Dorothy Ingersoll, Rhoda Pill, and Eleanor Thayer oral history

Dorothy Ingersoll, Rhoda Pill, and Eleanor Thayer share stories about their time at Perkins spanning from when Ingersoll entered the Kindergarten in 1916 to her retirement in 1975. Pill worked at Perkins from 1928 until 1974, and Thayer from 1929 until 1971.

Tile collage of Dorothy Ingersoll, Rhoda Pill, and Eleanor Thayer

Biographical information

Dorothy Ingersoll

Dorothy Ingersoll (1911-2004) entered Perkins on September 16, 1916 as a kindergartener and remained a student until her graduation in 1932. As a student at Perkins, she attended Camp Allen. In 1934, Ingersoll started doing ediphone work in the Director’s Office at Perkins and continued in this role until 1940. In the photograph above as a young woman, Ingersol is typing on a Howe Memorial Press short hand machine. Created for blind typists, this machine has six keys that control the points of the braille system, recording dictation on narrow paper tape. Ingersoll went on to study at Staley College and graduated in 1953. On May 6, 1959, she was named “Woman of the Week” by the Boston Traveler. In 1961, Ingersoll returned to Perkins to teach speech correction. She retired in 1975, but continued doing volunteer work with Perkins students.

Rhoda Pill 

A member of the Harvard-Perkins course class in 1928-1929, Rhoda (Finklestein) Pill (1905-2000) joined the Lower School faculty the following year in 1930. From 1940 to 1960, she took a leave of absence, returning to Perkins in 1960. Upon her retirement in 1974, a report in The Lantern noted that she had “given valuable and imaginative service to generations of small children, keeping herself abreast of modern methods of teaching elementary mathematics and the teaching of reading to children with learning disabilities.” Pill is photographed above seated on a couch with her hands folded in her lap for an article honoring her retirement in The Lantern.

Eleanor Thayer 

After graduating from Smith College in 1929, Eleanor Thayer (1906-1990) was hired by Perkins director Edward E. Allen to be the Director of Music in the Lower School, a position she held until her retirement in 1971. She was well-known for directing the Christmas Carol Concerts as she conducted the Lower School Chorus in the rear balcony of Dwight Hall. She also led the singing during the Lower School Assemblies that took place every Wednesday and Friday morning. Thayer is photographed above in 1963 standing in front of a flowering bush, wearing a polka dot dress with a necklace. She was also the editor of the Perkins Newsletter. She died on December 10, 1990 at the age of 84.

Related resources

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Dorothy Ingersoll

Rhoda Pill

Eleanor Thayer

Notice and permissions

This interview is a digitized copy of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Perkins School for the Blind. The interview was conducted on May 4, 1989, by Lawrence Melander and Kenneth Stuckey. The audio and transcript provided unedited.

This oral history transcript may be quoted if cited. A preferred citation is provided. The interview may not be published in full except with the permission of the Perkins School for the Blind. For permission please contact [email protected].

Preferred citation

Ingersoll, Dorothy, Pill, Rhoda, and Thayer, Eleanor. “Dorothy Ingersoll, Rhoda Pill, and Eleanor Thayer oral history interview conducted by Lawrence Melander and Kenneth Stuckey,” 1989-05-04, Perkins Archives Oral History Project, AG195-1989-01, Perkins School for the Blind Archives.

Audio recording

Recording of the oral history of Dorothy Ingersoll, Rhoda Pill, and Eleanor Thayer.


Larry Melander [Melander]: And you want to start with me then? All right. Here we go. You’re going to– you haven’t started it? 

Ken Stuckey [Stuckey]: It’s going. 

Melander: Oh, it’s going now? Informal. It’s informal. OK. Good afternoon. This is May the 4th, 1989. And we have a very, very special privilege this afternoon to have three ladies who in effect have dedicated their entire professional lives to Perkins School and the students here. And I’m going to introduce them in a moment. 

But it all came from a celebration that we had, actually it’s two years ago, almost to the day. And what that celebration was, was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first Kindergarten for the Blind in the world. And at that ceremony, we had a special presentation to these ladies in recognition of their fine work that they’ve done through the years. And at that time, I kind of got the inspiration that all of their great stories. I’ve talked to each of them at length on many, many occasions, that many of their great stories should not be lost, that we should record those stories and have them for posterity. And hopefully this is going to work out with just that in mind. So without further ado, because I don’t want to be doing all the talking here, let me introduce to you each of our participants. And then maybe as we go along, I’m going to ask each of them a question and then we’re going to freelance after that. 

To my left is Dorothy Ingersoll. Dorothy Ingersoll was probably the most unique of the four of us because Dotty actually was here in two roles. She was here as a student and also as a staff member. 

Dorothy Ingersoll [Ingersoll]: In the meantime, I worked out in private industry. 

Melander: And private industry as well. So she has a number of references to bring to this. To my immediate right is Eleanor Thayer, who worked here for many, many years as our music teacher in the lower school and probably umpteen other things that she’ll talk about as we go along. 

And to her right is Rhoda Pill, who also worked here for many, many years and probably longer than– you might have the the record of all time Rhoda, if we include all of your substitute years as years being here. You may work here longer than anyone who’s ever been. 

Rhoda Pill [Pill]:  And I came the same year. 

Eleanor Thayer [Thayer]: Yes, we both started the same year. 

Pill: Eleanor came from Smith and into Brooks Cottage. And that was my first year, and Eleanor was here too. 

Melander: And that would have been? 

Pill: What year, Eleanor? 

Thayer: 1929. 

Melander: 1929. And Dotty, you first came as a student in what– do you remember what year? 

Ingersoll: 1917. 

Melander: 1917. So as the audience can see, we’ve got just decades of wonderful stories about this school. To give the listeners a little bit of an idea of the current population, Perkins is now serving just under 200 students. All of our students are multiply impaired, which means that they have any number of additional impairments to their visual loss. 

The school is– I know, a great deal different than it was when I first came on the scene as a teacher in the lower school in 1967. And since I’ve been the lower school supervisor, I think it was 1974, our population has steadily changed to be more complicated than ever before. So I know that from my brief reference. But I know that the years before that, this place was something totally different. 

So since we talked a little bit about how we came here, I thought maybe I’d start with Eleanor and just ask her, basically Eleanor, you and Rhoda came in the same year. But you came to be hired. How can you tell me how that came about? 

Thayer: Well, I came here from Shrewsbury, via the Boston and Worcester bus. And I got off at the policeman’s box at Watertown Square and walked up Riverside Street. When I got to the top of Riverside Street, there was the Riverside gate, closed. And on it was a great big circle that said, use N. Beacon Street. Well, that didn’t mean anything to me. And I finally found the footpath over near what we call the Davis’s house and walked in. And of course, on my right coming in, was what is now the parking lot, which was then the tennis court and the wires all around the tennis court have wonderful, wonderful grapevines, so that was what we used to pick in the fall. But I walked and finally got myself to the main building and as I walked the driveway, everything was so quiet, so still. It was a sunny day, just like this in the middle of May of 1929. I got to the telephone office, and Dorothy will well remember, Molly, and you will remember Molly on the switchboard that had to know– 

Pill: Molly Moffitt. 

Thayer: Molly Moffitt. Did always had to know what was on. I was sent to Mr Gardner’s office. He was head of the music department. I was here to be interviewed. And we talked and then finally, I was passed from person to person. I was taken downstairs to Anna Gardner Fish, a very well known– 

Pill: Oh, yes, registrar. 

Thayer: Yes, registrar and also secretary to Dr. Allen, the director. And then I was passed on to somebody else. And finally, I was taken to the lower school to meet Miss Hills who was my predecessor and she also was a Brooks Cottage person. Do you remember her? 

Pill: Verna. 

Thayer: Verna Hills, that’s right. And so I stayed and visited music classes, and then went to lunch where I had this lady on my right, Rhoda Pill, sitting there, staring at me, staring at me. I was stared at by all the staff because they knew that I was being interviewed. And they got to look me over. I don’t remember Dorothy on that occasion. 

Pill: Well, she was a student, so she probably wouldn’t have been sitting there. 

Thayer: No, but she was there. And then I had dinner and then went back again to classes in the lower school here in the Assembly Hall. I don’t know whether you call it Assembly Hall or not now. And then I took, I think a 4:00 bus back to Worcester. 

And as I say, I was passed from person to person. I didn’t see Dr. Allen because he was away for the day. But they decided finally that they would bid for me to come to Perkins. And I kept them waiting until about the 20th of June when I graduated from Smith and I showed my father a telegram that had been sent to me by Mr. Gardner, that they were awaiting word whether I would accept this job or not. And my father looked at me and said, “sister, you’ll have to decide for yourself because it’s your life and you’re going to live it.” So having interviewed for jobs like English, but a little bit of music or some other kind of things that way off in foreign countries and so forth of the United States, I accepted around the 20th of June, 1929. 

And when I arrived in the fall, Ms. Ferguson, who had stared me up and down on the day that I had arrived for interview and also Frances McGaw, informed me that I was chosen because I didn’t wear red lipstick and red clothes. 


Dr. Allen apparently disliked red clothes very, very much. But I wore a navy blue dress and it had golden leaves on it, and it had reddish leaves on it and I had a perfect prim and proper good coat, navy coat, and a cloche that we will at the time. 

When I say cloche and I look at you, I think of our introduction the very first fall for an Anagnos Day. We were so brand new and Rhoda had the cutest little runabout for– it has a rumble seat. 

Pill: Yes. 

Thayer: Remember those rumble seats. 

Pill: I was the only one at Perkins that had a car. 

Thayer: Yes. 

Pill: And I’ll have to tell you about that in a minute. 

Thayer: Yes. Yes. Yes. And so they sent Rhoda and me off together to do decorations, to decorate the lower school hall in the front of the stage. And I remember that we went up sort of towards Cochituate, somewhere up that way and picked oak leaves and other things. 

Pill: Yeah, I remember. 

Thayer: There were, I think of that car, were you– I think– No, it was Mary [Lamon’s] car. She had a car after you. The one time we had and she wanted to scare me and everyone else. And we were on a picnic and we were smoking, which was absolutely forbidden here at the school. 

And she yelled at us quickly, said, “quick put it out. Dr. Allen is coming.” So we scampered like mad. But I don’t think I’ve ever had any regrets for these 42 years that I spent at Perkins and made my decision when I graduated, the day I graduated from college, that this was where I was going. 

Melander: This was the first– It was nice meeting, for our sake and all. 

Thayer: Yes. Yes. Yes. 

Pill: Eleanor, tell them about the first– 

Ingersoll: Oh, yes, do tell about the first Sunday night. So the first [inaudible] — was, so teachers served us at the table. So it was Sunday night, and I guess we had sandwiches and cakes and things. And so they had different kinds of cake on the plate. So she said that– I was asked what kind of cake I wanted. 

I said, “well, I like the chocolate.” And so Ms Thayer said, “all right, and [inaudible], you reach out, it’s ready to right.” So I reach out for my to right. “Oh, no, no, no, it’s over to your left dear.” You see she was facing me, and my right was her left. 

Melander: She hadn’t transferred it. 

Ingersoll: She wasn’t used to getting explicit directions. Finally, I did reach the chocolate cake, but it took quite a while. 

Melander: What would you have been– 

Ingersoll: Then I said, “well, she’s just a new teacher, she’ll have to learn.” 

Melander: You would have been a high school student then? 

Ingersoll: Yes. Yes. Yes. 

Melander: I remember you talking about some of your daily routines as far as different from the way they are now when the student’s get up in the morning and they go in and wash up and supposed to get ready to go downstairs, get dressed and go for breakfast. But I think it was a little bit more complicated in those days. 

Ingersoll: Oh, yes, it was quite complicated. And the teachers were involved in it too. You got up at 6:00. It was this great big loud rising bell, and it’d scare you to death like a fire bell. 

Melander: 6:00 in the morning? 

Ingersoll: Oh, yes, indeed, 6:00 in the morning. And then you got– everybody would hike to the bathroom where you all had to take a shower. And a teacher would be there to knock you off, to make sure you took a shower. 

Pill: Dotty, wasn’t it a cold shower, Dr. Allen– 

[Interposing voices] 

Melander: Cold shower? 

