CGP Community Stories

Jean Johnson, November 6, 2016

Title

Jean Johnson, November 6, 2016

Subject

Ambrose Clark
Bassett Hospital
Buffer Strip
The Clark Family
Clydesdale
Cooperstown
Detroit
Dingbats
Edmeston
Fetlocks
Four-In-Hand
The Garden Club of America
Joseph Worrall
Kellsboro Jack
Pierstown
Race Riots
Steeplechase

Description

Jean Johnson has been a regular face in the Cooperstown community for decades. Her family has been established in the area for over a century. While serving his apprenticeship in England, her father, Joseph Worrall, was hired by Ambrose Clark to come to Cooperstown and be his steeplechase jockey. Unfortunately, his riding career was curtailed after his horse stumbled and crushed him, leaving him in a body cast. The family eventually moved to Detroit to be with her father’s side of the family, and to look for gainful employment. Though she moved away when she was five and spent thirteen years in Michigan, Jean never considered Detroit home. During the summer, she and her sister would come back to Cooperstown, and spend the weeks with her mother’s family, and her “Gram.”

Jean’s recollections vary from her earliest experiences in Cooperstown with her sister, to the struggles of living in the large urban landscape of Detroit, to family hardships, to the importance of community, and community togetherness. Some of the most interesting material mentioned in the interview concerns the struggles her family has faced over the years and the important female role models she had while growing up.

Creator

James Connally

Publisher

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

Date

2016-11-06

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.5 mB
audio/mpeg
27.5 mB
audio/mpeg
3.5 mB
image/jpeg
1.9mB
3264 × 2448

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

16-005

Coverage

Upstate New York
Cooperstown, NY
1934-2009

Interviewer

James Connally

Interviewee

Jean Johnson

Location

203 Main St.
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2016

JJ=Jean Johnson
JC=James A. Connally

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]


JC:

This is the November 5th, 2016 interview of Jean Johnson by James Connally, for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Community Stories Project. Recorded at Mrs. Johnson’s home, 203 Main Street, Cooperstown, New York. Ms. Johnson, would you describe growing up in Cooperstown?
JJ:
Yes, I was born in Cooperstown, and lived here until I was out of Kindergarten, and growing up in Cooperstown is a pleasure. As a child, you were free to roam and do practically anything you wanted to. Some of the things I did were with my dad [Joseph Worrall]. My dad was a jockey for Ambrose Clark. He was born in Scotland. Served his apprenticeship in England, and met Mr. Clark on his travels. The horses always came to Cooperstown in the summertime. So that is my dad’s association with Cooperstown. He met my mother who was a native of Cooperstown, who lived on Brooklyn Avenue. And [they] were married, and so I had experience traveling with my dad up to the stables, and seeing the beautiful horses that he rode for Mr. Clark. He rode steeplechase, traveled to Saratoga, and Pimlico, and then on to Aiken South Carolina. But in the meantime during the summer, there was always lots to do. My sister and I were always together we spent a lot of time on the lake, rowing a boat, and picnicking [Clears throat] and [Pause] I have to pause a minute. [Pause] As a small child, there was always a lot going on in Cooperstown. The Clark family were very generous with the village and on Sundays, Mrs. Clark, I believe Jane Clark’s grandmother started the beautification on Main Street with all the flowers, in the summertime she always had a hymn sing in Cooper Park, which was always attended by many of the villagers. At Christmas time, it was very beautiful. She had a hymn sing that was up on Chicken Farm Hill, and there’s a stone quarry, and it is huge, it was lit with all the oil lamps. People would walk up to the stone quarry for the hymn sing, which is now done at The Farmers’ Museum. Let’s see, Cooperstown had a movie theater at that time, so when we were old enough to go to the theater by ourselves, we met our friends uptown, and went to the movies, quite often, and afterwards, stopped at the Double Day [Café] which was then next to the theater for a Coke, for a soda, or somewhat. And that was always fun, but the thing that I really liked about Cooperstown was that you were free to travel, to walk home by yourselves in the nighttime, and not worry about any problems, that exist in this day and age. I have to think a minute [Pause]. Oh, here comes my [friend].

