Thursday, April 4, 2024

Eugene J. Moye, Sr.: Soldier, Policeman, Teacher

“Undaunted. Relentless. Determined” — words to describe Eugene Moye’s life from 1933 to 1994

Eugene James Moye, Sr. arrived in Greenwich in 1933, at the age of eleven, to join his mother, who was a domestic in the household of Augustus Richards. Moye’s mother had discovered that he was not attending school while living with his cousin in New York City and proceeded to enroll him in Hamilton Avenue School.

Eugene Moye and his wife Jeanette standing between their four children
Photo courtesy of Greenwich Library Oral History Project

There, Moye met Esther Lauridsen, “a very wonderful teacher, everything a good teacher should be… If I’m anything at all, I owe it at least partly to her. I guess I became a teacher because of her… I’ve never forgotten her. I did get back to thank her for what she did for me before she passed on.”

Thus began Eugene Moye’s life in Greenwich and led to his productive careers of soldier, educator, and as the first black policeman in the town. Annette B. Fox of the Oral History Project interviewed him in 1994 as he chronicled his life in Greenwich.

According to Moye, “Very few blacks attended Hamilton Avenue School” in those days. From his Italian friends he learned “the wrong kind of Italian” as one of them told Moye the meaning of the words some other boys were saying to him. Then, “…as soon as someone said something to me, I knew what they were talking about, and I would reply with my fists… After that, we shook hands and that was the end of it.”

A searing memory for Moye occurred at graduation from Hamilton Avenue in 1937, when parents of a white student objected to him being paired with their daughter during the graduation march. Instead, Moye was paired with another girl “who did not mind… I’ll never forget her. She was a perfect lady… Maybe she doesn’t remember that graduation, but I do.”

Moye graduated from Greenwich High School in January 1941. He was not encouraged to apply to college. “Nowadays, guidance is an entirely different thing and I know it quite intimately as to the efforts and lengths they go to encourage students and get them to develop their potential.” However, in his day, “…I do not remember ever having an appointment with the guidance person at all.”

In the fall of 1941, Moye enrolled in a National Youth Administration program in Maine, where he studied sheet metal. Moye went to Port Chester “and got a job tacking floats for anti-submarine nets.” Shortly after, with war being declared, Moye decided to join the army. It was “on a segregated basis… We found ourselves doing the less ‘heroic’ jobs like quartermaster, bread baking, laundry, fixing trucks. I mean, not that it didn’t help – don’t get me wrong – but it was a put-down as far as I was concerned.” Later, “They were allowing them (blacks) to go into combat, which they did, and I have some friends who survived to tell about it.”

Eugene Moye, U.S. Army
Photo courtesy of Greenwich Library Oral History Project

When Moye returned to Greenwich, his mother was still working “and she wanted me to go to college.” Moye enrolled in Teachers College of Connecticut in New Britain, now Central Connecticut State University, graduating in 1950. “…it was pretty rough-going because I had been away from the books. But I was determined to do it.” There, he met a fellow student, Jeanette, who became his wife in 1951. His marriage to a white woman occurred at a time when such unions were prohibited in many other states. Eugene and Jeanette were married for sixty years until Moye’s death in 2011.

Having graduated with honors from college with a degree in history and education, Moye returned to Greenwich in 1951 to apply for a teaching position. At the conclusion of his interview, it was politely suggested that he “go to an Indian reservation and teach.” So, Moye paused his professional teaching direction and took a job in construction where “all they wanted was muscle and a willingness to work” before deciding to apply for a position with the Greenwich Police Department. He was accepted there and “of course, the big question was, what was a man with a college education doing on the Greenwich Police Department? Economics, that’s what it was.” While Moye explained that “most police departments now recommend that you have a college degree…in the thirties they had people that hadn’t even finished grade school.” Most notably, however, was the fact that Moye was “the first black man there.”

