CGP Community Stories

Stewart Anderson, November 9, 2015

Title

Stewart Anderson, November 9, 2015

Subject

Farming
Dairymen's League
Richfield Springs, NY
Dairy Farming

Description

Stewart Anderson is a native upstate New Yorker, who has lived in Herkimer County for thirty-plus years. He and his wife Kay live in Richfield Springs, New York. Mr. Anderson, a longtime resident of Herkimer County, has witnessed changes in the thirty years since he moved there. His family owns and operates a farm in Livingston County, which is run by his brother and father. The farm had been in Mr. Anderson’s family since 1940 when his grandfather purchased it. As a child, Mr. Anderson was raised on his family farm and has seen many changes to the farming industry since then. His grandfather and father were both involved in the Dairymen’s League, and his father and uncle oversaw the running of the farm during World War II. As a salesman for farm equipment, Mr. Anderson experienced firsthand the farming depression of 1982.

The Dairymen’s League Corporative Association started in the early 1900’s to distribute milk from dairy farmers in rural New York State to bigger cities in the New England area. In the 1960’s a transition from milk cans to bulk tanks eliminated the need for the factory workers who distributed the cans of milk, changing the Dairymen’s League dynamics. During World War II farms flourished as the war effort took off to feed the country. The transition to keep up with this growth brought changes in farm machinery. Farms like that of Mr. Anderson’s family traded their horses for a tractor to help make farming easier and faster. The 1980’s saw high-interest rates and an overload of dairy farms. The government paid farmers not to milk their cows, leading too little to no farmers buying equipment for the farm or producing manure. The agriculture economy as a whole suffered devastating effects.

I interviewed Mr. Anderson at his home in Richfield Springs, New York. Mr. Anderson retired from his hardware store business and is employed by the local school district as a school bus driver. Since much of Mr. Anderson’s life revolved around agriculture, our discussion is mainly farming based. We also cover his time as a small business owner of the local hardware store in Richfield Springs. He and Kay now enjoying spending time together and traveling.

Creator

Sara Umland

Publisher

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

Date

2015-11-09

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.5mB
audio/mpeg
26.9mB
image/jpeg
pixels
240 x 320

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

15-002

Coverage

Richfield Springs, NY
Upstate New York
1953-2015

Interviewer

Sara Umland

Interviewee

Stewart Anderson

Location

Richfield Springs
Herkimer County
Upstate, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2015

SA = Stewart Anderson

SU = Sara Umland

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

SU:
This is Sara Umland interviewing Mr. Stewart Anderson for CGP Community Stories on November 9, 2015 at Mr. Anderson’s home in Richfield Springs, New York

SU:
So Mr. Anderson how did your family originally come to upstate New York to live?

SA:
Okay, my Grandfather Anderson; my father’s father, worked for the Dairyman’s League Cooperative in the 1930’s. And they were in Central Pennsylvania and in 1936 or ’37 he was assigned to the milk plant in Groveland, New York and they moved to a little farm in Union Corners, New York and that’s how my dad and his brother and sisters came to upstate New York. This is all out in Livingston County, which is out in the western part of New York State. And dad and mom still live out there in Groveland and I’ve moved around upstate New York as a result of employment and I ended up in Herkimer County in 1981.

SU:
Can you describe for me your childhood growing up in this upstate New York area?

SA:

Well, I would say a fairly typical 1950’s and ’60’s childhood. Grew up on a farm. I’m the oldest of three siblings. I have a brother—I’m 62 now I was born in 1953. I have a brother who is three years younger than me and he lives near my folks near the farm and helps my dad on the farm yet. My sister is five years younger than myself and she lives in Corning, New York. And we had a farm upbringing. We did chores and had animals and made hay and that was pretty nice. So as a result of that I think both my brother and I are the kind of people who can fix things and kind of do our own maintenance and repair work on stuff. And we went to Geneseo Central School, rode the school bus. Didn’t participate in a lot of school activities because we had farm chores and so forth. I graduated from there in 1971 and then I went to college to become an industrial arts teacher but I never ended up teaching because in 1976 when I got out there weren’t very many teaching jobs available. End of answer.

SU:
So what type of chores did you perform on the farm that you lived on as a child?

