Joe Choiniere

Eleanor Choiniere

Eleanor Mathews Choiniere at Smith Farm, Sharon Mountain, ca. 1920. Anonymous photographer, re-photographed by Bennett Hammond.

Joseph Choiniere and friends, Klingberg Children’s Home, New Britain, Connecticut, ca. 1922. Anonymous photographer, re-photographed by Bennett Hammond.

Lorraine’s mother, Eleanor, grew up on a farm on the Cornwall side of Sharon Mountain and walked to the two-room schoolhouse in West Cornwall. Eleanor was a locally famous baker; older Cornwall residents still talk about the cakes she made for weddings and anniversaries. Through the years she also catered parties, cleaned houses, and prepared school lunches.

Lorraine’s father, Joseph Henry Choiniere, grew up in an orphanage in New Britain, Connecticut, and came to Northwestern Connecticut in 1934 to work for the 
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Cornwall.

A study of rural Litchfield County in the early 1940s by the Connecticut Agricultural Extension Service found, in addition to prosperous farmers and seasonal residents, an assortment of part-time farmers, tenants, farm laborers, and marginal owners. Many a part-time farmer also worked as 
a carpenter, mechanic, mail carrier, baker, caterer, or caretaker. A pattern of “piecing together a living out of diverse activities” reflected the fact that “the tradition of the Yankee handyman and jack-of-all-trades still persists, a survival of the self-sufficient economy.”

Grandpa Smith, after a hard, hot day in the hayfield.

CCC Camp Toumey Forest Fire Crew, Mohawk State Forest

Just before their wedding Eleanor and Joe were treated to a “mock wedding,” an unusual ceremony that in the depths of the Great Depression may have encouraged friends and neighbors to give inexpensive but helpful gifts to the young couple.

After his marriage to Eleanor, Joe ran the Smith Farm where she had grown up.

When the family left the farm, Joe worked for the Connecticut State Highway Department road crew from the early 1950s until his retirement in the late 1980s. He also worked as a forester, gardener, and sometimes ran snowmaking equipment at the Mohawk Mountain ski area.

I always wondered how you could make a living here if you didn’t own a farm or have a trade. –Joe Choiniere