Jill Scott Oral History Cover Sheet
Place of Interview: 33 Indian Mountain Road, Lakeville, Ct.
Date:September 26, 2012
Summary of talk: History of Salisbury Garden Club 1913-2003: personal family background, founded in 1913 by Mr. David S. George, a florist, two different garden club national organizations, purpose of club, school projects, town beautification, fund raising event, how money was spent, one year of programs – including information about the purpose and acquisition of plants for their plant sale, flower shows, awards won, a published book in 1977,various committees, Congressional letter of January 20, 1987, disbanded in 2003 their 90th year, and special member tours.
This is Jean McMillen interviewing Mrs. Jill Scott at her home, 33 Indian Mountain Road. Mrs. Scott is going to talk about garden club history, the history of the Salisbury Garden Club. The date is September 26, 2012.
JM: What is your full name?
JS: Jill Margaret Scott
JM: Where were you born?
JS: Essex in England
JM: Your birth date, please.
JS: May 2, 1932.
JM: Your parent’s names.
JS: Ted & Gladys Pawsey
JM: Do you have siblings?
JS: I have two brothers, Jack and Robert. Robert is still alive.
JM: Your education?
JS: I have normal private boarding school high school which I guess is rather like Hotchkiss or Salisbury School here and just one year of college.
JM: How did you come to the area?
JS: My husband decided that he needed a change. He applied to a school in Canada, but we found that Canada was in the midst of the Quebequa situation. They didn’t even promise to teach our children in English. The French and English were at loggerheads. My husband was a Rotarian; he joined the Rotarian Club, and it was the only cross border club around. He found himself much closer to the American from Vermont than he did the Canadians. We have had a boy on an exchange program at the school where my husband taught in England which was in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. He had enjoyed his year with us, and he had come back to visit more than once. So when we came over here, we went down to see him. He was a Director of Aetna Insurance Company. He was convinced that he could get us into a school here. So he talked to people at Hotchkiss, and that’s how we ended up at Hotchkiss.
JM: Wonderful! Now we are going to talk specifically about the Salisbury Garden Club. When was it formed?
JS: Very early on. It was incorporated in 1913 by a male which is very unusual; a Mr. David Sanford George who was a florist. We are founder members of Federated Garden Clubs of America, probably the second after New Canaan. As it happens no further men were allowed until Tom Drew renewed a year. He had tried many years to join us. He requested again membership in the 1990’s, and our bylaws were changed. We have only had two or three men since then.
JM: When we talked before you said there was a Federated group and then there was another group.
JS: A National group. There are two different groups. There is a local one here- the Millbrook Garden Club that belongs to the other group. They have a different kind of…Our club was more oriented towards the local area and to be in the schools and the town’s people. The Millbrook Club goes more for the very formal side of things, as far as I know.
JM: Which leads into my next question, what is the purpose of the Salisbury Garden Club?
JS: Well as I saw it at the time and the reason I wanted to join was because of the school’s program that I knew about at the time. I had three young children so, coming from England I love gardens and it was something I very much wanted to join.
JM: Talk a little bit about the school program, please.
JS: Ah I could go on forever. During the time that I was really involve with the school we started off by having a small group of us who went in once a month to every grade at the very beginning. Should I read that rather interesting piece we had from the Congress of the United States?
JM: Let‘s leave that until later as I do have it down.
JS: I remember being with my very good friend at the time Edith Scott and I am Jill Scott.
JM: The tall Mrs. Scott and the short Mrs. Scott- fourth grade.
JS: That you remember well. We have remained friends since, and if fact we are probably almost the last two people to stay doing school programs as it ran down. As it piled up we did some amazing things. We had a special wildflower garden that we had on the town field, I am not sure of the name of it, but it is right on Main Street in Salisbury on the left. There was a fair there a few years.
JM: Stiles meadow?
