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July 14, 2019 - 2:48pm

From Anne Marie Starowitz, on the passing of Ronald J. DiSalvo:

I had the pleasure of knowing this wonderful family -- the DiSalvos. I taught three of Ron's grandchildren. His death is a loss for Batavia of a wonderful store owner and an exceptional family man. Thank you for your memories Ron DiSalvo.

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An excerpt from "Back In the Day, Snapshots of Local History The Way I See It":

In 1949, Charles and Dominic Cultrara started the DiSalvo Shoe Store on a second floor over 111 Main St.

Dominic was then the podiatrist and his brother Charles managed the shoe store. Ronald DiSalvo, who assisted Charles in the shop, bought out his employer’s interest and managed the shop for his partner, Dr. Cultrara.

In 1973, Mr. DiSalvo bought out Dr. Cultrara’s interest and became the sole proprietor. In 1976, DiSalvo’s shoe store relocated to the Genesee Country Mall. After many years of serving Genesee County, Batavia lost another family owned store when DiSalvo Shoe Store closed.

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The picture below was given to me by Ron DiSalvo when I visited at his home in 2015.

For the full obituary of Ronald J. DiSalvo, click here.

June 27, 2019 - 12:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Emory Upton, batavia, news, David Bellavia, history.

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At the Pentagon yesterday, walking down the hall toward the auditorium where the ceremony was held to induct David Bellavia into the Hall of Heroes, I noticed several Civil War displays, so I immediately started looking for anything related to Gen. Emory Upton. I spotted this small placard.

As I was trying to line up a shot, a Pentagon official walked up behind me and said, "Sir, photography is not authorized in this area of the Pentagon." I said, "But this is Emery Upton -- he's from our hometown; there's a big monument to him ..." the official said, "OK, hurry up."

Batavia is now permanently represented in the Pentagon by Upton, Charles F. Rand, and David Bellavia.

June 22, 2019 - 1:26pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, Baby Boomers, the '60s, Vietnam vets, history, batavia, nostalgia.

Anne Marie Starowitz, right, and her friend Cathy in July 1968.

Submitted photos and story by Anne Marie Starowitz:

By definition, a Baby Boomer is a person born during a period of time in which there is a marked rise in a population's birthrate: a person born during a baby boom; especially -- a person born in the United States following the end of World War II (usually considered to be in the years from 1946 to 1964).

That is the Webster's Dictionary definition. But it doesn’t adequately define a Baby Boomer.

I am a Baby Boomer along with my high school and college graduating classes of 1968 and 1972. There are a lot of us and our memories growing up during that time are very special.

We grew up in a world that was so different from the one our grandchildren are growing up in. We all heard about going home when the street lights came on, houses with the doors unlocked, and just playing outside.

In the summer we slept out in tents, caught fireflies, and swam at the community pool.

A telephone was attached to the wall. If you were lucky, you would have a long cord so you could stretch the cord into a closet or another room. There was no call waiting and rare was the household with an answering machine.

Fast forward to today's smartphone and see how technology has changed.

I loved the music of the '60s. A few had their very own transistor (AM) radio. You could walk around with it but the reception was usually terrible.

I remember playing kickball in our front yard every day. In the summer, the park program was the place to be. Everyone had their favorite park that was usually located in your own neighborhood. Of course, the highlight was the park parade.

The Memorial Day parade was always a really special event. There would be the fire trucks, Little League players, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts walking down Main Street. There would be convertibles with our veterans that served in the early wars.

I always remember the Army tanks and jeeps going down Main Street and the feeling it brought seeing them. You also couldn’t wait for the Mighty St. Joseph Drum & Bugle Corps marching down the street.

It wouldn’t be Memorial Day if we didn’t go to the cemetery and walk to every gravestone that belonged to a relative. I would see my aunt and uncles, cousins standing by our grandfather's and grandmother's graves.

In the mid '60s there were tennis court dances and, in the winter, there was ice skating on the tennis courts. Also, in the summer the local churches would hold their annual lawn fete. We always looked forward to them. A Baby Boomer could drink at 18 and the lawn fetes had the best beer tents.

My memories were filled with a time of change. It seemed every generation was associated with a war. My uncle John was in the Korean War; my father in World War II; we were associated with the Vietnam War.

I remember being in college and there was the talk of classmates being drafted. That changed many lives as my college classmates said goodbye to their boyfriends and husbands.

There were protests against the war and I remember marching down Main Street in Buffalo. We wore bracelets of soldiers who were POWs (prisoners of war) or were MIA (missing in action) from the Vietnam War. We never understood why we were over there, and most of all we never understood when our vets were not honored or remembered like the other war veterans once they returned home.

My father told all of us how difficult it was growing up when he did. How many jobs he did and the best story was about the long walk to school in the snow and rain every day and going home for lunch.

Today this Baby Boomer treasures those memories along with my memories growing up during a much slower time, filled with our music, the Beatles, our dances -- the Twist, the Jerk, the Mashed Potato, the Pony, the Swim, the Boogaloo, Watusi and more.

(To view a YouTube compilation of '60s dances, click here.)

I tried to tell our daughters what it was like back then and now I see our daughters telling their children what it was like, their music, the fashion, and the war associated with them growing up.

Technology has changed our world and our children and their children.

All I really remember as a Baby Boomer was we didn't use the word "bored" because we really weren't bored.

