CGP Community Stories

Marion Karl, November 16, 2012

Title

Marion Karl, November 16, 2012

Subject

Cooperstown, NY
Conservation
India
Fracking
Education

Description

Marion Karl was born in 1928 in India where her parents were working as Baptist missionaries. She and her family returned to the United States from India at the cusp of the Second World War. Mrs. Karl went to Keuka College and Syracuse University and studied to become a nurse. She moved to Cooperstown in 1961 with her husband and young children, and she has lived here ever since. Soon after her arrival, she purchased 100 acres of land on Cornish Hill, which she has kept in a natural state at the behest of the previous owner.

I conducted the interview in her cabin on her land on Cornish Hill. After concluding the interview we hiked up to her lean-to, which she speaks about in the interview, to watch the sunset over Cooperstown. Being on her land, it was easy to understand why her reminiscences touched on conservation, especially the fracking and the Constitution Pipeline debates. Marion Karl’s reminiscences also include discussions of school in India and the United States, higher education, nursing, and the centrality of religion in her everyday life.

Creator

Mary Alexander

Publisher

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

Date

2012-11-16

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.4MB
audio/mpeg
22.9MB
audio/mpeg
27.4MB
audio/mpeg
4.21MB
image/jpeg
2592x3888 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

12-015

Coverage

Upstate New York
Cooperstown, NY
1928-2012

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Mary Alexander

Interviewee

Marion Karl

Location

Cornish Hill
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2012

MA=Mary Alexander
MK=Marion Karl

MA:
This is Mary Alexander interviewing Marion Karl, on Friday November 16, 2012. We are in Cooperstown on Cornish Hill in Marion Karl’s cabin. Thank you so much for talking with us today. Just to start us off where were you born?

MK:
Actually I was born in South India in a little hill town called Kodai Kanal, I guess the Indians say Kod-ai [emphasis on the i]. My parents were working in India as missionaries.

MA:
What year was that, the year you were born?

MK:
I was born in 1928, which makes me 84 years old.

MA:
Can you describe for me what it was like growing up in India?

MK:
Well, it was definitely very different from right around here. One, the climate was totally different. And two, I went to boarding school when I was maybe six years old, six or seven. Started in, because the school that the missionary children went to, was in the hills and parents would obviously not be working right there. This was a school for missionary children, at that time that was what the student body was. They were all from that missionary background. Now that particular school, Kodai School, is an international school and has a lot of different nationalities represented in their student body, and there are very few American children there anymore. But it is still there. My school had a different schedule, we started in January, after a school break, or Christmas break, and we would run until about October and then we would go back down to what we called the Plains. Because this school was at an altitude of about 8,000 feet in the Palni Hills of South India. As I said it was a boarding school. My mother would come up with us on the train (we never had a car) and then the last thirty miles from the plains at sea level to 8,000 feet was by bus, thirty miles, going up hairpin curves as you entered in what they called the Ghat G-H-A-T. That was a description of the roads and the elevation. So there was quite a climate difference as you can imagine from the plains where it might be 70 degrees, when we got up there it might be 50 [degrees] at that time of year. We would be in boarding school maybe until April, then my mother would come up and she would rent a house during the season and would stay a couple of months. My father would come up for his vacation and stay with us. He would go back earlier than my mother. She would finally finally probably leave in August. And we would then go to school until October, back in boarding. There were children that came from as far away as what was called “Arabia” at that time, North India as well, South India. So it was a wide range of geographical areas where the children's parents were, but we were all pretty homogeneous as far as what our parents did. So that when we came home it was quite a shock. You know, sort of a culture shock, when you come back and everybody is quite different from you where you go to school. Came back for furlough when I was about four, and then again about seven years later when I was about twelve.

MA:
Can you talk a little bit more about what your parents actually did as missionaries?

MK:
My mother was a nurse and she was connected with the Mission hospital somewhat, but she did not have the same type of schedule that a nurse here in this country would have had. I’ll have to admit I don’t know exactly what she did do. And when we were home she was always home. So she was not working as a nurse here, might have been working, you know daily. My father, at the last place that we stayed, he was sort of the headmaster of a school for Indian boys and towards the end of the time he was in India he became treasurer of the mission and was in charge of making sure that all of the properties that the Mission had around an area were turned over to the Indian people, because it was obviously getting to the point where India was getting its own independence and when they did get their own independence they didn’t want foreign people to take jobs that an Indian person would be able to hold. So that many of the jobs that the Americans did when they were over there, like being teachers, or nurses, or doctors, they could no longer do. So the mission just sort of turned their properties over to the Indian church, and the Indian church people, and that was part of his task at the end of his thirty years in India.

MA:
What time would that transition have been?

MK:
The last furlough we came home and it took us a month to come from India to New York City. Because we came by boat. We left from Bombay, which is now called Mumbai, and sailed through the Indian Ocean up the Red Sea through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. I think somebody told me that our boat, which was called The President Adams (it was an American boat) was the last passenger boat that went through the Straits of Gibraltar just before the Second World War started, and it would have been around the time that Dunkirk occurred. You probably remember hearing about that. The world was getting ready for war.

MA:
Can you describe what that journey was like, a whole month on a boat?

MK:
Well, I’m not a very good “sailor”, so I did at first feel seasick but you get used to it after a while. It’s a lot of water to look at it. And, it’s sort of fun, it’s sort of like a vacation because somebody is feeding you all the time and you don’t have any chores to do and you don’t have any books to learn. And it was like a transition from one life to another.

