Interview withi Ruth Hamilton Daigneault


Interview withi Ruth Hamilton Daigneault


Interview with Ruth Hamilton Daigneault. She discusses the good old days of growing up in Newfane village and compares what life was like then with what it's like in the 21st century. She touches on living through WW2 with blackout curtains on the windows, Guy Grout bringing a cannon to the village on the 4th of July, the woman who took in the washing for everyone on the village, the Carr Boys (including the one with the hook for an arm), and various personalities who lived in Newfane.


September 29, 2021


Erica Walch

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Interview with Ruth Hamilton Daigneault, September 29, 2021

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:00:00] This is Erica Walch with the Community Memory Project, and I am interviewing Ruth Hamilton Daigneault. Today is September 29, 2021. So Ruth, my first question is where are you from?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:00:16] I am from Newfane. When I was born, my family lived on West Street, where Marion Dowling now lives, and we moved to Rockport, Mass. Briefly when I was one and then back to Newfane and lived in the house across from the British clockmaker that was then owned by Hazen and Stella Stockwell. I always called him Uncle Hazen, and he always would sing, Hinky Dinky Parlez Vous to me. Hazen had a car with suicide doors and had a business in Flat Street and Brattleboro. I think they made toilet seats, but I'm not sure. We moved many times to different houses and often because my parents never owned property. We lived twice in the house owned by Christine Schaff that has the turret and that didn't have running water or a bathroom. It was chilly in the winter.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:01:14] About what year are you talking about here? What years are you talking about?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:01:18] Well, I was born in 1941 and we lived in the house on West Street, where Marion Dowling lives in 1941. And then like forty-three, forty-four or forty-five, forty-six or 45, 46, maybe we lived in the house across from the British clockmaker. My sister was born when we lived there, and one time she was fussy and Dorothy Davis was babysitting and Dorothy couldn't deal with it. So she went home and left me there, all by myself with the baby, and I wasn't allowed to cross the road, so I stood on the corner and kept hollering Aunt Stella and Stella, which was Mrs. Stockwell across the street where the British clockmaker lives, and she finally came over and took care of the baby.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:02:08] Then, let's see. We also lived where the Merrick's live now. Lived there twice, once upstairs and one downstairs. My mother always had to put no living room windows in because the kids played baseball out there and always went through her window at least once a season.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:02:26] Was that her own kids knocking in the window, or no?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:02:29] It was neighborhood kids playing baseball that was, you know, the school used to play baseball there. That was a very busy, busy place because the school didn't have a baseball field. It was just the two room school down where the town clerk's office is now, had two rooms, had two potbelly stoves in the middle, had no running water and no bathroom had a privy out back. It was a wood shed in the middle, girls privy on one side, boys privy on the other side. The superintendent came once a day with a jug of water so we could have something to drink. And on the way home from school, the boys would snowball us something terrible. So we would run up to Lucius Martin's house, which is where the brown house is now beside Litchfield. That's where my friend Donna McGough's grandparents lived, and we would hide there till the boys got sick of waiting for us. And then we continue on home because we had to walk back and forth to school. There were no snow days you went to school, no matter what. There was a school bus that Earl Davis ran that was like an old, oh...wood paneled vehicle that you had to live a mile away to ride with her on; I didn't live a mile away, so we had to walk.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:03:43] Would you go home for school? Oh, I'm sorry. Would you go home for lunch in those days?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:03:48] No, because it was a little too far to. I mean, I think you probably could if you live closer. But I lived up on West Street across from the British clockmaker. And so to get back and forth in time for whatever lunch time you had wouldn't have worked very well.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:04:06] So did kids bring their own lunch to school?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:04:09] Yes, they brought their own lunch.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:04:11] How many grades were there in that? Two room schoolhouse?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:04:13] There were eight.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:04:15] 1st through 4th in one and five through eight in the other. The teachers were, we thought, old ladies. They probably weren't. But when you're young, people seem old, but they never went outdoors. You fought your own battles. You didn't want to tattle because you'd get in a lot of trouble, if you tattled. And back in those days, if you got in trouble at school, you got a lot more trouble when you got home. So that was interesting. School was fun. Enjoyed it.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:04:41] Did you ever get in trouble in school?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:04:43] Oh yeah. I remember standing in the corner once and I remember getting my finger paddled once.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:04:51] When did you do?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:04:52] Oh, I think one thing I did, that the teacher didn't like - the girl in front of me... it was getting near lunchtime and she put her books away, and I put my books away in exactly the same manner that she did. So the teacher said I was being a copycat, so I had to stand in the corner. I don't remember what I got my fingers paddled for, but it wasn't unusual for the teachers to hit you back in those days. I remember one of the boys in the big room, which was five through eight, got in an actual fistfight with a teacher named Mr. Thompson. And that wasn't unusual. Teachers were allowed to, you know, they weren't abusive. But back then, I mean, times have changed. What's considered abuse now probably wasn't then. But we behaved and we were respectful and there weren't many problems.