CGP Community Stories

Christine Hickling, November 12, 2018


Christine Hickling, November 12, 2018


Roseboom, New York
Edmeston, New York
GLF (Cooperative Grange League Federation Exchange)
Town Clerk
Country Store
Family Traditions
Pen Pals
Dairy Farms
Chicken Farming


Christine E. Hickling is a native of New Berlin, NY whose family has deep roots in the Roseboom community. Her maternal grandmother, Edna Countryman, was interviewed by a Cooperstown Graduate Program student in the 1970s. Like her grandmother Countryman, Mrs. Hickling served the Roseboom community as the town’s clerk.


Sarah Grantham


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




Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY








Upstate New York
Roseboom, NY


Sarah Grantham


Christine E. Hickling


Synder Rd
Cherry Valley, NY 13320


CH = Christine Hickling
SG = Sarah Grantham

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]
This is the November 12th, 2018 interview of Christine Hickling by Sarah Grantham at Mrs. Hickling's home in Roseboom, New York for the Cooperstown Graduate Program's Community Stories. Thank you for joining me Mrs. Hickling. Can you give us your full name including your maiden name?
Okay, so it's Christine E. Van Franken Hickling.
Can you tell me a little bit about when and where you were born?
I was born in New Berlin, New York. At that time, we lived on a farm outside Edmeston. We moved to a farm farther out, right on the border of the Edmeston, Burlington Flats area. Mostly family farms. My father, Lee Van Franken, he also drove truck for GLF [Cooperative Grange League Federation Exchange] at that time, delivered gas and fuel to family farms and homes.
So how many siblings do you have?
There's five of us girls altogether. Family of five girls, dad was outnumbered.
Can you tell me a little bit about the time that you spent with your grandparents?
[TRACK 1, 1:49]
OK. Over here in Pleasant Brook was kind of like the second home. My youngest sister and I would many times come over at the end of summer before school would [re-start] and spend anywhere from a long weekend to a week. At the time grandmother not only was town clerk but she also worked over at the museums—in The Farmers’ Museum gift shop, and then also did cleaning over at the Fenimore House. So that was kind of our playground. Because Grandpa would take all three of us over and Gloria and I had the privilege of having The Farmers’ Museum and the Fenimore House all to ourselves. And so, when we finally came over here to live in [19]62, it was the second home. In [19]61 both grandfathers had passed away, which left Grandma Countryman pretty well by herself. There was a lot of siblings of my father that still lived in the Edmeston area to be with Grandma Van Franken. And the place that Dad and Mom bought over here was a cousin through marriage to the Countryman side. Ike Countryman, it was his widow, Mabel, that they bought the store from. Well, actually mom and dad made the store, but there was a garage. They turned the second little garage into a grocery store. And eventually put in gas pumps, dad did mechanic work, and mom and we girls ran the store.
How old were you when your family moved out this way?
I hadn't turned 16 yet. We came in February just after our midterms that we had taken. And then turned 16 later that year.
[TRACK 1, 4:43]
Tell me a little bit about your parent’s store.
OK. As I say it started out with just a little two-car garage and then they built more to it so that it connected right to the house, so we could go right off the glass porch of the house into the store. They had their candy; there was a gentleman out of Herkimer that had a regular route through that they were able to buy the candy from. The groceries were from a company down in Oneonta. Meat came from a company over in West Winfield. Took them a couple of years to get it all fixed up and established but then they ran it right through until my daughter was around five, six years old before they finally sold it. So, we ran it for a good many years. At the time when we first moved over, there was one in Roseboom, a store Ted, which then turned into Bob's. Bowen's, right across from that store had the post-office there, where now it's in what had been Bob’s Store. I'm not sure if they had a small store in there or not. But there was one at that time; South Valley had their own post office also, and that was in a small store up there. But I guess with dad having gas pumps and also doing mechanic work and that was self-taught from just having to do it on the farm, having to work on his own cars and to work on his tractors and just different equipment that he was able to do that.
Did you and your sisters work in the store growing up?
[TRACK 1 7:30]
Gloria and I. The other three were already graduated, married, and starting families of their own and they lived in totally different areas at the time. But Gloria and I, we helped out quite a bit. In the end when it got time to sell it, they would go to Florida for anywhere from two weeks to a month and I totally ran it at that time, with the help of a cousin, an elderly cousin that lived up in South Valley, he was of the Thompson family. Drayton would come down and pump gas and change you know somebody needed oil added to their car or something like that just to keep him going, he would do that, and he’d help me with stocking the shelves and stuff like that. As far as taking care of the store and its customers, doing the ordering and stuff, I did that while they would take those vacations there. They ran it six and a half days, right from six, definitely by seven, they were open till 9:00 sometimes 10:00 at night. They only took Monday afternoon off. Once Jim and I were married for a while we would have to drive up and actually stay here at the house. But then eventually we bought a place up here and that way we were able to just lock things up and go back to our own house most of the time during the night. But yeah, it was a busy little hub, actually the whole town was at the time. A lot of families, a lot of summer homes with people coming during the summer. At that time milk was supplied by Glenn's Farm, which was up there in Cherry Valley. And the people that came up to spend the summer most of time from New York City or New Jersey, boy, milk sold like crazy. They wanted to take gallons of that farm milk back home with them.
