Karen Streck, November 26, 2021

Item

Title
Karen Streck, November 26, 2021
interviewee
Karen Toft Streck
interviewer
Andrew Kendall
Date
2021-11-26
Subject
Baseball
Childhood
Clark Family
Community Arts and Crafts
Community Safety
Family Traditions
League of Women Voters
Main Street
School Activities
Small Town Life
St Louis, Missouri
St Mary's Catholic Church
Description
Karen Toft Streck is a long-time Cooperstown resident. Born Karen Toft in St. Louis, Missouri in 1947, Karen received a Bachelor's Degree in Education from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. While at the university, Karen met her future husband, William Streck and married him shortly after college. Karen moved to New York State following her husband’s job appointments: first Rochester, then Cooperstown.

Karen was introduced to Cooperstown during a friend’s wedding, and fell in love with the small-town feel and sense of community she felt in Cooperstown. She raised four children in Cooperstown, and has been an active participant in a wide range of community activities, including the League of Women Voters, local elections, and Saint Mary’s Catholic education program.

Karen’s account includes a variety of reminiscences from her early life, as well as the move from her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to Central New York. She discusses ways in which Cooperstown has changed and stayed the same since her arrival in 1978, and her thoughts on why that is. She discusses her work in local organizations and the school system, and her involvement with local arts and crafts. Karen also talks about her family life, and the traditions her family developed while living in Cooperstown.

I interviewed Karen on November 26th, 2021, the day after Thanksgiving. Karen’s recollections of family Thanksgiving celebrations were fresh in her mind, as were a number of other memories of her children and grandchildren, whom she hadn’t seen for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The holiday also necessitated the interview being moved to the CGP Media Lab, as family made a quiet, private interview difficult to manage at home.
Transcription
KS = Karen Toft Streck

AK = Andrew Kendall

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AK:
This is the November 26th [2021] interview of Karen Streck, by Andrew Kendall at the CGP Media Lab. It is now 2:26. So, Karen, just to begin, I was wondering if you could tell me a little about your childhood and where you grew up.

KS:
My childhood was spent in a suburb of St. Louis called Webster Groves, Missouri. I graduated from the public high school there – class of about 560 students. It was very much a suburb; at the same time it was almost a farm-type of community. There were sidewalks on the street, and pastures in the backyards with horses and chickens and that sort of thing. Went to college at the University of Missouri, met my future husband there. I worked while he completed medical school. Then we moved to Rochester, New York for five years, and that’s how we came to move to Cooperstown, was him being there. Actually, [we] came to Cooperstown for a wedding of one of his classmates and fell in love with Cooperstown.

AK:
Alright, tell me a little about that sort of farm-suburb combination.

KS:
Our home was bult in 1907, but it was sidewalks, very much partitioned-off lawns. And there were pastures in the lawns, some of them still had stables. My grandparents lived about three blocks away. It was a dairy farm, then they sold it and it was subdivided into probably one of the first in St Louis County, of the one-story little ranch homes, post-World War II, on my grandparent’s former farm. My father, one winter, took three ponies from one of the summer time pony rides that you could do at a shopping mall, one corner of the parking lot would have these pony rides. And for one winter we had three of those ponies in a pasture across the street. I was the most popular kid in fourth grade, because [laughter] people got to come to my house and ride ponies in the pasture. And I had a neighbor who was a young woman in high school and kept her horse in that same pasture, and she would take me for rides in the afternoons after school around Webster Groves[laughter]. It didn’t seem unusual at the time. Trying to talk about it makes it sound [like] a relatively strange environment, but that’s very much what it was like, so.

AK:
Alright, so tell me a bit about your time at the University of Missouri.

KS:
I got a Bachelor’s Degree there, in Education. I didn’t teach. I did other jobs after I graduated. It was just a great big land-grant college with a great football team at the time, great basketball team at the time. It was just very much a midwestern type of atmosphere.

AK:
Tell me, how did you meet your husband there?

