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November 11, 2015 - 1:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Veteran's Day, batavia.















November 11, 2015 - 1:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Upton Monument, batavia.


Veterans were a baffled by this setup when they arrived at the Upton Monument this morning. They aren't sure if this was meant as some sort of message or it's just somebody's litter. The boxes were all empty.

Submitted photo.

November 11, 2015 - 1:10pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, zoning board of appeals, volunteers.

Press release:

Why in the world is there a business sitting next to two private homes in the City? Why do the City’s code enforcement officers allow one property owner to build onto a structure and yet deny another? If these are the kind of questions you find yourself asking as you drive through the City of Batavia, you may be the perfect person to fill an opening on the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

The ZBA needs City residents who are curious about and interested in zoning regulations as it relates to buildings and structures.

The ZBA is responsible for hearing and determining appeals of refusals of building permits or certificates of occupancy when the denial is based on zoning requirements. The ZBA has the authority to change the application of the zoning regulations relating to buildings and structures and helps to address practical difficulties and unnecessary hardships to ensure proper zoning in the City.

The board meets once a month and requires a time commitment of approximately 12 hours per year of its volunteers. Residents interested in applying can obtain an application from the City Clerk’s Office or can visit our website at and download a Committee/Board Volunteer Application under Documents.

Applications are due to the City Clerk’s Office by Nov. 30.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact the City Clerk’s office at (585) 345-6305 or:

Office of the City Manager

One Batavia City Centre

Batavia, New York 14020

Phone:   (585) 345-6330

Fax:     (585) 343-8182

E-mail:   [email protected]

November 10, 2015 - 6:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, BID, batavia, Art Ah La Carte, business.


Kimberly Yasses Argenta has moved Art Ah La Carte from Harvester Avenue to Downtown Batavia, into a storefront on Jackson Street.

She moved the art studio and classroom space because she needed more space, she said, and she thought the location would give her better exposure.

"Already, people have come in off the street, so that's a good thing," Argenta said.

She also thought it would be beneficial to be part of the Business Improvement District and enjoy those promotional opportunities.

This Friday and Saturday she is hosting "Brush Out Cancer," an event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Friday is an art show, vendors' auctions and a 50/50 raffle. On Saturday, from noon to 1:30 p.m., there is Kids Paint. The cost is $30 and pre-registration is required (call (585) 245-1655). And in the evening, starting at 6, Monet and Merlot, which costs $45 and includes refreshments, though if you want wine, you need to bring your own bottle. There will be a wine tasting. Saturday evening's event also includes auctions and a 50/50 raffle.

The fundraisers are in memory of Argenta's mother, Mickey Yasses, who passed away in December, 2013.

November 10, 2015 - 5:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien, batavia, pembroke.

Jason Andrew Barnhart, 28, of Pratt Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief, 3rd. Barnhart is accused of damaging the structure and contents of a mobile home owned by another person. He was jailed on $15,000 bail.

David J. Gaetan, 43 and Chrissy A. Gaetan, 40, of Ontario, Canada, are charged with trespass. The couple is accused of bypassing no trespassing signs at Rolling Hills Asylum and entering the property without permission. Following arraignment in Town of Bethany Court, each paid a fine of $250 and were released.

Jeffrey Marrero, 21, of Norwood Avenue, Rochester, is charged with trespass. Marrero is accused of being on private property on Kelsey Road, Batavia, at 6:35 p.m. Oct. 28. Also charged was Mitchell J. Louis, 22, of Lincoln Road, Ontario, Canada.

Erica Michelle Raphael, 30, of Walnut Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Raphael is accused of stealing merchandise valued at $44.98 from the Shoe Dept.

Jerry Lee Wagner, 64, of Route 31 Holley, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Wagner was stopped at 6:09 p.m. Sunday on Route 77, Darien, by Deputy Bradley Mazur.

Michael Paul Fitzpatrick Sr., 40, of Howlan Street, Fonda, is charged with possession of more than 400 untaxed cigarettes, unlawful possession of marijuana and dark/tinted side windows. Fitzpatrick was stopped at 11:43 a.m. Nov. 5 on Route 77, Pembroke, by Deputy Patrick Reeves.

November 10, 2015 - 1:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city council, Elections.

Incumbent John Canale retained his Ward 3 City Council Seat and challenger Al McGinnis captured the Ward 4 seat after the last of the absentee ballots were tallied today.

