Transcript of a taped interview
Narrator: Ethel Thrall.
Tape: # 7A
Date: October 13, 1981
Interviewer: Marion Haeberle
Place: Narrator’s home, Orchard St., Lakeville
Mrs. Thrall has been a resident of Lakeville since 1935. She speaks of the community as she has known it and of the changes that have occurred in the past 45 years. Many of her reminiscences reflect feelings of nostalgia for the ‘good old days.’ As the interview was taped in Mrs. Thrall’s home on Orchard Street, the references to locations of places in Lakeville are relative to the location of her home.
Property of the Oral History Project
Salisbury Association at Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Connecticut 06068.
Narrator: Ethel Thrall.
Tape #: 7A.
Date: October 13, 1981.
Interviewer: Marion Haeberle
Place: Narrator’s home: Orchard St., Lakeville
M.H. You say you came here as a bride?
E.T. Yes, I came here as a bride In July of 1935. I married Donald Thrall and he Is the grandson of John Miller who I’ll tell you about first. John Miller was in business in Lakeville — where the Shell gas station is now used to be a department store and then there was two or three…
M.H. Used to be what store- a department store?
E.T. Called the Heaton Barnett store. That was torn down and above that in the old days, when I came in 1935. There were two or three other wooden buildings. Around 1882 or 3 John Miller came to Lakeville and he opened up what’s listed up in the Town Hall as harnesses, trunks, horse furnishings and repairs.
John Miller came from Germany and he settled in New York.
Then, during the Civil War, times were hard and he had to look for business. So he traveled in Troy and all over, and couldn’t find anything. He left his wife in New York and he went to Amenia first and worked. He didn’t like it there and so that’s how he came to Lakeville and established his business. He had five daughters.
First I’ll tell you one of the highlights that some
of the older people, like Miss Mae Bissell who lived in the Bissell, house, told me several years ago. In the spring, the highlight of the spring event was when the whip salesman came to Lakeville to sell Mr. Miller his whips. Everybody in town would say, “The whip salesman’s here,” and flock to the green, because the way he bought ’em, he would test every whip that
he was to buy and would snap ’em, and if they broke he discarded ’em. Of course, he bought only the ones that were perfect.
M.H. That’s interesting.
E.T. Yes. He died in 1902, but the business had to continue. He had a daughter who was called Helen Miller. She had married Asa Thrall out in Olean, New York. Her husband had died at the age of twenty-seven and left her with Donald and Virginia, twins. So in those days, what was a daughter to do but to come home to her parents? So she came home in 1902 and ran the business. She couldn’t make harnesses, so she got Mr. Charles Osburn, the harness maker. He was the father of Gladys Bellini. That was Harry Bellini’s first wife. And they conducted the business for several years until when the automobile started coming in, and garages, there was no need for all this. So the business — they just went out of business.
She had a hard time because in those days, what could women do — sew or something? There was no cafeteria at that time up at the Central School, the local school, so she opened up her house at lunch time and gave hot lunches just to the teachers. And she did that for several years. So this was the hot lunch. She lived in this house. They would come at noon and would dine. Everybody, the teachers — there are some o£ them around, like Betty Miner, Mrs. Tillie Fitts and all — they said she was a marvelous cook. In fact, after I
came here, people would come and say to me — sometimes she would sell the summer people her beans and her doughnuts — and they would come to me and I would say that she’s gone.
“Oh, where are we going to get all those lovely beans and. doughnuts?”
M.H. About what time did she have the lunches here for the teachers?
E.T. Oh, I would say probably about 1918, 1920 probably.
M.H. And the school…
E.T. It was up here.
M.H. The same one?
E.T. It was an old building. It was an old building. And then she finally gave that up, she was getting older and Donald didn’t want her…
Another sister of hers was Emily Miller and she married Mr. Heaton of the Heaton Barnett store. And so that’s the connection in the town, too. That’s one of the oldest stores. When I came, the Heaton Barnett store was like a regular department store. They had everything – furniture, dry goods, ten cent items, everything. It was really a lovely store.
M.H. And you say it was located where the Shell station is now?
E.T. Where the Shell station is now. It was an old wooden building. And then Mr. Heaton got older and he couldn’t run the business and Mr. Barnett was older, so Bill Barnett took it over. And then finally, he had to give it up because with all these, you know, cut, low price stores coming in, he couldn’t buy and meet their prices. So then, of course, eventually all those businesses were gone.
