The following is a transcription of an interview conducted between former library Director Gretchen Volenick and longtime library volunteer June Eaton. A link to listen to the audio file can be found here. Special thanks to Crystal Kane of the Brooklin Keeping Society for the photos of June. We truly hope you enjoy this cherished piece of history:

Gretchen Volenik – GV

June Eaton – JE

Beluah Closson & June 1927

GV: So the whole gist of this is to try and get a history of the library. So I guess what I was thinking is, to start with, what are your first memories? How old were you when you first used this library? And what do you remember about it?

JE: Probably I was eight years old [coughing] excuse me.

GV: Ok, let’s start all over.

JE: I think I must have been eight years old when I was allowed to come to the library by myself.

GV: So you’d walk up?

JE: I’d walk up and Ms. Dollard would be on the stool behind the desk. The desk was where the non-fiction is now.

GV: Oh that’s right.

JE: She sat on that side of the library, on that stool that we are still using and I think some of my first books I recall were The Prince and the Pauper and all the Gene Stratton-Porter books. I loved those. I could just immerse myself in the gathering, catching the moths.

GV: I don’t think we have many of those left.

JE: No I don’t think so. And then I went on to the Fletcher books, the mysteries.

GV: We do have some of those.

JE: I was soon in the adult… yes I noticed. And the old mysteries. My memory of mysteries.

GV: What do you remember of Dollard, Annie Dollard? Was that her name.

JE: Yes.

GV: Do you remember her at all?

JE: Yes.

GV: I mean what do you… what was she like?

JE: She was a tiny lady. Short legged and round like a little bumblebee. And very much a spinster lady. Because before she came in here as librarian she had a shop in the Oddfellows Hall and that’s where she sold yard goods and pins and needles and notions. And that was in the right hand side of the Oddfellows Hall, facing the street.

GV: And was she nice to you as a child? Do you…

JE: Pleasant.

GV: Pleasant?

JE: I don’t remember any outstanding personality to her. Cause there were very few children’s books.

GV: I was going to say, because what you were talking about we have in the adult section.

JE: Yes exactly.

GV: So that was… I guess I didn’t know that the children’s section was very limited.

JE: You dipped into whatever you could find. But her sister I think preceded her as librarian.

GV: Was her name Dollard too?

JE: I’d have to look it up.

GV: After Annie… I can’t think of it right now. I do have a list of all the librarians.

JE: She preceded her in death. Both of the… B. O. Dollard, the undertaker, was the father. And there was a Flye that was… her mother was a Flye. Both girls were brought up in the undertaking business I suppose. The house down there that the, what am I thinking of, who lived there. Just down the way. There was a double parlor, cause that’s what we use. So he raised his two girls. And as I say, spinsters. The older one preceded the younger. She lived much longer but died of cancer. And after she, it was Bernice Sylvester who came in. I don’t think she had any training at all in library work, so books accumulated. But I looked forward to coming here because I could take out books and magazines for… Cause this was later on, much later on. Cause by that time I had a family.

GV: So let’s go back a little bit. When you were little and you would come up to the library, would other children be here?

JE: Not many, necessarily.

GV: It was just something that you enjoyed. Did your grandmother go ever?

JE: Oh she used it a great deal.

GV: That’s probably the connection. It makes a difference.

JE: And she was my dictionary and my encyclopedia too. I would sit behind a stove with my foot on the back leg of the stove in a little cubbyhole. I would sit there and read books, and then a customer would walk in the store and she would always, she was always busy. So I would use her as reference for words I didn’t know. We didn’t have a dictionary that I recall.

GV: So you’d ask her what you didn’t know?

JE: And she made me fascinated with language.

GV: What a gift huh?

JE: It certainly was.

GV: Lifelong when you think about it.

JE: Lifelong.

GV: Alright, so you continued to use it, and of course there was nothing like that in the school. We didn’t have one in the schools until I was…

JE: There was a library in the high school.

GV: Oh there was?

JE: It was in a separate room until they renovated when they brought in the other… work in that place. It was a hotel or an inn when she was a child. She managed to buy it in the 1920s.

GV: Ok, so you start coming to the library when you were about eight years old and you continue that, Annie Dollard stays the librarian. Did you see any changes in the library? Are there more books? Did any children’s books show up?