[TRACK 1, 4:44]

[At this time, a friend unexpectedly arrives interrupting the interview]

I think I got this backwards. I should have carried on as a child [Pause] and I guess I did do those things as a child, the hymn sings and walking up to the chicken farm. But those went on for quite awhile, so it doesn’t make a difference one way or the other.

JC:
How did that sense of community make you feel?
JJ:
Sense of community? I love it, because you can walk down street and you know practically everybody. Except in the summertime when there are so many visitors here. It’s a wonderful feeling to be a part of something. I always love that because living in Detroit, you never knew anybody on the street. It was like you hardly even looked [at them]. But in Cooperstown, you knew practically everybody and their families, and their children and did things together. And I think that was part of the community culture. The school was always involved and of course, parents and children would attend most everything that went on in school. And then [at] the gym[Alfred Corning Clark Gymnasium] you met all your friends and played games. In the summertime, the Athletic Director, his name was Red Bursey, he had a summer playground. They met at Doubleday Field, I think, if I remember right. They played games, then a bus would take us up to Three Mile [Point], or Fairy Springs swimming, so that was quite an experience. The other thing, that was a big thing in the summertime, was the Firemen’s Convention, or I think, carnival. That was held in Doubleday Park, and they had rides and you know, all the food. Of course, all your friends were there, so that was a fun [Pause]. I’ve got to get my notes [retrieves a notepad]. And as we were talking [from the pre interview], I think I told you about the Woodland Museum, which was a beautiful museum, three miles up the lake. Actually, the architecture and everything, was done by the Anheuser-Busch family. Mrs. Grunewald, was the mom’s name, and Lou Hager, and they had this beautiful walk through the woods, the woodlands, and all kinds of animals running around. They had a wonderful pool, where the swans all swam around, and a lunching little store. We spent a lot of time up there. They had a trolley that took you through a little tunnel that had pictures of basically mice, statues of mice running around doing things-the mother mouse and the father and the children. The trolley would go very slowly through the tunnel so that you could see both sides, that was always beautiful. It was a wonderful experience for children. They had maps of the community in one of the buildings that they had. They had descriptions of all the animals running around. The trees were all marked so that you knew what you were looking at. So that was always great fun in the summertime. I do remember [in] 1939 when the Baseball Hall of Fame opened, they had a parade, and my dad rode a Pinto pony in the parade [Chuckle], as an Indian. That was quite an experience it was the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

JC:
How has tourism then affected Cooperstown?
JJ:
You know, I enjoy the tourists coming to town, but it certainly has changed Cooperstown a lot. Cooperstown used to have the most wonderful stores. Of course, it wasn’t only tourism that changed that. The automobiles, you know, everybody shopped in town when I was growing up because they didn’t have internet or travel that much to bigger cities to shop. They [Cooperstown] had many clothing shops, the Smart Shop, the Village Squire, Clark’s men’s store, I think they had two or three jewelry stores at that time, at least two grocery stores plus Danny’s Market was down by the Baseball Hall of Fame. His market was beautiful; it had fresh fruit and vegetables all out in front of it. Also down the street, across from the entrance to Doubleday Field, there was a very small grocery store that I absolutely loved. It was run by Joe Mogavero. He had mostly Italian foods inside, but he also had the fresh fruit and vegetables outside. So you didn’t really have to leave town for anything, it was all here. But then of course, when all the tourists came, when the baseball museum started getting bigger and attracting more people, and traveling was easier to do, the stores kind of diminished. Not only because of tourism but because of the fact you could order online, and off catalogues, and all of that. So that was kind of disappointing that they didn’t have the fun shops that they had before.

[TRACK 1, 12:26]

JC:
Would you mind talking about the move to Detroit? And how Detroit was

different from Cooperstown?

JJ:
I can, my dad could no longer ride or be around horses, as he had a very bad rash that they thought was from the horses. So we moved to Detroit, Michigan, and lived there for about thirteen years. But my sister and I always said that we “only went to school there” that wasn’t really home. [Chuckle] It was a big city. We lived in the middle of the city, so your lifestyle was totally different as children. You didn’t travel alone; you always had somebody with you. Although there were wonderful things about the city: the culture, the museums, plays, and a lot of things that were going on. But as I said, my sister and I said “we only go there to go to school” and we came home the day after school got out. We spent the summer, every summer with my grandmother, and this [Cooperstown] was always home. But I don’t miss Detroit at all. [Laugh] It was during, not a good time.
[TRACK 1, 13:57]
It was during, World War Two had ended, and they had a huge race riot that my sister and I were not allowed to leave our house, for over a week, because things were so bad at that time.

