(1907 to 1955)
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Here is a special addition to the long awaited Genealogy of the enate
side of our family. It is called "Farm Memories" and deals with all
the recollections we could muster about life on the Nagorski family farm off
Wheeler's Farms Road
in Milford, Connecticut. The period covered is 1907 to
It is especially appropriate that this story comes to you now, the
100th Anniversary, to the month, of the arrival of our family in America.
I hope you can enjoy what it is trying to portray.
Homer John Susmuth
Among the few First Family grandchildren left, those of us labeled
Level III, there are certain remembrances we have that are not easily passed on
to newer generations. However, we will try. The original idea came to us in the
mid-80's during a mini-reunion. When the 'word pictures' were written down,
Regina Adams suggested that the 'word pictures' should have explanations for
benefit of the younger people. She was right but it took another four years to
do it. What you are reading now is a much expanded version. If there is
anything anyone wants to have made clearer, please ask. Now, let's start with.
- Jah Dik - How Grandfather
Nagorski was known to us.
- Bob Cha - What people called
- Little Gramma - How people referred to Grandpa's
- Auntie Lena - Oldest daughter of our
- Uncle Chapulis - Her husband. Sometimes
called Uncle William.
- Auntie Annie - Next oldest daughter.
Actual name was Albina
- Uncle Pisarek - Her husband. Sometimes
called Uncle Frank.
- Auntie Josie - Third daughter. Full name
- Uncle Milewski - Her husband.
Sometimes called Uncle Walter.
- Auntie Fannie - Youngest daughter.
Also called Fay.
- Uncle Sussmuth - Her husband. Never called
John but often Jay.
The Chapulis children included:
- Eugenia - usually called Genia.
- Edmund - usually called Eddie.
- Charles - usually called either
Charlie or Kahsh.
- Mildred - occasionally called Mil.
- Mary - Mildred's twin who died in
- Walter - usually called Veet for
The Pisarek children included:
- Chester - who died at a very young
- Stanley - sometimes called Stash.
- Henry - always called by this name.
- Irene - who preferred to be called
The Milewski children included:
- Milton - never often called by any
- LeRoy - sometimes called Roy.
- Regina - sometimes called Reggie, and
at one time the 'g' sound was like the 'g' in 'go' rather than 'giblet'
The Sussmuth children included:
- Carmen - never called by any other
name. 'In' name - 'Anybody'.
- Norma - died in infancy.
- Mignon - hated to be called Min. 'In'
name - 'Somebody'.
- Homer - never thrilled with the
name. 'In' name - 'Nobody'.
And the parents name was 'In' name - 'Everybody'.
Two people who worked for our grandparents for many years included
Peter Zaremba and a woman simply known as Antonyova.* Granma's brother
Konstanty Pankiewicz and his family and her sister Rosalia, married to Jakob
Malinowski, and their family lived in Milford, Connecticut also.
*Antonyova was really Anna Durako. Her daughter's name was Nellie.
Nellie left the farm to work in Bridgeport
when she matured. We met her when she visited her mother. Antonyova is buried
in St. Michael's Cemetery, Stratford,
Words often heard on the Farm …
- YAK SHA MAHSH - How are you?
- JANK KU YA - Thank you!
- NAZ DRAWVYA YA - Cheers! (Literally)
- BE YED AH - Trouble
- TSAW? - What?
- BOHZHUTS MOY - Good Heavens!
- DAWB JHA - Good!
- DOE BRON ITS- Good Night!
- NYEETS NYEEMA - I don't know.
- HUTSCH TOO TYE - Listen!
- CHEE WHO - Quiet!
- NYEEMA PIN YENZEE - No money!
- PAS COOT NYICK - Nerd
- PEEVO - Beer
- PAWSHUTS PA KRAWVY - Go for the cows.
- WODKA - Polish silver bullet.
- Don't say HAUTZ -
Watch what you say or it will come true.
