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Redding Remembered- Oral History Project  

In 1975, Mrs. Phyllis Kroll had a dream...4 years later it was accomlished. 45 students (7th & 8th graders) achieved the goal of recording the first town history booklet since Todd's History of Redding second edition of 1906. Redding Remembered is a record of people and events- and the oral history students that cared enough to capture the past, the present, the famous and not-so-famous. 25 years later this amazing body of work enters the "cyber-world" and I hope all of you enjoy it as much as I do. Submit your ideas or articles to bcolley@snet.net and please consider donating to the History of Redding so I can continue to provide updates to this web site.

Arthur Glasner Recollects
Susan Ferraguzzi

The big social event of the summer was the clambake, held where the general store is in West Redding (across from West Redding Post Office). "All the oldtimers would get together. You could eat all you wanted," Mr. Arthur Glasner, of Limekiln Road, Redding, told us. "Some of the oldtimers used to say that they would throw the clam shells over their shoulders when they were through eating the clams. When the clamshells reached up to the top of their necks, why then it was time to quit."

Mr. Glasner was born in Brooklyn, NY. His early recollections are of subways, trolley cars, and Propect Park. Mr. Glaner, with his brother, mother and father, moved to Redding in 1930. They travel to Redding during weekends before they bought the house. When Mr. Glasner first moved into his house, it was in the original state. There was no electricity or plumbing. Cooking was done on a wood-burning range. The only source of heat came from the fireplace. Kerosene lamps provided light.

Remnents of an old-limekiln are still on Mr. Glaner's Redding property. Just the base of it is left today. The limestone rocks were dynamited out of the quarry and hauled to the kiln. "The lime rocks would disintegrate or burn. then the limestone was put into barrels and sent to New York City. They used the limestone to make plaster."

Mr. Glasner today, is well-known for his fine reproductions of antique tin sconce lamps. He told us how it all started when Florence Maine, a famous antique dealer in Ridgefield, approached him with two antique tin sconce lamps and asked him to make two more like them. "i've never done this before. I couldn't do it," he said. "Oh, go ahead. You can do it," she replied.

Mr. Glasner pointed out that he did not have any materials. Mrs. Maine insisted he give it a try. Thus in 1959 after his brother died, Arthur Glasner began his new career. "I got mixed up in making these lighting fixtures. That's kept me busy."

Today Mr. Glasner is a meticulous artisan who reproduces lighting fixtures in tin, just as they were, and similar to those in old houses that used candles.

Mr. Glasner has observed many changes in his adopted town. "You don't know people anymore. They rush right by in their automobiles. Once I could hear a wagon coming up the road for quite a distance. Nowadays, the automobile is right on top of you and by."

"When they had Ford Model T's, you could hear those. They would rattle along. We bought a second-hand Ford car for $150.00. they were kind of mean to travel in. They were very high. They were built high because the ladies wore a lot of hats with feathers on top. It was quite a tall thing. If you went on a road that had a crown on it, why the thing was ready to tip over! The car was plenty top-heavy."

Although this multi-talented man, Arthur Glasner, had not lived in Redding all his life, he can still remember the times when the town was a placid, pastorial community.

Little Boston
Harold IIes

Redding is calculated to be 190 miles from Boston, Massachusetts. How then did the geographical designation "Little Boston" come into being? Harold Iles, a knowledgeable man, who has lived in Redding most of his life, provided us with an answer.

"Little Boston is really quite famous and Redding people don't realize it. The Boston Post Road went thru Redding, upto Danbury and on to Boston. The reason the Boston Post Road went this far inland was that there were not any bridges along the coast. When the stagecoaches went over the road carrying the mail from New York City to Boston they passed thru what is now Georgetown. It was quite a joke among the drivers to say 'We're coming into Boston' to the passengers, long before they actually were coming into Boston. Passengers had been shaken up so much by the trip from New York that they figured it was about time for them to be coming into Boston. So, Mr. Iles concluded, they started calling that corner 'Little Boston'.

Near where Peaceable St. and Umpawaug Rd. meet in Georgetown, there is an area still called 'Little Boston'. And all because of a stagecoach driver's little joke there is even a road which is called Little Boston Lane.