M.H. When he gave up the store, was there another like it in Lakeville?
E.T. No, there was nothing. Oh, wait a minute, when Bill
Barnett gave it up, Don Miller bought it for a few years and. tried to run it, but he met the same trouble. It was the competition of everybody going to Delson’s or going up to Great Barrington to Zayre’s or something like that. He had to give it up. There was no need for it. But we do need it. We miss it, because now when you want a spool of thread, where do you go? You’ve got to run to Great Barrington or Delson’s. What’s really needed is a store of that type, you know, something.
At that time also, when I came here, there were two barter shops. There was Paul Argall and Chester Thurston. Paul Argall was in the same building practically where this harness shop was. Mr. Thurston was up near where the beauty shop is — going towards Millerton, in that row of wooden buildings – that was Chet Thurston.
M.H. There’s still a barber shop there. Is that the same place?,
E.T. Yes, but [Bob Fiengo] runs it. There is, yes. Then, I remember, in those days everybody had their cups with their names on them, (laughs) So that’s one thing, you know, that’s gone. And then there was a drug store, called Mr. Leverty’s drug store, and that was — there was an old wooden building right on the corner as you go up there. Now it’s that new little park right by the old bank building. Remember that park? That was a big wooden building and Leverty’s Drug Store was in that building. I think, also, near there was a plumber’s shop and Miller, Harry Miller, had the plumber’s shop.
Mr. Leverty had the drug store. He was a great man. A
lot of people didn’t like him ’cause he was very gruff, you
know. As you came in he was very gruff. But when you a
really got to know him like I did, he was very nice man and I liked him. The Hotchkiss boys used to go there and that was kind of annoying to him, ’cause they’d buy a five cent coke and sit at the fountain all afternoon and he got all distracted from his work. So, he finally gave it up. Said he couldn’t be bothered with that. So he gave up the fountain.
M.H. And that store was where the little park is?
E.T. Yes, that was there and Mr. Miller had a big plumbing business. Also, there was Bauman and Garrity had their plumbing — they were two plumbers — they had their plumbing shop down on Bostwick St., where it is now. You know where that is?
M.H. Yes, I’ve seen their truck there.
E.T. And then we had the — let me see — when we wanted to get candy and get your Sunday papers, you went up to the Jigger Shop.. And that is now practically where the laundromat is now. It was at the little store there…
M.H. Oh, on Allen Street?
E.T. Well, it was on the corner of Allen and Montgomery. And that was in what we called the Jigger Shop. Everybody went there on Sundays and got their papers, and the kids during the week got ice cream and penny candy.
There was also another little store down here where the jewelry store is now — and the town owns the building — it was also called the Hub. That was another little store there Of course, the grocery shops — the A&P store was down near where the Shell station is. And then Mr. Rudman had a shop
where the Apothecary Shop is now, and up where the laundromat is now was called the Goderis Meat Market and that was a very exclusive meat market. It only sold meat and fruits and vegetables, that’s all he sold. And that’s where, I guess what you’d call the elite of the town bought their groceries. So the three stores, that was the business.
But when I first came here, Salisbury was absolutely dead. There was nothing in Salisbury except a few stores — the drug store and a few others — but Lakeville was the hub of all the business. And then during the years, it reversed. Salisbury, all of a sudden, got everything and we had nothing. You know, well, you’ve been here now, there’s more stores, there was hardly nothing — there was no drug store, there was hardly a grocery, one little grocery store. And it was too bad. But now with the people building up, like John Mulville putting in these nice stores, you know… He’s got April 5o and the other shop across the way and the dress shop and the Apothe- cary Shop — you know, we’ve got businesses which Lakeville needs ’cause Lakeville was absolutely dead.
M.H. Now the Apothecary Shop, that Mr. Walsh has, looks like an old building.
E.T. Yes, that was Rudman’s Meat Market. That was the meat market. And when the drug store first started at Lakeville it was across the’ street where Borden is now and Mr. Gentile ran it and they moved it over across the street ’cause Mr. Borden bought that building, put in his real estate. The insurance office was up there for a while, Wagner McNeil, until they moved the Salisbury Bank.
M.H. So, actually you had two drug stores – the one on that
corner section and the one where Borden is?
