A fun thing that is a part of our family outings was the New York Herald Tribune's Fresh Air Fund. Today it is known simply as The Fresh Air Fund. The fund sent children from New York's slums to the country for a two week, or longer, vacation. We were a host family first, and then I was chairman of the Oxford Committee and finally Coordinator for part of Connecticut. As a Coordinator, I went to various service clubs in different parts of the state speaking with the idea of their club sponsoring a Committee. We did this for thirteen years. After working as coordinator I found that sometimes at the last minute a child would not arrive and the host family would be most disappointed so each year I would invite about four children myself figuring that if some of the children did not arrive I could "give" them one of mine. Usually there were disappointments, but on several occasions I would have them all. It was fun.
Each summer, as a family outing we would have a picnic at our house for all the host families and their guests. Thomas Henderson and Susan would lead the kids on whatever horses or ponies we had at the time. They also enjoyed fishing in the pond. Thomas would go fishing and bring home fish in a milk can which we put in the pond. After you caught a fish you had to put it back in the pond so someone else could catch a fish. We had white children at first, then one year I decided to have a colored girl (as this was the terminology at that time), about Maggie's age. I asked Maggie how she would like a little colored girl to visit her. She said yes; in awhile, she came back and said "What color?" In Oxford there were no colored people. We had Joseph for about five years. One year she was absolutely obnoxious. I had decided not to ask her again. This was the last year we were in Oxford. Maggie's 8th grade class had a bus trip to New York City. I was one of the mothers who went on the trip. I was always at least room mother for one of the children and sometimes was room mother for more than one.
The bus drove through Harlem. I shall always remember that bus driver at our family outing. He told the kids to look out the window at where the people lived. Our country kids were shocked. Maggie asked me if Joseph lived there. The answer was yes. I was so proud of her. She said that, even though Joseph was such a pain, anybody who lived there should have a vacation, so Joseph came that summer, but she was a pain. We had one girl, Amanda Simmons, who was with us for six years. The seventh year her mother wrote saying that Amanda had left home. She was sixteen. I would go to New York on the train, pick up the children and take them to Seymour where the host families would meet us. Two weeks later I would take this group of children home.
Occasionally a few children would stay with the host families four weeks and once in a rare while they would stay six weeks. Two weeks later I would pick up another group of children and return them in two weeks. On this trip I would take some of my own children with me and we would "see" New York after we delivered the Fresh Air children. We went to the Statue of Liberty, took the Circle Line boat around Manhattan, and went to the Planetarium. I have never seen the "show," for as soon as the lights went out I fell asleep. We also ate at the Automat during this family outing, went to the Museum of Natural History and I am sure we did some other things but cannot recall them now. For my work with the Fresh Air Fund the P.T.A. gave me a plaque for being "Parent of the Year." It was the only time the plaque was presented. When we were in Seymour, Thomas had a Boy Scout Troop and I had a Girl Scout Troop. In Oxford I had a Brownie Troop. We both taught Sunday School. I also volunteered at the Oxford Library.
At one time, we had a square dance band: June called, Margie played the bass, and Thomas played the guitar. We had dances at the Grange Hall. I collected the money. The first few weeks we had a good crowd, but the attendance did not hold up so we discontinued that project. June married Donovan A. Larson and, while we were in Oxford, had six children: Maggie Marie, (when June's Maggie was born our Maggie was almost three years old and as all three year olds are delightful, June was so impressed with our Maggie she named her little girl Maggie also); Mary Hills (who was three months older than Frank.
They were quite a team. Also born to them was Vicky Jean, Tammy Ann, Donovan A., Jr. and Bernard John. Bob's mother, Margaret Larson, made June's wedding gown. It was beautiful. Margie, Henderson and Susan wore it. Margie married Thomas Smith and went to live in Oklahoma for two school years. Their Susan Faye was born while we were in Oxford and they were in Boston. Henderson married Donovan Daniels Thomas and had her two boys during that time. Susan married Jay Adams. While in Oxford, Thomas engaged in politics. He was appointed to the Board of Education, the Finance Board, the Board of Assessors (not all at the same time), and also the Industrial Development Commission. He ran for election as Town Tax Collector, which office he won. The former tax collector had been tax collector for fifty years. He was Tommy Woods, Ben Woods' father. He wrote all the tax Thomas by hand. Thomas conferred with the Board of Assessors and put the tax list on a computer so now the computer printed the Thomas.
It was a big change for the little town of Oxford. Thomas sent the constable with warrants to the delinquent tax payers and held tax sales. He ran for a second term. We wondered if he might not get reelected inasmuch as he had been so tough. He led the ticket. People felt if they had to pay taxes, everyone should. I was appointed Assistant Tax Collector. At that time the Tax Collector would "sit" at the Town Hall on Saturdays during July and January to collect taxes, but during the other months taxes were paid at the tax collector's home so I did manage to keep busy in that respect. For a short time I worked as Clerk to the Board of Selectmen. All the money, except the Board of Education, went through my books. I also kept the minutes of the Selectmen's meetings. I really liked the job but for various reasons I was not able to keep working. .
.. To be continue at next essay "The Camping Trip"