Horse Thieves
Andrew Casey

Lawrence Banks was born in Redding during the early part of the century and has remained here ever since. Married, with children gone from home, he leads an active life and is a member of a Redding family that goes back seven generations. Banks related the following story in one of his interviews:

"John "Dido" Nickerson, Jr. of Redding was an engineer of the Shepaug Railroad line. He was born about 1880. Nickerson related the following story of horse thieves in Redding. When Nickerson was sixteen, and lived in Redding Center, he was 'sweet on' a young lady on Redding Ridge whose last name was Sanford."

"One night, Nickerson cut 'across lots' to a point where Wilson's Lane intersects with Cross Highway, near a steep hill. While crossing, he sighted a light in the valley near Little River. Nickerson then got down and hid behind a fence." People were shoeing horses, and he recognized a blacksmith-neighbor, one of a group of gentlemen horse thieves who were organized from Maryland to Massachusetts. They would ride through Redding at night and pick up horse that had been stolen for them. They had the horses' shoes changed and their coats and marking dyed. They would move the horses up river valleys and through little-used roads. The leaders of the horse thieves would eat and sleep at the homes of socially prominent families.

"Mr. Nickerson asked, 'Do you see this scar? I got that from the butt of a '45 because I had seen too much.' The following Sunday, Nickerson had no sooner gotten inside church with his mother, when someone came up to him and said, 'You have 24 hours to get out of town.' And that is when John "Dido" Nickerson, Jr. went on the railroad.

Nickerson would go on to become one of the New Haven Railroad's greatest engineers. Better known as Dido, he ran Yankee Clippers, one of the finest trains for a number of years, until he retired to Roxbury Connecticut. There is a photo of Nickerson standing in front of Engine No. 1573, Type 4-4-D Class C 15A, built in Rhode Island 1893.

An Interview With Stuart Chase "I am a Generalist..."
Andrew Casey

Beginning at the turn of the 20th Century, in the days of Mark Twain and Charles Ives, Redding became a haven for a number of creative writers and artists in search of a quieter life, away from the pressures of the big city. Stuart Chase was a late comer in that group. A writer of books and articles, he found a remodeled barn, with an apple orchard, a garden, and open fields, which seemed ideal for a writer. When in 1930 he drove up to the village green at the Center, with its over-arching elms and charming white New England church, he promptly returned and bought the remodeled barn. Redding was where he wanted to live, and with his wife Marian, a musician, has lived for almost 50 years. Redding is where most of his ideas have germinated, and where most of his writing has been done. Trips, yes, to lecture around the country (in every state except Mississippi) and visits to London, Paris, Russia, Egypt, Mexico, and the Caribbean. But the real work has been done in the remodeled barn.

We asked Mr. Chase if he would summerize his outlook on life, and how it might apply to Redding. He said he considered himslef a philosophic "generalist". A generalist, he said, is an observer who tries to see all the major angles before he comes to a conclusion. He is not a one-party man. He is particularly interested today in the planning of a human community, and the conservation of its natural resources. Redding has an urgent need for both if it is to continue to be a comely rural town in a beautiful natural setting.

In one of his columns for the Pilot, the weekly local paper, Mr. Chase wrote an article addressed to children in general and to children of Redding in particular. He wrote: "You have two homes: the house where you live here in Redding, and the planet earth on whose surface you walk, whose air you breathe, whose water you drink, and that provides all your food from its fields, forests and waters. Your house must be kept aired and clean or you may get sick from poisons and infections. "Your planet," he continued, "which is your other home, must also be kept healthy, clean and livable. If this effort fails, we shall all get sick before too long. Presently (1978), on an unhealthy planet, with failing resources, there will be little future for you, and certainly no future for your children. It may take longer for this to happen, but it is as bad to make a mess of your planet as to make a mess of your living room. Indeed, it may be worse; you can get out of your living room in an emergency-say a fire- but you can't get off your planet and hope to survive for long. How many people can a space ship carry? Where can it land and find adequate soil, water and air?

"I say I am a generalist," Chase went on to say, "but I have three specialties-economics, communication, and accounting. My father wanted me to follow his footsteps in the accounting profession. I passed my CPA examinations in Boston and practiced for about ten years, part of the time with the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.

