CGP Community Stories

Bill Coleman, November 22, 2013

Title

Bill Coleman, November 22, 2013

Subject

Hanford Mills Museum
Historic Preservation
East Meredith, New York
Hobart, New York
Delaware County, New York
Banking
Finance
National Bank and Trust
O'Connor Foundation
Watershed Agricultural Council
Politics
Draft horses
Vietnam War
Museum administration

Description

William Coleman was instrumental in the founding of the Hanford Mills Museum. After securing the loans the museum needed to gain independence, Coleman headed the financial committee for the first few years of the museum's existence. Though at times funding for operational costs was brought into question, Coleman worked to ensure that through loans and grants, the museum was able to continue to grow.

Ken Kelso, who saw the need to preserve the land and the mill, purchased Hanford Mills. In 1977, in part due to the work of Mr. Coleman, the mill was purchased by the newly formed non-profit organization, “Old Mill at East Meredith, NY.” By bringing together multiple banks in the area and enlisting the aid of the O'Connor Foundation, the team of early board members founded the Hanford Mills Museum.

Mr. Coleman spoke with me about the early days at the museum, discussing the finances, board of directors, and staff members. He also spoke with me about he became involved in banking and why he eventually moved to Delaware County. We ended our interview with a discussion of organizations that Mr. Coleman is involved with today and his thoughts on where the museum is now.

I interviewed Mr. Coleman at the Hardware Store at Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith, New York. He pointed out to me some of the different parts of the museum that they had to repair and showed me the different areas of the museum that we discussed during the interview. Mr. Coleman had a cough the day that we met for our interview, so coughs have been omitted from the transcript.

Creator

Cyndi Tolosa

Publisher

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

Date

2013-11-22

Rights

Hanford Mills Museum, East Meredith, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28mB
audio/mpeg
28mB
audio/mpeg
958kB
image/jpeg
4608 × 3456 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

13-15

Coverage

Upstate New York
East Meredith, New York
Delaware County, New York
1943-2013

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Cyndi Tolosa

Interviewee

Bill Coleman

Location

Hanford Mills Museum
East Meredith, NY

Transcription

WC = William Coleman
CT = Cyndi Tolosa

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

CT:
This is the November 22nd, 2013 interview of Bill Coleman by Cyndi Tolosa for Hanford Mills' Fortieth Anniversary recorded at Hanford Mills Museum. Thank you for coming in today, Bill. To begin with, how did you begin working with the Hanford Mills Museum?

WC:
I worked for NBT at that time, National Bank and Trust Company of Norwich, which had just merged [with] the National Bank of Hobart, and I was asked by our then president, Everett Gilmore, to volunteer to assist the Hanford Mills in becoming independent from the previous owner, Mr. Kelso.

CT:
Before working with the museum, what were you doing?

WC:
I was at that time branch manager for the Hobart office of NBT and, prior to that, I had worked for the National Bank and Trust Company for about ten years.

CT:
How did you initially get into banking?

WC:
Into banking? This may sound trite, but I needed a job when I graduated from college. As a matter of fact, I digress just a little bit. I was a sophomore at Cornell University on this day fifty years ago when President Kennedy was killed.

CT:
I forgot about that. It is the fiftieth anniversary today, isn't it?

WC:
As a matter of fact, that was on Friday and that weekend, several of us jumped in a car and went to Washington D.C. to pay our respects and go through the rotunda with the casket, fifty years ago.

CT:
So what was it like to be on a college campus at that time?

WC:
Most people were kind of shocked.

CT:
And how did you feel about it?

WC:
Shock. This could not happen in the USA. We lost our age of innocence.

CT:
How do you feel it changed your perspective on politics and the government and things like that?

WC:
I don't know that it really did. Politics is one of the things that you can take. Really, it goes around. Sometimes I'm unimpressed; in fact, sometimes it's a disgrace. Anyway, let's get back to the Hanford Mills Museum.

