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Interview with Mrs. Clara Bell

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Clara Bell talks about her childhood growing up in Hawleyton, NY on a farm with her family. She discusses the hardship of her parents' declining health and the importance of the church in her life, as well as her experience in college and desire to become a writer and poet.


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Interview Transcription

Interviewer: Susan Dobandi Date: 5/178 Tape No: 1

Address: 295 Front St.
Binghamton, N. Y.
Person Interviewed: Mrs. Clara Bell

Good Sheppard Fairview Home


80 Fairview Ave, Binghamton, N. Y.

Date of Birth or approximate age: 90

Mrs. Bell: Could you tell us a where you were born, something about your
parents and any work experiences that you've had in the community and any
of your recollections of your Childhood?

I was born in Hawleyton just this side of the Pennsylvania line the
seventh child in the family born to a mother that was really an invalid
that shouldn't have born a child at that time and we lived on a farm.
I was born in 88 - 1888 and a we were what would be considered poor -

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Mrs. Clara Bell Page 2

people we really did have hand-me-downs that would help us. One year
I had to be kept from school because there wasn't a proper coat - warm
coat for me to wear, and but it was a kind home but a very poor home
and I think my father and mother tried always to cover up the poorness
of it and dwell on the richness of it and there was a heap of richness
there when you look over other homes today - and I was a unwanted child
and a homely little runt of a child and born to people that had some
nice looking children but very early in life I began to feel the conscious����
of God and I hope nobody misunderstands that it's nothing freakish at
all but it was the sense of God and the dependence upon him and there
was really nothing in the home life that would have made me that way
but I was very conscious of it. I still remember the lay of the land
and the spring in the pasture lot and to put things every contour of that
place. It seemed as though God was in it with me and I think that �e
must have known that I needed him so much because I was naturally a
sour disposition child and my mother just could not - she could not

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feel towards me and that's w ·ve and so - love and so that
has made me think that perhaps that had something to do with the queer
child that I was and a when I - I went to Sunday school with neighbors
and wanted to join the church and I told my parents that I - that I
wanted to join the church well they told me that there would be a time
when I was old enough but the time wasn't yet for me to join so that
was alright with me - and I can remember reading the Bib le and the scorn
of my eighteen year old brother because I was reading a Bible because of
course he had no use for such a thing by the way I did have five sisters
1 L)� \Jr\
and-a one very dear to me like a mother and -a-it was so beautiful that
at the time that I joined the church which doesn't mean becoming a

Mrs. Clara Bell Page 3

a Christian at all but it does to many peoples mind but not to mine. My
mother had the feeling well if one of her children joined the church
and I will say if one of my children accepted the Lord - mother felt
that she should and I as a child was so ashamed that I didn't love her
and I didn't love her and I had no reason to feel that she loved me
but my mother joined the church but my mother became a Christian and if
nobody else believes in Christianity I would have to for the change that
was in my mother and she and I over and over again have thanked the
Lord together that he spared her that time and we had that mother
daughter experience. It was beautiful for quite a few years and she
mean't so much to me.

My people because of father's failing health and mother's of course
had been we moved to Binghamton when I was sixteen years old and a my
a father was a janitor in the school here not able to do that work at
all and I fought desperately to get work of some kind. I may have had
a foolish pride to be ashamed of but I - I still know the roots of it.
I couldn't bring myself to go into one of the shops. It didn't seem
as though it belonged some way to me and so there was a twitter twitter
well my sister told me that her husband would lend me the money if I
wanted it to go through business college so I did and very foolishly
which is up to my way of thinking. When the time was up there was no
offer made to me to get a job so I just simply left without interviewing
the man who was head of the thing at all.
Well I - one of the women who had gone through girls with the school

Mrs. Clara Bell Page 4

with me she said if I find a job at all that you can do why she said I
will let you know - she did - she found a job in the a - a bookkeeping
branch of the shoe factory here and she let me know and at the same time she
did my mother said found out that my sister in Deposit her husband was
bookkeeper at the Outing Publishing Co. she was ill and my mother said
that was my duty to go there and so I went and a then three months
Outing moved to New York and a many people went with it but I - I came home


then and a-was engaged to be married at that time and so by - I took in
washings to earn the money for I couldn't get a job and my mother was
too ill to leave and I was married in April and a in three years and
about a half the Lord blessed our home with a little girl who was so
very dear and precious to us and we had her for forty-two years but the

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Lord has taken her home and� she was the wife of a pastor who establish-
ed a camp in Michigan and then a 10 years afterwards I always said that

I'd like to have six little girls but I wouldn't want any boys at all
but the Lord sent me a little boy and oh I never knew the treasure that
had been witheld from me and I can say it today he will be 58 tomorrow.
He has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. He is pastor
of a church in Cincinnatus and he has I think that we are compatable let
me say. Life looks funny to us at times riduculously so and yet we
love the Lord so dearly.


