Oral History Cover Sheet
Narrator: Mary Rapp
Tape #: 33A
Place of Interview:
Interviewee: Peter Wick
Summary of talk:
1930 purchase of Gray House to become a boarding house, description of Taconic, Scoville family and their influence on Taconic, Scandinavian influence & Norwegian community, Johann Satre and ski jumps, Erickson’s farm, Saturday dances, Mrs. Smith’s Victorian house at bottom of Smith Hill, Twin lakes, the fishing Mecca of Connecticut, its railroad station CNERR, post office, and drug store, summary of Norwegians in Salisbury-Taconic area.
Property of the Oral History Project
Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Connecticut, 06068
Peter Wick tape33A
MR: Peter, you said that you and your family came to the Salisbury area about 1927. Your father was employed on a large estate at that time. A few years later the ownership changed and your father had to look about for some other employment. What happened then, Peter?
PW: Well, we were left high and dry without any job and that was just prior to the depression.
MR: 1930 was…
PW: 1930 was not an easy year, especially if you were unemployed and were 53 or 54 years old and living up here in Salisbury.
MR:With two children and
PW:With two children
MR: And a wife
PW: And a wife, so it was a big crisis time in our family. The first thing that my mother thought of was to move back to Norway because we could live there very reasonably with the money we had and that looked like an easy out.
PW: I don’t think that either my brother or I, nor my father were really crazy about that idea.
MR: Yes, sure.
PW: so one day we were riding. We would go ride, would go on rides on Sunday-joyriding was the thing in those days—take your car and ride around. It was a custom of us to go riding in the car around—any old way, just enjoying the country around here. So this particular day we went…we were driving out, and we decided to drive around through Taconic and come out on 44 and then go down to Salisbury. So we took off, and we were riding along in the car, and we drove by this place, and there was a big FOR SALE sign on it. My mother said, “Peter, stop the car.”
MR: Peter was your father.
PW: Peter was my father, yes. He looked…he didn’t understand why she should ask to stop the car. “Well”, she said, “there is a FOR SALE sign on that house over there. Why don’t we look at that place?” So he stopped the car. She had a very large imagination, so we stopped the car. We looked through the windows, and there was nothing in there except bare rooms and stoves in every room: just a primitive Colonial farmhouse that was about ready to fall down. So my mother said, “Let’s find out how much this place is going to cost?” It appears that…
MR: You said that the price was right, to then what happened?
PW: Well, my father proceeded to see Mr. Angus, who was the agent, the real estate agent at that time.
MR: And tell me all the other jobs he held.
PW: Well, Mr. Angus worked for the Scovilles. He was a gardener and general caretaker of the Scoville’s estate. He also had other jobs. He was a Justice of the Peace, and in those days small towns and villages had all these small functionaries and…
MR: He was it.
PW: That’s how he was the one we went to.
MR: As a realtor.
PW: As a realtor. And the decision was made quickly, and then two or three weeks later…
MR: I would say that took a lot of courage.
PW: Well, it did, but that’s all we had left was courage. We didn’t have anything else, you know.
MR: Are Norwegians noted for their courage, Peter?
PW: Well, my mother was. I don’t know if any of the rest of them have ever…their fair share of courageous people. So, in the back of my mother’s head was that she probably thought that she would take in boarders. This was one of the dreams of her life that she always wanted to have an inn and be an innkeeper. We used to hear about this when we were kids, and she’d talk about it, I can’t think of the word…
MR: She’d fantasize and dream about it.
PW: Fantasize about having an inn and wayfaring place, and that was her dream all these years.
MR: Peter, could we say first who had owned it and how it came to be for sale?
PW: Well, the place had been owned by the Gray family that had been there, I think, for probably many generations. Mrs. Anna Gray was in it.
MR: Anna Gray?
PW: She was 70 or 80, an old lady. I don’t think she was too well. It was for sale. She had run a, maintained herself by renting out rowboats and supplying people with camps or places to pitch tents. She kept her books, written in long hand…
PW: We had that to go on.
MR: But there were no buildings?
PW: There were no buildings except the house.
MR: And you named it?
PW: We moved in in June. There were no conveniences in the house. It was simply a house. We did have electric lights. We had to pump water out of the cistern for washing clothes, and we had a well down in the field for drinking.
