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Carrie Kline: 00:00:02 Today is the fifth of November, 2015. We are, I think, in the Development Office of the Concord Free Public Library. I'm Carrie Kline here with my husband and partner, Michael Kline. And would you introduce yourself, say "my name is"—?
Kristina Joyce: My name is Kristina Joyce.
CK: Okay, and your date of birth for some perspective?
KJ: May 28, 1945.
CK: Okay. And tell us about your people and where you were raised.
KJ: Well, I usually begin with the fact that I'm a Navy brat, because people in whatever area I'm in say, "You don't sound like you're from here." And it's because I've really lived in many places across the US when my father was a Naval surgeon. But I found out that I actually on both my mother and father's side harkened from this area. My father's—on my father's mother's side—his descendent—descendent, or?—yeah, descendent was a—fought in the Revolution and was involved with Washington. And then on my father's side—on my mother's side—I went back to the Mayflower. And I didn't find this out until I married my husband, and he came to Concord to work as Assistant to the Town Manager. And this was in—April 17, 1972. So I guess that, in a nutshell, is my background. And we've been here since 1972. My husband's a native of Boston, from Roslindale. His family is more recent. His grandfather was from County Galway in Ireland. That was his father's side. And his mother was from Alsace—Lorraine on her father's side. So they were more recent to America. So we kind of have the best of both worlds in our family. And my husband and I have been married almost fifty years. And we have two children, a daughter who lives in Boston—
CK: Can you name them, starting with your husband?
KJ: Yes. My husband is William Joyce. We call him Bill. And my daughter is Tara Joyce. She is thirty—eight, is not married, lives in Boston with her significant other. And my son—our son—is Keir Robert Joyce. We named both kids for Irish. And so he is married—living in Baltimore—to his wife Joy Napier Joyce. And they have two children, our grandchildren. The eldest is Emma Marie Joyce, and she is now thirteen. And we have a grandson who is eleven, and his name is Ryan Beckett Joyce. So we have a little of the Irish and a little of some of the family names in their names. So that's it.
CK: Talk a little bit about the place that you found when you arrived here in 1972 then.
KJ: 00:03:54 Well, one of the things that I learned as being in a Navy family is that you should just put down your roots right away and get involved because in the Navy you never know how long you're going to be there. So I thought, oh, Concord. At first, to tell you the truth, there was a disappointment. And that was that my husband had finished graduate school at Northeastern in political science, and I was working for Millipore Corporation in Bedford as a translator, bilingual secretary, because I had lived in Europe as an exchange student and was fluent—am fluent—in French and German. So I was supporting us while my husband was going to school. And when he got out and I was pregnant, then it was going to be his turn to support us. And he found a job that Concord had as the Assistant Town Manager. They were offering $7,700.00 for a master's degree person. And I thought, in my pregnant state, this is going to be really tight living on seven—in 1972—because they also said they liked for town employees to live in the town. And that was going to be a tricky thing.
So I remember having a discussion with my mother—in—law about how this was perhaps not the job to take. And so she said—well, her husband—dad—said that Concord is a wonderful place and that if you work for the town of Concord, they will take care of you. Don't worry. They will—the community will take care of you. Well, at the time, I wasn't quite sure about that, but I went along with it. And it did indeed turn out to be true. So my husband eventually became Town Treasurer and Tax Collector, and they said that we should buy a home in Concord because anyone who collects town taxes should pay town taxes. And so they recommended a home on Main Street that was a ranch that had been built as a retirement home. And it was going for thirty—six thousand dollars at the time, which seemed like a lot of money to us. But the reason that it was going for that price, which was fairly low because it did have some land, is that it was an all—electric home and the electricity in Concord was fairly high at the time.
So my in—laws helped us with the down payment. And the first winter, we had very little heat in our home. And I remember getting a case of pneumonia. But our son's room we heated. And so eventually we decided to put the money into forced hot air. And so we got better heating. And my husband got a pay increase, and then he eventually worked into the job of Treasurer and Tax Collector and had a better salary but still not the salary of people that—most of the people, you might say, who were well off in town.
So eventually my husband had an opportunity to go into the family business, which was blueprinting and drafting supplies. His father was retiring, so it was—Proposition 2Â½ was on the table at the time, where there were going to be limits on how much money could be spent by the town. And you had to have overrides if more was spent. So it didn't seem like he was going to do really well in pay, staying with the town. And he had also applied for the Town Manager's job, but because he had worked closely with Paul Flynn who was the former Town Manager, I think they wanted some new regime. So my husband went to the family business and was treasurer for that and eventually became the president of that company. And that's where he still is today. We—my husband is seventy—one, and I'm seventy, going on seventy—one. So we have—we have seen many storms and sailed through them, you might say, with a family business.
Michael Kline: What's the name of the company?
KJ: B. L. Makepeace. And it was named for the original owner who was—
KJ: 00:09:40 Yes, like Greenpeace—people often ask us if we're a—like Greenpeace. But it's just the man's name: Makepeace.
MK: Blueprint services or—?
KJ: Originally it was set up as blueprinting and drafting supplies. They were a Keuffel and Esser distributor. That was a German company. But when I said we saw our way through many storms, my husband says it's like when the buggy went out, that drafting changed significantly with computers. There were no more drafting boards. There were no more slide rules. So they had to completely change and offer computers for architects. And now they're into large—format printing that you would see in banners for—like the Museum of Science, for instance.
So—but all the while, we have lived in this original house in Concord. And we have extended the house because I left Millipore and, once we had our son, I wasn't happy with my childcare situation. So I decided to be at home with him and to tutor French and German for a while.
And then I found a position at the Cambridge School of Weston, which was a school that was set up by the professors of Harvard and Radcliffe for their—originally for their daughters. And then it became a coed private school. This is lower school. And they were given 150 acres in Weston, Mass. So they moved from the site of Lesley College out to Weston and had this wonderful art school—high school—that was founded on the arts.
