Judith Dell, November 03, 2019


Judith Dell, November 03, 2019
Judith Dell
Anna Stratton
Camden, Maine
Cattle nutrition
Holstein cows
Holstein breeding
North Florida Holsteins
Carlos Salzedo
Victory garden
World War II
Judith Sawyer Dell, the daughter of Percival and Doris Sawyer and known to her community as “Judy,” grew up in Camden, Maine. She attended the University of Maine with a focus on journalism, where she met her future husband, Joe, a Long Island native who was studying cattle nutrition. The pair moved to Ithaca together when Joe took a position at Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Just two years later in 1961, the couple moved 12 miles out of Ithaca to Mecklenburg, a small hamlet on Route 79 in the town of Hector in Schuyler County. They purchased a 103-acre property for Joe to start testing his cattle nutrition ideas, which revolved around pasture at a time when the dairy industry was largely silage-focused. They named their farm “Woodwind Farm,” inspired by the mature trees and resident songbirds that welcomed them. Their first daughter, Cathy, was only eight months old when they arrived on the farm. The couple would eventually raise three children: Catherine Ann, Jennifer Marie, and Andrew Charles.

The Dells' commitment to cattle nutrition and improving Holstein genetics brought them national attention within the industry. Woodwind Farm eventually became a Dairy of Distinction in Schuyler County in 1989, and it was named the #3 dairy in New York State for herds under 50 cows in 1997.

Driven by her passion for education, not only did Judy become a student of the Holstein cow with Joe as her teacher, but she also made the farm into a place of learning for others. She hosted Cornell pre-veterinary interns and Fresh Air kids from New York City in the summers and French exchange students during the school year. She wanted her children to grow up with children from many other backgrounds, despite their rural location.

The Dells are both in their eighties now. After 59 years at Woodwind Farm, their farm has become more financially unsustainable for them, without the tax breaks from being full-time farmers. In 2018, they decided to put their farm on the market and move in with their son, Andrew, at his home in New Hope, Pennsylvania. They hoped to find a young family who wanted a farm of that size, but have been unable to find a buyer. Just days before this interview, Joe and Judy's children told them that they wanted to keep the farm. The three children will eventually decide what that looks like–as Andrew and Cathy are in Pennsylvania and Jen is in California–but in the meantime, their parents' move off the farm is no longer contingent on the sale.

Judy is an energetic, passionate narrator and dynamic storyteller. As I transcribed the interview, I found that she frequently skipped words that were implied, so I inserted them in brackets for ease of reading. She typically connected sentences with the word “and,” so I eliminated most “ands” for the transcript. A few times I rearranged the grammar for better reading comprehension. The audio recording of the oral history remains the primary source and I encourage readers to listen to the recording, as it is the only way to capture Judy's animated spirit and her mid-coast Maine dialect.
JD = Judith (“Judy”) Sawyer Dell
AS = Anna C. Stratton

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]


So, we're on.


We're on. This is the November 3, 2019 interview of Judith Sawyer Dell, “Judy,” at her home at Woodwind Farm, 4490 McIntyre Road, in Mecklenburg. Thanks for joining us, Judy.


Good to be here.


Where and when were you born?


I was born in Camden, Maine on July 20, 1936. Camden is a small coastal town in Maine. In fact, it's called the “Jewel of the Maine Coast.” It's a beautiful town. I think there was about four- to six-thousand people when I was growing up. We had like seven churches and quite a few blocks in town, but we still considered ourselves a small town. And then Rockland was the next little city to us, just nine miles to the south. My brother's nine years older, my sister's seven years older, and me. My dad was forty-six when I was born and my mother was thirty. Unexpectedly, I arrived [laughter]. We had just come out of the Depression, I think, quite a while back so their lives were quite different from what my brother and sister grew up with. They used to do a lot of things and go a lot of places and then pretty much by then, when I was growing up, everyone pretty much lived in the same neighborhoods.

We always had harpists since before I was born. Carlos Salzedo had a harp colony there every summer, so I grew up with always that wonderful music. My sister was very talented so she started playing piano very young. We had some really good teachers partly because of our summer students. In fact, her student teacher, my mother gave her the room free; they used to have two rooms in our house in the summer, but they ate in town because we had a lot of restaurants. This one, Ruth Moore, became my sister's teacher, and she was one of Carlos Salzedo's outstanding students. Later we found out that–because she came to us for many years and got to be part of the family in the summer–Ruth turned out to be not the poor little harp student that we thought she was. She actually grew up in the house Elvis Presley later bought and it was named for her aunt Grace, and his music studio had been built for her when she was a child prodigy and we had no idea. Carlos Salzedo was a prodigy, but we had no idea that Ruth had also been one; she was just a regular great person.

So, it was a good childhood. Everybody in the neighborhood; I had a lot of little girlfriends. We spent a lot of time in the woods, which was right across the street from me, and the mountain, which was at the top of our hill. We had nine sea captains, still. When I was very small, the one sea captain that lived above us died when I was like four years old and then my girlfriend's parents bought that house. There were other sea captains–there were two that we were really fond of. They were very elderly and we spent a lot of time. They were always open for us to come any time we wanted to. Captain Husby [and his wife], we used to love to be with them; she had crystals in her dining room that she said she could always tell when the captain's ship was coming back from Europe. She would be on the third floor of that house and you could look way out over the islands up there. She said with those crystals she knew where he was. We were little kids; I don't know too much about it, but it was interesting.

The captain had all these model ships in his library. He didn't mind us to be there. The best thing about them, too, was in the living room they had–like the library, [it] had the racks for newspapers–newspapers from Norway and other languages. She was legally blind, but with a huge magnifying glass she could read. We just adored her. She was so great. Any rainy day we could go spend the whole afternoon there. Every other day she baked fresh bread, and she said, “I do this because this is my sign of love to my captain.” She was so sweet. I don't even know their first names; it was always Captain and Mrs. Husby, and I've forgotten what they were.

[TRACK 1, 5:22]

Then we had another Captain, Harvell, and his wife, who lived down our street. He was really wonderful. Also, he was great with my brother. He adored my brother and taught my brother how to build a first little rowboat and then built a small sailboat. He started my brother on his career.

So, it was interesting. My first summer away wasn't until I was a junior in college. I couldn't think, “Why does it not seem like summer?” I was in Bar Harbor and it was so beautiful, by the ocean. Oh, it was wonderful. I was working in a research lab and I thought, “It doesn't seem like summer,” and I couldn't figure out why. I'd come home for my birthday, and when I drove in and the harp was playing out our upstairs windows, I thought [gasps], “Summer!” So, when I went back I borrowed one of my mother's harp records to go with my other records so that I could have that.

[TRACK 1, 6:21]

I don't know, what else would you like to know about my childhood? Later when I was really younger growing up, of course, it was with the war going on. That influenced a huge amount of our lives because we had the blackouts. There was so much going on then. We had a lot of English soldiers in our hometown at that time and we used to have them every Sunday, just about. Some were married and some weren't, but later my sister and I went to London and that's the first thing we wanted to do. Go across the Channel, because those guys were flying across [emotional]. We used to really worry about them. But they all made it. One of the interesting things concerning the war: we had a [young girl], Mary Rodie, stay. She was a harpist. The first year we ever had her, I remember my mother extended the season so that she could stay with us because Carlos needed someone and he wanted her in a good home. So Mother agreed she could stay with us during this time, and her mother came also and was staying at an inn in town. They had been in Hawai'i and she had planned to go to music school in Hawai'i and continue her studies. Her father was stationed there; he was a commander of some sort. She was an only child and he said, “I want you and your mother to go back to the States,” that summer. They were missing her dad so much and her husband, but [he] said, you know, “Go back and buy a place.” Then later Pearl Harbor happened. I can remember sitting with my family and my mother said, “Do you suppose he knew?” because it was a surprise thing. But I think they realized there was more danger than a lot of us realized when Pearl Harbor was hit, but I still remember that.

Every night I could stay up until nine and listen to Gabriel Heatter, always; I never went to bed before we listened. That would be that little orange dial, and everything was blacked out always at night. One time one of our neighbors–they used to have two of them go up and down every street in town to make sure you couldn't see any lights coming out of the house. One time our neighbor Bob Mayhew knocked on the door and he said, “I can see a light coming through part of your window,” and we go, “What? Oh no!” We fixed the curtain so that the blackout sheets were down. Oh, and when we kids would be going along the shore if we saw anything unusual–once a little box came floating in–we contacted the police and they came, but they never told us what was in the box. No, there were sightings of submarines up and down the coast occasionally, and anytime you saw anything strange you were supposed to report it and we did. Once we saw somebody had changed their clothing out in the woods, and there were boxes, like a shoebox and things, and old clothes left there, so we brought the police. But they examined everything and decided it had just been some tramp or something [laughter]. But it was a different kind of time. My girlfriends and I thought if we ever got invaded and we were away from our parents we would go between the mountain and the next little mountain ridge to my grandmother's house which was seven miles inland where we thought we would be safe.