Polling place and absentee ballots gave Canale a total of 123 votes ot 103 for Richard Richmond, and McGinnis had 180 votes compared to 143 for incumbent Pier Cipollone.

November 10, 2015 - 9:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Housing Authority, batavia, 400 Towers, business.

A months-long vacancy in the executive director position for the Batavia Housing Authority has been filled, Brooks Hawley announced during Monday's City Council meeting.

Nathan Varland, most recently the housing director for Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, has accepted the position.

Hawley said Varland was one of four candidates interviewed for the position and the board of directors were impressed with his qualifications.

Varland steps into the role while the board conducts an internal investigation into the death of a 91-year-old resident of 400 Towers, who apparently wandered onto the roof of the building and died of exposure. Batavia PD is still awaiting results of an autopsy report in the death of the resident, who may have suffered from mild dementia. 

Hawley, president of the City Council, also serves on the BHA Board.

November 9, 2015 - 11:06am


If you haven't heard yet, coloring books are now a thing. OK, sure, we all had coloring books as kids, but now that we're all grown up, we're finding coloring books again, but not the "see spot run" type of coloring books, the pirate-on-the-ship coloring book that 3-year-olds scribble on, but books with pages of complex designs, fine lines and thin strips of blanks awaiting our choices of ruby, ginger or burgundy.

Adult coloring books are the hottest item at Karen's Yarn, Paper, Scissors, said owner Karen Crittenden. Her Saturday morning coloring sessions are popular enough that reservations are required and she's added a monthly evening session. This Saturday, more people than anticipated turned out for a coloring group at the Richmond Memorial Library.

"I find it very soothing to take a thing that is just black and white and turn it into something that is beautifully colored," said Lynn Bartlett Taylor during Saturday's event at the library. "Even though I'm not an artist, it makes me feel like I am in my own way."

Read articles or talk to participants and the common themes of why adults color in coloring books are it's meditative and it's a stress reliever.

In a recent article for Parade Magazine, psychologist Alice Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston, said one reason adults find coloring so relaxing is it engages the entire brain. It's impossible to multitask or worry about kids or money when both sides of your brain are absorbed in coloring between the lines. 

“It’s impossible to worry about dinner or the laundry or anything else when your mind is completely engaged,” Domar explains. “With knitting or other crafts, you can watch TV or multitask, but coloring really requires you to be in the moment. And that makes it meditative.”

She suggests coloring to patients who need stress relief, particularly those who loved the activity as a child.

“Coloring brings you back to a simpler time. It’s pleasurable. It’s a chance to sit and be mindful -- and at the end you get this beautiful result. You have a real sense of accomplishment.”

Taylor said she gets totally absorbed in the pictures she's creating.

"It's very meditative," said Taylor, who started coloring with her grandchildren in 2004, then stopped for awhile, then came back to it after hand surgery as a form of physical therapy.

"I can't make pictures of my own but I can fill in the colors for somebody else and everyone turns out different and I can't see the picture when I start out, but as I add the color, it starts coming alive. It's like each picture has its own personality."

For somebody just getting into adult coloring, Crittenden said they have a lot of options, from whether they want to start with complex designs, what themes to choose (mandalas are popular, but there is a host of other subjects available from birds and flowers to fanciful landscapes and seascapes), the medium to use (pencils, markers, crayons) and whether the colorist has enough skill and experience to handle more artistic expressions such as gradients and shading.

"The biggest thing I don't want them to do is get frustrated," Crittenden said. "They'll look online. They'll look in the stores. They'll look at the picture books and say, 'I want to do that,' and a lot of those techniques out there take some time and practice and some skill."

New colorists can also get started cheaply, if they like, or make a pricier splash, depending on their budget.

"There are $4 coloring books and you can get a set of pencils for $7," Crittenden said. "It's not expensive to get into, but you can go upwards. I mean some of these coloring books, like this one, it's an actual book. That's $25, and you can go on up from there."

Part of the thing of color is it works both as a solo pursuit and as a social activity. Across the country, adults get together in small groups on a regular basis to color together. There are Facebook and Pinterest groups dedicated to adult coloring. Colorists loving sharing their work.

But seeing all of this public activity it would be tempting to think adult coloring is just a woman thing, but that's not the case at all, Crittenden said.

