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Oral Histories and Memoirs

Passport Photo, c. 1966
Sarah Francis Smith, passport photo circa 1966

Sarah Frances Smith

Oral History Interview conducted
by Joyce S. Pendery, Ronald Marcus, and Robert M. Halliday
5 January 1986


The daughter of educators, Sarah Frances Smith was born in Illinois and graduated from Wellesley College, Class of 1918. She came to Stamford in 1926 as Director of Adult Education in the Stamford public schools, a position she held for 34 years. Before coming to Stamford she was employed as an organizer at the Bureau of Adult Education, New York State Department of Education at Albany and then as Director of Americanization for the Haverhill, Massachusetts, public schools.

Under her direction, the Stamford adult education program expanded from a few night classes in English and citizenship to become an extensive program with classes designed to meet the needs and interests of a broad cross section of adult residents of Stamford. As a pioneer in education for foreign-born adults, a field that developed rapidly immediately after the First World War, Sarah Smith both drew on the work of others and developed her own educational methods. She believed that education is the key to a better life for everyone, regardless of age, sex, or background.

© Stamford Historical Society

This transcript may be read, quoted, and cited by students and scholars. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by any means, without permission in writing from the Executive Director of the Stamford Historical Society, 1508 High Ridge Road, Stamford, Connecticut 06903.

[Side 1 of interview tape]
Smith: Rabbi Ben Ezra:

Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be. The last of life
For which the first was made.

Our times are in His hands
Who sayeth "The whole I planned." Youth shows but half.
Trust God, see all, nor be afraid.

It seems to me that says everything about retirement. That what you put in at the beginning or through it, comes back.

Why did I select Adult Education? It wasn't always Adult Education. It started with Immigrant Education. As a career, there is a good deal of background that brought me to it, sort of prepared the way.

I graduated from Wellesley in 1918, during World War I. My major was literature. I had Katherine Lee Bates, who called me "Sarah Frances." She was a wonderful teacher. I majored in social work. I had done some volunteer work for the Troy Times who had a camp for the underprivileged children, and during the summer vacations I went out and volunteered for a month. It wasn't my first contact with foreign people because I lived in Chicago.

My mother was a Midwesterner. My father was born on Hudson Street in New York, but the two met in Illinois. Wellesley was founded in 1875, and I was born in 1895, so it was to be Wellesley.

Pendery: Where were you born?
Smith: I was born in northern Illinois. I'm a Midwesterner. My father's father worked in a roping concern in New York, and they moved out to St. Louis, where he met my mother. And they used to have the boat rides on the Mississippi for dancing and all that in the days that were really "St. Louis." She worked in an art shop and lived with an uncle who had three girls, which meant that there was a lot of social activities.

I was taken back there and baptized in the Episcopal Church on the street where she had lived as a young girl. She went on the Mississippi boats, and I think I have a card case now in my china cabinet that the boy friend gave her on one of these occasions. [chuckles] She later became a teacher, and my father was in education from the beginning. She lived in a small town in southern Illinois, which was founded by the English in 1818, very near the community of New Harmony, which was a free-thinking kind of a literary colony, and it was very near my mother's home. I've been over to see New Harmony.

My father, being from the east had come to the west. They were married in Albion and went up to northern Illinois, where I was born. He was always in public school work.

Marcus: What was his name?
Smith: William Chandler Smith.
Pendery: Was he a principal or a teacher? What was his work with the schools?
Smith: He began as a teacher, as a teacher in the country schools around Albion, where my mother lived; he knew her brothers. She had four brothers, and that was where they met. He was in the country day school. Then he had a chance to go way up in the northern part of Illinois, Warren, where he was still a teacher. Then we moved down near Chicago, Crystal Lake, Illinois, where he became the principal of the high school. Then from there, we went on the other side, to East Chicago, where there were the steel works and where I had my first contacts with foreign born, because these were Russians, Polish, and all who were in the steel mills. They went to public schools, of which my father was the superintendent.
Pendery: Did you ever go to Hull House when you lived there?
Smith: Oh, yes. I probably did, but I can't remember. I'm not good at memory today. Of course I knew all about it, because we were very near, 20 miles, I think, from Chicago. It was there where I first became interested, shall we say, in foreign born, because most of these children had never seen anything. They were the poor workers that got the dirty work and the least pay in these steel mills that were in East Chicago and Hammond, Indiana. It was an area of that kind.

Johnnie Polumchuk, that I mentioned before, [before the interview] was the Polish boy that got perfect attendance. These people had never had chocolate before, and so my mother made hot chocolate and a birthday cake and had it down in the room. And I gave, in my name, the head of the "Laughing Boy," it is a lovely sculpted head of a boy. I can't give you the name, but I gave that to the room as a mark on my birthday.

My father was like this. He insisted that there be beautiful pictures in the halls. He'd go out and raise money to buy these pictures for schools that he had. He was superintendent in Indiana, at East Chicago. From East Chicago we went to Indianapolis where I went into high school. I used to pass by James Whitcomb Riley House. It was a great literary area, Indianapolis. My father headed the first trade school in the area. It was called Winona Technical Institute. The first linotypes were taught at this trade school. There was a foundry and there was a library school. These were jobs, learning how to be a foundryman and so forth. It was rather a new idea at that time.