Moye went on to obtain a graduate degree in police administration at City College in 1959. “After I got the degree, I said, ‘Oh, boy, I’m on my way now.’ No. In the very next examination, I still got knocked down in the service rating, the subjective evaluation.” Moye concluded that he would not receive a promotion in the department. “So, after that I began to think in terms of something else to do, and I started substitute teaching, and that was a lot of fun.” He continued to sub and do police work for about eight years. During that time, in 1967, he became a member of the first Youth Division of the Greenwich Police Department. “I liked that kind of work. . .. I was inspired with it, I really was.”


Eugene Moye, Greenwich Police ID
Photo courtesy of Greenwich Library Oral History Project

Eventually, Ed Holden, principal of Western Junior High, met Moye “on the field in June 1971 and said that he needed somebody to teach social studies. I said, ‘I am your man.’” Moye resigned from the Police Department and began his career in teaching. “When I walked in for the first teachers’ meeting, it was no great surprise. That’s okay. That’s the way I liked it… It was very professional, very friendly, and the only question was whether you were competent and could do the job… I loved every minute of it.”

 The interview “Soldier, Policeman, Teacher: Overcoming Discrimination” may be read in its entirety or checked out at Greenwich Library and is available for purchase at the OHP office. The OHP is sponsored by Friends of Greenwich Library. Visit the website at Our narrator’s recollections are personal and have not been subjected to factual scrutiny. Mary Jacobson serves as blog editor.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Ernest Thompson Seton

In 1902, a few rambunctious, somewhat unruly, children painted the iron gates of a private estate in Cos Cob with “all kinds of things that never should have been put on a gate with paint.” This singular incident may be viewed as the beginning of the formation of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. 

Ernest Thompson Seton, from "By a Thousand Fires," by Julia Seton.
Copyright 1967 by Julia Seton.
Reproduced by permission of Doubleday & Co., Inc.

The gates were located at the entrance to a 100-acre estate on Orchard Street, known as Wyndygoul, that belonged to Ernest Thompson Seton, who had purchased it two years earlier.  Instead of calling for severe consequences for the young perpetrators, Ernest Thompson Seton must have decided instead that these children didn’t have enough productive ways in which to spend their idle hours. He visited Cos Cob School and spoke to some boys, inviting them to his property for an overnight stay during Easter vacation. One of them was Leonard S. Clark, ten years old at the time, who was interviewed by Oral History Project volunteer Penny Bott in 1975. He proclaimed at the time of his interview, “ . . . honestly and truthfully, I didn’t do it (paint the gates!).” 

Boys by their tepee at Wyndygoul.
Courtesy of Charles A. Clark

Leonard had clear memories of that first overnight at Wyndygoul (a Scottish name meaning Windy Gulch). “I remember distinctly that we were told to bring along a blanket, so that we could sleep in a tent that night.”  Mr. Seton’s “tent” was, in reality, “an original Indian teepee that Mr. Seton had bought somewhere from Indians and brought with him to Wyndygoul.” That night, by the light of an open fire, “Mr. Seton told us stories. . . . When he told us stories about the Indians . . . everybody paid attention. Not only paid attention, but we were just entranced with his talking. . . . Nobody ran around, nobody left, nobody turned their heads, nobody spoke. . . . He spoke of the Indians as outstanding individuals.” In addition, the boys were given advice about values, “about fair play, about never lying. He looked down on an individual if you told a falsehood. . . . We were taught always to tell the truth.”


Ernest Thompson Seton teaching archery, from "By a Thousand Fires," by Julia Seton.
Copyright 1967 by Julia Seton.
Reproduced by permission of Doubleday & Co., Inc.

At the close of that first night’s camp experience, Mr. Seton invited the boys to come back in the summer for a longer stay. The boys were to be called Woodcraft Indians and given Indian names. Clark’s name was “Broken Arm.” Their activities were chosen primarily to enhance their knowledge and skills of life in the woods. One involved swimming across the lake, which was about a hundred yards. “We ran races for which we got what he called a ‘coup.’ A coup was a feather that we could put in our hair . . . and, if you did particularly good, on the upper part of the feather was a little white thread that he had put on, and that was a grand coup.” They also raced around the lake “for the hundred yards and then we had the two-twenty races.” 