MA:
So, you described coming to America, I believe, as kind of a culture shock, is that what you were describing when you said “culture shock”?

MK:
Yeah.

MA:
Can you talk a little bit about how it was so different from your time in India?

MK:
Well, I think one of the things I think about most was in general was that the children I went to school with had the same religious background and religious beliefs and social beliefs. We stayed in Rochester, New York that first winter. My father was taking more studies at the Colgate Rochester Divinity School and we stayed in a small apartment on the grounds of that institution and my family was all around me, living together, with the exception of my older brother who was away at a private school called Peddie in New Jersey. But then when my father went back, if it hadn't been for the war, I would have gone back with my mother as would have my younger brother, but they weren't allowing women and children to return to India. My father went back by a very circuitous route through the Pacific trying to avoid Japanese warships; it took him quite awhile to get back to India. We stayed in the United States. My mother had family in the Adirondacks in a little town called Minerva, so I had cousins to play with when we stayed there and during the summers that my father was away we spent summers there. My mother didn't feel like she could impose on her family totally, so we went to an apartment in Ventnor, New Jersey. Ventnor is on the same island as Atlantic City and I went to Atlantic City High School and disliked it intensely. Because it was, that was where I felt the most culture shock because I was an outsider there, I felt like I didn’t have anything in common with most of those children and it took me a whole year to get accustomed to even going to that school. I can remember they weren't terribly friendly, but then I wasn't very outgoing either. I’m not trying to blame anybody, but I don't think I ate lunch with a single person that whole year.

MA:
How did you feel, that your father got to go back, or how did your mother feel? Do you know what her thoughts were on the fact that you guys could not return with your father?

MK:
My mother never complained; she knew that was the way it had to be. And that this was sort of like her duty to maintain her family the best way that she could without her husband. So he was gone for only about three and a half years, the normal length of furlough would have been about seven [years], but because he was by himself he came home just about the time I graduated from high school and was ready to go off to college.

MA:
Did your time at the high school ever get any easier?

MK:
Yes, it got easier. I met a couple of girls. Not necessarily girls that I’d gone to classes with, and I got involved in Girl Scout. So I had a small circle of girls I felt happy and comfortable with. But when I look at high school kids now and all the activities they have, I think I really missed a lot of those. One, we didn’t have a car, we never had a car, so if I wanted to go anyplace I either had to walk or ride my bicycle, and that was another thing, I liked riding my bicycle and I would sometimes ride to school. I would be the only one in school that had a bicycle and rode to school. Usually it would be riding on sort of a trolley. They had a trolley that ran the whole length of the island, and you could ride very inexpensively on that. Since the island was so narrow you could ride up and down the island and get almost any place on that one long trolley. But I never went out at night, I never had any activities at night, there must have been some but I never got involved in them. I just didn’t have a good time in high school.

MA:
Were you brothers in the high school with you?

MK:
Now that was another thing, my oldest brother had come home two years before the family because he was older. He had been enrolled in this private school Peddie, and he had done excellently, so well that he had gotten a scholarship. And then on the basis of his good works, my other two brothers also went to Peddie School and also did well, but that meant I was basically going to high school by myself. Most of the time that I was in high school my brothers were not at home.

MA:
Was this a private boy’s boarding school then?

MK:
Yes, it was. It was like a prep school. It’s still there.

MA:
You decided to go to college from there, where did you go to college?

MK:
That was another thing, back in those days your parents looked around, or my parents did. My parents weren't going to be in this country, so they felt that they had to find a place that they would feel that I would be safe and you know be in school. So they picked Keuka College, which is a small college in upstate New York. In the Finger Lakes on Keuka Lake. It was a girl’s school, women’s school, its “women’s” when you are in college. When I started off to college, they went back to India. I think of all the modern communications children have when they are away from home to connect them back with their families, but when I went to school I did not talk to my parents or see my parents for seven years. And when they came back after leaving their kids, they had two daughter- in-laws, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren that they had never met.

MA:
Did you communicate via mail then, or was that even hard?

MK:
Yes, my mother was a prodigious letter writer and she would carbon copy four letters for her four children, and I’m sure we never answered as many letters as she wrote to us but she would write weekly discussing what they were doing and ask questions about how we were doing. And if you had a question or wanted to make a reply to her letter it took a month for the letter to come and a month for it to go (back) so by the time if you had a question or something you wanted to discuss it might be two months before you got a reply, and then “what was I saying?” “what was I asking?” It was not too relevant.

MA:
So you mentioned grand-kids and all these people that existed for your parents all of a sudden. Can you tell me how you met your husband and things like that?