MR: Well, I understand that very well, because when we bought this place, which I traced to 1835, we had a cistern, but we didn’t even have a well. So I understand.
PW: I would say that there were relatively the same convenience as there were one hundred or two hundred years ago.
MR: Yes, that’s interesting.
PW: So we moved in. The first thing my mother thought of was we were going to have running water. So she got hold of a contractor, and the first thing we did was put in water. We put in a septic tank for bath and running water.
PW: That was the first thing she did. Winter was coming, and we were still not out of the woods. My dad spent a lot of time cleaning up the shore, the brush had grown up.
MR: Oh, I’m sure.
PW: He was sick with worry because he could never, no way, see how he was going to create a business down there.
PW: My mother didn’t have any fears like that at all, but he sat and worried all winter long and got white hair, (laughs)
MR: How did you keep warm- fireplaces?
PW: We had fireplaces. Then they put, along with the plumbing, they put in steam heat.
MR: Oh, steam heat.
PW: We got by the first winter all right.
PW: My mother had contacts with people in New York, places where she worked, working for wealthy people. She contacted them about getting guests, where people might want to stop at a country house, sort of an anonymous place where they can relax. She started her boarding house, and my dad bought some second-hand rowboats, and started renting boats out. The first year they just struggled through it. They just made it. Of course, my brother and I we couldn’t care less. We were just going to school. I was in high school.
MR: Oh, you were in high school already.
PW: I was in high school, yeah. As a matter of fact, I was going to Hotchkiss at the time.
MR: And so was your brother, Walter.
MR: Well, Peter, I want to reserve some of the good times that are coming ahead. I want to ask you a little bit about Taconic, and we’ll go back to your mother’s…
PW: Taconic, at the time, was a very small community, had a post office and a little store. And of course, there were cottages…Lake people that would come out in the summertime. The little store subsisted on the patronage of people buying milk and bread and stuff.
MR: Was there a children’s camp that far back?
PW: Oh yeah.
MR: There was?
PW: That had been there for quite a long time.
MR: Oh really? It’s not there now, but…
PW: No, it was there in full swing until… you were there.
MR: That’s interesting.
PW: There were many camps like that. People would come up from New York and…there were several of them over on the big lake, I think.
MR:Now, there was a chapel on the village green, wasn’t there, then?
PW:Well, there was a building there that had been a church, but it was a residual from the past.
They used to have services there. They were struggling to keep it going.
MR: Mrs. Curtis told me that sometimes in the end she would be the only person that went.
PW: Yeah, it was a…
MR: There was a shed across the street for the horses.
PW: There was a shed out back for the horses and the wagons.
MR: And were those same trees around it, do you think, that are still there?
PW: Oh, yes, those trees are still there.
MR: But there was one big name in Taconic, Peter, and that was what?
PW: Sackville. Scoville family
MR: But they had never owned your place?
MR: They never owned this one.
PW: The Scoville family owned probably several thousand acres, I don’t know for sure. It would be interesting to find out how it was they got here. But the rumor was…the rumor around town at the time was that their forebears had been in the iron industry—they capitalized on the Salisbury iron ore. I don’t know. Of course, this is only rumor.
PW: Lots of scuttlebutt couldn’t vouch for the accuracy of. The Scoville brothers were Herbert and Robert. They were brokers in New York City apparently. They kept Taconic…They had preserved Taconic all those years, their presence, with money.
MR: That’s a good way to put it.
PW: And the money and their influence was Taconic.
MR: How about the school?
PW: There was a public school here, two room schoolhouse.
MR: That they built.
PW: Oh, they built it, yes, but it was probably run by the town.
MR: Oh yeah.
PW: It was the Scovilles that furnished the library in Salisbury.
MR: They operated Grassland Farm.
PW: They operated Grassland Farm, which has its own historical significance, as a matter of fact, because how Mr. Robert Scoville introduced, Guernsey cows into this country…. was one of the first ones to…
MR: I didn’t know that!
PW: bring that breed of cattle.
MR: How much were they present physically? That is…
PW: I think Mr. Scoville, Herb and Robert’s father started this estate here, and the two brothers continued after that…
PW:I’m only guessing, I don’t know. It would be interesting to find out.
