Helen Cook

Interviewer: Carrie Kline
Date: May 2, 2014
Place of Interview: New York University
Transcriptionist: Adept Word Management

Click for audio: part 1, part 2, part 3.
Audio file is in .mp3 format.

Helen CookCarrie Kline: 0:00:02.1 Okay. Well, I'm Carrie Kline here with my partner and husband Michael Kline and my mother, Susan Nobel, here at NYU. And maybe you would introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about where we are.

Helen Cook: [Chuckles] I'm Helen Cook. My maiden name was Locke. I grew up in Concord. Right now we are at 440 Lafayette Street in New York City. And specifically, this is the house of the Playwright's Horizons Theater School which is one of the training programs associated with the Undergraduate Drama Department at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Yes, it's a lot to say.

CK: Would you care to share your date of birth to keep this in some sort of perspective?

HC: Sure. July 2nd, 1938.

CK: Okay. Well, tell us about your people and where you were raised.

HC: [Chuckles] Well, my parents both grew up in Concord. My mother was--her maiden name was Trumbull, Mary Trumbull. And my father's name was William Locke.

CK: I'm going to make an adjustment here.

HC: Okay.

CK: Just a minute, please. Okay. Because we're adjusting to traffic noise and all, I'll ask you to say your name and date of birth and tell us about your people and where you were raised.

HC: My name is Helen Cook. My maiden name was Helen Locke. I was born July 2nd, 1938 actually in Portland, Oregon. And my parents who both grew up in Concord, moved back to Concord when I was just an infant, and that's where we lived pretty much the whole of my growing up life. I got married when I was 19, so, and have been away from Concord since then basically. But we're here to talk about the Country Store, which was its original name. It ended up being called the Country Store of Concord in its later life. But my maternal grandfather, Franklin Hunt Trumbull, founded the store in 1938, when I was born. He started by selling Levi dungarees and Pendleton flannel shirts from his front hall vestibule in the house on Musketaquid Road that he and my grandmother had built for them. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time at that house. Actually, my mother moved back to live with them. I--at that point--had a brother during the Second World War when my father was in the Pacific. We lived with my grandparents for almost three years, I think. So, let's see. I'm getting off the track a little bit.

CK: 0:02:03.1 No. You're doing fine.

Michael Kline: You're doing--that's it.

HC: So, eventually--I'm not sure exactly the date, but the store became--or moved to Monument Street--One Monument Street right next to the Colonial Inn. And the building is still there looking very much the same as it did when it was the Country Store. It was sold in--the Country Store was sold in 1981 to a company called C. M. L. which was a parent company for several smaller companies like the Country Store. I think they had-- they had companies like--there was a canoe company, a company that made boots, and various small companies that they sort of were the umbrella company of. And the Country Store really didn't last more than another year or two in their hands unfortunately. But the store became a--really a leader in the field of sportswear which really wasn't a thing that was common in those days--in the 1940s and so forth. When my father came back from the War in '45--he came back from the Pacific--jobs were hard to find for those ex--Servicemen. And he very reluctantly joined my grandfather in the business because he really was not happy about selling women's clothes. That seemed to be an issue for him. However, he was a really good manager and brought the store along to great success actually. And my mother joined the store probably in 1947 or '48 after the birth of my younger sister, and she really was innovative in the industry, developing what was called the palette of Bermuda colors in clothing for women. She used to come down here to New York once a month. She would spend a week in the market working with various suppliers--whatever they're called--wholesalers.

CK: In the market?

HC: Yes. Here on 7th Avenue. The old clothing market it was called.

MK: Her name?

HC: My mother's name was Mary Trumbull Locke.

CK: So, Bermuda? What's the Bermuda palette?

HC: You think of Bermuda. That's that blue, green, pink, yellow--those colors, those bright--I'm sure they have more exotic names to them, but.

CK: Sort of pastel or--?

HC: Yeah, they're more--they're a little brighter than a pastel--yeah--a little more cheerful.

CK: So, she would come down here to the Fashion District?

HC: 0:05:42.7 She would come down here to the Fashion District and go to the various different manufacturers' showrooms and often work with the designers to create things that she knew would work for the people they were selling to, the suburban women. And the men's--there was a men's shop as well, but that tended to be more nice plaid shirts and nice trousers. There were always dungarees and so forth. It was the women's wear that really was the more--the heart of the store. They also had--for some time--a children's section. Again, some of the same manufacturers. I have to stop for a minute. I'm sort of getting jumbled up I think.