SA:
Okay, we had beef cattle and we would buy four- and five-day-old calves at the auction and anywhere from two to six in the fall. We usually bought them in the fall or early winter. And they would have to be taught how to drink milk from a pail. And we would mix up milk replacer, which is like powdered milk for calves and feed them a couple times a day. Make sure they had hay and clean out the barn every so often when it needed cleaning. As they grew older we put them out in the pasture, so we fixed fence and then of course in the summer time we did hay. And we baled hay, cut it, raked it, bailed it and mowed it away then put it down and fed it to them during the winter. So we did all those kind of chores, and we had a garden and the typical home maintenance kind of things we would also do.

SU:
So how did your family acquire this farm?

SA:
Well, my grandfather had bought it in the early 1940’s. He first moved up to New York State and lived in one small farm that was in Union Corner’s, New York. And then somewhere in 1940 or ’41, I think it was before the war started, he bought this farm my folks live on now. My father’s older brother and my grandfather worked the farm together and then my dad helped as he grew older. They farmed it and my grandfather also worked for Dairyman’s League at the same time. And then in 1951 or ‘52, dad and mom bought the farm from my grandfather and grandmother who moved not too far away so that’s how they got the farm. And dad and mom both worked jobs off the farm and the farm was considered part time as most small farms still are.
SU:
What was your father’s role in the Dairymen’s League?

SA:
Okay, it’s the Dairymen’s League, it’s actually called the Dairyman’s League Cooperative Association but we always called it the Dairymen’s League, kind of a slang thing. Dairymen’s League was a milk processing company that was formed in the 1920’s. They had a number of milk plants around. Back in the day before tanker trucks farmers would bring their milk to the milk plant every morning or every other day in milk cans. The milk plant, the people who worked at the milk plant would take that raw milk, they would mix it all in a big tank and pasteurize it and then usually package it into trucks or railroad cars to be sent to a bottling plant. And in a bottling plant of course they would further filter it and refine it and homogenize it and bottle it for retail sales. The plant that my dad worked at was more of a transfer’s plant. They just took the cans and ran the milk through a filter and then put it into a truck and it was trucked down to the bottling plant. And in the early, well the middle ’60’s there was a big transition from milk cans on farms to bulk tanks and so the farmer didn’t have to bring his milk cans to the milk plant. The tank truck would come and pick it up and take it directly to the bottling plant, so most of these transfer plants were closed and my dad lost his job in the middle 60’s when the plant closed. And then he had a couple of other jobs and he finally ended up working for the State of New York in the county of Livingston where he finished his career.

SU:
Was the family farm at all affected during World War II? Can you tell me about that?

SA:
Well yeah, I think so. My grandfather and my uncle ran the farm during World War II and my uncle was in the Merchant Marines so he wasn’t there for part of the time and my dad was old enough to help then. They milked cows and also raised commercial vegetable crop like peas and sweet corn and so forth. So during World War II farmers did really well because they got good prices for the stuff and everything they could raise they could sell. There was no problem with the markets then, so the farm was busy and they milked a few cows by hand, they grew vegetables and things like that. My dad tells about in 1940 or ‘41 they got their first tractor and started to mechanize. So got rid of the horses, when they moved there my grandfather and my uncle farmed with horses but got rid of the horses as quick as they could and went to the tractor. By the time I came along all of that horse history was pretty well gone and we just used regular farm machines, tractors, and hay bailers and that kind of thing for farming. And we were still a small farm at that point because we didn’t milk cows.

[TRACK 1, 9:03]

SU:
Can you tell me about your family when your dad lost his job? Did you have trouble making ends meet then?

SA:
Well, it was a situation where the plant closed so there was some warning. And the plant was represented by unions and I don’t know specifically but I assume there was some type of severance program. I think my dad was aware that this whole transition was taking place in the dairy industry and so he to my recollection came up with a new job pretty quickly. He had to commute from our home to Rochester, which is a 40-mile one-way commute. And he worked at a manufacturing company for I think less than a year and then he heard from somewhere somebody that he knew I assume, that the State of New York was expanding its meat inspection program and he went to work for the State of New York as a meat inspector. He would call on slaughter houses in certain counties and inspect the facilities and make sure they were following the proper practices for handling meat and slaughtering and things like that. And he did that for three or four years in the late ’60’s but by the time I graduated from high school in ‘71 he was working for Livingston County in the county health department. And he would go out and inspect water systems and sewage systems and things of that nature. So he was involved in the county health department, the jurisdiction they had over private and public water systems. So him losing his job was not- it was, you know, tense and stressful but wasn’t for a long, long time and my mother also worked. She pretty much worked full time as well, so it was not a disaster or anything like that.

SU:
Can you describe for me the jobs your mother was employed in?

SA:
Well, my mother was a registered nurse and in the ‘50’s and early ‘60’s she was a nurse at Dansville Memorial Hospital, which where I was born. And my brother and sister too. And then in the middle 60’s she went to work for Livingston County Public Health Nursing Service, she was a public health nurse. Nowadays you would call them visiting nurses and she would go in and see people. Back in the 60’s, in that era if someone came home from the hospital they didn’t send them to rehab that was kind of before that all became a concept. So if you came home from the hospital and needed your dressing changed or a bath or help with that kind of thing the county nurse would go to your house and help. So she spent 20-some years as a visiting nurse, seeing people and she did that until she retired. And then after she retired she did a little bit of fill-in nursing back at the hospital and some volunteer work and stuff like that. Her pretty much full-time career has been nursing her whole life.

SU:
How have you seen farming change from when you were growing up; farming with your father, to today?

SA:
Well, in upstate New York, it’s been mainly a change in terms of the size of farms, the number of cows milked, the way that farmers do what they need to do to harvest crops and so forth. Back in the ’50’s and ’60’s of course they changed from milk cans to bulk tanks that was the first big revolutionary thing. And then, when I was a kid, a farm that had 50 cows and milked 50 cows was a big farm. Nowadays nobody has 50 cows unless they are in it for a hobby. Farms have gradually gotten larger and gradually gone to more mechanized milking because there are fewer family members around to do that. So it’s been in terms of growth and also a change in the way that hay and feed for the cattle is harvested and so forth. More of it goes into the silo and it used to be more just bailed hay and there’s still a lot of hay, but a lot of farmers are growing more corn for silage and things like that and that’s more common than it was 50 years ago. The growing of grains like soy beans and so forth is something that has really come in in the last 25 years in New York State. Nobody grew soybeans in the ’60’s or early ’70’s but now soybeans because they are great cow feed, soybean meal is very popular it’s something that is different so the change has been size. Still doing the same kind of farming for the most part but mainly in size. So you have a lot fewer family farms. The number of farms is way down, the acreage is probably down because you have fewer marginal farms or farms that didn’t produce a lot of profit than you used to have.

SU:
Can you tell me about when you decided to leave your family farm?

SA:
Well, I had the idea in high school that I wanted to become an industrial arts teacher and go to college and become a teacher. And that was encouraged, there was never any objection to that. My father I don’t think considered farming his main occupation so that it was not the case that he expected me to stay around and farm it. So I planned to go to college and become an industrial arts teacher. I did go to college and did all the things to graduate with a degree to become an industrial arts teacher but by the time I practice taught and went through that I had lost quite a bit of the enthusiasm for it. When I graduated from college, the other thing is there were little or no jobs so I went into sales and pretty much have been in sales of some sort or another for my adult life. So I left the family farm to go to college, came back in the summer time and lived there and helped. But when I graduated from college and got a job in sales I moved away and been away ever sense.

SU:
How do you feel moving away from your farm affected the running of the family farm?

SA:
It didn’t affect it very much. My brother was there and for the small size of the farm my father and brother pretty much did what needed to be done. It didn’t have any big, negative affect on it.

SU:
Can you tell me what led [to] your passion for [industrial arts] when you were still interested in it?

SA:
Oh yeah, I had a great IA [Industrial Arts] teacher in high school. And it was the kind of person you would have liked to emulate. Now you look back at the guy and was about as square as they could be. But we thought he was a cool guy and working with tools and work and wood and you know I took all the IA courses I could take. And just so I kind of wanted to be like him. And I was encouraged at home to do whatever I wanted to. I was a good student so not a problem getting into college for that. That’s how that came about.

SU:
Can you tell me a little more about your [industrial arts] teacher?

