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Column: Memories of Making Bread

By Anne Marie Starowitz
bread oven hlom
Photo courtesy the Holland Land Office Museum.

Today, making bread is easy. You buy a loaf of frozen bread, defrost it, and bake it. In 1996, there was a machine called the Bread Machine. You would put all the ingredients into the machine and turn it on. It would mix the ingredients, time the bread to rise, and then bake the bread. Now, you can go to a supermarket and buy fresh bread.

In the ‘60s, my grandmother, Jennie Bellow, would bring her homemade bread to Batavia every Sunday. We all enjoyed her bread and took it for granted. On one of my Sunday sleepovers in Le Roy, I watched my grandma get out all sorts of things to make her white bread. Flour, yeast, and Crisco were some of her ingredients. She also took out a flat piece of wood, a towel, and five bread pans. I asked why she was getting everything out the night before, and she said I would find out the following day. 

Jennie Bellow
Jennie Bellow

Early the next morning, I watched her make her bread. I had no idea it would take all day. First, we would measure the flour, put the yeast in warm milk, and add one scant wooden spoonful of Crisco. We would mix the ingredients by hand, which is called kneading. The towel was to cover the dough, hoping it would rise. Finally, the bread was ready for the pans. The result was beautiful but so time-consuming. My grandmother was born in 1900, and making bread was a way of life for women in the 1900s as it was in the 1800s.

One of the first things Joseph Ellicott did as a local agent of the Holland Land Company was to have mills, both grist and saw, built in Batavia to encourage settlement. Before the erection of the gristmill in Batavia in 1804, the people sometimes did not have bread or anything to make it from. Flour was brought on packhorses before the roads were of such a character as to allow better transportation. The Tonawanda Creek dam was used to power a sawmill and, a little later, a gristmill.

Both corn and wheat grain had to be ground for bread and other foods. The grindstones at the gristmill reduced corn to meal and wheat grain to flour. “Rye and Indian,” made from cornmeal and rye flour, was the only bread the early settlers could make. Grinding the grain into flour for the pioneers meant a journey to the gristmill by ox sled in both summer and winter.

I wonder if the giant stone doughnuts that stood on East Main Street near the corner of Ross Street could have been gristmill stones. Many years ago, they were at the entrance of a burned house. I can remember them always being there; after the fire, they disappeared.

In the Holland Land Office Museum, there is a colonial kitchen. You can imagine our early settlers cooking in the kitchen using a fireplace. Upon request, you can view a reflector oven. This was one way the early settlers made bread. A reflector oven is a box usually made of tin designed to enclose an article of food on all but one side to cause it to bake by capturing radiant heat from an open fire and reflecting the heat toward the food. The next time you buy freshly baked bread at your local supermarket, think of the time it took to make bread from “scratch!”

I treasure the memories of cooking and baking with my grandmother. I know how to make her bread from scratch, but it is not the same not having my grandmother next to me in her cobbler apron showing me how to knead the bread.

'Historic Chronicles' debuts Monday, author talk and book-signing April 27

By Joanne Beck
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Michael Eula, 2023 file photo.
Photo by Howard Owens.

After talking to The Batavian in November 2023 about the premise and subject matter of his latest book, “Historic Chronicles of Genesee County,” county Historian Michael Eula will finally get to celebrate the official release on Monday.

The book is a twofer of sorts: it’s a local collection of essays on how American history affected Genesee County, and, per the stamp on the book’s jacket cover, it’s Made in the USA. Throw in assassinations, immigration, presidential politics and suffragists, and you’ve got a plethora of hot subjects as future reading material.

Eula said that one of his favorite chapters while working on the book was about the Cold War. While doing his research, he learned how much locals disagreed with the Korean War via letters to the editor in the local newspaper. He has also wondered—and examined—if all of society’s anxiety was really warranted during those Cold War days in which preparedness drills became more common.

“On Friday, Sept. 14, 1956, a civil defense exercise commenced at Batavia’s Veterans Administration Hospital.

At ten o’clock that morning, civil defense sirens blared, announcing a simulated fire raging in Ward D, part of a disaster test designed to recreate the conditions that would result from an explosion produced by an enemy attack. A second simulation that day include a nuclear attack that resulted in the destruction of the Batavia Post Office building. During this second simulated attack, a postal truck carried emergency supplies and equipment to a relocation site reached via West Main Street and Redfield Parkway. A second postal truck supervised by the foreman of mails, Arthur Norton, transported more people and equipment over Jefferson Avenue, Washington Avenue, Ellicott Avenue, Richmond Avenue and Redfield Parkway. A third postal truck remained on standby, while the Veterans Hospital supply officers, John Lane, ordered one truck to facilitate removal from what was left of the post office building while simultaneously keeping eight additional vehicles on standby. Officials drew on the help of volunteers responding to sirens located throughout the county.

In its Saturday edition, the Daily News reported that the exercise was an unqualified success. This drill serves as a stark reminder of the political and cultural realities of Cold War America in 1956 — and the anxiety regarding the possibility of a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union apparent in the county.

Why did a disaster produced by the enemy take place at all? Why was there a clear anxiety about its real possibility, who was this enemy and how could such an intrusion reach into the heart of an otherwise stable and peaceful Genesee County in 1956, Eula wrote.

He evaluates the situation in a section titled “What Happened and Why.” One line seems to answer it best: "The cultural preoccupation with a communist threat remained as apparent in Genesee County as it was in the nation at large. Local media continuously stressed the lethal quality of communist threats, subversion and attacks.” 

Furthermore, “newspaper articles emphasized the necessity of American involvement in the Korean War, as evidenced by the participation of county residents in a conflict half a world away,” he wrote, using Batavia Daily News headlines in 1953, such as the one proclaiming “Airman from Oakfield Expects Duty in Korea,” as evidence. 

“There were constant reminders of how hot the Cold War was capable of becoming and of how tragic the consequences were for some county families,” Eula said. 

He cited the example of Private John V. Peca of Le Roy, who at 24 died during this time, leaving behind a wife, brother and parents, and whose remains were returned from Korea. 

“Such stories abounded in the earlier years of the Cold War as the fighting raged in Korea,” Eula said. “Other accounts revealed that soldiers initially listed as missing in action subsequently reappeared as killed in action, as 18-year-old Army Corporal Norman F. Smart of Batavia. His brother, Private First Class Robert D. Smart, was also in Korea. While there, he suffered wounds.”

And those soldiers from the county that were not killed or wounded “sometimes languished as prisoners of war in communist prison camps,” he said. 

“This, too, brought home to rural Genesee County residents the nation’s very real conflict with the communist world,” Eula said. “The many media accounts of those killed, wounded and mistreated by communists during a very hot Cold War period reminded readers of the threat posed by the communist world.”

There are six chapters in which Eula takes a swim in how national affairs affected locals at the time:

1. In Only Six Years: Genesee County Reacts to the Assassinations of The Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr.;

2. Batavia Explodes: Cold War Anxiety and the Preparedness Drill of 1956;

3. Immigrants to White Ethnics;

4. Hoover, Roosevelt, and the New Deal in Genesee County;

5. In Western New York?: The Ku Klux Klan in Genesee County in the 1920s;

6. Activists, Farm Women, and Professionals

What illumination might a farm woman have to share? Genie Green’s mother wrote, on Jan. 24, 1887: 

“There are periods in our lives when some new book or acquaintance comes to us like an added sun in the heavens, lighting the darkest places and chasing every shadow away.”

Eula noted that for many days after that entry, she spoke of drudgery in “doing odd jobs.” But then “an unexpected and particularly long entry appeared." On her 89th birthday, Genie’s mother wrote, “I can best honor it by consecrating myself to work for every good … for progressive thought and for moral and spiritual growth and development.”

“Much of her remaining diary entries exhibit much the same — her deep desire to light the dark places in a woman’s life,” Eula said. 

When all was said and done, and documented and written — what was his conclusion at page 125?

“I started to write this book wondering where to begin. I now end it wondering where to stop,” Eula said. “There remains so much to write. Nonetheless, I consciously selected areas of the county’s past serving to illuminate the reality faced by people living there. This is admittedly not a traditional history, as I did not confine myself exclusively to events or to an orderly chronological span of time.

“Genesee County’s history is a long stretch of time punctuated by specific realities. Those realities were influenced by the national events addressed in this book. In turn, local perceptions of those events shaped the understanding of nationwide phenomena,” he said. “There was an underlying continuity in the county’s history. While much changed since 1802, much also remained the same. The history of the county remained anchored in a belief in individual liberty. The enlargement of individual liberty was viewed as the cornerstone of a good life.”

