CGP Community Stories

Margaret McGown, November 12, 2018

Title

Margaret McGown, November 12, 2018

Subject

Cooperstown, New York
Elmira, New York
Education
Family
Baseball
The Cooperstown Dreams Park
Otsego Lake
Skiing
Swimming
Sailing
Junior Ballroom Dancing Class
Law
Bassett Healthcare Network
Cooperstown Country Club
Alfred Corning Clark Gymnasium

Description

Margaret McGown is a member of one of the oldest families in Cooperstown and remains very involved in the community. She was born in Binghamton, New York, on April 29, 1947 but spent her childhood in Cooperstown, where her father’s family lived. After graduating from high school, she attended Elmira College and worked there for several years before returning to Cooperstown. She has remained in Cooperstown and raised all of her children in her hometown.

During McGown’s lifetime, Cooperstown has undergone a number of changes. Like many rural regions in America, the growth of large-scale farming has pushed many small farmers out of business, hurting the local economy as a whole. In Cooperstown, the population dropped from 2,727 in 1950 to 1,769 in 2017. To combat the economic fallout of this decline, Cooperstown has reinvented itself as the baseball capital of America, a transformation that McGown was involved with in 1996 when the Dreams Park was founded, and one that she continues to be involved with today. McGown has mixed feelings about the changes that Cooperstown has experienced, and her unique perspective as both a long-time resident and someone involved in the village’s transformation provides an important window into Cooperstown’s history.

McGown’s comments range from descriptions of growing up in a small town in the 1950s to her work in Cooperstown’s two most profitable businesses: healthcare and baseball. In addition to remembering the past, McGown also hypothesizes about the future of her village and the challenges it will face in the next two decades. Her interview also touches on the importance of family and the meaning of “home.”

For clarity’s sake I have omitted most unfinished sentences from this transcript and provided filler words where necessary. Filler words are notated with brackets. None of these edits change the meaning of the text.

Creator

Anastacia Maurer

Publisher

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

Date

2018-11-12

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
24.7 MB
audio/mpeg
17.3 MB
image/jpeg
1.15 MB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Coverage