And when I was growing up, I was—I guess designated as a gifted art student. And so I always did art, but coming from a medical family, my father wanted me to be a medical artist because he thought, as an artist, I would probably starve. (laughs) He liked the arts. He patronized the arts. But he knew that it would be better to have a skill that was a good earning skill. So I decided that—once I was an exchange student to Austria and picked up languages—that when I went to college, I would major in art, German, and French. And so I could support myself with the languages but keep doing my art.
So when I got the job at the Cambridge School of Weston in the business office—because I also had bookkeeping and typing skills—I guess my parents hammering into me that I had to be able to support myself because when you're in medicine, as my family was back several generations—my grandparents were horse and buggy doctors, both the grandmother and the grandfather. So I had lived through a lot of things that had happened to people just by hearing my parents' stories. And so my parents always said, "You have to be able to take care of yourself." So I worked in the business office at the Cambridge School and eventually entered the academics there and eventually went back to Mass. College of Art and got a master's in art.
MK: What was the name of the school?
KJ: Massachusetts College of Art. It's the only—originally it was the only private, state—funded art school in the nation. It has a very long history. And it was a good price. I got my master's for two thousand dollars in two years with two young children at the same time. I remember taking a ceramics course, and my teacher said, "Weren't you pregnant last week?" And I said, "Yes." And she said, "What happened?" I said, "Well, I had the baby. The baby's fine, and I'm fine too." (laughs) So I was a very, very busy person.
But from my master's program, I got—and from my experience at the Cambridge School and seeing many troubled adolescents from very—how should I say?—some of the people at the school that brought their children were really in the arts—really high up in the arts—actors and actresses and musicians. So I saw all of these things that could happen during the adolescent years.
So I decided that I would set up my own business in my home. And that's what I did. I set it up in my basement, and I convinced one of my fellow students to take on a project when she didn't know what to do, of how to convert my basement into a classroom, an art classroom. So we did it with recycled materials. And so I let the Cambridge School know what I was doing, that I would be leaving. And so I set up this business, and I did, during the summer, just free classes for children in the neighborhood. And from that, I got a start for having after school art lessons in basic drawing, incorporating some mixed media. And by day, I did my own artwork, which—I began to make a name for myself with my calligraphy because I did a type of script that is called copperplate. And that went very nicely with Henry David Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott. So if you go to the Orchard House, you'll see that I have scripted many things from her archives and illustrated them. So I would print the things, and then I would sell them to the house. They would mark them up and pay me. And so every time I used to get a check from the Orchard House, I would silently say,
"Thank you, Louisa!" (laughs)
00:17:23 So it was a good thing. It helped me. It helped my family, having that job, but also having the after school classes was very good. And that's something I'm still doing. And that's why I'm leaving at 3:30 today. And I'm still doing my artwork. So I've really been involved in the community and really love the community. And I think things have gone well. As my father—in—law said originally, "If you are working for the town, the town will take care of you." And I think that I have seen that happen, too, that there are many of my students—for instance, I have a student who is African—American. And he has brittle bone disease. And he is in a house that the town provided on one level so that he does not have to climb stairs or whatever. And there's a lot of support for his mother who does childcare in the town. So I guess I've seen many sides to the town, but all in all, I think I would say that—like Thoreau says—it's one of the best possible things.
CK: One of the best possible things?
KJ: To be living in the town. Um—hm. Yeah.
CK: What are other examples of that?
KJ: Well, I think that we've also been involved in the sister city program with Japan. We just had our sixth visitor—
CK: Excuse me. Would you mind telling them we're doing an interview? Thanks. Sister city—we're back.
KJ: Yes. Concord has a link with Nanae, Japan, which is in the northern province of Hokkaido. And it goes back to the eighteen hundreds when William Wheeler went to Japan with some people from the University of Massachusetts to introduce northern agriculture and dairy farming to that northern province. And the—Harvey Wheeler helped to found the University of Hokkaido. So subsequently, the past twenty—five years, Concord has had a sister city—an official sister city relationship with a city called Nanae. That is N—a—n—a—e. And it's a very—it's very much like Concord. And so my husband and I hosted. Each time a delegation was sent over, we'd host for a week in our home. And this person who would come would usually be a single person, not a family coming, just a single. And we've had mostly men, but there was a woman who came who was a veterinarian. And each time the delegation comes, there are students that go to take part in our school system. And there are people who take part in our town and see how it's working, people who look at our farms. And so one year I wanted to go over and be hosted in return, which they always do every year. And I knew about this also because one of my students accepted one of two full—time positions that Nanae gives Concord graduates. One is to work with the town and to help people there with their English, and they pay them a salary, give them a car and an apartment for two years, if they wish. And then another position is working in the school system, also for two years. So one of my students, Monica Terry, accepted this position. And so I knew how generous and what a great link this was with Japan.
00:22:42 So I asked if I could go over and meet the artists over there. And so my husband and I went over, were hosted. They—I said—since my husband, I knew, probably wouldn't do too well in a Japanese home, I asked if we could be in a hotel, because that wasn't out of the ordinary. There had been other people that had done this. So we stayed in a hotel. They gave us a very good rate, paid part of it, gave us a room with a beautiful view of the volcano there, which is called Mount Koma—ga—take. And I was going to do some artwork of that. And so we had a whole week of being hosted, seeing artists, went through the school system. We—every day two people would come to pick us up in their car, ferry us around, treat us to meals. It was the most wonderful welcome. And then we paid for an additional two weeks to travel around Japan with the Shinkansen, the bullet train. So when I got back, I did—
CK: Bullet train, did you say?