Then we moved to Boston. This was in the area where my father came from. His background was Beverly. His father was one of five boys and four girls. His father was from that big family in Beverly and fought in the Civil War. There's a whole book about the 35th Infantry in the Boston Historical Society, and my grandfather was in that and his name is in the book. John Grove Smith. He was born in Beverly. Then he went to Phillips Exeter at Andover and met my grandmother Sarah, for whom I'm named. They had two boys and two girls. There's nobody left on either side of my family. I'm completely alone.

That's the New England part of me, and my mother's side of it is of the English coming into Illinois. New Harmony was very near, that was the free-thinking society, you may recall. Robert Dale Owen. And it is still possible to visit. So that's where the family began.

Pendery: Did you have brothers or sisters?
Smith: I have nobody. I'm alone.
Pendery: So you were an only child?
Smith: Only child. I don't think I was spoiled. If I got a reprimand or spanking in school, I'd get another one when I got home. [chuckles] The teachers were told, although my father was principal of the school, to pay no attention to that. If I needed discipline, I got it. I think that sometimes I got it more than I deserved, I don't know! [chuckles]

As I say, I was born in '95 and Wellesley was born in '75, and when I came, she said it was her aim that I go to Wellesley, which I did. I graduated in '18 with not a clear idea of what I would do. I liked people, like my father. My mother was equally aware of people. She was as concerned about the cleaning women as my father was about people.

When he came to Boston, he became the Director of Education for the YMCA, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He had to develop a program of education. From there he was called to Troy, New York, to a technical high school, and that was while I was in college.

When I graduated, we were at war, in '18, the war was going to end before '19, but it was still going on. I thought I would like to go into private school, college, and teach literature. But my other field was social work. So that summer I was home trying to recuperate from college, for one thing, and get my feet on the ground. And I came to New York with my father. Now, there were many jobs for women in those war years. You could get a job. There were plenty of them, in other words, for women, because during that war women had more opportunities for work and jobs than they'd ever had before. So I suppose that was in the back of my mind, but I came into New York and looked around, and I was offered several. The Girls' Friendly was one and the other was the YWCA, and I forget what the other one was. I took the YWCA. That, you see, was in the social field, social work. Over in Bush Terminal war work was going on. A lot of women were taking the places of men in war jobs of manufacturing. Bush Terminal was a big plant at Second Avenue and 40th Street in Brooklyn. All the girls that were in the Y.W. were college girls like myself. So the Y.W. took a building and a cafeteria and lounges, on the other side of the cafeteria. There could be clubs. There they developed classes of knitting, classes of discussion, in other words, those who didn't have any place to go at night could be there. And they gave the Bush employees a decent place to eat.

Now the war was going on. I was as green as grass. The birds and the bees didn't mean a thing to me, and I lived, believe it or not, up at 138th and Morningside Drive. And I worked over at Second Avenue and 40th Street, used to come in at 2 o'clock in the morning to Times Square and take the subway out of Times Square up to 125th and got off and walked through the Columbia campus and over to Morningside, and never thought a thing about it. If I saw the light in the corner store, I knew I was all right. I lived there that year, and of course loved New York.

Now back to my father. He had been a friend of Dr. John Findlay for many, many years. He was the Commissioner of Education in the [New York] State Department of Education in Albany and he had kept the friendship with my father for all the years. He was an Illinois man, and my father married an Illinois woman, so that brought them together. He was Commissioner of Education, and when he retired from that, he went to the New York Times, and he was editor until he retired permanently.

In the meantime, in '18 and the summer that I graduated, we were getting to the close of the war, suddenly America became aware of the millions of foreign born who were in our country, who were in war plants producing for war and didn't speak English, couldn't read English, and they lived in their own little communities, but were a great labor force. Then, of course, we became very scared – the whole government and our war set up – that maybe these were enemy aliens. How did we know but that they might be fadduddling against us. So there was a great stir in America by the government and other leaders that something had to be done for the foreign born to learn English and become Americanized and citizens. They needn't have worried. I don't know the percent, but there was nothing like that among our foreign born. They were devoted to America. They gave their sons, a great many of them. But this stir within the Washington headquarters of education, the Department of Education, brought a great deal of worry. And there was, over the whole country, among educators, a stir that something had to be done to teach these people English and become adapted to America. They thought there were hundreds of them who were spies and all this business. We are going through worse than that now!

Being a friend of Dr. Findlay's, Dr. Findlay chose my father to head up the department in the New York State Department of Education. He had the background, and Findlay knew that he'd been in communities where there were foreign born. He had these friends that were foreign born, and so appointed my father. Well, the war stopped, and I came back from New York to Albany to live. They had moved to Albany from Troy, and my father had set up a department.

