Paul Steinmetz Interview

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Oral History Item Type Metadata


Janick, Herbert F.


Steinmetz, Paul




Time Summary

-00-10min: I graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Journalism and grown up in California; thought I'd never leave; it's beautiful and wonderful out there. I worked for three years for a little wire service in San Francsico for minimum wage at $3.25 at the time. In my mind, I wanted to see some other part of the world and I thought New York is out there somewhere. So I sent off my resumes to about 18-20 newspapers in the East Coast, even Virginia area; the News Times called me out for an interview, I paid my way out. In a few months, I became a reporter. I thought Danbury looked pretty good as it was urban enough, but not like San Francisco and it was interesting enough. Here, it had a history, which I liked. Coming from California, there were vague ideas of Indians out there, so I thought it's somewhere I can live. I got the offer in November, after Christmas, I packed up my things in the family car; I left in December 1981 and got here January 1982 and I started on January 3rd. I was paid the same amount at the News Times as I did in San Francisco, but I did not do it for the money. I was a general assignment reporter which was interesting because I would fill in for reporters who were on vacation or if nobody was on vacation here is a little project; I wrote a lot for the Sunday papers, it was an opportunity to be noticed. I had one friend from San Francisco and made friends at the News Times, other than that, I had nothing. I did breaking news stories, the first story I got was a kid who walked away from Southbury Training School and was lost overnight or several hours in the cold in January; he was found and saved. The editors would give me the stories they had, but haven't gotten too and weren't that interested in. The first on was in Redding, Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill, that had just closed recently; Gilbert or Bennett had left a will that said it gave a trust to the children of the mill workers to be educated. Now that the mill was closed, the trust was given over to the town to spend on education; it was interesting. I looked into the background of the person who wrote the will, he wanted the men of the mill workers children to be educated and guidelines of how they should be educated. I haven't followed up on it after that, of how the trust was used. I tried to dig up the town of not knowing anything about it. I did this type of assignments for just six months then the environment job opened up, I have been interested in that kind of thing; I applied for it as I worked like a dog for six months and got it. You would look at a lot of government work and environment, so I worked a lot with the sewer department a lot. Bill Buckley was the director there, started there six months before I did in Danbury. He did a lot of things, like building a new sewer plant and distribution.

-10min-20min: (CONT.) he was also in charge of the town dump and land mill. These were all interesting to me as they do affect the environment and are very important; it affected the quality of life in Danbury; the sewage plans, the dump and the water works. I try to give the larger picture; I did pieces of the change of seasons, which helped my writing abilities. We had a features department, when the circus came to town; they always sent the new reporter to do it; where I came to find a civilian, who followed, with his wife, and packed themselves into a motor-home and followed the circus for a few months, but he worked for a funeral service. I had the freedom to write and exercise my writing muscles, and the News Times appreciated it, the editors did. Then we had Susan Guerrero, she was the assistant editor, modern living. I wrote about an engineer in town (I forgot his name), he was fascinating, he worked with Robert Moses, he was one of his lieutenants and admirer of Moses when a lot of people criticized him and he was great with a lot of big projects. They never had a section about engineering before in the News Times, but they liked it, so I talked about him and his life, so they liked that. I met my wife out here, about five to six months after I came out here; within a year, we were engaged and then another year we were married, something like that; and I write for the annual wedding in the News Times section. Through the 80's, Steinmetz was the environmental journalist for them. The construction and opening of I-84, was so important and it really opened up Danbury to the rest of the world; it was important for commerce, but also for the environmentalists it was a danger. Every hazardous thing that can happen to Danbury, comes from I-84, fairly often. During the 80's, the fire department and the city of Danbury created the Hazmat Unit, for the companies here, especially for I-84, nothing happened yet, but could. When I was editor in around 2004, a liquid spill on I-84; unsure of what it was; it flowed into the creek, afraid it was some type of acid. The Hazmat Unit was to contain these things where people could die. They also taught me that every gasoline truck is like a bomb, not only are they on the highway, but in local areas when unloading. Candlewood Lake had changed Danburyand made it more livable due to the access of the lake and the recreational use of it, but the body of water had changed a lot and attracted a lot of people from New York and vacation here before and eventually move here.

-20min-30min: A lot of the people who grew up here were Blue-Collar and not weekenders. They had a cabins here on the lake, where pipes lead to the lake and vice versa. The drinking water, up to 10 years ago, came up from a pipe in the lake, not safe anymore. I wrote a lot about the power plant and the power generation. Candlewood Lake is the largest man-made lake in Connecticut and Rocky River Power Plant in New Milford was one of the first to generate electricity through pumping lakes. I took a tour of the power plant, they were impressive; they were right off the Rocky River into lake and a pipe, made of a huge wood, from the lake, now, most of it is made from metal. There were so much cavitation where the water comes in with so much force and generates a good amount of power. It is useful now for certain times as it stored powers, where they turn it on when they need power. I got this from Bill Buckley, Danbury reservoir needed water supply and the city built water reservoirs for the hatting industry. Before I came here, there was a water drought and everyone was panicking. They wanted to set up Candlewood Lake as water supply and set up a pipe, in case they needed to use it to pump water at the time for emergencies. Buckley was one of Steinmetz informants who is now retired in Litchfield. Jack Howzihowzkie, a retired man, involved with closing the landfill and cleaned up the businesses that were involved with certain poisonous materials and cleaned them. This was Jack's job to the environment. These were the two I spoke to the most regarding this and Mayor James Thayer at the time. I spoke to him a lot about the traffic issues and the mall.

-30min-40min: (CONT.) Thayer was a very successful mayor as far as improving the city and helping the rest of the city to think of itself in a more modern way. He was conscious of the history of Danbury and a modern politician and he set a forward looking way. He was very active and set it for the rest of the mayors after him. There was a lot of building in Danbury and people wondered how they were built, mostly by old-timers in town. I did a story on commissions zoning units and went to every meeting between developer and zoning members and from that, I couldn't come up with any correlation. There were no signs of favoritism with the developers who didn't want to change their plans as it costs more money. Danbury had a network where everybody knew everyone; some were developers and old-time politicians and James Thayer had connections with the older politicians. He wanted to impress the people and be sophisticated for the people; the image he wanted to project to the people. There was a time when I was a reporter and was frustrated because I didn't know what a power structure and still don't totally understand, but James Thayer taught me a lot of it. There were business leaders would get together and talk of how things should be, most of them are gone now. The Chairman of Growlier was a fascinating person as a player in town. This guy lived in New Canaan, one of the power brokers and a developer in town, who is still here, Richard, sold a lot of commercial properties in town. He drove through town and pointed out all the properties he sold towards the power structure; these were inside businesses who contributed money to the town instead of participating in Danbury. The Chairman got involved in Danbury School Business Area and spurred it and went to the legislation to enable to business and education going together.




Janick, Herbert F. “Paul Steinmetz Interview.” Danbury's Third Century Research Collection, MS058. WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 22 Oct. 2019.


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