Timothy Kelso, November 14, 2013

Title

Timothy Kelso, November 14, 2013

Subject

Hanford Mills
East Meredith, New York
Office of Children and Family Services
Dairy farming
Politics
Juvenile Delinquents
Second-home owners
Community changes

Description

Tim Kelso is a lifelong resident of Delaware County, New York. His father was a dairy farmer who was prominent in the community due to his large farm, adoption of new agricultural technologies, political activism, and purchase of Hanford Mills after the location ceased being a business. Tim Kelso's father is the one who turned the mill site into a museum.

Kelso takes after his father in his political activity and love of farming, but his career path was more varied than his father's. Kelso decided at the age of seventeen to avoid a career in farming. He initially worked in a local slaughterhouse for a couple of years, then moved on to meat retail at a store run by two brothers. Kelso then worked as a dump truck driver for two years before starting a decade-long career in the Office of Children and Family Services. Kelso eventually returned to dairy farming after his retirement from the office. He had an unsuccessful run for a local office in 2013.

Kelso's hometown of East Meredith has changed significantly in his lifetime. The area mostly consisted of dairy farms when he was growing up, but unfavorable prices forced many of those farms to close. The dairy farms that are still in East Meredith are much larger than the ones that existed during Kelso's childhood, and there are far fewer farms than before. Much of the remaining space is no longer dedicated to farmland, but to second homes for residents of New York City. Hanford Mills has provided a source of continuity for East Meredith through all of the changes the town has experienced.

Creator

Rick Kriebel

Publisher

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

Date

2013-11-14

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, New York

Format

audio/mp3
27.4mB
audio/mp3
27.4mB
audio/mp3
6.24mB
image/jpeg
2736X3648 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

13-13

Coverage

Upstate New York
1950-2013
Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Rick Kriebel

Interviewee

Tim Kelso

Location

6465 County Hwy 10
East Meredith, NY 13757

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2013

TK=Timothy Kelso
RK=Richard Kriebel

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

RK:
This is the November 14, 2013 interview of Tim Kelso by Rick Kriebel for the Cooperstown Graduate Program's Research & Fieldwork Course, recorded at Tim Kelso's house. So Tim, tell me about your father.

TK:
Well, my father was a pioneer in a lot of ways. He was the first to do a lot of different things in agriculture. He was a very intelligent man; he loved to read. He went [for] two years to Hartwick College before he had to quit because his father died and he had to leave to run the farm. We had a large dairy farm just outside East Meredith, [which] is where he probably became acquainted with what's now Hanford Mills. We used to buy a lot of our feed down there, and he was acquainted with the Pizza brothers who owned it at that time. He was always interested in history, and the history of the area intrigued him. He was very intrigued by Hanford Mills, and that is how he came to purchase it when it came up for sale because he didn't want to see that part of East Meredith history just disintegrate into nothing. He liked it very much down there, and he was again very much into the history. He didn't want to see it just turn into nothing or disappear.

RK:
What goals or vision did your father have for the mill site?

TK:
He had big goals for the mill site. He originally had planned on turning it into a museum, which he did. He went all over the local countryside and scouted up pieces of machinery that would fit in there, and other antiques I guess that would complement the mill itself. He had visions of it being a large tourist attraction. He also acquired the railroad tracks from Oneonta to Bloomville, and his hopes were there to have walking trails and to have riding, horseback riding, so people could ride up and down the tracks. He actually bought fifteen or twenty horses which we had on the farm with that in mind. His ideas and his goals were to turn it into a nice Delaware County tourist attraction and preserve some of the local history.

RK:
How often did he take you to the mill site?

TK:
When I was a kid we went down there probably once a week, twice a week, and then as the feed department of it got smaller and smaller, it was less frequent. But when I was a kid we went down there quite a lot, and I was always very intrigued with that place, and the people that worked there were very friendly. I can remember going [and] getting chicken feed and other small animal feed, always wondering what it looked like, where the chutes were it came from. The people were, would take me on a little tour of the place. When I was a kid, I went there quite a lot.

RK:
What kind of activities or sites did the mill have at the time?

TK:
What did they have? Come again?

RK:
What sort of activities or sites did the mill have at the time?

TK:
I don't understand. What do you mean?

RK:
Well, when you went there as a kid, what sort of buildings did they have at the mill, what sort of activities, you were talking about chicken feed and some other things, so could you elaborate on—?

TK:
Oh, they sold large animal feed, small animal feed, they always had—the sawmill part was always there. They were a lot of interesting to go and places to look. They also had [a] hardware store, and that was always kind of interesting to look through as a kid, as you always liked to look to see what they had. It was set up nice there. At the time when the railroad went through, it was always nice to see the trains when they came in and went out. They didn't go very fast because the tracks were getting kind of old, but there was a lot of interesting things to see there as a child, I guess.