[TRACK 1, 10:31]
How did you and your husband meet?
We had known each other way back from going to school together in Edmeston. And in fact, there was for a while one of the farms, technically when we bought this little farm, dad was going to work full time at GLF over in Sherburne. And so, they went and looked at places there in Sherburne and ended up buying this little farm on a side road there, still within the Edmeston school district. I guess maybe the older sister was protesting too much about changing the school at that time. I'm not sure what the actual reason was, but Jim's family farm joined right on to that little farm. And Mom was going to continue to raise her chickens that she had always had on the sideline, and so the barn that set there, dad was going to convert it into a large chicken house. Yeah. Mom was there painting and papering the house before we moved in when Welch's cattle dealer pulled in with five cows. When we finally left there, Mom still did raise chickens, but when we finally left there, we had cows not only in that barn but on two other farms. And that was when we bought the big and last farm, outside of New Berlin. Anywhere from 65 to 70 milkers and then replacement heifers and calves. So, when we sold that last farm to move over here in [19]62 everybody had a job. Because back then that was a big farm to have that many milkers.
How did your relationship with your husband continue after you moved away from Edmeston?
[TRACK 1 13:20]
Jim had signed up to go right into the service after graduation. His family, especially his mother and my mother, stayed close through telephone calls, occasionally writing. And so, at graduation we had met again but before that he had lost a brother. And then actually just as he went into the service his mother passed away. And so, we had re-met at both those sad occasions. So, then we started writing each other while he was down at first Parris Island and then Camp Lejeune. And then all the time that he was over in Vietnam. He was stationed in Okinawa and then eventually into Vietnam and then when they brought him out of there, he was sent right back to Camp Lejeune. He was given a leave to come home at that time and he proposed and called back down to the base and got an extended time. We put a wedding together and we left for North Carolina for him to finish out his last 18 months. So then when he got out, we were mulling over whether for him to do another tour or stay right there and go in as a civil service thing, but we kept getting letters and phone calls from dad. He wanted to help up here in the store and the garage. He had a job already lined up for him down in Oneonta at an auto parts store, if he'd consider coming home. Jim has always said that dad was one of his favorite work ethics person. Dad just worked, worked, worked. If he wasn't busy in the store, he was raising cattle. When we came over here we brought the horse Peaches and some rabbits that I wouldn't give up. If I had to give up all my cows and heifers, I was at least going to keep my rabbits. It wasn't long that he was renting from neighbor’s, had to have some beef cows and had to have a few more horses. We stayed at a cottage, Jim and I and baby Michael down on Goodyear Lake just outside of Colliersville. He worked for Crosses for quite a while. And we would come back and forth from down there and help evenings and weekends. Jimmy always worked halfway through Saturday. But Saturday and Sundays were usually spent up here helping with the store and the garage and right up through until they retired and closed it, resold it. In the meantime, we had bought the little house and land up the side road here. Then eventually we bought this place down in here so that Dad would have a more permanent place for his beef cows rather than having to put them first on this one rented land or another. And also, for my horses that I had then because two and a half acres wasn't enough to keep too many horses. In the meantime, our daughter came along. We moved down here when she was in third or fourth grade, and we bought an Appaloosa stallion and eventually a quarter horse mare and by that time Dad had Babe and Daisy. Eventually there was Ginger and Cindy. My Red Streak and Cocoa were out of our stallion and Dad's Babe, so it gave the children the experience of not only watching Grandpa, my dad, and their dad raise the cattle but also train the horses as they were colts. Besides having the big horses to ride, each one of them were taught to ride, and we would go to beautiful state land up here to ride in along the back roads, so they had the privilege of having pretty well different critters that they wanted between rabbits and chickens and mother’s horses and grandpa’s white face Herefords. Occasionally we even got daring once and bought a black face jersey, which absolutely hated me, so milking took a lot longer than it should have. I don't know why she didn't like me, but she preferred to pin me up against the wall than be milked. [laughs]
So, your farm was primarily a dairy farm.
[TRACK 1 21:16]
