CGP Community Stories

Charles A. Coleman Jr., November 15, 2010

Title

Charles A. Coleman Jr., November 15, 2010

Subject

Baseball
Baseball cards--Collectors and collecting--United States
Parking facilities
Families
Printing industry
Hardware stores
Fishing
Hunting
Holidays
Sports
Youth
New York (N.Y.)--Social life and customs

Description

Charles Alfred Coleman Jr. was born in Cooperstown, NY on April 30, 1928 as one of five children. His father was a bartender and a painter, and his mother was well-known for playing piano engagements around the area. Coleman attended school in the village and participated in a number of sports and activities, most notably: football, swimming, fishing, and hunting. As a senior in high school during World War II he attempted to enlist in the Navy, but as a minor he needed a signature from his father. His father refused and instructed him that it was better to finish school. Coleman then graduated in 1946 and began work with local electric companies. On December 27, 1948 he was married to his wife, Dolores, with whom he has three sons. Coleman held numerous jobs throughout his life, but he spent the most time working as manager of the Cooperstown branch of Buchanan Hardware and as a press operator for the Freeman’s Journal and Otsego Farmer. In addition to his work, Coleman was a member of many community organizations including the Watershed Council and the Cooperstown Fire Department, the latter of which he is a life member. Now retired, he enjoys fishing, hunting, and spending time with his family.

As a lifetime resident of Cooperstown, Coleman is able to recount the many changes that occurred in the village, particularly regarding the Hall of Fame’s impact on the local lifestyle. His narrative provides a look at what it was like to growing up, living, and working in the Cooperstown community. Common themes include sports, local businesses and organizations, family connections, and the effects of tourism. One of the most notable discussions in the interview deals with Coleman’s work as a press operator. Researchers pursuing perspectives on community life and issues in Cooperstown should find a range of useful topics.

Several editorial choices were made to increase the readability of the interview’s transcript. False starts or unrelated asides have been edited out to maintain clarity and continuity. Several sentences have been edited by either adding words or punctuation to create easier to read sentence structure. The interjections of Coleman’s wife and conversational elements of the interview remain since they provide valuable information and bring character to the transcription.

Creator

Matthew R. Gross

Publisher

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

Date

2010-11-15

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.8mB
audio/mpeg
26.6mB
audio/mpeg
26.5mB
audio/mpeg
1.52mB
image/jpeg
1.43mB
3000 x 4000 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

10-116

Coverage

Cooperstown, NY
1928-2010

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Matthew R. Gross

Interviewee

Charles A. Coleman Jr.

Location

79 Beaver Street
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2010

CC = Charles Coleman Jr.
DC = Dolores Coleman
MG = Matthew Gross

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

MG:
This is the November 15, 2010 interview of Charles Coleman Jr. by Matthew Gross for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork Course recorded at 79 Beaver Street, Cooperstown, New York. Well thank you for doing the interview with me today.

CC:
You’re welcome.

MG:
So what is your full name?

CC:
My full name? Charles Alfred Coleman, Jr.

MG:
So you’re a junior, do you have any brothers or sisters?

CC:
Yes, I had a brother, he’s deceased. I had three sisters, two are deceased. And one lives in Richfield Springs, Morganna Garbera is her name. My brother served at NASA and he contracted some kind of a disease after he got discharged and he died. As a matter of fact, he is the one that did most of the genealogy for my family.

MG:
Did he live around here with NASA?

CC:
No, he lived in Washington D.C. Odenton, Maryland. [He was] very, very efficient. When he got out of school, they sent him to a language school in Monterey, California and he got to be a Russian interpreter. And they stationed him on an island out between Alaska and the Russian coast. He didn’t do so much of the deciphering as he did intercept the messages and record them. Of course NASA is one of the biggest decoding schools there is in the country.

MG:
So you were born here in Cooperstown?

CC:
Absolutely.
MG:
So what is your date of birth?

CC:
5/30/1928

MG:
It sounds like you and your brother were pretty close. Did you guys do a lot?

CC:
Oh yes, very close. As a matter of fact, my whole family is close. Anything arose or was troublesome to any of them, we’d all get together and try to iron it out. So we’ve been very close.

MG:
When you were younger were you the oldest of all the siblings?

CC:
No, my oldest sister was Josephine Baugh [phonetic]. Do you want to know her married name?

MG:
Sure.

CC:
Okay, Josephine Taugher. Taugher, he was an ex-mayor of Cooperstown. The next born were one, two, three; was Jane Reich. And he was in construction and also on the union side of it. Then me, and then there’s twelve years difference when my brother Roger was born, and Morganna about a year afterward. There were five of us. And I’ve got a big family. [laughter] I mean grandchildren. I’m very happy with all of them, as you can see with the pictures around.

MG:
Did most of your other siblings live around here?

CC:
Most of them, ninety-percent. [I was] very fortunate. They’re close. Farthest one away is my sister in Richfield. Well no, I have a sister-in-law who lives down in Maryland. That’s my brother’s wife. And through her I’ve got two more girls and a boy. And offspring from them, just keeps going on.

MG:
I see that some of these pictures are of get-togethers, holidays. Do you guys have that a lot? The holiday season’s coming up.

CC:
We get together pretty good. Believe it or not it’s lessened because naturally their own families have their get-togethers. We used to have the whole bunch here at Thanksgiving, but they’d come in shifts. Now we go to them. So it’s funny how everything changes.

