Joan Clark, November 11, 2010

Title

Joan Clark, November 11, 2010

Subject

Cooperstown, NY
Farmers' Museums
Korean War, 1950-1953
Hops industry

Description

Mrs. Joan Clark lived most of her life on Main Street in Cooperstown, NY. She grew-up in Atlantic Highlands, NJ and moved to Cooperstown at nineteen. She met her husband, Jerry Clark, in Cooperstown. Together, they lived above Clark’s Men Shop on Main Street in Cooperstown. Mrs. Clark recounts many events from Cooperstown history, including living on Main Street and the 1963 fire. She worked as a museum teacher at the Farmers’ Museum in the 1990s. Her mother’s family had a Hops farm in the Cooperstown area, her father owned a prominent construction company in Cooperstown, and her husband was Mayor of Cooperstown in the 1970s.
Mrs. Clark remarks on the changes in Cooperstown during larger changes in United States history. She was born during the Great Depression. She discusses how the Depression affected her family’s life. She met her husband after he returned from the Korean War. Much of the interview is about how Cooperstown has changed since the Korean War.
In the middle of the interview, Mrs. Clark talks about her mother’s family. Her mother’s family owned a hops farm. Some of the most interesting material in the interview concerns Mrs. Clark’s thoughts about the change of the farms around Cooperstown. She recounts about the different types of laborers at various farms.
Mrs. Clark offers insight into living on Main Street in a small town in upstate New York. She vividly recounts the fire on Main Street, Cooperstown in 1963. She also discusses what it was like to own a store in Cooperstown and reveals the workings of a small town.

Creator

Christine Stokes

Publisher

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

Date

2010-11-11

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

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Language

en-US

Type

Sound
image

Identifier

10-123

Coverage

Upstate New York
1932-2010
Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Christine Stokes

Interviewee

Joan Clark

Location

90 Main Street
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2010

JC = Joan Clark
CS = Christine Stokes

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

CS:
This is the November 11, 2010 interview of Mrs. Joan Clark in her house, and this is the interview by Christine Stokes.
JC:
Veterans Day
CS:
Veterans Day
CS:
So, I wanted to just start with a little bit about your early life. Can you tell me where you were born?
JC:
I was born in New Jersey. Neptune, New Jersey.
CS:
And, when were you born?
JC:
1932
CS:
So, right in the middle of the Depression?
JC:
Well, Depression was '29. '32 was pretty bad. I don't think I was planned, but they kept me. [laughs]
CS:
Well that's good. [laughs] Do you think it made a difference that it was the middle of the depression?
JC:
Well not with me, because I remember everything good. My brother who is eight years older, and remembers more of the hard times than I did. I can remember one Christmas when my sister said something, "we didn't get very much." I said, "well, was that the year that dad made us this beautiful dollhouse?" And, my mother made the curtains for it and my dad made the furniture and put linoleum in it and everything. And she said that was the only thing that we got. And I said to me that was one of the best Christmases I ever had. So, I remember sometimes different than my brother and sister did.
CS:
That’s interesting. How did he make it? Did he make it out of wood?
JC:
Oh yeah. Dad had a construction company. He was a very good carpenter.
CS:
And, did he do a lot of carvings and things?
JC:
Not so much carvings. Getting into Dad, once we came to Cooperstown he had a construction company and it was called Ed Phillips Construction Company. And one of the buildings that he built was Newbury's across on Main Street right next to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Dad had built that. And then when Jane Clark bought that building and they had to have inspectors go in and check it the nice part of it was, I was told later, that the inspectors said it was such a well-built building. So, I was pretty proud of my dad. And then, I don’t know how far you want to get off on tangents here.
CS:
Oh no, go ahead and tell me. It is very interesting.
JC:
Ok well, my brother was in business with him, Bud Phillips and Dad had a construction company at the Upper End of Main Street. We had Clark's Men’s Shop at one of the street and my dad had an office up on the other end of the street. My dad and brother, now deceased, and now my nephews have kept up the name of Phillip’s Construction Company. Right now they are still independent, but they do all of Jane Clark’s work. So, and houses that they built are Ed Smith’s house down on Pioneer Street, his brother’s house, and quite a few houses around here before they more or less went with Jane [Clark]. I am pretty proud of my family.
CS:
Was your Dad always in construction?
JC:
Yes. Yeah, yeah. Years ago.
CS:
And, before you moved to Cooperstown?
JC:
He was always in construction. And my mother.
CS:
And, you lived a lot of different places?
JC:
Yeah, I lived in a lot of different places because of, probably, the depression. Probably, because we would rent and then someone would say after my dad would fix up the place. They would decide not to renew the lease, because the owners would want to come back because it was so gorgeous. Then we moved to Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, and that was probably ten years where we stayed there.
CS:
And what did your mom do? I know you said she sewed.
JC:
Well, my mother had a dress shop. Along that building. It is amazing, it was a building on Main Street and the two businesses were on the main floor, so my mother’s dress shop was on, if you are looking at the building, it would have been on the left hand side, and my dad’s construction shop was on the right hand side. And we lived upstairs. [in New Jersey] So here it is many, many years later and it was my husband that had the business downstairs and now I lived upstairs for many, many years. [in Cooperstown]
CS:
And was that in Cooperstown?
JC:
That was in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey where we were, before we came here.
CS:
And do you sew now?
JC:
Do I sew? No. [laughs] And my mother was also, when she was sixty, she started painting and was a very good artist. And she was one of the founders of the Brush and Palette Club that had their work down at the Art Association. And, no I don’t paint either. So, I don’t have too many talents. [laughs] But, I like people.
CS:
That’s good. So, what about your siblings, can you tell me a little bit about them?
JC:
[Mrs. Clark discusses her children] I was very lucky; again this is living in the small town of Cooperstown. In Bassett Hospital, Paul was born two and half months early, and he weighed two pounds. His lowest weight was two pounds, eleven ounces. Now today, they helicopter these babies right to another hospital. At that time, Bassett Hospital kept them. And we were very lucky. He was there. We could bring him home when he was five pounds. So, he was about five pounds, three ounces when we brought him home. But, they had him for almost two months over at the hospital, in an isolette. We weren’t able to touch him until he was almost four pounds. I can remember the day they handed him over to both of us. Both Jerry and I sat and cried. And, he was in an isolette and we could reach in. Bassett was wonderful. He is a Bassett baby, and he is a miracle baby.
CS:
Yeah, so, Paul is your oldest son?
JC:
Paul is the oldest one, and then Peter came two years later. Again, I almost lost him, and Bassett hospital took over and I really had to, more or less, be bed ridden. And, they told me that they could keep me in the hospital bed ridden, or I could come home and behave myself. But I couldn’t do anything, so Jerry he worked, did almost all of the cooking, did the wash, did the ironing, and he did all of that. Yeah, yeah.
CS:
Going back a little bit, you moved here to Cooperstown at nineteen, correct? And you came with your family?
JC:
I came, yeah. My dad and mother. My mother was born here in Cooperstown. Her mother took the family back to New Jersey. My mother met my father in New Jersey, and then when they got married they had their honeymoon here at my great-aunt’s house. My dad fell in love with Cooperstown. And he always said he wanted to move here. And then, every spring he would get the Cooperstown papers out and start looking, at farms and houses, and we’d all get excited.
By the time I was five or six, and of course we had come to Cooperstown and visited with relatives, and we loved it as much as he did. And then we got to the age where, “Well, Dad’s got spring fever, he has got the papers out again.” So, of course we figured we would probably never move here, but when I was in my senior year they came up here and bought this house, with a farm. And, I wasn’t going to come because I wanted to stay with my friends. I wanted to graduate from there. Well, by the time they sold the place in Atlantic Highlands, I was out of school and when my brother decided to come, and then my sister decided to come, I said, “the whole family is going, I better go too.” So, that is how I came to Cooperstown.
CS:
And your brother and sister are older? And, so they came out of school?
JC:
Yeah they were married when they came here. Both of them were married when they came here. My sister is five years older. My brother was eight years older. My brother has passed away, but my sister lives in the state of Maryland.
CS:
Where did you live when you first moved to Cooperstown?
JC:
In Middlefield, called Lentzville on Fish Road. Dad bought this farm, and it looked like Tobacco Road.
CS:
What does that mean “Tobacco Road?”
JC:
That’s right, you are young. [laughs] Tobacco Road was a very, very poor section. It is in a very, very famous in a movie. It was pretty bad. The back steps were falling down. I have a picture that my mother painted of what it looked like when we moved there. I love that painting. And then, also, there was no bathroom. So, we came from a building with two bathrooms. And then we came to this building in 1952, February of ’52, when it was like zero, and we had an outhouse. And I thought that was really neat for about a week, and then I didn’t think it was so neat anymore. And I ended up getting a room here in Cooperstown, with a bathroom. [laughs]
CS:
Who did you stay with? Was it a boarding house?
JC:
It was on, it was funny, it was on Main Street. It was up by the courthouse over there. Well, the house was moved from one side of the street to the other side of the street. And, it was owned by Dr. Curtis and Jane Curtis. Jane Curtis is still living and I think she lives at the Thanksgiving Home. So, I had a room there. That was nice.
CS:
What about your siblings did they live with your parents?
JC:
No, I wasn’t married when I moved up to that and lived in that one room. I got married in 1956.
CS:
So how did you meet your husband?
JC:
I don’t know if you want to record that. [laughs] I met him the day he came, I should say the day after he came home from the service. The day he came home from the service a lot of his friends had a party. And they were going home, and in the middle of Main Street, by the flagpole, one of the guys had a flat. Well he got really, really mad, and he ended up taking the jack and throwing it at the base of the flagpole. With that, the police came around and wanted to know what was going on. And then, someone said, “well Jerry Clark came home and we are all celebrating.” Well at that time the police were pretty good. And they said, “we will help you change the tire and you guys get on your way.” At the time I was working up at the Hickory Grove, and I had heard, because we had a huge party up there, that night – same night that they had this little fun on Main Street.
And, Gene Butler at the time owned the Hickory Grove. He always said to us waitresses, there was about four of us, he said, “I’d rather have you girls stay overnight and then the next day, in the morning, get cleaned up instead of you working until one or two o’clock in the morning. Well, which we did, but then the next day Jean Butler told me that he heard, he woke up in the morning and he heard people in the bar. And he said, “I went down, and it was two guys and someone said that one was Jerry Clark.” And I said, “Well, I don’t know who Jerry Clark is.”
So, we finished up came back downtown. I walked into Doubleday Restaurant. It was next to the movies at that time, Smalley’s Theatre, and I walked in. There was a very good friend, Jack Burnett, and he said, “Joan come over here. I want you to meet somebody.” So, I go over and I sit in the booth and he said, “This is Jerry Clark.” I looked at him and I said, “I have already heard about you.” And he said, “What do you mean heard about me?” I didn’t tell him the whole story, but he didn’t tell me the whole story. So we are trying to figure out how I heard about him.
Well, it wasn’t Jerry Clark that was at the Hickory Grove. It was another guy, but somebody already said Jerry Clark came home from the service. And, my boss picked that up and said it was Jerry Clark that was up at the Hickory Grove. But, it wasn’t Jerry. Jerry was up in the middle of this fiasco on Main Street with a flat tire. So we finally – I said, “well, you know what were you doing at the Hickory Grove?” “I wasn’t at the Hickory Grove,” he said, “I was in the middle of Main Street with a flat tire and a bunch of guys!” So, it’s kind of a cute story. We always laughed about how we met, and I think it was two nights later, he came up to the Hickory Grove, and three years later we got married.
CS:
Was he coming home from the Korean War?
JC:
Yes.
CS:
Okay. So, he was really well known in town?
JC:
Yes, he was, because his mother and father were the ones who had Clark’s Men Shop. So, he grew up. In fact he lived in this building for a while. At that time they had coal stoves, and they were on the second floor. And up here was just, I guess like big rooms, and I am not sure when the apartment was put in.
CS:
And what is on the second floor of this building now?
JC:
I rent out one office and then I use the back part for when the kids come home. I have a little apartment down there for them.
CS:

That is great.
JC:
I only own half the building, less than half the building.
CS:
And before did Jerry’s family own the whole building?
JC:
No, we don’t know when it was, but somebody, the owner – it was owned by one person. They think that the guy had played cards and had put up part of the building and lost it. So, there is the firewall that went up and separates the two sides.
CS:
Oh, wow.
JC:
I have three windows and the other side has four windows, up front.
CS:
And this building has a long history. When was it built?
JC:
1862
CS:
1862
JC:
Civil War, right after the big fire of Cooperstown.
CS:
What happened in the big fire?
JC:
Well the big fire took almost all the buildings on the other side. And, I would suggest that it is so interesting that do you look that up. Just for your own knowledge. This is the first building that went up after the big fire.
CS:
Interesting. And this building has a funny name too, right?
JC:
It was built by Bogardis from New York, the originator of the Iron Clad. But, it is known as Bowne Opera House. And, it was – where we are right now – if you walk through that wall you would be in the next apartments. There wouldn’t have been any ceiling here, it was all open, so it was like a big theatre.
CS:
And, when did it change to apartments? Do you know?
JC:
Well, I’m not sure when the other part of it was lost to somebody – the guy who played the cards. I bet he was unhappy.
CS:
[laughs] He must have had a big debt to pay with this building you know?
JC:
I have never been sure about that, but that is the story. That he must have played cards and lost part of the building. The stairway is not mine. The stairway goes to that side of the building. The owner can never take it down because it is under historic preservation. And, it has been on it even before Cooperstown was on anything historic. So, if they did decide they wanted to demolish and had to for some reason, they would have to build me stairs so I can get up here. [laughs] That is in the deed, and I have egress to the stairs. Myself and any of the owners forever, and ever, and ever. [laughs]
CS:
Can you tell me anymore about the opera house? Do you know anything else?
JC:
Well, I know that. I don’t know who read it, but Lincoln’s eulogy was read up there. Somebody read it up there. And there were some plays that were up there and I can’t tell you much more than that, only it was used by the townspeople. And as you see, when you come up the stairway, and then if you look to the left when you get up you see another flight of stairs. Well that flight of stairs veers off like this.
CS:
So, we are on the third floor. So that makes it a fourth floor over there?
JC:
All of the third floor was the opera house. On this side the apartment was put in later.
CS:
This is a very large building.
JC:
Yes
CS:
So, how is Cooperstown different from where else you grew up? You know, was it different from New Jersey?
JC:
Well I came from a small town, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. About eighteen miles south of Asbury Park. Not large, but pretty famous for their marina. Which was only down at the end of the street, and that’s where we used to go when we were in high school and going to have a party. You go down and you take a big pot with you and you would take corn and you’d build a fire. And you dug the clams and have a clambake. The only thing it cost us was the corn and our pot and the steaming for the clams. And we could do that at that time, but now there is a law that you cannot go and dig clams, because the clam diggers were getting upset. [laughs]
So, it was a great town to live in. I was very lucky. My dad, he was the head of the Sea Scouts, so I was pretty lucky because that was through high school. I always had boys around the house. And they always liked to stay for supper. I used to tell them, “you peel the potatoes and I will talk mother into letting you stay.” And mother used to, because I hate peeling potatoes, your lucky you get mashed potatoes tonight (both laugh), but I hated peeling potatoes. So, I would get them to peel the potatoes, and we would always have two or three extra at our table. And it was fun. They had a boat, but I did not get on the boat. That was for the Sea Scouts. My dad was very instrumental in building a building right down at the harbor where everyone came together and built this cinderblock building for the Sea Scouts teenagers.
CS:
Does your dad do anything with the lake here? Uh, when he came here did he do anything?
JC:
When he came here he was called the skipper of the Sea Scouts for a couple of years.
CS:
And, what exactly are the Sea Scouts?
JC:
It’s scouting, it’s from the Boy Scouts. The ages I think you had to be was fourteen to eighteen. So, you can see why being in high school was kind of fun. [laughs] They were always around, you know. And, one of the fellows became an Eagle Scout. An Eagle Scout is the highest award you can get in scouting. He was a nice guy, and he asked me if I would pin him with his Eagle Scout pin. And at that time, the convention was in the convention hall in Asbury Park where they had the Miss America pageants, so this was huge and this was regions of scouts from all over. I can remember I had a long dress and it was a very special night. Then there was a big dance afterwards. I must have been about seventeen at that time.
CS:
And then you moved to Cooperstown?
JC:
I moved at Cooperstown at 19, no 20.
CS:
So you had already graduated from college? From high school I mean.
JC:
Yes, I didn’t go to college.
CS:
Well were talking a little bit about your husband, so what did he do for a living when he came back from the war?
JC:
Well, he had planned to be a salesman on the road for men’s clothing, and work with a bigger company. But, he hadn’t been home very long. We had been going out together, and he said what do you think about going up to the house. That would be the house up on Nelson Avenue and Main. The big red house, that is where Jerry’s parents and where he later years grew up. And he said, “what do you think about going up?” “My dad likes to watch the fights,” he said, “What do you think?” And I said, “yeah that sounds good.”
We had dinner, and then he always went upstairs and took a nap after dinner. And he said to Jerry, probably around nine o’clock, and he said, “Call me when the fights come on.” Well, that evening he had a heart attack while he was upstairs, so he passed away. And that was pretty sad, a sad evening for all of us. [In 1953]
And then after that Jerry stayed in the store and then he was a merchant on Main Street. And I think that was what he was supposed to do, I don’t think he was ever supposed to be on the road because he loved Cooperstown. And, you would see him ever single day out front sweeping. And when he became mayor they had a picture of him. What was that, new broom sweeps clean? In the paper the headline was “Mayor New Broom Sweeps Clean.” [laughs] He was very kind, a very kind man. He had a lot of friends, he really did. He was very special. He was a good father, great husband, and I still miss him.
CS:
Yeah. Did you ever help in the store?
JC:
No. No, I didn’t. I loved women’s clothes. My first job was working at the Smart Shop across the street. That was all women’s clothes and I loved that, so I stayed there maybe two years. Then I took that waitress job, which I loved too. That was fun. That was probably the most fun job, but it was also when I was dating Jerry, so that probably made it more fun.
CS:
So, was it not normal to have women work in a men’s clothing store?
JC:
There was his brother, Jerry, and his mother. So, they didn’t need me.
CS:
And if you would go to men’s clothing stores other places, women wouldn’t work there usually?
JC:
Most of the time. Jerry’s father worked for a man called Mr. Empie. And again, it was mostly men in the shop. Jerry’s mother only waited on costumers come Christmas time when they were really, really busy. And I helped a little bit at Christmas time by doing the wrapping and stuff like that. She did a lot of the sewing, alterations. Thank God I didn’t get into that.
CS:
[laughs]
JC:
That’s the one thing I hated sewing. I made pajamas in high school and put the buttons on the wrong thing. To this day, I hate even putting a button on.
CS:
I hate sewing too. So, what kind of clothes did they sell there? Men’s jackets?
JC:
Suits, ties, underwear, shirts, belts, wallets. To this day people walk into the store now, which is Riverwood, and say to Herrick Gibbons, “I remember coming in here and buying suits – we have people come in and say to him, “you see this I bought this at Clark’s Men Shop.” And Jerry has been gone twenty-two years, so the store has been closed up for almost twenty-two years. And there is still Clark’s Men Shop clothing around.
CS:
Wow, and was Jerry a tailor too, or?
JC:
He was in the Army.
CS:
Ok. And, when you would buy a suit, because I am not really familiar with this, you know different time. So, when you would buy a suit in the men’s store, would somebody fit it to you and make sure it fit well?
JC:
And then alterations could be done.
CS:
So Jerry would do the fitting and his mom would do the sewing. Interesting.
JC:
It was a well-known shop. People would just come in the morning and stand around. And there was always a certain few that would come in and say hello. Then there was the three-way mirror down there. Still there, and I wish it wasn’t so cluttered because it was always kept clean. It was always little kids fingerprints and stuff, but it was always kept clean. I’ve got a picture of one of my grandchildren standing in that three-way mirror. But it was great. And today people will say, you know that was such a great mirror. You stood there in the middle and you had one here, here, and here. You could see all sides of you. I’m sorry I can’t think of his name. There was a very dapper man and he would take the whiskbroom and stand in the three-way mirror and do the front of himself and then he would ask Jerry to brush off the back. He would come in every morning.
CS:
What exactly is a whiskbroom? I have heard of that before.
JC:
A whiskbroom was small and wait one minute then you can describe it.
CS:
Ok I will press pause. So, a whiskbroom was a little broom and then you would brush your suit off each day?
JC:
Yeah. That man did everyday.
CS:
So, was that the only three-way mirror in town?
JC:
Oh, I can’t say that. No. That was the one that had a door, and behind the door the safe is still there.
CD:
Did the customers know about the safe?
JC:
It was a bank at one time downstairs. The store was a bank, and there was a twin one in the drugstore, which is Danny’s Market. And they were kind of back-to-back. I could hear when Jerry would close that door and put the latch through. I could hear that up three flights and know he would be up for dinner pretty soon.
CS:
And, so men would hang out in the store all together?
JC:
Oh yeah.
CS:
And what do you think they talked about down there?
JC:
Just Cooperstown – daily life in Cooperstown. Who did what in Cooperstown? Politics.
CS:
When did Jerry become Mayor?
JC:
He was a Trustee from 1970 to 1976 and Mayor from 1976-1980. At that time, he was the longest running mayor. It was a union ticket before that. So, one time the Democrats would be mayor, the next time it would be a Republican. It would go back and forth. So, there was a little upset, and he was the first one where he was the two tickets – two people running for mayor. And, he had quite a large margin, and became mayor of Cooperstown.
CS:
So, what was the election like? Did he go around and tell people he was running for mayor, or?
JC:
Yeah, there were people that kind of people that put up signs for him. Yeah, it is a small town, you know, so as Jerry said, he always kind of liked the union ticket. Because, he said, “you can say so many good things about yourself, and you don’t want to say bad things about your friend.” And usually the two people who would be running would know each other way back then.
CS:
And so they were friends?
JC:
It would be people who were probably in Cooperstown most of their life. And I think at that time, they got an increase once, and it was a thousand dollars for being mayor.
CS:
So, what were his duties as mayor? What did he do?
JC:
Well, almost everything. We didn’t have as many committees as you have now. So, the responsibility was pretty much on the mayor and the village board. They worked together. I don’t know we had some pretty smart men on there. We had one, mayor Hollis, he was mayor before Jerry. His wife was teacher. A very, very intelligent man. He set up a kind of fund which took care of the streets and things like that. For a little town, they were able to do things. The infrastructure right now in Cooperstown – well they are working on the streets right now and it is going to cost an awful lot to do it.
CS:
So how has that changed, because you know Cooperstown is very specific now?
JC:
Well, how has it changed? Too many committees as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know how much opinion you want? But, I just think there are too many committees. A committee for this, a committee for that. I think a lot of committees it comes down to their personal opinion. “Well, maybe I don’t like this, well, maybe I don’t like that.” I am for codes. I definitely think we are very lucky in Cooperstown. We don’t have what a lot of these towns have had, who have ruined their architecture by changing it. Example, Oneonta, Bresee’s Department Store who put up this aluminum. Now it is being taken down, and I see they are working on that to save that building. Sissons, went ahead and put up this big aluminum siding on it and that has been taken down. I am glad to see a lot of codes in Cooperstown. But I don’t want to see the codes become personal opinion. Do it for the good of the town, not because you don’t like the look of something. I truly believe sometimes that is a hindrance to some of the committees.
CS:
So, this building has never had the aluminum siding on the front or anything?
JC:
No.
CS:
Why is that? Why does the building look like this?
JC:
Well this has been on historic preservation lists close to thirty years. More than that.
CS:
Does that affect what you can do?
JC:
Oh yes.
CS:
Would you ever have wanted to do something and you have been told you can’t?
JC:
I would never change the front of it. I think I have been pretty good about keeping the painting. It was funny for a while in the picture you looked at.
CS:
The picture of the building.
JC:
If you look at that, you’ll see one half is painted different.
CS:
Oh yeah, so one half is white and one half is dark.
JC:
Right, so apparently when Withey’s had it, they weren’t wrong doing this. Somewhere along the line they thought the whole building was painted white. Well, we always saw it as this color. We never saw it as the others.
CS:
As the dark color.
JC: And at that time, Jerry’s dad he had passed away, Jerry’s mother was kind of in charge and I know they went and asked if she wanted to paint the side of the building. She had said no, she didn’t want to change it at that time. Then after Jerry’s mother died, and then we wanted to paint the building. They decided to go back to this instead of the all white. We came back to this color.
CS: Now it is all dark?
JC: If you still look up you will see that side still needs a painting and mine doesn’t.
CS: How often do you get yours painted?
JC:
I had it done maybe four years ago. It wasn’t done on that side, I am sure it will be eventually. So it’s fun having two people own one building. Right now if you remember the green and white awnings, well it is going to be changed. I hated those green and white awnings. I always liked the black and grey or the black and white, because I always thought it looked sharp with this building. So, when Withey’s sold it and it was turned into Danny’s Market, the green and white awning was put up because originally Danny’s Market was down where the Cooperstown General Store is. It always had a green and white awning.
Well, at the time, the fellow who was renting from me, Doug Walker, was in business with Richard Bird. He said, “we are going to have a green and white awning.” I said, “I don’t want a green and white awning.” He said, “Well Joan, I think it should look the same as the other side.” So he said, “well, I will pay for the awning, if we can have green and white.” I said, “ok.” Now that is going back eighteen years. Everyday I have hated that green and white awning. I said, “I’m going to get a new awning.” They said, “what about next door?” I said, “I’m going to have a black and grey awning.” They said, “Joan, don’t you think it should look the same?” I said, “it would be nice if it was the same, but I hate the green and white.” So anyway we went next door and they took down the awnings two days ago. We are both going to have black and grey awning put up and it will look really nice.
CS:
When Clark’s was there it was black, right?
JC:
Black and grey, yup.
CS:
Oh, how wonderful.
JC:
So it is going back to black and grey and I think the building is so beautiful. I think black and grey is so much prettier than green and white. And even the awning guy said he hates to sell green awnings. So, we should have a new awning before Christmas.
CS:
So, with the building you were talking about that safe. Is it still down there behind the mirror?
JC:
Yup.
CS:
That is amazing. So did you guys ever have a burglary or anything? Nobody ever knew about the safe?
JC:
No, we didn’t. Withey’s, who was owned by Hank Phillips and Edgar Badgley, who are very, very dear friends, they had somebody break in. They also had a deer go into the store. [laughs]
CS:
And their safe is connected to your safe?
JC:
They took their safe out.
CS:
Ok
JC:
Theirs is gone.
CS:
So a deer got in there?
JC:
The funny thing about that store, this is from my brother-in-law, Bill Clark. First National Bank. There was a little dressing room in the back and that dressing room came from the National Bank, which was closing up in the ‘30s. He remembers bringing that over from the bank. There was a tiny lavatory, it just had a sink in it, and that was supposed to be a phone booth from the bank. And both of those are gone because they needed the space. They took those down. It might have been historic. The fixtures in the store came from a clothing store in Albany that was going out of business. And, they are beautiful. That is the one thing when I rent it, I [tell them] the fixtures stay. Oak.
CS: That’s great. Was it hard for Jerry to work both at the store and be the mayor?
JC:
No, not at that time, he was able because he lived on Main Street. Because of the business, people would come in. Every morning he would go down to the village offices. No, it wasn’t hard for him. He found the time. And I think it is just like Joe Booan, who is mayor right now. He is finding the time, and he has a job. Most mayors had jobs. You couldn’t live on a thousand dollars. That was pretty good, though. The mayor before that didn’t even get that much.
CS:
What about for you? What was it like to be married to the mayor? Did people treat you differently?
JC:
No, because Jerry was very low key. He was not the one to be riding in cars. That wasn’t Jerry. Anybody could come in. There were certain ceremonies he did like. The Hall of Fame, he loved baseball. I seem to be talking more about the store and him. But, he loved baseball. He was the American Legion state chairman for baseball. And that is another whole story and a good story. We had teams come in from all over. Some of the teams we put down at the [Vet’s Club] and they would bring sleeping bags. They would play over at Doubleday Field. It was good times.
CS:
Do you like baseball?
JC:
Oh yeah.
CS:
And so how were you involved in that?
JC:
Well, both boys played baseball. One was in Little League and the other one had moved up. So, you would go to one game and you ran and got to another game. People still do that in Cooperstown. I don’t think any of that has changed. I really don’t. The league is still pretty good. I don’t think the small town stuff has changed too much. Only the kids don’t get out as much. I think they have more homework, and I think they are hooked to their computers and their games. I don’t know if kids nowadays would know what Cowboys and Indians are or how to play it. They used to go over and play Cowboys and Indians at Doubleday Field in the bleachers.
CS:
How about the change of the buildings? I know next door there is a park now, what used to be there?
JC:
The Freeman’s Journal was there. It happened on a Friday night in 1963. I had my hair all up in curlers. Friday night Jerry had stopped down at the Vet’s Club after work. Somebody came up and saw flames at The Freeman’s Journal and next thing you know the fire alarm went off. [Lippit’s Jewelry and Derrick’s Shoe Store also”
CS:
Was it the fire alarm in your house?
JC:
No the big fire alarm. And at that time we had blasts. Two blasts meant one street, three meant another. So, you knew where the fires were. Everybody had a list of “uh-oh it’s on Nelson Avenue, its over on Elm Street.” And the one was Main Street.
