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December 1, 2021 - 8:49am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in Edna Gruber, batavia, news, history.

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In 1926 a young woman purchased Batavia's Central Hotel.  She renamed it the Palace Hotel.  The red brick structure was located just south of the New York Central Railroad tracks.  The hotel consisted of three floors.  The main living space for the family was five rooms on the first floor, with nine bedrooms on the second floor and six unused bedrooms on the third floor.  The stately hotel would soon be known as Edna's or the 'house of ill repute.' No one knows how Edna got into prostitution, but there is mention that she was raped at a young age.  She was determined never to allow another woman to go through that violent, humiliating experience.

Edna Geyer was born on July 28, 1882, into a poor family in Buffalo, NY. By the age of 13, she began working in a barroom scrubbing floors. At the age of 15, Edna married Joseph Gruber and had a daughter, Florence in 1901.

In 1935 Edna's daughter Florence died in an accidental fire in Sandusky, Ohio. The death of her daughter was traumatic for Edna. Florence had two children, William and Edna, ages five and three. They moved into the Palace Hotel to live with their grandma, the infamous Edna, upon their mother's death. 

It was difficult for young Edna to lose her mother, move to Batavia and live with her grandmother.  When young Edna's father Charles returned to Batavia to find his wife and children, Grandma Edna took him to the cemetery and pointed to her daughter Florence's headstone.  When Charles wanted to take his children back with him, Edna had him beaten and implied that if he didn't leave town now, then he never would. 

Edna was a powerful woman.  She had connections and was not afraid to use them. As a result, Charles seldom saw his children, except when Edna went to prison for a year for "operating a disorderly house." At that time, Edna asked Charles to come to Batavia and run the Palace Hotel until she returned.

Edna, as the grandmother, was obsessively clean and neat.  She maintained an immaculate house, scrubbing the kitchen floor and bleaching the sidewalk every single day.  She was not your stereotypical madam or your demonstrative loving grandma.  She was an alcoholic and would be drunk for days on end.  As a petite woman of 5 feet stature, she raised her grandchildren with very high morals.  Her grandchildren were completely separate from Edna's prostitution business. Her grandchildren said, "She tried very hard to save us from hurt. She didn't care if people respected her, but they had to respect her grandchildren." The children were never told what went on at the Palace Hotel.

It was challenging to grow up in the Palace Hotel.  Other children ostracized young Edna. If Edna thought her granddaughter was being shunned by her classmates, she had no trouble calling the family and asking the parents if their child had a problem walking to school with her granddaughter.  Just hearing the threat in her voice was enough to instill fear in her granddaughter's classmates.  Ultimately, Edna wanted to save young Edna and Bill from hurt.

Edna was a shrewd businesswoman.  When the earnings from the Palace were divided, she took fifty percent of the profits for herself, and 50 percent went to the girls to be shared with their pimps.

Young Edna and her brother, Bill's lives, were a contradiction.  On the one hand, Grandma Edna was very generous with gifts, but on the other hand, she had young Edna work on the muck to earn money for school clothes.

The Edna the public knew was different from the madam. Edna's generosity to children in the area was legendary.   In the 20s, Edna noticed three young girls living near the New York Central railroad in squalor.  She took the girls home, cleaned them up, fed them, found homes for the older children, and adopted the youngest.

Rather than Edna the madam from Jackson Street, you heard stories about Edna taking care of the less fortunate.  At Christmastime, she would spend hundreds of dollars on toys for children at the Children's Home, the local orphanage in Batavia.  She was known for purchasing communion dresses and suits for needy children of the neighborhood. She told sales clerks at Thomas and Dwyer to be on the lookout for children walking to school barefoot.  She would ask that they be fitted for shoes, and then she would pay the bill.  Edna would send men into McAlpine and Barton in need of a warm suit, and again, the clerks would fit that person and send the invoice to Edna.  She also bought uniforms for the police and fire departments.

Yes, Edna had politicians in her back pocket and probably was connected to the Mafia. She knew how to outsmart the local police and could be very strict and often cold. However, most stories about her described her generosity. She believed that you did not hurt someone who was already down but rather should help them. 

Edna died in 1953. Her granddaughter, young Edna, found her in their living room slumped over a chair.  The Palace Hotel was left to Edna and her brother Bill.  Today the building has been sided and made into apartments.  If only the walls could talk!

Photographs are courtesy of Edna's Gruber's Family and the Holland Land Office Museum.

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September 15, 2021 - 1:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in history.
Event Date and Time: 
September 15, 2021 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

7 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, located at 11115 W. Park Street in Pavilion. The presentation is entitled “Is it Dangerous to Believe Anything We Want to Believe in? The Plot to Kill President Lincoln and the Place of Conspiracies in Genesee County – and American – History.” 

August 27, 2021 - 11:25am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, batavia, news, bakeries.

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Over the years bakeries found homes on the corners of many Batavia streets, especially Ellicott Street.  There was nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the store.  It was a smell of comfort.

One of the earliest bakers was Louis Uebele, who came from Germany and settled in Batavia in 1900.  He was responsible for baking all of the bread that was served at the newly built New York State School for the Blind.  His building was on the corner of Main and Center Street.  That location had several owners over the years and was known at various times as Henning’s, Williams’ Bakery, and Andrews’ Bakery.  There were other bakers who baked out of their homes for their neighbors.

In 1905 the Hiscutt Brothers, Arthur and Robert, started a small business at 240 Ellicott St.  The business expanded and the brothers bought a lot on Center Street south of the Masonic Temple.  In 1921 the Hiscutts bought the lot next door to be used as a garage and shipping room.  They delivered baked goods via horse and wagon even though automobiles were a new commodity.  The Hiscutt Brothers ran a very successful business for more than 25 years.  By 1932 the completion of chain store bakeries was cutting into their profits.  In 1937 the Genesee Trust Company took ownership of the business.  It was then sold to R. Walter Riehlman of Tully, NY.  He changed the name to The Table Top Bakery. 

Table Top Bakery renovated the former Hiscutts’ building.  Two delivery routes were established and the cream and orange International trucks could be seen on the roads.  Eventually, Table Top Bakery was servicing nearly all of Genesee County.  Two 300-loaf ovens were in use 24 hours a day supplying bread and other products to meet the needs of their customers.  A retail shop was maintained at the plant for the convenience of local shoppers who opted out of the delivery service.

Quintalino and Lucia (Zinni) Prospero had a bakery on Ellicott Street.   Mr. Prospero was a skilled baker who emigrated from Abruzzo, Italy, and ran the Prospero Bakery at 421 Ellicott Street in the early 20th century.  Mr. Prospero trained Mr. Colangelo who later opened a bakery on Ellicott and Mr. Saracini who opened a bakery on Liberty.  Unfortunately, there was a fire at Prospero's bakery in the mid-1930s that resulted in the closing of the bakery.  Prospero's Bakery was the original Italian bakery in Batavia. It was remembered as the bakery that sold day-old bread for one cent to the poorer families.  

Colangelo’s Bakery was located on Ellicott Street and was commonly known as the Ellicott Bakery.  It was originally called Alexander Colangelo’s Bakery.  In the ‘30s there was a second Colangelo’s run by Nicholas Colangelo on 119 Liberty Street.  Nicholas Colangelo’s bakery closed in 1937 and Alexander Colangelo’s bakery was open until 1973.