E.T. Well, when Borden bought, he gave it up and they moved — Mr. Gentile moved — across the street. There was really only one drug store, all that you’d need.
Lakeville was gradually grown up which I’m glad, ’cause you know it was just dead there for a while. We thought it was going to be a lost town, but it’s really nice.
M.H. Well, I often wondered how you did shop because right now as you say, you can’t even get a spool of thread unless you go to one of the specialty shops.
E.T. That’s right. It’s a nuisance. Sometimes you’re sewing and you get out of thread and you think, “Oh my Lord, where am I going to get it?” They do have a few in the grocery store down here, but it’s never the kind you want or the type you want or something. So you have to run to Delson’s. You must make a big list and if you go to Zayre’s in Great Barrington or Torrington you get it. Something like that is needed but I don’t know whether we can support it.
M.H. That’s it. Well, people can move around more easily now.
E.T. Oh yes, they have the cars.
M.H. That’s right. When you were a young mother and, you know, housekeeper was it easy for you to go out and shop here in Lakeville and get what you needed?
E.T. Oh yes, I did all my shopping downtown. I did most all of it. Once in a while, we’d go and take like a trip on a Saturday. Then we’d probably go to Great Barrington and Pittsfield, then probably shop on the way home for our groceries. But most all our groceries were done down at the A&P and they used to have the coffee in the A&P store and the bags
and they ground It right there in the A&P store. Red Circle coffee and the smell of it was so good.
M.H. We were just talking about that yesterday.
E.T. It was wonderful and that was the A&P store and we were sorry to see that go. That was a popular store and, of course, the other in this town, Rudman’s, was too.
M.H. Were there any restaurants here?
E.T. No, there was just like — there was the Gateway Inn.
Of course, that was a summer restaurant. That’s up now — that’s torn down — that’s on the way to Millerton and I guess that’s all torn down in there. That was a summer residence. People came years ago; came with their family and sit on the porch and rock… That was torn down, a long time ago.
And then, you could, I think at the Jigger Shop, you could get sandwiches, light sandwiches. But then, underneath where the former harness shop was and the barber shop, you went around the side and there was a little store in there. Bessie Miller ran like a little store and served coffee and sandwiches to the local… Well, ±he young men around town wanted something — the workers, you know. It was sort of a gathering place. And another gathering place was where the jewelry store is now — the steps are in front of it.
My husband used to go out at night, you know, in the summer evening about7:30 or 6 o’clock and he’d never come back till nine or ten. I’d say, “Where are you? Where have you been?” and he’d say, “Oh, we were down on our stoop, you know.” Half the men in town used to gather down there and talk politics and the town affairs and probably gossip and tell stories. There’d be old George Sylvernale, and Les Dufour
Lee Dufour and Donald Thrall, my husband, and some of the other men, and they’d sit and that was a gathering place. You should have seen them sitting there — Harry Bellini — they were all sitting there, you know. It was somewhere to go and sit and gab.
And then, of course, the lake was entirely different. When I took ray daughter to the lake there was none of this nice beach.
M.H. Oh, there wasn’t? I meant to ask you about that.
E.T. No, as you go on further on the beach toward the land that isn’t developed, that they own, — how rough it is there — and you go down to the water with the high banking stones. Well, we had to sit on those banks and on the stones and sort of get down to the water. That’s where I used to sit and watch my daughter take her swimming lessons. And that was around 19^0. They had nothing like…. Dave Timmens had a little concession, what do you call it, a little building there that the town let him have. He came every summer — he was away in the winter — he came every summer and he was there. He had ice cream and candy and things like that. But it was just a little shack. Of course this is beautiful…. With gifts and donations…. The children here don’t realize what they have.
M.H. When did they start to develop it, the way it is?
E.T. I don’t know just what the date is, but it’s probably twenty years ago.
M.H. Fairly recently.
E.T. It’s not too long. It’s wonderful now, isn’t it?
M.H. It’s a beautiful spot.
E.T. And of course, the dump was up in Salisbury and every – body went to the dump. Nobody bothered much with collection. I mean most of the people went up there with their stuff. But they liked to go because we always met everybody. We should have really had a cocktail bar up there because everybody was there, and you could sit and talk. The Erickson boys were always friendly. They always ran out, when you came there, from their house or their barns and talked and visited with you. So it was really quite an affair, you know, was
M.H. Where was this dump?