CK: Okay.

HC: Yes. My mother was an artist in a way, in her way, definitely. She used--she--before she worked at the store with my father, she had designed jewelry--actually made jewelry. And later when she retired, she was a painter and very much of a visual artist, if you, as it were.

CK: What kind of jewelry?

HC: It was silver often with sort of Mexican--looking large flowers and things with the blue--what is the blue--

CK: Turquoise?

HC: --stone? Turquoise. Yes. She seemed to be very fond of turquoise.

CK: Were those sold in the store too?

HC: No, no, no. It was something she did on her own out of a little house we had--little shed--work house in the back of our--behind our house on--we lived on Nashoba Road after my father came back from the War. And she joined the store and really made the women's wear business very exciting business. We also had a--there was a candy store--there was a candy counter at the store with old--fashioned candy that was sold in the big, beautiful, old candy jars and so forth and sold by the penny. Children from the schools around would come after school and inundate Mrs. Nichols who was the candy lady.

CK: Spelled?

HC: And it was old--fashion--Spell her name?

CK: Yeah.?

HC: Her name was Elise, E--L--I--S--E--I think--Nichols, N--I--C--H--O--L--S.

CK: Okay. So, she was--

HC: She was quite an institution at the store. I'm hoping that the archives that my niece has will have some of the pictures of her and so forth which we're looking at.

CK: 0:02:24.7 So, what sort of candies?

HC: Old--fashioned penny candies. Wonderful barley pops and barley candy was a special--I don't know. It was eventually just a sugar syrup that would harden and they would mold into the shape of animals and so forth. It would be on a--it would be like a lollipop. That's one. I mean there were lots of nonpareils, various kinds of suckers and so forth. Ribbon candy was a big thing.

CK: What's that?

HC: Ribbon candy? You remember any of this?

Susan Nobel: Uh huh. I do.

HC: Well, I can't describe how it was made, but it was striated with colors--different colors in it. It was white, and red, and yellow stripes--green. And it would be a strip, I guess, that was brought out in a long, thin length, and then somehow it was folded up so it looked like it wound up and down like a ribbon. It was all different flavors and there were--not the kind of candy that you have today. Rock candy. Do you know what rock candy is? [laughing] I don't know exactly what rock candy is, but it was sort of almost opaque white color and crystallized. And it was very--so, it was very lumpy stuff. I don't know.

SN: Looks like rocks.

HC: Yeah. Looks like rocks. It looks like--

SN: Crystal.

HC: Crystal. Yeah. Some places still sell old--fashioned candy like that. But it was really--Mrs. Nichols had little scoops that she'd scoop out the candy from the jars and put them into little bags that the kids would go away with. And they were literally a penny a piece. Some of the bigger ones were maybe five cents or something, but.

CK: You were raised in a candy shop?

HC: [laughs] It was just one counter along one side of the store.

CK: But still.

HC: Yeah.

CK: You must have been the envy of all the kids.

HC: Yes. Yes. Mrs. Nichols was wonderful. My father was an innovator to some extent. He had an IBM computer installed in the store in--I guess it must have been around 1958, something like that. And the store on the street level had two stories, but then the land slopes down in the back. If you've been to the Colonial Inn, there's a big parking lot down in the back. And so, it opened out to the back, and the cellar was--there was the men's shop down there, and then the rest of the cellar was taken over by the IBM computer. It was huge. It was the size of at least this room and maybe that. And this equipment--they had to, of course, filter the air and then--it was amazing what had to be done then. And it was the old kind of those cards that you had to punch. Some poor woman had to sit and punch these, the codes into the cards so that they could be counted. But it was very innovative of him to get this to, thing to happen. And it helped solve a lot of the inventory issues that they had been having. My father--I think my grandfather had--was still running the store when they opened a branch in Nantucket on Easy Street--it was called--right on the Harbor and then another one in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard. My grandfather left Concord--retired and left Concord--in--give me a moment--probably 1950. And he and my grandmother moved out to Aspen, Colorado, where an aunt and uncle of mine were living.

MK: 0:07:45.3 And their names were?

HC: My grandparents? Franklin Trumbull and Miriam Mason Trumbull. And my mother's sister Joan Trumbull Wright and her husband ran the Aspen Country Store which was really about skiing clothes and equipment. It wasn't really associated with the Concord store. But clearly she got some of her ideas about that store from her heritage.

CK: How did your grandfather get his innovation though?