The History by the Hearth series will feature Eula from 1:30 to 3 p.m. April 27 at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia. 

He will read from the book, and a book signing will follow. The book will be available for purchase before and on the day of the event.

His book may also be purchased at Holland Land Office Museum and online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. In addition to being the county historian, Eula is also Professor Emeritus of History at El Camino College. He is the author of more than 30 articles and books in American and European history, including “Between Peasant and Urban Villager: Italian-Americans of New Jersey and New York, 1880 to 1980--The Structures of Counter-Discourse.”

He was named a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow three times, and received the DeAngelis Prize in History in 2000. He is an honors graduate of Rutgers and the Regent University School of Law, where he received an LLM degree. He holds an MA and a PhD in history from the University of California-Irvine.

HLOM History: The brief ride of the trolley service in Batavia

By Ryan Duffy
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A trolley car with conductors that ran the length of Main Street from 1903-1927.
Submitted photo.

Much of Batavia’s growth in the nineteenth and early twentieth century can be attributed to its location as a hub of major transportation systems. This was particularly evident with the passage through the Batavia of several major railway lines. 

However, another form of rail transportation through the heart of Batavia, though it existed only for two dozen years, left an impact upon first the village and then the city. The trolley line that ran the extent of Main Street was built as a precursor to Batavia's continued growth and to connect it further to the rapidly growing cities of Buffalo and Rochester at the dawn of the twentieth century.

The trolley line in Batavia was completed in 1903, though it was originally just a small piece of a much larger line. 

The Buffalo and Williamsville Company, who built the line, had plans for a line running from Williamsville and Depew to Rochester. They even had talks with investors of further expansion to Medina or Horseshoe Lake, and eventually across New York State. However, the Batavia Main Street line is all that would come to pass. 

The trolley was a single track that ran a mile and a half from Clinton Street to the intersection of West Main Street and Lewiston Road. A turnout was also built near Bank Street to allow the trolley cars to pass each other. It officially opened on September 2, 1903, with many of the village aldermen as its first riders. It quickly became the latest marvel in Batavia, and people flocked to ride the trolley, with reports of 3,300 people to board at some point during the first week. 

The trolley line's local patrons would soon have issues with its builder, the Buffalo and Williamsville Company. 

Though the line had a large number of riders, very little was done to improve the equipment or the quality of the ride. 

In 1911, East Main Street residents complained about the noise of the trolley cars, and many riders were less than thrilled with the uncomfortable seats on board. By this point, no effort had been made to add a second line. When some expansion began in 1912, the village aldermen asked the company to pave Main Street, which was never resurfaced after the line was finished. The village officials believed that this was the company’s responsibility.

The disagreement over the paving of Main Street became increasingly hostile. When pressured, the company hinted that they would just close the line altogether. The company would attempt to make good on their threat by applying for a permit to close the trolley line. In response, a commission of local men, including George Wiard and K.B. Mathes, sought out other entities to run it. In 1914, they found a potential buyer in the Storage Battery Company of New York City, but it was deemed soon after that it would be more beneficial if the line was owned and operated by a local company. 

A year later, the Batavia Traction Company was created to undertake such a venture. Though the trolleys still ran for another twelve years, there were never funds to make the necessary improvements. 

By 1927, the company was losing money, and the whole line was deteriorating beyond repair. 

Trolleys were becoming obsolete, replaced by buses, and there was little outside interest in keeping the cable cars going. By the end of the year, the trolley line on Main Street ceased to take Batavians to and from. 

Some of the tracks were dug up during the scrap drives in 1943; another part was covered by blacktop in 1947, while the tracks along East Main Street were still there until Route 5 was rebuilt in the 1960s.

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Submitted photo.
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Submitted photo.
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Submitted photo.
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Chamber Awards: Director and staff have brought history to life at HLOM

By Joanne Beck
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Holland Land Office Museum Executive Director Ryan Duffy, left, and Curator Tyler Angora. 
Photo by Howard Owens

NOTE: This week, The Batavian is highlighting the annual Chamber of Commerce Award winners with a story daily through Friday. The awards dinner is Saturday evening at Batavia Downs.

Perhaps an 11-year-old Ryan Duffy could have predicted that he’d be championing the preservation of valuable artifacts and would be involved somehow in the back stories of how historical exhibits and programs came to be presented to the public. 

“I always leaned toward that, and then we went to Gettysburg that cemented it. I saw the park rangers giving tours. The seed was there that made it a reality; it wasn’t just about learning the facts; it was something you could actually do. I’ve been directing myself toward that from then on,” Duffy said. 

Chosen in 2017 as executive director of Holland Land Office Museum, Duffy has now been named on behalf of the museum for the Chamber of Commerce Special Recognition of the Year Award. He shared the credit with Curator Tyler Angora, who has zealously bitten off the entire museum collection to sort through and organize for a multitude of exhibits now and into the future.

Duffy’s folks are well aware of his own enthusiasm for the job, and they have visited the site at 131 West Main St., Batavia “many times,” he said. They are the ones that got the ball rolling by taking him on that family trip to Pennsylvania to the famous Gettysburg National Battlefield and National Military Park, with a museum and visitor center, Civil War artifacts and a memorial to mark the site of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 address. 

It was only 21 years later when the Holland Office Museum was established; it celebrates a 130-year birthday this year. Back when Duffy was hired, the museum had come to a standstill, which meant handing him the keys to drive it wherever he could imagine.

“It was kind of a blank slate. We were starting from scratch, putting new energy and new programs into it,” he said. “It was waiting for a new perspective. One of the first things I tried differently was a regular guest speaker series and trivia nights. It took a little time to build an audience up.”

Other programs were Java Joe, concerts, Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, and taking the show on the road, so to speak, as Duffy and some board members have visited groups upon request to share what’s happening at the museum and talk about local history. 

Did everything take off immediately? It did take a while to “get our name out there,” he said, and build up a customer base. But then that base began to spread out to Rochester, Buffalo, and even farther out to Syracuse. 

“It was about growing that. People have responded … our audience more than doubled, our overall visitor ship attendance and programming,” he said. “We added about 100 members as well. All of that has kept progressing in the right direction.”

An award nomination stated that the museum’s importance goes well beyond being “just a museum,” and in recent years, it has grown into a full-fledged community center, given all of the activities taking place there. 

“This year, Director Ryan Duffy and Curator Tyler Angora have been busy updating the exhibits to breathe even more life into the displays inside the museum. Tyler has brought his youthful energy to bring to life the lives of our predecessors, particularly in the ways they dressed,” volunteer Richard Beatty said, adding that Duffy has extended the museum’s reach by writing columns, producing videos and going into the community with his and volunteers’ presentations.

Duffy did also attempt to reel the antique show back into the fold, holding it at Batavia Downs, however, that darned COVID struck again, ruining yet another event, and “it fizzled out.” Duffy picked his battles and let that one go. “A lot is trial and error,” he said.

Meanwhile, though, he said he feels that the reputation of the museum “has come a long way” as an asset to the community since he took the lead. 

“And how people perceive us. Many more people notice us and take notice of us,” he said. “As a director, I’ve taken ownership … I’ve been the frontman; it’s my responsibility to make that happen. I’m very proud to make that happen and where we’re going to go. I’m hoping to continue a lot of progress of … the collection area, grow our outreach and membership. And grow into a wider area and become more of an attraction. Our base is here in Genesee County, but the Holland Land Purchase is all of Western New York.”

That means he’s eyeing from Rochester to Buffalo and down to the southern tier. 

“We're definitely seeing an uptick from people coming from areas outside Genesee County, and just our engagement, even if they're not visitors, but looking for research or wanting us to come and talk to them,” Duffy said. “And we get those kinds of calls from as far away as Syracuse, so we are getting our name out there. And that's what we want: the more people who know about us, the more people that will make the trip.”

Angora is planning to complete his master’s degree in history at Brockport State College in spring 2025, and has been full steam ahead since taking on the role of curator in 2023. The museum’s collection hadn’t been a priority up to that point, he said, so he “really took the reins” by organizing the upstairs area and unearthing buried treasures that had been there all along.

“There’s a clothing collection, Emory Upton items that were donated by his nieces, it keeps growing every day. We added 1,000 objects,” he said. “For the eclipse exhibit, 98 Years Since the Sun Went Out, people are seeing new parts they’ve never seen before.”

A grant has made it possible to digitize the entire 20,000-piece collection so that anyone will be able to view it online. That’s exciting, Angora said, because “it will allow accessibility” to any person with an interest or a research project to go to the museum’s website and view those artifacts for the first time. That should be a reality by the end of summer.

