|Written by:||Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||In Memory|
|Location:||Gilboa NY USA|
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|Written by:||Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||In Memory|
|Location:||Gilboa NY USA|
This is a story about a remarkable man. As a child during the Great Depression, he lost his mother. He also suffered with cerebral palsy. Little was known about it at the time and he wound up being put in an institution for the mentally retarded. In modern times he might have been given what is called “special education” and allowed to live a normal life, but in this man’s situation that did not happen. This is his story and how he coped with it and, in so doing, was able to make his life count. He was also my friend.|
I remember that night as though it were only yesterday. It was a warm spring night in 1983. My wife, Tae, and I had become Family Care Providers, taking care of developmentally disabled persons in our home in a family environment, for the state of New York.
We lived in Gilboa, in the southern end of Schoharie County in the Catskill Mountains. We learned there was to be a dance in Breakabeen Grange Hall, provided by the members of the Grange for the “clients” as the developmentally disabled were referred to at that time. Now they are referred to as “consumers” or “participants.”
Tae and I had four clients living with us at the time and we took them to the Grange Hall to attend the dance. Inside the hall there were benches along the walls to sit on. There was a live band and the clients immediately began to either mingle with their friends or to dance. There was a refreshment table along the opposite wall from where we sat, and soon, a man seated directly across the room from us, stood up, went to the table and acquired two paper cups full of punch. He brought them to Tae and I, then returned to the table where he obtained two napkins, filled them with cookies and then brought them to us.
We thanked the gentleman who bowed with a big smile and then returned to his seat. Later, as other family care providers arrived, we learned who the gentleman was and were surprised to learn that he was a client, living in a nearby family care home. He looked very much like a local farmer; he did not at all look like a client. Most clients are easily identified from their looks, but this man did not fit the mold.
That was our first introduction to Howard Reidy. Over the years I was to see much more of him, and we were to become personal friends. Howard was afflicted with cerebral palsy and handled it very well. At that time, in 1983, it did not show until he attempted to talk. Only then did it become evident.
Howard had been placed in the state system during the depression. In modern day times, I don’t believe he would ever have been institutionalized at all. In those days, they had far less knowledge than they do now, and for lack of knowing what better to do with them, they were put into the system. Now they would be given help and would be able to live nearly normal and productive lives. Howard was never bitter about it and accepted his fate with a great deal of grace.
Regardless of his circumstances, Howard was a very impressive man. I once attended a seminar in Rotterdam, NY being conducted by the State Office of Developmental Disabilities and Mental Retardation, commonly known as OMRDD. I sat at the same table as Howard and some other representatives from Schoharie County. Howard had recently turned sixty-five years of age.
Howard was dressed in a brown pin-striped suit and looked every bit like a professional man. At one point in the seminar, Howard rose and indicated he had a question. The Deputy Commissioner conducting the seminar called upon him to hear his question. Howard spoke slowly and carefully. He explained that he had been receiving speech therapy. He had just turned sixty-five and the speech therapy was stopped. He was told that it was stopped because he turned sixty-five and was no longer eligible for the therapy. Howard inquired whether it was the opinion of the state that when a person turned sixty-five, he was magically able to speak without further need of therapy, and if not, why could he not continue to receive therapy?
Everyone in that room was greatly impressed. The Deputy Commissioner informed Howard he had no answers to his question, but promised that he would look into it and ensure that he got his therapy. A few weeks later, funding for Howard’s therapy was reinstated.
I saw and spoke with Howard often over the years. He was an avid baseball fan. He had a subscription to the Oneonta Daily Star newspaper and read the paper from beginning to end every day. Howard could carry on an intelligent conversation and was always up to date on current events.
Howard was always a helpful individual and, unasked, did everything possible to help everyone he could. He joined the Middleburgh Chapter of the Knights of Columbus and was active with them in taking care of the churchyard and other things the church and rectory needed. They were active also with helping various people in the community who were in need.
In the latter years of his life, Howard moved into the home of some neighbors of mine. He rode the same bus with the clients who lived in my home and I often spoke with him when the bus was picking up or dropping off the men at my house. On one of these occasions, he proudly announced to me that he was writing his life story. No easy task, as his palsy had become worse with age and writing was no easy matter for him.
Howard also became very unsteady on his feet and required the use of a walker. After all, Howard was now in his eighties. Combine that with cerebral palsy, I think the fact that he was able to get around with a walker was quite an accomplishment. Howard was a fiercely independent man and did not want help. He wanted to do things for himself and by himself.
At the age of 86, on the morning of December 9, 2006 Howard was navigating through the house. He was offered but refused assistance, preferring his independence, no matter what. Howard lost his balance and fell on the corner of an end table, breaking his femur, the largest bone in the body.
An ambulance was called and Howard was transported to Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York. Cooperstown is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and was the home of famed novelist, James Fennimore Cooper, author of the “Leatherstocking Tales”.
Surgery was performed to repair the broken femur. During that surgery, Howard suffered a heart attack. He survived that heart attack. The surgery was successful and he was recovering nicely from both the surgery and the heart attack.
On December 24, 2006 Howard suffered another heart attack in the hospital. Howard Reidy went to celebrate Christmas with the Father in Heaven. Following a Knights of Columbus funeral and then a regular funeral at the Catholic Church in Middleburgh, Howard Reidy was laid to rest in the Breakabeen Cemetery beside his long-time friend Andrew Phifer. Howard had purchased the lot adjoining Andrew’s grave and made arrangements years before, to be buried beside him. Howard had made his arrangements and paid for his funeral expenses many years in advance of his demise.