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
And the buildings are pretty much the same as they are now. A lot cleaner, but I was always interested in what they made in the back. That was a little bit before my time, with them making the wooden boxes and the stuff that they made out back, but it was an interesting place to go as far as I was concerned. I always liked to go down there.

RK:
Okay. And you did mention making the boxes, what else did you like to do when you were at the mill property?

TK:
What else did I have to do?

RK:
No, what else did you enjoy doing?

TK:
Oh, you know, as kids you enjoy going out around the mill pond, and there were always frogs to catch and different things to look at. I was always intrigued by the mill race and how the water got down there. We used to walk up there along the railroad tracks and look at the mill race and peer down into where the water went into the waterwheel and [we would] look at a lot of things and what made the thing function by [unclear]. Because growing up, as kids, that was something that interested you.

RK:
Yeah. What changes have happened to the mill in terms of what's available between then and now?

TK:
What changes?

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
Well, when my father had it, when my father took it over, or bought it, we kept a lot of the stuff that was there, and he went and he bought a lot more stuff and put that there. And the big changes from then till now are they had an auction there, and they sold off a lot of the stuff that he had got, and maybe to a good point and to a bad point. I mean, he had bought a lot of stuff, and there was maybe too much, maybe. But the big changes from then until now are again, as far as the buildings go, as far as everything goes, it's pretty much the same, only a lot more cleaner and there's been some appropriate pieces that needed to be added have been added. I still feel, though, that when they did have the auction that they might have sold off a little bit too much from what he did have. Because he did have some very intriguing pieces there.

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
But, to this day, when you go there, there's still plenty to see. There's no question about that.

RK:
What sort of things did they sell off at the auction that you think would have been really good there?

TK:
Well, they sold a lot of the machines. He had bought some big machines. I can remember going and getting them when I was a kid. Some of them were huge. We had to winch them out of some buildings. From my recollection, they sold a lot of small stuff that still would have been interesting [and] some of the bigger machines again that possibly could have been restored and made to work.

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
But, they did keep an appropriate amount. Again, I think he was the type that liked to overbuy, so he might have had a few more things than they needed.

RK:
Tell me more about these machines that were winched out and auctioned off.

TK:
Well, the machines that I can remember going and getting were like big wood lathes, and I think we got some gasoline motors, the old gasoline motors I think it was. In those days they made machines real heavy. I mean they were cast iron; they were big and huge. Nowadays they make them a lot smaller. Any machine back in those days was big because it was run by pulleys, and there [were] pulleys on the side of stuff, and a lot of different ways to make them operate. Again there [were] lathes and there [were] saws; some big huge saws and gasoline motors. There were some big gasoline motors too, from what I can recollect. And I think they got rid of a fair amount of those. But again, there may have been too many of each one, you know?

RK:
And what about some of the smaller items you mentioned that were interesting?

TK:
I had a lot of small hand tools, and I think there was a lot of house stuff, just a lot of smaller hand tools and stuff like that.

RK:
At what point did the mill have this auction?

TK:
They had the auction soon after—from what I can remember, I wasn't around a lot at that time, I lived over in Kortright—and from what I can remember it was shortly after he sold it to the county or whoever he sold it to, and they just decided that there was too much stuff.


RK:
How long did your father own the mill site before he sold it or handed it off to the county?

TK:
Well, I'm going to say eight to ten years. I'm not really sure, that was quite a while ago. I know that when we were in high school, which was in the late ’60s/early ’70s, we worked there during the summers, cleaning it out and getting it set up so he could—while he was transforming it, a working business into a museum there was a lot of work that had to be done. In the mill race there was a lot of cleaning that had to be done, and I would say he had it eight or ten years.

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
You know, that's a guess.

RK:
And, who within the local government ran the mill after he gave them the ownership?

TK:
I believe—I wasn't around much in those days, I was working over in Kortright and didn't go over this way much. I believe—was it Kathmann? I'm trying to remember who took over when it was sold, and the ownership transferred, and people like—those are the people who made the decisions at that time.

RK:
Did you remember hearing your father say anything about how he thought they were running the place?

TK:
Can I remember what my father thought about how they were running it?

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
He was always a little upset, I think, over the money that was involved. I don't think he was real happy when they sold off a lot of the stuff. And he was the type that would research everything to the max to find out what was right and wrong and I think he had some hard feelings over the actual price he got out of it and the fact that they sold a lot of the stuff. I don't think he was real happy with that.

