Charles Schoenlein, November 20, 2009

Title

Charles Schoenlein, November 20, 2009

Subject

Archbishop (or) Metropolitan Laurus, born Vasil Michalovic Skurla
Children’s Aid Society, Manhattan, NY
Church of Christ United, Richfield Springs, NY
Columbia Dental School
Community Service in Richfield Springs: School Board, Library Board, Rotary Club.
Dentistry
Forest Hills, Long Island
Gardening
Holy Trinity Monastery. Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Jordanville, NY
Life on Schuyler Lake, NY
Pipe Organ
Richfield Springs, NY
Travel: Egypt, Greece, Holy Land, Italy, Spain

Description

Dr. Charles Schoenlein was born in 1929 in Queens County, New York. His upbringing encouraged a love of music and an active, involved life-style. Educated at Queens University and then at Columbia Dental School, Dr. Schoenlein met his wife, Louis, in New York City. The couple moved to Richfield Springs in the early 1960s. He maintained a busy dental practice in Richfield Springs with Louis, his administrative assistant and a registered nurse. Raising three children, Dr. Schoenlein became deeply involved in the community around Schuyler Lake; he sat on several boards, including the school and library boards and the Rotary Club. He continues to be involved in the community, particularly through his contributions of pipe organ music on Sundays at the Church of Christ United. A recurring theme in this interview, are the close friendships Dr. Schoenlein has made throughout the course of his life. A lengthy friendship with the Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia afforded him extensive opportunity to travel abroad, and to experience Russian orthodox culture at the monastery in Jordanville, New York. At present, Dr. Schoenlein continues to enjoy the scenery of his lakefront home, gardening, and being a grandfather.

Creator

Brooke Steinhauser

Publisher

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

Date

2009-11-20

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.5mB
image/jpeg
2816 x 2112 pixels
audio/mpeg
27.5mB
audio/mpeg
7.8mB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

10-095

Coverage

Richfield Springs, New York. 1929-2009. Cooperstown, NY.

Interviewer

Brooke Steinhauser

Interviewee

Charles Schoenlein

Location

2213 County Highway 22
Richfield Springs, New York

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Research and Fieldwork Course
Oral History Project
Fall 2009

Interview with Dr. Charles Schoenlein by Brooke Steinhauser

Interviewer: Brooke Steinhauser
Interviewee: Dr. Charles Schoenlein
Date: November 20, 2009
Location: 2213 County Highway 22, Richfield Springs, NY 13439
Archive: The New York State Historical Association


BS: Brooke Steinhauser
CS: Charles Schoenlein

[Begin track 1. 00:00]
BS:
Ok. This is the November 20th, 2009 interview of Dr. Charles Schoenlein by Brooke Steinhauser, for the Cooperstown Graduate Program, taking place at 2213 County Highway 22, in Richfield Springs. Alright, well, I thought I’d just begin at the beginning, Dr. Schoenlein, and ask you about where you were born.
CS:
I was born in Forest Hills on Long Island, Queens County, New York.
BS:
And how long had your parents lived there?
CS:
Well they bought their home there, in the early nineteen twenties.
BS:
Wow.
CS:
I’m not sure of the exact date. [clears throat]
BS:
And what did your parents do?
CS:
My parents, you mean, when they were married? She was a housewife, stay at home with the kids. And my dad, was a chauffeur, worked for a very rich, wealthy family in New York City. And also worked for the commissioner of hospitals, driving him around New York City.
BS:
Oh, wow.
CS:
It made him an extremely fast, hazardous driver. Usually with police escort. [laughter]
BS:
Oh no! [laughter] So he did that as long as, uh..
CS:
Yeah, later in life I know he did handy, handydan’s jobs type thing, painting and repairing homes around Forest Hills.
BS:
Did he teach you to drive?
CS:
No.
BS:
No? Who taught you to drive?
CS:
You know, I really don’t know. It’s one of those things that I really don’t know how I got going. I know I had a lot of instructions in, you know, safety courses and stuff like that.
BS:
In school?
CS:
I guess. No, I don’t know. It wasn’t in school, it was part of the program to get a license.
BS:
So I know you have one sister, correct?
CS:
I have two sisters.
BS:
Two sisters.
CS:
I had two sisters.
BS:
Oh, I’m sorry about that. So you mentioned to me in our pre-interview that one of them was born in a castle.