I mentioned that Howard told me he was writing his life story. He did write that story and I was privileged to have a copy given to me. I am making the story as Howard wrote it, exactly as he wrote it, available here for the reader. I know it will open the eyes of most who read it to things concerning the developmentally disabled and their care and treatment that most never dreamed of. I know Howard wrote the story because he wanted it to be told.
Before getting to Howard’s story, I want to clarify a few things in the story for the reader so the reader will better comprehend what they are reading.
1. The term ARC is used. ARC means Association for Retarded Children. There was and continues to be a chapter in Schoharie County. The ARC provides Day Hab services for them.
2. While living in the Ely family home, the work on the “dam” referred to was the Gilboa-Blenheim Power Authority pumped storage power project under construction at that time. The Schoharie Creek was dammed to provide a reservoir for the water needed to generate the electricity.
3. Howard made mention of his friend Andrew drawing pictures in his free time. Those pictures were beautiful drawings done with great expertise, and people in the business of taking care of the developmentally disabled in the county were in great admiration of those drawings.
4. Howard mentions a Christmas play he was in with the Friendship Club. Following Howard’s own story of his life, there will be an excerpt of the newspaper article that appeared in the Cobleskill Times Journal regarding that play. Permission has been granted by the Cobleskill Times Journal to use it and publish it here in this project.
5. The reference to Coby, NY is short for Cobleskill, NY.
6. The reference to ERDS means Eleanor Roosevelt Developmental Services. It was the state office that supervised care for all developmentally disabled persons in the county. The name ERDS no longer is used. It is now called the Schoharie Office of the Capital District Developmental Services.
7. He states that he went to Florida with the residents of River St. The Schoharie County ARC operates a few community residences in the county. A community residence is one where there is staff twenty-four hours a day to take care of the residents, who are Developmentally Disabled persons. There are usually around twelve or thirteen persons living in a community residence. River St. refers to a residence located on River Street in the village of Middleburgh, NY.
8. There are a number of references to the Friendship Club. There also is mention of a parade in Schoharie the summer following the Christmas pageant. There is an article included in this project called, A WOMAN HEAVEN SENT by myself, Fred Wickert, that was published earlier this year in Medhunters Magazine. The article will explain the origin of the Friendship Club, the Christmas Pageant, and of the Parade participation the summer following the Christmas pageant.
9. Howard tells of his moving to his final residence with John and Jennifer Ward and tells of it being in N. Blenheim, NY. Actually, the Ward residence is located in Gilboa, NY. It is on a star route for mail delivery, and the mailing address is N. Blenheim, but is actually located in Gilboa and the Wards are my neighbors, only a few doors away.
Here is Howard’s story, as he wrote it. No changes or edits have been made.
AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE
By: Howard Reidy
Special Thanks Page
Thanks to Melody Gathen for helping me use the computer, helping type my work and writing my work in the book.
Thanks to Tammy Armlin for helping me figure out what Justine wrote in my book.
Thanks to Jan Parks for giving me the idea to write my life history.
My Family Life
I Howard Reidy was born in Bellevue Hospital in New York on August 23, 1920. I was born into a wonderful family that I will tell you about in this chapter.
First there was my grandmother Katherine. She had 13 children. This included two sets of twins. Also Kiely Reidy, my mom had five children. There was William born 1910, Tommy born in 1912, Mary born in 1914, Patrick born in 1916, and finally me Howard born in 1920. And out of all my siblings the only one I knew was Thomas who was born in New York City on 7/23/12. I never met my two brothers William and Patrick they died before I was born. My only sister Mary also died at the age of 9 of diphtheria. Patrick, he was born 12/31/16 and died at 3 years of age from a brief illness and convulsions. My sister Mary was born 12/12/14 and passed away from the flu at the age of 5.
After all that I lived in New York and then moved to Astoria, there I lived with my mother, father John and my brother Tommy. We lived in Astoria and at the age of 9 I started public school at # PS7. Shortly after I started school my mother Agnes passed away on Oct 8, 1929. She passed at the age of 45 it was because of a heart attack. I can remember her letting me sleep with her at night. I was the one that found my mother the morning she had passed and I went to get my father. He took care of things and I went to school as usual that day. Because of my mother passing on I never met or saw my maternal grandparents. But I do know that they were Thomas Kiely and Agnes White Kiely. Thomas was from Ireland and moved to American. He worked as a laborer and died at the age of 70 from senility. My grandmother Agnes was born in American and had five children. She died at the age of 69 of known causes.
Also after the passing of my mom, my father, and Tommy and I moved in with my dad’s mom, our grandmother. We lived in Jackson heights with my grandmother and my dad’s three sisters. We lived in what was my paternal grandparent’s house. At the house I can remember my grandmother asking me how my day had gone.
My paternal grandparents were William Reidy who died at the age of 53 from diabetes and Katherine Walsh Reidy born in 1852 and in 1933 passed away from hardening of the arteries.
After that my aunt Katherine lived with our family in what used to be our grandmother house where she worked as a librarian on 42nd and 5th ave.
