This is Jean McMillen interviewing Jim Rutledge at his home, 26 East Main Street, Salisbury Ct. He’s going to talk about the Grove. The date is July 12, 2012.
JPM:What is your full name?
JR:James Thomas Rutledge
JPM: Your birth date, please.
JPM:Where were you born?
JR:I was born in Tacoma, Washington.
JPM:What are your parents’ names?
JR:They were Kenneth Bernard Rutledge and Thelma Laverne Rutledge.
JPM:Do you have siblings?
JR:Patrick, Pamela and Glenn
JPM:What is your educational background?
JR:Associate’s Degree in Forestry, Forest Recreation Major
JPM:Tell me how you came to this area from Tacoma, Washington.
JR:My father’s brother Len had passed away back here, and he decided to come back to assist his father, my grandfather James, whom I am named after. That’s kinda how we stayed here the rest of our life in the Northwest Corner. I grew up in North Canaan, and that’s how we’re here.
JPM:When did you start working at the Grove?
JR:That would have been about 1976, just after the big Centennial thing that they did. It was that summer.
JPM:How did you get the job?
JR:They put an ad in the paper. Charlotte Reid was the Selectman back then. I just applied for the job, got an interview, and did a little on site interview with Frank Markey. There were a few other applicants; I somehow got the job.
JPM:Did you ever work for Frank Markey?
JR:Not directly, he was in his retirement, that’s why they were going to do this. They went through that Centennial. He was just kind of around to show me some of the ropes, and this is after the
interview that we did together, and that he did with the other applicants. Once they did the hiring I was on my own, but he was a great reference guy. He was very good about that.
JPM:Did you have staff?
JR:Yes, we had Fred Romeo, a teacher at Salisbury Central and Harold Brien who was a teacher at Housatonic Valley. The summer staff would be the life guards, of course. We usually had three life guards. That was about it. There would only be two men on during the summertime; from spring and fall I was really the sole person there during the day which was a pretty long day from about 8:00 am to dusk.
JPM:That is a long day.
JR:That is a long day.
JPM:Then the hours of the Grove itself, I am assuming that you were there before it opened to the public. So what time did the Grove open to the public?
JR:Actually it did open around 8:00 am. I would open the gates about 15 minutes prior. There would be boats on trailers waiting to launch for their fishing in line. They never blocked the gate. They would always keep it so that I obviously could get in to open the gate. It would start there with the launching of boats. I would do a little paper work, open the store, and do any sales that happened. I’d be out maintenance, lawns, whatever for the rest of the day. Gone for lunch, gone around 6:00 pm I would leave, go home for dinner and then come back at 7, and from 8-9 would just be cleaning the boats that were rented that day, checking out the wash rooms, and general maintenance, sweep up and that kind of thing.
JPM:For the people that brought their boats, was there a fee to launch them into the lake?
JR:Yes, there was a fee. I’m not totally sure what it was back then. I believe that it was only about $2; it might even have been less. Each one would launch it for the day.
JPM:Were there any restrictions on the boats that were launched?
JR:Only the horsepower of the motor, it could not be more that 9 horsepower. We would allow some of the larger boats in that had large motors, but they had a second motor on the side of the boat, just for that purpose so that they could still use the lake because there was very good fishing in that lake, very good trout fishing.
JPM:I know. What is the fishing season? I know it starts in April. How long does the fishing season last?
JR:It lasts until the last day of October. It is one of the few places that the state stocks that does not allow winter fishing, or ice fishing.
JPM:That surprised me. 3.
JR:That’s still that to this day; it is still the same way. You can fish Twin Lakes and such but it is, I wouldn’t say the only, one of the few. One of the very few that is closed.
JPM:What kind of maintenance did you do on the boats? Did you have to replace rotten wood? Did you have to paint them? Did you have to scrape them? What did you have to do for the boats?
JR:It was quite involved. There were 30 at the time I took over; there were 34 wooden boats, 4 of which were actually quite long. They were the big boys that would seat like almost 4 sets of seats in them and there would be a live well inside which would, these fishermen loved it. It had its own live well inside each boat. It would take me just about the entire winter, but the town crew would come down to help take and put 2 of the boats inside my working area. There was a large garage door there; they would put them in and I would scrape them down, any rotten wood repair that, seats or anything like that, take care of those kinds of things, small things with the well, replacing hinges and things like that. I would paint them. These boats had to be caulked, and re-caulked because they would dry out. You would caulk them and then painted them. Frank always painted with a brush, so I got there and I changed that whole situation when I got a sprayer. “How can you do it?” “It’s ok Frank.” He was ok with it after he saw that it still made the same product when it was done.
JR:Yeah, that’s right.