MG:
Where did you grow up around here?

CC:
Right in Cooperstown. Went to school here and when I graduated from school I got a football scholarship down at Hartwick College, but I was only there but a half year. And then I went to work from there.

MG:
What made you eventually leave after a year at Hartwick?

CC:
Well, it was a money problem and my father couldn’t afford it. So I just bugged out. But I enjoyed school.

MG:
What were your parent’s jobs?

CC:
My father was a painter and a bartender. As a matter of fact he did a lot of work for the historical association. I mean painting the walls and the floor, not pictures. [laughter] He was a very likeable man and he had a host of friends. And my mother was very well-known for her piano playing. She played for Rotary and anything that came up, Christmas parties. Years ago when my two sisters, two of them, there’s three and I told you there was twelve years difference between us three and the next two. Up at Canadarago Lake where they had a roller skating rink and my mother and father had an orchestra and they played for dances and different affairs up there and all over town.

MG:
They seem like they did a lot of social events. Did you guys go along with them a lot of times?

CC:
Yes, we enjoyed it. I don’t think we appreciated the music as much because we were so young. But you know, we played together and my Dad had an old Model A Ford and we would ride in the rumble seat. And if it rained we got wet. [laughter]

MG:
So when your brother came along then you would have been twelve years old?

CC:
That’s correct.

MG:
How did the age difference play into your guys’ interactions over the years?

CC:
Not a bit. I was designated primarily to babysit cause my sisters were just getting into high school and of course busy, busy, busy. It wasn’t any hardship at all, I had a lot of fun. My youngest sister, Morganna, contracted polio. And you wouldn’t believe [how] the family got together and we put steamed clothes on her legs and everything else. Brought her through it pretty well, she didn’t have any limp. It was quite a thing. We took turns there. So we had somebody with her twenty-four hours a day.

MG:
So this was your younger sister?

CC:
Younger sister.

MG:
How old was she when she contracted polio?

CC:
I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you. Dolores do you remember?

DC:
What did you say?

CC:
When Morganna, well you wouldn’t know; we weren’t going then. [We] weren’t together when Morganna had polio.

DC:
I don’t remember. It was when she was young.

CC:
When she was young, we were all fairly young and still in school.

MG:
You guys all chipped in then, helping out. You said you played sports. Was that a big part of your childhood?

CC:
Oh yeah, I played football, baseball, basketball, swimming. I loved it. Wish I could go right back to it.

MG:
Did you have a favorite?

CC:
Swimming probably and football, I liked football. But we didn’t have a pool. Quite a few of the newer schools do now, but we were lucky enough to have the gym. It’s where the Hall of Fame is now, the stone part not the brick. And they had a swimming pool in there. I learned to dive, learned to swim there and it was quite a gift to have it there.

MG:
When it came to swimming was that something that your parents had done? Or how did you get into that? Was that just cause it was there?

CC:
Most of my friends were swimmers and there was a [man], they called him a Russian colonel. He wasn’t a colonel but he was a very, very fine athlete himself. Him and Ernest Map [phonetic], his assistant. And they thought I had some promise so they worked with me. Colonel Acutin [phonetic] taught me how to dive and do some acrobatics. Ernie more or less coached my swimming. I swam the length of the lake back then, everybody did, it was a big hub-bub. Me and two girls swam the length of the lake way back, [laughter] in the early forties. Bonnie Lynch, she was a teacher down there and Anolitia Acutin [phonetic] was Colonel’s daughter.

MG:
When it came to school, the people that you went to school with, who were some of your best friends? Were you friends with a lot of guys and girls?

CC:
Well not much competition. We did go to [the] New York State Athletic Association and [we] had relay races and diving. That was about the only competition we had on water.

MG:
Who did you compete against in football?

CC:
Red Bursey; that was the coach. And that was just at the beginning of the war. And we had some fill-ins because Bursey was in the Navy and he was an officer I guess. So we had Frank, well we had a coach. Then Doug LaDuke [phonetic] who was a native here and that was about it, they changed off. We had good football teams.

MG:
What positions did you play?

CC:
I was a lineman in school, but I was first string fullback down at Hartwick.

MG:
When you mentioned the war you are referring to World War II?

CC:
Yeah.

MG:
You were in high school then towards the end of that?

CC:
That’s correct. We left, two of us, Hugh Jones and I’ve been trying to think of [who] the other guy was. We went to Albany and they turned us down because we were still in school. And they gave us advice, along with my dad wouldn’t sign. He said you’re going to finish high school. So we all got the turn down till we graduated and my senior year the war was over. Turned around and wanted to make money.

MG:
Did you have any friends that were older than you who went and fought in WWII?

CC:
Yes there were some. I can’t think of the names, but there was about two or three out of my class that enlisted. They were of age too, but we weren’t of age. They said they would accept us if we had signatures from our parents and it was just caught right in between.

MG:
When you went to your dad, how did you approach about trying to get his signature?

CC:
I told him I want to get in the Navy. [laughter] He said you better finish school. He said you’re going miss part of it. That was right in the middle of my senior year we decided to do that.

MG:
Looking back, are you glad he told you that?

CC:
Yup. [laughter] I am. Well even the enlistees up there at the desk, they said go home and finish, you know graduate. That’s what we did.

