Ruth and Ralph Morgan, c1905. Photo courtesy of Martha Porteus.
Windsor Historical Society has a small collection of oral history interviews, some of which were recorded many years ago. These contain many memories of the rhythms of daily life in early Windsor and exciting recollections of once-in-a-lifetime events. In 2008, during Windsor’s 375th anniversary year, several of the fragile cassette tapes were duplicated so they could be transcribed. It takes many hours of work to listen to the interview, make a written copy of the conversation, edit, and index just one hour of recorded dialogue. For the project, we chose a taped interview of lifelong Windsor resident, Ruth Morgan Porteus, to begin the task of revealing the voices of Windsor’s past, but since then, many other oral histories have also been transcribed.
Ruth’s remembrances were recorded in the summer of 1987. She was born in 1893 and was 93 years old when Ted Anderson and Mary Ann Pleva sat down in her parlor with her and her daughter Martha to record her thoughts. Ruth lived most of her life two doors south of the Society until her death in 1995. The following are excerpts from Ruth’s transcript.
When asked about her father’s hayfield off of North Meadow Road, she said:
Well, part of the meadow when he was running the farm, we always had horses, cows, pigs and everything; and he used to raise hay for the stock. …I think this big, first field part of it [was where] he raised his hay. Then he finally plowed it up and raised more tobacco, but we still had to have a hayfield for the animals. The pasture was clean. Nothing but big, beautiful elm trees in there. There was no poison ivy. There was no undergrowth, and we used to go down there and have picnics.
Martha: [the hayfield was…] full of wildflowers! Adders tongues, sand violets, and all kinds of things like that. Cows ate all the bad things, you know!
Later Ruth reminisced about a nearby housing development called Pilgrim Village on Kennedy Road:
I remember when there was no Pilgrim Village. That was a just a field. There was a nice little road that went up in through there. We used to call it the Woodsy Road, and it was just a little narrow road and you could find the most lovely flowers. Up at the top of the hill there was a big pine grove, and in there it was just loaded with Lady’s Slippers [today a protected wildflower!]. You could pick a great bunch of them and you wouldn’t know you had picked any!
PLEVA: How about this Bell School over here [at 235 Palisado Avenue]? Did you go there?
PORTEUS: Yes. There were eight grades when I went there, and in the entry there was a little place where there was a pail of water and a dipper, one dipper, and everybody who wanted a drink took a drink of water and put the dipper back. …Then I went over to the center [of Windsor] to the ninth grade and that was in St. Gabriel’s [then known as Roger Ludlow School].
ANDERSON: You graduated from Windsor High School? What year?
PORTEUS: 1910. I think there were ten in the class.
She had the following to say about the Sage Park racetrack on Sage Park Road:
Mrs. [Louise H.] Sage, she ran it for quite a while. That’s how it got the name, and she used to live in a nice big house down there across from Fuller Brush [Company]. I don’t know if whether that house is still there or not. They always had races on the Fourth of July, and I am not sure whether Ralph [her brother] raced Betsy once or not. He had a nice old horse, and my husband had a nice horse. It seems to me they raced Betsy once….They were harnessed to a little sulky.
Windsor Historical Society collections 2007.35.4. Photo courtesy of Martha Porteus.
PLEVA: When they replaced the [Palisado Ave bridge over the Farmington River], was there a big to do about that? When they went from a covered bridge to a metal bridge?
She remembered the causeway south of the Palisado Avenue bridge over the Farmington River. She said:
Well, I don’t know. I guess that they thought it was a step forward, but it was kind of too bad that they took it down. Perhaps it wasn’t strong. I don’t know. There used to be quite a hill over there on the other side of the bridge instead of being flat….There were no buildings on the causeway. There was just a nice, lovely great big field with a lovely brook running through…They had two great lines of maple trees on either side…And, you know, we used to have gypsies come every so often. The gypsies, when we’d see them coming, we’d watch them. They’d go over there in back of [what is Bart’s Restaurant today] Bart’s there [when it] was like a meadow…and they used to stay there overnight, camp out there.
Over the course of 48 minutes, Ruth describes her childhood in the Connecticut countryside. While the memories of the “old timers” are wonderful to listen to, we would love to interview a few people who would be able to offer insight and perspective on the changes in Windsor during the latter half of the 20th century, recount more recent stories, and tell about the organizations and institutions that are important to Windsor today. Contact the librarian/archivist Michelle Tom (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to help.