E.T. Well, it was up on Clark Hill in Salisbury. You go up by the Town Hall and up that road quite a ways. It was right up in there. It was owned by the Erickson family and then they took care of it and, of course, just a few years ago that was stopped. I don’t know sanitation reasons or what. They had to take it away all the time and some people thought the burning, I guess, and everything they had to burn, you know, would be contamination. I don’t know all the politics.
M.H. Is that the old farm that’s there?
E.T. It’s called the Erickson farm.
N.H. That’s on the way up toward Selleck Hill?
E.T. Yes, it’s a beautiful view, a beautiful view. And he always had ducks or something. The kids would like to come with you and watch the ducks. He’d always show you the cows and the ducks. Then his mother, what we called Ma Erickson, lived in the house and she wasn’t very well and Mr. Erlckson’d say, “Come on in and see Ma.” So you’d go in and see Ma. It was like, I don’t know, a family affair. Wasn’t cut and dry like it is today. Today you go and throw it in. That’s the end.
You know. It’s really nothing.
And. then down here on Allen Street on the way to the lake across from the pond was, what we called, the old Beehive. That was an old big building and the poorer people in the town lived there. It was called the Beehive.
M.H. Now, where was this?
E.T. When you go to the lake, there’s a pond for children, not on that street but across from the pond, in back of all the stores that were up there, was a building right near the lake. The railroad track ran in there somewhere and there was this old building. It was wide and a lot of families lived in it. That was called the Beehive, we called it the Beehive. And that was for the poorer families who lived in the cheap rent.
M.H. Is the building still there?
E.T. No, that was torn down. And then, of course, when the railroad…. There always was railroad tracks there. The Heatons lived on Allen Street and it was always a sore spot for Mrs. Heaton to have the railroad tracks and maybe a train or two, or maybe a freight train stop there over the weekend or something and be sitting there. She always used to complain about it especially to her daughter. She’d say to her daughter, “Well, in time things change. Don’t worry about it.
And it did. It was taken away and everything was made beautiful – that pond and the park, and the station is now the Welfare and Family Service building. The tracks and all that stands of the trestle are the few (pieces of] cement on that side. So that’s all gone – the railroad tracks.
M.H. Did they have railroad service when you first came here?
E.T. Well, they must have had a little freight service from
Millerton, coming from Millerton. The freight cars were there for Community Service. You had to go to Millerton to go to New York.
M.H. And there was no passenger service, say, up to Salisbury?
E.T. No, no, that was gone, that was gone. If you wanted to go up towards Pittsfield you went to Canaan or something. Or if you wanted to go to New York, you had to go to Millerton. The train service then was better. You could go to New York, you know, and we did. And the trains were running fairly good.
M.H. But you had to get to Millerton by yourself, by car or something?
E.T. Had to get to Millerton by car.
M.H. How long did it take the village to fix up that area, when the tracks were taken out? It’s a very attractive section now.
E.T. When they got going, it really didn’t take long. The Beehive, I guess, was taken down in its time and then eventually the tracks were removed and they eventually took the trestle where the trains could cross overhead, and that’s part of the old railroad tracks where people walk now, you see. I walk there a lot. When you walk there, it’s a beautiful walk.
M.H. That’s in back…
E.T. Back of the (tape unclear) and you land up in Salisbury.
It’s a beautiful walk.
M.H. You can walk there?
E.T. Yes, oh yes. It’s beautiful. That’s the old railroad tracks. I just walked there the other Sunday It’s beautiful.
When you get to Salisbury you can walk back or else come through the main drag.
M.H. I just noticed that up where they keep the school buses seems to be where the railroad was.
E.T. That’s where we go in, we go down here on Walton Street and we catch it there. It’s really a beautiful walk. It’s quiet and peaceful. It’s nice and with many different birds.
M.H. It’s probably just owned by the tov.-‘n now?
E.T. By the town. But the sewer basin is part of the way up there, so up to there it is pretty well maintained. But the other is a grassy plot and they don’t allow autos, just bicycles, horses and people. You ought to do it, try it sometime.
M.H. I will. Did they ever have bus service through here?
E.T. Well, all I remember is – my sister, she lived in Manchester, and she used to come — she wasn’t married at that time — she used to come out here ’most every weekend, ’cause she loved it. But we always had to meet her in Canaan. That was as far as it went and then we had to get her back. So there was no way of getting there.