KJ: Yes. It's called the bullet train. It travels at 120 miles per hour. So, for instance, when we were in Kioto, we took the bullet train down to Hiroshima to see the incredible museum they have there with artifacts from the dropping of the bombs. And so we were able to do that in a day's time because of this fast train. So this link is just one of many incredible things that Concord has. And so just this past week, we had a wonderful English teacher—thirty—year—old English teacher named Masayuki Suzuki. He stayed with us. He spoke very good English.
CK: Can you spell that?
KJ: Yes. M—a—s—a—y—u—k—i, and then Suzuki like the violin, S—u—z—u—k—i, Suzuki. So it was a wonderful time because each night we would get together in various homes of Concord people with all the other delegation people. And part of the special thing about this year is that Massachusetts signed a renewal of the state affiliation—Massachusetts state affiliation—with the northern province of Hokkaido, which has been going on for twenty—five years officially, but, again, dates back to the eighteen hundreds when the northern farming and dairy were taken over to Japan.
KJ: Yes, Wheeler—William Wheeler.
MK: Hokkaida is spelled—?
MK: I'm sorry.
KJ: H—o—two k's—a—i—d—o.
MK: 00:26:21 Okay.
CK: So a Massachusetts connection or really Concord—?
KJ: Well, Concord is really, I think, the one that got it started, and then it became a state—wide thing. And there's another community that also has a very good rapport, and that's Long Meadow. That's in western Mass. And so we had a big concert. Our music department at the high school has been over there with the entire group. And their entire group has been over here. And they even, at one point, had a wonderful concert at the Boston Pops—you know—I'm blanking out on the name—in Boston where we have all our Boston Symphony—yeah, Boston Symphony. So that's one—just one wonderful thing that comes to mind.
The other wonderful thing that comes to mind is that I think we skipped over childcare, because the Cambridge School of Weston—one of the reasons that I went there and got a job—is they were setting up a daycare for their teachers. And I—when I was working at Millipore, I asked the president to set up a daycare for the employees. I said, "You know, you have Millipore filtered air. You're known for all the wonderful things you do. Why don't you set up a daycare for us?" And the president just laughed it off, and he said, "Well, if you have twins, you can put them in my office." And so that wasn't a good message for me. (laughs) And I—my alternative was to put my newborn son with a woman who already had three children. And I decided that was not good.
And so I gave my notice to Millipore, and I subsequently found the Cambridge School of Weston because they were setting up a daycare for their teachers and business people. And it was a small facility. They were going to have well—trained people with the children, but they were also going to have the students working, because T. Barry Brazelton—who was a fairly well—known person in childcare—his daughter was at the school. And we also had Dr. Spock's grandson at the school. So these people were very interested in having their children study children and daycare. So it was perfect. It was just what I wanted.
But, as I said, eventually I saw what the adolescent years were for children, and I decided that the best thing for me would be to be at home with a business that wouldn't be too involved so that I could be there for my kids. And I jokingly said, "God never meant for a mother to know this much about adolescents before their children were teenagers." (laughs) And it turned out to be a good move—a good move—because my son, he was—he was good, but there were some things to address. And so I was very glad that I decided to become a self—employed person out of my home. And eventually, after doing this in my basement, I—my husband and I took out a second mortgage and put an extension off of our home so I could have a nice studio classroom. And that has—we have a very nice backyard, which sometimes the students have gone into for sketching. It has a little stream that used to be an Indian pathway down to the Sudbury River and lots of beautiful wetlands in the back and some very nice animals come to our backyard. (laughs) Like we have an apple tree, and the deer sometimes will come and eat the apples and muskrats. So that's one thing.
The other thing is the Thoreau Society, which is an international group. And, as I said, being a Navy child, I knew about—don't wait to look around and see what's going on. So I heard about this Thoreau Society, and in my master's—are we running out of time?
CK: Oh, no, no, no.
MK: No, not at all. Don't worry about me.
KJ: 00:31:52 Okay.
MK: We're fine.
KJ: So in my master's, I had a really wonderful class that I had to take. It was called "Verbalizing About Art." And it was with Lowery Burgess who was an MIT professor who came to Mass. College of Art to teach. And he said that, "Artists communicate with pictures, but unfortunately—or fortunately—we live in a verbal world. So you art students need to learn how to communicate and use some of the laws of verbal communication creatively." So the whole course was about how to be creative with words. And I loved that class. And one of the things that he did is he took us to Walden Pond after we had read certain passages in Walden by Thoreau, and he had us sit at the site of his cabin. So I really liked that particular experience, and I decided that since one of the things that I had always enjoyed was being near the water as a Navy child—and shells—I have a photograph of myself when I was just two, picking up shells in Houston on the beach with my father that also loved the water.
And so I thought, well, here I am in a land area. We're not living in Boston right on the harbor or down at the cape. And Henry Thoreau always said, "Look in your own backyard for what you love." So I thought, well, okay, Henry, I love shells. And so I got his huge two volumes, and I looked up shells. And lo and behold, there were shells in Concord. And I found that the native Americans had subsisted partly on mollusks that were in—clams—fresh water clams—that were in the river. So there was a place called Clamshell Hill that he wrote about. And so I read all the passages. And I got in a canoe with my kids on one day, and we went looking for the remains of Clamshell Hill, which was the parking lot of Emerson Hospital. (laughs) So what had happened was there was a local archeologist by the name of Ben Smith. And he had gone to Clamshell Hill, which is basically a dumping ground after native American picnics, where they'd roast the clams. And they would eat turtles and other things. So Clamshell Hill was this huge mound of shells and bones and everything, and Henry David Thoreau used to go there and see what he could find. And the farmers would take the shells to lime their fields.