- MECHK AH - Spook
- DOE VID ZAYNA - Good Bye
- STATA BABA - Old Lady
Swear Words …
- PSHAH MAHTCH - Probably means DARN!
- PSHAH KREFF - Probably means
- HOL YED AH - Probably means THE HELL
Favorite Beverages …
- Home grown applications for
everything from sores to what ailed you.
- SANILO - The World's worst tasting
beverage, like FERNET BRANCA (an Italian beverage for stomach settling).
Good for colds, and everything else, it seemed.
- MASTCHE - Good for something (a
salve made with herbs).
- BROMVOLT - Same thing, different
The Places …
"The Farm" was the focal point of family life for as
long as anyone wants to remember. It was located at 39 Wellington Street or 39 Wolf Harbor Road
or Box 39,
Wheeler's Farm Road.
In any event, the mail got to the corner mailbox, regardless.
St. Michael's in Derby
was the Church the First Family went to because it was Polish oriented.
in Milford was
the Church everybody else went to. "Downtown" usually meant the
Milford Green area. If anyone was going to Trumbull beach, a trolley left from the Green
that would take the trip past favorite beach areas.
The corner of High Street and West Main Street was the absolute
town focal point for our family because at one time or another, our
Grandparents, the Chapulis's, the Pisarek's and the Milewski's lived at that
corner. A number of us were born in the West Main Street house.
"The Store" was a small building on that same corner,
built by Uncle Chapulis and another man, Perlowski by name. Uncle and Aunt
Chapulis for time operated a meat/deli there. Above the store was a living
The "Little School House" was at the lower end of Wheeler's Farm Road and where
Genia, at an early age, went to school for a while.
Peter's House was a miniscule shack across the road from the Farm and where Peter
lived for many years. Having been there and hearing the comment by Milton, I still have to
laugh when I think of his comment about the thickness of the air inside,
"If you lit a match in there, the place would catch on fire!"
Eddie's Gas Station was built on the opposite side of Wolf Harbor Road on a little sliver of
land remaining on the Nettleton property after the Wilbur Cross Parkway came through. It may
be called Wilbur Cross, but to most of us it will always be known as the Merritt Parkway.
"The Out House" was to say the least an absolute disaster. It was where
one did one's duty but under such trying conditions, it's a wonder everyone
didn't end up permanently constipated. There were three holes in this
structure, two for adults and one with a little step in front for youngsters.
Obviously, it wasn't heated and, like the house, had no lighting. Most of us
felt that a fate worse than death was to have to "go" when it was
either dark, or cold, or raining, or snowing, or simmering in summer heat,
which helped the effluvia paralyze the nostrils.
"The Wells", of which there were four. One for the original part of the
house, serving the "little kitchen". This one had a chain hanging
from a rusty, squeaky wheel, and water was obtained by lowering a beat-up pail
down into the water, which seemed to be about 15 feet down. This well was
outside, off a porch, where one had to bundle up if it was cold outside, just
to obtain water. The second well was in the "big kitchen" and had a
cast iron pump that didn't work most of the time. The third well was out in the
cowbarn yard and was used to provide lots of water later converted to milk by
the bovines. The fourth well was out near the horse barn and was used for that
purpose as well as a cooler for beer sales during prohibition. I always
wondered how we were able to have water in wells when the Farm was on the
highest point within the town of Milford.
Something about underground pressure was the only answer I ever got.
The Basement under the main house was used to store potatoes, fossilized spiders
and many other mysterious things. It was dank and dark, and it had a low
ceiling tough on anyone over 5'6".
The Attic was
a nice dry, hot and cold place where all sorts of 'stuff' supplied by the
family was stored. Strange trunks, old hams hanging, it seemed forever, up
there. Boxes filled with secret plans for the overthrow of something.
The Wood Shed was just behind the smaller building which acted as a garage for
Grandpa's Cadillac, a place where the breadman put his deliveries, the little
room where milk cans were kept cool prior to pick-up by whoever bought this
farm's daily supply and various items put in storage--could be any-thing. The
'Shed' had a large stump inside it which was used to split already cut wood
into sizes that could be put into the two stoves in the house. The stump was
also used to behead chickens when one was being prepared for a dinner. Ugh!
