Jean White

Deming Street, Woodstock NY, Tuesday January 17, 2019

Juliet: What first brought you to Woodstock?

Jean:  I was born here. My grandmother, Sarah MacDaniel Cashdollar was born and grew up on Overlook Mountain. She married a young man, Wilbur Cashdollar and they came down to the village to start married life. They rented the cottage from Mr. Lasher which is now The Woodstock Library. After a year or so, they were expecting their first child and returned to the mountain to be near the family.

Juliet: “The mountain”, as in, MacDaniel Road…

Jean: (laughs) Yes, my mother was one of seven children She worked with my grandmother at the boarding house (now Cumberland Farms). Earlier, because Sarah had five daughters she thought they would be able to manage the telephone switchboard which was in the building on the corner of Neher and Tinker Streets. And then, through the efforts of a family friend who spent much time in New York City, my mother Ethel took an intensive course with Harper Method, a new system developed for hair and beauty care. She had what we think was the first beauty shop of it’s type in Woodstock in a corner section of the house immediately behind Joshua’s on Tannery Brook Road. 

Juliet: Do you know how your parents met? 

Jean: It must have been about 1930. My father worked for a construction company. He was from North Carolina. You had to go wherever the jobs were. So he came and was living at the Woodstock Hotel. It was on the site of the present Longyear Building at the corner of Rock City Road and Mill Hill. There was a fire there, and the hotel burned. He came down and stayed at the Homestead Boarding House and that’s how they met! They bought the house across the street before I was born. I do remember it having a garage and an outside toilet attached to the garage. We did have a bathroom inside, but I’m not sure if it was added after they bought it or if it was already installed . 

Juliet: Did you live in any other residence while you were growing up? 

Jean: No, but we did go to Ohio with my father. He was working on Wright-Patterson Field in Dayton. My mother, sister Susan who was about 2, and I went with him for about a year or so. We were there during Pearl Harbor Day. When my brother came along, my father just went by himself when he had to go to jobs and we remained in Woodstock and attended school. He had a very early death.  He was killed in an accident when he was 40. My mother raised the three of us by herself with the love of family. There were very difficult times but the love we shared held us all together.

Juliet: What is your first memory of Woodstock?

Jean: You know in some psychology classes they ask “What is your first memory?” I remember the sand box by the old apple tree in our back yard.! But of Woodstock itself? It was always a part of me. My grandmother lived across the street. There was a constant back and forth, with very little road traffic. I used to go up to little grocery store where the Joyous Lake was, owned by brothers Leslie and Clyde Elwyn. Their houses were right down on Pine Grove just before the Women’s Health Clinic.  The houses are next to each other and the same design. You can still see them! I was thinking this morning, the store had a little meat department in it. My mother would send me with a note and list. There was a ramp that was fascinating to me. I think it’s gone, but maybe underneath it’s still there. You would enter the store by going up a ramp running along Mill Hill Road and then enter the store on your left. It was made of cement. So my earliest memory was that I was always living here and I can’t really put my finger on it. 

We went to school near the corner of Deming street. Deanie’s Restaurant was on the corner. It was a brown rustic looking building then. Right next to it is a red building, I think it’s Castaways. We went to Kindergarten on one end of it, then first and second grade on the other end. 

Juliet: And then you went to the one that was right by your house.

(Her home was between what is now CVS and Ulster Savings Bank. The former school building still stands right behind CVS)

Jean: That’s right. 

Juliet: Did you graduate high school here?

Jean: No, Woodstock only went to eighth grade. Then at that time, we went to Kingston. 

Juliet: WOW. 

Jean: I’m not sure how that worked because there were no school buses. I guess the Township paid the bus company Pine Hill or whatever it was then. They were black and white buses. They would take us down with the commuters and everybody. After 3 o’clock the buses would all come behind the high school to pick us up. It was the same building as Kingston High school today, although they’ve added on a lot!

Juliet: When did you leave? 

Jean: I graduated high school in ’52 and went to Pratt Institute Brooklyn for four years. There were some circumstances during that time … I became very interested in Native Americans. I decided I’d like to go and teach on a reservation. It was a big megillah to get certified to do that. They didn’t certainly need an art teacher, which was my training. Through a long haul, one of my professors said “Why don’t you just go to Washington, and the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs and just see? You’re not making any headway writing letters.” So I made an appointment and I went to Washington. They told me “You have enough credits to be a Guidance Advisor” (laughs) “Would you go wherever you’re needed?” So by that point I said “YES”, and I went to Arizona. I was a guidance advisor but I ended up teaching first grade for half a year because the teacher they hired didn’t get there until January.

Juliet: Where were you exactly?

Jean: Keams Canyon, Arizona. It was 88 miles from Holbrook, Arizona. 100 miles from Gallup, New Mexico. They were the two closest… metropolises. It was the Hopi reservation surrounded by the Navajo. The children at the school were Hopi and Navajo primarily.  There were also some Anglo kids from a few teachers. 

Juliet: What was your path back to Woodstock?

Jean: I really wanted to have more adventures so from there I drove the car back to Woodstock and was here for the summer the next year. I had gone to an Art Education conference in Los Angeles while I was on the reservation. I took the bus there.  I met a rep from Special Services Department of the Army. They had wonderful job opportunities in Korea, Germany, and France. I thought “Oh, Korea is only a year, I’ll go there”. So I signed to work with enlisted men’s dependents. It wasn’t for officers. The idea was to keep them from getting mixed up in drinking in the towns, and causing trouble. That all got changed after I went to New York to have all the shots for Korea. The program in Korea was ‘frozen’ and I went to Germany for a year and a half. I met a man who became my husband. We got married here in the Dutch Reformed Church and moved to New Jersey because that was where he was working. I had some art teaching experience there with some good administrators. We were married about 23 years and then divorced. I continued to come to Woodstock all during this time.  My mother lived here in a little house just off Elwyn Lane and my dear daughter and I would come for summers and weekends. She and her husband built a lovely house on Plochmann Lane. Eventually, I met a really nice man. He loved the theater and he didn’t want to be too far from New York. I said “You might like Woodstock”.  We kept coming up and looking for a place to live. Someone told us about a house on Broadview which was out of our price range. As we drove down Deming Street we saw a little sign on this lawn that said “For Sale”. That would have been the late 80’s, we bought this house in ’89. 

