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November 15, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, news, batavia, LeRoy.

In the '80s, I was a fourth-grade teacher for the Batavia City School District, and one of the many highlights of my career was teaching local history. This year, I was again able to show children where they came from through the lens of local history.

I had the opportunity to take my second-graders from St. Joseph Regional School on walking field trips to the Holland Land Office Museum. I am fortunate to meet with my students physically every day; this is not a reality for many schoolchildren.

Even though it is 2020 and the children use technology every day with Chromebooks, a tablet, or a computer, they still enjoy going back in time and learning about their history.

Every child chose a famous local person to learn about and research. With the help of their parents, the students visited various famous places in Batavia.

Since I had children from LeRoy, we also added their local history; they researched Ingham University, Orator Woodward, Herman LeRoy, and Stein Farms. I know the children and parents found this interesting. 

As we walked down Main Street and stopped at The First Bank of the Genesee, I told the story of Trumbull Cary. Our next stop was James Brisbane’s Mansion. They also enjoyed looking at the Upton Monument and learning about our famous Civil War hero, Union Colonel Emory Upton.

On our trip to the Historic Batavia Cemetery, the children connected with where their renowned person was buried. To see the children looking up at the height of William Morgan’s monument was priceless, or connecting the Richmond Memorial Library with the Richmond Mausoleum was a wonderful moment.

So, as they say, some things change, and some things stay the same; the children are the constant in my life as a teacher. Children haven’t changed. 

What is different in 2020 for all of our children is the coronavirus pandemic -- they sit at a desk 6 feet apart; they walk the halls wearing their mask and sanitize their hands entering the classroom and going out of the classroom. When they get a chance to go on recess, the children can run and skip, play tag, enjoy the playground equipment, and, most of all, just laugh.

I mostly enjoy their laughter and watching them run. I am so proud of them, so even though we live with the tangible specter of COVID-19, the children are still children and want to hear about Joseph Ellicott, Dean Richmond, and take a visit to the beautiful Historic Batavia Cemetery.

What I find so sad is that these young children don’t know what it was like before coronavirus.

They are missing sitting on a rug listening to a story, working in groups, singing in Glee Club, or playing sports. What they hear now is the humming of room air purifiers and the smell of disinfectants. Good thing that our history will never change.  

Hopefully, we will be able to return to “normal times,” and this, too, will become part of our past, not our day-to-day lives.

Photos courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

Top, St. Joseph Regional School second-graders on the steps of the Brisbane Mansion, now housing the City of Batavia Police Department.

Below, St. Joseph Regional School students at the gravesite monument of Joseph Ellicott in Batavia Cemetery.

Bottom, teacher Anne Marie Starowitz stands behind her class in front of the Holland Land Office Museum.

November 1, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in news, history, batavia, railroads.

From the mid 1800s until the 1960s Batavia could rightfully be called a railroad town. With four different rail lines going through it from Walnut Street, through the Jackson / Ellicott area and across Harvester Avenue and Cedar Street, there was train traffic 24 hours a day.

Many of the local men employed by the railroads were of Irish or Italian descent. So, on a summer day along the line you could probably smell the aroma of boiling potatoes and corned beef (on the rare occasions when it could be afforded) or garlicky marinara sauce made with homegrown tomatoes wafting from open windows.

There are many former or current Batavians of a certain age (meaning old) whose parents or grandparents made their living working for one of the rail lines in some capacity. I think my grandfather was unique in that regard because in his 30-year career he worked in several varied job positions for three different railroads: the Lehigh Valley, Erie, and New York Central.

James D. Reilly was my paternal grandfather. He died in 1931, 16 years before I came along. He was born in 1870 in Mendon to Irish immigrants Patrick and Bridget Costello O'Reilly. Patrick, who was a farm laborer, and Bridget raised six children in a house about the size of today's two-car garage. The term “dirt poor” certainly applied to them -- all the way down to the earthen-floored root cellar of their tiny house.

Rochester Junction

The house was located very close to Rochester Junction, which was a stop and transfer point on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. From there some passengers would switch trains onto a spur, which went to downtown Rochester to a station now occupied by the popular Dinosaur Barbecue Restaurant on Court Street.

As today's patrons gobble down ribs and sauce-slathered brisket they might picture in their mind the chaotic hubbub of travelers in their suits, bowler hats and corseted dresses rushing to and from the steam-emitting trains.

About 1900 James D. Reilly got a job as a laborer working for the Lehigh Valley. By 1905 he had moved to the position of Towerman and worked in the interlocking tower at Rochester Junction. It was the responsibility of the men in the tower to operate the switching equipment to enable trains to change from one track to another.

Every model railroad enthusiast worth his salt (or coal) knows that each rail company had their own distinctive color scheme for their towers. The Lehigh Valley was light and dark gray, the Erie was dark green, and so on.

The Batavia tower shown in the top photo of the track gang at the Jackson and Ellicott Street crossing was eventually bought and moved to Fairport and placed next to the Erie Canal, where it now serves as the office for a canoe rental company. This is somewhat ironic because it was the boom in railroad transportation that sounded the death knell for the canal in the late 1800s.

When James was a towerman, according to the 1905 State Census and the Mendon Town Historian Diane Ham, it is likely that he was living on railroad property in a small “shanty” with his wife, Catherine Nussbaumer Reilly, whom he had married in 1904, and her elderly father George.

By 1910 James was promoted to foreman of a track crew. It was harder work but more pay. Track maintenance was backbreaking work in the blazing heat of summer and even harder in the freezing and snowy winters, but the family needed the money.

By then his father-in-law had passed away and he and my grandmother had two children, George and Margaret. They moved to a rented house still near the railroad but near what is now Clover Street in Mendon.

Moved to Batavia

In 1911 my father James Francis was born and then my aunt Katherine in 1913, both in Mendon. At this point the Reillys (the O had been dropped from their name) with a growing family had need for better housing. You can almost hear my grandmother saying to her husband, “James, I'm sick of living in shacks with all these kids! We need a house!” So, about 1915 the family moved to Batavia. Their final child, Mary, was born there in 1919.

In Batavia, James continued as a track gang foreman, but with the Erie Railroad. At first the family lived in a rented place on Wiard Street off East Main Street between Bank and Summit streets.

But sometime before 1920 he finally was able to purchase his own home at 27 Cedar St. The house wasn't large, but had three bedrooms and two floors, which must have seemed like a mansion to someone who grew up in what was little more than a shack.

The house was directly adjacent to the four tracks of the New York Central Railroad. Chugging and hissing steam engine trains passed by at all hours of the day and night, plus they lived next to a crossing so whistles had to be blown on every approach.

This cacophony of sound might have bothered some people, but the Reillys were used to it and slept like proverbial babies.

Their next-door neighbor was Marty O' Brien, another Irish immigrant and also a railroad employee. Back in those days, crossing gates had to be raised and lowered manually and that was Marty's job, so he just had to walk past Reilly's house to his work shanty by the tracks. Marty played the violin and would bring memories of faraway Ireland with his tunes.

Cedar Street was the ideal place for railroad employees to live because the tracks of four rails -- Erie, New York Central, Peanut and Lehigh Valley -- all bisected that road at some point. But, since three of the railroads crossed Cedar at street level (the Lehigh had a bridge) traffic could be held up interminably -- horse-drawn wagons and later automobiles.

Union Man

James was a loyal union man and paid dues of $3.50 every six months to The United Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way Employes (sic) who were affiliates with the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

This union membership paid off for him when sometime between 1920 and 1925 he sustained a serious leg injury on the job. Apparently, a section of track was inadvertently dropped on his limb causing a severe enough injury so as to make it impossible to continue on the track crew.

However, the union stepped in to make sure their brother and his family would be provided for by arranging a transfer to the New York Central Railroad. In the late 1800s that railroad had built and staffed a nursery in Batavia for the purpose of growing and providing plants and flowers for all the grounds of NYC Stations between Buffalo and Syracuse. 

James was assigned to that nursery to raise and care for the flowers as it was a less strenuous task for a man with a debilitating condition, but one that continued to enable him to earn a salary.