JE: Oh definitely. That was later, that was more when Martha took over. When the school started bringing classes to the library, she reached out a great deal. And then there was the time of course when Mrs. White was reviewing books and adding to the collection tremendously. And it put new blood in the library so there was interest.

GV: So all the time you are growing up it stays the same?

JE: Pretty much. Cause I was here sometimes and gone other times, so there were gaps, but I always relied on the library.

GV: So when you finally come back, let’s say when Bernice…

JE: Bernice Sylvester.

GV: Bernice Sylvester. How old are you then when she’s here and you are using the library.

JE: That must have been when I was younger than you are now. Twenty-one… my children were small and so I don’t know how long Bernice was here. As I say, I don’t have any spatial memory.

GV: That’s alright I’m just trying to get a sense of…

JE: So Wednesday evenings when the library was open, that was my wonderful time. I could bring the books back and bring loads of books to read to the children.

GV: So at that point there were some children’s books?

JE: Oh yes, oh definitely. Sure.

GV: So it was a chance for you to get out…

JE: It was.

GV: And get stuff for yourself but also for the kids.

JE: Because it was a handy walk.

GV: Are you living in the same house at that point?

JE: I was living in the annex next to the, what is now the town office. There was an adjunct to the house. My grandmother bought that later on. She didn’t have it when I spoke of her as a child. It went originally with the main house. It was called the annex and then it belonged to several owners and she bought it back again, that’s where we bought it. It was a nice spot.

GV: Alright so, what was Bernice like?

JE: Friendly, open. She married one of the Sylvesters in South Blue Hill and no children.

GV: What does the library… what does the library look like at this point. Do we have any of the back rooms on there?

JE: No.

GV: It was still a small front part of the building.

JE: The addition came on when Dr. Waterman left money. He was hoping that his shell collection would be housed on that right hand side.

GV: So did we…

JE: What? Pictures?

GV: I think, I mean I’d have to look back.

JE: Applewood was the one that built it on.

GV: Oh, Applewood.

JE: So I think there were three different sections… sessions, not sections, of building on to the library. There was one that Bill Henderson did.

GV: You think the Waterman was the first one?

JE: Hm?

GV: Was the Waterman one of the first editions.

JE: Yes. That’s my recollection. I may be wrong there. Arthur Wood could really tell you, but then there was this stack section. I think that was done by Bill Henderson, he was the contractor. Now I may be wrong, that may have come first and then there was the addition. It makes more sense to think that the stack room was first.

June Eaton, 1953

GV: Right, it also physically makes more sense because the stack area was behind us, you know they put a side piece on I think.

JE: You know that’s funny that that’s so vague in my memory, but I think that’s the way it was. First the stack and then the Waterman.

GV: Ok so, Bernice is the librarian and at this point you are just coming to use the library, you’re not volunteering or anything?

JE: No. It wasn’t until Martha came on duty and at that time some of my children were growing up fast. I came in here one afternoon. A Sunday… Saturday afternoon probably. She was inundated with books being brought in at that time. Everybody coming in frequently. There were a lot of summer visitors as there are now. Really they’d been big supporters all along of the library. And I just said to her, Martha, you need some help. And she says, yes I do. So I don’t remember the phase, whether she went to Mrs. White and suggested that or whatever, but from then on I came in. But she also had Joyce Steele was also a person that came in.

GV: So you were paid too?

JE: I was paid.

GV: They paid you.

JE: Mhmm. I was going to volunteer, it was because I really enjoyed doing it. Working with  her. Martha was easy for me to get along with. Some people took exception to her. That wonderful Swedish accent that made her delightful to talk with. She had come here to this country when she was sixteen. Arrived in New York, I think there might have been an uncle who was responsible for her but I’m not sure. And that’s where she met her husband, Howard Tyler, he was on ships like a great many of the young men in town were here. He served on these yachts and so forth in the New York Harbor. She had a heart made of gold when she came to Brooklin.

GV: Did she have children?

JE: No.

GV: Interesting. Most of the librarians have been spinsters who have had no children.

JE: Nope, no children.

GV: And was she… so you got along fine with her. Did she do things to try and draw more people in?

JE: Oh yes. She and Mrs. White got along together too and that helped.

GV: So now Mrs. White’s on the board?