Also at that time we had a log cabin just seventeen miles down the coast. You couldn't go there and we hadn't been there for a couple years or so, but we were concerned about the cabin and we wanted to see it. Also my mother wanted to take a new stovepipe down because we knew the other one would be rusty probably, and just leave it there for when we could go back. You had to get permission, and she got the permission. My father decided, “You go,” and my mother and I went by bus. It was loaded with soldiers and the local people that could go there. [We were on] the little bus that went on to the island–it was an island with a bridge to it–and as we were coming to the second bus, it was really crowded with all these island people. We got a seat squeezed in with this little old lady who was holding this big package all wrapped up in newspaper and my mother had this stovepipe [laughter] as well as me, and the soldiers were hanging onto the poles in the middle of the bus. We rode along and finally I remember this lady said, “Would you mind if I put my fish down your stovepipe?” and we got laughing and the people around us heard it and pretty soon the whole bus was laughing and everybody was all loosened up. Before, it was all silent and quiet. It was so funny.

[TRACK 1, 12:00]

That night, we could hear the guards going up, and maybe it was just one, but you could hear him crunch up and down the rocky beach in front of our cabin. We didn't have electricity in there then. We turned out the little kerosene lamps that we liked in the cabin. We turned them out and went to bed. Later we woke up and the whole cabin was just shaking, and we looked out. We could look 20 miles out to sea where our cabin was located, and you could see all these flashes and things going on out there. Mother said, “A ship's being blown up out there,” and we kept watching it and you would see a flash and then you'd get this trembling. It was really scary but interesting. Then it stopped and we went back to bed and Mother said, “I think we'll go the next morning instead of staying two nights.” Later we heard this knock on our door–the back door of the cabin–and Mother said, “Don't say anything, it's probably the guard but we don't know,” and I could picture like a little Japanese guy or someone coming in, because they did sometimes; we had some spies that came ashore. I remember thinking, “Oh no, it might be some.” We crept out of the little back bedroom–it was next to our kitchen in the cabin–and my mother got an “iron spider” we called it, which is a big cast iron frying pan, and I was hanging on the back of her nightgown and creeping on behind her. She just stood over the door and they kept knocking and she just stood there with this frying pan. I didn't feel terribly frightened, but a little, because I knew my mother could handle anything. Then after a while it stopped. We never knew [who it was]; it was probably the guard checking to see if we were alright, but we left the next day. There was never any word. You never knew what was going on. Later, looking at records, we think it was just a local old ship that they would practice on out there. We never knew for sure.

Then the other thing we did, all the women would be–a lot of them anyway, my mother was one of them–I forgot what they called them, but we had a lookout in the middle of town on top of one of the buildings where you do the check for airplanes going over. Mother had a little insignia thing she would wear on her time and she would take me. There were silhouettes of airplanes all around the top of it. My mother memorized them; well, I memorized them too. Then you would just watch and if something went over you would tell what it was the best you could tell and what direction, what time, and how long it took to go over, and record it. Her time was once a week.

[TRACK 1, 15:06]

You couldn't get a lot of things. We had all those ration books and things like that. I remember when the English guys would come for dinners Sunday, they would usually bring a pint or two of ice cream which was the biggest treat in the world for us, for me especially. My sister used to play the piano for them and mainly I served, and we sang; she sang a lot and I sang some for them. We used to have these [programs]; just our neighborhood did it, and one of the other mothers who was a young widow organized it and we did it at her house. We used to put on programs, patriotic and musical, to earn money for the war bonds for the country. Everybody would come and make little donations and we would do our little poems or songs or whatever we did. I used to really like doing that.

Mainly we just spent a lot of time swimming and playing in the woods. Our woods was beautiful because there were two [private summer] estates further out. The people had gardeners that tended the one big fenced-in huge garden out there that was at about the second [brook out]–we went by brooks when I was growing up. I know when my other girlfriend's mother didn't know where we were, if, the one or two times they got really worried they would go that far and the gardeners would say, “Yes they [were here]” because we always stopped there to talk with them before we went in any other direction. They would tell them where we went.

At that time, people weren't building houses much, and that's what he [my dad] did for a living, so he worked at the shipyard. We built ships. We built mainly barges that would go up and down the coast and bring coal back up to New England, but we also built some other type of ships. At that time Daddy also had a part-time job as a caretaker for one of the wealthy people.

[TRACK 1, 17:40]

There were quite a few wealthy summer people that came to our hometown, and those of us that got to know them, really, they were wonderful people and did a lot for our town. I know one of my neighbor's fathers used to say sort of mean things about them, and I used to feel so bad to think, you know, if you really knew them, they were so nice. He called them–they were always eating ice cream cones (that would be the general tourist, not the people that had their summer estates there)–“cone-lickers.” I thought that was so disgusting [laughter]. That's what he used to call them. He was a nice guy, but he just didn't know anybody but the local people and he didn't know what they were like.

So my dad used to do that. Daddy had been in the First World War. He used to come home nights and sometimes from the welding it would make his eyes really painful, so he'd often sit with his eyes closed. He had a radio that had Morse code on it, so he kept up with the war and everything through that, too. Before he went into the war–he knew our country would be–he went to Washington, DC, a year before he was eligible to sign up. That's what he did. He studied in Washington, because he wanted to go into the Signal Corps. He studied codes and all the things you have to do for that. His older brother also signed up, and they went over together, across. They didn't get torpedoed or anything until they got into the Channel, and then they did but they were okay. They landed first in England and they took them to Windsor, then they took them across to France in a lot of little small ships, little boats. So Daddy used to listen to Morse code. I never learned it, but he could always tell us what was going on that way. That was part of our life, a big part of our life.


So when did you move to Mecklenburg and what were your first impressions of this place?


Oh, okay, well after college, because I met Joe. I was doing a story on grad students, on the different graduate schools at the university. They sent him to me to represent [the] College of Agriculture. He was doing a type of research on nutrition that was quite new. The only practical course I ever took happened to be one in nutrition, and I happened to choose that particular thing, in human nutrition, that he was doing in animal nutrition. I just happened to do that, and wrote a paper on it. When I went to interview him with my photographer, I [thought] “Oh my God, he's doing the same thing!” so I didn't even write it down. I can remember it got to be so funny because he was getting so nervous, “This girl doesn't write anything down much!” Just take a note here and there, and normally I was always taking notes. I had such fun because I thought, “It's going to be so much fun when this comes out; he's going to be so surprised,” and he was [laughter]. His roommate was engaged to one of my sorority sisters, so he was saying, “What is she like?” [laughter] So that worked out fun. That's how I met him.

Actually, then we were going to West Virginia because he got accepted. Well, first I taught at Lincoln Academy. I taught college prep English, and they wanted someone with a journalistic background because it was a really good little school and their seniors all did theses. That was a wonderful year; I loved that. Then he was running a little mill in Maine. He got accepted for grad school to go for his PhD, so it was either Penn State or in Morgantown, at the University of West Virginia. He said, “Oh I think West Virginia's more romantic.” Turned out West Virginia gave him more money. So that's the one he took, because I was thinking Penn State would be the one, but no. Then we got married, and then we went to West Virginia. We were there maybe a month or two or less, I can't remember, but he was beginning to wonder about what he was doing because it was so much just chemistry. He said, “This research is not quite what I expected it to be.” The head of the department was still in Europe for part of the year and was coming back in about a month. He said, “I'll wait and talk with him.” Meanwhile I had a chance to get a job. It just happened. I was looking at a lab there with journalism, so when I went to tell him [it] was the time the other guy [the department head] came back. So I said, “I've got something to tell you,” and he says, “Well, I have something to tell you.” He was saying, you know, “This is not what I want.” The doctor–I can't think what his name was–had come back and he was feeling really bad that he'd been misrepresented. Then when Joe contacted Penn State they'd already filled his position. I had to tell the person, “No, I can't do [the job].” It was going to be in journalism and photography. I couldn't commit to staying like I had told him two days before. So I worked in [the] Ag Economics & Statistics Lab, and that was actually kind of interesting. I enjoyed it.

