Story by Kathleen Wilson
Bill Baird has been a Warwick resident for 100 years now. He doesn’t know why he’s lived so long, but he said as a matter of fact, “I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink, and I have a lot faith in the good Lord. And I’ve never had pasteurized milk. Only drank raw milk straight from the cow.”
Bill has attended the Warwick Reformed Church since he can remember and spoke very highly of Rev. Taber Knox, who was also his scout leader. Bill fondly remembers Rev. Knox taking his Boy Scout troop to Wawayanda Lake every summer.
“There are only a few trains passing through Warwick today, but back then they came through our backyard day and night. When the wind would blow, the coal dust blew all over the sheets hanging on the clothesline,” said Bill.
He remembered his mother had to scrub them again on her washboard – not easy work and she wasn’t too happy about it either.
William (Bill) Baird was born and raised in Warwick and still lives in the stone house where he was born in 1918. It was already an “old” house by then. Built in 1810 by his great-grandfather, evidence of Bill’s roots is still prominent in the Town of Warwick too.
The limestone tavern, known as Baird’s Tavern, was built in 1766 by Francis Baird. These roots go back six generations and Bill vividly recalls much of his family’s long history. Bill’s father, William Parks Baird, ran a small dairy farm and Bill began helping his father on the farm when he was a young boy.
“All the work was done by hand. There were no machines back then. Milking the cows started early each morning and the milk needed to be ready for pick up when the milk train pulled in,” remembered Bill. “The train traveled on to Chester and then to the Erie Railroad to New York City.”
Bill and his siblings were up by 5 a.m. to help with the chores before walking to school. Bill often helped his father at their grist mill too where they made the grain to feed their cows.
Bill recalled that traveling wasn’t so easy then either. It was mainly by horse or horse and wagon. Stores were closer then too. They traveled to the general store in New Milford to buy the things they couldn’t grow. His mother would even post a letter there since the Post Office was located inside the store.
These were modern times in the early 20th century with locomotive trains continuously traveling through Warwick. The 20th century brought many new and better things as Bill continued. He said their house was wired with electric power when he was seven years old and after that came a radio which became a source of entertainment and news. Soon movies were being made and Bill remembers Warwick’s Oakland Theater (Burger King stands on the site today) and it’s larger than life neon sign.
When Bill was a teen, he picked apples in the fall at Fancher’s Fruit Farm, earning 35 cents a day, but he still attended school and helped on the farm too. After graduating from Park Avenue School in Warwick, Bill studied the dairy industry at Delhi College in upstate New York, where he met his wife Mary. They married in 1943 and raised their four children on the farm.
In later years, the farm became one of the most photographed farms in Orange County as companies discovered the beautiful pastoral setting and frequently used the farm and its beautiful surroundings to film commercials. Bill said the number one request from crew members was always to taste the raw milk and Bill happily obliged!
Once, when Reebok was photographing an advertisement on the farm and Mary had clothes hanging outside on the clothesline, they insisted she had to be part of the advertisement – and indeed she was! At least 15 or more advertisements and commercials were photographed and filmed on the farm.
When asked about changes Bill has seen in the Village over the years, Bill grinned and said, “Well, there were no parking meters back then. When you went to the Savings Bank on Main St., there used to be a post where you tied the horse so it wouldn’t get loose while you were in the bank (now TD Bank). I used to know everybody in town and at church too.”
Bill liked Warwick and never moved away because he said the people were nice and while he no longer knows everyone in town, he still knows a lot of nice people here!
Still other things haven’t changed. Bill is an avid reader and faithfully reads every publication of the Warwick Valley Dispatch. He loves reading about the local news in his hometown. Bill also remembered Betty Wright, who he attended school with back in the day. Betty Wright, who passed away in 2000, was the publisher of the Warwick Valley Dispatch, Warwick’s hometown newspaper.