HC: Oh. He was an entrepreneur. He never stuck with anything very long honestly. As a young man, he worked as a banker in Boston. And then he was--for a while--a teacher at Middlesex School. He taught English and was a football coach, was also the man who went around the country recruiting students for--talking about the school to perspective students and so forth.

CK: Remind me his name again.

HC: His name was Franklin Hunt Trumbull, and his family came from Salem, Massachusetts. They were ship owners and so forth. He also at one point ran an antique store on the Mill Dam which is Main Street in Concord where all the stores are clustered in the center of the town. And for another short period of time, he ran the Wright Tavern which is near the Unitarian Church by the flag pole in the center of town. If you know where the circle is--where the flag pole is--it's, assuming that you're going toward the church, it's on the right and it's a big red--lovely red--building there. It's called the Wright Tavern. And he ran it as an inn and a restaurant. So, yes, he was a wanderer. [chuckles] He was very interested in horses. He kept a couple of Morgan horses near the house on Musketaquid Road. I remember he had a sulky we used to ride around with these two Morgan, lovely Morgan horses named Sammy and Susie. [chuckles]

CK: You rode around?

HC: Yeah. I never was--I never adjusted to horses very well, but they were definitely a part of our growing up. Yeah. My--it's interesting because my other grandfather--my paternal grandfather, Charles Locke--taught at Middlesex School. And he was the crew coach and Latin teacher there.

MK: 0:11:13.7 What years?

HC: I was afraid you were going to ask me that.

MK: What decade?

HC: Well, the '30s maybe. The '30s, '40s, and '50s he was there.

CK: At Middlesex?

HC: At Middlesex.

CK: Which is in Concord?

HC: Yes, it is. It's out Lowell--it's way out Lowell Road. It's a private boy's school. It was at the time. But now it's co--ed as most of those private schools are. It--Yeah. They lived on campus, and in one of the dormitories, my grandparents Locke were dorm masters. And also my grandparents, Trumbull, were dorm masters on another--in another building on the campus. And they--that's how my parents really knew each other. That's how they met and actually fought, and played, and so forth together. Yeah.

CK: So, they were--they each grew up on that campus?

HC: Yes. My father was four years older than my mother, so she was just a pest pretty much to him for most of his--most of the time that they were there. But my grandfather Trumbull--they moved away from the campus because he got interested in all these other things, the antique shop, and the tavern, and then the Country Store as well, which he was sort of doing as a sideline. But I think that began to really be the focus for a while. Then, as my parents came along and took over, they retired and moved out to Aspen. So, we're back full circle.

My brother--my younger brother, Franklin Trumbull Locke--became involved in the store in 1969, I think--'68,'69. And he helped to manage some of the other branches because by that time the store had--in addition to the branches on the Vineyard on Nantucket they had a branch in Westwood, Massachusetts, in Greenwich, Connecticut, for a short while in Hartford, Connecticut, in Far Hills, New Jersey, and in Sarasota, Florida. The Sarasota, Florida store happened because my grandfather wanted to go to Florida in the winter, [laughing] as simple as that.

CK: Smart man. It may be fun to hear about--before we get so far into the '60s--your earliest memories in that store, if you spent much time in there as a girl.

HC: Yeah. Well, it was sort of magical. Because of my grandfather's interest in antiques, there was an old music box. It was huge, with a glass front, and it played those enormous disks, metal disks that had the holes punched in them. I'm going to look at you again. [Turns toward Susan Nobel who is the same age.] Yes? And the disk revolves and makes--hammers make music. And it had just--I don't know--I'm sure there's a technical name for such things whether they were Melodium or something. But they made lovely sort of hurdy-gurdy music on a less tinny scale.

CK: 0:15:29.6 In the store?

HC: In the store. And you would wind it up, and it would play, and played this--it was lovely. And he had a lot of strange antiques around the store like that. There was also, I remember, hanging up from a rafter in the center of the display place was the largest pair of Levi jeans that had ever been made. They were huge. This wide and-- [Chuckles]

CK: How wide?

HC: Very wide.

CK: Let's see. You're doing about--

HC: I don't know. About as wide as my arm spread, yeah. [Chuckles] And it just had a very country store kind of feel to it. It was very--lots of wood and that old color red that has the milk in it that makes it a sort of a milky red. What can I say? Yeah. I'm sorry I don't-- I was looking earlier. I don't have a picture here of the store. But as I say, it looks--physically, it looks the same, and the color is just different now.

CK: Any pictures of the store anywhere else?

