The late actress Bette Davis once dined at a Black Rock Turnpike home in Easton. Carol Mills has the autographed tablecloth to prove it.
Mills’ recollection of hosting the actress is part of the town’s Oral History Project, an effort to interview and preserve the town’s history through the memories of its long-time residents.
Some of the decades-old memories unearthed during the interviews might surprise Easton newcomers. There was a time when Easton farmers doubled as school bus drivers shuttling students to Samuel Staples School after milking their cows in the morning.
Speaking of cows, cow crossings were a common occurrence along Easton roads. And it’s hard to believe now but Sport Hill Road used to have twists and turns, the perfect spot for sleigh rides in the snow.
175th Anniversary celebration
The oral history project began last spring in conjunction with the town’s 175th Anniversary celebration. All interviews are archived on the town’s library website.
The project pairs volunteer interviewers with longtime Easton residents. Interviews are conducted via Zoom, in person , or in writing. Library Director Lynn Zaffino said the effort has recorded about 10 residents. Some middle and high school students have volunteered as interviewers.
Dolly Curtis, a former television show host and member of the Easton Arts Council, has interviewed a number of residents including Bill Kupinse, attorney and former multi-term Easton First Selectman, and Ed Nagy, Easton Public Works director for 41 years.
And she’s not stopping. “I get teared up listening to these wonderful people tell their stories. It’s amazing how much the town has changed in 50 years,” Curtis said.
Other Easton long time residents who’ve been interviewed are Mary Ann Freeman, Dick Greiser, Anne Fiyalka, Irv and Nancy Silvermans, Dr. John Machledt, Andy Kachele, Carol Mills, and Chester Burley.
Sheila Weaver, also a member of the Easton Arts Council, volunteers for the project by setting up interviews with Curtis and residents on Microsoft Teams. It’s labor-intensive work because the interviews need to be edited, but Weaver doesn’t mind.
“It is so interesting, as I listen to them, they are all connected through six degrees of separation,” Weaver said. “They all have such a presence of the importance of the community.”
You can listen to the oral histories on the Easton Public Library website or at the Easton 175th website.
Bruce Nelson, director of Research for the Historical Society of Easton, in an Easton Courier column wrote that oral histories of residents recounting stories that happened decades ago should be taken as someone’s precious memories unless the facts of the stories are verified.
If you are interested in participating in the oral history project, email Kevin Krug at email@example.com with your name and contact information and indicate whether you are a student or adult. You can view the video and find out more.