We worked there until we left to come to Ithaca, because I said, “What do you really want to do?” Well, I knew he wanted to live in the Finger Lakes; he had told me that way back when we were engaged and we had come up here one day from New York. He's from Long Island. We had come from Long Island and drove up and back in one day. I remember looking at the farms. It was so different. He had told me about farms and they'd be after these hedgerows; when we were almost back I said, “Well, I saw the farms but where were the hedgerows?” And he said, “Well, we went between a lot of them, a lot of hedgerows.” I was thinking of British hedgerows, which I'd never seen but read about [laughter]. I learned they were what we always called “the alders.” Alder bushes. Growing up in Maine we would call them that. No, I knew he wanted to eventually work with farmers in New York State, so I think he was doing the PhD for me and for his [parents]–more me than his parents–and also, I think, for his professor back at the university, because that's really what he was recommending him to do. Anyway, so he came to Ithaca, and worked with Cornell Extension out of Ithaca, and out of Cornell. There's two types of Extension. First he was an Assistant Extension Agent, and then he became a Specialist Extension from Cornell. We lived in Ithaca, which I liked a lot.

Then I was going to get a job. I had to wait for a guy to be called back into the Service who was head of the Home Page for the Ithaca Journal. They used to have a Home Page back then. I had gotten the job to be the editor to the Home Page. And I thought, “That would be fun!” But I had to wait until he left, so meanwhile I went to Cornell and I took a temporary job in Speech and Drama, as a secretary. Well, the guy didn't get called and he didn't get called, and so, meanwhile, it was so much fun. Being a secretary is the easiest thing I'd ever done [laughter]. One of my professors, Dr. Mac, was on a sabbatical in France and my other one, Professor Albright, ended up with a bad heart attack. Also, Professor Stanton was upstairs and I'd be up there afternoons. When Professor Albright came down with the heart attack, his wife used to still stop by–she was a History teacher in Ithaca–and she would have me get papers and things for him, because he was doing what he could in the hospital. Then the students were coming in and complaining about–actually at that time they were doing Chekhov's Cherry Orchard, I remember. It happened to be a work, that play I'd really liked and [had] studied it a lot. They were complaining about this grad student who was the TA, how she was grading the papers. I started looking at them and thought, “My God, no wonder these kids are complaining.” So on another piece of paper I wrote what I would have corrected, and as more came in, I did that. I would give them to his wife and she would give them to him. So he said, “Well, Maxine is wonderful in theater production, but,” he said, “obviously she's not a good TA.” He said, “Don't tell anybody.” He said, “You go ahead and correct them and bring the papers. My wife will take them” to him. He would sign off the things, and so that semester I corrected the Chekhov papers. Maxine was glad to be rid of it, so [laughs] it worked out fine. I was there eleven months; by then I was pregnant and having false labor, so I left. Within a month or so our daughter was born in Ithaca.

[TRACK 1, 28:48]

When she was eight months old, just before that Joe had been looking for a place to do his nutrition research for animals. He wanted to just do that on the side. So I thought we'd get a little garage or something. We were living in a little apartment in Ithaca. He came home one day and he said, “There's a place I'm looking at out in Mecklenburg.” I said, “That's way out towards Watkins Glen, isn't it?” I'd been to Watkins only once, and you had to go through what seemed to me like a field. “It's over the top of the hill, there, by Taber's?” Because another agent had taken us over there to some program in 4-H; she was a 4-H agent. It was just a wild place: all those hills. I hadn't really been out of Ithaca much and I loved Ithaca. He said, “Well, there is a place,” and I said, “You'd have to go up that hill every day?” He said, “Oh–well, there's a house. It's a farm. It's a house.” I said, “What?!” [laughter] I was about to cook spaghetti. I just turned off the pot, laid the spaghetti down, and I said, “Take me out there, I've got to see this place.”

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

And we drove; it was like a rollercoaster coming out. It seemed like miles out into nowhere. We landed in the dooryard and he showed me the place. I said, “Well, you want a whole thing like that just to do nutrition?” and he said, “You really need it.” I said, “Well, I think the house has potential” and I liked the way it was set back. I just thought, “We can do this.” We talked it over, and we did. We moved out here when Cathy was eight months old. That's how we got to Mecklenburg.

It was an experiment. We were only going to do it, analyze it each year. I mean, we were buying the place, but we would still analyze it each year, because we were hanging on by our fingernails. It was really tough financially, but I thought, “Anything's an experiment.” I thought, “I can write about this!” Well, anything I wrote got rejected soon, and then there was so much work to do, I thought, “I'm better off doing the work than I am trying to write about it.” Plus, I like science and I decided it's great doing it, not just writing about it. That's how it all started.

[TRACK 2, 1:16]


So tell me about raising Holsteins in particular.


The Holsteins were his [Joe's] ideal of [a cow]–an ideal cow. The first Christmas or second–can't remember–he bought two animals for me. It was my Christmas gift. I guess they were Holstein heifers; at that time I didn't know. I knew what a cow looked like, but once I had stopped him on the road and I said, “Joe you've got–I can't believe this animal I just saw,” and he said, “What?” and I made him back up. “Look!” I said, “I don't know what it is! It's got horns, but it's got an udder.” And he says, “Well, it's a cow.” And I said, “But, it's got horns!” I thought only the bulls would have the horns. Then later I thought, “Well, heck!” I think on evaporated milk they used to have a picture of a cow with horns, but I hadn't seen a cow with horns. So that's how much I knew about animals. I knew about dogs and cats and that was about it.

He bought two for me to raise to get used to them. I named them, and I thought, “I'll only speak French with them,” that way I can get my French [better], you know, improve it. That lasted a very short time [laughter], and I never did get good at French pronunciation. I can still remember saying, “Vite, vite!” to make them go and so forth. That stayed, and the rest of it faded away, and I began to learn about animals. Then when those had calves, I started learning about calves and Cornell vets [veterinarians] were coming out. At that time it was all men, and they were really good. They would bring their students, which I really enjoyed; having the students out there, too. I became a student of the Holstein cow at that point, especially the raising of the calves, and those Cornell vets were wonderful. Later, as years went by, it was more and more women.

At first I would wear my old clothes out there all the time. Salvation Army would supply us with the kids' old clothes for our quote “barn clothes.” Then one time I thought, “I get so cold in the back,” because you're bending over, so I bought a pair of coveralls–new coveralls. I remember the kids coming back from school–by then we had three kids–and they said, “Wow, Mom, you look like a vet!” and that was the biggest compliment they could have possibly given me [laughter] at that time. The Cornell vets were great. I really got good at raising them. And they trusted me; they trusted my judgment when it was an emergency or not, I always could tell. They knew, “This woman knows.” It was wonderful. It was really good for me to gain so much confidence. Our second year–I think it was–here, we decided if we're going to do this we'd have to get more and start a herd to help support this place. So we had to have a herdsman because my husband was working all the time, nights; it was horrible. In the winter he was doing courses and in those days you had to go all over the area and meet in Grange halls and people's houses and office buildings and so forth, teaching all these different courses. He was teaching Farm Management some years, and some years he was a field crop specialist, and other years he was a nutritionist. He would do different things, and he did a sabbatical and then it would give him renewed interest in everything when you'd get new fresh things to teach, and he liked teaching.

I learned to have confidence and then we did get a herdsman, I think our second year. He had gone to Cornell and then he had transferred and graduated from Syracuse in Forestry, although he was interested in dairy. But he said his body wasn't able to swim and if you wanted to graduate from Cornell you had to be able to swim. In Syracuse Forestry he didn't have to. Plus, he did like trees and things. He taught our kids a lot about nature and he was very safety-conscious. He had had a farm for, I don't know, two, three years and it just wasn't working out. His parents would come every weekend to help bail him out. His father had been an engineer, and his mother worked in a drugstore and they had a German maid and they had linen napkins. I said, “Well, if you live with us, we don't have linen napkins. I've got enough to do without washing and ironing.” [laughter] He lived in our house and we had a little room at the top of our back stairs that was always called “The Herdsman's Room,” from the previous people that [had] lived [in our house], even though they didn't have a herdsman. Lo and behold, it did become the herdsman's room and he was with us for 18 years. He seemed so old but he must have been pretty young. After he had his farm he did work for somebody else; but I don't know how old he was. He seemed old but he couldn't have been that old. When our kids grew up he would still come and visit for a couple of nights. After he left us he went to a wealthy family that had antique cars and he would take care of their cars and take their kids to school, and then meet them in his “monkey suit,” he called it; he had to wear a chauffer's thing to the airport to impress anybody that might see him picking them up. No, the old guy never married. He was a nice person, and really great with our kids. The kids really liked him.