M.H. Same way as today.
E.T. Same way as today. I miss the bus, because I used to — when I was going home — someone would get me to Canaan and I’d get the bus and someone would pick me up in Hartford. My friends in Hartford, they’d meet me and it was wonderful. But now you can’t even do that. You’re stuck. You have to have a car.
M.H. That’s right.
E.T. And it’s too bad. You have to have a car. When my daughter was going to Russell Sage college, she’d come down
and I would meet her. And then when she, afterwards when she worked at Travelers in Hartford, I’d meet her every Friday night over there at seven o’clock. But now I don’t know how she’d get home. She’d have to have a car to get here, to get home, if she wanted to. And it’s hard for young people ’cause they can’t afford those things. It’s hard for young people to live around here.
M.:H. It’s remote. Did you find that when you first came here there were jobs and opportunities for the young men and women in town?
E.T. Not too many. There weren’t too many, as there are now. They had to go places and look for it, into factories around and that. Or they had to do odd jobs.
M.H. What business was your husband in?
E.T. Well, he started out, he travelled for the Brown Smith Candy Co. He was a salesman for many years and then he finally went into his own candy business and he had an office there near one of those buildings where the old harness shop….
And then he gave that up and he went into — quite different — insulation and roofing. Actually, he was in rock wool until the First World War came and he went into that kind of business. He did that until his death in 19&5»
N.H. You mean the Second World War, don’t you?
E.T. Yes, the Second World War. (Long pause, narrator reviewing notes)
One of the things my husband used to tell me they used to do. This is funny but you can use it or not as you want to. A lot of the business men…. He was a young fellow, he was brought up Methodist, couldn’t drink or play cards, you know in those days.
Some of the business men in town used to like to go to Poughkeepsie on Monday afternoons They had a big auction so they’d always ask him to drive ’cause they knew that he could drive. He’d get them home. He’d go with them, you know, and he told me he’d take ’em to Poughkeepsie. They’d leave early in the morning and they.,. I don’t know why they went to all these auctions. They were cattle auctions but I guess they were having fun and they’d get feeling pretty good sometimes — I’m not mentioning any names — and one time he said it was very funny. They bought this pony and they decided they were going to give it, bring it home, to one of their friends who usually went with them. He lived in Amenia, He was a prominent farmer over there and he was sick and couldn’t go that day so they said they would bring him a gift home. So they brought him a pony which they, when they reached Amenia and his house, they got the pony out of the car, went to the door and — the wife wasn’t home — but they called up. He said, “Come on up and see me.” You know, he wasn’t that sick. So they proceeded to take this pony up the stairs and they left it. (Laughter)
I don’t know what the wife said, but that’s the kind of pranks they used to do. Some of the funny things involved.
On Hallowe’en night when he was young, a bunch of them —young fellows, some of them that sat on that stoop down there, he said that they never did anything bad — but all the Chic Sales, you know what I mean, they took them all one time and they put them all in front of the Methodist Church, so when Sunday came round, that Sunday they were all lined up in front of the Methodist Church, (Laughter)
They were pranks, but they didn’t hurt anybody. Probably inconvenienced the Sunday service and they had to put them all back again. But they didn’t do anything like they do with the candy with the pins in ’em and all that.
M.H. It wasn’t vicious.
E.T. A lot of fun in those things they used to do. They had to do something.
M.H. That’s a typical country type of prank.
E.T. And my mother-in-law, Helen Thrall, she played the organ in the Methodist Church, also, when she was young — for twenty-five years. She was the organist down at the Methodist Church and she was one of the — not the original — but one of the first that played in the Norfolk Choral Union; and also one of the first ones in the Salisbury Garden Club. Then, of course, when I came here she wanted to go out and visit her daughter, that was a twin, in Seattle. She liked it so well and the climate was so much better — she was arthritic — so she stayed out there. That’s how I stayed in this house, been here ever since.
M.H. It’s a family homestead then?
E.T. Well, it was. It’s not way back to the Millers, but it was, you know, around 1920, I guess, more or less a family house. That’s why my attic’s full of stuff. (Laughter) Memorabilia.