I hadn't wanted to be necessarily a teacher, but I was glad to be in public education. So I took the exam in New York and was okay, and then they had state universities, like Albany has a state university. There were plenty in Boston. Of course, New York was the greatest center for foreign born. It was filled, as it is today. He started courses at the state [university], and I took that course, passed the state exam, and then I was given the job of organizer in the state department under one of my father's two assistants, both of whom were women. And so I reported directly to them, but I was still, of course, under my father. I was given a most interesting job in the Mohawk Valley. There's Utica, there's Rome, where the onions [grow]. Utica, sheeting. Little Falls was, I think shoes, partly, and then you worked right down to Albany, and all of those were industrial areas on the Hudson River.

It was my job as an organizer to go into Utica. I'd go first to the superintendent, make an appointment and go in and say that I represented the new Department of Immigrant Education. It was more widely known as Americanization, and it went on all across our country because the national set up of education was pushing all public schools to begin this teaching of the foreign born within their midst. So I would go into a superintendent and say that I was a representative from the State Department of Education who were organizing throughout the state, classes of teaching English to foreign born. Would they put on such a program? The state would train the teachers for teaching this. It was a new form of teaching languages. It's used now a great deal in schools. There, it was by action. Then if he said that he would, I said that the state will pay for the training of the teachers if you get the teachers that want to do this.

Then I went to manufacturers in the town and sat as close to the president as I could get and said that the public schools are going to open evening classes for teaching of the foreign born that are not yet citizens or cannot speak English. Then I went to the priest, whether it was Catholic, Protestant, Greek, whatever it was. Will they support the program? Then I went to the manufacturers. Would they be interested in promoting this by signs in their halls and getting the leadership in their factories to see that they would go to school? There would be some state support. I've forgotten what the support was, but there was a certain amount of return from the state if they put on the right kind of program.

I did that all up the Mohawk Valley, which was a wonderful process of training, and then I had to keep my thinker on. How were the teachers doing, and if they opened the classes, had they done the publicity and so forth? As long as I was in the department, it was my responsibility to see how they were doing, if they were producing, if there were foreign people coming out.

Pendery: Did most towns agree to do this?
Smith: Oh, yes. These were all big foreign settlements, you know, and the thing had been widely spread that how did we know that these were not enemy aliens. It wasn't true, but it was one way of pushing the board to do this kind of thing. So I did that down to Albany: Utica, Canajaharie, the Bate rug place and the Brake broom place, and Little Falls was shoes. That I did. I stayed with the department for two years under Miss Whipple, who was my immediate supervisor.

Then I had a chance to go to Haverhill, Massachusetts, to improve their set up. Of course I had lived in Melrose, so I knew the Boston area pretty well. In fact, during my stay here in Stamford I was offered to take the state department director for Massachusetts, but I didn't want it. I preferred to stay here, so I stayed here. That was wonderful experience in Haverhill. It was a shoe town, you know. It made shoes, and then shoes moved all out to the far west where they could get the leather much easier. I built it up there. I taught afternoon classes of Greek mothers, where we'd go over to the window and yell down, "Come on up! The teacher's here!" We'd gather around the kitchen table or whatever. Of course I went to all their festivities. [interruption]

So then at Haverhill the shoe business was wiped out. It was taken right out of their hands and moved to the Midwest where they could get leather much easier. I built up the school there, but it was a New England town and it was a little bit harder to sell in New England. They are staid in their ways and feeling and to take initiative –We were a great shoe center and wealthy people had lost their homes and so forth.

Of course, my father was well known as one of the first directors and he was president of the Association of Directors of Adult Education in state departments all over the country. And he was a wonderful guy, a wonderful guy. Bob Deming was the head in Connecticut. He lived in New Haven. He wanted me to come to Stamford, and my folks were down at Marshfield, down on The Cape [Cod], and he called me, and I said, "Oh, Stamford." I ate at the Greek restaurant on the square. Do you remember those Greeks that had that restaurant? It's all torn down now.