CS:
Yes, she was born when my mother was working as a kind of a governess to a wealthy child in a castle on the Hudson overlooking the George Washington bridge. Beautiful place, I never got to see it. When my mother decided that I should see it, unfortunately she found out that it was being torn down. And in its place five apartment houses were built.
BS:
That’s a shame
CS:
It was. It was a shame that I didn’t see it. Guess economically it had to go.
BS:
So, when was that, what year was that?
CS:
Wow, that was in the, uh, early parts of the forties. Nineteen forties
BS:
To your memory was there a lot of that going on in that area? Was there a lot of tearing down of older historic structures?
CS:
I really don’t know. I don’t know.
BS:
Could you tell me a little bit about, you know, what growing up in your family was like?
CS:
[laughter] I was dragged up. [laughter] With two older sisters, obviously. One was ten years older than me, and the other was sixteen years older. But uh, we had a lot of music in my home. My father was very musical, you know, could play almost anything. But all by ear. And my sister became very, very talented at the piano, my older sister. In fact, she played for the radio in New York City.
BS:
Oh wow.
CS:
I don’t know. Probably some exercise classes, I don’t know.
BS:
So, your father was the one to bring the music into the house?
CS:
I think so, yeah, my mother was not musical at all.
BS:
Any other instruments besides piano?
CS:
Yes, he played the mandolin.
BS:
Oh wow!
CS:
And uh, some other things. Played the guitar, I don’t know. Maybe water glasses too, I don’t know.
BS:
Water glasses! So, did you take family outings that involved, you know music, or anything like that? Did you go see concerts?
CS:
No, not that I know of. Although a little later in life I had a cousin who married a gal who was at the Julliard school of music and I attended quite a few of their performances.
BS:
So music was in the family.
CS:
Excuse me?
BS:
Music was in the family.
CS:
Yeah, I think so. Still is.
BS:
Yeah, I know you continue to play.
CS:
Yes.
BS:
Yeah. Tell me a little bit about, you know so, when did you begin taking lessons?
CS:
Yes, I took lessons very early, I guess as a, before I was a teenager. And extensive lessons, I continued. Was one of the things my mother kind of pushed. And uh, I really am pleased with it now because I do enjoy playing now.
BS:
So you are pleased with it now. You, you didn’t enjoy it when you were growing up?
CS:
Well, you know the guys were outside playing baseball and stuff like that so I was pulled a couple of different directions.
BS:
Hmm. Yeah. So, how about where you went to school. Did you go to school on Long Island?
CS:
Yes, I started in elementary school within a few blocks of my home. And then went to a high school which was probably two, three miles away. Forest Hills High School. After that I went to Columbia.
BS:
Right. Now, I… in high school did you continue music classes there?
CS:
No, I did not, I.. They auditioned us. Students were auditioned by the music teacher and when I got up there he says, “well you can follow me around”. I carried the music [laughter]. I didn’t have a singing voice.
BS:
Were you ever asked to play piano for anybody at school, any singers, as an accompanist?
CS:
No, not really.
BS:
So after you graduated high school what did you do then?
CS:
Well I went to college.
BS:
You went directly to college?
CS:
I went to Queens University first, which is on Long Island a couple of miles from home. Had to take a circuitous bus trip to get there, but… I didn’t have an automobile until later. I had a wreck to use.
BS:
Were there, did you bring, you know, since you went to high school and college in the same area, did you maintain friendships from early on through college?
CS:
Unfortunately, no. Once I got out of high school I had quite a few friends and we scattered, of course, the war came along, some got drafted, others volunteered, and that type of thing, and when I was in dental school I enlisted in the Navy, but through peculiar circumstances and the internship and residency stuff I never served active duty.
BS:
Ah, interesting. How did you feel about that, I mean were you prepared to serve duty, serve active duty?
CS:
Well, I assumed I would. And it just worked out that I didn’t, I… The head of the dental school wanted me to stay as an intern and resident. When I told him I had my marching orders, in fact I was assigned to the Marines, he just picked up the phone he says, “Shoenlein ain’t going”. I found out later that he was the advisor or consultant for the Navy for the whole east coast. [laughter]
BS:
Wow!
CS:
Funny how things work out.
BS:
Yes, it is funny. Do you think he saw special potential in you and that’s why he wanted to keep you around?
CS:
Well, I would like to think so! Maybe I was the last of the barrel, I don’t know. He remained as a very good friend right through his entire life. He came from the Utica area, Dr. Zigerelli. And there are lots of his relatives up in this area. I don’t know any of them.