Casmir Stomper came to Batavia from Poland in 1925.  He became familiar with the locals when, with a basket of bread over his arm, he went door to door making deliveries in the neighborhood. In 1930 he opened a Polish bakery at 208 Swan Street.  He later moved his bakery to 400 Ellicott. The bakery had a deep stone oven; an oil burner heated the bricks.  This way of baking was considered outdated and so were the wooden boxes that were used for the rye bread to rise.   Stomper’s customers did not notice the outdated equipment; they just wanted their famous rye bread. His son Jack ran a bakery on Oak Street. After his father died he moved to the Ellicott Street Bakery and continued the tradition of baking rye bread using the old family recipe. Stomper’s was known for the hearth-baked bread and many Polish delicacies such asrugalske, plechunki, placki, bobka, and piatzek.  All of his goods were made from scratch.  He learned his baking skills from an Army baking school during WWI and he also attended a national baking school in Chicago. Jack’s wife Veronica died in 1986.  He lost interest in the bakery and his customers were left without their famous rye bread and cakes.

Grundler’s bakery was a popular bakery run by Louis Grundler and later his two sons, Louis and Harold.  The shop opened in 1934 but Louis Grundler had been selling baked goods in Batavia long before that.  He came to Batavia from Bavaria when he was about 16 years old to work at Schwab’s Bakery in Rochester.  In the late ‘20s, he ran a bakery on Jefferson Avenue in Batavia called Scott’s.  He was looking for a business to buy and eventually found one in Oakfield.  About 1933 Mr. Grundler came back to Batavia and sold baked goods from a shop at 12 Main Street.  He continued to bake in Oakfield and brought his baked goods to Batavia by trucks.  A year later he leased 52 Main Street and moved his business and all of his equipment to Batavia, the mixing and kneading machine, bread slicer, the bake ovens, and the rest is history.  While on shopping trips to Batavia, many county residents would stop at the bakery to pick up a loaf of salt-rising bread, its buttery dinner rolls, or one of its specialty pastries.  Grundler’s Bakery served Batavia for more than 30 years.

Saraceni bakery was located on 245 Liberty Street and was built by Arthur Saraceni. Mr. Saraceni baked in his home at 119 Liberty Street from the early ‘30s.  The new shop was a little cement block building, which he called The Bake Shop.  He sold bread and buns until 1956 when he sold out to Frank Pellegrino.

Francesco Pellegrino, who was the patriarch of the Pellegrino Family, bought Pellegrino Bakery located on 245 Liberty Street from Arthur Saraceni in 1955.  Graziano Pellegrino had a bakery business in Reggio Calabria, Italy.  In 1955 he came to America.  His father Francesco put him in the bakery business with his brothers Rocco, Frank, Joseph, and Carmen.  They ran the bakery until 1974 when Graziano suddenly passed on. Graziano’s sons Frank, Rocco, and Vincent, along with Mama Angelina, took over the business and ran it in the proud Pellegrino tradition. Eventually, by 1980 Frank was left to run the business.  He moved the business to Center Street then in 1986 to Liberty Street across from the Pok- A- Dot.  He built a beautiful new building and the business tripled.  In 1991 Pellegrino Bakery closed.  In 1999 Pellegrino brothers Frank and Vincent were back with a new building, baking their famous Italian bread, rolls, doughnuts, pizza, pastries, and cookies.  In 2001 the business closed.   The building and property were sold and the building became the home of Ficcarella Pizza.

Once again a delicious part of our history is gone, but what is left are the scrumptious memories of warm bread, rolls, doughnuts, pastries, and many other delicacies that are perhaps not good for a person to consume in large quantities!  Long-time Batavia residents can almost close their eyes and still remember the aromas as you opened the door into these treasures of Batavia’s past.

Author's Note: Not all bakeries are listed in this article but would love to hear from those that were missed.

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August 18, 2021 - 8:47am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, County History Department, news.

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I always loved teaching fourth-grade students their local history. Using the historical places that house our history was the best way to make their history come alive.  Many people in Genesee County have visited the Holland Land Office Museum, Richmond Memorial Library, and the Historical Batavia Cemetery that sleeps our famous Batavians.

However, the one place I want to highlight is the Genesee County History Department. I recently researched my church there, and I was reminded about a wonderful friend and County Historian who suggested I do a project on the prominent people who settled in this area. I loved the idea, and hence our Famous Batavian Project was born. All materials came from this department. This project was only made possible by the directorship of Mrs. Susan Conklin.  She was the County Historian from 1980 to 2014.  Mrs. Conklin created individual folders for each student on their person.  She continued to do this for my students for the next 17 years. The project required students were to write a report and present their person to family and friends in a historical building.  

Recently a former student, Erin Suttell, brought over to our home a bin of records, pictures of clippings on her great-great grandfather's ice business from the 1800s.  She wanted to know where she could find information on her relative's business. So, I introduced her to the History Department. As a result, the Citizen's  Ice Business picture and many more paper items will now be housed and preserved at the History Department.  Thank you, Erin, for sharing Bernhardt Suttell's early ice business. 

I spent many months looking through files, books, directories, and photographs for my book. Ms.  Judy Stiles, a research assistant, was a continuous support and helped with my research. Ms. Ruth Koch is the Records Management Clerk.  Records Management handle about  4,440 square feet of County records every year and provides ready access to County Agencies in need of records. 

Michael Eula is the current Genesee County Historian and has taken the department in many new directions. The History Department regularly participates in local, statewide, and national, local history efforts. Examples:     Dr. Michael Eula wrote a legal history of Genesee County posted on The Historical  Society of the New York Courts website under "County Histories." This includes every County in New York State.

The History Department maintains an information booth at the Genesee County Fair.

Eula will be giving two upcoming presentations. One is at the Richmond Memorial Library on August 17th at 7 p.m. before the Genesee Area Genealogy Society and is open to the public. 

The second upcoming presentation is at the United Methodist Church in Pavilion on September 15th at 7 p.m. before the Civil War Roundtable and is also open to the public.

He is working on a book accepted by the State University of New York Press, an extended cultural and political history of Genesee County between 1802 and the present.

The History Department was featured in the June 2021 Western New York Genealogical Society Journal.

The History Department answers dozens of information requests generated by residents, residents of New York State outside of our County, and people from various states stretching to the west coast and the Midwest.

It regularly works with local historical societies, such as the Stafford Historical Society.

This is what you will be invited to when you enter the building. You can find cemetery records and newspaper microfilm from 1822 to 1997. In addition, there are atlases and maps from 1854 to 1900 and tax rolls on microfilm from 1850 to 2013.   Another section has genealogy files. Also, county and municipalities histories, church records from 1891-1937, city and county directories 1869 to 1980, and obituary records from 1891 to 1937 are shelved here.   Finally, military records, school documents, architectural files, photographs of over 10,000 images can be found in the History Department.

Utilize their genealogy assistance, local history assistance, request public presentations, and tour this hidden gem.

Please visit 3837 West Main Street Road,

County Building 2.