MG:
I heard you talking to your wife that you guys knew each other for quite a while. When did you two meet?

CC:
When did I meet you Ma? [laughter]

DC:
At a dance down at the village library, what is the village library now. And we were both graduated.

CC:
About [19]46 wasn’t it?

DC:
That’s when we graduated from high school.

CC:
Yeah, that’s when I met you wasn’t it?

DC:
Shortly thereafter. We got married in 1948. We’ve been together a few minutes [laughter]

MG:
That’s interesting that you guys met so young. Did you have any other girlfriends when you were your younger?

CC:
Oh, I went to proms, nothing steady. There were about five or six of us that were all sports. Didn’t have time for girls. [laughter] It’s all different today I guess.

MG:
We’ve talked a little about the sports. Did you have any other hobbies that you did?

CC:
Hobbies, hunted and fished all my life. My dad was a good trout fisherman. That’s about it, hunting and fishing.

MG:
So was that something you did with him?

CC:
No, I did it by myself or with a couple of other friends. [We were] always going somewhere on the weekends. Even when I was in school we’d go bird hunting and learned a lot.

MG:
When you went fishing did you ever use the lake?


CC:
Yes. I had a boat but I sold it. Mainly because you know I am getting old, I can’t do what I used to. The last one that interviewed me from the museum interviewed me on the lake. I had a fishing shanty in the winter and we fished for money. Mark and I made a good buck. But now the Alewives they started eating what the Otsego bass ate and [the bass] more or less starved to death. I think there is a few in there yet and I’m hoping they come back, but it’s going to take a long time. But we’d catch them, clean them. People were screaming for them, they were delicious fish.

MG:
How did the Alewife fish get in the lake?

CC:
People used them for bait and then empty the bait pail or they get off the hook, cause they had to hook them and some of them lived I guess. On top of them we got clams. Can’t think of the name of them, but they are an infestation too. They eat the same food. They’re still in here, those clams [zebra mussels].

MG:
Was your fishing something that spurred your involvement in the Watershed Council?

CC:
Yeah, I was on that committee, the Watershed Committee.

MG:
What did they do?

CC:
Well we set up some rules and regulations and published to book. Now there is about eight or ten organizations related to the lake. Frankly, they’re not doing anything because [inaudible]. Well the lake should be run by one group and then you don’t cross hairs, you know. I guess between the conservation department and all the rest of them, I’m serious there’s about six or eight that are making suggestions and passing rules, stuff like that.

MG:
When you were in the Watershed Council was that through the town?

CC:
No, it took three townships: Middlefield, Springfield, and Cooperstown. All the townships that surrounded the lake. We got along pretty well. And anything that we enacted or suggested was for the benefit of all three of them.

MG:
Was that a volunteer position?

CC:
No, it was appointed by the village. I was on the village board briefly and they appointed me to it cause I was so familiar with the lake and fished a lot. They thought my input would be pretty good.

MG:
You said you went to Hartwick very briefly. What year did you leave Hartwick?

CC:
[19]47, right after football. So at the end of that semester which was in the winter, after the football season.

MG:
What did you go on to do from there?

CC:
Okay, I went to Otsego Wholesale Electric which is in Oneonta. And then he went out of business and I came back to Cooperstown. I was a security guard for four years. [I] went to the Otesaga. I am leaving out a lot of small places. Like there was a guy that wanted to start an electric business. His name was Jack Volts. [laughter] [inaudible] I sold for him, sell and deliver, cause I was familiar with Otsego’s electric company. Anyway that was mostly it. I drove the bus for the Otesaga.

MG:
Which of them did you work the longest?

CC:
I managed a hardware store down there fourteen years, right on Main Street. They’re not in business anymore either. [laughter] Buchanan Hardware, they had stores in Norwich, Richfield, Cooperstown, and one more. But actually when I first started working [for] Charles Rook [phonetic], that’s the building that we were in, his father was in the hardware business too. When he died, he was more or less the manager, the boss from Richfield said “It’s all yours.” So I did that for fourteen years.

MG:
So you managed there for fourteen years. When did you move into this residence here?

CC:
[I] got to ask that. Ma! Dolores!

DC:
What?

CC:
When did we move in here?

DC:
Let’s see, we moved here when the boys were three. They’re 58 so we were here in [19]55.

CC:
Believe it or not, when I was born, [for] I don’t know how many years, I lived at 69 Beaver Street, which is just down the street here. So I’ve lived pretty much on Beaver Street all my life I guess.

MG:
When you worked in Oneonta then, where did you live?

CC:
I went back and forth. A good friend of mine, in fact the guy that’s our best man, he opened up a laundromat down there, Vinnie Lynch, and he went back and forth. I didn’t have a car then, didn’t have money enough to buy one. But it worked out alright, I helped pay gas. I got home every night.

MG:
How long after you got married did you have children?

CC:
Mom, I need your help. [laughter]

DC:
Alright.

CC:
How long after we were married did we start having children?

DC:
The next year. [laughter] We were married in [19]48. We were married on the 3rd of December and then the following year on the 27th of December we had our oldest son and then two years later we had twins that nobody knew we were having, including us and me. [laughter] This is his family and him. And this is his brother. This is our son. And that one that was of the twins and that’s the oldest one. Of course that’s him and that’s a cousin.

MG:
So you have four children then?

DC:
No, three.

MG:
Three, okay. Have they all stayed around here?