Juliet: So I could ask you what you think has changed since 1989, but you’ve seen everything in the last seven decades.

Jean: You know I’m very grateful Juliet, for one thing. It’s terrible that buildings were torn down, my house and the Homestead because they were very nice buildings with lots of character. What’s in place of them you know, parking lots and Cumberland Farms… but I think those incidents maybe kind of spurred the zoning process into action. I’m not sure. I don’t think they were so willing to allow people to tear down buildings after that. 

Juliet: I think it really must have changed the flavor. 

Jean: Where Bradley Meadows is was just a lovely open field. My mother and father, just before he died, had signed papers to buy a little house that was right next door to them which had been the Christian Science church. It was very small, built in 1920, on this side of our house right there where CVS is. The congregation had purchased the former summer school of The Art Student’s League of New York where they are now, across from the hardware store. That was built in 1912 and they vacated it in ’22.  My parents bought that little church next door and they rented it. Eventually they sold it to my aunt and uncle. I remember one night, when I was about 13 … I was ironing in that house, looking out. I saw in Bradley Meadows, a flame. I ran over to my grandmother’s across the street. There was a man who lived in the back in a little studio next to the garage. He ran out and we saw it was a hammer and sickle burning. That was startling to me to see that. This would have been the late 40’s. At that time, the Ku Klux Klan was burning crosses on the other side of town, periodically. I never saw it but I heard about it. 

What I was going to say that what I”m really grateful for is the businesses that have gone into the houses along Mill Hill Road and Tinker Street who have tried to keep them as much as it works. I like that. I so appreciate the people who came into town in the sixties and created their businesses and contribute to the community. And they are a part of the community. Whereas today I see more people coming in speculating and grabbing up real estate and wanting to make money from the Woodstock name. It’s too bad I think, because I don’t see a whole lot of becoming part of the community. There is a sense of “What can I get out of Woodstock?” rather than “How can I become a part of this wonderful vital diverse community?” The special aura that has brought folks here for many years is the appreciation of the quiet beauty and spiritual nature of this creative place… this Woodstock.

There are about 6000 residents and I’m not sure if this is correct but I think it’s 60% of homeowners are part time people. So that leaves a small amount to do the Fire Department, the Rescue Squad, all of those volunteer things. It’s unfortunate. Woodstock more or less has a population that leans on the older end of the age scale. We need more young people, more families. 

It’s still lovely to walk around Woodstock. I must say I know fewer and fewer people. I think it’s unfortunate that folks who have lived here for many years can’t afford to stay here and their children are looking at the same picture. Real estate prices have risen from the demand of part time folks or B and B landlords that it prevents a lot of people from being able to stay in Woodstock. These are the folks who maintain our volunteer Fire Department and all the other organizations that support the residents.. 

Juliet: What is your favorite thing about living in Woodstock? 

Jean: I have always loved the interaction with people from all walks of life. When I was working at Deanie’s in the summers, the theater would be open, the Playhouse. The actors would come up after the performance, the bakers would come out from the kitchen and there would be a song fest, right there among the tables! It was just a marvelous interaction of people. I have always loved that. I have lived in New Jersey in suburbia, where so much is the same, people seemed to be so much the same. 

It’s just like a little world here in Woodstock. I know it’s not that complete of a melting pot, but it’s getting there. We are more and more diverse. I guess that’s what I like. There’s so much activity. You can find anything if you want to go out and do something. Everything from poetry reading to gymnastics classes and meditation groups and whatever.  Woodstock as you know has such a big volunteer community. We were active in Meals on Wheels for several years. You had teachers and realtors and homemakers working. I like diversity and… the strong personalities!

Juliet: YEAAAAH! (we both crack up laughing)

Jean: I just hope Woodstock is able to maintain itself as a real community where it’s welcoming to those who really want to settle here and be part of the vitality…

Here’s an illustration, I love this. I would hardly think this would happen: I kept my mother’s little house and rented it for a lot of years. Just before Christmas, the 22nd, a friend who lives on Neher Street was having an open house. So I said I’d go there, and then come back here because I had another event to go to for my stepdaughter. I went to the warm and lovely open house and had a grand time. It was filled with folks I knew and some new friends. When I came back here my phone rang as I was getting ready to go and my tenant who’s been there many years called. She says “Jean, the guys from the water department were here and turned off the water. There was a big leak. They are going to call you.”  So I said “Okay I’ll stay here.” Larry Allen from the water department called and was so nice and said he was so sorry but it was my responsibility to get that repaired. SO the water is off. Larry gave me names of people I could call and with his involvement, it all worked out within a few days. It was all repaired. But that same day at the open house, the Town Supervisor Bill McKenna walked in to the open house and asked “Is Jean White here?” They said “She was, but she just left” He said “Well, the water pipe at her house burst!” Obviously there’s communication between the departments. I just thought that was very nice. I felt a real part of this community. I called Bill. It was Christmas Eve and he was at his office. I don’t know if I would have experienced that if I were a newer person, but I’ve been around a while. I think getting involved with the community gives you a real home. I LOVE living in Woodstock. There are such interesting and caring people who make Woodstock where I want to be.

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