CGP Community Stories

Ernie Chase, November 5, 2008

Title

Ernie Chase, November 5, 2008

Subject

Cooperstown
Dairy farming
Lake Otsego
Ice fishing
hunting
tractors
trains
Baseball Hall of Fame
Ice skating
Farmer's Museum
Skiing
Clarks

Description

Ernie Chase is a lifetime resident of the Cooperstown area. He was born at the Thanksgiving Home in Cooperstown in 1919 and has lived here since then. Having lived and worked around Otsego Lake for his whole life, Mr. Chase has been a witness to almost a century of change in the area.

Cooperstown has changed greatly in the 89 years of Mr. Chase's life. He has been seen both growth and decline, from the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame to the virtual loss of farming in the area. Technology has also changed significantly during his life. Mr. Chase can recall when the first tractors appeared in Cooperstown and when refrigeration was provided by iceboxes filled with ice cut from Lake Otsego.

Much of this interview is concerned with the agricultural and outdoor history of the Cooperstown region. Mr. Chase's father ran a successful dairy farm three miles from town and his three sons worked on the farm. In 1938 Ernie Chase opened the first tractor store in Cooperstown, and until 1982 he provided most of the farm equiptment to the farmers in the area. Because of this business Mr. Chase possess a great wealth of information about the farming practices of this region. Mr. Chase is also a longtime sportsman and has hunted and fished in the area for most of his life.

Mr. Chase's recollections is quite good considering his age. At times he has difficulty with exact dates, but is able to provide an approximation. His attention to detail in the stories he tells is excellent and provides rich insight into his life. He has hearing difficulty and in several places has answered questions that he has heard differently than were asked. I have tried as accurately as possible to portray the style of his speaking which is familiar and friendly. The listener will enjoy hearing Mr. Chase's laughter as he relates some of his funny stories.

Creator

Andrew Gaerte

Publisher

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

Date

2008-11-5

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Andrew Gaerte

Interviewee

Ernie Chase

Location

Cooperstown, New York

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2008

AG= Andrew Gaerte
EC= Ernie Chase

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AG:
This is oral history with Mr. Ernie Chase interviewed by Andrew Gaerte. It is November 5th, 2008. Good morning Mr. Chase. How are you?
EC:
Good
AG:
Good. First what I would like to do is talk a little about your life and then talk a little bit about farming in the Cooperstown area if that is alright. The first question I would like to ask is: when were you born?
EC:
I was born in the Thanksgiving home, which is now an elderly place, or a place for elderly people.
AG:
Was this before there was a hospital in Cooperstown?
EC:
Yes.
AG:
When did Bassett come into Cooperstown?

EC:
I can’t answer that. I don’t remember.
AG:
What year were you born?
EC:
I was born in 1919.
AG:
What did your family do for a living when you were younger?
EC:
They were farmers at that time.
AG:
Where was your farm located?
EC:
Over in Whig Corners, about three miles from Cooperstown toward Cherry Valley.
AG:
On 33 then?
EC:
Well 33, I guess so.
AG:
Did you have a dairy farm or a crop farm? What did you have?


EC:
My father had a dairy farm, and he started out with a few cows and he ended up with about 200.
AG:
Did you have any other livestock on the farm?
EC:
Just dairy cattle and offspring.
AG:
How many acres did you have on your farm to support those cows? Do you know?
EC:
Well my father owned around about 250 but he rented several other farms. And as a matter of fact we cut hay on eleven farms one year. We put up 75,000 bales of hay.
AG:
Did you have any siblings to help out in the farming operation at all?
EC:
I had two brothers.
AG:
Were they older or younger than you?
EC:
One older and one younger.

AG:
Being in a rural area, do you recall if the events of the Great Depression hit here as much as they did other places?
EC:
Well I think it was about the same here as it was anywhere. But, I got to say I think my father did a good job at managing. I’ve heard him say quite a few times that he made more money during the depression then he did after.
AG:
How did he manage to do that?
EC:
Well we used to make milk, but then he retailed the milk, which increased his income. And he was always buying and selling cows. That was about it. Well he sold a lot of hay.
AG:
Being on a dairy farm, did the milk strikes in the 1930’s impact you guys at all? And were you aware of that?
EC:
Didn’t affect him because he was retailing most of it.
AG:
Do you recall when your family got your first tractor?
EC:
About 1935.

