This is Jean McMillen interviewing Patricia Walsh at her home 21 Chatfield Drive, Lakeville, Ct. 06039. The date is Tuesday, August 30, 2011.
JM:What is your full name?
PW:Mary Patricia Dell Walsh.
JM:Where were you born and your birth date, please?
PW:Sharon Hospital, Sharon, Conn. October 8, 1957.
JM:What are your parents ‘names and their birthplaces?
PW:My dad is John Gordon Dell. He was born just outside London, England, June 14, 1921. My mum is Myra Margaret McCarthy. She was born in New Brunswick, Canada, November 2, 1922.
JM:Do you have siblings?
PW:I do. I have 6, although my eldest brother Scott passed away 14 years ago. I have 5 siblings who live here in the area.
JM:Would you name them?
PW:Richard, Katherine, Stephen, Maureen, Sterling.
JM:How did your parents come to this area?
PW:My dad after WWII was stationed in Canada, and he met my mother in Toronto. They married in 1949. They came here to Sharon in 1954. My dad was employed by the Buckley family as a caretaker for the property in Sharon.
JM:Could you give me a specific description of the Buckley property in Sharon?
PW:It is on White Hollow Road. There was approximately 800 acres. The Buckley’s main house was two doors down from us, and there were two smaller homes on the property. Our family lived in one. My dad was employed a couple of places. He worked for George Kiefer in forestry. He worked at LPM. In his off time he was caretaker for the property, maintaining the fields. He also had a pheasant farm.
JM:What was your education? Did you go to local schools?
PW:I did. I went to Sharon Center School as did all my siblings, then to Housatonic.
JM:I am going to ask you for memories of various places here when you were growing up. What do you remember about the Grove?
PW:The Grove: We were not Salisbury residents because we were living in Sharon at the time. But we had friends, great friends who lived here, and we would go to the Grove with them. As children my biggest memory was Frank Markey (see tape #78A) who was the Manager of the Grove at the time. As
kids we were, I don’t want to say that we were afraid of him, but we respected him. He was a big man, I remember that. The Grove store was kind of a fun place to go; you’d go in and get a soda, and I think they were either 5 or 10cents. Then there was a 2 cent deposit, and when you took the bottle back, you’d get your two cents, and very often you would, pretzels at the time were two cents, and they would just trade it for a pretzel. Just a lot of very good memories; a lot of great old friends and always has been. It was just a great place to meet.
JM:Where did you go to church?
PW:We started going to St. Bernard’s in Sharon; that’s where I had my First Communion and Confirmation. Then, I am not really sure why, but my mother started taking us to St. Mary’s in Lakeville.
JM:You had a nice little story about head coverings.
PW:Yes, in those days Catholic women and girls were required to cover their head. Easter I know we had really nice little outfits and hats, but at other times we didn’t have anything else, so my mother would bobby pin a napkin to the tops of our heads.
JM:What can you tell me about Bill Barnett’s Variety Store?
PW:That was a favorite place to go; it was so exciting just to go to Barnett’s with the creaky wood floors, and it was just filled with so many toys and really neat stuff. The second floor of that building, I remember you would see the staircase and at the bottom of it was sort of like a velvet rope that would be hooked on. It was Toyland upstairs, and it would just be open at Christmas. I don’t know maybe for two or three weeks or maybe for a month at Christmas it would be open, and it was so exciting to go up there because it would be like Christmas morning. You just didn’t know what to expect when you got up there. Santa would be up there, and you would see Santa and tell Santa what you wanted.
JM:Did you sit on his lap?
JM:And he was in appropriate dress?
JM:You had a lovely story about Halloween and Mrs. Belter. (See tape # 43 A&B Cora Belter)
PW:Cora Belter, who lived on White Hollow Road, lived about a mile from us, and I just remember this one incident. My mother took us trick or treating and we stopped at Cora Belter’s. She wasn’t expecting us and she had never had children come trick or treating at her house. I don’t really
remember if she did give us anything; I think maybe she just may have given up apples or something, but I remember that the years afterwards she was prepared for us when we came.
JM:Good, a good lesson learned. How did you get to work with the senior citizens in the area?
PW:Something that just quickly came into my mind about Halloween and it’s not Salisbury-Lakeville, but I remember going to Sharon Center School after trick or treating in Sharon. All the children would meet and there was a big tub in the middle of the gymnasium. It was filled with pennies and coins and you would dump your UNICEF box. UNICEF boxes were for the children around the world: to raise money for them. We would not only get candy but we would get coins in this little box. I remember that distinctly going and dumping the coins into that big tub.
