Sydney Waller, November 20, 2018

Title

Sydney Waller, November 20, 2018

Subject

1970s
Cherry Valley
Counterculture
Eat The Document
Farm Boy
Free School
Homegrown
Garden
Masonry
Roseboom
The Stannards
Trees
Woodlot
Woodstove

Description

Sydney Waller was born in the late 1940s in Sharon, Connecticut. She grew up in a village called South Kent and spent her summers in Roseboom, NY. Located in Central New York State, the town of Roseboom consists of several hamlets and maintains a community defined by agriculture and farming.

Waller’s recollections reflect her personal experiences in Roseboom during her childhood and her early 20s. Her stories expand beyond herself and family to her neighbors and friends, both natives and transplants to Roseboom. Her memories give specific insight into farm life without plumbing and electricity and the counterculture movement of the [19]60s and 70s.

I interviewed Ms. Waller in her home in Cooperstown, New York. Prior to the interview she offered me a cup of hot tea, a welcoming gesture and a testament to her hospitality. Her farmhouse and the woodstove she installed in it indicate the long lasting influence impressed upon her by her experiences in Roseboom.

Ms. Waller speaks plainly and is easy to understand. I omitted excess wording, run-on sentences, and repetition for legibility purposes. It is impossible, however, to accurately reproduce all of the details of her speech and therefore researchers are encouraged to consult the audio recordings.

Creator

Ashley Gallagher

Publisher

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

Date

2018-11-20

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
41.2mb
audio/mpeg
37.8mb
image./jpeg
3024 x 4032 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Coverage

Upstate New York Cooperstown, NY

Interviewer

Ashley Gallagher

Interviewee

Sydney Waller

Location

689 Beaver Meadow Road
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

AG= Ashley Gallagher
SW= Sydney Waller

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AG:
This is November 20th, 2018 interview of Sidney Waller by Ashley Gallagher for the Cooperstown Graduate Program's Research and Fieldwork course recorded at Sydney's home. So, Sydney, where and when were you born?

SW:
I was born in Sharon, Connecticut. I grew up in Litchfield County, Connecticut in a village called South Kent and I was born in the very late forties.

AG:
Will you tell me about your family?

SW:
Sure, let's see. My father grew up in Schenectady, New York in a part called the Stockade. His dad wanted to walk to work, which was very unusual then. My mom grew up in Nanking, China where she was born. Dad was born in 1916 and Mother in 1918. Her parents were educational missionaries and my grandfather taught at the University of Nanking and she left in the spring of 1937. My dad ultimately ended up teaching at a boys prep school in Connecticut, the same one that he had been sent to after his father died. It was called South Kent School and it was an all-boys school. He was on the faculty there, and I don't know how it was for the boys, but for the faculty children it was an idyllic childhood; a small number of faculty families in a rural, beautiful part of Connecticut. But, in the summers because he was a teacher, we had several months and either we went to the Adirondacks for a little while to my grandmother's camp or mostly we would go to Roseboom.

AG:
What are your earliest memories of Roseboom?

SW:
It's the kind of thing where I don't know if the photographs helped give me the memories but I definitely remember the plastic wading pools out in the tall grass. That was how we'd play, in the plastic wading pool to stay cool. I remember our lunches under the maple trees and my father would come back from working in the woods with an axe and mother usually had cucumber sandwiches on white bread and I never liked the crust. We would have lemonade and sandwiches and the lemonade was kept cool in our well. It was in a glass gallon jug with a rope tied to the handle and lowered into the well. That's also where we kept our milk and I don't know what else, just plain water. We would pull it [the jug] up, being very careful that it didn't hit against the stonewalls of the well before it got to the top, and that’s what we drank. Going to bed was lovely in Roseboom, in one way, which is, Mother began to light candles and kerosene lanterns because we had no electricity there. She had a very special Aladdin lamp and as it began to get dark, she always did this ritual where she would pretend to be rubbing it and then it would get brighter and brighter. She would always say “Magic Lantern, Magic Lantern, take us far away. Take us to a happy land where children play. Take us to…” and then we would shout out you know “Persia” or “China” and then she would describe how the children were there and then the lamp was super bright. Eventually we went to bed but it was really hot in the summer. Then she would flap the sheets back and forth to create a little bit of wind, so that we had a breeze until we fell asleep, which is unbelievable that she did that with three little girls. So, those are some early memories.

AG:
How did your family acquire the property in Roseboom?

SW:
My parents got married just before my father went overseas for two years. It was World War II and he was in the Army Air Force, and Mother lived in New York City where she worked [full-time] for Time-Life. He wrote to her from abroad, either from England or Russia where he was stationed, and said, “Buy a farm.” “When I get out, I'm going to start a school”, sort of like South Kent, a boarding school, but where the students will study the classics half a day, the Latin writers, and so forth and then farm for half a day. So Mother found one in the New York Times in Roseboom and I think it was listed at a hundred acres. Well, first it was listed as having a trout stream and all these things that she said were actually not true. But, it was for sale for a thousand dollars or fifteen hundred if she wouldn't let them first clear-cut the woods. So, that's how she came to buy the farm and she didn't know a thing about farming. But, her siblings came and helped her sort of patch up the falling plaster with pancake spatulas to get it ready. Her mother lived with her there for a while; it must've been when she was on vacation. Anyway, that's how they came to buy the farm. Now when my father came home from overseas, he was actually not impressed because it was a very poor hill farm where rocks were the main crop really, and he was not excited. Plus, his friend who was going to be the front man for the school was killed in Burma, Don LaFever was his name, he was somebody he'd grown up with in Schenectady. But we kept the farm and the first thing he did was take down all of the outbuildings—I think because they were dangerous actually, I'm not sure why, or else because he had to pay taxes on each building. I have no idea exactly why he did it, but I'm sort of sad because I would have loved [to keep them]. We did keep one outbuilding called the Smithy, and eventually we converted that to sort of a bunkhouse for guests. Then we would start coming back every summer from the time we were very little and the only way mother could cook was with a wood stove and that's how she heated water. Whenever it rained my father would go outside and stand under the eaves. We couldn't see him but we knew he was showering under the raindrops. For us she [Mother] would heat up water in a galvanized pan and that was our bath. But everything was an adventure, whether it was getting water to brush your teeth or going out to the tall grass to spit in the grass [laughing] after you brushed your teeth in the washroom. I mean we had a washroom, we had a kitchen. We had a pantry, a living room, and they had a bedroom downstairs, and we all slept in the same room upstairs. Although there were other rooms upstairs but we all slept in the same room.

AG:
Is there a reason why you slept in the same room?

SW:
I'm trying to think whether it was because, I mean that would have been on the east side of the house, so possibly it was slightly cooler because heat was an issue and flies were always an issue. We'd have cotton balls stuck to the screen doors and flypaper hanging all over, because there was a pasture all around it where our wonderful neighbors, the Stannards, kept their cows. When it was time for the cows to go down to the farm we always heard Herb Stannard calling them “come on come on come on,” something like that. I'm not going to really imitate it but he had a special call for them to get them to leave. But, as a result, of course there were cow plops and therefore flies and my mother, having grown up in China, was really concerned always about sanitation and flies and cow manure. There was some fanaticism about it. We all got a penny apiece for slapping flies with a fly swatter.

AG:
So did she grow up in a rural or urban area in China?

SW:
Urban. They had a large garden and a gardener and so forth but, to this day in rural China, the sanitation is horrible. My grandfather was a biochemist and he was very aware of the many diseases that flies could carry. So that's why they have that particular family focus.

AG:
Was that ever an issue for any of your family members? Getting sick on the farm.

SW:
No. No, no, no. It was all in her [head]. But, apparently the first phrase I ever uttered was “oh see poopy, cow poopy,” so obviously there must've been a huge amount that I internalized from my mother. [laughter]

AG:
You mentioned the plot of land varying in price due to keeping the forest area or letting them cut it. What did your mom end up choosing?

SW:
Yes. She wanted to keep the trees and that was a brilliant move because my father ended up becoming a master tree farm guy and worked closely with the State Department of Forestry. They would come every year and mark trees that should be removed. Early on they developed a master plan, which was primarily for the aesthetics of the woods as opposed to the timber value. But, ultimately it became valuable timber and so periodically we would have some cut. But, it's a beautiful woods. There are about, I suppose, 80 acres of really lovely woods now that have been managed since the mid 20th century. A New York State forester said my father was one of the earliest participants in their wood timber sharing woodlot improvement program and for that he did get some kind of a tax break, too, for improving his woodlot.

[TRACK 1, 12:16]
AG:
Can you describe a typical day at the farm?

SW:
When we were little, this is of course. Yeah, okay. I mean in the morning we must have played in the wading pool. Sometimes we would go into the woods and find my father and then he would cut what we called pies, cut a wedge of wood from a tree and then we would play with those. Or, if there was a big boulder nearby we would always name it Fairy Rock and we would make up all kinds of children's games, playing on the boulder, and we just had to listen to him if he said get out of the way, if a tree was going to be falling. So that was fun. Sometimes we would go down to the brook where, when my grandparents visited, we made a dam. So we called it [Papa's] dam and we would just splash around in the brook. I think my mother would bring sandwiches, but I'm not positive about that. Then in the evening we would, my father and the three of us would walk down the hill to the Stannard farm. They were finishing up milking and then the milk was in milk cans and put in a springhouse. The water was squirting, I guess, on the milk cans. It took quite a while for the milk to cool and the reason we were down there was to get a gallon of milk and so we must have done it every other day, if not every day because Mother used a lot of milk in cooking. She made a lot of custards and things like that too. Then, when we walked back from the Stannards it was usually dark and we would walk up the hill and [we] made up a song about the moon and the stars and that was our time with our father. We loved listening to those stories that Herb Stannard told, he was a very intelligent man and very philosophical. But what I remember most is that he knew how to wiggle his ears. So, we would watch him and he would wiggle his ears and his own son doesn't remember he could do that, but I do. They also had a woodstove. We thought it was very fancy down there because they had electricity. Then, during the day sometimes we would walk with Mother down to the village of Roseboom. That was a very long walk. We would walk from shadow to shadow that the trees were casting because it was so hot. So then she would encourage us “okay, go to the next tree shadow” and we would go, but it was very hot and it was a dusty road then. When we went down to the village we would go to the post office, or we would just walk to the bottom of the hill to get the mail because the mailbox, our mailbox, was at the bottom of the hill not in front of the house the way it is nowadays.

AG:
So, what is Stannard Hill?

SW:
Stannard Hill is simply the name of the hill where our farm is. It's a hill. It is southeast of Roseboom, probably a mile from the center of Roseboom and it was named after the Stannard family that lives there.

AG:
Can you tell me about the Stannard family?

SW:
Not a whole lot but I can say that I know Herb Stannard was a widower and I think he died very young. I mean, I think he might have even been in his late 50s. His wife had died much earlier and I don't know what she died of. But, Marion Stannard-Holmes, whom you may have interviewed, has a lot to say about their childhood. I know she had to start milking when she was six years old. By the time I remember Marion she had a child, who was my age, and a family and she married somebody named Stanley Holmes. The Stannards had Marion, the oldest daughter who was my mother's age, and then Grace, who was very glamorous and wore makeup and had huge hoop skirts that had organdy petticoats. We would go and sit at her vanity and we thought that was really glamorous. I think she went on to become a home economics professor. Then the youngest Stannard, Warren, was the only son and he's the one who now runs the farm. He was a quiet, older teenage boy and I don't remember if he sat around. He was probably doing chores in the barn while his father was talking to my dad and us about how things were. As I say they did have a wood-burning stove. They had a spring. They tapped maple trees in the winter. When dad was still overseas Mother came and helped him tap maple syrup one winter with her sister-in-law. They just thought it was great fun.

AG:
To clarify, what time period?

SW:
Mother bought it [the property] in [19]43 I think, [19]44, '45. Gosh. So, I'm talking about the [19]50s when I would remember anything. The earlier 50s. Even possibly the late 50s; in the middle of the 50s we moved to France for two years. So it's either pre [19]55 or after [19]57.

AG:
And when you moved to France you still had the farm?

SW:
Oh yeah. And then the Stannards would have kept an eye on things.

AG:
Will you describe the Roseboom community for me you experienced?

SW:
So this would be the communities I remember in the 1950s because then my experience was different later. I remember the post office was in a house, a private house, really, that belonged to the Bowens. I think the Bowen granddaughter is alive and her name is Jackie Brown and I think she lives at the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, the Bowens also had a store there, in their house, it was on the ground floor and the house was right next to what is now some kind of a pizzeria at the corner in Roseboom on the north side of [Route] 165. The only thing I remember us ever buying were ginger snap cookies, which is my father's favorite cookie. Mrs. Bowen had a loom somehow; it just sounds kind of busy, but there were shelves with cookies and other things on them and then there was the post office part and then she had a huge loom. She was always weaving hit and miss rugs, which are rag rugs made with just a variety of cut-up strips of rag and they're my favorite rugs. In fact, I have some in my front hall [laugh] that are not made by Mrs. Bowen. There was another store in town; at the corner that we never went to. You had a loyalty thing. You either went to one store or the other and of course, we got our milk from the Stannards. I just don't remember that much else about... I think there was a man who fixed things. Dad would sometimes take something to get fixed, maybe tin or metal or maybe he was a blacksmith, I'm not sure. But, as a child I don't think I had any interest.

AG:
How have you witnessed Roseboom change over time?

SW:
Okay. Actually, I do remember one more thing. Past our mailbox, I guess it's not even called Stannard, it's probably called Gage Road, there is a house on the corner of John Deere Road and Gage Road and they had a pond and a diving board and it was [owned by] Mr. and Mrs. Schnackenberg. We would go to the Schnackenbergs and Mother and Mrs. Schnackenberg would chat. I think she [Mrs. Schnackenberg] was from Long Island and I was fascinated by her accent. I can't tell you, though, if it was a German accent or Long Island accent. They would talk and we would swim. Even my granny, I remember watching her dive on that diving board, and she said “Watch it's the last time you'll ever see your old granny dive.” She was probably in her late 50s. But, now that pond is gone. Also, the son in that family Bobby Schnackenberg was the same age as Warren Stannard. I can see the two teenagers with their jeans and bare chested and tan and carrying rifles. They always seemed to be going off to shoot woodchucks, which was a big pastime of young men at that time. So I do remember that house and the family there. And that’s it. Oh, you just asked me a question and I can't tell you what it was because I just remembered the Schnackenbergs.

[TRACK 1, 22:58]
AG:
No, that’s good. I can repeat it. So, how have you witnessed Roseboom change over time?

SW:
Well, the post office moved. It went from having two food stores to having one, which is now called Bob's Country Store. But, by the [19]70s I think a guy named Ted had it maybe. That's about it. I mean Pleasant Brook also had a little store, a food store that also closed. Later when I moved back in the [19]70s I remember voting in Pleasant Brook, which is hard to believe. Now you look at the building where I voted and it's falling down. Roseboom proper, possibly fewer businesses but, again now I'm conflating my [19]50s memories with my [19]70s memories because there was a greenhouse partway up Roseboom Hill. A lot of sort of counterculture people moved in in the 70s and I guess that's what we were too. We were all interested in raising our own food. Politically, the country was very polarized and there were riots and I had always been a political activist but it just seemed the wisest thing to just move to the country. A lot of my friends who came to visit in the 70s ended up buying property here too. So it's sort of a generation of people who were not from here but who are totally devoted to the area. So it was somewhat of an influx of people coming in because prior to that, I think the only thing that brought in outsiders was something called Belvedere Lake, which belonged to Key Bank. They would have a picnic there once a year for their employees and then since that, that has become something else but it's something kind of contained. I don't know how much it contributed to the economy. [Then there was] the influx of a different, college educated, slightly hippie-esque people who were interested in starting things like free schools. Some of my friends and I were involved with starting something called a free school that was down in Sprout Brook. Some of the older people who had babies named them things like Free or Friend or, you know, it was just somewhat counterculture. Of course, I moved there as an adult after college, I mean in my 20s. Some of the little places and people died out. When my parents owned it people lived in the hills beyond us with just tiny holdings and maybe a cow. But, for example we have a part of our property where dad said Daisy Casper used to have her cow go into the woods to get grass. There's a little house foundation there. I think there were a lot more, sort of, subsistence people living more or less off the land very simply that aren't there today.

AG:
Were there other families like yours, in the 50s, that just came for the summers to Roseboom?

SW:
Yeah, like our friends were the people who owned Glensfoot, which was probably the fanciest place in Cherry Valley. That was a house that had been in their family for generations. Somehow, I don't even remember, through family connections [we were introduced] but they were friendly to my parents and would invite us all for tea or drinks and one of them had a swimming pool. I remember visiting the Cannons, Beekman and Margaret Cannon, and being totally flummoxed because she asked me would I prefer the white meat or the dark meat and I'd never been given a choice of what part of the turkey or chicken I wanted, other than we always wanted the wishbone. So, my grandmother grew up in New Brunswick, New Jersey and a friend of hers for some reason had a summer place there, Mrs. Wright, the mother-in-law of somebody in Cooperstown called Betty Wright who owned a lovely house next to the Otesaga. So we had this, sort of pathway or a connection with, it was almost like the landed gentry, if you will. They loved inviting us so that was kind of nice. I'm sure it was lovely for Mother. My mother was very social and I don't know if it was as interesting for dads, probably we would go there for tea. But other families like teachers who have the summer off, not necessarily, although I guess, the Cannons. Beekman Cannon was a professor at Yale and Brevie Cannon must have maybe taught at St. Paul's or something and he might have been a pastor, a reverend. Mother was invited and would go to something called the Ladies Causerie. She once wrote about it and it was something very Victorian and all the ladies wore hats and gloves they were all much older than she was. But, she felt as though it was like a ladies reading group, or something, where they would talk about or discuss some intellectual subject.

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
SW:
They were very sweet and invited her and I think one of the ladies was from the Stockade in Schenectady or something. So it's a kind of a whiff of a very different life; there we were with barely an outhouse and [laugh] hauling our lemonade up out of the well. But somebody in town remembers visiting us, the McGown’s, they had a store here. Mrs. McGown was somehow a very distant cousin of my mother's and when my sister Anne was born in Cooperstown she saw in the paper that somebody named Anne Seabury Waller was born. She came roaring into the hospital and said to my mother “What right have you to use the word Seabury” and my mother said, “My mother is a Seabury.” So, that's how we discovered that family. So, all in all, yes, the way networks are. We knew a few other people. I do have a memory of going to look at some property I think it was Lippitt development road on the lake. Thinking about it, I think dad must have thought about getting a place on the lake but sadly he did not. He was more interested in working the woods than lolling around by the lake.

AG:
So with that, do you think that there was clear class divide between people?

SW:
Well in our family my parents were always very opposed to the idea of country clubs, which I think my father's father growing up, in Schenectady, did belong to one. But they were anti any kind of social hierarchy. Mother always said that she thinks Herb Stannard was probably the man Dad admired most in the world and that he considered a father figure. He was a farmer; I'm not sure about his education, although I think Dad said he used to teach Greek and Latin in a one-room school in Roseboom. I don't know if that's true or not, I'll have to ask Marion. Now of course that's why I said they must have been like a landed gentry. But they were just people who had nice cookies and beautiful green lawns. They were always so nice to us. Mrs. Wright was very nice to us and gave us all dolls, which are someplace, cloth dolls. I did not think of it as a class thing. We just weren’t raised that way. But I guess I would say that even though we had no money they considered us to be of their ilk, either because of family connections or where [my] grandparents or great grandparents or whatever, whenever, somehow, something subtle and WASPy.

AG:
You mentioned moving back in the [19]70s.

SW:
Yes.

AG:
Will you speak to that a little bit?

SW:
Yes, I'd be happy to. So in the late [19]60s my boyfriend, the guy who I eventually married, and my best friend and her boyfriend, we came up here and we thought, oh let's go to Roseboom in maybe it was April. So we came up here and we had no idea how freezing cold it would be and I remember we had to move [and] try to make a fire in the woodstove that first time. Right away somebody knocked on the door to see what the heck we were doing, and it was the Stannard son-in-law Stanley Holmes who had heard there were cars there and wanted to see what was going on. But we then started coming up in the summers and many friends came too and it was before you had responsibilities. So we would do things like pick wild strawberries. We had a hammock between the two trees in the front too. The guys would loll around in the hammock or couples. We just had fun. I think we played card games maybe. Eventually each person who came up ended up buying a place and fortunately there was a very bountiful Quaker woman in Cherry Valley, Louise Moore. She would buy farms when they closed down so that she could protect the land in some way. And then she would resell them at a very low price to these young people from the counter-culture who were interested and who loved the land. So my friend, Beep Brown, on a road parallel to our road, Ahlers road, bought a place and Rabbit Goody, the weaver, bought a place and other people. Then those who didn't buy land that way nevertheless bought land. So my ex-husband's best friend bought a farm off of Roscoe Jones Road and he started the Stagecoach Cafe and he had been in advertising in New York City. My friend, Beep, was the subject of quite a well-known book by the contemporary author Dana Spiotta, who wrote a book called Eat the Document which was about people in the 60s and so Beep became the subject of that. So they've had their impact. Sadly, my ex-husband's twin brother had been drafted. That's when everybody went to Vietnam. He had a business in Cherry Valley, the Bowling Alley which was a wonderful restaurant and bar. It was also a bowling alley for a long time. So that's an example of someone else who had a very positive economic impact, if you will, on the area. Eventually he died of complications from having breathed Agent Orange, as happened to many of the young men. Other friends, one of them is now a village trustee of Cooperstown, but they came up with my sister and brother-in-law and also fell in love with the land. So Roseboom has this interesting secondary connection. Now Walter was going to fix up the house and we did put electricity in it and running water. While he was doing that I needed a job so I went to the area school and I said, “Can I have a job.” I was an art history major but I had minored in English, so they said well, nobody will teach the 7th-grade English class, nobody wants to direct the senior play, so we'll hire you to do that. I was 21 or 22, so that was my first job. I think I got eleven thousand nine hundred dollars a year, which I thought “My God that's so much money!” I couldn't believe thousands of dollars. I think I ran a little tab at Rory's food store because between paychecks I don't know what I exactly did with the money, even though it seemed like a huge amount of money. So in the [19]70s, we had a post office box at Bob's corner store and I had the world's hugest garden. I mean I remember everything. We would all follow the Rodale way of gardening. We were all pretty religious about canning, not freezing, but canning things. I remember a French friend visiting and then she had a fit when she saw an apple tree with all these apples on the ground. So we must have canned 30 quarts of apples and she said “le pas,” she couldn't believe that we might let them go to waste. I saw her earlier this year and she said she wouldn't have done that anymore, that she's more sophisticated. In any case that tree died. So everybody kind of got entrepreneurial. But then other friends who didn't buy but came up and either lived with us or lived in our bunkhouse, the Smithy, worked on Windfall barn. There is a Dutch barn in a tiny hamlet called Salt Springville and Louise Moore owned that. So that's the other thing she did for the counter-culture people, is she gave them work, and they all helped restore this barn. So it was just great. Appreciating the land and appreciating historic architecture kind of got imbued in everyone. We had a food co-op which I don't remember exactly how it worked but in the [19]70s we all were part of the food co-op. Food would arrive someplace and we would buy it in bulk and everybody was buying brewer's yeast and reading, somebody's name I forget, everything was slightly a fad, the food thing. What was her name? We all worshiped her. Everybody read it, it was about healthy eating. Sorry.

[TRACK 2, 11:12]
AG:
Don't be. You mentioned free schools at one point. Can you describe them for me?

SW:
Yeah. Well for one thing, we all wanted classrooms where nature was part of your curriculum and so this was a movement in the [19]70s to have things called free schools. You paid some money for them and the first one that we started was actually in a chicken coop down in Horvath farm in Sprout Brook. The teacher's name was Paul Mendelsohn who for a long time worked at The Farmers’ Museum, possibly he's still there as a volunteer. It was just a different way. Having a kid, especially a little boy, sit all day just seems cruel and not natural and not part of how they normally would be. You just want to more teach them through activities rather than just sitting at a desk and learning to be quiet, we felt was really kind of terrible. So they had just a gazillion activities and they were very creative. There is, of course, an emphasis on creativity and there were classrooms without walls. Jonathan Kozol was an author that we would read. Summerhill was an English school that was very much a model for how we thought primary school, elementary school, should be. And possibly it's somewhat like today's Montessori schools or Rudolf Steiner schools. We just wanted it enlightened. Then when I did have a baby, a little boy, I was looking around for a Montessori school but at the time there wasn't one. I wasn't really delighted having him just sit there all day. You know [I] craved something that's more appropriate developmentally. I ended up taking a lot of education courses. I had to take one every summer to stay teaching and then I think after three years I decided to get a master’s. So then I took off for the year but I would come home every weekend. It was before I had a child.

AG:
What was the Roseboom local response to this influx of young radicals?

SW:
Well, I wouldn't say they [were] radicals because among us I was probably the only one that was politically active or interested in social justice particularly. It was also the era of drop out, I forget what the phrase was, but I'm sure there was a lot of homegrown pot around— nothing strong but I mean I didn't grow it. Yeah, people definitely didn't want to put on suits and go to work in the city. These are people who all went to good universities or they dropped out initially and then went back and finished. What was the local reaction? I remember we organized something called Cherry Valley Art Day. I was teaching there and a friend of mine was the art teacher and we organized it in an empty parking lot across from Rory's food store. Allen Ginsberg was up at the time and he had his committee on poetry and he and his partner or spouse, Peter Orlovsky, came down to our Cherry Valley Art Day. I can just sort of picture everybody sitting on the ground. Some people had hard cider and Allen Ginsberg was playing. Anne and I put children's artwork on a snow fence that we had borrowed from the town and the snow fence was along the sidewalk. But the event itself, I remember the townspeople all stood on the other side of the street along the sidewalk just watching. They were just really curious and it wasn't hostile but they did not participate at the time. I don't remember any hostility—and good friendships. The hippies, if you will, had real respect for people with real skills. My ex-husband wanted to learn masonry, so he apprenticed with a mason in town whose name was Don Winslow. I think Don Winslow did say to him something about; well you're not a farm boy. The thing about a farm boy, that's a great compliment because they know how to do everything; they can fix a tractor, they can fix anything that's broken, they are their own mechanics, and their own blacksmiths and everything else. Nevertheless, he learned stonework and was happy. He must have been paid something; I don't think Don had any other options of an apprentice.

AG:
How do you feel your experiences in Roseboom may have influenced your life?

SW:
I always liked nature but my experience of nature in South Kent was somewhat different. I really love the woods. But up in South Kent the woods that we would play in was full of poison ivy, and it wasn't a woodlot that was managed, it was actually a plantation of red pine or something. So just growing up and going into the woods when I was little and watching Dad work on the trees and then burning firewood which I continue to do to this day. Growing up in Connecticut, we did not burn firewood; we did have fireplaces. But that's an important part of my life; really, it's a hearth, it's a warmth. So I have a woodstove going all winter, and I don't need to have a woodstove but I do. I'm very involved with environmental issues and I think being in Roseboom [influenced that]. I was going to talk about education, but I'm not as involved with education anymore other than I really hope young people have more experiences than just being in the high school. But I'm not doing that. I consider the Stannards good friends. I think as a result of growing up there, I truly admire farmers and try to understand [them]. I think their politics are different than my politics, and I don't talk politics with them. I sort of see where they're coming from because it’s based on their experience in part. They generally don't travel a lot, in fact at all. Maybe my Roseboom experience is partly why I got so involved with the folk artist Laverne Kelly and all of his work which was so focused on do-it-yourself homegrown agriculture. I think that helped me appreciate his body of work and how it was so influenced by his farm. To this day I eat healthily. I'm always more interested in farmers’ market things. But that was even before, because in Connecticut my father also had a vegetable garden. Even when he was a teacher, he raised beautiful vegetables. That was his stress decompresser, I think, spading the earth and planting things and it sort of helped us. His view of nature and that we all return to mother nature was something we talked about in his 90s and that has been a comforting lesson for me. I'm not sure I would have absorbed that lesson if we had stayed in Connecticut.

AG:
That's great. Do you have any last words about Roseboom that you'd like to contribute?

SW:
I just hope something happens to it. I'm happy that Roseboom has its Antique Tractor Day, and it's something that a local family, the VanBurens, started. They bought the old Grange so that it won't fall down. But, that's wonderful, it brings all these people from out of the woodwork and it's an eye-opening event. I think it does bring people that are perhaps like the people of a hundred years ago sometimes, with their two-cycle engines and really antique contraptions. I hope somebody goes around and interviews people at the Antique Tractor Fair one day, which is always in August when no one is here. Walter and I bought a piece of property, forty-four acres, next to my parents’ land. We bought it from a farmer whose last name is Hoke. I remember asking him if he's always been from Roseboom and he said “Oh no no no no.” I said, “Oh, where were you from?” and he said, “South Valley.” Well, South Valley is four miles south of Roseboom. But I think that sort of demonstrates how incredibly part-of-place the farm people are. The VanBuren family, the kids all grew up. I mean the granddaughter went off to Hartwick. She is actually a PA [physicians’ assistant] now in Bassett, but I'm sure she's the first one in the family to go to college and so forth. The three sons all have places very close to where the parents live. The father is a tractor collector and the son Stacy says his idea of the most fun thing you could ever do on Christmas Day is for he and his brothers and dad to go into the barn, work on an old tractor together, [and] just josh around and make fun of who puts something in the wrong place. I mean that's his idea of just a really fun activity. So there is a quintessential Roseboom family for you. I think somebody is going to interview Jack VanBuren, I hope so at least. My parents’ ashes are buried on my 44 acres which they loved and I love it that my son who lives in New York comes up so often and now it’s third generation. We'll never be considered real locals, though, even though it's the third generation to live in Roseboom part-time or full-time. And that's okay.

AG:
Well, thank you so much for talking to me about Roseboom and sharing your experiences.

SW:
I don't think I talked about cooking on a wood stove. Do you want me to talk about that?

AG:
Do you want to talk about it? You can.

SW:
Sure. Yeah, for a long time when Walter and I were at the house we got a modern woodstove. First we bought a really old one from Roy and Lucy Lane of South Valley. Their house has since fallen into the ground and I think when we probably got it, it was called Happy Thought. But then we decided we wanted a really modern woodstove and we found an Austrian woodstove. I cooked on that year-round and in the summer you would make the grates smaller so that it produced less heat in the kitchen. But I knew exactly where on the surface to put something to have it simmer just so or be boiling just so. I don't know if I can do it today, but I could do soufflés and just really sensitive baking in it, and I don't remember how I did it exactly. But that was fun cooking on a wood stove. It just never occurred to me to want a gas range, which right now of course [I have]. I like ranges but it was a great experience. My mother always said that she felt as though her three daughters, probably me, particularly if things went really bad, and we had to be like pioneer women, we would do just fine. We would know what to do and how to take care of ourselves. My father once said he thought that possibly the reason that none of us ever got cancer [knocking on wood] is because we ate his homegrown vegetables mostly, we almost never ate processed food.

AG:
Did your mom teach you how to cook on the stove?

SW:
No, not at all.

AG:
She just cooked for you.

SW:
Yeah. She never. I mean I had no interest in cooking in Connecticut, ever. I mean one of my sisters liked making cookies. But, no, I just remember the first time I cooked and looking at a raw chicken and just thinking, oh my God what is this? My brother-in-law remembers bringing a duck to me and I burst into tears because I had no idea what you would do with it. So, I learned how to cook and then I did very elaborate meals. There was a book called The Vegetarian Epicure, it would take two days to do all these elaborate things, you put them in a pumpkin. Served them in a pumpkin. Now I like to cook with fewer ingredients.

AG:
Well, thank you.

SW:
You're welcome.

[End Track]

Duration

30:00- Track 1
27:31- Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

192 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 12:16 - Typical day at the farm
Track 1, 22:58 - Roseboom changes
Track 2, 11:22 - Free Schools

Files

Sydney.jpg

Citation

Ashley Gallagher, “Sydney Waller, November 20, 2018,” CGP Community Stories, accessed January 26, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/352.