AG:
Do you know what it was?
EC:
Yeah, it was a Farmall F-20.
AG:
So you primarily used draft horses before that for your mowing and things?
EC:
Yeah, we had two big teams.
AG:
You said earlier that in, I believe, 1938 you guys started selling tractors. Correct?
EC:
That’s right.
AG:
How did that come about?
EC:
Well, Cleveland Tractor Company advertised in the paper for someone to represent them, and my brother and I and my father thought that was a good idea to try it and see what happened.
AG:
Did a lot of people in the Cooperstown area have tractors at that time?
EC:
No.
AG:
Where did you have your shop located? [START OF TRACK 2, 0:00] At your
house, or where did you set up your store for the tractors?
EC:
Well it was near our house. Yes. And then in 1945 we built the garage here in town.
AG:
Where is that located?
EC:
It is on the south end of Chestnut Street, down where the drug store is.
AG:
So where Ace Hardware is basically?
EC:
That’s on the property yes.
AG:
With World War Two did you or any of your brothers serve in World War Two?
EC:
I was drafted but they never took me. I went for an examination and everything but they didn’t take me.
AG:
With your tractor company you started off with Clevelands correct but then did you sell other types of tractors?


EC:
Oliver Corporation finally bought out Cleveland Tractor Company. And then we had a lot of other short line manufacturers like New Holland and Pats and so forth.
AG:
When did Oliver buy out Cleveland? Do you recall?
EC:
Well, somewhere around 1951-52.
AG:
Were there other tractor salesmen in the Cooperstown area?
EC:
Not in Cooperstown. But there’s one in Roseboom, one in Cherry Valley, one in Milford, several in Oneonta.
AG:
When did, with you guys selling tractors, when did they really become popular in the area? When did people start getting tractors and stop using the horses?
EC:
Oh, probably in the 1960’s.
AG:
Now did you service the tractors there or did you have people come in and work on them or send them out?


EC:
Well, I did quite a lot of it to start with and then it was more than I could handle, so we hired mechanics to come and service them?
AG:
Did you sell things other than tractors? Did you sell plows and rakes?
EC:
I sold plows, and hay balers, and side rakes, and hay unloaders, and disk harrows, barn cleaners, silo unloaders, it’s a long list.
AG:
Now in terms of business, did that make up the majority of your business or was the tractors more of your business?
EC:
No, the tractors didn’t give us the volume the rest of it did.
AG:
What other crops were grown in the Cooperstown area? Because I know in doing some stuff down in Meredith they were pretty big on growing cauliflower down there.
EC:
We didn’t get into that. We had probably about 90 to 100 acres of silage corn and soybeans mixed in with it, and oats. That was primarily it.
AG:
Were hops still being grown in the area?

EC:
No. There was one hop farm, Bavarian hop farm, just above where we lived. But that went out, can’t tell you, probably about 1930.
AG:
Why did they stop growing?
EC:
Well they had blue mold here and they couldn’t grow.
AG:
In your lifetime, how much has farming decreased in Cooperstown? Quite a bit?
EC:
How much did what?
AG:
Farming decrease in Cooperstown.
EC:
Well, it went along good until about 1975 then it started going downhill.
AG:
Why do you think it started going downhill?
EC:
Well, small farms couldn’t compete.
AG:
With the larger farms in the Midwest?


EC:
No, like for instance just below Milford there’s a big farm with 500 head [START OF TRACK 3, 0:00] and there is another one in Huntington right across the river and he’s got about 500 head of milking cows. The small man couldn’t compete.
AG:
Where were you guys selling your milk to at the time?
EC:
The village.
AG:
The Village had it? Was there a processing plant here?
EC:
No. We had it over at our home.
AG:
I know at least from out where I’m from it’s interesting looking at the pictures from 50 years ago and seeing how few trees there are. Are you seeing from farms decreasing a lot more trees in the area?
EC:
No. I don’t think so.
AG:
Were the cows basically kept in the barn most of the time and so there wasn’t a lot of land use.


EC:
No. Just in the winter time. The rest of the time they were out grazing in the pastures.
AG:
Did you milk by hand all of your cows?
EC:
Yep. We had a hundred head and each man milked 20 head. Every night and every morning before I went to school and when I came home.
AG:
So two times a day you would milk them?
EC:
Yep. At that time I had two brothers and two hired men, plus my father.
AG:
How long would it take you to milk them in the morning then?
EC:
Oh, about two hours and a half.
AG:
So, what time did you have to get up before school to milk?
EC:
Oh, about 4:00.
AG:
Wow! Did your family ever switch over to automatic milking machines or not?

EC:
Didn’t know anything about them at the time.
AG:
When did they become popular?
EC:
Well, I’m not good on dates.
AG:
That’s fine.
EC:
Probably about 1960,65, we started getting milking machines then. After that we used milkin machines all the time.
AG:
Did that change how people farmed around here at all?
EC:
I can’t say that it did.
AG:
Okay, did the herd size stay about the same then?
EC:
Yep.
AG:
So when you were growing up did you have a big house that you lived in on the farm?

EC:
Not really… four bedroom house, but it wasn’t a big house.
AG:
Did you have electricity when you were growing up in your house?
EC:
Yep. We had a Delco plant which furnished us with power until the high line came along and that was about 1927 if I remember right.
AG:
When you were younger… you obviously worked hard on the farm, but did you or your brothers have time to games or sports or anything?
EC:
Nope. My father kept us pretty busy. There were lots of times we wouldn’t get through at night until 8:30-9:00. Once in a while we would go roller skating, dancing or some other thing.
AG:
Was there a lot to do in Cooperstown at that time?
EC:
Well, not in the town but around the area.
AG:
You lived about 3 miles out of town, correct?
EC:
Yep.