JC:
How did that make you feel?

JJ:
Very insecure. Not wanting to go out, and of course, wondering, it made my sister and I wonder why there had to be race riots and things like that. Because we went to school with so many different ethnic children, and we couldn’t understand the black situation, because school children don’t see that. They don’t participate in things like that, so it was not comfortable. And then of course, when the race riot happened then, you looked at your friends a little differently, you didn’t want them to think you had anything to do with that, or felt that way about them. But it worked out well, as I said for kids in school. They don’t worry about things like that.
JC:
How was school life in Detroit different then from school life in

Cooperstown?

JJ:
Well, the one thing was, I went to a Catholic school, and it was all girls. So I came back to Cooperstown in my senior year. It was quite different at that point, not going to school with boys, that was a big thing. And nuns, we had nuns as teachers and they were wonderful. I think a little more strict, about what you could or couldn’t do. And coming to Cooperstown was a delight after the first month of [being the] new girl in school. [Laughter]
JC:
Did the racial issue ever come up in school in Cooperstown?

JJ:
Nope, it never did. And of course, to my knowledge there were very few if any African Americans that lived here. So no, it wasn’t an issue. The one thing I always loved to say is my children always went to school in Edmeston [New York], and of course there were no African Americans in Edmeston. There was a kind of performance of the elementary school, and I think my son was in second grade or something like that, there was a dance going on, and he came home and I asked him who his partner was and he said, “I don’t know her, I don’t remember her name” or something like that, and I said “well, what does she look like?” [He said] “Well, I don’t know mom, she’s got dark hair.” And that’s all he ever said, so when I went to school to see the performance, the little girl was African American. So obviously, that didn’t have any affect on him, and there was only one family in Edmeston. So there was never any situation. They never even talked about it, and I never said anything to him either. But the school system in Cooperstown, is excellent, still is. It always was. It is truly amazing how many students graduating go on to college, and that goes back to even when my mom graduated from High School, that they all had schools that they were going to. Some of them may have gone to work on the farms with their families. Some of them would go into the service, but basically everybody goes to college or community colleges. They have a wonderful reputation for that in Cooperstown. Still is.

JC:
How has life in Cooperstown changed with more families with different

ethnicities coming in?

JJ:

I don’t think it has changed, not that I know of. Of course it has changed, so many of them have come to work at Bassett Hospital and I have never heard of anybody remarking anything like that or you know, it’s just accepted.
JC:
Tell me more about your relationship with your sister.

JJ:
[Pause] My sister was twenty-two months older than me. And so she was always in charge. She made it known that she was older, and she was in charge. [Laughter] She and I did everything together. In Detroit when I was growing up, because of the situation of living in a huge situation with children, my father told us that we “always had to know where the other one was.” So my sister and I became bonded at that point in time and that lasted through her lifetime. She passed away two years ago. Because I lived so close to her here, in Cooperstown, she had four children, and I had three. Seeing as we did everything together our children are more like brothers and sisters than cousins. So yes, we went skiing, the one thing about Cooperstown I haven’t mentioned is that we did, what we did when we were younger, is that they had a ski-tow up in Pierstown. So on weekends that’s what everybody did, basically the ones who had children. You had to arrange your schedule so that you could go skiing first thing in the morning. That was wonderful and the kids enjoyed it so much. They had a rope-tow and I think I still have the rope-tow thing that you put over the rope-tow that drags you up the hill. Like I said, in Cooperstown you know everybody, so you knew everybody that was up there skiing. It was great fun.
JC:
Would you mind telling me about the time your sister saved you?