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:05:46] When you got in trouble, like for the copycat incident, would you go home and tell your folks or would the teacher tell your folks, how would your folks find out about that?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:05:57] Well, I think you would go home and tell them because, you know, if you didn't, somebody was going to tell them it was a small town. And it's true. It takes a small town to raise a kid and we ran all over town. We'd leave in the morning and come home for supper, and nobody ever worried about you. But if a neighbor saw you misbehaving, they weren't afraid to get after you. Nobody was mean. They were kind and generous and friendly and welcoming. It was a very nice time to grow up, and when I was very young, it was World War Two and where the sheriff's office is now, it was half jail, half hotel. The hotel was run by the witness, Charlie and Mabel Whitney, and they also were keepers of the jail and they would make food for the prisoners and the prisoners weren't dangerous, so you could rent them out to like, wash windows and things. And I remember during the war, my mother had to go to the jail with other women and they sewed parachutes and made bandages. And my father had to go down to what they call Tarballs Hill, which is across from the Newfane school. It's now just a brown house. I think it was a gift shop at one time and go to this thing that looked like a tree stand with binoculars and watch for enemy airplanes. And we had blackout shades on our windows and on our cars because you waited, you worry about enemies trying to bomb you or something. And I remember when the war got over, they had a big celebration in town. Everybody was driving around town, honking their horns, and it was quite a time.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:07:38] When we went to high school, we always waited for the bus, Ruby's bus in the post office, which is now an antique shop, I think it's right across from the bank. And they were very welcoming in there. Doug Tibbetts was a postmaster. And Mr. Higgins owned it. This was like a little store, too. And every morning when we'd get there, he would walk around the woodstove in the middle of the building and sprinkle kerosene on the floor so that he could sweep without dust. And the kerosene has actually been verified by his granddaughter, Margaret Bills from Townsend. We talk about that a lot. And every morning, this lady named Olive Eagar used to come in to the post office. She boarded at the hotel and she had black rubber, high heels on with no shoes inside and a black coat. She had kind of grayish hair cut right off short in the back, and she chewed her fingernails down to the quick. And she would come in every single morning and ask us all kinds of questions like, What are you folks doing? How are you and all this stuff? And it's just, I don't know, that was just part of growing up. And the old Carr Boys used to come off of Newfane Hill. They were really nice old men, and they probably weren't as old as I say they were, but seemed like they were old. One had a hook for an arm because it had some kind of an accident, and they used to have a dog that ran along beside the wagon and they would get their groceries once a week. And to us, that was totally normal. But the tourists sure did do a lot of goggin. There were some great old characters.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:09:29] So you had said earlier that your folks moved around, moved from house to house lot. Do you know why that was?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:09:37] Well, they rented. And I don't know really why they did one time. Well, twice, actually. We lived on the hill, where Pedro Sabater lives across from Polly Casanova's place. We lived there. We lived it. They Davidsons, which is beside the sheriff's office, twice. We lived at Christine Schaff's twice. And when my mother died, she lived where we call Grace Rhodes House. But it's beside Bea McFarlane's house on Cross Street. I just I don't really know why they moved a lot just because they never owned anything. They once they were going to buy the Eagar house on West Street, but that fell through. I don't know why.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:10:24] For summers, we used to swim behind Archer Mayor's house. The Gardner family from New York owned the Fieldstone Lodge, and they had a beach and a rope swing and a slide, and it was welcomed the kids to play there. Um, let's see... in the winter when we'd go Christmas caroling, Mabel Whitney from the jail hotel would make cocoa and play the piano, and we would sing Christmas carols and then we'd walk all over town and we got to Bea McFarlane's. She always would come out with cookies.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:11:00] About how many kids would go Christmas carol?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:11:03] Oh, probably 20. There was lots of fun and Halloween was interesting in Newfane. Halloween is very calm now compared to what Halloween was when I was a child. I remember. Miss Ames, who owned the white house, where the yoga studio is beside the bank one morning after Halloween woke up to a sleigh on her porch roof. They were very devilish. The police, the sheriff's department was around and they would wax windows. I know Scott Robinson, one of my friends, was an altar boy and one Halloween, we were all throwing tomatoes at people, and Tom Taylor lived in a house across from Litchfields. And he was, I think he passed the collection or something at the Catholic Church. And Scott said he had a terrible time on Sunday morning when Tom was passing the collection plate and Scott looked down and saw tomato seeds on his shoes. He knew where they had come from, but as much deviltry as we did, we had a great time and nobody ever got hurt. So I guess that's a good thing.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:12:16] I don't think the children of today have as much fun as we did, that's for sure. Oh, when we were in school, we got out of school a half hour early on Friday and cleaned the chalkboard, emptied the trash and swept because we didn't have a janitor. Rodney Davis used to come down every single morning and start the fires and fill the wood box. And in the winter bread wrappers on over our shoes and our boots, and fastened our skis with dry rivers and crossed the brook in ski and rolling mellows. There were no houses. There was no bridge. At Christmas, the town held a pageant at the church and it was fun and beautiful and the boys would sing "We three kings of Orient are", Butch {unclear} had a beautiful voice. I was an angel Gabriel once and I can still recite "Fear not for behold I.."and so on. There was a beautiful tree and they gave out oranges and candy. Let's see.....