JS: That sounds right. We had a circular garden there. It didn’t last very long because wildflowers beat each other out until there is only certain kinds left. Though we took loads of children up there, and they did the digging and the planting, and the caring for it. We went on from there to having a wonderful chairman of the school program Noreen Breslauer. She had the idea that we would perhaps build a garden in the school itself which we did. She had it plowed, and we had it fenced. Each group that really wanted to do this had a certain area of the garden in which they could grow different things. I think the program for growing the right things for the second grade so they could do the corn, pumpkins. They would do this one year and the next year when they moved up into the next grade, they would be able to harvest what they had done. Some of the grades did flowers. We had different things going. The children learned how to deal with compost.
JM: Was the Salisbury Garden club involved in Town Beautification?
JS: Oh yes, very much so.
JM: What did they beautify?
JS: All the window boxes, I think pretty well all the window boxes; we’d do it twice once in the summer and once in the fall. Oh how I hated throwing out the stuff in the summer so we could put the fall ones in. I believe it goes on, but of course we joined the town and Salisbury Chamber of Commerce group. Our own beautification we all gave a certain amount of money and put it together, and we all worked together so it tended to be mostly the garden club that did the work.
JM: What year was that? 1977?
JS: Oh yes, 1977 was when that first happened through the town as well and into the 1980’s and 1990’s.
JM: How did you raise money in the garden club?
JS: Mainly by our plant sale; it was really well-known in its hay day. I think the highest amount we made was $4,000 which we thought was huge! That was the highest until the “Secret Gardens” came in, and they picked our date. By that time our club was beginning to get a bit ancient and out of date. Things began to go downhill which was really sad.
JM: What did you spend this money on, beside plants for the beautification project?
JS: Well, for the club, we needed to pay for some of our programs.
JM: What were some of the programs that you did?
JS: I have one particular year here because we kept a year book. You would get this as a member, and find out what was on. For instance here is one year: January A nurseryman’s Favorite Trees & Shrubs; February Philosophy of Pruning-What, Where, and When; March a Workshop on Dig and Divide; April Birdscaping; May the plant sale preparation and that month we also had the plant sale plus a reception and preview sale where you could come and buy things early while drinking your wine and eating your hors-d’oeuvres;
JM: Where did you get the plants from?
JS: Most of it was dig and divide as I mentioned in the earlier one and other people’s gardens because the whole point of this was that anything that you bought at our sale was local and therefore it was likely to grow locally.
JM: Smart move!
JS: But eventually we actually found somebody from the New York Botanical Gardens which is about an hour’s drive away. He started growing things for us that we found would be very popular. The only trouble there was that we had to keep them in our own greenhouses because he had to get rid of them out of his place and not get sold by the state or keep on watering them. That’s scary because you get bugs and things; each year whoever was chairman of that would have slightly different ideas. OK back on to this program schedule: June- a Gardener’s Tag Sale. We had a lot of things left over in our own gardens at that stage. The same month was the planting of town window boxes and planters and planning your Fall Bulb Garden. July was a member’s garden tour. August was an evening picnic and a speaker on the Moonlight Garden. That is mostly a white garden. September we had Behind the Scenes a year at Old Westbury Gardens. Frankly I can’t remember where that is but somebody knew somebody and somebody came and spoke to us about it.
JM: Hermacalus-daylilies, it is in the Eastern part of Massachusetts.
JS: In October was fall clean-up and planting of town window boxes and our general annual meeting. Oh that was the best meal of the year.
JM: Tell me.
JS: I had no idea that whenever you have pot luck? This is a term new to British people. Everybody doesn’t bring what they have got, but bring their very, very best. Your plate is packed and you just thoroughly enjoy that. Of course we had the meeting as well, but that was good. November was the Winter Decorating of Planters and Weeds from the Wild. A couple of local members were doing a workshop so sometimes we had a couple of things going on. In December we nearly always had a party at someone’s house. We needed to celebrate. That was fun. We had a lot of fun things.
JM: Oh of course. It sounds that way.
JS: That is an average year of programs in the 1970’s 80’s and 90’s.
JM: Did you do flower shows?
JS: Being members of Federated Garden Clubs, we paid our dues and you were expected to do flower shows. Yes, I can remember several that were really interesting; it is all very formal. You have to follow the rules exactly. People give of their free time to come and judge you. It is always fun to get a ribbon or two. You follow directions of size, shape, color; you have to label everything you put in a pot.