JJ:
Saved me? That was my Aunt B, my mother’s sister. Down below the hospital now is a big parking lot, and there is the waterworks. At the time, I was two or three, I can’t remember for sure, there was a bridge across the water going into the pump house. My Aunt B, who was sixteen at the time, and my sister went, [we] were going up to the hospital to meet my mom, who was a nurse. Well, we got to the bridge, and I decided I wanted to throw a stone in the water. And I went with the stone. On the way down, there’s a huge pipe, and my head hit the pipe. So my Aunt B had been a Girl Scout for years, so she jumped in and Mr. Possell, who ran the waterworks, was on the bridge with a huge rake. I was unconscious so my Aunt B took me over and put me on the rake so Mr. Possell could pull me up. And Aunt B won a wonderful award for saving a life. Thankfully she saved me; I wouldn’t be here. [Laughter] There’s one other thing about Cooperstown, and the school, that I wanted to talk about is that if you had perfect punctuality for the year, they, the Clark family, I think it was Edward Clark, who presented you with a certificate and you could go down to Augur’s bookstore and pick out any book that you wanted. I still, I wish I had one, I have it upstairs, it’s stamped who gave it to you, and the date and things like that. So that was always [what] everybody wanted to be, punctual. [Laughter] It made a difference. I don’t know if everybody knows but the Glimmerglass Opera actually was started in the high school auditorium. It was started by Louis Jones who was the director of the, what do they call it, the New York State Historical Association. Well, his wife’s name was Agnes and they called her “Aggie”. And she and a group of people started the opera, and then of course, it got bigger and bigger, and became the Glimmerglass Opera at that time. The other thing that happened when we were growing up especially at Halloween, the fire station is still where it used to be, but the fire hall is not what it was. It was a huge, beautiful red brick, old fashioned building and they would still have the parade for the Halloween children. Then, they would go to the fire hall and have parties and contests on who had the best costumes. Then, other than Halloween it was used by a theater group, which was Cooperstown people, and had plays, wonderful plays. So I do remember that.

JC:
You mentioned your mother earlier, would you mind talking

about your relationship with your mother?

[TRACK 1, 25:54]

JJ:
Yes, my mother was adorable. She was quiet, and she was a great mom. She was
born in Cooperstown and lived on Brooklyn Avenue in a home that her grandfather built, and that’s where we always came in the summertime, and stayed with my grandmother. My mother, when she graduated from high school, went on to become a nurse in New York City. When she came back to Cooperstown and met my dad, they were married and she became a nurse at [Mary Imogene] Bassett hospital. She was a nurse for quite a long time. One of the things I do remember because I was older at that time, there was a doctor named E. Donald Thomas, who did the first bone-marrow [transplant] transfers on children and my mom worked with him on that project. Eventually, I can’t remember the award he won, he and Doctor [Pause] I have to think of his name, because he was also involved in that project. It was quite special, the award that they won. Let’s see [Shuffles through notes], I told you about the stone quarry, one of the other things my sister and I did when we were growing up, my Aunt Hetty, who was my grandmother’s sister, lived up in Pierstown on a farm and my sister and I thought that was really great. We would go up and spend a week with her. At that time, they didn’t have tractors or a whole lot of farmers didn’t, my Aunt Hetty and her husband, they had horses. We’d go out and hay with them, with a horse-drawn wagon, and thought “this was really neat.” [Laughter] And we would stay with her for a week and, of course, sleep in the feather beds and have the wonderful home cooking. She was quite a cook. That was quite different than living in Detroit.
JC:
How did that make you feel, having your family so close to you?

[TRACK 1, 28:44]

JJ:
Really good, I mean it’s a wonderful experience to pass on to your children, that family means quite a bit, and this picture [Gestures to a family photograph on the wall] oh, you can’t see it, but it’s a picture of my whole family, except maybe one who had gotten together a couple of years ago, and it’s just, you’re part of something, and you’re close so that you care about one another. Yeah, I think that growing up especially with knowing your grandmother, I didn’t know my grandfather. Unfortunately, he passed away when my mom was sixteen, so I didn’t get to know him. But my Gram was very special, she taught me a lot, I sew and I quilt and it’s all because of her. She was quite a lady and worked for the Clark estate after her husband passed away. She had
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
To support three children, and yes, family is very important to all of us.
JC:
What were some of the things that she experienced raising three children on her

own at a young age?