M.H. A lot of treasures
E.T. A lot of treasures, yes
And then also, I didn’t tell you about our leading doctor. He was Dr. Peterson and he lived down here in this corner house. It is always known as the Peterson house. No
matter who buys It, it’s still the Peterson house. That’s the one by Evelyn Dann, and that’s Dr. Peterson’s. And he was the leading doctor in this town. All he charged was one dollar or two dollars for a visit and sometimes he didn’t get that from the very poor. A lot of times I’d be dox-m there visiting with Mrs. Peterson — we were good neighbors and friends — somebody would come to the door with some apples or potatoes, and she’d say, “Well, that’s so and so paying for their last call.” He was wonderful. I wish doctors were like that today, because he was your friend; he was your doctor and he was your psychologist.
M.H. He took a personal interest.
E.T. He knew everything about you. He was a wonderful man.
Ill health forced him…. Of course, he was getting on. In 19^9 he had to leave, went to California, he died soon after. But the town gave him a wonderful reception before he left.
I think there was two or three thousand there. I think he delivered around two thousand babies. Lila Nash, I think she was the one that got the baby book up and every baby was pictured, every baby in town.
He delivered my daughter, Patty. Do you want to know the cost of that? He charged me twenty-five dollars, that was for his calls and my delivery. I was charged five debars for the delivery room. I was in a private room for ten days at seven dollars a day. So the whole cost of my maternity was a hundred dollars.
M.H. That’s a big difference from today’s costs.
E.T. That was in 1940. And in 1971, ray granddaughter, Emily, was born. My daughter had the same treatment. Of course she
had Sharon Hospital and the baby doctor in Sharon and everything, and it cost a thousand dollars. That was thirty-one years later.
He (Dr. Peterson, Ed.) was wonderful. The doctor was fond of cats and he always had a lot of cats, and he always had this dog, Mopsy, which everyone in town knew. But when he got older, he couldn’t have cats when he was afraid of falling. So when he wanted — he knew I always had a cat or two — and when he wanted to rest sometime — I guess he missed his cats — he’d call up and he’d say, “Could I borrow your cat for half an hour? I’m resting.” So I’d run down with a little kitten in my arms. Those were the kind of things he did.
At that same time, I also had a German police dog and I always got the Hartford Courant on Sundays and they got the New York Times. So on Monday I would fix the paper, put it in the dog’s mouth with a string and he’d go down there and probably ten minutes later he’d come back up with it (the other paper)
It was cute. But you miss that in doctors today. Now you go down, you’re a number and you wait and you wait.
M.H. I don’t know if there is any place except in really remote areas that you have a doctor who is almost part of your family.
E.T. No, you don’t. And how many doctors come out on phone calls? He would come to your house, and go all over. Of course, when we first came to town and I knew him, he had a little car. They say when he first came he had the horse and buggy.
M.H. What was Dr. Peterson’s first name?
E.T. Clark. Clark Peterson. And his wife was Laura. Everybody loved him; everybody knew him.
Now, there was an article in the Lakeville Journal last week about…
E.T. Mae Bissell.
M.H. The Bissells were doctors also, weren’t they?
E.T. They were before Peterson. They might have been…. As the Petersons came in, they were probably going out. And there was also Mary Barnett’s father. He was a doctor, but he wasn’t doing as much practice as Peterson was. He was the big doctor, I think. Everybody went to Peterson.
M.H. Well, these doctors had really quite a wide-spread practice.
E.T. Oh yes, that’s why he had to have a car and he went….
I don’t know how he did it, he was out all the time. Then, of course, it was only recently that he had the Sharon Hospital. You know when he first came there was no Sharon Hospital. But he was great. He could diagnose things. They said he had been great just doing that. He was a wonderful neighbor, too.
I don’t know how much more….
M.H. You’ve certainly contributed a lot. I wanted to ask you — you mentioned the Methodist Church and Town Grove — I was wondering what activities they had for the young people, like for your daughter. You say Town Grove was not developed that way. Did the church have fellowships?
E.T. In the Town Grove in the summer, they had life-saving. Jeanette Axelby worked at the bank: she was wonderful.
She instructed all the girls of my daughter’s era until a few years ago. She was the life-saver. My daughter took lessons from her for several years and finally a couple of summers she instructed over there too, under the guidance of one of the high school teachers. There wasn’t a child, I guess, that couldn’t swim in this town.
Then, of course, the church…. She went to the — what is that, Y or YM? What is it called?
M.H. At the Methodist Church my boys went to the MYF.