BS:
So was he your advisor during dental school?
CS:
Yes, mostly. Teacher, advisor, friend.
BS:
So, you spent how many years at Queens college?
CS:
Four.
BS:
Four. Then you went to dental school, ok. And what was your major in undergrad.?
CS;
Well I majored mainly in sciences, chemistry, and physics, and biology.
BS:
What inspired you to major in the sciences in undergrad?
CS:
I…well, I liked them. I did very well in them. And in the arts and English courses, poetry and stuff like that, I stunk. [laughter] I didn’t enjoy them.
BS:
So, what was dental school like?
CS:
It was hectic, we were very, very busy. No time for really playing. But I made some good friends there, some have already died. I was one of the younger in my class, so… since I am eighty, they were older.
BS:
Was the coursework, you know, were you prepared for the coursework in dental school?
CS:
I think so, yes, I had a good science background. And that’s what they required.
BS:
So you went from the sciences to dentistry. When did you realize that you wanted to go into dentistry?
CS:
Well I had a cousin who was a dentist. And I used to help him and earn some money by cleaning his office and I kind of saw it as a place that fascinated me. And I enjoyed the lab work and that type of thing.
BS:
Do you have an earliest memory of going to the dentist?
CS:
As a patient?
BS:
As a patient.
CS:
No, I really don’t.
BS:
No?
CS:
I probably hollered and screamed like many kids, I don’t know.
BS:
Yeah, so many people don’t, don’t like going to the dentist, how did you, you know, how did you deal with that with your own patients?
CS:
Well I think it was a…I think it’s something you put up with, I… many ways of dealing with it, anesthetics and stuff, local, general. I don’t think it was a problem.
BS:
Do you feel you were able to put people at ease, with your mannerisms?
CS:
I think for the most part I was, or they didn’t come.
BS:
When did you begin your practice? You were at Columbia for how many years?
CS:
Well I was a dental student four years. Well, I began my practice up here. I met my wife through the hospital, she was a head nurse on our floor. When we got married we came up here, and that was just over fifty years ago. Never regretted it.
BS:
So you came up here directly after Columbia?
CS:
Well I had a…I had a job with Children’s Aid Society in Manhattan, and that was fun. I worked in clinics all over the place, in Manhattan, and the head of that kind of befriended me. But I thought maybe I’d stay there, but I didn’t. They certainly did a very good service for the children of New York City.
BS:
Was it children of low income families who needed...[cut off]
CS:
For the most part, yes. I was in the Spanish speaking area of Manhattan. Tried to take up Spanish, but it was a disaster.
BS:
How long were you at that job for?
CS:
It was two years.
BS:
Was that your first experience with non-profit, kind of community service efforts?
CS:
Probably.
BS:
I know you’ve been very involved locally, in efforts here. And I was wondering if that’s something that your parents kind of instilled in you…
CS;
I suppose that’s where it came from, but I’ve never really analyzed it. I enjoyed working for the community up here, the clubs, Rotary Club, library board, school board. On the school board for a number of years, president of the school board.
BS:
So, you moved up here because of a job, or just to begin your own practice?
CS:
To begin my own practice, was kind of a half way point, you know between my family and upbringing and my wife up on the Saint Lawrence River. Kind of the halfway point.
BS:
Can you tell me about the first time you met Lois?
CS:
Whew! [laughter] Probably in the hospital, probably maneuvered her into one of the linen closets or something. [Laughter] I don’t really, you know, specifically know.
BS:
Did you ask her on a date?
CS:
Oh yes. First date, I remember, I tried to feed her some wine, order some wine for dinner. Found out she didn’t drink. [laughter] So I couldn’t get her drunk. And pliable. [laughter]
BS:
So you took her out on a nice meal, it sounds like.
CS:
Yeah, we did some shows and … Manhattan’s a nice place to have available to you, I mean there’s so much going on. Activities, entertainment.
BS:
So shows, you mean music shows?
CS:
Oh yeah..
BS:
Or theater?
CS:
Well, both, both.
BS:
So, she enjoyed music and theater as much as you did?
CS:
I think so, yeah. I remember trying to take her to a show and I goofed up and I was a day late taking her to it.
BS:
So you met her at Columbia, correct?
CS:
Mhmm.
BS:
And did you have similar classes, were you in the same …
CS:
Oh no. We were both at that time finished with school and practicing or interning. She was the head nurse on the floor. She enjoyed it down there too.
BS:
What else did you two have in common?
CS:
Well, we had three children! [laughter]
BS:
Back then, before you were married…
CS:
Well, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what was the glue that, that attracted us. I don’t know.