"I'm finding that a lot of men are doing it, too," Crittenden said. "The last time we had a set of insect coloring books in, they went out of here fast. A lot of women were buying them for their men. A lot of men color with their wives. They're like secret colorers. A lot of times on Facebook women will post and say 'this one belongs to my husband,' or 'my husband did this one.' The wives are posting about them. It's probably just that more women are open about coloring."

After all, men have stress, too.

Crittenden herself using coloring to relax her mind.

"I have the skill to draw this, but drawing this takes too much of my concentration," Crittenden said pointing to a design in a book. "If I'm coloring this, I'm coloring it at the end of the day. My coloring books are up by my bed with my pencil tin. When I do this, I'm doing this at bedtime. For me, it gets my brain to stop, because I have a brain that doesn't stop.

"It's going like all the time and if I don't stop it at bedtime, I can't sleep because my brain keeps going and going and going and going and going. Ideas just keep flying into my head. If I don't stop, it just keeps going and this helps my brain stop working enough so I can fall asleep."











November 9, 2015 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Millennials, comprehensive plan, Jason Molino.


Batavia's landscape is changing, with more vegetable gardens, chicken coops and solar panels, and that's a trend the city would like to see continue, said City Manager Jason Molino while showing off his family's new greenhouse in the backyard of their home on Vernon Avenue.

Molino said code enforcement officers Ron Panek and Doug Randall report seeing more and more of these sort of backyard amenities, which is right in line with the city's strategic thinking about creating a more livable and sustainable environment, the kind of environment marketing studies and news reports show Millennials are seeking.

"This is just one example of what you can do," Molino said. "It shows how you can take your space and make it more livable and enjoyable for the whole family."

This particular greenhouse cost Molino a bit less than $900 to build, and the size of it required a city permit. But greenhouses can be built for a lot less and at a smaller scale so that no permit is required. As the city goes through its comprehensive plan review, one thing planners will be asked to consider is how to both streamline the process and protect the ability of residents to incorporate these sort of projects into their yards.

Every board, nail and pane of glass was locally sourced, Molino said, including the unique roof, which is a green roof grown right here in Batavia.

Comprised of several varieties of sedum, which is a plant that stores water and grows well in a wide range of climate zones, green roofs help insulate a building, control stormwater runoff (and thereby inhibit the flow of pollutants into storm drains) and improve air quality.

Vegetal I.D. is a company based in Batavia (the U.S. division of the French company Le Prieuré) that grows trays of sedum for green roofs on land leased from C.Y. Farms. The company's customer base, said Sander Teensma, is within a 500-mile radius of Batavia, which brings in a variety of climates where these sedum roofs thrive.

"This is an idea that is gaining momentum," Teensma said. 

For the Molino family, the greenhouse is a project "that took on a life of its own," Jason said. For the past few years, the Molinos have been growing vegetables in their backyard, and as their children have gotten older, they've become more active participants in the process. It's a life-learning lesson the Molinos want to encourage. So they started talking about what they could do next -- more raised beds, a chicken coop, or perhaps a greenhouse.

Molino got his uncle involved and they started designing a greenhouse and finding sources of local material for construction. One thing led to another, and Molino decided a green roof would be perfect for the project, especially since there was a local company that could provide the roof.

And the whole project fits right in with the direction of the city's plan for a revised comprehensive plan that aims to focus on amenities and lifestyle choices for the up-and-coming generation of Americans who seek a life less defined by corporate dictates, more authentic in food choices and more environmentally conscious.

The comprehensive plan can help guide the city toward the kind of living environment people increasingly seem to be seeking so it doesn't lose out on the growth opportunity.

"We incorporate those ideas into the comprehensive plan so we advance the ideas and they can be done more easily," Molino said. "It helps market the community to capture a lot of the growth that's going to happen in the county over the next 10 years."

If projects such as STAMP are successful -- and the coming of 1366 Technologies is a hopeful sign -- then it should mean an influx of the kind of jobs Millennials will seek, then it's critical for Batavia to position itself as a livable community for those workers, or risk losing most of them to Buffalo or Rochester.

"The comprehensive plan reflects the values we want to see in the community over the next five to 10 years," Molino said. "We want to encourage and make it easier (to build these sorts of projects). If these are the amenities and quality-of-life features that people want, and we're seeing a trend when they buy homes and properties, how do we ensure that we can continue that trend and how can we build off of that? That's what the comprehensive plan does."


Craig Yunker, of C.Y. Farms, Jason Molino, Sander Teensma, and Paul Brent, production manager for Vegetal I.D.


