Society hosts a stroll down Cheshire’s Memory Lane

Society hosts a stroll down Cheshire’s Memory Lane


Cheshire Historical Society President Diane Calabro shares a story as panelists Art Childs and Ruth Podgwaite listen. CHS sponsored a local history event in April .

Quite the collection of townsfolk gathered at April’s Cheshire Historical Society’s annual meeting to talk abaout times gone by. Kurtz, Dayton, Zentek, Rodriquez, and Edson were among those Cheshire names in attendance whose family roots tap deeply into the town’s past.

All were invited to a few hours of nostalgia in a toundtable discussion, after the business meeting, held in the organization’s newly renovated meeting room. CHS Director Diane Calabro told the audience, this was an opportunity to take a deeper look into Cheshire—into the places, events and people, not only from a personal timeline, but beyond, farther into the town’s past.

Calabro began by sharing a story about from the family history of her husband Dave Calabro.

“My husband’s grandmother came to Cheshire when she was 15-years-old,” Calabro said. “She was sold into a marriage with a much older man. She came with one dress, no shoes, and he gave her a shovel and told her to start turning the sod over... that was on Peck Lane where I live today ... It was a very hard life at the end of the 1930s.”

Switching to lighter topics, Calabro said, “Then there are the stories (such as) ‘I remember when there was only one traffic light in town.’ Everyone has heard that story.”

“And I remember before it had one,” Ruth Podgwaite interjected, to laughter and applause. She later noted that the first traffic light in town was by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in the center of town.

Podgwaite, a former teacher at Humiston, and Art Childs, who owned a gas station in town for many decades, were the evening’s speakers. Calabro asked audience members to join and share stories if they liked.

“I’ve lived in Cheshire for 89 years,” said Podgwaite, who lives on the same small farm her parents bought around World War I on Mt. Sanford Road.

The area was, according to Podgwaite, a mecca in the summer for wealthy people looking to escape the city. “The Sayers came out from New York,” she said. “Up on the hill, above Mt. Sanford, on South Brooksvale, was the Bradley estate. They came out from New Haven for the summer, which seems very funny now, but in those days, I guess it was quite a trek to move out with your servants and so on for the summer.”

Podgwaite also recalled as a young child, she would walk all the way up to Ives Corner, where Mr. Elmer Ives lived, in order to get a trolley ride to Humiston School where she attended kindergarten.

“The Ives family owned every corner of land, there from Cook Hill Road, to Harrison Street, and so on,” she said.

Art Childs talked about moving to town when he was 8-years-old.

“My father would say you’re a new person then,” Podgwaite quipped.

Born in Yalesville, Childs said his father came from Canada.

“He got a job at Moss Farm,” Childs said. “He worked on that farm with his brother, and then their father came down.”

After about a year, the whole family relocated to the area. Childs and his family eventually moved into Wiese Road.

“I learned a lot about the history of this town from Edward “Eddie” Gumprecht,” Childs said.

The Gumprechts owned the garage on South Meriden road, that Childs eventually bought as his own business for many years. That’s where the center of Cheshire was then, he said. Childs talked about the WPA pouring concrete and building the bridge and wall down by Diamond Hill, along with the road. (The WPA or Work Projects Administration was part of the New Deal initiatives to employ people and bring improvement projects to communities from about 1935 to 1943.) He remembered horses were used to help and he also recalled a “tent city” for all the workers who were on the project.

Childs, Podgwaite and audience members recollected about the “now gone, but not forgotten” gas station that was at the “V”, where Main Street/Rt. 10 north, turns left, heading west. There were also brief recollections of a “town farm” on Country Club, near Buckland Drive.

They had a “pretty good sized dairy farm there,” said Childs.

It was “where the indigent lived,” added Podgwaite.

According to Podgwaite, the men would work on the farm until they got too old, and then they would just sit in the sun in front of the barn all day.

Boardman Barney Kathan, a lifelong Prospect resident who is well-known in Cheshire, brought up names and places that had many memories, including delivering soda in the back of a truck with Russ Hanson. He talked about going to Karrington Drugstore, and the Notch to get a soda for a nickel, and Hines Hardware, where he’d go the second floor where the sports equipment was located.

Kathan recalled the town doctors, too. There was Dr. Wilbur Moore, and Dr. Oxnard—“Oxy” called out some in the audience — and Dr. Charles Dayton. They all made housecalls, as recalled by a number of attendees.

“Even though I was across the line in Prospect,” said Kathan, “It was wonderful to know Cheshire and to be a part of it in the 1930s and 40s.”

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