BS:
Did she have a similar interest in your work at the Children’s Aid Foundation?

CS:
She really had nothing to do with that.

BS:
So, how long did you date before you were married?

CS:
About three months. [laughter]

BS:
Really?

CS:
It was very short, yeah.
BS:
And did your family meet her before you were engaged?
CS:
Oh yes, well my mother. My father had died. It’s that I was momma’s boy.
BS:
You were momma’s boy.
CS:
Yep.
BS:
Because you were the youngest?
CS:
Right. And I was the only one at home at that time.
BS:
The only one at home. Did your mother approve of Lois?
CS:
I think she was scared of her. [laughter]
BS:
Scared of her?
CS:
My mother basically was uneducated, and I think Lois was kind of a challenge to her. Purely an assumption on my part.
BS:
So do you think that she was worried she would be… that she would not be a good wife to you because she had her own career?
CS:
No, I don’t think so. I think maybe she was afraid she was being squeezed out. [laughter] And she did, my mother, did come up and live with us, for quite a few years. Don’t remember how long. Lois welcomed her because my mother liked to cook and do all that type of stuff.
BS:
And did you remain close with your sisters?
CS:
Yeah, I think so. Yeah. My one sister was very close when I was only ten years old. That was when I was almost beyond being an infant, my father became very sick and I was shipped out to my aunt on Long Island. And my sister was sent to take care of me. So we did develop a close relationship I think that way. She was almost like a second mother to me.
BS:
Did you have nieces and nephews?
CS:
Do I have any nieces and nephews? Yes. My oldest sister had one daughter, and my second sister had three children. So they are still going. And we see them occasionally. Unfortunately it’s only at weddings and funerals.
BS:
Is your family pretty spread out across the country?
CS:
No, they’re all on the East Coast here. One spends a lot of time up here in the Adirondacks and I like to get to see her, but that’s the wonderful thing about the computer. We keep in touch by e-mail.
BS:
How do you like technology?
CS:
Well, I’m not too good at it. I never took typing, so working at computers is a hunt and peck system too. My mother had the discipline to learn how to do fingering. I think it’s a great thing. I would never write letters. In fact, people wouldn’t be able to read them.
BS:
So, in your dentistry practice, you know, the administrative stuff fell to somebody else? You didn’t worry about any of that?
CS:
Well Lois did most of that. She was in the office with us most all the time.
BS:
Now was she a dental hygienist?
CS:
No, she was just a nurse, an RN. So she gathered the skills of… and I always had other people do the dental assisting and that type of thing.
BS:
Were there other doctors who worked in the practice with you? Just you?
CS:
No, no. Solo.
BS:
At the height of your practice, how many patients did you have?
CS:
God only knows and he won’t tell! [laughter] I really…I have no idea! If I counted them…it was a busy practice.
BS:
What made your practice as a dentist rewarding for you?
CS:
Well, I loved dealing with people.
BS:
I can tell.
CS:
I did. And I think I did a fair job of that. Sure there’s people would disagree.
BS:
Did you work much with children?
CS:
Well the practice was total. Birth to death. [laughter]
BS:
How did you sort of keep up with changing technology in the realm of dentistry?
CS:
Well I was required actually to take post-graduate courses and I belonged to two dental groups one out of the Utica area and one out of Albany. That’s where I’d get…keep up the data and the technologies. You have to do that. I mean they actually gave you credit for courses you’d take and stuff like that. And they’d keep track of all of it.