Ingersoll: Yes, cold shower. 

Pill: I remember Dr. Allen thought they should take a cold shower. I remember that– 

Melander: It’ll wake them up at 6:00 in the morning, wouldn’t it? 

Ingersoll: Yeah. And then we only had heat in our room just an hour in the morning, too and then an hour at night. That’s all we had. See he had been in England for many years, and he brought a lot of this – the ideas from England when he went to America. 

Melander: So did you try to get out of this cold shower business, Dotty? 

Ingersoll: No, yeah, I used to take a bath first, and then I declined the cold shower. So I took a turn the shower on warn, you know, we used to turn the shower on warm until the teachers took it cold. 

Thayer: And they could get into the corner, so that they could kind of miss that shower coming down on them, but the styles of the showers were nothing like the bathrooms we have today, because it was the walls were just plain old– 

Melander: Sandstone, kind of? 

Thayer: Sandstone. Yes. Yes. Yes. And you had to step up to get into them too. 

Pill: I remember on Sunday –  

Ingersoll: Oh, yes. 

Pill: We didn’t have heat except early in the morning and not until at night, because Dr. Allen felt that the boys and– of course, the boys and girls were separate anyway, but he thought they should be down in the living room socializing, rather than stay up in their rooms. 

Melander: So turn off the heat? 

Pill: Yeah. And so we didn’t have heat all day Sunday. And it was cold too. 

Thayer: Tell him about the time of the time, we were making coffee. 

Pill: Well, we used to make– I lived up in the suite then, that was several years after I had been there. 

Melander: This is Brooks? 

Thayer: You lived in Bradley. 

Ingersoll: No, this was in Bradley. 

Pill: In Bradley, and they come to my room and I would make breakfast on Sunday. And I’d have– I had a coffee pot. In that coffee pot I made coffee and scrambled eggs, everything in the coffee pot. 

Melander: In the coffee pot? 

Pill: What? 

Melander: Scrambled eggs in the coffee pot? 

Pill: Everything. Because there was only one plug, and so we had to use that for everything. And very often, I think the lights, the electricity went off. There were no lights or anything at 10:00. And the girls would– Dorothy and some of the teachers that I was friendly with, would meet upstairs in the suite in my room. 

And very often, we’d be in the middle of making coffee or scrambled eggs or soup even and the electricity would go off and then we never could finish. 

Thayer: It wouldn’t come on till 4:00. 

Pill: Yeah. 

Thayer: It went off at 20 to 7:00 to 9:00 in the morning, but Sunday mornings, but how about the evenings, tell about that. 

Pill: About what? 

Thayer: At night. The lights went out in all the houses. 

Ingersoll: Oh, yes, yes The lights– the electricity, every night, every night– 

Thayer: Every night. 

Ingersoll: They were off at 10:30. And so we used to– the teachers used to take us to symphony on Saturday night, you know. And sometimes, especially if it was raining, they’d suggest that we go through the main building to get to Brooks. And we used to kind of accidentally bump them into the door of things that was in the lobby. 

Melander: No, you were doing the leading. 

Pill: But you know, Larry, when– 

Ingersoll: We thought now we’d get you know, so we kind of bumped them into things on the way coming through the main building to get to the side door to go over to Brooks. 

Pill: When we went out, like to symphony, we went to many cultural things because Dr. Allen was really a very cultured person himself, and he thought we should have it too. And we would come back after the lights were out and nobody could put them on but Ms. Kinsman who was a house parent in Fisher, she would have lamps on. And she would always have hot chocolate and something for us that, despite the fact, it was dark and she would have a little –

Ingersoll: Kerosene

Pill: Yeah, kerosene lamp on. And we would have our refreshments. But the funny part of it, Larry, was that none of us felt underprivileged that we were being put upon, like the kids today who have everything, and they think everything is no good. 

Ingersoll: And there never was an accident. 

Thayer: No, never an accident. 

Ingersoll: Those lamps, there never was a accident. 

Thayer: And the blind girl would carry it, and would carry it from the living room table to the kitchen. And there would be the double boiler with the cocoa on, and she knew where the key was to unlock the pantry. And she locked it up. We left things all in order. 

Melander: Never a problem? 

Thayer: Never a problem. Never a problem. 

Ingersoll: And another thing we used to do, there wasn’t any heat in our rooms, your bed would be cold. And so everybody had a hot water bottle. When you wrote home, you told your family that you needed a hot water bottle. And so– 

Melander: Fill it up with water downstairs? 

Ingersoll: So that your roommate, when it was time for her to go to bed, she’d fill up with hot water and put it in our bed, so when we came back we’d have beds that’d be warm. 

Pill: Miss Kinsman was, she was a house parent in Fisher and she was wonderful. She would make jam, you know, that we could have at the table and piccalilli and a lot of those recipes. 

Melander: How many students might be in a cottage? 

Ingersoll: How many would– 

Thayer: 30. 20. 20. 

Melander: And how many house parents? 

Ingersoll: In the lower school, it was 30, 30 children, and then the upper schools. 

Pill: Well, in those days Larry, I think in Fisher and Brooks and Bradley too, there were two house parents. And they would– Miss Loring and Miss Goodwin. And they would have one afternoon off a week, not like– I hate to say this, but not like they have now. And they would have like every third Sunday off. And Miss Loring loved the movies, and the afternoon, her afternoon off, she would go into Boston and she’d go from one movie to the other. 

Melander: Just get them all in? 

Thayer: And a little pint sized lady she was. 

Pill: Yeah, she was a dear. She was the main. But one afternoon off. 

Melander: Oh, what did you call them, Eleanor? 

Thayer: I said one little gray-haired lady with sparkle in her eyes. 

Melander: What were they called, what were the titles? 

Thayer: Oh, what were their titles? 

Ingersoll: And the assistant matron– 

Thayer: No, when the visiting committee ladies came, they were assigned to come to visit the lower school every month and when they come, there was one pompous lady who kind of managed all of them. And it was a very, very elite name in Boston, Monks, M-O-N-K-S. And she would come and get out of her chauffeured car, and as she was most solicitous to the matrons–

Pill: Sorta like slumming. 

Melander: The matrons? 

Pill: Matrons. 

Ingersoll: And I could remember, being in the, what they used to call the kindergarten room, that’s [INAUDIBLE]. 

Melander: Where was that, the big rec room in Bradley now? 

Ingersoll: Yes, yes. They called it the kindergarten room. And I remember these lady visitors come, and they never asked our names or anything, but they would just put their hand, “hello little one.” 


We used to think, the other people would say, “what’s your name, dear?” And just– I feel the same. Hello, little one. 

Pill: Well, I think Dorothy, they thought you were really nothing, that you wouldn’t even have a name. And they were really Society people. 

Thayer: They were. 

Pill: I mean the Saltonstalls, the Cabots, and the [Lodges.] 

Melander: So this was their contribution in a way? 

Pill: And they would come once a month, and oh, everything had to be just so for the– what did they them? 

Thayer: The Lady Visitors 

Pill: The Lady Visitors, yes, and that meant society was coming. And I’ll tell you– 

Ingersoll: We used to go around to the kids and put our hands on our heads. Hello, little one. 


Thayer: And they were very solicitous to the house persons, these [INAUDIBLE]. They would ask for the well being of their house, they would inspect it all. And is there anything you need? And so it was that we had our bare walls decorated with large pictures that were very colorful. 

Melander: Provided by them? 

Thayer: Provided by them, and I don’t know– I haven’t been in Anagnos to see, but there was a lovely one that hung for many, many, many years over the fireplace in the dining room. And the same was true of Potter Cottage. 

Melander: Eleanor, when did– to your recollection, when did the visiting ladies end– 

Thayer: When they expired. 

Melander: When did that stop? Well, 

Thayer: It must have been some time during Dr. Farrell’s administration and they changed the name from Lady Visitors to what? Distinguished– 

[Interposing voices] 

Melander: Visiting Committee, maybe. 

Thayer: Yes. Yes. 

Melander: So this would be before [INAUDIBLE] sometimes? 

Thayer: Yes, but they still continued to come. 

Melander: Now, the Board of Trustees has always been part of this? 

Thayer: Yes. Yes. And I can remember when Mr. Thorndike was– Now, not the one that they named the house for the other day but this is the Treasurer Thorndike. And he was the father of Roseanne Thorndike. What was her last name? 

Ingersoll: Levasseur 

Thayer: Levasseur. And he was also related to another Thorndike that was here. But I could remember a very tall dignified gentleman walking and– Dorothy about the chapel window. Who is that in memory of? It slipped my mind. Is that a Thorndike window? Was he the one that liked animals and farm, had a farm out on the North Shore? 

Ingersoll: Oh yeah. Yes, I know they lived on the North Shore. 

Pill: We used to go on picnics out there. 

Melander: Speaking of farm, I heard at least within my time, that this place was actually a farm too, pretty self-sufficient. How self-sufficient was this place? Could we survive on our own in ’20s and ’30s?

Ingersoll: But this Ms. Kinsman that Rhoda was talking about, that made jam, she used to– I think bring the vegetables. They had this big garden and the boys were taught to take care of the garden. 

Melander: Where was it? 

Thayer: Well, out here in back, here where– well, I don’t know where the two houses, where the McIntyre’s– 

Melander: Behind the lower school, school then? 

Ingersoll: Oh, that was called the Farm? 

Melander: The farm? 

Thayer: Yes, that was the farm. 

Pill: And you remember Miss Evans who used to manage it, and she had chickens, and they used to sell eggs in the area here. 

Melander: Oh, outside the school? 

Ingersoll: And she used to have animals too for the boys to take care of, one time she had a pig. 

Pill: She was a wonderful teacher. 

Ingersoll: And I remember our gym teacher took us over. I was in what they call the upper school. And there was this girl from New Jersey, and she said to me, “Dotty, do you think you could lift up a pig?” And I said, “well, I don’t think so, Ann, I think they would be all together too heavy.” So I said, “who would want to anyway?” 

So we’re starting back to go back to class, and there was this most ungodly squeal I ever heard in all my life. I nearly jumped out of my skin. And Annie had sneaked back and tried to lift up the pig. 

Pill: But Larry, I must emphasize, and not enough really, that all through these days when we lived so differently and the food was not especially good, I can tell you. Everything was ground up, because they felt the children couldn’t chew. Wasn’t that the reason? 

Ingersoll: Yes. 

Pill: We never, never had a slice of meat, it was always ground up. You never had a piece of a beet, you know, beets, it was always ground up. Never, never did they have something they could chew on. And I don’t know whether it was because they thought the children couldn’t chew it, it certainly wasn’t good for the teeth, not chewing. But it was– everything was always, always ground up. 

Melander: But throughout all the that issue, you were going to make the point, throughout all of that, you never felt that that. 

Pill: I was going to say, throughout all this we all loved it. I didn’t know. I hate to keep saying it isn’t like it is today, because it well it isn’t. I remember on Sundays, I would come back to help the Miss Loring bathe the children. 

I’d come back from New Bedford, because they didn’t have all these maids like they have today. You had to– I mean, you were expected, not asked to, but sort of expected to help. And I remember coming back Sunday about 4:00 when the kids, not many kids went home weekends then, the parents– I don’t know whether they didn’t– 

Thayer: No, they kept them here. 

Ingersoll: First place, they had school on Saturday

Pill: They kept them here all the time. 

Melander: Saturday morning school? 

Pill: We had school on Saturday morning. And of course, people they didn’t have automobiles in those days where they did now. 

Melander: The mobility and all. 

Ingersoll: I said most of the parents come and get you Saturday morning and take you back. I said most of the parents, most of them couldn’t afford it. 

Pill: And the kids almost never went home, except for they had Christmas. 

Melander: Now, am I right, did all the staff live on? 

Pill: Yeah. You have to live on. 

Melander: This was part of the requirement of the job to live on? 

Pill: That was part of the deal. And I remember, Larry, when I first taught, I had been through college even, and I took the Harvard course, which was at that time connected with Harvard, you know, and Miss Langworthy– 

Melander: Miss Langworthy who was right above you here? 