AG:
Did you go to school in Cooperstown?
EC:
Yes. I had to walk to get there or bum a ride.
AG:
Wow. Where was the school located at that time?
EC:
Right where the apartment house is on Glen Ave.
AG:
How often would you get a ride and how often would you walk?
EC:
Probably walked one way or the other twice a week. The rest of the time we catch a ride.
AG:
When did cars and busses and stuff start showing up in Cooperstown?
EC:
Well, let’s see. I graduated in ’37, maybe like 1934 maybe they started a bus route. Something like that.
AG:
Did your family have a car or a truck or anything?
EC:
We had a car and a truck both.

AG:
When did you get them?
EC:
Pardon?
AG:
When did you get them?
[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]
EC:
Oh good night. The best that I can remember my father had a pick up truck always. And, then later in 1937 I think he bought a new Chevrolet. Automobiles were $750 or there abouts.
AG:
Wow! Too bad you can’t buy cars that cheap today.
EC:
Yeah.
AG:
So, when you were growing up did you raise most of your own food at your house? Did you have a garden?
EC:
No.
AG:
Where did you get most of your food from?

EC:
Well we come to the village here. From the grocery store and there was a grocery store right next to our house then.
AG:
Did you hunt to supplement your meat or anything?
EC:
Nope. Never hunted. I do a lot of hunting now or did. I started hunting about 1945 and I’ve hunted ever since. I like turkey hunting. I got a turkey yesterday as a matter of fact.
AG:
You did. How did you do that?
EC:
I shot him.
AG:
How big was he?
EC:
Oh, he wasn’t very big, 12 or 14 pounds.
AG:
That’s not bad.
EC:
Nice size.
AG:
Yeah. So, what type of shot gun do you use?
EC:
Oh, I use a Remington 870.
AG:
Very Good.
EC:
12 guage.
AG:
Good. That’s what I have. Has hunting changed in the 50 some years since you started?
EC:
Yeah, it sure has.
AG:
How so?
EC:
Well back then course I knew a lot of my neighbors and I could hunt most anywhere. Today, we get all these city people in who think they know it all. First thing they do is post their land. You go and ask them if you can use it and they refuse ya. So it’s cut down our hunting area, but I still have a few friends that let me hunt.
AG:
That’s good. Do you have friends that you go hunting out with now, or do you go out by yourself.

EC:
Yeah. Sure. Most of the time I hunt with Howard Talbot, but my son I think is gonna come up in a couple of weeks and we are going to try deer hunting for four or five days.
AG:
Good. Are a lot of your friends from when you were growing up still in Cooperstown?
EC:
No. No. There aren’t very many, very few. Yep. Course a lot of them passed away and the rest of them moved away. There isn’t anybody around that I grew up with.
AG:
Have a lot of people moved away from Cooperstown?
EC:
Yeah. One of my close neighbors… We used to pal around a lot, that is just over around our homes. He moved to California and finally passed away out there 2 or 3 years ago.
AG:
What do think caused a lot of people to move away from the Cooperstown area?
EC:
Well, there is no business, no industry here in the village, around here. So, they go to college and get a degree so they can go to work for Westinghouse, GE or some automobiler.
AG:
Yeah. Do you remember when the Baseball Hall of Fame came to Cooperstown?
EC:
Yep. 1939.
AG:
Were you there for the opening ceremony at all?
EC:
I didn’t go. I worked in the post, odd hours to fill in.
AG:
How has that changed Cooperstown at all?
EC:
Oh well, we get a lot of outside people here. Springtime, summer time and fall. I guess it’s good.
AG:
When did you move in to town?
EC:
I got married in ‘46 and moved to town [START OF TRACK 5, 0:00] and rented a house on Main Street for five years and another one on Glen Ave for 6-8 years. In 1963 I had this house built and I’ve been here ever since.
AG:
Well, you’ve got nice views at this house here.


EC:
There were no houses on this side of road when I came and it was all wooded. I had to clear the land here before we started.
AG:
When did most of the other houses around here get built?
EC:
From ’63 on they kept sprouting up. There were a few houses down here on the lower side of the road when I moved here, but there weren’t any on the upper side.
AG:
Did you have to clear trees out so you could see the lake down there?
EC:
That belonged to somebody else. But, we had a good neighbor down there. He
didn’t like them so he had them cut down.
AG:
Just up the road is the cemetery. How long has that been there?
EC:
Good night.
AG:
Forever, basically?



