Down Plymouth Hill

I Remember When… Down Plymouth Hill

Continuation of “Pick a Street, Any Street” Series

This last stretch of Main Street probably won’t have as much detail as I’ve presented in earlier articles since I’m not as familiar with Plymouth as I am with the Terryville section of town. Anyway, in front of Cleveland’s Country Store is the old Cleveland homestead. Mrs. Edson Cleveland’s dad, I understand was an early State Policeman or Motor Vehicle Department officer who, back around a hundred years ago took new drivers ( My Aunt
Mary among them ) around the Plymouth green with a Model T Ford to test them for a drivers’ license.

Next door to the Cleveland’s is an old house most recently occupied by Charles Della Camera and his wife Betty ( Harrigan). Betty’s father Paul had a small trucking company up on Ives Lane. He was also, for many years the chairman of the pull-ring at the Terryville Fairgrounds. The scale-house where they weighin the draft animals is named after him.

Gus Stafstrom owned the impressive-looking house next door. He was “big” in Republican politics fifty years ago, and married into the Wollenberg family. Donald Brown and his wife Jeannette lived next door to Gus. Don was very active in the Plymouth Congregational Church, and Jeannette was a piano teacher and organist ( I believe at one of the Waterbury churches ). She also substituted at our church in Terryville and at her own church in Plymouth.

Across Ives Lane from the Brown’s is a house where Les Norton Jr. lived at the time he married my cousin ( Dorothy Foote ) in 1957. Les worked across the street at Hemstreet’s Atlantic gas station when he returned from the Marines at about the same time. There’s a house next door that was occupied by a man who ( I think ) was a supernumerary police officer like my dad. One night, he did a ride-along with my dad, and afterward invited him in for a cup of coffee at about 11;00 0’clock. Dad laughed as he told about how the house was a mess, and a cat, who seemed to be embarrassed about it, jumped down from a pile of stuff to hide when he saw them coming in. Across the street is the newly-renovated and enlarged Plymouth Fire Company. Organized in 1946 with an old 1920’s fire engine, the Plymouth Company was formed to help protect the Plymouth section while the Terryville Fire Department was enroute. My cousin, Walter “Bufty” Hall and his father Hiram ( Fire Police ) along with the Norton brothers Ike ( Ira ), Wink ( William ), and Les ( Leslie Sr. ) were all part of the beginning of this “Branch Office “. There are some great pictures of the men drilling on the Plymouth green along with Commissioner Paul Malley, and also of them admiring their first new fire engine, a 1954 International pumper. Their first fire house was the small brick building squeezed in between Helen Nejfeldt’s gift shop and the archery factory. There was a meeting room downstairs that could only be occupied when the pumper was outside for
fear that its great weight might collapse the floor.

Of course, the real center of “Plymouth” is what was there first; the Congregational Church. It’s been called the “Mother Church” by both the Terryville Congregational Church and the Thomaston Congregational Church; both of which separated in 1838. The Terryville Congregational Church remains a member of the United Church of Christ; the new ( 1957 ) name for what we’ve always called Congregationalism. Thomaston removed itself several years ago when an influential group objected to some of the UCC’s controversial policies.

I can’t talk about the Plymouth green without mentioning a great community leader who lived at its north end. Lou Mattoon
was a highly respected gentleman in town for many years until he lost his battle with cancer about forty five years ago. I remember visiting him not long before he passed away while I was also in the middle of a three-year round of chemotherapy. In the years since then I realize how lucky I have been. As they say, “only the good die young”. I can still see Lou in my memories , standing
up in front during the Plymouth Church’s annual Thanksgiving Eve service, reading the Governor’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. I believe that his great grandson does this honor now. Lou was a talented performer, participating in many variety and minstrel shows. His daughter Marilyn ( The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. ) has been the organist and choir director in Plymouth
for many years. She, like her dad, is a very fine musician, and I had the honor and pleasure of accompanying her with my drums at some of those same shows during the 1950’s . She played the piano for the musical acts, and I did “rim shots”, etc. for the comedy routines. Things were much simpler then.

I’ll conclude this long, dragged-out series “Pick a Street, Any Street” with these remembrances. As we roll downhill toward Thomaston, I am reminded of some of the names of of the families who live or who have lived on or near Plymouth Hill. Goodwin, Steinagel, Wagner, Didsbury, Norton, Hall, Pratt, Galpin and Taylor.

A Local Message
“America: Love It or Leave It” appears on a sign in front
of the American Legion hall. Post 20, please don’t go down that rat-hole. These words dishonor all those you represent. You’re better than that.

Dick Foote