The End of the Line

Unfortunately, my grandfather was stubborn about his medical care, as it seems many men were in that time, and he refused to see a doctor on a regular basis. In 1931 he developed sepsis (blood poisoning) due to continued infection in his leg.

He passed away at the age of 61 in his home on Cedar Street next to railroad tracks that had been a part of his life for 30 years.

It is a fanciful notion, but it gives comfort to think that perhaps as James D. Reilly passed from this life a lonesome whistle blew on a passing train signaling the end of shift for a hard-working railroad man.

Epilogue: Even though James D. Reilly had passed away, the house at 27 Cedar St. remained a part of the Reilly family for almost 60 more years. In 1939 his wife Catherine, my grandmother, also died there.

Their son George, my uncle, married in the early 1940s and purchased a house up the street at 5 Cedar St. He and his wife, Helen, lived there until the 1980s when he passed away.

James' and Catherine's daughters, Catherine and Margaret (my aunts Kate and Peg) never married and lived at 27 Cedar until 1990. Neither of them ever had a driver's license but they both managed to work at the P. W. Minor Shoe Factory on State Street for more than 40 years.

My brothers and I spent many an hour and night at our aunts' house. We could always count on two Christmases, two Easters, and two Halloweens, courtesy of aunts Kate and Peg who fondly (and embarrassingly) called each of us “Honey Boy."

The New York Central was moved farther down Cedar Street in the late 1950s when the tracks became an interference with traffic in the City of Batavia. You could certainly still hear the sounds of the trains, but it no longer seemed that they were barreling right through the living room.

In 1989 Kate died and soon thereafter Peg went to a nursing home. The contents of the longtime Reilly home were disposed of at auction and the house was sold. It was the end of a 75-year era of Reillys at 27 Cedar St. in Batavia. 

Top photo: Track crew at the intersection of the Erie and New York Central railroads in Batavia circa early 1900s, from the Dan Orr Collection courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum.

Photo below: James D. Reilly, right, his daughter Mary Reilly and an unidentified man sitting outside a railroad crossing guard shanty in Batavia in the early 1920s. Courtesy of Dave Reilly.

Below: Interlocking tower at Rochester Junction in the early 1900s, courtesy of Diane Ham, Town of Mendon historian.

Bottom, postcard of New York Central Railroad Station in Batavia in the early 1900s, courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum.

September 20, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, news, nostalgia, LeRoy.

Photo: Miss Anne Marie Peca's third-grade class at Wolcott Street School in 1972.

It was September 1972 and I was about to begin my first year of teaching at Wolcott Street School in LeRoy. My whole life I had wanted to be a teacher but to be able to teach where my mother grew up and where my grandmother still lived made it all the more exciting and memorable.

I have so many memories from that first year. My first week at Wolcott Street School I was in the workroom making dittos (mimeograph copies) by hand when a teacher who I think taught my mother came in and yelled at me and said students are not allowed to use the machine and ordered me back into the high school building.








I will always remember my very first class, of third-graders, and the many rules I broke. I didn’t realize you needed permission to take your class for a walk or you shouldn’t adjust the thermostat in your classroom to 90 degrees to teach the children about what it’s like to live in a desert. My thermostat regulated the heat for the entire second floor.

That year we did the play "Mary Poppins" on the big stage (above is a "ditto" of the program).

I do have so many treasured memories of being a teacher in LeRoy but I also have so many memories living in LeRoy.

One highlight was visiting my grandmother who lived at 25 South St. I loved going to mass with her at Saint Joseph’s Church and visiting Saint Francis Cemetery. We would water all the flowers on the graves of our relatives and it seemed like it was half the cemetery.

Later on, when I was a teacher in LeRoy I learned to appreciate the beauty of the village.

In 1974 I was married and we moved to LeRoy and lived at 15 Lake St. in Mr. Miceli’s upstairs apartment. It was a beautiful two-bedroom apartment with a living room, kitchen and a storage room. The rent was $100 a month and that included utilities.

I always enjoyed walking to school to teach because walking down Main Street was so beautiful, plus we only had one car. I would walk past the village hall and I would wave to Mrs. Fernaays, who I always thought was the mayor of LeRoy.

After school on my way home I would stop at the LeRoy Drugstore to pick up a prescription or a card. My next stop was Peck’s Meat Market to buy two pork chops or a half pound of ground beef. On Saturday, our date night we would walk to the LeRoy Theater and watch a 50-cent movie and then stroll home.

I do remember one thing that took getting used to was a very loud siren that would go off if there was a fire. We lived very close to the village hall and the first time we heard the siren go off, we jumped out of bed and thought we were being attacked.

I will always treasure my time in LeRoy, not just the beautiful village, but the wonderful friends I made, and the outstanding teachers I had the privilege to work with. I was also able to create treasured memories with my beautiful grandmother, Jennie Bellow.

Now when I visit St. Francis’s Cemetery it is to visit my grandparents, aunt, uncle and baby sister’s gravestones. As I sit there I remember that little girl running all around the cemetery watering flowers with her grandmother.

The Village of LeRoy is as beautiful today as it was when we lived there in the '70s.

My memories can’t compare to someone who is a true LeRoyan but I want to thank all of you for letting me be one for a few years!

Images courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

September 15, 2020 - 4:03pm
posted by Press Release in hlom, Holland Land Office Museum, batavia, history, news.

Press release:

Have you ever wondered how Genesee County came to be? What was the Holland Land Purchase? What is a Gibbet? How did Batavia get its name? If any of these questions peak your curiosity among many others, then volunteering at the Holland Land Office might be perfect for you.

The museum is reaching out to anyone with an interest in local history who would like to volunteer. Any amount of time that can be given is welcome, even an hour a week can make a great difference.

Volunteers can work in many different areas, and interests and strengths will be used to the most optimum affect. Areas of need include: cleaning, gift shop, docent/tour guide, documenting of artifacts, exhibits and displays, landscaping, etc.

Volunteer hours would be during the normal hours of operation of the museum are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

If you have an interest in volunteering with the Holland Land Office Museum, please contact Director Ryan Duffy at (585) 343-4727 or email: [email protected]

Information can also be found at the museum’s website.

September 13, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in news, batavia, history, education, nostalgia, covid-19, St. Mary's School.

After attending school (elementary, high school and college) for 18 years and teaching school (fifth and sixth grades) for another 33, I have been a part of opening day 51 times. And that doesn't include the overlapping times when my own two children headed back to their educational journeys.

But nothing in all that time is going to compare what the beginning of this school year will be like due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taking temperatures, wearing masks, social distancing, plexiglass separating panels, lots of sanitizing, and a whole lot more that teachers and students are going to face including some days at school and other days virtually, all because of COVID-19.

I have never regretted being retired, but I am even more happy about it this year and convey my best wishes to all those who will try their best to make the 2020-2021 academic year a productive one.

Back in the 1950s at St. Mary's School in Batavia, we certainly had a less worrisome time when our summer vacation ended. Some preparations had to be made, but nothing approaching what parents and kids have to do now, even before the virus.

Bow Ties and Buster Browns

There was no fretting about what to wear to impress our classmates. We had uniforms, so each kid looked as plain and mundane as every other one. For the girls, it was a light blue blouse with a dark blue skirt, and the boys wore a light blue long or short sleeve shirt with dark blue pants. The pièce de résistance for the boys was a blue clip-on bow tie. If I had a nickel for every one of those I lost I could have bought a lot of Junior Mints.

I'm pretty sure that the school had a deal with Charles Mens' Shop (which is still in business) to stock the uniforms and each year my mom would buy me two shirts and two pairs of pants. Between roughhousing on the way to and from school and outdoors at lunchtime, by June those pants would have been patched more times than a pothole at Ellicott and Main.

When it came to shoes, things were pretty simple. We'd head to Thomas and Dwyer's Downtown and Mr. Dwyer or Skinny Weiss would find a new pair of Buster Brown's in our size. We hated those goofy-looking round-toed things, but Mom was paying so that's what you got. The girls would arrive on day one with new saddle shoes or Mary Janes. I don't think sneakers were allowed.