EC:
Oh, I don’t know, a long time, Andrew. There used to be a sidewalk run right along this side right about where my wall is. It ran from Woodside Hall up to the cemetery. But that is when people walked, they couldn’t drive.
AG:
Do you do any fishing out on the lake?
EC:
A lot of it. In later years, my son was born in 1950 and when he got to be about 10 years old he liked to fish. Many many days, he and I and my wife would go down and jump in the boat and go to the other end of the lake, about 4:00 in the morning and come home at 7:00 and we would have our limit.
AG:
What were you catching in those days?
EC:
Catching bass. Otsego bass.
AG:
How did you eat them? Did you fry them up?
EC:
Didn’t eat them. I cleaned them and my son sold them. Down to the markets and the restaurants. Every restaurant had them.
AG:
Were there more restaurants in Cooperstown in those days, then there are now?

EC:
No, I wouldn’t say so, about the same.
AG:
Where did you keep your boat when you had it?
EC:
There’s a common area that goes along with this property on the other side of the road there and we kept it down there.
AG:
What kind of boat was it?
EC:
Oh, just an aluminum boat, a 14 footer, 10 horse motor.
AG:
Do you fish currently at all?
EC:
No, I haven’t fished in the last 15 years probably, but we used to fish on the ice in the winter time. We had a shanty, go out there and catch bass. Got so we couldn’t catch any bass, so we quit fishing.
AG:
Did your shanty ever fall in?
EC:
Yes.
AG:
Were you able to take it out?
EC:
It fell in. I had it over on the other side of the lake where my camp office is, went down one day and there wasn’t much ice around. We put a rope around it and tried to get it, but it went right down, but it didn’t go down only just water level, tipped over bottom side up. We left it for two or three weeks and it froze in. So, we took a couple of 2 x 4s and nailed it to the runners and then took a chainsaw and cut around it lifted it out. All we lost was a jackknife.
AG:
There you go. That’s not bad.
EC:
Sometimes the lake would get a glare of ice. No snow on it and you would get a heavy wind, you’d want your fish shanty tied down or else it would go to the other end of the lake.
AG:
Really, oh, wow!
EC:
Yeah.
AG:
Did you every do any ice skating on the lake when it was like that?
EC:
Yeah, sure, did a lot of it. We had ice skating, the village had a rink. There was one on Lake Street and there was one in the Leatherstocking garage. There was another one. I forget where the heck they had it. Maybe it was in the parking lot. At different times.
[START OF TRACK 6, 0:00]
AG:
Do you remember when the Farmer’s Museum was started?
EC:
Not for a date, no. It used to be the Fenimore farm. They had a lot of cows in that big barn there and then retailed milk in Cooperstown. It started before my time. When it went to the Farmer’s Museum, I don’t remember a date. Might have been in the ‘40s maybe. I don’t know.
AG:
Did they still keep the cows in the big barn over there when they started the Farmers Museum, or when did they get rid of those?
EC:
No. They got rid of the cows. The farm manager called my father one afternoon about 3:00 and he says I want to turn the milk business over to you. Oh, he says, I’m not prepared for that. So, my father knew a couple of fellows who worked up there and so he got them interested in and we didn’t do it.
AG:
How many head of cattle did they have.
EC:
I have no idea, but I’d say probably around a hundred head. I don’t know.

AG:
Was there a veterinarian in town or did you take care of your own livestock?
EC:
No, there was a vet. Dr. Marsh was here until he passed away. That was quite a few years.
AG:
Did you have pretty healthy herds most of your life?
EC:
Yeah. We didn’t need a vet very often, no.
AG:
Were there any particular hard times with the dairy farming or not?
EC:
Well, it was all hard business. But, the fact that my father baled hay and sold it and he bought if he wanted a couple of cows he went and bought a herd somewhere, 25-35 head and bring them home and we would keep the good ones and sell the ones that we didn’t want. And, the milk business, that’s what we survived on. But, he didn’t have big payrolls like they do today. People won’t work unless they get enormous wages today.
AG:
Did you have hired hands?
EC:
Later years, yes we had two.

AG:
Were they from the area here?
EC:
Yes.
AG:
Did a lot of your neighbors farm as well.
EC:
Yep. If you go over to Whig Corners and almost all of the places up through there were farms.
AG:
Did they have about the same number of cows that you did or were they bigger or smaller.
EC:
No.
AG:
Smaller?
EC:
Smaller.
AG:
So you were one of the bigger farms, then?



EC:
At that time, yep. Well, to milk a hundred head, you got to have more than that to be consistent in production. We probably had about 200. Then, my brother and I bought a farm up in Pierstown and we had about 65 head up there.
AG:
Okay.
EC:
One winter the snow got so deep you had to snowshoe in to feed the cattle and see that they had water, and milk them. Run it through a separator to get the cream, because we couldn’t get in to get it out. Sometimes, it’d be snowed in for two weeks. One time we went up and we got within 2500 ft. of the place and we got stuck in the snow. The next morning we went up and couldn’t find the truck. It was all covered over. And, on that road we used to snow shoe every morning and every night, two miles each way and there is one place there the snow was at the top of the telephone poles. [START OF TRACK 7, 0:00] I walked right on top of the poles with snowshoes.
AG:
Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen snow that deep.
EC:
Well, the poles weren’t as high as they are now, but they were probably 18-20 ft. high. They had two Linn tractors up there, one behind the other. It took them two days to go 75 feet. That snow was really deep.

