Oral History: Stories from the Past

Oral History:
Stories from the Past

By Lynn Mellis Worthington 

Capturing historical remembrances through individuals is a program that is alive and well at the Kent Historical Society thanks to the work of a group of dedicated volunteers.

During the past year, the Society has enlisted the efforts of teenagers to conduct oral history interviews of the town’s residents and these are being recorded and catalogued as part of the collections preserved. A group of students at South Kent School were able to learn a bit about local history through the eyes of four long-time residents by conducting oral history interviews. This summer, resident Claire Lee, who is a senior at The Gunnery, also assisted with the Oral History program.

The SKS students are part of a new class, Oral History, which is offered by instructor Max Pfeffer through the school’s Center for Innovation. They worked in teams of two to interview Kent residents Marie Camp, Noble Richards and Andy Ocif in the fall of 2015.  

Their project was done in cooperation with the Kent Historical Society and they went through training similar to what all of the Society’s Oral History Committee volunteers have experienced. In the spring, Willard “Wink” Lampe was interviewed by a new group of students.

Pfeffer came up with the idea for the innovative class with guidance from Head of School Andrew Vadnais, who has a deep interest in history, including a bachelor’s degree in history from Williams College and experience working at the Hancock Shaker Village, where he is currently a member of the Board of Trustees.

“I wanted the students in The Oral History of Kent class to gain an appreciation for their greater community,” Pfeffer said. “The town of Kent has such a rich past, and as students with such busy schedules, it can be easy for them to solely focus their attention on the smaller, South Kent community where they live. Having the students help preserve that history by interviewing longtime residents of Kent is a way for them to not only learn the importance of the town itself, but to also give them the opportunity to build relationships with off-campus residents.”

The students learned about interviewing people and what questions work best to draw out stories and they completed practice interviews of adults on campus. They also compiled questions before meeting with the person they were assigned to interview.

Loren Brill from Maryland was a post-graduate student at South Kent and he interviewed long-time faculty member Noble Richards, who retired in 1996. His interview partner was Nicholas Washington, a senior from Puerto Rico. Richards has stayed closely connected to the school and he is a Kent native with deep roots in town.

Brill said he enjoyed doing the interview with Richards. It was something he had never done before.

“I found a different skill that I can use in my life and I also found how rich South Kent history is,” Brill said.  He enjoyed learning about how some of the traditions, such as reciting the prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, began at the school.

Brill said he was surprised by how much preparation was involved in planning for an hour interview, as well as how time consuming and difficult it was to transcribe an interview. He and his partner got about three-quarters of the way through the task and ran out of time.

Pfeffer plans to continue his class and he enjoys what the students get out of the course. “Aside from learning the excellent skill of communication through interviews and transcription, my hope is that my students were able to garner new perspectives on life, having spoken to members of the community who’ve lived such full lives of their own,” he said. “I also hope that as my students continue on their own journeys, that they’ll take time to think about how their own pasts have impacted their present.”

The Oral History program at the Kent Historical Society has been collecting stories of Kent residents for many decades. Former trustee Charlotte Lindsey spearheaded organizing a group of volunteers that conducted many interviews recorded from 2009 to 2014.

The Society has 51 interviews that have been recorded in one form or another. Some of these are written and others have video and/or audio. We recently purchased equipment to transfer some of the analog recordings to a digital format that will make them easier to use and listen to.

We are considering different ways to use the recordings and the remembrances. Everything that is collected could always be useful in a future exhibit because oral histories capture what people remember about living in our town.

One of our most active volunteers is Ky Anderson and she has met with many people and encouraged them to talk about their memories of Kent.

It is especially important to meet with our town’s oldest residents and we feel fortunate to have met previously with and recorded the memories of people such as Marie Camp, Bill and Charlotte Newton, Gene Bull and others who have passed away and played such an important part in the town’s history.

Anyone who would like to become trained and learn how to conduct the oral history interviews is welcome. Contact Lynn Mellis Worthington (worthingtonl@kenthistoricalsociety.org) or our general volunteer email address, volunteer@kenthistoricalsociety.org as we are always looking for interested volunteers to assist.


Proposed By-Laws for KHS

Kent Historical Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 651
Kent, Connecticut 06757

Below is a draft of the proposed revisions to the Kent Historical Society’s Constitution and By-Laws. These changes will facilitate smoother running of the KHS, and also bring the various board member terms into chronological alignment. These changes will be voted on by the entire membership of the KHS in attendance at our Annual Meeting, which will be held 2:00 p.m. Sunday, October 16, 2016, at Kent Town Hall, at 41 Kent Green Blvd.

Constitution and By-Laws of the Kent Historical Society

[A note to members: Proposed changes to the by-laws are indicated in boldface.]

The primary mission of the Kent Historical Society, a donor-supported nonprofit organization, is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage.

VISION STATEMENT: The prized possession of the Kent Historical Society is Seven Hearths, a large pre­-Revolutionary house. As the flagship of the Flanders National Historic District, and the only original building open to the public, Seven Hearths offers a unique view of the early development of the Town of Kent. For much of the twentieth century it was the home and studio of noted New York artist George Laurence Nelson.