BS:
Were there other local dentists that you would get together with and speak shop-talk?
CS:
I don’t know, but the meetings and that type of thing I’d know one or two people individually around here.
BS:
Well, so tell me a little bit about your children.
CS:
Well, the oldest is a boy, the second oldest is a boy, the youngest is a girl. And the girl is married and has two children and those children are just young teenagers now. And the boy is very musical, on the piano. And I would like to get him going on the pipe organ but he leads a very busy Boy Scout life. I hate to see my pipe organ go to the junk yard. [laughter]
BS:
It’s lovely. How about the two sons?
CS:
The two boys? The two sons? Well, Chuck, the oldest, lives in town, on the edge of town. Works for the railroad. And unfortunately they reorganized so his job now is down in Binghamton. He commutes there from here daily.
BS:
How long?
CS:
I don’t know it’s probably about an hour and a half away. He does share a ride. The other son, Eric, is an orthodontist in Utica. And we see quite a bit of him, all the wrecks and stuff around here is his doing. He’s always up to some mischief. He spends a lot of time, his time off, down in the British West Indies. He has a property in a condo down there. I’ve never seen it, he’s never thought of treating me to a trip down. In fact, he is there right now.
BS:
Do you think that your being a dentist inspired him to go in the direction of orthodontia?
CS:
You know, really no, because, with dentistry, he never really hung around the office. And I don’t know really what got him going in that direction. I don’t think I had much to do with it, unless he observed me and I was unaware of it. He went up to Utica and worked for a dentist. In fact he actually ended up buying his practice. He was an orthodontist also.
BS:
Do you feel like your common vocation is a special bond between the two of you?
[End track 1. 29:59]
[Start track 2. 00:00]
CS:
I don’t know. We get along alright. [laugher] He just does too many things at the same time and it’s driving me nuts.
BS:
Well you do a lot of things too, don’t you?
CS:
Not at the same time. He’s very, very active.
BS:
So he is active in his community?
CS:
No, in messing up my place here. See all this junk around, that’s all it is. [gesturing out the window].
BS:
What’s he doing with all that?
CS:
Mostly, in the process of building a lighthouse on the island.
BS:
Oh wow. What for?
CS:
I don’t know. I really don’t. Although, I’d like to see a lighthouse out there. He cleared that, it was totally wooded in the northern end and he cleared and used that for parasailing. To take off from there and parasail around, and to parasail by dunking the person in the lake.
BS:
So you’ve been living on this lake for, I know, I think you said about fifteen years or so?
CS:
In this house. We had another place that we lived in summers.
BS;
Was that on a lake as well?
CS:
Right here.
BS:
Oh yeah. So do you kind of consider yourself lake folk?
CS:
Yeah I guess so.
BS:
You get out there a bit?
CS:
Well less now. Used to get out more. I’m not too fond of fishing. And water skiing I used to take the kids clockwise half the summer and counter-clockwise the second half. So by the end I thought I was unwound. [laugher]
BS:
So will you help your son with that project, building the lighthouse?
CS:
I don’t think so. I’m not too agile anymore. He has lots of friends and employees that help him.
BS:
So, your grandson being musical did you teach him?
CS:
Jacob. No, his mother, my daughter’s very musical. She is a very good pianist.
BS:
Did you teach her?
CS:
No.
BS:
She had lessons?
CS:
Mhmm. Here in Richfield.
BS:
What kinds of things did you do with your kids when you were growing up?
CS:
Do with them? Waterskiing. We took a lot of trips through the Northeast. Pennsylvania and the battlefields and all that type of thing. And when they were searching for colleges I told them I’d take them any place they wanted to go, and I had personally enjoyed walking around campuses.
BS:
So did all three of them go to college?
CS:
Well actually they all did but the oldest boy went for only a year and said he had enough.
BS:
Did they stay in the Northeast?
CS:
Yeah, they’re all up in the Northeast. Chuck the oldest is here in town, other end of the village. Eric in the Utica area, and Carol and her family are in Cazenovia.
BS:
So you took a lot of trips…
CS:
Yes, in my time off…
BS:
Within the United States? Did you ever go anywhere across the pond?
CS:
No, not with the kids. Not until I retired. Like to sail the Cunard lines. I took Jacob and Hannah with us.
BS:
Where else did you go?
CS:
Well, Lois and I spent time in Italy and Spain. We were fortunate in having the secretary of the Archbishop of the monastery [Archbishop Laurus] as a friend and he took us quite a few places.
BS:
I’ve been wanting to ask you about that friendship, how did that begin?
CS:
I don’t know, I guess it was in my blood, because my mother was brought up in the orthodox religion. And they were patients of mine, and one day the Archbishop said to me, when he was here, as a patient, he said, “You want to come on a trip to the Holy Land with me?”, and I called up his secretary a little later, and I said, “Paul, did he really mean that?”, he says, “Oh yes, yes, yes”, I said, “I don’t want to get in a position where I’d get embarrassed or embarrass him.” He says, “Oh don’t worry about that”. And we did go with him and he treated us so nicely, very generous.
BS:
So, he took you to Jerusalem?
CS:
We went to Jerusalem through the Holy Land. we went through Greece, and Italy.
BS:
This is all with Archbishop Laurus?
CS:
Yes, who later became metropolitan, had dealings with Putin. But he ups and dies on me. I miss him. He came here for dinner quite often and he was able to kick off his shoes and relax, and his English was enough so I could converse. My Russian stinks.
