CGP Community Stories

Nancy Dunn, November 11, 2008

Title

Nancy Dunn, November 11, 2008

Subject

Cooperstown
Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital
Oswego Teachers
Syracuse University
Farmer’s Museum
Milford Tidings
Waterville
The Glimmerglass
Freeman’s Journal Company
First Baptist Church of Cooperstown
Gone With the Wind
World War II
Air raid drills
Cooperstown School
Cornell Law School
Williamstown, Massachusetts
Model A Ford
Opera
Middlefield
Grange League Federation
Village Library
Clark family
Doubleday Field
Firemen’s carnivals
Holidays
Milk delivery
Morris
Milford
Church choir
Radio
The Otesaga Hotel
Cooperstown Art Association
New York State Historical Association

Description

Nancy Dunn was born September 21, 1927 in Cooperstown, New York where she has lived almost her entire life. Every aspect of her rich life is tied to the town of Cooperstown. She spent her childhood playing alongside her future husband. She watched the town develop and evolve through the windows of the Village Library where she served as the first librarian. She stayed close to her roots as many of her friends and family moved away.

According to her, the core values of her hometown have not changed over the years. She raised her family much the same way she was raised, not just in a tight family unit, but as part of a much larger community. Dunn and members of her family served their community in almost every capacity for three generations. Her work in the Village Library helped it grow from a single room in the former YMCA building to a thriving community asset that serves not only Cooperstown but four surrounding counties.

By tracing the memories of her own life, Dunn illuminates the history of Cooperstown. She describes the nature of the town's traditions and how they shaped her life. Dunn not only talks about special events and holiday traditions, but also describes the day to day occurrences that went on around her. She remembers selling the summer newspaper, The Glimmerglass, on the streets of Cooperstown as a young girl, and how she played alongside her future husband during meetings of the "Mommy Club," a twice monthly social gathering of the neighborhood mothers. Dunn recollects the annual Cooperstown Firemen's Carnivals and square dances at the end of Pioneer Street and celebrating Easter dinner with her extended family at Sherry's, a local restaurant located on the corner of Chestnut and Main Streets. Using her personal copy of A History of Cooperstown by Harold Hollis to verify dates and detail, the history of Cooperstown comes alive in the words of one of its most faithful residents. Listening to Dunn's recollections brings new insight to the history of Cooperstown and the people who grew up there.

Dunn's clear, concise recollections left little to be edited. Her pauses and changes in phrasing have been transcribed as closely to the original as possible to maintain her speech style.

Creator

Amy Frey

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2008-11-11

Rights

New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
90 mB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound

Coverage

Upstate New York
1920-2008

Interviewer

Frey, Amy C.

Interviewee

Dunn, Nancy

Location

12 Susquehanna Ave.
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2008

ND = Nancy Dunn
AF = Amy Frey

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AF:
This is November 11, 2008 interview of Nancy Dunn by Amy Frey of the Cooperstown Graduate Program. This is in her home on 12 Susquehanna Avenue in Cooperstown, New York and I just wanted to ask you a little bit about your growing up in Cooperstown and so when were you born?

ND:
I was born at Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital on, uh, September 21, 1927.

AF:
Okay, so you lived your entire life here in Cooperstown?

ND:
All except the times I was away at college, yes.

AF:
What did you go to college for?

ND:
I started one year at Oswego Teachers and then a year after that I transferred to Syracuse University for nursing. And then I got engaged and got married and had children and a family. So then after the children had grown up some and where in school I was a guide at the Farmer’s Museum for a while and then at age 40 I became the Village librarian in Cooperstown and was there until I was 60. I retired at 60. I married a man from here, Alton Dunn, Jr., who was a lawyer, an abstract lawyer. We had gone to school together, and but, he was in the Navy but I had him home for my date to my prom and from there on we kind of kept together and uh, we were baptized at the same time in the same church so we were, it was kind of a unique, special marriage. Yeah, in fact yesterday would have been our 62nd anniversary. We were married in 1946. Our mothers and fathers were best friends.

AF:
Here in Cooperstown?

ND:
In Cooperstown, and uh, his mother was born in Cooperstown. My mother was born in Milford. My father was born in Morris and worked and owned the Milford Tidings and that’s where he met my mother who was his secretary. And they were married in Milford.

AF:
What was the Milford Tidings?

ND:
That was the newspaper for Milford. His, his grandfather Leaman Carpenter had founded the Morris Chronicles and then his father and he worked at the Morris Chronicles which is the newspaper there. And he when they bought out in Milford he eventually came to Cooperstown as vice-president of the Freeman’s Journal Company.

AF:
Okay, so you had a long line of newspaper workers in your family?

ND:
Yes that’s right.

AF:
Did any of your siblings go into the newspaper business?

ND:
No, uh, my brother did work as a linotype operator there for a while and then he went on to Watertown and got a, Waterville, I’m sorry Waterville, and was a linotype operator there and married a woman from there. And my brother-in-law did succeed my father for a while in the Freeman’s Journal which was by then he had become the editor of the Otsego Farmer.

AF:
Oh, okay. You said that you had met your husband at a really early age, like as children?