MR:I imagine those facts can be verified. This is getting off on a little side track, but I…
PW: But anyway, at the time we came here, the Scovilles were the landowners, and nobody could buy property. I mean, that was the way it was.
MR: Did a lot of people work…
PW: A lot of people around here worked for them, and they supplied the housing. All the houses down there belonged to the Scovilles. It was a good place for people to work.
MR: I had assumed that this was part of their estate, but I found that it wasn’t.
PW: No, no there were several houses that were, that had…
MR: But there wasn’t any more iron foundry, or railroad, or any of that.
PW: No, no it was all the… I think the iron business in Salisbury lasted until 1918, and then it was only slow.
MR:But now we are up into the ’30’s, and this is what I wanted to ask you.
PW:We’re in Taconic now, you see, and the iron industry is gone, but the Scovilles are still here.
MR: Still here, otherwise…
PW: We are living on the scrap heap of the history as far as…
MR: That is a good way to put it. Now you said you liked to go out and drive around. What kind of condition were the roads in?
PW: Well, there were dirt roads here.
MR: Dirt roads. And what did you tell Charles about why there were so many humps in the road? Is it true?
PW: It’s true, but I probably shouldn’tin recent history
MR: Well, go ahead and say it. You don’t have to mention any names.
PW: I heard this from somebody else so… I think it is probably true. John DiMichael built the new road from 44 out of concrete in 1938. So while they were building the road somebody down town decided that they would have him surface this Taconic road because it was a dirt road. In the springtime you got stuck up to your axles. Mud was really a bad situation so apparently John DiMichael brought in a whole bunch of trucks and distributed the flat rock, or whatever the base was, and put piles along the road.
MR: And just left it?
PW: And just left it. Then the town people had to come along and level them out. But what happened was that they didn’t do a good job of leveling, so you had all these Thank you ma’am’s.
MR: It’s just like a roller coaster. I think that’s a riot.
PW: As a kid I used to drive my Model A Ford over them. 1 used to take great delight in going over them. Of course, at the time I didn’t realize the significance of those bumps.
MR: Right. Well, let’s get back to your home. Your mother is operating her dream inn. You’ve named it, Peter, what did you name it?
PW: She named it Graystone because, first of all, the house sat on stone, and the people who owned it were named Gray. She thought that would be, Of course, we never used that name.
MR: But other people do. That’s how they identify it.
PW: Other people do. We had a sign outside that said “Graystone Inn Boats to Rent”. Maybe I’ll go back to calling it Graystone. Time went along, and my parents did quite well. They had a lot of guests. My dad’s boat business prospered. It turned out to be the best time of our lives.
MR: that’s what I want to hear you talk about because you wax almost poetic when you talk about those days, but I’ll tell you when we first moved here, and we made a remark about how quiet it was here in Taconic. I began to wonder, where have I come to spend the rest of my life. People would say, “You should have seen it when the Wicks were here.” Now tell me, Peter.
PW: My mother was a very outgoing person. She loved company.
MR:She liked people around her.
PW: She liked people, and she had a galvanic way of exciting people to come and visit. Any time anybody ever came and visited, she would be the…
MR: the catalyst?
PW: Yeah. As a matter of fact, she always had coffee on the stove and…
MR: I can see it now.
PW:If we had enough people there, she’d roll up the rugs. She would want dancing. She was really
a great personality.
MR: One thing I would like you to talk about is the Scandinavian community that were your friends. I always thought that maybe you came here because of them, but I understand you didn’t.
PW: Well, we didn’t really know there were any. We weren’t aware of anything Scandinavian. It was all Yankees, all old established farmers and people. We didn’t…
MR: Were you made welcome by those people?
PW: Oh yeah, we had no problem there. We just moved right in. I don’t think there were any feelings about us being strangers in any way. But it so happened that Mr. Warner was a judge in Salisbury, and a respected person. He was well off and had a big estate, had hired a Norwegian to take care of his property.
MR: That’s how it started?
PW: His name was Johann Satre. He was the first man that I knew of, Norwegian, that went to work for Judge Warner. Judge Warner found out that he had been a ski jumper from Norway. John Satre was a very great person. He wanted to get…he built the little ski hill down there, and he got people interested in skiing. Ski jumping at that time was like a spectacular sport, where people leaped off 150 feet into the air. It was almost like going up to the moon. It was an exciting thing, the ski jump! So John had built the ski jump. The first thing you know they had a ski meet, and a whole bunch of Norwegian carpenters from New York came up and they…A lot of publicity arose from this ski, skiing in this area.