Upstate New York
Cooperstown, NY
1947-2018

Interviewer

Anastacia Maurer

Interviewee

Margaret McGown

Location

Highway 80

Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AM:
My name is Anastacia Maurer and I'm a graduate student at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. And I'm here today on November 12, 2018 with Margaret McGown in her home in Cooperstown, New York, interviewing her for CCP Community Stories. Margaret, thank you for having me here today.
MM:
Well, I'm glad to have you here.
AM:
So to get us started with some introductory information tell me about your age and where you were born.
MM:
I was actually born in Binghamton, New York at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital on April 29th of 1947. So I guess that makes me seventy-one.
AM:
Tell me a little bit about your family.
MM:
Well, my father's side of the family has been in Otsego County since before the Revolutionary War. We have a long family history. But my great-great-great grandfather Steven is buried in the Cherry Valley Cemetery and they migrated down the Middlefield Center Road, had a farm there. Then my great-great grandfather built the house at 4 Pine Boulevard in Cooperstown where my grandparents, great grandparents, [and] my father actually grew up in that house. And so that side of my family's been right here. My father was born in the Thanksgiving Hospital, which is now the Thanksgiving Home. My mother was born in Kingston, Pennsylvania which is outside of Wilkes-Barre. She married Dad and moved to Cooperstown at a fairly young age and lived here her entire life. Dad lived to be eighty-eight, Mom lived to be ninety-six. So they were here a long time.
AM:
What are some of your family traditions here in Cooperstown?
MM:
Thanksgiving is probably our biggest family tradition. That's our big holiday. But we are people who like the lake. We have a boat. I learned to water ski on the lake. I look at the lake every day. We have a boat on the lake now and getting everybody together to go out in the boat in the nice weather is fun and generally we meet up with our friends out there. My dearest friend is a year younger than I am but we've been friends since she was one and I was two. So we spend a lot of time together. Being with family and good friends is probably the most important thing in my life.
AM:
Tell me about your children.
MM:
Okay. My husband and I have four children. I had two children by my first marriage. My daughter Beth, who turned fifty in February. She was the one at the back door. My son David who is forty-seven. He lives in the house next door on this property. My husband has a daughter is thirty-nine, I believe. So she lives in Apex, North Carolina. And then Mark and I have a child, Stephen, who lives in Arlington, Massachusetts. All of these children each have two children, one boy and one girl, so we have eight grandchildren.
AM:
So, with some members of your family still here and some further away, has the dynamic of your family changed or stayed the same over the years?
MM:
Well, I grew up with my grandparents. I was twenty-four when my first grandparent died. But my McGown grandparents who lived here in Cooperstown, I grew up with always being around them. My mother's parents lived in Pennsylvania. We didn't see them as often, but Nan and Grandpa McGown were here. Part of the family for many, many years. They both lived to be in their nineties. Then of course my parents; my father owned the McGown Company which is the store on the corner of Main and Pioneer Street, which is now Mickey's Place, but that was the McGown Company Hardware, Plumbing, and Heating for all of my growing up until 1982. And my mother was a stay-at-home mom until my younger sister went to high school and then Mom was a substitute teacher. I was one of four children. An older sister whose name was Harriet but we always called her Cookie. And unfortunately she died at the age of twenty-eight in 1972. Then there was me, the rebellious middle child, and then I have a brother Fred who was born in 1950, and a sister who was born in 1955. My brother is an attorney in Albany. My sister is a CPA [Certified Public Accountant] and she lives on Mercer Island, Washington.
AM:
So, you said you grew up in Cooperstown. What was the town like when you were growing up here?
[TRACK 1, 05:39]
MM:
Nirvana. It was wonderful. We ran the streets. We were never really very restricted. Our father insisted that we learned how to swim because we lived at 18 Main Street. The beginning of the Susquehanna River was less than a block away and the lake was about a block away. So when we were kids the Alfred Corning Clark Gymnasium was on the corner of Fair and Main which was practically a stone's throw from our front door. And we spent a lot of time in the gym and Dad had us there learning to swim. I swam the length of the gym pool when I was three. And I always remember that there was a big pulley system over the pool and the big black belt and they put the belt around us and then we would swim up and down the pool and they eventually would sort of take the pressure off the rope and we would just swim but we had to be encouraged to do that until we finally realized we could do it ourselves. I remember doing synchronized swimming in the pool at the gym. The