For 70 years, she's documented life on Groton Long Point
Jane Morrison was a pig-tailed girl when her father and his friend suggested that she pedal her bike around Groton Long Point and gather information to create a summer social directory.
The year was 1949.
Seventy years later, Jane Morrison Battles is still collecting information and compiling the much sought-after Groton Long Point Summer Social Directory. The 2019 edition, available since late June and still selling briskly, is a spiral-bound, 247-page book with hundreds of names, addresses, phone numbers and emails, as well as historic and recent photographs of residents enjoying the shoreline enclave. The book contains advertisements from area businesses and important dates, like the Goodbye Summer Cocktail Party, Halloween in July, and Family Night & Fireworks. It also lists the names and positions of officers on the board of the Groton Long Point Association and its municipal officials, like the police and fire chiefs and building official and zoning officer.
Each summer when the book is ready, Battles sits on the porch of the Groton Long Point Casino and waits for residents to come visit with her, and buy one. Some customers are dead ringers, easily identified when you see them approaching with a $20 bill in hand. The book has been the same price for more than 15 years and some residents buy more than one, a copy for every adult member in their household.
The directory is like a family Bible, a collection of names, neighborhoods, children and grandchildren, and even what colleges the young adults are attending. It is cross-referenced to show family names alphabetically and by street.
“Jane has done an incredible job,” said Kim Clark, whose late grandparents, Fred and Cornelia Clark, lived in the same house at Groton Long Point for 62 years, and whose family still has property there.
“This book is our heritage, it is our story,” she said, “Some people keep the directories year after year and collect them like National Geographics.”
“If you need to know anything about Groton Long Point, Jane is the one to contact,” said Peter Viering, whose family has had the same beach house there for 95 years. "She is an institution and the directory a great resource. It’s a reference book.”
Battles — when asked her age, she replied “tell them I’m in my 80s” — starts work on the annual directory every February, sending a letter to the more than 100 businesses who advertise in the book. Not long after, she follows up with double-sided postcards she sends to property owners that includes a folksy note and a request for updated information. She hand-addresses every one of them.
This year’s missive ended with, “Sooo, let’s think spring onto summer with sunshine, smiles and family fun. See you there — on the porch!!! Loyally, Jane.”
And loyal is what she’s been. This year, she’s recruited her 21-year-old grandson, Jack Battles, to help her with the book. Originally, she and girlfriend Jean Weeks went door-to-door collecting names and information and compiling the directories, the first one 70 years ago this summer. Weeks helped for many, many years, but when she moved away, Battles continued on her own.
It was her father, the late Len Morrison, and his friend Frank Furness who first conceived the idea, suggesting it as a cure for boredom.
“We needed something to do,” said Battles, “And who could refuse two little pig-tailed girls named Jane and Jean?”
Haven for families
In 2021, Groton Long Point will celebrate its centennial. It was 1921 when the Connecticut General Assembly approved the charter incorporating the Groton Long Point Association, giving it the authority to tax residents and provide services. All landowners are members, and the board owns and maintains as community property the beaches, docks and lagoons.
Groton Long Point is just 236 acres and properties are pricey and taxes high, but the views, especially along the long swath that borders Fishers Island Sound, can’t be beat. It’s a haven for families, especially children who ride bikes freely up and down the streets, jump into the salty water from docks, and learn to sail and play tennis.
In the early years, fewer than 150 families were listed in the directory. Today, there are more than 600. While Groton Long Point's population swells in the summertime, David McBride, the board president, said only about 20 percent to 30 percent of the approximate 650 homeowners live there in the wintertime.
Jane Battles’ father started summering on Groton Long Point when he was a young man, and Jane and her siblings spent every June to September there from when they were newborns.
For Battles, who also resides in Pennsylvania and the Florida Keys, Groton Long Point is special.
“I warn people, don’t drive more than 5 mph, there are 4-year-olds on bicycles going to get ice cream," she says. "The freedom of the children is what it’s all about here. It’s about families and kids.”
Grandson steps up
Once Battles and her pal Weeks started the directory, they stayed at it through their high school and college years and when they married and had their own children. Regardless of where they were geographically or in their lives, they’d meet each spring in Groton Long Point to begin the annual production.
Today, with computers and email, the process is less cumbersome, but it still requires a sharp eye and dedication.
“I don’t want to make a mistake,” Battles said, “although occasionally that has happened.”
With assistance now from grandson Jack, who will enter his senior year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he is studying mechanical engineering this fall, Battles is optimistic about the future of the directory. She doesn’t have to remind her grandson that she’d been doing the book for more than 50 years before he was even born.
“It is kind of hard to grasp that someone has been doing something for that long, for 70 years,” Jack Battles said. But his grandmother has no intention of giving up her job and is already contemplating next year’s directory and the one after that, for the Groton Long Point centennial.
The only indication that sometime in the future Jane Battles may not be compiling the book and donating whatever is left to charity after all the bills are paid is this snippet she shared when asked about the cost of the directory.
It was 25 cents the first couple years, and then $1 for a long time, and by her recollection, about 15 years ago, the price skyrocketed to $20, where it’s stayed since.
Asked about possible future price increases, she answered, “I don’t think I’ll ever bother. When I’m dead and gone I’ll let my kids figure that out.”