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September 12, 2019 - 6:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Ghost Walk, history, batavia, hlom, news.

Press release:

Back and expanded by popular demand, please join the Holland Land Office Museum for a Westside Ghost Walk on three Fridays in October.

The walks led by Connie Boyd will take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, 18, and 25.

Take a walk on the Westside and hear tales of murders, hangings, grave robbing, ghosts and other eerie happenings from Batavia's past.

Hear stories of Joseph Ellicott, E. N. Rowell and other famous and infamous Batavians.

Admission is $10 and reservations are required.

Tours are limited to 25 people each. The tour begins and ends at the museum and is approximately one-and-a-half to two hours in length.

For tickets or more information, please call (585) 343-4727, email at [email protected], or stop by at 131 W. Main St., Batavia.

(Also, be sure to check out the Old Batavia Cemetery's Guided Ghost Walk on Saturday, Oct. 26; must RSVP by calling the Batavia Cemetery Association at (585) 943-5662.)

September 12, 2019 - 6:06pm

Living history reenactors portraying Dean and Mary Richmond; taken by Howard Owens on Oct. 13, 2012.

Press release:

Join us to meet the famous and infamous movers and shakers who shaped and influenced the City of Batavia on Saturday, Oct. 26th, when the Batavia Cemetery Association will host a candlelight guided ghost walk through the Historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue in Batavia.

The guided tour on candlelit paths will bring guests to meet men and women of Batavia, who, for various reasons, held great power and exerted great influence in their day, were victims of tragic events, or both.

Philemon Tracy, one of the few Confederate officers buried in the North; Ruth the unknown -- victim of a horrendous murder; Joseph Ellicott, a man of great power and great flaws; and William Morgan, the man who disappeared and was allegedly murdered before he could reveal the secrets of the Masons, are some of the ghosts who will tell their stories on the tour.

Also visiting will be Civil War veteran General John H. Martindale, who was Military Governor of the District of Columbia in 1865.

Dean and Mary Richmond, who greatly influenced civic life in Batavia in the 1800s, will meet with guests in their mausoleum on the last stop of the tour. Dean Richmond made a great fortune in Great Lakes shipping and was the second president of the New York Central Railroad. Mary Richmond vastly expanded her husband’s fortune after his death and sat on the boards of many businesses and civic organizations.

Come and have some spooky fun! Tours begin at 7 p.m. and run every 15 minutes until 8:30.

Admission is $10 and includes refreshments. Reservations are required. For more information, or to make reservations, contact (585) 943-5662.

Proceeds benefit the upkeep and restoration of the cemetery.

September 12, 2019 - 12:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Upton Monument, batavia, video, history.
Video Sponsor

Back in May, I decided to make a documentary about the Upton Monument to coincide with its centennial. The initial deadline for finishing it was the rededication ceremony in August. Obviously, I missed that deadline, so then I tried for the end of August. Still, wasn't done.

Finally, it's done.

Thank you to Ryan Duffy, Michael Eula, Larry Barnes, Jim Neider, and Bill Kauffman for their help and interviews, and Dan Fischer for his narration, and to Billie Owens for reading the poem by Bessie Chandler.

I imagine more than 100 hours of work went into making this. I hope you like it. I thought it important to create something documenting and celebrating the history of our community's most significant landmark.  

Chances are, everybody who watches this will learn something new about either the history of the monument, the life of Emory Upton, and the context of the times in which it was built.

September 8, 2019 - 8:00am

St. Mary's School first grade 1952. Dave Reilly was sick that day and is not included in the photo. His infamous pal Charlie is fourth from the left in Row 2.

Story by Dave Reilly.

I'm sure there has been plenty of research done about memory. Why do some people have better memories than others? How do our memories change as we age? Why do some people have vivid memories of their childhood while others' recollections are scant at best?

Of my elementary school experience at St. Mary's School in Batavia, grades 1-8 from 1952 to 1960, I only seem to recall funny or unusual happenings. What we were taught, projects we did, and most day-to-day classroom experiences elude me.

It's the silly or odd stuff that somehow has remained in my brain all these years. I guess that might be some kind of clue about my personality, but that would be for the experts to figure out.