[TRACK 2, 7:30]

He was our first. Later, after that herdsman, we bought another house in Mecklenburg up on Willamee and our herdsmen lived up there with their families. It was hard for me [when the herdsman lived with us], I had to cook; I know when Joe's parents would come up, Joe's father said, “You know, he's working for you, but you're working for him!” I mean you're having to cook the breakfast, be there for lunch, and then dinner. Well, that was the way it was. Plus, I had to work right along with all of the herdsmen to keep the pace going. I soon learned to do everything. Running all the machinery, I could do it all.

And I liked it. Plus, I like being out in nature. Also, I think you live several layers of your life, because I love literature, and all of that was there in the background. I remember suddenly realizing, “Bobby Burns!” Suddenly the poetry became alive to me because I was out in those fields, and I would come in and look it up, and I used to love to go to–they would have these fairs and they would have these book tents–it was like used book sales. That's where I would head and get all this stuff for my kids because the library…T-burg's [Trumansburg's] library was only open a few hours a day. So my kids would go to Ithaca Library because they were always going to the orthodontist or pediatrician or something. But for anything they wrote, I said, “You need three resources. I want you to always have three resources.” So we had to keep building more bookcases, but I said, “I know we've got it somewhere in this house, it's just a matter of finding it.” That's how we built our library, was through all those book sale things. That was the great thing; nobody wanted research books and that was the thing I needed. Plus, I had donated all my class books–science and language and things–to our hometown library. My aunt was the librarian and my mother became a librarian. Mother was the librarian by then and my aunt was not anymore. I didn't know, but my mother saved all my books in the back of my brother's closet [laughter]. So later, when I was home, Mother said, “By the way,” she said, “I never did donate your books to the sale.” She said, “They're all in the [closet]” “Oh thank you, Mother!” [laughter] That was wonderful. So I had all those. I still have a few of them, but I gave most of my books away. But I still have some of my favorites all packed down in Pennsylvania now. I don't know where we were on that.


Can you tell--


Oh, why we came to Mecklenburg.


Well, and the Holsteins in particular, and maybe you could elaborate a little on the milking infrastructure.


I actually never milked a cow. I did start to once. Our herdsmen would have every other weekend off, and Joe would go up in the mornings and help get started usually, and he was there at night, because he's the one who really knew his animals. We were breeding, to have our own. We sold our first herd, which was partly bought, and also that was grades. Maybe they were all grades; I think we saved all our registereds [registered Holsteins] and sold all our grades. We had some really good grades, but we realized if we were going to go into this we needed to go all-registered, if we were really going to build the herd. We were doing his ideas on nutrition, which is now back in vogue, but then it had gone out: the pasture system. We were doing it, and the animals–he really knows his animals–they were doing super well. I never got into the nutrition end of it, but I mean, when it was our weekends on, I would feed. Then years later, when we didn't even have a herdsman [and] when he left Cornell and came back home full time, I would work with him in the barn. Each cow would get a certain amount when they came in, and he would tell me how much, but then I would learn, this cow's getting this, that, so I could get them all fed and do [that], but I never got into the nutrition. But I raised them all, and I delivered a lot.

[TRACK 2, 12:23]

First time my mother visited, we had a breach birth and nobody was here but me. I said, “I think it's a breach,” and sometimes it's very hard to tell a breach just by the feet coming. But I did it and my mother came up and actually helped me. A breach you had to get them over either bales of hay or over a rack, so you could quickly drain their nose so that their lungs wouldn't get water in it. I remember Mother and I weren't strong enough to get it over where I'd do it with a herdsman or someone. So we stacked up some hay bales and Mom helped me, and we actually got it over and we saved that little calf and she grew into a nice animal.

For many years, it seems as though all our money went to semen. Sometimes they wouldn't take and didn't take, and you'd think, “Well, I guess we'll not spend forty-five dollars for this one.” Then I said, “You know, then if it takes, we've got a poorer quality animal coming, so we've got to do it, no matter what.” So that's what we did. Joe has a knack–I did not–for choosing; he could choose bulls and figure out the bull's characteristics that would go to strengthen whichever we needed on our cows. Sometimes you'd go for legs, if you need to strengthen legs, or, there's just so many things like that. He's really good at that. I got so that when I'd go to sales with him, because then we were selling some of our registered, and for a while we were buying some, but then we got so we wanted everything with our own Woodwind Farm, that we did ourselves and not anybody else's. We would go to sales and we'd go through the barn–we'd separate, and I would go with my little checklist and pick out the top three, and then he would go pick them out, when we were still buying, because I'd say, “Oh I want that one so much, that would really be wonderful.” A few times we were doing that and then gradually we didn't buy; we were mostly selling. I got so I could pick out the top ones, and Joe was pretty proud of me then; he really knew he was getting me trained [laughter].

[TRACK 2, 14:55]

Then we did embryo transplants, but we sold out a herd for the first time–our grades–and then we only raised the Holstein registereds of our own. Maybe we had a year off from it, which was a great break, and then we built up again, and meanwhile we would always have a herdsman here. We had some really great herdsmen over the time. Then the last one was a kid right out of college and he had a terrible temper; [he was the only person we ever fired]. We had a lot of local kids helping us, because we could keep them going from early Spring right through until school. We had kids that came, well, one from twelve years right through high school right through college. We took several right through high school right through college, and then their younger brother the same thing. We have great kids still; like that kid that came and rescued Joe the other day, when he had the tractor [accident] and he fell out in the back field.

[TRACK 2, 16:02]

Oh, I don't know if you knew about that, but yeah. No, he happened to be visiting his father and he looked down and saw the tractor kind of in a ditch. This was about a month or two ago. We hadn't seen him in several years. He looked down, he thought, “Well that's strange,” and so instead of just thinking about that he went down from Route 79 down over the field and then he saw Joe out there in the field. Joe had gotten off the tractor and out of the ditch and by hanging on he was able to pull himself out. He didn't realize he was in a ditch because it was some–oh, what's the word, where the water had come down and formed this ditch. It wasn't there last year. He was bush-hogging the back thirty acres across the creek. So, when he got off the tractor he fell again because he didn't know he was in the ditch, and then he hung onto it and he pulled himself back out. He was trying to walk back across the field but he can't walk very well anymore. He can't lift his legs up, and all that cut hay tangled him up and he fell. It was very hot that day. He was trying to get himself up and he happened to look up and there was Adam.

Adam was one of the kids that knocked on the door when he was twelve years old and wondered if we might have a job for him. I was so impressed with this precious kid, because he was so well-spoken and presented himself so well. I said, “Well, I know he can't do a tractor,” he's way too young for anything–we're very safety-conscious and we always had them on workman's comp and everything else; we never cut any corners with our kids. They all had to have the tractor certification. But I said, “He could do some little thing, couldn't he Joe? He could carry little things and help. I'd love to work with that little kid.” So I said, “You've got to come and meet him,” and so he did, out the door, and so we hired him. I said, “Not quite sure what we're going to do but we'll figure out some things.” Anyway, so this was Adam all grown up all these forty, fifty years later, whatever it was, and Joe looked up and there was Adam. He said, “How did you get here?” It was like an angel out there in the back forty. Adam said, “Well, I happened to take today off because my wife and I are going to be going to Virginia tonight to visit some friends. So I was stopping at my Dad's,” who lives across the road. He looked down and he said, “I saw your tractor tipped in an angle.” He had to leave Joe there but he said, “I'll be right back,” so he ran back up the hill and took his truck all the way back around and then he had to come through our yard, go back down our back fields and through the creek, and up there and he brought Joe back.

Meanwhile, I always kept an eye, when he's out back and he doesn't show up when I think he should. So I was thinking, “Well, he should be showing up about now.” I was going out back and I would take the Gator and some water and meet him, and there was a truck out there. I thought, “Who is that, on the telephone?” Joe was sitting on a chair, looking kind of whipped. He said, “It's Adam,” and he was calling for help to have someone else come and take the tractor away. One of the Tabers came down–Carl–and they did that for us. He might have saved his life, because Joe had told me, “Never take the Gator through the creek because you could get stuck.” And then if someone else tried to come, they couldn't get a truck through. So I would have had to have gone out there, and then I would have seen what had happened, and hopefully I would have had the water with me. Then I would have had to come all the way back and call 911 because cell phones won't work out here. So the first thing I did was come back down and take water up to him. Then he was pretty good, but he was pretty shook up.