This same building also had a large bin box containing corn cobs which were
used to start fires in the stoves.
The Cow Barn was a focal point for activity around the animals living on the Farm.
There were twelve stanchions and twelve cows. Most were Holsteins, but there
was always at least one all black or all white cow and, as I recall, always one
Jersey. This barn also had a large supply of
hay and the other items for feeding the animals. I can still smell the malted
feed given to the cows with their evening meal of hay. The Cow Barn yard was a
soft goulash of mud, mire and manure … suitable only with disposable
shoes or boots.
The Calf Barn was near the Cow Barn but it had its own little yard and a half dozen
little pens where calves could live, sleep, and walk around. Granma once gave
me a calf and said, "0omer, this is yours for this summer". I was so
thrilled I had someone take our picture together. I don't remember what name I
gave it but I never saw it again after that summer. It probably became a cow or
a hamburger. I never knew nor did I think to ask.
The Hay Barn was the biggest barn of the six farm buildings on the property. This
barn was all metal clad. It replaced a similar and larger barn that burned down
after a lightning strike.
The Horse Barn was part of a complex that included the Blacksmith Shop and a
string of shed-like openings where items like tractors, old cars, sulkies and
agro-equipment were stored. The Horse Barn was for our two horses. These two
animals were kept mostly for lugging hay wagons, produce wagons and various
farm wagons. Generally, it wasn't a tough life for this duo.
The Chicken Coop was home for about 50 to a 100 chickens as well as an occasional quack
of ducks and geese. The chickens were mostly Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns.
The Roosters, of which there were only about 4, were Reds. They were very alert
and about when morning was arriving. The roosters' crowing and the cows mooing
were the two main animal sounds around the Farm.
The Pig Pen was
a mess and was located near the Chicken Coop. There were usually two pigs in
residence plus an occasional litter. I'll never forget how they would gulp at
the stuff they were fed--mostly slop. I never saw them being fed a non-slop
The Smoke House was a little building near the Out House and was used for hanging
hams. It was called the Smoke House but I don't remember ever seeing smoke
coming from it nor do I ever remember anyone ever using it for anything.
The Milk Shed was part of the smaller barn housing the wood supply, the old car and
the corncob supply. When the day's milking work was finished, the milk would be
put into large milk cans and then lowered into a concrete vat filled with water,
and into which blocks of ice would be added during the warm weather. On the
outside of the doorway there used to be a large sign that said "BE HEALTHY
a dinky little store down Wheeler's Farm Road where many basic items needed
could be purchased. The owner looked like Burgess Meredith, dirty sneakers and
all. His name was really Mr. Dudley.
The Farm Animals were probably typical for a farm of this size. There were 90 acres of
pasture, cropland and woods. The total menagerie usually included 12 Cows, 2
Horses, 50 to 100 Chickens, a few Ducks and Geese, 2 Pigs, a lot of Cats and,
I've been told, Grandpa once tried having a few Sheep. Added to this there were
a number of Dogs. REX, a beautiful Collie, was followed by TARZAN, a police
dog, and then by PRINCE, another gorgeous Collie. There were others before
these three, but I don't know their names.
The Blacksmith Shop fronted on Wolf Harbor Road and was part of the long
series of buildings that included the Horse Barn, the open equipment shed, and
abutted the big hay barn. This shop was Grandpa's real workshop and probably
something he enjoyed more than any other activity. He made a lot of iron things
here, such as hinges, wagon parts, and anything that could be made of raw iron stock.
He had a huge bellows that worked with his forge to turn stock into white hot
metal that could be pounded into any shape needed. The shop had a lot of
mysterious things hanging in it and to say the least, everything was covered
with either rust or dust. Quite a place.
The Farm House itself was built in two stages. The smaller house contained only a
kitchen, a pantry, a tiny dining room, a bedroom and a well on the first floor.