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:13:21] Do you remember the Newfane Fairground?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:13:25] The one down behind the school? Yes. That was run by the fire department and it was quite an affair. They had all kinds of rides and horse pulling and food and helicopter rides and stuff.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:13:39] Do you know what year that was active?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:13:43] Oh, probably......Because they had a they used to have a fair and Townshend, and then they started having a fair in Newfane, and I don't remember what year that was active. I think one of the last years might have been up into the 80s.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:14:02] Was it going on when you were little?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:14:05] Not when I was real little. No, no, no. We used to slide on Fairbanks Hill, which is now owned by the Mantels. There was a cement bridge. I think it's still there at the bottom. So you had to really make that corner. You could have gotten hurt. Nobody ever got hurt that I know of. But back then, if you got hurt, you didn't run to the doctors. Anyway, I remember Patrick Robinson was sliding on cardboard one time, wrapped his ribs around a tree, and they never took him to the doctors. We didn't call the doctors much, just patched you up with whatever they had.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:14:43] Do you ever remember a time when you did see a doctor?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:14:47] I had my tonsils out when I was 12.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:14:50] Where did that happen?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:14:51] Brattleboro Hospital Yeah, we didn't go to the doctor as much. Dr. Otis got me in trouble once I was really upset with him. He used to make house calls. And I remember he came to see my mother for some reason, and she said to him, How are you today, Carlos? And he said, Rotten, thank you. Well, I thought that was really cute. And my mother was kind of strict in the morning. She came in and she raised my shades and she said, You may get out of bed now. And she said, How are you? And I said, Rotten, thank you. Well, the shades went down and I went back to bed. Another person I remember well is in front of the Newfane church...there used to be a great big maple tree, kind of where the cars park now and the Crapo family and Robinson family live. Where Winnie Dolan lives, Crapos lived upstairs Robinsons lived downstairs. Robinson's had seven kids, Crapos I think had five or six, and Fayette was the oldest boy. And he used to go to Wheeling West Virginia on weekends because he liked country music and he played a guitar and he would play and sing at minstrel shows that they had at the town hall. Well, also, he was a mechanic in that big maple tree, he had big chains and there was always a car engine hanging in there because that's where he did all his mechanics. And I often look at Newfane today and think, Boy, has it changed because there was a huge path in the common, too, that went from like the corner of the Newfane Inn kind of at an angle. I can remember it so well because it was so deep and there were roots in it and it went across the road and then across that other little common to like the Robinson Crapo House. But yeah, that was that was very interesting.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:16:37] Was that a path that was only people on foot traveling?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:16:41] Yeah, no, no, no. It's just a footpath. It was very well embedded. I'm surprised they got rid of it. It's a lot of nostalgic things because the fountain was there. Then the Davis family lived where Leibler's own is an apartment house now, but that used to be the telephone office. And Mary Dugan lived there, Mary and Ed and then different high school girls would be hired to come and answer during the day and on weekends and in the evening and stuff. And back then, when you made a phone call, all you did was pick up the receiver and say, Mary, I want to call Susie, and that's all there was to it. And then you just hang it up and Mary knew you were through.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:17:29] Was that building only the telephone exchange?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:17:32] No, upstairs or there was a Rebecca Lodge and there was an apartment at the Davis family lived in on the Newfane Inn side it was Earl Davis, his wife, his daughter Dorothy, and their son, Rodney. And Dorothy's daughter, Bernice. Rodney did odd jobs for people like janitor the school, shoveling, walks, roofs, that kind of stuff. Earl drove the school bus, got work as a dishwasher at the Newfane Inn and she was the most generous person in the world at Christmas time. I swear she gave everybody in town a gift. She made them usually like hats and mittens and stuff. And if anybody was sick or there was a death in the family, she was the first one there with pies and chowder. And she just didn't have much tolerance for babysitting because my sister's crying sent her home. But there were some great, great people in town is just like, Oh my gosh, you know, I think I miss that so much.