Our music was played on a hi-fi system and we actually danced to a band in high school that just might have been your brother’s band.

I wouldn’t change a thing growing up as a Baby Boomer except honoring our Vietnam vets more.

Please share your Baby Boomer memories. They just might be similar to mine.

June 4, 2019 - 1:04pm
posted by Virginia Kropf in D-Day, history, World War II, news, Normandy Invasion, pembroke.

Pembroke High School Social Studies teacher Greg Kinal gets a hug from a former student, Terry Hendry, of Oakfield, after his presentation on D-Day for the Medina Historical Society.

Having taught Social Studies at Pembroke High School or nearly five decades, it’s not surprising Greg Kinal has an above-average interest in World War II, especially D-Day.

Kinal, who will celebrate 50 years as a Pembroke teacher next year, gives about 75 speeches a year and does 40 presentations for historical societies.

“Most of my speeches are to adult groups and I try to pick topics each group would like,” Kinal said. “I have always been infatuated with the events of D-Day and it is a favorite of audiences.”

His interest in D-Day is also fueled by his family’s ties to World War II.

His father was a top turret gunner on a B-25, serving in North Africa and the Italian Campaign. He also had an uncle, Dr. Murl Kinal, who was a neurosurgeon and served as a medic at Normandy. Another uncle, George Frank Schultz, served aboard the USS Quincy and was the first ship to fire on occupied Normandy.

A few years ago, the family arranged for Kinal to take a ride in a B-25 Mitchell bomber at Hagerstown, Md., to celebrate his 70th birthday, but the weather turned sour and the flight was canceled.

Now they have made arrangements for the whole family to go back to Hagerstown this summer for the airplane ride in a B-25.

Kinal gave his talk on D-Day for a recent meeting of the Medina Historical Society at Lee Whedon Memorial Library in Medina. The presentation was timely as the world commemorates the 75th anniversary of the attack on Normandy this Thursday, June 6.

He started his talk by explaining prior to World War II, America had an army of 334,000. By 1943, the number had grown to 12 million, and was soon at 16 million.

In 1939, the United States made fewer than 1,000 planes a year. By the end of 1943, they were building 8,000 a month.

By comparison, in Ypsilanti, Mich., the average car built by Ford Motor Company had 15,000 parts. A B-24 Liberator had more than 1,550,000 parts. When Ford started making B-24s, they were turning out one every 63 minutes.

Prior to the Allied invasion of Normandy, the United States set up a fake base in England across from Calais, with fake tanks.

“They wanted the Germans to think we were going to come across the Channel to Calais, and they bought it,” Kinal said. “Instead, our troops were in Southern England.”

The battle for Normandy was called Operation Overlord, and the D-Day beach landings on its coast was code-named Operation Neptune. The invasion was originally scheduled for June 5, 1944, but the weather turned sour.

They finally got a break, and at 9:45 p.m. on June 5. General Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the command, “OK, let’s go” and 800 Allied planes left England with 20,000 paratroopers for the June 6 invasion, which was a Tuesday.

It was the largest seaborne invasion in history.

The 5,000 ships carried 155,000 troops on the first wave. The average age was 22.

The Germans used machine guns which fired 125 bullets per second, Kinal said.

Five hours later, the Americans were in control of Omaha Beach and by night the Allies were 10 miles into Normandy.

Next came the assault on Utah Beach, and when night came, the Americans had taken all five beaches of Normandy, Kinal said.

During the attack, 300 planes bombed the coast and 13,000 paratroopers jumped into battle. There were 800 transport planes and the ships carried 448,000 tons of ammunition.

The Americans thought they were doing the soldiers a big favor by feeding them a big breakfast of steak, eggs, pork chops and potatoes, not realizing they would mostly all become seasick.

The fighting left 4,414 dead on the beaches, of which 2,499 were Americans. German casualties, however, were estimated at 10,000, Kinal said.

Today, 1,700 Americans are still missing.

“This operation was not planned with any alternatives,” Kinal quoted General Eisenhower. “This operation was planned as a victory. That’s the way it’s going to be.

"We’re going down there and we’re throwing everything we have into it and we’re going to make it a success.”

Kinal lives in Elma where he says they have a veteran who was on the first wave of the attack on Omaha Beach. Each year, the fire company has a gun raffle in Elma, and this veteran is asked to pull the first ticket.

Kinal said he was just asked to give his D-Day talk in Bennington and many people showed up to hear him. There were even six or eight people who had fathers who landed in Normandy on D-Day.

Photo by Virginia Kropf.

May 21, 2019 - 12:27pm
posted by Holland Land Office in agriculture, Gardening, history, Lecture.
Event Date and Time: 
June 20, 2019 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Kathy Woika, a Master Gardener from Bethany, NY, will be speaking on Victory Gardens. Learn something new and help improve your own garden with this exciting program. Ms. Woika will begin at 7pm and the program is $3 per person and $2 for museum members.
May 15, 2019 - 5:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in Joseph Ellicott, hlom, batavia, history, news.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce our newest acquisition of a land deed for the Holland Land Company dated June 30, 1813 acquired at auction at Bontrager Real Estate & Auction Service.

The deed is signed by members of the Holland Land Company and Joseph Ellicott. It represents a well-preserved example of the documentation that was created to expedite the early settlement of Western New York.

The land listed on the document is a lot within present day Newstead in Erie County. The purchaser, a John Voak, bought 120 acres of land for $359.19, an average of $2.99 per acre.

