Town of Canterbury CT

Town of Canterbury
1 Municipal Drive
Canterbury CT 06331

Alice Bingham Baum

By Sheila Mason Gale

Have you driven down Bingham Road lately? It is a typical country neighborhood, but in 1914 there was only one house on the road and that belonged to Byron and Ethel Bingham. That same year, Alice Bingham Baum was born. Over the next few years, Newton, Tom and Dorothy completed the family.

The kids had fun. Traveling down Bingham Road from south to north there is a bit of an incline and the children would get on their sled in the winter and slide from the top of the road down and almost reach their house. A few times the boys got some buggy wheels and built a homemade wagon and had a great time riding down the hill.

The Binghams had a large orchard with apples, peach and pear trees. They would can the fruit and then hang the jelly shelves from the ceiling so if any mice got in the cellar they couldn’t get to the fruit. Vegetables such as potatoes, squash and turnips were buried in bins in the cellar also. They raised chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs and had cows for milk. Needles to say, they always had plenty to eat. At Christmas it was a real treat to get an orange because, of course, they couldn’t grow them.

The Bingham family has lived in Canterbury a long time. In 1815 Alice’s great, great grandfather, Zephaniah Bingham was the schoolmaster at the Gay Head one-room schoolhouse. Generations of Bingham children attended Gay Head School including Alice when she was old enough.

Her first grade teacher was Nancy Graham, her second grade teacher was Alice Conley and then she had Esther Kimball LaChapelle and she was her teacher until Alice graduated. Alice remembers what a great teacher Mrs. LaChapelle was. She always organized a special school program for every holiday and Alice’s mother was one of the mothers that made costumes and brought the refreshments. The show would always be in the afternoon and the other parents would bring the students little brothers and sisters to see the show. There were usually only 16 or 17 children at the Gayhead School when Alice attended. The largest class she remembers was 22 children.

On May Day, the first day of May, the children would decorate a big basket (or box) and fill it with cookies and cakes. They would arrive early at school and leave the basket on Mrs. LaChappelle’s desk and then go hide in the woods. Mrs. Lachappelle would have to go outside and call them to come into school, but the children would not show themselves until she let them know she meant business.

When Alice went to Plainfield High School in the late 1920’s, Warren Hart drove the school bus. Warren also delivered the mail in Sterling so he had to have a large vehicle to hold all the mail. The other high school students called Mr. Hart’s bus a “chicken coop” because of its shape. The following towns went to Plainfield High School: Canterbury, Oneco, Sterling, Moosup, Wauregan and Jewett City. Griswold High School wasn’t built until the 1930’s.

When Alice was in high school, the minister’s wife of the Church on the Green and the Westminster Church formed a girls club made up of eight girls. Some of the girls who attended were Julia Miller, Marion Safford, Clara Green and Dorothy Hart. They were taught how to embroider and even put on a show for the churches on Children’s Day. Alice said one of the best parts of the girls club was making and eating the fancy cookies.

After High School she ran a double needle sewing machine at Powell and Alexandria curtain factory in Danielson. When they went on strike she found another job at an infirmary for the aged in New Jersey, since she had some medical training. She lived with her aunt in Jersey City and met her Aunt’s insurance agent, Harry Baum, who would become her husband. They married and lived in New Jersey for 11 years. They moved back to Canterbury with their three children Jane, Harry and Walter and eventually built the house where Alice lives today on Bingham Road.

Alice became a member of the School Board, Republican Town Committee and is a long time member of the Grange. She was also the President of the Canterbury Senior Citizens and one of the main goals of the Seniors was to have senior housing in Canterbury, which the group accomplished. Alice also took on the responsibility of organizing the Senior trips. She went on over 150 trips over a sixteen-year period.

When asked how Canterbury has changed since she was a girl, Alice said she loves Canterbury. She knows things have to change because it’s just natural that we grow as a community and become more modern, and she thinks most people who have lived here their whole life are content with the way Canterbury has grown. The people in charge when she was a young person, Charlie Grab, Nelson Carpenter, Milo Appley and Mr. and Mrs. Frink were always willing to listen to the citizens and worked for the good of the Town. She came back to Canterbury because she wanted her children to experience the same community spirit that she had growing up.

 

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