Vail, Margie

Interviewer: Jean McMillen
Place of Interview: Bunker Hill
Date of Interview:
File No: 2 Cycle: 2
Summary: Mt. Riga, OWLS Kitchen, Beautification Committee, Registrar Democratic Town Committee, family McCabe/Crosby/Warner,

Interview Transcript

Margie Vail Interview:

This is file #2 cycle #2. Today’s date is Sept. 21, 2015. This is Jean McMillen and I am interviewing Margie Vail. She is going to talk about many things including her family background, Mt. Riga, the cemetery at Mt. Riga, Julia Pettee, Dr. Clark and some of the committees that she is on as well as being Registrar of Democratic Voters. We’ll start with the genealogical information.

JM:What is your name?

MV:My name is Margaret Clare Crosby Vail, Clare for the county in Ireland, not the French saint.

JM:Your maiden name was O’Brien?


JM:Your birthdate?

MV:My birthday is July 8, 1944.

JM:Where were you born?

MV:I was born in New York City in the hospital that my parents referred to as “The French Hospital”. I believe because it was an order of French nuns who ran the hospital.

JM:Your parents’ names?

MV:My father’s name was Robert Henry O’Brien; my mother’s maiden name was Louise Crosby McCabe O’Brien.

JM:Did you have or do you have siblings?

MV:I do. I have an older sister who is deceased. Her name was Elizabeth Crosby O’Brien. She married Mr. Mouzavires, divorced and married the second time to Milton Wernstrom. She is buried in the Mt. Riga cemetery. My brother Robert is still alive; he is Robert Ambrose O’Brien. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. I have a sister Maria Louisa. She was named on her birth certificate and it was spelled Maria Louisa. She was always called Mary Louise. Today she calls herself Mariah with an H at the end. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

JM:What is your educational background?

MV:I have a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry.

JM:Where did you get your degree?

MV:I got it at Seton Hall University in Orange, New Jersey.

JM:Now I want to check some family background. Your parents I have their names. Your grandparents were…

MV:Pauline Crosby Wells McCabe.2.

JM:Was she sometimes called Polly?


JM:She married?

MV:Ambrose Farrell McCabe

JM:Great grandparents? Your great grandmother ran a boarding house in Brewster, NY?

MV:She did. Caroline Carmen Crosby. She married Major Frank Wells.

JM:She had a boarder that was there and his name was?

MV:His name was Sam Church.

JM:There were 3 women who were very good friends on the mountain. Could you tell me about those 3 ladies?

MV:Maisie Griggs, my grandmother Polly, and Harriet Warner.

JM:Was Maisie Griggs related to the Steve Griggs that I know?

MV:Yes, she I believe was his grandmother.

JM:Hattie Warne- would she be grandmother to any of the Warners that I have met?

MV:No, I don’t think so. She would be great grandmother I believe. She was grandmother to Donald Warner.

JM:Donald Tichnor or Donald Judson?

MV;Oh this is where I always get confused.

JM:Me too. OK we’ll go with that.

MV:She was married to old Judge Warner so I think that was Donald J. then there was Donald T. who is a probate judge, then there is Donald J. who was the lawyers in Sharon. So I think it is Donald J. that she was the grandmother to.

JM:That was the older Judge.


JM:You have a camp on the Upper Lake.



MV:We do my family and me. We, my brother and I, inherited from my mother Louise McCabe O’Brien the camp along with my sister Mariah. Mariah there was family land in Litchfield so Mariah chose the land in Litchfield and my brother and I split the leasehold on Mt. Riga. We share it equally. So I have one set of cabins and he has another.

JM:Does your set of cabins have a name?

MV: No we are all Wish-Come-True; that is kind of complicated.

JM:But I understand about that part of it.

MV:OK so we are just called the Vail camp.

JM:You have a garden up there.

MV:I do.

JM:You are the only camp that I saw that had a garden that is why I remember it. There was a story about how Polly actually got Wish-come-True. Would you tell that story, please?