Though the land is in Erie County today, the deed lists the area to be in Niagara County, as the sale occurred before Niagara County was split in 1821.

The deed is currently on display at the museum (131 W. Main St., Batavia) in our Land Office Room exhibit, with other items connected to the Holland Land Company.

April 25, 2019 - 10:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in Boulder Park, Anne Marie Starowitz, Back in the Day, history, indian falls.

From my book "Back in the Day. Snapshots of Local History, the Way I see it."

It was a warm Sunday afternoon. My brothers and I were sitting in the backseat of our parents’ station wagon. We all were watching for the sign that said Boulder Park, Indian Falls, NY, on Route 77. We could not contain our excitement. We were clutching the coupon that said bring this coupon and 25 cents to Boulder Park and get 50 cents worth of ride tickets for children under the age of 12. All rides are a nickel.

We finally arrived at the park, and of course we could not agree on what ride to go on first. Would it be the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, a kiddies’ automobile ride, the airplane ride, or the kiddie chair planes?

People from Genesee County and the surrounding areas shared this happy memory. If you were born in the late ‘40s into the ‘60s you probably would have memories to share. When we asked people for their memories, their responses were, “I remember going on picnics with my family. It was a big treat to go to Boulder Park”; “I remember getting sick on the Ferris wheel. It was the best time of the week because we went as a family,” and, “It was one of my happiest childhood memories. It was the only time I did not fight with my brothers, as long as I got to pick the first ride.”

The man responsible for those memories was Phil Morrot. He bought the Reynolds Farm and Feed Mill on Phelps Road. There, he and his sister Emily created Boulder Park. He selected the area because it was the heart of Indian Falls. It was located between two great hills in the narrow valley of the Tonnewanta, now called the Tonawanda Creek. It was the site where six Indian Trails met. It was sometimes described as a well-hidden fairy spot, blessed by God and nature.

The Morrots were not the first who wanted to utilize this beautiful area. In 1929, Ely S. Parker’s grandson, Arthur, a New York State archeologist, endorsed a proposal by Nathan Strauvis Jr., a member of the New York State Senate, to preserve its beauty as a state park. He was interested because at one time his famous grandfather owned the area. The owner at the time, knowing the land was in demand, raised the price to an amount the state was not able to afford. Another proposal was to tear down the mill and build steps leading to the gorge below connecting the Tonawanda Creek with Diver’s Lake. This would have made a horseshoe park. This was another failed dream.

In 1949 Morrot’s vision for Boulder Park was fulfilled. The area covered 14 acres, including Morrot’s home. Hundreds of automobiles from as far away as Buffalo, Rochester, and Olcott Beach made the pilgrimage to the Boulder Park.

The first rides to be constructed were the famous merry-go-round or as some call it, the carousel. It replaced the old apple processing building. Emily Morrot Bourgard, Phil’s sister, designed the carousel. Herschell Company built it and it was said that the carousel was the best product Herschell Company ever built.

The merry-go-round was one of a kind. It had thirty-two horses and seven unique animals that included a giraffe, an elephant, a camel, a reindeer with real horns, a lion, tiger, and a polar bear. This ride was the first in America to have both an elephant and polar bear. The horses had elongated heads, decorated with plumes and jewels. They were realistic, elaborately carved animals.

The merry-go-round’s first home was not Boulder Park. It was first delivered to Olcott Beach, NY. It was operating at Olcott Beach until 1947. That was the same year Phil Morrot began clearing the land for his Boulder Park.

Most people remember the merry go round. 1,200 electric light bulbs lighted it. The lights were reflected back from a double row of beveled mirrors, which were mounted on panels. The mirrors were alternated with original oil paintings of local landscapes. A Wurlitzer style military band organ provided the energizing music.

In 1930 Theo’s sister Emily died at the hand of the merry-go-round she designed. She stooped down to pick up a ticket and the knee of the Black Charger struck her.

The park employed at least a dozen workers. Mr. Morrot’s children also worked spinning pink cotton candy, taking tickets, serving hot dogs, and ice cream. It was truly a family owned business.

In 1960 a mile long train track was added to the park. It went through the woods on the opposite side of the creek and returned to the park.

Phil retired in 1964 and sold the park. The new owner let the park deteriorate. In 1970 Boulder Park was closed, never to reopen.

Today, the once magical Boulder Park is just a happy childhood memory to many of us. It was a time when parents could leave behind their jobs and go as a family to the wonderful world of Boulder Park to picnic and hop on any favorite ride for the cost of a nickel! Many thought of Boulder Park as our Disney World of Western New York.

The area is back to its natural state, with wildflowers, and home to water snakes, raccoons, possums, skunks, and woodchucks.

The famous carousel was dismantled and in dire need of restoration. The unique animals Emily created were sold individually at different auctions. In 1989 a collector purchased the polar bear for $121,000.

Below, kids in kiddie cars.

Below, "Refreshments anyone?"

Below, this restored elephant is from the famous merry-go-round from Boulder Park.

April 25, 2019 - 7:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Bontrager's Auction, batavia, hlom, history, news.

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A property deed from 1813 and signed by Joseph Ellicott was purchased at auction yesterday by the Holland Land Office Museum for $1,900.

The deed was acquired last year by Dale Vargason, from Wayland, who found it in a box of 18th century documents he acquired and then decided to bring it to Bontrager's Auctions.