MK:
Well, let me go back just a moment, because after two years at a women’s college, I decided I wanted to go someplace else. My aunt and uncle lived in Syracuse, and I would visit them fairly often from Keuka, which is not all that far from Syracuse relatively speaking. And also a friend of my mother’s that she had known while she was in college, many years earlier, was a medical doctor who was at the Syracuse University Medical School. It was not the Upstate Medical School at that time, but it was Syracuse University Medical College. She was a cardiologist, and she was doing quite a lot of research in cardiology and I became acquainted with her because of her friendship with my mother. And when I was visiting my aunt she helped me take a battery of tests deciding what I might really like to study. I decided I wanted to change my major from being a biology major to nursing and so I applied to the school of nursing and was accepted, but I had to repeat one year because I didn’t have the right number of credits to go into my junior year if I had been accepted with two years of college credits. I had to go in as a sophomore. One thing I could say about Keuka College that I thought was excellent was they arranged their school schedule so that the women could do what they call “Field Periods,” and you had to complete at least eight Field Periods during your course of study there. And the freshman Field Period which was usually between, they stopped six weeks before Christmas and you were home an extended time, and at that time you were supposed to write a paper about some great interest of yours, so when I was home just before my parents went off to India I stayed with them and wrote this paper. Then the next summer was another period where you could do a field period experience and this time I and another student, who actually was a child of missionaries as well, had a job with the Harlem YWCA, they ran a girls camp in the Catskills near Bear Mountain and we spent the summer on Lake Tiorati. I forget the name of the camp, but I can remember the lake, but it was children totally from Harlem so they were all African American children, and we were the very first white people who had ever worked at or attended that camp so we kidded ourselves that we “integrated” the Harlem YWCA Children’s Camp that summer. And had a marvelous experience.

MA:
What did you do for them during the summer?

MK:
Well, I have to smile because I was a waterfront counselor and I could barely swim myself, to be honest with you. I was able to pass the swim test but I was a very weak swimmer when I went, but I was teaching children how to swim. Every afternoon the children who were ready for it would get in the water and we would take boats out and swim around the lake, various places in the lake. Everybody would be in the water and there would be enough boats to keep track of them. They also wanted some of the councilors in the water with the children. So basically I learned how to swim when I was in the water watching other children learning how to swim.

MA:
So what was it like being two of the first white people that had ever come to this organization?

MK:
It was interesting and I felt very comfortable and in fact I got sort of an affirmation from the children because the way cabin was set up would be: there would be eight girls in the cabin and then there would be a little corner that was sort of blocked off so that the councilors, the two councilors, had a little bit more privacy unto themselves, and the bathrooms would be in another building. It would not be like a whole room because the partition would not go all the way up. So you could hear what the children were talking about or if they were fooling around so you could keep your eye on them. One afternoon, I don’t know why we were all, not all of them, there were a couple of girls in there and I was in my bedroom so to speak. At that time because my last name was Johnson and everybody was supposed to have a nickname, my nickname was Johnny. And these two girls were saying, “Johnny doesn’t treat you like other white people does, she acts like she’s one of us.” So that made me feel really good, an affirmation of I was doing the right thing.

MA:
So, how did you transition from this and going to school to what happened after? You eventually wound up in Cooperstown. Can you talk about how you got here?

MK:
Ah, well, that was a long road. I went through nursing school at Syracuse and graduated and then I stayed on to work on their surgical floor, because that’s where I wanted to be, and I lived at the hospital I had become active in the church that my aunt and uncle belonged to.

MA:
What denomination was that?

MK:
That was a Baptist church, but also at the college there was a group called Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. It was a group that was nationwide that have counselors or somebody working with college aged kids, on a more spiritual level. I don’t remember how I started going there, but somebody must have invited me, and I ended up feeling very comfortable with that group, and doing a lot of things with them. They would have a lot of recreational things to do. We would have other services, and they tended to go to a Presbyterian Church in Syracuse and I became interested in attending that church so I started going there. After I graduated from college, nursing school, I got the job as I said. My husband who had graduated from Cornell Medical School had an internship at Syracuse University, and his first rotation was the surgical service in Memorial Hospital where I was working. At that time his name was Klinkerfus which was sort of a strange name to begin with. He was also very tall, he was 6’8, so he sort of stood out. And at that time, when somebody wanted a doctor there wasn’t a paging system or your cell phone, or anything except the loudspeaker. So, if an intern was required, it would be heard all over the hospital: “Calling Dr. Klinkerfus, Dr. Klinkerfus call da da da da” whatever number, and most of us would just hold our sides with laughter at that name. But, I think the first week he was on the surgical service, that was his first rotation, as I said. He said “would you like to go out to the movies tomorrow night?” In that day and age [START OF TRACK 2, 0:00] if you were asked to go out the same day, or a day before, if you were a popular person you would be all dated up, so that maybe you would say no just because, you know how it is.

MA:
You wanted to prove that you were...

MK:
Right, right, but I thought, you know that’s not too wise. I said, “yes I’d love to,” which was probably lucky because he said if you hadn’t said “yes” I would have asked somebody else, and then it would have been different.

MK:
We went out to a restaurant to eat, and we had lobster. I had never had lobster in my life. And we went to see a movie and at the end of the movie in the course of our conversation he said “well when is your birthday?” and I told him and he said “don’t you want to know when my birthday is?” And I said “Why would I want to know when your birthday is? I’m not even going to know you when that comes along,” and he said, “Oh yes you are, I’m gonna marry you.” So on our first date he said, “I’m going to marry you.” And I said “really?” But that’s what happened.

MA:
So the long road to Cooperstown continues with?

MK:
Okay, after two years at Syracuse he decided he wanted to do an orthopedic residency, we went to Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland and this… I don’t want to get too bogged down in details.

MA:
No, whatever you’d like to say.