Cooperstown dancing class, the Junior Ballroom Dancing Class, was started when I was in seventh grade and my mother and father and various other members of the community were the committee that started that. Now the women did all the work but the men's names were on it. And we had a cotillion at the Fenimore House in the early years. I believe it's now at the Otesaga, but in the very early years our cotillions were in the big room at the Fenimore House and we did that for three years in my day and age. We had Mount Otsego Ski Tow. So we all went skiing in the winter. The school bus would pick us up behind the old high school and take us up to Mount Otsego and Nick Sterling who was the principal and then superintendent of the school had the Sterling Ski School up there and we all learned to ski. It was wonderful. We had a lot of snow then, so I can remember skiing well into April. We all rode the school bus on Saturdays and I think we paid a dollar a day. And then on Sundays I think it cost us two dollars a day to ski. It was pretty nice; a lot of people came from Richfield. There was a small ski bowl up in Richfield but a lot of people preferred to come to Mount Otsego. Many of us who skied at Mount Otsego still miss it. We had rope tows. It was a big day when they put in the one T-bar that was there. But we all grew up on rope tows. I still have my tow gripper. I went to school in the old high school, in the basement next to the boiler room, because the school was being outgrown. I did kindergarten in the Methodist Church, which was next door to the old high school, first grade next to the boiler room at the old school, second grade in the Methodist Church again, and then third grade we went to the brand new elementary school. And we stayed in the elementary school through sixth grade. Then we went back to the old high school, as I said it's gone, but I was there seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. And then I went to the Northfield School for Girls for tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade.
AM:
So that ski slope is no longer operational?
MM:
No, it's no longer operational. It was owned by Les Hansen. I think the insurance and everything just became too much. There was also a very small ski slope on West Ridge Road in Cooperstown. I don't remember it. My father talked about it, because the hotel, the Otesaga was the Knox School for Girls when my father was growing up. My father grew up on 4 Pine Boulevard, which is right in front of the hotel. And the Otesaga was the Knox School for Girls. Dad talked about a ski tow that was over there somewhere by West Ridge Road. I didn't see it, but I know it was there. I've heard other people mention it also. But our little ski tow was a lot of fun for a long time.
AM:
So, how has Cooperstown changed over the years?
[Track 1, 10:35]
MM:
Well, more and more baseball. When I was a kid there was a Hall of Fame game played. It was one team from the National League and one team from the American League. And they would come and play a non, I don't know what to call it. A game that didn't count. It was an exhibition game. That's what it was. They would come and they would all change their clothes and the team would all go to the gym, which as I said was practically across the street from our house. And the players would walk up and down the street up to Doubleday Field and play. And when they were done playing they'd walk back and we kids all walked with them all the time and talked to them and got their autographs and it was a lot of fun. And we got to talk to the players. And now you pay fifty dollars to get an autograph and stand in line for I don't know how long because I don't do it. Baseball has become very commercialized. When I was a kid growing up, we bought our clothing in Cooperstown. There was a shop on Pioneer Street called the Patsy Inn Shop. And I remember going there and my mother bought us dresses. I remember my gray wool coat with the muff that went with it and a hat. Which was my Sunday wear, I mean my good wear—we didn't wear those to school. There were shoe stores on Main Street, there was Van’s Shoe Store and there was Derek's Shoe Store. And we could buy our shoes in town. We really didn't go places much to buy things. A big trip was to go to Bresee’s in Oneonta. And Bresee’s was a department store on Main Street in Oneonta. And that was a big trip, to go to Bresee’s and maybe buy some clothing. But my mother also made a lot of our dresses. She and my grandmother smocked our dresses. And they made a lot of clothes. And actually my mother made a lot of dresses for my daughter Beth when she was born. But it was very different. We weren't on the road all the time. There were four children and we ate three meals a day in the dining room. Sterling silver—it was just, that’s the way it was. And all of us—my mother and father and all four of us sat down for breakfast. Of course, mostly I remember my baby sister in the high chair because she was eight years younger than me, but we all sat at the table and ate meals. There was no fast food. On Thanksgiving we would go to the Cooper Inn on occasion, when my aunt and uncle were in town and they wanted us all to go to the Cooper Inn together. There was a dining room in the basement of the Cooper Inn. There were a