November 8, 2015 - 11:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in football, sports, batavia, Batavia HS.


The watchword for the Batavia Blue Devils this football season has been relentless. Coach Brennan Briggs has it stenciled on the back of his game day windbreaker. But there's another word that can apply to the 2015 edition of the team: dominating.

Over the past six games, no opponent has been able to finish a game within three touchdowns of the Blue Devils. Whether on the ground or through the air, the Batavia offense has scorched every defense they've faced and the defense has been, well, relentless.

The Blue Devils started the year ranked #1 in a coaches' poll, but Briggs wouldn't discuss on the record how much confidence he had in his team. After today's win over Livonia by a score of 52-20 for the team's second straight Class B Section V title, Briggs admitted he believed this team was that good all along.

"It's what I expected," Briggs said. "I downplayed it all year because there was a lot of hype. I don't like the high expectations. I just like to out there and get the job done. The kids have answered the bell every single week."

Briggs (top photo with the trophy) is in his fourth season as head coach and he becomes the first head coach in school history with back-to-back sectional titles in football to his credit.

A lot of credit for today's win goes to the ground game led by Dom Mogavero and Ray Leach, and senior QB Greg Mruczek's performance was certainly title worthy, but what it really comes down to, the players say, is the play of the offensive and defensive lines.

"They've been incredible all season for us," said Mruczek, who was 9-11 passing for 158 yards and two TDs. "They work hard every single day at practice. They work hard. The trenches are where football games are won and I think people overlook that sometimes."

Mogavero put together another stellar performance, rushing for 177 yards on 14 carries, scoring twice, and he gave all the credit to the linemen.

"Those guys work hard in the trenches," Mogavero said. "They played their tails off."

Danny Williams, who has been a team leader on defense all season and had eight tackles today, said it's an amazing feeling to be part of a winning team that works so hard together.

"We're such a family," Williams said. "I've never been on team that's got my back more than this team does. However I play, they've got my back. If I mess up, there's somebody right there to make the tackle. If I don't mess up, I make the tackle or they make the tackle. It's so easy to get down, but they just help me pick up. It's great."

Batavia came ready to play a tough, physical game, Briggs said.

"The nice thing is, they're (Livonia) a smashmouth team and we wanted to show that 'hey, we can beat people up in the trenches and we can do a great job,' " Briggs said. "Our kids just played relentless football all day long. They wanted it and nobody was going to take it from them."

Trevor Sherwood had three catches for 32 yards and a TD, Malachi Chenault had two grabs for 15 yards and Anthony Gallo scored on a 60-yard TD reception, which was the second play of the game and set the tone for the day.

"It was definitely huge," Mogavero said. "It definitely gave us a little kickstart."

That well-balanced game is part of what makes Batavia hard to beat, Briggs said.

"We have athletes all over the field and we also have tough guys in the trenches, and if we want to run the ball we can run it," Briggs said. "If we want to throw it, we can throw it. A lot of it comes down to what we're seeing, what we think we can do and what we can do to open other things up. Our line, our receivers and our running backs -- all of them together just make a great football team."

Next week, we get to find out if Batavia is indeed that good. They will play Cheektowaga for the Far West Regional Championship, a stepping-stone to a shot at a state championship game. The Blue Devils went into last season's regional with high expectations, only to bump into the reality of the Warriors, losing 35-18. The 2015 edition of the Warriors are 12-0 and have as many dominating wins as Batavia.

They players are eager to go against the Warriors, they said, with some thoughts of avenging last year's loss and some just out to prove they deserve the victory.

"We're going to want some revenge, but we've got play hard just like we played today and then we'll see what that score, what that outcome, is," Williams said.

Mruczek is excited at the prospect of matching up with Cheektowaga again.

That's definitely going to be a fun game," Mruczek said. "We're all looking forward to the opportunity to play them again for sure."

Asked if the team was looking for a chance for revenge, Mogavero wouldn't go there, not quite.

"We're definitely grateful for the opportunity to play them again this year," Mogavero said.

Briggs downplayed any talk of revenge, even after saying, "we feel like we owe it to them."

"They're a great football team," Briggs said. "We're going to have to come prepared and I know they're going to come prepared."

Game time for the regional is 1 p.m., Sunday, at Sahlen's Stadium.



Anthony Gallo made a 60-yard TD reception on the second play of the game, and after that, there was no more looking back for the Blue Devils.


Dom Mogavero scores on a two-point conversion after Gallo's TD reception.