I was also there with my father. My father John was a good man. My father worked for Thomas Edison doing electrical work and checking meters for 23 yrs. I can remember he would come home from work and we would sit and have dinner at the kitchen table. My father would then check over the mail, read the papers and smoke a cigar or pipe. On Sunday my father would attend 11:00 am mass by himself. And on Saturday my father would go and visit he’s mother and 3 sister for the day. I also can remember on one summer evening my father used to go across the street to the drugstore he would buy ice cream and bring it back to me and Tommy.
And also my dad would take us to our landlords farm on the weekends were we rode ponies. I remember that because one weekend when we were there, is when we found out that the president John F Kennedy got shot it was Friday November 22, 1963. And after that my father passed away from bronchitis at the age of 84. It was Christmas morning on Dec 25, 1964 when he passed away.
So, after that it left me, Tommy, Aunt Katherine and Aunt Minnie.
My two aunts were wonderful. My aunt Helen would take me to the post graduated hospital for an evaluation on the 125th street. Also, my aunt Helen also known as LALA would let me know if I could go to the movies on Saturdays, but I had to clean up my toys and put them back where they belonged. My aunt Helen had two sisters named Katherine and Minnie. They would help out with the cooking and cleaning sometimes. Helen was a cleaning lady. I remember seeing her wash the clothes on a wash board and ring them out with the rollers and hang them on the line to dry. My aunt LALA would send me to get the Daily News and the New York Journal in the morning before school. The grocery store was across the street and I would sometimes go with a list and money to pick up needed supplies. Also, aunt LALA would wear a large straw hat and mow the lawn. She also trimmed the hedges in the front of the house. I remember being told that Aunt Katherine died in 1932 of goiter and Aunt Minnie died in 1944. Aunt LALA was one of my mother’s two sisters. Her other one was naming Lillian and she also had a brother named Tom. I remember seeing them only a couple of times. I remember about my aunt Helen is that she used to make applesauce and peaches and pears. She also made plums. Aunt Helen made pickled beets in jars; she made canned corn for winter. Her homemade jam was eaten in the winter Aunt Helen made homemade strawberry and orange jams. Aunt Helen made homemade cakes with strawberry jam and cocoa hut topping and while she did that I played stickball in the street with neighborhood boys, we also went sleigh riding in the winter and I remember while outside seeing some people go to the junk man to buy junk to sell for money. After that I stayed with my aunt LALA for three years and 8 months and 30 days. That was the years 1929-1933. After remembering my aunt I can also think back to Sept 29, 1970 when I found out that my aunt Helen passed away.
Now with all that said about my wonderful family. On to the family member I remember the most my brother Tommy. I remember when I was 6 or 7 years old I had a red peddle car that I used to ride up and down the sidewalk. I also used to play croquet in the yard when I lived at my grandmothers and my 3 aunts and my father all while my brother Tommy would watch me. I also remember that while in Astoria my brother Tommy would watch me play in the sandbox. My brother Tommy was very important to me. My brother was also a very busy man. My brother Tommy used to drive a soda delivery truck until he entered a CCC Army Camp in June of 1932. Tommy was in the army from 1932-1935. Where he was a cook stationed in Camp Dix, New jersey. While there he also played baseball for an army team. Then after leaving this army in 1936 Tommy reenlisted in another army, until 1938 when Tommy contracted yellow fever and he was sent to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC from his stationed point in Panama. Then later Tommy worked in a shipyard in Camden, New Jersey. The year was 1944. And while working at the shipyard Tommy attended a night school also in New Jersey. Then later on Tommy worked in the Campbell’s soup kitchen. He told me that they cooked the soup at 500 degrees. The factory was located in Camden New Jersey and that is where my brother Tommy met his wife Estelle. Estelle and Tommy got married on June 13, 1942. They were married for 17 yrs until an accident that I will tell you about later on. And while they were married my brother Tommy traveled to Germany where he stayed until 1949. And my sister-in-law Estelle worked for Campbell’s soup co for 42 yrs until she retired in 1969.
Then on Sept 7, 1940 to Sept28, 1940 we went home to Jackson heights with my father and two aunts. We went to the world fair, 1940 Yankees stadium and to the movies. We also went to visit my uncle Tommy on Thursday April26, 1940. Our friends in Jackson heights included Charlie Bear, Harry Jones, Ed Eddie Miller, John Finn, Ernest, William Miller, Joseph G Francis Quinn, and leftie Long. We all would play touch football, kickball and baseball. We would clean out an empty lot by cutting the grass and making a field. We used an old bed frame as a backstop for our sports. Also we played cards for money and pop tops on Sunday.