Halliday: Was that Cacavel's?
Smith: Yes.
Pendery: What was the name again?
Halliday: Anthony Cacavel.
Marcus: Was it the Park Row Restaurant?
Smith: Yes, Park Row. Well, they were all Greeks.
Marcus: Oh, yes.
Smith: So I lived up on Bedford Street, at the corner of North and Bedford where that beautiful bank building is now.
Pendery: You had an apartment there?
Smith: Oh, I had a room with a brass bed and a bird's eye maple bureau. I think I had a fireplace. It was all right. I've lived in that triangle, you see.
Pendery: So then you had to eat downtown?
Smith: Yes. I ate downtown in the restaurants. We had school, of course, at Burdick. I first went in as just immigrant education, the teaching of immigrants.
Pendery: You went in as the teacher for the immigrants? You were going to be their teacher?
Smith: No, I was the director. I didn't do any teaching unless I had to take over or demonstrate or something like that. I was the director and I didn't have the teaching to do, although I gave courses on it because I knew the people who had written the courses. I liked teaching. I taught home classes to get them started. Our budget couldn't afford it, so I took afternoon classes for Jewish women and did some out in The Cove until we established a group of teachers. Miss Flora Mix was one, and they went out to the homes in the afternoon to teach. We had them over at the Cove School, Hart School. If we could have one in the school building, it was fine, but if it wasn't, we'd go to the homes and have it around the kitchen table.
Pendery: How many teachers were there when you first came?
Smith: When I ended, I had over 80 teachers, and our budget was very much improved. I came in at the first as only immigrant education. I took care of the non-English speaking, and then they asked me if I would take over the general, so I established the whole program, which went from interior decorating to how you discuss sex with your children to all kinds of offerings. I was involved with forming the The Stamford Forum, because I went into New York. What's that place on 43rd Street? It was a sort of forum. What did they call it? I think it's still going, but it was a hall for lectures. And I'd been in there to take a course about other countries. We had speakers about each foreign country. I went in on Wednesday afternoons.
Pendery: Was this after the U.N. was established, or before?
Smith: Oh, I can't remember. I don't know. It couldn't have been in the '30's. It must have been in the '40's, because my department had grown so, and I only had a secretary, that's all I had, one secretary.
Marcus: Do you remember what year you came to Stamford?
Smith: I came in '26 and I retired in '60, so I had 34 years.
Marcus: And was their program already established here in Stamford? Or did you establish it?
Smith: I established it. There was night school, but it was the ordinary night school. I mean nobody was in charge of it particularly, just the person who headed up the building. We went way beyond that: interior decorating, we went into all kinds of things that people wanted. And I cooperated with everybody.
Pendery: When you first came, how many teachers did they have and what kind of classes did you set up?
Smith: They were just English for Foreign Born. They had typewriting and the usual evening school subjects, shorthand and those kind of commercial subjects. They had a commercial set up. I think they had some sewing. But we branched out, way out, and they got the Stamford High School diploma at the end. We had a wonderful guidance service. That guidance service was of the best, if not the best, in the state. This was a real guidance service. The board gave us permission to give a Stamford High School diploma, on work done in the evening school.
Marcus: When you first started, how did you reach out into the various immigrant communities within Stamford?
Smith: I went to the priest. For instance, we had a wonderful Russian priest. And we had many refugees from Russia that settled here who were big people in their own country. I mean head of the Navy, head of this, head of that. They were of high intelligence. We had those and they slept in the St. Luke's Chapel, some of them there. And they had a Russian church right there at the corner. And so Father Zavonchek was the minister there. I was very close to them. I mean we were great friends.

We always talked with the priest. I always went to the priest and talked about it and urged him to announce the coming of it. There are some national Polish organizations, so I would see who was the head of that and try to get into one of their meetings.

Pendery: Did the Poles come, also, to your classes?
Smith: Yes.
Pendery: The Polish people did have their own school, and I wondered if they had classes there.
Smith: They came; they came to our schools. We had afternoon classes out at The Cove, where we had a great many Italians and Polish. We had afternoon classes for them, taught by other people than the evening school. Some of them taught evening and afternoon, that could do it. We cut out small schools, but we had them up here at Long Ridge. We had other things, too. I mean we had lecture series. We had one of them up here at Long Ridge, up across from West Hill High School, up in that school.
Pendery: Could you tell me: among the immigrants whether it was primarily the men who came or did women come as well?
Smith: Oh, no, women came, too.
Pendery: Of all ages, or the younger ones for the most part?
Smith: Well, if they couldn't speak English they came in. Yes, there were older people that came. Many of them came to afternoon classes. They were easier for them. Oh, yes, Mrs. Gold, she's living in my apartment now and she was in it. I was connected with their organizations, Jewish, you know, the big Jewish organization of women backed me up, and Jewish church groups did, and if I found there was a Greek [group], I'd go and tell the women there about it. I distributed all of our announcements around town. I delivered them myself, believe it or not. I put the posters up in the windows. That's when they knew school was opening. That was a way of getting acquainted. On Pacific Street they'd say, "Oh, school's opening." I'd have one day for Pacific Street and I'd have another for the South Pacific and then they all went out to school.

Then I took over the W.P.A. program; that was in the '30's.

Pendery: Now tell us about that.
Smith: John Miller started my guidance service with them. Do you know John?
Halliday: I think I remember him. Yes
Smith: John had a wonderful Polish background, and he graduated at a southern university. He was W.P.A., and Polish background, so he and staff there started our guidance service under W.P.A. And another thing, we had a college here. We are a bit responsible for this University of Connecticut branch, because I took over at W.P.A. lots of professors who were out of jobs. We held it at the Jewish Center part of the time, and then eventually we had it in other places. Eventually, they built their set up up here.
Pendery: You had regular college courses in English and history and so on?
  Oh, yes. We had them at the Jewish Center, and then the boys went on up to that one, when the University built it. It was Bob Bromley's mother who headed that. She was the secretary up there.
Pendery: Helen.
Smith: Helen Bromley, yes. She originally was down at the high school. Some of the college courses at night met there. Helen was down there, and then when they built this, of course she was moved up there. We had afternoon classes over at the West Side for Italian mothers and we had them out at Cove, and we had them over on the East Side at Rogers. We had an afternoon class there that met twice a week. And of course we had it down at the South End. What is the school there?
Pendery: Waterside School or Ryle?
Smith: We didn't have any at Waterside, but we had it at the school that's closed now.
Halliday: Rice School?
Smith: Well, Rice is closed, but the one further down in the South Side.
Pendery: Ryle? The one where CTE is down in the South End on Henry Street.
Marcus: Oh, Cloonan.
Smith: Cloonan, yes. That's closed now.
Pendery: Were your teachers usually able to speak Italian or Greek or the language of the people they worked with?
Smith: They didn't have to. I am glad you brought that up because they had developed the "direct method." The government published these books, too. You could get them from the government. There was a new approach. The first lesson was: "My name is _________, John Jones. I live at _________. But the very first lesson they knew was: "I sit [goes through motions]; I stand [goes through motions]; and I walk to the door," and you walked; "I open the door." That was the first lesson. That was all action. I WALK TO THE DOOR. I OPEN THE DOOR. The next lesson was – wait a minute, I can't give you the second, but it carried those letters over, and then I SIT.