few restaurants, but most of them were more like coffee shops. I don't remember eating out in Cooperstown. I know that Sherry's was there for many, many years. And once in a great while some of us would go to Sherry's, but it was pretty rare. I wouldn't say once a year. And we ate meals at home. We were pretty free in the summer and on weekends. The noon whistle blew at twelve o'clock and you were supposed to go home and check in. At 5:30 all the mothers knew all the kids were supposed to go home at 5:30. So if we were in somebody else's house they'd start shoving us out the door. We all had bicycles. I can remember my great aunt brought me a lovely bicycle when I was very young. I couldn't ride it for a while but I learned and I had my bicycle. And my friend that I spoke about who I've been friends with, she lived on the other side of town over by the elementary school and I lived on Main Street but I rode my bicycle back and forth and she rode her bicycle back and forth. It just was so different. We were so free. The day my sister was born I’d just turned eight. My grandparents came because my mother needed to go to the hospital and they were trying to figure out where I was. Well, I came home when the whistle blew. I've been down at the lake fishing. And I was eight. Nobody was worried about me. So it's very different than now when you watch your kid walk to the corner and then somebody else watches them walk to their house or whatever. I mean we just had none of that. We were very free. And it was really pretty cool. I played a lot of golf. I played a lot of tennis. We had a sailboat. At the Cooperstown Country Club we had a fleet of turnabouts which were basically wooden bathtubs and we sailed those and we raced them and we had a wonderful time with them. We took tennis lessons and Ed Kroll taught me to play golf. Ed was the golf pro in Cooperstown for many, many years. We had golf lessons and then we’d go out and play golf. I can remember square dancing on the tennis courts at the Club. We had a lot of fun. We were very, very fortunate kids.
AM:
So, in what ways do you think Cooperstown has stayed the same?
[TRACK 1, 16:10]
MM:
I think there are still some very fortunate people here. I think there are a lot of kids who still do very well coming out of Cooperstown High School and I would say that about my generation, that there was a high level of [students] going to college and being well-educated and I think that has somewhat stayed the same. I think that has a certain amount to do with the people who live here. We have a lot of doctors, their kids all go to college and do well. I think educationally people still do well here. I think the hospital has obviously grown and there are many more jobs there. I started working at the hospital when I was sixteen. I was a nurse's aide and they had a wonderful program that taught us to be nurses’ aides. I forgot the question.
AM:
It was just, “How has Cooperstown stayed the same?”
MM:
I think there is very big emphasis still on the hospital and the medical care was good then and I think it's good now. We have a fairly low level of crime. I mean when I grew up the front door of the house on Main Street was never locked. Ever. We didn't always lock our cars. I think that we're probably a little more cautious now, but I could probably still park my car on Main Street and leave it there unlocked for a fairly long period of time and it would be just fine. So I think there is a low crime level and I think that that stayed pretty low. I mean there've been some awful things that have happened here. When I was probably in middle school two young men were murdered on Main Street between the two banks and there certainly have been things that happened but I would say all in all it's a pretty low level of crime still. I think Cooperstown is still a village in a county that has been fairly poor over the years. In Cooperstown generally people are not as poor. But I mean growing up certainly there were a lot of the kids who lived on the farms and kids who lived in other areas and I don't think they did have the same advantages that those of us who lived in Cooperstown had. And I think that's still the same.
AM:
So, what's your opinion on the changes or the lack of changes that you've seen in Cooperstown? How do you feel about them?
[TRACK 1, 19:28]
MM:
Well, I would love to see us have a more diverse Main Street than we have. I think that one of the big changes that came starting in 1996, when the Cooperstown Dreams Park came. And there are a lot of people who feel that that was a bad thing. I think it was a bad thing and a good thing. I think that, economically, I'm not sure how our village would have survived at all without the Cooperstown Dreams Park. And I think it has brought millions of dollars into the village and without that we could have been another one of those small towns with empty storefronts most of the time. We have empty storefronts in the winter now because some of the baseball people don't keep stores open in the winter. But in the summer we certainly have a lot of people coming to town and a lot of money being spent in the town. And I think we have to be grateful to the Hall of Fame and to the Dreams Park for some of the economic success in Cooperstown.
AM:
Did you have a role in the beginnings of the Dreams Park?