And I was looking out the window just as Jerry came in. “Joan,” he said. I said, “What’s going on?” He said, “let’s wake up the kids and let’s get them out.” I said, “ What?” He said, “There is a fire next door.” And with that, I’m looking out the window, a big puff of smoke went by the window. We got both of them up, and we got out. That was a bad night. It was cold, and there was ice on the fire escapes.
Jerry’s mother and brother came down to the store. Peter was two. We went to the Glimmerglass, which is now Nicoletta’s. We had good friends there, because we knew everybody on Main Street. We went in there and I remember them getting the kids – they got Peter milk, and Paul had a soda. I remember that. I said it was time to get out. One of our friends took myself and the boys out to my mother and dad’s place.
Then I got word, there wasn’t any cell phones at that time, but we got a phone call that one of the firemen had fallen into the building next door. Then we got word that he hadn’t. The fire department, because this building is higher than the other building, they brought all the hoses up through this building, the first floor, up the stairway to the apartment, up another stairway to the attic, and up another stairway on to the roof. And, all these fire hoses were all the way up.
CS:
Right through your building?
JC:
They played the fire from the roof on down. And one of the firemen, Alton Dunn, our good friend. He has passed away now. He thought there was like a ledge and he went to step on it, but somebody grabbed him or he would have fallen into the fire. People were helping. Jerry’s mother got all the gloves and scarves out of the store because they were so cold. Their gloves were getting wet and everything. To this day I think it was Bud Ballard. He says, Joan, I remember Mrs. Clark handing out all that stuff to the firemen.
There was a lady. She kept walking around with drinks. She thought that would warm the firemen up. Alcohol doesn’t warm you up, it only makes it worse. The firemen were good; they refused it. That lady kept saying, “It will warm you up, it will warm you up.”
We had no damage, but a little smoke damage. Until Sunday. The fire was out Sunday, and they were taking all the apparatus out. They went upstairs. The nozzles are very, very heavy. They undid the nozzle from the hose, put that on a long rope, and were going to drop it down the side of the building. And, then they took the open hose and threw it down into the transom which went into the attic. And, then someone said ok let her go. Meaning the nozzle was going to be lowered down, but the guy on the fire hydrant thought he meant turn the fire hydrant on. And they turned the fire hydrant on and the hose was pointed into the attic. Jerry and I were cleaning out the refrigerator because of the smoke smell we wouldn’t have been able to stay there until we got it cleared out. And I said, “Jerry I hear water.” And, with that the water was coming through all the doorways. And, then I yelled running down the stairs, “Turn the fire hydrant off, turn it off.”
Everyone says they never heard a word from me during the fire, but they heard me that time. I had kidded the firemen when they came up to get the hose off the attic roof, and I said you guys are really good. You didn’t get any water down here; the only damage we have is smoke damage. They didn’t even want to come down off the roof and face Jerry and I. Jerry’s mother called and said, “I’ve got dinner ready.” Jerry was sweeping the water out and down the stairs. I told her and she said, “well, hurry up, the dinner is getting cold.” To this day they will not tell me who opened that hydrant. They all know and they will not tell me. (both laugh)
CS:
Were they all volunteer firefighters?
JC:
Oh, it is all volunteer. We’ve got the best fire department around, and emergency squad. That is another thing, and again we got to thank Jane Clark for a lot with the fire department. She has bought a lot of equipment. She does a lot of good.
CS:
So the entire building burned down next door?
JC:
None of it was able to be saved, so they did have Pelneck’s Wrecking Crew come in, and there was big ball that took it down. And, it was made into a park.
CS:
Do you know how the fire started?
JC:
They never really did know. They did not know how it started. It started in a newspaper office in the back. Yeah, it was not a very good night.
CS:
So that night it must have been really scary?
JC:
Well, I didn’t want to – when I left it was pretty scary, and I remember one of my friends was carrying Paul. Jerry stayed in town, but I got out with the boys. But we kept getting the reports and that. My boys stayed with my mother and dad for about four days. Then, I came back and cleaned. It was crazy.
CS:
When did they decide to turn that into a park instead of rebuild the building?
JC:
Year, I’m not sure. Once they cleaned it up and everything. I think it was bought by the Clarks and given to the village. If the village ever wanted to sell it, I think they need permission [from the Clarks], but it belongs to the village.
CS:
So, your wall had no damage though, even though you were connected to that building?
JC:
Oh yeah, we had to put up netting. It was a wire netting, and then like stucco on the side of the building.
CS:
Have there been any other fires since you have been on Main Street?
JC:
Yup, that is why I have a scanner, because years ago you knew when we had a fire on Main Street. Now, you don’t know because the whistle just goes off. And that is why I have a scanner. So, if there is a fire on Main Street in the middle of the night, I want to know it. And, there was the drycleaners; there was a fire there. There was the little dress shop; there was a fire there.
I’m trying to think the firemen just got away when the window blew out in one of those stores. Jerry and I happened to be in Florida, the only vacation we ever took when my son called us and said that the Doubleday Restaurant they had a fire over there. And, Bill was still alive at that time, that was Jerry’s brother. He called Paul, my son in Syracuse, and Paul said he was so upset. He didn’t know what to do. It was a windy night. There was a lot of sparks and things. He was down in the store and he said to Paul, “you should see it.” And, I guess the flames were really bad over there. It reached quite high in the sky, and poor guy he didn’t know whether to come up here and get everything out. But, eventually they got it out and we were very lucky that none of the buildings caught on fire. And, the only reason that all of Main Street was saved on this side in 1963 was the elevation difference between this building and the buildings that burned. This was high enough and stopped the fire. So, the iron clad saved part of Cooperstown.
CS:
That’s great. So, I wanted to talk a little bit about your jobs. I know you already talked a little bit about being a waitress and things.
JC:
Yeah, I loved that.
CS:
What did you do when you first moved to Cooperstown?
JC:
For a while I didn’t have any job. I kind of liked being at the farm for a while and going to an auction where they sold cows which I had never been to before. And, if you want to go and have some fun, you got to go to one of those auctions. The description of the cow is almost embarrassing at that time, you know? The word teats should have been used instead of the other word. And my uncle, who lived in Cooperstown and had all these dairy farms, he would look over at me and my face would be bright red. He would look over and he would laugh. He would say, “did you have a good time at that auction?” I just thought living here was the neatest thing.
It was the happiest day when we moved to Cooperstown, I loved it. I love being here. It’s just a very, especially, I got to say I know a lot of people on Main Street now. They say well a lot of newcomers come. These newcomers are pretty nice. There are a few who are here to gouge people on their rent, but when you see them and they ask for the high rent. You see someone come in and think they think they are going to make money on baseball, but by the end of the season they can’t afford to pay the rent, because the rent is so high. And some of them just have to say, “I can’t do it. Can you lower the rent?” And, somebody says no can’t. I know one group just up and left in the middle of the night, but you can’t be greedy. I love my tenant, Eric Gibbons. I think he is wonderful. He is good to people down in the store. As I’ve told him, he is keeping the reputation up of Clark’s Men Shop by the way he treats his customers. And he has people that just come in and say hello and talk too. So, I am very fortunate he has been down there. I have had two tenants since 1988. That’s all.
CS:
So can you tell me a little bit about what it was like to work at Bassett Hospital?
JC:
I keep saying I loved everything, but I guess I did. I didn’t realize how much I loved my life. Bassett was wonderful. It was small. There was no outpatient building. It was just the main building. As I say I am very lucky to have Bassett, because I have two sons where by rights, I don’t know if they had been anywhere else whether I would still have them. But, Bassett was very small. You knew all the doctors. You knew the doctors’ dispositions. If you were called, I used to work at the record room. You had to go around and hand out, and you knew just as soon. You went into the doctor’s office and you put the record on his desk. And, you knew by the looks, you either just left it or you could say good morning. You knew every doctor and you knew most all the nurses. And you knew the clerks. And it is big now.
CS:
How did you get your job there?
JC:
After doing waitress work that one summer, I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I didn’t like just sitting around. So, they had a little snack, just coffee shop, so I volunteered to work at the coffee shop. And, what was I twenty? Twenty-one, twenty-one, maybe? And, somebody in the hospital said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Nothing, that is why I am here, I just hate sitting around.” “Well you know there are some openings in this hospital.” And I said, really. So, I applied and got one of the jobs.
CS:
And, what did you do? What were your daily duties?
JC:
The record room. Well, it was taking care of charts. It was typing. It was getting charts ready for the doctors, and it was all hand work or type work at that time. Putting in lab reports and things like that. Keeping the record up to date. And now it’s all on laptops. No paperwork, and it is ok until the laptops go down.
CS:
So, can you tell me a little bit more about your coworkers and the doctors?
JC:
They were good friends. My co-workers were good friends. In fact two of my co-workers were in my wedding party. I don’t remember anything but good days working at Bassett. Hectic sometimes, when it got hectic is when in the summertime when they had what they called bean pickers come in, and every weekend there would be fights among the bean pickers, maybe a knifing or something like that. That was up in Richfield, they had a lot bean pickers. Big long buildings where people stayed.
CS:
So, what does that mean, bean pickers?
JC:
They came and picked beans.
CS:
Oh, what kind of beans? I didn’t
JC:
String beans.
CS:
Oh, ok. And where did they come from?
JC:
All over. Yeah they traveled from one place to another. Seasonable.
CS:
So, it was a job for somebody that didn’t have a lot of skills?
JC:
That’s the only time that I remember seeing any black people around was in the summer.
CS:
And, where did they do this?
JC:
At different farms in Richfield Springs.
CS:
And then they would…
JC:
Well, it was the same in a way only that picture here that was probably, if you can see the hops in the back, that’s when they had the hops pickers come in.
CS:
Ok
JC:
The farmers would take them in and they would have big suppers and things like that for them.
CS:
And this picture is your family and they were hops pickers?
JC:
Part of them, part of them. This is like a great-grandmother in here. Some of them in here. It’s like the hop pickers and plus some of the people. Now my mother came and she remembers picking hops.
CS:
What was that like?
JC:
Picking the hops.
CS:
Yeah, I don’t know anything about that.
JC:
Gee Whiz. You have got to go to The Farmers’ Museum.
CS:
What would they do?
JC:
You can see the hops behind this in this picture and they would be on poles. And then there would be two standards on the side, they would pull a pole and they have a thing like a belt and that would pull the pole up. You have seen the poles up there with the hops on them at the museum.
CS:
Right.
JC:
Some day you better go watch that. And then they would put it across this basket. This big basket, in fact there is one up there. Like a big bin. Then they would just take the hops off. I can remember my mother saying, if you shook the basket, you got in trouble. Because the hops settled and apparently you can get so much money for a basket. But if you shook it the hops would settle. Hop picking is good, and I know a more about it because I worked at the museum. But I can remember my mother telling me about the hops. And up in Pierstown is where my great aunt lived.
CS:
And your mom lived her too?
JC:
Yeah, when she was a girl.
CS:
And so her hold side of the family were hops farmers?
JC:
Yeah, well you got to remember she moved when she was young. Most of her family, all my cousins were in New Jersey. Very close family.
CS:
Do you know how your family got into picking hops? Just hop farming?
JC:
Well some of them had the farms with the hops on them. There was a [Taugher?] family and hops was the biggest industry in Otsego County in New York State. You got to look into that. That’s another whole story. I mean we could go on about the hops for another hour.
CS:
Well, is there anything you want to tell me about your family and the hops?
JC:
No, only what I hear from my mother and grandmother. And, what a good time it was and a lot of work it was. And, how much work it was for the farmer’s wife who had to do a lot of the cooking for everybody. Because they had to feed these people too.
CS:
Oh, so they had to [inaudible]
JC:
But it wasn’t like the ones in Richfield. They had these long houses and they fed themselves and everything going way back with the farmers when they had people come in and help. They fed them and took care of them. And then, it’s a whole different thing with some of the others coming in to pick beans and things like that. That’s different. That living isn’t very good.
CS:
Do you think it is the same nowadays?
JC:
No, you don’t see it now. None of those buildings – wait a minute my sister-in-law did say, in Richfield we have some of the remnants of some of those buildings. That was not a good way to live at that time. This was sort of festive.
CS:
So, the hops were they men that would come and pick?
JC:
Women too, oh yeah.
CS:
And it was just a seasonal thing?
JC:
Yeah. When the hops were ready. The blossoms. They picked the blossoms and they dried the blossoms. Oh you gotta, there is a whole story on hops at The Farmers’ Museum.
CS:
I’ll have to look into it.
JC:
You can get a whole lot more from there than you are going to get from me.
CS:
I was just wondering how your family related to it. I do know that there was the hops blight.
JC:
Yeah the blue mold.
CS:
The blue mold. And did that affect your family?
JC:
No, well I mean it affected anybody that was into hops. Hops was a very good, lucrative business.
CS:
But your family was doing other things?
JC:
Right.
CS:
So, how many generations back do you think your mother’s side of the family goes in Cooperstown?
JC:
Ok, it would be my grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and that’s it on my mother’s side.
CS:
And they came originally to farm?
JC:
Yeah. Irish. And I don’t know when the family came over. Haggerty, Fennigans. That’s Irish. On my dad’s side it goes way back in New Jersey. It would have been my great-great-grandfather. Great-great-grandfather was a famous Shakespearean actor.
CS:
Oh really? In America?
JC:
Yeah in America. That was pretty unusual at that time. He went to Italy. He traveled. He had ten children and he lived in Washingtonville, New Jersey. And, he bought a farm, beautiful farm. They called a farm, but it wasn’t really. It was like a gentleman’s farm. And, he would go away almost for a whole season and go on over to Italy. He was not there the night Booth was shot, and I think the play was As You Like It. The night that Booth shot Lincoln.
CS:
And he was there?
JC:
He was not there that night.
CS:
But he was in that troupe?
JC:
Yeah that’s what it was a troupe. Yeah, his obituary is unbelievable.
CS:
Did you ever want to act?
JC:
No, no. I am a big show off. Maybe that is where I got it. I don’t like to sew. I can’t paint. I like doing things, though, I’ll tackle almost anything.
CS:
Oh yeah, so I guess we’ve talked about this a little bit, but you used to work at The Farmers’ Museums, and I know that there
JC:
That was twenty-seven years.
CS:
That’s a long time. And there you did a lot of those type of things like sewing and things like that. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
JC:
No, I didn’t do the sewing. I did candle making. I liked working there too. I liked taking the kids around. And then, all of the sudden, for some reason the supervisor left and the next thing you know they asked if I would like to be supervisor. And, yes I enjoyed that too. I enjoyed the people that. I did the hiring of most of the museum teachers that came. And, I don’t ever remember ever having any problems. We all got along together.
CS: .
How did you get the job there originally?
JC:
Because the gal that worked before me quit. [laughs]
CS:
But when you first got there you weren’t the supervisor right?
JC:
No, I was a guide.
CS:
Did you just, you were interested in it? Or why did you get a job there?
JC:
Why I got the job there? Because Peter started kindergarten, so I had both boys in school. And this gal who was up there as a museum teacher, she said, “you know, I think you would really like this job.” She says, “Why don’t you come up and put in an application?” Well I did. And I did, I liked it right away. It was a lot to learn. Really a lot to learn. Again, I didn’t know too much about the farming and things, only what I learned from the parents. I know I keep saying I loved everything. But I have to say I loved everything I did. I was there for twenty-seven years. Good people up there.
Wonderful learning processes. We were very lucky always having good speakers, and we went on trips and learned a lot. Actually that is how we started the winter program up there. By seeing one of the trips and seeing some things that were being done and Bruce Reinhold and Milo Stewart were my bosses. And, um Bruce was really wonderful. And we came back and we just decided maybe we would try this. And, I think maybe we took in. I think we did it for three days to start out with and I know during the summer time we took three hundred kids a day. And, I’d get on every bus and talk to the kids before they would get off the buses. And, um teachers and I got along pretty much with most everybody I thought.
CS:
Where did you take the trip that inspired the winter program?
JC:
We’d gone to [Williamsburg?] We’d gone to York. We went to Niagara Falls at one time. There were many trips that we took. We all put in some money, and the bus was paid by the museum. Then it got to the point where the buses were too expensive and we couldn’t do it. I still think they take a trip once in a while. And, I think there is a trip coming up for Rome, being set up there. Because I almost, I was thinking about doing it, and then I ended up putting money to the car and I said, “Well, there goes the trip to Rome.” [laughs]
CS:
Next year. So, what were your daily duties like at The Farmers’ Museum?
JC:
I’d schedule the guides, made sure workshops were set up. I’d get up there early. And, now you can’t do it because you’ve got all kinds of alarms up there, but I would go into Bump Tavern to get the candle making started early, early in the morning to get the wax melted down. And, just get the workshop started, then go back and meet the kids, talk to the teachers. And get the guides. That was crazy because you would get a phone call – I can’t come in today. And, that might have been two people who do blacksmithing. And then I had to re-arrange everything last minute. Throw somebody else off there to get the blacksmith in, and put someone over here because she only knew this part. That was about it
CS:
What were the different stations you had? There was candle making?
JC:
Blacksmithing, candle making, papermaking, the print shop. There was the farm house, and the farm house was nice, but most of the farm house was done by people who worked at the farm house along with the museum teacher. Spinning, weaving. A lot of the guys learned how to do the spinning. It was a lot of learning up there.
CS:
Which one was your favorite?
JC:
I truly believe talking to the kids, meeting the teachers. We had an introduction that was fun. I know, you’ll get a big kick out of this, Bruce asked me one time, “You know graduate students want to know what the introduction is like.” I said, “yeah, I’ll do it.” He said, “why don’t you do it just like you do for the fourth graders.” I said, “ok.” I got through and of course they critiqued me. And one of the comments was: She treated us just like we were fourth graders. (both laugh) I said, “Bruce didn’t you tell them.” He said, “no.” I said, “I didn’t either.” That was such a let down. Later they found out and the one who wrote it came up and said something. “I probably should have told you that, that I was going to teach you like fourth graders.” That was fun.
CS:
So you created the winter program, what was that like?
JC:
I wouldn’t say I created it, but I was there when it was created. I was there when that came about through Bruce Reinhold and through a lot of the museum teachers. We all worked it out and we thought well jeez, you can’t do candle making for that length of time and you can’t do the paper making for that length of time. And, well pottery, I forgot we had pottery too. So, we had three stations at the bottom of Bump Tavern basement. We’d work them fifteen minutes at each station. So, they each got to take home a little piece of paper, and a candle, and they would take home a piece of pottery.
CS:
Did you ever work at the Fenimore?
JC:
I did some reading of paintings with the kids over there, but not an awful lot. Because, you had the Fenimore House teachers, and they were trained to do that over there. But, we did work with reading of paintings on the Farmer’s Museum side, but it was a great job. Every job I had I loved.
CS:
That’s great. How do you think The Farmers’ Museum has changed? Since you started.
JC:
Well, I love the church where it was before. And, the church is where all the farming is done now. It was not the greatest place for school groups because you only had so much time with them. If they were going to miss something it would be the teacher. They would say that we’ll have to skip the church, because from the farm house down to the church was a little bit of a walk, and then back and you lost some time there.
I know through their research and everything that the church would have been more in town. But when you drove down that lake road and all of the sudden there was this church, and there was a pond in front of the church, it was beautiful. But I know that because of research, why it was moved and that had to be done. I got to say everyone would come into Cooperstown and say oh that church was so beautiful and the Otesaga that was gorgeous. And there are a lot of people, unless you go to The Farmers’ Museum you don’t even notice the church now. But, I understand why. A lot of buildings. They didn’t have the buildings like that.
CS:
So, do you think it is good that there are more buildings?
JC:
Well, it all goes to the research and why they are there. I am not that educated in why all those buildings are there. There has got to be a reason. I thought we were a nice small museum before. Just very warm. How much time school kids have to go in all those buildings, I don’t know. I mean we had enough for a two and half hour tour with kids. Now they have more stations too. I know we used to have to wait outside sometimes. That’s the difference I say. It is done for a reason.
CS:
I was wondering do you think the kids really understood about the farm and things like that. I don’t know I was thinking about it and you knew about the farm because you had been to the auctions and things like that. Was it hard to teach the kids about the farm and things like that? About how they made things or?
JC:
I really think kids were interested. I think that, if somebody asked what is your favorite class, probably the fourth and fifth graders liked it best. By the time they get to third grade, they asked questions and before you can answer them they have another question going, so you they haven’t even listened to the answer. Fourth graders seemed to be pretty considerate about things. Again, it was how it was presented to them. If you had a lousy group and they came along there were groups that you wished never showed up at the museum. Someone in the group got something out of it, maybe not all of them. You knew, as soon as you met the teacher, you knew if you had a good group or not.
CS:
So what about kids nowadays? Do you think it would be the same if you were working there now?
JC:
That’s hard to answer. I don’t know. I think the kids are a little more educated nowadays because of TV. I mean, the history program is wonderful. If we had something like that when I was in school I probably would have taken more interest in history. That public TV really is wonderful. They had Alaska last week. I mean the kids are more educated just due to TV.
CS:
Interesting. What do you think about the way kids connect with farming overall? Do you think kids now days know as much as the kids then? I don’t know. I was thinking about it. So, at The Farmers’ Museum do the kids nowadays know as much as the kids did when you were working there? It is hard because we don’t know the kids. Did you ever have kids that were really interested or came from farm families?
JC:
I would say that they were really interested. They learned a lot they really did. I always thought it was a great program. I was reading and thinking about how much that program has improved not only here, but, because of the programs we had there, the Baseball Hall of Fame picked up. They have programs up there for the kids. Absolutely wonderful. It is not just baseball. They use timelines. I think the education from both Baseball Hall of Fame and Fenimore Art Museum and also The Farmers’ Museum – kids remember. I have had grown-ups come to me and say boy I can remember coming to The Farmers’ Museum. What year was that, you remember the lady who got on the bus? I would say that is me. They remembered. I think it just depends on how you are treated, how your day went, how the weather was, how the mood of everybody, including your teacher or your museum teacher that influences a kid.
CS:
That’s interesting, so what did you do after you stopped working at the?
JC:
I went to Alaska.
CS:
You did?
JC:
Yes, I did.
CS:
Oh wow.
JC:
I was never able to take a trip.
CS:
Oh because you always worked a lot?
JC:
Yeah, I just couldn’t do it. And that was the first thing I did. I have a niece and a nephew that both live in Alaska and have their families. And, actually I know how a great nephew. And my nephew has started Phillips Construction Company North. See I was a Phillips. My maiden name was Phillips. So we have Phillips construction here in Cooperstown. And my dad was the one that started it. And then my brother and his kids, and then one of his boys in Alaska. So, that’s Phillips Construction Company North.
CS:
It is spreading everywhere.
JC:
Yup.
CS:
So now you are involved in some organizations in town?
JC:
I was in a parade today.
CS:
You were?
JC:
I think my picture might be in the journal. Probably this week.
CS:
So today’s Veterans Day?
JC:
Today’s Veterans Day.
CS:
And the parade was on Main Street?
JC:
Yes, yup.
CS:
And what were you in the parade with? What group?
JC:
The American Legion Auxiliary. But I have problems in the walking part. And I said the girls, “oh I hate walking in the car.” So, they now have this little, well you will see it in the paper. It is a little kind of jeep, and I ride in that.
CS:
Oh great.
JC:
The girl from The Freeman’s Journal. Can I have your name? And, I thought she is going to ask me why I am riding in that thing. And the fellow who drives me, I got laughing so hard, and later I should have said, I should have said well I’ve been a member for fifty three years and I can’t walk straight and that is why I am in this thing. I got laughing so hard. So I told her, well I said. She kept looking at me like why are you here. I said, “I’m a member of the Auxiliary, I said for fifty two years.”
CS:
So, what does the American Auxiliary do?
JC:
We help the veterans. You’ve got the VFW and you also got the American Legion. Jerry was both and Jerry was county commander. That was a fun year. We had dinners every week to go to.
CS:
What do you guys do in the Auxiliary? You help out?
JC:
We put on dinners for the veterans. We help out with organizations. We send money to some of the hospitals. We take care of some of the veterans that are over here in the home. Usually, at Christmas time we try to get money for presents. American Legion Auxiliary is a very large organization, so VFW and American Legion. You have to have certain dates of being in the service to join different organizations. VFW, you have to serve oversees. American Legion you have to be in certain dates. And somebody says well you were in the service it seems like you ought to well what it is that the Legion and VFW didn’t set up those dates, Congress sets up those dates. And they were set up a long time ago because the two organizations are so strong, they did say at the time, that they put these dates up because the organizations were so strong that they can overthrow the government. Now, that is what I have heard why.
CS:
Interesting
JC:
It is.
CS:
And so I know you are also a Native Daughter. And what do you do in that organization?
JC:
Not, well, I’m trying to think what they did this year. You only get together once a year. That’s not a weekly or monthly meeting. And, we have it at the Otesaga and we have a big luncheon at the Otesaga. And, you get to see a lot of people that you have not seen for a long time. It’s really a very, very nice thing to go to, because it is amazing how many people you do know. You know people say well gee I walk down the street and I don’t know anybody. There are all these strangers in town. But you go to something like that and you meet people that they may have gone away and come back. All you have to do is be born here in Cooperstown for fifty years and then you’re a Native Daughter, or you have to live here for fifty years.
CS:
And so you have lived here for fifty years?
JC:
Yeah, but I had to be seventy and some people could be fifty.
CS:
Are there any other organizations that you are involved in here in town?
JC:
That’s about it.
CS:
It sounds like you do a lot.
JC:
I try to help people when they need it. But I usually don’t say anything too much about that.
CS:
Well, I don’t know, is there anything else you want to tell me about?
JC:
I told you I am pretty boring.
CS:
Oh not at all this has been very interesting.
JC:
Oh yeah I know. My kids growing up on Main Street. That was fun. They were good. Now in the summer time we had a place out there in Lintzville on Fish Road. When they were little and Peter was still in diapers, I seemed to be going out to my mother and dad’s a lot. Because there was a lawn and everything in the summertime and I remember my mom saying, “Why don’t you get a swing set?” And I said, “Where am I going to put a swing set?” “Out here in the yard.” I said, “Are you sure?” “Yup.” So we called Western Auto at the time and they delivered a swing set. My father came home, “Well, where did that come from?” I said, “Mother said we could get it.” He said, “Well I was the one who told your mother they need something to play with.
So, one day he said, “Why don’t you and Jerry come for supper?” And I came back and I got Jerry and I said, “Mother and dad want us to come out for supper.” I said, “they want to talk to us about something.” So he said, “you know what I want you to take a walk.” Now there was a long, long chicken house. It used to be a chicken farm, and they were no longer farming at this time, because, for one thing, you couldn’t live on a few cows. So, Dad went back into construction. But, anyway I said, “What are we talking about?” He said, “Well, this old foundation there, we could build a little camp.” He said, “But if you take this chicken house and we clean this all out and put up sheetrock and everything,” and he said,” clean this all up,” he said, “you could probably live in here by the end of this, before the summer is over.” And I can remember saying, “What?” Well the next thing you know, we are all in there working on this little house and we ended up having a camp out there. And it was wonderful. It was great. We had an outhouse in the summer time, but we also had my mother’s place that had a shower and a tub. So, that was one thing.
Ok so the kids in the summertime were up there, and my dad eventually put in a lake, so we eventually had swimming out there. It was really nice. And then, the boys, living on Main Street as they grew up. These four guys if they went out and they couldn’t do anything wrong, because every merchant knew them. And I can remember getting a phone call once in a while. Did you know that Paul was doing such and such? And at that time, if somebody told you that your kid was doing something wrong, you believed the person that told you. You didn’t believe your kid. So, they got to the point where. I remember Paul finding this dead bird and going down to, at the time it wasn’t the Red and White, it was a little grocery store, and he took it into the owner and he said, “I found this dead bird.” And it was Mr. Grady and Grady has Doubleday, so it was his father that had it. Ended up going out and having a little funeral for the bird and he buried the bird and had a funeral for him. Paul came home and told us all about the bird.
CS:
Were there other kids on Main Street, or you guys were the only family?
JC:
The ones that lived up the other. There wasn’t really ever apartments, too many apartments on Main Street. There are more now than there was then. But the kids knew all the merchants, everyone. And there wasn’t anybody on Main Street they didn’t know. And, oh my gosh, Halloween. I mean, we would go with them for Halloween. Next thing you know, you were invited in for hamburgers or whatever at somebody’s house and it was, it was different. I got to say that I have gotten so I still keep in with most of the merchants even though there are a lot that. I mean the two guys across the street I get along with them. I think they would do anything for me. Same with the two they are nice. Phil who has Nicoletta’s nice guy. Danny’s Market same thing, any problems, I was sick and everybody, “If you need anything let us know.”
CS:
That’s great.
JC:
Yeah it is, its nice to live in Cooperstown. I feel safe in a way that if I needed somebody I could just pick up the phone and call them.
CS:
And it has been like that in the past too?
JC:
Oh yeah.
CS:
So that hasn’t really changed.
JC:
Not for me it hasn’t changed. Not for me. For a lot of people, because there are a lot of people that will not accept the change that, well we had a Red and White, we had a Michael’s Meat Market, we had the A&P, we had Victory Market, we had two shoe stores, one was next door, one was down here, we had a barber shop, we had two, two dress shops, we had a men’s shop, and then later another men’s shop went on, and everything was on Main Street. And I think the big change was, and people say, “Well, you know you can’t buy anything in Cooperstown. You can’t buy a shirt in Cooperstown, you can’t buy this.” Well I understand we have a shoe place in town now, we still have Elseworth and Stills across the street.
And if it is anybody’s fault why we don’t have things, it is people that, when the malls came in, they went to the malls. And the only time they decided that Cooperstown – to shop in Cooperstown – when it was convenient for them. Sure the malls were cheaper, so people were going there. And I think, I truly believe that’s what killed Cooperstown, the merchants and everything else. And then baseball became the big thing, then all of the sudden we only had actually two baseball places in Cooperstown. Woods was the first one, and then Doug Walker went in, and then after that next thing you know it went like this and this. And you can just cut so many pieces of the pie and then still have a problem. Although, I think there are more gift shops in town. But we also have some clothes stores. And everyone complains about baseball. If it wasn’t for baseball, we would be like every little town that is boarded up. I mean you talk to some of these people that live somewhere else and they say, “don’t complain about baseball, come to my town and see what it looks like.” I think people like to come here because yes they like to walk down the street, and yes the stores are open. There is a lot of baseball, but thank god there is something that is keeping us going.
CS:
And your tenant, do they have baseball? Is that a baseball store.
JC:
Downstairs? Yeah he has got the plastic balls and plastic bats, but his is, you’ll have to go in the store. He is so wonderful to kids. He has got kids games down there, he has got puzzles that are great for the kids. He has got toys, he has got jewelry that is beautiful. He tries to do a lot of local. There is some pottery down there that are from local, the jewelry that is made from some of the people. They have the soap rocks that are only made in Oneonta. And they have the patent on that. Did you ever see the soap rocks?
CS:
I haven’t.
JC:
Before you go I will show you one in the bathroom, they are very, very nice. Um so anyway I think living on Main Street. I have lived here fifty, at one time I thought yeah I really want a house. Well, I finally got over that, and I thought well I really am lucky to live here. Now at my age, I don’t have to worry about cutting lawn, or have somebody cut lawn for me. Yeah I got three flights of stairs but so far I haven’t had any problem with them. If I did, I could always move down on the second floor and make a little apartment down there for myself. So, I think maybe I was supposed to be a tenant that lives on Main Street for fifty, it will be fifty three years, fifty three years.
CS:
Are you the longest person, you lived here the longest?
JC:
No, no. Well, in the business district yes, but on Main Street go up to Paula Pogly’s. And she has got, she has got a house up there. She is probably sixty years.
CS:
Ok, but you have seen a lot?
JC:
She would be one and I would be the next one.
CS:
Maybe a little bit more about your sons, so?
JC:
Yeah they’re pretty good. Paul loves Cooperstown. Paul knows everything about Cooperstown. Paul will call me up in the morning. He calls me every morning. I am really happy I didn’t get phone calls from them tonight. He calls me every morning and most of the time every night and checks me on the evening. Also, when he is on his way to work. I always tell him, what are you bored on your way to work. He has got his speaker thing so he is not holding the cell phone. I always kid him and say one of these days call me from home and I will be really complimented, you know but he kidded about it. He is one of these guys that, well we had an election and everything, he was here. He is very concerned about Cooperstown, about the politics in Cooperstown. He loves Cooperstown. Peter does too, but Peter had his family, and he is pretty well established where he is.
CS:
Where do your sons live?
JC:
Paul lives in Whitesboro, which is not that far from Syracuse, and Peter lives in, he lives in Baldwinsville, and he is only ten minutes from Syracuse. So they get to see each other quite a bit. Both of them were lucky and went to Cooperstown school, which is a good school. Paul liked basketball. Peter liked football, track; he didn’t go basketball. They were both in to baseball into the little league. Both went to the summer program up – it would be a cold days and they both want to go up and they would go up to three mile, and all the kids learned how to swim up there. They started out really early. Went up in the second grade on up. Paul works in, he is my guy when the TV goes off. “Paul, I can’t get a signal what am I doing wrong?” “Ok Mom.” Walks me right through it. He also, he can hook up anybody’s TV. He gets paid for hook-ups for TVs, and I mean luckily I have got two beautiful TVs because of him. Peter has five children and they are all grown. One is a teacher and one is home and the others all have jobs. And they are cute kids. Paul he got married when he was fifty. And I told him, I said “Boy,” I said, “I want to tell you something, she was worth waiting for and thank goodness.” Let’s see here I got, nope I thought maybe his wife was here. But she is a sweetheart, and good lady.
CS:
Do you think they are going to move back to Cooperstown?
JC:
As soon as they can afford it.
CS:
Yeah.
JC:
Yeah, I would love to see them move there. When he bought the house, his eyes his uncle, his grandmother had died then his uncle had the house. Uncle Bill kind of just let things god. He was there, and then when he passed away, he left his estate to my two sons. So Paul was able to work it out with Peter and bought Peter’s share in the house and now that has gone back, jeeze, that’s gone back almost eighteen years now. And he has done a lot of work up there. Is that still on?
CS:
It is, but I just wanted to hear a little bit about your sons. Well I just want to thank you so much for having me over.
JC:
Well, you are welcome Christine.
CS:
And for having me for this interview.
JC:
I told you I have a pretty boring life.
CS:
Oh not at all. Well, thank you again.
JC:
But a good life, my childhood was good.
CS:
Oh definitely.
JC:
I really did, my childhood was good too.