[TRACK 2, 20:12]

So, I don't know where we were, but we had a lot of great kids that worked with us. We had a lot of fun with them and Joe loved working with them, and I did. When I first came here, I used to tutor. [At] first because a neighbor lived down the road and her kid was having trouble with math, and she couldn't figure it out. I said, “Let me work with him a little bit,” and then I realized he needed reading and everything else. So I went to the school and talked with his teacher and got all his books and started tutoring him, just because I enjoyed doing it with him, and she'd become a good friend. Then another person called up and wanted to know if I'd do it for her daughter, so I went back to the school. Meanwhile, at church, I knew the superintendent really well because we used to be at coffee hours and things a lot. I was talking with him. I said, “I need to talk with her teacher, too.” I said, “She's another person. I'd met her mother through the Auxiliary and she'd heard I was helping this kid, so–” He said, “What are you charging?” I said, “Well, I'm just doing it because I like doing it and, you know, they're my neighbors.” He said, “I'd rather you wouldn't.” He said, “Because there are other tutors in Trumansburg, but also” he said, “you'll find that the ones that pay a little bit, their kids will come prepared, and if you do it for free, they won't respect you as much.” So I took whatever the minimum thing was and she said, “Well, I wanted to pay you anyway,” so I said, “Well, okay.” I did it with her, and then three more came. I really loved doing it, but then after a few years it was too much. I didn't have time, but it was so good to be back with kids. I loved teaching. Two of the boys did end up working for us years later–well, actually three of them–some of them are living right around here now. It was wonderful. I like working with kids, because mainly when I was first here it was, like, all men.

[TRACK 2, 22:30]

We used to have all these salesmen coming in for all kinds of stuff. They used to come in your driveway constantly. I didn't like it, because the kids would be out playing; I was worried about that. They [the salesmen] would come in and they'd say, “Is Boss home?” and at first I said, “Well, my husband's not here, but what would you like?” but after a while, a couple of times of that, when they said it the next time–oh and then one second time or so, someone said, “Is your father there?” and I thought, “That is too much.” Just because I had a ponytail. I was just disgusted. So the next one that came, they said, “Is the boss around?” I said, “You're speaking to her, what can I do for you?” [laughter] And that cut out most of the salesmen, especially the [ones] selling stuff.

[TRACK 2, 23:17]

So, we're in T-burg. There used to be a hardware store in Perry City [we'd go to] almost every day, because when we first came here we didn't have a lot of equipment. I do like machinery, and my brother always wanted [me] to be a math major because our family mostly were engineers and things. My brother-in-law was a physicist and both of those two guys said, “No, you should be in math.” I wanted to be a social worker, which my mother didn't approve of at all, because I'd have to go to Boston for grad school, and she didn't want [that]. I said, “Well, my brother and my brother-in-law, they could go to Boston, but not me?” No [laughter]. So anyway, I love reading, and my mother had taken these correspondence courses when I was in high school, in journalism. I used to love doing that with her just for fun, so I thought, “Okay, I'll do journalism.” It really wasn't what I was interested in especially, but I said, “Who could imagine four years of having fun just with English?” which is what I did a lot of.

[TRACK 2, 24:24]

I don't know where I was on this conversation, but, so yeah, there's a lot of layers in anyone's life, I think. In agriculture here, there was so many layers, because I love nature, too. I love working outside. I wasn't so crazy about being in the barn, inside like that, but I learned so much about animals, it gets really interesting. Plus, I loved the beauty inside the barn; it's like a cathedral. I like architecture. My father used to have a lot of books on architecture that I used to love to look at. It was interesting.

[TRACK 2, 25:10]

Society was different here than where I grew up, but [I] got to meet so many nice people. First, we had Home Dem [Homemaker Demonstrations]. They invited me to that, and that was great. I started meeting the local women which was great, because all I saw was men mostly here. In fact, years later, after my kids had grown up and actually had their ears pierced, I decided I should do mine. Then I was so busy in the barn, the only person I knew [with pierced ears] was the milk hauler; he had one ear pierced. I went by myself–by then my daughters were in college, all of them were in college–and they said, “Mom, you did it yourself? You went up to the mall and had your ears pierced by yourself?” without one of my daughters being home. I said, “Yeah, I was talking it over with our milk hauler [laughter] because he has his ear pierced.” I said, “That's the only person I've got I can talk with about things like that.”

Of course, I was in Auxiliary, but those women, I don't know if they'd done their ears long ago, [or] if they were doing it, I guess. But it was so funny because he gave me all the ins and outs of getting your ears pierced. I remember that was fun.

[TRACK 2, 26:35]

So, the Home Dem. And when I first came out here I used to still go in to the American Association of University Women. I used to love that because we had a lot of good lectures and things like that. I did that for quite a few years, but there was only one friend out here that I was going in with and it's time-consuming, and I really felt I'm not “giving” to that organization. The only thing I ever remember doing is I was in charge of a silver tea, because most of the other women didn't want to. I think they thought it was too domestic, but I loved doing that, and I did that. A lot of those women were so smart, and it was always interesting to be with them, but I didn't feel like I had anything much to give to that organization. By then I was so busy with all these other things here, because our kids were in so many different things. Our Auxiliary was very, very busy back in those days. We did a tremendous amount, and we were getting money to build this new firehouse–now we[‘ve] got to build another new one.

[TRACK 2, 27:42]

Of course, we had so much company from our families, and then Fresh Air kids, and we were a host family for Cornell. That was really interesting. I met people from all over, especially one family that came back–her husband came back, he was studying tropical grasses and things at Cornell. They had been in Thailand and they came to us from South America and their kids did not speak much English. The husband did; the wife did a little. They were from the Netherlands, which is where my son is a lot now, building a factory. When they first came, I remember Petra was in sixth grade; she was Cathy's age. I remember them playing Monopoly because they played Monopoly in Spanish, and of course our kids had been playing it in English, and so I remember them having a good time between the two languages. The kids learned very quickly because they put them in schools in Ithaca and they were soon speaking English with no problem.

They had been there in South America and Petra had loved horses, and Cathy only had ponies. We had gotten maybe our second pony–or maybe it was the first, I don't know–but we'd decided to put it with the cows. We'd just gotten it, because we didn't have any place for a horse, or ponies. Cathy didn't want a horse, she wanted a pony. We put it in, and that was one of their first weekends visiting us, and the pony got the cows so excited the cows smashed right through several fences through the pastures–they were out to pasture. Right after dinner, I said, “Oh my God, look what's going on!” It was awful. So Joe had to go out and Petra said, “I'll come!” By then she was not speaking too much English, but some, and when she came back in she was laughing with her parents and she said, “I learned an awful lot of words.” [laughter]

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]

And they weren't good ones! But she was sparkling all over, [laughter] as they got them separated and worked on the fences. Then later, I forgot where her parents had gone to, they were off in some other country when Petra wanted to go start Ithaca College, so I became the stand-in for her for Ithaca College. Then she had roommate problems and I had to go up and straighten that out and have her get a different room and all that. Her parents still visit occasionally, and we always write our letters at Christmas and keep track of them. A lot of interesting things. Our kids were up there a lot. In fact, Cathy said, “I don't want to go to Cornell, I've been up there so much. I want to go to a small school where I can be a part of a lot of things.” She said, “At Cornell all I'd do is study probably.” So that helped her to make that decision. Whereas by the time Jen came along, she was happy to go to Cornell.

[TRACK 3, 1:05]

You're talking about organizations. I left AAUW; I stopped going. There's just too much going on here to keep up with. After my kids all went away to school, I met some other women and they said, “Why don't you join the Business and Professional Women in Watkins?” because I'd gotten to know a couple of them in some different meetings I was going to somewhere. So I joined that group, and it was just so much fun to go out, [and] just be with a group of women. We earned money for the kids' scholarships in Schuyler County and did a lot of things together that way. I was with them for a lot of years, and now they've become just a part of–it was in the paper the other day, I forgot what it is. A few years ago I gave up running out to those things and going out nights; I don't anymore. But I met a lot of really great people in that.