ND:
Yes, there was a group of women in the town who were friends, who met once or twice a month for lunch and brought their little kids and we all played together. They met at each others houses so…

AF:
They kind of rotated between the houses?

ND:
Uh huh, they rotated between their houses. The women would do their darning and mending and gossiping [laughs], visiting. So that is how we grew up. We grew up together.

[START OF TRACK 2, 10:00]

AF:
Did that group, did it sort of originate with your mother or was that a long standing activity?

ND:
Is was that generation. And then as we grew up, the children grew up and went away it became the Grandmothers Club.

AF:
Oh, okay. That’s neat. They don’t really have that sort of thing nowadays.

ND:
Yes [laughs]. they don’t do much mending and darning too much anymore either.

AF:
Definitely gossiping though, I’m sure. So since your father was involved in the newspapers and everything did newspapers were they really a part of your lives as growing up. Do you remember being really well informed or political or social elements of what was going on? That would have been the years of possibly the Depression.

ND:
Oh, somewhat. I think just as a normal thing although I did, uh, there was a summer newspaper called The Glimmerglass and as teenagers, uh, there was a group of us that would sell The Glimmerglass on the streets. And our call was, “the Glimmer the Glass, the Glimmer the Glass”. [laughs] And I think it was something like two cents, I forget how much. Also as I was in high school I did do proofreading which nowadays there is no proofreading. Spell check will work if the word doesn’t sound the same. But there’s many times I see grammatical or punctual or punctuation or something wrong in a sentence.

AF:
Those computers don’t pick it up, huh?

ND:
Those computers don’t pick it up.

AF:
So did The Glimmerglass newspaper, did that have, it was just in the summer you said, did that have just summer activities or was it a social…

ND:
Summer activities and what was going on in the town and some advertising. I think it was a four page newspaper.

AF:
And it was produced by?

ND:
By the Freeman’s Journal Company.

AF:
Okay. Being somewhat, what I would think, of an influential person in the town working with the newspaper, were your parents involved in other activities in Cooperstown? Were they, did they have influence in other areas?

ND:
Well, my father was on the baseball committee in 1939 as the publicity chairman.

AF:
Oh, okay for the Hall of Fame opening?

ND:
Yeah. Um, they were active in church work.

AF:
And what church were you involved?

ND:
Baptist Church of Cooperstown. First Baptist Church of Cooperstown of which I’m still a member. Still sing in the choir. Uh, I think they played bridge with couples. There were…I remember going to the uh, old firehouse that had a second floor to a theater where they had puppets at one time which is mention I think in here [motions to The History of Cooperstown by Howard Hollis]. And I don’t remember the movies except as I got a little older and went to the Saturday afternoon westerns.

AF:
Was that here in Cooperstown?

ND:
In Cooperstown, Smally’s Theater, yeah.

AF:
Did you go with your friends?

ND:
Yes, we went with our friends Saturday afternoons. Also I remember going with my friends to Gone with the Wind.

AF:
Really, so that would have been 1939?

ND:
And we took our lunches and there was a break in between the movie and uh, so I remember that. Loved Gone with the Wind.

AF:
How many siblings did you have?

ND:
Well, I had an older brother who was ten years older than me. And then my sister eight years older than me.

AF:
So there was quite a bit of an age gap then.

ND:
Yes, I was the youngest, I was the baby. I was the golden haired baby. [laughs]

AF:
And do they still live in the area?

[START OF TRACK 3, 15:00]

ND:
They both have died. Yeah. My brother settled in Waterville, New York. My sister and her husband, she married a local man also, Gordon Fowler, and they lived here for until their children grew up and went away. Eventually both of them ended up in Florida in the last twenty years or so of their lives.

AF:
A lot warmer than here.

ND:
Oh, yeah.

AF:
But you decided to stay.

ND:
Well, my husband was in business here and this is where…yes [laughs] this is where my roots are.

AF:
It’s a good thing to have roots.

ND:
It is. Lots of my friends are here and now my family. My son lives here, and uh, he lives upstairs and I live down. I have the lifetime use of the downstairs [telephone rings].

[START OF TRACK 4, 15:57]

AF:
Okay, so we were talking about, um well did you live in this house your whole life or when you got married, or?

ND:
No, I lived at 83 Chestnut, uh that was my childhood home, and until I left and went to college, my parents lived there. And they eventually they bought a small house over in Fly Creek and lived there. After my mother died, um, my father came back here to an apartment here in the village. But I think they were living in Fly Creek when I got married, but all through my… In fact during the war years my house was one of the houses for the safe haven. We had war drills and there were a certain number of girls that lived out of town that came to my house with me when we were dismissed from school because of a war drill. Air raid drill.

AF:
Did you have them frequently?

ND:
No, but maybe four during the school year during the World War II. And one of them happened to be when I brought my friends home and my mother and sister were sitting there and I didn’t know until afterwards, I think there was an all clear after half an hour, the girls went back to school or home on the bus that my sister was in labor and had her first child after they had left.

AF:
Wow, that was busy day.

ND:
Yeah, it was a busy day for them. They never let on that she was in labor [laughs].

AF:
Were these drills town-wide or were they just for schools? Were school age children just sent home or was it a town-wide thing?

