Gail Vaill Interview
This is file #65, cycle 2. Today’s date is August 29, 2017. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Gail A. Vaill. She is going to talk about her husband, James Vaill, the property that he owned, the things that she did At Bad corner antiques, but not necessarily in that order. First we will start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
JM:What is your maiden name?
JM:When were you born?
GV:October 3, 1935
JM:Where were you born?
GV: I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. We are famous for the Jersey Girls.
JM:What are your parents’ names?
GV:Gustave Bernard Meiners.
JM:Your mother’s name?
JM:Do you have brothers or sisters?
GV: One brother, Robert residing in Vermont.
JM:How did you come to the area?
GV:I came with a photographer friend from New York City who was on a shoot for one of the sports car magazines. He had a job to photograph at the race track.
JM:Jim Vaill owned the race track didn’t he?
GV:Jim Vaill owned the race track. (See file #56 James Vaill)
JM:He started it in about 1957?
GV:No, it opened in ’57.
JM: Before it was a race track it was just a field?
GV:It was part of his family’s sand and gravel operation. It became farmland after the 1955 flood.
JM:After the ’55 flood?
GV:The ’55 flood washed all their equipment away. Thus it became farmland. The property that the track sits on at the moment was a potato field.
JM:It is nice to have it in the correct order.
GV:When Jim had friends who were driving their sport cars around the poor old potato farm, a group of people from Sport Cars of America Association stopped by and said, ”What is going on here? Are you building a race track?” A light went on in Jim’s brain and that is how the first little idea started to fly.
JM:Then the idea is not come from him originally; it was sparked by somebody else.
GV:Some fellows with some beer and a pc mg sports car racing around a potato field, Jack Fisher and others. (See file 94 Skip Barber for update on track)
JM:When did you marry Jim?
JM:No it has to be earlier because you were married when I lived in your apartment house in 1967.
GV:What was your question?
JM:When were you and Jim married? You told me before it was in the early 1960’s.
GV:We’ll figure it out. 1962?
JM:That sounds about right. Beside the race track he owned other things in town didn’t he?
JM:Tell me about the apartment house called Foster- Perkins Boarding house at one time. You and Jim lived in when I rented an apartment there. Whom did he buy it from?
GV:He bought it from George Haas. (1966) (Jacob Davis sold it to Elijah Foster in 1778. The house was passed down through the family until George and Betty Haas sold it to Jim and Gail Vaill. ED)
JM:Was it already in apartments when he bought it?
GV:It was empty. He and Elizabeth lived at a private home across the driveway where Pastorale now stands. (It is now Manna Catering, 223 Main Street, Lakeville.) George Haas was busying himself with the motel that he had created. (The Iron Master’s Motel, now called the Inn at Iron Masters. Ed.)
JM:That was behind and between both the Perkins Boarding house and the Betty & George Haas house.
GV:In a place called the Pitch.
JM:The Patch. It was called the Patch.
GV:At that point we were converting it. We lived up on Woodland Drive. We were converting the apartment house into apartments. Jim had mentioned to George Haas, something that I was not witness to, “If you ever want to sell the motel, let me know.” Sometime after that George Haas went to Jim and said that we have decided to sell, do you want it? Jim said yes.
JM:In the apartment house there were 7 apartments? There were two on the first floor and there were two on the second floor.
GVLBut the third floor was not completed.
JM:You lived on the first floor in the back.
GV:Hope and John Mongeau lived on the second floor in the back.
JM:My apartment had a connecting door to the back passage where they lived. I lived there from 1967 -1971.
JM:It was a very nice apartment. I had a living room, bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. I had been told that the three rooms had originally been just been single rooms and had been made into an apartment.
GV:Yes because it had been a boarding house.
JM:I am assuming that because it was a boarding house maybe there was a bathroom on each floor.
JM:With the motel when Jim bought it, you told me that you got stuck running it.
GV:Yes because at that time Jim had also bought a meat market building…
JM:Which he turned into the laundromat.
GV:Yes he turned it into the laundromat.
JM:Let’s go back to the motel for a moment.
GV:I was peacefully in the apartment house because we had sold our house up on Woodland Drive and planned to put something else up. Years flew at that point so now we were doing the laundromat, I had my shop (Bad corner Antiques), the motel and we also went to Antiqua. We fell in love with that island and bought property and committed ourselves to winters down there. Jim came to me and said, “Well I can’t run it.” I said, “Well I’ll do it.” And that was it.
