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The Good Old Days: Reminiscences from Mike Johnson & Dave Stone

At the intersection of Bunnell Bridge Road and Summer Hill Road sits the Summer Hill Nursery, owned and operated since 1957 by farmer and philanthropist Mike Johnson. In February 2022, members of the Madison Historical Society’s oral history project sat with longtime friends Mike Johnson and Dave Stone to chat about their memories of Madison.

Stone’s family has lived continuously in the area since 1639, the year his ancestors arrived with Reverend Henry Whitfield. They negotiated for land and, within a few years, had established the Guilford settlement. 

Johnson, 90 years old, was born in Panama and spent his summers in Madison beginning in 1938. His family purchased what he called a gentleman’s farm, where they raised sheep and pigs. According to Johnson, “I was the farmer. My dad was the gentleman.” Mike spent his formative years in New Jersey and attended a private high school in Manhattan. Johnson recalls this time as “the worst four years of my life.”  Not a city boy, Johnson longed for the wide-open spaces and quiet that Madison offered. 

Dave, 86 years old, grew up on a dairy farm and was working at his dad’s side from the time he was able to walk. The Herbert H. Stone Dairy Farm was located on Route 79 in North Madison. There the family grew silage corn, hay, and vegetables and raised cattle and poultry. They owned horses to help with the heavy labor. Dave didn’t enjoy school and preferred to work with his father. In the mornings, it was his responsibility to prepare the cows for milking. “By that time, the coffee was perking,” recalls Stone. “My Dad would give me a cup with a little coffee and a lot of milk. I was probably about four or five years old.”

Johnson remembered going to the Stone Dairy Farm with his mother to purchase chicken and vegetables. “When I was about nine or ten years old, my father had an old wooden station wagon. A monster would jump up on the car, throw his arms over, and look up to see what was in there. Of course, that was David. He hasn’t changed much since, actually.” 

For more than an hour, the pair covered many topics, including the 1938 hurricane, Madison through the decades, and the importance of friendship. Please enjoy this recording of the pair reflecting on their long lives in Madison.

The oral history project is an effort to preserve Madison’s cultural heritage. If you have an interesting story of your own to tell, please let us know by emailing us at office@madisonhistory.org.

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