SA:
Okay, that was Mr. Kelsey. Oh, in the middle ’60’s he was probably in his forties. And you ever take any tech courses in high school? Okay, you went down to the shop and of course most of it was work benches and tools and stuff like that and for a farm kid who’s used to growing up with these tools much of this was familiar. So we got to use wood lathes and we got to use band saws and table saws and make stuff, weld. Back then you know you did a whole year of industrial arts which 9th grade was woodshop and 10th grade was metal shop and 11th was electric or ceramics so there was a real thorough introduction to these things. Nowadays they hardly touch on them, they make stuff out of popsicle sticks and glue and that’s about it. But anyway, so we did a lot of cool stuff like that and it just seemed to be a neat way to teach and just a neat career to be in. And I think in the ’60’s any kid that said they wanted to become a teacher they were highly encouraged to go through with that. So I was always encouraged to go through with that.
But when I got out into student teaching, the other thing that happened [is that] I took two years of industrial arts in college and then I got it in my head that I wanted to have a better education in automotive topics, because I was real interested in that. So I left, I went to college in Oswego, SUNY Oswego, which was the premier industrial arts program in the state at the time. And I transferred and became a student at SUNY Morrisville, which is a two year ag and tech college. But they had a good automotive program. And I had run into a lot of people in Oswego who had been to Morrisville. So I applied to it and transferred into the auto tech program there, which was very unusual because people didn’t do that, but I also had an antique car I wanted to work on. So I went to Morrisville for a year, took only automotive type courses. Graduated from there with an associates and then I went back to Oswego and finished up the last two years of the industrial arts course. The idea was I could be an automotive teacher. And when I got into practice teaching, which was 1975 in Rochester, I found that I really [didn’t have] a lot of good presence in the classroom. Some teachers have a good presence in the classroom and others don’t. And I didn’t. Of course I was young and didn’t know anything either but I really didn’t have any way to develop that presence in the classroom. So I got kind of discouraged about it. And then felt a little disconnect from the college and normally when someone went student teaching they student taught in one classroom like 8 or 10 weeks one subject, and then they’d have a different subject in a different school for another 8 or 10 weeks. Well I ended up teaching two schools but the same subject. So that was probably not the best student teaching experience that I had. When I came back from student teaching I was not anywhere near enthusiastic about teaching as I had been earlier in the college experience. Plus you get the things about there being no teaching jobs out there and blah, blah, blah, so I just kind of said alright I’m not going to pursue a teaching career. Looking back now some of the people I graduated with are retired from teaching and doing very nicely and had good careers. And I probably should have stuck with it but I didn’t so that’s the way it worked out. Teaching changed a lot between the ’60’s and the ’70’s. Other people who are my age can probably tell you the same thing; teaching was not as much fun by the ’70’s as earlier on. But that’s what happened so I didn’t go into teaching.

SU:
Can you give me some specifics on how teaching changed in those two decades?

SA:
Well I think there was a lot more, and only from my own personal experience as a good student. You know I didn’t have trouble in school, I didn’t have trouble academically and I wasn’t the troublemaking kid so I got along with teachers pretty well. And most of them seemed like pretty cool people. I don’t think that they were under the same kind of professional stress as the teachers are now or came to be later on. Our school district was small but big enough that they had a regular hierarchy of departments and things like that. And the teachers got along pretty well and the administration supported them. And I think a lot of time now administration doesn’t support teachers the way they used to. So I think that’s a big, big change. And there’s a lot less absolute devotion to academics in the classroom compared to back in that point. I think we were expected to do the work and if you had to do homework do it outside of school, you were expected to do it and show up with it done. And if it wasn’t done right then you did it again, and nowadays I think teachers are afraid to ask kids to do it again so the kids aren’t learning stuff the way they used to.
[TRACK 1, 25:19]

SU:
Can you describe to me your feelings after you had graduated and then realized you didn’t want to go into teaching?

SA:
Well, I kind of felt like I had made some bad choices. Either the choice to go into being educated for a teaching career and then not following through it or the bad choice of not following through when times were tougher. Okay. That’s all I’ll say about that.

SU:
What led to you opening your hardwood [hardware] store?