Auctioneer Todd Jantzi started bidding off at $1,000 and when there were no initial bids, dropped it down to $800. Two people then jumped into the bidding, including Gary Harkness, representing HLOM, and the bids quickly rose to the $1,900 mark.

Previously: Rare historical document, a deed signed by Joseph Ellicott, to be featured in upcoming auction at Bontrager's

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April 17, 2019 - 2:33pm
posted by Virginia Kropf in news, genesee county, history.

Above, Michael Eula, Ph.D., Genesee County historian, looks at a letter from the New York State Bar Association, inviting Genesee County to participate in the Historical Society of the New York Courts’ County Legal History Project.

 

Genesee County is among more than a dozen counties which have been invited by the New York State Bar Association to participate in the Historical Society of the New York Courts’ County Legal History Project.

The project entails documenting the law itself in each county and how it has changed through the years, said Genesee County Historian Michael Eula, Ph.D.

Eula received a letter April 1 from Leah Nowotarski, of Warsaw, a member of the Committee for Bar Leaders of New York State, requesting Genesee County’s participating in the history project. According to Nowotarski, a number of counties, including Clinton, Dutchess, Franklin, Rockland and Westchester, have already completed their histories, which are posted on the Historical Society of the New York Courts website.

Other counties which have also joined the project are Albany, Broome, Columbia, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Nassau, Ontario, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Wyoming.

The history project is being led by Jonathan Lipmann, retired chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals; Stephen P. Younger, past president of the New York State Bar Association; and Marilyn Marcus, executive director of the Historical Society of the New York Courts.

“This is an opportunity to showcase Genesee County’s rich and fascinating legal history, and how that legal history functions within the wider context of New York and national history,” Eula said. “Genesee County laws, and the courts that administer them, are examples of how the traditions are continuously being adjusted to the changes evident in the development of Genesee County’s history.”

Eula has chosen the title “Flexible Tradition: the History of the Courts in Genesee County, New York, 1802 to the Present” for his submission to the project.

While he has already begun research on the project, he anticipates it will take him a year to complete.

“Being county historian is not the only thing I do,” Eula said. “I am also the County Records Management Officer, so at best, I get to spend an hour and a half a day on the Legal History Project.”

Eula said he is happy Genesee County was included in the Historical Society of the New York Courts’ County Legal History Project.

“I’m going to look at courthouses we have had in Genesee County, their architecture and the famous cases which were held there,” Eula said. “I will also look at the law itself in Genesee County and how it has changed to keep up with a changing society.”

Eula said he has a whole archive of documents from the 1800s to search through. There is information on civil cases, criminal cases and much more, he said.

He will also explore how punishment has changed over time and how we define family law.

One of the most famous cases in Genesee County history is that of local businessman R. Newton Rowell, who walked into their bedroom and found his wife with her lover Johnson Lynch, the great-grandson of President John Adams. Rowell shot and killed Lynch, but the jury acquitted him.

“That is an example of how society and views have changed,” Eula said. “He probably wouldn’t have been acquitted today. I will also be looking at the law in terms of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in Genesee County.”

Another interesting fact -- most people don’t realize we had slaves in Genesee County until New York abolished slavery in 1827.

“Even before then, as far back as 1813, slaves who were accused of a crime were given the right to a trial by jury,” Eula said.

The historian said it is interesting to note how a court itself is structured.

“You always have the judge on a platform, so we have to look up,” Eula said. “That tells us we are in a place of authority. Words used by lawyers in a courtroom, as time has gone on, have become almost like a foreign language.”

Eula will also explore how the legal world affects a typical resident of Genesee County, such as a hard-working farmer who is summoned as a juror. When he comes off the fields into a courtroom, it is a very different world from his normal one, Eula said.

Eula will also be submitting photos with his essay.

“I am very happy the Bar Association included Genesee County in its project,” Eula said.

Photo by Virginia Kropf.

February 15, 2019 - 12:30pm
posted by Holland Land Office in Holland Land Office Museum, clothing, history.
Event Date and Time: 
March 12, 2019 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Gail Argetsinger, an associate professor and resident costume designer at The College at Brockport, will be speaking on what clothing might have been seen at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Mo., in 1904. "More than 19 million people flocked to the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. The attendees represented a cross section of society and occupations, and it was reflected in their dress. This presentation will focus on the apparel that would have been seen on the fairgoers, how the aesthetics of the period and fabric/ fashion technology informed those fashions."
January 24, 2019 - 11:39am
posted by Holland Land Office in Holland Land Office Museum, coffee, Donuts, history.
Event Date and Time: 
March 28, 2019 - 9:00am to 10:30am
Join us at the museum the 4th Thursday of each month, 9-10:30am for coffee, pastries and lively conversation about historical and cultural characters and events. If interested in this event, please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or email [email protected] and we will be happy to keep a chair and a warm cup of “joe” waiting for you.
January 24, 2019 - 11:27am
posted by Holland Land Office in Holland Land Office Museum, coffee, Donuts, history.
Event Date and Time: 
February 28, 2019 - 9:00am to 10:30am
Join us at the museum the 4th Thursday of each month, 9-10:30am for coffee, pastries and lively conversation about historical and cultural characters and events. If interested in this event, please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or email [email protected] and we will be happy to keep a chair and a warm cup of “joe” waiting for you.
January 2, 2019 - 1:28pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in schools, education, news, batavia, history.