KS:
We met through my roommate, my senior year. I lived in a graduate women’s dormitory and he was in the graduate men’s dormitory. My roommate was engaged to a first-year medical student. That’s how I met my husband, was through her.

AK:
Alright, so tell me about the move to Rochester then.

KS:
The University of Missouri Medical School two of the deans of the medical school had been at the University of Rochester, and had talked to students about the program, especially for internal medicine at the University of Rochester, and that no student from the University of Missouri had ever gotten into the Rochester program, which was the carrot before the horse for my husband. So, it was one of the schools he applied to, and was accepted, and we spent five years in Rochester. He did his medical residency in internal medicine, and then a fellowship in endocrinology before we moved to Cooperstown.

AK:
What was the move to Rochester like for you?

KS:
Well, I actually was happy to move to the Northeast, to a cooler climate. I didn’t like hot summers. And it was, it was fine. We lived in university housing, which consisted of rows of town houses in a pretty park-like setting, so it was pleasant. As we had children, they had instant people to play with as soon as they walked out the front door for those five years. So, it was an easy time. No one had any money, so[clears throat] everybody was just poor, they were all in school. You were with a very homogeneous group, I would say, most of the time.

[TRACK 1, 6:12]

AK:
So, tell me about moving from Rochester to Cooperstown.

KS:
I don’t know if it continues any more there was a sort of connection between Strong Memorial Hospital’s training and Bassett already, and there were a couple of doc[tor]s at Bassett who had trained at Strong. And we came here for the wedding of a friend who was in the program at Strong whose family summered in Cooperstown. When we came for the wedding, we stayed with one of the families that we had known in Rochester, and his name was Dick and Shirley Reese, and Dick was on staff at Bassett, and had Bill meet with the department chair, and that was in the summer. We came back in the fall for Bill to do a real interview, and he came as Bassett's first endocrinologist, board-certified endocrinologist. That was in 1978.

AK:
Alright, so moving to Cooperstown, did that have any effect on you know, your family?

KS:
Our family was all back in the Midwest. So, my family was in St Louis or Chicago, Bill’s family was in Oklahoma City and Kansas by that time. They would have all probably preferred that we had gone back to the Midwest after he did his training, but whenever anybody has visited Cooperstown they’ve loved it, and understood why we’ve stayed in this area.

AK:
What do you like about Cooperstown?

KS:
I had always thought that I would like to live in a small town, and Cooperstown certainly offered that dream to come true. I liked the fact that you knew everybody, that you could participate in anything you wanted to, that the town ran by the fact that people were active and did things, you didn’t have strangers doing all the service things for you. If you wanted something to happen, you usually got involved so that it could happen. And I liked that. I like the familiarity of a small town. I really do.

[TRACK 1, 8:51]

AK:
So, you’ve lived in Cooperstown for a fairly long time, you mentioned in the pre-interview. Tell me about sort of the changes you’ve seen in Cooperstown since you moved.

KS:
We moved here in June of [19]78, and—simple things, like our oldest child was going to kindergarten that fall, and him walking to school was just assumed, that, you know, I wasn’t going to have to shepherd him to school, he would be perfectly fine to make his way three blocks or four blocks to the school building. I think those kinds of things are a little different, that I don’t think there’s quite the sense of safety, and I’m not sure why, but I have grandchildren who go to Cooperstown and I pick them up, and most parents are a little more involved with getting their children to and from [school], would be number one. Number two, when we moved here, and I knew it had already begun changing, the shopping district of Main Street was a real shopping district. There was Newberry's, which had a lunch counter. And I would take our children, it was a treat to go to lunch at Newberry’s and it had two stories, the lower level had a whole toy department and everything. Farm and Home, which was sort of at the opposite kitty-corner end of Main Street had just about anything you needed, from kid’s underwear to appliances for the kitchen, type of stuff. So, that's gone. And there were women’s shops and men’s clothing stores, a shoe store, hardware stores, drug stores, all of those things are gone on Main Street. Ellsworth and Sill is the only clothing [store]. No, that’s not true, there are a couple new clothing stores for women. There are no men’s stores anymore. So, it was easy. You literally could walk from your house to Main Street and get whatever it was you needed. The grocery store had already moved before we moved here, I think there had been an A&P where the CVS drug store [was]. CVS was already there by the time we moved to Cooperstown, so that’s changed. I would say shopping has definitely changed, but that's certainly happened everywhere, and it’s nice to see that there are young people who grew up here opening up stores. Again, I love the fact that Mohican [Flowers] is staying. That was [purchased by] a young couple who grew up here, but yeah, that’s changed.