MK:
We lived in the top floor of a very nice house, but these people were sort of, they lived in a very nice house but they really did not have the money to keep it up, but it was a nice place to live except it was so hot in the summertime, and they had a very large white dog, it was some kind of a sheep dog, Hungarian sheep dog, some rare breed, but it was also very large, and very, not vicious, but it could be vicious. And, in fact the man, or the resident who had lived in the same apartment as us said, “You wanna watch out for that dog, I always carry a baseball bat when I come home at night because I don’t know what he will do to me.” Well, when we went to the door to interview them about the apartment, this dog leapt up on the glass door and he was looking me in the face and for some odd reason I wasn’t a bit afraid of him. In fact, he must have sensed I wasn’t afraid of him the people were so impressed that we weren’t afraid of their dog that they did not ask us any questions about whether we liked the apartment or if we were suitable, they let us have it. That was the one thing I remember most because my husband was away every other night. The family was gone during the summer, they weren’t even there, and I felt quite a lot more secure to have the dog, they left the dog with me, and I would walk it around the streets at night to walk it when I got home from work. It was nice to have that kind of companion. Anyway, my husband decided that he did not want to be an orthopedic surgeon, and he had to fulfill his obligation to the military service. There was a doctor’s draft at that time, other sections of the population didn’t have a draft but doctors did, and he had to fulfill that obligation. And so he went into the Public Health Service, and we moved to Portland, Maine. He was at a clinic in Portland and we lived there for a year and a half, almost two years, our first child was born there, and he finished up his service in Cape May, New Jersey. By that time he had decided he wanted to do a residency in anesthesiology and had chosen to go to Hartford Hospital that had a very good residency program and we lived in West Hartford, Connecticut for three years while he was doing that. And at that time we were lucky enough again to find this lady, an older lady, she was in her 90s but she was very independent and she wanted to stay in her own home, but her son was not happy for her to be there by herself so the solution was to have a family move in with her; so we considered her to be the grandmother and I did all the cooking and she provided the space so it worked out very nicely.

MA:
What year did you arrive in Cooperstown?

MK:
We came to Cooperstown about 1961, my youngest child was about three months old and we didn’t move into our present house for three years. We lived on the corner of Fair Street and Atwell Road because we couldn’t make up our minds. We could not get together to decide on where we wanted to live. He wanted to live within walking distance of the hospital and I wanted to live out in the country because I wanted a big garden and I wanted space. He said “well you can always buy land.” So the house that we bought was within walking distance and the moment we moved in there I searched and found this property.

MA:
Tell me a little bit about the property and how you acquired it and when you acquired it?

MK:
I heard about it through a friend who said “there’s an older lady,” (again an older lady), “who wants to sell her property, but she is a little particular about who she sells it to.” So he introduced me to Madeline DeBurg. She was a lady who had owned this property and there was more, she owned even more than the 100 acres I bought from her. She had owned it and I think her family had done a little bit of farming on it, but she really wasn’t a farmer or a farming type person. And she lived in a house on Sibley Gulf Road and she was like the other lady, she wanted to live here as long as she could and in the winter she would go back to her home in New Jersey. She was almost deaf and almost blind, but she had somebody who would come and help her during the time that she was here to take her places if she needed to go and to do the routine yard work and that kind of thing that she needed to have done. And I visited her a number of times even after I bought the property, quite a few times I would go up and visit her and we would have a good time, just talking and she told me she wanted to sell the property to somebody who would take really good care of it. So I felt that was sort of a mandate to keep it as it was and much later on when I got the opportunity and thought about it long enough I put the property into the Otsego Land Trust. When you do that you write out sort of a deed and stipulate what can happen and what can’t happen on your property. It’s a deed, like giving the development rights to the Otsego Land trust, so my heirs or anybody else who owns it subsequently will not be able to build a thousand houses on the property. They will have to go by what we set up as allowable.

MA:
What are some of the ways you have ensured this natural state? How have you taken care of your land to make it this natural state?

MK:
Part of the land is not developable. There is what they call a “building envelope”. Each one of my children, if they so desired, would be able to build a house but only in a certain area. And it’s pretty close together, restricted to five acre plots. And then there’s other things that aren’t allowable. Like, I couldn’t have a gravel yard, as if I wanted to, or I can’t cut down trees willy nilly, I have to have it done under the supervision of a certified forester. You know, that kind of thing, that will keep it basically unchanged. Forestry is allowed, I can cut trees, but it has to be through a plan that is set up by a certified forester. A New York State certified forester.

MA:
How has your family enjoyed the property over this span of time?

MK:
I think that my family enjoys it a great deal and continue to increase their enjoyment. My son built a lean-to very close to the cabin, or the cabin was very close to the lean-to. My son built it when he was 16 years old. That was a great camping and picnic spot for the family for a long, long time. Even my grandchildren have loved coming there and spending the night or having a picnic with their friends. There is a pond that we built, or had built, I “caused” it to be built. That’s been a nice swimming area. It was stocked with fish; I think it’s basically pretty well fished out by now. Skiing, they have done cross country skiing on this property. As I think I told you, just lately, a ski club has helped me get the trails so that they’re skiable with track skiing or with the skating-skiing. And for two years we had pretty good seasons, last year was not a good season for skiing any place in the area. I think they enjoy just walking on it. And increasingly people are burning more wood and after a couple commercial thinnings there’s always a lot of tops of trees or culled trees that are left for firewood, and I think it has been an economic help to them to have a source of firewood.

MA:
Why did you choose to build the cabin where you did on your property?

MK:
Where I did, or why I did at all?

MA:
You can answer either.