MR: Would you mention some of the people that came…
PW: Of course that took time to grow which was back in the20’s, late twenties. It kinda grew, little by little, and finally the hill got bigger and bigger. It was one of the first ski hills in New England. There was one in Berlin and Amsterdam—been there since maybe 188O.This was one of the only ones within hundreds of miles of that area that really amounted to anything. There was a lot of publicity generated by this new sport.
MR: As you look back, did they ever have trouble with not having snow?
PW: Oh, yes, because we are not in the Snow Belt here.
PW: So we spent most of the time praying for snow in the wintertime. Those of us who were interested in the ski jump. The conversation always went to “I wonder how we’re going to do this winter.”
MR: Yeah, so…
PW: So we used to have to sled the snow off, but when we had good snow, we had fantastic….because we were near big centers of population, and they came out…thousands of people would come out to see somebody get killed off of this big ski jump.
MR: Do you think more people then than now?
PW:I think so because…
MR:It was unique?
PW: It was a new thing, and now there are so many. It has been watered down by all kinds of other things as the skiing industry got tremendous, and so took away from it. As a matter of fact, I’ll get into that later about the different kinds of skiing, but the only kind of skiing then that anybody knew about here was jumping and just going on a pair of skis. That’s how people used barrel stays with rubber bands. I mean it was primitive.
PW: The Norwegians had gone a long way so when they came up, they had proper bindings. It was a great thing. When I was young, hey, this is great to be a Norwegian because of all of a sudden we are set apart from the rest of the people.
MR: Now, which Satre was this?
PW: John Satre.
MR: John. He had sons?
PW: John Satre had been working there for several years, and then he sent for his family.
MR: I see.
PW: His family came over with, let’s see, there were, I think there were five or six brothers.
MR: Oh, they were brothers.
PW: All brothers, yeah.
MR: Like Ottar?
PW: John was the oldest. And Magnus, Olaf was the second, Magnus was the third, Ottar was the fourth, and Sverre was the fifth, and two sisters and the mother. They came over from Norway in, I think, around 1930.
MR: Oh, yes, I always thought they were sons.
PW: Sometime in that area. When they came over, they had been world class skiers in Norway, so that landed a great deal of impetus to the ski jumping.
MR: Oh, yes, sure.
PW: So when the Satre family moved into town, it was a magnet for other Norwegians who were good skiers, like Ole Hegel. He was a world, a really world class skier.
MR: Ys, I saw all his trophies.
PW: Ole Zetterstrom from Sweden, and there was any number…
MR: Ole Hegge had a brother, Steve, didn’t he?
PW: Yes, he skied too, but he wasn’t, you know, he was like me.
MR:Wasn’t in the same class? He was like you, playing the accordion, wasn’t he?
PW:Yeah. I’m not a musician, but I play the accordion. That’s the way it was with skiing and
everything else. But when I was a kid, I worshipped these skiers. They were my heroes. Really, they were clean living, and they were sportsmen. They were wonderful.
MR: They were good role models.
PW: They were. I just could not abide not being able to ski.
MR:It must have been great to be a Norwegian, and a big help that you were Norwegian.
PW:It was. I used to go out in the woods and ski every night—train—I would stay up late at night. I
didn’t even drink coffee, and I …Boy, I was a purist because of those role models.
MR: Did you ever jump?
PW: Well, no, that wasn’t it. I didn’t have…I couldn’t get down town, and furthermore we were poor. We couldn’t …Jumping skis cost a lot of money, and…
PW: I did what I could do around the house, around home…
MR: Well, I’m sure you all had to pitch in.
PW: I went into cross country skiing. I got a pair of cross country skis, and I decided to specialize. That meant that if I could be a good cross country skier, rather than divide myself in half by being a jumper, too, I might as well be better at cross country than…l don’t know if you understand what I mean.
MR: I do, exactly. Did Ole ever teach? Skiing or…
MR: Ole Hegge?
PW: He wasn’t a teacher in a certified way, I mean, he always encouraged people, and he knew how to teach skiing.
MR: That’s what I meant.