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:18:30] When you say the Rebecca Lodge was upstairs from the telephone exchange, what what? What was the Rebecca Lodge?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:18:37] Well, it was an organization I'm not sure was kind of like the Grange or the Eastern Star or something like that. They used to have sugar suppers up there. I remember going to some sugar suppers up there, and the Grange was very active too. They had a lot going on. There used to be a kitchen downstairs in the Grange and dining room and a privy. I remember going to hunter suppers down there or working on them. The ladies of the town would cook and as young people would serve the food. It was just such a great community.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:19:15] Speaking of work, did you ever work in the village?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:19:19] I worked at the Newfane Inn and the Four Columns for 10 years, like in the 70s and 80s.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:19:25] What did you do there?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:19:27] I was a waitress and I made what I thought was good money back then. Wouldn't be probably considered today, but you could go home on a Saturday night with $100 in tips, and that was really good. Oh, I remember when I was a little girl and I was living in the house across from the British clockmaker, Charles K Field hung himself in the theater in the back of that building. I don't know who lives there now.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:20:05] So did you know him as Cheerio?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:20:12] I don't know. My father knew him, but I don't know him... I saw him. I was just a little kid. I was just very little.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:20:18] So you didn't listen to his radio program or anything?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:20:21] Oh, I probably did, because my father always had the radio on. I probably did. But I just remember when he hung himself back then, they tried to keep things like that from children. And I remember my father said, Dr. Otis came, and I don't know too much about it because it was hush hush. I just remember that he hung himself, and that was very shocking.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:20:46] Did you find out about it years later?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:20:48] No, at the time, at the time, because my father was talking about it or being there or whatever or seeing it or what? I don't. I don't even know the total details. Kids were more protected from things back then. And you didn't ask questions, you were told. Children don't ask questions.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:21:06] And it was after that that the Gardner family from New York bought the property.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:21:11] No, they had the property out back. The house I'm talking about is right beside the British clockmaker. The driveway to the fieldstone lodge goes right beside it, Fieldstone Lodge is out back and goes behind the British clockmaker there and behind Archer Mayor's, where this is white house that actually sits across from what used to be Eddie Wiles. I don't know who owns that house now. Mrs. The last person that lived there that I knew was Mrs. McCracken. You know, I don't know. There were some great characters in town, oh my gosh, just wonderful people.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:21:47] Why do you think that is? Why do you think they were? What do you think gave the community its character at that time?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:21:53] Well, at that time, there were very few people from away, so to speak. You know, the the ones that did come like Elvie Beech. I remember Elvie Beech. She lived up on Wiswall Hill somewhere, and she was very flamboyant like the Galbraith's and people like that they were to us. They were we were in awe of them. But as a rule, it was just the plain old down-home folks that live there year round.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:22:23] Were your parents born ain Newfane?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:22:25] No. My father was born in Kennebunkport, Maine, and my mother was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He worked for City Organ, and she worked at the Retreat as an interpreter. And that's how they met