[End of side 1 of interview tape]

[Side 2 of interview tape]
Smith: YOU SIT. HE SITS. It was all drill on that basic thing: I sit; I stand; I walk to the door; I open the door. Then it was "MY NAME IS MISS SMITH. WHAT IS YOUR NAME? It was: MY NAME IS ROBERT. Repetition, but it was action.

There were three books the government got out. There was the first book; and then there was a second book. They learned it immediately and they used it immediately. So that was called "the direct method," and that's what beginners started out with. Then there was an intermediate primer, and they were pretty well into advanced then.

Pendery: How long would an average student attend classes?
Smith: I couldn't tell you. You had all mixtures of backgrounds. You can't say it was grade 1 as far as English was concerned. It wasn't a thing that you could grade. We had beginners, intermediates, and advanced. Those were the classes that we had. Some of those went on and got their high school diplomas.
Marcus: As a result of this, I'm sure many went on also to become citizens of this country.
Smith: You know who is doing my business at the Fidelity National Bank?
Marcus: A former student?
Smith: Gus Troy came to our night school. He didn't learn English there, he'd already been to school, but he came in and graduated with us, got his diploma. He is now one of the Second Vice Presidents of the Fidelity Title & Trust. I said, "Oh, God bless you! Stay there for awhile!" [chuckles] I lose my men that I've known so well, that take care of me, you know. And he said, "You don't have to come downtown. I'll take care of you from here."

You see, I need that. I'm alone in the world. I haven't anybody left.

Marcus: Did you hear from any of these people after they obtained their citizenship?
Smith: Oh, yes. They stop me on the street now. I can't remember their names, but they still stop me. "Are you Miss Smith? How are you?" and so forth. I'm just sick that I can't recall their name, but I just can't.
Pendery: It sounds like a lot of them stayed in Stamford.
Smith: Oh, they did, they did. And you will find that they are the loyal ones and they believe in America. I said to Gus – I'm inclined to call him Gus, because that's what I knew him as, you know. Just think, he is a vice president and he has a family and children, and he's taking care of them. I needed somebody at the bank to advise me, you know. Even for this job, I never even got $10,000 a year, believe it or not. When I think of these people who are getting $20,000 and $25,000 and $30,000 a year– I gave everything I had, but you know, I don't mind it. I loved it! I never thought of it. I don't think I bothered about my money. I just knew I was going to get $50 the next year, and that seemed like a big amount.

And then I've traveled a lot. And that is wonderful, because I have had wonderful times in Europe with my scholars!

Pendery: Have you gone to visit some of your families?
Smith: Oh, have I? Yes! I retired in July [1960], and we were on the way to Italy in September. For instance, in April – this is my friend who traveled with me, that I met in Mexico. I am very fond of Mexico . I met her on a trip down there and we went five times together. I have been nine times to Mexico. What am I talking about? I love it! I love it!
Pendery: And you never got sick?
Smith: Never got sick. There at the Reforma, which I think was ruined in this last earthquake, when we'd arrive: "Miss Amicas! Miss Amicas, our friends!" And we stayed there at the Reforma and we had a wonderful time in Mexico. This same girl who went with me to Europe. She was a teacher of French language in New York, out at one of suburbs in Long island. I met her in Mexico, and we traveled there and we went abroad, the first year I got out here.

When we got to Naples, then we had a lot of Italians from that area of Naples and down south, even where they had the earthquake, a man whose father had a dining room over on the West Side was in our schools. By golly, he came in to Naples and got us and took us out to his home. The name, I've forgotten what it was, but I said, "Oh, my, the people tell me they came from here." He had to stop and get some fancy cakes for us.

He was back with his family there, living a house, on one side. It was a funny kind of house, because the apartments were here, and the store was downstairs and there was a big parking place, you know. He lived on this side and his brother lived on the other. So what a time we had! He came in and took us out to his house. What a dinner we had! The brother came in. I wish you could have seen the house, the Frigidaire, and he had his wines down at the bottom. [It was] a very, very comfortable house. Then he took us back to Naples that night, with this boy. One of his girls was in school in Naples, and the boy was home. We had a wonderful time there.

Then we went on to Greece. And do you remember – I don't know if you were here, but there was a liquor [store] up in Ridgeway that was owned by these two Greeks, he and his wife. They went back to Greece. They sold the business. A wonderful tie. We'd been to their weddings and they had a lovely house on Eighth Street. They went back to Greece, and he died there. You know it is so expensive to bring bodies, she just couldn't afford to bring him back here, so he's buried in Greece, and she's gone now.