CC:
Pretty much. Skip went down to the city to work.

DC:
He was in the service too.

CC:
Clifford is a salesman for Bruce Hall. Carter was a supervisor of the village streets and village crew, but he’s retired now. The one that isn’t retired is the one up at Bruce Hall, Clifford.

MG:
He’s the oldest one?

CC:
Skip is, Charles Coleman III. But he’s retired and built a house up on the mountain down toward 166 which is a hop, skip, and a jump away.

[END OF TRACK 1, 30:23]
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

MG:
Now you said the city, one of your kids moved to the city. Do you mean Albany?


CC:
No, Rockland County. He was down in New York. Well he took my brother-in-law, Bob Reich, who died, he took his job. And he retired from that just two years ago or less. But he had worked down there in construction.

MG:
What did he do with the union?

CC:
What was Skip’s official title mom?

DC:
Oh god I don’t know.

CC:
Had to do with the union.

DC:
Yeah, I know.

CC:
He was a union secretary or something like that.

DC:
No he wasn’t a secretary, he was the head of it.

CC:
Good job, good paying job. He made a lot of money.

DC:
Business manager.

MG:
Oh, business manager. His business card there we go, thank you. Were you ever able to go down and visit him?

CC:
Well he took us one place, the Kentucky Derby, and the other one [inaudible].

DC:
This is my daughter that’s married to one of the twins.

Colleen:
Hi.

CC:
Hello, Colleen.

Colleen:
Hi dad.

[talking in background]

CC:
There again, believe it or not, my brother-in-law and him, they would drive back and forth, all the way down there and back every weekend. But it only took them a little over four hours.

MG:
What are your other children? The one works at Bruce Hall, which is the?

CC:
He’s one of the twins, Clifford.

MG:
What exactly is that establishment, Bruce Hall?


CC:
That’s his wife that just came in.

MG:
What type of establishment is that?

CC:
Hardware store and lumber yard, right up by the end of Main Street. Up by the railroad tracks.

MG:
Now was that hardware store in existence when you managed your hardware store?

CC:
Yes. There was another one, McCuwin Hardware, which is almost across the street from us. There was another one. I don’t think Haggerty was in business then but there were four hardware stores in this town. I think that was part of the demise. The business was spread so thin and none of us really made a hell of a lot of money.

MG:
When the hardware store, as you got towards the end of it, how did you close the business? Did you sell it somewhere?

CC:
Oh no, I worked for Buchanan Hardware, John Lousy [phonetic] up in Richfield. He had to say he’s closing this store and the one in Sherburne and he left the one in Norwich and Richfield. That was the home base, Richfield. It’s just a matter of falling in. They were nice people to work for.

MG:
What did you go about doing after that stopped?

CC:
Well, that’s when I got into the security business. I’ve done a lot of real small things. I wouldn’t call them permanent jobs. [I] didn’t have to go to work every day. Like one year another guy and I took care of the cemetery up on Irish Hill. Things like that.

MG:
What type of work did you do with the Freeman’s Journal? You said you had worked with the Freeman’s Journal.

CC:
Well I was a pressman. They had a big newspaper press probably wouldn’t fit in this room. We printed the Freeman’s Journal and the Otsego Farmer. I forgot to mention. When I got out of Hartwick College, before I went to work for Otsego Wholesale Electric, I went with Western Electric which is a supply system for the telephone company. And I was travelling all over. That’s the reason I quit or resigned, cause I got married and you know started having family. I never knew when I was going to get home. So I left that job.

MG:
You did a lot with your kids then? You like to have evenings to do things with your kids. Did you ever take them to sports and such?

CC:
Yeah, they were all athletic. That’s them up there. That’s when they were in high school, except for the one on the far end; he played basketball on the Air Force. [He was] pretty good at it.

MG:
He went to the academy, the Air Force Academy?

CC:
No, my brother did but he didn’t. He enlisted and he had this talent for basketball and he had it a lot easier than some of them because he was playing ball. [He] did a lot of travelling, flying.

MG:
Where were the different places he went to then? He must have seen a lot of things in the Air Force.

CC:
You know he never really talked much about it; same way with my brother. He’d tell us when he was at an Air Force [base] having a tournament somewhere near us. One of them is down towards the city. It’s a military base and the other one is in Loring, that’s up in Maine. We managed to get to the game, we did dinner with him then said goodbye. That’s about it.

MG:
Would you go with some of your other sons to see him as well? Or would just you and Dolores?

CC:
Yeah they went with us down towards the city, that’s all I can remember. Dolores may know. [Colleen enters] How you doing sweetheart?

Colleen:
I’ll give you a kiss Dad. I’m leaving, going back to work.

CC:
Ok, see you later.

Colleen:
Bye. [looks at MG] I’m not going to kiss you. [laughter] How can I kiss you I hardly know you? [laughter] Bye.

CC:
[To DC] Do you remember that air base we went and watched Skip play?

DC:
Up in New England?

CC:
No, that was Loring.

DC:
It was in Massachusetts, they had a game.

CC:
Oh ok, do you remember the name of that? It’s a man’s name.

DC:
I’ll think.

MG:
When you were doing the printing, when you were a press operator, was that a part-time job or was that a full-time job?