"I discovered that accounting was not my cup of tea, and turned more to writing, especially about economic problems and convervation. My book Rich Land, Poor Land was praised by President Roosevelt, and there was even some talk that he might write an introduction-which did not materialize. I also became greatly interested in how word behave, and have written three books on semantics, a specialty that deals with language and meaning. At the same time I have been concerned with the state of the world in general, and what hard technology is doing to it, and especially what atomic energy may do to us- not only in war, but in peace as well. Where are we going to put the deadly poisonous wastes that are produced in nuclear energy plants? You see, a generalist is concerned with the condition of human life on this planet, above and beyond his particular specialties. We need the physical sciences, like chemistry; the social sciences, like economics; and the human studies, like philosophy and history, to understand our place in the universe. Man became homo sapiens, the thinking creature, when he learned to talk, thousands of years ago.

"Now we humans are in a second great transformation, which began on August 5, 1945, the day when Hiroshima in Japan was wiped out by an atomic bomb. Let one generalist qoute another generalist, Dr. Victor Weisskopf, professor of physics at M.I.T.: 'Today we physicists have found a cosmic process, one in which millions of electron volts per atom are exchanged, rather than the few electron volts that are customary here on earth.'

This I believe, may be as important to mankind as the day we first learned to talk. This is a 'cosmic process,' like what goes on in outer space, and in the interior of the sun. A generalist must be aware of these two cosmic episodes in the history of mankind; he hopes that we can deal with them.

"On my desk is a motto given to me by my friend Beardsley Ruml when he lived down the road a little way. He was an excellent generalist. The motto reads: 'Reasonable men always agree if they understand what they are talking about.' I wish this motto might be on a number of desks in the Middle East right now in 1978!

"Planning and conservation are major interests of a generalist on a world-wide scale. How do they apply to a small community? I have been trying to apply them here in Redding for many years; first as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, then as Secretary of the Planning Commission, where I served for 20 years. Open space areas to keep the town rural and green was a major goal of the Planning, Zoning and Conservation Commissions, supported by the Selectmen and by the Board of Finance. When they policy was first introduced in the 1960's there were some 1.3 acres of town owned open space, at the Green. Now there are more than 3,000 acres of all types of Open Space! The policy seems to be working.

"I had not been on the Planning Commission long before I discovered the following formula: The more open space we can save, the lower our future taxes will be, and the pleasanter the town. My training as a CPA helped to give the formula a firm foundation.

"It works like this: If a parcel of 100 acres is bought by the town for open space, taxpayers of course must pay for it (sometimes with State and Federal Aid), and also pay for any recreation facilities which may be put on it, like tennis courts. Income will be zero. But if the 100 acres are bought by a subdivider, and 30 or 40 houses are built on 2-acres lots, the cost to taxpayers in providing roads, fire, police and other services, and especially education in the public schools for the new children, usually comes to a much greater cost. As a CPA, I have verified this in case after case. Often the cost to taxpayers of a subdivision development on 100 acreas, is twice the cost of buying the land as open space. The cost to taxpayers is thus not a burden but the reverse-when compared to all the costs of a new subdivision.

"The physical topography of Redding is another cogent reason for holding open space rather than developing subdivisions. The town has three steep hills- Little Boston, The Center, The Ridge- which prevent the construction of economic water and sewage pipe lines. We must live on individual driven wells and septic tanks. Also our preponderance of clay soils makes even septic tanks a special problem (ask David Thompson of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service).

"Another sound reason for holding opening space is that Connecticut is the second worst state in the Union suffering from air pollution. My glass rain gauge supports this government report by turning black at the bottom in about two months of operation! The pollution comes from industrial operations in NY and NJ, the expects say. the Tri-State Commission has nominated Redding a kind of fresh air haven. If it can be kept open all of Western Connecticut will benefit.

"The Saugatuck Reservoir, which is partly in Redding, not only provides some town open space in the form of water, but more important, demands a lot of undeveloped land. Its watersheds must be kept clear and underdeveloped if pure water is to be supplied to Bridgeport, Westport and other towns. Just to keep the record straight I must admit that I opposed the building of the Saugatuck Reservoir because of its elimination of some good farmland. This was before we had developed the open space formula. A generalist lives and learns like everybody else.