JE: She was on the board and after Bernice left, that was about the time that Mrs. White saw all these books standing around that were not accessioned. Boxes and boxes waiting for someone who knew how to do it and do it properly. That’s when she hired Mrs. Holmes to come here and do the accessioning. Because I think Bernice didn’t have the knowledge or the ability or whatever to take care of these books. People were giving books and they were accumulating.

GV: So do you think Mrs. Holmes came to catalog while Bernice was the librarian?

JE: I don’t seem to recall whether there was a space between them when nothing was going on. Because I don’t recall a librarian being here at the time she was working on all the books. I don’t recall at all.

GV: Well I can look back at the notes I have and can get it numerically or chronologically. I have it that way.

JE: Because I’m sure in the early days when Martha was here I wasn’t visiting the library, I was just so busy.

GV: Right your kids are all…

JE: The kids are all, they’re youngsters and so on. I don’t seem to remember that.

GV: So how old are you when you start being paid you think, to work in the library?

JE: I can’t say for sure, because I couldn’t come in when the children were too young at home. It must have been after, I came to work after they had been in school. And that was cause we moved from down here. That was just prior to, we moved in November and she was gone in March. Cause his father died in the house and his mother had gone to work in the Sylvester store in South Blue Hill. I think Martha did a lot, her personality and so on, and having Mrs. White to back her up.

GV: Yeah, when I go over the notes, you can see that Mrs. White was very involved.

JE: Very much so.

GV: Not only in trying to get, you know books for the library, to catalog the library, even the physical building worrying about it.

JE: Yes.

GV: The house.

JE: It worried her that this building sat so close to that house. And that was why Mr. White gave it to her as a present.

GV: Yes, there’s a great essay about that.

JE: Indeed, and she did. She cared very deeply about it. Of course because she reviewed all these flower books and gardening books, and as soon as she reviewed it she gave it to the library, which did wonders for our collection.

GV: And the same with children’s books right?

JE: Yes exactly.

GV: She was using them.

JE: It so enriched us so much.

GV: Oh in many ways.

JE: It made such a huge impact.

GV: Ok so, do you start, have you continued… Do you continue working for the library?

JE: On and off.

GV: On and off. So there were times when you weren’t?

June Eaton

JE: Mhmm. After, somewhere in there Joyce still worked to help her out. I’m sure it’s in the financial records somewhere. Pretty much, and then the other help got a lot more hours in too. And then there was problems, I don’t know what happened, and then it didn’t work out for Martha.

GV: Oh, as a librarian, things weren’t good.

JE: It wasn’t good.

GV: Did she quit?

JE: She was cornered, so she did. Her health wasn’t all that good. She had problems with dizziness that goes with, what is it called?

GV: Vertigo?

JE: She had a couple of… she had one real bad burn when she skidded and she had fat on the stove and burned her arm so terribly. And then (years)) disease, it comes to you afterward.

GV: Oh right, no I know that one.

JE: So that bothered her a great deal, but there was a little, manipulating somewhere that turned out. So she, again speaking of retiring, she kept saying, what are you doing Gretchen? And I said, I have no idea. I’m at such a loss to think of her retiring. Somebody had said with the intonation that I was out for her job and I had never even considered it. I was pretty naive about why she kept asking, what are you going to do? And I said, I can’t even imagine being here at the library without you Martha. I said I would probably go on to the next one if they would have me, but for the longest time I couldn’t understand it. I could feel her a little bit when she’d say that.

GV: Oh wasn’t that a shame.

JE: Somebody had fed her with, suspicions don’t help a great deal. But then when there were people that were trying out for the job. Various people that were interviewed and so on and Martha says, aren’t you? I said no, I have no background. Martha had got her background. She took, by mail from the University of Maine, to get her background in library work. They were still doing it at that time and she said June, I’d like you to have you do that too but they didn’t offer it again, so she taught me what little I know. Of course as I said, she had no background, so she had to wing it too. There were a number of people, I was surprised at the people, off the street that wanted the job. I couldn’t imagine, people that didn’t read, didn’t have any affection for books at all. But I never replied because I felt that it should go to someone that had some background in it.

GV: So is this who… when…

JE: Nancy came onboard.

GV: Nancy…

JE: Nancy Hitchcock.

GV: Nancy Hitchcock.

JE: She had a background, she was well trained, and I continued to work.