MM:
I did. I worked for the Dreams Park. I was there when the first pitch was thrown in 1996. We were open for four weeks that summer and we had about twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five teams a week for four weeks. I was actually in charge of the infirmary. And I spent four weeks at the Dreams Park running the infirmary that year. I was an EMT at the time. They were required to have medical services there and I spent a lot of time there. As the park grew, of course, we hired people. We had a little more idea of what we were really doing. The first year we sort of made it up as we went along. But we hired people, we had more people working there. We've maintained the infirmary at the Dreams Park. I've been the Health Director and the person who owns the corporation that runs all of the medical services there straight through 2018. At this point we have about seven EMTs [Emergency Medical Technicians] and one nurse there all day every day. But the Dreams Park is now twenty-two baseball fields, twelve hundred kids a week, and about four hundred coaches, and two hundred umpires and it's a very large operation. I was a director there for fifteen years. I was in charge of the medical. I was in charge of what we called money services, which was the group of people who took care of all the money going through the concession stands and the soda machines and the clothing and souvenir shop and we took care of all of that. I was in charge of health and safety. In 1999 I was actually in charge of the Park. But unfortunately the owners had gotten into a bit of a legal wrangle and they were put into receivership in New Jersey and the receiver whose name was John Haran hired me to be his boots on the ground in Cooperstown that year. So it was a very exciting year for me. Not much sleep but we got it done. I think we were at eight weeks that summer. I don't think we'd expanded beyond our eight weeks. It was an interesting time.
AM:
What was the original impetus behind starting the Dreams Park?
MM:
Well it'd be a little hard for me to say. Louis Presutti, Senior, was a gentleman from Olean New York and he was a big baseball fan and he had traveled the country for quite a while with this idea that he had. And he decided that he wanted to do it. He and his family put this together and started it and I think that he was just a guy who loved baseball and wanted to see people play. He coached for many years and he wanted kids from all over the country to be able to come to Cooperstown to play baseball.
AM:
So, aside from the Dreams Park which you already mentioned what different roles have you had in the community?
[TRACK 1, 24:18]
MM:
Oh dear. Well, I went to the Northfield School for Girls, and then I went to Elmira College and after I graduated from Elmira a couple years later I moved back home. I worked at Bassett. The first year I worked at Bassett, I worked in the business office. So I learned a bit about insurance and billing and all that and then I was hired to be Social Work Assistant. I worked under Sam Wilcox, who is a long-term Cooperstown resident, and I worked for Sam until I was hired by Bill Hermann, who was the Administrator of the hospital, and in 1985 Bill Herman took me out of the Social Work Department and put me in Administration to run a finance project. Bassett had gone from one computer system to another for all their billing and all the people who were working in the Billing Office were working on all the stuff on the new computer system but they had about four million dollars’ worth of unpaid bills that were just kind of languishing. So, Bill Hermann hired me and I hired a staff of 11 people. They put us in one of the houses on Fair Street that the hospital owned, and we started going through four million dollars’ worth of old bills and figuring out what needed to be done, whether an insurance needed to be billed, whether the patient needed to be billed, whether the insurance had ever been billed, or what insurance someone might have had that was not on record. And we worked our way through four million dollars’ worth of old accounts receivable. I couldn't tell you exactly what we collected but it was a pretty good amount. Then, in that September of 1986, I went to law school at Syracuse University College of Law. And was there for three years, came back home. I was actually a lawyer for the hospital for quite a while. I did all the psychiatric proceedings, psychiatric retention, involuntary medication, a lot of different kinds of law that needed to be done not only for Bassett but for Fox [Hospital in Oneonta]. And then I also did a lot of what's called Article 81 proceedings which are proceedings for appointment of guardians of people who become incapacitated and have not made any will or power of attorney or anything so that someone else could take care of things for them. So we had to go through a court proceeding to get someone appointed their guardian. So that was basically my law practice. Most of my law practice. In my early years I did some family court also, and I did a few divorces. But as any lawyer will tell you, you get out of that as fast as you can. My children—Beth went to school through ninth grade in Cooperstown and then she went to the Westminster School. David went