CT:
Yes, so to go back to the museum, what can you tell me about Ken Kelso?

WC:
Ken Kelso was somewhat of an eccentric. He had a farm operation in this area. He was on the school board for South Kortright Central School. Very intelligent man, but very eccentric. I won't go into all the stories, but there's a multitude of stories about Ken Kelso. But what he did do was to preserve this mill. He acquired the mill, I'm not quite sure how he acquired it, and then he added various antiquities which he felt were an integral part of the mill. And some of them, we would digress and say are not an integral part of the mill, but that was Ken, and so we just accepted that. If I remember right, Ken was carrying the mortgage for Hanford Mills. They had formed a 501(c)3, a not-for-profit corporation, and I was asked by our president at that time, Mr. Gilmore, to spearhead a participation mortgage to pay off Mr. Kelso, so that the mill could be totally independent of Mr. Kelso. I contacted all the banks in Delaware County and arranged a participation mortgage. Some did not want to participate; some did, some did not. There seemed to be a feeling by some of the banks that all we were doing was making Mr. Kelso wealthy and so they wanted no part of it. Things like that happen in rural America. So we arranged the financing and paid to get the mortgage approved and paid off Mr. Kelso and commenced to run the mill as an independent entity, not without many headaches. In fact, there were times initially when we weren't sure where we were going to come up with the money to pay the staff. There were times when it was pretty close. We were very fortunate to have the support of the O'Connor Foundation, which was an integral part in the success of the mill.

CT:
What did the O'Connor Foundation do?

WC:
The O'Connor Foundation is a foundation developed by Judge O'Connor. They made their money in early IBM stock and have set up a philanthropic foundation to benefit Delaware County and the surrounding counties. They were instrumental in giving us additional funding for both operating money, more specific repair projects, and I think they set up a matching grant too.

CT:
What were some of the banks that did participate in the participation mortgage?

WC:
There was of course NBT, Walton Bank, which was the National Bank of Delaware County, Wilbur National Bank, Delaware National Bank of Delhi, and I believe that was it. I believe it was four. There were a couple that opted not to, and that was their prerogative.

CT:
How hard was it to convince banks to participate?

WC:
Some of the banks were easier than others. I specifically remember my discussion with Bob Griffith, who was president of the Walton Bank at that time. I'd known Bob for a few years. Bob was an old style banker, who was very conservative. And Bob said he listened to my presentation and my presentation basically said this is for the benefit of Delaware County, this is a historical site for the benefit of Delaware County. When I got all through, Bob looked at me with that deadpan expression that he was famous for and said, “Yes, Coleman, we'll take the participation in this, but keep in mind, if this thing doesn't fly, you're running a museum,” and I said, “Okay, thank you.” So I made sure that it flew. I did my very best. I think I was on the board for six years.

CT:
Why did you decide to leave the board?

WC:
There are times in every board when their should be a change in directors – new blood, new ideas, new thought process. I was instrumental in saving the mill, preserving it for the future, and after we became independent, and we had significantly reduced the mortgage by that time. I felt that I had done my job, my project. My part of this was complete. And they could move on to a new board of directors handling the day-to-day operations. And the day-to-day operations were significantly different from rescuing the mill, which is basically what we did.

CT:
So how did you feel about getting chosen to work on this project?

WC:
It was a great experience. It was an educational experience. It was my first experience with not-for-profits and historical museums. There was an education curve. I had some problems adjusting to repairing things in the original historic manner. The cost somewhat staggered me. I remember one particular instance we had to put a roof on part of the saw mill and it had to be a standing seam metal roof, and a standing seam metal roof is much more expensive than an ordinary roof. I was somewhat aghast that we could not just put on an ordinary roof. We had to put on a standing seam metal roof, which was authentic for the period, which at that time was thirty-something thousand dollars, which was quite a bit of money. We didn't have the money, so we had to come up with some grants for the money to do the project.