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:22:38] A language interpreter?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:22:39] Yes, she spoke eight languages and he was an industrial engineer and ah...It was just very just lots of fun. Like the across the street from us was Mrs. Pratt, Robert Pratt, Helen Pratt. That's the old Spencer house. It's the Litchfield house now. She was grandmother to the Litchfields. And then beside that was L.P. Martin's house in that burned in a fire in like 1960 something. And such great people. They were just friendly and warm and no nonsense, and nobody ever went anywhere. I mean, going grocery shopping was a phenomenal thing because you just didn't do that

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:23:30] Well so how would you get your groceries?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:23:31] Well, your folks canned a lot of stuff. The Ice Man used to come to the house with big tongs along these great big chunks of ice on top of your refrigerator

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:23:43] Horse or motor?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:23:43] Motor. And the milkman would come in the winter when the milk froze. The cream would stand like two inches, two inches up out of the bottle cap on top. Yeah, we didn't have much. You had two sets of clothing. You had what you were at a school and what you played in. You'd changed. And when you came home, you didn't take a bath every day didn't wash every day. And was just very different in lots of the houses, didn't have central heat, many of them didn't have bathrooms and running water didn't seem to be a problem. This, I guess what you're used to, is normal for you. So. I don't know.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:24:29] And so what do you see that's different in the character of the village now from when you were a child growing up there?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:24:37] Oh, huge difference. Like, for example, we would just all meet on the Common at night Saturday night and play this game we called Commando Hunt, which was like hide and seek over the whole village. Now people wouldn't tolerate you running into their yards. We used to run to their yards and up on the hill and go from what's now on the LaMorias over to Luke Chris and down 30 and all over the place. And you couldn't do that now. We would just play on the Common, play baseball or whatever. People are just very different now.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:25:12] Different in what way?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:25:14] They're not as welcoming. They're I think they just wouldn't allow children to run through their yard, and it wasn't disrespectfully running to the yard. We never owned anything. But, you know, they would come out with some cookies or talk to you or something, but they would. I think the people that have moved here have changed it a lot because they didn't grow up that way. They grew up where you stayed on your own property, and I guess they just didn't understand. And so it's just kind of all evolved. You just always welcome everywhere like nobody ever called and said, Can I come by at 2:30? You just dropped in. Now I think it's considered disrespectful if you just drop in on somebody. I can remember going down to Nora Robinson's House. She had seven kids. Always welcome. You're always welcome to always had another place at the table for you. You don't see that much anymore.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:26:21] I've heard a little bit about this Commando Hunt game. Do you remember the rules?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:26:26] I don't think there were too many rules. There would be one person that would be it and you would disperse. They would count and disperse and then they would the first person they could catch, they would tag and then. So now you got two people after you and so on till they tagged the whole lot of you or couldn't find you. And then they just gave up because, you know, you must have run miles every night when you would run from the Common up to LaMoria;s and over to Luke Chris through the woods and down West Street. You know, we got a lot of exercise because he either rode your bicycle or you walked everywhere in Commando Hunt you couldn't ride a bicycle. It was after dark and we had to run.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:27:06] Did you have to wear a special outfit for Commando?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:27:09] Oh, no, we didn't have special outfits. Like I said, we had two sets of clothes.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:27:12] I've heard about a trench coat from Jean Allbee.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:27:15] I don't know anything about a trench coat. I know Jean though because they moved to the where Stockwells lived. That was then the West Valley Inn and was Mr Graham, who was a brigadier general or something, and his wife, Izzy, who was a doll and their three daughters, and they moved. I think Jeannie is the youngest one. She probably was second grade or something. And then they had a cousin of Jeannie's Johnny Meyer, who lived with them. And they were a very nice family. Lots of fun.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:27:46] Is she younger than you?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:27:47] No, Jeannie's older than me.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:27:49] Okay, so maybe in her round of playing it, there was this trench coat

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:27:52] Yeah, there could have been. I don't remember a trench coat, but I don't think any of us had a trench coat, to be perfectly honest. I don't think. But yeah, I remember Jeannie. Well, great girl. She doesn't live far from me now. She just lives over the hill here. We there weren't many people in my from first grade on. There weren't many people in my class and there were only three girls Donna McGough, Nancy Robinson and myself. And so we were best friends all through school. When we went to high school, Nancy went to St Michael's and Donna and I went to Leland & Gray