SA:
Hardware store?
SU:
Mmhmm

SA:
Okay, well that’s a good story. When I was going to college in Oswego, first back up to high school. When I was in high school I worked in a hardware store. One of my best friends worked in a hardware store in Geneseo where we went to school. When he heard that they were looking for another part-time kid to help them he told me about it and I got a job there. I worked there in the summer time, pretty much every day and then I worked after school during the school year. And being from the farm I had an idea what plumbing was and how electrical was and what tools were and what things were and I knew how to talk the talk of that kind of product. So a guy come in and ask for 20 penny nails. I knew what he was talking about, I didn’t have to be educated about that. So I kind of had a natural ability to work in a hardware store. So I worked there in high school and then when I went to college I came back and worked in there in the summer time. And then the second year in college I got a job at Raby’s Lumber Yard which was just down the street from the college, you know very close by. And so I worked there, and by the second semester of the year I worked my schedule around so I could pretty much work full time at the lumber yard. And then I came home from college in summer and worked in the hardware store again until he had a fire and it burnt down. But during college I worked in the lumber yard. And then when I got out of college I wasn’t going to teach so I went into sales and first I worked for a business machines company as a sales representative and serviceman out on the road in the Southern Tier of New York State for a couple of years. And they transferred me to the Syracuse area and then in 1979…I worked for Burroughs for three years, yeah. In 1979, I saw an advertisement that Allis Chalmers Farm Equipment was looking for a territory representative so I went to work for Allis Chalmers. And I had grown up with Allis Chalmers equipment so that was, you know I thought it was really nice. And I worked for Allis Chalmers from 1979 to 1984. We lived in New Jersey for a year and a half and then were transferred up here. And I had a sales territory that was basically about the eastern half of New York State, not quite but almost. [I called] on Allis Chalmers farm machinery dealers. Well the farm economy went to hell in 1982 and it was difficult to sell farm machinery. So I started looking around for a business to go into of my own, I wanted to have my own business. And Brightman’s Hardware Store in Richfield Springs, was available so we worked out a deal. It took about a year and a half to borrow money and buy Brightman’s Hardware Store in Richfield Springs. In October of 1984, my wife at the time and I took over that and ran the hardware store. And for 24 years I worked seven days a week running the hardware store. So that’s how that came about.
[START OF TRACK 2, 00:00]

SU:
Can you tell me more about how the 1982 farming fail affected your family?
SA:
Well it didn’t affect my family very much. You talking about father and my brother family farm or?

SU:
Your immediate family. You in the job field.

SA:
Okay well yeah. There were really a number of problems that all came together at the same time. Allis Chalmers was a very weak company. And they had had a big, big company, a lot of different divisions. Farm machinery was only part of it but they did not have the best management all through the ’70’s. So when I when to work for them they were not one of the top tier farm machinery companies. And in the eastern, upstate New York, New England, and Pennsylvania most of their business was with dairy farmers. Well in 1982 the dairy business was very bad, milk prices were very low and they had what’s called the dairy buyout. There were actually too many cows around, and so the federal government came up with a program where they paid farmers to sell their cows and not milk cows anymore. So all of a sudden you had these dairy farmers that didn’t have to milk cows, they didn’t have to take out the manure, and they didn’t have to make as much hay so they didn’t need as much equipment. And at the same time, 1980, ‘81 and ‘82 you had interest rates above 16%. So borrowing money to buy a piece of equipment was very, very expensive. You know even car financing was 12/14 % , you can’t imagine what that’s like but at that time interest rates to buy something were super high so that was a general recession and anybody had to buy big equipment. So the farm machinery business in the early ‘80s was very, very tough, difficult to make sales, to get dealers to order equipment, to get dealers to pay for it after they got it and then to find someone to sell it to retail. It was very stressful, very tough. I looked at running my own hardware store as something that had to be easier than trying to getting somebody to buy a 40,000 dollar tractor. Nowadays 40,000 is a small tractor, but back then 40,000 was a big tractor.

SA:
Okay let’s pause.

SU:
So how did this depression during the 1980’s affect your personal family life?

SA:
Well it just made working for a farm machinery company a stressful thing. So I think it made me look ever more hopeful at opening my own business. But otherwise it wasn’t highly, it wasn’t terrible for my family life. I was married, and we- I had a baby in 1983 and by then we were looking at starting the hardware store business and then that took a while to do so it was 1984 before that all really got to the point where I could quit Allis Chalmers and go to work for myself.

SU:
What was it like being a small business owner?