CT:
And so what motivated you to help Hanford Mills?

WC:
I was asked by my boss to do it. [laughter] That is a motivation. [laughter]

CT:
After that, did you decide to work on any other preservation projects?

WC:
I was also director of a local foundation, at that time, called the Hobart Community Foundation. We were involved in several projects in Hobart, not necessarily preservation projects, but more projects to update facilities, for instance, water and sewers, a firehouse, [and] a youth center. Then after that, I became a director of the Watershed Ag[ricultural] Council for New York City. Their purpose is to control nonpoint pollution in the New York City watershed. I was on that for eighteen years and eight years as treasurer and I finally opted to retire from that.

CT:
Would you say that your work here with Hanford Mills inspired you to do some of that?

WC:
My work here at Hanford Mills was an educational experience and I really enjoyed every bit of it. I particularly enjoyed being on the board after we had rescued the mill and commenced operating as an independent entity. It was an educational experience. I enjoyed every minute of it, but, as I said before, it reaches a point where it's time for some new blood.

CT:
What did you like best about being on the board?

WC:
The feeling of accomplishment that we rescued the mill.

CT:
To go back to the beginning of the mill, why exactly was the museum being sold? Or why was the mill being sold? I guess it wasn’t a museum.

WC:
I believe that Ken Kelso had reached a point in his life when he wanted to divest himself of some of his holdings and this was one of them. I remember particularly that after we had rescued the mill, and had the financing in place, the curator at that time did an inventory, and there were some items which were not an integral part to the mill, but were part of Ken's collection. So we had a deaccession. We approved the deaccession policy. We went through the inventory and decided which items to deaccess. I received hate letters from Ken Kelso that we were ruining the historic value of the mill by deaccessing some of the items and he felt that we were not fulfilling the original purpose as he thought it should be. At that time, Ken was still on the board, which made it even more interesting.

CT:
How did you all decide what to deaccession?

WC:
We had a professional come in and go through the items. Basically, anything that was not a part of the original mill – the feed mill, the hardware store, the saw mill. We had fire trucks. We didn't need too many fire trucks. We had some other equipment which was not integral to the mill, which there wasn't a place for it. It simply didn't fit in the mission of the mill.

CT:
Other than the fire trucks, what other items were there?

WC:
There were some motors, some old farm equipment. There was more than one fire truck, as a matter of fact. They were not part of the historic preservation. I don't remember what else there was. I'm sure if I went back . . . I was looking for my minutes from all the time I was on the board, but of course, naturally, I can't find them. I think when I got off the board, I must have eliminated some of the stuff, and they were eliminated along with a hate letter from Ken Kelso. I didn't want to keep that. You know, I'm really good friends with Ken's son, Tim, and I just didn't need that around because we all knew that Ken was an eccentric and we just let it go at that.

CT:
Can you tell me some stories about how he was eccentric?

WC:
Probably the most famous story is that Ken had a pet monkey and he was in his farm, outside of East Meredith here. The bulk truck driver would stop every other day to pick up the milk and he lifted off the top of the bulk tank, and here's the monkey swimming in the bulk tank in the milk. That's the famous story. In fact, I even talked to the driver. I had by accident talked to the driver, because I always questioned if the story was real or not. I talked to the driver of the bulk truck and he was like, “Oh yeah, that story is real. I saw it.” Ken was somewhat eccentric. In the warm weather, you might find him working in the barn, milking cows with limited clothing on and his rubber boots. Or you might find him in a school board meeting, and he would take his shoes off and play with his toes. Ken was a little eccentric – a very intelligent man, but eccentric.

CT:
Was he very involved in the community?

WC:
I can't tell you. I don't know. He had a couple of other businesses. He had a surplus building supply business in Davenport Center. After he got rid of the farm, but as far as active in the local community, I can't tell you. Obviously, he was to some extent because he was on the school board for South Kortright schools.

CT:
So what state was the museum in? You said you had to repair the roof.