ND:
It was probably just a school, I was sort of unaware, of course we did have air raid wardens that sat up on the top of the bank for watching for airplanes, enemy airplanes. We had…oh we knew enough to, well I don’t know we had drills or not, but we had blackouts, pulling our shades down. We knew that if the church bells all started ringing there was a problem, and the whistle blowing.

AF:
That’s a question I’ve always had. Has the fire whistle always blown at noon? When did that start and why?

ND:
Oh, forever. [laughs] Actually it’s a test of the whistle. So that’s the way they do it. It’s always been at noon. Uh, way back they used to have signals blowing. Such as like your Morse Code would be. So they’d have maybe one and a hesitation and one would be maybe Main Street. I’ve forgotten the codes. We all knew the codes. Well, that were interested anyway. And, uh, I know that out of town was five in a row. We knew that one long one was a drowning.

AF:
Wow, so these were codes that would go out to the firemen or volunteer firefighters so they would know what was going before they got there.

ND:
They were published in the paper. We had a clipping you could cut out of the paper and place where you could see so we were sure, so yeah a one three or maybe a three three but as I said I’ve forgotten the code. So we all knew where the fires were.

AF:
Were any of your members of your family firefighters?

ND:
My father was a firefighter and my brother was.

AF:
Was it a sort of expected thing for most of the young men in Cooperstown to be?

ND:
About what it is now. The volunteers, whoever.

AF:
That’s cool. We have a lot of volunteer fire companies in my area.

ND:
My husband was one. Chip is one, my son.

AF:
So you actually have a lot. That’s a great tradition.

ND:
Yeah, yeah. My husband was on the ambulance squad, a charter member, when that was formed.
[START OF TRACK 5, 15:57]

AF:
Did they have to have any training or was it just sort of a…

ND:
Oh my yes. They had to have training, but they have much more training now than they had then. But they had the CPR and all that. Now they’ve got even more advanced life support, ALS is it.

AF:
I think it’s a lot more technical now. Well, speaking of schooling where did you go to school?

ND:
Cooperstown High School, Cooperstown Central School, no, Cooperstown School. It was not centralized until after I had left. They had…Hartwick had their own school, and Milford, well Milford still does.

AF:
And how many students were in your class?

ND:
Forty-four graduated.

AF:
That’s a pretty big class size. Seems like a lot of kids for this area. And your decision to go on to college was that, you said you did one year of teachers, was that a normal thing for most girls to go on to get a teaching degree?

ND:
I don’t think so.

AF:
What then made you decide to go on to nursing?

ND:
Interest I guess. Helping people. And actually my whole thought was really what I wanted to do was be married and have a family. And that was just of my generation I think. I think that was more the thing to do, more desired to do. And so I was. I was engaged at eighteen and married at nineteen. And in fact we eloped.

AF:
Wow, really?

ND:
Well, I graduated from high school when I was sixteen. So I’d already had my two years of college and I was in Syracuse and had finished the first year of that. And I worked at the Smart Shop that, the clothing store, that summer. And I guess I had decided not to go back to school, I can’t remember now, that’s funny. But my husband was at Cornell Law School, and we just wanted to be together. So um, November 10th we, well before that we, where he was in Cornell Law School he had a friend write to get a uh, I think we had to have a blood test which we went to Massachusetts to have and then we were married in Williamstown, Massachusetts. There was a Cornell big red game, football game, that weekend, his parents drove two cars, one being a Model A Ford up partway to Cornell where he met us and we drove the rest of the way to Cornell in the Model A Ford. And then uh, we went to the game and we went to the dance that night but the next day we started out at six o’clock and drove from Ithaca to Williamstown, Massachusetts in the Model A Ford. We had already registered there with the uh, and so we knew where we were going and it was, the man’s name was, he was the justice of the peace, in Massachusetts, his name was Mr. Grundy, and rather than, uh he was a garage man, fixed cars and so on, but instead of having us married there in the garage he had us married in his home. And we only needed the one witness so his wife was our witness. So it was Mr. and Mrs. Grundy. And she, I think she even played the piano for us. And that was on Sunday and then drove home to Cooperstown, to Fly Creek and he let me off and went home and then went back to Cornell. [laughs] But then we lived like that in kind of a not telling our parents until I just, I had never lied to my parents and I felt guilty, so in January after his exams were over he came home and uh, he told his parents.

[START OF TRACK 6, 20:57]

I told my parents and then he came over and what he did was throw his hat in the door and my father threw his hat back out and then he came in. I mean no one was angry, but of course both of them thought I might be pregnant. [laughs] Which fortunately I was not.

AF:
Wow, so your parents never even knew for how long, several months?

ND:
From November to January. So we would just see each other when he would come home weekends. We didn’t live together. [laughs] And then after we told, we went to our minister which was Ted Conklin, and uh, my husband introduced me first as Mr. Carpenter’s daughter and then he said well now really she’s my wife. And so then the parents, we were married again in the parsonage, the consecration of the marriage with our parents attending. In the parsonage which was kind of neat.

AF:
That is neat. I’m surprised that it was just a joint decision, did he grow up in the Baptist Church also?

ND:
Uh huh, we were baptized together, you see, when we were younger. In fact his father played a violin, and my father played a cello. And they used to play duets together.