SA:
Well, there’s a great deal of satisfaction and a great deal of stress. All mixed together. In the retail business you’re dealing with customers all the time. And luckily the hardware store business almost everyone is your customer, they almost always are coming into the store because they need something. So it’s important to figure out, anticipate what they are going to need and try to have it. That was one thing that this hardware store we bought had kind of neglected was their inventory was always we got one but we don’t have two of something. And so we went into business and immediately started increasing the inventory and that increased the sales. So that worked out pretty well. And we were open seven days a week so they could get stuff most all the time. I think the biggest stressor in being a small businessman is the employees that work for you. Either you’ve got to overlook mistakes and neglect or you’ve got to do every single thing yourself. You know, I tended to try and do as much myself as I could that’s why we were open seven days a week because I never wanted to be away from there in case something didn’t go right. It was for the most part satisfying, bookkeeping is a problem. At the time my former wife was our bookkeeper and that was pretty much taken care of. And I did all the ordering and a good share of the sales. I had some great people from time to time working for us. Some other ones that didn’t work out. I think that’s pretty typical of small retail. We worked and paid off our loans and increased the size of the business and bought the property and bought some more property and remodeled the store and got bigger and so forth and so on.

SU:
Can you describe to me in detail some of the specific problems you faced with your employees?

SA:
Well, they always want more than you’re willing to pay them. They always want more time off than you’re willing to give them. Just motivating people to do things up to the level that you would do them yourself. I guess is what you might say about like that. So it’s, I had some great folks that worked for me. Older guys in hardware; in hardware stores you always find old guys that knew what to do and how things worked and how things could to be fixed and stuff like that. As those guys got scarcer I had some young guys that where really good and then I had some other ones that just didn’t really put forth the ambition that I thought they could have, but you know that was just my feeling of stuff.

SU:
What challenges did your family maybe come into from you working seven days a week?

SA:
Well, that’s actually a pretty good question. We didn’t travel very much. We kind of reduced, not intentionally but just because we were always busy some of the contact with family and friends. I have to give credit to my wife Kay, that when we started really being serious with each other she encouraged me to do more to get back in contact with my family. The always having to coordinate things between home things and work things, and work was a pretty high priority and probably the higher priority much of the time. But our son, we had one child, I had a son. He grew up at the hardware store, he had a place to play, a place to work and do school work and just his own spot which was kind of typical of small business families. The kids are hanging around the business whether they like it or not. And then the bookkeeping took more and more of my wife’s time, I think than either she or I anticipated but we had no way of knowing. We had nothing to compare it to. She was also very, very much a perfectionist about bookkeeping so what other people might have not spent so much time on she spent a lot of time at. So that took a lot of time. But running a small business definitely has an impact like running a full-time farm, on what a family does other than the business.


SU:
How do you feel your son’s upbringing was shaped from him hanging around the hardware store?

SA:
Well one thing happened, we lived in another school district. Our residence was in another school district than the hardware store was. And when he got into ninth grade he actually moved over to this school district so he would ride to the store in the morning, go to school and after school he would be at the hardware store until after closing time and then we would go home. That was okay because it was a bigger school with more sports than the school district we lived in. And I think a few more academic opportunities, so I think academically and activities wise it was probably an advantage. Then in the summer time he spent a lot of time over there, not all the time but he spent a lot of time over there. He used to have his bike over here and he would ride around and go to the golf course and go out and do stuff. And there were more kids in town that he could see than there were where we lived in the country so I think for the most part it was probably an advantage. He definitely saw that he didn’t want to go into retail after seeing how many hours we put in. Now he’s a doctor, went to medical school and now he’s a doctor. He puts in hours but he doesn’t work seven days a week.

SU:
Do you feel that working so much had a negative impact on your relationship with your son while he was growing up?

SA:
Oh probably a little bit. You know, probably. But I’m not a real close relationship person in some respects. I think now that I got out the hardware business and don’t work so much that I have a better time with that. But I’m not a person who calls up and talks with a lot of people. We don’t visit frequently and stuff like that. Because I enjoy my time here at home with my wife.

SU:
Did you face competition from big corporation firm hardware stores like Ace or True Value?