GV: So, so I’m still trying to get back to how many years do you think you’ve been working for the library?

JE: Must have been… Wendy is, she was born in ‘59 she was 45 this year.

GV: So you said that you think she was in school by the time you started.

JE: I think so, she had the day for me to come.

GV: So you’ve probably been (?)

JE: When I came in with Mrs. Holmes, that gave me the interest in it to begin with and that had to be back in the late ‘30’s. ‘38 maybe. About that time.

GV: Now let’s go back to that, because you told me that this morning but, you said Mrs. White had hired this woman to come and catalog the books and she was boarding with your grandmother. How did you, I mean at this time you were using the library anyway right?

JE: That’s true, but that’s because as I said the library must have been closed. I don’t remember the issue with Bernice, maybe they moved away… Why her tenure stopped right then and there. And there was kind of a messy place because she wasn’t a housekeeper for books, she was just a good one to discuss books. She read a lot. People liked her, she had a nice personality.

GV: So you actually think the library was closed?

JE: I really think it must have been during that cataloging time anyhow.

GV: So did you help Mrs. Holmes? What did you do?

JE: Oh she’d have me make the book cards out after she’d accessioned the book or put the pockets in, that sort of thing.

GV: So you’d actually be writing out the title and author cards? And you still have some?

JE: Once in a while a run across one, yeah.

GV: If you ever run across them, you should let me know.

JE: I can’t remember specifically, but she didn’t seem to mind me tagging along. As I say, she had room and board with my grandmother.

GV: How long do you think she stayed there?

JE: It was a number of weeks, I mean I think she was asked to come back to keep up with the cataloging too after she had been here. Because I remember more than one here she was here whether she came for about a month at a time or several weeks. The span of time is hard for me to remember.

GV: Did Martha do any cataloging?

JE: She had to. Once she’d learned.

GV: Right, so they probably had taught her.

JE: I had an idea that she was doing it. As I said, she was taking that mail course.

GV: Mail course, so she probably had some idea of what she was doing.

JE: She did indeed. But when she started it she didn’t have that, just that she was a great reader and so on. But I don’t know, it must be in the records how many years she served.

GV: And then something else that you said, going back and stuff, you said when Dr. Waterman gave the money he had a shell collection?

JE: We had a huge…

GV: Is that something that he gave to the library?

JE: That was supposed to be one of the…what do I want to say, one of the clinchers about having it was that he would have liked to see his shell collection housed. He had a tremendous collection. I don’t know how they were able to talk him out of it.

GV: So it never came to the library?

JE: It never, no, it never did. And I think he was quite disappointed because he had given that sum of money for the addition. But it was a decision, just as you had to make about all the Indian Artifacts.

GV: Right, exactly.

JE: You have to make a decision, it is a library. If it were a museum…

GV: Right, totally different.

JE: Totally different. So when he died, I don’t know what became of it. I suppose the family might have dispersed of it, it was tremendous. I think he was a traveler and he picked up things from all over the world.

GV: Well anyway, it is interesting in the way the library changes. When I first came here, which was fifteen years ago, they still had the record collection.

JE: Yes, it was Martha that…

GV: I mean think about how much history, technology has changed in just the fifteen years I’ve been here, in what the library was letting people borrow and stuff. They had a record player you could borrow.

JE: That was housed in the Waterman room.

GV: It was! I remember, you know, what do we put in those funny shelves once we take the records out. It was all odd shapes.

JE: Albums, completely. It was like the picture that Lawyer Johnson gave, that huge tapestry that he gave that was on the back wall. Do you remember that?

GV: Oh right, I guess we sold that.

JE: He was very disappointed. Because it was taking up wall space that you needed for bookshelves.

GV: Right.

JE: It was something that I suppose, in his little house that he had, was sort of like a cottage, low ceilings and all, it would have stood out.

GV: Remember when I  got in touch with the historical society, wasn’t there like a musket or something. There was a civil war something?

JE: I had a gun, a man that knew guns, and so I pointed out all the particulars of that particular gun.

GV: I think it went, when I gave it to the Historical Society.

JE: But for a long time it was missing, the card did, because I put it up underneath, under the shelf.

GV: I wonder who found it?

JE: Jack Wiggins. Jack Wiggins made the plaque it was set on to hold it.

GV: It is interesting what has changed in the facilities.