"The Planning Commission for these and other reasons is aiming at a quarter of the town of Redding, some 5,000 acres, to be held forever open. So in Redding we have in full display two of the major goals of a philosophic generalist-careful planning, and the conservation of natural resources. It has been a great privilege for me to to work with my fellow citizens on these goals over the years here in this beautiful, unspoiled New England town...May it never become 'Levittown-on-the-Saugatuck!'"

Eric Peterson

Kids today look forward to getting a new pair of sneakers but when Harry Colley was young new sneakers was a much more significant event. "I think one of my most memorable experiences as I was growing up was getting new sneakers. I was allowed one pair of sneakers a year. I knew I was going to get the sneakers but at least four weeks before I'd start asking my mother for them. She'd always say, "Next week, next week," because they had to last me all summer and into the fall. But in Connery's Store (Corner of Rt. 57 & Old Mill Rd.) back then, they used to give a bat to everyone who purchased a pair of sneakers. Can you imagine that? This was just fantastic! And the bats always used to come in early. Every day I would go down to Connery's and swing a bat to see if it was the right weight, the right size, and the right color. I even looked at the grain in those days though I didn't know much about it...and when I found one that was just my size and everything, I would ask them to put my name on it and they would put it in the back room. Other children did the same, I wasn't the only one who did this. And then my day came to get my sneakers and to claim my bat at the same time. Let me tell you it was a great experience.

The Peanut Lady
Andrew Casey

Ebba Anderson is a true native Yankee- she is also one of Redding's most knowledgeable historians. Involved in town affairs for many years, she has just recently retired from her post as Assistant Town Clerk. This remarkable woman who presently lives in the same home she was born in, knows many stories of Redding's past, and the "Peanut Lady" is one of them.

When asked if she might remember the "Peanut Lady" a warm happy glow flashed for an instant across Ebba Anderson's face as she told us "Oh, do I ever! Mamma Joe was her name, Mamma Joe. She would walk up from Georgetown, with bags of peanuts; intent on selling, she would continue walking all the way to the Ridge."

"Mamma Joe was the wife of the proprietor of the peanut-roasting machine. This machine stood in a little fruit and vegetable store on the Main St. of Georgetown. The father and mother who ran the store were typical old-world Italians. They were the nicest people you would ever meet."

"These people had wonderful vegetables and lovely roasted peanuts. The Peanut Lady would come up to our house on a horse and rap on the windows yelling, 'Eh, Peanuts! Peanuts!' Then mother would come to the door and buy some!"

Miss Anderson went on to tell us, "People thought she was sort of crazy, absent in the head and the like, Maybe she wasn't playing 'It's a Beautiful Day,' but Mamma Joe was a harmless, lovely old lady; she really was, and I liked her very much."

"The Peanut Lady was awful nice to us kids, when we came home from school. She'd give us an apple that perhaps we didn't have to pay for. But if you laughed at her or made sport of her, I don't think she'd give you an apple. Yet, wouldn't that be true of you?"

And with this, her story ended. With a warm, radiant smile spreading across her face, she left us feeling quite good about ourselves, this remarkable woman, and the stories of Redding's past.

The Hill Homestead
Chris Aruza, Rona Neri

John Read bought a tract of land in 1711 from the Indian, Chicken Warrups. This tract now makes up the 300 acre farm of Betty & Sam Hill. Thus the farm was christened Warrups Farm (across from Redding Country Club).

On Warrups Farm stands a lovely white house. The house has quite a history . John Lee Hill, the 5th child of Colonel John Read,* built the house in 1841, a year after his marriage to Harriet Duncomb. Their child, William Hill, married Althea Hotchkiss and had four children. Among them was Ernest Hill, the father of Sam Hill.

The house remained in the Hill family until 1907. For the next 22 years, there was a succession of owners. In 1929, Ernest Hill purchased the house and the homestead was back in the family. Today, Samuel Ervin Hill, the son of Ernest and his wife Betty, own the house now. They restored the home to its former beauty in the late fifties.