PW: Not the hierarchy now that you have; you got teachers and so-called professionals. Even beyond being a professional, he was simply a great skier.
MR: Weren’t you impressed when he gave his many, many silver cups back to his home town.
PW: Oh, yes.
MR: I thought that was great.
PW: That’s fairly recently.
MR: Yeah, last year.
PW: So that, you see Ole Hegge didn’t get here, I don’t know… I think the basis of his coming here…don’t recall what it was. He was apparently, I think, acquainted with the fact there were skiers here.
MR: And probably looking for a job.
PW: And probably acquainted with the Satre brothers.
MR: What other names, Peter?
PW: Well, there’s Birger Torrissen and Ole Zetterstrom, and there was Martin Jansen, and Olaf …and ahbrother, I forget his name now. Who else was there? Well, they didn’t…they all started to live here, and they pursued their various jobs. They were artisans mostly. They were skilled at brick laying and carpentry, and they were very good at it. But in those days it was hard to get those kinds of jobs,
so…that is another story in itself. It was really tough going for them. Then, of course, there was the skiing, and they made contacts through that.
MR: Are they some of the people that would drop in to see your mother?
PW: Oh, sure, my mother, she would…oh, here comes some more, you know, and she…and the house would be full of Norwegians all the time.
MR: How about Swedes- any Swedes?
PW: Oh, there were Swedes. It didn’t make much difference, but the interesting thing was that my brother was about, maybe 15 years old, he kept a diary. He died last year, and I came upon this diary, written when he was about 14 or 15, one of the notations in the diary stated that the Scandinavian crowd is here again. I wish you could read that.
MR: I wish I had known Walter. So tell me about some of the special things that the Scandinavians did together.
PW: The fact that some of them couldn’t speak English very well; they sort of stuck together.
MR: Tended to, yes.
PW: They had some of the same customs from Norway, many of the same ideas that…It was sort of nice to be able to…for them to get together and create a little community of their own unstructured, you know. It was a normal thing for them to do, to sort of stick together.
MR: Do you remember at what point in all this the Erickson family came?
PW: The Ericksons had always been here. They were another, sort of catalyst, because Mrs. Erickson was like my mother. She was always ready to do things.
MR: You mean Harold’s mother?
PW: Harold’s mother, yes.
MR: They had four boys, right?
PW: They had 4 boys, and they were my category, second generation Americans.
MR:They had a big farm up there, and they farmed it, didn’t they? Was it a dairy farm?
PW:They had a big farm, yeah. It was a gorgeous little farm; I guess a spectacular farm because of
the location. But they worked hard.
MR: Had they come directly from…from where?
PW: They had come from Sweden back in about 1910 or 12.
MR: Yeah, and then in New York and then up here.
PW: I don’t know if they were in New York. I think they were farmers. Mr. and Mrs. Erickson were strictly farmers from Sweden, but they didn’t come here because of the Norwegians. God forbid!
MR:No, that’s what I wondered. In a way they were here first.
PW:Oh, yeah, sure, they were here a long time.
MR: Peter, tell about the dances up there.
PW: Norwegians like gay times; they love to dance, and they could…most of the dances they were familiar with were the same kind of dances they had in Norway, which usually consisted of an accordion player, or even a harmonica player. It didn’t make any difference, but once they had somebody to lead the dances, they would do their traditional Norwegian and Swedish dances, and dance all night long. Well, my mother was brought up in Norway, and she thought it would be nice if one of her sons played the accordion. So when I was about 10 years old, she bought me a little dinky accordion, one of these German push and pull styles. I got enamored of playing the accordion. That’s all I used to do to the detriment of my studies. If I didn’t have any lessons, I would get phonograph recordings and practice the various parts.
MR:You didn’t evenread music, but you…
PW:No, well I…
MR:You’re self- taught.
PW: I did read music. I could———some parts of it. However, when I went to Hotchkiss,
there were a lot of well-off kids there, and was looking for money to buy sodas down in Lakeville, or what have you. This kid had a brand new 48 base accordion, and didn’t know how to play it. The kid sold it to me for $.50. I’ll never forget it. And here I…all of a sudden I got this beautiful instrument; it was like a …pipe organ. I mean, to me it was a fantastic thing. I had all these Norwegian records at home. My mother would sing when she washed her clothes ….Norwegian, and I would play them. She would be delighted. It was a great thing.