RK:
How did his view of what happened change over time?

TK:
As he saw change it started to become more of an attraction. I think he lightened up on his feelings of that. I think at one time, I think he vowed never to go back, but he did. And for him to do that, he would've had to soften up quite a bit to do that. But I think once it was all over and done with, then it was still a preserved part of East Meredith history, I think he'd come to terms with that.

RK:
Okay. [Refrigerator turns on, stays on in background for a while] How did your relationship with the mill change as you got older?

TK:
How did my relationship with it—?

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
I don't think it ever really changed. I liked to go there as a kid, and I still like to go there. I probably don't go there as much as I should because [I'm] busy and there's always a lot of things going on. My relationship [with Hanford Mills] hasn't changed [in] any [way]. I don't think anything [about my relationship with the museum has changed]. I still liked it as a kid, I still like it today. I think it's a great thing for East Meredith, and I think it's a great thing for Delaware County and the local area. They do a lot of good things there, which I hope to be a lot more a part of now. My feelings are still the same from when I was a kid, the ones I have now.

RK:
What are some of your favorite programs they offer?

TK:
What are the what?

RK:
Sorry. What are some of the favorite—your favorite programs they offer?

TK:
I think the ice cutting is a great thing. They have, I think, when they bring in the old motors and the tractors, and they have the old fashioned days there. They have them make the ice cream for the—in the winter time at the harvest, the ice harvest. I think that the programs that they're having are good, I really do. I think that they're getting a lot of people involved; they're getting bigger, spreading out and getting more people involved. I think that's good.

RK:
Yep.

TK:
Actually, I don't think there's many of them that don't want to come. I think that they're all good ideas, what they do there.

RK:
What are some of your—what are some memories about the mill that stand out the most?

TK:
What, stand out the most?

RK:
Some of your memories of the mill, some of the most prominent memories, fondest memories.

TK:
Well, starting when I was a little kid, going down there and getting grain and food and stuff for my animals. Being able to walk around the place and again it was always an interesting place to look around as a kid. And, as you're growing up as you were in high school and when my father was working on restoring it and we had worked there in the summertime, going down to the mill race and finding different treasures that you normally wouldn't see I guess, just things that other people dropped. I always remember that there was a—in the one room where they made the boxes, there was a big moose head [that] hung there. And of course as kids it was always fun to go up and punch that moose in the nose. To search through the rooms and see what you could find, there was always another treasure, another box, another tool, another something that you hadn't seen before. Going up in the upper parts of the building to see what [was] up there, because you could always find something from years ago. Sometimes [with] those it took a while to figure out what some things were, or what that tool might have done, or what that pulley might of went to. I think one of the main things I remember is looking in those back rooms where the boxes were made, off the part where the water wheel is, and looking [in there]. At the time there was a potbelly stove back in there, and just trying to imagine how years ago people likely worked there in the wintertime and stayed warm and what it must have been like.

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
I think looking back in time and trying to imagine what those men must have tried to do, you know?

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
And again, I was always at the mill race, looking at how the water came in, [and I] used to explore down on the other side of the railroad tracks out back. It always used to be exciting when the trains came, of course. But there's a lot of things: the hardware store, [and] what was offered in there, and it always seemed like you could find someplace that you'd never been before, when there were kids around there.

RK:
What would you say was your favorite part of the mill site?

TK:
When I was a kid?

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
I would have to say those back rooms where they made the stuff, and that moose head. Every time I brought a new friend in, I had to go in and show them the moose head hanging on the wall. That's the part that most intrigued me, I think, was the water wheel, and how all the pulleys and the wheels worked and how everything must have been connected back in through there. To me that was the most interesting thing, how things worked and how things looked back in there. Because you could really look back, [and if you studied] the worn floors, you could actually look back and see the history.

RK:
What would you say was the biggest lesson you learned from there? That's kind of going off of what you said about going back and seeing the history, but was there any particular incident where you thought, "Wow, this connected with me more than usual?"

TK:
I think the biggest thing was the water power, and the mill race itself. And how the water came in there, and how people engineered that, the setup of that water wheel. And to watch how they'd set up all the different pulleys to run the different machines throughout that whole thing, that was one of the most intriguing things I'd ever seen when I was a kid. How they could run so many things off of one big wheel.

RK:
How did seeing all of these things at the mill inspire you as a child, and in what you did later?