So it was a well—known place in Concord, but when Emerson was built, they needed a parking lot. So here was this historic site that was perfect for the parking lot. So what did they do? They had Ben Smith retrieve as many important things as he could find, and that eventually went to the Concord Museum. And then they paved it—paved it right over. But there was still a small section on the other side of Route 2, which also paved over part of it. So I was able to go there, and I still found some shells that were fresh. And one of the things that Henry Thoreau said about them is that they had beautiful tints of the sky inside because—beautiful water color. And so I was so excited because Thoreau was right, you know? In my own backyard, I was able to find something that I had always loved. So I went to the Thoreau Society, and I also got a tip to go to Harvard—that Harvard had a shell department that trained people to study shells and the organism that lives inside the shell and makes the shell. And they said, "If you go there, they will help you."
So I went there, and a Mr. Johnson was very good in the department. And he was interested in fresh water shells. And so he was interested in what I was doing. And he agreed to help me. And I thought, this is such an interesting topic that really nobody knows about. I think I'll have an exhibit. And I'll do it with the Thoreau Society. And so that's how it got started.
And then they also gave me the tip at Harvard that there is a shell club, a very old shell club that meets at Harvard. So I started going to that, and I got some wonderful information. And there were people who collected from all over the world, because there were some military people there too. And so from that, I had a—what I think was really a beautiful exhibit featuring some of the shells—actual shells—and I calligraphed some of the writings of Thoreau about the shells and put the watercolors with the writings. And it was very well received. And the library had a version of it just not many years ago. It's been within the last ten years. And they actually printed a very beautifully illustrated catalog, because they were able to pull from some of their holdings.
They had old photographs that I discovered when I was doing my studies. Ben Smith came and photographed—no—no, Herbert Gleason—Ben Smith was the archeologist. Ben Smith, the archeologist, and Herbert Gleason photographed after Thoreau's time. And so he had actual photographs of the way Clamshell Hill looked before it was paved. And we even found a painting in the archives here. So it was really great fun.
And of course one of the things that I always enjoyed as a Navy child were libraries—my school libraries. I always felt librarians were a tremendous help. And so I found a great deal of help here, in this library. And one of the things I ended up doing is each year my students put on an exhibit—a natural history exhibit—of their color pencil artworks that we frame. They're upstairs. There are some—not the entire amount because some have picked them up.
CK: 00:40:07 Natural history in particular?
KJ: Meaning that once a year we do color pencil drawings from natural history. So last year the theme was the Middle East, and I actually went to the Middle East to do some research. And this year it's the Arctic, and my husband and I went to Iceland and Greenland and the Arctic Circle to see. And we—so we have photographs of a lot of the animals. So my students will do color pencil drawings of these animals, the glaciers, and we'll put on an exhibit in the children's room. We've been doing this for—I've been teaching since 1981 out of my home studio. So we've been doing it for quite a long time.
And so the people here in Concord—again, I have wonderful students that the parents are very much supportive of what I do. And one example is, I had some students from a family—the family is from India. And they said, "Mrs. Joyce, why don't you do India as a theme some year?" And I said, "Oh gee, you know, I don't know if I could manage India. It's—it seems like it would be such a long travel and such a different culture." And they said, "Oh, don't worry. We'll help you. We'll help you. We'll tell you where are the best places to go." So they told me, "Go to the Golden Triangle," which could be Delhi to Agra to Jaipur. And so we booked it. And then they said, "And we will bring you food so you can get used to the food." So they would bring me some of the things because Indian food is highly spiced. And my husband, being from—he's a typical—I say my Irishman. And so I thought, how is he going to manage? So we found that he could eat chicken tikka masala and that he could eat naan bread and be very happy. (laughs)
So we went on this wonderful—almost three weeks in India. And when I was on the plane, we had a choice of meals. And we ate three meals because it was a very—it was a good thirteen—hour flight, just from Chicago. So I opted for all Indian meals to try out my expertise from what the Indian families had taught me. And after I'd eaten the three meals, I was just fine. So the flight attendant came over to me, and she said, "You know, you're going to be fine in India because people who've eaten like you on this flight are generally sick by now." (laughs) And so we did—knock on wood—we did fine. And, again, it was because of the support of the Indian families that were here.
Some of my students have come back and made recommendations to me, because they've gone on to do exciting things. One student came back and said, "Mrs. Joyce, you need to go to the Amazon. It's wonderful!" And I said, "Oh, the Amazon. That—that's sounds a little tough for me." "No, no. I'll give you some tips. I'll give you some tips." (laughs) So we planned another trip, and we went to the Amazon and had, again, a very good experience. So that's the way it's been going. And we—knock on wood—we've had a very healthy, happy life here in Concord. And any—I think, since I come from a medical family, I was very concerned with the medicine in this area. And you know we have a wonderful hospital, Emerson Hospital, with wonderful doctors. And if there's ever a need, we're sent in to Boston to go to Mass. General. So there—it really—I think, as Thoreau said, it is one of the best of all possible worlds here.
00:45:12 And some people talk about elitism in Concord. Many of my students come from high and low income, and everyone seems to get along and be supportive. This family that I mentioned that the mother is from Trinidad. They're African—American. And the son has brittle bone disease. And so the mother cares for many of the children here in Concord. And when one family had to move away, they ended up paying for art lessons for her child so that he comes for private lessons on one day a week. And he is talented in art. And the Concord Journal did a front—page article on him and showed him with his art work.
So, yes, we don't have a huge African—American population, but our high school does have a link with Boston African—Americans. And they have been out here, and they have been in families. I know it's not ideal. Concord is an expensive place to live.
Concord does try to have affordable housing. It's not a perfect world, but I see people that really try. And I think the people here are very much aware that we are a global community. And since I have lived in so many places in the world, that's one thing that makes me very happy to be here. But, you know, no person, no thing is perfect. But I do think there are many, many things here that are wonderful and that I, as a person, have really enjoyed. And when I go back to where my father got out of the Navy, which was in Portsmouth, Virginia, which I did just recently for a reunion, people will say to me, "Oh, you married a Yankee." I say, "Yes." And they say, "But, you know, you must—you've been having a good life." And so I think that speaks for itself.