Pill: Yes, Jessica Langworthy, she gave the course. And there were professors that came in from Harvard to lecture now and again. 

Melander: Where? Where was the classes held? 

Thayer: That was upper school, 

Pill: It was in the upper school. 

Thayer: Upper school. 

Melander: Did you ever have classes in this room? This is the Langworthy Room. 

Pill: Well, I think many years afterwards. 

Ingersoll: No, this used to be used for the testing lab. When Dr. Hayes you found out that– 

Melander: The psychology [inaudible]. 

Ingersoll: The blind kids were as smart as the sighted kids. And then we had a psychologist, and we [inaudible]. 

Melander: And this was the testing area here? 

Ingersoll: Yes. 

Pill: But in those, again in those days, we had to be on duty on Sundays to take the children to church. And that we didn’t have cabs– the kids now wouldn’t think of– I remember, since I’m here now, if we want to go to the library, if I say, “well, it’s a nice day, we’ll walk.” This is what happens now, they won’t 

Melander: The one down in Watertown Square?

Pill: But in those days, I remember taking– I mean, it didn’t matter what denomination, didn’t matter to me but I took the kids to the Catholic Church, wherever I was assigned. I would take maybe 20 kids. We’d walk down. 

Melander: You alone? 

Pill: Yes, two by two. Two kids, you know, they’d have a partner. Never had trouble with them. They never misbehaved – I mean, they were normal kids – but they never misbehaved in church. They just seem to know. 

Melander: What they which– 

Ingersoll: Yeah it seemed to me. I was thinking back, it seemed to me the population used to be half and half. Because everyone where we went, we had somebody that could see, one of the kids could see, and then we had to have our partner. 

Melander: And be able to match up 

Ingersoll: Remember, there seemed to be as many partial sighted kids as they were [inaudible]. And the kids have quite a lot of sight, because they had something– 

Pill: But they weren’t emotionally disturbed, Dotty. 

Ingersoll: What? 

Pill: They weren’t emotionally disturbed, 

Ingersoll: Oh, no. Because we were talking– 

Pill: But we always had to go to church because– 

Ingersoll: I meant when I was in Glover the matron went to the Episcopal Church, so we went to the Episcopal Church. And the teachers took us. And some of them didn’t like to go to the Episcopal Church, so we’d go to Sunday school there. And one thing they did, they put us in the classes with the that kids could see according to your age, where the Catholic is I think they had all the blind kids together. But that was one nice thing they did an our church. 

So anyway, the teacher, so when I [inaudible] a church, I were going to the Baptist church today. So we leave the Sunday school, we go to the Baptist church. And the next Sunday, the first teacher would go to take us to the Congregational church. And then there was one teacher said, “I’m not going to bother to taking you out and then it was bad enough getting you here,” so we can’t go to church, so we got permission with a different church. 

Pill: But we thought nothing of coming back on Sunday to take the kids. 

Melander: To be able to [inaudible] and do that. 

Pill: Yeah. Because otherwise the kids couldn’t get there, because there was just that the house mothers had a Sunday off. So there was only one house mother on duty, the other one had that off. And I mean, we came back and we had to help bathe the kids. 

Ingersoll: And I remember, I, we used to– the Catholic girls used to go to church on a bus, but we went with the teachers. So I when [inaudble] the teachers, you know, we used to wish we were Catholics because it had nothing to do with the church, it was just to get away, go out somewhere. You know, because as a Protestant, we stay home. 


Because we had to walk to church, and so the Catholic Church got onto the bus, so we’d stay home. And I guess we’d have a little ceremony at home. 

Pill: Now, Larry, since you were here, did we have what we call religious release day? 

Melander: Yes. Yes. In the afternoon. 

Pill: Yeah. 

Melander: Thursday afternoon. 

Pill: Which I never went along with it, but I just felt that was– 

Melander: Well, it was part of it, yeah. 

Pill: Because what they did was, and they thought they would do that some nuns would come. 

Melander: That’s right. 

Pill: Yeah, and then they would say, “now the Catholic children stand over here. The Protestant children stand–” I mean, it was such a distinct segregation feeling. You know, the Catholics stand here, the Protestants stand here. And I think there were only one or two Jewish children. So nobody came for them. And I really– I’m not terribly religious minded, and I didn’t feel that I could really teach them anything, in fact I really didn’t– I really didn’t know anything. 

However, I did call Temple Israel at that time, which was what we would call now a reformed Jewish temple, and I explained the situation and asked them if they would send someone out on Thursday afternoon because the Jewish children were sent out to play. And there were only maybe one or two kids, that’s all the Jewish kids that were in the lower school, so they did send a young Jewish girl out to take the little Jewish kid. 

Melander: So at least they were covered as well. 

Pill: Yeah, they were covered. 

Thayer: But before these religious education classes started, the Catholics had to go to some sort of a education thing. And so they would go on Thursday afternoons, and they would have guards that came from out of the church, and come to the cottage, get the children walk them down the street. 

Melander: Would that have been the same [taxi]? 

Thayer: That was a little bit too dangerous because here was sighted people that weren’t trained to be with blind people, so that stopped and then this all– 

Melander: Then they actually came here. 

Thayer: Yes, with Dr. Farrell’s. 

Melander: Well that was still in effect when I was here. I don’t know when it finally ended up stopping, I think it must have been the early ’70s, that they just kind of– 

Ingersoll: Died out. 

Melander: I think mainly because, as you were saying, these people weren’t sophisticated enough to deal with the new population and so it really wasn’t as valuable, and then we took some other routes. 

Thayer: Can we retract just a minute? You asked about the farm done here. And you asked if we were self-sufficient. And we were, because the farm– they raised vegetables and so forth down there. The place was covered with fruit trees. 

All that space over near the main building, between the main building and the Fisher, over here all around the tennis court, before we had the parking lot, that was filled with fruit trees. 

Melander: Who played tennis? 

Thayer: The staff. 

Melander: Staff. 

Thayer: And all along the back here were all crop trees and an orchard. And I would get sitting there at the piano on the Assembly Hall, I’d have these awful smells coming up. And I didn’t know what it was. They stored the beets, the carrots, the turnips– 

Melander: Down underneath the music hall. 

Thayer: –the cabbage all under the music hall, and it was taken down through a door. I don’t know whether you have that door. 

Melander: It’s still there. It’s still there, the garage door. 

Thayer: They would take that down through there and leave it you see. And that was a nice place. 

Melander: And then it would go bad and whatever? 

Thayer: Yes, and you see, then finally I complained, but they finally put a replacement of boards and what have you underneath the stairs that go up on the stage because that’s where the fumes were coming. 

Melander: Now what would the– the hope was to have this fruit and so forth last as long as it could into the winter? 

Thayer: Yes. 

[Interposing voices] 

Thayer: –the cottages. 

Melander: And it would all be used by the cottages. I mean, this wasn’t just growing it for growing sake, you’d all– 

Thayer: Yes and this Miss Kinsman that everyone was talking, made the jelly, she would– they would bring the tomatoes and she would can them. 

Pill: And grapes too. They even had the grapes– 

Ingersoll: Yeah, I remember the grapes. 

Pill: They had the vines outside of Dr. Farrell– Dr. Allen’s house. What the– 

Melander: Now what kind of animals, you said chickens? 

Thayer: Chickens, pigs, and a couple goats. 

Ingersoll: Because, I mean, one of the boys, you know, the cow, he moos in A flat. I know– 

Melander: Dotty, that reminds me. We’ve got a story not so much about a cow, but about a steer. And I think it started here. 

Ingersoll: Oh yes. 

Melander: Tell me what recess was like. What was– 

Ingersoll: Oh, I know what to tell– 

Melander: And then the story. 

Ingersoll: I have to tell it with the schedule. 

Melander: Good. 

Ingersoll: We had– we started school at quarter past eight, we all started with singing. And then we’d go to classes. And then that would be quarter past eight. Then quarter past 9:00 half past 9:00, we have a 15-minute recess. Then we go back, and then we go to school, and we have until 10:30 and then we have 15 minutes more, because you see, Mr Allen was great for having us get a lot of fresh air. 

And then we had this other recess a quarter of 12 to 12:00, and then we went back. And then at 12:30, some of us used to practice piano because we had dinner at 1:00. So one day, we all went out for the recess at quarter of 12. And because the teachers didn’t have to be with us, because we didn’t have the equipment, and we used to love to jump rope. 

Melander: When you played alone. The students played all by themselves. 

Ingersoll: Yes. 

Melander: Nobody was watching? 

Ingersoll: Well, they could see us through school windows, but I mean, there wasn’t any equipment, you know for us to fall off or, but you know. So anyway, we were done there, and we– there were all bushes, you can explain about those bushes, remember all those bushes that were down there. 

Thayer: Yes. Yes. 

Melander: Bet that was [inaudible]. 

Thayer: Yeah, all around the pond. 

Ingersoll: And we used to love to go in the bushes, you know play inside the bushes. 

Melander: Sure. 

Ingersoll: So a lot of us were down near the bushes. And all of a sudden we heard this [KNOCKING] And I said, “what’s happening? What’s happening?” And the kids goes, “oh kids, come on, come on, we’ve got to go somewhere. There’s a big animal and there’s a van following.” And so some said, “where should we go?” And they started to run towards the playroom, towards the porch. 

And they said, “no you can’t, because no they come right here, go in the bushes.” Some of the kids could see. So go in the bushes. And here the teachers were looking out of the school, and they didn’t know what to do because– 

Melander: You were separated. 

Ingersoll: –this big animal was coming, and then one of the kids, said “and here’s a man with a gun, come on kids. Come on.” And I thought they were to shoot our shoulders. He went to the bushes and I would hear this– [KNOCKING] This big feet of the animal and it sounds– and I says, “is it coming here?” And somebody said, “yes, I think so. I think it’s going to come and eat us up.” We didn’t know what it was or anything, you know. 

Melander: What kind of animal is it? 

Ingersoll: And so anyway, then pretty soon, we heard these shots, you know, and then the animal went running past as fast as it could. And then we heard these shots. And so then one of the teachers came up and said “come on in girls, come on in.” And they said, “well, where’s that animal? And what is it?” They said, “we’ll come in and we’ll talk about it,” you know, the teachers were very calm. 

Melander: Sure. 

Ingersoll: And so we went in. And so then finally, we heard a couple more shots, and we found that it was a steer. And they used to have– what did they call that name– 

[Interposing voices] 

Ingersoll: Yes, over to Brighton. They’d take them over to Brighton. And one of the steers swam across the river and came on the ground. And it was– 

Melander: Enterprising steer. 

Ingersoll: What? 

Melander: Enterprising steer, get out of there. 

Ingersoll: And it got shot in front of the main building. And then I remember before that, we used to go down to what they call the [Pay Lodge,] we’d get out [inaudible], and there was this nice stone wall, and we used to love. And the stone wall kind of went up the hill. 

And the girls who could see could walk up that wall. And I used to say, “well, now if they can do it, I’m going to see if I can walk up that hill on the stone wall.” We love the stone wall. It came up about our knee, I guess. And many times, I fell off and that’s why my knees are all scraped. 

The day that I walked up the hill of the stone wall, I thought I had– that was a major– 

[Interposing voices] 

Ingersoll: –accomplishment in my life. And so then after that, they decided to put a fence. And then of course, they put the fence on that stone wall, so we couldn’t walk on the stone wall. 

Melander: Now where was this? 

Ingersoll: That’s why there’s a fence around– we didn’t have any fence. 

Thayer: Down in back, down in back of the main building in back, the old gym. 

Melander: All right, the old gym. And there was a stone wall there and that’s. 

Thayer: Yeah– 

Ingersoll: But the fence is [inaudible]. 

Thayer: But that is where they had the layout for a garden, a pool, and so forth. And this is what you talk about, that used to be up front here of the lower school. 

Melander: There was a natural pool right out here, in front. 

Thayer: Yes, and that as I have told you, and I have told Mr. Stuckey, that was to have been the original main entrance to the school coming up over the hill. 

Melander: Actually down by the river. 

Thayer: Down by the river, and do you know, I’m looking through some postal cards. I just came upon this, and I found a postal card that shows the driveway that comes up off Charles River Road to the main building. 