[email protected]

(585) 815-7904

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August 5, 2021 - 4:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in glom, batavia, history.
Event Date and Time: 
August 18, 2021 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of its Guest Speaker Series. Join us on Wednesday, August 18th at 7 pm at the museum as we welcome local history professor and author Derek Maxfield. Mr. Maxfield will be discussing his book on the Elmira Civil War prisoner camp that was nicknamed "Hellmira" due to its deplorable conditions. Copies of his book will be available for sale and there will be an opportunity for the author to sign any copies. Admission is $3 per person or $2 for museum members. If you plan on attending please contact the museum at 585-343-4727.

August 5, 2021 - 4:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, history, batavia.
Event Date and Time: 
August 12, 2021 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of its History Trivia Night @ the Museum. Join us Thursday, August 12th at 7 pm at the museum to test your knowledge of Napoleon Bonaparte in honor of his birthday on August 15th. If you would like to attend please contact the museum at 585-343-4727. Admission is $3 per person or $2 for museum members. You can also join via Zoom, to find the link please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website at www.hollandlandoffice.com.

July 24, 2021 - 11:43am
posted by Press Release in history, news, hlom, history heroes, batavia.

Press relaese:

It was so nice to be able to have in person events back at the museum this past week. It felt like things are finally getting back to normal, for the first time since March 2020.

Thank you to Steve Kruppner for his wonderful concert Wednesday night (in case you missed it check out this link HLOM Concert Series: Steve Kruppner - YouTube) and Erica Wanescki for her informative presentation on polio.

Be sure to come out to the museum on Wednesday, July 28th to see Bill Kauffman discuss his new edited work "The Congressional Journal of Barber Conable."

We have now reached 85 percent of the way to our membership goal of 200 people for 2021. If you know of anyone who hasn't joined the historical society yet and is a fan of local history tell them to check us out. Our members are our best ambassadors. Again, thank you everyone for your support for 2021.

This Month:

If you would like to join us in person for any of our events please preregister by calling the museum at (585) 343-4727.

  • Wednesday, July 28th 7 p.m. - Guest Speaker: Bill Kauffman "The Congressional Journal of Barber Conable." Admission is $3/$2 for museum members. Also available via the Zoom link below. Meeting ID: 813 4537 8772  Passcode: 494343. The presentation will also be livestreamed on our YouTube channel courtesy of Paul Figlow.

Upcoming Summer Events:

  • Thursday, Aug. 12th 7 p.m. - Trivia Night @ the Museum "Napoleon Bonaparte"
  • Wednesday, Aug. 18th 7 p.m. - Guest Speaker Derek Maxfield, "Hellmira"
  • Thursday, Sept. 9th 7 p.m. - Trivia Night @ the Museum -- "Pan-American Exposition"
  • Saturday, Sept. 18th 2 p.m. - Guest Speaker Rob Thompson, "Batavia's Body Snatchers"
  • Thursday, Sept. 23rd 9 a.m. - Java with Joe E. with Jennifer Liber Raines, "Forgotten People, Forgotten Places"
  • Thursday, Sept. 30th 7 p.m. - Guest Speaker Chris Mackowski, "A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse"
  • History Heroes Summer Program:
    • Saturdays July 24th, Aug.14th, Aug. 21st, Aug. 28th, Sept. 4th 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. at the museum "Fun in the Roaring '20s."
    • Children ages 7-12 can come and join us and learn all about the 1920s through art, music, dance, medicine, sports & leisure, cultural movements, transportation and much more.
    • Activities will include period arts & crafts, walking tours to various sites in Batavia, and even a trip on the Arcade & Attica Railroad.
    • The program is $10 per child with discounts for members and multiple children. Limit to 16 children each day. Visit the museum's website and social media sites for more information.

Artifact Video Series:

This week's video details the history of our Herschede Hall Grandfather Clock from the White Family. Holland Land Office Museum Artifact Video Series: White Family Grandfather Clock -- YouTube. If you missed any of the previous videos there are links on the homepage of our website and Facebook page. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel, Holland Land Office Museum.

Joseph Ellicott Book & Gift Shop:

We are always adding new things to our inventory. The store is available at the following link HLOM Gift Shop Site.

This week's focus is a popular title that we recently got back in stock "The Linden Murders...Solved" by Rob R. Thompson ($15).

"Countless have speculated over the years and still, even today many wonder was there a maniac wandering the backroads of Genesee and Wyoming counties? Was he, by modern definition, a serial killer? Was his identity known, but his neighbors too fearful to expose the name behind the deeds?

Did he die alone in his Attica home clutching ever last to the haunting memories of his bygone days? Did he, before the final sheet was pulled offer even the lightest of hints? Did his wife know...did his mother...brothers and children know the secret behind the face at Christmas dinner?"

AmazonSmile Program:

AmazonSmile donates .5 percent of every applicable purchase made through the AmazonSmile website. You can assist us through this manner by following the link below and choosing the Holland Purchase Historical Society as your noprofit of choice: smile.amazon.com.

Call for Volunteers:

We are in need of more volunteers to keep the museum going strong. If you have just a few extra hours and have an interest in history consider donating your time to the HLOM:

  • Assisting with museum membership
  • Museum events (setup/take down, refreshments, tickets)
  • Landscaping & Gardening

Promoter members: Eric Adams, Mr. & Mrs. Brian Daviau, Thomas & Marcia Duffy, Matthew & Jessica Jolliff, and Dr. Paul Stomper.

Business Sponsors: Genesee Patrons Insurance Co., Kleen All Company, Liberty Pumps, and Marchese Computer Products.

Thank you and have a great weekend!

July 11, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in Anne Marie Starowitz, education, teaching, news, history, Le Roy, batavia.

When I began this article, I wanted to write about my second retirement from teaching. I was going to share my beautiful memories of the 1,000 students I have taught.

I wanted to talk about the fantastic field trips, classroom drama productions, learning about local history, and using the Holland Land Office Museum as a textbook. I was about to begin to expound on those treasured memories when my train of thought took me to what it was like to be a teacher for over five decades. 

It was 1972; I was a lucky college graduate to have a teaching job. I was a young unmarried woman and my maiden name was Anne Marie Peca. It was a time of miniskirts, long hair, and the Viet Nam War. You just left your college and were entering your classroom with so many new things to learn.

You had to hand in a lesson plan in advance for the administration to review, learn how to set up your classroom, learn your students' names, spell them, and locate the faculty bathroom. In your first year of teaching, you learned right along with your students.  

Everything was new, and it was so exciting and overwhelming.

You had to know where to find films for your filmstrip projector and how to thread a 16 mm movie. If you needed copies for your students, you made and ran off a ditto on a ditto machine.

You never slept the night before the first day of school, no matter how many years you taught.

My first job was at Wolcott Street School in LeRoy (in 1972, inset photos above and below). I have so many treasured memories from my five years of being on their faculty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next teaching adventure was being a nursery school teacher at the YWCA. This allowed me, now Mrs. Starowitz, to teach but also be home with our daughters.

In 1985, I was hired to be on the faculty of the Batavia City school system. I spent the next 34 years on their faculty as a teacher and then as a substitute teacher.