AF:
For church services?

ND:
Yes, for church services.

AF:
So you seem to have a musical background, you said you sing in the choir, so was music a big thing in your household when you were growing up?

ND:
Oh yes, always. I was raised with good music. Classical music, I loved the opera. Every Saturday I would listen to the operas on the radio. And we used to get another station on the radio which I had in mind of saying, WQXR, which had all classical music. I’m not sure whether it’s still going or not that radio station. And that and my mother only went as far as sixth grade but she read, she was very well read and kept up on things. And she always had a book. So my love of reading also came from that.

AF:
I’m not sure how long the Glimmerglass Opera has been here was this before then?

ND:
Oh no, that was not, oh heaven’s no.

AF:
But there seems to be a big opera appreciation in this area. I see a lot of places in the area have opera companies. There’s nothing like that where I live.

ND:
Yeah, it’s really good. We’re a unique town, because of the New York State Historical Association and Bassett Hospital connected with Columbia Presbyterian and of course the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Fenimore Art Museum. All of those things and the Glimmerglass Opera company and it makes it a very cultural town.

AF:
So how long did you say you were married for?

ND:
I would have been married this year 62 years. We were married in 1946.

AF:
As far as raising your family do you think it was a similar experience to when you were growing up in Cooperstown? Did a lot change, did you have mommy groups or did a lot change?

ND:
Um, we had neighbors coffee clutches. We raised our children together. We had the gymnasium, we had girl scouts and boy scouts. In fact, my, both the boys are Eagle scouts. As was their father. My daughter started with girl scouts but she was more interested in horses and things. They had a 4-H club at that point and she had a horse that she earned herself by mucking out stables. And she had, they had a school horse they were going to get rid of so she earned that.

[START OF TRACK 7; 25:57]

We loaned her the money without interest which she paid us back. But she mucked out the stables to pay for it.

AF:
Was that right around here?

ND:
Yes it was Harley’s Stables over in Middlefield.

AF:
So she had to get herself there to muck out stalls?

ND:
We made arrangements with the school that allowed her to ride out on the school bus and then my husband would go get her at five o’clock.

AF:
That’s a neat experience I’ve actually had also. You said your husband worked as a lawyer here in town?

ND:
Right yes, only there were many lawyers, although a lot of lawyers don’t like to do the abstracts because it’s searching, searching on titles of property. So that surrounding areas used him also. And I know he went to Delaware County sometimes and Herkimer County sometimes. I think people would come from there to buy property here in the town of Otsego. Plus he was the town supervisor for a while as was his father before him. And his father was mayor of Cooperstown at one time.

AF:
Oh, wow, a mayor.

ND:
It’s a small town.

AF:
You said that you had worked at the Farmer’s Museum. Was that as…

ND:
A school guide.

AF:
When was that?

ND:
Probably in the 1960s.

AF:
And that was before you started your library work?

ND:
Before, yeah. Actually when my husband was in Cornell, because after we were married, then I moved to Cornell with him, and we had an apartment and I worked in the GLF which is now Agway. It used to be the Grange League Federation as a, it was their headquarters there in Ithaca. I worked in their mailing room alphabetizing. It seems like everything that happened, I say I have a lot of faith and I feel that my journey led me with the education and the Farmer’s Museum, and the mailroom before that, on to the library work. You see it all connected together.

AF:
So then you started working at the library. Was that something for yourself basically or was it more in need to help support your family?

ND:
Yes, in part we needed the money. The children were grown, Cheryl was eight years old, my daughter, and I was always accessible to the children because they could come anytime. We lived at Leatherstocking Street then so. And it was a wonderful job, I loved it. When I started I was the only one and we were in the one main room.

AF:
It’s still where it started originally, where it is today?

ND:
Yes, that’s right, in that one room and I was the only librarian. So Thursdays we closed and Saturday afternoons we closed and closed Sundays. But Thursday was my day off. [laughs] But gradually we got busier and we joined the four county library system. And then we expanded into the, across the hall. That used to be village offices. And then as I was leaving that’s when they went into the third room that’s in the back that they dedicated to me which I thought was kind of neat.

AF:
That’s neat that you have your own room.

ND:
[laughs] So I got something named after me before I died. So yeah, when I left I think there were four people under me anyway. So it had really grown anyway during that period of time.

AF:
So the building was originally the town or village offices?

[START OF TRACK 8, 30:57]

ND:
Uh no, originally it was built for Alfred Corning Clark, the son, and was a YMCA. That’s probably in here too [consults A History of Cooperstown by Harold Hollis], I forget, probably under the history of the library.

AF:
Were the Clarks always a great presence in Cooperstown?

ND:
Yes, well, monetarily more than [laughs]. This was in 1898 [reading from A History of Cooperstown] the new stone building erected by the Clark family was to be used as a YMCA, library and museum. [hands book to AF]

AF:
Oh, yes, used as a YMCA, library and museum, for their son. But once you started working there it was just…

ND:
A library, yes. And the village offices were across the hall. But the New York State Historical Association started out there also.

AF:
In that same building? And that had actually moved from, I don’t remember where. Was it in Albany?

ND:
I think so.