JM:Did you run it with Mrs. Haas?
GV:She was hands-on with me for about a week.
JM:So she trained you. You did everything: reception, took in the guests. Did you have chambermaids?
GV:Oh yeah I had two chambermaids, and a maintenance man and a night man. That was Bill Shallock who was Judy Ghadossi’s father. He worked for Jim on the farm. It was a family affair. It evens out.
JM:How many rooms did the motel have then?
GV:27 it has not enlarged its footprint.
JM:It is the same as it was then.
JM:When I remember it, you walked into a big open space and that is where you had your continental breakfast.
GV:Everything the TV as a matter of fact we watched the Moonwalk down there.
JM:Oh goodness that would have been 1969. How long did you run the motel before you were able to hire somebody to take over?
GV:Jim sold it to Bob Valentine. You can find that in the archives. I find that part fascinating. That brings it altogether. You can be sitting there and have a question like this. Oh wait a minute it is right here. Here it is. I loved It and I just did that for recreation.
JM:Tell me about the laundromat. You said it was a meat market. I have understood that Goderis’ meat market was further up Ethan Allen Street.
GV:There were two on the same street. One was here and one was up near Mizza’s.
JM:Then the one we are talking about is on the corner of Ethan Allen Street and Sharon Road (was Montgomery Street). (I understood it was the Jigger Shop .Ed.)
GV:I can tell you exactly how I know that it was a meat market. There was a beautiful butcher block but they called them work tables. There was one in the cellar when we bought the place. It disappeared. We were heartbroken. It was a huge thing and someone went down into the cellar and took it.
JM:Jim created the laundromat from that building. I used to use that laundromat 7:00 Saturday mornings.
GV:He had never seen a laundromat before. I had never been in a laundromat before.
JM:Where did he get the idea?
GV:I don’t know somewhere floating around in his brain. Probably because the town did not have one and he thought it was needed.
JM:There was one in Sharon in the plaza and one in Canaan. There was no one in Salisbury-Lakeville. Did he have an overseer or staff?
GV:Oh yes he had Audrey and Harold Bushnell, who was George Bushnell our former selectman’s brother. They lived rent free upstairs over the laundromat which I thought was another very clever idea. It didn’t mean Jim wasn’t hands-on every minute of the day! This is off the record, but one good thing about it was Harold could not read. I had never met who could not read who had gone through a local school system, especially a rural one. He was great with machines, but if you said Harold the machine needs soap. ”I’ll write a note to Harold, No I’ll not write a note to Harold because Harold can’t read.” Audrey was wonderful with people, until someone stepped on her toes. They never did that again! Jim had never been in a laundromat before so he decided that there was going to have piped in music and wall to wall carpeting. I said, “Jim, no, it doesn’t work.” He said, “Well we are going to have it.” He borrowed a cable from my shop so when you walked in you had piped music. He borrowed a coat rack so people could hang up their coats. There were magazines. It was a nice place.
JM:It was comfortable, it was clean. It was fine. It was very handy.
GV:I don’t know where they came from but we had some pretty spiffy clients. The magazines were absolutely upscale. They were out of this world.
JM:There was a little cottage that was moved. Tell me about that. Where did it start from?
GV:It started from the Patch.
JM:Where did it go?
GV:A man kept putting us off, the house mover from down south in the state somewhere. He finally came with a trailer. Jim had built the foundation, not a foundation, but a slab. He came one afternoon, picked it up went within 10 feet within the back of my shop and trundled it up the hill.
JM:Up the hill to where it is now? (237 Main Street, Lakeville.) I thought it was behind the apartment house and was used for tools. See file #50 Hope Mongeau for correct information about the house.).
GV:No that is still there. That was the tool shed in the back.
JM:But Jim suggested they leave the apartment?
GV:They had to because they were having a baby.
JM:That’s right, probably John.
GV:No the second one David. They lived there with John.
JM:I had left by then.
GV:That is when they came to Jim and said that they needed more room. Jim said OK I’ll fix up the tool shed.
JM:Now they have expanded it, but it was a cottage from the Patch and was moved up on the hill. I was told by Betty Haas’ granddaughter that that building was called the Francis Cottage.