CC:
Full-time, a lot of overtime. They didn’t get all the news in at a certain time. Well we used the old linotypes, which is slow and make lead bars, and then we put the bars together to make the column. Then put it the chase, lock it up, and print it. I liked printing; that was fun. Not the same thing every day you know.

MG:
How did you deal with the odd hours because you would have been printing it late?

CC:
See we had deadlines like the Freeman’s Journal came out on a Thursday okay? So we’d put the paper to bed, well not to bed, but everything would be in the printing office and sometimes they had to type it and correct it and all this. Then it went it off to the linotype and then from there to the press. We made up the pages and ran the press. So sometimes it was 9, 10, 11 o’clock, especially on voting night. We were there almost all night [laughter] just because the news dribbled in and we wanted to get it in the paper.

[DC enters room]
DC:
I can’t remember what it is, but he was based in Loring and he played on the basketball team. And that’s one of the pictures of him up there. He was the only white guy [laughter] on an all colored team. Many trophies and the highest one, god I don’t know. He had thirteen trophies from the Air Force. So he was a pretty good basketball player to be into that. [laughter] And that’s the younger two in high school football in the middle there. [points to picture on the wall]
[DC leaves room]

MG:
When it came to working the press how did you learn to do that?

CC:
The Freeman’s Journal burnt down. It was right on the corner where the flagpole is. I went to work with them and as luck would have it that’s when Buchanan Hardware went under. And Gordon Fowler, who was one of the managers and owners of the Freeman’s Journal, of the printing plant. He asked me, “Have you given any thought to printing?” I said, “No.” He says, “Come on.” So I went. That was before they built a new plant. They moved everything that was salvageable from the corner up across the street to the Key Bank building, [the] top floor. Well the machinery was down the bottom where I think there is a clothing store in there.

MG:
On Main Street? The Ellsworth and Sill?

CC:
No, it’s down the street farther. The big bank building, way out in back. You know where the Farmer’s Market is? Okay, if you come out of the Farmer’s Market and turn left and go right to the edge you’ll walk right to where we used to print. And then they built where the [NBT Bank is], right on top of the hill. If you look behind that bank building you’ll see the printing plant, but it went out of business.

MG:
What kind of technology changes did you see while you were working there?

CC:
[The] biggest change was the hand-setting type. I set invitations and stuff like that by hand but Frank Carpenter, who was one of the owners and editors of the Otsego Farmer, he said they used to print the whole newspaper by handset. And then you had to put all the type back [and] know where it belonged. Quite often you’d see mistakes. But now they type it and it comes out in lead bars. You put it on a galley and ink it up, and somebody would proofread it. Then we’d make the paper up with it.

MG:
Who else did you work with when you were there?

CC:
Well there was a Cliff Skinner [phonetic]. There were always two or three other pressmen but they did handbills, advertisements. We had three other linotype operators. Okay, two pressmen. But we made up the paper, the pages. I’d probably say ten all together, and the girl out front that took care of orders and business.

MG:
What was the process of making the paper like?

CC:
Well, you get to feel it. What would you like to read first? Always cared about the front page and try to get the most popular piece of news or scandal or whatever. We didn’t print any scandals; the New York papers do but we didn’t. And ads from the different stores. Now they’d buy in inches and we’d make up an ad and put it in the paper. Some of it we could save, like the wanted ads or the classifieds. Most of it would stay like it is cause some people would just re-order. So we saved that and that was all set to go when we [were] making up the pages. There was a lot to it but you get used to it. [It] wasn’t complicated at all.

MG:
Very neat. There was a lot of businesses on the Main Street where you worked. How has the Cooperstown Main Street changed since then?

CC:
First thing comes to mind is baseball. You know that Hall of Fame isn’t that old. [inaudible] shuttle over to the hospital they’re ready to change. I think when I was kid, 1939 was the official opening [of the Hall of Fame] or close to it. And from there on everybody started to gear to baseball. I mean shops would sell out and different wares were sold but mostly souvenirs and stuff like that. That’s the biggest change I think I’ve seen. And then of course along with that comes the parking. [We] got in a real pinch and they had to alter the parking. That’s a big problem cause so many people were coming. You know, Matt, I used to play softball or kick a can out in the street [and] we wouldn’t see a car in a half an hour, really. [laughter] Couldn’t even start a game [now] hardly without having to move or pick up. That was the thing back then.

MG:
Once the museum opened in 1939, how long did it take for people to start coming in droves to visit?

CC:
Well actually it did take probably ten years, but it was a gradual thing. Then [there was] a big flourish maybe in the last 10, 15, 20 years. You know things started to go a little faster. Be pretty hard to find a place to put a store or buy one or rent one. And another thing is, this is a hard town to do anything in cause its seasonal. We do all our business in the summer and the warmer months, in the winter, dead. But the Chamber of Commerce and the organizations have lightened it up a lot; they have a winter carnival and they have all different going-on[s], dances.

MG:
Did you have any involvement in the local organizations?

CC:
I used to, but my biggest thing was the fire department cause I am a past chief. But we used to put on a Christmas party for the kids, but not the way they do it now. We used to hire the movies and then two or three days before that weekend we’d get all that could and we’d bag candy. And I’m telling you, hundreds of them. And then each kid got a bag of candy free, popcorn ball, [and] some little gadget. That was a big thing. And what they have now is a drop-off of what we used to have.

MG:
What’s the biggest difference today? What do they do differently?