AK:
Could you tell me a little bit more about the sort of changing feeling of safety in the area?

KS:
I’m not actually sure why, because there's certainly isn’t, there isn’t any crime in Cooperstown. I mean there’s no real sense of why that is—I don’t know. I mean, we certainly still don’t lock our door or anything like that. It’s not that kind of safety. I think it’s more, maybe the world as a whole seems a more vulnerable place now, and you can’t quite count on things being what you think they’re going to be, so maybe it’s just a general sense of more vulnerability, that could a little five-year-old walking to school be kidnapped, wouldn’t have even crossed our mind in 1978. Why now? I don’t know.

AK:
So, the shopping district you said has changed quite a bit. What sort of factors do you think have led to that?

KS:
Well, when south of Cooperstown[The Commons] opened up and Ingalls sold their property, and the grocery store, Tops, was built out there, and then other stores. I guess it’s just that it was harder for small, independently owned stores to compete against bigger places. You know that Oneonta has grown so much with the fact that there’s a Walmart, certainly downtown Oneonta isn’t what it was like when we moved here either, but I would just imagine that it’s gotten to be much harder as an independent business owner to survive selling against Amazon and the whole mail order business, everything.

AK:
So, I know this sort of used to be James Fenimore Cooper country rather than baseball country. Could you tell me a little about sort of - any sort of changes you saw with baseball in the area?

KS:
Well, when [the Cooperstown] Dreams Park was built, it really sealed what was already beginning to happen on Main Street. My assumption is that store owners or business owners who rent the space on Main Street make enough money during the summer tourist trade that they don’t even need to stay open year-round anymore. So that continued to change what was available on Main Street if you wanted to do just normal shopping. Baseball memorabilia stores, that’s difficult to compete against. So, I do think, I think the Dreams Park has been the biggest change for that. We did have my brother’s grandson come and play at Dreams Park so they think Dreams Park is wonderful. It was a real experience for him, so I can’t completely bemoan the fact that Dreams Park exists but, it’s changed things.

[TRACK 1, 15:49]

AK:
Taking sort of the opposite question, tell me a little about what sort of things have stayed the same throughout the 50-odd years you’ve been here.

KS:
I would say the traditional things that make Cooperstown or any small town so special, but really Cooperstown special, are the things - like tonight Santa Claus is coming, and a parade down Main Street again on the fire truck, and kids get to visit with Santa in the Santa’s House on the corner on Main Street. That was here when we moved here. I would say that the school environment and what the school means to the community has stayed the same. School has shifted, and you know, there are personnel changes that happen. But I would say that by it being a small community, by knowing the kids that go to school, by knowing the kids that are playing in the band, or competing on a athletic team or something, it’s fun to know who they are and continue to go to games, and to follow those sorts of things. I think church attendance - we’ve dropped out, but I think those sorts of traditions have remained here.

AK:
Tell me about those sorts of traditional, small-town values.

KS:
When our oldest, our son was in high school was when I got involved in the sports booster club, and that sort of group really encourages participation—not excellence, it’s participation. I think that family, and neighbor involvement is so important because, again, you’re not just rooting for the school, you’re rooting for the kid down the street, and I think that that sort of value stands the test of time in some place like this, that you know who your neighbors are. And being involved that way gives you a sense of community. It just does.