Lunch Box and Lunchroom

In the '50s we didn't have backpacks, but choosing your lunchbox was a big deal. This was before everything was plastic and they were made from metal and most contained a Thermos.

Howdy Doody ones were a favorite of the younger kids, while the older boys wanted Davy Crockett or The Lone Ranger. By the way, those metal boxes could come in handy if you had to defend yourself from a bully.

During the first couple years of St. Mary's existence we were housed in the basement of adjoining Notre Dame High because the elementary school was still under construction. Once we got in the new building our lunch habits changed because we had a school lunchroom.

Mrs. Isabelle Suranni, who was a chef at various restaurants in the area, prepared the food right on the premises. Unlike most other lunchroom food I encountered over the years St. Mary's was tasty, especially the spaghetti. My mom worked in the kitchen for a couple of years and whenever spaghetti was served she'd bring some home for dinner.

So, that was about it -- uniform, shoes, lunchbox. Maybe a couple pencils and a box of eight crayola crayons. There was no list sent home of all the things the parents needed to buy.

As far as teacher preparations that were made for school's opening, it was certainly a big deal for me when I was teaching. We'd head back to our classrooms a week or two early to get the classroom ready. Desks were arranged, bulletin boards decorated, name tags made, lessons prepared, and so on.

'Convent'-ional Classroom

For seven of my eight elementary school years, my teacher was a nun -- a Sister of the Holy Cross (inset photo below right from the 1950s). I don't know how many of them had formal teacher training but I'd guess not many.

I could be cynical and surmise that the nuns spent their summer sanding and honing their rulers and yardsticks to use on us little delinquents.

But, since most Catholic schools had 40-50 students in a class, more likely they were catching their breath and recuperating from the previous semester.

Maybe they had nun spas where they would go to get refreshed. Probably not.

I don't recall much about bulletin boards or decorations, but with 50 desks there probably wasn't room for any. There were always a bunch of strategically placed statues though. Some saint was always looking over your shoulder when you were about to launch that spitball.

A Long Year Ahead

I can't imagine having more than 30 kids in a class, but it must have given the nuns some preopening day anxiety. Actually, I could identify with that feeling somewhat because my very first teaching job after graduating from college in 1969 was in a Catholic school, Sts. Peter and Paul in Rochester.

I was also similar to the nuns in that I really didn't have much preparation for teaching. I had, quite honestly, taken the job in order to secure a deferment from the military draft. I had only taken a couple education classes at St. John Fisher and never did any student teaching. Essentially, I was winging it.

My very first day I started out by handing out index cards to my sixth-graders and asking them to write down their name, address, phone number, and parents' names. I had a boy in the class who was from Lebanon named Toufik. 

As I circulated around he raised his hand. “Yes, Toufik,” I said. “How can I help you?”

“Mister,” he replied. “How do you make a T?”

“Oh boy,” I thought. “What have I gotten myself into?

First Days

Only two of my St. Mary's opening days stand out in my memory of boyhood, both of which I mentioned in a previous story.

In first grade, school started on a Wednesday, but because I had strep throat, I didn't arrive until the following Monday. I was a shy kid so I was probably terrified to come in on my own.

A boy named Lenny, the briefest of classmates, had the absolute greatest opening day entrance in my 51 years when he showed up with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and promptly got expelled. There was an ad at the time which said, “I'd walk a mile for a Camel.” Lenny only got to walk about 50 feet before the black-habited arm of a nun whisked him off the premises forever.

On my first opening day after retiring, I took my boat and went fishing. On the first opening day of my longtime girlfriend's retirement, we took a day trip to the pretty little Finger Lakes Town of Skaneatles.

What will we do on the first day of school this year? I'm not sure except that it won't involve little kids. Or nuns.

Photos and images courtesy of Dave Reilly.

September 12, 2020 - 4:00pm

Genesee Community College Associate Professor of History Derek D. Maxfield (above photo) had a reception this afteroon at Roman's restaurant in Downtown Batavia and signed copies of his first book, "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY."

He became an expert on the excruciating conditions at the infamous POW camp while researching material for his book.

He will be featured on C-SPAN tonight at 6 o'clock sharing what his research uncovered about this notorious time period in Elmira's history.

It is the largest city and the county seat of Chemung County. "The Queen City" was incorporated in 1864. By the late 19th century, it was a major transportation hub, connecting commercial centers in Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York City.

Called by some the "Andersonville of the North," the prisoner of war camp in Elmira is remembered as the most notorious of all Union-run POW camps. It existed for only a year -- from the summer of 1864 to July 1865. But in that time, and for long after, it became darkly emblematic of man's inhumanity to man. Confederate prisoners called it "Hellmira."

In the end, Maxfield suggests that it is time to move on from the blame game and see prisoner of war camps -- North and South -- as a great humanitarian failure.

"HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" is available through AmazonSavas Beatie -- and was released in July as an audio book as well.

Most of the information in this post provided by GCC.

September 9, 2020 - 2:14pm
posted by Press Release in GCC, news, Derek Maxfield, civil war, Hellmira, POW camp, history, C-SPAN.

Submitted photo and press release:

Genesee Community College Associate Professor of History, Derek D. Maxfield (inset photo, left) will be on C-SPAN at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, sharing what his research has uncovered about the excruciating conditions at a POW camp in Elmira.

Maxfield became an expert on the subject while writing his first book, "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" which explores this notorious time period in the history of Elmira.

Elmira is the largest city and the county seat of Chemung County. "The Queen City" was incorporated in 1864. By the late 19th century, it was a major transportation hub, connecting commercial centers in Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York City.

In "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" Maxfield contextualizes the rise of prison camps during the Civil War, explores the failed exchange of prisoners, and tells the tale of the creation and evolution of the prison camp in Elmira.

Long called by some the "Andersonville of the North," the prisoner of war camp in Elmira is remembered as the most notorious of all Union-run POW camps. It existed for only a year -- from the summer of 1864 to July 1865. But in that time, and for long after, it became darkly emblematic of man's inhumanity to man. Confederate prisoners called it "Hellmira."

In the end, Maxfield suggests that it is time to move on from the blame game and see prisoner of war camps -- North and South -- as a great humanitarian failure.

"HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" is available through AmazonSavas Beatie -- and was released in July as an audio book as well.

Always interested in collaboration, Maxfield partnered with GCC's Associate Professor of English Michael Gosselin who wrote an essay on Mark Twain as an appendix to the book.

The essay, called "A Foretaste of Heaven: How Elmira Gave the World Mark Twain" is about Samuel Clemen's summer home at Quarry Farm in Elmira, where he wrote many of his most famous works.

Maxfield's "Hellmira" also features a variety of photos and images contributed by GCC's Professor of English, Tracy Ford.

Since joining Genesee Community College in 2009, Maxfield has been actively involved in GCC's campus community and dedicated to providing students with an exceptional learning experience. Described by many as a gifted storyteller, Maxfield has a way of reaching students in the classroom that is memorable.

He incorporates applied learning, which gets his students beyond the classroom and experiencing the preservation of history on the ground, has created unique and engaging assignments, created new courses, and coordinates the GCC History Club's Historical Horizons Lecture Series which brings history to life for students and the College community.

Maxfield was awarded a "SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching" in 2019, holds an M.A. in History from Villanova University and a B.A. in History from SUNY Cortland.

He currently resides in Churchville.

A book publication reception is being held at Roman's restaurant in Downtown Batavia from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. Roman's is located at 59 Main St.

All are welcome to come and meet Maxfield, purchase a copy of "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp - Elmira, NY" ($14) and even have it signed! Masks are required and social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

The publication of this book marks the second time Maxfield has appeared in GCC's Recognition Matters series. Officials at GCC have embraced this series as a way to acknowledge not only the achievement, but also the high quality of the College's recognized faculty, staff and students.

August 30, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in nostalgia, history, Holland Land Office Museum, news, batavia.

I recently spent a day at the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia and enjoyed the newest exhibits. Like most museums, it has various displays that take you back to a time when the artifacts you are looking at or reading about were used.