St. Mary's was still being constructed when I started there, so for first and second grade we were housed in the lower floor of Notre Dame High School next door, which itself had just been built.

I started first grade at the age of 5 and didn't turn 6 until January. My teacher was a nun, a Sister of the Holy Cross, and that was the case seven of my eight years at St. Mary's. I do not remember her name or that of my second-, fourth- or sixth-grade teachers either.

I missed the first week of first grade due to illness. Not only did I not get to know the teacher and kids, I apparently also was left out of a group class photo taken on the steps of the school. We didn't have on uniforms, but we subsequently had to wear them.

A Howdy Doody Lunchbox and Terrifying Teens

For some reason on my first day of first grade (Maybe my mom brought me for my grand entrance later in the morning?), the nun sent me to the lunchroom all by myself.

So, there I was -- probably in a striped shirt with a clip-on bow tie and dark blue corduroy pants carrying my Howdy Doody lunchbox -- surrounded by high school kids. I do recall being intimidated by those huge, adult-like creatures and staring at them with a wide-eyed kind of terror.

I still can't believe the sister sent me alone. Knowing how shy I was I bet my mom had to work some magic to get me back there the next day.

Second grade (inset photo, left) is also a blur except for the time I got sick. I must have had a fever and recall shaking with the chills. Nonetheless, I was too afraid to tell the sister. When it came time to go to lunch, the nun lined us up and off we went down the hall.

I must have sneaked to the end of the line and as the class went one way, I went the other. Out the door I flew and on down the street.

It was probably about a mile from the school on Union Street to our house on Thomas Avenue, but despite being ill I made it. Imagine my mom's surprise (good thing she was home) when I walked in the door. “What in the world...?”, she probably said.

It's fortunate that she wasn't prone to any profanity until her elder years. After I was put to bed she must have called the school and reported my escape. I should have saved that skill for high school when I could have used it more beneficially.

The Lifelong Influence of Miss Marguerite Horgan

For Grade 3 we got to move into our now completed school. This was my only year with a secular teacher and it was my best and favorite one. Our teacher was the kind and gentle Miss Marguerite Horgan. Every day she would read to us and I enjoyed that. I like to think that she was a big influence on my lifelong love of reading.

When I became a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher myself for 33 years I made sure that every day after lunch I would try to choose some good example of children's literature and read an excerpt to my class.

The beginning of fourth grade is kind of foggy, but I think the nun who was supposed to be our teacher became incapacitated and as a result the fourth and fifth grades had to be combined.

Anyone who attended Catholic School in the '50s and '60s remembers that we always had classes numbering more than 40 students. I wish I had a class photo from that year because we must have been bursting at the seams with two classes joined together.

At lunchtime we were allowed to go outside to get some fresh air and play.

Fighting Dirty

That year some kind of construction was still going on and there was a big hill of dirt on the Union Street side of the school. This mound turned into a battleground of “king of the hill” between the fourth- and fifth-grade boys.

After about a week of torn and dirty clothes, bruises, cuts, several fistfights and most likely a bunch of parent phone calls, the principal put us on lockdown. Eventually the dirt hill was removed and we got to see the light of day again.

First and Lasting Impression

My only real memory of fifth grade happened on the first day before class even began. As we were milling about in the hall greeting our friends and looking for our classroom we heard some kind of commotion. Voices were rising, kids were laughing, and the queue of children and parents parted like the Red Sea.

But instead of Moses and the Israelites coming through, it was our classmate named Lenny. He had a wide grin on his face and a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Lenny didn't get too far before one of the nuns swooped in like a giant hawk and grabbed the cigarette in one hand and the collar of Lenny's shirt in the other. Away he went never to smoke up the halls of St. Mary's again. It was off to public school for him.

I was a student for 17 years and a teacher for 33 and absolutely no one ever made a more memorable entrance than Lenny.

Sixth grade must have been the year of boredom. One thing we had to do was memorize the Catholic catechism. The nun put a "Jeopardy!" like spin on this activity though by giving us the answer and we had to respond with the question.

A Pencil to Pass Time

To make the long day go by faster, I came up with a game to play. Did you realize that a pencil has six sides? Well, I made mine into a rolling die (as in the plural dice).