A NOTE FROM THE INTERVIEWEE, MRS. JOAN CLARK:
Worked on the Winter Carnival Committee from 1980 to 1986. Chairman in 1986 and 1987. Winter Carnival ran for three days. It included sled dogs and car races on Otsego Lake.
Paul Clark - oldest son. Was the Village Santa Clause when he was in High School. Went to School in New Jersey, Woodbridge. Also, Morrisville, NY. Now works in Syracuse, NY. Electronics at Ray Lin’s. Owns house on corner of Main and Nelson Avenue. Hopes to live there in the future. He worked at the New York State Historical Association with the Education Department under Bruce Reinhold, Grace Kull, Bev Olmstead, and Milo Stewart. He also worked at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Peter Clark – during high school worked at Lake Front Restaurant. Washed dishes and learned how to cook. (He is a great cook to this day.) College at Oswego State. During school breaks worked at Farmers Museum. Married, five children. Now works in Syracuse as a Quality Control Engineer for Alno-Plate.

Duration

30:04 Track 1
31.58 Track 2
30:04 Track 3
25:02 Track 4
2.26 Clip

Bit Rate/Frequency

129

Files

mrs-joan-clark-11112010_2e4fe82113.jpg
mrs-joan-clark-c-1990s_7d719068ad.jpg
Clark's Building 90 Main Street Cooperstown, NY.JPG
Clark's Mother's Family Hops Farming.JPG
Clark's Mother's Painting of House they moved to in Cooperstown.JPG
Clark's Retirement gift from Museum Teachers.JPG

Citation

Christine Stokes, “Joan Clark, November 11, 2010,” CGP Community Stories, accessed December 8, 2019, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/92.