Also, later this year, Angora is hoping to do his long-awaited tours of the entire collection upstairs — a “behind the scenes” sort of take — that he’s been grooming ever since he began.

“It’s been exciting. It's been challenging. It's been everything encompassed in one kind of jar,” Angora said. “But overall, it's been an amazing experience to work with a collection that has so much history and a city and a county that has so much history tied to it that a lot of people don't know about. So being a part of getting people to know that history has been something quite fantastic.”

The work will never end, he said, but that’s a good thing. There are programs to come for the next several months.

Along with those coming months is an eventual expansion of the building on the west end toward the parking lot. A museum study made several suggestions to improve and preserve the old site, one being to add some much-needed space for a gift shop and to extend an exhibit room, Duffy said. 

In a nutshell, it’s about “looking good and being sound,” he said.

“Our expansion is looking at accessibility, breathing room, able to show off what we’ve got here for a better visitor experience,” Duffy said. “The county is dedicating funds to deal with the building, and we’re excited and very appreciative of that.

“Well, we're very honored to be recognized by the chamber. It is always a good feeling when people take notice of what you're doing. And especially see it as a positive aspect in the community. We always felt like we were a hidden gem, and it's nice to know that we're not quite as hidden anymore. And that the community appreciates what we do, because it's our first goal is to tell the history of our community,” Duffy said. “Tyler's got a long list planned out for the next few years too, I think, that will be very exciting for everyone. We're growing our partnerships and, with that, trying to create new programming or expand the programming that we currently have. 

“And just to be more exciting,” he said. “We’re really working towards making this place, creating a more vibrant atmosphere, a more welcoming atmosphere, that people will want to be here and be a part of what we're doing because we feel that we're on the way to some really big and important things.”

The 52nd annual Genesee County Chamber Awards ceremony will be at 5 p.m. March 2 at Batavia Downs Gaming, 8315 Park Road, Batavia.

Photos by Howard Owens

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Batavian's journey to trace roots leads to Italy, pauper's plot, enlightened sobriety

By Joanne Beck
Jim Morasco and Sharon Burkel at Batavia Cemetery
Jim Morasco and Sharon Burkel stand in front of the pauper's plot at Batavia Cemetery on a sunny Monday on Harvester Avenue in Batavia. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Although it’s fair to say the Rev. James “Jim” Morasco has been working on a genealogy project to trace various members on his dad’s side of the family for the last several years, it might be more accurate to say he’s been working to put the pieces of himself in order for more than three decades.

And, although he may not have planned it this way, the two have peacefully collided with his latest find: his grandmother Genevive and Uncle Nicholas, both who have been traced to the nondescript pauper’s plot on the Southside of Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue.   

“When I called Catherine Roth the second time, she said they’re here; that was the a-ha moment; that’s how I found them,” Morasco said during an interview with The Batavian Monday at The Pub Hub just across from the cemetery. “When I was in Italy … I went to a church and touched the baptismal. All those people I never knew contributed to who I am.”

Roth was a staunch supporter of city and cemetery history and had helped Morasco with research to track the whereabouts of his long-lost family members who died in the 1930s. His grandmother had died at the age of 40 with heart issues, and Nicholas was just 6 years old when he died of scarlet fever. 

Shelves and shelves of darkened yellow parchment from so long ago.

Carefully guarding life’s passing of forgotten people.

Diligently searching for familiar names in memory.

Morasco only remembered hearing about how his father could feel the drip of melting ice that was packed around the bodies when temporarily at their house.

Neither of them had a burial or a headstone, which Morasco wants to rectify. He has compiled a book of poems written over the years in honor of his family, his spiritual work and beliefs, people and social justice, and Morasco’s own struggles and triumphs with alcohol addiction.

Suddenly they come alive after being dead for so many years. They shout at me from the page.

Congessio, Francesco, Giuseppe, Vincenzo.

Moresco, Morasco, Morasca.

Born, Married, Died.

Life’s important moments.

Suspended in time.

It was Vincenzo Morasco who led the way in America from Vasto, Italy, a hilltop ancient Roman town overlooking the cerulean blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. Not an easy task in its own right, emigrating to the United States was made even more difficult, Morasco said, due to Vincenzo having broken his leg and being advised that he wouldn’t be let into Ellis Island with such an injury.

So he bypassed the usual route by going through South America, traveled by banana boat, and ended up coming by way of Niagara Falls. Morasco has visited the famous falls and imagined his brave Italian elder making his way over to a whole new world, a new way of life and opportunities.

Vincent, as he was called on the Southside, worked for a while on the railroad, blasting rocks with a sledgehammer. He was blinded in one eye when a piece of rock flew up and hit him in the eye, and he apparently went on to own a big greenhouse on Swan Street, Morasco said. 

And after that first relative’s trek, six generations followed, he said, bringing with them a spirit of community and patriotism by serving in the military, nursing, as firefighters, and clergy — Morasco, a 1974 Batavia High School grad, is pastor at Morganville United Church of Christ. 

We were something once they say,

Mamma, papa, bambino.

We were flesh and blood once,

Now your flesh and blood.

And so we breathe again,

We are family.

It’s time to bring us home.

While he has been able to relate to family struggles with alcohol — “finding answers to why I act the way I do” — he also cherishes the advice given to him by his Irish mom, Margaret McCann, who shared stories and urged him to carry them on.

“My mother thought the stories were important. She would talk to me about things I didn’t know,” he said. “This is something that I've been thinking about for a while since I told my father I wanted to do this. But I was busy. I'm older now, and I’ve got a lot more time, so I can get things done that I wanted to do. It's kind of a closure for me.

“That was part of it because, you know, I've been in recovery for over 30 years. But that was finding answers as well. You know, finding answers to why I act the way I do, where that comes from, looking at my family history of alcoholism and substance use, and then I started on this as well, along with it, because I started digging up information on people,” he said. “I realized it was almost impossible that I wasn't an alcoholic; it was part of our family; we had the Irish and the Italian; it was an interesting mix.”

While it has also become a closure of sorts for the whole family, it has served as an opening for family reunions with siblings and cousins. Perhaps he’ll share his own stories of visiting Italy and sneaking into a fenced area to see old fishing platoons and envisioning how his own grandpa may have played there years before.

“I told my brother the other day, it's like the grandmother we never knew was bringing us together,” Morasco said.

Any remaining proceeds from the book will go to Batavia Cemetery Association for the good work that the nonprofit’s volunteers do, he said. “It’s important to me that they’re recognized as well,” he said.

Sharon Burkel said that, on behalf of the cemetery association, “we are very pleased that he wants to remember his family this way.”

“Every soul in the cemetery has a story,” she said. “We’ll pick a nice spot in that area for the marker.” 

She remembered reading a news article that, at one point, those in charge of the cemetery were burying people three bodies deep. They had no family to claim them and sometimes were indigents or had been in jail or for whatever other reasons. There wasn’t money or a prearranged plot for them in the traditional cemetery, so they would be placed in the pauper’s plot, a piece of unmarked land with a few trees dotting the landscape. 

Morasco’s book, “Dreaming,” is available at Holland Land Office Museum, GO Art! and HERE.

He isn’t quite done with his genealogy. He also discovered another uncle whose whereabouts were unknown up to now: Uncle Franchesco “Frank,” who drowned in the Tonawanda Creek at age 15. He is in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, though it’s not known exactly where, Morasco said. He’s onto another mission.

Tenney bill could help maintain and preserve Upton Monument, and war memorials throughout nation, for generations

By Howard B. Owens
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Rep. Claudia Tenney, at the site of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Monument in Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Take any object -- a house, office building, highway, bridge, car -- all will eventually fall apart if not properly maintained. 

The same is true of war memorials, the monuments communities erect to honor their war dead and help tell the history of their hometowns.

Rep. Claudia Tenney has co-authored a bill she hopes will help communities preserve those sacred monuments so the legacies they are meant to honor live on well after we're all gone.

The Remembering Our Local Heroes Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Pappas from New Hampshire, allocates $2 million a year over five years that will act as matching funds for community groups to mount efforts to preserve war memorials as well as monuments honoring those who served in law enforcement and fire services. 

If a community group, such as a veterans group or a Boy Scout troop, can raise $10,000, for example, the group can apply for a grant of up to $20,000, which would result in a total of $30,000 for the project. If $150,000 is needed for the project, the group would need to raise $50,000.  The maximum federal grant under the bill, which is still pending in committee, would be $100,000 per project.