HC: Oh yes. I think my--this collection of things that my niece has will augment anybody--the--we'll have those pictures.

CK: Is this a place where you spent much time?

HC: Well, I spent some time. Of course it was also the thing that kept our parents from coming home. [laughing] There was a certain antipathy toward it as far as I was concerned to some extent. We had--it was very unusual growing up to have a mother, a working mother. And I often had my friends' mothers say, you know, "Are you all right? Aren't you terribly lonely? Do you miss your mother?" And so on.

CK: Does that mean you got adopted by other mothers?

HC: Well, to a little, to a certain extent. But my sister was eight years younger than I, and my mother was working more or less full-time by the time she was two. And so I became a substitute mother in lots of ways. And yes, we'd come home off the school bus in the afternoon, and the cleaning lady or the housekeeper would be there. And I was usually held responsible for the bad things that my siblings did. [Chuckles] So, yeah. But yes. Proud of it and so forth. We were--

The thing I wanted to talk about was the catalog that used to happen. The only catalogs in the collection currently at the library were from the early '80s--I think--when the catalog had become a fairly slick, cheap--on cheap paper, the size that most catalogs are now today. But it used to be a small catalog that was on good paper. Most of the items in the catalog were hand--drawn. And everything had a specifically written description about it. And when I became a teenager, I actually became involved in writing the catalog with my father. And the challenge was to find new words to describe these endless things that were all alike and describe each one in some unique way.

MK: 0:20:14.6 Did your mother do the drawing?

HC: No. There was an artist named Roy McKey who was a New Hope painter and artist who did the drawings. He was the author of a few books--children's books. But what they had created was a family called the Piffens who--there was a story about them on the inside of the cover each, for each issue of the catalog. And I think there were--there may have been three catalogs a year. I don't think there were four. There were certainly two or three catalogs that came out of each year, and each time there was a story about the Piffens. They've taken a trip someplace, and this is where they found the special candy for the store, or the special maple syrup for the store, or the special new linen pants someplace else. And so Roy McKey would draw a little picture of the Piffen family on their travels that would be on the inside cover of the catalog.

CK: As well as the item itself?

HC: Well, yeah. There would be that story, and then the items would be listed on subsequent pages.

CK: Drawn by him?

HC: Yeah. Yeah.

CK: But you had to find some language. Do you remember any great phrases?

HC: No. [Laughing]

MK: Well, what about some plot lines?

HC: [Laughing] Plot lines.

MK: The family serial?

HC: I think they had two children, and they--the children were mischievous, and it was very sweet and very innocent. It was really a different time. Nothing like that would be--with Bart Simpson and so forth today, it wouldn't be--wouldn't interest anybody anymore I don't think.

CK: I'm interested in hearing about that, the difference in clientele and the changes in the social life.

HC: Yeah. It was a gentler time. We didn't--there had been the Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and so forth, and certainly we knew we were in a nuclear age. But even so, we rode our bicycles around Concord without any concern about safety or so forth. Cars were slower and fewer, and there was a lot less--very little organized activity for kids. We had dancing school once a week and, but there was no Little League when I was growing up and so forth. It was a--and kids relied on themselves more playing and so forth. Everything wasn't arranged and organized for them all the time.

CK: 0:23:51.9 What did you play?

HC: Well, we played--I remember playing some kind of stick ball in the streets and riding our bicycles around. And some people had jungle gyms that we played on and so forth, lots of hide and seek and racing around the neighborhood. We had a very nice little neighborhood up on Nashoba Road which--well, anybody who's there knows where it is, but. It was a family--small houses and families in the neighborhood, and the kids were all pretty much of an age range from five to 15 or so. And every afternoon, that's what they'd do is go out and play. And nobody had to--we weren't watched the way you do now. I mean life is more complicated. That's all. It's better or--for better or for worse, I would say. And we certainly didn't have the distractions of television, or computers, or anything like that.

CK: No television?

HC: Not then. Not. No. Well, I guess we did get a television in--1950? I remember my grandmother Locke had a television. It was a huge box--huge console--with a little tiny screen. And she--they got a magnifying thing that was on a stand--a magnifying glass that was on a stand and was put in front of the picture on the tube. And you had to sit exactly in front of it, because if you didn't--if you sat to the side, everything was--they were all distorted because of the curve of the magnifying glass. But I remember her watching the Army-McCarthy hearings on the television. She was devoted to that. And then we got one. I remember Howdy Doody. But I was in high school by that time pretty much. And so it didn't affect my life as much as it maybe affected my brother and sister who were younger. Can we stop for a sec?