Ray Leach on the carry.


Ray Leach headed for the end zone.








To purchase prints of game photos by Howard Owens, click here.

Slide show of photos by Howard Owens:

Slide show of photos by Jim Burns:

November 8, 2015 - 4:01pm
posted by James Burns in batavia, sports.

Batavia defeats Livonia 52 to 20.

Complete coverage to follow.




November 7, 2015 - 8:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hockey, sports, batavia, Falleti Ice Arena.


It was Try Hockey for Free Day at Falleti Ice Arena and Nora, almost 3, couldn't wait to play, said her father Brian Gildner. In fact, Nora is eager to play every time Brian takes her older brother to practice.




November 7, 2015 - 6:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, Le Roy, Stafford.
   David Martin

A 54-year-old Batavia resident is facing an attempted assault on a police officer charge after allegedly trying to drive his vehicle away from a traffic stop while an officer's arm was inside the vehicle.

David J. Martin, of Elm Street, allegedly led law enforcement on a pursuit into Stafford, where he was stopped with the aid of spike strips.

Following arraignment on several charges, including DWI, Martin was jailed without bail.

The incident began with a traffic stop after a Le Roy PD officer observed a vehicle in the village without license plates. Martin was identified as the operator. The officer observed that it appeared Martin had been involved in some sort of altercation. During the investigation, officers came to believe Martin had been driving drunk. Martin was instructed to step out of the vehicle, which, at that point, had its engine shut off. Martin allegedly started the engine and while patrols attempted to prevent Martin from putting the vehicle in drive, Martin allegedly started driving away while an officer's arm was still in the vehicle. Martin allegedly continued on the roadway and patrols tried to get him to stop.

Charges against Martin include: attempted assault on a police officer, a Class D felony; DWI, second offense, a Class E felony; aggravated unlicensed operation in the first degree, a Class E felony; unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree, a Class A misdemeanor; resisting arrest, a Class A misdemeanor; obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor; two counts of reckless driving, a misdemeanor; no distinctive plate, a violation; driver’s view obstructed, a violation; unsafe start, a violation; two counts of improper or unsafe turn/turn without signal, a violation failure to keep right, a violation; and refusal to take a breath test, a violation. Along with these charges, the Genesee County Sherriff’s Office has also charged Martin with: fleeing a police officer in motor vehicle in the third degree; speed over state limit/55 mph, a violation; and speed in zone, a violation.

Martin is scheduled to reappear in Town of Le Roy Court at 1 p.m., Nov. 19.

November 7, 2015 - 12:54pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, byron, Grand Jury.

Brodes J. Gibson is accused of the crime of aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle in the first degree, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on Oct. 11 in the City of Batavia, Gibson drove a 2008 Cadillac on Main Street while knowing, or having reason to know, that his driver's license was suspended, revoked or otherwise withdrawn by authorities. Furthermore, Gibson was allegedly under the influence or alcohol or a drug at the time. In count two, he is accused of the crime of aggravated unlicensed operation in the first degree, a Class E felony, for driving without a valid license while having three or more suspensions in effect on at least three separate dates -- for failure to answer, appear or pay a fine -- and while under being under the influence. In count three, he is accused of driving while intoxicated as a misdemeanor for driving on Main Street, and the parking lots and driveways of the Batavia Gardens apartments on East Main Street, while he was under the influence. In count four, Gibson is accused of the crime of reckless driving as a misdemeanor for operating the Cadillac in a manner which "interfered with the free and proper use" of Main Street. In count five, he is accused of unlawfully fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree, a Class A misdemeanor. Knowing he had been stopped by police, he then allegedly attempted to flee by driving at speeds which equaled or exceeded 25 mph above the speed limit or engaged in reckless driving. In count six, Gibson is accused of endangering the welfare of a child, a Class A misdemeanor, for allegedly knowingly acting in a manner likely to be injurious to a child less than 17; one or more children were present in the courtyard vicinity of the playground at the Batavia Garden apartments at the time he allegedly drove through the courtyard area.

Colton A. Cole is accused of the crime of driving while intoxicted as a Class E felony. On June 20 in the Town of Byron, it is alleged that Cole drove a 2009 Chevrolet on Townline Road while intoxicated. In count two, he is accused of aggravated driving while intoxicated, per se, as a Class E felony, for allegedly having a BAC of .18 or more at the time.