And when I got older my brother Tommy took me to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. The day was Saturday July 19, 1952 the game was between the Chicago White Sox and the Yankees. The Yankees won with a score of 5 to 4. I brought a New York Yankees yearbook. I did this because in 1940 I started collecting New York Yankee yearbooks. I have books dated 1948 to 1957. But when I went away my aunt Helen gave all my toys to my nephew including my yearbooks. I do still have my New York Yankees yearbooks 1958 to 2000 they stopped making the baseball yearbook for 1958 to 1994. I collect newspaper clippings in my room. I also collect baseball cards my collecting started in 1992 if I get doubles of a card I give them to friend’s son who collects them as well. But anyway while we were at the ball game Estelle Tommy’s wife moved to New York City I get New York Yankees magazines published monthly. This started when I picked up my first one after the ballgame. Also after the game we went to a restaurant that had different selections at set prices. I almost forgot that on Dec 7,1941 Sunday Tommy and Estelle came to visit me and we went for a car ride to the town of Thompson pole and went to a catholic church and then my brother Tommy took me to Sunday dinner and then to the movies in Flushing Queens, NY. And then my brother Tommy took me to the institution. And then the last time Tommy and Estelle came to see me was when Mr. T and Mrs. Shavers had to pick them up at the bus that day was Thursday July9, 1959. Then when they left I went with Mr. Shaver to return them to the bus station and then I went back and helped Mrs. Shaver clean the bedroom upstairs and we swept the wooden sidewalk. And then on April18, 1960 I got the horrible news that my brother Tommy was killed in an apartment house fire. They said he couldn’t escape from a kitchen window and passed away.
And then on April 29, 2000 my sister-in-law Estelle passed. And I will miss them both because we kept in touch by phone or mail. They always made sure to call me or send stuff by mail for special holidays and birthdays.
Well, there now you know about my family so now I will go on to tell you about the stuff that I did and what happened to me in my life.
An Extraordinary Life
My Life at Letchwort Village
Now on with my life. First thing is I went to old school 15 on junction Blvd, in Carona Queens. I walked when the weather was nice and took the trolley when it rained. I attend this school for four yrs with the same teacher each year every month.
But then on July 31,1933 I went to Bellevue hospital for an evaluation and was sent directly to Randall Island, NY. I spent 6 weeks in this facility. I remember an experience while at this facility when we went swimming a worker held my head under water. I couldn’t swim and they thought it was funny. I left this facility on Sept 12, 1933.
Next I went to letchwort Village in Thrills, NY. I arrived here on Sept 12,1933. Even though I was here I did get to go home for 3 weeks that was from Sept 7th-28th, 1940. But anyway here let me tell you about my time at Letchwort Village. But I thought I would let you know that there are a lot of good and some are not good. But where will I start. Well how about here with this. One day one of my friends Pear Harbor Francis who lived in H cottage asked to borrow my radio to hear the NY Giants football game in 1941 he was also a house boy like me. While listening there was a news bulletin at noon that stated there was Japanese bombing at pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Then the next day Monday Dec 8, 1941 president Roosevelt declared war on the Japanese and Germany president Roosevelt died in April 1945 so president Truman sent an atomic bomb over to the Japanese. Tommy had visit me that weekend and filled me in on that on Sept 2,1945 that General Macarthur and the Japanese had signed a paper that the war was over. And that June 6,1944 was declared D-Day. Then there was Normandy invasion had started this was between American vs. Germany, Italy and Japan. I learned of the news from reading the paper that Mrs. Lynch who worked at our cottage. She would pin a note on her shirt so she wouldn’t forget the paper. Then the following day I learned that the Marines and Navy as well as the Army and Air Force were all involved in helping America. We did win the war. And I can remember seeing the Germans coming out with their arms raised above their heads they had lost. I saw this on TV after breakfast.
So after that said and done here is more memories about the village. One memory is that if you didn’t go outside the workers would take your shoes and coats off. Then the shoes were put in a shoe closet being arranged in the order of the sleeping schedule. And the coats are hung in a closet with the shoes after taking their shoes off they put their sneakers on and line up for the bathroom. In there we would wash our faces and hands too with towels and brush our teeth. I would help people who couldn’t read to get their brushes and return it to the correct spot. Then medications were given and then we would go to the dayroom where we would watch TV. The staff would pick the shows we could watch at 10:45 am and then there was another bathroom call. We would have to go to use the facilities and wash up again before lunch. Then we had to return our sneakers to the closet and put our shoes back on before leaving for lunch a sitter would be sent around to check our clothes for cleanliness if they were dirty then we had to change and if you were missing a button we had to sew it back on. Then we formed a line and walked to the dining hall. The waiters would eat first then we could sit, there was eight of us to a table with the waiters he would make sure our trays were filled and say grace. Then we would eat with no talking. If there was too much noise a bell would ring and we had 15 mins to finish eat our lunch up on returning from lunch. We then again would take our shoes off and put our sneakers back on. Then we would go to the bathroom again to wash up and brush our teeth etc. Then again back to the dayroom until 3:45 pm to line up again to clean up for supper. We repeated the same steps for and following supper at 7:30pm. We would start by putting our sneakers away and change our clothes and put night gowns on. Then we would say our prayers at the end of our beds and then we could use the bathrooms to wash up again and brush our teeth before going to sleep for the night. Then the staff would turn off all the lights and for the people who wet the bed they would wake you up every hour until morning to help prevent the wetting. Everyday the kids would go outside between their meals. Some would walk around the field and if it was a hot day they would sit beneath the shade of the trees. As for the disciplinary measures during this process they would strike you for no good reason.
Now on with some of my other memories about the village and what we were allowed to do there at the village. I also would attend 9am mass at the catholic church, I then went to catechisms class taught by nuns. Also my three aunts would attend mass at different times so they could help with Sunday dinner on the individual wards. There were 80 people to a ward. I remember the H ward having three rows of beds. Two rows had 13 and one had 14 beds the others would sleep on the floor. Overcrowded, they had to sit on the beds it had rows of 13 and 14 and 13.