TK:
Well, I guess growing up around that history, I've always liked antiques. I still go to auctions and buy antiques. In fact, I was at an auction this past weekend where there was a great big, huge wooden wheel that easily looked like it could have come out of there. Of course I was interested in it, but so were two or three other people, and they brought more money than I wanted to spend for it, but that easily could have come out of the mill itself. Because back in those days they used wooden wheels, six, seven inches across, to run the big belts that powered the thing. That easily could have been something that would have fit in there. I think if anything, the mill inspired me to number one [study] the local history, and number two the value of preserving antiques and what they are.

RK:
What have you done in connection with local history?

TK:
What have I done?

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
The only thing I do [with] local history is I look for—I go to auctions and I look to buy pieces of local history. I'll give you some examples of that: I just bought some Meridale Farm milk bottles a little while ago. The Meredith Inn closed up a couple, three years ago, I went up and got a fair amount of stuff out of there; it was memorabilia from there. I look for when these places close. Actually, I got an old barrel that came out of the creamery down in Davenport Center. It was a piece of where my father went to school up at the corner of Turnpike Road and Kelso Road. When the guy restored it, he found a piece of wood in there that had, actually I think it had my great grandfather's name or my grandfather's name carved in it. So he cut that out and brought it down to me. That's the kind of stuff that I like.

RK:
Do you take these antiques and fix them up, and then keep them in your house, or—?

TK:
I keep them in the house. I'm trying to think of where that piece is. I think that piece might be up in the barn. The milk bottles are here in the house. A lot of the stuff—yeah, if it's small enough I keep it in the house.

RK:
Okay.

TK:
I like that part of the history of the area.

RK:
Okay. Going back to the mill, tell me about some of the people you saw there.

TK:
As a kid?

RK:
As a kid, adult, visitors, staff....

TK:
Well, as a kid growing up you saw your local, all your neighbors and stuff there. The creamery used to be in Davenport Center, so a lot of the people from this way who took their milk to the creamery of course always stopped back on the way through to pick up what they needed at the mill site. So you saw your neighbors. You saw some of the local townspeople around; you saw the people [who] worked there that you only saw once a week, once every two weeks. As [with] any one of those older gathering places, people always had to stop and chat for a while, and talk about what was going on, because at that time this area was all dairy farms. [There were] dairy farms on every road, so there [were] plenty of people coming and going, so that was kind of the place where you saw your neighbors that you didn't see, only once or twice a week.

RK:
In addition to being a gathering place, in what other ways did the mill affect the community?

TK:
Well, it employed people, there [were] people that worked there. Again, people gathered there, went there to do their business.

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
They went there not only to buy things, but a lot of times they took their lumber there to be sawed. I believe—well, they wouldn't have gotten on the train there because the stationhouse was down about a quarter mile around the corner from there. But, it was an interesting place.

RK:
In what ways did the community affect the mill?

TK:
The community brought business to the mill, so it had plenty of ways to prosper. And as the community started to change over the years, as dairy farms started to dwindle, and as larger mills came into play, the mill’s business deteriorated to the point where it wasn't worth it for them to be in business anymore. So, the community played a big part in the prosperity of the mill.

RK:
What replaced the dairy farms as they started to move out?

TK:
Second-family homes from the city; people selling off a part of their properties to second-home owners and to homeowners. The price of milk was poor and the dairy farming—either they went out of business or they got bigger. Where there was once many, many dairy farms, there's few and far between now.

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
It had to do a lot with the price of milk, the price of feed, the price of fuel, the price of labor. It was hard to get good help to work on the farms. That all played into the decline of the dairy farm in Delaware County.

RK:
Did the community try to do anything in response to these new economic challenges that arose?

TK:
In response to what?

RK:
[The] falling cost of milk, rising cost of labor [unclear]—

TK:
No, there wasn't much the community could do, actually. The milk prices are set by the federal government, and to an extent the feed prices are. There wasn't much the community could do, only hope
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
that it didn't go the way that it did, but it did.

RK:
The people from the city who would buy second homes here—tell me about them.

TK:
Well, the people—second home owners in the area bring a lot of money to the area. They come up on weekends; they come up during the summer time; some of them come up during the wintertime to ski and snowmobile. Back in the eighties and early nineties when the big land boom was going on, farmers that were selling off their property got good money for their land, which is good and bad, I guess. They just had the big go-around with Meridale Farms. They didn't want that to be subdivided, but eventually the developer won out and that's going to be subdivided. But the second-home owner, the downstate person or whatever you want to call them, bring a lot of money into the area now.

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
They pay a lot of taxes, which helps keep the town going.

RK:
So how do they interact with the longtime residents?

TK:
Oh, for the most part, they interact well.

RK:
Okay.