GV:Maybe the Francis family lived there.
JM:It could be. Hope thought it had been a blacksmith’s shop. It could easily have been either one.
GV:I never heard that. That was on the motel property so it could have been a blacksmith’s shop for the Perkins family?
JM:No it could have been for the Davis Ore Mine Company.
GV:Didn’t George Haas own that?
JM:No he managed it.
GV:His daughter ought to have that connection. Ask her that. Did you tell her you were doing me?
JM:I will. Yes, I did and she was thrilled.
GV:Any time they want to get in touch with me feel free.
JM:I will. Thank you.
GV:I am totally interested.
JM:It is a fascinating subject.
GV:Oogie Hoystradt would also know about the town. We played golf together for 20 years.
JM:Where did you play golf?
GV:We played at Hotchkiss, Undermountain…
JM:That would be Hob Nob up on the hill off Undermountain Road.
GV:Hob Nob is no longer there. No it was up the Rudd Pond Road. We played at North Canaan the new one.
JM:Tell me about the Mulville building on Main Street in Lakeville where April 56 used to be. (336 Main Street, Lakeville Ed.) Mrs. Bonnie Mulville had the gift shop April 56.
GV:That is the one I told you before.
JM:Jim bought that too didn’t he?
GV:He bought that from Hugo Paavola.
JM:What did Jim do with it?
GV:He made it into apartments. Jeanette Axelby lived there and Betty Angers and her mother lived there. In the garage down the driveway in the back, I have forgotten their names, was a part time antique shop.
JM: I knew it when April 56 was there as a shop, there was a candy shop at one time, and Geri Appleyard has a sweater shop at one time. Now it is the Lakeville Wine and Spirit Shop and Cozy a nail & spa salon. It is a new one that just opened.
GV:I don’t know any of that.
JM:The pet shop Pet Pourii is across the street by the Post Office. I think I have saved the best for last. That is your shop the Bad corner Antiques. How did that get started?
GV:I did flea markets. I did it because I was in the design business. I did it as recreation really, the flea markets with friends. We were at Antiqua one winter and Jim had enough money to hire two fellows. Well you have seen pictures of the derelict old barn that it was. He hired two chaps to go in and shore up the building and fix the whole thing up. When we got back in the spring and Jim said, “Wouldn’t that make a wonderful antique shop?” Then he got together with his friend Bob Valentine who had bought the motel and they both said the same thing. I said, “I do not want one!” (She was running the shop when I lived there. Ed)
GV:I still have one.
JM:Did you specialize in anything particular in your antique shop?8.
GV:In the early days I did. Early artifacts I really loved the things made in the 1700’s. But they don’t exist anymore. I had a lot in my shop. Advertising that was fun. Signs posters, anything like that. Bev Pulver and Joan Hicks had a dress shop upstairs. Bev was married to Peter Pulver. Joan was married to John Hicks.
JM:I just interviewed him.
GV:He is another one with a lot of info.
JM:Yes, I found that out yesterday.
GV:A lot more on Milerton because his father was the banker at the Millerton bank. These ladies owned a shop called the Shoestring. They made some very interesting clothes. They designed and sold upstairs. I’ll see if I can find it. (She brought out a framed advertisement displaying Gail posing in the door of the barn in a red and white ticking shift with a large blue 5 pointed star at the top with the center of the star cut out to show bare skin.)
JM: It says,” Cupboard love is the perfect dress for a colonial weekend on the diminutive Gail Vaill. The wearer seems to feel that it is perfect for her.” That is lovely.
GV:That was an old wardrobe that came out of the Farnam Tavern. That was a cupboard that I had in my shop. That is what they had instead of closets. That was one of their dresses. It was really unique.
JM:Did they make the clothes after they designed them?
GV:Oh yeah they designed, made them and sold them.
JM:The only seamstress I know is Gudrun Duntz. (See file #17 Gudrun Duntz). When you had your shop did you still do the flea markets or did you have pickers?
GV:I sold to people off the road and bought locally and I always have.
JM:So when someone was breaking up a house…
GV:Moving, redecorating they would call me.
JM:Before we close is there anything that you would like to tell me about that I haven’t asked?
GV:Not particularly, I think you are pretty nosey!
JM:Thank you for that I appreciate it. Thank you so much Gail.
GV:You are welcome.