CGP Community Stories

Olive Crews, November 15, 2017

Title

Olive Crews, November 15, 2017

Subject

Oneonta, NY
Westford, NY
Farming

Description

Olive Crews (maiden name: Olive Mathewson) is a resident of West Oneonta, New York. She grew up on a dairy farm in Westford, New York, before majoring in math at Hartwick College in Oneonta. She began teaching math to high schoolers in South Carolina before marrying a navy man and moving to Bahrain Island in 1970 for a year, and then again for a brief period in 1976. Even before gaining independence from Britain, the US Navy had a task force there, called the Middle East Force (now known as the Naval Support Activity), where Crews' husband was stationed. Living here at this time was a significant experience for Crews and is discussed throughout the interview.
Crews also lived in Georgia and Florida when some of her older children were young, though she spent a more significant period of time in South Carolina where she raised her six children. After divorcing her husband, she remained there for over 25 years until retiring to West Oneonta to be near family. Her considerable life experience has given her a unique perspective to examine the changes Oneonta has gone through, as well as notice and appreciate the similarities and differences between different cultures.
I interviewed Mrs. Crews at her home in West Oneonta. Her stories in this interview range from charming anecdotes about farm life to touching reflections on her reasons for retiring to Oneonta. She offers insight into the local farming community through stories of her own family farm and broader observations of what has changed over the years. She also reflects on the role community has played in her life—whether it be in Westford, Bahrain, or Oneonta. She also discusses the role religion played in her life. (She was raised in the Methodist faith, but converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the early 1970s after making friends with a navy man stationed in Bahrain who was a member of the church.) Her observations and experiences of Bahraini culture are not only fond and enlightening, but also some of the most intriguing parts of the interview.

Creator

Lindsey Marshall

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2017-11-15

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio
27.4mB
audio
24.1mB
.jpeg
2.65mB

Language

en-US

Type

sound
image

Identifier

17-014

Coverage

Upstate New York
Oneonta, NY
1944-2017

Interviewer

Lindsey Marshall

Interviewee

Olive Crews

Location

149 Kish Rd.
Oneonta, NY 13820

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2017

OC = Olive Crews
LM = Lindsey Marshall

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

LM:
This is Lindsey Marshall interviewing Olive Crews at her home in West Oneonta on November 15, 2017, for CGP Community Stories. So, Olive, to start, can you tell me a little bit about your family growing up and where you lived?

OC:
Yes. I lived in Westford, New York, which is not far from Oneonta. I was the youngest of six children. In fact, I was the only one born in the hospital, while the others were born at home. The only reason I was born in the hospital is that the family doctor died before I was born. We lived on a small farm. We usually had twenty cows, plus calves, sometimes pigs, chickens, and it was a small farm. It was, I think 130 acres, if I’m correct on that. But to me, it was big when I was growing up.

LM:
Can you tell me a little bit more about your house?

OC:
Sure! The house was, to me, a big house. We had a kitchen, dining room, [and a] living room. When I was seven they changed one of the bedrooms into a bathroom. We did have an upstairs and downstairs, and with the bathroom that would have given us four bedrooms. There were two on the backside or the far side of the house downstairs and one upstairs that, for a time, my grandmother lived in before I was born. And then, later, my older sister and her family lived [there]. It’s not really a two-family house, because they didn’t have an extra bathroom or kitchen, but there were extra bedrooms for other family members.

LM:
Was that a normal occurrence for your family, to have other family members come in and live?

OC:
I would say yes. I didn’t know my grandmother because she died right after I was born. I do remember my oldest sister who’s twenty years older than I am. She had maybe one or two children when she lived there. Later, I remember my mom took care of a brother-in-law who was sick at the time. Before he passed away, he was in one of the bedrooms. I remember also Laudi Cummings who was a distant cousin I believe, and my mother took care of her for a few years in her later years. Also, before my mother passed away, she had Parkinson’s disease, and this would have been in the eighties—1983. So, for a time, my family lived in the other side of the house. Or before that, my sister. A couple of times, there were a couple different ladies who took care of my mother. So, it was common to have others living with us. Oh, we also had a hired man that came. I wondered in my adult years if he was homeless because periodically—I don’t know how often, maybe couple months, I really don’t know—he would come by and work for a couple of days with my dad. In return, he could sleep there and bathe and we would feed him, and then he would move on to another home.