JM:What a wonderful idea. It used to be, but I don’t know if it is still functioning or not, but I think it still is. I hope so. (UNICEF)
PW:At Christmas we would go there and Santa would be on the stage. The children would all line up and you would go individually, I think it was the American Legion who used to give you a present, an orange and a candy cane.
PW:Yeah, those are really nice memories.
JM:They are nice memories; they are wonderful to have.
PW;Sorry, we got off track.
JM:You are not off track; this is what we want. How did you get to work with the Senior citizens?
PW:Probably late 1970’s early 80’s I worked in the so-called kitchen of the Grove. They were serving meals every day for lunch. I would go for 2 or 3 hours; it was just a little part time job, one of the many part time jobs I had at the time. Then the manager of the Senior Lunch Program left and I applied for the position. So I took over in the early 1980’s; I think probably 1981 or 1982 something like that. I did it for a couple of years, and then I left. I think I was working for a graphic designer at the time; I was called by Bud Trotta who asked me if I would consider coming back to run the program again because he said, “Whatever you were doing was working, and it is not working anymore.” So I felt very flattered and said, “Yes, of course.” So they combined the two jobs of Municipal Agent in the State of Connecticut. It is required that there be a municipal agent, like an advocate for the elderly, someone to do the paperwork, the Medicare forms, and all that. They combined the two jobs; so I was the Municipal Agent and the Director of the Lunch Program. I did that for 12 years.
JM:What were you doing with the lunch program that made it work, do you know?
PW:I ‘m not sure. I guess I tried a lot of different things; some things worked, some things didn’t. I started the exercise program, I started pot luck suppers, and I tried doing dances, that didn’t work. I started art classes, a walking group. Then I also organized bus trips which were very popular, as well as the parties, the holiday parties, and then I also brought in speakers. It was a multifaceted position, and I loved it because I could be creative.
JM:Yes, very creative.
PW:I would come home and the wheels would spin and I would say, “Well what could I do something different?” It would bring people in, and as I said, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.
JM:When you started, about how many people did you have, and did the programs grow as you added more and more things?
PW:Yes, when I went back the second time, there were about 10 or 12 people, I don’t quite remember. It had grown to about 30 to 40 a day for attending the lunch and then for programs and so forth. Then for the bus trips they were very popular and I would always…Very rarely would I have to cancel a trip because I did not have enough people.
JM:I think I remember those, and they were a great deal of fun.
PW:They were and sometimes they were just day trips, and very often they were multiday trips. We would go to Canada, Pennsylvania; they were great trips.
JM:How did you get started with PD Walsh’s Country Store?
PW:Well, after my husband passed away, Richard Walsh who had the Apothecary Shop; he passed away in 2008 and we were living in North Carolina at the time. I decided to move back up here to be near my family and his family which are all in New England. Oh I guess in the winter of 2009-10 I thought that I had to get on with my life. I thought what should I do? I bought this house on Chatfield Drive and I have a basement full of stuff because he and I were big collectors; tag sales, auctions. I didn’t have anywhere to put the stuff. I thought maybe that was my calling; maybe I’ll open up a little shop; someplace where I can lock the door when I feel like it. I looked in spaces in Lakeville and Millerton, and nothing kind of jumped out at me. Then I heard that the Falls village Inn had been sold. That was in March of 2010. So I thought maybe I’ll look in Falls Village, thinking that Falls Village will have resurgence. I looked at a space over there and it was too small. Then I learned that the former Town Hall was for rent; so I looked at it. I went in with the First Selectwoman, Pat Mechare, and I walked and said, “Wow it is way too big, but I’ll take it.” I just fell in love with it instantly. It had so much charm, the wood creaky floor which I remembered from Barnett’s. So I decided to create this sort of memory place that was very important to me as a child.
JM:And having been in your shop, it does create memories.
PW:Yeah, and I wanted to do that for children. So I have penny candy which is a penny. I am losing money on it, but kids come in and love it. I have an old fashioned cash register, and they have never seen that. Older people come in and say, ”Wow I haven’t seen one of these since I was a kid.” So that just means a great deal to me. I am not making any money at what I am doing.
JM:But you love it, and it is important for the community.
JM:It is a way of forming memories which is invaluable.
PW:A lot of it has to do with Richard because so many people had great memories of his Apothecary Shop and the soda fountain. You could go in there and get a battery for your watch or you could get a greeting card. I sort of have a little bit of that of him there as well.
JM:Did Dick buy the Apothecary Shop from the Gentiles?