In recent years some overgrown fields have been cleared for farm and pastureland. With their son, William, acting as farm manager, the Hills raise Scottish Highland Cattle, hay, cut flowers and produce. They also make maple syrup in the spring.

It is hoped the Hill Homestead can be passed on from generation to generation and will always be part of the hertitage of Redding.

*Colonel John Read was the grandson of John Read for whom the town was named.

Topstone Park
Oliver Goulston

A group of Redding citizens has provided the town with 270 acres of open space, including the town's swimming area. The citizens, calling themselves Redding Open Lands, Inc. (R.O.L.I.) initiated the idea in 1970.

The year before, Axel Bruzelius, who was an alternate on the Planning Commission, became interested in a project in Lincoln, Massachusetts. A whole farm in a suburb of Boston was purchased by local citizens, The property was subdivided into several large acre lots, which were sold, and which produced sufficient money to pay back the purchase price. The excess land was given to the town. Mr. Bruzelius decided Redding needed a similar organization.

At about this time Edward Steichen, the renowned photographer, decided to sell all but 38 of the 421 acres he owned on Topstone Road. Before Mr. Steichen put it on the open market he gave the town the right of first refusal. A group of twelve citizens decided to form an organization and attempt to accomplish the same thing that had been done in Massachusetts.

R.O.L.I. began with the idea of building a park on Mr. Steichen's property. Believing in R.O.L.I.'s idea, eleven more citizens joined the group. James Jenkins was elected Presient of the first meeting and William Karraker was elected chairman of the organization. Their plan was to alter the size of the parcel so that the land available for the town's purchase would be valued at under a million dollars. They agreed that if R.O.L.I. bought enough acreage, the remaining land's value would be brought under a million dollars.

R.O.L.I. was able to negotiate a bank note for $350,000 dollars to be secured only by the signatures of the 23 members of R.O.L.I. This enabled R.O.L.I. to buy 117 of the 387 acres. The note was signed on March 1, 1971.

The town did indeed buy the other 270 acres, and it is now used for open space and a natural park.

But R.O.L.I. had to get its money back. They decided to sell their acreage in plots. The smallest being 2.8 acres and the largest being 10.6 acres. They sold all 15 plots and ended up with a profit. These profits have been used to help the Conservation Commission and the Land Trust.

Huntington Park
Tracy Birmingham, Nadia Tarlow

When Anna Hyatt Huntington died in 1973, she left us all a legacy in her magnificent sculptures. Many of our public buildings are enhanced by her bronze statues. But, she and her husband, Archer, left us another legacy in Huntington State Park, a park of 800 acres located in the northeast corner of Redding.

We talked with Henry Rasmussen, who was employed by Mrs. Huntington, in an effort to learn more about how the gift came about and the history of the land.

The estate originally belonged to the Lutchen family, and was later owned by the Sterret family. Archer Huntington bought the estate and named it Stanerigg. Archer was the son of Colis P. Huntington, a wealthy man who was a shipbuilder and the founder of the Chesapeake, the Ohio and the Union Pacific Railroads.

Before his death, Archer willed 800 acres of the original estate to the State of Connecticut. It was named Huntington State Park before his death in 1955.

During Mr. Rasmussen's employment with Mrs. Huntington, she often expressed her desire to have the park remain in its natural state for people to enjoy. Her wishes have resulted in a park that has been open to the public for 8 years. Few modifications have been made other than the bridge being restored. The park is used for walking, hiking, horseback riding, picnicing, fishing, cross-country skiiing, boating and nature study. The Department of Environmental Protection provides patrols at the park to see that Mrs. Huntington's wishes are fulfilled.

The Geoppler Cider and Vinegar Mill
Jeff Harrick

At the intersection of Topstone Rd. and Simpaug Turnpike stands an impressive building. Once it was filled with the hustle and bustle of a productive factory. In the past, during the months of October and November, it churned with exciting activity. This enormous building is the Geoppler Cider & Vinegar Mill.