I also remember I had a job that included getting up at 5:00 am to inspect hair, eyes and hands in the morning. The bathroom had four wash basins. If they didn’t get clean enough I would send them back to the basin. The shower schedule was twice a week they would give you a bucket of soapy water and the tenant would rinse you with a garden hose. I was a houseboy so I got to rinse myself. This is also when they checked for sores to report to the sr only once a week on Saturday. For me they would cut my nails and clean my ears after the showers.
The bedspreads were removed in the afternoon and stacked on a table in the linen room everyday. And the sheets were washed once a week during the day in cottage H. I would go to the store room to gather supplies. This included soap, shoe laces and toilet paper for cottage H. The store room also carried all the medication for all the cottages. But cottage H was also a lot different from the others cottages, because there was some that didn’t go to schooling.
Also I can remember at Letchwort Village from 1934-1935 every year we would stand in the brook and build a stone wall to keep the water off the road. School was out at this time and we would spend all day at this job. Also in the cornfields and pick weeds on our hands and knees. In the afternoon around 2:30 pm we would then go swimming in our birthday suits. Then after a while I didn’t have to work in the cornfields or in the brook with the stones anymore.
Now on to more about the village. In the dining hall they never change breakfast it was always at 7:00am, dinner was at 12:00 pm and supper at 5:00 pm. But if you were sick your meals would be brought to you. This usually included an orange to make your own juice with a full glass of water to mix it, toast, jell-o and eggs depending on the time of the day. Also at the dining hall 8 people would sit at the table with 1 waiter at the end of the table. For breakfast usually consisted of corn flakes or a warm bowl of cream of wheat. We were always served bread and butter with milk in our coffee and orange juice in the morning on the weekends (Sunday), we could have one hard boiled egg to peel ourselves with our breakfast. The waiter would eat with us at the table at around 11:30 am. The waiter came to eat dinner at 12:00pm. But before the waiter would eat they would wait for us to come and then the waiter would serve us soup, bread and butter with milk and then dessert around 4:30 the we waited for the waiter to pick up and we finally were able to eat at 5:00pm.
Then on Sundays for dinner we would get rice and or potatoes and meat mix, bread and butter and ice tea sometimes we were able to get roast beef, chicken, hot dogs, and vegetables. On Sunday night for supper we were able to have cookies, bananas, cheese cake, and coffee. We would all say grace before every meal. There would be a boss in the dining hall that would ring a bell if it got to noisy.
All the cottages had a female boo. In the H cottage I would help the woman boss by putting the names on the clothes and the letter of the cottage they were in. Also we took items down to the storage room. We had to keep track of how many people were in cottage H that while sleeping would wet the bed, which ones were in the hospital and the total for the day.
The people who worked there that lived off the grounds would come on duty at 5:30 am to 2:30 pm. Those who lived on the ground would come on duty at 5:30 pm to 3:00 pm. Woman boss showed up at 6:45 am to 3:45 pm, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, 12:30 to 9:00 pm, 3:00 pm to 11:40 pm and 11:40 to 7:20 am. On their day off in H cottage someone would take over for them from another cottage to relieve them.
Also, a great memory is that in May on memorial day we had to stand like at a fair with games, ice cream, soda and cotton candy. They also had rides for us from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. And on july 4 the entire cottage would march in a parade with a float that each cottages made. They people who couldn’t walk would watch the parade through the front of their cottage. This went from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Then around 1:00 pm we would start with lunch outside. After that we would play potato sack races, tug-o-war and see who could make the neatest bed and etc. Then we would go down to the field around 8:00 pm for the fire works and at 6:15 pm we went outside with nose makers to celebrate the fourth. Then on Saturday every other week my father and aunt LALA would come to visit me. We would visit in the ward where they set up tables and chairs for families.
They would get off a bus around 11:15 am. They would have to leave at 3:00 pm for their bus. While they were there we would go for walks and talk about what was going on at home. Aunt LALA would bring me cookies and candy something she baked (Quick memory I used to sleep on a sofa bed and aunt LALA would put it away in the morning.) Also when she visited we played softball with cottages B,E and G around 6:30 pm after supper. We played with three teams, we go down to the baseball field to watch a baseball game we had to be back by 3:00 pm to take the spreads off the beds. We also would go to Catholic church in the gym every Sunday it was about 8:00 am service and at 10:00 am for it was Jewish service. Oh yeah I forgot we used to choose sides to play on for the softball games. My most memorable thing is that at Letchwort Village on Sunday July 27, 1941 is when I met my brother Tommy’s girlfriend Estelle and her nephew George. Actually Estelle came to visit in April 10, 1941 to onlyfind out that I was hospitalized. My brother Tommy came to visit me in the hospital. I was covered with boils, they were everywhere. I remained in the hospital for two weeks. George Gladden also came to visit me with Estelle twice and Tommy came again Friday June 28, 1957.
Now back to my cottage which was H cottage. On Sunday Dec 9, 1949 we had 3 newemployees come to work at cottage H at Letchwort Village. That is when Mrs. Nancy madurs came to work at cottage H. I would help the new employees out as much as I could during the day. This included helping with the records of attendance that soiled their beds. Also who was on vacation. That is how me and Nancy became friends. We knew each other for my last five 5 years at Letchwort Village for the workers. If the employees were good after 6 months the village would let them buy a uniform to wear. The woman would wear dresses until they were able to get their uniforms.