TK:
They all seem to—for the most part, they all seem to want to be part of the community; they all seem to be good neighbors. You hear a few stories of people not getting along, but for the most part they seem to get along well with everybody.

RK:
Okay.

TK:
We've had some of our neighbors here that—you couldn't ask for better neighbors. They come up on the weekends; they come up every once in a while for a couple weeks in the summer—

RK: Yeah.

TK: Yeah.

RK:
So, in addition to having less dairy farms and more second home owners, in what ways has the community changed over the years?

TK:
Those are the biggest changes, the dairy farmers and the second-home owners moving in. The rural roads have gotten better so it's easier to travel on them. It's hard to say. I don't know.

RK:
You said that there wasn't much that the farmers could do when it was becoming harder and harder to keep the farms. But was there ever any attempt to organize something like a political movement?

TK:
There was lots of, there was lots of movements. My father was big into Eastern Milk Producers and went to Washington [DC] a few times to rally for milk prices and to rally for feed prices. And, there's always been groups of farmers from the local area that stand up for their rights, and try to get milk prices higher, and keep the feed prices and fuel prices down so that they can stay in business. But yeah, back when my father was in dairy farming, there was a lot of activity as far as representation for the local dairy farmer.

RK:
What other sort of work did your father do to help local dairy farmers?

TK:
Well, he was a member of Eastern Milk Producers, and I'm trying to think of what else. I can't think of it off of the top of my head. But I know he went into New York City quite a lot on a few trips, and actually my mother and I went along on a couple. He did go to Washington a few times with some of the other local farmers and to try to rally the government. But then I don't think they ever made out very well, because things went the way they did, but at least they were heard.

RK:
How did this affect your own decision to enter politics?

TK:
To enter what?

RK:
Politics.

TK:
How did it affect my—well my father was always into politics. He was a big Republican supporter. I can remember as a kid growing up always having Barry Goldwater and different posters around that he would distribute every time there was a major election. He was justice of the peace for quite a few years. He was on the town board. He was on the school board. He was always into politics, and I guess that's where my interest came, I guess. From the work that he did.

RK:
What sort of things have you done in your political activity?

TK:
In my political activity—I participate when they have the Lincoln Day Dinners. I always go to those, when they have the annual picnics and pig roasts in the summer, if I can go to those. We have had quite a few fundraisers for different candidates here at our house for senators and for assemblymen and for judges and I don't know—to try to get local people to come out and meet the candidates and see what they're all about, and it's been fairly successful.

RK:
So what motivated you to make your recent run for office?

TK:
Just the fact that I wanted to get involved in local government, and now that I'm retired from administrative work in the Office of Children and Family Services I felt I had a lot of experience with people, and how to run big business, and I just thought it was the right time to do that. I guess I thought I had a lot to offer the townspeople in the experience I gained over the past ten years working for the Office of Children and Family Services, being the director of large facilities and small facilities and the counseling part that I did, and some of those places—[at] the one facility I worked at, there was over 320 staff, so I know how to deal with people.


RK:
Tell me more about Child and Family Services, and the work you did there.

TK:
Well, I started out as just a youth division aid, which is a person that pretty much watches the juvenile delinquent boys in the facility in their daily activities. And then I moved into the counselor position, where you had a unit full of twenty kids where it was your responsibility to do all their case work and court work, and counsel them, and you were pretty much the liaison between the family and the facility. And the senior counselor position was overseeing the counselors. As the senior counselor I did a lot of the community service work; we did fundraising work, reestablished the drum corps at the facility. I was the head of the community service. I also did a lot of work with a gentleman from Cornell to establish programs that taught young men how to prepare themselves for the work world, and we had three or four different programs that he developed and that [he] and I implemented at the facilities. As an assistant director and director, you oversaw all the different departments. There were—from your medical to your mental health to the recreation to education to general supervision of the line staff. It was a challenging job, especially when I got to the bigger facilities and that agency was always changing, and very heavy in paperwork, and there was a lot of responsibilities as I grew up through the agency.

RK:
What were the hardest parts of doing that job?

TK:
Paperwork was one of the hardest, because it was a never-ending supply. I guess when you have a lot of people you have a lot of attitudes and you have a lot of different ideas, and when you're working with juvenile delinquent boys there's always—you never could say you saw it all, because as soon as you said that the next day something else would happen that you hadn't in the least expected. Some of the challenging parts were getting everyone's attitudes in the same line and just working with different types of people.

RK:
Do you have any stories about a time when there was a particularly difficult interpersonal conflict going on?