For example, they have a room that explains the history of the Holland Land Office building. Another room is the Land Office Room where Joseph Ellicott, founder of Batavia and Buffalo, sold land to our early settlers. There is the Colonial Kitchen depicting what it was like to cook from the flames and coals of a fireplace in the 1800s.

The West Wing is called the Military Room where you can learn about the famous men and women from Genesee County who fought for our country. The East Wing houses an exhibit on local businesses.  

I think of our minds as a museum, storing memories of artifacts we have used over our lifetimes. I guess I am speaking to the baby boomers (born 1946-64) for obvious reasons (because I am one). I have been thinking about some of the artifacts that have been on display in the past.

The old black and white Sylvania television set (once made in Batavia) takes me back to watching "The Beverly Hillbillies,"* my favorite show as a child. We were only allowed one TV show a week when school was in session.

The museum has an old Victrola. Children love to hear the history of our early records or big CDs as children often call them.

Another artifact is a vintage typewriter. Now there is something the children of today have never seen. Remember the carbon paper for the typewriter and if you made a mistake you had to use a correction tape? My roommate actually had a typewriter in the early ‘70s and I had a plastic portable record player.

You can’t forget the three-pound transistor radio that could only pick up three AM radio stations.

There are so many memories and so many artifacts.

I really loved my ball bearing roller skates that clipped onto my shoes, not my sneakers. I would wear the key on a string around my neck.

Can’t forget the balloon tires for our bicycles, a 3-speed English bike, penny loafers, high-top sneakers, madras clothing, long hair for boys and girls. We played outside, used the sewer and manhole covers as bases for kickball.

We played games such a Kick the Can, Red Rover, Freeze Tag, Cops and Robbers and an old favorite, Hide and Seek. 

I wonder if someday a merry-go-round, teeter-totter, metal slide and monkey bars will be on display in a museum or big cardboard boxes from Max Pies  (Furniture store) that were used to slide down the grassy overpass on South Jackson Street. 

Sandlot baseball was anyplace you could find an open field. The list could go on and on. These are our artifacts!

Now the artifacts are stored in our minds in a happy place.

Photo courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

*Editor's Note: This YouTube link plays the second episode of season two of "The Beverly Hillbillies" called "Hair-raising Holiday." It's a hoot!

August 24, 2020 - 10:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, civil war, history, batavia, video.
Video Sponsor

Ten months ago, the Civil War-era cannons that have sat as sentinels outside the Holland Land Office Museum since at least 1905, were sent to Altoona, Pa., for restoration by Seed Artillery and today, they returned to Batavia looking almost certainly much like they did when they were shipped to Batavia in the 1860s.

August 19, 2020 - 5:36pm

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce that on Monday, Aug. 24th, the official Cannon Welcoming Home Celebration will be taking place at 10 a.m.

We are welcoming our two cannons back to their familiar spot on the front porch of the museum after a long absence due to being restored. Seed Artillery out of Altoona, Pa., spent many months carefully restoring our guns to their former glory as they would have looked in the early 19th century.

The work included rebuilding of the carriage with all new metalwork and refurbishing the cannon barrels.

The cannons will be welcomed home in style with the help of a gunnery crew of the Genesee County Militia reenactor group.

We would also like to thank everyone who contributed to our Cannon Restoration Fund.

All are welcome to attend, while observing social distancing protocols and wearing facial coverings. 

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

August 13, 2020 - 9:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in anti-slavery, Le Roy, history, video, Frederick Douglass.
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Anti-slavery sentiment ran strong in Le Roy in the 1830s and 1840s, with much of the activity centered around the First Presbyterian Church, where at least five significant anti-slavery meetings were held, culminating in December 1847 with a speech by famed abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass.

Local history buffs have long believed Douglass once spoke in Le Roy, but the date was placed in 1838. That wouldn't be possible because Douglass was still a slave in Maryland in 1838. 

James Evinger, a Presbyterian minister in Rochester, noticed the discrepancy and that sparked his curiosity. He began digging. With the assistance of Lynne Belluscio, Le Roy historian, he started down a path where he uncovered secondary and primary sources for all of the notable anti-slavery activity in Le Roy, including the first important anti-slavery meeting in Le Roy in 1833 where Rev. Thomas James spoke.

James was an escaped slave and founder of the first Black church in Rochester. A few years later, while working as a pastor and abolitionist in Boston, James would find the recently escaped Douglass a capable speaker and mentor to the young man as a touring speaker in the cause of abolishing slavery.

The 1833 appearance of James also brought out the pro-slave racists who mobbed the church, throwing rocks at the windows, trying to drive James from the building. A Le Roy resident, Henry Brewster, sequestered James at his home. 

Thanks to the work of Evinger, the anti-slavery movement in Le Roy is now commemorated on a historical marker in front of the Presbyterian Church on Main Street.

You can read a complete account of Evinger's work and his findings in the latest edition of the Universalist Herald. Click here (pdf).

July 28, 2020 - 3:27pm

Photo of David Buckel from the nonprofit Lambda Legal.

David Buckel was an environmentalist. He was an LGBTQ advocate. He was an attorney. He started his life in Batavia. He ended it more than two years ago in New York City in an effort to draw attention to the plight of the Earth in a time when it seems so many people are focused on other things.

His death didn’t garner much attention locally, but we remember today him on World Nature Conservation Day.

Most Likely to Succeed

David was a Batavia kid, born here on June 13, 1957. His dad was an agricultural consultant and his mom was a florist.

Her maiden name was Stroh and her family ran a well known floral business in town. After his mother died, he changed his middle name to Stroh in her memory. He had four brothers, two of whom served in Vietnam.

He was a bright student. At Batavia High School, where he graduated from in 1975, he was a member of the National Honor Society and voted the boy Most Likely to Succeed by his classmates. He was active in sports as a member of the varsity cross-country, track, and tennis teams.

David went on to college at The University of Rochester graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1980. After graduation he began to show his compassion for others by working as an attendant caring for in-home hospice patients.

After earning a Juris Doctorate degree in 1987 from Cornell University Law School, David began his career as an attorney.

While living in Rochester David was introduced by friends to a man named Terry Kaelber. They hit it off, became a couple and moved to New York City.

As might be surmised from his earlier hospice work, David started his career at Legal Aid assisting those in need of help with the law who couldn't afford it otherwise.

In 1995 David began working for Lambda Legal, which helped LGBT (Q, for queer/questioning, was added to the initialism starting in 1996.) youth and he specifically became a director of the organization's marriage project.

Pair of Legal Victories, Pair of Weddings

During his tenure at Lambda Legal, Buckel was one of the counsel responsible for two big victories.

In 1996 a young gay man named Jamie Nabozny was awarded almost a million dollars after suing a Wisconsin school district for failure to protect him from bullying. The court ruling in Nabozny v. Podlesny also established a legal precedent to protect LGBTQ students from being bullied in all school systems.

In 2001 David was one of the attorneys for JoAnn Brandon, who won a lawsuit in Nebraska against a local sheriff for failing to protect her transgender child who was raped and murdered in 1993. JoAnn's daughter, Teena Brandon, had reversed her name to Brandon Teena while transitioning to a male gender identity. Hillary Swank won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1999 for portraying Teena Brandon, JoAnn's murdered child, in the movie “Boys Don't Cry,” based on the crime.

Four years after the landmark decision, there was a milestone in David's personal life when he married Kaelber in a double wedding ceremony in Canada. The other couple exchanging vows that day were lesbians with whom the men were raising a daughter. She's now a college student, scheduled to graduate in 2021.

Hooked on Urban Farming

In 2008, Buckel retired from Lambda Legal to devote his time and energy to helping preserve the environment. He became an expert in composting, the reuse of organic garbage. 

He spent several years interning at Red Hook's Columbia Street Farm in Brooklyn, where he learned the intricacies of composting peoples' kitchen waste into fertilizer to grow more food. Red Hook had been built on several old baseball diamonds to become the biggest urban farm in the United States.