MV:She was a friend of Hattie, her cousin, and because Harriet was a Wells who married a Warner. Polly used to visit her in Litchfield when she lived in Litchfield. She grew up in Litchfield, Hattie did. They were very friendly and Hattie married Judge Warner who had a fishing camp on the Upper Lake on Mt. Riga. He was involved in the consolidation of all the pieces of the former iron industry to try and create a summer community. He was interested in getting other people to buy this consolidation with him. My grandmother Polly wanted very much to have a place there. She asked her mother Caroline Carmen Crosby who was married to Major Frank Wells if they could buy a share, one third. It wasn’t originally conceived as one third, I don’t think but a share anyway. My great grandmother was reluctant to do this. Polly was soon to be married; the boarder who lived with my great grandmother and my great grandfather overheard this discussion or else Polly asked him to intercede for her. He went to my great grandmother and said that he would purchase the share and it would be a wedding present for her and her soon to be husband who was Ambrose Farrell McCabe. They were very happy and Judge Warner gave them the permission to have a camp to on the Upper Lake. When he was setting out this thing, he had kind of reserved the Upper Lake only for himself; then other people could take places at the village part of the mountain at the Lower Lake. Polly was very pleased with this and they chose the site which is still the site of what we call the main camp. They named that whole camp (it was basically a three acre parcel) Wish-Come-True.

JM:It is lovely. I have seen it.

MV:Now it is broken up between my mother’s children and my two uncles Ambrose and Spalding. They are both deceased but their children (my first cousins) all share with us the leasehold of” Wish-Come-True Inc.” as direct descendants. The Ambrose Church McCabes, named for the Sam Church


family, has formed a corporation that is called “Our Camp Corp.” If you were to look on the tax records that is how you would find their building’s name. My youngest uncle (the youngest brother of my mother) Spalding was Lyman Austin Spalding McCabe, named for his father’s law partner Lyman Austin Spalding who was a bachelor; he never married. They named their youngest child for him.

JM:That is “Mike” McCabe.

MV:Yes, that was Mike McCabe’s father and Linde McCabe Gee’s father. We are actually sitting in the living room made by Spalding for his family. The original house just about ended here; there is a small little house that they purchased during World War II. He was in the Pacific so it was years later when he came back that they moved here. Then in the 1960’s he built the larger room over here.

JM:I just want to interject that we are now at 100 Bunker Hill Road. We are not on Mt. Riga. You as a young lady met Julia Pettee,

MV:I did.

JM:Where was she living when you met her?

MV:She was living up on Selleck Hill at the corner property I think of it as the corner property that would take you down to Lincoln City Road. I don’t really know if it is called Lincoln City Road right from the top of Selleck Hill. But there was a small old beautiful house; I think it is still there. I was taken there by my uncle Frank McCabe with my cousin, Martha McCabe. We were there to visit with Miss Pettee. He had questions for her because he had started an organization, I believe it had been started by then, but maybe it was later or actually founded. He called it the Mt. Riga Educational and Historical Society. What he wanted to do was preserve the history of Mt. Riga and keep all of records and documentation safe. I was a young girl; I was probably 10 or 11 when we visited there. When I was in my mid-twenties, my husband who is an attorney was asked by Frank to work with this foundation, so I don’t know if it was really founded in the 1950’s or if he only gathered the information and then founded it or incorporated in the 1960’s. Charlie would be able to tell you how long it existed. It was called the foundation I believe and his idea was to fund it and maybe could not get the funding. I really don’t know; that is another question for Charlie. The legal things I really don’t know. Uncle Frank took me and my cousin to see Miss Pettee. What I remember most was a wonderful woman sitting a chair, almost like a Windsor chair, not a padded or upholstered chair, it was warm it was summertime but I seem to remember a source of heat. It was very warm inside, and she was very elderly so it would make sense. We had refreshments which were important to me at the age of 11. I remember sitting and listening and Uncle Frank talking to Miss Pettee. Then she engaged us. She told us that she had been a school teacher; she wanted to know what grades we were in and what we studied and what we knew about where we were. She talked about her father, being the Superintendent of the iron Works. She talked about the freeze-up or the break up the salamander that stopped up the furnace and how dramatic it was and the calling of everybody to try and help. She talked about what the mountain was like when she was growing up, about the school and the store.