Ernest Thompson Seton teaching fire-making, from "By a Thousand Fires," by Julia Seton.
Copyright 1967 by Julia Seton.
Reproduced by permission of Doubleday & Co., Inc.

 A favorite game was the “deer hunt” in which one boy was elected to be the deer and given a head start. He would wear shoes onto which iron hoof forms, resembling deer hoofs and made by a blacksmith, were fastened. Off he would go over hills and rocks, trying to elude the “hunters” who followed the tracks until the “deer” was found to great elation. “It was an honor to be the deer, and we all wanted to be the deer, and Mr. Seton would change around so we would all have a chance.”

 The next year, Mr. Seton invited the boys to return “and then it grew, and all the Cos Cob boys came,” eventually including other boys from Greenwich. Ernest Seton taught the boys lessons which resonated with them throughout their lives. “Everything Mr. Seton taught us had something to do with . . . the development of fine young men, in every sense of the word. . . . He was teaching us honesty. . . . He was teaching us to be a team, to play together. He was teaching us of manhood that was to come, and he was teaching us the worth of outdoor life. . . . Everything that you can think of that’s good.” In addition, “There were no harsh words, no swear words. Swearing was one of the things that you just didn’t do. . . . While we were having a good time, in reality he was teaching us the proper things in life.”

 Ernest Thompson Seton was a member of the Camp Fire Club of America and invited that group to come to Wyndygoul to observe the Woodcraft Indians. He also wrote a book entitled “The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians,” which delineated in great detail the rules, goals, games, and activities of the program he created. Sir Robert Baden-Powell of England, who authored “Scouting for Boys” and organized the Boy Scouts in England, was impressed and influenced by Seton. “But where we were called Seton Indians . . . he called them Boy Scouts.”

Leonard S. Clark
Courtesy of Maryanne Gjersvik

 Leonard proudly stated, “So the Boy Scout movement that’s over the world today . . . came from England back to us. . . . And so the first Boy Scouts in the United States were the group in Cos Cob under the leadership of Mr. Seton. . . . I attribute the good health, the fine characters we had . . . to the outstanding training Mr. Seton gave us boys in Cos Cob.” 

 The interview Seton’s Indians” may be read in its entirety or checked out at Greenwich Library and is available for purchase at the OHP office. The OHP is sponsored by Friends of Greenwich Library. Visit the website at Our narrator’s recollections are personal and have not been subjected to factual scrutiny. Mary Jacobson serves as blog editor.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024


“The whole town was like a big
family. We shared each other’s joys and sorrows.” Frances Chmielowiec Geraghty, on three separate occasions in 1975/76,  was interviewed by Katherine Scanlon of the Greenwich Library Oral History Project to capture memories of a lifetime in Glenville. She had much to tell about a life that had its share of hardships and setbacks, but was remembered by the joy and comfort of a loving and large family.

Frances Chmielowiec Geraghty photo by Karl Gleeson
Courtesy of Oral History Project.

Frances was the third of ten children born in 1907 to Polish immigrants.  “They had such large families. Everybody had. I don’t think there was any with less than five.” According to Frances, “We were all Polish-speaking people. . . . There was a great crowd (of immigrants) that came at once; we were all growing up together.”

Glenville was largely a company town. “Almost every house in Glenville was owned by the American Felt Company.” Rent of a dollar a room was paid to the AFC. Families who managed to snare a house with multiple bedrooms would rent them out to boarders for extra cash. “I don’t know anyone in Glenville that started with my mother’s crowd that didn’t end up owning their own home . . . without asking anyone’s help.”

1908 photo of the Chmielowiec family with sisters Mary and Eleanor and adopted son, John. Frances is seated on a cushion on the floor.
Courtesy of Frances Geraghty.