[TRACK 3, 2:13]

When our daughter was a senior in high school she became a dairy princess. From then on, I worked a lot with that group right up until a few years ago for all over Tompkins and Schuyler County. Those days we went to Cazenovia College for a whole week, where they would train the girls to speak well, and all about milk and nutrition and how to dress. All kinds of nice little things. I remember when we went for Cathy that first week, I happened to get a call and our summer French girl–not the one that was with us for the year, but the French exchange student–was arriving the night before. I said, “Oh my gosh,” so I called them and said, “Is it possible that I can have a room for this girl to be with us?” because I can't leave her just with Joe and Jen and Andrew, and herdsmen and people. They said, “Oh fine, no, she can room with your daughter,” and they'll make sure there's another bed in that dorm and everything, because the mothers didn't room with our daughters. The daughters were in another dorm. This girl, turns out she can hardly speak English. She spoke a little; she was the only one on the plane load that wasn't fluent in English, we found out later. Fortunately, I had a French-English dictionary, and I began to get a little better and remember a lot more as [she] was with us. I remember one of the first things she said was, “In France, we never go places for a week with our mothers.” She said, “and you do that in America?” [laughter] I said, “This is the only week I've ever had the opportunity to go away with one of my daughters for a week.” I said, “No, we're no different than you are in France.” I said, “This is just one thing that I've never been able to do before.” It was really fun to go away for a whole week like that. The only time I'd been away, except to our parents and with our family, was:

[TRACK 3, 4:27]

I was a 4-H leader for many years with another girl and we had an all-girls 4-H club. I think we had about fourteen girls. Amazing. We had a lot more kids around those days–high school kids mostly, and junior high. [We] started when Cathy was nine years old; that's when we started the club. We took them to Washington, DC, for a whole week, and that was the first time I'd been away on a great trip like that. It was wonderful, I hadn't been to Washington since I was in high school and we did our high school trip. We spent a week in Washington and another week in New York City, but I hadn't been there since. I learned a lot in that 4-H because I'd never had anything like that. You'd learn how to do it from somebody else and then you'd teach the kids. I taught them a lot of sewing and we just had a lot of fun with those girls.

Joe and I and our kids were also in another club [but] we weren't the leaders: the Cattle Club. That was very, very active for Schuyler County, so our kids knew different batches of kids from different areas because of those clubs. We met a lot of great people and we built–it's not in use anymore, they use it for conservation [now]–the big 4-H site up in Schuyler County. [We] spent a lot of time earning money for all those buildings and getting all that stuff organized and everything. We used to have cattle shows; the kids would go for a week to that show. Our kids would spend a week at that show with their cattle, then another three or four days for Trumansburg Fair–you may know how long that lasts, I don't know. They would be there, and then they would do the Dundee Fair, and they'd of course be showing and there's a lot in showing; I learned a lot about animals that way too. Our kids did pretty well in those shows because we had good animals. From there, that was their prep for State Fair, and then they'd be at State Fair for a full week. They learned a whole lot from doing that. Our girls in our 4-H club also went to State Fair and they did modeling and they showed off their sewing and they did demonstrations. It was really good; they learned a lot [about] how to do presentations and things like that. It was good training. When I was in high school, I thought, “4-H, that's something those country kids way off in the country did.” I didn't know anything about it and couldn't have cared less. I never knew I would be so involved in it and how worthwhile it was. Now it's very different. They still have 4-H and things and they need it but it's more urban because that's the way the country's going.

[TRACK 3, 7:28]

Our kids of course had Religious Ed every week, and I was on the church Parish Council for times. Mainly what we did there was [not the Parish Council] for the women of our church, [but organizing and] putting on coffee hours every Sunday; [the men helped occasionally]. You'd do maybe three a year or four or whatever and rotate that around. And raising money. What women always ended up doing [was] the bake sale deals, and now fortunately that's backing off a little bit [laughter].

I like the way the world is evolving. I know my mother went from seeing [life before cars]. When she was a kid growing up, her father had the first car in their little village. You got on the Boston boat in Camden; you would go down and overnight you'd be in Boston and spend your time and do whatever you wanted. Then he brought the first car back on the Boston boat, which used to come to my hometown, then [he had to drive] seven miles into the country where she lived on the other side of the lake. But in the winter, they had to have their sleighs because they couldn't plow roads. I mean, my mother lived that life. Then she had to board in my hometown for high school because that's what the kids did. They couldn't [get] back and forth because of the [snow]. They had to actually ride on their sleighs on the lake, on the side of that mountain there around the lake. My mother grew up with horses and cars–the combination–and a motorcycle. Her brother had a motorcycle. In fact, during the Prohibition, she said once she helped him smuggle some liquor [laughter] from the Canadian border. She said, “I went along as his moll,” or something like that. My mother was quite the lady. She was really interesting.

[TRACK 3, 9:34]

She saw all that. In our lifetimes, when I went away to college, I thought I'd probably be like my sister and sister-in-law; just be the woman at home. I thought all these things will be so handy for me because you'd be doing mostly charity work and raising your family and supporting your husband and all of that sort of thing. When I was in high school, that's my train of thought because that's what I saw around me. Then, when we got out here, I could see my life was really different. By then I was already getting interested in some of the things I was studying. So I was always stressing to my girls when they were growing up, “When you go to college and you learn this [tapping], have it be something you really want to do, because you'll be able to do these things,” and they have.

I was always amazed at my parents because they were older; my dad especially, from being in World War I, and then he was [alive during] World War II. My brother, when he went away to Maine Maritime Academy, it was only two years instead of four years because we were again in war. After that, he was in the Merchant Marine because he always wanted to go all over the world. He was a chief engineer very young because he'd learned it so much from my dad, and my dad had learned so much from his dad. So when my brother first went to the Maritime Academy, in two weeks they had him teaching the first course in mechanical something-or-other because he already knew everything. He became a chief engineer all over the world. Later, when I was in sixth grade, he was home for a little while, because I remember telling him I'm afraid of [not understanding algebra]. I'd go down and I see all that stuff on algebra on the blackboard in the principal's office. I said, “I'm afraid I'll never be able to figure that out.” He said, “Let me teach you algebra.” So he did, and I thought, “Oh, this is fun!” Then, next thing I knew, my brother had to be back in the service again.

Later he went back and went to Wentworth [Institute of Technology] and finished his degree in engineering and he became a design engineer. He was all over the world, but he was always a chief engineer. I thought he was always down in the engine room–which he was most of the time–except he had officer dress clothes, but I thought that was just for parades. But once, we visited his ship in dry dock and then I thought, “Oh, I'm going to see all these guys down in the mess halls,” and everything. I couldn't wait. Then when it came time for us to eat, we were invited up to this little room, with just four other officers and my brother suddenly appeared in his dress [whites]. We had these people waiting on us and our table had little rails around, to hold [things] when the ship [rocks]. My brother had never told us that a chief engineer is also one of the officers. I didn't know that. I always thought he was always down in the mess hall with the sailors. I thought he was sleeping in one of those little berth things. I know during the war–it was one of the wars anyway, at some point–I couldn't go to movies because they would show these news reels of ships being blown up.

I had been in Boston with him another time, on one of his ships, and he took me down into his engine room, and we would go down these steep little steel ladders to a little landing and then you'd go down another one to another landing, and down to another one. There were all these pipes and tubes and stuff all over the place. You were just way down in the bottom of the ship, and my brother was just sparkling. He was just showing me all of these dials and people [would] salute him and we'd go on down, and I couldn't go to movies because I'd see ships blow up and I knew my brother was down in the bottoms of ships at that time. But he loved doing that stuff. Later he came home and worked with the family industry; my sister's husband had an industry where they made transducers for hearing aids and things. There were always lawsuits back and forth with Baby Bell and Baby Bell always won. We used to spend a lot of time working on [that], every time, it seems, [even when] we'd be at the cabin and on vacation. We also had a camp at the lake that my parents built when I was in junior high. We had our family garden up there, so they would come up. They were always working on audiophysics and that was interesting. I could visualize things, but I really didn't know the math. They seemed to think I was pretty smart on that, but I really wasn't; it's just that I can visualize a lot of things.

[TRACK 3, 15:05]

During the war we always had victory gardens; everyone did. I mean, you wouldn't respect some family if they didn't. The younger men were away, of course. My uncle had to go, even though he had three children, but he was my mother's younger brother. She only had him. He was still young enough that they were taking people even his age after a while. So he had to go, and he was gone for several years, I remember. That was really hard on him and his wife. They lived in a house right next to my grandmother's house, so that helped. I can remember they had a garden, but then it had to be his wife trying to do it, and they couldn't do much so we always helped them out. Everybody helped each other out. We had peach trees at our house, too. My father, while he was waiting to go into World War I, had gone back to Boston and was working on some wealthy man's orchards and things like that. Finally, he got called and he and his brother went, but meanwhile he'd learned grafting. He liked to do that, so we had peach trees. I think we were the only people in town that had them.

[TRACK 3, 16:29]

Carlos Salzedo–he was the maestro of the world for harp–he used to spend a lot of time at our house, because we always got the best harpists, because he knew they could start at six in the morning and go until eleven at night. His best students would practice eight hours a day, and you had to start early because at noontime you had to dress in heels to go to lunch downtown. All his girls had to be in high heels. They cheated because they didn't wear their hose when it was super hot. You had leg makeup, and they would all be sitting on our front steps, putting on the leg makeup and getting it all dry so they could go off to town without having to wear hot hose. Because if he saw a girl not looking really perfect he'd [get upset]–but in the later years he let them wear slacks and everything else; but at that time, they had to really dress. Oh, so the peach trees. Carlos would get up very early in the morning and go downtown to the post office and pick up his mail. He always wore silk pajamas, and he would wear them right into town early in the morning.