On the second, there were two small bedrooms. This house was built in the early
19th century to the best of knowledge available. The newer house, built
attached to the smaller, was built in the mid-19th century, again a best guess.
This house had a larger kitchen, a larger pantry, a good sized dining room that
had a bread making fireplace (sealed up before my time), a large living room, a
good front porch and a birthing room. Upstairs there were 4 bedrooms, the
master one having its own fireplace, a small maid's (?) room in the back, and
another set of stairs leading to the old house back porch. There was also an
attic tall enough to stand in. The house was a standard New England white
clapboard with dark green shutters. It's last real painting was probably in the
The property was found for Grandpa by Uncle Chapulis, as were the
other properties in town and elsewhere in the area. (A layout of the Homestead
can be found at the end of this story.)
Other Memorable Spots on the Farm come to mind. There were two absolutely huge trees
in front of the house. I think they were maples and stood anywhere from 100 to
150 feet tall. Other trees included three healthy pear trees around the house,
several nut trees, a crab apple tree, a large hickory tree off to one side of
the house and which always had a swing or hammock under its shade, a plum tree
and, on the way to the woods, there were many elderberry bushes from which
annual wine making got its supply. Grandpa used to make a lot of cider from the
apple trees that were found in different parts of the upper grounds. For many
years a vegetable garden existed behind the house for standard living needs.
As mentioned before, the house was on the highest point in the town of
crops such as corn, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and of course hay, were
grown on the gently sloping downward plateau near the house. Further away there
were two main cow pastures and a stand of virgin New
England timber. It was the kind of woods that had no low
undergrowth because the trees had been tall so long that lower plant life could
not obtain enough sunlight. There were also several brooks in the woods that
the cows could use when they were thirsty. Ground cover was sparse, but near
the brooks could be found skunk cabbage, aptly named for if it was disturbed
gave off an awful odor. We also found Indian Pipe and Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants
usually near the brooks too. At the right time of the year we would gather
Black-eyed Susan, Daisies and Verbena Hastate in the field next to the house.
These plants were used in the making of that all-time grand elixir, known as
'Sanilo'. If an adult wanted to traumatize one of the children, all that was
needed was a comment like, 'I'm going to give you some Sanilo'.
Around the house, were planted several huge Hydrangea bushes in front
of the old house (we always referred to that part of the house as the 'little
Kitchen'), a group of Rambler Roses in the front above a picket fence, a huge
Gardenia* bush near the front main gate, tiger lilies and many other colorful
Of the two pastures, the upper one, in addition to many Cedar trees
and lush grass growths around the cow flops, contained an extensive stand of
Blackberry bushes. We used to pick these berries for breakfast many times. The
usual routine was two in the mouth and one in the pail. It was quite a
More Unforgettables …
- For those who have lived
through it. Using the Grinding Stone out by the Horse Barn.
- Wondering how someone
hollowed out those big logs used to hold water for the Cow and Horse
- The Plum Tree in the Chicken
Yard only accessible when the shoes didn't matter.
- Hearing the whistles of the
steam trains down in the valley of the Housatonic River.
- Looking at the lights of the
Hospital and other buildings on the hills beyond the river.
- Going to the Farmer's Market
at 3:00 a.m. to sell our produce.
- Waiting for the Polish Bakery
man to show up.
- Waiting for the Butcher's
- Waiting for the Mailman to
put something in the Box at the end of Wolf Harbor Road…hopefully a
- Looking at all the stuff the
Pots and Pans man had in his truck. He came twice a year.
- Wondering when the 'Road' was
going to come through.
- Watching a car go by and
being barked at and followed by one of the dogs.
- Watching other farmer's cow
herds go by.
*Mignon says this was a Camellia, not a Gardenia.
- Dying of fright if our herd
was going one way on the road while another herd was coming the opposite
way. If they had a bull in their herd, it was sheer panic.