Melander: To this main building, but you wouldn’t have come in through the gym. 

Thayer: No, you would have to come up the side of the building, and come up between Fisher and Brooks and somehow– 

Melander: That kind of a loop or something. 

Thayer: Yes, that kind of a loop. But that is where the old road was. 

Melander: Originally intended to do it. 

Thayer: That’s where they intended to do it. Then you see they closed off on that wading pool or what have you down there on the Charles River Road. 

Pill: But, when I first was at Perkins – at 10:00, the gate from down Riverside street was locked. It was a big iron gate with water. 

Ingersoll: Oh, I remember that. 

Pill: Yeah, and the gate and off Beacon Street was locked. And you couldn’t come in. 

Melander: The place was really– 

Pill: They were locked. And this was for the teachers, because the kids– 

Thayer: And the lights were turned out too, on the drive. 

Pill: Yeah. There were no lights. And the doors were locked. Those gates were locked. In fact, they took them off during the war. They wanted the metal of something. They were locked and you couldn’t go our or come in. 

Melander: So when did the gates finally come off, during? 

Pill: Oh, that was a long time after. 

Melander: Yeah, otherwise– 

[Interposing voices] 

Pill: –you could not come in or go out after 10:00. I mean, that was the adults. I mean, we really had our own lives to live, but that’s the way it was. But nobody ever complained then. As I look back now, and you know, Larry, when I first came here, I was getting, if you can believe it, $50 a month. 

Melander: $50 a month? 

Pill: A month. 

Thayer: Were you – were you living here during the? 

Pill: Yes. 

Thayer: Then you were getting $400 in room and board and laundry. 

Pill: No, I was getting it– 

Thayer: They didn’t give it to you. 

Pill: No I didn’t get it. 

Thayer: But they called that pay. 

Pill: Yeah, I– $50 a month. And I can remember with the very first check that I got when I started to teach, which was $50, I went down Watertown Square and bought a car. 

Melander: Well. 

Pill: Yes. And this is the truth, Larry. And in those days, when the Ford, it was $550. 

Melander: You got your down payment, you get $50, 

Pill: You got to a little book coupons, or you had to pay $50 every month – the first of every month. It was Coombs and McFee. That was the name. 

Melander: Coombs was the dealer? 

Pill: Yeah, and every month, I would get my check from school, $50. And I would go down and pay it. 

Melander: But, Rhoda, that’s your whole– 

Pill: I never had one cent for gasoline. 

Ingersoll: You never had money for gas. 

Pill: I never had a cent for gasoline, but I had the car, and I go out every day. In those days, there were no parking lots. And you could go– I could park my car anywhere. I don’t think there was another car in the lower school. I’d go out every day and wash it and shine it. And never, never go out in it, because I never had one cent. I mean, my family couldn’t give me– They couldn’t send it to me. 

Melander: But you had your car radio? 

Pill: I had the car. And then once in a great while, Ms Morris would give a quarter, and the Miss Humbolt would give a quarter. The gasoline was 8 gallons per dollar. 8 gallons per dollar, and the teachers in Bradley. 

Melander: And you go for a ride, as a group. 

Pill: Yeah, they all pitched in and I’d buy some gas. 

Melander: I love it. 

Pill: And I had to take them for a ride to use up. 

Melander: Where would you go? 

Pill: Up Commonwealth Avenue, towards [inaudible] Park, I remember that, because that was really quite exclusive. Well, it’s still very nice. But I live near there now, I don’t think anything about it. But that I’d always go. I just knew my way around, because I– 

Melander: How long did it take you to pay for your car? 

Pill: Well, I had paid about $600, up to $600, I remember. And I went down to New Bedford once, and I had I had an older brother. And he said, “gee Rhoda, this is terrible. You have a car. You don’t have any gas.” 

He said, “I’m going to give you the other–” whatever it was, there were several hundred dollars due on it. He said, “and you can pay me whenever you can,” because he didn’t have much money either. But he gave me the money. And I paid for the car. So that with the $50 that I was getting, I got a little– 

Melander: Let’s do some name dropping. When you were down there in New Bedford. 

Pill: That’s where I lived. 

Melander: Were you riding around with Hetty Green. 

Pill: Well, no, but I knew her. Well, I’ll tell you, I lived better than she did. But she lived in Dartmouth, which was the next town. 

Melander: For people who don’t know who Hetty Green was– 

Pill: We all knew who Hetty Green was. 

Melander: I guess she was called the Witch of Wall Street, of the richest women of all times. 

Pill: In the world, she was one of the richest women in the world. And she lived in the next town. This has nothing to do with Perkins, and I remember, she’d come down to New Bedford on Friday night. We all knew who she was because she had, gosh, I’m dating myself, a Stanley Steamer. 

And then she come down the Main Street in New Bedford on Friday afternoon because in the Jewish bakeries on Friday afternoon, they sold the bread– because for the Sabbath, they made a different kind of bread which the Jewish people call challah, I don’t know if you know what it is, C-H-A-L-L-A-H. So that the bread that they had left over, they would sell– I think bread was about eight cents a loaf. But they would sell it for eight cents. And a half a loaf would be four cents – you could buy half a loaf. 

And she would come down and she was one of the richest women in the world, not in this country, in the world. She made all her money on stocks and Wall Street. And she would come down in the Stanley Steamer. And I remember my mother would say, “Here’s the nut.” We didn’t know what– 

Melander: She was a miser. 

Pill: Yeah. And as a matter of fact, her son had an infected leg. And she wouldn’t take him to a doctor, he had to have his leg, that Colonel Greene. He wasn’t a Colonel, that was just an honorary. And she would come down Friday afternoon to the Jewish bakeries– 

Melander: Just to get a discount. 

Pill: –to get the bread that was marked down because they want to get rid of it for the Sabbath, and they’d make it again on the Sunday. But that had nothing to do with Perkins. 

Melander: She was a fantastic character, one of the great [inaudible]. As long as we’re name dropping too, I’ll go over to you Eleanor. I think, well, it’s probably two months ago now that Emperor Hirohito from Japan passed away. He was– it was like a living god to the Japanese people. And I think a lot of people may not realize that Emperor Hirohito actually visited Perkins, was actually here and you saw him. 

Thayer: I have a picture. 

Melander: Do you know the circumstances of? 

Thayer: 1931 it was. 

Ingersoll: I remember, they came on a Saturday. 

Thayer: They came on a Saturday. 

Ingersoll: And I can remember, when we were cleaning our room, there was always someone said, come on, come on, you got– we had the dance ball, and you had to go and change your dress because you’re supposed to look nice. And we went in the chapel. And we sang, and went– 

We weren’t supposed to sit down all the while they were there because you didn’t sit down when royalty was visiting. And so we went and we sang, that we want in Dwight Hall We did some dancing. Then I come back and take off my good dress and clean my room. 

Melander: But why was he here? Why would the emperor of Japan come? 

Thayer: When he was on tour, I thought– how he got to Perkins, I don’t know. 

Ingersoll: I don’t remember either. 

Thayer: Whether he had any connections with [Dr. Hayes or what]. 

Melander: Was he on his honeymoon or something? 

Thayer: I don’t know whether he was on his honeymoon or not, but they each had an attendant and then there was a guard or a guard that was with them that had been a guard for James Curley. And he was supposed to be rather sterner stuff. 

Melander: Chicago was Saint Valentine’s Day. Here’s the pictures of the– 

Thayer: This is the picture of– and here’s a picture. He’s carrying his hand on his hip. And that’s the Empress. And some of us gathered outside here, outside– 

Melander: Historic pictures of the emperor himself with his wife and this it looks like the– 

Pill: Here’s something that might interest you since you’re a photographer. You knew who Margaret Bourke-White was, did you not? Well, you know, her mother was the dietitian here. And Margaret Bourke-White, you remember, Eleanor? 

Thayer: Oh, I do. 

Pill: She used to come here to visit. 

Thayer: She talked so fast, remember. 

Pill: She was well known then, but not like she was years afterwards. But her mother was, the dietitian in the lower school. 

Thayer: 1933. 

Pill: And Margaret Bourke-White, she wasn’t married, she later married– what was his name. Well, he was a writer. But she would come to visit her mother and she was a charming, charming person and very pretty. And she spoke– none of us realized how famous she would soon become. But she would come and speak in the Dwight Hall. And she stayed in Bradley with us, so we all sort of got to know her. And she was a charming, lovely person. 

Melander: I think she got most of her fame from being a photographer for Life Magazine. 

Pill: Yes, she did. 

Stuckey: Did she photograph here? 

Melander: I have some of those photographs– 

Pill: She probably did. 

Melander: –of the postcards. 

Pill: She later got– this had nothing to do with Perkins. I don’t know what she died of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, one of those crippling diseases. So she died at a fairly early age – not necessarily. I mean, you don’t necessarily die at an early age from that. But that’s what she died from. And she became so crippled, that she couldn’t she couldn’t manipulate. But she did used to come to Perkins. 

Melander: Another one that I was thinking of in terms of names, and Dotty maybe you can help or if anyone had the opportunity, did you meet or– so any time in her lifetime, Helen Keller? 

Ingersoll: Yes. I met her twice. 

Melander: How’d you meet her? What was your impression? 

Ingersoll: I met her twice. Well, the first thing, that she talked funny, you know, because she didn’t learn to talk until she was older. 

Melander: That would have been extraordinary for you. You would not have heard someone, a deaf, that’s a deaf speech, of course. 

Ingersoll: Yes, we heard some deaf people. But I remember one time, she came to May Cottage and some of us went on a Saturday afternoon. They had a tea for her. And then another time I met her, I think it was in the– she came to visit another time, I think was the time that they– 

Melander: Was she sociable? 

Ingersoll: Yes. Yeah, she was as I say, we really didn’t– we weren’t used to the deafblind kids because the way the kids are now. And we didn’t understand her too well. 

Melander: How would you communicate with her? Or did you personally? 

[Interposing voices] 

Ingersoll: Yes, I remember there was a girl in my class. Her name was Helen Shultz. 

Thayer: Oh, I remember her. 

[Interposing voices] 

Ingersoll: She had someone come so many hours a day, to [inaudible] would be a manual alphabet. But we all had to learn it. And we all would take our turn to sit with Helen and interpret what was going on in class, so that we got quite proficient. And so we did, so like sometimes we’d be in Chapel, and some of the kids at would say– would want to tell you something about the boys or something, we put our hands out we’d talk to each with the manual. 

Melander: With the manual, yeah, a little bit of the slight of hand. How about your experiences with Helen Keller? 

Thayer: I, no, I had to stay away. Dr. Waterhouse gave us very strict. 

Ingersoll: Oh, at that time she came– 

Melander: Would that have been the ’50s? 

Ingersoll: Yes. 

Pill: Well, Dorothy, when she came once, she spoke in Dwight Hall. She was with her teacher. 

Ingersoll: Yeah, she always was. But, Mr –  but remember– 

Melander: Polly Thomson?

Pill: But I couldn’t understand one, a single word she say. 

Ingersoll: A lot of them at the lower school go that time they had that big performance. So they wouldn’t– we couldn’t go. We were told right out, that the lower school weren’t supposed to be over there. 

Pill: Well, Dorothy, she supposedly learned to talk, but I couldn’t understand– 

Ingersoll: No, you couldn’t 

Pill: –one word, not one word she said. 

Ingersoll: I remember the first, when we first met her at May Cottage, which was an informal setting. And we couldn’t understand a word. And they kept saying how she had got the speech. Because we didn’t realize at the time that she was older when they started to teach her to talk. 

Melander: That’s right, Yeah, she wouldn’t have had [inaudible]. 

Ingersoll: That’s right. But very truly, you really couldn’t– I must say, her voice was really very unpleasant. 

Pill: Yes, it was. It was really course. And you couldn’t understand a word. And her teacher, who was then, was Miss Sullivan? 

Ingersoll: Yes. 

Pill: Her teacher would interpret what she was saying because you really couldn’t understand the words. However, she was very attractive and she had a very charming manner. But I really didn’t know her. 

Thayer: Would it be Sullivan or was it Polly? 

Melander: Polly Thomson? 

Ingersoll: Polly Thompson. 