WC:
The museum was basically all here. It was complete. And as an individual, there was some deferred maintenance, which Mr. Kelso couldn't do at that time or opted not to do at that time. There was some deferred maintenance. The roof over the saw mill was one of the items of deferred maintenance. The pond needed some work. We had to dredge the pond and put in new weirs, inlet weirs and outlet wears in the pond. The water wheel had to be repaired. Actually, the saw mill and grist mill had to be stabilized where the water exited from the water wheel. Those are the items that I remember initially. We had to dredge the pond, I remember that.

CT:
What did that entail?

WC:
That entailed a contractor coming in and basically scooping out silt which had accumulated over the last fifty, one hundred years. We had to replace the inlet weir where they controlled water coming into the pond, up at the creek. And we had to repair the water wheel. I'm trying to remember what they used to call that. A fixed overshot wheel? I'm trying to remember, and I can't remember now exactly, but I think that's what we used to call it. I think we had to stabilize the lumber shed too, which is right over here. But there was deferred maintenance, as one would expect when an individual owns it with somewhat limited financial assets. The deferred maintenance will eventually catch up with you. And I think that's one of the reasons that Mr. Kelso opted to sell the mill and carry the mortgage in hopes that he would eventually get paid out. It became somewhat of a burden for him.

CT:
I read an article and it said that he pardoned parts of the payments. Do you know anything about that?

WC:
No, I don't remember that. There may have been some negotiation of the outstanding balance at the time of the payoff from the mortgage financing. He may have opted to reduce it a little bit. That is very fuzzy in my mind. I really can't address that.

CT:
Okay, that's fine. Can you tell me about your interactions with some of the early museum founders and employees?

WC:
Dick Kathmann was one of the curators. He was [unclear] local, he originated from this area. He did a nice job. Peter Borelli was the chairman of the board. Peter was active in the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, which at that time was housed in Hobart. Later, it moved to the Arkville area. Then he moved on to a job in Albany. I'm trying to remember who else. Sherret Chase was on it, Kelso. Dick Kathmann was the curator at that time. In fact, I think Dick was involved in the deaccession. We went through several curators there for a while because we didn't find the right one. I remember when I was here with the Draft Horse Club putting on a demonstration, Pete Borelli was the executive director at that time. We used to have a Draft Horse Club called the Delaware Valley Draft Horse Club and we would come over here in the spring and fall and put on planting demonstrations in the spring and harvesting demonstrations in the fall. In fact, I did find a video that I have of that. I need to get a DVD made of it because the tape is getting a little old. If I get a DVD made of it, I will contact you and send you a copy of that.

CT:
So how did you go about picking the right curator and director?

WC:
Fortunately, [laughter] that was not my problem. We had a personnel committee that handled that. I managed to avoid the personnel committee. Personnel committees are not high on my list of things that I volunteer for. And so, you will have to ask either Peter or, see I'm trying to remember, the lady who was from Oneonta. Jane DeGrange maybe.

CT:
Did you hear any stories from them about the process?

WC:
No, other than that the process is somewhat laborious and particularly, not every individual is prepared for life in rural America, and this is rural America. So some don’t adjust well to that, or their significant others don't adjust well to that.

CT:
So what committee were you on?

WC:
Financial committee, obviously.

CT:
What were some of the other people on it?

WC:
Well, we had the deaccession committee and, of course, the personnel committee. The finance committee was myself and the treasurer. I don't remember who the treasurer was at that time, but I was on that committee.

CT:
What were your interactions like with some of the other board members?

WC:
Interactions? I really don’t know that I had a great deal of interactions with the rest of the board members other than at the board meetings. I did not see them on a regular basis unless they called me for something. I really can't answer that. Probably the most interaction I had was with Bob Bishop, who was one of the directors of the O'Connor Foundation at that time. He was on the board and Bob had a law practice at Delhi and I would talk with Bob periodically, mainly through his affiliation with the O'Connor Foundation.