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       Anne Marie Starowitz

A couple of months ago a friend contacted me and asked if I would like a book from the Union School. I immediately said, “yes.” When I taught at Robert Morris School there was a painting of a very impressive red brick school called Union School. I always thought there was another school on Union Street besides Robert Morris. When I began researching schools for my book, I learned the impressive school did exist in Batavia but on Ross Street.

Here is a brief timeline of the schools in Batavia. As Western New York was settled in the 1700s, the first thing on a settler’s mind was to build a home for the family and gardens or crops to feed them, but no community was complete until a church was built and soon followed by a schoolhouse.

By 1798, there were 1,352 schools in the Holland Land Purchase (the area sold and administrated from the Holland Land Office in Batavia). Within 40 years (by 1838) that number increased almost tenfold, to 10,583. 

The first brick school was constructed in Batavia in 1811. It had the public school downstairs and a meeting place for the Masonic Lodge upstairs. In 1829, the school district was divided between west of Dingle Alley and east of Dingle Alley. That would be the intersection of East Main and Center Street.

In 1839, the districts were consolidated and Batavia’s First Free Union School District 1 was built. In 1861, District 2 was combined with District 1. As a result, overcrowding occurred and the need for a new school was inevitable. The school district purchased land on Ross Street and in 1873 the red brick high school was built. It opened in 1874.

It was demolished in 1926 and was replaced with a new high school, currently the Batavia Middle School. The book I mentioned in this article was from the first high school that had the impressive red brick façade and towers. The book is stamped Union School 1905. The title of the book is, "The History of Little Goody Two Shoes," published in 1900. The book is dedicated "To All Young Gentlemen and Ladies who are good or intend to be good."

In 1911 the district was combined with one superintendent in charge of all schools. In the City School District, there was a high school, five elementary schools, the school for the blind and one Catholic school with students to 12th grade. By 1920, 400 students attended the high school; it was overflowing.

In 1921, 30 students had to go to vacant classrooms at East school. In 1920 the high school was built. There were five elementary schools and only one had been built in the 1900s. Washington was built in 1885 and had four rooms. In 1903 H. W. Homelius built a new school that had two floors and eight classrooms. It opened in 1904. Also built at the same time was Pringle School and William Street School. Washington School was built in 1885. East School and West School were built in 1892.

 In 1925 Jackson School would be built to replace William School and Pringle School. In 1929 Brooklyn School, Robert Morris, and Jackson school opened. In 1939 Jackson School was enlarged and opened as a junior high school. By 1948 all city schools were crowded. Students were bussed to less crowded schools. Parents protested, they wanted their kids in their neighborhood schools.

Temporary schools were created at East School and Washington School. In 1950, city council offered to the City School District a site on Vine Street for a new school. Pringle school closed and was razed in 1954. Lincoln School closed in 1960. Children living south of Ellicott Street went to Jackson School, which was no longer a junior high school. A new school was to be built on Vine Street, called John Kennedy School, named after the superintendent John Kennedy who served from 1890 to 1930.

As public schools were being built, so were parochial schools. St. Joseph School opened in 1882, Sacred Heart School in 1904, St. Anthony’s School in 1930, St. Mary’s School in 1951, and Notre Dame High School opened in 1952. St. Joseph School is currently the only Catholic Elementary School in Batavia along with Notre Dame High School.

In 1961 the current Batavia High School was built on State Street. The high school on Ross Street was changed to a middle school. A new school for B.O.C.E.S. was also built on State Street and opened in 1976. In 1972 the new Genesee Community College was built.

In 2014 Robert Morris School closed. Jackson School became the district primary school and John Kennedy School became the intermediate school.

Even though the earliest history of the various schoolhouses throughout the region had similar stories with varied locations and different building designs, they all were built for the same reason -- to educate the children in what is today our city schools.

I attended East School, John Kennedy School, St. Joseph and Notre Dame High and I taught at Jackson School, Robert Morris School and John Kennedy School. I am currently on the faculty at St. Joseph School.

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December 19, 2018 - 1:22pm
posted by Genesee Chamber... in history, museums, tourism, news.

The snowy season is the perfect time to explore a museum (or two, or three). And Genesee County is the perfect place to find interesting information and interactive fun just waiting to be discovered. From surprising local history to immersive experiences to a whole gallery dedicated to the dessert that changed the world, we’ve rounded up a few great museums to set your sights on.

Get ready to warm up while you brush up on your local historical knowledge. The hardest part is deciding where to start!

Holland Land Office Museum

What better place to begin your journey than in Batavia, NY – called “the birthplace of Western New York?” Step into the Holland Land Office Museum, an 1810 stone building bursting with artifacts and information that tell the story of the area and those notable people who impacted it in a major way. See the Medal of Honor earned by Charles F. Rand, a Batavian who was to first soldier in the nation to volunteer for the Civil War. View an original gibbet used in hangings up until 1881. Combine your visit with a stop at the Batavia Peace Garden, located right next door.

In the spirit of the holidays, the museum currently has a tree wonderland exhibit where visitors can explore nearly 50 well-decorated trees, pictures and festive displays. The 2018 theme is “Favorite Holiday Movie,” so get ready for a trip down memory lane! The museum also hosts monthly trivia nights on the second Thursday of the month.