Eventually, David applied his talent for organizing and planning to become the director of the Brooklyn operation. With the assistance of a large core of volunteers Red Hook was processing 225 tons of compost every year.

Buckel cultivated his workforce of volunteers as well as he did the organic material. He was respected, even beloved by the people he worked with. Several workers said that he changed their life. He ended each work day by thanking the volunteers for helping their Earth.

Buddhism, Trump and the Beginning of the End

As he developed his passion for tending to the environment he also pursued a corresponding interest in Buddhism. With its tenets of inner peace and caring for others it only seemed natural that David would be interested in this way of life. However, the Buddhist methods of protest probably contributed to his untimely end.

After the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016 and the subsequent rollback of Obama era environmental regulations, Buckel's family and friends described him in news accounts as becoming increasingly upset with the trajectory of government actions or inactions.

As 2018 progressed toward April, David began sending emails to his assistant at Red Hook detailing all the things which needed to be done in case of his absence. He also labeled everything at the site, equipment, tools and supplies. His assistant asked him if he was thinking of retiring but he assured him he was not.

Then, before dawn on the morning of April 14th, David Buckel left the home he shared with his family in Brooklyn. He had a shopping cart and headed to a nearby park. He had told no one that he was leaving.

He stopped at a patch of grass in the park off the walkway and apparently built a small wall of earth around himself. He sent an email to the media detailing what he was about to do, poured a flammable substance on himself, and lit it on fire. Within a minute or two David Buckel was dead.

The obvious reaction was shock and sadness. His family, friends, coworkers, former colleagues, and former classmates were bewildered.

They couldn't believe that a quiet, gentle, private man who cared so deeply for others would choose such a public way to end his life in protest. He hadn't even said goodbye to his loved ones.

His family's comment was that they intended to honor his life by carrying on his environmental goals. Coworkers at Red Hook vowed to continue his work.

Lambda Legal issued a statement when they learned of Buckel's death.

Former Batavia High classmates commented on a Class of '75 Facebook page that several had tried to get in touch with David over the years with no success.

They were mystified over his suicide, but remembered him fondly. Former law colleagues were stunned along with everyone else.

Buckel's final email stated that, “My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

So, two plus years have now passed since David Buckel's death at age 60.

No one will ever completely understand or be able to give an absolute explanation as to why he chose to make a statement by ending his life in such a horrific way.

But, hopefully people, including Batavians from the community where he grew up, will remember him for the contributions he made to the world and as the good, kind, and helpful person he was.

Read more about David Buckel's life:

A lawyer sets himself on fire to protest climate change. Did anyone care?The Guardian, April 15, 2019

Remembering David Buckel, the pioneering lawyer who championed LGBT Rights, The New Yorker magazine, April 16, 2018

What Drove a Man to Set Himself on Fire in Brooklyn?, The New York Times, May 28, 2018

Self-immolation can be a form of protest or a cry for help. Are we listening?, The Washington Post, May 30, 2019

July 12, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in news, history, nostalgia, batavia, city Parks Program, covid-19.

It is the 1950s, the first week of summer vacation and the official opening of the City Parks Program. Children would run out the door at 8:50 a.m. to be the first one waiting to meet the new or previous year’s park supervisor.

You know that a great summer is about to begin. You will spend every day at the park from 9 to noon, and from 1 to 5 p.m.

Batavia at one time was divided into parks: Pringle, Kibbe, Lincoln, Austin, Williams, Farrall, MacArthur, and later as Batavia grew and some parks closed and new ones opened, John Kennedy and Lambert Park.

Children went to your neighborhood park and were so proud to say what park you were from. Parks competed against each other in softball and volleyball games. Every Friday night the scores and contest winners would be recorded in the newspaper.

There was a family feeling with every park. Every day there were scheduled arts and crafts projects.

When it was your park’s week for boondoggles (inset image left), the children would have the choice of three, four or eight strands to work on.

The park supervisor sometimes ended up making them for the little ones so they could wear them around their necks as lanyards or a small bracelet.

The favorite craft was the plaster molds. I can still picture the molds being lined up in the sun and the children standing behind the one they picked to make that particular day.

There were so many choices, a favorite was the mold for "The Last Supper." That was probably the largest mold and the most difficult to make.

There was a technique to make this craft. You had to carefully mix the plaster and when it was the right consistency you poured it into the mold. As it dried in the sun, you were hoping your plaster would set. After the plaster dried you would carefully pull back the rubber mold to see if your mold took the plaster.

You couldn’t forget the little tab you put in the back to hang this very heavy item proudly created for your parent’s wall. The last step was to paint your creation. You couldn’t wait to take it home to show mom and dad.

The highlight of the summer program was the park parade. Every year there was a theme and your park had to come up with a float to go along with the theme. Every day you would talk about the parade and the float and how this year your park would beat Kibbe.

The supervisor would keep samples of every craft because they would be judged at the end of the summer event.

Every park had been secretly working on their float that consisted of chicken wire and crepe paper flowers. Everyone had a job. Main Street would close down at the end of August and the street was transformed into a parade of children proudly walking with their float that was being pulled by a tractor.

The store owners would come out of their stores to watch the annual parade. The celebration after the parade was at Austin Park. After the parade, floats would all be lined up to view and every park had a booth. You would stand with your park friends to wait for the results of what park would be the winner this year.

Of course, you always thought your park deserved to be the winner.

It was now time to go back to school and the summer program was coming to an end. New friends were made, memories to last a lifetime were created. When the park kids return to Batavia as adults and drive by “their park,” those wonderful summer memories will come flooding back.

So, this is what we tell our children what it was like back in the day.

As someone who loved going to my neighborhood park as a child and growing up to be lucky enough to be a park supervisor, I commend the Batavia Parks Program for creating summer memories we will never forget.

My years as a park supervisor will always be a cherished time.

The rules for the parks program was to have fun and most of all, be safe. In this time of so much unrest due to COVID-19, thinking back to those summertimes makes you realize how lucky you were to be a Baby Boomer.

Please share your memories, I only touched a few.

Anne Marie Starowitz was a proud supervisor for Farrall Park for three years in the '70s (inset photo right).

Photos and images courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

July 10, 2020 - 2:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Shawn Heubusch, news, crime, batavia, history.


While doing renovation work in his home, Batavia PD Chief Shawn Heubusch found under his old flooring layers old newspapers, all from 1927. 

The headlines help tell a story of at least one case that should be of interest to a lawman: The escape, escapades, and eventual capture of Floyd Wilcox.

Wilcox, of Oakfield, escaped from Genesee County Jail, presumably to avoid a possible sentence of life in prison after his fourth felony arrest, this time for grand larceny, under the recently enacted Baumes Law.

According to the articles, Wilcox (aka Floyd Gill), and an associate convinced a farmer to give them gas with a promise to pay once they were fueled up. When the duo drove back by the farm and didn't stop to pay, the farmer pulled out his pistol and started firing at the fleeing vehicle. The farmer jumped in his own truck and gave chase. A short time later, he found the abandoned vehicle with a flat tire from a bullet and spotted the two men running over a hill.

Later, Wilcox was a suspect in a safe-crack job in Hornell and a stealing a vehicle in Rochester. He was eventually apprehended by a Batavia PD officer on a street in the city. A subhead in the Batavia Daily News reads, "Did Not Try Very Hard to Keep Out of Reach of the Authorities."







Chief Heubusch isn't the only person finding old newspapers in old homes these days. The 1942 edition of the Batavia Daily News was found by our contractor in a wall of our house, which is undergoing renovations following our fire in April.

One of the stories is about an Army officer accused of sedition for distributing "America First" literature. It turns out, the publication of this story by Associated Press was controversial because the Army released the information to a reporter on a stipulation that no newspapers in the nation run it with only a one-column headline. Many editors found this AP requirement an unethical bargain giving the government power to dictate the nature of coverage. You can read about it in this book on Google Books.

June 28, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in batavia, nostalgia, news, history.

"Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck gettin' dirty and gritty" -- The Lovin' Spoonful, #1 on Billboard Hot 100, August, 1966

For every teen there are two coming-of-age situations (well really three, but I can't write about one of them here). The first is learning to drive and getting a driver's license. Over the years safety concerns have changed that one somewhat, but it's still a big deal for most.

The second one involves finding and working at a summer job.

You can ask almost any older person and their summer jobs during high school and college are rife with memories -- good, bad, funny, and often becoming more nostalgic as the years pass by. Drug store, hot dog stand, lifeguard, or mowing lawns -- we all had to start somewhere.

Those jobs were our first foray into the working world, a chance to be independent and have some money of our own. But due to our being so young and inexperienced, they also resulted in some hilarious screw-ups and lessons learned the hard way.

E. coli Anyone?

I got my first job at 16 the way a lot of kids do because my dad knew someone. Dad was a paper goods salesman and one of his best customers was John Castronova who owned The Red Top restaurant.

It was a hot dog and hamburger stand on West Main Street across from Batavia Downs where Sport Of Kings is now. My duties were to wash dishes, clean up, stock coolers, and eventually I got to wait on customers.

One memorable order that sticks out in my mind is when two guys, who obviously had just come from spending quite a while at a bar, ordered “Cannibal Sandwiches.”I had never heard of this but the grill man had.

They wanted hamburgers put on the grill for about 30 seconds and then put on a roll with onions. So, they were essentially eating raw beef. It was as gross as you would imagine and I don't think the FDA would approve.

I only worked about 16 hours a week, but eight of those were on Saturday night from 6 p.m. until 2 o'clock Sunday morning.

I lived at the other end of town so when we got out one of the older guys would give me a ride to East Main and I would walk the rest of the way to our house on North Spruce. I would then spend about 30 minutes in the hot shower at 3 a.m. to get the grease off myself.

I was all too happy to be done with that job at the end of the summer and return to Notre Dame for my senior year of high school.

Factory Foul-ups

Between my senior year and freshman year of college I had a tough time finding a job. I had a couple friends who worked at the Melton Shirt Factory on Liberty Street and they were able to get me some hours filling in when extra help was needed.

What I remember the most about that place was that it was like the fires of Hades in there. The poor women at the sewing machines would look like rag dolls by the end of the day from the heat.

The owner/manager's name was Abe and he had a thick New York City accent. He was not exactly a patient guy and he would yell at the top of his lungs, “Dave, where's the shoits (shirts)?”

At the end of a day in that blast furnace I would, unlike the previous summer at the hot dog stand, stand for 30 minutes in a cool shower.

Apparently I didn't learn my lesson about factories though.

The following summer between freshman and sophomore year my friend Jim and I got a job at a company in the Industrial Center on Harvester Avenue. It was called Ritz-Craft and they built mobile homes.

The very first day Jim and I were assigned the task of unloading an entire railroad boxcar full of lumber -- by hand. Once again our bathtub came in handy as by the time I got home all I could do was fill it with hot water and sit in it for a long time.

That should have been an omen for me as I only lasted a few weeks as a “carpenter.” I wasn't what you'd call a skilled craftsman and constantly made mistakes until finally the foreman had to let me go. Being “all thumbs” was a mild way to describe me.

But, out of the frying pan into the fire I went next. I still needed money so I moved down the way a little into another company that made equipment for pool tables. It was in the former Massey-Harris plant, which once made tractors and other farm equipment.

My job was to run a machine which ground up miscast billiard balls and other table parts so the plastic could be reused. This machine sounded like if a Boeing 747 jet was taking off and someone was throwing rocks into the engines.

I recall that we would start at 8 a.m. and we would get a 15-minute break at 10. I would start and think to myself, “It's got to be almost break time.” I'd look at my watch and it would be 8:15. Those were very long days and a kid was never happier to get back to school like I was that year.

Fortunately, that experience was the last of my factory follies.

Things Go Better With Coke

The summer between my sophomore and junior years, Jim and I were able to get hired by the Coca-Cola Company on East Main Street in Batavia. Even though the first year didn't go so well for me, I was able to come back for three more summers after that.

I had some opportunities to be out in the community rather than being cooped up inside four walls all day.

I'm not sure why I got hired the first summer because a major part of the job was driving and I didn't have a license. The bosses would get really annoyed when they'd ask me to go make a delivery and I couldn't. Plus, all the vehicles were standard shift.

One time a boss asked me to move a truck away from a doorway and, rather than tell him one more time that I couldn't, I decided to try. As you could imagine that didn't go well.

After coming close to ramming two other trucks and the side of the building I was banished to stacking crates. I have no idea why they kept me on. My charming personality perhaps?

To make matters worse, I had a health problem that summer requiring a week's stay in St. Jerome's Hospital. (That's a whole other story -- one night I was served fruit for dinner and one of the nurses was so old that I wanted to get out of bed to help her help me).

Subsequently, I had to withdraw from my fall semester at St. John Fisher College and have surgery at Strong Memorial in Rochester.

So, the next year I made up my mind that I had to get my driver's license and learn to drive a stick shift, so I had at least a prayer of a chance to be rehired at Coke. Which I did, but the driving a standard shift part turned out humorously.

I learned from my almost 70-year-old gramma in her little Plymouth Valiant at the Batavia Downs parking lot. Hey, whatever it takes...

It took some slick persuading and a nervous demonstration that I could drive a stick, but I got my job back and I rode that horse (trucks actually) for the next three summers until I got a teaching job.

Working summers at Coca-Cola could be long hours and I think I originally we were paid $1.25 per hour, but it certainly topped factory work.

The hardest part was loading the heavy glass bottle cases of soda (or pop as it was called in Batavia) onto the delivery trucks at the end of the day.

But, during the day, we might be called upon to drive to Le Roy or Medina or Warsaw to deliver or pick something up, which meant a nice easy ride out in the country.

Crazy Carnivals

Another part of the job might be working a Friday or Saturday night at one of the many volunteer firemen's carnivals in the area. This would entail setting up the Coca-Cola equipment and then mostly just sitting around and taking it down at the end of the night.

A side bonus of entertainment at these carnivals was watching the antics that sometimes occurred at or near the beer tents. We could look on with amusement safely from a distance as security or sheriff's deputies tried to contain some of the overexuberant locals who had overextended their quota of Jenny Cream Ales.

There were some characters at that job, too.

The assistant manager was nicknamed “Clipboard.” He was a stickler for scheduling and neatness. When he would get in a bad mood he would spend the whole day rearranging the entire warehouse with the forklift (we called it a towmotor). The foreman was an ex-military man we called “Sarge.” You've seen movies where the drill sergeant could blister the paint on the wall with his cursing? That was him.

He told us that if he ever saw us drinking Pepsi or buying it in the store we 'd have to answer to him. So, we loved our Coke -- in front of him at least.

Actually, we had a Coke machine in the warehouse that would vend a 6-ounce bottle for 5 cents. And it was hot in there, so for a nickel at a time you could quench your thirst with an ice-cold Coke, right?

Well, you've probably heard the old wives' tale that Coke could take rust off a car bumper. Probably not, but if you drink about 10 of those a day for a while you might be more inclined to believe it.

Eventually, it got to the point where even looking at a bottle of Coke would make me nauseous. Thankfully, we also sold ginger ale and that was a lot easier on the stomach.

Over the course of four summers a lot of things happened while working for Coca-Cola that could be stories on their own. But, probably the craziest incident took place in 1969 about a month before I finished my tenure there.

Bee Unprepared

It was a Saturday morning and I had been assigned to take a truckload of tanks of Coke and dispensing equipment to a company picnic at Hamlin Beach State Park. I was to set everything up and then stay there for the day and then bring it back to Batavia afterward.

I had just passed through the Village of Brockport headed north on Route 19 when I saw a yellowish-brown “cloud” that seemed to be floating over the road.

“What is that?” I thought, “a bunch of falling leaves?” Well, there was no avoiding whatever it was and almost instantly I drove into it.

To my immediate shock I realized that I had driven smack into a swarm of bees! As the blues lyric goes, “If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all,” and the truck and I had showed up at exactly the wrong time.