AG:
Were they using tractors to plow in those days?
EC:
We did. Yes. A few farmers did.
AG:
Did the town take care of the roads in the winter.
EC:
Yeah, but they would only come through about every two weeks or something like that. They didn’t come through every day like they do now. And, they used Linn tractors quite a bit and they were fairly slow. But, they did a pretty decent job.
AG:
Were they plowing or rolling the snow at that time?
EC:
They were plowing it. I have never seen them use a roller here.
AG:
When the snow got that bad, did you have spring right near the barn that kept going, or how did you get water for the cows?
EC:
We had a spring, yes. But, then it went dry and we got a five hundred gallon tank and put that on the truck and got water in the village and took it up there on that. We had a four wheel drive army truck we put it on and we got by.

AG:
When did you and your brothers move out of the house and start your own farm.
EC:
Well, my older brother got married. I wasn’t married and I stayed at home. And, oh we had the farm probably, I don’t know, 8-10 years and then we got the machinery business and I stayed in the machinery business and he wanted to farm it so we dissolved it, that’s all.
AG:
Was he a good customer for your machinery business?
EC:
Well, he bought machinery from me. Yes.
AG:
Did your machinery come in by train or how did it get shipped in to your store?
EC:
It came in on a flat car and then we would have to unload them which is a big job and then we had balers come in on a thing and they were awful heavy. The tractors, crawler tractors, about 8 tractors came in on a car. It wasn’t too much of a job to get them off.
AG:
Did you drive them off or did you have a crane to pick them off?
EC:
No. They drive off. With the balers and other equipment, of course they were on wheels and we put on steel plates that covered the distance between the car to the platform and we would pull them with the tractor and put a tongue on them and then we could draw them away.
AG:
When did the train stop running up to Cooperstown here?
EC:
I don’t know. I don’t remember what year it was. They used to have a… two or three years they had a snow train came in and skiers from NY came in on it.
AG:
Was there a place to ski around here?
EC:
Yeah. Mt. Otsego had a ski lift.
AG:
Really?
EC:
Yeah. It was a rope tow only.
AG:
Okay.
EC:
But, it worked.
AG:
Did you ever ski at all?
EC:
Yep. And, I liked it.
AG:
Yeah.
EC:
I enjoyed it. And, I’d still ski now if my knees would let me. I enjoyed it. I’ve skied all over. I’ve been to Aspen, CO and I’ve been to Canada, New Hampshire, Western, NY. I’ve been all around.
AG:
So, where have you skied in Western NY?
[START OF TRACK 8, 0:00]
EC:
Greek Peak, near Cortland.
AG:
I’ve skied there.
EC:
Stanford they had ski lifts over there. They had a regular ski lift over there. They didn’t have the rope.
AG:
Did your wife ski with you?
EC:
Oh, a little bit. I can’t say that she liked it. She went along and did pretty well.
AG:
Did your son ski at all too?

EC:
No. He came home from college one time and said, I’m going up to Pierstown and try going down Mt. Otsego. So, he went up and came down two or three times and he said he thought he had it made. Well, he went back to school on a pair of crutches.
AG:
Where did he go to school at?
EC:
Well, he went at Angola, Indiana. Tri-state College. He got a degree in engineering.
AG:
That is close to where my grandparents are. How long did you own your tractor business?
EC:
Well, I sold out in 1982, from 38-82. The farming business around here was going down hill because the small farms just couldn’t compete. I was glad to get out of it. I had it.
AG:
Did you see quite a bit of change of the early tractors that came out in 1938 and what was coming out in the ‘80s?
EC:
A big change.

AG:
What were some of the changes?
EC:
We did have air conditioning, we didn’t have cabs. We didn’t have a lot of things that the new ones have. No hydraulics.
AG:
Did you sell other accessories to go with the tractors? I know sometimes they powered washing machines and things like that.
EC:
No, nothing like that. Plows, harrows and combines, chargers and things like that.
AG:
When did specific combines start being used?
EC:
I wish I could remember when I bought the farm up there and I don’t. Um… probably long about 1940, 38-40, something like that. They started out with small ones that were only about 5 feet wide. Then, later they came out and some were 6-7 feet wide. And, now they are all self-propelled.
AG:
What were some of the regular maintenance things you had to do you had to do on the tractors when people would bring them in?
EC:
Oh, good night. Most everything. The crawler tractors we had to change the pins in the track. And, sometimes they’d forget to keep the bolts tightened up on the wheel and they’d break the bolt off the darn thing and then you’d have to see if you could get the stud out and that was not an easy job.
AG:
Were most of the tires being used early on still the steel tires?
EC:
Well, we started getting tires in about the time we got our Farmall F20. They had tires like the golf courses use. Traction wasn’t that great. Two or three years later Firestone and Goodyear came out with a bar on the tire and that made a big difference.
AG:
Was the F20 a narrow or wide front?
EC:
A narrow front, yep. And when he bought it he bought a 7 foot mower that fastened to it. I cut hundreds of acres from that thing.
AG:
Was that your favorite tractor that you used?
EC:
That was the only one we had at the time and I drove it most of the time, yep.
AG:
Did you have some more tractors that you liked better than others?



