CGP Community Stories

Barbara Mook, November 9, 2009

Title

Barbara Mook, November 9, 2009

Subject

Walton, New York
Cooperstown, New York
Depression
World War II
Henry Street
Hall of Fame Induction
Yellowstone National Park

Description

Barbara (Ives) Mook was born July 27, 1922 in Walton New York. Raised in a rural setting, Mrs. Mook experienced the Great Depression, education in a one-roomed schoolhouse and many other events. Her early life was foundational to her eventual career in nursing and raising a large family in Cooperstown, New York.

Mrs. Mook’s career as a nurse in New York City illuminates the role of nurses in women’s health during the World War II period. Her lifelong love for helping others stemmed from a family tragedy of which she described in depth. Family and education are central themes in this interview as they are important to the entire Mook family.

Having lived in Cooperstown since 1944, Mrs. Mook offers observations about the village’s transformation as well as references to several of its citizens. Details about the Hall of Fame, the Village Garden Club and Main Street are of particular interest.

This interview spans over the course of many events and time periods. Mrs. Mook’s generous spirit made for a deep and inspiring interview.

Creator

Maria Vann

Publisher

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

Date

2009-11-9

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
58.2mB
image/jpeg
1.23mB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

10-096

Coverage

Walton, New York
Cooperstown, NY
1922-2009

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Maria Vann

Interviewee

Barbara Mook

Location

63 Lake St.
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

MV:
This is the November 9th 2009 interview of Mrs. Barbara Mook by Maria Vann for the Cooperstown Graduate Program.
Hi Mrs. Mook, thanks for having me at your house here. I was wondering if you could tell me where you were born and when?
BM:
I was born in Delaware County, Walton, New York on July twenty-seventh, nineteen, twenty-two.
MV:
And did you grow up in Walton NY for most of your childhood?
BM:
Yes, I did, my entire childhood.
MV:
So could you tell me what that was like?
BM:
Well it was during the Depression, or very soon we went into a depression. My family lived in a two family house which they owned and rented the other side. And my grandfather lived next door which was a real plus, because he was a wonderful man. I went to a one-room school that had a potbelly stove and an outhouse and no place to play except in the pasture across the road when the cows were not there. However I don’t feel that this was necessarily bad. I didn’t know any differently for one thing. We really did have a quite a closely knit school. And I had two different teachers. Mrs. Catherine Howland and Mr.[Louden], I can’t think of his name. But at any rate, I went through grade school in six years. And I went in high school when I was eleven, which was quite a challenge because I had never been in the multi-class situation before. I had to walk about a mile to school, which was not a hardship, but nonetheless took time, one had to plan. And I also went home for my noon meal. So, I got my exercise. I really liked high school; I don’t remember that I had any great problem because I was younger. But I’m sure there were some, as result of the fact that I was so much younger than some of my classmates. Fortunately, two of my close classmates were twins who went to the same church I did. So that I got to know them really well in high school. We were good friends. We had a nice group of young people, mostly women, young women. And my, I think probably my favorite class in high school was French. We sat in a French room where we had to speak French entirely. And I really enjoyed that a great deal. I had a very nice Latin teacher, but because of the fact that I had gone through grade school so quickly I didn’t have a very good background in grammar. And my mother taught me my grammar. And I had an aunt who lived nearby who helped me apply it to my Latin. So eventually I caught up and became quite comfortable with it. I did like science, while I was in school. And school then was so different from now that I wish I could tell you some of the funny things that happened like when reports were given…there was one young man who was a country boy who would start talking in his chair, and get up and talk all the way up, say a few words in front of the class, and talk all the way back and sit down [laughter] But there were lots of things that were really quite funny about it. I had one history teacher who I think was so dull herself that she used to use smelling salts to stay awake [laughter]. Nonetheless she was a nice person and we all liked her. My brother was in high school, he was four years older than I, five years older than I was and he had lots of girlfriends and he’d ask me to deliver notes to his girlfriends. Unfortunately my brother, I feel in retrospect that he probably was dyslexic, and there was no diagnosis made like that but my mother had to read to him a great deal in order to get him to understand the courses he was taking. And there was no way of knowing, such a diagnosis wasn’t made in those days.
MV:
Right.
BM:
I graduated from high school when I was fifteen years old. Because of an accident that had happened in front of our house. A cousin of mine was riding down the hill on a bicycle and hit a car. I ended up going into nursing instead of becoming a teacher.
MV:
Oh, so that event inspired you to help people?
BM:
Yes it was. I went with him and stayed with him and stayed with him and my aunt was so upset she just kept saying “Jesus will help you Billy, Jesus will help you.” But she couldn’t help the doctor much. So I ended up helping him and he had multiple lacerations and a fracture of his arm. So it wasn’t an easy time for him. [disruption] And I used to go in a read to him afterschool.
MV:
How long did you do that?
BM:
And the doctor saw me there and he went in and spoke to the guidance teacher in high school and said that I should go in nurses training. So that is how my nurse’s training, my nursing began. I never regretted it. I was fortunate to have met a man whose name was George Van Riper, who was a reporter with the Binghamton press. And for some reason, he was quite a bit older than I, but he became infatuated with me and helped me get involved with my nursing. He had a relative who was related to Dr. Robert Loeb at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Dr. Loeb met me and took me to meet the directress of nursing at Presbyterian. And I was accepted except that I was too young, I took all my tests and I was accepted, but I was too young so I had to go and work for two years before I could go to nurse’s training. But it was a decision I never regretted it, it was the right occupation for me.
MV:
What did you do for the two years for work?
BM:
I worked in an ice cream store, I worked in Newberry’s, I did some telephone work with George Van Riper.
MV:
Did you do that up here?
BM:
In Walton.
MV:
You did it down in Walton, okay. So you said you studied French and Latin, were those the only two languages you learned?
BM:
Those were the only two languages, yes.
MV:
Do you speak any other languages?
BM:
No, well, I speak a little bit of Italian now, I would love to learn to speak Spanish but I haven’t yet learned it.
MV:
You also mentioned you were in a one-room schoolhouse, about how may children did they have in that school.
BM:
I’d think there were somewhere around twenty.
MV:
And so a graduating class, what size would that be?
BM:
Three [laughter] or four, I don’t remember any graduation, I really don’t.
MV:
Oh, really?
BM:
No, it just happened that we went on to high school. If there was a graduation it certainly didn’t make a great impression on me.
MV:
No caps and gowns?
BM:
No, no, no [inaudible].
MV:
Now, you mentioned some girl friends you had that were in your church, what church did you attend?
BM:
Methodist Episcopal Church.
MV:
Down in Walton?
BM:
Yes.
MV:
And you also mentioned your brother; did you have more than one sibling?
BM:
I had two older sisters, one who was fifteen years older than I, another one who was about twelve and a half years older than I, who died when she was eleven. Maybe that’s not quite right, because I was about two or two and a half and my older sister had to take care of me during her illness. She had, I believe, probably,
idiopathicthrombocytopenicpurpura hemmoragica, which I think is the longest word in the world.
MV:
Sounds like it.
BM:
But anyway, she bled from all her mucous membranes. They ended up giving her my dad’s blood, just arm to arm without any cross matching, cause there was no such thing, and she died of anaphylactic shock. It was just a dreadful, dreadful time for my parents.
MV:
It must have affected them forever.
BM:
It did. And apparently that sister was a bit of a tom boy and I was told about her and I think I kind of emulated her a little bit. Because I was a tomboy when I was young.
MV:
Oh were you? You liked to get dirty?
BM:
I had my hair cut short in summer, I did sports, whatever I could, I just was an outdoor girl.
MV:
Did you like hiking and things like that?
BM:
Oh yeah, we lived where there was a hill right behind our house so we had lots of opportunities to do things up in the woods.
MV:
So, could you tell me a little more about your family, like your parents?
BM:
Oh, my parents were wonderful, they really were. And I think like most people, you don’t fully appreciate your parents until you’re older. But my mother had been a school teacher. And she as both intelligent and she was compassionate and she also was tolerant, which I think was quite unusual in her day. My dad was a Methodist and not very tolerant. And he also only went through fifth grade and my mother had to teach him math in order to do the work he was doing, he ran a foundry. And in order to figure out the weights of castings and so forth, I can remember mother sitting at the dining room table teaching him math. But he did amazingly well. He had the second successful, eye operation. He had traumatic cataracts as a result of a Fourth of July accident, and had the second successful cataract operation, I think certainly in the world. He went to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Thought he was going to be blind. I have read letters that he had the nurse write to my mother during this time, it was terribly hard on all of them. But he really was a very, very amazing man. In retrospect I fully appreciate all he did, where as a child I didn’t. I was a little bit embarrassed because he talked religion a lot, I wished he would keep it to himself. But I really do have learned to respect what he did. He would read the Burgess stories to me every night from the New York Herald Tribune. And it was very hard for him to read because he had fixed pupils and he had to turn his head to read. It was not an easy time, not easy for him to do that. And he also sang and played lots of different instruments. And he would take me on business trips with me, and that's how I learned to sing harmony, we sang harmony in the car. I have wonderful memories of things he did with me. When I traveled with him. And day trips around this area.
MV:
Did you have a favorite song that you sung together?
BM:
I don’t remember a favorite one, no. No, I don’t. I can remember going to an automat. And I had never done that obviously in Walton. But there were a lot of things like that that I did on these trips that were nice memories to have with your dad.
MV:
So, you mentioned that you grew up in the Depression. Do you have any memories of that that you can share?
BM:
Oh yes, my dad’s business went bankrupt, and the bank as a matter of fact went under, there was a man in town that committed suicide, and my dad had made the statement that he could understand that, and my mother had one of us stay with my father constantly, one of us almost every minute because she worried about how depressed he was about losing his business. And then our home burned when I was about six or seven. It was gutted by fire and had to be completely refurnished. That was another very traumatic time for them. But my mother did baking, she baked for an exchange, and that was how she helped support us. It was really, really very difficult financially, we never went hungry but we certainly didn’t have elaborate meals. We had a big garden which was a life saver.