I ended my career this year as a teacher at St. Joseph Regional School, where I graduated from eighth grade in 1964.

Over the years, teachers were required to change with the times. Many innovations such as teaching strategies, behavioral plans, grade-level subject changes would be introduced, and as a teacher, you were mandated to add them to your curriculum. 

As far as technology, a teacher could now have a cassette tape player instead of a record player, and possibly one computer in the classroom using floppy discs.

Later on, there were groups of computers in a classroom, and today most children have a Chromebook as their personal computer.

There was a new classroom configuration called the multiage classroom, where you would have two classes in the same room. There was also looping where you take your class from one grade level to the next. 

The Education teacher needs has also changed over the years. There is so much a young teacher needs to do before they have a classroom.  

There were so many beautiful memories as a teacher, but there were also tragic memories. The saddest memory was losing a student and attending the funeral. There are never any words for those tragedies.

On Jan. 28, 1986 my fourth-grade class watched Christa McAuliffe, a teacher, go into space to die in an explosion on the NASA space shuttle "Challenger."

I taught through the Viet Nam War, Persian Gulf War, Iraq War, war in Afghanistan, and the 9/11 terrorism attacks. I taught children how to behave in a fire drill, evacuate a building, and practice a lockdown drill. This past year, I taught 18 students sitting 6 feet apart wearing a mask — socially distanced learning during the coronavirus pandemic -- so many changes.  

The one thing that is a constant is how many hats that a teacher wears. Yes, you have a curriculum of what to teach, but you have to earn your student's respect before you can teach.

They are so intuitive; they know if you care about them. At times you are a parent, a nurse, and a therapist. We wear these hats proudly, and today my hat is off to all the excellent teachers I have had the pleasure of working with over the years. They indeed are heroes. I love this saying, "If you can read, thank a teacher!"

I can't end this without mentioning all the beautiful children I have taught over the last five decades. Those 1,000 students have left an imprint on my heart. To those students, thank you for giving me a lifetime of cherished memories. It has been an incredible ride.

"The greatest sign of success for a teacher...is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.' "

-- Maria Montessori

Two inset black and white images above are from O-At-Kan LeRoy Yearbook 1972.

Photo below, Mrs. Starowitz's last class -- from St. Joseph Regional School​ -- in a teaching career spanning more than five decades.

July 7, 2021 - 11:56am

Press release:

On Wednesday, July 28th at 7 p.m. the Holland Land Office Museum is proud to welcome our next presenter for our Guest Speaker Series. The museum welcomes back local author Bill Kauffman as he debuts his latest work "The Congressional Journal of Barber Conable, 1968-1984."

Kauffman is the editor of the work, which is a compilation of entries from Congressman Barber Conable about the machinations of Congress and the American government at the highest level.

Admission is $3 per person or $2 for museum members. The presentation will also be available via Zoom, the links can be found at the museum’s Facebook page or website.

Copies of the book will also be available for sale.

July 1, 2021 - 2:38pm
posted by Press Release in news, history, batavia HLOM, July 2021, Canada Day, Steve Kruppner, polio.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of its History Trivia Night @ the Museum. Join us on Thursday, July 8th at 7 p.m. to test your knowledge of our neighbors to the North, Canada, in honor of Canada Day celebrated today -- July 1st.

If you would like to attend please contact the museum at (585) 343-4727. Admission is $3 per person or $2 for museum members. You can also join via Zoom, to find the link please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website.

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce another concert at the museum. Join us on Wednesday, July 21st from 7 to 9 p.m. as welcome local musician Steve Kruppner as he plays an outdoor concert at the museum.

The concert will feature various genres of songs that can be summed up as "Americana." The concert will be outdoors weather permitting. If you would like to bring your own chair you are welcome, but seating will be provided. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be held inside.

Admission is $5 or $4 for museum members. If you are interested in attending please call the museum at (585) 343-4727.

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of its Java with Joe E. morning speaker series. Join us Thursday, July 22nd at 9 a.m. as we welcome Erica Wanescki as she details the history of the treatment of the disease polio in Western New York. Java with Joe E. is free to attend.

If you plan on attending please call the museum at (585) 343-4727. The presentation will also be available via Zoom, to find the link please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website.

June 13, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in batavia, nostaglia, history, news.

My life in the teen years growing up in Batavia in the late 1950s and early 1960s was a mix of trying to please my parents and teachers while also attempting to be more independent. Of course, this is true of young teens pretty much anywhere at any time.

My friends and what they thought and did became all-consuming it seemed.

When I was 10 and going into the fifth grade, we moved from the Thomas/Ellicott Avenue area across town to North Spruce Street. After some begging and whining (and maybe some fake crying) my parents agreed to let me continue at St. Mary's School on Woodrow Road, even though it would involve solving some transportation issues.

Most of my friends still lived on the west side of town and at first, I didn't see as much of them except during school.

The exception was Charlie, my partner in shenanigans, whose parents built a big house on East Avenue. Their basement was so big at one time they considered putting a bowling alley down there. They also installed a fountain in their front yard, which featured spraying water that changed colors. Older teens used to park in front and make out until the police shooed them away.

So, Charlie was right down the street and then as we got more toward 12 or 13 years old my friends' and my parents allowed us further range on our bikes and the gang was back together again.

A huge kid advantage to living on North Spruce was having lots more outdoor room to play and horse around. At that time, we were the last house on the northeast side of the street. North Street ended at our corner. All around us were woods, which today is the Narramore and Allanview Drive area.

Charlie vs. Dave

We had a big back yard and Charlie and I would spend hours out there playing whiffle ball. He was the New York Yankees and I was the Milwaukee Braves. We'd designate certain areas for singles, doubles, triples and home runs and we'd play entire nine-inning games, even to the point of writing down lineups and batting orders.

We had some epic games and even a couple fights because Charlie was not a good loser.

In 1957 the Braves won the World Series and I got to lord that over Charlie, for a year at least. Back then the games were in the afternoon and one day, to my immense surprise and everlasting admiration, my mom let me be “sick” and stay home from school to watch the game on TV (in black and white of course)

The Braves moved to Atlanta in the '60s and I've not had a favorite baseball team since.

A number of years ago I started collecting 1957 Milwaukee Braves memorabilia and I now possess all the Topps baseball cards from that team as well as signed baseballs from the four Hall of Famers who played for them that year: Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Red Schoendienst.

Into the Woods

Our house became a popular gathering spot with my friends because what kid doesn't want a woods to mess around in? Especially in the summer, we'd spend a lot of time out there. We'd play chase and someone had built an awesome tree house and we'd actually have “wars” where we threw rocks at each other. My friend Ray got clonked in the head one time and as my mother bandaged him up her comment was, “You guys already have rocks in your head.”

Another nutty thing we'd do is light fires in the dry grass and then put them out just before they got too big. Anything for excitement, I guess. One time though we came home to find fire trucks out there. A kid down the street had started a fire, but it spread too fast and he panicked and ran away. Neighbors spotted the smoke. He got caught of course and his dad may or may not have lit a fire on his behind.

Fort Reilly

Right on the edge of the woods and our property we built a “fort."

Constructed of an old piece of plywood, some 2x4s, and a bunch of old sheets and bedspreads, it was place to hang out and sneak cigarettes.