Pill: Thompson. It could have been Polly Thomson. 

Melander: Well, of course she’s obviously a legend in terms of the handicapped actually, and a spokesman for the handicapped. But were there any other people that you can remember of the staff that maybe people wouldn’t recognize, names of– not staff, but I mean, students who have gone on to other– 

Pill: Well, there’s Bill Powers who, totally blind, who became a judge in Rhode Island. He died just recently. 

Melander: Yeah. A classmate. 

Ingersoll: I remember, this wasn’t a student. But I thought there was this man. His name was Mr. Hanks. 

Pill: Oh, I remember him. 

Ingersoll: So he had– there was an explosion. He works where there was an explosion. And so he lost his sight and he lost his hands. 

Thayer: Yeah, I remember him. 

Ingersoll: And so he took up lecturing. So Mr. Allen always had him come speak to us, because, you know, to set a good example. Well, that was something, his lectures were all right. But then we all had to go up to shake hands with him. 

Melander: Which would be a little disconcerting. 

Ingersoll: And some said, “do you want to shake hands with his wrists?” 

Thayer: I remember him. 

Ingersoll: He was a wonderful lecturer, but if you didn’t have to shake hands with him. 

Pill: But, Dotty, he was kind of weird though, wasn’t he Dotty? 

Ingersoll: Well, no. 

Pill: He liked the girls, I mean, almost offensively if I remember. 

Ingersoll: That wouldn’t make him weird because he liked the girls. 

Pill: Well, I don’t know if you call that weird, but he, I do remember that I was a little afraid of him. I didn’t know why. But he– I found that he was slightly offensive to the female sex. 

Ingersoll: One time Henry Van Dyke, the writer and the poet came, and the girls could see– we sang something that he had written and had put it to music and the chorus sang it. And one of the girls that was sitting next week had quite a lot of sight, she said, “oh, he’s crying. He’s got a purple handkerchief.” 

Melander: Before we get off personalities and so forth, do any of you, of course, Michael Anagnos would have been gone, but you all know– 

Thayer: We didn’t know him. 

Melander: Dr. Allen. 

Pill: Oh, yes. 

Melander: We’ve got kind of a picture of his personality. How about– 

Ingersoll: I remember the first time I met– 

Pill: The warmest, I really was very, very fond of him. I never – I don’t think of him as an educator somehow or other. But he was a warm. 

Ingersoll: He was like an English scholar. 

Pill: Wonderful, wonderful man. He would come out every morning. Do you remember, Dotty? He would walk around the campus every single morning, looking at the trees. 

Melander: Now he was the arborist, right? 

Ingersoll: I can remember the very first time I met him. 

Pill: He was a wonderful man. 

Ingersoll: I used to talk– they used to call him the superintendent, and because we thought the superintendent, you know, that was a [big deal] we thought they were some– something you were supposed to be afraid of really. This is when I was just little, like in the first and second grade. And so one Christmas, we all wanted tops. And I don’t know if you remember, these tops, you wind them up, you press this, and they– 

Melander: Spin off. 

Ingersoll: And [humming] and we used to like to hear them hum. And the kids that could see, I guess they changed, they liked to look at the colors. But as a top went up, slower and slower, they changed their key and we used to like them. So we all got tops for Christmas, but mine wouldn’t go. I couldn’t get mine to go. And I guess, I was just about into tears, you know. And so far, as this voice said to me, “what’s the matter, can’t your top hum too?” 

Pill: Yeah, that’s the way he talked. 

[Interposing voices] 

Pill: He was a wonderful, I thought he was a wonderful man. 

Ingersoll: And so, Larry, he got it to going. And right then I said, “oh, yeah,” I thought he was the most wonderful 

Melander: The best man in the world, he started your top. 

Ingersoll: Yes and that was my first meeting with him. 

Pill: Larry, this was the kind of man he was. I came to teach here, school began, let’s say, around the first week in September. And I taught in Bradley. And around that time, because the Jewish holidays come different times in September, you know, and it was the day of one of the Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur when it’s sort of a sacred day. 

And school had just been in session about a week. And my sister said, “well, I hope you’ll be coming home,” although we’re not religious. But it’s like going home for Christmas. My sister said, “do you think you’ll be coming home, Rhoda?” That was in New Bedford. And I said, “gee, I’ve only been in school a week,” I said. And I really needed the job, I can tell you. And I said, “gee, I’m not going to ask for time off. I’ve only been–” 

Melander: After only one week. 

Pill: Yeah, I said, “gee, I wouldn’t dare.” I said, “I just got the job.” I couldn’t ask for a time off even for a day. So I was in, I can remember in Bradley Cottage in the classroom, it was about– it was early, early in the morning. School had just begun. And in walked Dr. Allen. 

And he said – and he never called us by our names. He called us from where we came. I was Miss New Bedford. Yeah, because at that point, at that time I lived in New Bedford. And he said “well, Miss New Bedford, what are you doing here?” And I said, “well, you know this is my classroom.” I didn’t know what he meant. And he said, “don’t you think you ought to be home with your family today?” And I said – well, I mean, I really was afraid because as I say, I was much younger and it was the first week of school. He said, “wouldn’t you like to be home with your family?” And I said, “well, yes, I would.” He said, “well then, you go upstairs–,” because we all lived in the Cottage – “and you get your things, you go right along.” 

And I said, “well, Dr. Allen, I think I would have to ask Ms. Morse,” who was a teacher, I said, to see about taking my class. And he said, “oh no,” he said, “you get your things. And you go right home and you’ll be with your family.” 

Melander: Now, he knew? 

Pill: He knew. Yeah. Although, you didn’t get– I don’t know if those days, if you had to put your religion on? 

[Interposing voices] 

Melander: You might have.

Pill: My head, yeah, but– I mean, there was never– 

Melander: But he thought enough to come down? 

Pill: Yes. 

Melander: And who covered your class? 

Pill: I never knew. Miss Morse, some of the other teachers took them. Yeah, it was covered. 

Melander: Did he give you gas for the car? 


Pill: No. I might have taken it, but I don’t remember. But I always will remember that he came, made a special effort to come to see if I had left. 

Melander: That is special. 

Pill: Yes. He was a big man in his field. And he took the time to come and tell me to go home. 

Ingersoll: He was like an English scholar and he read very, very well. And I remember the teachers used to say to us, “listen to your Bible every morning, because you’ll never hear it read any better” and it’s true. 

Pill: Oh, he was a wonderful man. 

[Interposing voices] 

Thayer: Wonderful expression. 

Melander: In addition to that, I think, Eleanor, he was really responsible for the beautiful campus that we have. 

Thayer: Yes, he was. 

[Interposing voices] 

Thayer: Yes, he was. 

Pill: He walked around every morning. He looked at the trees. 

Ingersoll: When he planted the grounds, he planted something around the trees. And he encouraged us to learn about the trees and things. And I remember one time when I was in Brooks one Saturday, at dinnertime, one of the girls said, “oh, Dotty, Mr. Allen–” that’s before he’s became Dr. Allen, and “–Mr. Allen is out there. He’s asking for you.” And I thought, oh my land, what have I done? I get out there. “Hello.” 

Pill: That’s the way he talked. 

Ingersoll: “I understand you’re one of our nature lovers and [I’m a nature lover too]. Would you like to come with me?” And I remember, I went and he taught me how to cook, go pick the pears with this big picker, you had to push him up a certain way until the stem– until they stepped out there. And so I spent the afternoon and he taught me how to graft trees. 

Pill: And he was one– he was a wonderful, wonderful person. 

Melander: And a good educator and all of that? 

Pill: Oh, yes. 

Melander: What are your recollections of him? 

Thayer: Mine? Well, of course, he wasn’t there the day that I came to interview. So later on when I arrived to stay, I remember that my parents drove me down and we didn’t know just where to get to Brooks Cottage. You couldn’t drive up to any driveway or any entrance to Brooks. So we got down into the entrance of what is now Keller-Macy, which was known as the Director’s Residence. And there he was, sitting in a rocking chair in the Center Hall with the door open facing the river and facing– and we drove around, and he just sort of looked up and looked around. 

And then later, I was taken by someone into his office and he said, “Mr. Gardner has told me that you are going to teach for us this year.” And he looked me over and I was passed along. I must say that he had a name given to him, maybe you call an epithet that was very, very true of him. 

He was considered the “Friend of the Blind,” of not only the adults and the pupils and he would get out and he would have a girl on one arm and another girl on the other arm, because of course a girl and a boy never walked together in those days. 

Pill: Oh, gosh, no. 

Thayer: He would walk up and down the close with them at noontime. He’d do the same thing over on the other side of the building. And he would come into the cottage, and you would hear his voice because it had a roar. 

And he came in one day, and we had cabbage, and he got into the front hall of Brooks, and he went, “Your house stinks.” And it went from the first floor, second floor, and went East and West. 

Ingersoll: He was very strict about posture. And we used to have this posture club, with the American Posture League. 

Melander: Posture Club? 

Ingersoll: Yeah, and we’d get these pins, if you’ve sat up for a week, you know or something and you didn’t have to be told to sit up. And when we’d be in the school, and we’d hear his voice out in the hall, everybody would sit up straight. Everybody would sit up straight, because one time, and one kid didn’t. 

As he opened the door and came right in, went right up to that girl, and clapped her on the back, said “everyone is sitting up straight but you. Everyone is sitting up straight.” And he would do – 

Melander: You’d be petrified. 

Ingersoll: Tell him all about the time, Eleanor, what you heard him say, when you go by his office about [inaudible]. 

Thayer: Oh, yes I will. I was really very scared of the man because he did– he had this voice that would roar. And the one thing he could not stand to see, when there was a gathering of blind girls and boys together, boys on the left hand side [to line up] and the girls on the other side. 

Pill: And never the ‘twain did meet. 

Thayer: Never. Well, he could not bear to see the blind pupils sitting there just with dull faces. And so he always had some funny remarks to pull off or something to say something. And he would roar when saying them, and it would get the pupils laughing and laughing and laughing. 

And Dorothy wants me to tell you the story of my walking along the hall. Well, we would pass what was the old treasurer’s office, then what was the director’s office because that was on the corridor, opposite that the bookkeeping office is. 

Melander: The current one now? In other words, when you come into the main building, you turn right– 

[Interposing voices] 

Thayer: Yes. And his office was directly opposite the entrance to what is now the bookkeeping office. And as I– 

Melander: Is that what [inaudible] is then? 

Thayer: Yes. 

Melander: Very fancy, and woodwork and all that. 

Thayer: That was all it. Yes. And there was an inner sanctum in there where all private records were kept too. And that was under lock and key. 

Melander: So that was really the key of the school there, on the opposite side from where it is now. 

Thayer: Yes. And I was walking along the hall. I couldn’t help it, but hear. And this very tall, erect woman was standing there by the name of Katherine Maxfield. 

Pill: Oh, I remember her. 

Thayer: He was roaring. And he said, “I will have no pupil of mine called a client or a case.”

Ingersoll: Oh, a case, yeah. 

Thayer: No. No. 

Melander: He took exception with her using those words? 

Thayer: Yes. Yes. 

Melander: Clients and case? 

[Interposing voices] 

Pill: He was wonderful. 

Melander: He wanted them to be known as students. 

Pill: As people, human beings, and not a case. 

Melander: Or a client. 

Pill: He really was wonderful. I really loved him. 

Thayer: The most unfortunate thing, we all were very, very saddened that he was forced in a way to leave. There were two women on the Board of Trustees that really brought it to the Head to have him removed as Director of the school at the end of his 24th year and just the year before the 100th anniversary of the school. 

Melander: Oh my goodness. 

[Interposing voices] 

Melander: Did he have many achievements to celebrate? 

Pill: He wanted to say, in the first 100 years of Perkins, they had three directors. 

Thayer: And he had many, many, many devotees, I could tell you among his staff. By this time, there were more younger people as staff, but the older people were even, myself included, I was a young thing in 1932. 

Pill: Eleanor, tell him about reception. 


Thayer: I think you know, really remember more about the reception. 

Pill: Oh, I remember. 

Thayer: I just wanted to say, as the years grew on, there were three of us that used to go to his home, which was on the top floor of the Ambassador Hotel. 