EC:
No, we used that and it worked good and there was no starter on it, it was a hand crank, but as time went on the industry started coming out with starters and cabs and [START OF TRACK 9, 0:00] hydraulics and all that stuff and it was nice.
AG:
Did you guys have a gas tank out at the farm or did you have to come to town?
EC:
No, we had a gas tank at the farm.
AG:
Anything else about your tractor salesman day or any funny or interesting stories you have from that?
EC:
Yeah, I’m thinking of one. I sold a family of a Cletrac HG which was a small two plow tractor. One of the boys called one day and said you gotta come up here this thing doesn’t have any power. I went up and I said what’s the problem. So he put it in high gear and opened the throttle one notch and let out on the clutch and of course it stalled. He says there. I says open up the throttle. He says I can’t do that. Mr. Bush says you can’t do that. I said you should have called Mr. Bush then instead of me. He got over it. Finally made up his mind that’s the only way to do it.
AG:
Did you have any crazy things that happened to tractors that people had to come in and have fixed?
EC:
Oh, I don’t know. Sold a guy a tractor and a baler down by Ft. Plain. He got off the tractor to move a bale of hay and the tractor ran wild and went down a steep embankment and rolled over and it really ruined the whole thing. So, I didn’t have a bull dozer, but we had sold one to a farmer and I had went and rented it from him so that I could put a path down so that I could go down and pull the thing out.
AG:
We you able to rebuild it or was it pretty well destroyed?
EC:
No. It was rebuildable, but we didn’t do it. He wanted a new one then.
AG:
Did people hang on to their tractors longer back then than they do now?
EC:
Yep.
AG:
Did your family ever do any maple syrup at all in the winter, I mean the spring?
EC:
Nope. We had a neighbor up the road that did that.
AG:
Did you ever help with that?


EC:
No, I didn’t. I had all I could do to take care of our own operation. Once in while my father would grow peas and Beechnut packing company would come around and they’d buy them and deliver them up them up to Richfield. They’d run them through the separator.
AG:
So, the grocery store that was by your house…Did they have most of the stuff that you needed?
EC:
Just about everything you wanted. Yes. And, I can remember before the store opened or about the time, there was a man that lived over to Middlefield and he come along with a little truck with a box on the back, cake of ice in it and he had meat in there. If you wanted a steak or two, he’d cut it off and that’s where you’d get meat. The guy butchered real often. It was fresh meat. You couldn’t do that today.
AG:
I don’t think the Health Department would like that.
EC:
No, they sure wouldn’t. We didn’t die from it.
AG:
What were some of your mom’s favorite dishes she would make for you?


EC:
Oh, goodness. She made about everything. I don’t know. One thing that she made and my wife got in to it was chili sauce and I like chili sauce and it’s hard to buy.
AG:
Did she make it pretty spicy?
EC:
Oh, a little bit spicy, [START OF TRACK 10, 0:00] but it was good, I liked it. I bought a jar down at Great American about a month ago and it was pretty good, nothing like what my mother and my wife made, but it was good.
AG:
Did you have woodstove at your house growing up?
EC:
Nope, I had coal.
AG: Okay.
EC:
And the kitchen stove was coal and the furnace, hot air furnace.
AG:
Where was the coal being shipped in from?
EC:
Oh, we used to buy it here in town. Wood Brothers had coal. I guess that’s where we bought most of it. Oh, Bruce Hall had coal too.

AG:
So, has Bruce Hall been around quite a long time then?
EC:
Oh, yeah, as long as I can remember. Yep. Back then he was in feed and coal and then they kept expanding and they’re into everything now.
AG:
Where did the train stop in Cooperstown?
EC:
Oh, we had Victory and we had an A&P store and there were some other family owned stores, we used to trade one or another every once in a while.
AG:
Did the train stop in Cooperstown? Was Cooperstown the end of the line or where did it go to?
EC:
It was the end of the line.
AG:
Okay.
EC:
Yep. They did prepare a road bed beyond Cooperstown up into Springfield, but they never laid a track.
AG:
Would that have run along the lake or up over the hill?

EC:
Well, it would have to run… I’ve gotta think about it. Well, it would have to run fairly close to the highway.
AG:
28?
EC:
Yeah. Up… you can’t see any sign of it around here, but up around Springfield you can see the road bed where it was, where they laid it out. We had a trolley line in here.
AG:
Really?
EC:
Yep. Well, they had a substation in Index and the trolley would run from Index north through Schuyler Lake and Richfield and Mohawk and Henderson and down into Utica. And, my aunt used to take me up into Utica once in a while on the thing.
AG:
What would you do up there?
EC:
Oh, she just wanted to go up and go shoppin’ and one thing or another.
AG:
So, at the time was Utica the big city that you would go to?