From Naples, we went through the Aegean and went through that canal that takes you into Greece.

Halliday: The Corinth Canal?
Smith: The Corinth Canal. I guess so. Anyway, we could touch the side, almost, and we went on this little boat. And when we got to Greece, at Piraeus where we got off, here was Kitza and another woman I had known. They caught sight of us when we were on the boat [they threw kisses] and what a time we had in Greece. In Athens, what parties! We had parties and wonderful times in Greece.

Then when we came back to Naples, this friend came in and met us at the boat. We had clothes that we gave him because Ruth had taken more than I had, and she gave him clothes. He and his wife and boy came in to see us off, because we were going on the Vulcania the next day over to Spain, and then we were getting the bigger boat over there.

Oh, yes, I've had a wonderful time with the people that have gone back and I've visited.

I want to go back to Candido, this Guatemalan. I went to Guatemala and had a ball, because he had sent something to Dr. Alvarado! He walked – now they don't walk, they run like this through their forest. They don't walk when they are on the roads, they trot. Do you get what I mean? They never walk like we do. They run. Of course, you see them a lot in Guatemala when you are going from town to town.

So I was on a cruise to Guatemala. I think Candido wanted me to take a fruitcake to Dr. Alvarado [chuckles], so I took a fruitcake to Dr. Alvarado. What a time I had there with him! I wasn't properly dressed for the opera, I'm telling you. All these furs, wraps, you know, at the opera. He took me to the opera, he took me to his club. Candido was his houseboy, he took care of all the birds. He had an aviary in his hall.

Candido trotted all the way down from way up here to Guatemala City. He had been influenced by the Lutherans. The Lutherans were very strong in Guatemala. In fact, one of my college classmates did the Bible in whatever language they have. She did it, and she was very devoted to Guatemala. He was up there with his mother, way up in the corner, if you look at the map. And he trotted down through the forest. He'd hear the bears and the other things at night, and cuddle up to a tree. He did this panting. He wanted to get down to Guatemala City, so he went from his house, clear down like this, and then into Guate. I can't give you the name of the first town he got [to]. But he stopped there and he went to the hospital and asked them if they had a job, and they didn't have any, so he stayed as a houseboy for a woman. Then he finally decided he wanted to make the rest of the way to Guatemala City and he did it that way.

Guatemala is very Lutheran. The Lutherans have done a whale of a lot of work, in Guatemala. I think they have written a Bible in Lutheran or something. One of my college mates was down there and did work with the Lutherans. So, he got down there, and he was very devoted to the Lutherans. That's why I thought this church we passed today was Lutheran. I don't know whether it is or not.

Halliday: Evangelical, I think.
Pendery: On Newfield Avenue?
Smith: Yes, that's where he went. He was devoted to them. They had a big party when they left town.
Pendery: What age was he?
Smith: Just a young boy. He could do it, but he said he used to get scared at night because of the animals in the woods. He could hear them, and he would snuggle, of course, to the tree. He got down there, and he got a job with Dr. Alvarado. He became his houseboy. He stayed there until this former ambassador from our country to Guatemala was coming home, and he brought Candido to his sister, who was this person in Darien or New Canaan, I have forgotten which, that wanted to know if Candido could come to school.

So when I got there, of course, I contacted Dr. Alvarado because I had a fruitcake for him from Candido. What a time I had! I had a ball! He took me to the opera, and I was no more prepared clothes-wise for the opera than anything. Everybody was in furs, and here I was in a nice summer coat and so forth and so on, at least a dinner dress. And here were these wealthy people that came to this opera. I can see it, but I can't tell you what it is. Anyway, after that he took me to his club. Royal treatment. Royal treatment.

Then when Candido went down, he got the woman next to the bank, the old National Bank there on the corner. Do you remember there was cloth, a woman sold by the yard there? Well, he went down there and got her to get him two kinds of suit cloth. So he bought it there and took it down to a tailor to make in Guatemala. Dr. Alvarado is very wealthy and his sons are the presidents of banks and all that. They gave Candido a dinner, and he announced that if Candido was ever in need, that they were to take care of him, in his name. This is what he thought of Candido.