AK:
Tell me a little about your own involvement in the community.

KS:
Well as I said I was very involved in the sports booster club. I volunteered at the high school. I also was a substitute - mostly secretary[laughter] at the high school, but - which again, you can do those sorts of things. I’m assuming that those are still options within the school system, where you can be there not as your kid’s parent but as sort of a parent or an adult for every kid in the community. You know, a familiar face. And I loved doing that. I really did. I liked being in the school. I liked getting to know kids that weren't necessarily kids that were friends with my children. So, I did that. We were very involved with Saint Mary’s Catholic Church here. I was a co-coordinator of the religious education program for that, did a confirmation class you know. It’s not some person that has been hired. If you want to have confirmation for your students, parents do it. I was part of the League of Women Voters, I was active much more. I’m not really active now in it. And that was a way that I met people when we first moved here. The League was new to Cooperstown and I enjoyed what the League offered in terms of political involvement, without being partisan. And just, educating yourself on topics that you should be educated on. That was a real opportunity to do that.

AK:
Could you tell me a little more about your work with the League of Women Voters?

KS:
When we first moved here, as I said, the League was new. It was—I’m gonna maybe be really wrong—less than five years old as a League in Cooperstown. And at the time, they would do study groups, and I may be speaking and they may still do them and I’m just not involved, so I apologize if all of this is still happening and I’m making it sound like it’s in the past. But I participated in—it was basically a research thing on - I’m trying to think how you would have called it. But it would have been doing sort of, not a utopian community, but a community that could be self-sustaining, a community that could create its own energy, its own resources, its own work, employment, and then we presented it to the rest of the League, and it was fascinating. It was certainly in the days before computers, so it was all going to the library and finding out things. That was new for me, because it had been a number of years since I had been in school, and to do something just for fun that also required real investigative learning and a little bit of research and everything, I liked doing that. And it was just also doing things like having candidate’s night for local [candidates]. They were all local. I’m trying to think if we had a congressional candidate’s night. But those sorts of activities, just getting more information for yourself, being a participant in something that gets information out to the general public, I liked. We had voter registration days, we would set up on the street corner or something and try to get people to register to vote.

AK:
What sort of impact do you think the League of Women Voters has had on Cooperstown?

KS:
They did a study, before we arrived, called Four Towns and a Village, and it was about the impact of the four townships around Otsego Lake and then the Village of Cooperstown. And I think that, if not that actual study but the fact that a study like that took place, has had an impact on how local governments can view interacting with each other, that ordinances that one township might have about the lake versus what Springfield township might have about the lake, mattered. So those sorts of things I think at a local entity help a community be involved in a proactive way in its own future.

AK:
Could you tell me a little bit about your work with Saint Mary’s?

KS:
I did not grow up Catholic, I grew up as a Congregationalist. My husband was Catholic. I converted because our children were going to be raised Catholic and it was important to be fully involved, not to be a bystander. How I managed then to help run the education program[laughter] is a little bit of a surprise because I really wasn’t a very trained Catholic, I would say. But again, it was the community of the church that was very much a part of our life at the time. Church school was on Wednesday afternoons, the kids, the Catholics and Episcopalians, were dismissed half an hour or forty minutes earlier than the rest of the school on Wednesday afternoons and they walked to their respective churches. We would have volunteers who would stand at each street corner to get the kids safely across the intersection of Delaware and Beaver Street. It was just an easy way to be a participant in a community of—I guess like-minded people, and I would rather have been fully involved than sitting on the sidelines having somebody else do things. It was, I don’t know, it was fun.

AK:
How has church activities, church involvement changed over the years?

KS:
Oh, I think there are still people who are very involved. We, it was for personal reasons. We, I don’t...

[KS makes silent hand gesture.]

AK:
That’s alright.

KS:
Okay. But I think the churches are probably still very active. I’m pretty sure the Episcopalian church is still very active. We’ve just sort of dropped our activity level to zero at this point.