Well in my life after my husband died and -a 12 years ago I had - we had
a home in Port Dickinson and oh we had a lovely, lovely lot - extra lot
and lovely flowers and shrubs I had and I worked until I was too weary to
enjoy it and I so I decided to come here to the Fairview Home and one of
the greatest blessings that I have found since being here and I have

Mrs. Clara Bell Page 5

found a heap of them is - I am not afraid anymore. I was born a coward if
there ever was one. There were breakings in all around me when I was
home and there was nothing that gave me that sense of security even though
we put on these aluminum screens I thought nobody could get in - well
people did get in so I came to Fairview. There is some people that
would say they were false in Fairview and a I don't have to acknowledge
it so I'm not going too. I have found grea.t-.blessing in this home. I
have found kindness. I have broken my hip, fractured my hip and I have
broken my wrist and the joint in it and I had to be in the infirmary

here which many people say they would rather die than go into the infirm-
ary to the - in the infirmary I found more grand-daughters and they were

just so good to me and yet today when I see them there is just that
warm�th feeling about it and while I can say that I can see improvements
I couldn't be critical because I have been treated so kindly and the Lord
is with me and I feel that I am one of the most fortunate people in the
world and I praise the Lord for it because he has gone with me through
some pretty deep troubled waters but he has always been there and led me
out and on and it's good - it's good. I can't see the advisability of
the Lord leaving me here. I thought when I came here I would be able to
go to the infirmary and help and bless some lives there maybe and I now
I don't do any of those things I go with a walker oh once in a while I
get down there I love the folks there but I don't see where there is one
particle of use of me taking up the place on the earth that I do. I
have thought now it's so near the time I would like to wait till I was
ninety but after that I don't dare to tell the Lord that I think so I
think it's the time for me to be taken because I am a useless person
really as far as being a blessing to anybody else oh I wanted to do such
things. I wanted to go through college.


Mrs. Clara Bell Page 6

I wanted to write and I wanted you see the Lord couldn't trust me with
that I'd probably would have gotten very cockey and puffed up and all of
that - he had to keep me down - but oh he has been down with me and he
has been up with me. The Lord is to be praised.
( Tell us about the poetry that you write. ) About - beg you pardon.
( The poetry) Oh - well that was a was a happy outlet even in my
childhood and a - of writing poetry and then in Binghamton I was - oh I
had a poem published by Lucia Trent and in her western anthology. I
dont't know how I ever got the idea of sending there. There must have
been something in my head or something that made me send it and that was
accepted which was a real puff to my vanity and there was a write-up in our
paper and a picture of me and another woman who had two anthology poems
well that had brought me to the notice of our local poetry class that
Miss Herrick a retired English teacher at high school was established
that and so I went to that and of course I learned a great deal and
awaited to write more properly perhaps but it was - it was a great
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pleasure as long as it I think it just disbanded if I rcember or for
some reason I had to give it up but it has been a pleasure and a few
well the course and the class she sent out our work good deal to
colleges in their books or whatever they call them and we had quite a
few published in them and then I had I was very fond of Woody Magazine
because both of my children went through school and I had two poems
there and - and some other places some other mostly Christian magazines
they had been but I think that my writing has tended to be along the

line of nature very much - very much and it hasn't been anything sump-
tuous but I shall always feel that if it had been the Lord's will for me

Mrs. Clara Bell Page 7

to have had an education that I could have written for I had the feeling


I have the en� and he's blessed me perhaps with an appreciation that they
don't all people feel. That's just - just splend�d to see who has - has
a written and who has arrived and can do it and so I have been wonderfully
blessed by them.
( C ou ld we go b k h ac to w en you were a itt e 1. 1 gir . 1 J"\ �an d h h see t e c anges in
. \ the community a as far as transportation the way you were brought up?)
We lived 2 miles from the school and we lived up a dirt road and a that
was real steep over half of the way there and so that we - when wintertime
often times it would be with great difficulty that we would get to school
and once in a while we would have a hired man that would come for us


when it was impossible to get home and -a we - we learned the reading,
writing and arithrnatic and I had dear teachers that helped me a in my
desire for more.