JPM:What was your food concession?
JR:All it was was the treat food. The food that is not so great for you, the soda pop, ice cream, the candy bars, pretzels-that would be the only thing that would be close to being ok to have, but that kind of thing.
JPM:Did you have somebody who managed that or did you do that yourself?
JR:You know, once it got summertime when that was really going, then there would be one person; it would either have been Harold or Fred inside in the store. We would take turns or I would do it sometimes, the other guy would be out mowing or doing anything, staining the buildings. It was really just …it wasn’t fast and furious; we weren’t cooking anything so it was quite easy to do.
JPM:How many buildings were there at the Grove when you worked there?
JR:There were 4; there was the boat house, the lavatory house, storage/barn which are all still there and the Grove building on the top of the hill. That’s just what everybody calls it, the Grove building; recreation building, I guess, which actually hasn’t changed to this day. We still don’t have any additional buildings. There might be an addition on one of them, but that would be about it.
JPM: I think the big thing was tearing down the old Grove building and putting in a newer one, which is quite lovely.
JPM:Tell me about the swimming. Was this under your jurisdiction or was it Recreation Commission?
JR:Actually it was my jurisdiction. I mean I hired the life guards; they were under my orders. I put the docks in. The Recreation Commission handled the swimming lessons, swim team, and their own docks which were in another section out by the point, the jetty that goes out in the park there. That was their area.
JPM:Now I noticed the last time I was at the Grove that they had like a string of floats, so it was a small area; what age group would be in that shallow area? Would it be the toddlers or…?
JR:I haven’t been down there in quite some time so; the only floats and ropes that we had went out for the whole perimeter so the boats wouldn’t be able to go through. It went from that jetty parallel to the shore and then perpendicular back in to where the launch would be.
JPM:This is a much smaller area, so it…
JR:Yeah, so it must be something new. The toddler area in my day was an inside crib by the walk out dock.
JPM:I remember that. How many life guards did you have?
JR:We had 3 life guards. You would start with one in the morning who came at 9:00 am, 2 came at noon while that first person went on his lunch break; and then there would be three all afternoon because that was the busiest time. The 2 would have their dinner break 5 to 6, and then they would stay from 6 to 9. The one who started the day would leave at 6.
JPM:The gates closed at 9.
JR:The gates all closed at 9, and everybody out. There used to be, I am not sure there still is, there was a lamp pole right down by the boat launch that would signal if anyone was still, if they had rented a boat or was fishing. You turned that light on. I would do it a little bit before that.
JPM:So they had time to get back in.
JR:That was a pretty good signal; they all were very good about it.
JPM:Really! Oh good.
JR:Yeah, they were. I don’t think I ever had trouble. It was amazing.
JPM:Today when people do not always follow a deadline, or even know when a deadline is.
JPM:That’s lovely. Now when we talked before you said that you made a few changes from what Frank Markey had done, and one of them was about handling the money, I think.
JR:Right. When I took over everything was done out of a cigar box. The cigar box had the change and that is how you made the change in a transaction of any sort. Not because of anything but the accountant, I think even prior to that they wanted him to sort of change to keep a better track of what was being purchased at the store versus what was being done with the boating, and sales of that sort. I think that was the reason the accountant saw an opportunity to be able to get a cash register. I said,”Perfect.” That was perfect; then you know exactly what today’s tally was, and that’s what should be in the cash register. I liked that a lot.
JPM:Then there was a project with Ted Davis. Tell me about that, please.
JR:We were in the utrification of the lake. What they wanted, since there was no oxygen in the bottom of the lake, was to pump that dead water from the bottom of the lake, which they accomplished, to try to get it to almost turn over. The natural state of the lake turns over in the winter when that colder water flips down to the bottom, and that is normally is what takes that oxygen down to the bottom. That just wasn’t happening; he would know those reasons why that weren’t happening any more. I think there were a lot of fertilizer problems, and just too much going into that lake. It came off through a pipe, a pump was on the shoreline; we built a little hut, a covered cage thing for it. It operated non-stop and went over to a, it looked like a fountain I guess. It aerated it: it came down and then drained down through rocks and such and then went off into the pond,* Long Pond. We did that for quite some time, but I don’t really know if maybe it was more of an experiment than anything else. I don’t really know how long it was there, but it was there the whole time I was there.
JPM:*There’s a water connection between Lakeville Lake and Long Pond, a brook, a stream or something?
JR:Not Long Pond, did I say long Pond? I apologize. No just that pond right there, Factory Pond. Whew, glad we cleared that up for the record.
JR:That would be quite the pumping process. No, it went right there into the Factory Pond.
JPM:Was there a Grove Committee or an over sight committee?