TK:
There's plenty of them. There's plenty and plenty and plenty of them. There was just—it was an everyday—it probably was not every day, but fairly close to that when the kids and the staff would have differences of opinion, and I'd have to go in and put fires out all the time. All the staff were different. Some staff could handle the kids without any problems and there was other ones that just kept starting fires all the time. I can remember one time that we had a discrete mental health unit at the one facility that I worked at. Every now and then, there was like ten or twelve kids there every now and then that they would get all worked up, all fired up, and you'd have to go in and straighten them out and talk to them. I was able to do that pretty good, because the kids liked me. In fact one kid said one night after we got things settled down, he said, "Mr. Kelso, the one thing we always like about you is you always come out and talk to us. You might not always say what we wanna hear, or what we want to hear, but you always come out and talk to us. That's why we respect you and that's why when you come out here we quiet down."

RK:
That's good.

TK:
Yeah. But there was always a lot of interpersonal relationships between kids and staff, and kids and teachers, and it was—it was always interesting.

RK:
I would imagine so.

TK:
Well, it was always interesting. There was never a dull moment.

RK:
What kind of work did you do before you went into Child and Family Services?

TK:
Well, I was a meat cutter, for a couple years. I did both the wholesale and the retail end of that. I drove a truck for a while. What else did I do? Those were the two jobs I had, I guess, prior to—high school and a couple years of college that I went to I worked in a slaughterhouse over in Bloomville, in both the kill floor and the meat processing part of it. I worked there for a couple, three years and I worked in the meat market in Bloomville where they did retail. Then, I drove a truck for a couple of years. And right after when I was still driving a truck was when I was hired to work at the Office of Children and Family Services.

RK:
Tell me more about the slaughterhouse and what that was like.

TK:
It was always busy. You started a seven o'clock in the morning and a lot of nights. I didn't get done, and a couple of my friends that worked there, we didn't get done until ten or eleven o'clock at night because we worked all day and then they had to have somebody to load the trucks at night to go—they were taking the meat to the city. We pretty much did all of that. It was a learning experience, how the animals were killed and how they were processed, and I worked in the boning room for a year or two where you learn how to cut the meat and you learn how to bone meat and you learn all of the process of that, which kind of prepared me for when I went to the retail end of it working out of a grocery store and meat market type cutter. And we still do that today, we still cut up our own deer and we'll cut people's beef for them once in a while. It's something you don't forget how to do I guess, when you've done it for a couple of years, even though it was forty years ago. But it was a good job, and the guy, the family that owned the slaughterhouse were nice people and took good care of you. I left a couple of times, and whenever I wanted my job back I just came back, and they gave me my job back. And it was kind of interesting.

RK:
And what about the meat retail? What was that like?

TK:
There was a store in Bloomville that—they had a few groceries there, but the primary business was just all meat. Two brothers owned it. We had a couple [of] ladies that wrapped meat full time. We took in custom cut meat, meat that farmers killed—their own—and you met a lot of interesting people; the farmers coming in, and the place had a reputation of having good meat. The gentlemen that owned it went to Albany once a week and bought USDA choice and prime meats, and people knew that they knew how to cut it right there and would cut it the way they wanted it, which is a big thing to a lot of people. They want their meat cut how they want it cut. And they had a reputation of doing that for quite a few years. Again, they took in a lot of custom-cut stuff. We were always busy, always busy there.

RK:
How did you come to get a job as a truck driver?

TK:
Well, they kind of scaled back, the brothers kind of had some problems between themselves and the one that owned the business wanted to sell it and so they kind of scaled back. And a friend of mine had a dump truck that he needed to have a driver for, so I went to work for him for a couple summers.

RK:
And how did you go from driving a dump truck to Child and Protective [sic] Services?

TK:
At the time there wasn't a lot of turnover in South Kortright at the facility. A couple of my friends got jobs there, and they told me about it. At the time I was about 25 years old, and one of my goals in life I guess was to have a job that I would eventually have a retirement from, and medical benefits, and stuff that—if you were looking at the other end of your life you kind of wanted to prepare yourself for. And they paid good at the time, that was a better-paying job in the area. I think when I started the annual salary was $8,600 a year, 1978. But the benefits—the medical benefits and the retirement—were the big thing if you were thinking about thirty years down the road. And that was the main reason why I went there. That, and I knew the guy that was the director there because his son was a year ahead of me in school and I think his daughter was a year behind me in school, so we were very familiar with the man that ran it. And he hired us local people to work there for him.

RK:
Okay.

TK:
He always said he hired the [pounds table] local juvenile delinquents to watch the juvenile delinquents. [Both laugh]

RK:
Tell me something about—what kind of work did you do on your father's farm?