"We really would love to be able to do this," Tenney said. "There are so many areas where you go to, especially throughout my district, where you see these beautiful old monuments, including your Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Monument that you have here, the Upton Monument, that could definitely be upgraded and cleaned and maintained. A lot of these monuments really aren't being maintained, especially the monument for our heroes."

Tenney stopped in Batavia on Saturday to visit the Upton Monument and discuss her bill with The Batavian.

"This (bill) would allow the federal government to participate in helping maintain veterans memorials and remembering local heroes," Tenney said.

In order to unlock access to the federal grant, all of the money to preserve a monument would need to come from private donations. Local governments could not help fund the project.

The bill combines twin interests and passions for Tenney, recognizing the sacrifices of those who have served their nation and their communities, and history. During the interview, she talked a good deal about Upstate New York's rich history and its contributions to creating the nation during the Revolution, the abolitionists of New York who helped free the slaves, most notably with the Underground Railroad, but also leading figures Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman, and New York's efforts to preserve the union during the Civil War and its role in the War of 1812.

"I brought Burgess Owens (to New York), who is a Republican, former football player, a Black Republican, whose hero is Harriet Tubman, his whole life, and he never knew that Harriet Tubman had a house in Auburn," Tenney said. "So I brought him in, and we went everywhere. He was amazed. We did the full tour. We went to all the different sites. And he was like, 'Wow, I can't believe this.' You know, we have such a rich history."

The germ of the bill began when Tenney served in the New York State Legislature, and she learned that Vietnam Veterans often have a hard time unlocking support that's available to other veterans groups because of the lingering controversies of that war.  During that time, she visited a group that wished to build a Vietnam memorial, but they couldn't access federal funds.  When she was first elected to Congress, she introduced the first version of this bill designed to allow any community group that takes on the task of ensuring local heroes are appropriately honored to tap into a small pot of federal funds to assist the effort.

"We (New York) were critically important in all the wars, whether it's the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812," Tenney said. "I think it's important that we know our history."

The Upton Monument was dedicated in August 1919 (see the 100th-anniversary documentary produced by The Batavian embedded below), with construction funded by donations and contributions from the city of Batavia and Genesee County.  It was constructed by Wardon Monuments, a company that built monuments throughout the northeast, including Gettysburg, and had its headquarters on Evans Street in Batavia.  Officially, it is the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Monument, but it carries a bronze statue of Civil War hero Gen. Emory Upton, who was from Batavia.

At 105 years old, it shows some age -- discolored bronze and cracks in the stone, including a large chunk of granite missing from the base.  There has been no known effort over the past several years -- and The Batavian has made inquiries -- among either private groups or the county government to take steps to ensure it is maintained and preserved.

That isn't unusual in her NY-24 district, Tenney indicated, because local governments are so cash-strapped these days.

On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Tenney said she often goes for a ride on her motorcycle through the district and will stop at various memorials along her route.

"I'll drive around to the monuments and just kind of place a little flag or just kind of see what condition they're in," Tenney said.  "I did that a couple of years ago, I didn't last year, but I did that, and it was just really interesting to see how many people actually do care about what's in their community. But there's no money, and all these local governments are strapped with unfunded mandates from the state and all these other issues, so we have this as something that is supplemental."

When we remember our history, Tenney noted, it binds us to our community and it teaches our children the value of their community.

"If you don't remember the people who really founded your community, the principles that it was founded upon and that people actually served, died, sacrificed, lost life and limb, I think that really sends a message," Tenney said. "We want to send a message to our young people that their community is worth something and that they should be proud of their community, of the people that founded it."

Remote video URL

Photos by Howard Owens.

claudia tenney upton monument
claudia tenney upton monument
claudia tenney upton monument
claudia tenney upton monument

New book, 'The Other Oakfields,' available from the Oakfield Historical Society

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Oakfield Historical Society has a new book “The Other Oakfields” (Who Knew) by Darlene K. Warner. The book is available at the Oakfield Family Pharmacy.

The book highlights East Oakfield, North Oakfield, and Oakfield Corners. East Oakfield was at one time a bustling little town. There were 9 businesses in this little hamlet in the early years. 

Learn about its sawmill, cider mill, pump manufacturing business, wagon shop, cooper shop, blacksmith shop, grocery store, fruit drying, and heading & stave mill operations. How the Cope Pump Manufacturing business was known as “the most noted manufacture of wooden pumps in the United States”.

All this from a little town that was once known as Idleport. North Oakfield which started at the intersection of Lockport and Albion Road and continued until it connected with Fisher Road had two post offices before East Oakfield had one. It also had two schools. In fact, resident’s addresses were listed as living in North Oakfield up to the 1960s.

Oakfield Corners, besides having gypsum first located there, had two very prosperous farms, and even a hotel run by Dennis Watts. The former hotel still stands. So, it is not hard to understand why the subtitle is “Who Knew”.

The book is available at the Oakfield Family Pharmacy, payment of $22.00 plus $9.95 shipping and handling can be mailed to Oakfield Historical Society, PO Box 74, Oakfield. See our other available books on local history at

HLOM History: Colgrove and Ryan’s Meat Market once leading source of meats and groceries in Batavia

By Ryan Duffy
Colgrove and Ryan’s Meat Market batavia

During the first half of the 20th century, most Batavia families purchased their main courses from one source for all their meals big and small, Colgrove and Ryan’s Meat Market. 

The store became the preeminent meat seller in the area and even had a wider distribution area. Over its history, it had a few different locations in Batavia and even subsequent generations of stores after the owners went separate ways.

Colgrove and Ryan’s was the brainchild of the partnership of Myron Colgrove and Joseph Ryan. The two were seasoned grocers and meat sellers, coming from other businesses in the area. They began in 1920 and opened their first shop at 10 and 12 State St., which was named The Genesee Market. They stayed at that location until 1926, when they purchased Greentaner’s Sanitary Market at 54 Main St., changing the name to Colgrove and Ryan’s. 

This store backed up to the State Street market with a narrow alley in between. Due to the professionalism and expertice of the operation, the business became the go-to spot for grocery and meat shoppers. 

Adding to what the customers wanted, Colgrove and Ryan added a line of groceries in 1930, though their meat products were still their claim to fame. 

The store was also an early pioneer in telephone ordering, as people could order from their homes and pick them up at the market. In the fall of 1926, the store was featured in the magazine “Meat Merchandising” in an article, which commended them for the store lighting and the noted telephone service. 

Around 1945, Colgrove hinted at buying out his partner, but in turn, it was Ryan who bought out Colgrove. Under his singular ownership, Ryan turned the Main Street store into a wholesale meat center called The Western Provision Company. The operation grew quickly, and by 1949, he had several countermen and office clerks, as well as two order clerks, a receiving clerk, two sausage makers, and several delivery boys with a fleet of trucks.

Colgrove took his business back to 12 State St. and reopened The Genesee Market. The Genesee Market remained open until the building was bought during Urban Renewal, which was the same time that Myron Colgrove retired. He passed away in March 1966 at the age of 72. 

Joseph Ryan would fight in World War II and would suffer from the aftereffects of a sulfur gas attack for the rest of his life. At the time of his passing in 1960, he was not only the head of the Western Provision Company but also the treasurer of WBTA and the Batavia Baseball Club and a partner in the Ryan-DeWitt Oil Distribution Company. 

Western Provision Company was bought first by John Byrne of Niagara Falls and then by Harold Ironfeld before it was also closed due to Urban Renewal.

Ryan Duffy is the director of the Holland Land Office Museum.

Colgrove and Ryan’s Meat Market batavia
Colgrove and Ryan’s Meat Market batavia
Colgrove and Ryan’s Meat Market batavia
Colgrove and Ryan’s Meat Market batavia

In the age of silver screens, Batavia residents had several options to go out for entertainment

By Anne Marie Starowitz
batavia dipson family theater
dipson movie poster union station

As baby boomers, the Mancuso and Dipson theaters were essential to our childhoods. 

A Saturday afternoon in the 50s and 60s would be spent at one of these theaters. If we took our pop bottles to your corner store and redeemed two cents for every bottle, you could save enough money to afford the .50 needed for admission to a movie.   

We first had to check the Legion of Decency, a list of films nailed to the back door of our Catholic Church stating what movies were appropriate for our ages.  Disney movies were at the top of the list of acceptable movies.   

In the 70s, I remember exactly where I sat when I saw "Jaws." I can still remember the fear I felt when the great white shark opened its jaws and the screams I heard in the theater, including mine.