AF:
And the Clarks were pretty active…

ND:
In that, yes. Stephen. Well you know the art part, Stephen liked a certain kind of art and his brother liked the other and so on so that was, in fact in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where we were married.

AF:
That’s where Sterling’s collection went?

ND:
Right, but that isn’t why we ended up there. It was because it was just across the border. At the time we were married I would have had to register here in Cooperstown as the bride so we, that why we got married in Massachusetts.

AF:
What was the best part about working at the library, do you think?

ND:
The people. The people that came in, they were all ages from the children up to the adults and geriatric or whatever. So it was nice, and because it was a public most everyone that came in was there because they wanted to be. Not because they had to be. So that was it.

AF:
And you being a life-long resident you probably already knew everyone anyway.

ND:
Of course at that time we hand stamped, with a rubber stamp, and everyone had their own card number. Starting with 1 (one), 1 (one) G, which that was started by the library way back, Mrs. Cotes. We decided finally that the ‘G’ stood for ‘grownup’ [laughs], so we knew some of the frequent users, we even knew their numbers.

AF:
And everyone got their own little number. Did it change a lot by the time you left?

ND:
The computers had not come in yet. We were still doing the stamping of the date and numbers at that point. But we were in the four county library system at that point too so that they had cards, they still had numbers and, but in fact they still have numbers through the computers.

AF:
Do you think the library was a great community resource? Do you think it reached all areas of the community or do you think it wasn’t as utilized as it could have been or was it broad reaching?

ND:
Yes, it was more and more used particularly after we joined the four county library system and we had the inter-library loans when we had access to any book anybody wanted.

[START OF TRACK 9, 35:57]

However the town of Middlefield used to give us 100 dollars I think, they used it some, Hartwick used it some. But it’s always been a busy library.

AF:
I was in there on Saturday and it was very busy actually. I think I’m going to switch gears a little bit to across the street from library and talk a little about the hall of fame. You said your father was part of the..

ND:
He was on the publicity, he was the publicity chairman.

AF:
For the first year, opening it? Was it kind of a community event? Did everyone everybody go?

ND:
Oh yes, of course then they were brought in by train. And I know we met the train when it came in. My husband got, or he had baseballs that he got autographed. So it was a big deal.

AF:
Did the train run all the time to the station that is on Railroad?

ND:
We had a freight train, but this was a special coach train.

AF:
Just for that. So it brought all of the inductees?

ND:
Yes and dignitaries and I think the baseball players. I was not as much interested in all of that. That was, my father was busy with it and that and so on. I do remember going to one game anyway having been able to sit in the grandstand but it didn’t impress me a lot, the whole thing. [laughs] For fun.

AF:
And Doubleday Field, was it always just a baseball field?

ND:
Apparently, well I can remember no, because I can remember our high school football team playing on part of that. Over by this side of the field when the school was being, didn’t have a field of its own I guess.

AF:
And did the community use it a whole lot?

ND:
Well the community, some of the community or town ball has I think used it. But I don’t really, that doesn’t compute with me much. [laughs] The football games in high school did.

AF:
I’ve been told that there was a skating rink in the parking lot?

ND:
Yes, in the parking lot.

AF:
Did you use that?

ND:
Yes. That was more, it was for ice skating. Of course it wasn’t a parking lot at that point. They had a, and at one point that’s where they used to have the firemen’s carnivals too. They used to have a Ferris wheel and a carousel. And we also, it was a playground, like Beaver Park is now. We had a merry-go-round and we’d sit and peddle it around, I remember that. And I remember the firemen’s carnivals.

AF:
When did they happen? Was it a yearly thing?

ND:
Yeah, yearly, Fourth of July. A fundraiser. Sold hotdogs.

AF:
Do they still do those?

ND:
Not recently, they’ve stopped. Ten or fifteen years ago. They had them down at the Lakefront Park for a while.

AF:
You said that they Clark family had just a monetary influence as far as the town. Did it really just stop there?

ND:
No, look how they have the baskets, the hanging baskets, the flowers.

AF:
Have they always done those?

ND:
Yes, and the scholarships at the school were wonderful. It helped many, many kids with their college. In fact my oldest son had one, the one they called the ‘big one’, in which it paid the entire education. Four years of Colgate. But many, many kids. Both my, my daughter used it, my daughter had…they couldn’t, my second son couldn’t have a scholarship because his brother had one.

[START OF TRACK 10; 40:57]

They were two years, just a year apart. But I think they loaned money or they gave them money on a basis like that. Then my daughter had some. But, oh yeah, they’ve done much for the town.

AF:
I think I wanted to talk about some community activities, you said about the firemen’s carnival. What other sort of things happened in Cooperstown?

ND:
Well there used to be square dances held on the end of Lake Street. That was after we were married. Outside, down at the end of Lake Street where there weren’t any houses there yet. [laughs] Down at that end, uh, not of Lake Street, Pioneer Street. Down at the end of Pioneer Street. And of course I’ve mentioned the carnival on the Fourth of July and we also had our own fireworks then. I remember we had what we called the ‘devils’ which you stepped on and ground under your foot and they’d sparkle. And of course we had the sparklers. And the families had their own fireworks [laughs] not knowing any better. And the Veterans Day, like today, was called Armistices Day, but we still had the parades. And the whistle would blow at eleven o’clock.