JELL-O Gallery Museum

Did you know JELL-O was invented right here in Genesee County in 1897? Follow the JELL-O brick road and see where it all began! Explore the history of “America’s Most Famous Dessert” while you enjoy old TV commercials and ads, famous JELL-O works of art, and lots of wiggly, jiggly fun facts. A stop at the museum isn’t complete until you browse the gift store and take home a souvenir in every color.

Rolling Hills Asylum

No plated glass, no guard rails, no barriers. Just pure unfiltered history at Rolling Hills Asylum. Once housing the Genesee County Poor Farm, the addition of the infirmary in 1938 sealed the fate of poor unfortunate souls who were sent there. This unusual museum provides a more hands-on experience for guests, allowing them to get up close and personal with its past. Take a history tour, a flashlight tour, join a guided ghost hunt, or spend several hours exploring during an overnight lock-in. Special events like painting parties, movie showings, and dinners are also offered year-round.

Genesee Country Village & Museum

Centuries of American history come to life (literally) in this living history complex of more than 600 acress in Wheatland (Monroe County). Sixty-eight authentic, historic buildings dot the charming Genesee Country Village, with thousands of artifacts housed throughout. Find yourself immersed in 18th and 19th century life, as you browse homes from early settlers in the 1800s up to affluent members of society in the 1900s. Visit with farm animals, interact with costumed interpreters, attend a special event -- and don’t forget to swing by the on-site brewery for a swig.

Harford House Barn & Livery

The Harford House Barn & Livery museum resides in the former 1880 Harford Hotels Livery Stables in Downtown Bergen. Inside the barn, guests can browse interesting, life-size tableaux depicting a blacksmith shop, a general store, school classroom and more. Presentations are also available by village Historian Raymond MacConnell for those curious to learn more.

Historic Le Roy House

More than 100 years of unique history can be found in this mansion-turned-museum! Built in 1822, the home was once owned by the Chancellor of Ingham University -- the first female university in the United States to grant a four-year degree. As you tour three floors of period-designed rooms, learn about local abolitionists, see a real open-hearth kitchen, and enjoy hands-on activities for the kids. The building itself is a sight to behold – listed on the National Register of Historical Places!

Medina Railroad Museum

The Medina Railroad Museum (in Orleans County) is the largest freight depot in the country, with the largest collection of train artifacts and memorabilia housed under one roof. Browse the exhibits before hopping on a scenic train ride or themed seasonal excursion. Throughout the year you’ll find rides that travel along the Erie Canal, zip past fall foliage, take you to the North Pole to meet Santa and his reindeer – or allow you to hop aboard an Easter Express and meet the big bunny himself.

Tonawanda Indian Reservation Historical Society

Immerse yourself in the lives of local Native Americans. The history of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians is celebrated throughout the hallways of the Tonawanda Indian Community House. Wander the halls as you explore large-scale photographs and illustrations that display the history and heritage of the Reservation. Learn about the tribe and the history of the Seven Nations, and don’t forget to see the chief’s headdress on the second floor.

Le Roy Barn Quilt Trail

Who says a museum has to be enclosed? Barn Quilts of Le Roy began as a bicentennial project for the town and has grown to feature more than 100 handmade quilts on display on barns throughout the area. Step-on bus tours are offered by appointment or you can hop in a car with some friends or your family and take the driving tour yourself! The quilts represent the pride of Le Roy, a town rich with heritage.

Alabama Museum

Local history can hold some surprising secrets…did you know that the town of Alabama, NY used to have three-gun manufacturers in town? The Alabama Museum resides in an old schoolhouse and features everything from a hammered dulcimer to an old doctor’s buggy. Browse the artifacts and get an understanding of a little local history, dating back to the mid-1800s. You can also grab a copy of the Alabama Cookbook for your home or as a gift. The 70-page cookbook includes cooking tips, favorite recipes from the locals, and some recipes from the 1895 Alabama Cookbook.

History buffs need not stop there! See all of the local museums within Genesee County and find more fascinating facts here.

November 24, 2018 - 8:00am
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, batavia water tower, history.

By Dave Reilly

Teenagers have most likely been doing risky adventures since ancient times. It's their way of rebelling and trying new things.

Prehistoric teens might having taken dad's newly invented wheel for a joyride down the highest sand dune. Or they could have covered some cave paintings with graffiti.

In the '50s and '60s in Batavia, drag racing on the Creek Road or jumping off the Walnut Street Bridge into Tonawanda Creek were things kids would do that parents certainly wouldn't have been happy about if they had known.

One of the rites of passage into daring teenhood that my friends and I did was climb the Batavia Water Tower on Ellicott Street.

If you lived or worked in Batavia between 1939 and 2003 you would have seen the Water Tower jutting above the city skyline. Located on Ellicott Street behind the E. N. Rowell Box Factory and Engine House #1 of the City Fire Department, it was on the bank of Tonawanda Creek and very near to downtown.

Built in 1938-39 as a project for W. P. A. (the Works Progress Administration was renamed the Work Projects Administration) at a cost of $175,000 ($3 million in today's money) the tower was short-term insurance in the event of a break in the city's water supply.

Just shy of 200 feet high (17 stories) it was believed at the time of its construction to be the tallest water tower in the United States. The blinking red lights on top were to alert low-flying aircraft. It held 1.5 million gallons, or 13 million pounds, of water.

In 1983 it was repainted at a cost of $89,000. In 2003, the 65-year-old rusting structure was no longer needed and was disassembled and taken down at a cost of $114,000.