[TRACK 1, 26:40]

AK:
Could you tell me a little bit about raising children in Cooperstown and what that was like?

KS:
Again, it was the small-town element of it. I came out of a big—it was suburban high school, it wasn’t a city school or anything like that, but it was just a huge population of students. For our kids to be able to graduate having gone to school with the same classmates, kindergarten through 12th grade, was probably both a blessing and a curse. Friendships were formed, friendships shifted. But again, because of the community, it was very much part of your life. We would take our young children to high school concerts, and the high school musicals, and as we lived here more and more years, we began to know who those high school students were, but at first, we didn’t. But it gave our kids exposure to the activities that you can do in high school, the good activities, the purposeful activities. And I think being able to have them be so familiar with what their town offered was wonderful. I mean, they knew who their barber was, our son did; just all of it was in some ways almost like a big family. And we were far away from our families, so that for our kids to know so many people well that they weren’t really related to was good.

AK:
Tell me about those sorts of purposeful activities at school.

KS:
Well, I can remember the first concert we went to, and got to know the parents a couple of years later, but it was the Iversen family, and one of their sons was the trumpet player and all I could think at the time was "This is such a wholesome activity, it’s so terrific that someone wants to learn an instrument, to play to that degree of excellence while in high school." I loved the fact that there was this example out there for our kids whether it was at the school musicals and kids singing or dancing or on the sports fields and playing. It gave them not peers, but they could certainly identify with these older kids and what their life could be like as they got older. These kids were babysitting our kids so they knew her in the school musical, and she babysat for us, type of thing. It was that.

AK:
Did you see, sort of less purposeful examples?

KS:
I don’t. I think it still exists here; I really do. Our little grandsons who live here

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

KS:
went to the soccer games, the boy’s soccer games this year and those opportunities are very much still here. And you know these kids, or at least you know of them, and your parents will talk about who scored a goal, or who’s singing the lead in the school musical, and it isn’t just a name. There’s a connection back to someone that even our grandchildren would know, who that is who’s being talked about.

AK:
You mentioned that you’ve brought your family here a couple of times, and they’ve sort of fallen in love with the community as well. Could you tell me about those visits?

KS:
Most recent visit from my family was my brother and sister-in-law, when their grandson was playing at Dreams Park. COVID happened the following January, well, March after that summer, so nobody has visited since then. My husband’s family have come – no one would want to move here because they actually all love Oklahoma[laughter], but they’ve enjoyed, I think almost with bemusement, how small the town is and what we do; going to the Farmer’s Museum as an activity, walking down to Schnieder’s Bakery to get cookies or donuts or whatever. I think they just appreciate the, I guess slower way of life. If you want you can have it be that way here. Just, I think they appreciate that we like it so much, as much as anything.

AK:
What parts of moving to Cooperstown were maybe more difficult for you, coming from a larger community?

KS:
I don’t know that I found anything difficult. I do remember realizing after we had been here for about six months that I would be in the grocery store, and I would say hello to someone I had met but I didn’t really have a connection to that person yet, and then I'd be aware that very soon in the next aisle that person was having this in-depth conversation with someone else and I felt a little bit like an outsider for a while, but that didn't last very long. I mean, it just takes a while to make real connections and have things that you know about other people or that you're, you know, sharing activities or something like that. When we first moved here, there were not very many restaurants, so that part has really improved, I would say, over the course of time. But it wasn’t hard, it really wasn’t. It was wonderful raising our children here. It really was. It was extremely easy. They did well in school. They went to good colleges. I’m not sure, probably three of the four would love to still live here, and the fourth’s husband, he would like to live here, anyway.

AK:
So tell me about the process of sort of making those connections.

KS:
Well, I think it just took time and being involved in things, certainly through the League, with our kids in school doing parent-kid things, church, it was just taking enough time to get to know people and get involved. I think it was also the understanding that in this size of community you have to be involved for the community to function. In larger cities, there are either people who are paid to do it; it's just I think it's a different environment. So, getting involved seemed normal and natural. And I think that's how the connections began to deepen, you know?