AF:
Instead of at noon?

ND:
Well, for that, the Armistices at eleven eleven. But it was still bullet noon. [laughs] And it doesn’t blow on Sundays.

AF:
You talked about parades and I think we talked before about Halloween parades and what went on for Halloween.

ND:
Do you want me to go through that again? What we did for Halloween?

AF:
Sure.

ND:
Each church had the children at their church, dressed in costume and we had cocoa and sandwiches and cookies or something and then it would start with the Methodist Church the children would come down, pick up the Catholics, the Baptists, we would go on to the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians and then parade down Main Street up to the firehall and have treats and then we would go home. There was no such thing as trick or treating.

AF:
No door to door?

ND:
No door to door. Never even missed it. Never even thought about it. But it was one way the children at least got something to eat.

AF:
Did the churches do a lot of joint activities like that?

ND:
That’s the only one I remember. At that time anyway. Of course we had our Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Other than that the, I think like Christmas each church had their own thing. I know we had, we had Santa Claus come we had a Christmas party. Our Santa Claus when I was growing up and when my children were growing up was Perry [Hotaring?] who was built like a Santa Claus. But we would have even in the church proper now, for now we have our church service and then Santa Claus comes and sits downstairs. Not mixing up the two things. And other than that we just had family celebrations. And the same with Thanksgiving. They used to have a Thanksgiving Eve service and they had the Christmas Eve service and Easter we had our own things. Usually that day we went out for dinner.

AF:
Oh, you went out for dinner?

ND:
On Easter, yeah. The others were home dinners. Easter seemed a time to go out, with families, particularly after I was married and had children.

[START OF TRACK 11; 45:57]

Things like the in-laws would meet like at Sherry’s on the corner.

AF:
Where?

ND:
It’s on the corner of Main where the traffic light is. Used to be Sherry’s Restaurant, not the Sherry’s of New York, but just Sherry’s owned by a family, a local family the Lemisters, the Nevilles first. And, uh, it was a good family place to go and my in-laws would come, my, their, whatever children they had and we’d come with our children and my mother and father. So it was too much for one person to do a family dinner so that’s that is why we’d do Easter. And Christmas, we’d usually get together with the in-laws some of the time or all together. My sister lived next door to my in-laws so.

AF:
You were all pretty much within walking distance of each other?

ND:
Right, right. And then Sunday dinners. We would have the regular big Sunday dinners. And then we would go out in our Packard and go and drive around the rural routes. That was our Sunday afternoon drive. And as I was talking that I grew up during the Depression and it wasn’t, uh, I didn’t feel it so much. Because my father had a steady job. And uh, but my mother made a lot of my clothes and my mother always made a party out of everything so that I really wasn’t aware of being denied anything. But we used to have Sunday night suppers of either popcorn or bread and milk and cheese. And that was our special treat in those days. And also after having a big Sunday dinner we didn’t need much.

AF:
Did you notice other families or kids at school that did have a harder time?

ND:
I wasn’t aware of it. No, and as I said at that time that was just Cooperstown. After, I guess, I don’t know when it was centralized, the school. But there were kids there from, brought in by bus. Because I was talking about the Warriors. So, I don’t really remember when the transition took place. But I don’t remember any class distinction at that time growing up. I guess there were the kids who lived up on Irish hill. And there may have been some who lived farther out of town. But I was not aware other than that of a class distinction. As I said that during the Depression I think we had a marked house because people would come, men would come, begging for food and, uh, I think they knew that this, they must have marked it in some way so they knew that they would be received okay at the back door and be given a sandwich or something. And sometimes they would cut the lawn. I remember them sitting on the back steps eating a sandwich or something. And I remember some gypsies coming through. But nothing bad. Their caravans and clothes, bright costumes.

AF:
And your mom would make them just a little snack or whatever they needed?

ND:
Yes a sandwich or snack. And I remember the sidewalks were plowed with a horse drawn plow. And our milk was delivered, at first, with a horse and wagon but then shortly afterwards with a motorized but it was delivered to the door.

AF:
And it was local dairy that..

[START OF TRACK 12; 50:57]

ND:
Yes. Right which came from the Fenimore House or the museum, the barn there.

AF:
Ah, the cow palace. Was it always known as the cow palace, back then?

ND:
I don’t remember hearing that, no. [laughs]

AF:
That’s what we’ve all been told it was called.

ND:
Alright.

AF:
But they milked cows there and that pretty much provided the town with their milk supply?

ND:
Some of it. Must be, you know. I’m not, as a child you’re not aware of where things come from. But I do remember the milk being delivered. And of course at that time it wasn’t homogenized and in the cold the cream would rise to the top. And if it were freezing it would go above the top and then you just had to be careful as it thawed out, skim it off.

AF:
Was your mom active in canning and making your own preserves and doing that sort of thing? Did you garden a lot?

ND:
Oh yes. We had a garden in the back. And some canning, yes. And I remember learning to iron when I was about thirteen. I washed my dresses and ironed. Not a lot of them I don’t think but just enough to say I was doing something I guess. [laughs] As I said I felt I was a menopause baby because she was over forty, and, uh, we had help in the house. Some were live ins and some of them just came day times, so that, uh, she had help canning in other words.