Most of our parents smoked like chimneys, but it was "Do as I say, not as I do.”

We used to play poker for smokes, but most of the time the cigs we gambled with were ones we pilfered from our parents.

As we got a little older our parents agreed to let us occasionally “sleep out” in the fort. Of course, very little sleeping took place.

I was especially bad about being able to nod off. Usually, what happened was it would start to get light and I'd sneak off to the house and go to bed. My friends would wake up, see I was gone and just get on their bikes and go home. I deservedly took a lot of mocking over that.

A really bad incident that happened out there involved my younger brother Dan. I had already gone into the house (again) and was sound asleep.

Apparently, when the other guys woke up, they decided to start a fire in a pit we had dug. They couldn't get it going so little brother went in the garage to get some gas.

You can predict what happened next: the gas caught fire as he poured it and in trying to jump away, it spread to his face.

I woke up to screaming. I ran to the kitchen along with my parents and there was Dan with his head in the sink splashing cold water on his face.

My father, dressed in his nighttime attire of tank top undershirt and boxers, tried to go get dressed, but my mother literally pushed him out the door to go to the hospital. He was lucky to get his pants on.

Fortunately, although he was in pain for a few weeks and had some nasty looking scabs, Dan recovered fully with little or no scarring.

Our fort was decommissioned by General Mom Reilly and we had to find somewhere else to hide out.

Tanks for the Memories

One of the things we used to do on our overnight “fort” escapades was go wander around the streets.

We weren't really doing anything bad like vandalism, but rather just looking for some excitement. For example, if we saw car headlights coming at 1 in the morning, more than likely it was a police car on patrol. So, we'd dive into the bushes like we had escaped from prison. If it turned out not to be the cops, we were disappointed because it just wasn't as thrilling.

At some point on one of these ventures we ended up on State Street by the National Guard Armory. Sitting there next to the building was a genuine military tank. It was not a World War II leftover like you would see in front of a V.F.W. or American Legion. I'm pretty sure it was a real working tank that they must have used for training purposes.

The unbelievable thing was that they left the tank unsecured.

We would climb up, open the hatch and go inside. We would look through the slit visors and I seem to recall a periscope we would play with. Hopefully, the guns weren't loaded or operational because I don't even want to think how that could have ended.

This was at the height of the “Cold War” so it seems odd that the National Guard wasn't concerned that some “Commies” might take the tank and topple the Upton Monument or something.

Today, there is a fence around the Armory and most likely lots of security cameras to identify any surreptitious anarchist types who might be up to no good. Not to mention goofy teenagers.

What put an end to these early teen hijinks? Three things: summer jobs, getting driving permits, and interest in girls. You can't really leave work at the hot dog stand at 2 a.m. and head over to climb around on an Army tank.

But teenage mistakes kept getting made.

On my very first real date with a girl I took her to see Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds,” one of the scariest movies ever. I think it was a coincidence, but soon after that she moved out of state.

I guess it's a good thing to grow up and mature (although some never do). But those teen years certainly provided me with some good stories to tell when I got old.

June 6, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, batavia, news, nostalgia, mom-and-pop stores.

Memories have a way of making you shed the years and return to the times when you were young. Life was simple and uncomplicated then. It doesn't matter what decade; many of us share a similar memory of a corner grocery store in Genesee County.

They all were a little different in size but carried the same items. It depended on where you lived, and this determined which store was considered your grocery store. At one time, there was a mom-and-pop store on almost every corner.

My memories date back to the late '50s when I was in grade school, and my brothers and I would take our Red Flyer wagon and walk to the Red and White store on Ross Street.

We would load up the wagon with pop bottles that we could return for money. If we had 20 bottles, we could earn 40 cents, and that could buy a whole bag of candy!

The excitement was when you would ask to see the box of penny candy. You could choose from many sugary treats such as Chum Gum, Pixy Sticks, Tootsie Rolls, wax lips, Bazooka bubble gum, and Safety Pop suckers, to name only a few. For a nickel, you could also buy a giant chocolate bar.

When was the birth of the mom and pop stores? One advertisement for such a store dated back to 1841. The ad stated that G. Diamond had a store that sold groceries and liquor. In 1871 Dailey's store was located at 28 and 30 Main St. In 1877, Charles G. Huggins had a store at 64 Main St. called Choice Groceries. Combs and Kerslake had a meat market and grocery store in 1889. Another store, L.C. Lorish Store, was located at 21-23 Jackson St. in 1890.

The Oriental Company at 43 Main St. sold tea, coffee and baking powder. There was a Jones Central Market at 5 Jackson St., J.S. Callahan Grocery at 26 Main St., and Kellogg Grocery on Oak and West Main streets. The Phelps Store was located at 113 Main St. The Flatiron Cash Grocery building was moved from Pearl Street to another retail location on the same street.

In 1921, five Market Basket Stores open in Batavia, 103 Jackson St., 5 State St., 29 W. Main St., 500 E. Main St., and 440 Ellicott St.

Caito brothers had a store at 56 Main St.; they sold fruits and vegetables. John S. Brown of 18 Main St. served customers from 1890 to 1928. Casey Brothers store at 118 Main St. was the longest-running store. They were in business for 40 years.

The city directories for 1939 show there were 25 mom-and-pop stores operating that year. In 1940 there were 23 stores open. The figures jumped dramatically in 1947 to 42 stores. In 1959 there were 22 stores, and then in 1968, there were only 19 stores. By 1975 there were 21 stores, and in 1988 there were just five. Sadly in 1995, only two stores remained.

The names of the stores often changed, but the locations stayed the same for many years. An example would be the store on Oak Street. In 1939 it was called Burch's. Later it became Reinhardt's, then the Short Stop.

Do you remember going to a store on Washington Avenue that you had to walk downstairs to the basement to reach the store? In 1947 it was owned by Regina Murphy and was called Downy's. I remember the store when it was known as Quartley's. Guastaferro and Pelletteries owned a store at 103 Jackson at different times. Johnston Food Store was located at 106 W. Main St. Later this store was called Corrigans.

On Main St., there was Ashes Grocery and Peter's delicatessen. On the corner of Bank and North streets was Lambert's Northside Grocery. That was where my friend Cathy and I, on a snow day, walked in a blizzard to buy Beatles cards in the '60s.

There were two stores on Ross Street -- 13 Ross and 132 Ross. The latter store changed hands many times from John Lowe to Howard Lentz, Samuel Caito, Hart and Hart, Red and White, Cummings, and then to Say's Grocery. You can't forget Perk's Red and White on the corner of Hutchins and Ellicott. Scaffetta's was on the corner of Maple and Evans Street.

Leo J. Happ had a store on Washington Avenue. Pappalardo's was on the corner of Otis and Ellicott. We must also remember Sikorski's on Hutchins and Rubino's, Wandryks, and Nick Abraham's meat market.

I remember Bill's Meat Market at 208 Swan St. Like many others, I would go in there and buy my meat in the '70s. Bill would let you charge your purchases, and his bookkeeping method was unique. He would use meat-wrapping paper to record what customers bought and owed. When you paid your bill, he would cross off your name. Previous owners were Casimer Krause and Edwin Kiebala.