- Bringing in the hay with
everyone pitching the hay to the top of the two-horse wagon piled
- Jumping in the hay barn from
the top to the lower level.
- Taking walks into the woods
with the entire family of uncles, aunts and cousins.
- Shooing billions of flies
buzzing around the kitchen out the backdoor using two people and four
- The big family reunions every
Easter, especially nice when everyone was there.
- Eating the Easter Hosts that
came from St. Michael's in Derby.
Eating Granma's Easter eggs, colored with beet juice or onion skins.
- Eating the great golden
bantam corn in the late summer, grown right on the farm.
- Eating boiled new potatoes,
diced salt pork, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers under the big hickory tree
at the side of the house.
- Looking at millions of stars
on clear summer nights.
- Lighting the kerosene lamps
Still More …
- Starting fires in the
kitchens with corncobs.
- Going down to the pasture
gate at about 5:00 p.m. to bring the cows home. Lowering the bars for them
to pass through and hearing the little clicks if they didn't lift their
feet high enough. The lead cow was first and all the rest did what she
- Having to weed the tomato and
potato fields on the hot sticky days of summer.
- Watching the cows being
milked and fed. Seeing the cats get a straight shot of milk from teat to
mouth … a favorite trick of Peter's.
- Looking over the new calves
in their little stalls away from their mother's spot in the other barn.
- Going to the beach, sitting
on old blankets, eating Ritz crackers, wearing funny bathing suits, being
told not to go in too deep and getting terrible sunburns.
- Walking around the farm with
head down to avoid cow flops, horse drops and chicken poo.
- Sticking to the well-worn
paths at all costs.
- Watching a newly beheaded chicken
racing around the lawn in front of the woodshed.
- Listening to Charlie's
battery operated radio out in the little kitchen area.
- Watching Peter roll his own
cigarettes and using 5¢ boxes of Ohio Blue Tip matches by the gross to
keep them lit.
- Listening to Granma's Polish
records on the old RCA Victor tabletop phonograph in the living room.
- Watching the little bird come
out of his door when the hour struck on the cuckoo clock in the big dining
- Drinking Grampa's cider and
trying to forget that a few wormy apples might have been added to the
- Wondering what happened on
that day when those two bullet holes were put into the ceiling of the
- Making fresh butter or ice
cream and marveling how it happened. Watching our grandparents go to their
church in the little black buggy with one horse-power.
- Accepting a 'whispered in
secret' shot of whiskey from Gramma and her watching with kind laughter
how its taste made us react. This was when one of us was only half sick.
Full sick would have meant Sanilo. Needless to say, people tried to stay
no more than half sick.
- Wondering what other
mysterious ingredients were mixed in to make that cure-all beverage. The
formula for Sanilo exists but it's not been used in recent years. It may
never be used again.
- Admiring Grandpa's suspenders
while watching him wind his big pocket watch.
- Admiring the names
"Albina" and "Fay" etched with their diamond rings
into a glass window pane in the big dining room on their respective
- Wondering how a much
magnified fly's wing found its way into a pane of glass in the big kitchen
window. Napping on that wonderful cot below that same window.
- Listening to endless gossip
carried on between our mothers and Granma, all in Polish, and with
tantalizingly little translation for us.
- Being so very thankful, when
Chester Malinowski put electricity into parts of the house, in the early
- Whitewashing the pantries and
the milkhouse (shed).
- Filling the heating stove in
the big dining room with kerosene.
- Looking at the lighted
candles on the Christmas tree and worrying that a mishap could start a
- Using oilcloth tablecloths
everywhere. I thought the word was "oy" cloth until I read the
name in a Sears catalog.
- Admiring the Victorian
furniture in the parlor, a room rarely used.
- Playing with the huge
cast-iron doorbell on the front door.
- Hating to use chamber pots.
- Wondering where all those
burlap bag aprons came from.
- Wondering why someone papered
over a doorway and the baking oven in the dining room.
- Sitting on the homemade bench
on the porch in front of the little kitchen and watching nothing go by.