JJ:
Well, during that time was the Great Depression. It was not easy because in those days, they didn’t have retirement benefits, they didn’t have Social Security, and things like that. So my Gram worked everyday to support her family. Fortunately for her, her father lived with them, and helped out in that regard. They always had a huge vegetable garden. My Gram had a beautiful flower garden and canned everything from the garden. They had a cow at one time, and they had chickens. Coming from Detroit that was, “Whoa, what are these things!?” [Laughter] Because, we didn’t grow up with them. And then during the war, the Second World War, a lot of people had “Victory Gardens.” They were diligent about growing gardens. I remember my Gram worked for the Clark estate and if they had leftover vegetables that they weren’t going to use, they would give them to my grandmother. So my sister and I had the chore of preparing the vegetables and everything so when my grandmother came home from work, they would be ready for her to can, and do all that. You know, we never lacked for something to do in Cooperstown. We walked every Sunday to the cemetery with my grandmother, put her flowers on the graves. Then we would walk, and you did a lot of walking because a lot of people didn’t have cars, you really didn’t need them. So we would walk to Fairy Springs, when we were old enough to be by ourselves, and spent the day at Fairy Springs with our friends. So Cooperstown was just…well, I said “I wasn’t going to live any place else other than Cooperstown when I grew up,” and that worked out, fortunately for me.
JC:
And tell me about your father.

[TRACK 2, 2:52]

JJ:
Oh, my dad. My dad was not quiet. [Laughter] My dad, he was like my sister. My dad was born in Scotland. He graduated from high school and went immediately to England to serve his apprenticeship, and then met the Clark family and came to the United States. He rode for Ambrose, he rode steeplechase for, I can’t remember how many years, but his last ride was going over hurdles, he was steeplechase and he went over the hurdle, and the horse stumbled and came down [on] him. So that kind of ended his riding career, but of course, he was always interested in horses. So he worked for Mr. Clark in the stables until he couldn’t work because of the rash that he [had]. My dad was fun loving, he loved to dance, he loved to play the piano, and he had a large family. He had eight brothers and sisters. They were all very close. Mostly in Detroit, but they always got together. It didn’t matter that they were not living close by. A very fun group, all of them.
JC:
How did your father’s injuries affect your family?

JJ:
Well, they came back, my mom, and dad, and [my] sister, and I came back to Cooperstown, and you just carried on. My mother worked as a nurse, and my dad was working for Ambrose afterwards, and my sister and I had started school. It was, it was fine.

JC:
How did that affect your growing up, having such strong role models in your

family?

[TRACK 2, 5:14]

JJ:
Well, you always wanted to measure up. But my dad brought my sister and I up to and told us “we could do anything we wanted to do in life” and he held to that. If you ever felt that you were worthy, he was right beside you. He was a role model, really in that regard, a very loving father in that regard, really. My mom, she was more quiet. She was a wonderful mother to my sister and I. [She] supported us in everything that we wanted to do.
JC:
Did your mother’s role in the family change after the accident?

JJ:
No, no it really didn’t, my mother knew she wanted to be a nurse, and really wanted to work so that was fine. And of course, we were all together, and I think that’s all that she really wanted, was the family to be together. I’m not sure she really wanted to move to Detroit, Michigan, where she was also in nursing, but that’s where my dad had to go so.
JC:
How did that affect her, leaving her community to go to Detroit?

JJ:
I would say that my mother and maybe that’s why I feel the same way, that Cooperstown was always home. She, as I said, sent my sister and I to Cooperstown every summer, and then she would have time off and come to Cooperstown and be with us. Then she and my dad moved back to Cooperstown when I was a Senior in high school. So she was back home, and her mom was here and so everybody was happy, even my dad. I think my dad really wanted to be back here also because he had made many friends.
JC:
What role did the Clark family play in your life?
JJ:
In my life, a lot. I mean personally, I worked at the Baseball Hall of Fame for one thing. My first job out of business school was with the treasurer of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But I think that, what they really did in my life was to teach me that doing good things in the world was how you should grow up, because they were so good at that. They just were so generous with everybody who worked for them. I think that it was an example for the rest of us not to just accept things and not appreciate them. I mean, they did so much I don’t know if I mentioned all the flowers, and everywhere the Fenimore House, The Farmers’ Museum, the Otesaga [Hotel]. They did a lot. Like I said, it meant a lot to the people in the village.
JC:
How did that make you and your family feel experiencing that generosity

personally with the Clark family?

