This is Wednesday, December the second, 2015, and we are here today with Robbie Jean Rice who is the chair of the library board, Kathy Shimberg, instrument and fiddler and instrumentalist, myself, Jim Haggerty, and Leona Poulin and Fran Watson. Both of them are nieces of Grant Rogers, and we're just going to have a little discussion about their memories. They've share[d] with us some of his materials, and now we just want to talk to them a little bit about their memories and stories about Grant Rogers.
So, what was your maiden name?
0:00:51 woman 2-leona?
Your mother was Grant Rogers' sister. Gladys was her name, and you were telling me, Leona, about how Grant used to come to the house and he would play and your mother would play the piano.
She played piano and my father played the violin, and they had like a little jam session on Saturday nights. We were maybe 10 or 12 years old, and we kind of grew up with that. Every Saturday night when the cows were milked, we played music and it was great. They got into it so that they would have practically their noses on the floor trying to see who was the better violinist, and we sat back and we really enjoyed it. I think Grant, Uncle Grant, got a lot of his ideas just from comments. The neighbor kids were all invited, anyone that wanted to come in. My mom, she played chords, and she just kept the house jumping. They'd play the violin and the other one would play, and then they'd play together. Sometimes, Frank Fisher would come and play with them; that would be Loppy's dad. He played violin. So, they kind of had this little competition going over who was the better Delaware County fiddler, but we really enjoyed it. Then, as we grew a little older, they kept it up for quite awhile, but then Uncle Grant moved away and we didn't see much of him. He was travelling on the road, [and] he [lived] in Liberty. He played [with] the Delaware County Ramblers, and they played on the radio station in Liberty.
Then he kind of moved around, and he settled here and there and worked in many different jobs in New Jersey, New York, wherever. He finally came back to Walton, Wakeman Brook, and that's where I remember his last home, on Wakeman Brook. Then, we kind of lost track of him, and as we got older we weren't there anymore. I do remember him sitting and playing the guitar, and it was a fun time.
You said other people came and the house was open. Who would come--young people, older people?
Yes. Carnelia Hartley, who was a neighbor. She used to play the piano, and the two of them would get together and play. Then my mom. She was always playing with them, and she played at the Rock Rift church. She was there, and she was a pianist on Sundays. That's about what I remember about them.
Did they have dancing, or was it just music?
Well, yes, because when Mrs. Obemeyer was in, she had a bakery in Rock Rift, we used [the upstairs]. She let them play there, but I don't remember so much about Grant playing there. It was more the Fishers, but there were quite a few of the Fisher boys, and they were all self-taught. They played square dancing music, and we'd go there every Saturday night. It was just great. So, we kind of had our childhood pretty much figured out with square dancing and round dancing.
Were there house dances, too?
Yes, yes, yes. Any[where] that they could find a place to gather they were there, but Fran can probably tell you a little more than that because she was a little older than me.
Well, Leona has covered the family part of it pretty good. I can remember the neighbors coming in, Pete McAdams, and Don, his brother. Don used to play the banjo, and Pete never played an instrument, but he sang. Many a nights we would go to bed and they were still playing down in the living room. We always opened the register so we could lay by the register [hear]. They wouldn't let us be downstairs; we had to go to bed. Our grandparents, Grant and Mom's mom and dad, Adelbert (Delbert) and Ethel Rogers, lived in Peakville. They used to have dances in East Branch and Peakville. My grandmother played an old fashioned concertina. Leona still has it.
It's a concertina, and I could play it a little bit, yes. It's small, but it's old and I'm afraid the bellows may crack or something. I did play it for Caleb, he's my little great-grandson. He just loved that when they sang, so we played videos for him and they sang it in school. I did play it a little for him, but I explained to him that it would have been his great-great-great-great grandmother's [and] I didn't want to pop it.
She would get right in and play with them every once in awhile when she came to visit.
So, that's your grandmother. Where was Peakville?
Over Harvard way.
I don't know if there's anybody over there anymore. The last time I went to Peakville I was almost petrified to drive across the bridge because you have to go across the Delaware, and it was so dilapidated at that time. There was a lot of activity in Peakville. That's where Mr. Peak, who Peakville was named after, ran a fernary. All these people went out [to it], including my grandmother and Grant, and his wife, and people who lived in that area, They went out and picked ferns in the forest, and it was a special fern. They bundled them in bundles of 100, and they were sold to the fernery [who] shipped them to New York City. They were used in flower shops, and it was a big business for a long time. Of course that's all closed up now, and I don't know what's left in Peakville.
Was there an acid factory?
No, that was Cadosia.
We had one in Rock Rift, too.
So, you lived right in Rock Rift?