BS:
So, did you actually ever study any Russian?
CS:
Yes I did. I went to the monastery and they put me in the retard class. And the dean of the school was a patient and friend. And my hearing has always been bad and I just couldn’t catch the inflections and that. You know, the little things that mean a lot.
BS:
I studied Russian for five years…so I know…
CS:
Oh did you? Gahvareeshee pah rooskee?
BS:
Da!
CS:
Tee goch boodoo pyanee?
BS:
Nyet. Oichyen xahrosho, nye ploxho. So I know what you mean, it’s hard to get that inflection.
CS:
And the verbs of motion.
BS:
There are, what, six different cases, right?
CS:
I don’t know.
BS:
Yeah. So it’s all the conjugation, it’s hard.
CS:
I don’t know why they made it so complicated. English is so easy.
BS:
Oh, I don’t know about that. So how long was your relationship then with the Archbishop? How long did you know him for?
CS:
Well, I, till he died. Almost from the beginning of… well, let’s see. From fifty seven till when he died which…he’s been gone now for about four or five years…been a long…it’s long. Very nice though. I arranged to take him on a helicopter ride around the area.
BS:
Did you?
CS:
Yeah, I know the jeweler up in Utica who has a helicopter. He came down and picked us up and actually we landed on the island.
BS:
Wow. The jeweler? So he also happened to own a helicopter?
CS:
Mhm. Well, I think he uses it commercially to monitor oil lines or something, I’m not too sure how that works out. It’s a business type of thing with him. Seemed to be a very good pilot, I was very confident in going with him.
BS:
Was that your first time up in a helicopter?
CS:
Oh no. No. I took advantage of flying between Kennedy Airport and LaGuardia; I purposefully maneuvered to do that because it flew over the area where I grew up. I could identify…you fly low enough, that I could identify everything, that was kind of enjoyable.
BS:
Was your house still there?
CS:
Oh yes. Still there now.
BS:
Have you been back to see it?
CS:
Well, when I’m down in Forest Hills, I will drive by but I don’t know anybody around there anymore.
BS:
So, Archbishop Laurus, he just seems like such a character, you know, it’s so interesting that you knew him.
CS:
Did you know him?
BS:
No, no, no. But you have so many great stories about him.
CS:
With your Russian background do you ever attend any Orthodox services?
BS:
I never did. What are they like?
CS:
Long. And you stand, although they do allow you if you’re decrepit like I am, you can usually sit. But you ought to go to the monastery, it’s fascinating! They have a tremendous studio for icons. And they have an upper church and a lower church.
BS:
Do they do services in both?
CS:
Excuse me?
BS:
Do they do services in both the upper and the lower?
CS:
Oh yes. I watched them build the bell tower there. It was very interesting. They have a huge bell and a […] and paid to install an automatic ring system. But they don’t like it. They still send the students up to ring them by hand. And they climb all over the place. It’s kind of hazardous I think.
BS:
Students, so this is a seminary as well?
CS:
Yes. Yeah, they have a baptism area too with…it’s beautifully painted. They have a big hot tub set in the floor.
BS:
So services there, is there much music? Does anyone sing?
CS:
It’s all voice. Yes the choirs are exceptionally good. In fact, the leader of the choir was here the other day. Good friend of mine. I don’t get over there anymore though, I…since the Archbishop passed.
BS:
When did he pass?
CS:
Oh, about three, four years ago. Kind of sudden.
BS:
That must have been hard.
CS:
Yeah. Yeah, you live long enough you lose a lot of friends.
BS:
It’s true. And you’ve had so many friends, you know throughout this entire interview you’ve mentioned so many different people you’ve met, whether they were your patients, it sounds like a lot of them were your patients…
CS:
Yes, a lot of them were, yes.
BS:
Do you have a favorite story about your travels in Europe with the Archbishop?
CS:
Nothing comes to mind.
BS:
Did you travel by train?
CS:
Oh no. Either by bus or car.
BS:
And did he have special service because he’s the Archbishop, you know, did he have a driver, who drove you around?
CS:
I don’t understand what you mean.
BS:
Did he have a chauffeur or anybody who drove him around because he was important?
CS:
Oh no.
BS:
And which was the country that you enjoyed most? Greece, Italy, Spain?
CS:
I don’t know, I think probably Italy.
BS:
Do you remember what parts of Italy you got to?
CS:
We actually went up the whole length of it. We took a boat ride across from Greece way down at the foot and we were met by a Vatican priest who took us by bus all the way up the whole thing right back to Rome. And he was very knowledgeable, he showed us around, he was a friend of the Archbishop’s secretary. That’s how we made contact with him.
BS:
So he was kind of your tour guide?
CS:
Yeah. Stayed in some beautiful places and most of them palatial. Marble, that type of thing. One place they tried to feed us, feed me, a squid. Just the thought of it turned me off. They said it was very good, I didn’t have the courage to try it. It was kind of a deep fried…
BS:
Was it calamari?
CS:
I guess so. They tried that.
BS:
A lot of people like it.
CS:
You’ve tried it?
BS:
I’ve had it.
CS:
I’ve heard it’s good, and still I didn’t have the courage.
BS:
I spent time in Florence. Did you get to Florence, Italy?
CS:
No, I don’t think we did.
BS:
It’s north of Rome.
CS:
Yes. I don’t think we got to anything up north when we were in Italy.
BS:
They, and not just in Florence, all across Italy, they put squid and other kinds of things on their pizza, they call it ‘fruit of the sea’ pizza. And octopus, I never tried it.
CS:
Oh no? You’re squeamish too? [laughter]
BS:
A little bit. So, did you eat pizza when you were in Italy?