MR: You and your mother were very close.
PW: Yeah, we were very close. So any time anybody came to the house, and if enough of them came, she’d ask me to play the accordion, and of course, I was…
MR: You were glad to do it.
PW: Glad to do it. She would show them how to do polkas, and the schottische.
MR: I still didn’t hear how the dance barn got to be built.
PW: This started first, and then came, they decided to have…Well we first used to dance up at Erickson’s kitchen.
MR:Oh, did you? I never heard that. Not in the barn?
PW:No, in the house. They invited us up, and I would bring out my accordion.
MR: That’s the house where Herman lives now?
PW:No…maybe it is.
MR:Yeah, the old farm house.
PW:The original house.
MR:The original house. Not Harold,Herman.
PW:It really got to be a great thing.The Ericksons finally got tired of getting their house all shook up
by all these people, so Mr. Erickson built a platform out on a shoulder of the mountain, had a gorgeous view. I got to play up there. Every single Saturday night, rain or shine almost. That was really…to me the greatest thing in the world.
MR: How many people would come?
PW: Oh, thirty or forty. One time they invited a Norwegian glee club from Brooklyn, and they sang. It was a really great thing.
MR: Did some of the others come? really more private.
PW: It wasn’t private for the reason of being private except that it wasn’t germaine to the way people did things in those days.
MR: You didn’t get paid for this or anything? You just played?
PW: Oh no. It was just a great…So due to the fact that the outdoor platform was susceptible to weather conditions, Mr. Erickson had an old barn, and he put in a brand new floor in it. Then we started having dances down there.
MR: How about the fires?
PW: They conducted the dances the same way as they would have in Norway. About eleven or twelve o’clock at night the women would put their big copper kettles of coffee outside and bonfires, that was a great thing, bonfires. They had sandwiches, and we’d eat and socialize around. We’d dance until two or three in the morning. Maybe sometimes dawn would come up, and we were still dancing.
MR: Peter, they could keep on dancing. What about your playing? Did you get cold?
PW: It wasn’t that cold. Let’s see… I would say that it wasn’t that cold. I don’t recall it being done in the winter. It was mostly in the summertime.
MR: How many years did this go on? When did it all end?
PW: I think it started around 1934-35 and kept up until 1941, and during summers. One of the main evenings was midsummer’s night. That was the longest night of the year. That’s a big celebration in the Scandinavian countries.
MR:Sound wonderful. What brought it all to a close?
PW: The young people got older and decided…
MR: The older people got older.
PW: The older people got older, and then of course, World War II came. World War II changed everybody’s life, for that matter. There was never any going back, because after the war everything was so changed.
MR:Tell me about Mrs. Smith that you worked for when you were a young boy.
PW:Oh, I was about maybe fourteen or fifteen. I was always trying to dream of getting work. If
anybody offered me a job, I would have taken it no matter what because my mother and father couldn’tany moneyfind a quarter or some big thing. All I would dream about was eating ice cream or something I could buy, but I could never buy it.
PW: So this job appeared on the horizon. Mrs. Smith, who was a very old lady, lived at the bottom of Smith Hill. I think that she was the last remaining Smith of long generation that had owned that property down there.
MR: Which is probably why they call it Smith Hill.
PW: Well, which is why they called it Smith Hill. She lived in an old Victorian house, slate mansard roof, and Victorian right down to the T. The furniture was heavy, black, and big thick legs, and all kinds of rococo ornamentation. She lived there, and I’m sure that it was back to just about what it was in 1870, who knows what.
MR: But you said that she had conveniences. She had…
PW: They had central heating. I was surprised to learn they had central heating at that time. I think that if you were well off enough, you could maybe have it.
MR: And the barn?
PW: They had a big barn. There was no farmland left. But the barn was still there. All the cows had automatic drinking fountains. It was really fantastic for being an old farm.
MR: Was Salisbury School built on that property?
PW: No, that’s not anywhere near Salisbury School.
MR: Your job was?
PW: My job was to mow the lawn. She didn’t even have a lawn mower. I used to use a scythe to cut the grass. I couldn’t care less because I got my twenty-five cents, or whatever. I horded that money, put it in my wallet I had a little leather purse which I always kept.