No, I lived on a farm which was across the river from Rock Rift near Wakeman Brook. We lived on a farm up on the hill. We could look over and see the whole village, but we didn't actually live in it. We had to walk to school there.
Went to [elementary] school there [in a] two room school. So, we went to school there until we went to high school [in] Walton.
0:11:32 – 0:12:45 DELETED
Stephanie, your daughter, said that she remembers Grant because he would give her his guitar strings.
Yup. When Stephanie was probably 10 years old or so, she decided that she wanted to play guitar like Uncle Grant. She was stringing her guitar and tuning it, and he would come to the house. He would bring strings from his supply and put them on her guitar and tune it for her, and he taught her some chords and stuff. She just thought that that was great that he takes the time [to] come.
He did that with our brother, too. Ross was our older brother, and he would go play. He taught him chords [and] he got interested in it, but he just played for his own amusement.
Neither one of you ladies inherited all this talent?
I played the piano, but [not] since I started having my family. My kids played trumpets, clarinets and cello.
Stephanie, [my daughter,] played clarinet in school.
Our youngest granddaughters, they're twins, and they played in the band at school all the time. They still play a little just for themselves. I [had] the benefit when they were living [at] home [during] the summer. They would be playing in their home, and they live close by, and I could hear it--music coming out of the house.
[When] Stephanie was older she gave Karlie her clarinet. Karlie still has it.
Karlie played clarinet and, I believe, saxophone. Jen stuck with the trumpet. She played taps for Memorial Day, and they were quite active in the band.
They played in church, too.
Did you play piano for square dances?
No, nope. I think by the time I would have been able to do that they had kind of dispersed because Frank died, Frank Fisher, and my dad passed away young, and Grant was probably in Liberty somewhere because he moved around for awhile. He worked as a construction worker, and then he was into stone cutting. So, he sort of was wandering around.
Did any of them read music, or did they just play by ear?
I think they just played by ear.
Yes, but Grant did take lessons, and that's how he wrote his music afterward.
He decided after he was playing that he needed lessons because he needed to learn to read music.
There's a story about that in the back of [the book], I think.
In that book it tells who taught him to read music. I can't remember the name.
He lived up near you guys on the farm?
Yes, on the road. The same road we lived on.
After my grandfather died, dad combined the two farms and we lived down in the farm where my grandmother and grandfather lived.
Ok, so, when he came back, that's where he put his trailer.
Yea, his trailer was right on Wakeman Brook Road. We always said that we were related to everybody on that road except Pete McAdams and Aunt Millard. We called them Aunt Millard and Uncle Pete. They were not related, but they were still just a part of our family. She always made us birthday cakes.
So, there's a real community of people, and part of that was the square dancing and the way you celebrated together.
So, how many brothers and sisters did Grant [have]?
He was a twin. Mabel was his twin. Aunt Mabel, my mother, Uncle Forest, Uncle Pat, and Uncle Murray. I think that was five or six of them?
Do you have any idea where [Grant] learned [music]? Who his mentor was?
I think he got a lot of it from his mom because she loved her music.
I think it he said that he started playing when he was 7 or 8 years old.
He tells a story in [the book] that when he was seven years old they let him play at square dances. They'd put him up on a chair so he could play with the band. He said that he never felt that he was as good as the guys, but they humored him.
Was he playing guitar or fiddle then?
It says here fiddle. It says he's been a fiddler since he was six years old, and then he [also] played guitar. So, when he went off to sing with Pete Seeger did he become a little famous? Did you ever go see him?
No. They did most of that in down [in] Sullivan County at a camp. He was invited there to play, and he did.
He used to go to Phoenicia, too, (Camp Woodland), and he'd go there and stay for weeks in the summertime and play. His wife, Aunt Edna, used to go with him.
Did you ever hear him on the radio?
That was a local radio here? Binghamton?
We used to get it through the radio. There was a radio station where they played in Liberty.
Was there a name of a show he was on?
There was [a] half hour show they were on, and they sang, played, [and] they talked.
Was he the only musician on that show?
Delaware County Ramblers were the featured musician.
I remember from when we first moved here [that] on Saturday nights there was a show on WDLA. We didn't have television. WDLA had a country western show on and [it] would play Grant Rogers songs on Saturday nights at that time. We moved here in '74, so it was somewhere in that '74-'80 time. I remember Grant Rogers dying, and you worked for Jim at the time, but I don't remember when that was.
It was in the '70's. I worked for Cooperative Extension. I started in '49, and I worked for the ag department first. Then I worked for xxxxxx part-time and then I worked full-time. When I retired in '91 I was full -time with xxxxx probably. I probably worked with him for 10 years at least.
