Wrecking ball can't take away 'Hallmark movie' memories of Downtown Batavia
I always have been a follower of Hallmark movies due to their storyline's simplicity and happy endings. What I think that most intrigued me was when the main characters always seemed to go home to save a part of their town, from historic buildings to Main streets.
These stories always take me back to our Downtown. I've written many articles about urban renewal, its history, why it happened, and how it happened.
But it never illustrates the sadness we endured or the memories we cherish.
Watching a Hallmark movie with its predictable ending always makes me think about going home or being home in Batavia.
Many of these movies take me back to the '60s and the daily ritual of walking home from Notre Dame High School. As my best friend and I would cross Union Street to Main Street, our first stop would always be the Red Barn for a little snack. The next stop would be Oliver's for Molly Pops.
It was a simple time, but the memories of walking down Main Street are as vivid today as they were in the '60s.
The big red brick square building on the corner of Court Street and Main Street always intrigued me.
I knew it must have been a hotel, and standing on our tiptoes, looking at the dusty lobby always made me curious about that building.
Many years later, as I was researching the hotel, I returned to that window scene imprinted in my mind, imagining people dancing and eating in that beautiful Richmond Hotel, named after the famous Dean Richmond family.
I think some of my favorite memories were shopping. I love the clothes of the '60s. Favorite places to shop were Alexander’s Clothing Store and C.L. Carr's department store. It was always so much fun to go into the stores and look at the newest styles.
Being a Notre Dame student, we had to wear the ugliest uniforms.
What were they thinking by having the girls wear a bolero? So, the idea of getting new clothes was a big deal.
Alexander's on the north side of Main Street had a section in the store called The Barn. It was like walking into a teenager’s fashion dream, showcasing all the newest styles.
When I was a freshman, there was a dance called the Christmas Dance, and I remember buying my dress from The Barn.
It was pink, and since this was my first dance (I was 14), and my dad being a dad, he made me add a big black velvet bow to the neckline of the dress. I always thought that was funny since I weighed about 93 pounds.
I also remember in my senior year buying my formal for our senior prom at Alexander's.
I can't forget my other favorite store on the south side of Main Street, C. L. Carr. It was like entering into many little departments that, together, created a building where you could buy almost anything.
I loved their clothes. Somehow, there was a deal with my parents, or I should say with my mom, that I could take home clothes on approval.
That was always exciting because I could pick out my favorite clothes and take them home and show my mom, and hopefully, I could keep one or two of them.
My mother would say, "Don't show your father today; wait a few days, and the day your father asks 'When did you get that new outfit?' you can say, 'Oh, I’ve had it awhile, Dad.' ”
Since we had to wear such attractive uniforms one year, the store sold mohair sweaters that we could thankfully wear over our school uniform. I didn't care that I was allergic to wool. I would wear that sweater, so did my best friend, Cathy. I think she might've had a blue sweater and I had a pink one. I loved that sweater.
I have so many memories of that fantastic store in which you could buy a particular card, vacuum cleaner, a rug, sewing supplies, pots and pans, and have gifts wrapped all year long.
I can remember buying my wedding gown in 1974 with my mom, another memory I will cherish.
It was the way the sales clerk treated you with such kindness and respect that left such a remarkable impression. I picked out our everyday dishes and "good china” at Carr’s.
They also had a travel agency kiosk called Travelore on their first floor where we bought our honeymoon tickets. You really could find everything in that store.
Years later, I had my first child and couldn't wait to buy baby clothes.
I also would buy gifts for other friends and relatives, and somehow the sales clerks at the store knew if that new baby had already received the gift I had picked out.
When our daughter was in high school, she was one of the Christmas wrappers in the store's basement.
With their fake snow and predictable storylines, Hallmark movies take me back to my hometown to remember what it was like before it was taken away.
The one thing the wrecking ball couldn't take away are the treasured memories of my hometown Main Street.
1) (Top) Demolition of Downtown Batavia in the name of urban renewal, courtesy of Genesee County History Department;
2) Red brick building -- Hotel Richmond, courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum;
3) Hotel Richmond lobby, coustesy of the Genesee County History Department;
4) Notre Dame High School class photo of girls wearing boleros, from a ND yearbook;
5) Anne Marie Peca in her Senior Prom formal from Alexander's clothing store, courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz;
6) Anne Marie Peca wedding photo, courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz;
7) C. L. Carr store drawing, Pat Burr;
8) (Bottom) Main Street Downtown Batavia, courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum.