Orrin Higgins, November 17, 2014

Title

Orrin Higgins, November 17, 2014

Subject

Law enforcement
Rural life
Schools, consolidation of

Description

Orrin Higgins is the town justice for the town of Hartwick, New York. He was born in 1940 in Hunter, New York. After attending college at State University of New York-Oneonta, Orrin moved with his wife to nearby Hartwick. He lives near the center of town, just across the street from some of his children and grandchildren.
Mr. Higgins had a career in law enforcement lasting over twenty years. He served as a state trooper and was based out of several different posts in the central New York region. Throughout his tenure as a policeman, and later a judge, Mr. Higgins has been an active member of the Hartwick community. He has served on town boards, organized community events, been on the board of the Hartwick Insurance Co., and lobbied to keep Hartwick’s schools active.
The interview took place in Mr. Higgins’s home. It is a large stone house at the main intersection of Hartwick and is decorated with many antiques. The property includes a circular driveway, two garages, one containing many pieces of antique farm equipment, and a yard where the cats and chickens roam free.
Mr. Higgins speaks thoughtfully and deliberately about several topics including the community life in Hartwick, the consolidation of Hartwick schools into the Cooperstown district, his experiences as a judge, and his observations of national politics. The transcript contains minimal editing; only in such instances where the addition of punctuation or changes in sentence structure aid the readability of the document. I encourage researchers to refer to the recording as it reveals Mr. Higgins’ passion about the many topics discussed.

Creator

Noah Levinson

Publisher

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

Date

2014-11-17

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28.8mB
audio/mpeg
25.5mB
image/jpeg
2448 × 3264

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

14-023

Coverage

Upstate New York
1940-2014
Hartwick, New York

Interviewer

Noah Levinson

Interviewee

Orrin Higgins

Location

3109 County Hwy 11
Hartwick, NY, 13348

Transcription

OH = Orrin Higgins
NL = Noah Levinson

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]
NL:
Today is November 17, 2014. This is the interview of Orrin Higgins by Noah Levinson for CGP Community Stories, a project of the Research and Fieldwork class at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. We are located at 3109 County Route 11 in Otsego County in Hartwick, New York at the home of Orrin Higgins. How you doing today, Orrin?
OH:
Good, good. Thank you.
NL:
Excellent, I’d love to start by asking you about the community life in Hartwick.
OH:
Well, it’s a small community, and we have our local fire department, the library, we used to have a school, but that was consolidated into Cooperstown in the eighties, early eighties, and so, as I say, it’s a small, small community, and I’ve been previously on the town board and the planning board for twenty years, and currently serving as town justice for the last, oh about eighteen years. So I get a pretty good insight in the community and the people, and I think initially the community was afraid that I’d be what they called a “hanging judge” because I’d been with the state police for twenty years, but over the years they’ve grown accustomed to me and realized that I look out for their benefit and am fair with everybody, and so they continue to re-elect me year after year without really any opposition so I guess they’re satisfied with me and we make a good combination I guess. And the people are working people. We’re just...the average salary is fairly low, and it’s a good community to work within. They usually have benefits for somebody that is ill or financially going through a rough time, so as I say, it’s a pretty good community where everybody knows everybody, and sometimes a little bit too much I guess for all of our sake, but that’s ok, as I say, that way we take care of everybody.
NL:
So what are some ways that, you know, that you see that mentality where everybody in the town sort of takes care of each other?
OH:
Well, as I say, with the benefits with everybody realizing, as I say, if somebody has a serious illness or whatever, as I mentioned before they will have a benefit dinner or Chinese auction type of thing at the local community center. The community center is used for the social events, and, as I say, it’s not long in a community before somebody realizes there may be something wrong, and somebody’s ill or had an accident or passed away, and so, as I say, the main thing is you can be sure that everybody pretty much knows everybody, and that’s something that we’ve lost out in the community outside of the hamlet of Hartwick. You get a few miles out and now people don’t seem to know their neighbors. Fifty years ago when we first moved up here in the town, everybody was a lot closer, the neighbors, as I say, had their anniversaries or their birthday parties, and there’d be get-togethers. I know outside the hamlet we seem to have lost that. The old people have passed away, new people have moved in and now we really don’t know who’s living a half a mile down the road from us, so we’ve lost that, but in the hamlet there it’s more of a close-knit family type of thing. We do have our squabbles I can tell you that, if something comes up such as a development or whatever, and some of the people are against it, some of the people are for it, we do have our disagreements and squabbles, but, just like a family they usually end up mending and everybody’s back on an even keel.
NL:
So, besides the generational shift as the older generation is starting to pass on and new people move in, what is it, why do you think it’s so different that there’s less of that close-knit family atmosphere in the community?
OH:
As I say, in the hamlet itself we don’t seem to lose that because we are on a closer contact physically; the houses are a few yards apart, whereas out in the country, where we also have a home, the homes are, as I say, maybe a half a mile apart, a mile apart or whatever, and when you lose a neighbor, we don’t seem to get together for those events that I mentioned before, such as birthdays or weddings or things, graduations, and I think a lot of it seems to be a faster pace of life. People are involved with their computers, the television, computers and all that stuff which I find it to be a disadvantage to a large part when it comes to communicating with others, and there just seems to be, as I say, a faster pace of life. People don’t seem to have time to communicate and to get together, and I think it’s something that we’ve lost in the last, maybe fifteen, twenty years and I don’t know if it will ever come around where we do communicate like we used to as far as having get-togethers. At the Grange sometimes we have a covered dish supper and neighbors will come in and the other neighbors will have their guitars and they’d play and other people would do the square dancing or this type of thing. That still occurs once in a while and that seems to be a rarity anymore where it used to be more common, but it is a good time when these people get together, and as I say, at that point they are all ages. Some of them are young people and some of them are old people, but those covered dish dinners, they really do seem to enjoy it and it’s a pretty pleasant affair when it occurs.
NL:
That must be wonderful.
OH:
It is. As I say, it’s too bad we don’t have more of it.
NL:
You mentioned just a moment ago, talking about the changes in technology that have happened in the last couple decades. Most of those, you know, computers and TV to some degree, and cell phones, which I don’t think you mentioned specifically, most of those things are sort of created with the idea they’re hoping that people will connect more, but it sounds like you see it as creating distance between people.
OH:
I do.
NL:
Could you tell me about that?
OH:
I just… it scares me. And I know all the high technology has a lot of advantages, especially in the field of medicine and all that type of stuff and as far as emergency calls: police, fire, it’s a great thing. But I see it as a day-to-day thing where people just walk down the sidewalk and they got a cell phone to their ear, and it’s a wonder they know where they’re going, it seems like when they’re crossing the street, but I see it as a distraction. They don’t see what’s going on around them, they don’t acknowledge people, there’s no eye contact with them when they’re on these devices. I know I have a grandson that came from Washington, state of Washington, and we were driving somewhere, and he’s in the seat there with his iPod, or whatever it is, his tablet there, and he could have been back home in his backyard for all he was taking in and acknowledging and when I said something to him about, you know, “Look at the environment, look at the farms, look at the animals in the field, look at this,” he just didn’t have any interest, and when you travel 3,000 miles to an area that’s unfamiliar I would think that you would want to take in your environment, to take in where you are. And I know he’s not the exception, he’s the rule with a lot of young people, and sometimes not just young people it’s the 20-30 year olds and things that are so engrossed in their iPods or their cell phones and things that they just, they take in nothing, and as I say, it’s hard to converse with them because they’re occupied. And, as I say, I just see that getting worse, I know technology has made the world smaller, it’s drawn the people closer together in a lot of ways, such as your demonstrations in some countries. They’re more up on what’s going on and things, and as I say I realize that, and that’s a positive aspect of it, but as I say, it seems to have a negative aspect also to go along with it, and that’s what troubles me is that they seem to be unaware and unconscious of the present, and as I say, what they could be taking in and what they could be communicating. I like to, when I meet people, I like to have eye contact; I don’t care if it’s on the street or in the store, if I’m passing somebody, I like to look at their face, and I find that mostly there’re a lot of people just kind of don’t even see you, whether they have a cell phone or not and I think maybe it’s the trend not to make eye contact. I know in the city, New York City, and things, they say, you know, you never look at somebody when you’re walking down the street. You never look at anybody in the face because it could get you into trouble. So maybe that’s where it comes from, maybe we’re getting more and more of that, I don’t know, but that’s not what I was brought up with or grew up with.

