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April 26, 2012

In These Otsego Hills: Returning to 1986 ...

—  For the past several years now we have undertaken sharing some of the area’s oral history we have collected over the years that we have written this column.

Therefore, this year, we would like to go back to 1986 to share that rather unusual year. Those who were here then no doubt remember that it was that year that the village celebrated the bicentennial of its founding.

And we, the he-we and the she-we, were co-chairs of the year-long bicentennial celebration. And we must say that we think we enjoyed reading about the activities of the year much more than we remember actually enjoying the events of the year. We recall that it was a most hectic year for us and from our current perspective, not to mention age, we have no idea how we managed to survive the experience. However, there were a number of somewhat unusual discussions of history throughout the year.

We began the year, on Jan. 8, by writing:

“As 1986 begins, we find ourselves musing a bit about William Cooper as he wandered about his nascent settlement watching homes and businesses spring up. What were the proprietor’s thoughts as he viewed the lake from the corner of Fair and Second (Main) Streets?

Indeed fortunate are we to dwell in a place whose history has been so well chronicled and so well studied by so many avid students. Thus, the task of procuring suitable challenging historical trivia questions becomes difficult in the extreme. Nathan Howard and Samuel Griffin are two persons who have some importance in the earliest history of the village. Does anyone care to hazard a guess as to why?” Our question was answered in the column of Jan. 15 when we wrote:

“Mac Preston, of Elm Street, and George Tilllapaugh, of Pioneer Street, called to tell us that Nathan Howard and Samuel Griffin were two “firsts” in the village’s early days. Nathan  Howard, son of John Howard,was the first baby born in the new settlement, and Samuel Griffin, a young child, was the village’s first death. Upon the little boy’s dying in October 1792, a piece of land on the corner of Water (River) Street and Third (Church) Street was chosen for a graveyard and Samuel was buried there. Thus Christ Church Yard was the village’s first graveyard and preceded the establishment of the church by almost 17 years.”

In the column of Jan. 22, was the answer to a question that had been posed the preceding week by Charlie Brynes, namely what was the Grey Goose and where was it located? The answer was: “Ruth Ritter, of Forestport, N.Y. (former Cooperstonian Ruth Williams, CCS Class of 1944) called to talk about the Grey Goose. Soon the conversation turned toward the Blue Anchor which, if memory serves, was a tea room located in the last house on the lakeside of Lake Street before the golf course. That house was demolished several years ago and a new one built on the site.

“The Grey Goose, according to Charles Burns, was a pottery shop located near the lake. We confess that we are ignorant of the exact location.” And in a later column of March 5, we noted that: “Several weeks ago we mentioned the Grey Goose, local pottery manufactory, as being located by the lake near the end of Nelson Avenue.

Our sources have confirmed the Grey Goose was indeed located in that vicinity. Our sources also report that in so far as they have knowledge, Grey Goose pottery was not sold locally. Does anyone have a piece of said pottery? Would such a piece be valuable today?”

And finally, we wrote the following, in a column of March 19, about the Gray Goose:

“Bob Cook, of Brookwood, called to say that he has two pieces of pottery produced by the Grey Goose Pottery Shop which has been mentioned several times recently in WNS.

 This pottery shop, run by Dr.Crockett, used an excellent  grey-blue clay obtained from the lakeshore along the golf course. In fact, it was the color of the clay which provided the name for the establishment.”

On Jan. 29 we answered our question of the past week, namely “Who was Isabel Deacon?” By writing:

“Isabel Deakin (yes, we realize that we [actually the he-we] spelled her name wrong---we apologize) taught in the grammar department (grades 6, 7 and 8) of Cooperstown High School from 1910 to 1941. She was principal of that department for over twenty years. Several of her former students including Bill Burnett, Bill Clark, Gladys Balcom and Mary Young called, and Ruth Ritter, Forestport, N.Y., dropped us a note, to share their memories of Miss Deakin. Almost all of her students remember her ruler. Several even confess to having felt the sting of that ruler which, as one noted, was a “very sturdy” ruler. Even though she is remembered as a strict disciplinarian, and a teacher who demanded hard work. Miss Deakin demonstrated her care and concern for her pupils. Gladys Balcom remembers that after her father had been hurt in an accident, Miss Deakin would always inquire after him the first thing every morning.

“Of course, Miss Deakin is best remembered for all of the letters she wrote to her former students who served in World War II. She wrote each of her former students at least one letter during the duration of their military service. Her letters were filled with the comings and goings of the village and the whereabouts of other area soldiers thus allowing Coooperstonians in service to stay in touch with one another. Isabel Deakin was 81 when she died on July 13, 1956.”

We later received more information on Miss Deakin, which appeared in the column of Feb. 5 when we wrote:

“Martha Becker Dickison, of Delaware Street, remembers  that Isabel Deakin wasalways most fair in her dealings with all her students.

Family connections and social status mattered not to Miss Deakin. Martha recalled that one day as she was daydreaming in class she failed to hear a query from Miss Deakin. She was abruptly jolted from her mental wandering by Miss Deakin rapidly approaching, ruler raised. Martha was spared the ruler that day she still does not know why. Nor did she ever answer Miss Deakin’s question , because to this day does not now what the question was!”

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