On a piece of paper I made a horseracing track divided into lanes of equal length. I would assign a famous horse (Citation, Whirlaway, Swaps) to a numbered lane and then roll the pencil to advance one to six spaces. I don't recall getting caught, but my mother had to have me tutored in math that year, so I guess one to six was my limit mathematically.

Grade seven (inset photo, left, doing homework) went pretty well for most of the year. Sister Mary Lourdes was young and seemed to convey a more relaxed and understanding atmosphere than my previous nun teachers. I really liked her and I think I started to actually enjoy school.

But, at some time in the spring that feeling went bad in a hurry.

One day we were playing outside at lunch and my friends Anthony, John and I wanted to know how much time was left. Not having a watch, we went around on the Woodrow Road side of the school to look in the window of our classroom and see the clock.

When we got back to the room, Sister Lourdes had a very sour look on her face.

As we took our seats she explained that she was horrified someone committed a grave sin by stealing the money we had been collecting for the “Missions” (poor Catholics in Third World countries) out of the container on the shelf by the windows.

If that wasn't bad enough, she said that someone had told her that they saw Anthony, John and David out there by the windows during lunch.

“Did you take that money boys?” she queried. Of course, since we didn't, all three of us adamantly answered “NO!”

Charlie -- Esquire, and a Jury of Peers

Well, the sister must have smelled a great teaching moment in the air because she told the class that since she had evidence she was going to put us on trial and the class would be the jury.

I only remember two things about the trial.

One, my friend Charlie, the costar of several of my previous stories, finagled the job of being our defense attorney. As a precursor to his later getting a law degree from Syracuse University, Charlie won the case. I think the vote to acquit was unanimous. Two, this was mostly because sister's “evidence” was solely the testimony of the informer whom she would not identify.

Afterward the nun tried to apologize and say that she really believed we were innocent, but she wanted to teach the class a lesson. Maybe, but I wasn't having it.

For the rest of the term I was disillusioned and never trusted her again.

Eighth grade was not an enjoyable year for me, or probably my classmates either. Our teacher in retrospect was not well suited or happy in her job and took it out on us on a daily basis. In my stories I try to find humor in my nostalgic remembrances and there wasn't much of that in our final year at St. Mary's.

Inventive, Perhaps, Amusing, No

I do recall one instance when I tried to be funny, but classmate Susan, who sat in front of me, was not amused.

The sister was teaching a history lesson and asked, “Does anyone know who invented the steamboat?” I whispered to the girl, “Stanley Steamer.” Immediately she raised her hand and called it out.

Now, I will give Susan credit, because when the nun reprimanded her for such a ridiculous answer she didn't rat me out. Maybe Susan had mercy on me because I was seemingly already the teacher's whipping boy. I hope I apologized to my classmate for embarrassing her, and if I didn't, I should have.

In June 1960 my elementary school career came to a close and it was on to Notre Dame.

My poor recall of any significant learning in those eight years at St. Mary's is a mystery to me. My hope is that over my three-plus decades of teaching, I provided my students with more substantial memories that they can look back on with fondness.

(Photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.)

September 5, 2019 - 11:39am
posted by Billie Owens in history, education, Abraham Lincoln, GCC, news.

From Genesee Community College:

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 12:30 p.m. all are invited to the William W. Stuart Forum on Genesee Community College's Batavia Campus to hear Associate Professor of History Derek Maxfield present "Lincoln: Constitutional Pragmatist."

This event is in honor of national Constitution Day. It celebrates the ratification of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 when the supreme law of the land was signed by 39 men.

Maxfield will explore America's relationship with Abraham Lincoln and his association with its Constitution.

A deeper understanding of Lincoln may surprise some people, and even tarnish his popular image for others.

To some extent this is because Americans tend to think of Lincoln more as a statesman and hero, rather than a politician. The truth, however, is that Lincoln was a very talented politician and could be just as smooth, yet slippery, as the best and most manipulative of civic leaders.

Lincoln's relationship with the Constitution was shaped by both Lincoln -- the statesman, and Lincoln -- the politician, depending upon circumstances.