CK: Wow. That's beautiful.
KJ: I'm sorry if I talked a lot, but you know— (laughs)
CK: You didn't. Not at all.
MK: Thank you.
CK: Let's at least—yeah, take a break here, or maybe that's the—
MK: Okay, we're rolling.
KJ: When I was growing up, we often had visitors to our home that would stay overnight. And I was very interested in giving them a present under their doors each morning. So I often made drawings and would slip under the door, but I was fascinated with my parents' handwriting. And I would see them writing so fast, and I thought, how do they do that? How do they do that? And my father had—contrary to typical doctor writing—he had a beautiful script—beautiful—that he could do. So I would sit down—and I can remember doing this as a really young child—this was before school—and I would sit down and just try to write and just do lines and try to copy the motions of my parents.
So once I got into school, I had a difficult transition to make, which was—we were stationed—well, we weren't stationed—we were living in Neosho, Missouri, which is the home of my father and also where I was born. I was born in Carthage, where the hospital was, but we were living in Neosho, Missouri, a very small Indian town, because there were these special springs there. And my grandparents, my father's parents—
MK: Neosho is spelled—?
KJ: N—e—o—s—h—o. And so my grandparents, my father's parents, were there, and my father was in the Korean conflict at the time. So this was a really—poignant—I don't how I should say—I remember going with my grandparents and my mother to the train station with my father. And he was going off to be a surgeon in the Korean conflict on a hospital ship, the USS Haven. And so I remember my mother and my grandmother crying as we were coming back, and I was really too young to understand what was going on. And I made some comment that was not appropriate, like, "Why are you crying?" And my mother was kind of looking at me disparagingly, and my grandmother said, "It's okay. It's okay. Just let's let that go."
And so I had this very difficult time without my dad, which—you know, he was one of the shell connections for me, going to the seashore, collecting shells—so living without my father while he was gone and also knowing that his life could be in danger, because sometimes he was going to the front. And so I was starting kindergarten in Neosho, which was a very basic place, not like Boston.
So when my father got back, and we were transferred to Boston, I had to make the transition from first grade in Neosho to first grade in Boston. And Neosho had not even started the alphabet. We were counting buttons, and I did learn to draw a tree there—which I still remember how they taught us to draw it from the root up to the branches, one stroke, the root from another branch. And so that stayed with me. But when I got to—we were living in Winthrop. And I would sit in the classroom, and we were asked to say a word that would begin with a letter. Well, I hadn't studied the alphabet at all, so I'd look up at the pictures that they had above the board. And she'd say, "Kristina, all right, tell us something that begins with N." And so I would just guess.
So my mother I think intervened and asked for me to get extra help. And when I went for the testing, I had to go down to the basement of the school. And there was a sign on the door, which I couldn't read. So I just went in, and this teacher started yelling at me, "We're testing! Why are you coming in here?" And of course my mother later said, "This child can't read. You should not have spoken with her like that." So I guess what they did is they tested me, and they must have found out that I was an incredible visual learner, although I was missing the sign on the door because I couldn't read the letters. So they gave me a lot of art opportunities, and I was able to catch up and not flunk first grade. (laughs) And so that was wonderful. And they also introduced me to the library at that time.
So I remember one thing that the teacher gave me in the second grade, which was, I could draw a tree for all of the individual birds that the class members were going to be drawing. And then they would be cut out and put on the tree. So I remember looking at trees and studying when I would be coming to school and thinking, what kind of textures are on the trees? So I had a little plan, and that was that I needed someone to help me with the drawing, because I was going to do a texture of crayons and then paint over it. And so I said, "I need Martha Smith to help me." And she was my best friend. And she was a very good student. So they let me have Martha Stewart—Martha Smith—to help me. And so the tree came out great, and all the birds were on it. And so that was a very positive thing.
The other thing they did is we were learning script in the Palmer Method, and evidently I was doing very well at that. So they let me go around during the morning practice and show some of my classmates how to form the letters. So that was another wonderful thing that the school did for me.
And then when I went on, I was always interested in handwriting in particular because of my father's beautiful handwriting, my grandmother had beautiful handwriting, and because I just enjoyed the process. So when I got to Virginia, I had a teacher who commented on my handwriting and how nice it was. And he said, "Would you be willing to do something for our literary magazine in your script, in your personal handwriting?"
And I said, "Oh, I don't think it's good enough for the literary magazine." I had worked on it, and I had each letter that I really liked, but I didn't really think it was going to be good. It was Mr. Holbrook. And so he said, "Well, let's give it a try. Let's give it a try." So I did, and he said, "Oh, this looks wonderful, wonderful. Why don't we use it?" And I still wasn't convinced. But they did use it, and, again, because of the teacher affirmation, I guess I thought, hey, there must be something in it.
CK: And was it your writing as well—I mean, your piece?
KJ: It was my personal handwriting. No, I don't—I don't think it was my piece. I think that we were doing poems from literary history. And so I had written something in that regard. So then, the other thing that helped is when I was in my master's program at Mass. College of Art. I wanted to take a course in lettering. And I wanted lettering to do some posters. So I signed up for a course, and it was actually at de Cordova Museum, because I could take a certain number of election—electives—outside of Mass. College of Art. The de Cordova Museum at Lincoln is linked with Mass. College—or was, in those days. So Nancy Culmone was the person that was teaching the class, and on the first day, she introduced that it would be script. And I said, "Oh, I think I'm in the wrong class, because I want to learn how to do lettering for posters." And she said, "Why don't you just give the first class a try?"