Pendery: Now, Candido came to your classes?
Smith: Oh, yes, but he's old now. He's close to 75. I wish you could see when he said goodbye to me this last time. He put his arm around me at the door and said a prayer. He wanted to say a prayer for me. You know it really "floored" me. I expect I'm not that religious, you know, but Candido wanted to put his arm around me and included thanking me for all I had done. I hadn't done so much. But he was so trusted by Gristede's, that he came early to the store there on Bedford Street.
Marcus: I remember that.
Smith: He cleaned the store and got all the things out before the people arrived. That's what they thought of Candido.
Pendery: He worked there many years, then?
Smith: Down at the one at Bedford Street. They gave him a beautiful watch when he retired. They had a big doings for him in New York, and I think cousins went in from just outside New York. Matthew went, and they had a big time.
Pendery: Was Candido his last name?
Smith: Candido Cano. Cano. C-A-N-O. They are now out in Ohio with three girls. The first one is named for me and she's the hellion of the crowd! [chuckles] I forget that I'm on the air!
Pendery: That's what we wanted: your personality!
Marcus: That's what we want, we want a true representation.
Smith: Smith: When I read this [her notes], I don't know how I did this, you know. I don't know how I had the [energy] to go out nights, and we went on Washington trips. And I'd be in the office till 5 o'clock, throw myself on my couch, and have a nap and be down at the station at 12, because that's when the train arrived, picked us all up, the foreign born from all over the state, beginning up at Hartford. This would be Friday night. We'd get there Saturday morning, and they saw everything.
Pendery: So this was a trip arranged by the state, for the foreign born to go to Washington?
Smith: Yes, by the state.
Pendery: Where did you go when you got to Washington?
Smith: Smith: Oh, all over! They was everything. They saw Mt. Vernon, they went to the Capitol. I remember the Polish man out in the cold. He came to me and he said, "Miss Smith, Kosciusko statue in the Capitol of the United States!" He was absolutely floored! He found me with a group and [said], "Miss Smith, Kosciusko." His bust was in the [Capitol] and he couldn't get over that.
Pendery: Did the foreign born pay a little something to go?
Smith: Eighteen dollars. And we stayed at the – The hotels are no longer there, but they were on that street. Oh, an old hotel, you know, that you'd spit at today! [chuckles] And the managers told me, "We'll be glad to have you any time." They said, "Your people have behaved." He said, "You get the high school groups in here and the sheets go up over the chandeliers with the lights in the center." And he said, "Nothing like this with your crowd. They behave." They were, but they were so impressed to be in Washington. In the Capitol of the United States! He couldn't get over that. He lived down at The Cove.
Pendery: Did you have an annual trip?
Smith: Smith: Yes. Three days. We'd leave here Friday night at twelve, when it [the train] got here. It picked them all up along the way, from Hartford. And we'd get into Washington in the morning and have breakfast and then have our picture taken at the foot of the Capitol steps. From there on it was just one step all day. They saw everything. They couldn't believe they could see George Washington and where he was buried and all that. It was very impressive.
Pendery: Were they taken around in buses?
Smith: Yes. There were no enemy aliens, you know. They are human people. [interruption] I took over the W.P.A., which gave me a great big lot of additions that I could take over and get paid by W.P.A., on their wages. I started the college there at the Jewish Center, which later became this branch up here.
Marcus: UConn in Stamford.
Smith: Yes. That was started in the W.P.A. They were under W.P.A., but I was the director of it with them here, you see. We had a lot of things. We had five women that went into homes to show people how to cook new recipes and get the food from the government, you know, that was sent in. We had five of those women. They were under me.
Marcus: You spoke of your term in New York State, of going to different shop and plants, telling them about the courses available. Did you do similar things here in Stamford? I know you mentioned going to the churches and synagogues, but did you go to the factories as well? How did you reach these plants, these manufacturing companies? Did you go to them?
Smith: Oh, I always called on them. I finally got a chance to walk through Yale & Towne with Marshall, who lived up on Strawberry Hill, you know. I Had made an appointment with him, because they were the ones that low-paid the people, Yale & Towne. Not Pitney Bowes, but Yale & Towne. They got cheap labor from abroad, give them nothing. So I went down to Marshall. Wasn't he the president or something? Anyway, I asked for an appointment with him, and he took me around. I was dying to talk with the heads of the departments. I wanted to see them, you see. I wanted to see them because I wanted to talk to them, encouraging them to get into evening classes. And I got no place at all, because Marshall hung onto me and he just showed me what he wanted to. Yet, I know that their pay was rotten at the beginning, when they got these, and they were the ones who took these foreign people, when they came in, and gave them such cheap pay. And I guess I said, "Here." Meeting them on the street and finding they were getting practically nothing and had to work only so much, and then they got hardly paid anything. I had an awful time getting into Yale & Towne, but boy! I got in with W.P.A.

There was a wonderful guy that came in, that took – Gee, I wonder who that man was? He used to be in charge of personnel. He was a local man. I forgot him.

Marcus: At Yale & Towne?
Smith: Yes. Were you in Yale & Towne?
Marcus: No, I was not.
Smith: Oh. But there was a man there, a local man, and I should remember his name but I don't. Well, he was of the old school, you know. He was going to get all he could. I didn't get far with him. I didn't convince him that we could have classes in the factory and everything. I didn't get to first base. So Dow Roof was my man. He came in later as personnel.
Marcus: Dowell?
Smith: Dowell Roof. He lived in the little brick houses down there next to the railroad station that are now all gone. Do you remember the apartments down there next to the tracks on South Street?
Halliday: Yes, I remember that.
Smith: That big building went up there. Dow lived there, and he was great. And so he began to call me, and he'd say, "This is Roof speaking." And I said, "Well, this is Smith speaking." [chuckles] Because he wanted more papers to be made out for citizenship, you know. He used to make them out. I said, "Dow, why don't you let me come down and make them out? I'll come down at the noon hour?" I didn't have a noon hour, but I mean -
Marcus: What kind of papers were these?
Smith: The citizenship papers. You see, there was a law that came in that people couldn't do war work unless they were citizens. And so I said, "Well, I'll be glad to make them out. If they won't come to my office, I'll come down to you. Have you got a place for me down there?" And he said, "Yes, I have." So he would give me an office, and these people would come at the noon hour, and I'd make out their papers. He was very good to me.
Pendery: What kind of proof did you have to have that they had been in the county for a specified period of time?
Smith: Oh, I didn't have to know that. Of course, their papers were sent through the government, and they were the ones that checked that. If they said, "I arrived here at a certain time," I took it down. The government would check on these and see that they had arrived, you see, and so forth.