JJ:
[Quietly to self] How did it make me feel? Well, it makes you feel like you’re a part of something, like I said [you] don’t just accept it, and not appreciate it. For let’s see, how would it affect me? Because my Gram worked for them, and because my dad worked for the other Clarks, Stephen Clark and Ambrose Clark, you knew them. It wasn’t just somebody doing something for the village and you didn’t have a clue who they were. They were here and they were friendly to you, and Jane Clark carries that through. They’re very special, to have had them in our village.
JC:
Would you mind elaborating a little bit on the equestrian culture here in

Cooperstown?

[TRACK 2, 10:16]


JJ:
Well, yes and it was both sides. It was Ambrose Clark and his brother Stephen Clark. They both owned horses, and they both took them to Saratoga and places racing. And how that would affect the village, I’m not sure other than they employed people. The other thing I forgot to mention, is the Knox School for Girls. In the wintertime, the Otesaga was the Knox School for Girls. They had, down where the high school is now, they had a huge barn that was [for] riding. They had an equestrian [center] [with] all kinds of horses that girls would participate in. The other thing that I loved about the horses and the village is that where on Elk Street [the stable], it’s towards the hospital, but there’s this huge white building that used to be a carriage house and is now [part of] Bassett. They [Bassett Hospital] have offices there. The first floor was filled with beautiful carriages and [on] the lower level were horses and the tack room. It was special. You would see Ambrose Clark out riding one of the carriages. One of the most special ones was they had what they called the “four-in-hand.” It kind of looked like a stagecoach but it was, especially when he had visitors from out of town, he would take them in the “four in hand.” That would be four horses, and it kind of looked like a stagecoach, and then on the [way] back he would have two men, who had horns, and they would go around the lake and they would blow the horn and everybody would be out on the curb watching him go by. He just loved to do that. That really was a very special building. And it still is, when you look at it, they haven’t changed the outside at all. But my dad also worked with the horses and in the tack room.

JC:
Tell me a little bit more about our father’s riding.

JJ:
My dad’s riding, well, he was in charge. He was very small. He was like 5’2’’ I believe, if that. His riding weight was 98 pounds, and for such a small person, you could not imagine how big his hands were. I always thought “WOO!”, but I watched him get on his horse. He could never get on it alone, because the steeplechase horses are very tall. I think one of them was seventeen hands tall. My dad had to, I think I told you, get on the fountain up at the stables to get on the horse. So obviously he had help you know if they were at the racetrack or something like that. He was very proud of what he did with his life. He always wanted to ride, and that came to be true. He talked about it, not a great deal, unless you asked him. He loved to travel so when he left Cooperstown, they rode at Saratoga, for the summer, and then they left Cooperstown and went on down to Aiken, South Carolina where they wintered the horses. He loved traveling like that, meeting people, meeting the other jockeys. He did love what he did.
JC:
You mentioned that you spent time with your father around the horses and around

the stables, would you mind just elaborating on that for us?
JJ:
I used to love to go with my dad. I went with him a lot, especially when I was four and five before I went to school. I would be with my dad, we would go over to the stables if something special wasn’t going on, or if he had to do something with the horses, and I always remember going from stall to stall, and my dad would tell me the name of every horse. I would have carrots or a sugar cube and feed them, there was always so much activity going on, it was wonderful. Not only did he [Ambrose Clark] have racehorses, he played polo. Not my dad but Ambrose, and he had teams where they played polo so they had a lot of horses in there and it was just so fun to go up there and see everybody doing their jobs, brushing the horses, and taking care of the things that they needed to take care of with that.
JC:
What was your father’s experience like after his injury, moving into a different

role?

[TRACK 2, 16:34]

JJ:
He was not very happy in the beginning. It was devastating for him but my dad wasn’t one to mope around or be like that. It took quite awhile for him to get well, of course in those days, they didn’t have the rehabilitation that they have nowadays. He was in a body cast, so it prevented him from doing very much. When he was better, he had a job, he just carried on. I don’t ever remember him saying, “Oh I wish that hadn’t happened,” he just knew it would some day, maybe, and accepted it.
JC:
How did your family and the community help you get through that difficult time?