LM:
So, I know that you grew up on the farm, you said a little bit about that. Can you tell me more about what it was like to grow up on it?

OC:
Yes. I enjoyed being on the farm when I was little. I liked working outside. Like I said, I was the youngest of six. Apparently, my oldest sister was outside with my dad all the time. My oldest sister was Thelma. My second sister, Dorothy, worked mostly in the house. She wasn’t an outside person. And then there was another sister, Esther, [and] two brothers, Gordon and Peter. The boys were always outside. Esther, being fourteen years older than myself, she was kind of like my second mom, and later kind of a grandma to my children, you know, especially when we lived back in this area. I loved working outside; I was kind of like my oldest sister in that I didn’t like housework. But I loved being outside in the barn. I remember we called the cows, “Come, Bossy, come, Bossy.” And often, would have to go up the pasture to get the cows and to herd them and to bring them down, which I always enjoyed doing. As I think about it now, I don’t think I was ever afraid of the cows. We did have two horses when I was little, two work horses. Actually, I don’t think we did when I was little, I’ve just seen pictures of them. I don’t remember if I had seen them or not, I just remember seeing so many pictures of them. Dolly was one, I forget the name of the other. But when I was growing up, my brother did have a pony, and I used to like to ride the pony. I remember going down to the apple tree behind the house and riding the pony, getting to run a little bit or at least trot up to the road. I never went on the road, but I loved riding the pony. We did have an orchard and always a big garden. My dad said that when the other children were still at home, that he used to plan on…Oh, I don’t remember now. I’m sorry, I don’t remember. But he always saved some potatoes to plant for the next year. And we had many other vegetables in the garden; we had lots of fruit trees, we had apples and pears, concord grapes, elderberries, currants. We would pick not blackberries—which are longer—but blackcaps—which are like black raspberries—down the road from us. I also loved playing in the haymow. In the beginning, we didn’t have hay bales; we gathered the hay loosely. There was a big clutch—I can’t remember the proper name of it—that we would back the hay wagon into the barn. A pulley is what it was, and it would come down with this big hand and pick up the hay and carry it over to the haymow. We had a front and a back haymow, and it [the pulley] would drop it [the hay], and someone would be there to level it off. In the middle of the haymow was a wooden beam several feet high and a wooden ladder that held up the beam in the middle. One of the things that I loved to do was to climb this wooden ladder up to the beam and jump off into the loose hay. One of the things I remember is that if the hay, well I know they would use the hay from the front haymow first, so we would climb up the ladder and jump into the back haymow. But if the back haymow also was too low, I would be afraid to jump, and I would also be afraid to climb down the ladder. But because I’m sitting here today, I can tell you that I always got back down somehow. We also had a granary right at the end of the front haymow where we kept the grain for the cows and for the animals. I know Dad used to buy them in probably 100-pound bags and we would keep them in there, and it would be fun to climb up on the granary and jump into the hay, or we could watch things. I remember one time they were butchering a cow on the floor down below in front of the haymow. So, we could see it from the top of the granary, and my brother and I were watching. Peter was four years older than I am, and he said, “You have to watch out, because that stomach might burst!” I was just afraid