Hundreds of bees were suddenly covering the windshield and, since the windows were open, in the cab flying around my head. I wasn't afraid of bees but this was unbelievable.

The next thing I knew I was heading straight for a utility pole. There was no way to swerve at that point, so the best I could do was to hit the brakes and hold on. As the truck slammed into the pole I saw an electric transformer flying over the top and I knew this was no little fender bender.

As soon as the truck stopped completely, bees were buzzing all around me and I jumped out the door and ran across the road as fast as I could. In retrospect it was good that power lines hadn't fallen on the truck because that never crossed my mind.

I noticed that other cars had stopped and people were getting out and tentatively advancing toward me, probably worried about live wires that I hadn't considered.

I took stock of myself and was pretty sure I wasn't injured, but I never noticed until later that I hadn't been stung even once! I guess I did have a little luck after all.

As they say, all hell broke loose then. Sirens, sheriffs, state troopers, fire trucks, an ambulance, and eventually utility trucks, responded. The trooper asked me what happened. Why did I lose control? Had I been drinking? Drugs?

So, in response I took him over to the truck. All over the hood, on the windshield, and in the cab were dead bees. Where did the swarm go though? The queen must have moved on and the others followed her I guess.

Then came the part where I had to go into the truck and call in on the radio (after the utility workers determined it was safe of course) and tell what had happened. You can imagine how that conversation went. “YOU WHAT!!?”

After a while the manager came with a different truck and a couple guys who were not having an easy time keeping from laughing. We transferred all the stuff (which had not been damaged) to the other truck and I continued on my way to Hamlin Beach with the guys' voices ringing in my ears, “Watch out for bees, Dave.”

The damaged truck was towed away and I got a respite (except for explaining to the customers why I was late) until Monday morning.

It was a good thing I only had a few weeks left to work because I was chided and teased about my bee encounter every single day until I left. “Hey Dave. Don't you need some calamine lotion? I think you have hives.” And so on. All day. Every day.

Rent-A-Cop Caper

One last job to mention was a part-time one during my senior year at St. John Fisher.

I was living with a roommate in an apartment in the City of Rochester and needed to keep up with my share of the rent. So, I took a job as a Pinkerton Security guard at Rochester Institute of Technology in Henrietta.

Two nights a week from 4 to midnight, clad in my uniform complete with police-style hat (left photo, with toy guns), I would ”guard” a parking lot, the student union or a science building.

One night I was on duty checking parking in a lot by the student dormitories.

Suddenly my car was surrounded by about 20 guys. They informed me that as part of a fraternity initiation they were going to “kidnap” me, tie me up, and leave me in a dorm basement. They stated that after a few hours they would call someone to come set me free.

Some quick thinking was obviously called for by me. I said something like, “Guys, no please. I'm a college student just like you at Fisher. I still have a paper to write after I get off work at midnight" (probably not true). My brain was racing. I needed to get out of this.

But how? Of course the same way you get out of a lot of things -- throw someone else under the proverbial bus.

“Hey guys,”I said, “if you go to the Pinkerton office around the corner, my boss is in there alone. He's always on my case and he's the one who put in all the horrible parking rules that you hate (doubtful). It would be so much funnier if you did this to a boss, especially that guy."

“Yeah!” one of them agreed. “We know the guy you mean. We can't stand him! Right guys? Oh, this will be sweet. C'mon, let's go get him!"

And off they went hooting and hollering.

As soon as they were out of sight, I wasn't taking any chances. I sped out of there to a desolate lot on the far side of the campus and stayed there until quitting time and then went home.

I never did find out if the frat guys carried out their plan because what was I gonna do? Ask the boss the next time I came to work? I had escaped and that was really all that mattered.

So, over the years I had a variety of summer jobs which resulted in some experiences that stick in my mind to this day.

Then, I went on to a long elementary school teaching career, which afforded me July and August off. And guess what? Yup. More summer jobs.

Like a lot of teachers, I painted houses in the summer. No more factory jobs. But, I did encounter my share of bees.

Images and photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.

June 26, 2020 - 2:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in hlom, news, batavia, history, Holland Land Office Museum.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum reopens to the public today, June 26, at its normal business hours. The museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The museum will be reopening with some noticeable changes.

Firstly, the museum is implementing its Safety Plan, which requires all visitors to the museum to wear masks and admission will be limited to 10 at a time. Also, visitors are asked to refrain from touching any of the artifacts and cases, and to follow our “one way” floor plan. Visitors are also asked to maintain the 6 foot social distancing protocol and to use the hand sanitizer and washing stations around the museum.

Secondly, the museum is reopening under a new admission policy. Visitors to the museum will now have to pay an admission fee. The ranges include: Free for Museum Members, $1 for Children, $3 for Students/Veterans/Seniors, $5 for Adults, and $10 for a Family of four.

The HLOM is instituting a strict cleaning procedure to ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers, and visitors, but wishes everyone to come by and visit us and see all our treasures of the history of Genesee County.

Thank you to all who have supported us in the past, through this difficult time, and continue to into the future. 

If you have any questions please contact the museum by phone at (585) 343-4727 or email at [email protected]. Information can also be found on our website, hollandlandoffice.com, or our Facebook page.

June 17, 2020 - 4:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in hlom, visitor admission policy, news, batavia, history.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum will be administering a change in its admission policy for visitors to the museum upon its opening in the coming weeks.

The museum’s new admission policy will be as follows:

  • Free for Members;
  • $1 for Children;
  • $3 for Students, Veterans, and Seniors;
  • $5 for Adults;
  • $10 for Family of two adults and two children.

​This policy is a change from previously when admission was based on a suggested donation.

The Board and the Executive Director did not take this decision lightly, but it was deemed as a necessity for the museum to continue serving the people of Genesee County and Western New York.

The museum will remain committed to carrying out its mission of preserving the living history of Genesee County for the future, in an educational, entertaining, and inclusive way.

Everyone at the museum would like to thank those who have supported us in the past, through this difficult time, and into the future. We look forward to seeing both old and new faces walking through the door again very soon.

If you have any questions, please contact Director Ryan Duffy at (585) 343-4727 or email: [email protected]

Information can also be found at the museum’s website.

June 14, 2020 - 4:32pm

Diana Diplarakou Dipson, is seated in forefront, left, with violin. Photo courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

Rose Caccamise will truly be missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. About 10 years ago Rose contacted me and asked if I would do an article on Diana Dipson. We met a few times and she explained that this famous lady deserved to be remembered. That was so Rose, always thinking of someone else. So, in memory of that beautiful, talented, athletic woman, this is for you, Rose.

            -- Anne Marie Starowitz

In 1929 a young girl, who liked her name to be pronounced "Dee-AN’-na," graduated with honors from Batavia High School. She was a member of the National Honor Society, was awarded the Glenn S. Loomis Award for History, and was a member of orchestra and chorus. Her ambition was to be a concert violinist.

Diana Diplarakou Dipson was born in New York City but moved to Batavia as a child. When she was 5 years old she began studying violin in Batavia with August Fricker. She began giving recitals at the age of 11. Many of her recitals were at the State School for the Blind.

She later won a scholarship to the Curtiss Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She received degrees with high honors from Oberlin Conservatory and the Julliard Graduate School of Music. Her music career spanned many decades. She studied in Europe under the direction of George Enesco.

Music reviews of her undeniable talent began in Batavia and followed her career all over the country.

“Diana Dipson is a brilliant artist, possessing an amazing technique. It can be predicted without fear that Miss Dipson will become one of the country’s most accomplished violinists.” Daily News of Batavia, NY, May 16, 1928

Diana’s music career began when she accompanied silent movies at the New Family Theater on Jackson Street. Her father Nikitas D. Dipson operated the theater. As Diana’s career soared so did her father’s in the theater business. Nikitas’ name became synonymous with both movie theaters and drive-in-movie theaters.

Diana performed on radio in Buffalo and Cleveland and before World War II she played in public appearances in Greece.

She later joined the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in West Virginia, where she was a featured soloist.

In 1939, Diana married George Papulias in New York City at a private ceremony officiated by the Eastern Orthodox Bishop of New York City. The groom was an attorney from Steubenville, Ohio, an amateur violinist, and the son of Greek immigrants who, like the Dipsons, were in the theater business.

The newlyweds sailed the same day on the Italian liner Conte de Savoia for a three-month Mediterranean honeymoon. In June 1940 their son Michael was born. When Michael was 2 years old his parents divorced. He was not raised by either of his parents but was raised by a family in Wellsville.

Diana went to New York City to pursue her musical career in the early '40s. Michael would come to Batavia for Christmas or Easter and stayed at his grandfather’s home on 431 E. Main St.

Diana was disappointed that Michael never learned to play an instrument or read music. According to her, he had perfect pitch. The one thing Michael did have in common with his mother was she had very sensitive ears and could not tolerate hearing instruments played out of tune. To this day her son has the same complaint.

When Michael was in grade school his mother would make arrangements to visit his school in Wellsville and play the violin for his class. She played tunes that appealed to the students and then added some classical medleys. The teachers appreciated her visits and to this day his classmates still reminisce about it.

Diana did fulfill her dream. The headlines in The Daily News March 1, 1944 read “Batavian Chosen First Violinist in a New York City Symphony.” After very competitive auditions, Diana was chosen first violinist and would be a member of the New York City Symphony under Leopold Stokowski, conductor.

Interestingly Mischa Mischakoff, concertmaster of the New York City Symphony, was a soloist in Batavia Civic Orchestra’s second season and perhaps was a colleague of Diana.

During and after World War II she toured military hospitals with the Hospital Music Guild, entertaining wounded servicemen. She had great sympathy for the many servicemen who had been wounded in the war. She found playing her violin for the soldiers gave her great satisfaction.

Michael also shared that his mom was a born mimic and could flawlessly lapse into a variety of dialects. She spoke Greek fluently and could also speak French from her time in Paris. By the time she was 30 she had traveled all over Europe, and had a very cosmopolitan view of customs, culture and cuisine.

While Diana was performing in New York City something musically wonderful was happening at home. Four musicians in the 1940s, John and Helen Grapka, Norman Hall and Muriel Mooney formed a quartet and along with many talented musicians in the area, helped form the Batavia Civic Orchestra later known as the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

Ironically, their first concert was held at the Dipson Theatre* on Nov. 6, 1947 to a sold-out audience.

In 1955 Diana returned to Batavia and became a member of the Genesee Symphony for six years. She served as a board member for five years. She was first stand with concertmaster John Bobka. She also played in concerts presented by the Fine Arts Division of Geneseo State College and frequently gave offertory performances for local churches.

Diana continued to teach violin to young people and in 1964 served as the concertmistress with the Perry Pops Orchestra. She was later employed in the offices of Dipson Theatres, which still owned or leased about 10 theaters operated by her brother, William Dipson.

In the '70s the community leaders in Batavia, particularly William Dipson, decided to give Main Street a cultural boost. They organized a live performance of an opera, with costumes, scenery, and full orchestra to perform on stage at the Dipson Theatre.

Everybody attended in formal finery as though it were a Hollywood premiere. Michael came to Batavia to escort his mother.

By all accounts, it was a beautiful performance, an afternoon to remember. It was not too long after the gala that the Dipson theatre like many other beautiful buildings became the next target of urban renewal.

Diana continued to live in Batavia in the Dipson home on East Main Street. She had a fear of locking herself out of her apartment so she never locked her door. One day when she came home she found that her violin was stolen; she never played the violin again.

Rose Caccamise from Roxy’s Music store has very fond memories of Diana. She describes Diana as artistic, musical, humble, intelligent, gracious, and a lover of animals, especially her dog Augie. In Rose’s words, “it was a privilege to have known her.”

Diana also taught students to play the violin at Roxy’s Music Store.

Diana Diplarakou Dipson died at St. Luke’s Manor in Batavia in 1997 at the age of 86. Her son is an attorney in Madison County, Virginia, where her ashes are buried.

*Editor's Note: The Dipson Theatre in Batavia was located at 38 Main St. Ground breaking for the movie house was in 1946 and when it opened it had seating for 1,325 people, according to a website called Cinema Treasures.

June 14, 2020 - 2:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in history, mary powell, Le Roy, news, A. K. Drury Studio.

Mary Powell, circa 1870s, taken at A.K. Drury Studio, Le Roy, NY.

Reader Shelley Cardiel contacted us this afternoon and sent along this photo, saying:

"I’ve 'rescued' an old photograph of Mary POWELL, which was taken at the A. K. Drury Studio in LeRoy, NY.  The photograph appears to have been taken in the 1870’s with Mary appearing to be in her teens at the time it was taken.

"I’m hoping to locate someone from Mary’s family so that this photograph can be returned to the care of family. If you are a member of this family, or you know someone who might be, please contact me."

Email:   [email protected]

April 2, 2020 - 3:13pm

A Batavia author has penned a paean to The Stumblin' Inn in Elba, the storied landmark that burned down two years ago this summer.

Daniel J. Crofts was to speak at the Holland Land Office Museum April 23 about his fictional short story "Ignis Invictus,* a Eulogy for the Stumblin' Inn" as participants noshed pastries and sipped hot coffee during the kaffeeklatsch known as Java with Joe E., cancelled because of coronavirus, naturally.

"I worked in Elba for a little over five years, and had passed by the Inn every day," Crofts said in a recent email. "But it wasn't until reading The Batavian's coverage following the July 2018 fire that I learned just how important it had been to the Elba community.

"I have always been interested in storytelling, and felt that a short story that would function as a sort of memorial for the Stumblin' Inn would be appropriate and, perhaps, welcomed."

Crofts said his tale is about a man from out of the area who drives into Elba, sees the wreck of the Stumblin' Inn (after the fire had occurred but before the debris was cleared), and treats it disrespectfully.

Then he meets a mysterious, supernatural guide (like the ghosts of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," or Virgil from Dante's "The Divine Comedy") who takes him on a journey through the history of the Stumblin' Inn, its predecessors, and Elba in general (insofar as it is relevant to the Inn).

Of course, Crofts' book ($10.50) is stocked at the Holland Land Office Museum, which is temporarily closed because of the pandemic.

HLOM Offers Online Book Sales

It is among a number of intriguing titles in the HLOM bookstore inventory, which are available for purchase online.

Also on the list: "The Story of the Muck as Told By Those Who Worked There," ($12) written by the late William F. Brown Jr., and researched by Anne Marie Starowitz; and "Up South -- Folk Stories Whispered on the Summer Wind and Seen Through the Green Leaves" ($24.99), by Lynda Breckenridge Gaetano; and "Transfiguration and Hope -- A Conversation About Time and Hope" ($21.99) by D. Gregory Van Dussen, about spiritual journeys infinite and eternal, and the power of grace.

There are battlefield maps for purchase and titles about wars and veterans, baseball, the Erie Canal, Buffalo gangsters, Native Americans and pioneers, railroads, Genesee County architecture, haunted places, leading citizens, lore, and WNY amusement park rides.

A tiny brass cannon collectible can be had 10 bucks. It spurs remembrance of the actual cannons that stood outside the museum for more than a century. Last November, those were carefully dismantled and sent to Altoona, Pa., for a $20,000 period-accurate restoration, half paid by the museum and half through funds from an ongoing fundraising campaign called "Ready. Aim. Donate."

And if you need some soap to wash your hands good and clean of COVID-19, the bookstore's online inventory also lists prettily wrapped, handmade goat's milk soap, three cakes for $12, with fragrances such as green tea, rose hip, and lavender mint.

Meanwhile, HLOM is using this time of closure to take stock of its operation and programs and is asking people to complete a survey to help them better serve the community.

(Ignis Invictus is Latin for: Fire or Passion + Invincible or Undefeated, etc.)

Editor's Note: Below is a YouTube video of the Stumblin' Inn fire July 8, 2018, by Elba resident Lucine Kauffman, along with our news partner WBTA:

Also, video of the cannons being loaded for their restoration trip.

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