Well, so we were using these special pens that, when you make a stroke upwards—it was a dip pen—make a stroke upward with no pressure—it's thin. And then as you come down, it's thick. Think of the Declaration of Independence and John Hancock—that type of signature. So, guess what. It was love at first sight. (laughs) I said, oh, this feels wonderful. I love this. I think I can do this. So I thought, let's just can the poster idea and go with the course. So I did, and I did well in the course. And sometimes my teacher would ask me to demonstrate—like my second—grade teacher asked me to do. (laughs) So I decided that that would be one of the things—when I left the Cambridge School to start my own business—that I would do calligraphy, because there were a lot of people that wanted, for instance, a poem calligraphed or from my exhibit using Henry David Thoreau's words. And I knew how to draw and watercolor, so I could put images with it. So, hey, it worked out. It worked out really, really nicely.
And now I find—one of the things I started doing was, once a year, a limited edition card. And originally I linked with the Orchard House. And so once a year, I would do a limited edition card—greeting card—which would come from something in their archives. And I would illustrate it, and they would sell it at the Orchard House. So when my children were finished with college, and I had many things that I'd done for the Orchard House, not just the cards, but also recipes and—I did the fifty—eight teaching maxims of Bronson Alcott. There's actually a story to that if we have time? Yeah. That—the fifty—eight teaching maxims were handwritten by Bronson Alcott. And they were—this is Louisa's father who was a philosopher and a teacher. And so the Orchard House said, "We would love to have that as a poster to sell." And you can imagine—it was a big, big piece. So I came in here and got the original from a printout from their microfilm, and I took it home. And I started experimenting with how I would do it.
KJ: Teaching maxims, meaning—teach in an interesting way. He had all these things that would fit right into our current culture but were very beyond his time really. So I sat down and started to draft this out. And it would take me about six to eight hours to do one writing of the fifty—eight teaching maxims. And so I would sit down and start, and sometimes I would make a mistake. So I would start again. So I did it about twelve times. But one time I was really pushing too hard. And I came up—and usually my family was very supportive—and I took a break with the thought that after dinner I would start another version. And so I asked my family, as I was broiling some scallops of all things (laughs), if they would let me go back to work after dinner. And that meant they would have to clean up and do the dishes. And they said, "No." And I was overwrought. So I took the scallops—pssshew—threw them all on the floor. And then I guess I realized that I needed to back off a bit and not do them that night.
But eventually, on another day, after more trial and error, I got what was a really good fifty—eight teaching maxims. And when I took it to the printer, one of the people there said, "You know, we took a loupe"—a little magnifying—"to this. And we couldn't find a single error in this." And I said, "Yes, there are no—there aren't any scrape outs or filled—in inks." But they didn't know the scallop story. (laughs)
So I guess I'd have to say that I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and that has been a good thing and a bad thing. And having students who are also perfectionists has made me hold up nearer to myself and also help them. It's like many of the students that come to me I feel are much as I was—a visual learner. I was probably dyslexic. But they had no word for dyslexia. It didn't—I don't think they knew about it in those times. So a lot of my students will come in and say, "Mrs. Joyce, I'm dyslexic." Or they want to not let the other students know they're dyslexic. So I usually tell my students that I'm pretty sure that I'm dyslexic but that I had no label put on me when I was growing up, that I just had to make my own way and have systems that I could use to get through and learn and that if I make a mistake in class, I say, "Well, I guess that's my dyslexia." (laughs) And so I said, "You know, the good thing about dyslexia is, a lot of times dyslexic kids are very good artists." And I said, "I also read that if you're dyslexic, you can do a lot of things at once." So some of the dyslexic kids really like to hear that.
And so it's—my teaching has helped me, I think, learning to talk, because I don't think I was a good person at talking. I wasn't really a verbal communicator, and I think, too, that—
CK: You were not a verbal communicator?
KJ: 00:18:12 I was not a verbal communicator. And I think, too, when I threw those scallops on the floor, rather than saying to my family, "Could you tell me why you're not going to help me by doing the dishes so I can go back to work tonight?" and giving them a chance to say, "Well, we really think you need to take a break because you've been working too hard," or something of that sort, I just had to do a gesture—I was mad—scallops on the floor. (laughs) So I've learned a lot through teaching and through my own struggles. And I'm—I love my students very much.
And now I say that I'm working retired, which means that it's almost—I'll be seventy—one in May—and that I am collecting Social Security. But I feel that that gives me a little bit of a cushion. I can spend a little bit more than I might have in the past, and I can be a little bit more flamboyant with some of the things that I do with my students. And I can also take time for travel—a little more adventuresome travels.
And so this summer, my husband and I are going to go on a safari, because, again, many students have said, "Mrs. Joyce, why don't you do Africa? We love African animals." And my dentist—Dr. Mix here in Concord—for years she's been saying, "You need to go to Africa," because Thompson Travel in Boston, they have a link with Tanzania. And they funnel funds back into Tanzania so that they can bring people over and have a really good experience. And some of that money goes into preservation of the safari land. So when I was seeing my dentist this summer, I said, "You know, I think maybe next summer, I'm going to do a safari." And so my dentist, out of her busy schedule, called me and talked for a couple of hours about how on the seven times—seven different years—she has been with Thompson Travel to different parts of Tanzania to see all these wonderful animals and landscape. That's where Mount Kilimanjaro is. So it's supposed to be very beautiful, and I've been coming to the library because the library has this wonderful inter—library loan.
And it used to be that I would spend a lot of my money on books, and now I can use the library to get these wonderful, large, expensive books without buying them. So I now have a beautiful large book that I'm reading about the Maasai that we will see, the warrior Africans who drink—they have herds—they do not grow things, or they didn't in the past. And they lived on the milk of their cattle. And they also use some of the blood of the cattle. Have you heard about that? They shoot an arrow into one of the veins, and they take some of the blood. So there's some—they're living on the milk and the blood. And I guess when they have a cow that dies, they will also eat the meat. But they're not farmers, per se. So that's another adventure.
CK: Let's go back to Concord. Of course every time you go on a trip, you do come back to Concord.
CK: Two things are in my mind: One is the mollusks.