The store at 162 Jackson also had many owners. Sara Brown and Charles McNall were owners of this store in the '60s.

On the corner of Liberty and Ellicott streets was a store that had many owners. In 1937 Rose Maniace was the owner; it later changed hands and was called Bennett's Grocery. It later became known as Pieo Grocers. Salvadore Marchese and later the Riccobonos owned it for many years. Another fond memory I have was going in there as a young girl and watching my father buy Italian cheese for our Sunday meals. Now known as Southside Deli, it has been a landmark in this area for many years.

The Marchese brothers were always associated with the grocery business, and their names date back to 1925. They also owned National Food Company, Big M Store, and Marchese Food Land.

The one store that was a constant was Granger and Company. That was the tall building located at 17-23 Evans St. This was where most of these mom-and-pop stores bought the food items to sell. Granger's was a wholesale grocer and served small grocery stores and restaurants. It was initially a mill where flour was made and also had two roundhouses on the property.

Today, the last roundhouse is a UR Medicine Primary Care office.

As with the birth of the mom-and-pop store, we also have their deaths. One by one, these little landmarks would close their doors, taking with them the memories of family-owned establishments. Inevitably the big stores came to Batavia. Loblaws, Super Duper, Star Market, Jubilee, and Tops were the big names in grocery stores.

Today we have Tops Friendly Market, Save-a-Lot, and Aldi for grocery shopping. We still have corner stores, but larger supermarkets usually own them, not individual families.

I was inspired to write this story about the early stores because my father-in-law worked at Granger's for 47 years. He knew where every mom-and-pop store was located and all of the former owners by name. He had wonderful stories to go along with each store; I only wish I had written them all down.

This article is dedicated to Henry F. Starowitz Sr., the wholesale grocer who kept the mom-and-pop stores' shelves filled with groceries.

Please note that this article only contains the names of the stores for the years: 1939, `40, `47, `59, `61, `68, `75, `88, `95, and 2000. This is just a sampling of the mom-and-pop stores that were in Batavia. I know that all of the hamlets, villages, and towns in Genesee County have their mom-and-pop store memories, too.

This article is from my book "Back In the Day, Snapshots of Local History, The Way I See it."

Photos from the Genesee County History Department and Holland Land Office Museum.

Editor's note: Slight changes have been made to reprint this article.

April 10, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in news, history, batavia, street names.

In 1802 Joseph Ellicott, the founder of Batavia, and first local agent and surveyor of the Holland Land Company, made his first map of the village.

He divided the area into lots and groups of lots that eventually became streets. Ellicott made lots on both sides of Main Street.

They were commonly called Holland Alleys because he laid them out while acting as agent and surveyor of the Holland Land Company, which owned the village's land.

Most of the city streets are laid out along Holland Alleys. From the west end of the village, on the north side of West Main Street to Jefferson Avenue, Ellicott numbered his lots consecutively with both odd and even numbers.

After Ellicott divided the village into lots and created the early roads, his next step would be to name the roads.  

The names may have changed, but Ellicott’s surveying skills can still be seen today.

What we know as East Main Street he named Genesee Street. West Main Street was Batavia Street. Court Street is Court Street today because Genesee County’s first courthouse was located on that street.

There was a Tonawanda Street in Batavia, which today we call South Main Street. Buffalo Street is now Pearl Street. Lyon Street was once known as Brewery Street because Eager’s Brewery was located on the south end of the street. Oak Orchard Street is the present Oak Street.

Bank Street was formerly called Dingle Alley because Cochrane Bell Foundry was located on that street. Vine Street was once known as Cummings Street. Harvester was once called Cemetery Street. The name changed to Harvester Avenue when the Harvester Johnston Company built its factory on that street.

South Swan Street from Ellicott Street to South Jackson Street was formerly called Grand Street. Maple Street was known as Hill Street. The hill where Dr. Ganson built his home today is called Ganson Avenue.

Ellicott Street was known as Big Tree Street not because there were big trees but because it ran to Big Tree, which today is called Geneseo.

The prominent people of Batavia lived along Main Street and on Jackson Street. Some streets are named after them. Streets such as Chandler Avenue, Seaver Place, Tracy Avenue, Redfield Parkway, Bank Street, Mix Place, Harvester Avenue, Wiard Street, Eleanor and Margaret Place, Trumbull Parkway, Pringle Avenue, to name just a few, have some history behind their names. 

Ebenezer Mix, an excellent mathematician, became known as one of the best civil engineers in New York State. The frontage of his home was on Main Street from Ellicott Avenue to Oak Street. Today it is called Mix Place. The home with modifications still stands on its original property. 

Evans Street was laid out in 1847 and was named after David Ellicott Evans, nephew of Joseph Ellicott.

Tracy Avenue was named after Phineas L. Tracy, a prominent lawyer. He was also a U.S. Representative from New York’s 29th District in 1827 and was a county judge.

Wiard Street is named after Thomas Wiard, a blacksmith and farmer, founder of the business Wiard Plow. His business was located on Swan Street.

Pringle Avenue was named after Judge Benjamin Pringle. 

Cone Street’s name came from Nathaniel K. Cone, the county judge who lived on South Jackson Street's north side. 

In 1875, Union School, the first high school, was built on School Alley just south of the Batavia Middle School. Today that alley is called Ross Street.

Jackson Street is one of the streets that has retained its original name. 

Chandler Avenue was named after Rear Admiral Ralph Chandler. He served in the Navy. He saw action during the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War.

Heman J. Redfield (1788-1877) served in the Army during the War of 1812; he was also a postmaster and a Genesee County district attorney. Redfield Parkway was named after him.  

Dean Richmond was a railroad magnate; he was a leader in the movement to consolidate seven railway corporations into the New York Central Railroad in 1853; he served as vice president and president of the New York Central. Richmond Avenue and the Richmond Memorial Library are named after the Richmond Family.

Seaver Place, which no longer exists, was named for William Seaver. He was the author of a book called "Historical Sketch of the Village of Batavia. You can read this book online. 

Trumbull Cary played many vital roles in the development of Batavia. He was an early postmaster and served in the War of 1812.

In 1815, Cary was very instrumental in establishing the St. James Episcopal Church. In 1829, he helped finance the creation of the first bank west of the Genesee River, the Bank of Genesee. Cary named Margaret Place and Eleanor Place after his wife, Margaret Eleanor. 

John Dellinger came to Batavia in 1855. He built and owned the Dellinger Block and Dellinger Opera House block. Dellinger Avenue is named after him. 

We live on Chestnut Street and we are surrounded by Walnut, Maple, Cherry and Elmwood streets.

If you want to learn local history, visit the Genesee County Holland Land Office Museum (HLOM). Information for this article came from the Genesee County History Department and our Batavia City Historian, Larry Barnes.

Photo by Anne Marie Starowitz.

April 8, 2021 - 12:43pm
posted by Press Release in news, Town of Bergen, history, geneology, archivist.

Submitted photo and press release:

Bergen Town Historian Thomas M. Tiefel recently welcomed Jodi L. Fisher as the town’s newly appointed genealogist/archivist after a recommendation to the Bergen Town Board by the town historian.