that when they poked the stomach, it would explode like a balloon and all of the guts, I guess, would blow out, but it never did happen. Another memory I have is when my nephew, my nephew Glen who is about fifteen months younger than I am, he spent a lot of time at our house while I was growing up as well. One time, we had the tractor on that main floor and he was chasing me around the tractor when he probably shouldn’t have been, and I fell and cut my head on the plow that was attached to the back of the tractor. I have stitches and I can still feel the spot on my head where I have the stitches from, you know, falling. Another memory I have about the cows and milking the cows is that back then, we had machines that my dad and mom and probably older brothers would hook up to the utter of the cow. After the machine would finish milking the cow, then my dad or mom would go in and hand milk her to get the last of the milk. But I remember that, on occasion, I would stand a little ways away and they would squirt the warm milk into my mouth and I thought it was great then. I don’t think that I would think so today. [Laughs] But it was a fun thing to do. I remember one time I was sitting on the stairs that went from where the cows were up to the main floor of the barn, and I don’t know the circumstance, but I remember I used the word “Bitch” because I’d heard my dad say that. But I got my mouth washed out with soap. I have to say that wasn’t the only time I got my mouth washed out with soap, but that was the consequence of swearing back when I was growing up. We had a silo at the end of the barn. Well, the hay of course would go into the haymow. We had four acres of alfalfa—I don’t remember if that’s what it went into, the silo, I’m guessing it probably was—and that was also used to feed the cows during the winter. As I remember, community members worked together, my dad and other farmers, because we didn’t have all the equipment needed. So, someone would help us, and they’d have this machine that blew the silage into the silo. Then throughout the winter, we’d have to climb up—there was a ladder, we could get to it from the barn, but it was outside the silo. So, we’d have to climb up that ladder, get into the silo…whether we threw silage down, I’m not sure. We always had some calves, different ages, calves and heifers that we kept over on one end of the barn that weren’t ready to be milked yet. I remember feeding the cow the silage, hay, and I think molasses in the winter, again for nourishment. Every two cows, as I remember, had, I’ll call it a water trough. It wasn’t big, but where the cow could reach in and press down the lever as I remember and drink the water, and of course that always had to be available. In the winter, the cows slept in the barn at night; in the summertime, we would take them back out to the pasture. When my nephew was there—I mentioned him—one of the things we did was wrap arm and arm and walk through the barnyard, which is kind of gross when I think of it today. [It] was mud and, you know, cow poop. But we walked through the barn barefooted and sang the song “Side By Side.” We had a milk house apart from the farm. The milk from the cows would be poured into pails, and when I was big enough I would help carry the pails up to the milk house, pour it into these milk cans which were maybe three feet tall—I don’t know, because I was little then, maybe not that tall. There was a cooler there that was set below the level of the floor, so at night we would take the filled cans of milk, put them down into the cooler which was filled with cold water, keep them overnight, milk the cows in the morning, probably put the milk in the cooler, but then the milkman would come around with his truck and we’d load the milk cans onto the truck. He would take the milk to Schenevus, and from there I’m not sure where it went. [Laughs]