CT:
So what were the board meetings like?

WC:
It depends on whether Mr. Kelso was there or not. If Mr. Kelso wasn't there, then they were pretty much mundane. Matter of fact, your standard agenda – old business, new business, finances – and finances seemed to preoccupy a lot of our time, simply because we were a fledgling mill, a fledgling museum with limited resources, attempting to continue the restoration. So there were some stressful moments.

CT:
And when Mr. Kelso was there?

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

WC:
You really weren't sure what the agenda was going to be.

CT:
Are there any stories from specific meetings with him?

WC:
Do I have specific meetings?

CT:
Yes, stories from specific meetings.

WC:
I would prefer not to elaborate on some of Mr. Kelso's eccentricities. As I said, he was a very intelligent man, but eccentric. Since I'm good friends with his son, I really don't want to...

CT:
How did you become good friends with his son?

WC:
My wife worked with his son. His son worked at the Allen Residential Center, the correctional facility in South Kortright, and my wife worked with him, and I had known Tim from my job as a banker and my affiliation with the local fire department. And he was a member of the [quiet] Fire Department. Yeah, I've known him for thirty years or so.

CT:
Uhm...

WC:
Don't shake your head. [laughter]

CT:
So you were saying that one of the big stress factors was the finances and you said earlier that there were times where you weren't sure if you were going to have the money to pay the staff.

WC:
Yes.

CT:
Did that cause problems with the staff or was it something that was kept...?

WC:
That was always a concern because we had the executive director of the museum and he was usually at the meetings. So, that was not a not surprise. They knew that we were financially stressed. But we also knew that we had the support of the O'Connor Foundation, which was a big help. As we kept operating, the revenues were gradually increasing. I'm not sure if we're ever going to become totally self-sufficient, but certainly, it has significantly improved.

CT:
Did the O'Connor Foundation give a specific amount to the museum every year or was it a little more fluid? Do you remember?

WC:
No, I don't remember. I’d have to go back to the minutes.

CT:
So how important do you think it is to save important buildings like the mill?

WC:
Well, as long as they have an integral part of the local history, we can save [them]. In this particular case, the museum was an integral part because it was a multi-faceted museum. Between the saw mill, the hardware store, the grist mill, and of course, it generated electricity here for the hamlet of East Meredith. They manufactured some items here in the saw mill. They manufactured wooden barrels and cheese barrels and I'm trying to remember what else they manufactured here. They manufactured handles. Because this was such an integral part of the community and such an unusual facility, with many facets, between the saw mill, the hardware store, the grist mill, and the manufacturing. Plus, you had rail siding right here. This was an integral part of the entire area. The Hanfords and the subsequent owners, the Pizza brothers I think it was.

CT:
So how do you think historic preservation in general benefits the community?

WC:
It can be an economic driver for the community. In the case of Hanford Mills Museum, it attracts people in the community, visitors, and they have done a phenomenal job of merchandising and marketing the museum. It is recognized because of its uniqueness. I can't tell you what participation is, what actual numbers have been lately, but they have done an excellent job merchandising. I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen.

CT:
Do you feel that the museum gives back to the community in East Meredith?

WC:
Interesting question. I guess I can't answer that because I haven't been directly involved in the past years.

CT:
Have you heard anything positive or negative about the museum in the greater Delaware County community?

WC:
Positive from the same point that it is an attraction and it draws people. They have done a great job of merchandising it and that has increased the awareness of it.

CT:
Anything negative at all?

WC:
If there is, I haven't heard it. Things are never one hundred percent, so I'm sure that there's somebody who has a difference of opinion.

CT:
How were you all able to ensure that the museum continued to survive through the difficult financial times?

WC:
As I said, we were very fortunate. We got some grants from the State Historic Preservation Society in Albany and we got some grants from the O'Connor Foundation. There were a couple of other foundations, but I'm hesitant to mention their names because I'm not one hundred percent sure how they got involved, but we were very fortunate in getting money from the State Historic Preservation Society.