Sometimes he would be there [and] we'd see him slipping around our peach trees; he'd swing by our house and get a few [laughs] and take them home for breakfast. He would come sometimes when my mother was cooking, just to see what we were cooking. He used to bring us French coffee in the spring. I guess coffee, at one time, was hard to get, too, maybe. He brought us French coffee and my mother made the mistake of saying how great it was. It had chicory and it was really not that great. We didn't like it that much, but we drank it–or they drank it, my mother and father, some. But he said, “Ooh! Mrs. Sawyer, I brought you the [coffee]” he would always be [bringing it], every spring, another big thing of French coffee. I can remember my mother couldn't even give it away by then, because we could get coffee. So we always had some in there in case Carlos showed up, and [we'd] have a cup of coffee with him. He was a character, but really nice.

[TRACK 3, 18:46]

When I got in high school, he refused to speak English with me, only French. I thought, “Oh, God.” I knew I was pronouncing everything wrong, and I would be so nervous when I had to answer the phone. But he said, “I knew you when you were just a little bump in your mommy's tummy.” One time my mother and I were going to go to the next town up, the little city of Rockland. I was a freshman and I had to have a strapless bra for my prom dress; I didn't have one. And oh my God, who should we see in town but Carlos–Mr. Salzedo–[who asked] “Oh, could I come with you?” I thought, “Oh no!” [laughter] but Mother says, “Sure!” so he came. I thought, “What are we going to do?” Then Mother said, “Well, Judy and I have to go to the ladies' shop. She has to get some things; she has a prom coming up.” And [he said] “Ooh, wonderful!” and he insisted on coming along, and I remember, ugh, I was very shy in those days. Oh my gosh, it was awful, I remember it was terrible. Finally, we bought the bra and everything. Then, as we were coming out of the stores, there was some sort of little parade in town. What do you call those little things where they wind it up? I used to know the name of it, some little instrument you would wind it up and it played music. When he grew up in southern France and in the Basque area, he was a prodigy and he wasn't allowed to play. He had no brothers and sisters. They had a swing and that was the only thing he was allowed on. They had one [calliope] that played in his little town square or something when he was a small child. We heard this thing coming, and it was a calliope. Now I'd never even heard of such a thing. And the tears were running down his face. He and I and Mother had to run along all beside it and it was wonderful to see this man so touched by something. That's when he told us. He said, “I had no playmates. I had to always be studying and performing, and the only thing I had was a swing.”

But then he did almost the same thing. He had one child, Jacquot. Little Jacquot. He was a little younger than me and he was a little terror. I never saw him much, but when I did I just didn't like to be around this little wild kid. He had no discipline. Carlos had him sent off to military school. The kid, I don't think he hardly knew his father at all. I thought, you know, “You're kind of repeating your own childhood.” This poor kid. I can remember he had to spend part of a day with us and I remember he broke my crayons and pounded on our piano. I didn't play with the little boys; [I only played with] the little girls [laughter]. I couldn't wait until his father got back and got him out of there [laughter]. I thought our house would be ruined. Oh, dear.

[TRACK 3, 21:06]

Carlos. I loved his music and I still do. One of my favorites is [the] composition Song in the Night, only [the title is] in French. I spent a lot of time at his beach. It was a rocky beach, but it was clean, in another part of our cove in town. My mother didn't want us at the public beach which was all sandy. I only got to go there a few times, but she didn't think it was clean. It actually turned out later they found out it wasn't that clean; they had to redo the sewers over at that part. But way on the other side of town, the bigger bay area, Carlos had a big three-story–it looked like a Victorian–we called them cottages [but] it was summer houses. Inside it was all very modern; completely all rebuilt and very severe, sort of. Nothing frilly at all. In fact, his new harps that he designed weren't the gold [kind]. A lot of the girls had the old gold [harps], beautiful, with Doric columns and things. His were blonde wood and just graduated down, and it was just very tailored and nice. He had a fern garden that came right out to the sea wall right by the beach. That's where I grew up on that beach a lot because he and then another friend of my parents, George Perry, [lived on] the other side of the street there; he was an old bachelor and wonderful guy. So [along with] all my girlfriends that's where we grew up, swimming. It was clean over there and it was all private and nice.

He [Carlos] had a fern garden in the front of his house that went out to the sea wall and little paths and his benches. I remember once I was sitting [on] his bench and he happened to come out of the house and he told me, “This is where I composed Song in the Night.” And oh God, when I listen to that I can just hear it all. He told me how he heard the woodpecker and the different sounds and [he] would tap on his harp for certain sounds in that song. I love that; it's so beautiful. He was just a really nice person in a lot of ways and very eccentric and very different.

I think he had five wives. They were all young and they all couldn't stand him after a while. One of them we knew pretty well later, [and] she said, “Mrs. Sawyer, if I had a magazine it had to be put in a certain place. Once,” she said, “I dropped it on the floor when I was reading at night and he about had a fit.” Carlos said he only needed four hours of sleep nights, so he'd compose a lot of nights. Each girl would [take] two lessons a week and they were twenty dollars a lesson. When I was a little kid it seemed like a fortune. I thought they were all wealthy and all beautiful. They all seemed that way to me, the girls. They were so great. I'd always grown up hearing that music and I knew a lot of it by heart from hearing it, so I knew the timing. Some of them got to be like big sisters. They came every summer to our house. They were like another sister to me. They used to let me just improvise on their harp; play by ear. They'd get such a kick out of it, especially Ravel's Bolero. I thought I was really hot stuff on that one! I could really–zoom, zoom, zoom!–do it. I loved that. I liked the little notes, and it was easy.

To me, it made more sense than the piano. My sister tried to give me [piano] lessons. I never had lessons on the piano. My sister went through both teachers in town until they said, “There's nothing more we can teach her.” That's when we had Ruth Moore come. Later, she [my sister] studied every summer with another one who was a friend of our family later, too: Bill Harms. In the winter he taught at Manhattanville [College]. He was a professor there, and gave a concert at Carnegie Hall every year. Carlos toured the world every year. He was the maestro of the whole world for harp. Bill–Mr. Harms, my sister's teacher who also taught–he had a piano colony, too, sort of. Bill became good friends [with us], and very nervous after his mother died. We had people, especially one woman my mother got to know later really well who was one of his patrons, she and her husband. Carlos had tons of money, I guess, [he] seemed to. He lived on Riverside Drive. I know his place was beautiful because my mother got to see it once. Bill lived in Greenwich, but he rented that place. He lived in a carriage house there. It was very nice, [in] Connecticut. But he would be very nervous sometimes because the patrons wanted him to be at cocktail parties all the time, showing him off. He said, “I've got to practice.” He said, “I'm so tired and exhausted.” I remember once he was asking my mother, “You go to that cottage up there;” we'd go up about every night and get my grandmother and barbecue our corn and work in the garden and swim in the lake. So, in the end, we gave him a key to the cottage. When he couldn't stand it anymore in town he'd drive up there and nobody knew where he was and he could just have some peace and quiet. Later, financially, it was better for him. He had a nice-looking house and everything, but you had to keep up so many appearances when you were in that type of lifestyle. It was really hard to satisfy the people. A lot of the wealthy people in the summer, you either had to be super talented, or else you just had your wealth. Your trust funds and all whatever they lived on.

[TRACK 3, 28:31]

But a lot of them did a lot of wonderful things for our hometown, that's for sure. I mean, the Curtises from Curtis Publishing; Mary Bok was Mary Curtis Bok and she's the one who built our beautiful library. Olmstead did the amphitheater from the back of it; he did the whole park going right down to the water and the harbor. He's the same one who did Central Park. I've read many books; it's wonderful, all over the world, I'll be reading, “Oh my God, he did that one too!” They did wonderful things. We had the Nemenoffs and Lubozhutz; they were famous pianists and friends of Bill's. They summered in Rockport, which is where he lived. Salzedo was in Camden.