LM:
Was that the primary product of your farm—dairy?

OC:
It was, it was. That’s where we gained our income. Everything else was for our own use—the garden and the orchard, and even the hay and the alfalfa was produced for our cows and animals, which then produced the milk. So, as far as I know, that was our only income, the milk. I know that from the time I started school until I graduated, my dad drove a school bus, so that also was a little income. I remember it was an hour ride—my brother and I were always the first ones on the bus, and [we’d] ride the hour to school. We were always the last ones off the bus when we got home, which again was an hour after school was out. The school was Schenevus, [but] we call it Draper Central School after Andrew S. Draper, who was an educator in New York State, but I believe was born there in Westford.

LM:
Can you tell me a little bit about the role community played in your upbringing?

OC:
Yes. We were very active in the Methodist Church, it was a little Methodist church. It varied over the years of the congregation. I remember maybe 25-30 people that attended. My mother played the organ and also played for the choir. I was in the youth choir. We had a Methodist youth fellowship when I became a teenager—I’m not sure they did in earlier years. I don’t remember all the activities that we did, but it was really nice to get together with friends and again under the church group. We did service, and again I don’t remember our particular lessons with things, but that was special. Schenevus School was in the next town eight miles away, and there were four or five hundred students, kindergarten through twelfth grade. It’s interesting to me now that many years later, there’s still four or five hundred students, kindergarten through twelfth grade. The school itself has expanded. Building wise, they’ve added extra buildings on, but the number of students has remained. It varies from year to year but remains the same pretty much through all of these years. In Westford—and we lived about a mile outside of Westford—there was a post office which was also a grocery store when I was real little, and also another store. Grant Tyler was the owner of the store—the other store—and I remember that not only were there groceries downstairs, but upstairs I think we could buy other things. I feel like I remember cloth or mittens. I’m not sure all of the different things that he had up there. In the post office, Johnny Palmer ran the post office and also had that little store down at the other end of town. He had a potbelly stove in there, and I understand that it was a place for men to gather. I don’t know if he had coffee available or not, I was pretty little back then. [Laughs] There was the old schoolhouse, [but] by the time I was starting school, we went to school in Schenevus. Prior to that, at least the oldest three or four of my brothers and sisters attended school there in Westford. My mother was born in Westford and also attended that school. The school went up to tenth grade, and then after that, the students would have to go to Schenevus to finish up. I could be wrong on that—they might have graduated at some point, but I know my mother went up to the tenth grade in that school. The school then was turned into a firehouse. Upstairs there is a historical library of the village, of the town, of the area. People have donated things to that library. When we had community dinners that, as I remember, they were always held at the Methodist Church. We had at Christmas time, we had a Christmas party at the Methodist Church for the community. We had little parts that the children would say, we would sing, [and] we would always get a little box of Christmas candy. Years later, when I went back in the eighties and my children were growing up, there was a classmate of mine—it was Jim Courtwell. I think he looked like Abraham Lincoln because he wore this high top hat, but he had a sleigh and he would take the children after this Christmas party through the village on the sleigh which was always a treat, an excitement. Years before when my mother was growing up, my dad moved to Westford with his family from the Binghamton area. Instead of a refrigerator, they had what they called an ice box. They would cut ice from a pond, store it in the woodshed I think somehow wrapped so it wouldn’t melt—I want to say wrapped in wood shavings, I really don’t know because I didn’t grow up during that time. Then they would put the ice cubes in the freezer of the ice box [laughs] to refrigerate the items. And in fact, that was how my mom and dad met—my dad was cutting ice on my mother’s family pond, and she helped her mom fix lunch for all the guys there and the rest is history.

LM:
I know that after you grew up here, you spent some time overseas. Can you tell me a little about that experience?

OC:
Yes. I graduated from Hartwick College in 1966 and first became a Methodist missionary and I taught school in Camden, South Carolina first, and then Thomasville, Georgia. And I met a sailor, someone who’s in the U.S. Navy, from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and after we married, we did go overseas. We were sent to Bahrain Island over in the Middle East. This is a Muslim country. It was a very small island, and I think it was about five miles wide, maybe fifteen miles long, but the bottom half of the island was a game preserve for the Sheikh. We were married in 1970, went straight to Bahrain in August I think [of] 1970, and it was either that December or the following December that they became an independent country. Prior to that, they had been part of the British Empire, but they did become independent and the Sheikh was now called Emir—the Emir Sheikh Isa bin Sulman al Khalifa. Like I said, it was a small island, it was just an adventure for us. My husband was assigned to the commander of the Middle East forces that were there, an admiral, so he was on a ship. But sometimes, he would be on the island and sometimes the ship would be gone. That first year, the ship was probably in and out about half the time. It might be in two weeks and out a month, or in three weeks and out two weeks, but it was always coming and going. The marketplace had open shops. One street—I believe is called Gold Street—a lot of women, a lot of Americans that were there and other women as well, bought either gold or silver bracelets. We would call them bangles. They were very thin, and they might have half a dozen bracelets that they would wear at a time. There were areas where we could buy cloth, [and] I remember buying pistachios in one area. It didn’t rain much in Bahrain and I’ll speak more about that in a minute. I remember one time they had a sale—I don’t know if it was an annual sale or not—and someone said, “Well this price is higher than it was yesterday.” I don’t remember what they were buying. The man who ran that little shop said, “Yes, ma’am. Is sale—some prices higher, some prices lower!” [Laughs] And I thought about it—they probably do that in the United States, too, but we never acknowledge that. But he