through ninth grade in Cooperstown and he went to Williston. Emma, Mark's daughter, lived on Long Island so she did not go to school here. And Mark's and my son Steven graduated from Cooperstown. It was interesting, the night they had the alumni dinner they had my grandfather, who graduated from Cooperstown in 1904 I think. And he was quite surprised when he realized that his great grandfather had graduated from Cooperstown. He never really figured that out. Beth went on and went to Wheaton College. David went to Wheaton College. Stephen went to Hamilton College. So, that's sort of the family history here. And the other thing that my husband and I started was an ambulance business in 1980. We still own it. It's called Cooperstown Medical Transport. We started this little tiny ambulance business in 1980 which is now an ambulance business covering Otsego, Delaware, and Chenango Counties. We have over one hundred employees and it's a pretty big business these days.
AM:
So, what inspired you to go back to law school after having already graduated and then been working?
MM:
Well, I saw a lot of things and I heard about what happened with families when I was working in the hospital. My brother is a lawyer. I was always kind of interested in the law. And I just decided that's what I was going to do. I've never regretted it. I never worked for a fancy law firm, I wanted to come home. I love the way it taught me to think. And I think, no matter whoever I talk to [START OF TRACK 2, 0:00] who has graduated from law school, they understand what I'm saying because you get taught to think a way that maybe isn't quite as emotional as you might think if you hadn't spent a lot of time reading law, but I just like the way it taught me to think. It taught me how to organize my brain, how to organize my thoughts, and I really have always appreciated that from it. I didn't always love practicing law, but I do like the way it made me think.
AM:
So, with that in mind, you've mentioned a lot of your own college experiences and your family's college experiences. What kind of role do you see education playing in a person's life?
[TRACK 2, 00:47]
MM:
Well, I think that there are many people for whom a college education is a wonderful thing. However, I don't think we should be pushing everyone to graduate from college. I think we need all the people. We need the welders, we need the car mechanics. We need a lot of people to do a lot of things in this life—electricians. I could go on forever. And do they need some sort of education? Yes. But I think we really need to look more at things like BOCES [Board of Cooperative Educational Services]. When I was growing up if you went to BOCES, which is the local sort of trade school in high school, if you went to BOCES you were not thought very highly of. It was not something that people aspired to, at least the people that I knew, most of us went to college. But I think we need a lot more trade education in the United States and I think pushing college for everyone is a mistake. I have some pretty strong thoughts about high school education. I did take all of my algebra, geometry, trigonometry. I never use trig, I don't think once after I got out of college or out of high school. I did use my algebra and probably the best use of my algebra was when my grandson was in seventh grade and he really was not doing well and he actually came to live with me for part of the year and we did algebra every night. And I relearned how to do all of that and when he passed seventh-grade math I thought I'd done a real job because I had remembered all that. I think we don't teach kids in high school, things about life. We don't teach them how to balance a checkbook. We don't even teach them how to sign their name. I had to teach my grandchildren how to do their signature when we wanted to open bank accounts. They don't learn cursive so they don't learn how to write their name. The bank will not accept their signature as a printed signature. So, we don't teach them how to balance a checkbook. We don't teach them to understand that if you get that credit card that you have to pay it back and how much it's going to cost you in interest. There's so much about life that we don't teach kids, just basic survival skills from my point of view. How to manage your money. What does it mean? What does compound interest mean? What is a mortgage and how do you get a mortgage and what does a mortgage really cost you? And all the things that we don't teach kids. I think we need to teach more of that in high school because not everybody goes to college. Not everybody takes an accounting course. I made my kids take accounting courses. But not many kids use trigonometry. There are probably a few. But I don't think we teach life skills in a way that we should.
AM:
So, has that changed from when you were going to school?
MM:
Sure. We had typing class, we had home economics. The boys had shop. I know they do computer class now but there were business classes in high school and I just don't see much of that now. I mean we're so tied up with Regents classes and so many maths and so much foreign language. I mean, I'm not sorry I took three years of Latin and seven years of French, I'm not sorry I did that but I'm not sure that's for everybody. And I think that some of the courses that we should be teaching are different. Not that I ever used that seven years of French, mind you, but I'm not sorry I did it. Also I was a paramedic at one point so I used a lot of those words that I got from Latin both in medicine and in law. But I'm pretty sure there are a lot of kids who didn't need that stuff and might have done better with more practical things in life.