My uncle’s cottage on Mt. Riga which is called Daniels Cottage had been the store, or had been a store there. He had a lot of artifacts that were from the days of the store. He was very interested in her memories of what the store looked like because the building has been added on it. My great grandmother, this goes back a little bit, who had not wanted to have my grandmother move to Mt. Riga in the summer, gave in when she realized that her grandchildren were going to spend all summer there. So she and her husband bought Daniels Cottage outright. They didn’t buy it through the Mt. Riga Inc. group. They bought a farmer’s land and I guess the farmer’s name was Daniels because my uncle was very precise; he always called it Daniels Cottage. That piece of land incorporated their house, their summer house, the old school house, lots of acreage flowing west and a little bit south down off the mountain to where the old ore road to Millerton went which was the easiest transport for the iron ore. I believe the farm house that was later occupied by the Collin family who were very good friends of the family. (See file #107/120, Dwight Collin)

JM:Daniels Cottage is it now the Whittier camp?


JM:Before we go on to the school house, can you give me a physical description of Miss Pettee?

MV:My impression of her was that she was a large woman without being corpulent; she was just sturdy. She was old. She was sitting down and wrapped with a cotton something over her, not a shawl, so I couldn’t really see her figure. She was not petite. She was not large; she was just sturdy. That is the best description I can give. Her hair was pulled up in an “Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show” this little topknot on top of her head.

JM:Was she wearing glasses?

MV:I can’t really say that she was; I have a feeling there might have been glasses near her. I remember crinkly skin and lively eyes.

JM:What color were they?

MV:I don’t remember that. I seem to remember dark, but everything was a little dark in there. Her hair was mostly white but I think gray would be the way I would describe it, almost steely gray.

JM:Good job! Thank you.

MV:Her skin was very weathered as anyone who lived outside would be.

JM:The school house. It is on the property of Frank McCabe, but it was moved?

MV:It was moved, but it burned. What is currently called the school house is not the original school house.



JM:Were you ever in the school house when it was not a sleeping cabin, but the building still had the maps in it?

MV:No I don’t remember that. It was always used all the time in my memory it was always used as a sleeping cabin.

JM:It was destroyed in 1985 of a gas explosion.


JM:Tell me about the Mt Riga cemetery first and then I shall pick up on Dr. Clark. Please tell me about the Mt. Riga cemetery. There are two; there is the old one and then there is the new one. Are you responsible, the cemetery board, for both?

MV:No, we are only responsible for the new part; I just got a phone call from Jane Sellery. She is interested in the old one and I returned her call, but I haven’t heard back from her. We have a real interest in the old one and in maintaining the old one, but when the new one was incorporated, it was made pretty clear that the old one is one of the town’s cemeteries.

JM:It is one of my responsibilities. How many members are on the Riga cemetery board?

MV:I believe there are 6 of us.

JM:Can you name any of them?

MV:Sure, Rick Blaker is the President; he is married to Virginia Wells Blaker. There is Mary de Pasquale who was Mary Schlessinger, now de Pasquale, and Linde Gee who is sister to Mike McCabe. She was named for a German Linde.

JM:I have done Mike McCabe (See file 104/117 Mike McCabe).

MV:There is Fran Miller (See file 106/119 Fran & Pete Miller) was one it but I think she since resigned; she could still be on the board. I know her son Robbie is the superintendent which means he is in charge of the burials.

JM:I wish I had known that when I met him.

MV:There is somebody else…

JM;Well you are on it.

MV:Yes, I am on it, somebody else comes to the meetings. Gordon Chapman was on it and could still be on it, but is no longer the superintendent. He turned that over to Robbie Miller. Trish Griggs comes to the meetings; I believe she is officially on the board. (See Steve Griggs, file 24 & 25; Trish is his wife) That is all I can think of.

JM:That is good. I am assuming the Gordon chapman is the son of Jim and Kay Chapman.


MV:That is correct. She was a Lippincott. Harry Wells, my great uncle, was the son of Caroline Carmen Wells and Major Frank McCabe; he married a Lippincott; her name was Caroline Lippincott.

JM:Was she a Lippincott of Lippincott books?

MV:I believe so. That is what brought the Chapmans to Mt. Riga; she was the Lippincott and Kay Chapman was a Lippincott; she was niece of Caroline Wells. (Kay was a fine artist and I saw some of her paintings. Ed.)

JM:I will do extremely well if I get all this genealogy sorted! When do you meet?

MV:We meet the first Sunday in October every year; we would love to have you join us if you would like. We meet around 9:00 in the morning. As soon as I get notice from the President I will send you an invitation. (I did go in 2015 and enjoyed it thoroughly. Ed.)

JM:I would very much like to attend the cemetery meeting. You said something about mapping; you are mapping the new cemetery?