JR:Yeah, they did have a Grove Committee, I guess he wasn’t the head but Benjamin Belcher, whose family purchased the property for the town; he was obviously ex-officio, or part of it. I am really not sure what they did. They were just…
JPM:They did not tell you what to do.
JR:Right. I received no orders from them. I think it would only be if they thought we should get some more picnic tables or something like that. There would be suggestions, but no mandates or regulations.
JR:No, nothing like that.6.
JPM:Was there, I know there was a fee for the boats, was there a fee for using the beach?
JR:Right, there was a… they would get a parking sticker that showed that they did belong there: that they could go there because at that time it was only open to residents on the weekends. I mean during the week anyone could go there Monday through Friday, pay a fee, but they could not go on the weekends. I understand that they can buy some sort of sticker now that allows them (non residents) to go any time, 7 days a week. (Presently in 2012 a local fee is $25) Back then you couldn’t do it. Each car just got their sticker, like we do for our current transfer station, to show that you could go.
JPM:When did you leave?
JPM:Do you know who took over?
JR:Yeah, John Pogue.
JPM:Anything that I haven’t asked about the Grove that you want to mention?
JR:Not really, I mean my whole thing the time I was there as I may have mentioned to you before was this place is not going to look any different than it did all the years that Frank ran the place and looked pristine for those 25 years that he ran it. I knew that no one was going to get a chance to say,”It doesn’t look like it used to when Frank Markey ran it.” Years and years later after I had left, and then I had come back here again, that’s when Frank told me, “You did a really good job when you were there.”
JPM:That’s nice to hear.
JR:That’s very nice. He didn’t want to admit it; he kind of wanted it to go downhill, but along with Fred Romeo, none of us we all said to each other, “We’re not going to let anyone get a chance to say that…” The only changes that I did were what Frank, I am sure people of that era through the ‘60s, 70s and early 80s, there were always signs Keep off the Grass. You could not walk on the grass, coming up from the parking lot; you had to stay on the sidewalk. Up in the main park where the picnic tables were obviously you could, there were sections where you could. I removed those things, and said, “It’s a park you can walk on the grass.” I used to give the kids their own little area just up from the boathouse where I could keep an eye on them. That was their spot.
JPM:Didn’t parents supervise?
JR:No, a lot of kids were dropped off. I am talking about old enough that they should be able to, 12, 13, 14 they ought to be able to handle themselves, and their siblings. It was a drop off joint; it was pretty easy back then.
JR: Everyone watched out for everybody thought; I mean there were…
JPM:It was a community, if somebody got into trouble, everybody would help.7.
JR:Yes, absolutely, everybody knew all about it. They did a good job. Besides that the only other thing that we probably did was the sluice-way, the gate way, where you raise and lower the lake level; that broke during my tenure. The shaft broke which has to have been there from the dawn of time because it was built into the limestone blocking and everything. Jim Lamson, Foreman of the Town Crew, helped us. The town bought this pre-cast gate, that is in place right now; pre-cast cement gate with the wheel and a cylinder that goes up, and we sand bagged back around 10 feet away from the thing to hold the lake at that point so there was no water right in that spot to clean up and set that thing in place. That is still in place today, working. It was needed because we couldn’t control it after that shaft broke.
JPM:What is the size of the lake, do you know?
JR:It is 352 acres. It is the deepest natural lake in the state of Connecticut.
JPM:That I knew, but I didn’t know the size.
JR;I think it is 110 feet or something like that.
JPM:That’s a good size; we are so fortunate.
JPM:Civic activities that have nothing to do with the Grove, and you mentioned SWASA
JR:Right, my wife and I both volunteer a lot of time to SWASA. She did the staff back before the computer era so there was a lot of transcribing after the day’s thing, and she huddled in a little shack there on the side of the hill. Now we are high tech. I did, before doing the hill prep stuff, just being there to stomp the landing area itself. Then I went on to a little easier job of working the cook shack. I had a lot of fun with Kenny Lacko. He is an absolute character; I love the guy. He was a state trooper.
JPM:This was Kenny Lacko’s dad.
JR:Yes, the dad of Kenny Lacko that you taught.
JPM:Yes, I wondered. I thought he was a pretty funny guy, too.
JR:We did a lot of that work back then. We liked it.
JPM:Again it was another community activity that everybody pitched in to help.
JR:Yes, exactly. It is a nice little area; we love it, no doubt about that.
JPM:It is a lovely area. Anything else you want to add.
JR: No, I am happy to do this for whatever it is worth, but I am glad you gave me a call.
JPM:Thank you. It has been fun for me; I have enjoyed it immensely and thank you for giving me your time.