TK:
We had a big, we had a huge farm for back in the ’60s. We milked over 200 cows. And again [slaps table] my father was kind of a pioneer in the agricultural industry. He went to a free-stall barn, one of the first ones to have a free-stall barn, one of the first ones to have a milking parlor in the area. I did the normal chores that kids would do. You grow up wanting to drive a tractor, and as soon as you're big enough, you drive a tractor. We drove tractors, and mowed hay and raked hay and baled hay, and we didn't do much of the corn work, because that started after it was time to go back to school. The men that worked for us did a lot of that, and they built the fence. One of the jobs in the summer was to check the dry cows to see if any of them had freshened and bring the cows and the calves back to the barn. [We had to] get the cows in the barn in the morning; we did a lot of milking. There was always something you had to do when you had a dairy farm the size that we had. There was always something to do.

RK:
And how big was that farm?

TK:
Well at one time we milked 225 cows. 225 cows, and we probably had 50 or 60 dry cows, so we had lots of things to do.

RK:
Did you use machinery to milk the cows, or, well....

TK:
Did we use machinery? Yeah, we had a double-eight, a double-eight milking parlor. It was one of the first ones in the area, and you really had to have that to milk that amount of cows. It was always interesting.

RK:
And how did that farm work change over time for you?

TK:
As time went on, you went to milking in the conventional barn, with the milk pail, and pipeline, and the milk, and then the milking parlor. And of course as you went along your machinery got a little bit more modern. Instead of bailing the hay on the ground, actually the balers kicked it in the wagon, kicked the bales in the wagon. And instead of pulling in the barn to throw hay off [slaps hands on table] into mounds, you had elevators you used to get it up in there. The tractors got more powerful, and more options on them. Again, [we] went from the conventional barn to the free-style barn, which enabled you to milk more cows, and do it more effectively. [We] put in conveyors to take the grains, or take the feed out of the silos and out to the barns to feed the cows so you didn't have to do that with a wheelbarrow and shovel anymore. There [were] many ways, as the years went by, that progressed and made things easier.

RK:
How did you manage to maintain your farm when so many in the area were going under?

TK:
What was that?

RK:
Sorry. How was it that you managed to maintain your farm when so many others in the area went under?

TK:
At the time, you had to get bigger, and a lot of the smaller farms were going out just because they didn't. There were some farms who just weren't as good as others in terms of land, the way the land laid. The people chose not to get bigger, to go out of business instead of getting bigger, just because they didn't want the headache. I guess it's like every business: some farmers weren't as good of farmers as other farmers. Some of the decisions they made probably cost them some money. In those days, when we sold our farm, most everybody was either getting bigger or getting out of it.

RK:
What were the circumstances under which you sold your farm?

TK:
What's that?

RK:
Sorry. What were the circumstances under which you sold your farm?

TK:
At the time I was seventeen years old, [and] my father asked me if I wanted to farm, if I wanted to be a farmer. And at the time I didn't. So I basically told him that I didn't want to be a farmer, and that I guess if he wanted to sell the farm and move on that's probably the best thing he could do. And that's the time that he sold the farm and started at the mill. [He] purchased the mill property and restored that. So it was pretty much my decision that I didn't want to be a farmer. I wish I had that decision to make over again; I think I would have done a little different. At the time we had a little over 2,000 acres and with today's technologies it probably wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world, you know?

RK:
How did you come to change your mind about farming?

TK:
I just didn't—one of the things I guess was, it was hard to get good help. At the time it was a seven-day, and still is, a seven-day-a-week job. You have to be there all the time, and I just didn't at that point in time want to do that. I didn't want those headaches.

RK:
Now it sounds like you would enjoy farming, and you have some animals here, so how did you come to want to start farming again?

TK:
I guess once it wasn't there, you kind of realized how you missed it, you know? How you miss the freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it. You're your own boss; you do things the way you want to do it. I like the field work; I like to be outdoors. I don't like to be indoors in the summertime; I don't like it anymore in the wintertime outside, but it's part of it. I just miss operating the machinery and working with the animals. Those are the kinds of things that I like to do. The operating machinery part is a big part.

RK:
What would you say is your favorite machine to operate?

TK:
Mowing hay. I love to mow hay. I could mow hay day after day after day.

RK:
Well, tell me about mowing hay.

TK:
You're by yourself and in big fields, and you see a lot of wildlife, see a lot of animals, you got time to do a lot of thinking. You're kind of by yourself doing your own thing. You got a big field, figure out the quickest way to mow it, and then when you're done you feel a sense of accomplishment. Everyone has their own favorite things that they like to do. When we had our farm, when I got [to be] fourteen, fifteen years old, I did all our mowing at the time. I guess it was just something I always did. I still like to do it. I actually do all the mowing up on the farm where I work now. I pretty much mow all the hay.