CK: What are they teaching us about this area environmentally or historically?
MK: The what?
CK: The mollusks.
KJ: The shells.
CK: River mollusks.
KJ: Yes. Well, they're teaching us, one thing, that things change.
CK: What is it—what's teaching us?
KJ: The mollusks are teaching us that things change. Since I belong to this shell club, I'm very much involved in the change with shells. The shells were very plentiful in the rivers. And in Henry David Thoreau's time, if he went swimming, which they could do easily in his time because the rivers were very clean, he would step on like paved—pavements of shells—when he went into the water. If you go to the water now, you see that it is just mud. If you see a shell, it's usually—and actually I haven't collected any now because it's prohibited there—on the endangered list. So you cannot collect them anymore. So the shells were a vital filtration system for the rivers, and now that they're not so plentiful, and because we've dumped into the rivers, there's been really much needed about cleaning up the rivers. So the shells are one of the, you might say, victims of our modern society. But people are keying into the fact that they're natural filters of our water.
So I don't—you know, that would be an interesting thing to bring up, is reintroduction of the fresh water shells—purposefully. I know they're letting them grow on their own, but I just went to a lecture at Harvard in our shell club about how they're introducing the blue mussels into New England waters. And they're doing two things: One, they're a filtration system. But, two, they're a source of food that we import, for mussels, almost 95 percent from Asia. So if you eat mussels in a restaurant, those are coming from Asia. But, now that they've started this test, you might say, to grow mussels the way they do in Asia—they have things they suspend so that the mussels can actually grow on like a column or even lay them into the substrate. So that's a really interesting idea, that maybe we might reintroduce and help the fresh water shells more.
So in regard to Concord, I would say Concord faces, as every other place, with the fact that our modern society is doing negative things to the environment. And there are people in Concord that are very concerned about that. We don't have single—serve water available in our stores, but of course we still have Coke and Pepsi and things that are in plastic. So it's still not—we're still not the greenest city in the United States, which some people would like for us to be.
So I don't know if that covers the whole idea, but I usually bring back, from wherever I've been, shells. And I often incorporate them into my once—a—year card in some way or into my teaching. And so I try to link my once—a—year, limited edition card with wherever I've been, but also with a Concordian. So, believe it or not, Henry David Thoreau used to see Aurora Borealis all the time here in Concord, which is the northern lights. And those are very prevalent at the poles because—
MK: Can you spell that, please?
KJ: A—u—r—u—Aurora—A—u—r—o—r—a, Aurora, B—o—r—e—a—l—i—s, Aurora Borealis. And it's Aurora Australis in the southern hemisphere. I don't—I can spell that—
CK: 00:27:50 But he saw it here.
KJ: Yes, in Concord. And actually a lot of people think that you cannot see them anymore. But, for instance, I talked with—I've talked with Concordians that grew up here. And they remember in their childhood seeing them, because it's the light pollution that makes it not so easy to see them. And also, if you have a camera, the camera can record more than you can see. So, for instance, in our shell club, we have some people who do photography for sky and light—sky and light—Sky & Telescope Magazine, I think it is. And in Burlington, they were able to photograph auroras.
CK: In Vermont?
KJ: No, Burlington right here. Burlington Mall—right next door to Concord. Yeah. And so I've been telling my students about what Thoreau wrote in regard to the auroras. And I said, "You know, there's a site on the web where you can tune in to aurora watches and that they actually saw them this fall in Nantucket. And just—right now there's another aurora watch. And somebody the other night was able to photograph a small red aurora in this area.
CK: So aurora means—?
KJ: Northern light. Northern light. So it's this curtain of light that comes—I happen to know the science of it because I was telling my students about it. When the sun has a storm, as I told my students, instead of sending out raindrops, like we have with a rainstorm, or snowflakes with a snowstorm, the sun sends out these little things. And they tend to cluster when they come to the earth around the poles. And I said, "Think of them coming to the earth, take out the O, CMEs. They're called coronal mass ejections."
CK: Called what?
KJ: Coronal mass ejections. So they're these things that come from the sun storms to the earth. And when they get to the earth, they tend to cluster at the poles because of the magnetism of it. And they combine with atoms and molecules to make colors. So the green is more prevalent in the north, and red is more prevalent in the south. But you can have all sorts of colors. It's like a night rainbow. And they're beautiful, beautiful. I saw them when I was an exchange—
MK: Coronal—coronal mass—?
KJ: Mass ejections.
KJ: E—j—e—c—t—i—o—n—s. Coronal mass ejections.
CK: Wow. We could listen to—we could listen to you for a long, long time. (laughs) But I know that you have to teach. I feel like we're getting to be your students.
KJ: (laughs) Yeah.
CK: 00:31:06 I wonder if we can again return to Concord and compare today, 2015, to your arrival in 1972.
CK: What kind of a place is it now as compared with then?
KJ: Well, it was much more of a—I guess you'd say small, folksy town, because you'd go downtown and all of the stores were for things people needed. And now you see that it's very much a tourist town with high—end gift shops. There used to be a grocery store down there. There was a Woolworth's. There was a men's basic clothing store. There is still Vanderhoof's, which is a family that's been here for a long time, and that is a hardware store. That family came from—they're Dutch, as I recall—Dutch, yes. And so they're still here, and their store is very much the same that it was when we first arrived. Louisa May Alcott's descendent through her sister—her eldest sister, who was Anna—Anna had two boys, and those boys inherited Louisa's money from her writings. And so Fritz Kussin in town is a direct descendent of those boys.
