By Sheila Mason Gale
Former Canterbury resident, Tony Marquis, told me that what we know as Goodwin Road today was originally Old Windham Lane on the Canterbury side of Little River. In 1944 Arthur and Irene Marquis and their eleven children (Robert, Arthur, Jr., Tony, Lawrence, Henry, Ellen, May, Ruth, Julia, Ada and Dora) moved to Canterbury into a home that was built in the late 1700’s. Although the original barn is gone, the house is still standing today.
Irene’s mother found the house for the family. It was a big house, but it had no heat, no water, no phone and no electricity. Electricity was available, but residents had to pay for a pole to be put on the road, and the Marquis could not afford to put one up until after World War II. As for water, it was the biggest child’s job to bring the water up the hill from the spring to the house. Arthur was a good mason and built all of the stonewalls on the property. Their only neighbor was the Miller family.
The children loved to swim and fish in the river. They would catch bullheads and trout 10-12 inches long from Little River, put them into a wash tub, bring them home and release them in their spring fed pond and re-catch them as needed to eat. As you can imagine with all those children to feed, they had a big garden by the house. There were apple trees in the lower lot and the apples were picked and put in barrels in the cellar for eating all winter. Irene made jelly and jams and canned the vegetables from their garden. In the winter they would ice skate along the frozen edge of Little River and make toboggans using big sheets of tin Arthur brought home from Brand-Rex that were thrown away. They would bend the edges down along the sides and back and nail two boards to the front, add a piece of rope and down the hill they went.
The children went to the Westminster one-room school house and Tony remembers Mrs. Triplehorn, Mrs. Colburn and Mrs. Bingham as his teachers. A few of his school mates were Russell Fault, Ali Galasyn, Joyce Eastlund and the Romanoff children. When Tony was young, Bob Miller would drive the children to school in his car until busses were used to pick them up. He remembers Halloween parties at the old Meeting Hall that used to be next to Calvary Chapel where they played Halloween games and had peanut hunts.
Below the Marquis property was a log chute. The children would gather along the river’s edge in the spring to watch the logs slide down the chute, splash into the river and then float down stream to be used by a saw mill to make wooden coffins.
As you can imagine, the children had to sleep with their siblings, but Tony wanted his own bed. Grandma Bennett gave the Marquis family a feather mattress when Tony was four or five. It was set up on the floor in the upstairs hallway and he slept facing the two bedrooms at the end of the hall. One night he woke up and saw three American Indian women dressed in long white dresses walking toward him down the hallway. They stopped and stood all in a row by the foot of his bed. He was scared and hid his head under the covers, but eventually he peeked out and they disappeared into the air. He jumped out of bed ran into his mother’s room to tell her about the ladies, but she thought Tony was seeing things. Throughout his childhood he would often see them in the hall at night, but would just cover his head until the three lady ghosts disappeared and he would go back to sleep. As he grew older he would occasionally see the three ladies in the hallway, but after he came home from the Army, they never returned again. When Tony was a teenager, he and his brothers and his father were asked to clean out the Westminster church because the members were going to paint the inside and outside of the church. They came across old books, papers and an old family bible (which he returned to the family). He was looking through the bible and an old postcard fell out. He picked it up, turned it over and was shocked to discover the photo was of the three American Indian ladies dressed in white that he saw in the hallway as a child. The photo showed the ladies standing on the front steps of his house. He later learned the three ladies lived in his house and had a very good life. They would make and sell baskets for a living. They cut reeds, dried them and wove them into baskets and would sell them to neighbors and even travel to other towns to sell them.
In the Army he started at Fort Dix assembling missiles and later was a squad leader in Hawaii after the Korean War. Everything he saw he wanted to know what it was and how it worked and he learned everything so he could be in charge. In the Army “Being the boss is the only place to be”.
After the Army, he worked at Federal Paper Board, but one day he was driving by Martin’s Garage in Willimantic. It was closed, but the owners were looking for someone to re-open it. He interviewed with the owners and although he did not work as a mechanic every day, he told them he worked on a farm as a child and could repair the vehicles and equipment and he was confident he could do the job. Back on the farm, as the youngest boy, it was his job to hand all the tools to his father and older brothers as they fixed the equipment and he learned how to repair many types of vehicles. He was hired and ran the garage for ten years until the gas crisis when the garage was closed down. He then worked at Brand-Rex. He learned how to operate all the machines on the floor which made him the “go-to” man.
His pursuit of excellence extended to his present home. He bought one of the old mill houses in Willimantic and completely renovated it from top to bottom to suit his needs.
He loved growing up in Canterbury along the river. He and his brothers and sisters were down at the river all the time in the summer enjoying the warm weather, fishing and swimming. In the winter they were skating and sledding. Although it was a difficult for the family to manage with eleven children and Tony had lots of chores, he also had fun, enjoyed nature and growing up in the country.