CC:
Well we had a lot more kids coming, number one. Most small towns do that now. But it was always good for the heart to do that, to work on that cause we were doing some good. Course I’m talking winter now. We used to have snowmobile races and car races out on the lake and of course insurance I’m sure had a big influence on not having them anymore cause the village couldn’t afford it, insurance. But they do a good job I think for what they got to work with. I was in the Lions Club at one of the earliest conventions when I started out. Fire department took most of my time really, I loved that.

MG:
What time did you eventually stop being involved in some of them?

CC:
Probably when I got out as chief. I still went to meetings and everything, but you know when you’ve gone as far as you can go no one asks you to do anything anymore. So I’m still a life member and I go to all their functions, but mostly banquets and things like that, I don’t work. We used to put on a hell of a carnival down on the lake front, but that’s in the summer. More or less gotten away from that, I don’t know why.

MG:
What else do you do now in your free time?
Are you still a hunter?

CC:
Yeah, deer season opens up Saturday. I hunt and fish, but I had a stroke of misfortune. I had a four way [bypass] and then aneurysm and [it’s] hard for me to walk. But I still like to do it. I do what I can. Probably never give that up if I have to crawl. [laughter]

MG:
Do you get in a deer stand? When you go out hunting where do you position yourself?

CC:
Oh I like to walk, I don’t go very far anymore but there are a few places only because they know me. A lot of places are posted and everything, the last few years it’s getting critical, really, to find a place where you’re welcome. But I’ve never had much trouble at all, I have favorite places I go up in Pierstown and down where my son Willie’s house [is]. He’s having a ball now in retirement. He’s a trapper, you ought to see the furs he’s got. But that’s a good piece of change and that’s something he likes to do. But I go over there and [pause] geese and ducks nickel a piece on the lake or on the creeks around here. There’s a lot of game around. [There’s] going to be more if some people don’t let you hunt [inaudible]. [laughter].

MG:
Have a seen a difference in the deer population and such over the years?

CC:
I’ve never saw so many places for sale in my life in this town. At one time and not too many years ago, people were scrambling to get a house in Cooperstown and there wasn’t anything available. Now almost on every street you see five or six for sale. So I mean people can’t afford some of the prices and taxes; that always looms [over] our head. Other things too. No grocery stores, well we have one here but I mean look what those big chains have done. There’s just spotting, you got to have a car to get to them. There’s an Oneonta Bus Public Transport comes up. I think there’s one up here about every hour and they’re doing a good job taking people. [Of] course they take them to Oneonta. I think that’s what it’s all about now, these big chain stores.

MG:
Do you try to support some of the local stores around here as much as you can?

CC:
Yes, we do. But not so much prices [inaudible]. But there again some of the churches and organizations have food [where] you can go free and get food, or you can pay a little. Those are good things I think because we got a lot of elderly people in Cooperstown.

[END OF TRACK 2, 29:09]
[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]

MG:
I’m curious, with the fact that you were a sports fan as a child, was it kind of neat to have the baseball stuff here as well? Did you ever enjoy that?

CC:
[It] certainly helps on the economy. But people like me or across the street, we don’t see any of that money. The people don’t fare as well as they might. I don’t know the answer to that one. All that other stuff they put on, I don’t think the citizens see any of it. Prices don’t come down. In the summertime it’s wicked here. We all know they jack it up and in some respects I can’t blame them. [inaudible] I don’t know there should be some awful rich merchants around.

MG:
Did the Hall of Fame draw a different type of person here? Did you see people move here that were of a different background then had been before?

CC:
Only the employees, although they do hire a lot of locals. But there’s not that many employees connected except paperwork. You don’t see any Big Leaguers. The only Big Leaguer we had here was Whitey Wilshire and his daughter and son are in with the Ted Hargrove, that big restaurant there. A lot of them said, “Gee I’d like to live here” and you don’t see them.

MG:
With the vacation community with the lake, had that existed before the Hall of Fame?

CC:
Oh yes, people still come here to have camps, summer camps and the biggest problem with the lake is there is no access to it. After you leave Cooperstown there’s no access till Three Mile Point and the other is up at the head of the lake, Springfield Landing, the rest of it is all private. There’s a lot of boat trailer business. They come up for a day or a weekend. But nobody settled right in that cause there’s no room, no place to go.

MG:
When you go, where are you able to go and fish?

CC:
I go down to the lakefront. I don’t have to worry about it now, but both my sons they have boats now. I can still get out. I’d rather have my own, though, go where I want to. I’m happy.

MG:
Is that something that you still do with people? Do you have fishing buddies that you go out with?

CC:
Oh yeah, well mostly my sons. I’ve got a lot of friends that I go out with too and the same with hunting. I liked it better when I had my own.

MG:
Have you ever got a chance to have any of your grandchildren out fishing or hunting?

CC:
Yes. As a matter of fact Saturday morning my grandson is going to pick me up, that’s Clifford’s son, the one who works at Bruce Hall. That’s a picture up there on the end. That’s Cliff Jr. My oldest son, he always picks me up. I don’t go with him early [in the day] cause I can’t walk, but about three o’clock he’ll be here to pick me up. We’ll ride around.

MG:
Did you recall when the Farmers’ Museum and the Fenimore Art Museum came to Cooperstown?