Theaters in Batavia have a very early history. Imagine, in 1874, an Opera House on Main Street. It had seating for 1,000 with a stage that could be converted into a dance hall. A balcony and seating boxes on either side of the stage were reserved for courting couples. John Dellinger built the Dellinger Opera House, the center of local entertainment for over 50 years. Most people saw their first live performance on the stage at the Dellinger. Road companies stopped in Batavia regularly in the 1880s and 1890s. Amateur shows could be performed on this stage one day, and the next day, you could watch professional acting companies take the stage.

In 1900, a store on Jackson Street was the site for the first showing of motion pictures. Later, silent pictures were shown in Ellicott Hall on Court Street. To make the silent picture more exciting, sound effects such as train whistles, blank gunshots, and the noise of crashing cars were added.

early batavia theater

Batavia’s first theater was called the Lyric Theatre, located at 49 Main St. It had 36 seats fastened to the inclining floor. Other theaters, such as the Dreamland on Court Street and the Orpheum Theater at 122 Main St., were places to see “moving pictures.”

Two new moving picture theaters opened in 1913, the Grand at 72 Main St. and the Family Theatre on Jackson Street. The Grand could seat 584 patrons, and the Family Theatre could seat 600. A pianist or violinist could be heard while showing a moving picture, adding excitement to the movie.

A group of local businessmen financed the Family Theatre. It was considered to be one of the prettiest theaters in this area. The furnishings were from New York City and consisted of seats made of oak, 12 chandeliers, and a stage curtain that could be opened to show a stationary picture screen made of plaster.

Nikitas Dipson came to this country from Greece in 1909. He was interested in movie theaters, which began in 1913 when he lived in Jeanette, Pennsylvania, where he managed a small motion picture theater. He later moved to Batavia and managed The Family Theatre. 

In 1914, he temporarily bought the theater on Jackson Street until he could build a new modern theater on Main Street. He purchased two buildings at 36 and 38 Main St. They were not big enough for his new theater, so he closed the Family Theatre and moved the films, screen, and pianist to the Grand Theatre.

The New Family Theatre could seat 700 people and reopened in 1923 with a high domed ceiling lighted with radiant light and a 21-foot-deep and 43-foot wide stage. The orchestra seats were sitting from the other seats by a walnut rail. A console organ was in the pit, and a fireproof curtain could be lifted mechanically to the roof. The sides of the auditorium were decorated on either side with mural paintings.

The Lafayette Theatre, built just to show films, stood facing the Family Theatre for over 40 years. In 1947, the Lafayette Theatre, the property of Nikitas Dipson, closed. 

Nikitas Dipson finally could build his theater on 36 and 38 Main St. The theatre opened on April 17, 1947. The inner lobby was decorated with mural paintings depicting scenes from Genesee County’s early history. Floral designs covered the walls. After the house lights went out, the floral lights would glow softly for a few moments. This air-conditioned theater could seat 1,400. This theater would alternate with the Mancuso Theatre, housing the graduation exercises from Batavia High School and later Notre Dame High School. Dipson’s beautiful theater eventually fell victim to Urban Renewal in 1973.

Mancuso brothers decided to build a theater at 212 East Main St. It opened on June 4, 1948. The theater was as large as Dipson’s and advertised as modern as any theater in the country with “power enough to light a city.”  It had excellent acoustics because of the construction of the walls and ceiling. The side walls were decorated with flat sculptured figures. It was considered at that time to be one of the most satisfactory little theaters outside New York City. On opening night, 1,600 people filled every seat for the showing of "The Emperor’s Waltz." Today, that theater saved from the wrecking ball is currently the home of City Church. 

new family theater batavia

Nikitas Dipson dominated the motion picture business for 40 years, owning or operating all the motion picture theaters in the county at one time or another, including the two drive-in theaters on East Main Street Road and Clinton Street. Under an arrangement with the Mancuso Brothers, he ran the Mancuso Theatre, the Dipson Theatre, and the Family Theatre. Eventually, the two main theaters were ultimately divided into Cinema I and II. 

In mid-1979, William Dipson and Mancuso Brothers asked the McWethy Construction Company to build two mini theaters on the northwest corner of the mall. The theaters opened in 1980 as Mall I and Mall II. After 33 years, the theater closed. 

Over the years, Batavia has lost many buildings and businesses.   In June 2013, Ken Mistler, a local businessman who owned several downtown businesses, purchased Mall I and Mall II Movie Theater. He remodeled the Batavia Show Time Theater and showed first-run movies for many years. He's currently renovating the theaters into a new entertainment venue.

It seems sad that all we have left from these beautiful historical buildings are memories and pictures from old postcards and newspaper clippings. 

Photos courtesy Genesee County History Department.

mancuso theater batavia

Capping off a 'tremendous experience' after 16 years

By Joanne Beck
Larry Barnes
And now, as we approach the city’s 108th birthday and another eight years for Barnes since that frigid night, he couldn’t help but also recall how his predecessor didn’t think he had the chops for the job, having only lived in Batavia a mere few years and all. Larry Barnes, who is retiring as Batavia's city historian at the end of December, in his office in City Hall, where he's compiled numerous historic documents in filing cabinets over the years.
Photo by Howard Owens.

He may not have been a City of Batavia resident for long before being appointed city historian, but whatever Larry Barnes may have lacked in residential longevity, he made up for with a growing passion.

It was while serving as an assistant to then County Historian Sue Conklin that Barnes became involved in researching city government — sifting through all sorts of materials and, as a result, becoming quite interested in the city.

That was more than a decade and a half ago.

“It’s been a tremendous experience, I’m really going to miss it,” Barnes said during an interview with The Batavian at his second-floor City Hall office. “It’s been a major part of my life for 16 years.” 

Since those humble beginnings, he has gone through a city centennial celebration, watched the unfolding process of the historic Brisbane Mansion — aka current police station — become a prospective boutique hotel or serve some other purpose as a new police facility moves toward final plans. He has researched several requests about homes that have physically been moved or relatives’ ancestors or other Batavia history, though he’s quick to tell you he’s not one’s personal genealogist. He has written books about the city’s most prominent people and places, and been quoted dozens of times over the years for news articles about the birthplace of western New York.

Batavia was once a village, founded in 1827, and became a city in 1915. Eight years ago, there was a grand centennial splash, despite a whirling blizzard that helped all ring in the New Year on Dec. 31, 2014.

In true western or upstate, take your pick, New York fashion, it was a windy, blustery, snowy, icy cold — and certainly not cooperative — evening for the plans the centennial committee had made for the outdoor portion of the event. 

But Barnes had committed to do his part as city historian.

“I remember standing on a platform trying to give a talk to a very small audience,” Barnes said. “Most of the people had gone inside where it was warm.”

And now as we approach the city’s 108th birthday, and another eight years for Barnes since that frigid night, he couldn’t help but also recall how his predecessor didn’t think he had the chops for the job, having only lived in Batavia a mere few years and all. But he’s also well aware of the fact that it doesn’t take one’s personal upbringing to be a good historian. 

Not that Barnes didn’t bring an attractive portfolio to the position; he began teaching at Genesee Community College in 1968, lived in the towns of Batavia and Byron and built a home in the City of Batavia in 2005, where he had lived for three years before taking the job. 

The city’s first historian was William Coon, who seemingly fell into the role as the city attorney, and was appointed by the mayor in 1919. He died in office after serving until 1953, which is something Barnes most definitely did not aspire to, he said: “My goal was to not die in office,” he said.

The last historian was Corinne Iwanicki, who served from 1995 to 2007, and she was succeeded by Barnes, who was the sixth city historian and the first one to be paid, if only for a short time. The position was not paid until this past year, when City Council agreed to provide a stipend. 

There also was no formal job description until former City Manager Jason Molino and Barnes worked on one that was officially approved by City Council in 2010.

Over the years, Barnes has researched various landmarks, people and happenings, such as where the first bridge was located in Batavia, when railroads changed to their current location and why, what happened to certain houses in the city, including some formerly located where the Southside roundabout is now. 

Barnes received so many questions about relocated homes that he wrote a small book about 40 houses that have been physically moved to other locations. 

“If I get interesting questions, I will do that,” he said. 

His own questions piled up about a certain population in the city that seemed to go undocumented, and Barnes wanted to do something about that. While he noticed that quite a lot had been written about Italian, Polish and Irish residents whose families had emigrated to the United States, there was nothing about Black Batavians, he said.

The first simple but pointed question had to be; who is a Black Batavian? Do you go by the color of one’s skin, or facial features, or ancestors? Answer: the person is a Black Batavian if they or someone else defines them as such, he said. 