AK:
Alright, so tell me a little bit about the changing restaurant scene in Cooperstown.

KS:
Let's see. When we first moved here, which was in [19]78, well, the Otesaga dining room was obviously in existence and the dress code was men with a tie and suit coat, women had to wear dresses, so it wasn't a place you were going to easily go out to dinner on a weeknight with the kids or anything like that. There was a restaurant called Sherry’s Famous Restaurant, which is where Mel's Restaurant is now. There was another restaurant on Main Street and I'm trying to think what storefront is in there now. I may be where Danny’s is. No, that's not right. It may be where Nicoletta’s is now, but again, it wasn't a place that we could easily have taken our kids or anything. There was a Beefy’s Sandwich Shop which was across the street from - it's where Toscana is, and that was just open for lunch, I'm pretty sure. Where were the other restaurants? As I said, Newberry's had a lunch counter and I would take our kids there. Santa came to the Newberry's breakfast with Santa. You could do that. I don't know if the Pratt had anything? Trying to think on Pioneer Street whether there were any restaurants? But I mean, now there are so many places that you can either go out for a nice meal, or you can also take your kids and have dinner; Doubleday [Café] wasn't there. So it’s all changed.

[TRACK 2, 6:58]

AK:
Given that sort of absent restaurant scene, did you do a lot of cooking with your children?

KS:
I did, I did. They would choose a menu. You know, I think I had grand ideas that they would each choose a menu for, you know, one night a week, but that really didn't work out that well, but I did try to have them at least have a say in it so that they would eat their food and it also made it more fun than to just be the person in the kitchen doing cooking and not knowing whether anybody would enjoy it. So, yeah, we did.

AK:
Tell me a little more about that experience.

KS:
Actually, because it's Thanksgiving, this one is going to sound strange because I've mentioned it to friends recently and one of our daughters said that she had just somehow mentioned how we did Thanksgiving and people are a little nonplussed or puzzled, I would say. After we had been here, probably six or seven years, I decided that we were going to have an old-fashioned Thanksgiving and I sort of modeled it on the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which we had read to our kids and stuff and said, "We are going to not have the TV on, and we're going to do everything by candlelight and we're going to cook the meal together. We're all going to help." Which was great with the daughters. Our son, when we talked to him yesterday, said he was telling his wife about this and was like "you did what?" But somehow, they—there weren't farm chores to do, but our son and dad, they managed to do things like put the snow blower on the riding lawn mower so he didn't have as much fun with our old-fashioned Thanksgiving as the girls seemed to have. We cooked the meal; you know sometimes we ate at 7:00 o'clock on Thanksgiving night because that's how long it took to get everything actually prepared with little kids helping. But we continued that tradition well into college for all of them. None of them have continued it in their own homes, however, so[laughter].

AK:
What other sorts of family traditions did you develop here?

KS:
Oh well, let's see. That was the big one. I'm actually drawing a blank on other [traditions]. We would always read the Berenstain Bear’s First Day of School book the night before school started to everybody, and our youngest daughter is quite a bit younger than her siblings. She's eight years younger than the next in line and our son is the oldest and he was thirteen when she was born. He was a very good sport for years and years and years of still continuing child activities, just so his youngest sister could still be doing them, so even when he was in high school, we still read the Berenstain Bears book the night before school started. I'm sure that we did have other traditions. Everybody having the same pajamas on Christmas Eve, the kids all sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas Day was each person took turns opening gifts so that there wasn't a mad dash, and, you know, things being ripped apart under the tree. It was a very lengthy process of stopping and having breakfast, coming back and opening up a couple more, because it took time when everybody just opened one present at a time.

[TRACK 2, 11:26]

AK:
Alright, so tell me a little bit about the differences between your children’s experience in Cooperstown and your grandchildren’s experience.