Nimora C. Chong is accused of the crime of grand larceny in the fourth degree, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on Sept. 25 in the Town of Batavia, Chong stole property having a value in excess of $1,000. Chong is accused of stealing $2,650.52 worth of merchandise.

November 6, 2015 - 4:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, byron, Le Roy.

Andre Bailey, 28, of Rochester, is charged with grand larceny, 3rd. Bailey is accused of stealing $4,000 from the bank safe at Woodforest National Bank, located inside Walmart. Bailey was employed by the bank.

Jay D. Schutt, 27, of Le Roy, is charged with DWI. Schutt was stopped by State Police on Warsaw Road, Le Roy, for allegedly speeding. At the Batavia barracks, he allegedly tested with a BAC of .16.

A 17-year-old resident of Pearl Street Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th. The youth is accused of intentionally damaging the property of a family member while the person was not at home. He was jailed on $1,000 bail or $2,000 bond.

A 17-year-old resident of Route 237, Byron, is charged with forcible touching. The youth is accused of grabbing a fellow student's body parts. 

November 6, 2015 - 3:19pm

Press release:

On Friday, Nov. 6th, the Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York officially opened its Batavia office. Located at 29 Liberty St., the Grand Opening and Open House gave the community an opportunity to visit the new space and meet Veterans One-stop Center of WNY staff. Stakeholders from the community were present to support the event.

“Today is a wonderful day for the Veterans community. This community has been in need of this type of organization for decades and I look forward to working with the Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY and continuing to help Veterans in the community,” said Gary Horton, member of the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY Board of Directors and former board member of the Genesee Veterans Support Network.

In July of this year, the Genesee Veterans Support Network consolidated with the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY.

“For the past year, we have been privileged to work with dedicated veterans’ advocates in Genesee and Wyoming counties to make this day possible,” said Roger L. Woodworth, president & CEO of the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY. “We look forward to continuing to work with the community to invest in our veterans, providing access to opportunities that allow veterans to continue to serve as civic assets.”

With the opening of the new Batavia office, the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY will be able to more effectively empower veterans in the region through their successful model of community impact. Veterans and military family members will have access to services that lead to economic success, housing stability, and emotional health and well being.

The Veterans One-stop Center of WNY provides local support for veterans in collaboration with existing local, regional and national resources.

November 6, 2015 - 9:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Thomas Rocket Car, batavia, history.


Caked in decades of dust, pockmarked with dings, dimples and rust, the Thomas "Rocket Car" was tucked snuggly into Dick McClurg's garage Thursday afternoon and Ken Witt smiled like a child who just got his first bike.

"She's finally back home," he said.

Witt, like other members of the volunteer crew who helped retrieve the car from a barn in Lockport, where it's been stored since 1977, admitted he's had a few sleepless nights in anticipation of bringing the car back to Batavia.

"That has been exciting, the last couple of days, when we were getting these guys coordinated, all of us were saying, 'It's coming home,' " Witt said. "We've all been waiting to get it here."

The Thomas "Rocket Car" was designed by former Batavia resident Charles D. Thomas. He and Norman Richardson, a talented welder and body man just out of high school, built the car in a rented garage near Main and Ellicott Avenue in 1938. The design, and several innovations in the car, such as a rearview periscope and independent suspension, were dreamed up by Thomas while working on his 1935 thesis for the General Motors Institute of Technology in Flint, Mich.

Once the car was built, Thomas tried to interest any one of the Big Three in Detroit to move the car into production. But whether the automakers felt threatened, or because of the prospect of the World War, or it would have been too expensive to retool, all three companies took a pass. One Detroit executive reportedly told Thomas that his car was 10 years ahead of its time. Thomas went onto a successful career in Buffalo with the maker of the Playboy automobile, and he apparently kept the Thomas car and drove it for some time.

When the car arrived at McClurg's, Witt took an odometer reading: 96,296.

The car was acquired by a group of local antique car buffs, including Witt and Dick Moore, from Gary Alt, of Lockport.

Alt, whose antique car collection consists of a dozen Chevys from the 1930s, found the Thomas wasting away in a field in Batavia in 1977 when he drove out here with the intention of buying a 1934 parts car. When he saw the Thomas, he had no idea what it was. He'd never seen it before or heard of it, but he knew it was unique and worth saving, so he bought it and the parts car and hauled them back to his farm property near Lockport.