E.T. That’s it. That’s where she went on Sunday nights.
Otherwise they went like…. I know I worked on…. When she was going to school, I helped with the Brownies when she was a Brownie. But I don’t know, outside of that there was not much for young people; skating on the lake and sliding. There wasn’t too much. There wasn’t too much for young people.
There never seemed to be enough jobs for young people. Seems to me if there was a little more housing and we could find more available and more reasonable. Of course, everything was more reasonable then, you know. It’s sad now because they can’t find places and they can’t find jobs, so they got to go away.
M.H. Without the business, the opportunities aren’t there, E.T. Up in Salisbury and down here there isn’t much business unless you work in a store or unless you’re a professional, a doctor, a banker or something like that. There isn’t much work to do.
M.H. Was the knife factory in operation when you came here?
E.T. No, no. They were trying to experiment and they had
different little businesses come there, you know, tried to run it. They made skis there for a while and some fishing lures. Nothing stayed too long. It just didn’t pay for itself. When I first came here, that knife factory was…. Now I hear they’re going to do something with it.
M.H. Yes, the paper is moving out.
E.T. Which will be nice — shops or something in there
M.H. Did they always have a paper like the Journal?
E.T. Oh, yes, the Lakeville Journal was there. Mr. Jones ran the Lakeville Journal then. Of course, it’s grown. They did- not have all the other towns in it then, just Lakeville. The news was town news and everybody — like you went to Hartford today or your sons were here for the weekend. It was really more town news. You could tell where everybody went or did, but they don’t have that anymore. The news has got more sophisticated and they’ve got these articles. But it was kind of fun to read, you know, so and so entertained their sister or their daughters. It was fun. It wasn’t as big, it was kind of cute, you know.
But now it’s really a paper. It is an excellent paper and they have all the local towns. And they do have some wonderful editorials and writers. They’ve done wonders with it. Well, I think the Hoskins started it, you see. Stuart Hoskins, he started it and Estabrook carried it on, and it’s grown still. I guess all the towns read it; they don’t have their own papers, so the other towns get it.
So I don’t know what else you want to know.
M.H. Well, I think you’ve contributed a great deal…
E.T. I remember the first time I came here in 1935, I went
to a town meeting and I happened to say something and they said to me, “You can’t talk, you’re not a native. You’re not a native ’til you’ve been here twenty-five years.” But that didn’t bother me.
M.H. I think you’ve made it by now,
E.T. Well, I thought I wasn’t able because I married into….
You know, my granddaughter is really the fifth generation, although they don’t live here, she’s the fifth generation to have lived here. Even though she goes to the South and people ask her about us, she always says, “I’m a Yankee.” I always tell her that someday, you know living down there in the South you better watch your step. You better not say it too often; you’re going to get in trouble. “Well,” she says, “I am a Yankee!”
M.H. She probably is a Yankee with a little bit of a southern accent.
E.T. Well, she hasn’t got that too much, because my daughter married into the Rudd family. They’re an old family, too. So she feels both sides that she’s a Yankee, you know. (Pause)
E.T. I was Lutheran when I came. There was no Lutheran church. This was the nearest. You could walk and do things, so I joined here and I’ve never regretted it. (Refers to the Methodist Church Ed.)
M.H. And the school has always been in this location?
E.T. It wasn’t two buildings when my daughter first went. It was just one building, what they call the lower one and then it expanded. And also when I first came here, right up —I think it is where the upper school is—used to be called the town farm or something.
Some of the poor or very poor who couldn’t afford to live — they stayed there and Mr. Ed Stanton ran It. I always used to say, I didn’t have far to go, I Just had to go over the hill to the poor house.
I don’t think they called it the poor house, they called It the town farm.
M.H. Then the town really had provided some sort of service, up there and at the Beehive.
E.T. They did, they did. Well, the Beehive was for the lower families. That’s what you call welfare families today, I don’t know. But they did have them. I don’t know how that tt.. They didn’t have enough so that was given up too. Oh, of course, when they did the upper school building they had to tear it down. Mr. Stanton kept a nice business there. It was very nice.
M.H. There’s a road near us that Is called Old Asylum Road…
E.T. Oh, yes, yes.
M.H. Do you know why?
E.T. Yes, you know where the Cannons, where Mr. Cannon lives? A nice colonial house as you go down Farnum Road and make the curve, that white colonial house. That was the original Town house. That was the original poor house. That’s what I understood.