From the day it was finished, the Batavia Water Tower must have been a challenge to the teenage ego, or maybe even to younger youths; in 1952 four boys between the ages of 10 and 14 were discovered up there by police in broad daylight. They told police they wanted to see Lake Erie, but were disappointed that they couldn't even see Lake Ontario.

For my friends and me it was akin to Flick in “A Christmas Story” accepting the “double dog dare” and sticking his tongue on a frozen flagpole. None of us really wanted to go up the tower. But, in the code of teens, none of us could get out of climbing it if someone else did without severe repercussions to our reputation. In other words, we'd rather be scared than called chicken.

I don't know about the others, but I had to block out my fear of heights, which I still have to this day. Not exactly as bad as Indiana Jones and snakes, but worse than flying on a commercial airline.

At least we weren't brazen enough to climb in the daytime. That would have resulted in a ride in a patrol car immediately. Plus, half the fun was getting away with it and not telling your parents until you were 40.

So, we would sneak back there in the dead of night. The darker the better. First, there was a fence to climb over. “Danger” and “Warning” signs were posted on the fence, but that just made it more inviting. Then, you had to hoist yourself up to a spiral staircase, which wound around the core of the tower. That part was actually not bad as it had solid steps and handrails, so if you didn't look down it was bearable.

At the top of the spiral stairs was a circular walkway which went all the way around. This part also had a railing and I could handle it if I kept my back against the wall and didn't look over the side. Those who have a fear of heights will identify with the weak feeling I would get in my legs just watching one of my braver buddies look down over the railing.

I imagine there was a fine view of the surrounding area from there in the daytime, but all we could see were the lights of downtown and surrounding buildings like the Doehler-Jarvis plant, a tool-and-die company, just to the south. (It employed 1,500 people in its heyday and closed in 1981. The buildings were later razed to make way for parking around the ice-skating rink.)

The biggest challenge though was negotiating an arced ladder that had no handrail and which curved over the top and took you up to the lights on the apex of the structure.

With trembling hands, up we would go. Once we grabbed onto the lights flashing in our face like a drowning person to a piece of driftwood, we could relax for a few minutes and enjoy our conquest. We would light up a cigarette (another thing our parents would frown on even though most of them smoked, too) and gloat in our accomplishment.

One time, we had to snuff our smokes quickly and remain very silent as we observed a policeman on foot checking on the cars in Mancuso's used car lot just below the tower. We had to stay up there longer than usual while he completed his rounds and finally left. We undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief and tried to enjoy the moment without thinking about the trip back down.

Going back down that curved ladder was absolutely the hardest part for me. You could not negotiate the ladder going over the edge without looking down at least briefly. If that cop had still been there he could have probably heard my heart pounding.

Once back on the walkway, you could begin your descent of the spiral staircase. Holding tightly onto the railings, I would try to look straight out and not down.

As I got to the bottom of the stairway I would almost be running and then as I hopped onto the ground a huge feeling of relief would wash over me -- “I made it, I'm still alive!”

As I walked home, I would tell myself, “OK. That's it. I don't care what the guys say or how much grief they give me, I am never going up there again.” Of course, I did care, and the next time I'd go again. Except for the force of nature, I'm not sure there is anything more powerful than peer pressure.

It was more than 50 years ago, and I don't remember how many times I climbed the water tower. Certainly five or less. But, considering my fear of heights it's still a perverse badge of honor of my teen years.

When the Batavia Water Tower was being taken down in 2003, my dad was a resident of the New York State Veterans Home and I would go to Batavia twice a week to visit him. When the last of the tower was lying on the ground waiting to be taken away to scrapyards, I stopped by there and got as close as I could.

"Hah! You're not so high and mighty now are you?” I laughed.

But still every time I go out on a bridge or the balcony of a high story hotel room, I know that tower is laughing back at me.

Photos of the Batavia Water Tower courtesy of Judy Stiles at the Genesee County History Department.

Dave Reilly last wrote for The Batavian about a red football helmet he treasured as a boy growing up in Batavia.

November 21, 2018 - 5:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in history, Le Roy, news, batavia.

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Photos and article submitted by Anne Marie Starowitz.

I have been in a classroom since 1955. As a kindergarten student at the East School on Main Street in Batavia, I was evaluated by a checklist of questions: Could I tie my shoes, skip, and did I play well with others? We all know that has changed over the years.

My next memories were at St. Joseph’s Elementary School, where I learned Gregorian chant and how to diagram sentences. We didn’t have a gymnasium so recess was definitely my favorite subject because it was outside. We covered our books with brown grocery paper bags and the girls wore navy blue uniforms. In high school again, we wore blue uniforms.

Traditional teaching was the norm, a teacher at the front of the room lecturing and students taking notes. D’Youville College was different in the late ‘60s. First of all, very few students owned a typewriter; our papers were handwritten or if you were lucky your roommate had a typewriter.

You lined up in long lines to try to get the required courses for your major. It took weeks to get your grades in the mail. When I graduated the job, market was flooded; I was one of thousands who wanted to be teachers. The Vietnam War influenced many students to stay in college. 

I was so lucky to land my first job at the Wolcott Street School in Le Roy.  I finally had my own classroom. I was not the student anymore; I was the teacher. I had my stack of ditto masters and I was ready to create my worksheets. How lucky to have the hand-operated Ditto machine available to make my copies. As the children would say those dittoes smelled so good. 