Okay on to more about the village. On Sunday after dinner around 1:00 pm the houseboy would go to see a basketball game in the wintertime. On Tuesday afternoon some of the houseboys went to the movies to help out getting people ready to see a movie in the gym, everyone had a opportunity to attend. And every Thursday night we would attend a dance in the gym. Three men would play instruments, which included a violin, clarinet and etc. It was held from 7:00pm to 9:00pm, but some of the houseboys would play for us. Then people who needed a shave would have it done on Saturday morning and wed morning. Monday night socks were given to each person on their beds to change them. Everyday toothbrushes were put on the bed for each person. Their names were on each toothbrush. Clean clothes were given on Saturday afternoon and they would take a bath on Saturday morning and wed morning too.
On with more when you were sick your meals would be chicken soup, tea, soft eggs, toast and an orange for juice. I got this meal because when I was 17 or 18 years old I was very sick for 3 weeks. I was sick with flu and while sick on Saturday afternoon they would trim your nails and clean your ears with cotton.
Everything though wasn’t bad cottage H did have a celebration for Halloween. We would play a game of musical chairs in the day room. We had a pie eating contest. We also had a peanut pushing contest where you had to move the peanut with your nose to the finish line. Also we had a broom race, a marshmallow with your mouth before your opponent did, boot races were held with teams, another great game that we had was where you had to put several crackers in your mouth and try to whistle, we dunked for apples and etc. These activities took place in the day room from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. We also used the hall for some activities like apple dunking and boy did we spill a lot of water.
Well on to what I used to do in cottage H. I took care of the shoe closet in the cottage H ward. 1 and 2 had 46 spots each for shoes and coats; I helped people who didn’t know where their shoes labels were placed above each shoe cubby and coat hook every other week. We would rotate our shoes for our other pairs. The other pair would go to the shoe repair place where children were repairing the shoes. Occasionally we would get nails put in up through the sole.
Also in the cottage when there was a new admission they first would have a shower and their hair checked. They would take kerosene and comb it through their hair. The next day the doctor would check you over. And every two weeks four boys and a man would come to the cottages to cut our hair. They would use clippers and then someone would check our hearing to make sure it was acceptable. Also cottages B,E.G and H could use the swimming pool in the afternoon around 1:00 pm we could swim for up to an hour. Cottage E would go after supper to use the swimming pool. The tenant would watch the pool and the house boys would clean the pool out on every Friday morning and would get clean water for the pool.
Oh yeah I remember also that I moved to cottage H which was on the hill on Oct 7, 1935. During my move to cottage H, the village moved cottages U,V and W to the new buildings. Men and women were kept separated. We could see each other in the dining hall but had different times. I was called a houseboy in cottage H. Every month supplies would come in and I would help to put them away. The state would come in every couple of months for inspections. They would give it a once over and write down what needed change even though nothing changed. A doctor would come to visit each cottage once a month. Dr. Camp would ask me if I was all right. He also would come in the morning to see who was or had sores.
Also a good thing there is at the village they had a bakery that made bread every day, a cattle farm, a warehouse, cottages and a pool. I attended school 2 yrs and 2 months 14 days at the village. The classroom was in the basement. I was in school from 8:20 am to 3:00 pm. I remember being in a classroom play where I was a horse. We also would play instrument. I played the tambourine. I played volleyball in the pm. We went from school to the bathroom to wash our hands and change our school clothes. We would then have to stand straight against the wall for about 2 hours. If we moved we would be hit with a dustpan brush on the hands.
I forgot to tell you I also lived in cottage B for only 1 day. That is because the doctor said I was too nervous and then sent me down the valley to cottage V from Sept 13, 1933 to Oct 2, 1933 we worked inside the village. Next I went to cottage X on Oct 2, 1933 to Oct 6, 1935. While at cottage X I was attended school. Also while I was at cottage X ringworm was going around people’s heads were bandaged. Their hair needed to be shaved off and new bandages were put on every morning. In the day room every day there was a sewing lady who would fix and repair our clothes. She would rotate one week sewing clothes then one week working in both wards. The ward lady would go from ward 1 to ward 2 and observe everyone. When the ward was crowded there were 90 people and 40 beds everyone would be put in the day room and told to sit quietly on the floor. I would usually listen to my radio in the ward.
Well this is coming to an end at Lentchworth Village but I also wanted to put in that they also had all girl cottages there were I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,W,X,Y, and Z.I had been at Letchworth Village from 9-12-1933 to 7-2-1957. But, I did visit home on September 28, 1940.
But , boy was I glad to leave Letchworth Village on Tuesday July 2, 1957 to go into home care.
Well, I hoped you liked my memories about Letchworth Village because now I am going on to my last Chapter in my life story, and that is when L went into home care and to you about my many adventures where there.
An Extraordinary Life
My life in family care and at the ARC
Moving into family care was nice. I went to Mr.& Mrs. Shaver in Margaretville, N.Y. They were an elderly couple and couldn’t really take care of us anymore, but, I do remember they had 15 cows and Mr. Shaver would take full milk cans and drop them off down the road to the stand for the man to take them to creameries. I lived there with 3 other people and they had to leave as well. I stayed until October 26, 1964 it was 7 years, 3 months, and 26 days.