CK: Can you say that again?

HC: It wasn't--cars were not as important a part of our life as they have become then. We walked, rode bicycles, and it was much more--less mobile. But people didn't go so far--didn't, you didn't go so far. If you wanted to go into Boston, you took the train and so forth.

CK: Did you do that?

HC: Yeah. Sure. Went in to see plays and so forth. When I was young, there was a wonderful company in Boston--theater company--that produced children's plays, Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood, and so forth. But they were these elaborate Broadway--like productions with--I think it was called the Children's Theatre Company of Boston or something like that. And they were done in the Shubert Theatres in Boston. And we would be bussed in three or four or five times a year to see these plays in these great big theaters. And that was sort of the beginning of my love of theater certainly. We--Oh, I had something else in my mind that I wanted to--Sorry.

CK: Take your time.

(background noise)

HC: 0:28:26.0 (laughing) Getting all that?

CK: Ambience.

HC: Yes. Yeah. Oh. That's what I was going to say. I went to--for schooling, I went to the Brooks School as a child when my parents were--when my mother was living in with my grandparents.

CK: Brook?

HC: Brooks, B--r--o--o--k--s. It was on the corner of Elm Street and--nope--anyway. Sorry. It was--Mrs. Brooks was the headmistress of this little--and it was in a house on the corner of Elm Street and something--I'll remember--Wood Street. And the barn was where the kindergarten and nursery school was. I went there through third grade and then to the Peter Buckley School which was the public school in Concord. It was a public elementary school in Concord, which is down by, near the library. Then I went to Concord Academy which was--which is the private school. And it was all girls then. It's now, like Middlesex co-ed. But it's a really excellent school. My mother, both of my aunts--both of my maternal aunts--and all three of my paternal aunts went to Concord Academy. My cousins went to Concord Academy. Very much of a family school.

CK: What was excellent about it?

HC: Well, I was lucky to go there when a woman named Elizabeth Hall was the headmistress, and she really made it into a very--an excellent feeder school for the Seven Sisters colleges. That's where most of my classmates went to school--Smith, and Vassar, and Radcliff, and so forth. It was--the men and women who taught there were just amazing, and that was a really excellent education. A lot of us felt when we went to college that we had already done that. Been there, done that. It was a really good program. And it still is. It's still an excellent school.

CK: Who were some of your favorite teachers?

HC: Well, Elizabeth Hall, and--

CK: She taught as well?

HC: She taught--yes.

CK: Talk a little bit about her.

HC: Oh, she was a force of nature. She went to Smith College originally and dropped out and got married to a guy named Livingston Hall. I can't remember what her maiden name was. But she went to Radcliff after she'd had five children, and then I guess came to teach and was--I'm not sure of the evolution of how she became the headmistress, but. If you were late for anything, or misbehaved, you had to go chop wood. That was the punishment for almost any misdeed.

CK: Were you a wood chopper?

HC: 0:32:31.4 No, I never really did--I was pretty much of a goody--goody. I think I did once. And one of the lovely things she did was after--just the year that I graduated--after I graduated--was to dismantle a whole lovely little chapel that was up in New Hampshire somewhere and bring it back, board by board, and have it re--built on the campus. It was this lovely little chapel that's there now. And I'm very attached to Concord Academy. It was a wonderful school. My sister went there. By that time, my parents had moved to Lowell Road right around the corner from the Country Store essentially. She didn't have as happy a time at Concord Academy. So, it's interesting. I'm running out of steam. [Chuckles]

CK: Let's take a break.

HC: Sorry.

CK: Say that again.

HC: So, Elise Nichols, who ran the candy counter at the Country Store, was a violinist. She played the violin in church; she played the violin for weddings and so forth. But she played the violin for us at our commencement activities at Concord Academy. Oh, she was just a lovely person. My father actually--she said that my father saved her life by coming to her after her husband had died who my father knew and said, "Elise, I think you should come and help me at the store." And she did. She was there for--I don't know--for 10 or more years, I think, as an older person.

CK: Which years? Any sense, roughly?

HC: Well, the late '40s into maybe 1960, around there. Yeah.

CK: I keep thinking about what an important time it was. I mean, your father was in the War, you said?

HC: Yeah.

CK: You were quite young. Tell me about--

HC: Yeah. I was four or five when he went overseas. He was one of the ninety-day wonders out of Quonset where he was trained as a naval officer. He came out a lieutenant JG, I guess, and went--he did intelligence work in the Pacific. So, he was in the same class as Henry Fonda, who was also--yeah.

