on Jul 27th 2008
by Michael C. Morello, Landmark student, April 2002
Doris Fredericks, owner of the Clay School, has been a citizen of Putney, Vermont since 1978. Her past has had many twists and turns, which eventually led her to this small semi-rural town in southern Vermont.
I didn’t ask her age, but prior to the age of ten, Ms. Fredericks lived in Germany, in a different time and a different world than we know today. It was the 1930s, during World War II, when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party was in control. Because of what was happening in Germany, Ms. Fredericks and her mother came to the U.S.A. in 1939, and her father followed a few years later. Her grandmother wasn’t as fortunate, and died, not in a concentration camp, but in a ghetto, separated from her family. Looking back at those years she feels she had a normal childhood, considering the circumstances. As she spent her remaining childhood years and her new life here in the United States, she felt, as she put it, “a grateful American.”
When Ms. Fredericks came to the United States she didn’t settle right away in Putney. Rather the story begins twenty miles to the north, where her family had a summer house, and frequently spent time in Putney. The deciding factor which brought her here wasn’t’ family—rather it was her admiration of the beauty of the mountains, and the desire to move away from the city. So after years of teaching in Connecticut, Ms. Fredericks came back to Windham County in 1978.
Upon arrival, she opened up the Clay School. When she first started the business she used to make and sell pottery. However, after doing that for several years she stopped making as much and became involved in teaching people who had an interest in pottery. She continues to do this today. She still has a talent for making many things from clay, and she sells her work to private citizens and other places in the open market, and her artwork has been displayed in numerous places, including museums.
Aside from her business, Ms. Fredericks keeps herself busy in other ways. She compares the way she does her shopping to the way her family used to do it when they lived in Germany. She shops locally, and doesn’t use commercial products. She likes to support the local economy by purchasing local, homegrown products. She is also a person who likes to walk quietly in the local woods, with her dog.
In looking at the town since she first arrived, she talks about the changes that have occurred. The major change is the amount of traffic that comes through. Yes, some of the traffic comes from the Landmark College community and Basketville, but according to her a lot of the new traffic involves trucks, transporting lumber all over the place. I asked her to elaborate on her feelings about Windham and Landmark Colleges; she said that her shop was a place where the students used to hang out; when Windham closed the theatre was still in operation (editor’s note—it became the River Valley Performing Arts Center, and is now the Greenhoe Theater at Landmark College) and once in a while she attended performances there. Looking at Landmark, she is happy to see an institution that serves such a special purpose. Clearly, Ms. Fredericks is much appreciative of her community—and she has just as clearly made good use of her wonderful talents within the community, creating and maintaining the Clay School, a valuable contribution to the town.
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