CC:
They were always here, they were actual farms. I wasn’t here when they officially turned them over as museums. But it wasn’t that long ago cause I knew Camel [phonetic]. He’s one of the guys that got most of the old machines and everything. In fact he was the curator there when they turned it into a museum. The art, I think that was there before that even. It was a regular farm. Nice, beautiful countryside there. I mean [the] stonewall. I used to tend bar; the Fenimore House they had a swimming pool down the end of the stairs. But they’d have a big party, a ball and I helped tend bar. That was a museum then, that was when I was still in high school. So I don’t know what year actually that was officially designated a museum, but I’m sure that New York State [has] got a lot to do with it. And Jane Clark naturally, she owns it. She owns the Hall of Fame. We’d be pretty poor off if we didn’t have her around. She’s done an awful lot of good for Cooperstown.

MG:
Have you ever had any personal contact with any of the Clark Family?

CC:
Yeah, I attended parties, some of them. I mean tended bar at them. I also worked summers there when I was in school, in the hay fields, cutting corn and that was quite a while ago too. Probably let’s see, about [19]43. A lot of us guys did too, weed by hand in the cornfields. I think they did it just to give us work; didn’t pay much but it gave us something to do.

MG:
Did the Clark family always provide a lot of things for the Cooperstown area?

CC:
I would say so. Just exactly what I don’t know but they provided employment and have built [the] gymnasium. What other small town has got a gym like that? That’s really where they should have put the Hall of Fame, where they have all that parking. [laughter] Can’t be an armchair quarterback. [laughter]

MG:
With the tourism, do you see tension the summer months between the residents and the tourists a lot? Or frustration?

CC:
Yeah, there’s frustration, especially traffic wise. I haven’t noticed any belligerency. You get hot under the collar and it goes away. But I haven’t really seen anything that bad, there are a few bitchers but they don’t stop to realize it. Only 2,400 people live here year around, can’t do everything.

MG:
Do you [ever] have to change your schedule in the summer to accommodate how many people are here?

CC:
I’m sure they do. Some people I’ve heard rent their whole house for the summer, go someplace else and then come back in the winter. When that ballfield, [Cooperstown Dreams Park], opened up for the kids that was a big boost. Those families spend a lot of money, but they’re also the biggest cause of congestion. But it’s run right, I’ll say that. I worked down there half of one summer about five years ago and it’s well run. They did alright.

MG:
You think the ballpark is a good thing to have for the kids?

CC:
Yeah sure. Now there would be a case, maybe he has thought of it, or maybe he doesn’t want to. They should get some big name baseball players to spend a week down there, advertising, have them go around [and] teach the kids how to swing or field a ball. That would go over great.

MG:
Do you recall seeing or running into a lot of ball players around Cooperstown?

CC:
Yes, but I’m not into baseball myself. They’ll walk down the street. They go in the bars and restaurants. But ninety-percent of them, well this is back when they used to have the games, the old-timers stay at the Otesaga [and] you see them on the golf course. They’re no different than you and me, they’d speak and if they’re not really tied up they’ll give you an autograph. I can’t see them charging kids though for their autograph. They get a tremendous amount of money.

MG:
Speaking of signatures and everything. When was the big boom in all the stores selling the memorabilia and all that stuff, was that later or more recent?

CC:
Pretty much, they get a group together and they put out tables for them and then they advertise they are going to be there, but that’s when it costs you 25, 50, 70 dollars. Believe it or not, my hero was Ted Williams when he was alive. So I talked to him down at the gym. I said, “How come you guys are charging?” I said, “Don’t they put any money away?” Christ, most of them must be millionaires. He says, yeah but they see one do it and they are going to get in at it too. He says, “I don’t think they need the money.” I am sure they don’t. If one doesn’t they’re all going to do it. Who’s the guy that just got in about four or five years ago? He broke somebody’s record.

MG:
Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games?

CC:
No, well anyway, he goes around and gives his autograph away, especially to kids. I like that.

MG:
Have you see a change in the nature of baseball from enjoyment and sport to money?

CC:
Yup, big time. The Reader’s Digest got it pretty good too; “When Did Baseball Become a Rich Man’s Game?” You can add it up yourself. Down in the stadium you got your wife and two kids, parking, getting in, buying tickets, have a hot dog. It’s going to cost you a couple bills. You got to be real interested in baseball to pay that much money. Better take them to a circus or an amusement park where they can use it. They’ll find out.

MG:
Were you ever a fan of taking your family to any sporting events? What did you think were the best events to take your family to?

CC:
Well we never took them much. We went to most of the high school when they played. But now my son took us to the Kentucky Derby and that, we like horse racing, but it spoiled me a little bit, so crowded and dirty, it just didn’t appeal to us after we went.

MG:
Have you spent much time around Saratoga Springs?

CC:
Yup, we love to go there. We go there once or twice a year, sometimes more if she can. I like it just once or twice.

DC:
Would you like water?
MG:
Oh yes, thank you very much. What types of things do you do up at Saratoga?

CC:
Watch the races. [laughter] Well really that’s all there is up. Place a bet, go watch them run, and either come back and collect or start figuring out the next race. Some of those throw together bands they have up there are tremendous. They got three or four are really good; I love to listen to them.

MG:
So you go up there more for the bands, for the horses than the betting?

CC:
That’s right. Well we bet two dollars. It’s tempting but we haven’t got that kind of money. I like horses, the color, everything is put together up there and it looks very nice. Well run.