- Admiring Charlie's strength
as he lifted huge logs from our woods into the circular saw for household
- Listening to the insects in
the hay fields during the day.
- Hearing a different group
singing at night.
- Hearing a dog barking in the
far off distance during the still of night.
- Reading Charlie's Argosy
magazines, and Mildred's books about Dr. Fu Manchu.
In reading all this, one should know that without telephone,
transportation, electricity, city water, radio or newspapers, life on the Farm
was like nothing experienced today. It was isolation with a capital
"I". And if one could ignore all the inconveniences, it was a great
And around the Farm, who could forget…
- Going to the outhouse at
night when it was freezing cold, with a flashlight having weak batteries.
- Doing the same thing in the
hot times of summer when one's only companions in there were dozens of
- The sounds the cows and the
horses made while they were drinking at their troughs.
- The sounds of Granma's baby
chicks coming from their covered box in the little kitchen next to the
- The wonderful job blue
flypaper did in soup dishes placed strategically in out of the way places.
- The crepe paper flowers that
- The cast-iron pump in the big
kitchen sink that rarely worked.
- The smell of the well off the
- The rusty chain and ancient
pail used at that well.
- The drinking water dippers no
one I knew ever used.
- The floating objects in the
- The big picture of the Black
Madonna hanging in the big dining room.
- The three-dimension Holy
pictures hanging in the living room.
- The rags hanging in the
doorways whose purpose I never fully understood. Was it for fly control,
sound dampening or privacy?
- The uneven kitchen floors
usually covered with felt base linoleum every few years.
- The hams hanging in the attic
and the smokehouse. Never saw them put up or taken down.
- The times, usually at the
Easter visit, when all the cousins would have their picture taken lined up
- Finding that Grandpa's big
green two door Cadillac had become a pickup truck.
- Watching Charlie cranking the
Ford Tractor. He was the only one who had the strength to move the crank
- Watching Charlie run the
tractor pulling the hay mowing machine and Peter using two horses using
the hay raker.
- There was a big green truck
that seemed to work mostly when produce was being taken to market. Wonder
what make it was?
- Working on my first ever job
for Charlie as beer cooler and retriever of beverages for prohibition
customers. It consisted of putting a half dozen bottles into the pail and
lowering it into the horse barn well for chilling. I later was given the
more technical job of being an assistant bottle capper.
- Watching Peter empty the cow
manure troughs in the barn and using a wheelbarrow that had its own armada
And if that isn't enough …
- How about the dreams of
turning the Farm into a giant picnic park someday.
- Searching for hidden fortunes
in the stone fences.
- The ducking we tall ones had
to do to go through doorways inside the house.
- Wondering why we never talked
to our neighbors.
- Remembering Grandpa's funeral
and how everyone acted at the party afterwards.
- Rarely seeing family friends
like the Horodenski's or even relatives like the Pankiewicz's or
Malinowski's at the Farm.
- Remembering the wonderful
time when we attended Josie Pankiewicz's wedding to Ed White.
- Recalling the visits made by
Mildred, Stanley, Veet and Homer while they were in uniform during World
- Dousing one's self with
Citronella for buzz-less summer night's sleep.
- Enjoying the quiet solitude
of the Farm when downtown seemed light years away.
- Appreciating the friendly welcome
and the hospitality of our grandparents when we came up to the Farm for a
- One or the other always
managed to quietly slip us a little spending money when we were leaving.
- And of course, who could ever
forget Granma's always ready smile.
Before the Farm was sold in the middle 50's, all of the folks from
Levels I and II were gone. A fire of mysterious origin swept throughout the
barn area, wiping out all the things remembered. After the sale, the houses
were taken down. Commercial buildings now occupy the general area we once knew
so well. All the lovely pastures and virgin woodlands have been converted into
streets and higher priced homes. Our 'Tara' is
Farm Memories has been written with the help of just about all of the
Level III cousins.
Homer John Susmuth Fall 1989
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