KS:
The two grandchildren who actually live in Cooperstown are in kindergarten and second grade. You know, it's hard because of COVID. The oldest was halfway through kindergarten when COVID happened and school shut down so he's not had, you know he's back in school five days a week this year, the kindergarten one is, but their experience has been vastly different from what their moms and their aunts and uncle were. Certainly, the school building is pretty much the same as it was by the time they all graduated. Kid City—there's a playground behind the elementary school that went up—trying to think how old our older kids were. They were in elementary school, I think, when Kid City was first—is that right? That's been rebuilt and is now a whole better program, but our kids had that playground essentially in one form or another that our grandsons get to play on. The building is locked during the day now, you have to buzz in. That wasn't the case when our kids were in school. I don't think that there are tremendous differences. If it were not COVID, I think that they would be experiencing something pretty similar to what their mom experienced when she was in school here.

AK:
Could you tell me a little bit about your own COVID experience?

KS:
For us, it's been fortunately pretty lucky. None of our family have contracted COVID, which I'm very thankful for. Now our youngest grandsons, except for the very youngest one in Chicago, have all gotten their first COVID vaccination. It changed overnight, our interaction with the family until we could start getting vaccinated, and that was hard. Everyone went into their own little cocoons as I'm sure, for everybody, that's exactly what you did. We did not see our daughter and son-in-law and those grandkids in Chicago from—we had seen them in early March, and then did not see them again until over a year later. And almost the same, actually longer than that for our son, who actually lives in the Springfield Mass[achusetts] area; we had seen him at Christmas and didn't see him again until this May. But I think for my husband and I, it was not all that hard personally. It was much harder for the kids, and we've got three, two of our daughters and one son-in-law are teachers and it was hard doing that remotely. And having kids around, you know, in the house and trying to sit at a computer and teach a class was hard. So, I think for the younger people—I'm sure for you it's a much harder thing than if you're in your 70s and you hunker down, it's not that big a deal, you know. You don't have demands on you, that trying to live a life, and raise children and have their lives not be horribly impacted is what has been the hardest. But we're able to see our grandkids now, which is wonderful. We just had them for Thanksgiving and everything.

[TRACK 2, 15:57]

AK:
Alright, so we've got about 14 minutes left here and I was really meaning to ask—you mentioned in the pre-interview that you'd started working on a doll making course. [laughter]

KS:
[laughter]

AK:
So. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about that.

KS:
Well, my very good friend Pat Spencer—they moved here because her husband was, I'm not quite sure what his title was when he came, but he was a curator of exhibitions at the Baseball Hall of Fame. And both he and his wife are essentially artists and Pat was very interested. How she got started on it, I don't really know, both in sculpting a doll head and then pouring a mold so that you could then pour more molds, however that works. And, she started doing classes for anybody who was interested in doll making and she would pour the mold for the head and she then taught you, and I was a reluctant student, I wasn't ever very good at it, how to paint the doll face. Most of these dolls would be not necessarily historical, like I did a baby doll for one daughter, I did a boy soccer player for our son. One of the molds that Pat had bought, rather than created herself, looked remarkably like our youngest daughter, so I did that one for her and for the middle daughter I did almost like, what are they called, the American Girl type of doll. And you would have to also make their outfits, which was all so tedious for me. I sort of wanted things done immediately and it took time and patience. But it was a creative—I'm not a very creative person, I don't have that in my brain. So, it was hard work for me to have the patience to do something I wasn't good at, but it was also fun. And again, it was another social engagement, I became good friends with these women. Either through that or—one or the other, I’m not sure—I also was active in a quilting group for a while. And we would meet once a month at one or another’s house and just quilt. I don't do that anymore; I don't do the doll making anymore. But again, it's just being a participant in an activity and having the good fortune to have people who are very skilled at some of these things was great.

AK:
Tell me a little bit about the friendships that you made through these activities.