This event is FREE and open to the public.

September 3, 2019 - 12:31pm
posted by Billie Owens in history, GCC, batavia, news, History Club, fall lecture series.

From Genesee Community College:

The History Club at Genesee Community College has released an exciting lineup for the Fall 2019 Historical Horizons Lecture Series. This series is designed to educate, entertain and help stimulate the sharing of knowledge, discussion and learning all centered around the importance of history.

All Wednesday lectures in this series begin at 7 p.m. in room T102 of the Conable Technology Building, Batavia. All events in the Historical Horizons Series are free and open to the public.

The season kicks off on Sept. 4 as Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., professor of Journalism and Communications at St. Bonaventure University, discusses his book, “Grant’s Last Battle: The Story Behind the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.”

Facing financial ruin and struggling against terminal throat cancer, Ulysses S. Grant fought his last battle to preserve the meaning of the American Civil War. His war of words, “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant” would cement his place as not only one of America’s greatest heroes, but also as one of its most sublime literary voices.

Did you get to see "Hamilton The Musical"? Then you won’t want to miss this event - Oct. 2. Danny Hamner, adjunct instructor of history at GCC, presents “A Historian Reflects on Hamilton The Musical.”

In this talk, Hamner explores what "Hamilton The Musical" gets right and wrong about love, marriage, power and ambition in the early American republic, and what theater can express that traditional historical narratives struggle to capture.

Then on Nov. 6 Terrianne Schulte, Ph.D., of D’Youville College will present “We Have to Create a National Debate, Community by Community…” which celebrates women trailblazers in environmental reform.

Throughout the 20th century, women have played important leadership roles in environmental preservation and restoration, often by educating the public regarding complex environmental issues to encourage grassroots activism. These unsung heroes deserve our attention and respect.

Closing the Fall 2019 season, the History club is proud to present its own adjunct instructor of history, Melinda Grube, Ph.D., on Dec. 4 who will portray Abigail Adams – LIVE! One of the Founding Mothers of America, Abigail Adams is one of the most remarkable people of the founding generation.

Left to care for her children, the farm and the family business interests when her husband, John Adams, was off chasing political fame, Abigail carried on to the best of her ability. She accepted the long absences from her husband as a necessary sacrifice for the good of the country. Come hear her story live, as presented in period costume and tone by Grube.

August 27, 2019 - 12:54pm

Submitted photos and press release:

Over the this coming Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford will offer its neighbors a sweet deal: free admission for residents of Le Roy and Batavia (as well as Caledonia, Mumford, Scottsville and Avon).

Residents of those communities need only show proof of residency (i.e. ZIP Code) to get in for free, including on Labor Day when the Museum celebrates its Hop Harvest Festival.

In addition, a shuttle bus will run from Buffalo and Batavia to the Museum and back on Monday, offering a safe and convenient way for people to enjoy the day.

The bus will stop at the Williamsville AAA office and Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel before heading to GCV&M in the morning, then return on the same route for afternoon drop-offs.

Bus reservations are required and there is a $10 fee for bus tickets, allowing visitors to relax and enjoy Hop Harvest and all the tastings on offer. Details can be found on the Museum’s website, gcv.org.

As one of New York State’s original cash crops, hops are enjoying a revival with the burgeoning craft beer industry that’s been thriving locally. During the Hop Harvest Festival on Labor Day, the Museum will take visitors on a tour of hop history, and provide a taste of the present day with their own signature craft brews, created from historical recipes and brewed locally by CB Craft Brewers.

Visitors to the Museum can tour the only working 19th-century brewery in the United States and see the hops being harvested on site. In addition to the signature Fat Ox and Intrepid Ales on tap, there will be beer-inspired food tastings on hand throughout the village, as well as demonstrations and crafts all related to the theme of hops and history.

For families, games and sack races make for a fun day for all ages, plus a walk down to visit the farm animals is always a popular option. In the John L. Wehle Gallery, two exhibits are currently running, the popular "Victoria’s Closet" and the engaging "Working Like a Dog."

Genesee Country Village & Museum is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, plus Labor Day.