MK:
Well, I’ve always wanted a cabin, and at first I wanted just a small cabin very rural, very rustic, not rural, very rustic, and I didn’t have electricity put in, and I didn’t have plumbing put in. I have an outhouse so I have to carry water if I stay overnight. I have to bring enough water for our use. My husband and I used to enjoy getting away, just even if it was for a night, coming up. Even though there are neighbors, because of the way the cabin is situated in the summertime you can’t see anybody’s lights. You have the illusion that you are way out in the midst of the wilderness. I finally decided that lights were a necessary evil; it makes it much easier to cook and read at night. Not have to rely on a Coleman lantern. I also enjoy, believe it or not, taking a solar shower. A friend hooked up a place where I can hang a solar shower bag and if you leave it in the sunshine for three hours you can have a pretty good hot shower out in broad daylight and it’s so isolated that you don’t worry about visiting people, visitors arriving.

MA:
You mentioned your son built a small lean-to. What other projects did your kids take on up here? Did they have little things they took care of up here?

MK:
No, I don’t think they have had any particular projects. They have been in on my planning as far as when I joined the Land Trust. We talked about what would or would not be allowed on the land. And when I saw the spot that was cleared, I think I told you, that after my last commercial thinning the forester told me if I cut out a section of trees, clear cut a small section of trees, I would have a magnificent view of the lake. And at the time, because it was in a place I seldom went in the winter when the leaves were off, but only saw it in the summer, I just really didn’t really believe that you would have a magnificent view of the lake. But there it is. It was so nice, I decided I needed another lean-to, and that’s been a very popular site. It hasn’t been up very long. In fact just this past summer I’ve been getting a fire place built, and it’s still not totally done. So, it’s still a work in progress.

MA:
Garret told me you have been involved with environmental issues since the 1970s really, can you tell me about your long history of . . .?

MK:
I think I’ve always been interested in conservation, and I’ve always wanted my own piece of land, and that’s sort of in my mind all tied up together. Right now my biggest focus as far as conservation and protection goes is trying to keep the unconventional shale gas drilling from New York State, and specifically in this area, but it doesn’t seem right that if it’s not good for one area, it’s not good for any area. So, that’s my feeling that it’s not good for economic benefit. Even though they say there is so much gas there it would be great for the economy, other writers have said there is not as much gas as people estimate, that it’s harmful to the health of the community and those that are involved with gas drilling. Just a host of problems with it, and it seems like we should be moving away from fossil fuels and spending our time and energy on trying to develop more sustainable sources for our energy. I think getting involved in this struggle has made me more aware of what I can personally can do on the small scale, which is probably not going to solve the problem but is at least a step in the right direction. And, so I think I’ve become a lot more conscious of the way I heat my house and the way I do my shopping and what foods I eat and it is just a very big subject and a very big concern. I am not explaining it very well.

MA:
No you are doing fine, what do you think this fracking debate has done in the community of Cooperstown itself?

MK:
Within the community?

MA:
Yeah.

MK:
What do you mean what it’s done?

MA:
Has it fractured the community? Are people divided about it? What do you see in the community? Are people coming together over the issue?

MK:
In our area I think there is more coming together. I think I have met a huge number of people I would never have meant before, and feel a kinship with them because they have the same ideals and the same needs and the same purposes that I have. And these people I probably never would have met if I had not gotten involved in this movement. And I think we are lucky to be living right here right in this exact spot because I feel that the local officials that we have… For instance, I live, even though I live in Cooperstown, I also live in the town of Middlefield, and this property is also in the town of Middlefield. And, attending Middlefield town board meetings and as a group not necessarily just myself, but as a group working with those officials, I feel that they have been moved to act in the way that we want them to act. They are not doing it just because we want them [to] but because they feel that it’s the way to do it. The right way to do it. Whereas so many towns in other places seem to have town boards that are just much harder to deal with, much harder to convince, more stubborn, and not as open to new ideas.

MA:
What’s been your role within the movement?

MK:
My role?

MA:
Yeah, what have you been doing in the movement?

MK:
I started by writing letters to the governor to say I wanted to have a meeting with him and I have written many many letters with that request. And I have managed to get a group of people to visit some of his staff in Albany. We have had at least three or four encounters with his aides and his staff. I have not been able to accomplish my original goal of actually seeing the governor. I have yet to hear of him meeting with anybody. Can we take a break?

MA:
Sure we can.

MK:
I just want to make sure it’s not Bennet with a question about the house.

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]

MA:
Can you tell me how you are trying to influence the governor; what you are trying to do, to get him to do things for anti-fracking?

MK:
When I first started I just wrote a letter saying that I would like to have a chance to see the governor, and after, I cannot remember if it was after that first letter, I don’t think it was, I was offered the chance to see somebody in his lower staff. And I thought “I don’t want to see anybody else, I just want to see the Governor.” But the secretary in that office said “No, you have got to go through seeing some of his lower staff. He won’t pay any attention to you.” Course he did not pay any attention to me anyway. We went in and saw Tom Congdon, and at that time we talked with several people that I knew pretty well and they made suggestions as to who I should try to get to go. Almost everybody that I could think of that I asked if they would like to see this person was ready, willing, and able. We went over and visited with him. We also had another chance to talk with him via conference call, but nothing came of it.

MA:
What did you talk about in this meeting? What do you talk about in meetings like this?