KJ: K—u—s—s—i—n. Fritz Kussin. And so Fritz Kussin was the owner of a children's clothing shop, which is still in town. It's called Fritz and Gigi's now, because his children took over the business and they renamed it for their parents. It used to be called Kussin's Children's Clothing Shop. And so Fritz's mother—I'm pretty sure it was his mother—owned a toy shop in town. And it was not a kid—friendly toy shop. It had an old wooden floor. It had glass cases for toys. And when you—I remember going in with my children, [whispers] and it was very quiet. And she would be there, an elderly lady. And so you could buy something, but it wasn't noisy, it wasn't friendly. And she had the ability to say what was to be done with Louisa's artwork—you know, her writings. So when the Orchard House was bought by the Women's Association and turned into a historic house, that—if I have my story right—that woman, Fritz's mother, I believe—I don't think it—
CK: Her name—?
KJ: I'm not sure of her first name. But in any case, she said she did not want anything commercial connected with the Orchard House. She said, "No gift shop. No gift shop." So when she died, the first thing they did, they made a gift shop. And that's when I went there, and I said, "Could I do some artwork for your gift shop?" And because it was just beginning, they gave me the chance to do some artwork for the shop. So that was—that's a big change, because now the Orchard House is—if you go there—you know, it's hosted the First Lady. And it's been very, very active. So I think we're probably more far reaching now.
And in those early days, you could still see a lot of vestiges of old things, like they had—the old granite hitching posts for horses were still around. And the house that we bought was a retirement house for a man who used to run bets to the track for people in Concord. And that's one of the reasons we have a semicircular driveway, which is great for my students to come in. And sometimes when people couldn't pay him, he would take junk in return. So beyond our stream was basically a junkyard. And we had an old sleigh out there. We had a truck. We had some of these granite pieces. And it was a huge job for us to clean up. But we eventually did.
So that was a part of the old that is now—now he could not do that, because beyond our stream is classified as wetlands. So when we had construction for my studio, we had to put hay bales by the stream so none of the construction material would go down into the stream, which feeds to the Sudbury River. So that's a very big change. There's a lot of environmental protection going on.
There are still vestiges of the old. For instance, the West Concord Five and Dime in West Concord is still there, and that's a place that children and adults have loved forever and ever. And that's because it's still in the original family, the Forbes family. So you can still look around and see vestiges of old families running things. I think the Emerson family is still here in town. The Alcott family through Fritz Kussin is still here in town. I don't think there are any Henry David Thoreau relatives, but one of the people that I worked with in my calligraphy was Roland Wells Robbins. And Roland Robbins lived in Lincoln, but he was a pick—and—shovel historian. And he decided that he was going to try to find Thoreau's cabin site. And I say, only in Concord would they lose Thoreau's cabin site, because what they did, after he was there, they dismantled the cabin, covered over the site, and recycled the wood. And of course Thoreau was not highly regarded in Concord. He was thought as a person who was always out observing. And when he lived in his cabin, he often came to town and had meals. But other people counter and say, "But he was a surveyor. He was making contributions as a working person to Concord."
So Roland Wells Robbins decided he was going to read the journals, see if he could determine from the cairn—which was where people had placed stones originally—if he could find the cabin site. He knew that there was probably still evidence of the fireplace. And so he had this thing called a probe rod, which was a piece of metal with a handle on it. And he would push it down into the ground, and if he heard stone or something, then he'd say, "Oh, okay, we should dig here." And again, this was an early—on thing that he did, because today he wouldn't have been able to just go and do that. So he found the site, and then he became rather famous for his historical things that he did. He did the Saugus Iron Works. He did some things with Thomas Jefferson's home, I think, down in Virginia. And so when he got to be in his elder years—and he had heart surgery and then he had cancer—he wanted to get all of his things in order. And so he had seen my exhibit with the Thoreau Society because he was very active in the Thoreau Society. And so he had me come in and help him organize and calligraph titles for some of his books. So I got to know him quite well. And he paid me for what I did.
So that was another income that I had when I started my business. And with some of that money, I purchased diving equipment. And I was able to go into Walden Pond and do a photographic study of underwater Walden, which is also in the archives here. So that was all because of Roland Wells Robbins, who has a lot of material here in the Concord Library. He bought the Herbert Gleason glass slides. They were plates in the old days. That's how they made their photography. And so they came up for sale. And I always sort of chuckle that when you're in your own time, you really a lot of times don't appreciate people or things. But just give it a couple of generations, and then suddenly people are interested. So he bought these, and, yes, people were interested in them eventually. And so he sold some of them, which kind of went against the grain here in Concord, because you're supposed to gift important things. So he gifted quite a few of them to the library. And the library now has them.
So I was able to witness many things that he went through and getting together his things, which were like an albatross around the neck of his family, because he thought that maybe the Smithsonian would take them. He had actual nails, glass, and brick from Thoreau's house in his personal possession, because in those days, if you found it, it was yours. So he gave that eventually to the Thoreau Institute in—in—next town over—Lincoln. And then he gave some to the Concord Library here. So those things can't happen nowadays, but they did happen in Roland's time.
And so now people are—Thoreau is like a worldwide thing. He's sort of a god of saving our planet in a way. People quote him all the time. And if you think about how he was initially regarded in Concord as not having a job—a traditional job—being out observing nature a lot, people—people thought he was different, you know? But now—there's still a little bit of that going on because this big Thoreau Society comes every year here around Thoreau's birthday—and people from all over the world, especially professors and writers. But many people in Concord don't go to the Thoreau Society, because some of our wealthier population go to their homes in Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard. And I did hear recently a Thoreau Society person say, "You know, isn't it too bad that they don't take part in this Thoreau Society meeting?"—which I think is always very interesting. And I remember just many wonderful lectures that I've heard from people as far away as Russia. There's actually a Thoreau cabin in Russia (laughs) by one of the authors. So, yeah.
CK: Well, I'm sure glad that Concord is recognizing you well during your time because this community is really fortunately to have you.
KJ: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Well, I always say it's a two—way street.
CK: Thank you so much.
KJ: You're quite welcome. Thank you.
MK: Thanks indeed.
End of audio.