AM:
So, how do you foresee Cooperstown changing in the next, say, twenty years?
[TRACK 2, 05:54]
MM:
Well, the population of the village has been declining. I don't know for sure but I would bet that the population of the village is graying. When I was a kid, every family had three, four, or five or six kids. All of us. I mean I if I went through named all the families that I grew up around, everybody had three, four, or five, it wasn’t unusual to have six kids. Now the families have fewer kids. The school population is definitely decreasing. Population in the village limits is decreasing, although there is a lot of building around the lake and in places there certainly is a population that wasn't there when I was a kid. But I think the school is going to have to become very creative about programming because the population of children is not going to grow. I think another problem that we have is housing and that's a problem we have because the Dreams Park has brought all these families to Cooperstown in the summer and they want to rent a house or an apartment or whatever for a week. And the amount of money that people can make renting a house in the summer and now that the Dreams Park is thirteen weeks, so you get thirteen weeks of very high rentals, which is far more than you can make if you rent to most working people or students in Cooperstown who want to be there year round. The hospital has a hard time with housing. Not for the doctors, the doctors have places to stay, but for people who come in as nurses and techs and people who work all through the hospital. There's no real good housing in Cooperstown anymore. And I think Cooperstown is going to have to face something about some sort of affordable housing in order to keep the hospital staffed and all the other places that that are not huge salaries—clerks to work on Main Street. People who work in the village have to have affordable housing and there's not a lot of it. I'm pretty sure you could talk to a lot of the students about that and they found it difficult. Everybody wants them out so they can start renting to the Dreams Park in May and they want to rent to the Dreams Park through August or even through Labor Day. So I think housing is a big problem. Year-round housing is a big problem. I think that's something the village is going to have to look at more. They instituted the parking fees to park in Cooperstown. And that has really helped in terms of maintaining the streets, because frankly the streets were getting to be pretty awful and some of them still are, but they've done a lot of work on the infrastructure. And I think with the revenue from paid parking, that's a huge amount of money that I think can be put into our infrastructure in the village and that's a good thing. Most of the east side of the lake is owned by the Clark family. I don't see that going into development anytime soon. You never know what's going to happen with all that undeveloped property over there. I don't think that's going to happen in the next twenty years. I think that we're going to have to see some really innovative thinking about the school especially because the population is going down every year.
AM:
So in the time that we have left, tell me a little bit about why Cooperstown feels like it's home to you. You mentioned you wanted to come back home. You've mentioned that it's kind of a central place for your family. Why is that?
[TRACK 2, 10:10]
MM:
Well, as I said, I grew up here with my grandparents and parents. My father had a business here. My mother was very much—Camp Minnetoska was the Girl Scout camp on the east side of the lake, my mother was on the board of Minnetoska. I went to Minnetoska for years. Growing up in Cooperstown, although we sometimes thought, “Oh, this is pretty sleepy; I want to get out of here because there's not much going on,” but really when you got right down to it, between the gym, the ski tow, we had a lot. I went to boarding school, which was in a town of 500 people, which was really in the middle of nowhere but we very rarely even went off campus. I actually went to Elmira thinking, “Oh, this will be interesting, I'll go to a city and see what living in a small city is like.” I didn't love it. I did four years of college there and I was a Sociology-Psychology major. And I did my internship in the Elmira City Police Department. And that was pretty eye-opening for a kid who’d really lived in a place where there wasn't much going on in terms of crime or police or anything. The police department was next door to my house so I sort of grew up with them around. But I did an internship with the Elmira City Police Department and that really opened my eyes to a lot of things, most of which I had no interest in continuing. I moved home. My sister died in September of ‘72. And my mom was really not doing well. She was pretty upset. And my younger sister was a senior in high school and