Presale tickets for Hop Harvest are discounted $2 each when purchased through the Museum website for a reduced cost of $20 adults/$17 seniors/$17 college students/$12 youth/free for children 3 and under. GCV&M members receive free admission.

Support for the Hop Harvest Festival provided by Market NY through I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism as a part of the Regional Economic Development Council awards. This event is also generously sponsored by Tomkins Bank of Castile.

About GCV&M

It is the largest living history museum in New York State with the largest collection of historic buildings in the Northeast. The Museum, with its John L. Wehle Gallery, working brewery, vintage baseball park, and Nature Center, is located in Mumford, 20 miles southwest of Rochester and 45 miles east of Buffalo. Visit www.gcv.org for more information.

Top photo: Grieves Brewery at work, courtesy of Loyd Heath.

Bottom photo: Visitors at the farm, courtesy of Ruby Foote.

August 26, 2019 - 6:20pm

A letter in Friday's mail at the Genesee County Sheriff's Office took the term "snail mail" to a whole nother level -- the batch contained an envelope postmarked 12 p.m. Aug. 30, 1929 from Youngstown, Ohio to a man living at 14 Main St., the address of the local jail.

That's exactly one week shy of 90 years: Aug. 30, 1929 to Aug. 23, 2019.

"We thought it was pretty interesting," said Sheriff William Sheron this afternoon.

Even more notable is the black stamp on the left side of the "via air mail" envelope, distinctly bordered in red, white and blue, declaring it was being delivered by the "first official airmail pick-up in the United States."

Like the sender, the courier was also out of Youngstown, Ohio, a newfangled service named "Adams Non-Stop Method."

But the missive for Carl L. Wenzel was obviously dead in its tracks someplace.

The back of the envelope shows a stamp indicating it arrived promptly in Batavia, NY, at 9 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1929.

So Adams Non-Stop Method was fast; its claim valid. Trusty pilot Harry Seivers did his job.

The Batavia Postmaster at the time was Henry R. Ware (tenure 1927 to 1933). To think that this piece of mail has been next door to the jail at the Post Office on Main Street perhaps all this time...

But the U.S. Postal Service is dedicated and, by God, if a piece of mail turns up, they'll get it you regardless. Remember their motto: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

The passage of time is irrelevant, even though the intended recipient is long dead. It's the principle that counts.

The envelope intended for Wenzel only contained seven small blank rectangles of paper, sent to him by someone apparently wanting to correspond or at least supply him with the means to correspond with somebody.

The sender in 1929 paid for two five-cent stamps with bespectacled Teddy Roosevelt on them -- a value of $1.50 in today's dollars. That's when gas was a quarter a gallon and a pound of steak cost 52 cents -- before the stock market crashed two months later and changed everyone's math for the worse for a long time.

(Here's a link where ephemera buffs can bid on similar pieces of mail.)

Below, the seven blank pages of writing paper that were inside the envelope.

Bottom, the back of the envelope, showing it was received in Batavia, NY, at 9 a.m. Aug. 31, 1929.

August 2, 2019 - 3:27pm

(File photo.)

Led by the Joint Veterans Council of Genesee County, local veterans will host a rededication ceremony Saturday morning marking the centennial of the city's gateway monument at the junction of routes 5 and 63 that pays tribute to the Union Army's Emory Upton, the military service of men and women of Genesee County, and its war dead.

It starts at 10:30 a.m. and everyone is welcome.

Commonly referred to as the Upton Monument, for the statue of the colonel of the Fourth Regiment of Artillery, Army Brevit Major General Upton, it is officially known as The Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The actual marker at the base of the bald-eagle-topped pillar is engraved: In Memory of The Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of Genesee County.

Doug Doktor, chairman of the Joint Veterans Council, said that James Neider, of the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332 in Batavia, will provide a brief historical overview of Upton, one of the nation's foremost military strategists of the 19th century. Then Elijah Monroe, of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln Camp 6 in Rochester, will speak on that organization's instrumental role in fundraising and getting the monument constructed.

There will also be a rifle salute.

The dedication held a hundred years ago took place on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 1919.