The car has been stored in a barn since, and Alt sort of became the car's historian. He tracked down Charles Thomas and Norm Richardson in Buffalo and interviewed them and acquired a binder full of documentation on the car. He wrote an article about the car a few years ago for an antique auto magazine, which is how Witt and Moore became aware that the car still existed.

"It's time to go to another home and let someone else enjoy it," Alt said of his decision to finally sell it.

The local group will restore it, with McClurg heading up the task at his Old World body shop on West Main, and when the work is complete, hopefully by July, the car will be donated to the City of Batavia so it can be put on public display and hopefully become a tourist attraction.

Alt clearly relished showing off the car to the buyers when they came to pick it up Thursday. He told them all about the grill work, the engine, the solid fenders, the blue leather interior, the periscope, the original die kit and showed off the dozen or so original pictures he had obtained. He's taken loving care of it, even if he never got around to restoring it himself.

It has, however, been restored once before, probably in the 1950s, though it's unclear who might have done that work.

The current grill is not quite the original grill designed by Thomas (McClurg will restore the grill to its original design), and while it's apparent the original color of the car was maroon, it was painted red when it was restored. That red faded to pink during the years prior to 1977 that it sat outside.

Those years in a field also took its toll on the chassis. The undercarriage is nearly rusted through. The only thing holding it together is the car's solid body, though it's rusted at the edges. The frame will likely need to be refabricated, but the restoration crew has a leg up on where to turn, potentially, for the work: Graham Manufacturing.

In all the paperwork saved by Alt is a complete list by Thomas and Richardson of every piece of material that went into building the car and where it was sourced. The original frame was fabricated at Graham, as it turns out.  

McClurg, who is officially retired from the auto restoration business, is used to working on cars for which there are thousands of companies, meaning a supply of spare parts, but with the Rocket Car, there's only one. But McClurg said that won't be a problem.

"Rust doesn't care," McClurg said. "Everything is there to work with. You either have to refabricate or work with what's there. It's just got to be done. It's all labor intensive."

Once the car was out of the barn yesterday, Witt got to see the car all the way around for the first time, and he admitted to a sense of awe and wonder.

"It's unimaginable to me, and I've been collecting cars since the early '60s, to think that really, a couple of guys, Richardson and Thomas, were able to do this, because many of the sheet metal things were handcrafted," Witt said. "We've even unloaded the tools used when this was crafted, when it was shipped, and to think of the engineering, it was truly 10 years ahead of its time."





Norm Richardson with the Thomas in a photo that was part of Gary Alt's collection.






Norm Wright, left, Dick McClurg, Ken Witt, Dave Salway and Gary Alt.


Back home in Batavia ... 


Ken Witt checks the odometer.

November 5, 2015 - 7:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in House O' Laundry, business, batavia.


Here's an obvious innovation of convenience for a laundromat: automatic sliding doors at the entrance.

"A laundromat is the only retail outlet where your hands are full walking in and walking out," said Mike Houseknecht, owner of the new House O' Laundry in the former Payless Shoe location on West Main Street, Batavia (entrance to Valu Plaza). "A sliding door makes it a lot easier getting in and out."

From the doors to the 60- and 100-pound washing machines (along with standard washing machines), Houseknecht has worked to create what amounts to, if this can truly be said about a laundromat, a first-class operation. Tiled floors, plenty of counter space, soap and soda for sale, a change machine and ATM are among the details Houseknecht made sure to include.

Doing it right, Houseknecht said, was important because the business opportunity in Batavia is for a modern, up-to-date laundry. The other open door of opportunity is the lack of a laundry on the west side of Batavia.

With those big machines, Houseknecht said, "you can do 10 loads of laundry (in one machine), put it in a dryer, and be in and out in an hour."

If that isn't fast enough for you, in-store staff will wash, dry and fold your laundry for you, and you just pick it up when it's done.

House O' Laundry is located at 5142 W. Main St. and is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Last load allowable is 8:15 p.m.

Pictured with Mike is Ella.

November 5, 2015 - 6:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, batavia, My-T Acres.


On the road back to Batavia after a trip to Lockport for a story, I spotted this cabbage harvester working on MY-T Acres Farm off Lewiston Road, Batavia.

November 5, 2015 - 3:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in accident, batavia.

A car vs. pole accident with minor injuries is reported in the parking lot of the Genesee County Animal Shelter, 3841 W. Main Street Road. Town of Batavia Fire Dpeartment and Mercy medic #4 is responding.




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