Back when we were girls, oh yes. Holsteins mostly, always a little mix of jerseys and Guernsey's to keep up the butter fat because that was how you got the better milk price was by the count of butter fat. But there was always chickens, like I say my mother sold, I don't know how many great big cartons of, and they would hold 30 dozen of eggs those cartons, boxes I should call them. This gentleman would pick them up and take them down to New York City to sell. Besides, there was always neighbors that didn't happen to raise them, stop at the door. She always kept busy in that aspect and there was times that I had probably anywhere from 25 to 50 [chickens]. Now Mom always raised White Leghorns with white eggs, but here I’ve always raised the heavyset hens with the brown eggs. It’s always what they seem to prefer. If I was going to sell extra, they like those nice large brown eggs. The chickens had the run of the place except my flower garden, I would try to keep them out so occasionally they got put behind the fence.
I'd like to talk a little bit about work experience especially about being a town clerk. A little bit about that.
[TRACK 1 23:20]
CH: [00:23:20]
Grandmother Countryman had been town clerk for 50 years. And in those latter years after moving back up here I had become her assistant. When she decided to retire before the next election came along, I ran for it and was elected to do it and so I did that. Back then there was no such thing as Wal-Mart and all these other ones selling licenses. You came, you got your hunting license, your fishing license, your dog license was all done through the town clerk and so this time of year, especially back in late September and early October, very, very busy with local ones coming in to get their license for deer hunting. Back then we didn't have the population of turkeys as we do now. They were re-established, I’d say probably the latter [19]80s before they really started attempting to re-establish those back in here. But there was always the fishing, the deer. A lot of the summer people would come back up and open up their homes to the men to spend long weekends up for the deer license and so a lot of them was out-of-state because they were coming up from New Jersey, Pennsylvania. And so that all went into the town and county treasury thing. Each town had usually a dog controller, I guess would be the word to put onto it. So, he would go around and attempt to do census and then give me the names of who should be coming in to license their dogs and stuff. I always sat at least one day up at the building itself and the rest of it was they came down the driveway
And for how many years were you town clerk?
I did it for eight years. By that time Michael was heading for college so I needed to find a higher paying job to help with that college tuition. Melissa was three years younger than Michael, so it wasn't going to be long and she was going to be doing that too. So, I went first to, well even while I was town clerk, days I cleaned houses, and then I took a job at a convenience store, gas station over in Cooperstown, working for the Taylors, and then from there I went to work for Whithee’s Pharmacy because by that time our daughter Melissa had headed for college. So that left John the youngest at ten years old was going to be alone, and the convenience store the hours, if my night person didn't show up, I had to stay and I couldn't continue to do that with one as young as 10 years old. Jim, of course, had by that that time had gotten his chauffeur's license and he was driving tractor trailer over many states. Started out with hauling milk here in New York State, but even then, as the milk supply changed, and plants changed, he started having to take the milk over to the New England states to be processed. Then the last job that he had was hauling oxygen and hydrogen and that was for a company out of Glenmont. Eventually he went all over the United States with that company. So, he was gone, he’d leave on a Thursday afternoon and not get back until a Tuesday morning sometimes. I enjoyed everything about the town clerk job except for being the secretary of the board. I didn't like the idea that neighbors would come in and get upset with each other.
[START OF TRACK 2, 00:00]
When you get emotional about how you want the roads and business budgets to not raise the taxes, I guess you’re going to have some loud, outspoken neighbors. But other than that, it was always enjoyable, especially during selling the hunting licenses, deer licenses. It was always a constant, just like all home's day, of different ones that maybe you hadn't seen since the last hunting season to come in. Whether it was the ones from out of state or the ones from just in the area. They were all good people and always had a good conversation. If we were having supper Mr. Hickling just said sit on down, I’d fix an extra plate, fill out their license, so it was fun.
Tell me a little bit about the fire, you talked about that happened in the [19]80s.
[TRACK 2, 1:28]
Oh, losing the big house. The big farmhouse was, according to things built probably somewhere back in the 1850s, 1860s. The carriage barn that still stands out here that's got 1902 on it that it was built. So that happened, we had been re-modeling and we had had insulation blown in and we had re-carpeted the main dining room, living room, bedrooms. So, then we were working on the kitchen, redoing that. It had a beautiful sun porch on it that we had insulated. And that's where I more or less had the office setup so the town books for the hunting licenses and everything sat out there and when we came down the driveway, Jim of course was out on the road and the children Michael and Melissa had done very well and got on the principal's list. So, I told them you know mom will take you out to whatever movie you want to watch. And I had checked with Jim once they had chosen and said do you want us to wait till you get home on your day off to go to this, and he says no it's not a movie I want to watch, so the children and I had went and when we started down the drive could see this bright light there on the sun porch. I thought, well that's in the same area that one of the lamps was, also the humidifier was there. I said to the kids, oh Dad must've got home early, the lights there on the porch. But it was not light, it was fire. And they never did quite determine [what caused it], first they wanted to blame the Ben Franklin stove. But I told them no because even though it was February, it had been a very warm day and I hadn't even started the stove, didn't have anything in it. So, it was otherwise something had gone electrically wrong or the humidifier had something happen to it, that it had melted down or something. It definitely was right there in that area but it just in no time went to the part of the house which held the kitchen and the sun porch. It was a back room and there was a side room off the kitchen that just went. The other parts of the house a lot of that was still standing at the end but not in the shape that we could go on and you know fix it so everything ended up coming down. Being that it was in February Mom and Dad's place that they had bought after selling the store and garage was over at the other end of town, so that's where we stayed. We cleaned up and rebuilt. So that was all happening while the children were, Michael was a senior and Melissa three years younger. John Joseph was just going to start school that fall when it happened in February. When they all went to school in September, John had then joined them for school. So technically this has been what John mostly has memories of, the rebuilding and living here as it is now. We built this figuring that it's just the right size for us now with an empty nest but yet certainly big enough. Somebody else is coming down the driveway. But still big enough to spread out this table, which we will do pretty soon here come Thanksgiving. We have anywhere from depending on who can all get away, last year they all came home with their children, so we had 20-some people sitting around this table.
Actually is a good segue into family traditions. What kind of family traditions do y'all have?
[Stopped track for visitors at the door]
[START OF TRACK 3, 00:00]
Alright, tell me a little bit about family traditions starting from when you were young.
[TRACK 3, 0:06]
OK so, Easter was church and being at home, on the farm. Thanksgivings were, in the earlier days, were spent with Grandpa and Grandma Van Franken. And we were living in the Edmeston area. And so that consisted of not just them but also my father’s brothers and sisters and their families, so Thanksgiving was a family reunion almost. But Christmas was always open the presents, do the chores and then over the hills came to grandmother's house just like the song because we always came over here to Pleasant Brook to Grandma Countryman and Grandpa Countryman. And that again was Grandpa’s sister and her husband along with some of grandma’s relations of the Thompsons would come down. The Fourth of July was spent with family friends in the Edmeston area. We'd otherwise, once chores were done, we'd gather for a big picnic otherwise at one of the lakes, Gilbert Lake was one of the earlier ones, Cooperstown, the big park state park now that’s there at the end of the lake didn't exist. So, Gilbert's Lake and sometimes we even went over to the state land of Brookfield where there was a picnic area and a fire tower. And there was many a Fourth of July where we were wearing winter coats, it was cold up in there. But you know, it was always can you make it to the top of the tower. Of course church on Sunday, when we lived on the little farm next to James and his family there was a Baptist church over in West Edmeston, a Reverend Weatherby and he or one of the older deacons of the church would come and pick us children up for Vacation Bible School, for Sunday school. So again, that was the reason I knew James well because we always went to that. When we moved over here, that was probably the first time I got involved in a youth group through the church, Reverend Goldner was the minister here for this Methodist church. Also, Middlefield and Roseboom. And he started up a youth group that put all of the young people that were in the three communities together to have that kind of thing to go to. We'd have weekend picnics together. During the middle of the week, we'd have a time where we just have games to play together, make and bring food together and have different other outings. And so there was always somebody's birthday with this big family. So of course, it's always a big gathering there any of that.
How have these traditions changed as your family has grown as your kids have started having grandkids and great grandkids?
[TRACK 3, 5:28]
Now that Jim and I have retired we try to have one here, whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas. Being the adult children and their families are spread out in different areas, one even in a different state we tend to now go taking turns going. But we still try to have Thanksgiving here. The youngest son lives close enough where he and his family can always come. And then we just go to the other two when their schedule is available do such a thing. And I always let them, being that I myself was raised in two different types of churches both Methodist and Baptist, I allowed the children to more or less make their own choices once they got old enough as far as religion. As they were growing up here as different ministers changed here in the Methodist Church, James who had been raised in a very strict Baptist family, the Christian church up at South Valley was more to what fit his tradition and so young minister and his wife and family out of Pennsylvania had come to take that over that was around our age and had a lot of activities going on all week and stuff. So, the two older children had pretty well been raised on that. Then now that we're retired, we tend to use those weekends to go visit. So, we aren’t as involved as we used to be.
Tell me a little bit more about your family and your children. You have three kids?
Yes, three
You mentioned that your oldest was born at Camp Lejeune, your other two born up here?
[TRACK 3, 8:34]
CH: [00:08:34]
Yes yes. Melissa was born at Bassett and John was born down at Cobleskill which at the time was independent but now is part of Bassett. So, Michael and Melissa were part of when we lived at the camp down at Goodyear when we first came out of the service. She was born three years after Michael. And then John wasn't born until after we had actually moved down here onto the farm, before he was born. So, except for that little time that we lived down towards Oneonta they’ve all been raised right here on the farm and went to the Cherry Valley school and went on to be educated. Michael was Delhi college, and Melissa at Saint Rose and then did her masters up in Syracuse. John, John didn't want anything to do with college. I told him there would be deja vu someday [laughs] but you know he has always worked at something, keeps busy. Right now, he works for a company there in Johnstown. Just go go goes. His day starts early and ends up most of the time not getting done until seven or eight o'clock, about the time he started is the time he gets done. So, he has crazy hours a lot like his dad did. It's one of the things that I always tried to, attempt anyways, to make sure that Jim was home, so that they could open up their Christmas presents. But being a tractor trailer driver, working for companies and then the gas company there at the end which I say was many kinds of gases, sometimes Thanksgiving had to end up getting done on the weekend rather than on the Thursday. And Christmas we always hoped he would be home for at least to open the presents while they were little. And then a lot of times off he had to go to pick up milk because cows have to be milked seven days a week.
[TRACK 3, 12:31]
So what do y'all do now that y'all are retired, you visit family a lot, what kinds of things do you do to stay busy?
So there is course always a garden around here. For many years there were still the horses and the cattle, that we don't have anymore. Like I say there's the garden, mowing. We have travelled some. I have nieces, my eldest sister, his youngest sister, all live down in the southern states, besides quite a few of the nephews and nieces live down there. So, we've traveled many times down to Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina. Back when Mom and Dad first sold the store, it was just Michael and Melissa at the time, we took a week and went down through. Showed everybody Camp Lejeune, and then continued down to Florida because that had been where Mom and Dad had been going those earlier times before they sold the store. They would leave for that extended month at a time. We took the two older children to Disney World down in Florida. But we’ve also traveled out to New Mexico and Arizona. Visited the Grand Canyon. We stayed at a resort out in Missouri. On our fiftieth wedding anniversary, we spent a week there. And then we came down through and visited his sister in Alabama. And we were supposed to stay at another, more of a camp-like resort on a lake there in the upper part of South Carolina. But the hurricane had come through and they had received damage, so once we had travelled down through and visited his sister, I made a phone call to another camp resort right on the edge of Georgia and South Carolina and we were able to get, they called it a cabin but it was a regular little house and stayed there for a long weekend. We didn't stay there as we planned to do at the resort, there was gonna be another week. We stayed there and then came on through. So, we've done some traveling. We hope to do some more but a lot of a lot of times we’ll go just over to pick up the paper. We pick up the Pennysaver and the Times Journal during the week and then the Oneonta [Daily] Star we just pick that up on the big weekend. And he'll say where do you want to go, and I’ll say what do you mean, and he’ll say which road do you want to take this time to get home. So, what technically it would only take about less than five minutes to come back across to flat, we might get home two hours from then because we find one back road after another. So, for our fiftieth our daughter wrote us a poem about the long back road drives that mom and dad have done over the years. [laughs] It was always one of those things that we laughed about because we'd get in the car supposedly heading for maybe a picnic area or something and James would take a different way, no time at all those kids would be halfway up the front saying where are we going now, this is not the way to wherever picnic area we were supposed to go and their dad would say you'll see. But it all taught them to pay attention to directions. John especially, the younger one, he always seemed to have that built-in thing about, okay if we go this way, I can take this road this way and always was able to find his way, in a roundabout way to get back home or get to a destination he was going to go to. Many of his friends said, where did he get that from? [laughs]
[TRACK 3, 18:54]
That actually brings us pretty much to an hour. So, I want to thank you again for talking to me. This has been a really nice conversation; it's been really interesting to hear about your life.
Thank you. Enjoyed it.


29:59 - Track 1
7:44 - Track 2
19:08 - Track 3

Bit Rate/Frequency


Time Summary

Track 1, 0:00 - Edmeston, NY
Track 1, 4:43 - Country Store
Track 1, 13:20 - Pen Pals
Track 1, 21:16 - Farming
Track 1, 23:20- Town Clerk
Track 3, 0:06 - Family Traditions



Sarah Grantham, “Christine Hickling, November 12, 2018,” CGP Community Stories, accessed July 19, 2019,