Fisher holds a master's degree in Geology from the University at Buffalo along with a Professional Business Management Certificate.

She has worked at local well-known organizations such as GO ART!, as the DEC Grant coordinator, and most recently, the Holland Land Office Museum, where she was the director of marketin.

From a very young age, Fisher has had an interest and love of history.

As a teenager, she had the opportunity to live in France for a year with her family. While she was there, she got a chance to not only travel around Europe and emerse herself in history. But she met up with family in Belgium and soon learned they had compiled a complete genealogical research on her family’s ancestry.

Genealogy is literally in her blood, and she will undoubtedly bring this same enthusiasm to the Bergen Historian’s Office.

Although her higher eduation is not directly related to museum studies, she has accumulated a great deal of experience on how to properly conduct research, and archival and promotional techniques, which will help greatly in her new role.

In addition, she is currently continuing her educational studies in genealogy and research. Bergen welcomes Fisher to the community, and she says she is looking forward to meeting the residents who may need her assistance.

April 4, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in batavia, history, nostaglia, news.

Recently, we were all vaccinated against coronavirus and off to finally visit our grandchildren. How wonderful to finally see them in person. On our first night together, we were talking about what they were doing to have fun.

The conversation turned into what we did for fun at their age. 

A typical day in the '60s would be playing kickball with our homemade bases and arguing about who was out. In the afternoon, we would go to the end of our street, where there was a swampy area, and we would try to float on our makeshift raft.

At night we sleep outside in a tent or at a neighbor's house on their back porch. We actually caught fireflies and put them in a jar.

We would ride bikes when the park was open and spend afternoons at the community "New Pool." We would go over to our neighbor's for her Kool-Aid popsicles.

The highlight of the summer would be a block party. If you notice, none of these activities cost any money, just our imagination and the participation of neighborhood kids. I guess you could call those our playdates.

If we fought with a neighbor kid, which happened often, the moms and dads never got involved. It was a life skill to learn how to get along.  

The other part of growing up, and the most important part, was your family. My memories are going to church and being separated from my brother, so we didn't fight in church. As we entered the pew, our dad would give us a tiny pinch just to remind us to behave in church.

We were usually late because getting eight family members ready for church was an event.   

We took a memorable trip to Florida when I was in fifth grade in our station wagon. My parents in the front, with my youngest brother in the middle, I was in the middle seat with my grandmother, and my other two brothers were in the backward seat. My sisters were too little to travel.

The trip only took four days to get to Florida. It included bathroom stops about every hour. It was like one of those movies about a crazy vacation adventure.  

Family holidays were so important with grandma, all the aunts, uncles and cousins with a food table that would feed 100!  

So now that I'm in my 70s, my memories seem to mean more to me. When I'm with my siblings, we love to talk about growing up and sharing our stories.  

One Christmas, when we were over at mom and dad's, and our children were running around, our mom gave us each a photo album filled with pictures of each of us growing up. I can't express how much those albums meant to all of us. She captured our childhood with photos and her love.  

Now I've turned into my parents -- telling my grandchildren what it was like when I was growing up.

My dad's favorite story to tell was about how he had to walk miles to school and home for lunch in all weather conditions. We live in the house he grew up in, and walking from our house to Ross Street wasn't that far, but he sure loved to tell that story, and we never got tired of listening to it.

Growing up in the '60s, a tablet was something we wrote on, a screen was on a black-and-white TV, and our phone was attached to the wall.

If you were lucky and had a Kodak Instamatic camera, it would have a little tower on it where you would put a flashcube to take a picture. It would take a week for the photos to develop.

So, I have lived through my childhood of the '60s, our daughters' in the '80s, and our grandchildren's in the 2000s.

I hope they have memories that they will cherish growing up during their time and the same for my grandchildren.

Yes, times have and will always change, but I hope everyone can still hold on to those memories of growing up.

I think we baby boomers have the best memories!

If you are fortunate to have your parents, ask them to tell their story, write it down or tape it. You will never regret their memories.

Always feel free to share your memories with me.

Photos of the Peca family, courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz (née Anne Marie Peca).

Top, Anne Marie with her dad and two of her brothers - and two cameras!

Below, the nuclear Peca family all dressed up.

Bottom, the extended Peca clan, each member looking sharp.

March 14, 2021 - 2:45pm

Submitted photos and information from Jason Smith.

As part of the Faith Formation program at Resurrection Parish, grade 9 and 10 students were given a tour of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church this morning. It is located at 18 Ellicott St. in the City of Batavia.

The tour included information about the stained-glass window panels, the altar and sacristy.

The students' teachers are Judy Clark and Ron Chrzanowski.

Newspaper clippings and old photos were displayed. One taken in the 1920s shows the altar in its original splendor with elaborate white steeples, which were later removed.

Another is of the church's once-trademark mural, an enormous painting done in four sections by Buffalo artist Alex O. Levy that was completed in 1940. It weighed 800 pounds and depicted incidents in the life of the Virgin Mary. The mural deteriorated and was subsequently covered with wallpaper.

March 3, 2021 - 5:31pm

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting its next Trivia Night at the Museum on Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the topic will be Irish History. You can either join us in person at the museum or via Zoom.

Our in-person audience will be limited to 12 people, and masks and social distancing will be required. If you would like to attend in person, please preregister by calling the museum at 585-343-4727.

If you would like to come in person we are asking for a donation in place of the regular admission. For the links to attend via Zoom please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandlandoffice.com, for more details.

The Holland Land Office Museum welcomes back No Blarney on Wednesday, March 17th at 7 p.m. for another St. Patrick’s Day concert. No Blarney will play all of your favorite Irish tunes from every era.

The concert will only be available via the museum’s YouTube channel, Holland Land Office Museum, as it will be livestreamed thanks to Paul Figlow. Please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandoffice.com, for the details to watch the livestream of the concert.

The Holland Land Office Musuem welcomes Nellie Ludemann of the Seneca Falls Historical Society on Tuesday, March 30 at 7 p.m. for its next edition of its Guest Speaker Series. The presentation will be on the life of an early women's rights activist, Amelia Jenks Bloomer.

The presentation will be available via Zoom and in person to a small group of up to 12 people to come to watch on our big screen.

All those in attendance must wear masks and follow social distancing protocols. If you would like to attend in person, please contact the museum by phone at (585) 343-4727 to preregister. Please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandlandoffice.com for more details.

February 28, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in nostalgia, history, batavia, news.

When folks get older and nostalgia sets in, one strong memory is of the pets they had when they were kids. Dogs and cats of course were the favorites, but rabbits, horses and even pigs were popular, too, especially in rural areas like Batavia.

People of a certain age (i.e.: elderly) might recall Richard Nixon's famous career-saving speech about his dog “Checkers.” Elvis Presley had an infamous monkey he called “Scatter” whose shenanigans were renowned among the singer's entourage. Later in the '90s the Clintons' cat “Socks” seemed to get as much media time as Bill and Hillary.

My family only had a few furry housemates as I was growing up.

My dad loved dogs and had a number of them when he was a young man, including a couple giant Saint Bernards. But my mom was reluctant. She had a traumatic memory of a family dog biting someone and being dispatched in a gruesome way so I think that limited our number.

But, I still recall our pets fondly and humorously for their companionship and animal antics.

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Before I turned 10 when we lived on Thomas Avenue we got a male cat. Because he was a dark gray color we named him “Smokey.” That moniker didn't last long though. My mother kept tripping over him as he plopped down wherever it suited him and you'd hear her exasperated cry of, “Move you stupid cat!” So, very quickly he became "Stupid."

Although he was mostly an outdoor cat, which normally doesn't bode well for the feline lifespan, Stupid stayed with us through two years on Ellicott Avenue and then moved to North Spruce Street, too.

He loved living at North Spruce because in the '50s and '60s our house was surrounded by woods. Woods that were full of mice, birds, moles, and were just generally akin to a giant cat grocery store. We would find carcasses of Stupid's dinners on our porches and patio.

As if he didn't have enough free grub at his literal disposal, for some reason my mother also fed him like a king. She'd send me to a grocery store (I think A&P) on the south side of Main Street between Liberty and Center streets to buy him fresh chicken kidneys, which she would then cook for him. Talk about spoiled.

Although mostly an outdoor cat, Stupid didn't care for cold weather and would grace us with his indoor presence in the winter. One time he was outside, but then we heard him crying at the basement door into the kitchen. When we opened the door, out he came.

“Hey, I thought the cat was outdoors,” my mom said. “How in the world did he get in the cellar?”

Upon investigation we found a broken basement window. Stupid had huge seven-toed front paws that looked like snowshoes and the only thing we could figure was that he batted on the window until it broke. We could never prove it, but the window wasn't broken before. How else could it happen?

Eventually, as sometimes happens with outdoor cats, Stupid disappeared. Whether something happened to him or he just took his aging self off to die in peace we never knew. I think at some point I considered making some kind of wooden marker in his memory, but etching R. I. P Stupid seemed... well... stupid.

Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow

When I was middle school to early high school age we briefly had a black and white rabbit. I do not recall where we got him or why.

His name was Herman and I'm unclear on why I called him that. Although I'm almost certain it wasn't for Hermann Göring, the head of the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) during World War II.

Herman's brief time with us was spent in a hutch outside the back door.

My job was to line his pen with straw, feed him, and clean out the bunny manure. His food was some kind of brown pellets, which to be honest looked about the same coming out as they did going in. We also gave him lettuce and other leafy vegetables. It was always a mystery to me how he could seemingly turn a pound of food into two pounds of poop.

Herman came to an inglorious end one winter night from unknown causes. I went to feed him in the morning and he was frozen stiff. I guess if we wrote an obituary, we could've said no bunny compared to him.

(Above, Skippy, Dave and Jim at Godfrey's Pond in the 1970s.)

Shaggy Dog Story

When I was in high school, one day my grandmother stopped by for a visit and she had a box with something covered up inside.

“I brought you a present,” she said with a big smile. When something moved in the box my mother had the opposite of a smile. “Uh oh,” she muttered.

"Skippy" the dog had arrived.

I don't remember specifics, but knowing my mother it must have taken a lot of begging and whining by my two younger brothers to get mom to say we could keep him. Being in high school I was (in my own mind) too cool to get excited about a dog. I had sports and girls to think about.

Skippy was a full-blown mutt. You really couldn't distinguish any breed that he was descended from and it would be fair to say that he wasn't going to be entered in any dog shows. To paraphrase an old saying, he was a dog that only his family could love.

Back in the '60s and '70s there were no leash laws. So Skippy (and just about every dog in Batavia) was free to roam around town. As he got older, and since he wasn't neutered, this resulted in some dicey situations.

As I have mentioned in some of my previous stories, I had two unmarried aunts who lived together in the longtime Reilly family home on Cedar Street. Sometimes when my brothers and I would walk there from North Spruce we'd take the dog along.

Well, I guess he enjoyed Aunt Kate's and Peg's company (or maybe they gave him treats) because we'd sometimes get a call saying he was lying on their porch.

That doesn't sound like a big deal until you realize he had to cross East Avenue, go through the Eastway Plaza parking lot, navigate East Main Street (routes 5 and 33) and go over the Erie Railroad tracks to get there.

My dad would go pick him up in the car and bring him home while we'd wonder how many close calls he had on his adventure.

Another of his favorite destinations was a farm somewhere to the east out off Clinton Street Road. We'd get a call from the irate farmer telling us that Skippy was out there, "…trying to get at his female dog.” Once again dad would have to go fetch him home, but also take scolding from the rightfully upset owner.

After a few of those incidents Skippy the randy canine had to be tied up for his own protection. We did wonder how many of his progeny were spread across Genesee County though.

Because for most of his life he was allowed to run free, Skippy often got into and ate things that weren't exactly approved by The American Kennel Club. This would result in trips to the veterinarian for intestinal disorders.

One time, perhaps to save us money on medication, the vet told mom to, “...give him a clove of garlic and that should clean him out.”

I don't recall if this treatment cured the dog but about two hours later we had to evacuate our house. If they had haz-mat teams back then I'm not sure even their sophisticated breathing apparatus would have been enough to handle the noxious fumes.

But, generally, Skippy was a good dog and after my brother Dan and I left for college and beyond he became dad's closest buddy. When the fateful day came and he had to be put down, my youngest brother Jim says that was one of the few times he ever saw dad cry.

At various times through adulthood I had a number of friendly cats and one beloved dog. But, it's still enjoyable from time to time to think back on those pets we had in our childhood.

Top photo: Dave Reilly in 2014 with his pal Deuce.

Below: James Reilly Sr. in 1939 -- a young man with his best friend.

Photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.

February 10, 2021 - 3:56pm

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to welcome on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Michael Broccolo of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center as our next presenter in our Guest Speaker Series. The topic will be "The Underground Railroad in the Niagara Frontier."

The presentation will be conducted virtually via Zoom. To watch the presentation via Zoom please visit the museum's Facebook page or website for login information.

If you would like to witness the virtual presentation on the museum's big screen there will be a limited audience of 12 people. Those in attendance will be required to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols and must preregister by contacting the museum at (585) 343-4727. We are asking anyone in attendance for a small donation.

February 3, 2021 - 4:15pm
posted by Press Release in Holland Land Office Museum, news, hlom, February 2021, history.

Press release:

On Thursday, Feb. 11th at 7 p.m. the Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting its next edition of its Virtual History Trivia Night at the Museum. The topic for the month of February will be Abraham Lincoln, in honor of his birthday and President’s Day.

The program will be conducted via Zoom. If you would like to join and test your knowledge of the 16th President visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandlandoffice.com for the login details.

On Thursday, Feb. 25th at 9 a.m. the Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting its next edition of its Virtual Java with Joe E. morning presentations. This month we welcome back local author Greg Van Dussen as he shares excerpts from his latest works on the early Methodist Church.

His latest works that will be covered are: "Circuit Riders on the Road to Glory" and "Circuit Rider Devotions Vol. 2." Both books are also available for sale in the museum bookstore.

The program will be conducted via Zoom. Please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandlandoffice.com for the login details.

For more information please call the museum at (585) 343-4727 or email at:  [email protected]

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