JM: As a teacher I like that, following directions.
JS: My most memorable one was at the Holley-Williams House.
JM: That was a lovely one.
JS: I think we did 2 there; that made it special because when you are in a home like that.
JM: It is much different than if you are in a church hall.
JS: Yes, we did the Methodist Church and we did the Congregational Church. We have moved around; mostly we are in the Congregational Church because most of the time I was there that was our meeting place. We had to pay them, too, but only a nominal rent. They were really good to us because of all the mess we tend to make. We pay for a custodian every week.
JM: Did some of your members just do local shows or did they do other…
JS: We had some really talented people, and I can remember one or two at least going up to Chesterwood where they have a big juried flower show. So yes, we had some very talented people doing that kind of thing.
JM: Now I am sure some of you ladies or maybe the club as a whole won some awards.
JS: Oh don’t mention that!
JM: I just did!
JS: Occasionally we went to a Federated meeting that would be in some big hall about an hour away. It wasn’t too bad. This particular time being a club that no one had ever heard of and probably the furthest from anybody, we were tucked also in the furthest corner of the hall.
JS: We had no idea that that would be a time when we would be given awards. Five awards which meant going up to the head table five times.
JM: And the long, slow walk from the furthest corner of the hall to the head table.
JS: That was funny.
JM: Wonderful. Did the club publish a book?
JS: They did. It was called Solutions for Local Problems: Gardening in the Northwest Corner, and it was written and illustrated by members. It was published in 1977.
JS: Yes, quite fun. I wonder if it is still around; I haven’t heard or seen any.
JM: Now you were also read the number of committees that were involved in the garden club, and I am assuming that almost everyone in the garden club was on some of the committees.
JS: We tried very hard to do that because each head of a committee was expected to find themselves a committee. You always get the people who decide that they will do everything for themselves. We did try to involve every member in something; that was pretty important. Well, alphabetically: Civil Beautification which we talked about, Communication which meant hoping to get things into the paper, Finance which was very important; we did actually hold a CD so we didn’t actually get very far. When the club finished, we gave all the money to Salisbury Central School to be used for garden programs of one sort or another. I recently checked up and that was exactly what it was used for. For instance, one big one we have always been doing is sending first grade on their trip to Freund’s in Canaan. Theresa is an amazing teacher; she would take the kids around the garden, to the milking shed, and then she would have some project sitting down that they could all do, and a drink, not cookies usually crackers or something like that. Parents could come which helps her for publicity. She made that so much so that I think it still goes on.
JM: Good, oh I am glad. You were reading about the various committees.
JS: Flower Creativity, Horticulture, Hospitality because we always had dinner meetings and the tables had to be set up, the washing up had to be organized, and I think we would always bring our own lunch package, but then somebody would always bring cookies so someone would be responsible for getting that little bit extra. Then we needed Membership Coverage because to be a member was fairly formal in the early days. You had to have a letter from someone who was suggesting that you come and a back-up. They were read with just the club officers so we could black boot somebody if we wanted. I don’t think it ever happened, but it was very formally done. Plant sale which is obviously a very big endeavor, but you know what once it was in its prime and it got up there, it was so easy because everybody tended to do the same thing.
JM: And they knew what they were doing, and that makes a lot of difference.
JS: Yes, the enthusiasm that was there then was really terrific. Programs were one on the hardest to deal with because you’ll have egg on your chest that was like a secretary if something goes wrong and nobody turns up. Publicity, Sent Communication oh I think communication was like a secretary, no think again, Communication meant somebody was sick; you made sure you contacted them and you also knew if there were any problem with any member so you could tell the rest of the club. That was the difference between Publicity and Communication, and finally the School which was small, got big, and then got small I think because the teachers, you probably know a great deal more about this than I do, simply didn’t have time for us sadly to say.
JM: There was such an input into the curriculum and such an emphasis on Connecticut Mastery Tests and teaching in preparation for the test that our time was very circumscribed.