MG:
Well getting back just briefly to Cooperstown here, what do you see as Cooperstown’s future? What do you see as it moving forward from where it is now?

CC:
They got to change the parking, I think. The very place where the merchants are they got half of it blocked off for deliveries. I think they got to work on that parking a lot more than they have. That and the lake should have more access. But see the money is keeping them out. I’m sure that the state would put in a beautiful launch but I heard they got paid off so they dropped that when they put the park in. I don’t know what there is about it. I don’t think it would hurt the lake a damn bit. Make it a little muddier maybe but fish wise I don’t think it would hurt. Parking, the lake, I’d like them to encourage some more small businesses but there is no place for them to go, for people to buy and fix up. [We] need a taxi service. They got one but it’s out of Oneonta. But when I was out of the Otesaga I’d go a hunt to buy a van and when they have these conventions down there, the wives they aren’t doing nothing, take them to Saratoga and have them back. Things like that, I don’t know why they don’t do it. Maybe it’s insurance. But I think that would be a nice service; or take them shopping.

MG:
What have you seen then, speaking of the future of Cooperstown, the young people, what are they going on and doing?

CC:
They move. There is no future here unless you own a business, there’s no future. No manufacturing. I can see why, I’d like to keep it like it was fifty years ago. Beautiful. Didn’t have all the traffic and all the hub-bub. I think what they’re doing is doing it right but they’re doing a little bit at a time but in some ways I don’t think they are doing it right. Like that parking, it’s terrible. The hospital is another thing, beautiful. We are so lucky that people live here but it costs a hell of a lot of money to live here. If I could work, I’d move out of here in a heartbeat.

MG:
As a culminating question, what’s been your favorite part though about growing up in Cooperstown? What you do really, looking back, appreciate the most about being here?

CC:
Okay, I knew just about everybody and everybody knew me when I was growing up. There was a lot for younger people to do. But it’s hard to make a buck. I don’t know if you are familiar with the school or not, there are so many scholarships and prizes [that] they are giving away and that’s neat. You’ll find that the ones that need it most work harder and they get the prizes. But I think they got a good program for kids. Got a good school, good gym, good atmosphere. You wouldn’t want to see it expand, I know I wouldn’t anyway.

MG:
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you about that you would like to talk about?

CC:
I can’t think of anything. If you go I’ll think of a million things.

MG:
Well this is going back a little bit, but before we finish, I was just curious. You were so close with your brother and everything. If I may ask, what exactly happened with his experience with NASA? You had said that he had contracted something?

CC:
Well he retired and right after he retired, it wasn’t a year and he got. [to DC] What was it that Roger had did they decide? Do you remember Dolores?

DC:
He had a rare form of leukemia. And sort of thought it was I think it was that orange [thing] overseas might have had something to do with it, but it was never really ever said that but it was sort of hinted at.

CC:
Yeah, we all think it was kind of funny. He said the last time I saw him even, I said “Don’t forget, when you get out, you’re going to tell me what you do.” Well we knew he interpreted but he says, “I can’t tell you for”

DC:
Forty years after.

CC:
Forty after he got out, I couldn’t even tell you.
DC:
His wife didn’t even know. He couldn’t tell anybody.

CC:
They had him brainwashed. [laughter] You’d like him, he was smarter than a whip; likeable.

DC:
Yeah, he used to get very ticked at him because he could do crossword puzzles better than his big brother. [laughter] He was a nice guy.

MG:
Does he have any family that’s still around that you are in touch with?

CC:
Married, two daughters and a son.

DC:
And they all come up once a year, we have a reunion. Or if somebody dies or somebody gets married they’re here. They are just great people. In fact, his wife made Chuck that lamp for Christmas.

CC:
We do a lot of singing.

DC:
So those are our three sons and Chuck. [laughter] She made it, she does ceramics and those are ceramics. And the light works too, I don’t whether it’s plugged in now or not.

MG:
That’s pretty. Well as a final question, since we are so close to Thanksgiving and Christmas; what are your plans for this year?

CC:
We’re going to my oldest son’s.

DC:
For Thanksgiving

CC:
She makes scallops, oysters, and three or four dishes that they don’t know how to make. They said be sure to bring it. [laughter] So we know why we’re asked. Not really, they would ask us anyway.

DC:
My sister comes down.

CC:
Where do you live?

MG:
I live in Maryland.

DC:
That state of Maryland.

MG:
Yes, the state of Maryland.

CC:
Do you drive down there?

MG:
I’m driving down there this coming week yes.

CC:
That beltway, I went around it twice. I don’t like driving down there at all.

DC:
We got lost once going down for a graduation. We always went to the graduations and the wedding and everything that they had down there because they always come back here for everything for us. We had a very close relationship with them and still do.

MG:
Well I hope you guys have a good holiday.

CC:
Yes, we hope you do too.

MG:
And I really appreciate you spending some time to talk to me.

CC:
No problem. Do you want to look at any of the genealogy that my brother made?

MG:
Yeah, we can look at some of that now.
[END OF TRACK 3, 29:00]

Duration

30:23 - Part 1
29:09 - Part 2
29:00 - Part 3

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps - Part 1
128 kbps - Part 2
128 kbps - Part 3

Files

Citation

Matthew R. Gross, “Charles A. Coleman Jr., November 15, 2010,” CGP Community Stories, accessed November 17, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/80.