JJ:
Well, I was too young to really be involved with that. The village of course, my mom and dad came back here right away, and my mother went right to work. I assume went well for them. It surely did for my sister and I, not much change. Daddy was just not riding his horse. But I loved it when I came back as a senior in high school, and my dad came back. Ambrose Clark hired him as his companion rider, so every morning about 7:00 in the morning, the two of them would go off and basically, I think they rode the bridle path, which runs along the lake, and comes out at Star Field. My dad, of course, had this huge horse and Ambrose rode a pony [Chuckles] and he was in his eighties at that time, and kind of bent over. It was so fun to see them, and they just enjoyed each other’s company and that lasted for about a year, before he couldn’t ride anymore. One of the special things I guess we haven’t talked about is when you go down Beaver Meadow Road there’s a tower, I don’t know if you’ve walked up there, but up there is buried a horse who, his name is Kellsboro Jack, and Mr. Ambrose Clark’s dog. Well, Kellsboro Jack is up there because he won the Grand National in England so that was very, very special. I think the story that I heard, was that Ambrose wasn’t fond of that horse, so he gave that horse to his wife, Florence, and Florence won the Grand National, [Laughter] which everybody kind of chuckles about. But anyway, that’s why that horse is up there, because he was so special.
JC:
How did that affect your father having that close relationship with Ambrose

Clark?

JJ:
He loved it. He just loved talking to him, and talking about riding and the horses they rode and owned. It was a very special time for him, because my dad was then probably in his sixties and Ambrose was in his eighties, and it was just a quiet time for both of them to be together.
JC:
How did [it] help your father cope to have that friendship, that mutual bond over

horses, that mutual love over horses?

JJ:
He would laugh about a lot that went on when they had their conversations; he was just delighted. He would come down the street, and show us the horse that he was riding that day. And [he would] have to get on the bench to get up on him, and I would stand there a look at him and think “OH WOW!” Just beautiful, beautiful animals, I think that was my dad’s favorite thing about horses, and how smart they were, and the beauty. My dad spent a lot of time brushing them and making sure that they were perfect. Dolly, the Clydesdale, up at Woodlamd, we would go up there and my dad would be washing the fetlocks, the big white ones, with ivory soup. Everything had to be perfect with these horses. I think Ambrose appreciated my dad being with him at that age, because most of his friends were gone and he wanted to ride and it’s hard to find somebody who would want to ride every morning at 7:00. I think they had a great time.
JC:
How has the equestrian culture continued on in your family today?

JJ:
Today, not so much, but my youngest daughter, Meghan, decided at a young age. We lived in Edmeston at that time; there was a horse stables not far in the village so it was good for her. So she decided that she wanted to ride horses at an early age, started and the one thing that the picture I have of her, she’s in her English riding hat, but she did ride Western. And I said, “just don’t do that too loudly, in case your grandfather’s listening.” [Laughter] And she’d get on the cowboy outfit, and oh my goodness, but she rode both. Then she wanted a horse of her own, so she had a horse of her own, and travelled around the country with a group out of Edmeston. Usually they had two horse trailers, they usually had about six horses going, and they’d go to Mississippi, Ohio, she went to Montana, and she did a lot of riding. It was a great experience for her because when she owned a horse, she had to get up at 5:00 in the morning before school and take care of the horse. Then when she was traveling with the horse, she had to take care of her own horse. It was a great time for her. It’s sad that my dad was not alive to appreciate that. But my sister’s children they lived up in Pierstown and they had two horses, so my dad loved that, he’d just go up and tell them how to take care of them, and if they were riding, what they were doing right or wrong and he was willing to do that. [Laughter] He’d say “no no no, you don’t do that.” He was a character.
JC:
What has the Cooperstown community meant to your family?

[TRACK 2, 24:58]

JJ:
Everything. My husband grew up here, he was a native. And my sister’s husband was a native of Cooperstown. We were fortunate in that regard, that we were here together. Even though we were in Edmeston, it wasn’t that far away. Edmeston and Cooperstown, Edmeston is much smaller than Cooperstown, so you can’t really compare them, other than the fact that Edmeston is a very tight group. Because that’s all they have is the school, they don’t have movies and all of that anymore. But Cooperstown, I don’t know how to express it, it’s just [Pause] it’s a feeling of togetherness in Cooperstown, you do everything together especially with your children. And fortunately there were so many things that you could do that, I don’t know how to express it…Maybe, I think some people think living in a small town is just difficult, but it isn’t difficult here, because there are so many things to do if you want to be busy. There are wonderful things. Well, we didn’t talk about the gym. The [Alfred Corning Clark] gymnasium was down where the Baseball Hall of Fame is when you go through the park, the first building to the right, that was the gym. That goes way back I don’t know when that opened, before my husband was a child, because we all learned, everybody in the village went there, and learned how to swim. That was the big thing, and it was open all year round. They had basketball courts and many other things going on there. So it’s always been a togetherness, which I guess that’s the word. It’s you’re all-together.