I was working at that time. Stephanie was born, and at first I was just going to be off until April, but then by July I'd had enough of working and leaving the baby behind, so I took time off. She was born in '66 [and] she was in kindergarten by the time I went back, so that would be in '70, '71, '72 when I went back to work.
0:23:51 leona or fran?
My ex-husband and I moved here in '72, and I think we went to visit him probably in '74 or '05 here in Walton.
Do you have any memories of what he was like as a person, like sense of humor?
Oh, he had a wonderful sense of humor. A dry sense of humor, and sometimes you didn't know whether he was just kidding or it was the truth. A great reader, and especially history. He was very up on history. In fact, when I graduated from high school he bought my history books from me because he read them like they were [a] fiction story.
He had a great sense of humor. He called his wife "Bangs," and no one ever knew where that came from, "Bangs." She said, oh, it's just a noise. Then some of his buddies, when he was working on the railroad or something, they teased him about it, and he says, "Well, look it up in the dictionary." So, they did, and he says when they did they found out that it meant sweeter than honey. I always thought that was kind of a nice story, but that's the kind of things he would say.
Then he wrote a song for her. "I Picked a Lemon in the Garden of Love where They Said Only Peaches Grow." That's what he used to sing to her, so you see, his humor.
Did they have kids?
0:26:02 fran & leona
One son and he is deceased.
What was his name?
He was in the Air Force. He was a pilot.
It was his career. He went in the naval Air Force and he never came back to this part of the country. He married a girl from Tennessee and they lived in Memphis. He died (three years ago).
He would come home and visit us. He always came to the house and wanted to borrow a fishing pole because he loved to fish. Everybody would have him in for dinner when he was here, but he usually stayed in a motel. He always come in to visit. He was like his dad; he was a visitor.
I knew there was something wrong the last time he came to visit. He was not well. He didn't let on, but he made it very plain to me that it was going to be the last time that he probably saw me. 2000, must have been.
Did he play music at all?
No, he never participated with his father in the music. He would strum a guitar a little bit, but he left and went in the navy when he was 17 years old and he didn't come back to this part of the country. He flew his mother and dad out to Memphis.
He'd fly into Sydney and come and visit us.
When he died, he was building his own airplane in Tennessee. I still keep in touch with [his wife] a couple of times a year. She moved from Memphis to [another] place in Tennessee to be with family because her health was so bad. The time he came out here she couldn't come with him.
Did they have any children?
0:01:03 fran & leona
He graduated from Walton school.
Yea, he came back for his last reunion that they had here.
Did Grant teach anyone else music?
I think he taught a little bit to members of the family, but I don't know that any of them ever did anything with it. My mom and dad both played, but we never learned from them. Leona took music lessons.
Yea, I took lessons in school from Mrs. York.
We had a schoolteacher and she taught Leona [during] recess noon hour.
What was your dad's first name?
The movie, Indian Summer. He's in that movie that they made about the reservoir.
0:02:25 fran & leona
He wrote a song about the Cannonsville reservoir.
Do you know how he and Pete Seeger happened to meet?
I think he went to make the recordings with his xxx was the name of the man that invited him to come to be recorded. Pete Seeger happened was in on that, and they sang together and they kind of joked. There's quite a bit of the two of them.
Did Pete Seeger go to that camp in Phoenicia?
It was a camp for underprivileged kids from New York City.
She would just get on them keys and she'd just go with it. We'd dance around the living room. I can remember, even though she was older than we were, [that] they always seemed to look out for us. Don't do this, you don't do that. (That's right, Joyce played) violin.
Art Jamieson. They played the duet together.
The other one was on the corner of Townsend Street, H. Francis Miles. She took lessons from him. When my sister worked with them that one time she kind of helped them out.
H. Francis Miles is the one who wrote the anthem for the school, the alma mater. He lived in that house on the corner.
He visited with Grant Rogers. Strum was in that picture, too. He's there sitting at the table with them. He's playing the Rogers reel, but he didn't say anything to Pete Seeger. Then he asked him what that was, and he says, well, that's the Rogers' reel and they're tuning up their instruments. He says, Pete Seeger said, you can't play that if you're out of tune. You can't play good music if you're out of tune. Grant's tuning his violin, and he says, well, you can. I can, but I don't like to. It's little things like that.
What was your grandmother's maiden name?
Edwards. Eunich Edwards was her dad.
I have my grandmother's concertina. It was Ethel Rogers', Grant's mom's. She played at dances, and she played for us for amusement. She could also clog. She was very adept at clogging, and she entertained us with that. I think maybe Grant got some of his talent from his mom. She was very talented.