CT:
Do you know how some of these different foundations got involved with the museum?

WC:
Probably because we applied for money. The application process is pretty open, and so we applied for various foundations and the state for funding.

CT:
Did you feel like it was pretty easy to get the funding?

WC:
There's a selection process that they go through. Certainly, as long as we could show progress, our applications were entertained positively. Keep in mind though that the competition was quite stiff.

CT:
Were there many foundations that turned you all down?

WC:
I don't remember.

CT:
Have you heard about the museum's new mission that they came up with this past year?

WC:
No.

CT:
So, their new mission is: “Hanford Mills Museum operates an authentic water- and steam-powered historic site. We inspire audiences of all ages to explore connections among energy, technology, natural resources, and entrepreneurship in rural communities, with a focus on sustainable choices.”

WC:
Okay.

CT:
How do you feel about the change in mission?

WC:
The museum, I don't remember exactly what the mission statement was at the time that I was on it, but these have to evolve. They have to change with the times, and the current mission statement seems to me like it has evolved and it is more encompassing than our original mission would have been.

CT:
How are you connected to the museum today?

WC:
Other than my participation in it historically, I'm not active in it. No. As I said before, it's time for a new generation.

CT:
Do you come back and visit often?

WC:
Yup. I try to, yes.

CT:
How often would you say you come back?

WC:
I don't know. When there is an event that spikes my interest.

CT:
So, can you tell me a little bit more about the draft horses that you had here?

WC:
Oh, we had formed a club called Delaware Valley Draft Horse Club and we would come here and put on plowing and planting demonstrations in the spring and harvesting demonstrations in the fall. As I said, I have a video which was done three years after we formed the club, here. It involves probably planting at that time and there's some history of the museum involved in the video. And as soon as I have the video transferred over to a DVD, I'll give you a copy of it and you can review it. There is some museum information in there.

CT:
Was there usually a pretty good turnout?

WC:
We used to have some place between twenty teams, or something like that, and the club was active, and as happens in many of these cases, the club members got old. Some of them died. Some of their horses died, of old age. And we eventually folded the club, probably – oh, times flies now – probably ten years ago. We donated some of our equipment to the museum. We donated the harvesting equipment I think. We did donate it. I don't know if they still have it or not, but we did donate it.

CT:
How do you feel about the fact that not many young people want to keep up with those kinds of traditions anymore?

WC:
With the museum?

CT:
With the museum, with the fact that the Draft Horse Club had to come to an end.

WC:
It's part of our history and it takes a certain commitment on their part, and there are younger people who are involved in it, but generally not to the degree that us older people were. Our club may have ceased to exist, but there are other clubs around.

CT:
So usually when you had these events, were there a lot of spectators that would come?

WC:
Yes. It was a good money maker for the museum.

CT:
And how much, or, how many people would you say it usually brought in?

WC:
I'm trying to remember. It's on the video. I think they were a little optimistic on the video. They said one thousand people for the weekend, but I don't think it was quite that much.

CT:
What brought you to Delaware County initially?

WC:
Oh, I was working for NBT and got transferred here when we merged the National Bank of Hobart into NBT.

CT:
And where did you come from?

WC:
Prior to that, I came from the western end of Chenango County, in a little hamlet called South Otselic, but prior to that, I was born and raised in Broome County, north of Binghamton.

CT:
So how long have you been in Delaware County now?

WC:
Almost forty years, thirty-five years.

CT:
Can you tell me about some contentious issues in Delaware County?

WC:
No. I don't know that I can help you much there. There are always contentious issues in rural America, but I don't know that I can help you much there.

CT:
Do you know of any of the issues that are going on right now?