JE: And I don’t, they don’t seem to know where that is in the collection, the historical society.

GV: Oh they don’t?

JE: It probably was accesioned by the previous lady, and so many of those things are in boxes. That’s what we’ve been going through, boxes and boxes.

GV: We certainly couldn’t handle it, so it certainly made sense.

JE: No, no. It was something that the boys just loved, they came in and asked questions.

GV: I know, I know.

JE: And that’s why I had printed it all out on a card because I could never remember wars. And there was also, there was a picture of not Annie Dollard, but her sister I think. Great big portrait here, and that disappeared and I couldn’t figure where it went to.

GV: I know I never saw that, I never saw that.

JE: What, I can’t imagine why anyone, other than somebody who was in a snit, would throw it out because she was one of the former librarians.

GV: Right, right, that would have been kind of cool.  Yeah I’ll have to go back and…

JE: It was down in the basement and I found it once when I was down there. I was taking care of the magazines and so on. I brought it up and it turned out to be away from campus. And we agreed about it. I don’t know, but it might have been, Musa Dollard was her sister’s name, Musa.

GV: Musa?

JE: M U S A. It’s a little belated, but anyhow, it was, but it disappeared. And anyhow, I thought in the history of the library it would have been something. We could have made smaller copies to stick in.

GV: That’s ok. Sure, and I always thought we should have some sort of photo journal of the librarians but we haven’t got there yet. Keep trying, but…

JE: There were a couple of snapshots of the children who used to come and attend classes at the library and so on outside the library and some with Martha too.

GV: Oh really, I wonder where they are.

JE: I have no idea.

GV: Ok, do we have a picture of Martha?

JE: Why not and around the corner.

GV: I wonder if there’s any pictures at the Keepers. We should try and watch out for them, it would be kind of nice to have library pictures on the shelves.

JE: I’ve got pictures of this library that are very barren looking.

GV: Isn’t that interesting, when there were no trees.

JE: Yep, and there were different, the garden club at different times introduced different plantings, and the next few years out with it they’d go. We had some charming shrubbery out front at one time. I don’t know who commandeered, but they disappeared. And as the garden stalled around the edges, they were beautiful at one point.

GV: Yeah, it is amazing how it all grew.

JE: And Mrs. Dunn was one of the ones who got out there and added flowers. And Maggie Parson got out there and added, in her old gum rubber boots, and dug in the garden and added dressing and so forth, manure. Wonderful character ladies, these were your Boston hierarchy.

GV: But they are mucking about.

JE: Mucking about. Maggie would always put her hand to any wheel, she was great.

GV: Plus when you think about the volunteers over the years that have helped this library too, people that have just done, oh man, all kinds of stuff.

JE: Yes. But you instituted the Friends of the Library which is much more workable.

GV: But still, you had all these people that had such good will.

JE: Mhmm. Ada Herrick, the teacher at the nurse… not nursery school. The first, second, and third grade that I’ve written about, was one of the volunteers.

GV: Oh really?

JE: Mhmm. What was it… oh I know. She wouldn’t have anything to do with putting on or taking off covers to books. She laid the law down, that was going to be one of the things she wouldn’t do.

GV: You know there’s still a volunteer who just refuses to work with covers. “No, I don’t want to do this.”

JE: Well cause the, back in the days when Martha was there, was to take the new flashy covers off the book and…

GV: What did they do with them?

JE: Well I used to cut the pictures out, the information, and stick them inside the books. You probably still find them.

GV: Oh sure. Wait a minute, what did they do with the pictures?

JE: They threw them away.

GV: Do you understand why?

JE: No I can’t understand the thought of why that was.

GV: Me neither.

JE: Maybe they didn’t like the slippery covers, this was before they covered them with covers. Because they were just…

GV: Maybe they thought it was paper and it was just going to rip or something.

JE: Probably so.

GV: What if they fall off…

JE: They’d fall off. But I started doing… I said I wanted to check out a book and I didn’t want to have to read through it to see if I’d like it or not. I want the blurb on it, so I must have done that to a great many of them when they threw the covers away. It just seemed to be common sense. You have the slippery covers, people didn’t like having to insert them, to make sure they got into…

GV: I know, right, it’s still true. Thank God for people like Sandra Leonard, she does all the covers for me. She’s happy.

GV: Well I’m going to stop it now.