There was a strong sense of community among these young immigrants. Families grew their own vegetables and many owned chickens and pigs. “There was always an exchange. If you didn’t have a good crop of one thing and the other did . . . you just didn’t refuse anyone. . . . People were closely knit in those days.” Frances remembered that her father would be asked by “the people from the country, upper King Street” to help fulfill their needs of a seamstress, a cook, or a milkmaid.   He would then investigate which ships were coming into the Port of New York, hitch up the horse and wagon, and ride down to the docks. As the passengers stepped off the ship, her father would shout, “Who can cook? Who can sew? Who can take care of horses?” Soon he would have a wagon-load of young people who stayed with them until they procured jobs. 

In those early days of her life, Frances remembered that there was no electricity. “Don’t forget there was no water in Glenville either . . . no water till after I was married (in 1930). . . . Every bit of water had to be brought into the house, pumped in. My mother with ten children on wash day was really something.” In addition, “Everybody had an outdoor privy; and you weren’t embarrassed about it because everyone else had one, too.” Proudly, she stated, “Well, we had the best one in town. We had a five-seater.”

The house, owned by the American Felt Company, in which Frances Geraghty was born in 1907. Her father’s general store occupied space in front of the building (not visible). Courtesy of Frances Geraghty.

News traveled in a different way in those days when people did not have telephones. “There was a very unusual way of gathering people.” Someone with “a very fancy bugle with tassels hanging” would stand in the center of town and blow it. “ . . . everybody came running from the hills or they sent the children out. ‘What’s the matter? What’s the matter?’” The bugle was blown when the First World War ended. It also announced when someone had died or if an important meeting was to take place.

As Frances reminisced, she said wistfully, “I don’t think anyone today can visualize or comprehend a life like this. . . . You have to remember the quietness of the town. . . . You heard nothing except the humming of the felt mill, and that would be down toward the river. There were no airplanes, no traffic, no cars. . . . You could hear crickets, locusts, maybe a cow mooing or a rooster crowing. Those were the only sounds we heard. The smells were beautiful. You could smell sweet hay and strawberries.”

Frances remembered making deliveries by horse and wagon with her father from his general store to customers on Porchuck Road, Round Hill Road, and Banksville. In the summer, they would leave at 4:30 in the morning. “I remember coming back home at dark, at night. Sometimes my father would fall asleep and the horse would bring us home.” In the 1930s, the A&P came to Glenville; her dad could not compete with their prices and eventually closed his store.

The onset of the Depression led to difficult and challenging times for Frances and her family. “Bill and I got married at the height of the Depression (1930). There were no jobs. There was nothing; no money. . . . My mother had seventeen people in the home. My father was making a dollar a day for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) building the Glenville School playground. . . . There was nothing to do but go and do domestic work. . . . I had dresses that were somebody else’s and coats that didn’t fit.” Frances and Bill, who was recovering from tuberculosis, lived with her parents for a time. Eventually, Bill got a job as a plumbing apprentice for eleven dollars a week and they were able to rent a tiny house near her parents. “It had no water, no lights, and, of course, no heat.” They preferred to call it their “honeymoon house.” “Yet, somehow,” Frances said, “through all that, you had your garden and you had a few chickens.  You survived. And we had each other which was the main thing.”

Economic circumstances improved for them with the onset of the Second World War when she and Bill obtained jobs with Electrolux in Old Greenwich. At the time of her interview, Frances worked at Town Hall. As she looked back on her life and times, Frances stated, “. . . they were rough times, but they were happy days. . . . Those were the good old days.”

The interview “Years Ago in Glenville – Frances Chmielowiec Geraghty” may be read in its entirety at Greenwich Library and is available for purchase at the OHP office. The OHP is sponsored by Friends of Greenwich Library. Visit the website at Our narrator’s recollections are personal and have not been subject to factual scrutiny. Mary Jacobson serves as blog editor.