Pill: Oh, yeah, I’ve been there. It was very nice. 

Thayer: But he said, he loved his trees. And he had trees that he could not look at in Harvard Yard. And there were other buildings that have been well known to him and they had friends, but we went quite frequently, three of us to visit them. 

Melander: This is after he left? 

Thayer: After he left, and it was a very, very tender friendship after he had left the school. 

Melander: Was he somewhat bitter? 

Thayer: Oh, he sit down and talk and everything, well it was sad. And she was very bitter. And she wrote a book about the school. 

Pill: Mrs. Allen. 

Thayer: Yes. Mrs. Allen, and about his life and so forth. And it was very bitter. It was bitter. 

Pill: I went there for dinner. 

Melander: Now, his successor then would be Dr. Farrell. 

Thayer: Right. 

Melander: Was he appointed right away or did they have a search? 

Pill: It was kind of an iffy kind of thing. I don’t remember what– 

Melander: Now, he was a minister, right? 

Pill: Yes. 

Thayer: Yes. But he had come out– 

[Interposing voices] 

Pill: Rhinebeck. He was a minister in Rhinebeck, New York. 

Thayer: He had gone to college, Dartmouth, wasn’t it? 

Pill: Yes. 

Thayer: He went to Dartmouth College. And he was well known and he had people at Dartmouth who helped to recommend him for this job here at Perkins. And that was sort of the way that he got in. 

Melander: He’s the first director of the [inaudible]– well, first director I would’ve known was Dr. Waterhouse, but in one of our training classes, Dr. Farrell, I think it was less than a year before he passed away, came in and talked with us. It was a really nice–. 

Pill: I liked him. 

Melander: Be able to say that I knew one of the directors. 

Pill: I didn’t think he was great as a director. He didn’t know anything about education. Don’t you remember, Eleanor? Because he had been a minister. He brought Mr. Coon, didn’t he? 

[Interposing voices] 

Pill: They both came from Rhinebeck, I remember that. It almost was [inaudible] perception. 

Thayer: Yes, but it took time for people to get acclimated and to like Dr. Farrell. 

Pill: I like him. 

Thayer: Dr. Farrell was scared of people. In case you didn’t know, he was scared of people. And scared to go up and talk with them. And many of the time, he said, “Eleanor, come walk with me. Come walk with me.” And we’d be walking a corridor and there would be somebody coming along that he did not want to face to talk to, that he was scared to talk to. So “Eleanor, come and walk with me.” I was one of his pets. 

Pill: I think Dr. Farrell felt insecure. And I think– 

Melander: Well, he probably wasn’t received, if it was an uncomfortable departure of Dr. Allen, that he would kind of come in the hole. 

Pill: And I liked him. He was always very nice to me. 

Ingersoll: I remember, we had the science teacher. Her name was Miss Hill. And – 

Thayer: Yes, I remember Hill. 

Ingersoll: She wrote, for some of us, she used to give these letters. She said, “now I want just four of you girls to read it.” Then we’d destroy them. And they’re letters that people have written to the trustees about the recent [inaudible]. 

Melander: How about a couple of words on the reception area? 

Ingersoll: Tell them how about the big reception. 

[Interposing voices] 

Thayer: You tell it. 

Ingersoll: Eleanor was going to tell it. 

Thayer: No, no, you tell it Dorothy because you remember it better than I. 

Ingersoll: Well, in the fall, I think probably about the second Wednesday night in October, all the staff went to the director’s home. And that was what is the Keller-Macy Cottage now, you know. 

Thayer: It was beautiful. 

Ingersoll: It was a big event of the year. You got evening gowns, and and long opera wraps. 

Pill: And a corsage, even. 

Melander: You mean just to come to this reception? 

Ingersoll: Yeah. You got your hair all done and everything. Larry, it was a big event of the year. And you go and they had chicken salad–and coffee and ice cream. And you go over there. And I think it was from 8:00 to 10:00 and but it was really– it was really the big– wasn’t it, Rhoda? 

Pill: Yeah, well it was sort of a getting together. And the thing I remember, that the chicken– they always had chicken salad, had walnuts in it. [Chuckles] And I remember, I’d never had chicken salad with walnuts in it before. I since have had it in restaurants, but it was a very pleasant evening. But for us, it was– I remember getting a black velvet evening cloak to walk over to Dr. Farrell’s. But it was a big thing of the year. 

Thayer: Old Miss Abbott, who was the librarian, the music librarian. 

Pill: Yeah, she was so deaf. What did she have? 

Thayer: She had a long tube with a teapot at the end of it. 

Pill: She ate in Brooks, because I was there. And if you spoke to her, you had to speak into the horn. Do you remember, Dotty? 

Ingersoll: Yeah. 

Pill: She was very, a very sweet person. 

Ingersoll: She taught me harmony. 

Pill: Very sweet person. 

Ingersoll: She went out and she went to Raymond’s and she bought herself a beautiful black dress. And then she came with long black gloves above the elbow. She had those too. And she came downstairs to show it off. Now– 

Pill: She was lovely. 

Thayer: She was lovely, yes. I could talk on about Miss Abbott 

Pill: I liked her an awful lot, I remember talking in that lawn. 

Thayer: Just the day. 

Melander: As long as we’ve gone off a little bit in terms of special events, let’s not fail to at least discuss a little bit in terms of some of the events of Perkins now. Perkins has really steeped in traditions throughout, and we have our– 

We still have our Director’s Day and our Christmas concerts and so forth, even in ’89, where these are very important. And I know back then, there were even more of them. But let’s talk a little bit. I just would like to get a flavor about what Christmas is like in winter. 

Ingersoll: Oh, Christmas. 

Melander: Let’s start with Christmas and go to Open House. 

Ingersoll: As far as I can remember, and I – this is true of when you come when we come back to [inaudible]. I think everybody, this is a genuine feeling, Larry, that nobody that’s been through here, [ever been to Perkins] will ever forget Christmas at Perkins. 

Thayer: Up to that year. 

Ingersoll: It’s the one thing. 

Melander: Every year? 

Ingersoll: We’d start learning our Christmas music in October because of course we had to learn it by rote. We didn’t use any music at the concert. So we had it all learned by Thanksgiving. So from Thanksgiving to Christmas, we just went and just practiced in the Hall. 

But I mean, even from the time when were little children, because we were in the lower school, you know where we sang the concert. But when you get back from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and they would decorate the cottages and they would decorate the main building with real Christmas trees. And I can remember coming over and opening the doors and [sniff] “Oh, yum, I smell Christmas tree.” 

And it’s be so exciting because you’d smell this. And then we’d come over for rehearsals and then some of us would be chosen to sing in Chapel. And then as we got bigger, of course, we were in the chorus. And we had parties in the cottages. And the boys would make wreaths, Christmas wreaths, so they put on the door. They’d go around and sell them to people in the town, you know, they’d sell these Christmas wreaths. 

And I mean, the whole thing was just from Thanksgiving to Christmas was just the Christmas season. It was really a happy time. 

Pill: Dotty, I remember at Christmas, at that time, the house parent would give– we would draw names for the kids that we were going to– because we had a big Christmas party. And I remember then that where we were each given ten cents to buy a gift for each kid. 

Melander: Ten cents? 

Pill: Yeah. 

Melander: It was fifty cents when I came along. 

Pill: Yeah. Well, I remember it was ten cents. And the point was, even if you wanted to spend fifty cents, you weren’t supposed to, because each kid was supposed to have something that– no one should have more than another. And I can remember, we each got ten cents. 

And I can remember when the kids graduated from the lower school to go to the upper school, we would take them down to Whitney’s which is now, it’s a big jewelry store. 

Thayer: Manhattan. 

Pill: What’s that? 

Thayer: Manhattan. 

Melander: Manhattan Jewelers. 

Pill: Yes. 

Melander: On the corner? 

Pill: It used to be an ice cream soda, an ice cream place. And we would walk down, believe you me, no cabs, because there was no money. We didn’t even think we should get a cab. We would walk down with about 25 kids, Miss Morse and I, and we would go to Whitney’s, that was the name of the place then. And they would sit in these high chairs, the ice cream tables and chairs. And we would pay for that, because we didn’t get money from the cottages like they do now. And they each were allowed to spend a nickel, because that was from my money and Miss Morse’s, although she had more than I did. But I really never had any money, but I gave it a nickel. 

Ingersoll: Well, I learned later when they started Camp Allen, that there was this man, his name was Whitney. And there were these two brothers. And one of them was kind of stingy, and the other one, you know, he said to me, this is over where they opened Camp Allen. And he says, “I can remember you when you were just a little kid.” And he says, “I couldn’t let you come in without giving you a piece of candy.” 

Melander: Gotta get your candy. 

Ingersoll: “And my brother would get so mad because he said, you can’t give candy away to all those kids anytime they come in.” 

Pill: Dotty, I remember we– this is funny, had nothing do with school. We used to go to Whitney’s because that was the only place at the Square that wasn’t nothing like it is now. And I remember Mr. Whitney ran off with another woman. So the people in Bradley thought it wouldn’t be a good idea. The store was still there. But they thought because he went off with another woman, he was married, he didn’t– they didn’t want us to go there anymore. 

Melander: I was thinking back in my early Christmases. I consider myself extremely privileged, because when I came along in the late ’60s, I think it was Ken Stuckey, I think we came at the same time, but we got something in that. 

Pill: Yeah, I remember when you first came. 

Melander: I feel extremely privileged that I was able to get a sample of that old population of students. And I remember being a house parent of Potter Cottage– 

Pill: Yeah I remember. 

Melander: –in those early years, what our responsibility was to take this really large group of children over to the Christmas concert and in the lower school place with Eleanor Thayer leading the school choruses up in the balcony and all the squeaky, squeaky balcony and whatever. And we were up there, all wedged in. And again, the sights and the smells and the sounds and everything. Eleanor, you can remember some of those early concerts? 

Pill: Who was here with you? 

Ingersoll: I’d like to remember. 

Pill: John Donahue, was he teaching? 

Melander: He was after. 

Pill: Oh who was here? There was somebody here when you came and then you got the job as director. Who was it? 

Melander: Well, in my training class, there were 15 American trainees. Then there were the foreign trainees. Out of the 15 American trainees, there were 12 of us that got positions at Perkins. 12 of us stayed. There was a large number of them. 

Ingersoll: Yeah, another thing I remember about Christmas, that the boys rang the chimes. I think they walked over to the chapel in the morning, and they would be in the snow, feel the snow on your face, you know. And you had these nice Christmas carols playing on the chimes. And I remember, it was such a wonderful– 

Pill: Larry, when you were here at that time, there was John, he married Nancy Blackburn. 

Melander: Oh sure, John Rogers. 

Pill: He was here. 

Melander: That was several years after me. 

Pill: Yeah, I hear from them at Christmas. 

Melander: Going back to the– 

Pill: Wait a minute. 

Melander: Christmas concert for just a second. 

Thayer: During the war– 

Melander: The pressure must have been on you. 

Thayer: Yeah, but during the war years, we didn’t have the concerts here at the school. The Sunday concert was not here. And we had to have a Friday rehearsal and take buses into – 

Pill: Symphony Hall. Jordan. 

Thayer: No, Jordan Hall. 

Pill: Jordan, I remember. 

Ingersoll: We used to do that when I was in school. We got on Beechwood Avenue, went on the streetcar. They had the streetcar. We walked down and you’d go into Jordan Hall. And also we used to go in the spring because we put on Open House and we put on that in February. We’d go in and do it on stage in Jordan Hall. 

Pill: I remember that. 

Thayer: Doctor Farrell felt that the trustees couldn’t, because gas rationing was so bad – 

Melander: Sure. 

Thayer: They couldn’t come out to the concerts. And some of the audience that we would have from the Boston area, that have known these concerts for years and years couldn’t come to school because of the transportation and so forth. So that was why we went to Jordan Hall. And we had several years in Jordan Hall. 

Pill: We traipsed in with so many kids into Jordan Hall. We’d go in once to rehearse, and then once for the concert. And that was– I used to hate that job. 