CS:
I don’t believe so.
BS:
No pizza?
CS:
I don’t think so!
BS:
A lot of pasta?
CS:
Well yeah.
BS:
Yeah, good wine. How about on your travels, with all the countries you’ve been to, did you get much to museums at all?
CS:
Get much what?
BS:
Did you go to museums very often?
CS:
I don’t know, I don’t think so. We went to a few museums where we saw mummies and stuff. I think that was more in Egypt.
BS:
You went to Egypt? What was Egypt like?
CS:
Very, very busy. Crowded.
BS:
Were you in Cairo?
CS:
I’m trying to think of the one place, we were driving, and right in the middle of the highway was this tree. And they wouldn’t take the darn tree down. So you had to go around, I can’t really remember where that was.
BS:
Did you get to see pyramids?
CS:
No I didn’t get to, no.
BS:
So, would you say that you’re a pretty well traveled man?
CS:
Well, I wouldn’t say that. I, I’ve traveled, I don’t know [about] well traveled.
BS:
Do you feel like you’ve had opportunities that other people don’t get to have?
CS:
Oh, I’m sure I did. Yeah.
BS:
So, tell me about Richfield Springs, when did you come here?
CS:
1957. But, we came here right after we were married. So, we just passed the fifty year mark. Never regretted it. There are a lot of things about it that make us feel at home. The convenience to Basset, which is kind of an offshoot of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
BS:
And was your practice, was it in Richfield Springs?
CS:
Yeah. Right in the village. Still going. Dr. Gallop.
BS:
Do you get over there much?
CS:
I go there. [laughter]
BS:
He is your doctor now.
CS:
In fact I got a rough spot now I want taken care of.
BS:
Do a lot of the same patients that you had go there now, still, to this other doctor?
CS:
I don’t know, I really don’t know. I know some do. The problem is I let my fees dwindle. And when he came in, of course, he wanted today’s fees. And a lot of people thought they were excessive, and actually they weren’t. It’s all what you get used to.
BS:
Why did you let your fees dwindle?
CS:
I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s hard raising fees.
BS:
So the different organizations that you’ve been a part of, you mentioned the school board, is that all out of Richfield Springs or is it Cooperstown?
CS:
No, no organizations in Cooperstown. All Richfield.
BS:
Do you have a favorite organization that you worked with? One that you thought was most rewarding?
CS:
Well, I like the church, and Rotary, but I’ve given up Rotary. It was just more than I could keep up with.
BS:
By the church did you mean the Russian Orthodox Church or the one you attend?
CS:
No, no, no. The Church here.
BS:
You attend the Presbyterian Church?
CS:
It’s the Church of Christ United, it’s Presbyterian and Methodist combined. And they have a wonderful pipe organ.
BS:
Yes. You became their pipe organist, right?
CS:
No, I play almost every Sunday before the service.
BS:
While people enter the church? But they have a separate pipe organist for the church?
CS:
Mhm. A good one too. Alice. And I’m waiting for the guy to come now and fix my orchestral trumpet on it.
BS:
Oh, what’s that?
CS:
It’s a trumpet which has its own amplifier and speaker and everything. It’s something that I had put in over ten years ago and it has failed and I’m trying to get it repaired. Hopefully this week.
BS:
You are repairing it yourself?
CS:
No, the organ tuner.
BS:
So how do you learn to play the pipe organ? Not many people know how to do that.
CS:
Take lessons. [laughter]
BS:
You took lessons?
CS:
No, I didn’t. I was a pianist, so, lots of time on the piano and then when I came here the organist at the time told me, she says, “Oh, just play the organ, just slur the notes. It’ll sound great.”
BS:
Slur the notes?
CS:
Yeah, I mean you don’t hit the notes like a piano, you have to slide one note into the other. So, I slur them! [laughter]
BS:
Do you feel like you became pretty proficient at the pipe organ?
CS:
To satisfy myself. I mean not…I’m far from really professional.
BS:
What kind of music do you play on it?
CS:
Well, the only thing I can make sound good are hymns. They’re the easiest. But my pipe organ here is a digital one, and it has theater stops on it and I just can’t make them sound good.
BS:
What kind of stops?
CS:
Digital, no pipes. They’re all electronically induced.
BS:
When did you get that, I’m looking at it now for the first time really, when did that come to this house?
CS:
My wife bought it for my seventy-fifth birthday. Well, I shouldn’t say bought it, she had it built. And unfortunately the builder is out in Oregon now, Mark Henderson.
BS:
That’s quite the gift. How often do you play it?
CS:
Well, I fiddle around with it lots of times. But I much prefer the one in church.
BS:
And how old is theirs?
CS:
Well, it was given by the More-Cormac family back in the 1890s.
BS:
Do you read much about organs, about different styles in the make of organs?
CS:
No.
BS:
No. Because you see such beautiful, ornate organs in some churches, it just, they’re pieces of artwork really.
CS:
Yes. And the one here in the Church of Christ United is encased in a hand carved case that was carved before electricity was available. And I can’t believe they did what they did. Someday stop in and take a peek. Remarkable.
BS:
And remarkable that they’re still in use.
CS:
Yes, that too. They require a lot of attention though.
BS:
So, your mother was religious. Was your father religious?
CS:
No.
BS:
Would you consider yourself religious?
CS:
[laughter] Not really. I like going to church. I enjoy church. You find ministers…we got a female minister now, and she’s good! I never thought I would take to a female minister. Why not?
BS:
So you grew up with male ministers?
CS:
Oh yeah sure.
BS:
It’s pretty unusual to have a female minister?
CS:
Not today.
BS:
When did that start changing?