MV:
Now, did you have extended family in the area, in Walton?
BM:
Yes, my grandfather lived next door. I had my mother’s half sister, so it was my aunt, lived very near us, and she had three children, the youngest of whom was six months older than I so we did have friends. We had enough children in the neighborhood so we really had a lot of fun.
MV:
What did you do usually for playtime?
BM:
Well we made trains with cars and tricycles and rode up and down the street; we played hopscotch, my brother shot out the lights with his bb gun. And shot up the light in front of the house periodically. But it was, I don’t have unhappy memories of my childhood. For which I’m thankful, in spite of all that.
MV:
Your parents must have tried to keep everything happy.
BM:
Oh they did, they really did. They didn’t talk about it all the time the way some people do. But they just worked hard. To go on welfare would have killed them. They would do anything rather than do that. There was such a stigma about accepting that kind of help.
MV:
Now how about the town itself during the Depression. You know the people in the area, did you see people kind of pulling together to help each other?
BM:
I don’t remember that, no. Perhaps I was just too young to be conscious of that.
MV:
Oh you did mention to me prior to our conversation today that you were at the first Baseball Hall of Fame Induction.
BM:
Yes I was. Again, it was George Van Riper, he was a newspaper reporter as I said, and he brought me to the first baseball game. I was seventeen in nineteen, thirty-nine and we sat in the press box. And we went to the Cooper Inn afterward where the players were staying. I know Gabby Hartnett was on the team, I don’t remember who played. But Gabby Hartnett was on the team. My memory is that they all had like wing-tipped shoes, they were brown and white, and I couldn’t figure out how they had the white so white and the brown so brown. But I was a little self-conscious being that young in that atmosphere.
MV:
So this Mr. Van Riper, he’s been a friend of yours?
BM:
Oh, he was awfully good to me. He really was. My family trusted him. And he never made passes at me. But he was awfully good to me.
MV:
And so you went to the Cooper Inn, and you saw some baseball players, did you have dinner with them or talk to them?
BM:
George Van Riper ordered lemonade with grenadine so that I wouldn’t be self-conscious about not having an alcoholic drink. That’s all I really remember about that.
MV:
Now what about the day itself? Was it sunny? What do you remember about being at the game?
BM:
I don’t think that was the game, but there was one game, whether it was that one or not I’m not sure. The field was so small, that they had trouble with; they just didn’t have time for place to make anything, long runs. I remember that Vince DiMaggio backed into the bleachers and knocked himself out in one of the games. [laughter]
MV:
Did you go to games a lot?
BM:
I went several times, yeah. And then when my kids were in high school I went and helped, because that was the way they raised money, they sold soft drinks[for their senior trips] and so forth.
MV:
So now, how did you get to Cooperstown?
BM:
My husband interned here. We were both at Columbia Presbyterian, and he was a medicalstudent during the war. So, he went through medical school there, he worked as an orderly. I mean that was the war, we felt the war even then. We met on a blind date, and the couple who introduced us broke up and we got married.
MV:
Who were they? The couple that introduced you?
BM:
Blossom Heiser and Jim, a classmate of Bill’s, Jim Curran.
MV:
How long were you married?
BM:
We were married just short of sixty-four years when he died.
MV:
Can you tell me about him?
BM:
Oh, not without tears. No marriage is made in heaven, but we came close.
MV:
And you had quite a few children?
BM:
I had six children.
MV:
Six children.
BM:
Yes, five girls and one boy.
MV:
Now where is the boy situated?
BM:
Next to the end. And he’s not a sissy. [laughter] I hasten to say that, because he really is a wonderful man. Couldn’t get a better son. Matter of fact, I was telling someone at a meal, something was brought up about a ship at sea, and I was telling them about when he was in college he did research. I wish I could remember the name of the ship. But they were dragging the bottom, trying to get bottom cores or something and a sudden storm came up and the chain made a hole in the side of the vessel, and it took on water. And there were so many beer cartons in the hull that they all disintegrated and plugged the pumps. So they had a chain gang, bailing out by hand, and it was really very serious, and the Coast Guard kept us in touch, they called us every single day to tell us he was alright. They finally limped into Halifax.
MV:
Nova Scotia, right?
BM:
But a, it was quite an experience, for him and for us.
MV:
So, could you tell me the names of your children?
BM:
Yes my oldest one is Barbara, my next one is Carolyn, my oldest one at this point is retired but she was president of the Coast Guard Foundation for several years, she’s been a fundraiser many times in different schools, different colleges. And her husband is an engineer, graduated from Cornell. And my next daughter is a physician at Bassett. She’s an oncologist. And my next daughter is a teacher, and she was born to be a teacher. And they have a home in Maine in the summer, and she is now at Dobbs Ferry at the Masters School, she and her husband.
MV:
What’s her name?
BM:
Anne, ANNE. They also taught in Switzerland, for two times for about seven years each time. So Bill and I went over and visited and had some time. Spent some time with them. And my next daughter is, she was born Mildred, but she’s changed her name to Clio. And she’s taken her maiden name back, her name is Clio Mook now. But she lives in Troy, New York, and she is an artist. Right now she’s working for the Democratic Party. And she’s done all kinds of things. She and I ran a store together, and [inaudible], she’s had a very varied career. But she’s a wonderful daughter.