Thayer: And then sometimes, one or two years, we had to take the children in on the streetcar from Beechwood Avenue. And would be all kind of 

Ingersoll: They did that in my time, because we used to give the concert at Perkins and also at Jordan Hall. 

Thayer: And you had duties to do. The staff had duties to do. 

Pill: We certainly did. 

Thayer: We’d only take charge. 

Melander: Speaking of duties to do. We think of the famous Perkins Open House. Let’s talk about the famous Perkins Open Houses. 

Thayer: Open Houses. 

Pill: That was the one day I hated. 

Melander: When I came, we had it on a Sunday afternoon. 

Pill: That was a day I hated. 

Ingersoll: But it was so much better than it was when I was in school. 

Melander: What did you do? 

Ingersoll: To begin with, we had to clean our rooms and everything in the morning. And then they had them inspected. And then you’d go into to the museum. And you are assigned, maybe, I remember one year, I did some weaving on the big loom. And then one time I did some typing. 

And then they talk up all the educational things, reading and writing, things like that. And the people would all go through the museum. And then we’d all leave. The teacher said, come on, you’ve got to go for the gym thing. So then you go into Dwight Hall. And the people were sitting all around the Hall. We used to perform, get down on the floor like. We did. 

Melander: You must have been a quick change artist, changing all these clothes. 

Ingersoll: And I can remember, you put on your gym suit. And then you’ve been in some kind of a dance, a fancy dance. And you have to change and put your cloak. Well, I changed my clothes five times. And we used to just hate it. 

And then we had to– we couldn’t go near the door, because the boys would perform and then the girls would perform. And I remember Ms [Sorry], the principal said, the kids that could see would like to see the boys make their pyramids and things. And she, “you go right back. You go right back.” And they went through [inaudible]. 

Thayer: It was such a crowd that they would have to do one certain routine group for all the groups. And then that crowd would go out and another crowd would come in. And they were just suffocated in there. They were even sitting on the rafters, believe it or not, on the stage. 

Ingersoll: And I can remember when I was about the fifth grade, we came over and we did a dance. One year we did an Irish dance with costumes. And one year we did a Dutch dance. And they hired these wooden shoes. Ooh, we loved the wooden shoes. Clap, clap, clap and clap to the tune of the wooden shoes. And when I came back, I remember, I sneaked out. I took my jump rope and I jumped and the front of the shoes broke in half. 

Melander: Oh, boy. 

Ingersoll: And I had to go without supper for a week. 

Melander: Because you broke the shoes? You know, let me just give you a quickie that came to mind for my part. You probably don’t realize this, but one of the people who was instrumental about– I’m glad there is negative thoughts on the Open House, but instrumental in having it end was myself. Because when I got into this position and we were talking about the Open House, which was a really important thing. And it was a good that the public got a chance to see Perkins and things we did. But at that time, when I get on the Director’s Advisory Committee, and they were talking about Open House and so forth and so on. Mr Smith, who is, of course, the successor to Dr. Waterhouse, was saying, “well, how do the children feel about it?” 

And I said, “well, I know I can talk to the lower school, that the children really feel that they’re on display and that they’re very, very tired. And they really don’t like it. And they don’t like the people who come along talking at them and so on and so forth.” 

So I opened up the discussion on it, and it sort of made– lended a little bit more toward the negative, and we gradually within a year or so, we did away with it. And with mixed feeling, I know, we always disliked it. It was Sunday evening, changing from the old Sundays days, Rhoda, where you knew you had to come. But it was an extra obligation to come. 

Pill: Another thing I remember. When I first came to Perkins, there was only one telephone. There was no telephone, just a switchboard and that Miss Moffitt, she used to listen in to every conversation. Then after 6:00 whatever, you never– you could be dying and you want to call your mother, and that was the end because there was no telephone on the whole campus. And I remember she used to listen in all the time, remember Dotty? 

Ingersoll: Yeah, but that wasn’t quite right, Rhoda, because there was. There was one telephone on the girls’ side and one on the boys’. 

[Interposing voices] 

Pill: That’s OK. 

Ingersoll: Different cottage each term. And I could remember, I was on telephone duty, and I can remember, lots of times, especially on the weekend, I could get somebody. Because somebody from May cottage– 

Pill: You have to run over. 

Ingersoll: Yeah, you have to run way down to May Cottage and get that kid. 

Melander: And you missed your supper while you were getting them? 

Pill: It used be during suppertime, you know. 

Melander: And you would get the phone call, you’d have to go down there and get them? 

[Interposing voices] 

Ingersoll: Bring them back. Bring them back. Make sure that she got to the telephone and everything. And by that time, yeah, then you just start to eat. The telephone ring again. You go over down to Oliver cottage– 

Pill: Yeah, I do remember that. 

Thayer: In cold weather, think of just– 

Melander: During the cold weather? 

Thayer: During the cold weather. 

Pill: And rainy and everything. But I remember Miss Moffitt, who was the telephone, what do you call it? 

Ingersoll: She was on the switchboard. 

Pill: She was on the switchboard, just one person. And she always listened in to every conversation. And I remember once, I used to read to some of the boys that were going to college in the upper school. And do you remember George Gaffney, he has since died. He’s a lawyer. 

He called up and he– I don’t know if he wanted me to go for a walk or something, but we weren’t allowed to as a trainee, you weren’t supposed to go out with the boys. And I think he wanted me to go for a walk. And he said, “but be very careful what you say, because Miss Moffitt always listens.” And she says, “I do not.” 


Melander: She said it right on the phone? 

Pill: Yeah. She said, “I do not.” 

Ingersoll: I remember one of the boys said when we had Open House, they didn’t like the questions that people would ask, you know. And I really don’t know if this boy made this up or no, I really don’t. But anyway, he said, “oh that darn lady came over to me and she said, ‘listen dear, how do when you are asleep?’ And I got so mad that I said, ‘because the watchman comes around and tells us.’” 


Pill: I won’t be surprised that someone would ask that. 

Melander: Eleanor had another– 

Pill: Yes, go on. 

Thayer: Please don’t leave the people wondering what happens if there was an emergency that came up. There was in a house mother’s living, the matron’s living room in each cottage was a closet. And in the closet was this little box on the wall which was a telephone. 

And that line connected with the Power House. Now, you have already heard that the lights were off during the night from 10:00 at night till 5:00 or half past five in the morning. So if somebody got sick, they called up the Power House. And then they switched on all the lights, for that close. And all the lights would be on. We would say, “oh goody, goody, so and so is sick. We’re going to have lights.” And that– 

Melander: Allowed the phones to work, which allowed– 

Thayer: It wouldn’t have an outside connection, an outside connection. No. No. This was a private line to the Power House. In this little box– 

Melander: There was somebody down there that could. 

Thayer: There was somebody down there. 

Melander: Turn on the juice for a little while. 

Thayer: Sometimes the juice was on a whole week or more because somebody was so seriously sick. So we would rejoice if somebody was seriously sick. And then our house mother, she liked that little telephone because she was like a little private telephone. 

And if she wanted something special, and it wasn’t an emergency, she’d get in the closet and we used to– she used to call up somebody you know and give a little message and have a little visit and so forth. And that was the end of that. So we called it Aunt [Mindy]’s telephone because our house mother’s name was [Mindy]. 

Melander: I see. 

Pill: We were we down to accept all these funny things or we thought that was the way it was supposed to be? 

Thayer: Oh, we just accepted it. 

Ingersoll: Oh, yeah, sure. 

[Interposing voices] 

Pill: –thing about these things. 

Thayer: Just as it seems strange to me, the very first night with Chapel, when we had all the staff meet together. Well, that was just enough of a swarm to fill the chapel. And at that time, Rhoda, myself, Theodore Reeve, we were the only young ones coming into the school as new staff. 

Here we were, fresh from school, or whatever, come in at staff. And it was, and then you’d look and here was a woman in a black and white checked dress. She was the one that used to do all the canning and she had gray hair and she had her hair done up in the doughnut on top. And she came in with Mrs. Farrell. 

And I was utterly astonished to see the contrast of the two women. There were contrasts of people when you think of old Mr. Fowler, dear Mrs. Fowler, and Lady Campbell. 

Pill: What was their daughter’s name? Lilly? 

Thayer: Lilly Howard. 

Pill: Lilly Howard 

Thayer: You’d see these older people coming in, and I was handed from one person to another rather by the followers, by [Mrs. Fowler.] 

Pill: But you know, Dr. Allen. 

Thayer: But you accepted this. You accepted this. 

Pill: I remember, the salaries were very, very low because he felt that the people who were here should be dedicated, not here because they were for the money. And believe me, we weren’t here for the money because you never got any really. But that was his feeling, and so different from now. 

Thayer: And the thing that Rhoda didn’t tell you was that her five hundred dollars a year was only for 10 months. 

Pill: We never got paid in the summer. 

Thayer: Just 10 months pay and that $400 was what you were allowed for room and board and your laundry. And then when we began to get income taxes, we got into that business, we had to go to the Treasurer’s Office and get a certain sheet declaration that we worked at Perkins for the– 

[Interposing voices] 

Thayer: And we were exempt. 

Pill: Yeah, we never got– 

[Interposing voices] 

Thayer: We got exempt. 

Pill: But we loved the kids. 

Thayer: $750 a year. It seems funny now. 

Pill: It wasn’t a job. It was something you– with dedication. 

Ingersoll: And Larry– Events we look back at compared to what we know now, it seems funny. But at the time, it didn’t seem very– It seemed just like the regular routine. 

Melander: Of course. 

Ingersoll: These are things we expected, the kids would expect it and the teachers expected it. You know, and if things would happen, though things, they made things kind of serious. I can remember one time on the third floor in Bradley, we all were summoned up to third floor one day after dinner. 

And we all sat down on the bathroom floor and the house mother, why she was so serious and this awful thing happened. And I was thinking, gee I wonder if somebody got killed or something. Really. And so she would go on and on. and finally she– well, what happened was somebody had made a hole in the soap. 

We all had to– We all had to come up with this one thing. And they go on and on about this one thing. 

Melander: One hole in the soap? 

Ingersoll: Yeah, because somebody had made a hole in the soap that led to the hot water faucet. But I mean, everything was taken so seriously. 

Pill: Dotty, you remember? 

Melander: I think the place was much more serious as a school anyway. 

Pill: It has a serious aspect to it. 

Thayer: Yes, but you know what, living together closely as we did, as a cottage family. The people in the kitchen, the household staff was just as much a part of your family. It was a family life. And these house mothers, these teachers that came in, these young trainees that came in, the cook, the pantry, the parlor, the pantry maid, the chambermaid, the cleaning maid. We had four in Anagnos. They were all a part of our family. 

Pill: It had many nice things about it. 

Melander: Because you were so close and you shared all the ups and the downs. 

Thayer: And I’m sure– 

Ingersoll: Of course, we did all the housework you know. So we had to be assigned to doing dishes, put the [inaudible]. 

Thayer: But you would probably have to get one minute. 

Melander: I should, just for the sake of. 

Pill: We could go on and on. 

Melander: We could go on and you could, as you could see. I’m taking a little bit of a look at the time here. 

Pill: Yeah, c’mon, three girls. 

Melander: One thought that I have at this time is to– I’m sure I’ve asked a lot of other questions, we’ve brought a lot of things out. But probably in preparation for today, you’ve had some things that each one of you had been kind of thinking of and maybe that I missed. 

So what I’d like to do at this time is maybe take each one of you in turn, is there something that we don’t want to miss here, that we’re going to get this on film, something that we may have forgotten. Let’s go right around and then we kind of summarize after that. Is there anything that I may have forgotten, Rhoda, that– 

Pill: You mean that went on there? 

Melander: Just in general. Yeah, what’s your feeling? What’s your overall feeling of the past? You’ve sort of said. 

Pill: Except, I loved every single minute of it. And I don’t regret one single moment of it. It was many, many years. And I didn’t get any money. But I wouldn’t, my life, it really was my life. And I loved every single minute of it. I wouldn’t have given it up for anything. 

And in fact if people asked, sometimes asked me, now “but what would you have done?” And I really have to say, “I can’t think of anything that I would rather have done than my years at Perkins.” It was just wonderful years. There were many things about it that I would be critical of, that I’m not– 

Melander: But if you really– 

Thayer: You’d be critical of it because you’re comparing them to now, but at that time you wouldn’t have been critical. 