The four-story building was built in 1893 by Mr. Adolf Geoppler. Apples were stored in the cupola, and an apple chute, extending from the cupola (the top of the mill) to the basement, was used to let the apples roll down to where they would be mashed. When the apples reached the bottom floor, they were dropped on to a large tray and into a huge burlap cloth. The power to grind the apples was provided by a steam boiler. A press was lowered, the juice was squeezed out of the apples, and then was stored in barrels or jugs. The apple pulp was loaded into a hand-wheeled cart and then dumped out in front of the mill.

After the juice has been pressed out of the apples, some of it was stored in vats to ferment. A few months later it turned into vinegar and was sold for about 25 cents a gallon. The cider had to be kept in a warm, dry place in order for the fermentation to occur.

A fifty gallon barrel of cider required about fifteen bushels of apples. They were bought from residents who owned apple trees. When asked what type of apple was used, Mrs. Geoppler replied, "any kind, if it was an apple. Worms, bugs and bees, all went in, but it was fine cider." To make a barrel of cider the cost was about 2 dollars.

Mr. Geoppler usually had two men who helped him in the mill. Their pay was probably only two dollars a day, but, as Mrs. Emma Geoppler said, "You were just glad to have a job."

The Geoppler Cider Mill was more than just a mill in the early 1900's. It was also the Post Office and RR Station, called Sanford Station named for the many families named Sanford in the area. Mr. Geoppler was the postmaster, Later the post office was renamed Topstone because the mail became mixed up with the Town of Stamford.

Mrs. Geoppler recalled, "My husband came down one morning to the room where the post offccie was and found that someone had broken into the mill and blown the safe open. They had grabbed the few dollars that were in the safe and most of the 2-cent stamps Mr. Geoppler had in the mill."

This case was never solved and the money was never recovered. However, the safe, with a chunk blown out of the door, still remains sturdy.

The mill served as a post office, until cider operations ceased in about 1940. Adolf Geoppler sold the mill in 1946, and for a time it was used as an antique shop. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Sachetti renovated the mill into their home in the 1980's.

West Redding Firehouse Jubilee
Kristen Bernhardt, Andrew Metzger

"That first year we had about 150 people, and they sat around, swatted mosquitoes and told tall stories.," Tom Lalley, thirty-five year member of the West Redding Fire Department, described the First Annual Fireman's Hickory Charcoal Beefsteak Dinner.

The dinner was initiated in 1954. Since then it has been drawing crowds of up to 1,500 Reddingites, and many out of towners.

At the first Fireman's Dinner, center cut sirloins, fresh green salads, and homemade desserts were served. These were all a hit, but the biggest hit of the evening was Tom Lalley's Firehouse Jubilee Cocktail.

The "Firehouse" as Tom refers to it, is a fantastic tomato juice drink. "It started as a recipe we read in a farm journal many years ago. We made some adjustments and added and subtracted some ingredients so we feel its our own recipe. We used it for about 20 years before the picnic." The Laley's creation, when introduced, became an instant favorite, people all over town could heard asking for "that tomato juice" or "the juice cocktail the firemen make."

It wasn't until 1960 or so that Tom realized his creation had commercial possibilities. At first Tom mixed the jubilee in a tub in his kitchen and brewed it on a three burner electric stove.

The first sale of the Firehouse Jubilee was at the opening of the Country Emporium. "We made up 12 cases, and at the end of the first day there was only half a case left." Before long Tom was supplying it to local gourmet shops.

With all the publicity the Jubilee was getting, Paul Dean Arnold of Arnold Bakers became interested. After a short discussion, Tom sold the Firehouse Jubilee to Arnold. Firehouse was produced by Arnold for a while. Subsequently the rights were bought back by Mr. Lalley and sold to Ocean Spray. To this day Ocean Spray is producing Tom's Firehouse Jubilee. So next time you take a sip of the now Ocean Spray Tomato Vegetable Juice Cocktail, it's nice to know that a product distributed worldwide can trace its roots back to Tom and Helen Lalley's small kitchen on Redding Road.

Percy St. John's "Home Remedies"
Bryan Kelly

Percy St. John is a true "old timer," probably one of Redding's oldest residents. A very active person, Mr. St. John is a man of many talents.