MV:
And then comes your son.
BM:
Then comes my son, William junior, William the fourth. And he runs a shellfish hatchery in Maine. Graduated with a degree in oceanography, graduated from Wesleyan. I’ll have to tell you about my college kids too, where they went. But he graduated from Wesleyan and got his masters in oceanography at Orono in Maine. But he’s very amazing what he does, he can do anything. He’s done everything to support himself over the years. I am very proud of him, he’s also a wonderful son, he came when Bill was on Hospice, he helped take care of him, he gave up a trip to stay with us. He’s really been, special. And then my youngest daughter's name is Georgia, she’s named for my grandfather. She lives in Duxbury Mass, now. And does a fundraiser, or I don’t know what they call it, it has a different title, for a sailing school there. It’s really, really very interesting…I have a brochure there that tells about it.
MV:
The Duxbury Bay Maritime School. So your kids have really varied experiences? They seem like they are hard workers.
BM:
My oldest girl graduated from Smith College, Carolyn graduated from Smith College then went to Columbia and then finished her degree after she got married at Johns Hopkins. And my third daughter graduated from Vassar. And my fourth daughter graduated from Smith. And my Billy graduated from Wesleyan, and Georgia graduated from Wesleyan. They’ve had very varied careers, Georgia started out at Smith an decided there were too many Mooks there already, there had been too many Mooks, so then went to a music school in Boston, Berkley School of Music, Then I just happened to make the same [inaudible], and she was enjoying it, but I didn’t understand what she was going to do with it. She transferred to Wesleyan and never told us until she had done it [laugh]. But she’s done very well.
MV:
So, now was it, what kind of a challenge was it with six little ones?
BM:
It was terrible, Bill was in service twice. First time I had just the one, but our income was cut by two-thousand dollars, in those days that was an awful lot of money. And it was a hard time both financially and physically. Being alone with a baby, you have to remember that that was when penicillin was new, and I can remember once when Bobbie was sick and I had to give her penicillin every three hours myself, and I just get her to sleep from one shot and have to give her another. It was awful.
MV:
Now, were you still actively nursing when you had the kids?
BM:
During the war it was just evenings, I had friends come in and take care of her. I worked seven to eleven.
MV:
So now, where were l you living during the war?
BM:
In Old School Court in Cooperstown. We came to Cooperstown and he had just finished his internship when he was called in service. We had hoped that he’d be stationed some place up around here, Rome or something, but that didn’t happen. He was shipped overseas, he went to Guam and then to China. So it was not, not fun. But then the second time he was in service, he was called back in nineteen fifty-two, I think it was, fifty-three. And that time he was stationed in Patuxent River, Maryland. But by that time I had four kids and he’d been gone just a short time when I discovered number five was on the way [laughter]. So that was a really difficult time. There again, both financially and physically.
MV:
But I bet the house was lively with laughter?
BM:
It sure was. Having that big a family is hard but one of the blessings about it is you can’t dwell on one thing too much because there’s something right behind it.
MV:
So now you did mention before to me our talk today that you went cross country with the family.
BM:
Of yes, we had three children then.
MV:
So could you tell me about that adventure, I’d love to hear?
BM:
We started, we stopped to see my family in Walton on our way and one of the children was sick while we were there so we had to wait a little bit and I think she had measles, I can’t remember, one of the childhood diseases, and my dad was amazed because Bill was such a help with the kids. He really did help take care of them; he wasn’t like most fathers in those days. We went in a Plymouth Sedan, and we had a bed that my dad had made that was like a big wooden box that fit behind the front seat. And the two little girls would go end to end when they were asleep in the back seat. That was before the days of seat belts. And we travelled probably what took us ten days to go cross the country, so we travelled somewhere around three hundred miles a day, I think which was a lot of miles in those days, there were no big highways. And every night I would write a note or card to my mother, I think I told you about this, I didn’t realize this was happening, I told her about what we’d seen, cause I had never been out of this area before in my life and I knew it would help her because she was having a hard time having us move this far away. And so I’d send her a postcard every night and I discovered later on that she had them all published in the Walton Reporter, like a travelogue[laugh].
MV:
So the whole town was finding out what you were doing?
BM:
They were following our whole trip.
MV:
And the end of your trip?
BM:
During our trip, one of the interesting things is we went over, into Yellowstone Park in a snowstorm, this was the first part of July, and the flowers were growing up through the snow. It was just absolutely beautiful, we really loved it, it was amazing from that standpoint, but it was difficult with the children because they didn’t have clean restrooms, and it was very hard managing with the children. And we didn’t have the equipment that you have now, that take care of children. However, we did it. And it was a wonderful trip.
MV:
Did you see any certain sites as you went across that stand out to you?
BM:
I think the standout was Yellowstone Park, it was wonderful. We saw animals. And we also stayed on top of a Big Horn mountain, and one time we stayed in a log cabin that had two midsized beds, a little bigger than twin beds, and each of us took one of the little girls, the older girls in with us, and I put newspapers in Annie’s bed to keep her warm. And the lights went out I think at eight o’clock at night so Bill would stand and shave in water that we heated on a little wood stove over in the corner. You can’t imagine how primitive it was, and we didn’t have sweet milk because they said the milk would sour, so we had to use evaporated milk with the kids' Cheerios. The next morning we saw deer and elk, there was still water on the pond. It was an amazing trip down. The next night we stayed, I think it was Rapid City, South Dakota, and it was over ninety degrees. And you have to remember there was no air conditioning in those days. I would have given anything, some of these things to be able to get on a plane, and get out of there.
MV:
But you got to see the country which is nice.
BM:
We certainly did.
MV:
Did you actually take pictures when you were going across?
BM:
No, I don’t think I did. I’m not sure I had a camera in those days.
MV:
Some people do and sometime they don’t.
BM:
I do remember though I loved Wisconsin. It was so beautiful. It was a little bit more like around the area Walton. Less hilly, but beautiful, well kept farms. My memory of that is just that it was beautiful.
MV:
Now, have you travelled anywhere else in your life time?
BM:
Yes, I notice all these things.
MV:
Where else have you gone traveled.
BM:
Oh since then, we’ve done a fair amount of travel, both back and forth across the country. We lived in Seattle for a year. That was the time we’re talking about now, but then we have also been to Europe several times. We took a bicycle trip in Holland, and that was in the spring, and a, then we took a bicycle trip down the Danube in the fall. Been done a fair amount of travel, this was when our children were older.
MV:
So, was there any particular place in Europe that you found you liked the best?
BM:
I loved going down the Danube, it was beautiful, I really did. I loved the things that we saw growing, things that were unusual to me, like sugar beets I’d never seen growing before, and the mustard from which they made Dijon mustard. It was very interesting, and we always had nice people that we traveled with on these trips.
MV:
Now are you interested in botany?
BM:
Oh yes.
MV:
I can kind of sense that. So tell me about that.
BM:
Well I don’t know what to tell you about that.
MV:
What types of things do you like as far as plants?
BM:
I’ve always had house plants. Everywhere. And my mother was a gardener, my dad was a gardener, Bill’s mother was a gardener, so I would have had to be pretty dense not to get interested in some of it. I’ve always had a garden wherever I was, that I was able to.
MV:
Now you met your husband you said when you were down at Columbia, so where did he come from?
BM:
He came from Yonkers, New York. He was a city boy and I was a country girl. [laughter]
MV:
And now you mentioned a little bit back that you had a store with your daughter, what kind of store was that?
BM:
It was a health food store.
MV:
Oh really, and where was that?
BM:
Down on Main Street. We bought it from the Michaels, who were the original owners of the building.
MV:
How long did you have that?
BM:
I think probably ten years. Something like that. I’d have to go back and look at my records to be sure. But it was a good experience and surprisingly enough we worked very closely together and we are better friends when we finished than when we started, which was kind of hard to believe with mother daughter arrangement [giggle].
MV:
So now you said you have six children, how about grandchildren?
BM:
I have sixteen grandchildren.
MV:
Oh my!
BM:
I have eighteen great grandchildren and two step grandchildren, four step grandchildren.
MV:
That’s a lot of grandchildren, that must make you happy?
BM:
It does. They’re all good kids. The other interesting thing though we are really are an international family. You want to stop?
MV:
No, just checking our time, making sure we’re good.
BM:
My oldest daughter and her first husband adopted two little part black girls. The oldest one had Indian blood and her mother was white, her mother was a teacher, I think she taught French. And her father was a musician. And I don’t know much about what happened with them, she didn’t dare keep the child her family would not have accepted it. And it was very difficult that way. But then she had a boy, a little boy, when she brought the baby home she said “mom I think I might be pregnant,” and I said, “I’m quite sure you are.” [giggle] And so she had a little boy about eight or nine months later so they were very close together. The difficult problem was that the little girl had eczema very badly. That was really a very terrible, very hard thing to take care of. And then she had adopted a little girl because they thought they should have another one for Jenny. She’s black and her mother is from the north of Italy, and her father’s black. And then she had a little boy of her own, another one. So she had two biological sons and two adopted daughters. And they have children, so the oldest son, married an Italian girl, so I have part Italian grandchildren, I have part black grandchildren, and I have a, her other son married a Vietnamese girl, so I have two little Vietnamese granddaughters. And my fourth daughter’s second husband was Hungarian, so I have a Hungarian, part Hungarian granddaughter, and her first husband was Jewish, so I have a part Jewish grandson. Quite a varied family.
MV:
Yes, it might be easier to say what people aren’t.
BM:
Yes. But it really is amazing, they get along well, they care for each other, and keep in touch.
MV:
Do you get to have family reunions every so often?
BM:
Not in a long time, I think the last real family reunion was my seventieth birthday.
MV:
And was that here in Cooperstown?
BM:
It was in Cooperstown, and almost all the kids were here.
MV:
That’s nice, so um, here’s one of those big questions, so in looking back at your life, is there one person that you felt profoundly changed you? And had a great effect on you.
BM:
Well, I’d have to say my direction of life, probably George Van Riper because he got me, or maybe it was Doctor Bates, I don’t know, because he wanted me to go to Good Shepherd in Syracuse. I probably would’ve been a nurse anyway, but I certainly wouldn’t have met Bill.
MV:
Could you tell me more about Mr. Van Riper?
BM:
About what?
MV:
Mr. Van Riper, your friend.
BM:
He was not attractive, a very unattractive man. [laughter] I have no idea why I attracted him, I don’t know. But he was kind and really did care about me. At one of my piano recitals, I was wearing a peach dress and he gave me an orchid, a pink orchid and I didn’t know what to do with it, this dress [laughter].
MV:
So you played piano?
BM:
I did play piano, well enough so I enjoyed it greatly, ‘til I got so much arthritis.
MV:
But your daughter went to the Berkley School, so you must have music in your family?
BM:
Oh, all my kids are musical. My oldest one sings in choirs and she still plays piano very well, and the next daughter sings a lot, and she plays piano some. And the third daughter sings, and she also does some dancing. And the fourth one, they all sang, they sang in groups [inaudible], my dad was so musical and my mother in law taught piano, they really were sort of steeped in it.
MV:
Could you tell me about your in-laws? What were they like?
BM:
My father-in-law I never knew. He died when Bill was six, I think. Something like that, he had pneumonia back in the days when they had no real treatment for it. But my mother-in-law met, [inaudible], actually Bill started taking violin lessons, and she began seeing his violin teacher who was sixteen years or so years younger than she and they had a relationship that lasted for many, many years until they died, ‘til she died. And then, he died later. But there were good things about it and bad things about it. I never knew my father-in-law, I’m sad about that; I think that’s too bad that I didn’t. But Bill had an aunt, who was a wonderful, wonderful woman. Her name was Winifred Kaltenbauch [phonetic], and she was the directress of the pediatric hospital at Columbia. And so, she was there when I was there. A wonderful person. Probably, next to my mother, the most truly unselfish person I’ve ever known. And she, Bill’s mother didn’t want him to be a doctor, she had very bad feelings about medicine because of her husband’s death, and he really wanted to be a doctor. But Aunt Winifred, was his mentor through all this, was a wonderful person. We all loved her.
MV:
What kind of a doctor was your husband?
BM:
He was an internist, internal medicine was his major and endocrinology was his minor.
MV:
So he worked here at Bassett then?
BM:
Yes. He came originally in nineteen forty-four, and we were gone for probably three or four years, and then Dr. Harrison suggested that they ask him to come back, and we came back in fifty-two.
MV:
So tell me what life was like here in Cooperstown in nineteen fifty-two.
BM:
It would be more interesting to tell you about forty-four.
MV:
OK, tell me forty-four.
BM:
In forty-four, it was amazing. Main Street had stores. You could buy almost anything on Main Street, and very friendly, helpful people in the stores. I can remember walking down the street in my maternity dress and seeing the same dress in Ellsworth & Sill’s window [laughter].
MV:
That store was still around in the forties, it’s been here a while.
BM:
When we, we lived on Lake Street at one point after we moved out of Old School Court, and by that time we had two children and the third one on the way. That was, I could give Bobbie a little purse, and a little red cart she had, and she could go up to the store, go around the block, didn’t have to cross the street, take the money to the store, fill up her cart with the grocery, and come back. She loved it, and the grocer thought it was wonderful.
MV:
How old was she then?
BM:
She was probably four or five at the most.
MV:
Wow, it was that safe a little town?
BM:
It never occurred to me anything would happen to her.
MV:
But everyone knew everyone?
BM:
Yes, they knew us. It was just wonderful.
MV:
And now the children, they went to Cooperstown schools?
BM:
They went to Cooperstown school, they all went there. And Bill realized, we realized we could not send them away, at that time almost all the doctor’s children went away to school, after grade school, and we couldn’t do it. So Bill got on the school board, he was on the school board, I think probably for fifteen years. He gave diplomas to all of his kids, which was exciting.
MV:
Was he president of the school board?
BM:
Yes.
MV:
That’s very nice.
BM:
And I think he was instrumental in getting the new school going. What was then the high school. It had been where the high school was where Cooper Lane Apartments is.
MV:
Oh really?
BM:
That was the high school.
MV:
I didn’t know that. So, he was instrumental in getting the new school built?
BM:
Yes, he worked with Nick Sterling getting the new school building started.
MV:
Oh, Sterling Auditorium. I know these names. Wow, so you kind of have a lot invested in this village?
BM:
We do, it's home. You live here that long, more so than Walton to me for me by far.
MV:
So, what do you think is the biggest change you’ve seen in Cooperstown after all these years?
BM:
Oh, Baseball Hall of Fame and what it’s done. There’s no question about it, that’s not even. Well Main Street has no Main Street by comparison. We had grocery stores, two or three grocery stores, we had a fruit stand, we had two drug stores, a department store where you could by almost anything, a little department store.
MV:
What was that called?
BM:
Hill’s. Hill’s department store.
MV:
Where was that located on Main Street?
BM:
It was a, I'm trying to think what is there now. It was I think where, what’s there now, it was not where the CVS is but it was west of that on the street.
MV:
OK, where TJ’s is or something like that?
BM:
No, because that’s a new building in comparison. It was before that.
MV:
So you’ve just seen the rise in tourism, it’s just bigger and bigger?
BM:
Yes, oh yes. A tremendous difference.
MV:
Now, was the stoplight always there?
BM:
Yes.
MV:
I didn’t know how long that had been around. So tell me, do you have any talents? I am wondering what you do with your extra time besides nursing and raising children?
BM:
To be perfectly honest, I don’t mean to blow my horn, but I look around and I can’t believe the things I have done. Well I did all the stenciling, I stenciled trays and furniture, I made chairs for everyone of my grandchildren, before I got too many.
MV:
You made that chair?
BM:
Yes, I didn’t make it, I did the stenciling. And that was my hobby for one period of time, and I did a set of chairs for my oldest daughter and her first husband. Which was two arm chairs and six, they were antiques, two arm chairs and six regular chairs, side chairs. That was a terrible job [laughter]. But those, that kind of thing I did, and I did some hooking, just about everything.
MV:
Now what about in the village here, were you involved in any women’s clubs?
BM:
Yes. The first time I was asked to join the garden club I didn’t. I thought I was much too busy to be involved with that. But I eventually became a garden club member and I have to say I learned a tremendous amount. People have very mixed emotions about the garden club but it does a lot of good around town you don’t know about. And I certainly learned a tremendous amount. That stimulates your interest in growing and I was president at one time. And I sang in the Presbyterian choir at one point. And my daughter and I, my oldest daughter and I sang in choruses they had that did the Messiah. And we sung in one down in Oneonta together, it was fun because I had girls who were interested in the same things. And I, oh, I did start a barbershop quartet at one point. And we called ourselves the Dissonant Matrons.
MV:
The what?
BM:
Dissonant Matrons. And we had a wonderful time.
MV:
How long did you sing together?
BM:
I think, probably we lasted about five years.
MV:
And did you do local shows or festivals and things?
BM:
Yes, we’d go out and sing. I have a picture of it somewhere, Betsy Hawn was in it, and Ruth Wicks. It was fun, we had a great time.
MV:
Were you involved at school at all, like in the PTO?
BM:
I was on the PTA. With that many kids you better be involved [laughter].
MV:
This is true. So, you’ve lived through probably many mayors, or principals at the school, were there any particular people in office around that you thought were amazing people?
BM:
Well, Nick Sterling did many things. He talked a lot too though. I can remember one of the neighborhood kids coming home and she said she was late getting home from school and her mother said to her now “why are you so late,” and she said, “we had an assembly and Mr. Sterling talked to us.” and the mother had been a teacher and she said, “well what did he talk about?” She said, “I don’t know, he talked and he talked and he talked.” “Well what did he talk about?” “He told us to keep off the grass.” [laughter]
MV:
So he must have been a really nice person.
BM:
And I worked with the Red Cross and the blood banks. And I took a course in home nursing with the Red Cross.
MV:
So once your kids were grown, did you go back to nursing full time?
BM:
I went back to work part time when my youngest one was three. And Bill said at one point that it didn’t pay that all I did was put him in another insurance bracket, [laughter], income tax bracket. But I did and I was always glad that I went back.
MV:
What type of nursing did you do specifically?
BM:
I started out home nursing because had done Henry Street in New York City. I left that out, but I was with Henry Street in New York City, and that was an experience going in all the homes. And bedbugs and hemorrhaging patients, and I had one woman who had a baby. That she had delivered herself, when I weighed the baby on my little spring scale it weighed two pounds and twelve ounces. And she had it in a show box by the space heater. I mean, I saw an awful lot of amazing things working on Henry Street.
MV:
Could you tell me about Henry Street and that area of the city and what it was like at that point?
BM:
Well that area, Henry Street is a term for what later became the New York visiting nurses. It was started by Mrs. Grant Sanger, and it had its original, main office down on Henry Street, which is in lower Manhattan. And my district, my office was on the corner of Broadway and one sixty-eighth street. And my district was one forty-fifth, one sixtieth to one forty-fifth street. From Riverside Drive to Edgecombe Avenue. So I got, it was a real cross section of the city. And we saw new mothers, we saw women who had for some reason or other their pregnancy was threatened. And I followed a woman who was a diabetic, and I had to walk up four flights of stairs to get to her. Her room, it was, it really was a fascinating, I wish I could tell you about all of it. The time I was in the home where there was bedbugs, a woman had miscarried, and she was in a basement apartment, and I went down and wrapped on the door, and I heard her call and she said, “open the door,” and I did, and I felt around, turned on the light and the bugs just skittered, up the walls and up everything. And I followed her voice and went in found her in bed, turned back the bedcovers to examine her, and the bedbugs just skittered. Fortunately she was the last patient I had in the day, but she had miscarried at home and I had to be sure she was alright and then I checked her fundus and her blood pressure and so forth. I got her cleaned up, I went home and I can remember undressing outside the apartment door, dropping the clothes out there, climbing in the shower than going down to the basement, it was the washer down there. I had bedbug bites right up my arm.
MV:
Did you really?
BM:
There was no way I could’ve gotten out of there.
MV:
Oh my.
BM:
But it was an experience. That was how I happened to do that in Cooperstown. They knew that I worked on Henry Street [inaudible] and when I first came before I had my first baby I worked in the OBGYN clinic until I was eight and half months pregnant. And then I, they came and asked me if I would work in home nursing. And so I did. And I found it very interesting here too. You took student nurses out with us and, I think some of them found it interesting too [giggle]. You wouldn’t believe the hardship there was right around Cooperstown.
MV:
Oh sure, I think still.
BM:
Only a few miles.
MV:
A lot of poverty.
BM:
Yes.
MV:
Trying to help people. Umm, so how long did you do that for with Henry Street?
BM:
The Henry Street was a year.
MV:
That was one year.
BM:
I went back down at one later date, they needed help in the neurological clinic where I had worked, as a student, and a, I went back down and a friend took care of Bobbie while I worked there for a while. There was a time where there was a shortage of nurses cause there was so many nurses in service. And they needed any help they could get, same thing was true at Bassett.
MV:
So, at that time when the war was going on, World War II, can you tell me about, besides your nursing like just what life was like in the sense of…
BM:
Well we had very little sugar or meat, everything was rationed. And a, it wasn’t easy, but it was, I don’t know, everybody did it so we did it. It was not something you tried to get out of doing.
MV:
And where would you get your rations then, how would that work?
BM:
Oh, you got cards, you got coupons. I don’t remember where we got them, but that was how you got your, you had so many coupons. When we lived in New York and got coupons, the butcher just took out meat coupons, and we had a butcher we knew, and he took our coupons and gave us meat. It worked out very well, better there than in Cooperstown.
MV:
So where did you actually live in New York City?
BM:
In New York we lived at Eighty Haven Avenue in a walk up apartment.
MV:
The city must have been so different back then.
BM:
It was. It was.
MV:
Umm, could you tell me maybe how different it was, did you feel it was a safer place or?
BM:
Oh yes it was safer. It was safe. However, when I was a student nurse I got on the wrong subway and ended up in the Bronx and the conductor on the subway came by and said are you by any chance a nursing student, and I said yes, and he said you get off this and get on that train and go back, you’re in the wrong place. There were sections that were not considered very safe and you know I worked in Henry Street and I can remember Bill being shocked when we would take a bus down to Lewiston Stadium for a concert at night, going through my district he couldn’t believe that I was walking the streets in daytime. But I was never afraid but one time and that was unfounded.
MV:
So now you used to go to concerts? What kind of concerts?
BM:
I can, the one I remember the best was one with Leonard Bernstein, and what was his name[Oscar Lavant], the pianist, he was wonderful. He had a baby, he and his wife had a child at Hartness while I was working there. Smoked cigarettes all the time. You wouldn’t remember him anyway. But it was wonderful. It cost very little if anything to get in, outdoor concerts.
MV:
You’ve liked those kinds of things, have you been involved go to the concert series and been involved…
BM:
Well yes, not as much as I used to be but I certainly did for a long time.
MV:
So that must have been a some change for you, coming from up here, to New York City.
BM:
Well coming from little Walton. It certainly was.
MV:
So now a, I was thinking about looking over your whole life, besides Mr. Van Riper you mentioned, you mentioned a Doctor Bates. Who was he?
BM:
He was the just a family doctor, a doctor in Walton.
MV:
Oh, ok. And so he encouraged you. So, were out of school early and obviously science runs in your family, it seems like, you other people that are involved in science, do you think that’s something that just is in families or do you think you’ve kind of raised your children to appreciate all these different kinds of things in life.
BM:
It certainly was not something I did consciously. They were expected to do their homework and perform. And they all did do very well, they were all scholarship material. That was, both Bill and I felt the same way about it, and so there was no question about it, and I’ve had my son say afterward, he was talking about one of his nieces, and he said, they need to be stricter with her, but my kids had to do their homework, there was no question about it, there wasn’t an argument about it. And because of it, when my oldest girl was very studious, and because you got a pattern started and it’s much easier to do it with the whole family.
MV:
Oh yes.
BM:
They’re not all alike, don’t misunderstand me, they’re not cookie cutter kids.
MV:
I'm just wondering if there’s anything else, if there’s stories, or anything you’d want to share that haven’t asked you?
BM:
I probably do and they’ll come to my mind, no, the only reason I’m doing this is I really think I’ve had an amazing life, I can’t believe, I look at myself now, I don’t know how much longer I have to live but I can’t believe that I’ve done all these things, I’ve had all these things, and how amazing it is, you know, that I’m still alive and still kicking along [laughter], I just really feel blessed at the family I’ve had, as I say, it certainly wasn’t easy, but a, it was something that we pulled together with and I think that was probably, we had a, we had the kind of marriage where we both contributed, and a I think that was, I’ve had a hard time since my husband died.
MV:
Well it seems like you all tried to keep positive during tough times from what you convey.
BM:
We did.
MV:
And that’s probably why you’ve experienced so many great things. Well, I really thank you for doing this, I think you have an amazing life too.
BM:
Well the only reason I’m willing to do it is because I can’t believe it myself.
MV:
Well thank you for this interview, I really appreciate it.
BM:
You’re very welcome.
MV:
And I’m going to turn off the tape now. OH, one last question I forgot on my list, what’s your maiden name?
BM:
My maiden name, Ives, IVES.
MV:
Are you related to Currier & Ives?
BM:
Yeah well, their supposedly all the Ives in this country are descended from two brothers. One who settled down in Falls River Virginia and one who settled in Connecticut. And I’m the Falls River.
MV:
OK, well good, I’m glad I asked you that I wanted that for the record.
BM:
And when we went to England, we went to St. Ives.
MV:
Oh, very nice. Well thank you for doing this.
BM:
You’re welcome.

Duration

01:03:34

Bit Rate/Frequency

160 kbps

Files

Citation

Maria Vann, “Barbara Mook, November 9, 2009,” CGP Community Stories, accessed November 12, 2019, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/34.