M.H. Of course, there are bushes around…
E.T. Of course it wasn’t as lovely as it is now, but It was probably an old square colonial house and they, of course, the Cannons put loads of money Into fixing it up.
When I came, that was out of use. It (the town farm) was up here. It was a nice family house: Mr. & Mrs. Stanton ran it.
They probably didn’t have five or six people at a time, but they were very kind and the home was for people like that that had no place to go. What could they do? I don’t know where they’d go now.
M.H. Well, they’d go on welfare.
E.T. Yeah, I guess so. That’s it.
M.H. I didn’t realize that. I had thought maybe there had been an asylum on that road…
E.T. That’s where it was that’s what people tell me before it came up here, that was the poor house or whatever they called it. Used to call them poor house.
M.H. That was the term.
E.T. I don’t know. Later, I’ll probably think of a lot of things.
M.H. Maybe you could jot them down and I could come again. You certainly have given a lot of information.
E.T. Well, I’ve got to think, you know. ‘Cause I can’t go back as far like Mrs. Haas now. She could go way back ’cause she’s got the family history and she’s got the old house and everything. Where the apartment house is, was her mother’s house, see, where they lived. In the old apartment, the big old apartments, the antique shop, you see. That was her property.
M.H. And she gave the property for the motel?
E.T. Yes, she sold it. Her father or grandfather was superintendent.
M.H. Well, it’s very nice though, that there are so many of the old houses that have remained on Main Street.
E.T. Well, there was a contradiction last week, two weeks ago Mr. Roberts wrote…. I took the same impression that McCue did, that he wanted all the houses down, and I was wild! And I thought, well, there’s your house, Mr. Roberts. Is it going down?
Of course, I never liked it when they took that beautiful house that Reverend Edmund lived in, our minister. It’s now in back on Bissell Street. That was where the bank is now. It’s a beautiful Victorian house, gorgeous, with a curved porch and that beautiful bay window — where Evelyn Dann lives now, you know.
M.H. They moved it back?
E.T. Uh huh, that was where the bank is now. First they wanted it right at the corner across from the Peterson house.
That big colonial, big Victorian house is there. They called it the Raynsford house. That was where they wanted to buy for the bank, originally. And we all in this neighborhood were wild. In the first glace, when the kids come home from school, the traffic is terrible when you come out of any of these streets. I have to wait sometimes ten minutes, even for the traffic with no school kids. So we — I was the last person to sign the petition ’cause I was just five hundred feet — and we all signed it and we went to a meeting and we said we wouldn’t accept it. They lost it. It was hot at the time. My son-in-law got up — they had a plan — he said, “It looks to me like another Howard Johnson.” They had a cupola on top, you know, we didn’t want that.
So then they bought the Bissell and I was wild even to see that lovely house moved back. They never fixed it the way it was originally, with the porch and everything.
It was a beautiful house!
M.H. And who did you say had lived in it?
E.T. Mr. Edmund, he owned it. He was our minister before Mr.
Savage and then Mr. Pollack. It was a beautiful…. Inside it was a fireplace as you go in and, oh, it was gorgeous.
M.H. And they picked it up and moved it back to its present location?
E.T. Yes, they picked it up and moved it back and I don’t like to see that. I don’t blame Mrs. McCue for getting mad. That’s an old house. Now I see that yellow house was a family house and now that’s going to be business. That one right there.
M.H. Which one is that?
E.T. It’s almost right across from the drug store and up a little bit. That nice pretty yellow. It’s called the Bissell house, too. You know, where the Litchfield Bank is? It’s right next to it going down.
M.H. It’s on Main Street?
E.T. Yes, it’s right on Main Street. Mr. Turnure of Community Service owned it up until now. And then he sold it to some people and it’s going to be a business. An office…
M.H. Well, if they don’t change the outside…
E.T. Like the Litchfield Bank. I give them credit. They didn’t.
M.H. That’s beautiful.
E.T. Yes, but then you’ve got the telephone building. That’s an empty building and nobody’s in. I hope they don’t come up further now, ’cause they once get in like the Szczesiul house
before you know it, there’s the Tompkin’s house and then all the way up. That would be awful. I don’t like it.
M.H. Right now Main Street is charming.
E.T. Yes, I think so, too.