JS: And it is sad because now when you think about it, it is coming right back. If we don’t learn about the birds and the bees… This is the perfect moment to tell you about what we have here and well keep part of a letter that was written to us from the Congress of the United States, Office of the Representatives, Washington, D.C. January 20, 1987. “The Study of Horticulture: The goals of this project are 1) to improve students’ motivation 2) to expand the curriculum 3) to involve the business community in the educational process, and 4) to provide impact for staff development. The program provides time for the members of the Salisbury Garden Club to instruct students using horticulture as a motivation for learning science, the story of seeds, trees, and nature expands through the classroom walls to the outdoors.”
JM: Couldn’t be better.
JS: I know. It is pretty fun to read that; I hadn’t found it until I was going through some old files.
JM: What year did the garden club disband?
JS: I think it was about 2003. I think the last book we had was 2002.
JM: I think you said it was the 90th year that they disbanded.
JS: That was it yes, that was the big thing. We were busy talking about what we should do for our 90th, and nobody came up with any suggestions. The more you talk the more you realize that we were getting too old. The younger members would like to do it at night; we tried that briefly. We are based on the old senior generation; myself who was really looking forward to being able to sit back after doing committee work and enjoy the future. There were no young people to follow up with us because they were all too busy. They were now working which wasn’t the case.
JM: I’m coming up on that. I can understand that. No, not back in the 70’s and 80’s. We are having the same thing whether it is a church organization or a book club or garden club, it is the same thing. The older generation is tired; they have done their bit. There isn’t the person in the younger generation to pick up the slack, not because there isn’t the interest or the desire, but there isn’t the time. We are just too busy.
JS: I think one or two members went either to Millbrook or Sharon from what I hear.
JM: How many ladies were left in the club when you disbanded?
JS: I would like to think there was as many as 40, but I don’t know. I would have to count up from the last book. It was becoming hard to pull the dues out of them because we had to send them to National and Federated. So we had to be disbanded officially.
JM: On the member tours where are some of the places that you went?
JS: I remember going to Innisfree, Audubon, Wethersfield that was somewhere I never knew even existed.
JM: That’s the one in New York State.
JS: Yes, it is only a 20 minute drive from here, if you know the back route. It is still open at the weekend. The most amazing one I remember and I can’t say too much about it as it is a private home, no, a private estate where the owner was attempting to reconstruct the Appalachian Trail and its entire ecosystem. There were trees which were surrounded by watering sets in an almost field like area bringing so they could grow Old Man’s Beard (Spanish Moss? ED.) on the trees down in Georgia. I saw trees being lifted by crane the size that you and I have in our garden to be put in. He didn’t seem to have a reason for doing it; it was just a private garden, and it was incredible.
JM: It was his passion.
JS: Yes, it was. Apparently if he decided what he would like next week or the week after, it was done.
JM: Wonderful! Do you remember any outstanding speakers?
JS: You know our own members gave some. We had talented members there, and they would have some specific thing that they would like to do. Also we would go to member’s gardens. That was always fun. It was hard work for the person because they never wanted a single weed to show.
JM: This is why I never joined the garden club. Is there anything else that you would like to share with me that you haven’t already covered?
JS: Just because I was able to do this. The Federated runs tours to do with gardening; there is one coming up down in Virginia. It can be local too, but I know that other members have done this. I happened to go to Costa Rica. I will never forget an orchid garden there. The woman who was doing it; it was her passion, and it was a very big garden. She took us on a tour. She was trying very hard to educate the Costa Ricans as to what a resource they had there. Because what happened was all the youngsters would go in and help themselves to the orchids growing in the woods. Maybe some of them learned how to sell them to the tourists, and then the tourists found they couldn’t do it because they wouldn’t be allowed to bring them in; there would be smuggling. She wanted this to become a resource that was renewable for the country, and she wanted to teach young people. I did hear that when we got back the Federated sent her some money. That was something nice to know.
JM: It was nice. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
JS: I haven’t thought of anything more.
JM: Thank you so much for your time and such an interesting subject.
Property of the Oral History Project, the Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068