EC:
I guess so, that or Albany. But, the trolley didn’t go to Albany.
AG:
Was it a narrow gauge trolley?
EC:
No, it was regular width, whatever that was. You’d be riding and along and you’d get going like this and the doors would start swingin’. They didn’t have all of the heat that you really needed.
AG:
Was there a woodstove in there or was it pretty chilly?
EC:
I think that maybe it was a coal stove.
AG:
How would you get from here to Albany if you were going up to Albany?
EC:
Well, you could take the train and go down to Oneonta and they’d go back up to Albany from Oneonta.
AG:
Okay.
EC:
And, then there used to be a greyhound bus that you could take to most anywhere you wanted to go.

AG:
When you were growing up were there clothes stores or tailors or where did you get most of your clothes from?
EC:
Oh, right here in town. Yep. Clarks, Empies had clothing stores. And, Mr. Fargeson had a dry goods store, you know, yard goods store. My mother used to buy quite a lot of yard goods and make shirts and other things for us.
AG:
Did she have a sewing machine that she would do those things on?
EC:
She had a sewing machine. She was a seamstress.
[START OF TRACK 11, 0:00]
AG:
Was it a Singer sewing machine?
EC:
Yep.
AG:
Well, that’s good. Has it been interesting to have the Clarks around here with their big farm and all?
EC:
Well, yeah, Ambrose had a farm and they farmed it. They had beef cattle and hogs and sheep and chickens. They had a big chicken farm on the hill here. And, of course Edward owned the Farmer’s Museum area and he had dairy cows there.
AG:
Do you know what the story is with the pen of deer over by the Sports Center?
EC:
It’s been there as long as I have. That’s the best I can tell you. I don’t when it was started. Somebody asked me that question the other day and I told them I don’t know when it… It’s always been there as far as I know.
AG:
Do you know what they do with the deer?
EC:
It’s sorta like a zoo you might say. But, once a year they go in and they used to shoot off some of the bucks there, every fall. Now, one time I guess they were sending them to a game farm, the ones that they didn’t want. And, then I think they started injecting the females so that they wouldn’t have offsprings, not too long ago.
AG:
Has the town grown quite a bit since you were a young man?
EC:
It just about the same now as it was then. Yep. Back when I went to school I had one administrator and he had two secretaries. Today, you’ve got fewer kids than they had then…

AG:
And more administration.
EC:
… and the administration has swollen out of proportion.
AG:
Did you have sports programs when you were in school?
EC:
They had them, but I had to go home and work.
AG:
Was it mostly the non-farming kids that played the sports?
EC:
Yep.
AG:
Do you remember what some of the popular ones were?
EC:
Well, football was the main thing and then got basketball and I guess they had a baseball team, but that was about it.
AG:
Was it hard working seven days a week on the farm?
EC:
It sure was.
AG:
Was there any time to rest at all like on Saturday or Sunday?
EC:
Sunday. We didn’t farm it on Sunday. All we did was take care of the cattle and that was it. But, once in a while if we had a rainy streak and the weather came off real good, we would cut hay on Sunday.
AG:
Did you come into church in town on Sunday?
EC:
Yep. Yep.
AG:
Have you been going to the Baptist Church most of your life?
EC:
Well, since I was… yeah, most of my life, yeah. I guess I became a member when I was thirteen. And I’d gone most 100% of the time since.
AG:
Would you take the truck in to town on Sundays or did you walk in?
EC:
No. We had a car and we come in whatever vehicle was available.
AG:
Yeah. Do you remember when golf course was put in over here? Has it been here a long time?
EC:
No, that’s been here a long time and I would guess that Edward Clark did that… I don’t know. I’m gonna to guess around 1900, 1905, somewhere around that time I think maybe. The other golf course used to be over near where the dump is located there now.
AG:
Oh, really. There was one on the hill up there?
[START OF TRACK 12, 0:00]
EC:
Do you where the village sign is going off out of town. Look to the right, it used be out there, nothing but a bunch of trees there now, but there used to be nine-hole course there.
AG:
Oh, interesting. Was that mainly used by people coming here in the summer to vacation?
EC:
Yeah. Affluent people.
AG:
Has it always been fairly busy here in the summer, as you remember?
EC:
Yeah. Yep. I remember hear them tell about the fact that the golf pro bet somebody over here that could drive a golf ball across the lake.
AG:
Did he do it?
EC:
That’s a long ways.
AG:
That is a long ways.
EC:
You get from here to the 18th, it’s a long ways.
AG:
I don’t even think Tiger Woods could hit one across there.
EC:
No, he couldn’t. But, I tell you wait until the lake froze over. The lake was just like glass, he could drive a long ball. He had a lot of aid from the ice. He made it.
AG:
That’s pretty smart. Did milk demand increase in the summer with the visitors here?
EC:
No. In about 1943-4 we quit retailing milk. At that time we were in to the farm equipment business and about 1945 my father sold the dairy.
AG:
Did you ever make ice cream from your milk?
EC:
Oh goodnight, every other night.
AG:
Oh yeah?

