Note: This transcript is from a series of interviews conducted by Harold Anderson of Valley Eye Radio during Worthington’s 250th anniversary celebrations, which took place from June 29 to July 3, 2018. Valley Eye Radio, based in the Pioneer Valley, provides local news, interviews and other content to those with vision loss or other disabilities. An exhibit on the Bicentennial Queen competition is further below.
Harold Anderson: Hi, this is Harold Anderson from Valley Eye Radio. We’re here in the Worthington Town Hall for their 250th anniversary celebration, finding out about Worthington residents and what it’s like to live in Worthington. I have with me now Kristin Majkowski Jay, or should I say “Miss Worthington.” Welcome.
Kristin Majkowski Jay: Thank you.
HA: You’re wearing your crown and you have your Miss Worthington sash. So what is that all about?
KMJ: Well, I’m not just Miss Worthington. I am the Queen of Worthington.
HA: I’m speaking to royalty.
KMJ: Royalty from 50 years ago. It’s hard to believe. In 1968 Worthington had its bicentennial, so there was a pageant of sorts. We had written essays and a talent contest – I can’t even think of what my talent was then – and a tea, and then there was a ball. And to my surprise I was crowned Queen of Worthington. It is now the 250th, and they have not elected another Queen. I’m told that I will be Queen until the 300th, so here I am.
HA: Well, let’s face it, they didn’t have anybody who’s as good.
KMJ: Well, thank you.
HA: You were in the parade itself.
KMJ: Yes, today I was in the parade. I rode in a car with a couple of members of the 1968 committee.
HA: So what was it like at the 200th celebration? What kind of activities did they have?
KMJ: Back in the day in ’68, I had a float with a “Hail to the Queen” sign. It was a lot of fun. I had to do a lot of things, like judge the funniest beard. There was a beard contest, as there was again this year. The smallest beard, the longest beard. My brother Blaise was a Boy Scout, and they had an event going on with the Boy Scouts. The ball was quite an event that was really quite special.
HA: So you had your court as well too?
KMJ: I did have my court. There were I think four other contestants, and so they became the court.
HA: So you’re a lifelong resident of Worthington, or did you or your family move here?
KMJ: My mother, Emily Marion Milka Ilnicky Majkowski, and my father, Edward Thomas Blaise Majkowski, moved here in 1952. I was two years old at the time, and they were the children of Eastern European immigrants. It was very different living in a conservative sort of Yankee town for them, but they loved it. When people used to ask my father “Where do you live?” he didn’t say “Worthington” first – he’d say “God’s country,” because it was just a beautiful place to grow up. They raised my sister Ardith, and she has a daughter and grandchildren. I am next in line, and in 1973 I married Thomas Neil Jay. We have a daughter, Lara Emily, who married Dan (Minkle) Fury. They live in Salem, Mass, and have a tour company, Black Cat Tours – which are historical and ghostly. My brother Blaise married Carol, and they have two children, Kyle and Crystal. Then I have another brother, Lance.
People that lived here in Worthington then, they were from families that were here a hundred years or so. We were part of the town, but you never were quite from here until you had lived here for a hundred years. My father lived to 2002, and he had lived here fifty years. My mother had died previous to that.
We lived on a dirt road at that time here in Worthington, Radiker Road. I grew up in a wonderful stone house that my parents kept immaculate. And at Christmas time, they outlined the whole house in the big lights. You can imagine the fortune in electricity it must have cost, but they loved participating in things like that. And Halloween was a big time, we would always have displays.
HA: So what attracted your parents to Worthington?
KMJ: They were living in Westfield at the time, where my father grew up. It came time for them to want their own place, so my mother and her father, Fedor (Frank) Ilnicky, went driving and came across the stone house, and my mother fell in love with it. So my parents bought the house and winterized it, and made it a place where you could live year-round. It was amazing. There were tall pines – I believe still are – outside of the house. That was always an ongoing thing, because we wanted the pines to stay, and my father kept saying, “Oh, if they fall on the house…” My parents, not officially, liked to call the place “Stone in Pines.” They had no desire to move anyplace else. My brother Blaise did not move too far away. My sister is farther, and here we are in the neighboring town of Cummington.