I wanted to be a hands-on teacher. My first year in third grade the Social Studies curriculum was learning about the regions of the world. The first area I had to teach was the deserts of the world. So, I brought in sand, bought every possible cactus plant I could find and prepared a display on a long table. We did a mural with a map to go behind the table. The children created a papier-mâché camel. They were so engaged.

I wanted the children to feel what it was like to live in a desert. I turned the thermostat in the classroom to about 85 degrees. I did not know my thermostat controlled the 12 classrooms on my floor. I bet those kids (and the other teachers) never forgot the lesson on deserts! I was lucky that I was given the opportunity to try new things. I always believed if you were excited to be a teacher, your students would be excited to learn.

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When I taught in Batavia I again worked with a wonderful principal, Andy Steck. He supported my teaching style. He accompanied my class to New York City and always supported my trips to Albany. I retired in 2007 and for the next 11 years I continued to teach. I borrowed teachers’ classrooms who were ill or at a meeting. In 2017, I changed from a substitute teacher back to a classroom teacher.   This time I am very happy to be on the faculty of St. Joseph School as their second-grade teacher.

My life has come full circle.

Times have changed and with the passing years many programs have come and gone. Technology has impacted the way we teach and how the children learn. Nevertheless, the teachers are the same as they were back in my day, 46 years ago when I was a first-year teacher: Teachers are in the classrooms for one reason, the children!

Ann Marie Starowitz is author "Back in the Day: Snapshots of Local History,The Way I see It!." The book is in its final printing and is available at 20-percent off the original price at the Holland Land Office Museum bookstore.

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November 19, 2018 - 1:53pm

OAKFIELD -- Those with a curiosity about Oakfield’s past won’t want to miss the latest book published by the Oakfield Historical Society.

"The Stories Behind the Businesses (The Way We Were)" chronicles what writer Darlene Warner calls Oakfield’s “carefree years,” and tells the stories behind the businesses which put Oakfield on the map.

“I am totally enthused about this book,” Warner said. “Wherever possible, I asked family members to write their own family stories, and this resulted in fantastic histories about the businesses in Oakfield in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s that only they could tell.”

Warner has covered earlier years in previous books she has written, she said. 

"The Stories Behind the Businesses" contains 65 stories, including hardware stores, grocery and dry goods stores, gas stations, car dealerships, dairies, a pharmacy, furniture stores, a flower shop, plumbers, laundromats and pizzerias.

“You name it, we had it here,” Warner said. “The stories are wonderful.”

Readers will discover how Al Hilchey got the hardware store; what it was like living at the Arnold House; that the bowling alley once had bleachers; why Cuzzy’s was called the “Eland Dairy Bar”; who had the first self-made car wash; and the interesting ways some business owners were paid.

The book also discloses when the shoemaker’s shop was demolished and what happened to the cobblestone; which grocer taught a young boy about food and self respect; and who was a former cowboy and could do some soft shoe.

“We had restaurants and hotels and so much more,” Warner said. “Plus, it was our ‘carefree years,’ where children could play outside until dark with never so much as a worry for their parents. Many people have commented to me that this was great fun for them, reminiscing over old memories. Thus, this has been a fun book to work on all the way around.”

The book, which sells for $20, is the latest in a series of books about Oakfield, all of which are on sale at the Historical Society’s Research Center, 7 Maple Ave. Or this newest book will be shipped for $6.70 more.

The book is also available at the Haxton Memorial Library, and after Dec. 3 at the Oakfield Family Pharmacy.

The Historical Society is open from 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays.

On Dec. 1, the Historical Society will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during Christmas in the Village. During that time they will also host the Oakfield-Alabama Central School Art Show. Residents are urged to come in and vote for their favorite artist.

The Historical Society will also be an ornament stop for the Oakfield Betterment Committee.

October 21, 2018 - 11:30pm

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Tracy Ford reprised his role as the Rev. John Henry Yates during the Batavia Cemetary Association's annual Ghost Walk, which gives guests an opportunity to be treated to a lively lesson on Batavia's history.

This year's addition included Gregory Hallock, director of GO ART!, as Eli Fish, the former local brewer who has come to life again, so to speak, in the brewery and restaurant now occupying the former Newberry's building downtown.

Diana Buckman, also pictured below, played Nannie Hunt, whose sons Thomas and Joseph served in the Civil War, with Joseph dying in battle in 1862. She read a letter from Hunt's daughter Martha about Joseph's death.

Once again, the event was a sellout.

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October 20, 2018 - 11:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy pd, news, history.

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Louis Buono, left, owner of the McDonald's franchise in Le Roy, is remodeling his store and in the new design there won't be room for the historical photographs he had on display before.

Most of the photos are going to the Le Roy Historial Society, but one, of Le Roy police officers with a patrol car and motorcycles, has been donated to Le Roy PD for display inside the station in the Village Hall. Accepting the donation is Officer Greg Kellogg.

October 19, 2018 - 10:45am
posted by Holland Land Office in Trivia, Holland Land Office Museum, history.
Event Date and Time: 
November 8, 2018 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Every second Thursday of each month, put your knowledge of seemingly trivial facts to the test & learn some new ones with our  History Trivia Family & Team Challenge!! $3 per person/ $2 for museum members call for team pricing Keep an eye on our twitter and website page for more details and make sure to share with your friends!
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