Rye and Pleasantville

During the following year, the New York State Charities Aid Association (SCAA), of whose board of directors I was a member, received a grant from Russell Sage Foundation to fund a two-year demonstration of what a social scientist with considerable knowledgeability in the fields of health and welfare services could do by way of consulting with public and private health and social agencies, especially in employing evaluation research in their programs.

The president of Russell Sage Foundation assured me that it was their intent to publish in book form a record of the experience. (The book was subsequently published under the title Social Research Consultation: An Experiment in Health and Welfare Planning.) The area of operation was all 57 counties of New York State outside of New York City.

For me this offer was a great opportunity to move on out of Alfred University, which frankly I was feeling I had outgrown. Peg agreed only reluctantly to the change. Since I would be spending about half my time in the SCAA offices in Manhattan and the other half upstate, we moved to Rye, New York, in Westchester County - specifically to Rye because one of Peg's old school friends was moving from there and offering his house for sale. We moved there in June of 1958.

Now began the saddest, most unhappy year in Peg's life. I was rather stupidly unaware of the great trauma which this move would cause Peg. Think back on the kind of life she had led in Alfred: the neighborly farmers, townspeople, and university faculty and students; the big garden; the cows (we then had two), horses, and chickens; the school board of which she was now chairman; the close ties in Alfred Friends Meeting - a whole way of life so vastly different from the suburbs of New York City in general, and Rye in particular! Peg really suffered, and her resulting negative frame of mind was a serious problem for me as I tried to make good under a depressed home situation at this challenging job which could afford a big boost for my professional career.

Looking back on it, I still think it was the right move to make, as our subsequent family history will indicate. I am sure that I would have rotted away in further years at Alfred. I try to think now how the trauma of that move from the more or less idyllic country to the suburbs could have been made less painful for Peg. For one thing, we should never have purchased that house in Rye. Peg hated the ranch house, and she hated Rye, in all honesty sort of a snobbish community. From 300 miles away, we didn't know enough about the house or the community.

Peg had a small garden, and of course she didn't go to pieces; but it was painful. She and I worked hard to help found a new Friends Meeting in Rye, and to engage in the Meeting's purchase of a quaint, small abandoned Episcopal church building as a meeting house. Peg also became involved in a statewide committee of Quakers to work toward establishing a Quaker college on Long Island, to be called Friends World College. The name was quite appropriate, for the committee was looking toward a college where an intense part of each student's experience would be a lengthy, supervised stay in some country abroad. Friends World College survives today as Friends World Institute, in which students spend 7 of their 8 semesters in various countries overseas. Peg's work in founding this institution took much of her time and energy. At that point Ursula and David were both at Westtown, a Quaker residence school in Pennsylvania, and Robin was with us. Robin had asthma and Peg took her to the doctor every Saturday for a series of shots. Robin never got over the asthma completely, but the shots were a big help.

In her spare time, Peg started to look around for some other place to live, and finally chose a house in Pleasantville, much further out from New York City and involving a much longer commute for me when I had to go to the SCAA office in the city. Being much further out, the whole ambience was different, less suburban and more small town-like in tone. We moved there after a year, and everything began to improve. We had no sooner moved in than one Sunday afternoon an older man appeared in front of our house driving a horse and buggy and invited us for a ride. He was a Quaker, and had heard we had moved into town. This began a long friendship with James Holden and his wife Martha. Being some distance from Rye, we switched to attending the nearby Chappaqua meeting, and soon made other friends there.

The house had a nice enclosed sun porch, and in it Peg set about building book cases to hold our rather extensive collection. She had built extensive book cases in Alfred, but she had not continued the practice in Rye. Peg was always ready to take hammer, saw, level, square, and the rest to dig into any project she envisioned, often doing a project and presenting me with a surprise.

Making stone walls and terraces was another of Peg's pursuits over a number of years and houses, beginning, as I recall, in Pleasantville, where she constructed terraced beds for flowers on the sloping lawn behind the house.

As always, we continued with our musical instruments and sought out an orchestra which we could join. The White Plains orchestra was in reaching distance. It was made up of some members from the New York Philharmonic, many music teachers, and many good amateur musicians. It was a rather ambitious move for us to try to get in. Fortunately, we did not have to have an audition. They simply fitted us in to a rehearsal, Peg in the cello section and me with the flutes. This was a major orchestra, playing across the traditional repertoire. The first concert in which we played included Beethoven's Third Leonore Overture and his Violin Concerto. I recall feeling like Walter Mitty sitting there in the midst of the orchestra and hearing the various instruments surrounding me while I was playing as well. The next concert included Dvorak's New World Symphony, which I had always thought a little too bombastic, especially in the first movement. But, again, surrounded by instruments playing their different parts, the intricacy of the piece as well as its beauty constituted for me a powerful experience.

Actually, the orchestra did not need me as an extra flute, and I was just barely up to its quality, or a little this side of it; so I dropped out, but Peg continued for a second year.

I was taking viola lessons, which I had begun back in Alfred, and so I could play either flute or viola, both only marginally. Perhaps because of my dropping out of the White Plains Orchestra, we took up with the New Rochelle Orchestra, somewhat south of Pleasantville. To get there we traveled along the Saw Mill River Parkway, with which I was familiar from living in Yonkers in my high school days. There was a ridge at one place in the parkway, sort of an abrupt large bump, which I remembered from earlier. When we went over it, I told Peg and Robin the story of how my family was driving along and hit that bump, and a friend of ours whom we were taking for an afternoon's ride was taken by surprise and called out, "For crying out loud!" Next time we went over the bump, Robin remembered the story and wanted to repeat it; but she got it wrong and yelled "For crap sake!" Peg and I had a good laugh at that.

Yes, Robin, too, was playing with us in the New Rochelle Orchestra. Though only 11 years old, she had been taking violin lessons for a number of years, and could hold her own.

Seated next to Peg in the cello section was a nice, friendly man who played reasonably well. He was dressed in black trousers and a black sweater. We all introduced ourselves during the break. He asked Robin her name and she told him and asked, "What is yours?" a rather forward query from an eleven-year-old child. He smiled and said, "My name is Ben." Ben it was, indeed; he was a Jesuit priest usually addressed as Father Benedict, but with us he was always Ben and felt comfortable about it. He was chaplain at the Army base at nearby Governor's Island. A number of times he would come up to our house in Pleasantville bringing his cello and a big steak or roast and a bottle of wine. He would stay overnight and Peg and he would play cello duets and then we all four would play music together.

Peg and Robin and I also played occasionally in Tarrytown, where they performed at different times Bach's Magnificat and his St. Matthew's Passion, both of course with chorus. (Indeed the St. Matthew's Passion contains three choirs, one of which is for children's voices.) I have always considered the St. Matthew's Passion to be one of the greatest achievements of humankind, both musically and spiritually. I had the most rewarding experience playing one of the flute parts the first year we were there, and a viola part the second year. With Peg and Robin playing in their respective orchestra sections, the experience for me was unforgettable.

When we left Alfred in 1958, we already had planned to return to the Alfred area when I retired. We had sold our house and barn and all of the land except two acres which backed on another, dirt, road. The plot was filled with evergreen trees. We had a strong affection for Alfred, so during the next twenty years or so, we would spend some summer weeks camping in that beautiful wooded plot. As soon as we would arrive in Alfred, we would get in touch with other people from the university orchestra and all play Baroque music in one of the rooms which the head of the music department (there was a succession of them) would open up for us and most often lead us as we played. We also renewed our friendship with others as well.

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