SA:
We were a True Value store and those are individual, mostly individual family owned stores. So the big competition was Home Depot and Lowes and Central Tractor and things like that. Big box stores. In Richfield Springs there used to be two other, three other hardware stores but they kind of all petered out and we ended up being the last one. You could tell when Home Depot opened that some of the categories that we sold in our store stopped doing as well. Then when Lowes opened in Herkimer it was further competition. Richfield Springs being where it is the top of the hill in the winter time people don’t always want to run to the valley all the time. And they don’t like going to Cooperstown especially in the summer. Oneonta is a long ways, so we were lucky that we were as far from these other towns as we were because that kept some of the business in town. If we were in Ilion and you had Lowes in Herkimer which is only 6 miles away, zoop people are going to Lowes all the time, they go there every day. Those big stores definitely set the tone for price. Stuff like that. You get down there and there’s nobody that can help find something or tell you how to fix something which was what the hardware store was good for. But yeah, competition was a big problem.

SU:
Can you describe for me what led to you closing your hardware store?

SA:
In the middle 2000’s the store was perking along pretty well and our son had graduated from high school and graduated from college and he was in medical school. And so he was not here, and my wife who was a bookkeeper at the time got more involved in church activities. She became a lay speaker in the Methodist Church. She came from a family of ministers; her father was a Presbyterian minister. So she felt called to become a minister, and in 2007 she moved from Richfield Springs to Decatur, Georgia, outside Atlanta to attend seminary full time. And expected that we would hire an employee, a full-time bookkeeper to take her place. Well the full-time book keeper concept didn’t work all that well. I ended doing some of the bookkeeping that I could handle and some of it went long distance. That is not a way to successfully continue a business or a personal relationship. It was just too tough, so finally I came to the conclusion that I was not going to run the business under those circumstances. So I had heard that this company that now runs the store in my building had a history of buying out independent hardware stores for their family run chain so I contacted them, Aubuchon Hardware. Met with them and they said “Yeah, we’ve done that a number of times.” So it took us a while but we came up with a deal, they bought out the business and I announced I was going to close at a certain time and they were going to take over at a certain time. Which was a week apart. So that was a pretty consistent transition from Anderson’s to their business. We had a giant auction and sold everything in the hardware store at the auction and I retired…from the business. It took about three years to, one thing led to another kind of deal. But that’s what happened.

SU:
Can tell me about the personal strain that you went through during those there years with your wife in Georgia and you deciding you didn’t want to run this business anymore?
SA:
Well I don’t think I’m really going to discuss that with you today. Okay?

SU:
Can you tell me about the job you did next after the selling of the hardwood [hardware] store?

SA:
You keep saying hardwood store you mean hardware store.

SU:
Sorry.

SA:
The people that took over the hardware store were not in the power equipment chainsaw business like I was. So part of the deal was that I kept that part of the business and moved to another location in Richfield Springs. And I didn’t sell hardware and they didn’t sell chainsaws so we weren’t competing with each other. Because I had an agreement not to compete with them. So for a year and a half after I closed the hardware store I ran a small engine repair shop and I also sold boat docks which was another product line I had at the hardware store. I kept those product lines and ran that for a year and a half with one employee and myself. The same time I trained and became a school bus driver. But by the end of 2010, which was a year and a half later, we determined that the small engine shop was not going to make it and I was getting more and more into bus driving so I announced I was closing the small engine ship entirely. Which was in a rented building so it wasn’t tough to close. And went out of business and I’ve been driving school buses ever since for Richfield Springs Central Schools since before then but full time since 2010. So that’s my career now. And I’m still landlord of the hardware store building so I keep an eye on it and maintain the building there. But my main career is driving school bus. And then when school is not in session in the summer time the last three summers I’ve driven the tourist trolley in Cooperstown. So that’s my summer time job, and in 2010 I married Kathleen we have a full time job taking care of each other here.

SU:
Can you tell me about how you met Kathleen?

SA:
Kathleen and I met almost 30 years ago, when my son and her son and daughter were in Pre-K. And we knew each other then and Kay’s lived here for over 30 years and taught school in Richfield for over 30 years. So she was a customer in the hardware store and I knew her from that. She been single for quite a while so I sold her sump pumps and stuff like that required once in a while coming to the house and checking on the sump pump. Then we became closer friends when I started going to the same church she’d gone to for a long time. Then we just got reacquainted and fell in love. And we’ve been married for a little over five years.
SU:
Can you tell me how you asked Kay to marry you?