Growing up we had sheep, roosters and chickens, and bunnies. Not a farm really, but all our pets. And we had lots of dogs. We had a St. Bernard named Elfego Baca, and a Welsh pony that we loved dearly. We got his name by spinning the globe and then putting a finger down to stop it on “Kiang.” I don’t know how to pronounce the town or province in China, but we called him “kai-ang.” And a little Shetland pony named Tuffy.
HA: So what was it like to go to school here?
KMJ: Russell H. Conwell school, when I started out, I think there was one row for first grade, and in the same room, another row for second grade. Even up until I was in seventh grade, I want to say, seventh and eighth were still in the same room. It was interesting. I’m trying to think of memories – I remember recess a lot.
HA: There you go.
KMJ: And a wonderful, wonderful English teacher that just instilled theatre in my mind, and I went on to do some acting.
KMJ: Pretty much local. I did some extra parts in film. I think probably through her I developed a real interest in art. So I’m an artist as well. And I was a teacher for a while.
HA: What kind of art do you do?
KMJ: Little bit of everything, but lately it’s been a lot of pen and ink, which I’ve had produced into cards.
HA: Any other memories?
KMJ: Oh, I could go on and on – the piano in the woods. My brother played piano, and I’m not sure how one of the pianos ended up in the woods. But recently a cousin of mine brought that up. She said, “I remember that piano in the woods. After a while it went back to nature.”
I can remember as a younger child going to a friend’s house and they were having apple pie, and my mother always made an apple pie that was rolled.
KMJ: Similar to a strudel. It wasn’t strudel, but you rolled the crust out into a big circle, and then put the apples on it, and then rolled it all up in sort of a horseshoe. That was the apple pie that her mother had made. It was different enough for me to say, “Okay, that’s my apple pie.”
HA: Do you still make those?
KMJ: I do. It’s kind of a tradition. My sister does as well.
KMJ: I can remember my mother doing plane-spotting, and I can picture running around in the field. There was a little building where she would be. I would be running around in the field pretending that I was an airplane, and looking in the sky and going, “B-52, B-52.” I don’t know if that’s really what they were.
I was just remarking to my husband, Tom Jay, that we haven’t been seeing as many fireflies as we used to. Tom (or “TJ”) remembers particularly a night we went with a friend of his in the neighboring town of Windsor, and there were thousands of fireflies in the field. You don’t see that so much anymore. But as a child I remember for the Fourth of July celebration my parents would have people over, and I’d walk down the road at night, feeling that cool, hard, dirt road underneath my feet and the fireflies all around. I imagine a lot of children at that time would do this. You’d have a jar with you, with holes, so you’d put the fireflies in there and walk along with your jar of fireflies.
We didn’t have any neighbors around us, so you could pretty much do what you wanted. My mother would grow rhubarb. Later on, our daughter Lara remembers my mother giving her a little jar of sugar. You’d go out to the rhubarb patch and just have a stalk of rhubarb and stick it in the sugar. Or Lara’s grandfather taking her to the general store. They used to have a big barrel filled with pickles, and it was a treat, even then, for my daughter, who’s in her 30s now, to go and get that pickle out of the cold vat.
I’m so happy that even though in those days diversity was not embraced as much as it is now in the Hilltowns – which is so good for people that are moving here now – it still was a wonderful place to live. And somehow through osmosis, I think I’m a Yankee.
Note: The interview transcription above was funded by a grant from the Worthington Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.
THE BICENTENNIAL QUEEN COMPETITION
Worthington’s Bicentennial Queen competition was headed by Nanette (Nan) Bartels Modestow, who preserved many documents of the event. Following her death in 2007, these documents were donated to WHS by her daughter Janine. For Worthington’s 250th anniversary celebrations, WHS board member Diane Brenner prepared an exhibit of the documents in the WHS building. A portion of the exhibit is below.
The scorecards reveal that one of the judges voted for Margaret (Peggy) Shea, but then switched to Kristin Majkowski to make the decision unanimous. In 1984, Shea – whose married name was Margaret Shea-Stopa – died in a tragic car accident.
The coronation of the Queen took place during the Anniversary Ball at Town Hall on Saturday, June 29, 1968. Dress was in period costume or semi formal. At 9:30pm, the five nominees – all just graduated from Gateway Regional High School – each made their grand entrance with an escort. They carried nosegays of rosebuds across the stage and took their place on the red carpet. Emcee Chet Dragon detailed their interests and aspirations. A sealed envelope was opened and the Queen, Kristin Majkowski, was announced.
Posted August 12, 2020.