For more about his latest book, go to: “Black Batavians: Who They Are, Their Local History, and Aspects of Our Larger Culture That Have Especially Shaped Their Experiences.”

The Barn Quilt Tree

By Lynne Belluscio
Barn Quilt
Photo submitted by Lynne Belluscio of her barn quilt tree

In the fall, when the LeRoy Music Boosters posted that they would be raising money by having businesses or families decorate trees on Trigon Park, I thought it would be a neat opportunity to include the Le Roy Barn Quilt Trail. 

After 10 years, since we first started the Le Roy Barn Quilt project to commemorate Le Roy’s Bicentennial, the project has been revitalized with the help of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Office. In fact,
the Barn Quilt Trail just received a prestigious award from the New York State Tourism Alliance.

So, I signed up for a tree and started painting small wooden squares with the Le Roy Barn Quilt designs. I knew that I wanted to include the Genesee Solar Eclipse design, and I made a couple of those with the 6-inch squares. And then I measured off the “Railroad Crossing” design from Crocker’s Hardware, and the new barn quilt that’s on No Finer Diner.

That was followed by “Jell-O Jigglers” and “Nancy’s Fancy” from the D and R Depot Restaurant. I also included the beautiful blue and purple design that was on Ruth Harvie’s garage. Some designs were just too small to transfer to the 6-inch squares, but I included “Dash Churn” from the Stein Farm, and a great apple design. I also wanted to include the design that is on the former home of Nancy and Bruce Baker on East Main Street. That wood square is only 4 inches square, and hangs from the top of the tree. I included the barn quilt that’s on the outside of the Stafford Town Hall and the “Women’s Rights” pattern that hangs in the Le Roy Village Hall. I loved including the new barn quilt design that hangs in the window of Mama Chavez’s Taqueria on Mill Street.

I was painting the red, white, and blue barn quilt that hangs on Irene’s Walter’s barn when I heard of her passing, so like some of the other trees on Trigon Park, this tree is a memorial tree. Just before I put back the paints, I decided to include the “Ingham Rose” barn quilt that is on Candy Bower’s house in Le Roy – an important part of Le Roy’s history. The wood squares had to be varnished and then drilled so they could be attached to the tree. That turned out to be a
bit more challenging than I hoped, but I had enough wood squares painted and varnished in time to hang on the tree.

As I was taking this photo, with the tree in the rain, I thought that this is a great
opportunity for folks who are looking for something to do with their families in the rain. Pick up a barn quilt map at Crocker’s Ace Hardware on Lake Street in Le Roy, or at the Woodward Memorial Library or the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Tourism office and go on a scavenger hunt to look for the big barn quilts. There are over 100 of them just in Le Roy and Stafford. And with the map, you can go up on line and learn all about the stories of the barns and the people and the barn quilts.

Lynne Belluscio is the historian for the town and village of Le Roy.

Seventy-three years, 73 seasons of Christmas memories

By Anne Marie Starowitz
anne marie starowitz christmas

It is 2023, and I am celebrating my 73rd Christmas. 

Over the years, the memories have changed. I recall that it began at 5 Highland Park, my first home with my three brothers. The special Christmas gift I remember Santa bringing me was Wanda the Walking doll. My most treasured memory is a photograph of my mom and me near our Christmas tree. 

As the years progressed and my family grew, welcoming two little sisters, our Christmas celebration occurred on Evergreen Drive. Santa must have been very busy delivering toys to the Adam Miller Toy Store.

My favorite toys were my Tiny Tears Doll, a two-story metal doll house, and my first Barbie. Sadly, I had the bright idea of cutting off her ponytail. So many pictures centered around our aluminum Christmas tree that changed colors with the revolving light as Silent Night played. Downtown Main Street was filled with people Christmas shopping at their favorite stores. There were so many local stores to choose from. C.L. Carrs was always so festive with their decorations and Christmas music. 

anne marie starowitz christmas

There was a time when you could see a nativity scene in front of City Hall. You had to take a family drive to look at all the houses decorated for Christmas. You always had to stop at the Blind School to see the miniature Christmas village. What a shock and sadness it was returning home from college in the 70s to see the destruction of most of our Main Street. The historic buildings were gone, and only large mounds of bricks dotted Main Street. 

Christmas always meant family, but family dynamics, marriages, children, and grandchildren changed. The most challenging part was when the siblings moved away, which changed our Christmas’. 

We cherish the Kodak Super Eight movies and VHS video tapes of our daughters on Christmas morning. Another memory was the  Montgomery Wards Dept Store, waiting in a large group to hopefully purchase two Cabbage Patch Dolls. Another place we frequented was the Hiding Place in the Mall and Alberty Drug Store, looking for that rare Beanie Baby. 

We will never forget Christmas Eve when Rich assembled the Barbie Dream House. We had never seen so many pieces and decals. We just made it to bed an hour before the girls woke up on Christmas morning.

Our girls made Christmas so memorable, but then that changed. They were off to college and then married. We are now back to a very small Christmas. Many of my baby boomers have experienced the loss of parents that changed Christmas in so many ways.   It is a loss that never goes away. 

Even though our Christmas has changed over the years, our memories keep us warm, and we remember our Christmas past. 

Merry Christmas to my readers. I wish you beautiful memories to cherish today and tomorrow and remember your past Christmases in your hometown, Batavia, NY. 

Before Urban Renewal: My Downtown Batavia favorites

By David Reilly
old downtown batavia

Since 2018 I have been writing nostalgic stories for The Batavian about growing up in Batavia, New York, in the 1950s and 1960s. In some of those stories, I made mention of some of the businesses that were located in what we always called “Downtown.” 

Due to “urban renewal” in the 1970s, most of these establishments and their buildings no longer exist. 

Recently a reprint in The Batavian of the last chapter of Anne Marie Starowitz's book “Back In the Day” made mention of a lot of these places, and it got me thinking about my experiences in some of them. As a young boy and a teen, I had no reason to go into a hat shop, a paint store or a furrier. But I certainly patronized the two movie theaters that we had. As a teenager, I did a lot of hanging out at Kustas Kandies and, to a lesser extent, Critic's Restaurant, and I got a lot of my clothes at McAlpine-Barton Clothiers (the owners were next-door neighbors of my grandparents on North Lyon Street).

old downtown batavia
old downtown batavia

Time-Honored Theaters
Our two movie theaters were The Dipson Batavia on the northwest side of Main Street between the Post Office and State Street and The Mancuso Theater on the southeast side of Main between Center and Liberty Streets. I would say that despite the two theaters being in competition, both were well attended, depending on what movies were being shown. Prices were certainly reasonable with a lot of movies (we called it “going to the show”) being $1 and even less for kids.

It's odd how memory works, but I really can't recall exact details about either theater. Mancuso's seemed to be a little fancier and, later on in the 70s split into twin theaters so they could show two movies instead of one. 

My younger brother (by 11 years) Jim's first job was as an usher at Mancuso's and he certainly has some stories to tell. I do remember a young usher at Dipson's named Lester who took his job very seriously. Unfortunately, we kids weren't very nice to him and often gave him a hard time.

I know that I must have seen the big blockbusters of that time like “Ben Hur” and “The Longest Day,” but I cannot remember specifics (of course, I have watched them on TV since), like who I was with or what theater I saw them at. I do recall that most movies, especially the kid ones were preceded by cartoons. I assume we got popcorn, but I think oftentimes we brought our own candy in our pockets. We'd stop at Corrigan's or some other mom-and-pop grocery first and stock up. 

I don't remember if we bought drinks, but I'm sure they didn't cost $5 or $6 like they do now. 

My brother still works in the theater business and he will certify that way more money is made on concessions than tickets. I don't know if that was the case 50 or 60 years ago, but we didn't contribute much to the concession intake at all.

old downtown batavia

I'm pretty sure that it was not the norm for 10-year-olds to go to the movies alone, but I distinctly recall being dropped off at Mancuso's in 1957 for a movie called “Heaven Knows Mr. Allison.” War movies were my favorites then (I never did serve in the military, though) and that's probably what attracted me to it. It starred Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr as a “salty” Marine and a nun who were randomly stranded on a Pacific island during World War II. When the Japanese came and set up an outpost, the two of them had to hide out in a cave. Mr. Allison, as the Sister called him, fell in love with the nun, but of course, she told him that her life was committed to God and a relationship with the Marine could never be. Corporal Allison eventually disabled some Japanese artillery to enable an American landing on the island, and the two were rescued and went their separate ways. Deborah Kerr was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. 

Why do I so vividly recall going to this movie and not other bigger, splashier ones? That's the conundrum of memory, I guess.