According to City of Batavia Historian Larry Barnes, there was a morning footrace from Le Roy to Batavia, followed by the dedication ceremony at which a relation of the Upton family, Col. Upton, served as the keynote speaker. The special occasion was capped off by a grand display of fireworks at the old Genesee County Fairgrounds, where Tops Friendly Market is now on West Main Street.

Proposals for the monument were bandied about as early as the 1870s. But getting it funded and built was not a given. Its price tag of about $15,000 was considered steep. Funds were sought from the county, the city and fundraising campaigns were launched by Batavia City School District Superintendent John Kennedy and Sarah Upton Edwards, sister of Emory Upton.

In 1907, city voters nixed spending $5,000 as their share of the monument's cost. It was not until World War I that action was taken that would finally pave the way for the planned monument to become reality.

In 1917, city fathers managed to get the city's funding share approved by a bit of political maneuvering -- slipping language for the monument expense into a sewer and water appropriations bill.

The architect chosen to design the monument was C. A. Worden, a local company responsible for many monuments at Gettysburg.

Once built, there was controversy as to whether the statue of Emory Upton was based on the actual likeness of the man himself. And the question, some local historians say, has never been wholly resolved.

To read more about Emory Upton from an 1885 biography, click here.

Also, previously: 

(Editor's Note: Publisher Howard Owens had planned to complete a video of the history of the monument in time for tomorrow's rededication. That is no longer possible, but he does hope to finish it very soon.)

August 1, 2019 - 4:31pm
posted by Billie Owens in hlom, batavia, news, history, genealogy.

Here's the August lineup of happenings at the Holland Land Office Museum.

Trivia Night at the Museum​

The Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting the next edition of its Trivia Night at the Museum at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8th. This month’s topic will be the “History of Baseball” with a distinct local twist. Admission is $3/$2 for museummembers. The trivia nights occur the second Wednesday of each month.

Genesee Area Genealogists Writer’s Workshop

The Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting the August meeting of the Genesee Area Genealogists group; Writer's Workshop will be on Monday, Aug. 19th from 10 am to noon. The meeting is open to anyone with an interest in researching family history.

Java with Joe E.

The Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting its next edition of its Java with Joe E. morning coffee historical discussion. The August meeting will take place on Thursday, Aug. 22nd at 9 a.m. at the museum. This month’s speaker will be Genesee County Historian, Michael Eula, Ph.D. His topic will be “In Only Six Short Years: Genesee County Reacts to the Assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr.”

Free coffee and donuts will be served during the presentation. Java with Joe E. occurs the fourth Wednesday of every month.

Guest Speaker Series: “Legends, Lore and Secrets of Western New York” by Lorna Czarnota

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to present our latest member of our Guest Speaker Series. Local author and storyteller Lorna MacDonald Czarnota will be presenting on one of her published works "Legends, Lore and Secrets of Western New York" at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29th.

Czarnota is the author of nine published works, several relating to WNY history, as well as living history performer and musician. She will be available after the presentation to sign any copies of her books, several of which will be available from the museum gift shop. Admission is $3 per person, $2 for museum members.

July 14, 2019 - 2:48pm

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

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

************************

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

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

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

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

*************************

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

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

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

uptonphotojune272019b.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Submitted photos and story by Anne Marie Starowitz:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the largest seaborne invasion in history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, 1,700 Americans are still missing.

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

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

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

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

Photo by Virginia Kropf.

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

Press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below, kids in kiddie cars.

Below, "Refreshments anyone?"

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

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

ellicottdeedauction2019.jpg

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

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

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

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

ellicottdeedauction2019-2.jpg

ellicottdeedauction2019-3.jpg

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eula will also be submitting photos with his essay.

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

Photo by Virginia Kropf.

February 15, 2019 - 12:30pm
posted by Holland Land Office in Holland Land Office Museum, clothing, history.
Event Date and Time: 
March 12, 2019 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Gail Argetsinger, an associate professor and resident costume designer at The College at Brockport, will be speaking on what clothing might have been seen at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Mo., in 1904. "More than 19 million people flocked to the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. The attendees represented a cross section of society and occupations, and it was reflected in their dress. This presentation will focus on the apparel that would have been seen on the fairgoers, how the aesthetics of the period and fabric/ fashion technology informed those fashions."
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