MV:We have a map of the new cemetery which was done on a computer grid by Gordon Chapman. It is tremendously helpful, but when you translate that to the ground there seems to be some difficulty. What we are trying to do is figure out a way to use modern surveying techniques to get these plots regularized. Then there are those of us on the board who would like to put corner markers on our plots. We can’t do that until we have it standardized.

JM:Oh that is very helpful. Now I am going on to Dr. Clark. I have heard some stories about him, but you have a rather painful story about your eye and marshmallows.

MV;Not my eye, but my sister’s eye Mariah. I was 6 or 7; the occasion was the birthday of our family’s pony Cheefy.

JM:How do you spell Chiefy’s name?

MV:I am not sure we even spelled it.

JM:Well I spell it with two ees.

MV:OK, that sounds good. I would have spelled it I e, but if you ask my brother, he might have spelled it with a y so who knows. Chiefy was really my brother’s responsibility and his pony. He was a rascal, a terrible rascal. He also was very old; I don’t know where he came from. I have a feeling my Uncle Frank gave him to my mother. My uncle Frank and Aunt Mary Lee used to have horses where they lived in Albany or Rennselaer. I have a feeling that Chiefy got too old and so he was given away. Chiefy lived with us for lots of years. Robbie can tell you more than anybody, but on Mt. Riga he kept the grass down. The lower lawn between where the Superintendent’s house was that we call Castinook and


the road up from the village, there was a field there. That was Chiefy’s pasture. One summer I think under my Uncle Ambrose and his wife Betty impetus, it was decided to have a Cheefy’s birthday party. It was established that this was Chiefy’s birthday. We had a big cook out for the whole mountain in his pasture. There was a stone wall that separated the lawn sloping down from Castinook as it still does; there is an artisan well which my mother had had dug during WWII at some time because she had a Victory Garden up there and she kept chickens.

JM:I have heard about the chicken house.

MV:Down below that in the pasture was where we all congregated. There were hot dogs, and sodas which was very unusual for us as children we never drank soda, big galvanized tubs with ice and beer in them for the grown-ups, and a marshmallow roast. This is where Dr. Clark expertise comes into play. My sister never liked burnt marshmallows; she only liked them golden brown. Some of us were not as particular as that. There were a whole bunch of kids, all my cousins and I were all around. I think we all remember this event. I know one of my friends whom I think of as a cousin we were talking about this this summer. Whenever I see children roasting marshmallows, I get nervous. What happened was that somebody who had a flaming marshmallow turned from the fire and it hit my sister in her eye. A very dear friend of my mother’s who was not my aunt, but we always called her “aunt” scooped up ice water out of one of these tubs and threw it at her eye, just instinctively to put out the burning sugar and marshmallow. there was a general comment of” OH you shouldn’t have done that; it should have been butter.” You put butter on a burn. My mother took my sister up to Dr. Clark; he said that my aunt Peggy had done just the right thing because it stopped the sugar from burning. My sister then had to go to an eye specialist, but there was absolutely no damage to her eye.

JM:Oh how wonderful!

MV:She still sees from it perfectly well although it is getting older now.

JM:He is some relation to Ray Bartlett?

MV:Yes Ray Bartlett would be his grandson. Dr. Clark had a daughter Mary who married a Bartlett. I think the father’s name was Ray too as I remember. ( Ray Bartlett’s father’s name was Hall Bartlett. Ed.) I think Mary married Ray Bartlett, but then there were 2 boys from that marriage: Ray and Bill. (According to a communication with Ray Bartlett, he was named for Dr. Raymond Clark. Ed.) Ray is still alive (aged 84 in 2015 Ed.), I believe he is the older. Bill is deceased.

JM:Alice Combes has said that she is going to write to Ray Bartlett because he has a family genealogy. That was one of her goals to do that for me.

MV:The thing about his genealogy chart which we have up at our cabin; there are some omissions in it. He did a masterful job but there are things that were not added to it that should have been to clarify things. When you get that chart, try to get a whole brand new one because ours has coffee stains and baby stains and all sorts of other stuff. We’ll look at it and try and straighten it out,

JM:Tennis courts, there are three tennis courts, correct?

MV:Right 9.

JM:There is a tournament?

