the firehouse (#9); that is where he did his work, he was a builder. On frequent occasions we would walk around the lake from the shore jumping over docks. I remember one afternoon we got near the Raynsfords, and we had a lightning storm. Mrs. Raynsford –they had a house on the lake-she called us all in and said,” Come on in and have a cup of tea, coffee or chocolate or whatever.” They had no children but she just loved children. On one of my outings-I seemed to be at this point drawn to older people-I don’t know how I got into her house on Bostwick Street. She was the first house, it was hers then it was Szczieul’s house. I was in her house and she had dogs, they were her children. She told me she had slept on the kitchen floor and she was rather sore. I said,” Why did you sleep on the floor?” She said, “My dog was so sick he could not climb the stairs so I lay on the floor with him.” I though you are some, I just thought she was the greatest to do that. I was always bringing stray animals home, and then I had to find a place for them.
JPM:Alright, where are you going to take me now?
MR:We’re at the Post office which has been there since … That was once long ago a school. I don’t remember that. (It was a different building but on the same location, elementary on the first floor and high school on the second floor.) Then there was Rudlen’s Market, where the Chinese restaurant is.
JPM:That was the Apothecary Shop (drugstore owned by Gentiles, then Dick Walsh) and now it is the China Inn.
MR:Right, then there was the First National Store. Mr. Livesey was a friend of ours, and he worked in the meat department. So he always took good care of us during World War II. I remember my mother would send me down with coupons to get butter, eggs, meat. The butter was margarine with the little buttons (of food coloring); my brother and I used to fight over who was going to push the button to make the margarine yellow. We walked, my mother didn’t drive; I walked everywhere. Recreation for us was going down, we always used to say “going down to the sewer bed.” We would go down and play in the brook,) we’d build dams and we’d look for pollywogs.
JPM:And what brook was this, Burton Brook?
MR:Burton Brook right down by the… We followed the railroad tracks which would go to Community Service all the way down to the sewer bed and on toward Salisbury, but that was our playground,
playing in the water. My mother would say,”Now Marion don’t get your feet wet.” I would come home wet to the…
JPM:Wet to the…
JPM:We surely don’t change much do we? What was after the First National (now the Boathouse) going up (the hill)?
MR:Then there was the inn.
JPM:The Gateway Inn?
MR:No there was a, it was where the apartment house is now. It wasn’t the Gateway, but it was an apartment house; then the Farnam Tavern and then the Holley-Williams House.
JPM:Do you remember the Farnam Tavern being a…
MR:No, it was just what it is now, apartments.
JPM:The Holley-Williams House would have been vacant at that time.
MR:Yes, I don’t have any memory of that.
JPM:Miss Williams died in 1934, and it went to Lucy Drummond so it would have been vacant unless somebody was living in it to be a caretaker. Is there anything else that we’ve not covered that you would like to?
MR:I remember the Holley Block. My parents first lived there when they came to town. That was a place where a lot of young couples stayed and the rent was reasonable. They would move into the town and stay there until they could find a place to live.
JPM: I can remember when I came first to town; I stopped at the Post Office because there was an ad for the Holley Block. I asked the gentleman at the mail desk about the Holley Block. He said,”What are you going to be doing?” I said, “I am going to be a school teacher at Salisbury Central.” He said,” You don’t want to stay at the Holley Block.” So I wound up at what used to be Mrs. Perkins Boarding House, Jimmy Vaills house across the street from where you used to live. That’s how I wound up there.
MR: OK that seems to be it.
JPM:Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
MR:You are very welcome.