WC:
Well, there's always been the one issue in Delaware County. This dates back to the 50s when the state gave the City of New York authority to control their water supply and that's always been a contentious issue. They flooded some farmland, some of the best farmland in the county, and about twenty years ago, the city issued preliminary watershed regulations and the preliminary watershed regulations were such that they probably put most farmers out of business in the county and they formed the Watershed Ag Council to work with the city and to mitigate the impact on agriculture. The process has gone quite well. The city has funded many of the farm improvements to control nonpoint pollution and it's done a phenomenal job of protecting their water supply. Plus, it's probably input a hundred million dollars into the county in one form or another, in actual improvements or staff salaries.

CT:
So you said you work with the organization that does some things with the watershed, correct?

WC:
Yes, I was the director of the Watershed Ag Council for eighteen years and the last eight years as treasurer.

CT:
What kinds of things did you do as director and now as treasurer?

WC:
You know, as treasurer, I'm responsible for the finances, and that was about a ten million dollar annual budget. As director, we formulated policies, oversaw some of the farm improvements, oversaw staff, and assured that they implemented the program as we prepared it.

CT:
How did you get involved with that?

WC:
I got asked to serve. That's how I get involved in these things. I got asked to serve. At that time, there was an ad hoc committee. We started to work with the city on the draft watershed regulations and one of the individuals, a man by the name of William Murphy, who owned a significant amount of farmland around the Stamford area, and he asked me if I would serve on the ad hoc committee. And I served on the ad hoc committee and the next thing I knew, I got elected to the board. Some people are just lucky that way. [laughter]

CT:
Why do you feel like you get asked so often to do these kinds of things?

WC:
Why do I feel? I would like to think it's because I can be effective and help move the programs forward. It's either that or I just happen to fail to say no at the right time. I'm not sure which one it is.

CT:
Do you enjoy participating in these kinds of projects?

WC:
I used to, yes, but now I've become selfish in my ways. I turned seventy years old and I really would like to do some of the things that I want to do, before, while I'm still on this earth. Not what everyone else wants me to do.

CT:
What kinds of things is it that you want to do?

WC:
Well, my wife, of course, would like to travel some, but I also restore antique tractors as a hobby. I'm quite involved in restoring antique tractors. I've got about twenty of them.

CT:
And how did you get interested in that?

WC:
My wife would say I needed a hobby, and this was a hobby that intrigued me. My wife was very adamant that I needed a hobby.

CT:
So why did it intrigue you?

WC:
Nostalgia. I grew up on a farm in Broome County and when my father died, my brother had his original tractor on the farm and he wanted it off the farm because it was in his way and he wasn't using it. I said, well, I'll take it, you can give it to me and I'll take it and I'll restore it, and then I did. And that got me started. I still have his tractor, the original tractor that he bought in 1947 and I added several to that. It's nostalgia.

CT:
Is your brother still working on the farm?

WC:
My brother still owns the family farm. He retired a couple years ago and sold his cows. He still lives on the farm, has some crops. My brother came home from two tours in Vietnam, came home from Vietnam and never left the farm. To quote him, he'd seen all the world he needed to see.

CT:
Is someone else going to take over the farm?

WC:
Probably not. He's not married, and it's a last generation farm, like many of the farms around are last generation farms. He will stay there as long as he can and then when he can't, he'll move on to something else.

CT:
How do you feel about that?

WC:
That's life. You just accept it. Things can't always stay the same. Things change. We can see that with the mill. You know, things have to change.

CT:
You said your brother was in Vietnam, were you in Vietnam as well?

WC:
No. I failed to pass the physical. No.

CT:
I'm sure you knew a lot of people who were. How did that affect you?

WC:
Vietnam is one of the wars which everybody would like to forget. I volunteered, I enlisted. I knew, at that time, I graduated from college in 1965, right in the throws of the build-up and I knew that I was going to be headed there. I enlisted, failed the physical. I lost some real good friends there. As I said, it's the war that everybody would like to forget.

CT:
How did you feel about the fact that you weren't able to go?