MR: How did you get to the job- bike?
PW: I used to ride down Smith Hill on a bike and….exciting I could ride down there.
MR: Oooh, I should say that would be exciting!
PW: It was a wonderful thing.
MR: She told you something interesting about Twin lakes and the fishing, Peter. Would you tell us that?
PW: She would invite me in for coffee, occasionally. She was a nice old lady, and she’d invite me in. Her idea of coffee was the coffee pot was on the stove, shoved to the back, kept heat by the residual coal fire. When she invited me in, she would just add some more grounds to the existing coffee and then cook it again, and then put in evaporated milk. It used to taste like paint thinner. I used to have trouble getting it down, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
MR: No, you were too polite.
PW: She was a nice old lady. She used to tell me about Twin lakes was the mecca for sportsmen of all kinds because they had boarding houses. Many boarding houses…near O’Hara’s Landing. People would come from Hartford on the train. People would come by carriage. She would tell me about the big carriages, and how people came. Even then, as a young boy, I was fascinated by that history. But hundreds of people would go fishing out there, and apparently the fishing was always very good, always.
MR: It’s a deep lake in places.
PW: They had a railroad station in Twin lakes, and they had a post office, and a drug store there.
MR: A drug store?
PW:Oh, yes, Champlain’s drug store.
MR:Oh, for Heaven’s sake.
PW: We used to stop there…it was still going when we were…
MR: The tracks were only taken out since my memory.
PW: The train used to…there. There was a regular passenger train that went from; I don’t know how far…whether it went….the train used to go to May’s Landing. I’m not sure, but my mother used to go by train to Hartford. It would take four or five hours to get to Hartford by railroad. And one time she came back late one night, and the reason why she came late was a tree fell across the track. The engineer had to get out and chop the tree so the train could go through. That’s how primitive things were.
MR: Do you have any recollection about what it would cost to buy a ticket to Hartford from Twin lakes?
PW: Oh, probably a couple of dollars.
MR: That much?
PW: Yeah, you see the Central New England railroad would have to wind through all the towns. It would go winding through…
MR: So it would take a long time.
PW: It would take a long time, yes.
MR: Where would your mother have gone to shop for her boarding house?
PW: Well, she did…that wasn’t when we were at the boarding house. This was before then.
MR: Before then.
PW: She used to go to Hartford. Everybody went to Hartford to stores, G. Fox and Sage Allen.
MR: They did.
PW: Hartford…there wasn’t any place you could shop. You could go to Torrington, but that was a small town then.
MR: Or Norfolk.
PW: The other place you could go was Pittsfield, Mass, but then you had to go by car.
MR: How about Great Barrington?
PW: That wasn’t that great, I don’t believe. It was a pretty good sized town, but for shopping Hartford was the place.
MR: they tended more there than toward…
PW: Oh, Hartford, yeah, we were oriented by Connecticut.
MR: Peter, you said that you think it was John Rand that wrote an article for the New Yorker magazine in the 1940’s, maybe 1946, that told about farming in this area better than you or I can, certainly better than I can. But also you are one of the few people that can tell about the unique Norwegian community here in the Taconic-Salisbury area. Would you like to sum it up?
PW: One way I could sum it up would be the Norwegian immigrants so historically were always welcomed by people that had large means and estates to work in for them. They were so amenable to that kind of work. It was good for them because when they came from Norway, they had nothing. It was a good environment for them to live in. You always found Scandinavian people working for servants, or chauffeurs, or butlers, or cooks, or what have you.
MR:Mrs. Curtis worked for the Whitridges. She came from Sweden.
PW:Exactly. Mrs.Paddock, she worked for Mrs. Scoville up here. She was Norwegian, and just one of
the many people. Then the rest of the Norwegians, a lot of them moved out to farm in Minnesota or they went out to the timber country, out to the state of Washington where they were…things like that.
So that’s fairly well known, anyway.
MR: Well, Peter, we thank you very much for giving us this vignette of history of the Norwegian group here in Salisbury. Thanks again.
This is Mary Rapp and Peter wick signing off.
MR:Peter, let’s make this a unique tape. You give us a sample of the kind of music you used to play.
PW: This happens to be a Swedish schottische and was probably written about 1890, but it has always been popular among Scandinavian people.