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

was very open about it. Once a week, we would be able to watch a horse race down at Awali, a little town in the middle of the island. The Sabbath there was a Friday, and so the Sheikh would—the horse race was really for him, but everyone could come and watch it. It was about a mile track, and we’d watch the horses race several times, and then they’d have a camel race. While the horses were racing, the camels would be inside the track laying down with their camel master or whatever he’s called. I remember watching them. When they would get up, they would get up back end first and then the front legs. The drivers would get on and the camels ran funny, I don’t know how to describe it. I was teaching school there. There was a Department of Defense school (we called it a D.O.D.) in Awali that had Americans, but also some local students and other what we call expatriates—people that are not from Bahrain but are living there, maybe their parents are working there or whatever. At one time, I was teaching arithmetic. There’s grades one through eight, and instead of the teacher going to the different classroom, the students would come to my classroom. I’d been trained to teach high school math—math was my major at Hartwick College—but here I was teaching elementary students. I remember the first and second grade—because they were combined—I couldn’t tell the first graders to do their homework while I was helping the second graders because they couldn’t read yet. For the third and fourth graders, I remember they would always fall off their seats. [Laughs] But I really liked the seventh and eighth graders, the fifth and sixth also, but I really liked teaching the seventh and eighth graders. I just felt more comfortable with that. Later on, I became the librarian and school secretary, and over the summer, the principal was there on occasion but otherwise I was the only one working over the summer. But that was a great experience. That was the first time I saw what we call roundabouts instead of intersections. Especially from one town to another, you’d be driving around and there’d be a roundabout. So, you go around this circle and turn off whichever road you need to turn off on. I see them more in the United States now than I did then. I remember trying to make bread. Let me say, I lived in Bahrain twice. We were there in 1970-71, and then we were transferred elsewhere and came back again in 1976. I had a daughter that was born there. So, some of my memories may be from one time or the other, I’m not sure. I remember making bread, and I think this was the second time we were there later in 1976. It was so hot in the summer—it would get over 100 degrees for weeks on end, and at the time we didn’t have air conditioning in our car and I just wanted to melt and slide under the bottom of the car door, it was just so hot. But, if we opened the windows, then you had this hot dusty air blowing in your face, so I never knew which was worse. I went to make some bread, and I bought yeast, and it was no good. I bought some more yeast, and it was no good. And I would try to use double the yeast because sometimes that worked, but then maybe the next time that wouldn’t work. I had to let the bread dough sit for maybe a couple days [and] usually kept it in the refrigerator at night to get it to rise. Well, I got this one batch and I couldn’t get it to rise, and I even used half a jar of yeast and I couldn’t get it to rise. So, my husband suggested that I buy a boxed bread dough that would have yeast in it as well—it would have flour and yeast, I’m not sure what else. So, I bought this boxed bread dough and added it to the bread that I was making. It was sitting in what I’d call a corn pot; it was the size we used to make corn on the cob in, it was a big pot. I had it sitting on top of my clothes washer. I mixed it up and I thought I could get it done before we left the house. I was participating in [a group—] it’s the Red Cross in the United States, but it’s part of the Red Crescent Society in Bahrain. Different countries were participating and I was happening to man the United States booth for that. So, my bread wasn’t ready to bake. I pushed it down and went to the American Crescent Society activity, the bazaar. When I came back, the bread had risen over top of this pan and into my washing machine. I had two or three small children [and] possibly a baby at the time—[I] didn’t have time to do anything with it right then. I pushed it down again and fed the children, maybe got them to bed, pushed it down again, my husband and I had dinner, and finally got ready to make the bread. So, I made the bread, tasted it—it was so sour! It was so awful! I was going to throw it away and my husband said, “No, no, don’t throw it away. Let