MK:
We point out the fact that here are all these people and they’re all from different walks of life. There was Larry Bennet from the Brewery and a lawyer, and a doctor, and you know all sorts of different [people], and everybody thought it was a bad idea. We just explain why we think it’s a bad idea. But, it was like we were talking to a very polite statue, who could move his lips but not do too much else. I have just continued writing letters. Right now, they haven’t said, “No, he won’t visit [with you], but your request is still under review.” Every time I call or write, and I do it on you know at least every two or three weeks, I send in another letter, “yes, it’s still under review,” and now I have gotten to a place where it is actually the Invitations Office that all of these requests go through. It’s not just somebody’s secretary, and I feel like at least I’m in the right place to send a message, that hopefully he sees the emails that I send him. In addition to that we got some people who are a little bit more widespread, a couple of scientists, professors at Cornell, they are willing to come with us. The mayor of Binghamton is willing to go with us, and he is very outspoken, very outspoken. An economist and maybe about seven or eight, nine or ten people who are really working hard at this. If I was able to get a meeting with the governor they would be right there standing next to me. And I would say, here they are let them speak. I’ve done my part. Because I am not very good at talking.

MA:
But you are organizing?

MK:
I am better at organizing. So that’s been my contribution, and I continue to go to a lot of these fracking meetings. There is a general coalition that has a monthly meeting, was at it last night. Town board meetings if they’re essential, go to them, and town board meetings from other towns. I’ve been up to Roseboom; I’ve been to Otego; I’ve been to quite a number of places. Just to stand with people and show your support.

MA:
You have been a part of this community for a number of years. Have you seen the community change over the years?

MK:
Well, Main Street has definitely changed. Definitely changed.

MA:
How so?

MK:
When we first came, two hardware stores, a sort of, not a novelty store but they sold this and that, the newspapers and magazines, that’s gone. There was an A&P in there. There was a men’s clothing store. There was a lot of different stores that are all gone. I think it’s sort of the trend in many, many villages. And, I didn’t even think about this. But somebody wrote a letter and said, when they were talking about the pipeline. That’s another thing that’s sort of correlating with the fracking. Do you know about the pipeline?

MA:
I’ve heard a little bit in town about it.

MK:
The Constitution Pipeline. Yeah, I have been to some of those meetings. I have learned how to get up and speak if I have it (written) in front of me I can say it by reading it off. But I’m not good at thinking ahead. The mayor of Oneonta said that the Constitution Pipeline would bring new jobs, etcetera, etcetera, and that before I-88 came Oneonta was nothing economically and then somebody replied and said I-88 came and sucked all the life out of all the little villages along its route. And that was what happened when the Thruway came, and all the little villages along Route 20 are gone economically, because people can go from here to here, two big places, nothing in between, there’s no life. And I can see her point. All these little villages have just deteriorated as far as commerce and economic development goes. So that the Constitution Pipeline will, even though they deny it, will open up the area for fracking, because there’s a pipeline to take the fracking and deliver it someplace else. It’s going to generate the “why” we are doing this. And it’s going to industrialize a rural county. It won’t be the same, it won’t be the same.

MA:
What is the fear, what is the worry that comes with having that industry here?

MK:
There are a lot of health problems that comes. I think one of the biggest ones that you worry about is your water. If your water source, if your water, you know your big water source, your underground water source becomes contaminated that’s it. You can’t clean that up. Not in your lifetime, maybe never. It also uses a tremendous amount of water. That has to come from someplace. It brings in a lot of people to do the jobs. They claim there’s a lot of jobs to be had but for those kind of jobs they bring in their own people because they know how to do it. So the economic benefit is not all that great. But with the influx of so many people it disturbs the economy of a village or town, because where are those people going to stay? They are going to stay in places which would ordinarily to be used by people who can’t pay as much for the rent as people who are making more, so they don’t have a place to stay. They cause us more problems with crime. And it fragments a rural community with wells here, here, here, here, here, here; it fragments the land and makes it really bad for wildlife, birds. I don’t see how you can do very good farming if your field has a well here and a well there and a well there and all these roads in between. It just fragments the land, and it pollutes the air. There’s just a million ways it affects the whole community, and the whole county, and the whole state. If it’s a tourist based economy like Cooperstown definitely is, whose gonna want to come and look at oil wells or be slowed up in traffic when it takes five minutes to go from here to there and it might take an hour to do the same amount because there is so much truck traffic. There’s a myriad of ways that it affects people or can affect people.

MA:
I’ve noticed an interesting thing about Cooperstown is the big hospital, is Bassett. Can you talk about Bassett and the community or how Basset interacts with the community and if you think it’s important that Bassett is here?

MK:
Well, Bassett is the largest employer and for that reason it is important to the community. It’s definitely the largest employer. It is also a source of health benefits for people around. I think you can get pretty top-notch medical advice and care through Bassett Hospital.

MA:
Did you work as a nurse at Bassett?

MK:
Only briefly, I worked for awhile, after my children went to school. I worked more for the Red Cross. I took blood. I drew blood and supervised people giving a pint of blood. And I would go around to different communities to do that.

MA:
So like a mobile blood bank?

MK:
Yes. They would bring their truck and their staff and then they would count on some Red Cross nurses who lived in the county to supplement their staff. And I would go as far south as Walton. Do you know where Walton is?

MA:
I think so.

MK:
It’s down in the Catskills. And as far north as Utica, as far east as Stamford, as far west as Morris. Probably not much father west than Otsego County.