RK:
How did you come to start working at that farm where you work now?

TK:
Well, the guy bought the farm, and needed another guy to help out. At the time I was retired and we were looking for a little more income, and he offered a pretty decent starting wage, so it was really kind of hard to turn down. And they hired me to do all the machinery operating and the stuff that I like to do, so you know I'd give it a try.

RK:
So what lessons have you learned from farming? Life lessons, possibly some academic ones—?

TK:
What's that now?

RK:
What kinds of lessons have you learned from doing farming? It could be life lessons, or any other sort. Academic ones....

TK:
What lessons have I learned?

RK:
Yeah.

TK:
The one lesson you learned is that there's always something to do. When you're on a farm—[it] never runs out of work to do. [START OF TRACK 3, 0:00] and I guess the lesson there is the more things you do, the more things you get accomplished. If you keep on top of things, and keep your machinery in good condition, and keep your animals in good condition, then—those things you learn are how to be successful, I guess. I mean you have to keep your animals comfortable, you have to keep your animals fed, and you have to keep your machinery up in good condition, and that's no fun when things don't work for you. But if you don't maintain stuff, that's the way it's going to be.

RK:
So how have you carried that mentality over to the other jobs you've had?

TK:
Huh?

RK:
Sorry. How have you carried that mentality over the other jobs you've had?

TK:
How do I compare farming to the other jobs I've had?

RK:
Like how do you carry that mentality of always having to maintain things over to working in a slaughterhouse, in meat retail, truck driving, Child and Family Services?

TK:
Employers like to hire farm boys, because they know how to work and they're not afraid to work. I think that's one of the things you have to take with you to those other jobs. You have to take what you learned as a kid growing up on a farm, that there's always work to be done. Whether it's truck driving you [have] got to be there early in the morning to get started, whether it's [the] Office of Child and Family Services you’ve got to have the know-how to deal with kids and deal with people much as you'd have to deal with animals, working in the slaughterhouse where you have to work with other people, side by side, to working say in the retail store where you work with people, it's all [applicable]. You take a lot of that common sense stuff with you. I guess that was a big thing about when kids were growing up on farms, and still today the kids that grow up on farms—there's something to do every day. There's chores that need to get done. You learn how to work, and I think that's one thing that a lot of people nowadays don't know is—they don't have that knowledge of how to work and how to go to work. There's always things to do. Look around; there's always something to do. You can always find something to do, and never say that you're out of things to do because there always is something to do. To be a successful employee for somebody—that's what employers look for. Somebody that's going to take the bull by the horns. I shouldn't have to tell you to go do this, or I shouldn't have to tell you to go do that, [if] it's got to be done, [then] do it.

RK:
How were you planning to take that philosophy into politics?

TK:
That's just about what I just said. If you need to go out and look for grants, you need to do it. You need to take the time to go look for the grants, to look for the money, to keep looking until you get that. [If] people call you and ask you questions, [then] you need to get back with them. You need to be there, that's the big thing. When you have a job, it's important to go to work every day. That's probably one of the most important things that I've ever seen, and what I look for when employees come in. I look at people that are there every day. Are you going to be there? That's an important thing.

RK:
What would you like to see for this community going forward?

TK:
What would I like to see for this community going forward? Well, I think you need—the community's got to—local schools are getting smaller. As the teachers get older, the salaries go up. You have to look for ways to share funds, to share employees. I know they're starting to do that in some of these small schools. If you can share a bookkeeper, a teacher somehow, or you can share a bus mechanic. In order for the community to afford, you got to start looking for ways to save money. As far as the state of the town—again, it's about saving money, it's about the city people coming in and buying property and raising the tax base, so taxes don't have to continue to go up to pay for fuel and for an employee's wages and pay for insurance. It's a big thing to keep the ball rolling, I guess. You know the shared services with the schools is going to have to be a big thing. These little schools can't afford to have a bookkeeper or some of the teachers' salaries as high as they are when the enrollment keeps going down, so they have to keep searching for ways to save money if you want to keep the schools small.

RK:
Is there anything else you would like to say for any of the topics we've talked about?

TK:
No, I'm—I guess pretty well satisfied?

RK:
I think so.

TK:
Okay.

RK:
Thank you very much, sir.

TK:
Thank you.

Duration

01:06:49

Bit Rate/Frequency

160 kbps

Files

Citation

Rick Kriebel, “Timothy Kelso, November 14, 2013,” CGP Community Stories, accessed December 8, 2019, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/150.