We were trying to raise money to buy a gym, because when I was in junior high, our basketball team only had the YMCA which had a little gym in it, which was also our little place for dancing. It had a balcony and sometimes you'd be playing basketball and [the ball] would end up stuck up in the balcony. We didn't have a nice [gym]; we had the worst one up and down the coast. We started fundraising to build the gym, and the Lubozhutz and Nemenoffs agreed to put on [a concert]. I can remember, in our school building, they

[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]

brought in two grand pianos. One at one end, down by the kindergarten classes, and the other was way up at the junior high classes. The two grand pianos. They played, and gave all the money for our funds and donated [them]. In the end, we built the best gym on the coast of Maine. So, by the time I was in high school, we had a really great gym and stage for the music; it was both for music and especially basketball. We girls became the top state basketball players. Those kids had been playing basketball, [and] a couple years before me, I think, they won without ever losing. Those kids had been playing, [and] their little sisters [were] playing down at the Y. I wasn't allowed to go down there, but later I joined the team. I was okay. I was second-string. I never made first, but I had group of friends [and we never lost even one game on our four years]. Our summer people did a lot of great things for us.

[TRACK 4, 1:04]


Well thank you, Judy.


And then about the farm. Are we over time now?


Take it away.


About our farm: we ended up getting a really great herd. In the end we sold that herd, I think in 2000. We had been doing some embryo transfer work with North Florida Holsteins, and they're the most outstanding Holstein herd in the whole United States. Right now I can't even think of the guy that owns it [Donald Bennick], but he went to Cornell. He had an Ag degree but he also had a Law degree, I think from Cornell. He lectured all over the world. I got to see him before we got to work with him, up in Syracuse or Utica, or somewhere we went to one of his lectures. Somehow he'd heard about our little herd through the Holstein Association, and they brought him here. We did embryo transfer work with our animals and his, in some place he had recommended in Pennsylvania. We weren't getting good embryos and things much back then, but he still wanted to keep working. We had some old Holsteins, way older than most people did; they were still doing super great from Joe's nutrition, I'm sure. The Holstein world really knew us. A lot of local people had no clue as to what we were doing. We had the dairy, but the dairy was the base. You had to have a base, gradually over all the years to finance what we did. Then we were able to build on that. It took years and years. It's like a lot of things: it goes so slow, and then towards the end it sort of builds up quicker. It took our lifetime to do it, practically. But in the end, he had said, “If you ever want to sell, please call me first.” So we said, “Sure.”

Joe had had some problems–I can't even remember the series of how it went–but he had a series of health problems and I've forgotten which ones came first. Finally, I guess it was the heart one. That was the last one. Anyway, it was like a year or two later, Joe told me. I couldn't believe him, because I thought, “I guess we're never going to retire. Everybody else is retiring,” even our Fresh Air kids had retired. We were still working, and kids that worked for us had retired, and we're still working, so I'd just given up on it. He said, “I think I'm going to have to sell the herd.” I think it was after his heart attack that he had had. He said, “I'm going to call him,” and so, he did. He was, I think, in Australia. He was off lecturing as usual, but his manager [Rick Silva, said] “I'll be up tomorrow.” One of his managers. He did. He came out. My herd was out at pasture, because I always took them out and brought them in. I always did that, whenever even we had our herdsmen. They knew me. The animals knew me really well, too. Sometimes when we would show with people I would be the one out in there in my coveralls, bringing animals, crowding all around me. And they'd say, “Bring me so-and-so” and they'd all have their charts and be looking. We used to do tours and we'd go on tours to their places and people would come to ours. I would tap my little guys and bring them along. They were such good animals. I was out there with them and one of his managers came, and he could go back generations. I never was good at that. I knew their names. I knew the sires, but I wasn't memorizing all that background stuff. Joe was better at that, too. But this guy was like a computer. I was showing him all the different ones. The next day he calls me up on the phone, and he had obviously a photographic memory along with the rest of it. I was giving him a lot more information. I was going through my charts and stuff, and he's riddling this stuff off. I couldn't believe it. Within a few days [we] definitely knew we were going to sell it. It was not like trying to sell this farm by any means! It was so charmed, it was unbelievable. It was heartbreaking to have to see them go, in some ways, but in the other way, the oldest ones went out with their own stalls. Their own padded-down places. I mean, he treasured the old ones.

They invited us down there so many times. The Suwannee River goes right through it. The University [of Florida] there is right there; the university does a lot of work with that big herd. It's huge. I forget how many hundreds or thousands it is now; it's huge. Joe was talking with him, Don [Bennick], and he [Joe] said, “I don't still understand. My tiny little herd and your huge one.” He wrote down all these statistics, because of the age and how our cows aged so well. He wrote it all down dollar for dollar on how he could come out ahead financially by doing it and paying so well–because we got paid so well. They went out with such great treatment. I said, “If it has to go, it's like a dream come true.” That was a happy way to have them go. We kept a few. Joe bought and sold a few heifers after that, or [kept] the ones that maybe weren't bred yet. It gave him something to do without having to milk anything or do anything. He enjoyed that. He's got a good eye. He's got [an] eye for potential. Especially potential for figuring out bulls; who to mate with. I never got into that. I soon learned who the good bulls were and who they went with in our farm, but it wasn't because of anything I knew; it was only from listening to him. Joe's a great cowman for sure, and he was very good at crops.

That's why we're still stuck here with the farm, because we hate to see it go, with the type of agriculture that's going on right now. There's a big article in today's Sunday [New York Times] paper, talking about what's going on with the China trade. It's about killing the dairy. A big milk plant that these big dairies around here are selling to, they were going to expand and now they're not. And if they went out, I don't know what's going to happen. It's really serious and I don't think most Americans have a clue what's going on with dairy now. It's so sad to see the organic market suffering, because I thought that was building up. All my life, since I came into this business, I can remember going to meetings and trying so hard, committees of women that we worked on, trying so hard to bring things to a head and bring them forward. Sometimes, especially some of the men at some of those meetings, I can remember they would–oh gosh, they would bring up all [this] little minor stuff and everything, so when you got to the business there was no time left. Or else they'd listen to you and be so interested and blah blah blah and then not do one darn thing about it. It just got so frustrating. I always felt that once I got going here and learned how to be, you know, “you're talking to her, this is the boss,” and Joe also taught me. At first when we were here, I was scared to death to make decisions about “Oh, should we cut down that pasture now,” or the fields, or should we do this or that. I never called his office. When I was a secretary, that's one thing I learned. Someone says, “It's your wife,” then you'd see the professor roll his eyes, and [sweet voice] “Hello,” you know. Oh my God, I will never do that, and I never did. Never once. I said, “No matter what.” I said, “I will never call you,” and Joe said, “Well, you're going to have to make the decisions then.” I said, “But how will I know?” He said, “Just do the best you can. That's all you can do.” He said, “I'll be here in the morning and I'll be here at night.” The more he did it I got to be very comfortable.

When he did give notice at Cornell–he didn't retire, he came back early, at 53–it was pretty hard to suddenly not be the boss anymore [laughter]. He thought I would just roll right back into my old role, and I couldn't. I was so used to it. It was interesting. We had our little times when my ideas [weren't] quite like his, and I wasn't ready to back off anymore. Then we got to be a really good, strong team, and so it was good again, but it was interesting. It's frustrating to be in a business and have to deal with something that you can't control at all. You couldn't. I began to look at it, you know, I'm the mother and I'm developing my kids and so forth.

We would have two kids that would work, usually Cornell Vet students or pre-Vets or maybe like one girl was studying–we called them back then “third world countries,” now you would not say that. Developing countries. We would have two internships that would live with us through the summer. I thought, “These kids have it all together.” Some of them had great parents and wonderful homes, but some of them, two or three o'clock in the morning we would sit here, talking. What those kids had to deal with. Some of them had the most unbalanced homes you could imagine; difficulties with their parents and so forth. It was really an eye-opener to me, the stress some of these kids had, along with all their studies and stuff that they went through. It was really interesting because it was backgrounds I had never experienced. Well-educated parents aren't always well-balanced parents. Most of them had really great parents and I got to meet a lot of them, too. So, I don't know where we are.


I think we're at time, but thank you so much Judy.


Yeah, yeah.


It was excellent. So, yeah.


Oh, so that's right, it's all on here, I forget.


It's all on here.


You don't have to write.


So thank you again.


Upstate New York
Mecklenburg, NY
Anna Stratton
Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta
Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY
3024 x 4032 pixel
TRACK 1, 06:21 - World War II
TRACK 1, 28:48 - Cattle nutrition research
TRACK 2, 01:16 - Raising Holsteins
TRACK 2, 12:23 - Breeding Holsteins
TRACK 2, 20:12 - Tutoring
TRACK 2, 22:30 - Salesmen, gender
TRACK 2, 25:10 - Community organizations
TRACK 3, 04:27 - 4-H
TRACK 3, 15:05 - Victory garden
TRACK 3, 16:29 - Carlos Salzedo, harp
TRACK 4, 01:04 - Selling the herd, future of dairy industry