CK: Was he gone very long?

HC: Yes. He was gone for three years or more.

CK: So, you were about eight when he returned?

HC: Yeah. I was seven. Yeah. Four to seven.

CK: 0:35:54.2 What a moment that must have been.

HC: Yeah. It was--My brother had just been born when he went overseas. And when we lived with my grandparents, because my mother's youngest sister--was living there also--and my mother both called their father daddy--and my brother began to call him daddy too. And nobody really tried to correct him in a serious way. He'd seen pictures of his father, but that didn't mean anything to a one--year--old, a two--year--old, a three--year--old. So, when my father finally did come back, Frank was terrified of him. He was tall and imposing, and he expected that Frank would--because I'm sure the letters that my mother must have sent and so forth. I think he expected that Frank would rush into his arms and say "Daddy, Daddy, thank God you're home," when of course he was terrified of him, ran away crying and saying "You're not my daddy. You're not my daddy." It was--set up a very bad relationship for them actually that I don't think they ever--in some ways--overcame.

CK: What about you?

HC: Well, I remembered him well, and that's interesting. I don't remember--I think I was very happy to have him back. We were always very good friends. Yeah, I had a better relationship with him than I did with my mother. [Chuckles] But we resolved that eventually.

CK: Was he the guy you remembered? He had been at war for years by then?

HC: Yeah. I think all those men were affected. I think it was--for most of them, I think it was the greatest adventure of their lives. And coming back, it was--I think it was a huge adjustment for them. My father became an alcoholic, and I think, you know, lots of men did. I think it was--there was nothing ever so exciting in their lives again. It was a huge adventure, if they survived it. He was in Okinawa and L.A. and all these places.

CK: Multiply that by a whole town.

HC: I know. Yeah. It was really very hard.

CK: Did they hang out together? Did the men go out to the American Legion, or VFW, and try to talk and drink, or what was the culture like?

HC: I can't say. I was too young to know about that kind of thing. But, yeah I think certainly we read about it and hear about it, that companionship that those men have together, develop, fighting together and being together in such close quarters in such an intense time. Yeah.

CK: And I guess the flip side is the camaraderie of the women while the men were away.

HC: Right. I'm sure there was a big adjustment for lots of wives to have a man come back and. You know, women had been working in the factory, working in all kinds of ways, and then suddenly they were being laid off so that men could get jobs again. And they were being expected to go back and cook and clean and so on.

CK: 0:40:05.5 Were there examples of that?

HC: It was an interesting time.

CK: Yeah. In Concord, were there examples of that in your--?

HC: Again, it's hard--it's speculation on my part really. It was a--Concord was always a fairly well--heeled town, and most of the men living there worked in Boston or were traveling in on the train.

CK: Except for some exceptions including your father then.

HC: Right. Right. There were men--companies and businesses in town obviously that people were running. My grandfather--I told you he was an antiques buff. One of the things that he had was a Model T Ford--the old kind with the high roof and so forth that had The Country Store written on the side. He would drive it around town to advertise the store and so forth. And that got drawn into the Piffen story, that was their car, that they travelled the country in, buying things for the store.

CK: Who were your grandmothers? Talk a little bit about who was in the passenger's seat--or maybe the driver's seat. I don't know.

HC: My grandmother Trumbull was a very lovely, quiet, sweet woman. She had been--she had been orphaned by the time she was 12 and had five older brothers. She spent most of her teenage years sort of living with one of those--they were much older and married and so forth, and she spent time living with different sisters--in--law until they got tired of her and shipped her off to another sister--in--law. She finally got married. She was a quiet, sweet, gentle, somewhat passive person. She did have some money, which made it possible for my grandfather to be as peripatetic as he was.

CK: Was she a Concordian?

HC: No. She--Her maiden name was Mason, and they lived--they were--her brothers lived on the North Shore in Boston. So, she was more of a Bostonian than anything. But again, because of her living around with siblings, it's hard to say what she was. I think Bostonian would be the closest thing.

CK: So, she had a little bit of North Shore funding to bring to the marriage?