MA:
And you would just organize their people coming in?

MK:
No, no, they would have their staff, their technicians, they would have their whole unit come. Say they were coming to Cooperstown, they would quite often be at the Catholic Church [in] their big room there, and they would hold the blood mobile for however many hours it took. We would have to be there earlier (before) the people would come in, and we would have to stay later to clean up. But we would help with setting it up; we would help with the whole line of how you are entered, how your history is taken, how your blood is tested to see if you have enough red cells for you to be safe to give away some of your own blood. To make sure you are not sick, take your temperature, and do a short health history. All of those things we would be participating in, not necessarily doing all of them every time, and then mostly we would be working in the unit. We would usually have a three bed unit that we would be responsible for with one aid for actually taking the blood from the individual, making sure that they were comfortable, that they didn’t have any kind of reaction, that they felt good before they left the unit. And then somebody had to watch and make sure that they had something to eat and drink before they went home and everything was fine. But it wasn’t that we were doing it all. They brought their people; we were just augmenting their staff. Now they don’t even have nurses doing that anymore.

MA:
Now what do they do, bring everyone in?

MK:
Bring in people from the street, just kidding. They don’t require the same level of education to draw blood anymore.

MA:
So the training is a little different now?

MK:
From my point of view, not as good.

MA:
Your husband worked at Bassett?

MK:
Yes, he did

MA:
And, he was an anesthesiologist, is that correct?

MK:
He was.

MA:
Did Bassett do anything to get their families connected to one another, or did that kind of happen naturally?

MK:
Well, when we first came there weren’t that many doctors. He was the only doctor in the anesthesia department for the whole time he was there, with the exception of two doctors who came at separate times who stayed varying lengths of time but not too long. But, he was mostly during that 18 years that he worked at Bassett the only anesthesia physician. Now he had nurse anesthetists, but he legally (he) was supposed to be supervising them and making sure that everything that they did was right. And some of them were excellent. You know they didn’t need all that much help, but still he was legally responsible for them and their actions. So he was basically on call all the time.

MA:
Did that interrupt home life at all?

MK:
You got used to a certain schedule. He would be up and out before 7 am. So getting the kids off to school was always my job. He would sometimes but not often walk home and have lunch, most of the time he spent in the hospital. He might come home for a little bit later in the afternoon, but he always went back and made rounds and saw all of the patients that he was going to see the next day.

MA:
Very labor intensive.

MK:
Yeah. And then he quite often was called in the middle of the night or the evening if there was a case that needed more supervision or help, and the nurse on call wasn’t able to handle it totally.

MA:
You have mentioned during this interview and previously a passion for gardening. Can you talk a little bit about gardening and your passion for it?

MK:
I learned gardening when I first lived with my uncle and aunt in the Adirondacks, and I really enjoy gardening so when I had the space to do it myself, I did. And I decided to plant some blueberries. I have about 24 bushes. Some of them produce more than others. The biggest job is in the spring when I have to prune them, and I am pretty fastidious about the way I prune them. Sometimes it takes me at least an hour or more to do one bush. Twenty-four, that’s quite a lot of bushes, quite a lot of time I mean. My biggest struggle now is to keep not the birds, but the squirrels out of it. I bought a big net, a new net, last year, pretty heavy, heavy duty net. It was hard to get it on, it was so heavy. And I thought “I will be able to relax and we won’t have any birds and we will just pick berries”. When I took that netting down there was at least two dozen holes in it that had been chewed by the squirrels, and they had popped themselves in and eaten a lot of the berries. So I have to figure out something else.

MA:
What other things do you grow in your garden besides blueberries?

MK:
That’s a separate plot, that was not even part of the garden that you could see. I grow a lot of squash because that keeps well and I enjoy it. And I like to grow beets and broccoli. I like to grow some of those cold weather things that will last. I’m still picking broccoli. Kale is another cold weather plant that I can sometimes take some in the winter, uncover it and there will be a leaf or two I can cut off and sauté a little bit and it’s very good. And last year the person who was helping me, build a trellis for pole beans, it was like a grape arbor. It was so big and so lush and we got quite a lot of beans from that.

MA:
Do you can?

MK:
No, I don’t can. I do freeze some. But I don’t do as much as I did when I had a bigger family.

MA:
Less mouths to feed now.

MK:
Yeah. But you know what’s most fun for me is getting it ready and planting it. Harvesting it is more of a chore by that time you sort of have other things to do.

MA:
So you like the labor part of the preparation, more than the eating?

MK:
I like to get things growing. I like to see things coming up, and I like to see a neat and orderly garden. I like to eat it too, but you know sometimes it becomes overwhelming because some vegetables you have to pick when they are ready to be picked not when you are ready to pick them. Your life is not your own when you have a garden. I also have bees back there. Did you know that?

MA:
I did not know that.

MK:
Two hives of bees and that’s been sort of a fun project. I’m not the beekeeper really; Garet is the beekeeper. He harvests them. I help as much as I can.

MA:
How long have you and Garet been beekeeping?

MK:
Three or four years, and we have had problems with this Colony Collapse Disorder. And last winter I lost both hives. So I have two new hives, so I am crossing my fingers hoping that they manage to make it through this winter.

MA:
I don’t know if there is a direct correlation. I don’t know much about beekeeping, but does that makes your garden better because you have bees so close?