WC:
Well, initially, great! [laughter] I remember I enlisted in the Navy, and I remember the interview. They said, why do you want to enlist in the Navy, and I said, well, it beats running through the jungles. They looked at me kind of like, yeah, okay. My brother was in the Navy.

CT:
Was that the only reason you chose the Navy or was there something else as well?

WC:
No, I just, you know, I don't want to run through the jungle.

CT:
After college, where were you living?

WC:
I went to work for a real estate company in southern Pennsylvania, just outside of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. We were the nice people that ran the roads through your house. [laughter] We were doing several road-widening projects and condemnation projects for both the New Jersey Highway Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Highways and the Pennsylvania Department of Forest and Waters. We were the ones that were doing the appraisals for the condemnation of land for public use. I did that for two years, and then my mother got real sick and I moved back up to New York State and took a job with NBT.

CT:
Did you ever regret leaving Pennsylvania at all?

WC:
No. Pennsylvania's a great state. In fact, our daughter lives in Pennsylvania now, not far from where I lived, as a matter of fact. You know, as I told my cousin the other day, we live in New York State because we have family here. I'm not sure that there's any other reason.

CT:
When your mother was sick, had your father already passed or not?

WC:
No, he was still alive. My father lived until 1995 and he died at 95, born in 1900. I'm always amazed at the change in history that he saw. He literally went from the horse and buggy days to the [space age].

CT:
Did he talk about that a lot?

WC:
Yes. He talked about that. He went through the Depression, went through World War I, didn't qualify for World War II. I guess, probably, the one thing he talked about more than anything else was the Depression. He was the oldest in his family. He quit school at sixteen to work to support the family.

CT:
How did he feel about the fact that he quit school and you were able to go to college?

WC:
He never looked back. He kept right on going. He put both my brother and I through college. He put his sister through college. My mother had already gone to college. In fact, my father put two sisters through college.

CT:
Was it important for him that you and your brother go through college?

WC:
Yup. It was important. Yes it was.

CT:
Is there anything else that you would like to add that I haven't really touched upon? Whether about the museum or about yourself?

WC:
Nope, other than the fact that I'm very very pleased and very impressed with what they've done with the last, what, thirty years?

CT:
Forty years.

WC:
Forty years. God. Oh time flies when you're having fun.

CT:
What do you hope to see happen with the museum in the future?

WC:
Continue. Continue with their mission statement.

CT:
What group of people do you feel is most important to reach out to?

WC:
They've done a pretty good job of reaching out to the youth, to the schools. And I think that we have to get the youth involved.

CT:
Why do you say that?

WC:
Because we're all getting older. [laughter] That's why. Because the same thing will happen that happened to our draft horse club. People get older. People die. We need the new generation coming in.

CT:
And so you feel that they have done a good job of that to date?

WC:
Yes, they have.

CT:
Do a lot of the children in the area come here?

WC:
As far as I know, they do. They have a special program for schools.

CT:
Did your children and grandchildren, have they been here?

WC:
My children have, yes. Some of my grandchildren have.

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]

WC:
The one's that go to school locally have.

CT:
Were you the one responsible for bringing them here and if so, why?

WC:
I can't say that I was the one responsible for bringing them here, I can't.

CT:
Did they just come as part of school groups?

WC:
Yes, they came as part of school tours.

CT:
Okay. Well, thank you very much for your time.

WC:
You're welcome. It's been a pleasure.

CT:
It's been great. I'd love to see the draft horse video whenever you get a chance.

WC:
Like I said, I've got it in the car, but it's on a tape and the tape is really getting, I really need to get a DVD of it before the tape self destructs.

CT:
Thank you very much.

WC:
Thank you.

Duration

30:00 - Track 1
30:00 - Track 2
01:01 - Track 3

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

Citation

Cyndi Tolosa, “Bill Coleman, November 22, 2013,” CGP Community Stories, accessed November 17, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/151.