NL:
There’s no doubt that these types of changes you’re talking about with the technology, for better or for worse, it seems to be a permanent change in how people interact with each other and the world. Is there anything that that reminds you of from your generation when you were growing up or when you were younger, is there anything else that has such a, sort of permanent shift like that, that just changed the way people interact with the world. Does it remind you of any other such changes?
OH:
Not really. I grew up right after the Second World War and, as I say, we grew up poor and we were very lucky, I guess, to eventually have a TV in the home, and that made quite a change for us all, just having a television in the home. And there again, it led to more couch potato type of existence in some ways because we weren’t out on the street playing Kick the Can or Hide and Seek and on the street. We were in there watching Tom Mix or Roy Rogers or Lassie or some of those other shows at the time. So that was, as I say, I guess that was a change for us, that was the beginning of the electronic, technical world, but, other than that, it was a slower pace, I guess, the changes were slower paced. It didn’t seem like we had big changes within five years like we have now. It seems like every five years or whatever everything has changed. We’ve gone from the cell phone to the iPods to the whatever, I don’t even know all the gadgets that these kids have and these adults have. I guess, I’m at the age, I kind of want to stay in the twentieth century and yet I see all these changes around me and I just sit back and just say to myself, “Well, I wish you luck, I hope it all works out for ya.” [chuckle]
NL:
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. You said every five years, every year it almost feels like there’s some radically new device, idea that takes the world by storm.
OH:
I can’t keep up with them, but, as I say, I know there’s benefits, I don’t want to sound negative, as I say, I know there’s nice, wonderful, positive benefits to a lot of this, but, as I say, I also see the other side which is probably because I’m older and getting older all the time, and the changes become more and more difficult I guess.
[TRACK 1, 16:33]
NL:
Believe me, I understand. I’m part of the generation that’s grown up with this and I still find it hard to keep up. I wanted to go back to something you mentioned a few minutes ago, a little bit earlier before we started talking about this, with the consolidation of the schools into Cooperstown, and you were involved with the Save Our School committee in Hartwick. Could you tell me about that experience?
OH:
Yes, it was a difficult one. I know that, when you lose your school, you lose the heart of the community, and that’s not an exaggeration because the school is the heart of the community. We had our school here and it was initially K [kindergarten] through twelfth grade, then they did consolidate with Cooperstown to some extent, and they just kept the local school open from K through sixth grade, so that’s what it was in the sixties up through until 1978 I believe it was, and then Cooperstown decided that they wanted to close the school over here and incorporate the K through 6 over to Cooperstown. So that would’ve meant the end of the school altogether. A group of us got together and we fought it. I know I presented a graph from the State Education Department that I had gone and gotten from another school, I think it was Richfield Springs, and I obtained a current graph of the growth of the school population. They had it from the late seventies up through, I think into the eighties and it was a U-shaped graph, with the growth of the student population in the school and it showed that in the 78’s that the population dropped down and it was going to drop down for another year or so, but then the population went the other way and it showed that there was going to be an increase of school children for the next ten years, or whatever it was, and well, one of our meetings with the school principals, I think there were two of them at the time, we were presented with the same graph that I had, it was a coincidence, but their graph only showed half the picture and when I got up to speak, my graph showed the rest of the picture where it showed the increase in the school population which shot down their argument that the school population was down and was going to stay down, whatever. I was very disappointed that they were trying to pull something over on us that wasn’t really true and they were very surprised when I had the other half of the picture and they wanted to know where I got that and so, as I say, it was kind of a nasty situation. We picketed over at the school, at one of their meetings and they threatened to have us arrested for picketing on the school ground, as far as the trying to stop the closing of the school and so it wasn’t a good situation. It didn’t leave many of us with a positive idea of how the school board works and things. So they did end up closing the school and we have survived without the school, I suppose, but, as I say, it wasn’t a good experience, but it occurred like “progress” they call it, and, as I say, so that was the basis for that.
NL:
Do the different school districts in the county normally do a better job of that, of sort of working together?
OH:
I don’t know. I doubt it. I think a lot of the school boards are very similar with each other; the same as a lot of the town boards are very similar. If you have experience with keeping up with the issues of the town board, you’ll find that they seem to operate the same as the next town and the next town, and so I imagine it’s the same with the schools. They operate, I would think, very much similar. That’s what I’ve come to conclude anyway.