Then on Tuesday October 27, 1964 I went to Mr. & Mrs. Ely in Gilboa, N.Y. I stayed until Sunday April 30, 1978, but I do have a lot of memories. I remember Mr. Ely worked as a carpenter Sunday night through Friday night. When he retired he fixed motors. This couple was to elderly to provide a safe atmosphere and environment. I live with them for 13 years and 3 months. I also remember that when living at Mr. & Mrs. Ely’s house Andrew and I would clean the bedrooms, we would clean the bedrooms, we would change the sheets, vacuum, and dust. We also would help with the living room and the stairs. I was there for 13 years, also while there we stayed home all day. There were five of us. It was Andrew, Charlie, Williams, Williams, and me. We would eat upstairs and spend most of our time up there. We even spent our holiday’s meals upstairs away from the rest of the family.
My first Christmas there I got a pool table, a pinball game, cloths, and candy. Then on August 23, 1930 I got my first watch it was a silver watch. Tommy bought me a catcher’s mitt and a baseball with a bat. Then in 1936 I got long pants. I had been wearing knickers. I also received 3 Tom Sawyer books, also in 1936 on Christmas I received a camera. Every Thursday I would take pictures of everyone playing outside. I would get the staff to take the film to be developed. When they brought the pictures back I would put them in my album. Before I left Letchworth Village I shared the pictures with everyone. In 1941 I got my first radio for my birthday, I was 21 years old my brother Tom brought it for me. He came with his girlfriend before he got married in 1984 at the church in Middleburgh. There we also had a Christmas play I played the king. The play was the Three Kings.
I put this memory here because I remembered it at one of my meetings we had. Here is a list of some of the things we would discuss at all meetings: Staff meetings, doctors, dressing up, who was there, discussing what, 3x year, month’s research, blocks in the right places, stop watch, reading, counting cash, Mr. & Mrs. Ely Carpenter in N.Y./ motor work, Gilboa, picnic area 2 years. Pool tables, bathrooms, who was there Willam Houser, Charlie Cohen, Andrew Phifer, and Howard Reidy, truck to work, state took ½ of the proceeds, trailer-owned property, paid rent, and I worked on the damn. Also I remember how Mr. & Mrs, Kovach came up to see me on June 1, 1970 at Mr. & Mrs. Ely’s house. Also while in Gilboa my brother Tom came up to see me on Sunday March 10, 1936 fron camp Dix and then again on Tuesday December 9, 1936 from camp Dix.
While at Mr. & Mrs. Ely’s house I made really great friends with Andrew. Andrew used to draw pictures in his free time, he was an Indian. I remember I slept upstairs because he was an older man and a good friend. Then Andrew passed but I visited the breakabeen cemetery every year and put flowers on his grave. He is always in my prayers every night. I have a burial spot right next to him so we will be together.
Also I just remembered something else, my brother Tommy came over to see me on Sunday, March 10, 1936 while on leave from camp Dix. He also came to see me on October 8, 1939 and when he was there he asked me what the date was. It was the date my mom passed away. Then in 1935 Tommy and my dad came, and the Tommy came again December 9, 1936.
Now with that said back to what I was talking about. Now on to some of my vacation. One of my vacations was to Caroga Lake. Grant Harders was my counselor at Caroga Lake. He would take us different places like out to eat, to a dance, swimming and etc. I went to this lake three different times in 1977. I went from July 3rd through the 9th. Another counselor was Karen Reed, she went on vacations with me to Caroga lake in 1977 and 1978. I liked her, she was a very nice person. She kept in touch by mail. When she left ERDS. She was an artist. We lost touch with each other. Oh yeah at Caroga Lake they would rent 2 houses. Another one of my vacations was when I went to Florida. I went to Florida in 1981 it was on Saturday March21. I flew in the air to Orlando. I stayed in a hotel. While there I went to sea world and we also watched how to make movie actors out of clay. I took pictures of our trip. I went with the residents of River St.
Now I would like to tell you about a memories that I had on one of my trips. When I was a young boy post cards were one cent, a letter was two cents. And when you went to the grocery store you brought a can of milk for only 15 cents, a loaf of bread cost 10 cents, the daily news was only 2 cents on week days and 5 cents on the weekend. The other papers were 10 cents and to see a movie also cost 10 cents. Also that trip was when my father took me on a picnic to Indian point. Then we rode a boat. Then my brother Tommy took me to Coney Island we had our pictures taken in a photograph studio. Then we sat in on a story.
And now that I am down telling you about my very interesting life there is still one more put I would like to tell you and that is about my life and adventures while at the ARC of Schoharie County.
Chapter # 3
Life At The ARC
On Monday May 1, 1978 I moved in with Mr – Mrs. Wayman. I stayed until Friday March 20, 1998. But here is some of what I did while I was there. Mrs. Wayman was the town historian. People would stop by to find out information on the history that she could help them with. Also she baked cakes for weddings and birthdays. I stayed with Mrs. Wayman for 19 years and 10 months. I helped out around the house by changing sheets, making my bed, cleaning my bedroom, sweeping the patio and porch and help with the leaves in the fall time. Mrs. Wayman wondered who taught me all of the things I knew how to do. I asked Gladys fiurst if she wanted me to work outside. Sometimes she would say no, but othertimes yes. Also with Gladys the entire friendship club was in a play. The church where the play was it was packed the date was Thursday December 6th. In the evening I think we went on Tuesday nights to practice for the play. There was a lot of preparation involved. We all wore costumes at the end of the play we all sang Christmas songs. Also on Saturday in the year of 1985 the friendship club was in a parade. The parade was in Schoharie down the main street. Also while talking about friendship club. We also rode on a wagon in 1995 in the month of July. There was a bicentennial celebration The Knights of Columbus marched in this parade. I rode a wagon in support of Columbus waving to people. This parade was also in Schoharie. I also was in another parade in Middleburgh supporting the Knights of Columbus I also rode a wagon waving to the people who came to see the parade.