Then we had W.P.A., and so I had extra teachers, you see. So I said, "What about having a class down here?" I said, "Can you get anything together so we can have classes down here two nights a week?" And he said, "Yes." He got [chuckles] tables, and I don't know where he got them! And lights over the tables and things, up in his recreation hall. There were no partitions or anything. The classes were separated from each other. It wasn't an easy thing, but we did it. He had a party at the library afterwards for them. Gee, Marshall wouldn't any more have had a party in the working area, let alone in the special recreation hall. So, we got those men taken care of. You have to persist in those kind of things.

Marcus: How long did you continue having programs down at the Yale & Towne?
Smith: I can't remember that, I'm sorry. And you see, all our registers were thrown away, so you wouldn't be able to check anything. They were all burned by whoever. Isn't it funny that I saved these. [She is referring to copies of her annual reports, given to the Stamford Historical Society Library on this day.] I don't know why. I've had them all these 25 years. I never did anything about it, you know, so I'm glad they are in a proper place.

When I read these, I say, "I wonder how I ever did it?" But it's not a good word to use, but I loved the job.

Pendery: It's the best word to use.
Marcus: Yes, it is.
Smith: I enjoyed it. I would be so dead tired, you know, and on weekends or like, I'd think I could recuperate. I don't know how I did it.
Marcus: It must have been very fulfilling to you.
Smith: Well, you see, it satisfied me, and I enjoyed it. I presume that basically it's because I like people. I don't know whether that's it or not. My father was very much of that. My mother was not as much as my father, but my father knew Mary at the corner of 42nd and Madison Avenue that sold him papers, because he stayed at the hotel there, because New York was his biggest problem, you know. Of course, there were Syracuse and all the other big towns of New York State. But New York State and New York City was the entryway of most of our foreign born. So naturally, he was coming to New York. And Mary had a paper place. My father stayed at that hotel next to the station. What was it?
Pendery: The Roosevelt?
Smith: No.Well, the Biltmore was up, but this was right on the corner of 42nd Street and next to the -
Pendery: Oh, the Biltmore?
Halliday: The Commodore, was it?
Smith: No, the Commodore was the other side. This was towards Fifth Avenue. It was the one that had the clock.
Pendery: That's the Biltmore.
Smith: That's the Biltmore? Then that isn't it. He was in the Biltmore, but it was next door. Mary had a newsstand at 42nd and Madison. And when my father and I were down in New York, my father had to go over and see Mary. "Mary, this is my wife and daughter." That's the kind of guy he was, and that is why he was good in this field, in education.

He became the president of the national organization. I think he was the first director named. He went to New York every week, and he'd see Dr. Findlay. He'd call him, and they'd walk New York. They went go for a morning walk, before breakfast, he and Dr. Findlay. He kept a great friendship with him.

I meant to close this with this. When my mother died, she died in '42, and she had said to me, that if she went first, she wanted my father to have a dog and a garden, wherever he was. So when he came to Stamford, he lived with, you know my teacher's name, Laura Mix. She had a room. She took roomers, so she had a room and he stayed over there. I was in a small apartment there at 53 Prospect. So he had a room there and came over to me for breakfast, and dinners, too, until we could find a house. So we found a house on a nice street, there at Courtland Street. He had his dog and he had his garden. And he went in '43.

He was in, strange enough, a woodworking class at the high school, under my department. [laughs] He had a bench in the basement. That's interesting, isn't it? A whole circle. When he went, he said – He called me "Sallie." My mother didn't like it, she wanted it to be "Sarah Frances," but she never called me "Sarah Frances," except when she was mad at me. [laughs] Pops, he said to me, "You've been awfully good to me." It's interesting that the whole circle came around, because I had started with him at Albany, in his particular field, and yet he was a part of my job, at the end.

Pendery: It was wonderful for him, that he could do that.
Smith: He was glad. But he used to use my bicycle, until I had to give it away. He'd go down Strawberry Hill there in front of the high school, and the teachers would tell me when they saw him. He was 73. The teachers would tell me. It was a girl's bicycle [chuckles], and the teachers would tell me they saw my father doing down Strawberry Hill. And I said, "You can't do it!" So I gave the bicycle away, and then he borrowed the boy's across the street! [laughs]
Pendery: You couldn't stop him!
Smith: Well, you've got the whole story.
Marcus: We thank you.
Pendery: Yes. We appreciate that very much.

[End of interview]

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Stamford Historical Society – Record Group 04: Sarah Frances Smith
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