HC: Yeah. Yeah. And my Grandmother Locke--I'm named after her. Her name was Helen Russell Davis. And then she married Charles Locke--was a wonderful, very strong, very wonderful person. I'm sorry. She. Such a cliché description, but she raised six children on a schoolmaster's pay. She was a devoted housemother to the boys who were, lived in their dormitory at Middlesex. She did all the costumes--the tradition at Middlesex in those days was to do Gilbert and Sullivan. And the boys dressed up as women of course, and my grandmother did most of the costumes and so forth. My grandfather Locke was also a musician, and he was a singer and played the piano and sang in choirs and choruses and so forth. But she was a lovely cook. Her children complained that she needed a new dress. She really was an amazing woman.

CK: 0:44:55.1 She needed a new dress?

HC: Well, because she never--she was taking care of everybody else. And again, it was a schoolmaster's pay. Granted, they had a place to live, but I don't think they were getting paid much.

CK: What were some of her dishes that she cooked?

HC: She made amazing cheese soufflés. I remember those. She made--we had a family place on Cape Cod in South Orleans, my great--her father bought a big piece of land that strikes out into Pleasant Bay which is near Chatham. I don't know if you know the Cape at all, but it's right in the elbow of the Cape. And he built a house for himself and his family. And then when my grandmother got married, they built--he built another house for her and her family. So, there are these two large, old shingled summer houses that are on this amazing point of land on the Cape.

And that's where I spent all my childhood summers was--these amazing summers--particularly during the War. And Granny would make these huge picnics for us, and we would sail across the bay, go to the outer beach--Nauset Beach--and climb over the dunes and have all--day picnics over there. My grandfather would make mazes in the sand and we'd--after lunch because we weren't allowed to swim after lunch. We would run the maze that he had drawn in the sand. It was an amazing accomplishment it seems to me. I can't imagine drawing a maze in the sand, but he did.

CK: Not a labyrinth, but a full scale--

HC: Yeah. Big, huge maze. We would get--it was--yes. My grandmother made towels into capes for us. We could tie them around--these big capes--and we'd climb up the dunes and jump off thinking that we were Superman, and so forth, and of course, I'm sure contributed enormously to the erosion of those dunes. We weren't thinking about things like that then, unfortunately. Yeah, she--her sister--after my great--grandfather died--took over what we call the big house with her clan. My grandparents, as I said, had six children and 16 grandchildren. And her sister, who was a widow had five children and something like 20 grandchildren, or more. So, we had our own camp there. We had a tennis court, and a couple of sailboats, and paddle boards they were called, that you could sit on and paddle, and kayaks. We had an amazing--it was just wonderful. Dogs. During the War, we kept a pig that would, we we'd make a pet of every summer, and it would be killed after we had all gone home. [Laughing] Yeah. And a couple of my second cousins were pilots out of Camp Edwards which was a base--I don't think it was actually on the Cape, but just off the Cape. And they would fly over when they were around in training, and drop notes to their wives, and buzz the house. We would get all excited.

CK: Great summers.

HC: Oh, it was. They were amazing summers. Yeah. Just amazing summers.

CK: And then, back home, did your parents have sort of a set that they socialized with? What was the social scene like for--

HC: 0:50:04.9 Yes, they did. They had friends that they--there was a lot of cocktail. Cocktail hour was a big thing in those years. Every night--I remember with my grandparents sitting down to have cocktails at 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock, whenever they got back from work. Sitting down and listening to the radio, the news on the radio, Fulton Lewis Jr. and so forth. Remember that? And we listened to The Lone Ranger.

SN: Sundays.

MK: Fulton Lewis?

HC: Fulton Lewis, Jr. was a broadcaster. But cocktails--Old--Fashioneds. And that was the thing. They would have two or three, belt away two or three of those every night. I don't know. None of my children do that. It's interesting. We certainly didn't. It was definitely the culture then, or among those people that I knew--grew up with. Wine was not part of that culture at all. Beer, certainly.

CK: Beer was and Old--Fashioneds--

HC: Beer and Old Fashioneds, martinis, that kind of thing.

CK: Your parents would come home from work--

HC: Yep. I think it contributed to the work fights that they had too. [Laughing] Yes, well, he was trying to control the money, and she was trying to spend it. It was definitely the set up for cross purposes.

CK: Yin and Yang.

HC: And the retail business is so difficult, because you have to pay up front. So, it was really a matter of having to borrow money each season against the--being sure that you've sold everything that you bought. So, it was--that was a lot of negotiation that they had to go through. Sometimes it was very painful. My mother was a genius, and he knew it. But still, she couldn't just do whatever she wanted. It had to be--make the business pay off. You know?

CK: She was a genius?