(It was probably a one room schoolhouse wasn't it?) Yes, uh hu and a
so that one teacher very kindly offered to stay on in the school and
teach 10th grade which she didn't have to do and she did and I was I had

my certificate for having passed that and then that is the formal educat-
ion that this poor soul has had but in heaven I'm going to be one of the

smartest women there and we did have a - a yoke of oxen in my childhood
and a they were larger than any of the others that I saw at the time -

� ��

very large red steers I called them red and a but they my a they seemed
to adore my father and I think he did them and they'd be so obedient to
him but he would leave me to - to ride them - to sit by them while he
went for an errand or to get a drink and I would be so frightened I can

Mrs. Clara Bell Page 8

fee1 it yet those great oxen would no more of paid attention to that
peeping weening voice and anything under the sun and most of our neighbors


I think had more of the worlds goods than we did but I do think much of

our I can't say poverty because we were not poverty people at all be-
cause there was too much within and people coming and living in our home

and coming - coming to us so much but - - - - - there was peace and
goodness and joy in our home and I lost my train of thought that I was
on and that's what 90 years old does to you.
( Well, you're doing very well. )
,J vh And� so that a we had - we had such a desire for a what they call a
platform wagon that was a good size larger than a carriage and-a but we
never had the money to get it so if we had to be a need for something
like that we had to use a lumber wagon and a I tnow that a ride in that
lumber wagon and look down on those horses scar�ed the liver right out
of me as a kid. It seemed as thdgh I was up as high as heaven and they
were elephants or something and a that was the way we were then and
finally my people were able to get a horse one horse and in time my
brother came back home and they got two more horses, and things moved

more swiftly but not better - not better at all I think it was a lead-
CJ re of r 1 .,, ' 1 - 1 . ' '

ing of what was coming to town and my brother-inlaws /\

got a gramaphone -
gramaphone I think it was called. Oh we just swarmed that 11ouse every
night we'd go and we were so thrilled with that it was so wonderful and
then another brother became affluent enough to a buy a Ford car and
that was just - just immense to us. In - I was - I had been a member
of Calvary Church for nearly 60 years and through
time I was 16 until oh maybe - maybe I better say

those years from the
10 years or-m0-Fe I

Mrs Clara Bell Page 9

don't think it was that long I taught Sunday school and from every grade
onward. I even caught - taught a college choir - class ignorant as I
am and enjoyed them and a there was so many things in the church you
can do and love to do and people to love and I - that was a dear church
and is a dear church but there in difference in the church I was in
things progress. I learn everything progresses but old women 90 years
old they don't progress but it's good - it's good. I have no feeling of
regret. I had such a desire to be good looking and I was such a homely
child and always had been and I had some beautiful sisters b�t it just
didn't happen to mother the seventh child they tell about as favorite
but this one wasn't much in health and to think - to think I had so
much to thwart my growing up and my strength and I'm the only one of
those other children who are living and the husbands and wives are
gone too. Even now the nieces and nephews are going some an still the
Lord is having me stay on here. It's his will and his will is good
must be. I would never quite dare to ask him Lord please take me out
of my body and take me home. I just don't quite think it's the thing
to do. He has got the program he knows and it's very wise that he
doesn't let us know.

( No, it would be very difficult to get through from one day to the
next if we knew what was ahead of us. ) It surely would - it surely
would I do pray the Lord if it's his will that I shall never have
any more broken bones. They are difficult in a way but you know the

way the Lord went with me through those hard yeilds is just unbelieve-
able and even now this sounds boastful too dear but this is the Lord


I'm boasting in the when I was in this insumary- infirmary the - the
nurses did praise the progress that I made they thought it was

l. ..

Mrs. Clara Bell Page 10

remarkable and a once in a while a dear one just doesn't try and that
is too bad. - - - - -

( Well thank you very much Mrs. Bell for taking the time to talk with
us is there anything more that you would like to add to this interview? )
No, I don't think so only if I may add this I wish that everyone who
might ever hear this would love the lord and depend on him as much as
he's caused me to depend on him.
( Thank you. )

Date of Interview



Dobandi, Susan


Bell, Clara


32:32 minutes

Date of Digitization



Broome County Oral History Project

Subject LCSH

Cavalry Church; Poetry


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