NL:
Was the push to make this change and the consolidation, was that coming actually from the city and the district in Cooperstown, or was this a county or a larger regional decision being made?
OH:
Oh no, it was strictly within the school district, which was the village of Cooperstown and the Cooperstown school board.
NL:
So what gives them so much power or sway over this situation?
OH:
All it takes is three or four votes by the school board and, you know, the decision’s made. Is it better for the children? Is it better teaching and are they going to learn more in Cooperstown than they would’ve in Hartwick? Again, there’s pluses and minus. The bigger classes, the bigger school meant probably better facilities as far as some of the, like, labs or more current visual aids and things like this, but again, as I say, it takes away from the heart of the community, which, if you say, “Well if it takes away from the community, but it’s better for the children at the school, they’re going to learn more,” you know that’s one thing, but we couldn’t see any advantage to closing the school and busing the children to Cooperstown, but we figured that they needed us for numbers; the numbers were low over there so they needed to fill the school over there they felt, and so it wasn’t that we were wanted because we were always, again, on the wrong side of the tracks as far as Cooperstown was concerned. So, it wasn’t that they really wanted us over there, except that they needed the numbers, that’s what we felt.
NL:
But they were trying to argue that the quality of education was going to be improved for everyone by doing this?
OH:
Oh yeah. Yeah, and that they could save money. That was the bottom dollar, mostly was that they could save money and money was the issue, that they could save that by closing school. And the population did go up, as the graph showed, for a while. Now it’s down again, but after that it did increase, the graph was correct, but it was a good learning lesson and it brought a lot of the community together again for, you know, a purpose. They communicated, and you know we worked together, but, as I say, we’ve all survived with it and my kids have all gone to Cooperstown now and graduated and did well over there.
NL:
How long, when you guys were actively on this committee, fighting the consolidation, how long did that process play out over?
OH:
Oh jeez, that’s a good question. You know, I would probably say close to a year, maybe not that long, but it went on for a good six months and, as I say, maybe more. We ended up buying the school from the school district. I don’t think they were very happy that I was the one buying it, because I was a troublemaker to them, but we ended up, as I say, with the building, so as I say, even though we fought it, we’ve enjoyed the building since as far as different activities with the building and things there, so as I say, that was the conclusion I guess when we bought it and, oh, it might’ve been 1980, something like that.
NL:
What’s happening with the building now?
OH:
Oh, we’ve had businesses in there, we’ve had the ARC in there for about nine, ten years, and then we had the Upward Bound which did very well in there. That was the program that they had, and it was the kids that were falling through the cracks, kids that were coming from broken homes and troubled kids that were hard to manage, as I say, mostly due to coming from broken homes and things. Mark Rathman was the principal of it at the time and they had operated, I guess, out of trailers before and things, and then they got this building and they were in there for, again, about nine years I guess it was, and had a very good program over there. They, the students, had their own class rings, they had their own yearbook and it really escalated as far as, it seemed to as far as the quality of the programs and everything and they, as I say, they worked together and they had their own school, they had their own yearbook and everything and it was nice. During part of that we had developed a coffee shop in there and a store and things like that, so it went along pretty well. Right now it’s just a storage building. I hope if grant money or any kind of financial thing comes along, I’d love to see it turned into senior citizen apartments. There’s people 62 and older and to have something like that in there would be wonderful for that.
NL:
Is there a specific effort right now to make that happen, or is that just a goal of yours?
OH:
It’s a goal, and I’ve talked to different people who think that, “Well, maybe there might be grants or something like that available,” but I’m getting to the age…
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
OH:
…where it becomes a pipe dream at this point, so I’m not sure just what will, you know, develop.
NL:
It’s already worn a lot of faces, it sounds like.
OH:
Yeah, it has. It’s a wonderful building.
NL:
With the Upward Bound program you were describing, working with the disadvantaged youth, what was the program, is it alternative schooling?
OH:
Yes.
NL:
What did the programming look like there?
OH:
Well, they had the regular courses: history and science and everything. It took a special type of teacher in there to be able to teach because they had to demand the discipline and things with the students. As I say, it was an alternative, but it was funded apparently by all the different [districts]. They would bring the children in from Worcester, from Milford, from Oneonta, Cherry Valley. They would bus these children in to the school so, as far as I know, all those school districts paid in for the students, and finally they built an addition over to Milford School and they lured them over there into the program with, I guess, all kind of promises, and they thought that they were going to go to a newer school with the administrators of the Upward Bound, and, as I say, they lured them in there because, again, they needed numbers to justify the addition over to the Milford School. When they got over there it wasn’t six months before they got rid of the teachers and incorporated the kids, I guess, just into the regular classes, so the kids again fell by the wayside. They fell through the cracks, and they could justify it because, as I say, they needed numbers to fill the new addition. And they talked like in Oneonta, well, they could do the same thing down in the regular schools in Oneonta, they could have night courses for these kids, and they could do this, and they could do that. Well, that was a lot of malarkey, and these kids had nobody to speak up for them. The parents, whatever parents there were, there was nobody going to go to the school board and argue to keep the school or anything else. They were nobodies and so, as I say, just fell by the wayside and the teachers that were in there were gone within the year, and I guess the kids were just incorporated and it was the same form as before; they were just in with a group of other kids and I imagine they fell through the cracks like they were before.
[TRACK 2, 3:46]
NL:
So, you’ve done all this work on behalf of the Hartwick schools, you’ve been involved in a lot of different planning boards, town boards and things like that, so you’ve always been involved with the community here, and now you serve as the judge, as the justice for the town. Can you tell me about how you decided to move into that for your career?
OH:
Well, as I say, I spent twenty years, well, almost thirty years in law enforcement, and it’s tied right in with law enforcement. It’s different, you’re on the other side of the bench, so to speak, before you were on the one side of the bench, now you take the job and you’re on the other side of the bench, and you see things different I suppose. Maybe I’m just becoming more liberal as I get older, which I guess isn’t so bad, but, I like the idea of law enforcement, I like the idea of the justice system, and I like working with people, and a lot of times this give me a chance to look at some of the defendants, and, you know, try to work with them, and work for them. Before I was just on the arresting side and didn’t see what happened after you’d arrest somebody and threw them in jail or give them a ticket or whatever, but this here gives, as I say, the opposite side and now you’re faced with dealing with it, and so, you deal with a lot of people, especially younger people that don’t have a lot, they’re falling through the cracks of society, so to speak, and so you get a chance to, you know, see that side of things and to work with it and you get to make a recommendation, you have a say in what happens to them. The way the courts are set up, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the judge all have the responsibility of making the decision, and so the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney can get together and may come up with an agreement, but unless the judge agrees to it, that agreement is no good, and vice versa, you know, so it takes all three, and some of the judges aren’t very forceful, I suppose, and don’t use the powers that they have as far as being the third party. They too often seem to go along just with the D.A. and defense attorney’s recommendations, and for me I use that right and will deny or object and refuse to an agreement if I don’t think it’s right. I like that, being able to do that, so that’s part of it, and as I say, the main thing is the fairness; you’ve got to be fair even though you may personally dislike somebody that’s in front of you, you don’t show it and you try to neutralize your attitude and things, and if you have too much of a feeling that way, you recuse yourself and you let some other judge handle it, but if you can’t be fair then you shouldn’t be sitting on the bench. That’s what you’ve got to always keep in mind, but again it’s a form of helping people because, you know, you can either make their life a little bit more bearable or you can make it unbearable for them, I suppose, but your job isn’t there to make it unbearable. As I say, it’s interesting, it keeps you in tune with the law enforcement part that you were used to to begin with, and as I say, I guess that’s it.
NL:
What are some of the types of cases that you’re regularly seeing in the role as judge?
OH:
You never know. The town justices handle everything that comes through; if it’s a murder or a burglary, or if it’s a speeding ticket, family disputes, you handle everything from a violation to a felony, and initially, with the violations and the misdemeanors, you handle that all the way through from the time it comes into your court ‘til it’s finalized. With the felonies, you just handle the initial arraignments; you arraign them and you have, perhaps, a hearing, and then it’s supposed to go to the county court, but a lot of times the county court will reduce it to a misdemeanor, so that felony becomes a misdemeanor and it stays in your court. As I say, you can initially handle everything and a lot of things are domestic issues there between boyfriends, girlfriends, families, and so you’re there to mediate to some extent, I guess. We do orders of protections and things like this for people that [are] having problems, that they want somebody to stay away, keep away. We handle all that, as I say, right down to barking dogs or, just had one where a person sicced his dog on the neighbor’s cat and killed the cat and brought him in on that, so as I say, we handle a lot of the stuff. Everything that occurs in the town comes into our court. Sometimes other stuff that comes in from the other towns, I end up [with] because the other judges aren’t available so they’ll call you at one, two o’clock in the morning, or three or four in the morning and want an arraignment on somebody; a DWI, whatever it might be.
NL:
Does that happen frequently, those middle of the night calls?
OH:
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, especially if you’re gullible enough to answer the phone [laughter]. The other judges don’t want to answer the phone. They don’t want to get up so they, you know, they know who to call because I never refuse a call. So yeah, sometimes they come in spurts and then other times its weeks or months, you won’t get a call. You never can tell. Sundays, Saturdays, Sundays, you’re there pretty much 24 hours a day. Two days ago, Saturday there, I had an arraignment for loaded guns in the car, two hunters that were hunting with the loaded guns in the car so, as I say, it doesn’t matter what time it is or whether it’s a Saturday or Sunday, you’re going to get the call.
NL:
What was it like when you were running for town justice? The first time and then the re-election processes that you go through every term?
OH:
It was kind of a small type of campaign, you just let people know, you know, sometimes you go house to house to meet people and things, and we have to, when our term is up and we’re up for re-election, you have to obtain X amount of names in the town, to get on the party, to get on the ticket, and so you go house to house and you get their signatures on your petition. At that time you meet a lot of people, and I really enjoy that, you know, I’ve met people that way that I never would’ve met before, and I usually hear, “Well, I’ve heard about you.” “Yeah, I don’t know you, I’ve never met you, but I’ve heard about you and I understand you do a good job, you’re fair,” whatever and that’s always nice to hear. I enjoy that. Usually I’ll run even though there’s no opposition, I don’t have to get a lot of signatures because there’s nobody opposing me, but I run on the Republican ticket now, and if there’s nobody on the Democratic ticket I’ll run and get the signatures that I need for that, or the conservative ticket and mostly, as I say, I don’t need to, but it gives me a chance to meet the people and things there. As I say, I enjoy that, and the other people they don’t do that they just get the required number that they need and I say, well, I like to try to get out to the people that aren’t in the immediate neighborhood; Toddsville or Hartwick Seminary area that’s just still in the town of Hartwick, but we don’t interact with Toddsville very much to a large extent or don’t interact with 28 there in Hartwick Seminary and things, so other than this, as I say, I wouldn’t meet these people, and that way they know me, at least other than a name.
[TRACK 2, 15:39]
NL:
You mentioned that you see yourself getting more liberal as time goes on. Could you elaborate on that a little bit?
OH:
Yeah, I guess so. I don’t know if you want me to get into politics, but I was always a Republican because my parents I guess were Republican, and I’ve gotten away from that, I guess, after George Bush’s administration I got away from that entirely and found myself more in the camp of the Democrats who have a reputation of being liberal of course, but I more and more tend to side with their thinking, I guess, because I realized that, I guess when I was with the State Police and things when I was younger, and everything was black and white, I guess, to a large extent, and now I’m seeing more of the gray than the black and white, and I see the people and understand society is not as black and white as I would’ve liked to have seen it. It’s hard to decide between what’s right and what’s wrong and I see things a lot more that I didn’t see before such as the inconsistencies, the inaccuracy of everything, what’s right and what’s wrong and things. So I guess I’m not quite the Archie Bunker that I used to be, that I guess I used to be, so as I say, I see things different as I get older and I think [for] a lot of people it is a natural thing for them to see things differently; they call it “mellowing out,” I guess we mellow as we get older, but I think we have a broader view of things instead of the narrow view of things and I think that we do have a more liberal view because it’s a broader view and maybe it’s part of mellowing, but I think it’s because we get wiser and sometimes, I don’t know if it’s good that we get wiser as we get older because we get more dissatisfied with the politics, the way things are set up as far as right and wrong. I guess we get more confused that way too because we don’t see it, as I say, black and white. I think we have more empathy for people, as we get older.
NL:
Are there specific issues that are the ones that you would have previously described as feeling more black and white about, and now you’re seeing more the gray or the colors in between?
OH:
Yeah, and I don’t know how much I want to get into it, but I don’t see very much right in the world. I’m very discouraged with the national politics, you know, what we’re doing as a country. I don’t believe in the country the way I guess I used to as far as that we are so almighty good and what we’re doing is so almighty good that we’re the first in this, and the first in this in the world, and first in that. I seem to see behind the scenes more, I guess, and see the corruption, the fact that what we do is in the name of greed and power, so these issues bother me, and I always hope that we’re going to get a new administration that will, as we go along, make the country really good like it says it is, but there is very little, I think very little honesty and fairness in the world as far as the way we treat other people in this country and the world and I don’t understand it, you know, it’s hard for me to grasp why humans have to kill humans and why humans can be so inhuman. So I guess that’s some of my concerns, as I say, I think I’m just seeing behind the scenes and what I see behind the scenes of the workings I don’t like and it’s not a simple black and white issue, it’s very complicated and sometimes very corrupt, I guess, and we say we’re doing the right thing and that we’re doing this and that, but really what we’re only doing is lining somebody’s pockets and the greed and the corruption, power struggle and things there so those are the things that bother me. Things like this hydrofracking is one issue that I really, really dread and I think it’s the worst thing that I’ve seen happen in my lifetime. I know what it’s gonna do, it’s just gonna destroy the environment; it’s gonna destroy the water, it’s gonna destroy the air and the ground, and all in the name of greed because people like Halliburton and President Bush and the rest of them, you know, had control and they made these rules and they don’t care what the side effects are as long as they’re making money, and I just can’t. Why do we need this oil? Why do we need this gas? Why do we need, you know, why don’t we conserve, first of all? Why don’t we leave something in the ground for reserve for our children and our grandchildren? We’re living in a fairly good economy now. Why do we have to deplete our natural resources for our own greed so that Halliburtons and other companies can line their pockets? Leave it in the ground for the next fifty years or whatever, you know, have it for reserves for the future generations, but we don’t know how to conserve, all we want is more, more, more, and the politicians work it around so that these corporations, you know, make money. Those are the kind of things that I see now that I probably didn’t see thirty years ago. So I guess we change, as I say, I guess I’ve changed, anyway, through the years, and it bothers me that years ago I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh and now I can’t believe I did such a thing. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Rush Limbaugh, but, you know, talk about a narrow-minded half wit, as I say, I just can’t believe that I was one of those people that listened to him every week, every day, every so often, and it’s like a different world for me now. So, I have become liberal I guess.
NL:
Well, believe it or not we are running a little bit short on time now. I just have one more question I wanted to ask you in this regard. With these ideas that you’ve just discussed about the national and global level of politics, and how the world is, how do you, personally, how do you reconcile that and bring your ideas and mentalities to try to affect change on the local level with your job as justice here?
OH:
I don’t think that I’m going to have any influence at that level. I think all I can do is to do what I can do on the local level as far as the job that I do. I’m not going to be part of what I see on the national level say to speak or something, but I’m just going to do what I can do and do it fairly, treat the people fair, and try to keep the fines to a minimum where I can, where it’s justified. As I tell the state and things, I remind them that I’m not a source of revenue for the state. That is not my job. My job is to do justice and treat the people as human beings and as fairly as I can. Other than that, I don’t see it expanding anywhere beyond the local level. As I say, all I can do is just my little part by being a fair judge and trying to keep it within my sights there.
NL:
Well, maybe if every town justice in every little town in America just keeps doing that part, then that way we can effect some kind of greater change that way.
OH:
I hope so. I hope so.
NL:
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
OH:
No, I guess not. Just that I appreciate the opportunity to be able to work with you on this, and I hope that other people will contribute and that you get to them like you’ve got to me, before we kick the bucket and don’t have anything to contribute to you. So, as I say, I hope that your program will expand; I know there’s a lot of people out there that should be recorded and to have their part and the say of what they’ve experienced during their lifetime.
NL:
Well, on behalf of Cooperstown Graduate Program you’re very welcome and thank you so much for sharing your stories with us.
OH:
Thank you.

Duration

30:00 Part 1
27:42 Part 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 16:33- School closing, consolidation
Track 2, 3:46 - Town justice, judge
Track 2, 15:39 - National politics, partisan politics

Files

Levinson_Higgins.jpg

Citation

Noah Levinson, “Orrin Higgins, November 17, 2014,” CGP Community Stories, accessed September 19, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/201.