HC: Yeah. I think she really was in her field--the color and shapes. And she could just walk into one of the branches, and she'd just see the way the things were displayed were just completely wrong. And in half an hour, she'd have it all--the displays all changed and really beautiful, and working, and showing what was there. I mean it's not something that I have any sense of myself. But she certainly was excellent at it.

CK: A visual artist.

HC: Yeah. She was a visual artist. Yep.

CK: 0:53:43.1 And what about the customers?

HC: [Laughs] Well, we had very loyal customers. They were primarily local, but we did run a catalog business. So, there was a mail order business. There was a warehouse that had to be run as well. And my father became a pilot after the War. I guess this was trying to extend the adventure. And the business bought a plane, and he would fly from--to the stores. He'd fly down to the islands, to Nantucket and the Vineyard. He would fly down to Florida, and fly to Greenwich, and to Far Hills, and so forth. But I remember several times where a customer would call and complain about something hadn't--the right size hadn't been sent to them from the catalog or, the color was wrong or, it was damaged, or something. And he loved nothing better than to take whatever it was that needed to replace that, and go get in the plane and go there, wherever it was. I think he flew actually to Ohio once for something. So, that was a big adventure for him. [Chuckles]

CK: Some of the older people we interview say, "Well Concord today, you can't buy a pair of underwear. There's not an affordable, useful store." Were people going there to buy clothes for daily use, or was it a certain set that came in there, or--?

HC: I think it was--we didn't sell underwear, but the things that you might play golf in, or tennis in, or spend the weekend in. There were some dressier things, but that was sort of--there were nice coats for winter and so forth. And certainly I think a lot of the wardrobe--a lot of their wardrobes were just from the store, yeah.

We had a--there would be a sale--a big annual sale. And people would line up--come and camp out and line up starting at, you know early in the morning, crack of dawn. And we would get there and open the store and just have to-- the police would have to come to control the crowds and so forth. It was a very--it was a huge event that--. So, there would be clothes from the seasons--all four seasons in that. And people come with lists. And they would--. There were people who would come in and try things on, make a list of what they liked, and the color, and the size, and the code for it, the description of it. And then they would come back with these lists at the sale and try to find those things. And sometimes they would win and sometimes they wouldn't.

CK: What time of year was the sale?

HC: It was in the--I remember it being in the spring, maybe around this time of year actually.

CK: So, maybe a different set of folks would show up, or--?

HC: Yes. It would only be at the main store. So, people would-- who--. There was also a store in Beverly Farms which was on the North Shore. I forgot about that. So, they would come from there--from nearby towns and so forth. Yeah.

CK: It sounds really hard to be on staff that day.

HC: [Laughing] It was.

CK: Were you called into duty? Pressed in--?

HC: 0:58:03.8 Well I worked there a little bit. I worked one summer at the Nantucket store, which was really fun.

CK: Never the Concord store?

HC: Yes. I worked in the Concord store a couple of summers, but I don't know. It wasn't--my heart was not in that business. I was--yeah--so--You know, I'd grown up with it. It was too--I don't know. It never--I never really was interested in the--what my mother did. I did come on shopping trips with her here.

CK: Where?

HC: Here. When she came to the market when I was a teenager, she brought me down here--

CK: "Here" being?

HC: To New York. During spring vacation or something. She'd come down, and I would come down with her. It was in the days when there were expense accounts, all these companies--the men she worked with--the salesmen she worked with--had big expense accounts, and we'd go to the theater, to fancy places for dinner, and so forth, and she would--And then I'd have to go back and go to sleep, and she'd go up to Harlem to hear Ella Fitzgerald or whatever. She loved, she loved being down here. Oh. She loved it. She'd be out until two or 3 o'clock in the morning, and then she would be back up at 8 o'clock with her high heels pounding around the market, the--up here on 7th Avenue. Oh my. She was amazing. 6th Avenue I guess it was.

CK: Not to--What was that?

HC: 6th Avenue or 7th Avenue. I think it was 6th Avenue.

CK: Not that she would design clothes, but she'd see clothes--

HC: Well, she would work with the designers and say, you know, "I think the shape really looks--could it be more like this? And how about some of these color combinations and so forth." She really did--it was--Talbots had started about that time, but they really borrowed a lot of ideas from her. She was very much of a leader in those early days of women's sportswear design and so forth­--"Sportswear," quote/unquote. Yeah. I think I'm done. (laughing).

CK: I think you were just fabulous. Thank you.

HC: Well, thank you. Thank you.

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Mounted 23 July 2014 -- rcwh.