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:28:25] So why did you move away from Newfane village?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:28:29] Well, we bought a house in Townsend after I got married. I didn't move till after I got married, bought a house in Townsend, and then we sold that and built a house down near Riverbend Farm. And we sold that and moved over here to Brookline four years ago. But if you live in the valley, it's kind of all one in the same. We've we've known each other in the valley because like I used to play baseball with kids from other towns and they all go to the same hospital and bank. And so if you live in the valley, it's pretty much like one big, huge town. Anyway, you pretty much know if you've lived here a long time, you kind of know the families and who they are and where they live and what they do. And we always knew what each person was doing and what was going on, but it wasn't a gossipy kind of thing. It was just kind of a friendly type of thing. You don't see that much anymore, either. People don't talk like they used to, I don't I don't think cell phones have helped us a whole lot. Everybody's on their cell phone. They don't visit with each other, like living here in Brookline. I've lived here four years, so I know the people that have lived here for a long time, but I don't know any of the newcomers. People beside me here, I've never even seen them. I've lived for four years. That's not the way it would have been years ago. Your mother would have taken over cookies or something, or you would have been playing commando on their yard or something. You'd have known who they were.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:30:09] Have you knocked on their door?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:30:11] I have not. I have not. And I don't.... I don't even know what they look like.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:30:17] And this just because times are different. You don't know if you'd be welcome if you were before you knew you'd be welcome. Or they tell you that you weren't. It's just very different.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:30:30] Do you know anything about the Camp Hobby Hill?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:30:34] I did. Billy Flint was kind of friendly with my mother. And the thing I remember about Billy Fliint is she had what they call a beach wagon and it was a car that had wood on the side, and they were very pretty to look at there were people were quite happy when they saw one of those and Billy Flint was lots of fun. But I don't know. I never actually in her camp or anything, I just remember her coming down all the time off of Hobby Hill. Old Guy Grout lived up there, too. Used to come down to the village on the Fourth of July and on Halloween and let off his cannon, that used to wake people up pretty good.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:31:16] What cannon was that?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:31:18] Well, he had a big old cannon and the the men used to participate in like the 4th of July and stuff, and they would all come down and party and I think imbibe in some friendly juice and let off this cannon that would just shake the whole village and they'd do it right in front of the Grange Hall. And they'd do that every year.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:31:40] Was it some kind of like civil war artifact or something?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:31:44] I have no idea. I don't know if he built it or what, but it made a lot of noise.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:31:49] And then he would just haul it back to his house afterwards?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:31:50] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, Old Guy Grout. We'd look forward to it.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:31:56] And why do you call... Why did you call him Old Guy Groot?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:31:59] Like I said back then to us, everybody seemed old. And I think it's Grout's Pond now that's up where he used to live. I think he was old, but back then everybody looked old to me and I was so naive I didn't know anything about gay people or affairs or people living together, and I didn't really care. And I remember one old man used to come to the store. They used to shop just once a week to come down to the store, and he had his housekeeper with him. He built a little stool so she could get in the car because she was so little and short.And I honestly, my whole life believe she was just his housekeeper.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:32:46] Is this Guy Grout that you're talking about?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:32:48] No, this is somebody else, and I won't mention any names because I don't think it's right to mention names with something like that, but it's just how naive we were as kids we didn't realize there were. Such things going on that, you know, a woman would live with you and not be married with your made perfect sense that she was his housekeeper was a man alone and men alone weren't good at keeping house and cooking.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:33:11] How did you come to find out that was not the case?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:33:14] Oh, I think, you know, I was really naive for a long time, so I was well into my teens before I realized that there was some other capers around town where people would visit each other, and I just honest and truly believe that they were being helpful because a woman alone couldn't shovel her own roof for she couldn't.... She had to have a man about to do the work, and I believed that my whole life. It's too bad that things changed, and we didn't know much about race, either. Not that it mattered to us. The first time we saw black people were the Newfane Innemployed some black people. And I think we treated them OK, but they kind of kept them away from us. We were very naive, very. I don't know, sheltered, I guess, because we didn't know anything about race or any kinds of things like that, just like we didn't really care. Didn't matter to us. I remember when kids got head lice, though, it was had to be very embarrassing for the kids because they would put kerosene on their head and wrap them in brown paper. And that was like a red flag telling everybody that you had head lice. But I think we were kind. I don't I don't remember kids picking on each other or being mean to each other. They probably were, but I don't remember.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:34:47] So back to Billy Flint and Hobby Hill, how do you think your mom came to know Billy?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:34:55] I know I don't really know how she got to know Billy. Maybe. So we lived on West Street, so it wasn't through her job or anything. I don't know. I think people were just friendly and Billy was very friendly, and I think Billy might have seen her out there and just stopped by. Like Stella Stockwell that ran the place where the British clockmaker is now. They were way too friendly and. She had a lot of friends, and they just all chit chatting, and I think. People stop in the store and visit and...

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:35:30] I heard that there were umm. so Billy was from Schenectady, New York, and that the Gardner family, they were from Schnectady. Yeah. And that some of the girls who are camp counselors at Hobby Hill were friends with some of the boys that were at the Gardner Fieldstone.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:35:47] Well, the Gardners had some very good looking boys, so that could be they were older than me, but they had some very good looking boys, so that could possibly be the truth. But the Gardners were wonderful. They were very welcoming. So that's that's a good possibility that would make sense, and that would be how my mother would have probably met them.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:36:07] Did you ever go up to see the camp?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:36:09] I think I did. But I don't remember a whole lot about it, really. You know, I was pretty young.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:36:17] And do you know what Billy was up to when she come into town with.. In her car?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:36:23] Well, sometimes she''d take the kids swimming, and that's probably where they went, to the Gardners and she go shopping and library and. I remember the library I was I think it was Irene Higgins was the librarian, her husband's name was Ira. They were a great old couple. And I can I can remember racist books and stuff back then. I can remember my mother would take me to the library a lot and I would get books and, now when I think of what was in those books, I'm horrified. But back then that was just normal. That's another thing. I I feel bad that some people now are getting into huge trouble for things that they said years ago, because those things years ago were acceptable. That was the norm. And you didn't know any better, especially a kid like me growing up. He didn't know there was anything wrong with those books. Now I see they're horrible. But I don't think you should always be punished for something you said. Years ago, when that was the norm and that was acceptable, it's it's not saying that you approve of it. No, I don't approve of it. But that's what we were taught, and that was normal. How were you going to how are you going to know the difference, really?