Throughout the interview, he had a special knack for sharing the unique knowledge gained during his long lifetime. He was delighted when he got a chance to speak of the "home remedies" he had picked up while fishing with an old doctor.

He confessed that in not smoking, not drinking alcohol, going to bed at 10:00pm every night and drinking a lot of milk, his home remedies had helped to carry him through his ninety-three years. He explained that he was not a doctor, but he could cure many ailments.

Living above the Georgetown Saloon, Mr. St. John gets many opportunites to "prescribe" his remedies to the saloon's customers and employees. When asked if he could tell about some of his remedies, a smile came across his face.

High Blood Pressure
"A fellow next door to me had high blood pressure," he recalled, "and called me in so I went and looked at him. I came right back here to my room, went to the ice box, chopped up some ice and put it in a thin towel (a heavy one's no good). I put the ice around his neck- it's got a cord there. You take the cord and push on it just a little, and in five minutes his high blood pressure was gone."

Thumbs and Steel Keys
"I sat down not too long ago," Mr. St. John went on. "A girl had a hiccupping spell. She sat at a table and I asked her, 'You want me to stop it?' She says, 'How you gonna stop it?' 'Do what I tell you,' I said. 'Take your two hands and put them about ten inches apart- no more. Make a fist with your thumbs up and focus one eye on the right thumb, and one eye on the left tumb, and gradually bring'em together- not too fast. When you get 'em together work them slowly outwards. I guarantee your hiccups will be gone.'

"Another night I was down there and another woman had a coughin' spell. So I took two keys (they've got to be steel) and I took those keys and put one on the right side of her neck and another on the left side of her neck and I just pressed them- not too hard- and it stopped her coughin'. If you have a nose bleed the steel keys will stop that too."

Charles Ives: Musical Visionary
Cathy Laning, Katie Tkach

In August of 1912, Charles Ives and his wife Harmony came to West Redding and bought land on Umpawaug Hill, across the road from the site of General Putnam's headquarters in the Revolutionary War (corner of Umpawaug and Topstone Rd). They had the house and barn built, and moved in a year later. This was their country home for the rest of their lives. They would come out from New York City in the early spring, and stay until late in the fall. Ives commuted each morning by train to his insurance office in the city, and he did much of his music writing on this train.

For many years they had a house named "Rocket" who was very much a member of the family. Ives would ride "Rocket" down the hill to Sanford General Store near the train station. They also had a Model T Ford. Umpawaug Road in those days was just a dirt country road, filled with "thank you ma'am's, as Ives's nephew Bigelow describes it. It wasn't paved until 1928, and when it was, Ives got quite upset. He was also outraged when the first airplanes began flying over, and whenever he heard one he would come out and shake his fist at it and shout "Get off my property!" He didn't want anything to disrupt the peaceful country world of Umpawaug Hill which he loved so much.

In our quest to capture the essence of Charles Ives- revered classical composer, interpreter of the American scene, and the man- we talked with John Kirkpatrick, Paul Winter and Luemily Ryder. The synthesis of their recollections provides a composite sketch of this muscian.

John Kirkpatrick is the curator of the Ives Collection at Yale. He is a well known Ives authority and has come to know Ives's music well.

In 1937 Kirkpatrick met Charles Ives. He had been corresponding with him for ten years, but had never met him.

"I can see him right there. I knew him during the last 17 years of his life, and I saw him a few times each year. In a way he was the most paradoxical man I've ever known. As a musician he was both traditional and experimental. You could describe his music best by saying there's no simple way to describe it. That's part of the paradoxical nature he had.

"When Ives first began to compose, his music was comparatively simple. Many of his early pieces were influenced greatly by the church, since he played the organ in church during his grammar school years. At fourteen he was a salaried organist, the youngest professional organist in the state.

"His father was a musical "jack-of-all-trades". He was even more versatile than his son.

"Ives received his earliest muscial training from his father and later from Horatio Parker at Yale. He attended Yale from 1894-1898. From this time through his twenties he used both styles, experimental and traditional, but he hardly ever showed his experiments to Parker. At that period the simpler traditional style was more acceptable than the complicated, experimental style. Ives's music was different from itself all the time. It could be very simple, or it could be very, very complex. There were pieces that could be read and played with no effort, they were the simple. And there were pieces that were so complicated they are challenging, even today.

"You know how you can look at a page of music and feel instinctively if there is somthing real there or not? Well, there's something real to Ives's music. There's always a core of something very direct. and no matter how complicated it is, it hangs together and communicates."

When Charles Ives reached the peak of his experimental period, he did not receive the recognition he deserved. The public did not like being put to the inconvenience of having to try hard to understand and play his music. "He knew exactly how good a composer he was, and he knew exactly how far ahead of his own time he was. It didn't bother him. Someone once asked him why he didn't write music that people would like, and he said 'I can't hear something else.' He anticipated all the tricks of modern music in the first part of the 20th century. Even though he was so far ahead of his time he still deeply admired some of the classical composers- Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. He also admired the popular composers of the Civil War Period. Although he enjoyed their styles, he had ideas and opinions of his own.

"It would be impossible to describe his music because it was so paradoxical. You could never put your finger on it. You could rarely get a definite answer to a question our of him. He usually used your question as a springboard to other thoughts. He was a genius. He was used to improvising and filling in; he was much more of a musician than anybody realized.

"Charles Ives knew that the kind of music he wanted to compose would have no relation to his own times. Ives knew he would never be able to support a family on it, so he deliberately financed his composing through his insurance business. Many people regard him as an insurance man doing music on the side. However, he was a composer first and foremost, financing his non-conformist composing through insurance, and showing the same genius in both. There was a constant pressure living two lives a once. Most people who come home from business want to relax. If a composer finishes a symphony he naturally wants to relax and perhaps celebrate. When Ives finished a symphony, most likely late at night, he probably had time for only a little sleep, before going downtown the next day for business. When he got home from a day's business he would roll up his shirt sleeves and start right into composing where he had left off the previous night.

"Charles Ives literally lived a double life. He was an insurance man by day and a composer by night, on weekends, and during vacations. Many of his business associates had no idea that he was even interested in music. His musical friends never saw any trace of his business life. He kept to himself a great deal, partly because he treasured the time he wasn't actually engaged in business, so he could compose. But he was both gregarious and shy; like his music, Ives himself was a paradox."

At Home with the Iveses
Luemily Ryder became a close friend of Charles Ives during his years in Redding. She and her husband, Bill, lived next door to Ives on Umpawaug Hill.

"Well he was, shall I say, gentle, first; he was also a rebel and he could be quite explosive. I think he was a religious person and I think he was very understanding and considerate of the downtrodden and the outcast. He was a great person.

"The Iveses were people who often showed their kindness and generosity. They were always doing something for other people. One family's house was burned down and they offered their cottage. Here the family stayed until a new house could be built.

"The Iveses often lent their cottage out to poor people from the city. It was similar to the Fresh-Air Organization (Branchville, CT) that brings city children into the country for a vacation. One summer the Iveses lent their cottage to the Osborne family. the youngest Osborne child, Edith, was very ill. Mrs. Ives graciously offered to take care of her. Edith gradually improved in health under Mrs. Ives's care. The Ives grew immensely fond of her and near the end of Edith's stay they approached the Osbornes about adopting Edith. After much thought the Osbornes consented.

"Children loved Charles Ives. He would come out with his cane and shake it in their facesm or he'd grab a child around the neck with it and pull him toward him. The children would either be so scared or so tickled that they'd giggle all over.

"Mrs. Ives was just as loving as her husband. When she came down to visit you could hear he whistling all the way down the driveway.

"We visited them in NYC many times and after dinner at their house we would go into the living room. Mr. Ives would stretch out on the couch. The room was dimly lit to rest his eyes so Mrs. Ives would sit directly under the light to read the classics. He liked that so much, just to listen to her read. That's one of the nicest things I remember about them."

Mrs. Ryder, herself a pianist and organist, went on to say, "His music is beautiful. I really love it, even though it would clash. I know he had all these sounds in his head that he kept hearing and he would just bring them all together in a composition. At first people did not accept it. There were only a few that would play it. Most said it couldn't be played because it was so difficult. That would make him mad because he was so sure it could be played..

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