One thing for sure about going to the movies back then was that if you really wanted to watch the movie, you should not sit toward the rear, Those rows were populated by teenagers who were there only to take advantage of the warm, dry theater to “make out” or “neck” (those are some funny descriptive terms aren't they? ). I was certainly no ladies' man, but I can remember coming out of some movies and having no idea what film I had even attended. I specifically recall one time when I told my parents I was at a friend's house when I was at Mancuso's with a girl instead. When I didn't come home on time, my mom called the friend's mom, and of course, I was in trouble for lying. It was surely embarrassing (and still is if I think about it) to try to explain to my mom why my lips were swollen. 


Both theaters were occasionally used for music, but Batavia was certainly no usual stop on entertainers' tour agendas. Much to my delight, though, in June 1964 just before I graduated from Notre Dame, Mancuso's hosted a pretty big-time show -- my first rock and roll concert. 

old downtown batavia

Like most teens at that time, I was all in on the “British Invasion.” The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Gerry and The Pacemakers (did Gerry have a heart condition? ) and more were all over Top 40 radio. WKBW from Buffalo was the local station of choice with DJs Joey Reynolds, Tommy Shannon, and Danny Neaverth. So when I heard that The Searchers, with their big hits “Needles and Pins and “Love Potion Number #9,” were going to headline a show in our little town, I was ecstatic.

It was almost 60 years ago, so I don't remember too many details of the show. Danny Nevearth was the emcee. There were five bands on the bill and two shows at 6:30 and 9:15 ( I don't recall which one I went to) so the opening acts must have only been able to play a few songs. I can't recall anything about the first two acts: Ronnie Cochran and Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. Ronnie Dio was 21 at the time of the Mancuso show and grew up in Cortland. He later went on to be the lead singer of Black Sabbath, taking Ozzie Osborn's place. Many consider him to be the best “Heavy Metal” singer of all time.

The third band was The Dovells, a dance band from Philadelphia. Their lead singer was Len Barry who went on to later have a big hit with”1-2-3”. They performed their choreographed song “Bristol Stomp,” and another dance tune called “Do The Continental,” which many years later showed up in the John Waters movie “Hairspray." They were followed by Dick and Dee Dee, whose popular hit was “Mountain High”. The only thing I recall about them was that I was shocked to find out that Dick was the one with the high falsetto voice and Dee Dee sang the lower range.

The Searchers did not disappoint, playing their two hits I mentioned earlier along with a set of other tunes that were hard to hear over the screaming teenage Batavia girls. My first big rock and roll show started me on the road to many, many more as I went on to college and through life. Going to see live music is still my favorite thing to do. 

Thanks Mancuso's.

old downtown batavia

Teen Hangouts
A big venue in the lives of most teens in the '50s and '60s was the local “soda shoppe.” For my friends and me (and many others of our age) it was Kustas Kandies on the north side of Main Street. Mrs. Kustas, who held down the counter and table area, was well-liked by all the kids and hired a number of them to work there, too, including a couple of my classmates, Mike Palloni and Madonna Mooney. She was pretty tolerant of teens hanging out there as long as you bought something and didn't get too rowdy. Most of my meager funds were spent on Cherry Cokes and French Fries, but if I happened to have a little extra cash, Kustas had delicious cheeseburgers in the style of McDonald's Big Mac or Carroll's Club burger. Like many restaurants of the time, there was a jukebox at every table, and we fed them coins to play all our favorite tunes. I'd bet The Rolling Stones' “Satisfaction” was #1 in the rotation. Hey, hey, hey, that's what I say.

Across Main Street and slightly to the west was Critics, formerly The Sugar Bowl. Critics was more of a pre- or post-date restaurant, though. Mr. Critic (real name Ernest Criticos who, after urban renewal, relocated his restaurant to Greece Town Mall outside Rochester) did not brook any nonsense from teens. He wanted to appeal to a more adult crowd, and if teens hung around longer than 30 or 40 minutes, especially without buying a meal, out you went. It was just a little fancier than Kustas, though, so if you wanted to impress a girl before or after a date ( a movie, let's say), you would take her there. It wasn't a soda shop, but into the 60s, another date spot was Your Host Restaurant in the East End Plaza, but not downtown. You probably needed a car to get your girl to Your Host.

Classy Clothiers
It's hard to believe, but in a small city of about 18,000 people, there were three men's clothing stores (not counting JCPenney) in downtown Batavia. There was Beardsley's, Charles Men's Shop, and McAlpine Barton's. 

I really don't recall ever buying anything at Beardsley's, and I have no idea why not. I'm pretty sure that when I was a student at St. Mary's Elementary School from first to eighth grade, we bought our school uniforms from Charles Men's Shop. For the boys, they consisted of light blue shirts, dark blue pants, and a dark blue clip-on bow tie. Probably Charles had a deal with the school. 

My mom would buy two pairs of pants for the year, and they would take a beating, so multiple sewing repairs were required. I wouldn't even want to guess how many bow ties I probably lost in 8 years. At Notre Dame High, those of us who earned them got our letter sweaters at Charles, too, again probably a deal between the school and the store. Other than those things, I don't recall frequenting that haberdashery very often.

When my grandparents, Anna and Henry (Henrik) Newhouse, moved to Batavia from Brooklyn (after emigrating from Denmark) in the 1920s, they bought a house at 25 North Lyon Street. There they raised my mother and three other children. Grampa was a tool and die maker at Doehler-Jarvis, which is why they moved here. My two uncles, Walter and Robert (who is the last family member of his generation at age 93) followed their dad's career path and became tool and die makers also. Their neighbors at 23 North Lyon were the Bartons of McAlpine – Barton Clothing store. It was originally McAlpine-Brumsted, but the Bartons bought out Brumsted and the business carried on. So, the reason why we patronized that store is because the Bartons were neighbors and friends of my mother's family.

The store was located on the south side of Main Street on the corner of Center Street (ironically, Charles Men's Shop, McAlpine's competitor for many years, is still in business and now occupies that building). LaRay Barton and his son Charlie ran the business, and LaRay's wife Eva took care of the office. My mom, Anna Newhouse Reilly, worked in the office for a number of years, too before going on to become the office manager for William Dipson of the aforementioned Dipson Theaters. Another long-time salesperson that I recall was Fred Darch.

old downtown batavia

McAlpine-Barton's had two floors for clothes shopping, the main floor and the basement. The offices were on the second floor. The main floor had two parts: the main room, which was for suits, sport coats, and slacks, as they referred to dress pants. Then there was a side room for what they called “leisure wear”. This would be sweaters, dressier polo shirts, and so on. The basement, where I got most of my clothes, was more for teenage or younger people's clothes like t-shirts and jeans, which they called “dungarees”. It wasn't like most of the places you go to get clothes now, though, where you pretty much wait on yourself unless you ask for help. There was always a salesman with you and assisting you.

I do have fond memories of McAlpine–Barton's, mostly because all the salesmen were friendly and willing to help you find what you were looking for and ensure a good fit. (note: I honestly do not recall any female salespeople at Barton's. It was probably a combination of it being a men's store and the chauvinism of that era. Also, later on, the family opened The Pendleton Store for women's clothes, managed by Charlie, and they had all female salespeople). Of course, my brothers and I got extra good treatment at McAlpine-Barton since LaRay and Charlie knew our family.

I moved to the Rochester area after graduating from St. John Fisher College there in 1969, so I wasn't living in Batavia for the Urban Renewal, which took place in the 1970s resulting in the demolishing of most of the downtown buildings. Dipson Theater, Kustas Kandies and Critics are long gone. Mancuso Theater still stands but is now a church. Finally, as I mentioned previously, the building that housed McAlpine-Barton is now home to the still-in-business Charles Men's Shop.

From following a couple of Facebook pages devoted to remembering the Batavia of old I realize that there are a substantial number of people who lived through the tearing down of a majority of downtown buildings who are still grieving and angry about it. Their feelings are that Batavia as they knew it was ruined forever. Nonetheless, even though the population of the seat of Genesee County has declined by about 5,000 since the '50s and '60s, it is still a city, and a number of its citizens are still trying to make it a viable and valued place to live.

For those of us who grew up in Batavia, New York, back then and are still living, we have our photographs, paintings and especially our memories that can remind us of the way things used to be.

Dipson Theater Painting by Pat Burr.
All other images courtesy of Genesee County History Department.