MV:There is only one set of tennis courts now; it holds two courts and that is behind Castinook. Somewhere near there was a tennis court but I do not know exactly where. My Uncle Spalding is the one who resurrected that tennis court or decided that we should have tennis again. We were all, my generation-Mike was 14, I was therefore 13 or 12, and the parents decided that we should have a tennis court. I think they pretty much tried to locate where the old one was but I don’t believe it is in the same spot. The other 2 tennis courts on Mt. Riga when my mother was growing up in the teens and twenties, there was one at what is now the Bartlett camp at the Clark camp right in the middle between the Lower lake and the Upper Lake so you might call that a mid-mountain tennis court. At the Upper Lake my grandparents had one at Wish-come-True; that was a clay court. I believe they were all 3 clay courts.

JM:Tell me about the public beach at the Lower Lake.

MV: What we refer to now as the public beach was called Ostrander’s when I was a girl because there then was an Ostrander house. In my mom’s time you went to Ostrander’s who had a farm. She talked about getting vegetables at Ostrander’s. Hazel Cowles was a Hotchkiss but somehow the Ostrander and the Hotchkiss family owned that property or purchased that property because for years Sid Cowles and Hazel lived there every summer. Sid and Hazel never had children; she had a niece who was Sis Brewer, Dr. Ed Brewer’s first wife. Dr. Brewer and his wife spent, in my childhood in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the month of June there and then Sid and Hazel would spend the rest of the summer there.

JM:The camp that they were at was Camp Ozone.


JM:Where is the public beach on the Lower Lake? It is not where the dam is?

MV:That is called Castinook Beach really, if they call it anything. It is where the swing set is and where the water run-off goes. The public beach is farther up the road (the old road used to run right along the shore line) the next thing you would come to would be where Ostrander’s farm was. That is now the public beach. It is on the left as you are going up the road.

JM:I have been there; I have seen that.

MV:We will have to get you out on the water because if you go by water you can see where the old road was. The old road was built with slag and cinders from the forge; it used to hurt mightily to walk on that patch of it. We would run that last section. When we were children it was always called the guest beach. Anyone from Salisbury was welcome to come and use it and still is. Then beyond the guest beach was Camp Ozone. (I have a PDF on the history of Camp Ozone created from a scrapbook made by Mrs. William Brewer sister-in-law to Dr. Eddie Brewer. Ed.)That is the camp I was talking about with Sid and Hazel Cowles and the Brewers. The Ostrander’s farm was in that stretch.

JM:When did permits came in for using the guest beach?10.

MV:Oh that was much later. I would say it was in themed to late 1970’s or early 1980’s. My cousin Linde Gee and I were asked as a committee because we were living and raising our children there all summer long. By that time my Uncle Spalding had built the new road where you go up the Mt. Washington Road slightly and then curve in and it comes back to the lake on the other side of Ozone. After they built that new high road it was much better for the lake because people weren’t driving by, but it allowed entrance into the beach off that road. You could continue on that road and go to campsite that were managed first by David Brazee and then by his son Danny. There were campsites along that road; some people started making informal camp sites on places where they would just beach their boa. It was felt that it was eroding some of the soil into the lake and that we had to formalize where the camping spots were.

JM:How many permits are given?

MV:Now as many as needed; everybody can get a permit. All you have to do is request one. At the original time there wasn’t parking for all the vehicles. They looked at how many people usually came up and I think it was something like 100 on a first come first serve basis. That didn’t work because there were a lot more people who would like to a permit. So they switched the concept; by the time my daughter was at the gate (so to speak) checking people in, when she was a teenager, a rule had been established that the first 25 could come in because that was how many cars she could honestly park in there. Even so I can’t imagine 25 cars in there.

JM:We are going to come off the mountain now. I am going to ask you about OWLS Kitchen, the Beautification Committee and we’ll end up with being Registrar. OWLs Kitchen, does it have a new name?

MV:It does; it is now the Northwest Corner food Pantry.

JM:When did it start?

MV:I don’t know when OWLS Kitchen was established; my neighbor Sue Morrill would know.

JM:I will ask her as she is on my list.

MV:It was established I believe by Penny Grant, Lotte Gerstel, and maybe Barbara Pogue. Oh there was a wonderful woman Jean from Cornwall who was head of it for years. When I first came back to Salisbury and moved back after we retired, Jean was the Chairman. I think she is deceased now.

JM:How many volunteers are there?

MV:Now, oh you would have to ask Sue. I am a small fry; I only work there.

JM:Well, what do you do when you work there?