PW:Yes, in 1973.
JM:Now can you tell us a little bit more about the Apothecary Shop? Where was it in Lakeville?
PW:It was right on Main Street which is now the China Inn, the Chinese restaurant. It is next to the Post Office. Dick bought it in 1973. He and his family were living in southern Connecticut, and he came up here and looked at it. I think Bam Whitbeck told him about it being for sale because he and Bam knew each other from U Conn from pharmacy school. Dick came up and looked at it and decided to purchase it. He brought all his family up here. I don’t really have that many memories as a kid going in there. My memories were of after St. Mary’s church going to the Salisbury Pharmacy because my mother would give us a quarter each and we could buy whatever we wanted. I remember my older brother always getting a frosted root beer at Salisbury Pharmacy. I think we would always just get candy or something like that. Then getting back to the Apothecary I went to work for Dick in 1984. Actually I worked for him between the two times I was running the Grove. That was one of the part time jobs I had. Great memories, he had that great soda fountain in there; there was Mel Smith and Lucille Lawroski, Sally Mott(Lucille’s daughter), Tina Lawroski. The whole family worked there, the generations worked there. Tina did the books; Sally’s daughter Monica worked in there. A lot of the neighbor hood kids worked there. Patty Williams, who is now the Town Clerk, worked in there.She was telling me recently,” We used to love it whenever Dick would leave the store because we would change the station because he always had it on NPR, and we would turn it onto a rock station.”
JM:It was a wonderful place to pick up anything you needed. I remember it when I came to town, and I came at the end of the Gentiles because I only remember it as the Apothecary Shop. I can remember people coming in on Sunday morning getting their newspapers. Somebody would walk in the door and he would hand them a newspaper. You didn’t have to ask; he knew.
PW:Plus he would put their name on the papers; he would reserve them for people. That was a huge thing on Sunday mornings selling the newspapers. He used to have to hire a kid to come in and help. I just remember that back room would be stacked almost to the ceiling with Sunday Times. He would write the names of all those people on those newspapers, holding them for them. Then very often those people would not come up for the weekend; then those papers would be there and he would give them when they finally came if they wanted them or if they didn’t. Yes so it was a very one on one hands-on kind of a place which you don’t see very much today and to have a personal pharmacist. He would get calls at home from somebody whose prescription had run out, and he would go down and open up the store.
JM:Bam Whitbeck would do the same thing.
PW:Bam would do the same thing, and pharmacists don’t do that today. I don’t know if they can’t by law, and maybe even those guys weren’t allowed to be doing that back in those days either, but they did it.
JM:But they were neighbors and friends and that is what you do. Have we forgotten anything? What would you like to add?
PW:I don’t think so. Just another quick little thing about the Apothecary Shop, I remember the phone booth. Do you remember the phone booth? It was in the corner?
PW:You don’t see that anymore. You certainly don’t see phone booths anymore.
JM:It is pretty hard to find a phone right now!
PW:I just wonder how he did it. He was there seven days a week from 7 in the morning until 6 at night and Sundays 7 until 1. Just incredible and sometimes I wake up in the morning and I say jeez how did you do this? Run a store means a lot. His children all have great memories of the place. I think that they, and we’ve spoken about this, none of them went into retail because of how much work it is.
JM;How many children did he have?
JM:Do they live in the area?
PW:One is in Boston, one is in Marblehead, Mass., one is in Sharon, and one is in Providence. RI. and I’m in touch with all of them and 9 grandkids.
JM:Any great grandchildren yet?
PW:Not yet, actually the first grandchild just married in July. I just went to the wedding.
PW:They’re a great family; lot of memories.
JM:Getting from St. Mary’s to Salisbury Pharmacy, did your mother drive?
JM:What kind of a car did you have?
PW:We had a 58 Chevy station wagon. I remember it was green. In those days you didn’t wear seat belts. My sister was here last week and we were talking about Barnett’s and she said, “Remember the time I got left there?” My mother and I distinctly remember I think there were 5 or 6 of us in the car, and we were just at the top of Wells Hill. We had been to Barnett’s and we were at Wells Hill heading back to White Hollow, and my mother suddenly said, “Where’s Maureen?” We turned around and went back and she was standing outside the store crying. She was about 6 or 7, and she got left, but she got picked up. That was her memory of Barnett’s.
JM:Not the most cheerful. I want to thank you so much.
PW:Oh thank you it was a pleasure.
JM:You are a wonderful raconteur and I have enjoyed myself thoroughly.
PW:Thank you very much.