MK:
That’s part of my rationale. I imagine that if you have the bees then it’s going to pollinate your garden and your blueberries a little bit be better.

MA:
Do you do any other berries besides blueberries?

MK:
I’ve tried strawberries but to me that is really labor intensive because you really have to have three different beds, the first year you plant, the second year you start harvesting, and the third year you might harvest still, but by the fourth year you need to start over again. So it’s not like blueberries, they are there, I’ve got some blueberry plants that I planted back in 1964. They are still there. Not doing as well but it’s not like you have to remove them and start over again every third or fourth year.

MA:
I know that blackberries grow kind of in brambles and can be kind of a pest in certain areas of the country. Is that the same here, is that why you don’t choose to grow those?

MK:
Usually blackberries, if you’re lucky you can find them growing wild someplace. Then you don’t have to go through keeping them. Blackberries really have a lot of needles, you know prickers, I’m trying to grow raspberries, I much prefer to grow raspberries than blackberries, although I like eating blackberries.

MA:
Do you have blackberries up on the property here?

MK:
Well, you know since the last commercial thinning I’ve noticed that there are berry bushes beginning to grow. I have yet to see a berry on any of them so I can’t really tell you that I’m going to have a bumper crop of blackberries.

MA:
Well, the deer like the blackberries too. Do you have deer on your property?

MK:
Now that’s a silly question.

MA:
I guess in Cooperstown there are a lot of deer in Cooperstown.

MK:
Yeah, right. You probably see them more in Cooperstown than you do in the woods. They are much more wily. Tomorrow is the beginning of hunting season.

MA:
Do you allow hunting up here? You mentioned something about it earlier.

MK:
There are a couple of families I allow to hunt. I don’t encourage anybody and everybody.

MA:
Do you hunt?

MK:
I do have a hunting license; I have hunted.

MA:
In the past?

MK:
Mmmhmm.

MA:
In the past when you hunted did you do all the butchering and stuff or did you send it off.

MK:
We would send it off.

MA:
Have someone take care of that?

MK:
Mmmhmm

MA:
We are pretty much I think almost out of time. I’ve been watching it. Is there anything else you would like to say?

MK:
Yes, you haven’t mentioned the fact that I’m very active in church.

MA:
You know I had that written down and you’re right I did forget. It seems that religion has been a very central part of that. I would like to hear more.

MK:
I was born in a family, not only my mother and father but relatives have been very active in religious things.

MA:
What denomination were your parent’s missionaries for?

MK:
My parents were Baptists, and there are several kinds of Baptists. And there is a conservative Baptist association, or whatever they call it, and then there’s a much more, I wouldn’t say they are liberal, but they are not as fundamentally inclined as some of the conservative Baptists. That’s what they were, they were Baptists. But I am myself at this time Presbyterian. I became a Presbyterian when I went to college and joined that group who met at a Presbyterian Church. Mostly because there was a very charismatic young minister there who was just full of life and was great with young people. I think that’s the way I got really started because you know your parents may be a certain domination or religion but you gotta make it your own. It’s sort of like being part of a family, [START OF TRACK 3, 0:00] but you still have to make it your own. Your own convictions, your own spirituality.

MA:
What do you do for the church here in Cooperstown?

MK:
What do I do for them?

MA:
Yeah, how are you involved?

MK:
How am I involved? Well, over the years I’ve been involved in many ways. Currently I’m a member of the Building and Grounds… it used to be called the Trustees, but that’s the current terminology for that group. I do sing in the choir. And I do work with the women’s association, which is a very loosely knit group, it’s hardly a women’s association. It’s just a group of women. And then there’s always other things that you get involved with. It’s sort of like being a part of a family; there’s something that has to be done at one time, or some special activity is coming up or some special need arises. But the main stream of what goes on is the worship every Sunday. And that is sort of what gathers people together.

MA:
What kind of role has religion played in your life? How do you consider it as part of your life?

MK:
Well, I think I consider it a big part of my personal life. It’s what I think about every day.

MA:
Well that is about all I have, if you have anything else.

MK:
Well, I didn’t mention my family. I feel my family is tremendously important to me too. It’s not a large family but I think a fairly close knit family. Not only my immediate children and their spouses and the grandchildren, but I had three brothers, one died at a fairly young age, but I still had two and their families and I’ve maintained contact with all of them. It’s a lot of people that you have their support and that you are supporting as well. Which makes you feel connected and happy if they are happy or sad if they are sad.

MA:
How many grandchildren do you have?

MK:
I have ten.

MA:
Any great grandchildren yet?

MK:
Not yet?

MA:
Not yet. Is anyone of age for that? Are you waiting?

MK:
I’ve got a granddaughter that is married but she’s the only one that’s married. So she could conceivably have a child right now, she has a dog. You’re probably getting tired of this.

MA:
No, I’m fascinated. I am in no way tired. I just want to make sure that you’ve said everything. I’ve gone through my stuff so this is an open forum for what you would like to [say]. If anything else comes to mind, I’d love to know.

MK:
I’ll think about it when I have left you, and I’ll say “why didn’t I say that?”

MA:
Of course, I will probably do the same. Well thank you much for you time, I really appreciate it.

MK:
You are very welcome.

Duration

29:59
25:02
29:59
4:36

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps
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Files

Citation

Mary Alexander, “Marion Karl, November 16, 2012,” CGP Community Stories, accessed October 18, 2017, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/128.