MV:I go once a week to a farm in Cornwall, Gordon Ridgeway’s farm and pick up fresh vegetables. It goes from sometime in May whenever Gordon says he has enough vegetables for me to come and get and goes until usually the end of October. He has things for me to pick up. I go every Friday and pick up at the farm supplies and bring them over and deliver them to the pantry.

JM:Where is the pantry?

MV:The pantry is in a house adjacent to the Rectory at St. Mary’s Church.

JM:There is something special about John Borden.

MV:Oh John Borden is wonderful. John comes every Friday morning with the ladies who really run the pantry. They collect on Friday mornings together and organize and decide what is going to be given out that week. They make up lists for all the volunteers, uncrate food and stack shelves. That is done every Friday morning. I used to do that quite frequently but now they have a steady group that does it. One reason they don’t really need as much help is because John comes who is the muscle and backbone of the whole group. He is wonderful.

JM:When do they actually pass out the food?

MV:Every other Friday night and every Saturday morning which very few exceptions. Christmas and Thanksgiving they do ahead of time so people have their food. They work with the local radio station and the food drive that they always have to get turkeys. They also ask for donations at that time so they can purchase food. They do special meals Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Those special meals sometimes they have special pick-up times. Then they do a wonderful thing in the fall which my grandchildren have helped with. They do school supplies; they ask the Salisbury Central and they might have expanded it but I don’t know for the teachers’ list of recommended supplies for each grade. Then the people who ordinarily use the food pantry can say what grades their children are in and get a bag full of needed school supplies.

JM:Why do you do this; why do you work with OWLS Kitchen? I didn’t mean to throw you a curve! Obviously you believe in helping other people.

MV:I do. I believe it is our obligation.

JM:It is our obligation to help others in any way that we can.

MV:I think it is one of the joys of living in the country; we live in a small enough community to be able to take care of the people who live in it.

JM:We should take care of one another.

MV:We should. I hate the word should, we can and we do. I suppose it is an obligation, but I hope that it is more of a gift to help others. I think this community, it concerns me because this is slopping


over into my Registrar job, but because I am involved in creating the ballot for the year I can tell you that there are a lot of empty spots on the ballot. To me it is not a healthy sign of the community; it means that people have stopped having an interest in the welfare of the community. It goes beyond the welfare of people; I think that is paramount, but we have the welfare of the environment, or the educational community. There are two empty spots on the school board and that to me is unfathomable that people are not concerned with the education of all the children of Salisbury.

JM:They also realized how much work it takes; it takes a tremendous amount of time and work.

MV:It does. I would say the other board that that is true of most especially is Planning and Zoning. P & Z was not always in Salisbury. I think it came in in the 1970’s, but I am not really sure. It is what helps us to keep our community civil by having a place to go to say, “This is too much, or this is too little or we need more.” It is what keeps us a society of neighbors.

JM:Oh I like that, rather than strangers. The town Beautification Committee is sort of on the same lines as to make where we live attractive.

MV:Yes, it is. It really fell to the group of people who said, “Well the Salisbury Garden Club has folded.” (See tape #160 Jill Scott)

JM:It did.

MV:So if it folded, we need to do something to make sure that we are still planting the pots and the window boxes. It is a very loosely constructed group of women. We would love to have some men who would like to help too. We gather right now three times a year in the spring, the summer and in the fall. We set out plants in the pots down along Salisbury and Lakeville Main Streets; we also do a few extra things like the Post Office window boxes and the boxes by the steps of the Town Hall.

JM:Do you do the pot by the library?

MV:No the library must do their own. We would happily do the library, but we do one in front of the Academy Building, a couple of them, in front of the Post Office. Now they have introduced down Academy Street there is one in front of what used to be called “At Home in the Country”, but I hear that they are going to close their doors soon. That is too bad.

JM:How many women do this?

MV:There are probably 8. The leaders are Barbara Nicholls and Chany Wells. They are the real organizers and get the rest of us to show up with our trowels and gloves.

JM:I think we are going to end up with Registrar of Democratic Voters. How did you get the job?




MV:Somebody asked me and I said yes which has gotten me into trouble my whole life saying yes. This job I really did only because my husband talked me into it. He said, “Come on, somebody needs to do it, and you like it.”

JM:That makes a difference. You really do have to like what you are doing. Were there any specific qualifications at the time that you were asked?