EC:
There were a lot of kids that came around, friends of ours. Heck, there’d be… I had two brothers and then 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, about 7-8 guys would come around different times, different days.
AG:
Would you make flavored ice cream or just vanilla?
EC:
Sure, flavored ice cream, strawberries, chocolate and then sometimes just plain use maple syrup.
AG:
Did you have a hand-cranked machine or did you hook it up to something?
EC:
They were all hand cranked. You had to go down to the creek and get the ice and smash up for it.
AG:
Did you keep the ice down at the creek year around?
EC:
No. We had an ice house. We’d get ice down here from the lake and store it and it kept most all summer.
AG:
Would you cut the ice yourself or would there be people who came out to cut it and sell it?

EC:
There’s a person that had a power saw and he’d cut and he had an elevator so he could get it up on the sleigh or wagon, whatever.
AG:
Was it pretty good tasting ice?
EC:
Oh, yeah, it was good. That’s when ice was thick. Lot’s of times it was 18” thick.
AG:
Wow.
EC:
It hasn’t been that thick in a long time.
AG:
Do you think the winters have gotten milder?
EC:
Yep.
AG:
What did you think of the early snow last week?
EC:
I didn’t have to do anything.
AG:
Well, that’s good.

EC:
There was about that much on my driveway and I never touched it. It just melted away. Some of the boys that went hunting up in the Adirondacks… they had 24” inches up there. They couldn’t get out and do a thing.
AG:
Man. That’s hard hunting in that kind of snow.
EC:
It sure is.
AG:
Are you going to go out hunting, deer hunting with your son?
EC:
If he comes, I will. I can’t walk too far, but I’m going out anyway.
AG:
Did you get any doe permits for here?
EC:
No. I didn’t get any this year. I didn’t apply for one. I don’t think I ever applied for a doe permit. If he should shoot a deer, I don’t know what we are going to do with it. He’ll figure out something.
AG:
When you first started hunting in the area did you have to have a license or not?
EC:
Yep. But, licenses… [START OF TRACK 13, 0:00] I don’t what a regular, average person has to pay. Senior Citizens get a sportsman’s for $5.00.
AG:
I think I paid $19 for mine this season.
EC:
Is it? Well. Yeah. Senior Citizens get it for $5.00
AG:
That’s good.
EC:
I think their talking about raising it. They put in more help down in Albany. They gotta get more money to give the parasites.
AG:
Did you go down to the Legion for the pancake breakfast yesterday?
EC:
Yes, I did. I went down to the grocery store and got some supplies. I said if I can park somewhere near there, I’ll stop and eat. Otherwise, I’ll go home. Well, there was a parkin’ place right across the road.
AG:
There you go. Was it good?
EC:
It was alright. Yep.
AG:
Is there anything else you want to talk about or are there any interesting stories you have?

EC:
I can talk about some of these things and I can’t come up with the punch line because I get to laughin’. There’s one fellow that lived across the road from us. He and I and my brother and I decided we’d harness ourselves up a bull. We had a small bull here and we had a two-wheel cart. We got him into the cart and he took off and of course, we couldn’t steer him. He ran right into the chicken house and smashed everything up.
AG:
I bet your dad was happy with that.
EC:
Eh, he didn’t say much. And another time we saddled up a horse. We had a side saddle. Do you know what that is?
AG:
Yep.
EC:
We got down back around the back of the barn by the pond and the side saddle went around. The guy went right down in the mud in the pond.
AG:
How many horses did you have in your two teams?
EC:
We had two teams and then we had a couple ridin’ horses. Yep. They were big. We had one team that was, probably weighed a ton or more. When we’d go to the cornfield we’d take two wagons, one behind each other. They could handle it alright without overdoing it. Yep.
AG:
Did you ever raise any beef cattle on your farm or did you just do dairy?
EC:
Nope. Just dairy. My father did have some hogs once. We had about 25 hogs. But, that’s about it.
AG:
Would you ever trade people your milk for beef?
EC:
Nope. Not that I remember.
AG:
Well, I think we’ve got about an hour here, so. Do you have anything else?
EC:
I can’t think of anything here in the moment now.
AG:
That’s fine. This way we can get you to your doctor’s appointment on time.
EC:
Yeah. I’ve gotta go to the dentist.
AG:
Well, thank you so much. It was a pleasure to talk with you.
EC:
Well, you’re welcome.

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Collection

Citation

Andrew Gaerte, “Ernie Chase, November 5, 2008,” CGP Community Stories, accessed January 22, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/14.