CS:
Oh probably twenty, thirty years ago. They gradually came in. No reason why they shouldn’t.
BS:
And what makes her good as a minister?
CS:
Oh, I don’t know. She speaks from the heart. That’s something. That relates what going on in the world around us.
BS:
So being relevant is important.
CS:
Yes, I think so.
BS:
And did you bring your children to church when they were growing up?
CS:
Oh yes. And the only one that goes now is my daughter. [laughter] The boys have drifted. They’ll go if there’s a meal being served or something, church supper.
BS:
Do they put on many church suppers here?
CS:
Oh yes, throughout the year yeah, quite a few.
BS:
Is that church an important part of the community of Richfield Springs? Do most people attend there?
CS:
No, there’s about four churches in town: Episcopal, Catholic, and then there’s a non-denominational thing, I don’t know what they call themselves. ‘Bout four.
BS:
You mentioned in our pre-interview about gardening. Can you talk to me a little bit about gardening?
CS:
Well, I love to putter around the garden. At one point I had a greenhouse and, when I found out that when I get down on my knees I couldn’t get back up, I fazed that out.
[End track 2. 30:00 ]
[Start track 3. 00:00]
And I’ve taken the greenhouse down, or somebody else took it down for me. But, I always liked to putter around with plants. Growing up, I worked at a florist. Used to do weddings and stuff like that. And I could work on days that other people didn’t want to work, so I could work as much as I wanted to.
BS:
So it was just flower gardens?
CS:
Yeah, well I did raise vegetables in my other garden, but that’s really not practical when your family shrinks.
BS:
What kinds of species did you grow?
CS:
Species of what?
BS:
Of vegetables or flowers.
CS:
Vegetables, I grew everything you can think of. Flowers, I kind of concentrated on organs…I mean orchids. That’s when I had the greenhouse. Had systems of watering them, fogging the place. Automatic.
BS:
Are orchids pretty temperamental?
CS:
Well you gotta give them what they want. They like moisture in good amounts. Not wet feet.
BS:
When did you first start gardening?
CS:
I think I’ve done it all my life. From the cradle, now to the grave.
BS:
Did you ever garden when you were growing up? Did your mother garden or your father?
CS:
My father liked to fuss around with flowers, my mother didn’t.
BS:
To me that’s very interesting because my father would not know how to grow anything, barely grass. My mother is a big, big gardener.
CS:
I can still remember my father had grapevines, and we always had rhubarb, I don’t know why.
BS:
Did you make pie?
CS:
Yup. I like raspberry rhubarb pies. Strawberry rhubarb seems too sweet or something. But if it’s called food, I eat it.
BS:
So did you cook the food that you grew also, or was that Lois’s domain?
CS:
Oh I did a lot of cooking, I still do. She can cook when she wants to.
BS:
So, did any of your children help out in the garden? Do they have gardens today? Is that something you passed on?
CS:
Yeah, my daughter is into gardening. But the boys are not. Well I shouldn’t say that. Chuck, the oldest boy, has quite a bit going up on the other side of the village here.
BS:
So over all, Richfield Springs is a good place to raise a family?
CS:
I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t know of another place I’d rather be.
BS:
Is there anything that you can think of that I have forgotten to ask, that you want to tell me?
CS:
No, I can’t really think of anything.
BS:
What parts of your life have I not covered?
CS:
My death. [laughter]
BS:
That’s not in the contract. [laughter]
CS:
Gee, I don’t know. I think you’ve covered the waterfront.
BS:
Any other hobbies?
CS:
Hobbies? No, not really.
BS:
Well, I think we might be at the end of our interview then, we’ve covered it.
CS:
Oh my. Covered the waterfront, eh?
BS:
Tell me about sort of an ideal day for you nowadays.
CS:
Nowadays? No pressures. I don’t know what to say, an ideal day. Well, I’ll wake up healthy, I wish I was wealthy. I know I’m not wise. I enjoy being here at the lake. I got my scenery.
BS:
Beautiful scenery. Do you spend much time out of doors nowadays?
CS:
No, not really. Not this time of year. In the summer when it’s warmer I do, yeah.
BS:
On your porch out there?
CS:
In my gazebo.
BS:
In your gazebo. Did you build your gazebo?
CS:
Of course, well I had it built. I didn’t do it personally, no. That was at the suggestion of a friend of mine, a close friend, a physician that we traveled a lot with and he said I had to do that, so I did it. Unfortunately, he has passed on too, and his wife has.
BS:
How about, what are some things that you look forward to doing, in the future?
CS:
Look forward to staying healthy. I don’t know.
BS:
Any more grandchildren on the way?
CS:
No, no, I think I’m passed that. The next will be great grandchildren.
BS:
Well, that’s something to look forward to.
CS:
I hope I do see it. I’m afraid it’s at least ten years away. Maybe more.
BS:
The other thing I was going to ask you is if you had any pictures that you wanted to show me, of anybody that we’ve spoken about, or of yourself, I’d love to see photos of yourself.
CS:
Don’t have any.
BS:
No photos!
CS:
Oh wait, there’s a collage up on the wall in the other room.
BS:
Oh alright, I’ll go take a look at that then. Ok, alright well I’m going to conclude our interview then. I’m going to turn off the recorder and then maybe we can go take a look at some of those photos. Thank you very much.
CS:
You’re welcome.
[End track 3. 08:26]

















Duration

Part 1. 30:00
Part 2. 30:00
Part 3. 08:26

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

CIMG3552.JPG

Citation

Brooke Steinhauser, “Charles Schoenlein, November 20, 2009,” CGP Community Stories, accessed August 3, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/47.