  1. The name of this organization shall be The Kent Historical Society, a registered not-for-profit 501(c) 3 corporation.
  1. The purpose of this organization shall be to discover, preserve and restore historical material relating to Kent, Connecticut.
  1. The property and affairs of the Society shall be under the care and management of seven Trustees and four Officers who are members of the Society. Trustees shall be elected at the Annual Meeting by a majority of the KHS membership in attendance each year for a staggered term of three years, and Officers with a term of three years. Officer terms and trustee terms are separate.
  1. At this time, the Officers of the Society shall be a President, a Vice President, a Secretary and a Treasurer. These four officers constitute the Executive Committee. Duly deliberated alternate structures also can be adopted.
  1. It shall be the duty of the President to preside at all meetings of the members and meetings of the officers and trustees, and the President shall have concurrent authority with the Secretary to call such meetings.
  1. It shall be the duty of the Vice President to preside at meetings of the members and meetings of the officers and trustees in the absence of the President, and to assist in the stewardship and the finance activities of the KHS.
  1. It shall be the duty of the Treasurer to receive and safely keep the money, funds and securities belonging to and which may be acquired by the Society; to invest same as directed by the Officers and Trustees; and to enter regularly in books kept for that purpose all money and income received by the Treasurer in said capacity and the source of the same, and of all money disbursed by the Treasurer on behalf of the Society and for what purpose and to whom the same was paid, to take records for said payments, which books and vouchers shall at all reasonable times be open to inspection of the members, Trustees and Officers of said Society. The Treasurer shall make a report at each Annual Meeting of the receipts and disbursements during the year, which report shall also contain an inventory of the Society’s funds.
  1. It shall be the duty of the Secretary to make and keep records of the votes, doings and proceedings of all meetings, and to prepare and transmit to the members or the Officers and Trustees, as the case may be, the notices required by these by-laws, except as the same may be issued by the President.
  1. The Board shall consist of the Officers and Trustees of the Society. The powers of this Society shall be exercised by, and the control and management of its property and affairs shall be vested in, the Executive Committee who shall be fully empowered to enforce the provisions of this Society’s Certificate of Incorporation, and to make, amend and enforce by-laws and regulations for the government of such Board and for the government of this Society.
  1. The Board shall meet at least four times a year. Other meetings of the Board shall be called by the President or at the request of three board members.  Other meetings may be called by the President or at the written request of seven members of the Society. At any board meeting, seven shall constitute a quorum.
  1. At least three days’ notice shall be given for meetings of the Executive Committee, which notice may be oral or written, and four shall constitute a quorum.
  1. In case of a vacancy among the Board of Trustees, the Board may name a member to complete the unexpired term, effective until the next election.
  1. Committees and/or task forces shall be appointed by the President, with counsel from the Board.
  1. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:  An Executive Director of the Kent Historical Society may be named by the Board upon recommendation from a subcommittee of the board. Compensation for the Executive Director shall be determined by the Executive Committee, and approved by the full board.
  1. The Annual Membership Meeting normally shall be held in October, at a time and place selected by the Executive Committee, with proper notice given to all members at least five days in advance. The purpose of the Annual Meeting shall be to elect Trustees and Officers. This meeting will also hear the Minutes of the previous Annual Meeting, the Report of the Treasurer and any other reports, and transact such business as is proper to come before said Annual Meeting.
  1. At any membership meeting, seven members shall constitute a quorum.
  1. Membership shall be open to any person who is interested in the purpose of the Society upon payment of the membership fee. Honorary membership may be conferred by the Executive Committee, giving consideration to the member’s long-standing interest in the Society, either by active participation and/or financial aid.
  1. It shall be the duty of the Treasurer to collect, record and acknowledge receipt of membership fees. Any member whose dues remain unpaid for two years may be dropped after second notice is given.
  1. The fiscal year of this Society shall begin on the first day of October in each year, and shall end on the thirtieth day of September.
  1. In the event that the Kent Historical Society, Incorporated, shall be dissolved, the funds of said Kent Historical Society, Incorporated, shall be allocated to the Kent Library Association, Inc. for the maintaining and preservation of all records of the Kent Historical Society, Incorporated, on file in the archives of the Kent Historical Society.
  1. These By-Laws may be altered, amended or repealed, or new by-laws may be made, by the Board at any regular or special meeting called for that purpose, by a majority of the Board, provided that the proposed amendment action has been submitted to the Board members not less than five days in advance. By-laws altered, amended or made by the Board may be altered, amended, repealed or ratified by a majority vote of those present at a general membership meeting.

Adopted July 31, 1968
Revised 1999
Revised October 2012
Proposed revision June 20, 2016

Vampires in New England

October 16 Sunday Series talk to focus on
“Vampires in New England”

Vampire folk beliefs go back to the 18th century in Connecticut, and Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni has archaeological evidence that he’ll share to illuminate beliefs about… the undead.

On Sunday, October 16, 2016, at 2:00 PM at the Kent Town Hall, Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni recently retired Connecticut State Archaeologist, will present some highlights of his own research at Colonial gravesites, exploring how fear and superstition led New Englanders, particularly those around Jewett City, CT, to take drastic measures with burial customs — they didn’t want anyone returning from the grave. The archaeologist will discuss the sources of belief in vampires and the undercurrent of fear of the undead. Bones, graves and history reveal the myth and fact of each situation.

Dr. Bellantoni’s talk will follow a brief Annual Meeting of the Kent Historical Society. There will be an election of trustees and officers, as well as a vote to amend the organization’s bylaws. The Kent Historical Society sponsors the Sunday Series every other month September through May. Free admission for members; $5 suggested donation for non-members.

For more information please call 860.927.4587.


Revision to Society By-laws to be voted on

Revision to Society By-laws to be voted on

Members of the Kent Historical Society will be asked to vote on the ratification of the following amendments to the organization’s Constitution and Bylaws during the Annual Meeting Sunday, Oct. 16 at the Kent Town Hall at 2 p.m. The Board of Trustees voted to approve these in June 2016.

2016 Amendments

The document is a PDF. If you don’t have software to read it, you can download it for free at Adobe.