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:37:47] So you were mentioning that you moved to Townshend after you got married, where did you meet your husband?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:37:55] He was just around. It's like back then you didn't have any profound meeting place. It was just like he was around one of the one of the gangs used to hang out going to Robinsons and used to camp out a lot. Back then, I don't think kids would do this now, but we might be down at Scotty Robinsons and say, Well, let's just all spend the night up on the hill. So we'd all go up and we didn't..we didn't have tents or sleeping bags or anything. We just spend night up there and there was never anything. There wasn't drinking or anything. Wasn't any sexual activity. It was just we were all just really, really good friends and just all hung out together.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:38:38] About how many kids would go camp outside?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:38:41] Oh, gosh. Eight or ten, probably sometimes four. It didn't just mattered who, you know, who was all there. And then there were the McGough girls, there was Lucy Hale lived up. I don't even know who owns the house now. It's the white house has a big porch on it. It's one to four places before Polly Casanova's camping area there and Lucy Howe lived there. It was Lucy McGough. She had three kids. She had Conrad, Marie and Ada. Marie just died last week, and then she had Clara and Donna. And Donna is also passed, but Clara's still alive. She lives in Jamaica. She was great friends with Jeannie Allbee. And it was just fun to go there. Lucy finally married this man named Henry Howe, and he had never been married, never had kids, but he sure was a good stepdad. He didn't have a clue what he got himself into, but he was having fun. He taught Donna and I had to drive up at Mantel's. He was caretaker up at Mantel's had this old old pickup truck, so he would let us go out in the field and drive it I don't why we didn't get killed, but we didn't. And back then, you know, we rode a bikes with no helmets. We didn't have seatbelts. We jumped out of trees. We all lived.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:40:20] Were you here during Hurricane Irene?

Speaker 4 [00:40:23] Mm hmm. Hurricane Irene, I was living in Townsend, I believe. And it didn't bother me a lot. We lived on the river, but I wasn't too worried about it until I saw Rescue Inc go by with boats and stuff. And that kind of freaked me out a little bit. But Vermont's known for surviving just about anything. So whether we survived that too. I think back years ago, we didn't make a big to do about anything. It's just like you accepted it, you got over it and went on with your life. And now everything's a big deal, even if it isn't.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:41:07] Did you work outside the home as an adult?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:41:11] Oh yeah, I I've been a nurse for 38 years. I worked at Grace Cottage for 38 years.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:41:18] And what was that like all that time? You must have seen a lot of things.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:41:22] I did. I think it was a great place to work. They treated me really well. I think the hardest part of working there was anything that was bad. Health wise, accident wise was either a friend or relative or neighbor. That was hard. But you just like I said, you move on and that's about all you can do.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:41:48] What year did you retire?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:41:51] Well, I just retired last year, I actually live in Maine in the summer, and I worked for the Kennebunkport Police Department in a parking lot till last year, and I didn't work there last year because of the COVID. I might do it again when things resolve a little bit. I like to work. I've worked ever since I was 14. I used to... At the West Valley Inn when the Paines owned it I used to clean the bar at night, I would go over on Saturday night at midnight when it closed and spend the whole night cleaning the place and then walk home to the Dodge House, which is on Route 30 and Cross Street across from Polly Casanova's, all by myself, four or five o'clock in the morning. That's how safe Newfane was back then. It's probably just as safe now, but I don't know as I'd want to walk there all by myself anymore. So, yeah, I've seen a lot of change.