AF:
Were they local girls?

ND:
They were probably from Morris or Milford or maybe some from Cooperstown, I don’t remember. As I said I just remember that some of them stayed. I remember, I remember one that slept in was named Grace and she used the word, ‘gimme’, ‘gimme’ the magazine [laughs]. I think one was named Mary, you know I don’t really, they were just part of the life.

AF:
They just blended into your family?

ND:
Yeah, right.

AF:
A little bit about growing up in the church. You said you had eloped. Did that cause slight problems with your church relations? You said that you went through a ceremony at the church. What was the response to you eloping?

ND:
Oh, there was no problem with that.

AF:
There was just no problem with it?

ND:
No. We did it, it was done. As I said we were consecrated by the, but no, there was no problem with the minister, no. No, we had Sunday school and we had church and we sang in the choir. My brother sang in the choir, my sister did not. My sister was a monotone. But we had a marvelous choir director, Ruth Marie Root. She was a big, big woman, and she was a great choir director. And my husband sang in the choir too, I mean as a child. And we used to have church suppers. Even when my kids were, in fact we still, well what we have now are fellowship hours now. We have some suppers, we had a harvest dinner on Sunday.

AF:
Is it kind of a pot luck? Everybody brings something?

ND:
Most of the time. And the women have a pot luck too. Once a month. This harvest dinner was not that, it was cooked by a bunch of volunteers. But usually it’s now the fellowship hours where it’s just a juice or dessert or something like that.

[START OF TRACK 13; 55:57]

AF:
Has the congregation changed a lot do you think since you were a kid or is it still a lot of families?

ND:
There aren’t as many young, as in everything else. We do have several young families. One is a family with six children, five boys, then finally got the girl with the sixth one. [laughs] And they’re a wonderful family. They all help and they help in the church and they help clear the tables for instance yesterday, or Sunday. Good family. We have a Sunday school and we have an adult Sunday school. And yeah, there are some of the people who were there always, that are still there, like myself.

AF:
So you’ve had life-long friends basically. Did a lot of your high school friends stay in Cooperstown and raise their families also here or were there a lot of people who moved out?

ND:
There are probably about seven of my classmates who live around here with their families, who have stayed in Cooperstown.

AF:
Do you think there’s a trend of people moving out of the area?

ND:
Yes because of jobs.

[START OF TRACK 14, 56:34]

ND:
We had an old radio that got New York City stations and it also got ships at sea, which was quite something we could pick up. It was one channel, or not a channel, a station, we could go to.

AF:
Were they military or were they shipping?

ND:
Probably shipping seas which would talk back and forth. And then airplanes, first off when we would hear an airplane we would rush outside and see the airplane in the sky and of course it was a motor. It wasn’t a jet. It was a motor. But it was something, something wonderful to see, an airplane go by.

AF:
There aren’t many airplanes that I ever hear go across around here.

ND:
No, Otsego Lake is a line or mark. There was one, there used to be a mail plane that would go through around two o’clock in the morning. I don’t know if it still does or not. I used to hear that. That was something after I was older, but at first off there weren’t that many.

AF:
It’s funny when they’re not there and then when one does go past you definitely notice it.

ND:
Yeah, so as I said our radio was always our communication.

AF:
And was it your entertainment also?

ND:
Oh, yes, Little Orphan Annie. Jack Armstrong. [laughs] And so on. Plus our news, we definitely, we had news every night. That was very important in our house.

AF:
Right, with your father.

ND:
Yeah, and in general. What’s going on in the world. So I guess that’s it. I got my list down. So you can turn it off now.

[START OF TRACK 15; 58:43]

AF:
Okay, hymn sings at the…

ND:
[Referencing a passage in A History of Cooperstown by Harold Hollis] At the back of the Otesaga, community hymn sings, and uh, for instance in 1944, Dr. Elmer Tidmarsh, directed the music, he was from Union College. And we had an organ and we had a speaker who was Elmer Peterson, the NBC foreign correspondent. And we used to sing hymns, that was the whole community, the community sings. On Sunday afternoons.

AF:
And it wasn’t just your congregation?

ND:
No, no. It was the community. Very well attended. Well this one says there were 1200 persons came.

AF:
Wow, so that was a lot of the town. Did a lot of community activities happen at The Otesaga?

ND:
I don’t remember that in particular, no. But that was one thing.

AF:
Were there areas around town which were community gathering places? Where traditionally people would have activities?

ND:
Uh, the top floor of the library building was known as the ballroom. I believe they had dances up there. And as I said the second floor of the fire house. There was a theater type place.

AF:
You said the old fire house. Where was that located?

ND:
Where the new one is. Well, the new one [laughs].

AF:
And the movie theater, that was…

ND:
Where it is now, I mean, that it Smalley’s Theater. And we had our graduations there.

AF:
Oh, okay, your high school graduations?

ND:
Yes, high school graduation.

AF:
So that served as more than just a business type theater?