she was getting a raw deal. My mother just was so depressed, it was really difficult and I moved home because I really felt I needed to be here. But it wasn't like it was awful. I mean it wasn't like I didn't want to be here, but it was probably the impetus to move me out of Elmira back home, the loss of my sister. And the other thing was that I lived in Elmira on June 23rd of 1972, when Hurricane Agnes came through. We had water up to the ceiling in our house, up to the first floor ceiling. Elmira at that point after the flood was just awful. I mean it was just not a nice place to be. The bank that I worked at was flooded and gone and it was just not a nice place to be. So I didn't really want to be there anymore. And I came home because I realized what a great place it was for a kid to grow up. You know my daughter, a little kid. She's out on a bicycle and in front of the library building saying, “Hi, my name's Beth. What's your name?” And you know it was just, it was home. And it's been home ever since—although I do escape to Vero Beach, Florida in the winter sometimes.
AM:
In the time that we have left, do you want to talk a little bit about your sister? You mentioned your older sister who passed away.
MM:
My older sister, she went to Cooperstown High School, she went to the Northfield School for Girls. And then she went to Connecticut College. She was diagnosed with cancer in October of 1971. And she lived until September of 1972. It was, it was a tough time.
AM:
What have your other siblings done? Do they still live in the area?
MM:
No. My brother went to Albany Law School. He had a long career at the Attorney General's Office in Albany. He's now retired. His wife still works at the Attorney General's Office in Albany. My younger sister worked and she went to Yale and then she went to NYU [New York University] and got her MBA [Master’s of Business Administration] and she was a certified CPA. She and her husband lived in Scarsdale and when her oldest child was born she retired and she's never worked at a paying job. She's done a lot of volunteer work over her years. They left Scarsdale and moved to Dallas when they had small children. And then they moved to Seattle and she’s done a lot of volunteer work in Seattle. She did a lot with the Mercer Island High School Band and various activities that her children were involved in and still lives in Mercer Island. She and I were just in Austin, Texas a couple of weeks ago going to the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix in auto racing. We went to Montreal in May last year. So we try to plan the two of us try to plan our trips together so we can do stuff together. It's a lot of fun.
AM:
How do your siblings feel about Cooperstown? Do they often come back to visit?
MM:
Well, my sister made a very large effort to come back two or three times a year when my parents were alive. Her husband's family has a beautiful place up on Lake George and so they come back to the village of Bolton Landing on Lake George every summer. We often go up there. Sometimes they come down here, they'll come down and go to the opera. One of my sister’s closest friends was Ellen Tillapaugh, who's now the mayor of Cooperstown. Noie likes to come back and see Ellen and a few other people. My brother lives in Albany, as I said he's retired from the AG’s office, and he comes back. He still has friends who live here it's not far from Albany so he comes over. Everybody came more when my parents were alive. We always had these huge holidays at my parents’ house when my parents were alive. But that has changed.
AM:
Anything else you feel you want people to know about Cooperstown that you would like to share?
MM:
As I said, I think was a pretty idyllic place to grow up. All my friends who still live here, we all consider ourselves very, very fortunate to have grown up here and to have been, as I say, involved in so many things. I mean the gym was there, and now of course there's the brand new sports center which is pretty fabulous, but even as the old gym when we were kids it was still fun. And the gym was there, we had the ski tow, we had all sorts of activities. Dancing class—not that some of the people loved dancing class, but we all went because we were expected to. And we just had a really nice childhood and I don't think I realized that until I was much older—how much different my childhood was. I still went to work when I was 16. I worked in my father's store when I was 14. You know it wasn't that we didn't work and we didn't have responsibility, but we also just plain had a lot of opportunities and a lot of different opportunities to do different things. And I think that was really important.
AM:
Well, thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoyed getting to interview you.
MM:
It was kind of fun.
AM:
Thank you!

Duration

29:59 - Track 1

18:58 - Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 00:40 - Family
Track 1, 05:39 - Cooperstown
Track 1, 20:48 - The Cooperstown Dreams Park
Track 1, 24:18 - Basset Health Care Network
Track 1, 29:23 - Law
Track 2, 00:47 - Education
Track 2, 05:54 - Future of Cooperstown

Files

Citation

Anastacia Maurer, “Margaret McGown, November 12, 2018,” CGP Community Stories, accessed June 20, 2019, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/369.