me take it to the photo lab and share it with some of the men if they’re interested.” A couple days later, I had one of the wives of another sailor come by and say, “Olive, that was the best sourdough bread I ever had [laughs]. How do you make it?” And I said, “Well, start with bad yeast.” Another thing I remember about being in Bahrain, [was] the first house we were in the first time we were there was a small house. The bathroom was maybe four feet wide, maybe wider than that, and eleven feet long. You walk in and there was a sink on the left. There was a shower—no shower stall or curtain, just a shower. Then there was a wall that was maybe four or five feet high that jutted out from the wall to provide privacy for the toilet. Back at that time, people in Bahrain, the natives, didn’t use a toilet; they had a hole on the floor and they squatted. There was a water faucet there. You’d always use the left hand to wipe yourself and the right hand to eat with. That was a custom we saw throughout the country while we were there. But we had a toilet. But the drain for the shower was behind the toilet, so my husband and I agreed that whoever took the last shower had to mop the bathroom because like I said there was no stall. Our kitchen was maybe seven feet wide, eleven feet long, and the stove, instead of having four burners it must have had two. I remember it being a very narrow and small stove. Our neighbors were Bahraini and their kitchen consisted of shelves. No stove, no sink. You washed dishes and I guess clothes in a big tub out in front of the house, it was a small house. In most of those houses, both mine and theirs I know, you walked down a hallway into what I’d call a foyer, it was very small. Above the foyer, there was no roof. I mean there was an open part of the roof, because it didn’t rain in Bahrain. Except the first year we were there, it rained maybe six times between December and April. So, around this hole in the roof, there would be walls built up on the roof so that not much rain would get down inside. But our Bahraini neighbor just had a, I’m thinking, charcoal stove place there in the foyer so the smoke could go up through the open ceiling. We had furniture. When we got there, we bought a couch and maybe a couple chairs as well as a table and chairs for the dining room. Our neighbors thought that we were rich. We also had a bed and a dresser. Many of them had a mat on the floor to eat and later slept on the same mats. [They] didn’t have the furniture. I remember visiting some girls that had come to my house and we became friends. I went to visit in their home. They had one chair in this little, I guess you’d say living room. I sat in the chair and they sat around me, and we chatted. But I will say that some of the houses, you could see their television antennas. No furniture, but T.V. antennas, which I thought was interesting. The roof of our house was flat as was many of them over there. In fact, there were stairs from this foyer area which we used as our dining room, and I thought, “Where do these stairs go?” But it went up to a flat roof. I know when we went back a few years later and we had small children, they could play up on that roof. I would also hang clothes up on the roof. The first year I was there, we would borrow the movie projector from the Navy base. Well, there wasn’t a Navy base, but there was a Naval office I guess you would say. We had our presence there. And [we’d] show movies up on the roof. Our friends would come over in the evening and it would just be a fun time to get together. Very different. Our neighbors were just wonderful people. We learned some of their traditions. Ramadan is a period of fasting where they fast during the day. They’re allowed to eat before bedtime, and I want to say early in the morning. I think around six o’clock you’d hear a cannon go off and that meant that you could eat, and then about four o’clock in the morning people would come around banging not on a drum but something like that. They would bang to wake everybody up so they could eat before sunrise. The months in Bahrain, in that culture, don’t follow our months. So, Ramadan would change, the time of the year would change just a little bit every year according to our calendars. It was very difficult during the summer when it was so hot there, you know, no food or drink all summer long. So, during the summertime anyway, when they had Ramadan, a lot of times those who could would stay up at night and then sleep a lot during the day. Even regular times of the year—I mean, not during Ramadan—just their regular habits and their culture included a siesta, included a nap after lunch, because it was too hot to work. So, you’d work in the morning, eat lunch, nap, and go back in the evening. It was a wonderful experience to be there.