SA:
How did I ask you to marry me? [SA calls to wife]

KA:
You contacted the jeweler.

SA:
We got a ring from the jeweler.

KA:
Right. You said to me it was kind of a surprise because you said you had snackies and I have a friend coming over to visit. And that’s when the ring arrived. But you asked me before that why I’d never married in the 20 some odd years and I said I was never going to get married again so I learned never to say never. Two negatives.

SA:
Yeah I talked her into getting married. [Laughs] She knew about the ring before it. She knew that there was going to be a ring, because she had already given me the specks. Got to be a certain amount of this and that and the other thing so the ordering of the ring we did together. And then when it came in, it was kind of applied that we were going to get married. But then I actually never truly did pop the question did I honey? Not in so many words like on TV?

KA:
No. It wasn’t a down on your knees thing.

SA:
No, we didn’t do the romantic down on your knee thing but we pretty well, it didn’t take us to long to determine at some point we were going to get married.

KA:
That we belonged together.
SA:
Right we belonged together. But we’re old fashioned enough we felt that getting married was the right thing to do. And I figured if we got married she couldn’t throw me out. So I was safer. [Laughs]

SU:
Well Mr. Anderson we have about five minutes left is there anything you would like to talk about?

SA:
Not particularly anything that I would like to talk about.

KA:
You’ve learned to love felines.

SA:
Yeah. I have learned to become a cat person. We had two dogs at the hardware store, that was one of the characteristics of the hardware store is we had two dogs there. Kay would bring dog bones in to the dogs. We had Sally and Molly. And they’d been there—oh gosh, quite a few years, we got them as pups. They lived in the cashier station, so people would come in and they’d want to see the dogs. Then Molly got ill and we had to put her down. And Sally stayed there and she was 14 when she died. Had her through closing the store and had her at the other shop and then when I closed that she came up here and lived for a couple of years. And then in 2012 she just got old and serious health problems so he had to put her down. But Kay’s dog died in ’08?

KA:
Rolls Royce yeah, old English sheep dog.

SA:
Yeah in ‘08 Kay’s sheep dog died that was before Sally moved in. Since then we’ve just had cats. And we’ve got some cats here who are 20 years old, there all mostly old. We have a couple of strays that we call our fresh air children. They come in and out. Kay’s always had a strays welcome sign out. So I’m a stray, and I’m welcome too. I’m not a stray any longer, I’m mostly domesticated now. So we’ve become a cat person.

KA;
He’s married one Amore and got two free.

SA:
Yup it’s a buy one get two free thing. Kay’s daughter Britany Amore and the granddaughter Emily Amore, so I saw I married one Amore and got two for free. They live in Hartwick and Emily’s 12. She’s the swimmer, the one that swims. That’s the extent of the family deal there.
[ TRACK 2, 27:22]

SU:
What are some activities that you and Kay like to do together?

SA:
Well we like to travel. We do what we call mini moons. Instead of a big elaborate honeymoon once, we try once a year to have a mini moon. It might be overnight or it might be two or three nights. This year we took a mini moon and went to Honesdale, Pennsylvania. And rode on a train and visited some people that I knew down there and came back. That was an overnight. We took an eight-day bus trip to, with about 60 senior citizens to Nashville and Gatlinburg and Asheville that was a lot of fun. Last year we did a three-night river cruise on the St. Lawrence River, so we like to travel together. We do the house repairs. We remodeled pretty much the whole downstairs of the house. And done a lot of that kind of thing. I have an antique car, a 1954 Chrysler that I get out sometimes. We enjoy ’50’s and ’60’s rock and roll and classic country music. We do a little bit with guns and shooting together. Not much lately because we’ve been busy with other stuff. So that’s the activities kind of thing. I like to read, and Kay likes to watch TV. So those are two things where we overlap, some but not a lot.

SU
Well Mr. Anderson, thank you for inviting me into your home.

[END OF TRACK 2, 29:06]

Duration

30:00-Track 1
29:21-Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

9:03, Track 1- Unemployment
25:19, Track 1-Graduation from College
27:22. Track 2-Married Life

Files

Citation

Sara Umland, “Stewart Anderson, November 9, 2015,” CGP Community Stories, accessed July 19, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/234.