Pill: No, I wouldn’t have missed it. I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything my whole life. 

Melander: Eleanor, how think we do? 

Thayer: Well, when she says that, I can think of a time when we have had a meeting here and in this courtyard. And I may have been right in this room, or it may have been down in the Assembly Hall. But it was all the teachers. And we have a lot of new ones, young ones that are coming out of the Harvard class. And they were up and coming young people. 

Some of them are my very best friends now. And I don’t see them. But they’re still my best friends. We keep in touch. But that is one time when I saw everybody, young and old, ready to walk out that gate out front. They were so upset with what was going to come ahead for us and that was when we changed over to progressive education in 1933, I think it was. 

Melander: Really? 

Thayer: Oh that was a big, big yes. 

Melander: What’s progressive education mean? 

Thayer: And I can remember Mrs. Luff sitting upstairs – 

Pill: I remember 

Thayer: – in Glover cottage in her bedroom window, and looking down at a buzzing group of young, young teachers and the older teachers about ready to retire. And we were all in a state of rebellion, we were ready to quit. 

Melander: 1933. What happened? 

Thayer: Well, it was the way the regime was so different, so different. And I was the first one to get boys and girls put together. 

Pill: Oh!

Thayer: I was the first one to get, and at that, when I first came, Rhoda will tell you, we could not tell Dorothy Ingersoll, a pupil, what was happening on the boys’ side and what rehearsal I went to, what play I was going to be in. Couldn’t tell her any of that. And you couldn’t tell the girls what was happening on the boys’ side. You couldn’t tell the boys what was happening on the girls’ side. 

Pill: It was not only with the kids, but even the teachers. I remember Mrs. Tucker and somebody else, I don’t know. Even the teachers felt, well, they were on that side and– 

Melander: Two separate schools. 

Ingersoll: And when they went to Chapel, the teachers that taught in Potter and in Anagnos, they sat on the boys’ side of the chapel, and lo and behold, if you sat there, no. No. If you taught the girls, you sat on the girls’ side. 

Pill: You didn’t even want talk to the teachers on the other side. 

Thayer: You didn’t have time to go to Chapel. I had to teach at 10 minutes of 8:00 in the morning. That was when I had girls’ chorus. 

Ingersoll: And I can remember one time we were having gym. And I had some candy. This kid was chasing me. She wanted the candy. So I kind of got away, and I went to over towards Dwight Hall. And so she didn’t hear me move. She was looking all around. 

Well, it seemed the boys were putting on a play. And they were rehearsing a play. But I never paid much attention to the play. I was just thinking about getting out of the way of this kid. Well anyway, Miss Simons, the principal, saw me. And she said that I was listening to the boys while they were rehearsing their play. And I [was campus] for a month. 

Melander: For a month? 

Thayer: I will say– I will say in that atmosphere though, we all stuck to and we all stuck together. And probably we had some of the best teaching at that time because the teachers all had to dig for it. They had to go and they had to learn to do new things. 

Pill: But the kids could have learned too, that’s the difference. 

Thayer: Kids could learn too. And you did get the satisfaction. Now, this year the 50th reunion classes invited me to their banquet. But the 50th reunion class are some of the pupils that were some of my best pupils that I had started in with progressive education. 

And they made [fifes] And they made flutes. And one of them reminded me last night about the drums that she made. Some made [inaudible]. There were all sorts of things they had to do. 

Pill: But they were different. 

Ingersoll: They were different. They were different. They were right. 

Melander: We should go to Dotty, if there’s anything I’ve forgotten that I need to ask you. Or what do you think? What’s your overall impression? 

Ingersoll: Of course we were here all the time, I went to the lower school. We were here weekends, so we were under the discipline of the teachers all the time. But I mean, we didn’t resent it. We really didn’t resent it. 

Melander: You knew it was here. 

Ingersoll: We liked that we ate with the teachers. And we really got to know the teachers. And we didn’t think of– we didn’t think it was odd. It wasn’t until I went to New York Summer School where the kids ate by themselves. I noticed a big difference, the teacher wasn’t there. And Mr. Allen used to say in Chapel, “I had it arranged so there’d be a teacher at the table because the conversation would be quite different with the teacher present.” 


[Interposing voices] 

Melander: So there was a lot of thinking went into this school. 

Ingersoll: Oh and he used to tell why. And he would tell why he did this, why in Chapel. It was more to [inaudible]. And he’s say why he did this, and why he did. 

Melander: I think that’s nice of you to hear. 

Ingersoll: He’d tell us about the Tudor-Gothic architecture and about all the things that– And I think that Perkins was one of the first private schools to have an indoor swimming pool. I think they told us that one time. 

Melander: The thing is, I think no matter what you’re doing, if you have an understanding of why it’s being done, it’s much easier to accept it. It’s much easier to invest yourself in it, I think. 

Pill: Well, Dorothy, didn’t Dr. Allen feel– I could be wrong, but I always thought this, that the boys and girls should not be together because he didn’t feel that the blind boys and blind girls should marry. 

Ingersoll: There should be windows on, they should be windows on one part of the house. 

Pill: He didn’t feel that the blind boys and the blind girls should marry, because much of it was carried through with– 

[Interposing voices] 

Ingersoll: When I joined the alumni, because there were separate organizations, the boys and the girls. So I was just there a year and I was made Corresponding Secretary. And so this teacher, Miss [Bruner,] was explaining to her. So I saw all these cards in the back of the file. And I said, “what do these say.” “Oh, those are people that we dropped out of the Association because they married blind men.” 

Melander: Is that right? 

Ingersoll: Yes. 

Melander: That was grounds for dismissal? 

Ingersoll: Yeah. 

Melander: Unbelievable. 

Melander: –who has been with us all along. And Ken, I thought we’d– how about if we push the camera on you for just a minute. And I thought you might have a word on. 

Ingersoll: I didn’t know Ken was here. 

Stuckey: I was walking around the river on the walk provision with some of the Scouts on Sunday. And it came to me, where on Earth did you used to swim down there? We’re always talking about the Charles River and the Charles River Clean Up. They had the canoes coming along. And they were talking about this push here on how, emphasis on the Charles River is much better than it was in the past. And I remember people talking about we used to go down there and swim. And I was talking to them about it, where did you used to swim down there? 

Thayer: Well, you know, where I’ve been telling you about this place that was to have been the back entrance to– I guess the front entrance is down on Charles River Road. 

Stuckey: The ones where the gates are, right by the gymnasium? 

Thayer: Yes. All right. Well, if you went out those, could go out those gates, you would go slightly to the left and you’d be under the brow of a hill that is almost opposite your street. And under the brow of the hill, there was a bathhouse and that’s it. There was a bathhouse. 

Stuckey: We could swim in– 

Thayer: And I don’t mean a small bathhouse. It was fairly– 

Stuckey: Did you have a dock, was it–? 

Thayer: I never saw. No. No. I never saw anybody swimming there, but that was the bathhouse. 

Ingersoll: I don’t remember anybody swimming. We used to go down and throw stones in the water, but I never remember seeing anybody. I remember the bands there, right at the foot of Irving Street. They used to go [on band concerts]– 

[Interposing voices] 

Stuckey: There was a place where Perkins swam. 

Ingersoll: Well, there was a bathhouse there. But I never saw anybody swim there, or I heard whoever swam there either. But that was it. 

Stuckey: Was the pond ever used for swimming? 

Thayer: No, because that was gucky in the water. 

Ingersoll: I never remember anybody swimming in there. 

Thayer: What was it, Dotty? Was it a cow or a horse. There’s a horse at the bottom of the pond. 

Pill: Oh, the boys said– they called it the pond, Dead Horse Pond. 

[Interposing voices] 

Ingersoll: Yes, that’s right. I remember that. 

Stuckey: It’s very murky down there. It’s very muddy. But I think it’s wonderful to have these occasions– 

Pill: And I remember speaking 

Stuckey: –together the way you people can really–. 

Ingersoll: Thinking of the pond, we could have during the winter, the girls would go one time, one Saturday and the boys would go another Saturday. Well, it seems that every time we came down to the girls, this particular winter, there wasn’t any ice. So the ice would be balanced. And we felt that we were gypped. 

And so I don’t know how we ever got the courage to do this because even to go to Mr. Allen’s office, we had to get permission from the principal. So some of us went over to Mr. Allen’s house one night at 5:00. And they let us in. And I remember he was sitting there reading his papers. 

“Well, how come I have these lovely visitors?” So we said, “we didn’t think it was fair because the boys had seemed to have the pond more than we did.” Of course they could go at night too, besides we couldn’t. And so he did arrange that the afternoon would be divided up, but we’d go the first half, and the boys would go the second half, to skate on the pond, because we couldn’t go at the same time. 

Stuckey: It is a wonderful occasion to have people like yourself, and not just like the director. One of the most interesting things in the Library I think, or in the Archives, is the record, which is now on tape of Dr. Allen talking about “Perkins Institution within the memory of those still living.” 

And it’s a wonderful thing. It brings these things out. But you were the teachers. That so often histories are written by people who are in the administration or a historian comes in. But this school is living people. These people you’re talking about, you’ve got it down to the level of the teacher and the students. 

And so often that’s often missed in histories, that it’s about events. And not about people. And people make events. And you are the history of Perkins and it goes on today. And many of the things that you talked about are things that I remember even 25 years ago, but listen, 25 years ago, 24 years ago. 

But I think it’s a wonderful occasion to have people in and I think the more we do it, the more our history will be alive for our children and the children to come. The children of Perkins, our children which includes our own children who are of flesh and blood and children who are out spirit, the children of Perkins. 

Pill: And I think I can truthfully say that both the teachers and the pupils loved the school. 

Ingersoll: Yes. 

Thayer: Yes. 

Pill: But we really loved it. We really did. 

Melander: I thank you very much, Ken. And probably should summarize a little bit and close at this point. When I had sort of the idea of this originally, I just wanted to tap this incredibly wonderful resource. To be very honest with you, I didn’t even think it was going to turn out as wonderful as this. 

I said, “hey, let’s get some things out.” This has been just a terrific time for me. I really loved it. I hope that this thing can be seen by people, people will really get a flavor of the way things are and even more than that, a flavor of you three as being just fantastic for the school. And we’ll always be grateful to you and we really just appreciate you and the for coming today. 

Pill: Well, after– we’ve been friends for 60 years. 

Thayer: 60 years. 

Melander: 60 years. 

Ingersoll: That’s some bond. I can remember when I went in the upper school, I think it is with children in the lower school, we were kind of lonesome when we came back, because we knew we wouldn’t be pampered and everything you know. 

But as we got, especially into the upper school, I remember we’d come back on Thursday. And we’d come back and it would be so much fun. We’d all gather together up in the close and everybody was chowing on pears because the back of Brooks was a pear orchard. And everybody was eating pears and apples. 

And then on Friday, we’d go and get our schedules, but we really didn’t have school until Monday. And we used to love that weekend, that first weekend of school. We’d go down to the Square, and go to the stores, and we’d go out to it. And everybody was just so happy to be back and to see everybody. And you know, it was quite a novelty, if we heard there were two new teachers in the upper school. I was able – Somebody said, “do you know, we’re going to have two new teachers this year?” And that was really [inaudible]. 

Thayer: I think that the lower school probably was the closest life. I mean, I think that as a group, we were the closest people together. And we had to struggle before the other school got the pupils that we had. We had to struggle with that for that progressive education and we all came together. It has a lot. 

Melander: Well, I think again, for our audience and whoever may view this in the future, that they really do get a flavor of Perkins then. And I know that we could go on and on with 100, 100 stories. And maybe we can do it again. And thank you, so, so much all of you. And Skip, thank you for being with us for the whole. 

Pill: Well, this has been very impromptu. 

[Interposing voices] 

Pill: So it was fun for us. It was sort of reliving, you know. 

Melander: A lot.

Richard Chapman and Claude Ellis running in a race.

Richard Chapman oral history (2023)

Leon Murphy

Leon Murphy oral history

Margaret “Peg” McRory receiving an award in 1977.

Margaret McRory oral history