[TRACK 2, 16:36]

LM:
After you lived there, you came back to the states and lived here for quite a while, and I know after you retired you moved back here to Oneonta. I’m curious what it was like to return after having so much experience—going from a farm to overseas, and then South Carolina—what differences you might have seen in community life or in Oneonta in general?

OC:
Thank you, that’s an interesting question. I left New York first in 1966 when I graduated from Hartwick college. I was in the south a few years; went overseas; came back to Albany, Georgia, where my oldest daughter was born; Key West, Florida, where my son was born; back to Bahrain Island, my third daughter was born; and then in the eighties we came back here to care for my parents. My mother had Parkinson’s disease, and it was interesting then to come back. I felt like I was coming back home because I knew a lot of the people. My children went to the same school that I went to. But, things had changed. One of the things that had changed was in Westford, people from New York City were coming and they built—I’m not sure [what] all that they built—but there was one development that one way to get there was to go through a farmer’s pasture, I guess. They must have built a road. It was on top of a hill and they built several places there. Being a small community, farming community, that had been here for maybe two hundred years, we were not always happy with outsiders. We felt that they would start to take over the village. But coming back now, five years ago after I had retired, that’s not the case. We do have some who have moved in and stayed. I noticed that some of the buildings up in that development area have begun to decay because people didn’t stay. The two centers of social activity [were] again, the Methodist Church [which] has a lot of the dinners, and also the fire department. But I think that the fire department dinners are also held at the church because they have a cultural hall. They still have a Christmas program. It’s still a farming community, but there aren’t as many farms. Where I grew up, we sold the farm to Huntington’s. Mr. Huntington was a big farmer, and his family, there were several boys in the family. But that big farm of the Huntington’s, I believe, has been sold as well because a lot of the children are not staying in farming. Some of them are staying, but working elsewhere, whether working at the schools, whether working in Oneonta or in Cooperstown, some of the other towns. When I was growing up, we did most of our grocery shopping at the little store in Westford. When we bought clothes, we bought them from a Montgomery Ward catalog. When I was here in the eighties, I would drive once a week into Oneonta and shop there. So, the little country store over the years has changed hands. I’m not sure that it’s still open—it was five years ago when I came back. It’s changed hands many times. The post office has moved. Johnny Palmer’s store and post office closed, and they moved the post office to another area. But, there’s still activity, there’s still social activity in town, in this little village; but, people are a lot more mobile going to Schenevus, going to Oneonta, and they travel more. One of the things that was interesting to me, three or four years ago, my brother from Virginia Beach, Gordon, was up here. He’s ten years older than I am. On the way back from my sister’s, we went through Westford and shared some memories. It was surprising—but shouldn’t have been—that his memories were different than mine. Because his memories were ten years earlier. And all of my sisters are older than even he is, so our memories again are different because some of our experiences were different and because some of the people were different in my life than in their lives. I’m not sure if I answered that question.

LM:
Yeah, you did. Was it difficult at all for you to come back?

OC:
It was interesting when I came back. Well, I’d been in South Carolina for over 25 years. Meanwhile, when we were in Bahrain Island the first time, we joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so the Mormon church. So, after I retired from teaching in South Carolina, I served a church mission out in California. By that time, all of my six children were in six different states, and each one said, “Oh, Mom, come live near us. We would love for you to do that.” And I thought, “I can’t choose between my children. I’m not going to do that. So, I will either go back to South Carolina where my social life is, or to New York where I still have many family members including most of my brothers and sisters.” And I chose to come to New York, and when I shared that with my oldest son, he said, “Mom, I see light in that. You’ll be busy in New York.” And so, I did come back. And I have been busy. I didn’t come back for the weather. [Laughs] Our winters are harsh, I think they’re harsh because I have lived in the South a lot. I guess if you’re here you just get used to it. But, I have loved being back near my family. I have loved seeing them often. The church here is a small church in West Oneonta, and I’m happy to be a part of that and to be involved. Just like I was involved in that little Methodist Church in Westford, I’m now involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in West Oneonta. I’m not sure I’ll stay, but I may. One of the things that I love is that home can be wherever I am. In places I’ve traveled throughout the world, I haven’t had family members close, and so I came close to our friends and our church members and became a family with them and served them and loved them. And back here, it’s a choice to be with my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, and to love them and serve them and share special moments with them.

LM:
That’s a beautiful sentiment to end on. Thank you so much for your time and your stories and your honesty. I really appreciate it.

OC:
Thank you.

Duration

29:59 - Track 1
26:23 - Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

00:19 - Growing up on the farm
25:44 - Living in Bahrain

Files

Citation

Lindsey Marshall, “Olive Crews, November 15, 2017,” CGP Community Stories, accessed April 19, 2018, http://www.cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/337.