MV:No, there should have been, but there weren’t. I think Dick Walsh had the job before me. He and Trish were hoping to move to North Carolina. He was just desperate to find somebody. So that is how I ended up with the job. I knew rudimentary computer; I still do. He said that was better than my counterpart which was true. The Republican Registrar did not know computers at all. He felt comfortable in that. It was very simple system at that time. I had worked an election or two so the members of the party thought that I wasn’t going to miscount.

JM:Do you have training that you have to go to now?

MV:I do. In two days we start an 8 part certification process that was just enacted by the legislature this year. It will cost the town a pretty penny about $1600 per registrar as well as for our deputies to be certified. I believe it is a very good thing; it will regularize throughout the state what people know about what their job is. I can tell you from our most recent registrar conference which was just at the beginning of this month September that there are some registrars who are very fearful of this certification process. They have been out of school a long time and hear test and they get very worried. I honestly believe it was designed with the best interests or the state and state elections in mind. We will all get through it swimmingly.

JM:Of course if you have a positive attitude it carries you a long way.

MV:That’s right.

JM:What do you actually do?

MV:We register people to vote that is where the registrar part comes in. Our official title is “Registrar and Election’s Administrator”. The registration involves keeping current the list of registered voters. That involves an on-going check that the computer and paper records agree. That is done in the winter every year from January through May. During that time we have a canvas; we use several different methods to ascertain whether people are still living where they say they are living, that their name is the same, and they are still interested in being on the voting roll. That involves some detective work which is sort of fun. It also involves a lot of following of state statutes so there is a proscribed way that we must write to people and ask if they are still living at the same address. If we get no answer then we have another statutory requirement of keeping them in abeyance for four years in what we call an inactive list. If they came back and said, “Oh no I just did not answer my postcard, but I am here.” then we can reactivate them. If they stay that way for 4 years, then they get off the list. The other is Elections’ Administration which we are just now beginning to plan for. My co registrar and I will name


the Moderator and the poll workers soon. We will then start our statutory required activities; we have to check out voting tabulator, we have to with the Town Clerk prove the ballot which we have done last week. Then we have to keep track of who might be write-ins; this year there might be some, hopefully. We are still looking for people who might be interested in taking some of these board positions that are vacant at the moment. We have a very long day of about 15 ½ or 16 hours in November. That is the most grueling and the most energizing day of the whole year for this job. It is truly an exciting day and full of energy. I seem to have more energy at the end of the day than I did when I wake at 4:30 in the morning.

JM:I wish you would bottle it and send it to me. Before we close the interview, if there anything either about Mt. Riga or the other things that I have asked you that you would like to add that I haven’t covered?

MV:Oh my goodness, you have been so thorough. I guess I would say that I see something changing in Mt. Riga which is sad but understandable. My children and the children of a few others on Mt. Riga are probably the last ones that will ever get to spend their entire summer on the mountain. We are still a summer community, but when I was growing up and when my children were growing up, we moved up as soon as the school was out, in fact when we lived in Sharon, we moved up before school was out. We spent all summer and we came down in October when it got too hard to do homework by kerosene lamp, or at least they said it did. I have a tremendous affection for the fact that living up on the mountain as some have done like the Millers who spend a year there and roger and Ann Williams back a while ago, one of Alice’s relatives. Living there year round was always something that Charlie and thought we would do, but I think we have now checked off that it is not something we can do. We have winter camped up there; we enjoyed it when we were younger. Our last time to do that was in 2000; we spend New Year’s Eve up there with a whole bunch of people. We had a wonderful night; we went out on the lake and it was a beautiful occasion. I think that those days are gone for us. Our children are very strongly connected to the mountain and to their friendships there. I hope that in future generations even with part-time coming to the mountain that they will build that sense of community and belonging. It goes a little bit farther that than into the ability to think through a problem and make do or to not have exactly what you need so you create another way to do something. There are still a lot of card games, board games and things that children can do if they come for 2 weeks or a week. They can participate in and enjoy, but that whole sense of that acres is your backyard and you are free to roam, you are free to swim, canoe, to berry pick, to hike without any parent really being concerned about you. You are just gone. That freedom and also the responsibility that comes with that freedom staying safe, staying mostly sensible, comes with an appreciation of the land. With the appreciation of the land comes a feeling of responsibility.

JM:We are going to leave it there because I don’t want you to be teary. Thank you so much.