KS:
The quilting one was the most interesting because we decided that we would do a quilt square exchange. And so, people would be working on their own quilts, but you would also do a square of your own choosing and then we would do an exchange. I don't know if every time but every once in a while, we would have sort of a potluck dinner and then spouses would be invited to that. And I remember one of those events my husband saying to this group of assembled women, "Why can't we see the squares? You guys get all together all the time, and you're not even letting us see the squares," so we had to lay out the squares, but in the end we each had what could make a quilt with the squares made by different members of this group. It was an informal group. I mean, it wasn't always exactly the same women, People moved away, people died. So that isn't happening anymore, but it was again for me personally, a challenge. I was not drawn to doing that without the encouragement of the group, I’ll put it that way. It made me more creative than I would naturally be inclined to be.

[TRACK 2, 21:05]

AK:
Alright, so just sort of wrapping up here. Can you tell me what makes Cooperstown distinctive to you, and what you enjoy most about the community here?

KS:
I think that what is distinctive about Cooperstown and what makes it unique is the Clark family involvement. If that family had not put both money and interest and energy into everything from the Baseball Hall of Fame to certainly these two museums [the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum], but also the land around Cooperstown. It's been protected because they own it. This region isn't like the other Finger Lakes regions where it's so much more, both developed and without the same degree of preservation that I think the Clark family, and Jane [Clark]now have created. I'm not sure that when you first come, you realize what that means? Simple things like the field where the Indian Mound. Do you know where that is? That's private property, but everyone is welcome to be there. I mean, there's a graciousness to what they've created—certainly the [Clark] Sports Center - it is unique. I don't know that you could duplicate this. Things like the scholarship fund for students in this region. Cooperstown has an extra scholarship because it's Cooperstown, but that matters in a community of this size, that kids get that kind of financial help. Our oldest daughter went to Harvard and when Harvard received that first semester’s scholarship money from the Clark Foundation, they assumed it was for the full year and divided it, and then sent us a bill and we had to say, "No. No, that's just this semester. This is a private scholarship foundation and you'll get that again next semester." It's all - it is so unique. It's not an ordinary little small town of what, 2,000 [people] now? I don't even think it's quite 2,000.

AK:
Can you tell me a little bit more about the Clark involvement and how you are connected to that?

KS:
I'm on the board for the Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home. It's not an assisted living [facility]—I should know what exactly it is—it’s a residence, and that is a Clark entity. Certainly my husband was involved with the Clarks through the Bassett program. That's my only direct involvement at this point, is by being on the board of the Thanksgiving Home. But again, it's done with a graciousness and just a willingness to be a part of the community in a way that they can. When the Thanksgiving Home was being remodeled, the residents moved to the Otesaga Hotel. They had a lovely stay, being guests at the Otesaga, but it was within weeks of reopening the Thanksgiving home that a Salamander [heater] was left on in the basement to dry paint and the building burned to the ground. And Jane [Clark] made the decision within 12 hours: We will rebuild. We will deal with how we pay for that as we deal with insurance and with the construction company, et cetera. But we will rebuild. It's that kind of commitment that makes a difference in how this community thrives.

AK:
Alright, so I think we'll call it there,

KS:
Okay.

AK:
But thank you very much.

KS:
[laughter]
Coverage
Upstate New York
Cooperstown, NY
1946-2021
Creator
Andrew Kendall
Publisher
Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta
Rights
Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY
Format
audio/mpeg
27.4mB
23.8mB
image/jpeg
6000x4000 pixels
Language
en-US
Type
Sound
Image
Identifier
21-009
Abstract
Track 1, 0:00 - Early life
Track 1, 6:12 - Moving to Cooperstown
Track 1, 8:51 - Local changes
Track 1, 15:49 - Local stability, community involvement
Track 1, 26:40 - Raising a family
Track 2, 6:58 - Family and holiday traditions
Track 2, 15:57 - Doll-making, quilting
Track 2, 21:05 - Clark family