[00:42:52] Maude Radway used to live where Emersons live on the hill. And she was a great lady. She worked in Brattleboro. I don't know what she did, but she was a Sunday school teacher and superintendent of the Sunday school. And you'd go every Sunday, and she really was regimented. You go in and you'd sit first and you'd recite the books of the Bible and then you'd put your money in a thing that looked like a birthday cake. If you had a birthday.. it was a benefit or something and then you'd disperse to your classrooms and she was in charge of the Grange and she was a great lady. It's a lot of great, ladies and gentlemen, too, a lot of characters.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:43:42] This being 2021, and we started the project last year, in 2020, I've been asking everyone how the pandemic impacted their lives, if at all.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:43:53] Well, it did mine in that I didn't do my summer job, but otherwise it.... Well, yes, it impacted me some. I didn't see a lot of my great grandchildren as much as I would like to have. I got the vaccinations as soon as I could. I'm very upset with the people that don't get vaccines. I believe you have a right to believe what you want to believe and do what you want to do. But I believe the people that aren't getting the vaccines, like I have a family member that has a very serious kidney disease and needs to have a kidney removed. And she's not been able to because the hospital beds haven't been available for her because they're being filled by people who haven't had their shots and having a bad time with COVID. And I think as belligerent as some of them are and they are, they're only thinking of themself or I don't know what they're thinking of. I guess because I worked in the health field all my life, I realized how important vaccines can be. But I think when people could die because you're using their hospital bed when you didn't need to, I think that's very selfish. But it's just my opinion.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:45:13] So those are the only questions that I have. Was there anything else that you wanted to talk about or anything that you thought I would ask you that I haven't asked you?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:45:20] Well, let me just look at my notes, here really quick and see if there's anything that I wrote down that I...... Elsie Brown lived next Emmersons on the hill, the house has just been sold, I believe she used to do laundry for people, and every single inch of that property had a clothesline on it because back then there weren't dryers and she did everybody's laundry and then hung it all out to dry. And then she had an old wringer washer. She had a mangle as an iron, which is a big roll that you run with your knee and it irons like sheets and towels because back then, people ironed sheets and towels and napkins and whatnot.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:46:09] So would she come around and pick up the laundry?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:46:12] No, you had to take it to her. I don't think she drove.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:46:15] And was that.. It sounds like that was pretty common and she was pretty busy?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:46:19] Oh, she was wicked busy.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:46:22] And is that because individual people didn't have the facilities to do their own laundry?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:46:27] Well, the people, the people, people had wringer washers and I don't know. I don't know if she did my mother's laundry because my mother didn't have a washing machine for a while and then she got a wringer and we did her own wash. My father used to do the laundry.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:46:46] How many of there were your siblings in your family?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:46:48] I don't have much family. My mother and father were orphans, so I had no aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and my father was married before and had three children, a boy and two girls. The boy and one girl passed, but they didn't come around much because they were raised. His first wife died when the youngest one was five, and so they were raised by an aunt who didn't like my father, so they didn't come around at all. So I had one sister, Bernice, who's also passed, and that was the only relatives I have. So at Christmas, I did miss the fact that, you know, we didn't have family get togethers and we didn't go anywhere, but it was fine. I had a good. I had a really good childhood. I cannot complain a bit about the childhood, I had a blast. just wish every kid could have as much fun as I did.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:47:37] Did your mom teach you any other languages?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:47:40] A little bit of French. And my father lived in Spain for a while and we were all supposed to go to Spain in the 50s. But then they had the Franco uprising. We were moving to Spain because of an engineer, and they had to cancel our move, so I didn't get to go there. And no, she she didn't. She was an unusual woman. She was a lovely woman, but she was adopted and she was raised in a convent in Paris. And they were very strict. And I think the nuns, some of them were mean. And so she had some strange child raising ideas. But she was very kind and gentle, and she.... Life was hard for her because she was used to a very wealthy life. And then when we moved, when she married my father, we, you know, didn't have running water and didn't have a bathroom, and she actually had to get a job. So it was very hard for her to try to work and keep a house and have children. And fortunately, latchkey kids were fine. Back then, it was just fine to be a latchkey kid. And my father traveled a lot. He wasn't home a lot, so she did the best that she knew how she didn't know anything about children. And I think by the time my sister, she was really strict with me about, by the time my sister came along, the poor woman was worn out, and I think she just said, Oh hell, let her do whatever. And that's kind of what she did.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:49:12] So and my mother worked at the Newfane store for a long time for the Morse's. And, uh..

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:49:19] Did she stop working at the Retreat after she got married or after after she moved to Newfane?

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:49:24] After she moved to Newfane she didn't work there anymore. I don't think she she..... Her first job that I remember she got a job at Montgomery Wards in Brattleboro, maybe when I was in eighth grade or something. And then from then on she worked and the poor thing. She didn't have a clue how to do housework our house was a wreck. It was like laundry on the couches and stuff, and she she could cook. But she was a little tiny thing and she didn't have an idea of portions. And like, if we were going to have Sunday dinner, she might cook a roast and two potatoes for four of us or something. It was almost comical and my father was just the opposite. He would cook macaroni until it came out of his ears. I remember Sybil Martin lived where that little brown house is behind, beside Litchfields, and she had a lot of kids. So he made this souffle one time, and it was just like boiling up out of the pan. It was just increasing dramatically. We all got really silly, said, what do we do with all this? So he said, well, takes him over to Sib's she's got a lot of kids. So we took it over to Sibs. And remember, Sib was trying to dish it out into a pan. It kept growing and growing and growing. Sib got to laughing and it was the funniest thing, but he always cooked tremendous volumes of stuff. So they overcompensated for each other. It was kind of comical. Anyway, that's the way it was.

Erica Walch, Interviewer [00:50:56] Sounds like a lot of fun.

Ruth Hamilton Daigneault [00:50:57] Yeah, it really was, it was a blast. I wish all kids could have a life like that. That's it, I believe that's it. Yeah, that was good. It's probably all.


Ruth Hamilton Daigneault


Erica Walch


Brookline, VT




Erica Walch, “Interview withi Ruth Hamilton Daigneault,” Newfane/Brookline Community Memory, accessed July 14, 2024,