ND:
Right, right. And I remember as a kindergartener I was chosen to be one of what they called ‘the ribbon girls’. And they had, those that had family were allowed in front and then the visitors could come in back of these girls with the ribbon. We had to tell, we had to block the aisle with the ribbon. And then I think in eighth grade I was a, I handed out the programs for the thing. And then I graduated there and it happened that my father was president of the board of education that year that I graduated so he handed me my diploma. Which was kind of neat.

AF:
That’s very neat. And you were well versed in graduations at that point. [telephone rings]

[START OF TRACK 16; 61:59]

ND:
[Consulting A History of Cooperstown by Harold Hollis] That’s just about the children’s museum but it tells five years.

AF:
There was a children’s museum?

ND:
They used to have art classes there for the kids. Playing with clay and so on. But that was part of the New York State Historical Association. And then this was in 1944 Stephen Clark presented the Fenimore House, the former home of his late brother to the New York State Historical Association. The Association’s offices, museum and art galleries which had been housed in the old village, they used to call it the old village club building.

AF:
The library?

ND:
Yeah, since it moved to its central quarters here five years ago. It is expected to occupy its new facilities in the spring.

AF:
So that is what is now the Fenimore Art Museum.

ND:
Right. So that was known as the village club, you see. It was used for other activities. I don’t remember, my kids didn’t go there, to the children’s museum. My nieces did, but I think it was moved in between those two. Well you can look all this up.

AF:
That was before you had started working there.

ND:
Oh, right, yes.

AF:
The art association…

ND:
The Cooperstown Art Association.

AF:
That is located in that building.

ND:
That’s where New York State Historical Association used to be.

AF:
And were they involved or were they in that space when you worked there?

ND:
Yes. In fact, I remember my mother was a folk art artist and uh, she used to take classes there with the art association. So that was when I was a child yet or a teenager.

AF:
Did you ever do any art then?

ND:
I do my own thing, yes. I do some watercolor painting mostly just for the family. I’ve done some pictures for the family.

AF:
Is that something you’ve done your whole life?

ND:
No, just since I retired. But I’ve sketched my whole life. In college some of my portfolios and things I’ve done. When I was in college I guess I took an art course. So that’ probably in Oswego. And I’ve taken when visiting my daughter in Massachusetts. When I visited her a couple of times. She made arrangements to go into Worchester, Massachusetts, there’s an art museum there. And I took some courses there which was fun. Yeah, it’s just a, well I haven’t probably painted now in a year, but it’s there someplace.

AF:
Do you like to paint Cooperstown scenes?

ND:
Um, well when I went down to visit my son in Port Jervis, his wife’s an artist, and I went with them, with their group, on a Sunday and painted a landscape that they were painting. And I did a picture of their dogs once, running around, for them. My daughter, as I said had a horse, and I’ve told you about Star Field. And she’d ride her horse to Star Field. And now that she has her own horse and boarders, she’s incorporated it and it’s Star Field Farm. So last year I took some pictures of it and painted, I painted a picture of Star Field Farm for her Christmas present so that’s about all I’ve done.

AF:
Now your daughter had a horse, but did you have other animals?

ND:
Oh, my, we always had at least a dog and a cat if not two dogs and three cats or whatever.

AF:
Was that when you were growing up also, with your parents?

[START TRACK 17; 66:59]

ND:
Oh, yeah. We always had a cat and a dog. [laughs] And quite often a black cat. They’re strays, most of them. But the dogs were mostly kennel, kenneled dogs, SPCA dogs.

AF:
Was that part of your children’s responsibilities or were they just part of the family?

ND:
Yeah, somewhat. Mostly just part of the family. Feed the cat or feed the dogs, scooper pooper duties out in the back yard. We didn’t let our dogs run. And after, well we did I suppose when I was growing up our cats and dogs ran but they always stayed around the house. But we never had any trouble with them straying. But this is an indoor cat [motions to cat sleeping on chair]. My first indoor cat and first female cat. She belonged to my son. When my husband was getting ill, maybe I told you this, he said maybe you should move in with us. And I said no way. And he said maybe we’ll find a two family house. So this was in 2001, that we found this house. We gave him the house we lived in as our collateral and they live upstairs and I have the lifetime use of the downstairs. My husband died in 2003 so he had a couple of years here. But anyway, my son lived on Walnut Street, and we lived on Grove at that time. And so they brought their dog and their cat up to our house, but we kept the cat in because we were afraid she would cross Chestnut Street and get killed. And so when we moved here, he said would you like a dog, and I said no. So he said, well would you like a cat, and I said, yes we’ll take the cat. The cat had bonded with my husband, so we took the cat. She’s fourteen years old. She’s a lot of company. So yeah, we’ve always had animals. Have you?

AF:
Yes, I do. We’ve always had dogs usually, and I have horses.

ND:
Oh, you have horses. I guess you’d said that.

AF:
I can’t imagine not having animals around.

ND:
Oh, you’re going to check us out now, are you. We were just talking about you. This is her heat lamp. What’s that? Are you going to meow for it?

AF:
Alright, well, thank you very, very much.

ND:
Okay, well if anytime you think of something more. Anything I can do, more questions or incompletes or whatever.

Files

Citation

Amy Frey, “Nancy Dunn, November 11, 2008,” CGP Community Stories, accessed October 17, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/10.