JC:
And I’ll ask you, what has your family meant to the community?

JJ:
Whoa, what have we contributed? Well, let me see, I’ve belonged to organizations in the village and my sister did, of course also. My mother maybe not as much as my sister and I because in those days you worked most of the time. My sister and I have been involved in activities with the church, Garden Club of America, I volunteered at the Red Cross, things like that I cant name them all right now but always involved in something going on. Like the Garden Club, it’s coming up soon. In November, we prepare all the lights and wrappings for the light poles for Christmas and we get together and put those together and then we meet again and make favors for the nursing homes, and [Clara Welch] Thanksgiving Home. For civic projects, down at the foot of Pioneer Street, there’s the buffer strip between, we call that the buffer strip with all the plants, well the Garden Club did that. It was one of the members came up this idea, and then the whole club became involved, where that was all planted by the garden club. The reason for a buffer strip is to protect the erosion of the land around the lake because when before the buffer strip, the water would come down Pioneer Street and wash all of that into the lake. So now we have put plants that have deep root systems so that can’t happen. The Garden Club of America thought that was such a great idea to pass along to other people, they presented us with $25,000
[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]
for doing that, which gave us the opportunity to help, there’s one up in Springfield now. There’s a lot of literature around so that people who live on the lake could do a buffer strip of their own to keep the shoreline from eroding. So that was a project. Just doing things like that make you feel like you’re a part of something. I think when the new nursing home was built the Garden Club built the planters that are on the outside, in the quad, we had two. Then we cared for them and took care of them all summer, things like that. I think, you know, it makes you feel good inside that you’re doing something for someone else. But it also brings you all together.
JC:
Is there anything else you would like to discuss about Cooperstown?

JJ:
[Chuckles] I haven’t told you about, you asked me about Cooperstown and Detroit. Well, one of the fun things that my sister and I loved to do, when we were on Brooklyn Avenue. My grandmother, and my mom and dad weren’t there yet, we were quite young, and there were two young women across the street from us, same age, so we would sit on the porch while my grandmother went to work early, and we would wait for the Iroquois Milkman. That was the Clark’s Iroquois [Farm], and we would have chocolate milk from him. Then we’d wait for Schneider’s bakery to come along and we would have cinnamon buns [laughter]. All four of us sitting there having our breakfast! But of course, in Detroit, you don’t do things like that. Well then, along later on in the afternoon, the meat man would come, Armstrong’s Meat truck and you would order, my Gram would order meat, and he’d deliver it. And then in the window, there was a sign on how much ice we’d wanted this week; so the iceman would come along! [Chuckle] I mean, it was so much fun! We did love doing that. [Pause] I think I told you, there were seven soda fountain places in Cooperstown when we were younger, and of course after school we’d have to go down to Withey’s that’s where Danny’s is now, that was a drug store. In the front, when you walked in the door, there was an ice cream soda fountain. So we’d go everyday and have Dingbats. Do you know what those are? Of course! I think that’s about all.
JC:
I wanted to thank you for taking your time with me today and discussing this wonderful town and the role that your family has played in it, and the role that the town has played in your family. Thank you, it’s been a pleasure
JJ:
Thank you.

Duration

01:03:38
30:00-Track 1
30:00-Track 2
03:38-Track 3

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 4:44 – Interruption in the interview
Track 1, 12:26 - Detroit
Track 1, 13:57 – Race Riots
Track 1, 25:54 – Mother
Track 1, 28:44 – Family
Track 2, 2:52 – Father
Track 2, 5:15 – Family role models
Track 2, 10:16 – Equestrian culture
Track 2, 16:34 – Father’s injury

Files

Citation

James Connally , “Jean Johnson, November 6, 2016,” CGP Community Stories, accessed May 24, 2017, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/270.