Now back to some of the vacations. I went on with the Wayman. In 1977-78 we went on a Sunday and came back on Saturday to Caroga Lake, we stayed in two different houses. I think there were 10 of us with four counselors. This was through the organization ERDS. I remember one of my counselors in particular. Her name was Karen Reed, we used to do at camp included dances on Friday nights, softball and learned to row a boat, etc. We went in the water to swim. In 1979 we went to cape Cod. We also went sight seeing for a week in 1980. I also went to Lake George for a few days in 1981. I also took my first flight to Florida. We left on a Saturday and came back that following Saturday in 1982. I went back to Lake George for a few days. In 1983 we made another trip to cape cod also we went in 1985 to Caroga Lake and again in 1985. We also went to Niagra Falls for a few days in 1992 and we went to Philadelphia. There we saw the liberty bell and visited a house to see how they lived also I went on a horse carriage ride, etc. We also stopped in Atlantic City. I liked that place because I enjoyed gambling, but unfortunately I didn’t win any money. I’ve also made small trips to the baseball games, picnics and went to dinner on the ship. Oh yeah I almost forgot I had my picture taking by the liberty bell.
Also while there I would work. When we were working we had to punch in on our time cards. At the end of the day we would punch out. I’ve been working in the front workshop for 18 yrs (since 1981). Occasionally they would need me in the back workshop. I put pens together and other things too. I remember sorting multicolor ink for pens as well as well when I was at the workshops. In the last page I was talking about when I came to the ARC, it was Monday December 4, 1978. Here I worked in the workshop refinishing furniture for two months. I was moved to the kitchen Feb 12, 1979, I was to dump ash trays, wash tables and chairs, and run the cash register, prepare food trays, make jello, bake cookies, washed the kitchen towels and count money for a total at the end of the day. I would leave $8.00 change in the register for the next day. I worked in the kitchen from 1979 to 1981. I then moved to the front shop. I remember cutting my finger on a pie crust can and having stitches put in my finger. In the front shop I also packaged envelopes, put vacuum cleaner parts together, etc.
Then on March 20, 1998 I moved in with Jennifer & John Warner. There were eight of us altogether and we lived in North Blenheim, NY. I changed my sheets, made my bed and folded the clothes to be put away. I liked to relax out on the front porch. I also would dust and clean my room.
Now on to more of stuff I am a member of Knights of Columbus. I joined in December 4, 1980 and I am currently still a member. Our organization helps people in need of some type of assistance. For example we help paint the outside of a house. Also, we would hold meetings twice a month. Also, we had helped the church with cleaning and yard work. I’m also a member of ERDS. We got out in the community to balls game, bowling, and swimming. I’m English and Irish ancestry. Also, while I was with the Warners we went camping Belvedere Lake. I went fishing and slept in a tent on a cot.
Well, now on to more I also went with the residents of River St, I went on another plane ride in Sept. 2002. We went to the Scotia airport for a special plane ride. We went on a small four passenger plane. We circle around Schenectady and Scotia area. It was a sunny day and had a lot of fun.
Then, I retired Jan 2, 2002 from Schoharie ARC workshop. I worked there for 23 yrs but now I am with Dayhab in Coby NY. There I help the girls with remember stuff that needs to be done. I like to do crafts and read papers I get. I used to go to the carnival when I was a kid. I lived around here for 39 yrs. I used to bowl with ERDS that was in 1978.
Now with that said I’m still at Dayhab in Coby. I love it there.
Now at the end of my book I would like to thank everyone for their help and support with writing my book. So thank you very much and I hope you enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Yours Truly Howard Reidy
I think that you will agree with me that, while far from perfect, Howard did a great job in writing his story. Especially when taking into consideration his handicaps as well as his very limited education.
It strikes me that some events were very powerful memories to Howard and the dates of many of these events stuck in his mind. What powerful emotions they must have provoked to be remembered with such clarity, not only about the events but also of the dates on which they occurred.
Typical of Howard as I knew him, throughout his story, though he mentions occasionally things that displeased him, he displayed neither anger, nor any grudge at all. He was fully aware that he disliked what was happening, but he understood his limitations in doing something about it. He did what he could to bring about changes for the better, but he did it without anger or animosity. I find that truly remarkable. I also believe that subtlety, he did in fact cause changes for the better from time to time.
A portion of the last part is a little confusing in that he said there were eight of them living at the Wards. There were in fact eight including the Wards and their children, now grown. Not eight developmentally disabled. Also, though he titles the last chapter as his life at the ARC, he continued to include part of his life in family care as well, and indeed he lived them both at the same time.
Please visit my website at: www.fredsstoryroom.com.