Chronicling history: new book reveals how national events impacted local citizens

By Joanne Beck
Michael Eula
Genesee County Historian Michael Eula in his office with some of his research material and books of photographs for his new book, "Historic Chronicles of Genesee County." 
Photo by Joanne Beck

While significant events were happening on the national stage — the assassinations of prominent political motivators, the Cold War, the New Deal and open racism with the existence of slavery — folks right here had their own thoughts, feelings, and ideologies that unfolded into the Genesee County landscape.

Local citizens cared deeply when President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were killed in the 1960s within six years of one another, and this area was full of introspective people — activists, philosophers, independent thinkers and keepers of a heavily agricultural region -- as well as those that were tolerant and welcoming of varying opinions while others were more dangerously skewed.

These details have been unearthed through the research and documentation of Genesee County Historian Michael Eula for his upcoming book, “Historic Chronicles of Genesee County.”

Although it’s not yet out for purchase, Eula teased it during a recent county meeting, also explaining to legislators that he had to switch publishers due to some artistic differences. It was enough of a tease that The Batavian interviewed Eula about the upcoming release, now being published by History Press and set for an April 15 publication date.

Overall, it’s a comprehensive social and political history from 1802, when the county was founded, to the present, he said.

“I wanted to explore a number of topics that hadn't been explored. And I wanted to address issues that had been ignored in the county's past, which is what comes up, with one exception in this in the Historic Chronicles,” he said. “So, you know, for example, when people looked at wars, they would look at things like the Civil War, that was a big one, I looked at the Cold War, and how that played out in Batavia in 1956, for example, no one had done that. And I also looked at the county's reactions to three key assassinations in the 1960s, President Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. That's the first chapter in this book. So I look at different aspects of the county's history by looking at things that had national links, and that had not been addressed by others who have done the county's history before.”

Artistic differences?
As for those editorial differences, Eula had been working with SUNY Press, which, he said, had requested some revisions, including a change of his title, reverting the term of woman slave to instead read enslaved, and — this, he said was the final straw — asking that he insert they for the pronouns he or she in some cases. 

The Batavian contacted SUNY Press for comment, and Senior Acquisitions Editor Richard Carlin said that the publisher does not change gender pronouns for historical figures from he or she to they. 

“We follow the guidelines of The Chicago Manual of Style in the copyediting and preparation of all of our manuscripts,” he said. That manual does have two uses for they, one being when a person does not identify with a gender-specific pronoun or is of unspecified gender.

At any rate, Eula and the publishing company were having difficulty proceeding with the book’s finale, so Eula moved on to History Press and is happily working with Acquisitions Editor Banks Smither. History Press falls under the larger umbrella of Arcadia Publishing, the country’s largest local regional publisher, Smither said.

“The company publishes books by local authors on local subjects, and we market and sell them exclusively in the local market for brick-and-mortar sales. So his book, for example, will sell in accounts throughout the county and maybe a little bit of the neighboring counties. But that's it for brick and mortar, and then we'll put the book online, and then on our website, and then ebook and all that. But our expectations are just itself, as you know, to the local audiences that care about it. We have been doing this for a long, long time,” he said. “So we're looking to sell to people who walk into the bookstore or walk into a gift shop … and want to buy a product that's vibrant and talks about their community. And it's written in a way that I like to describe our style as kind of a feature piece in a magazine, a little breezy, a little easy for the general audience, but also still substantive about the local history. And so, we are finding that academics like Michael are sometimes better off publishing with us because we can reach a wider audience.

“He’s the County Historian, that's an official office in New York State. And so every county has one, and we work with a bunch of them to publish in their communities, and they just have great platforms for it,” Smither said. “So he came to us, I was intrigued by the manuscript. We're continuing to look for more and more products in every town that we can. We do see local history continue to increase in salience in every community in the country. Our business itself has grown substantially over the last 15 years.” 

About the book
There are six meaty chapters sandwiched between a preface and conclusion that cover:

1. In Only Six Years: Genesee County Reacts to the Assassinations of the Kennedys and MLK;

2. Batavia Explodes: Cold War Anxiety and the Preparedness Drill of 1956;

3. Immigrants to White Ethnics Italians and Irish;

4. Hoover, Roosevelt, the New Deal in Genesee County;

5. In Western New York? The Ku Klux Klan in Genesee County in the 1920s;

6. Activists, Farm Women and Professionals

Some locals may have heard Ray Cianfrini’s talk about the Ku Klux Klan’s existence in Genesee County back then, and Eula incorporates Cianfrini’s research into an expanded chapter that raises questions about what was going on at the time.

“My whole chapter is titled Western New York question mark … and I talked about the growth of the Klan, and then it's collapsed by 1924. And to me, how do we explain that? And how do you know who was resisting that? And how do you explain the rise of the Klan, when about three percent of the population of the county was African American?” Eula said. “So what's feeding into this raises a lot of issues. Prohibition was one. Immigration was another. I think people might find that interesting.”

He also made what he found to be interesting political findings about the Hoover years.

“You know, some of the reasons why Republican candidates, unlike most of the rest of the country, were still winning elections here during the Depression, Herbert Hoover won this county in 1932, for example, when Roosevelt was winning much of the rest of the country. Why is that?” Eula said. “And then just very human stories about the Depression that I pulled from different sources.

“And then, finally, the last chapter is a chapter on women's history. So chapter six is about middle-class women … and I looked at a number of things in that chapter, including diaries that we have, right here in the archives, that were kept by farm women. Pretty fascinating stuff, you wouldn't think that when the women were so busy with animal tasks, at home, and on the farm, were reading serious philosophy and really thinking about it in their diaries,” he said. “Women who had more resources, and more access to political power to another woman.

He will delve into women who did not have such means, poor women and women slaves, in a second book that he is working on, he said, but that’s for another story. 

In this book, he covers the suffrage movement, which was big in Genesee County.  That doesn’t mean that everyone was on board with it, however, and Eula also covers women who opposed suffragists, conducting meetings in their Batavia homes at the turn of the century. 

“And what was striking about both sides is their willingness to have conversations with people that they were in disagreement with. I thought that was a striking difference from our own day, where people tend to get so partisan that the conversation dies out,” he said. “You had women who were suffragists who would invite women who were members of groups that were opposed to women having the right to vote into their home to have discussions about both sides of the issue, say in 1904. 

“And then, some of the activists were earlier on involved in the abolitionist movement. Here I talk about some of those, there was a big abolitionist movement here. And there were also people who supported slavery. And so I talked about them as well,” he said. “And they were women who were involved in the abolitionist movement, who then later, or their daughters became involved in the suffrage movement. So it was a seamless movement from one focus on one aspect of civil rights to another.”

One of his favorite chapters is the one about the Cold War, he said. While doing his research, he learned just how much locals, through their letters to the editor, disagreed with the Korean War, which has often been shadowed by Vietnam as being so highly controversial.

"I really enjoyed doing Chapter Two on the Cold War because it led me to a lot of other reading to give a context. And since the Soviet Union collapsed, in 1991, and the archives were open, a lot of what we thought the Kremlin was planning, actually, there's no evidence for it. So that caused the question how much of The Cold War anxiety was really warranted. So that leads to really fascinating questions,” he said. “And in that chapter, I talked about, for example, of course, we had, even after the Korean War ended in 1953, there's still a peacetime draft. So young men had to be concerned about where their draft numbers were. We often think of that, something like that with regard to Vietnam and forget that was going on a long time before Vietnam. And even when it was peacetime or relative peacetime after the Korean War. And so it was, it was definitely seen as a very serious reality.”

Eula uses examples from today, such as with behaviors around COVID, and traces certain traits that have been passed on over the centuries and generations from political parties — such as people who were “steadfastly Republican.”

“Meaning they believed in individualism, they believe that there should be as little state interference in people's lives as possible,” he said. “Now, another question I lead the reader with is, ‘will that continue into the future? Or or will Genesee County look very different by the next century?’ One's guess is as good as anyone else’s,” he said. “But at least up until I am with that book, the feeling that there shouldn't be too much-centralized authority is one that's very paramount in Genesee County's culture. It's a very conservative culture in that sense. 

“And I don't mean conservative in terms of a political party, Republican or even Democrat, I mean, conservativeness sensitive, individuals should be able to make their own decisions about what their own lives look like. And so those in authority here have to tread very carefully.”

Another conclusion from his studies?
He thinks that kind of conservative nature comes from the rural landscape and agricultural economy here, he said, and given the wide base of the agricultural economy, “farmers tend to be very independent.”

“Primarily over half the county's acreage is devoted to farming at any point in time, and that produces a very different political culture. And interestingly enough, I think it's one that incredibly has taught much more tolerance than more urban industrial cultures tend to that I was really struck by,” he said. “There is a willingness here to hear the other side. Even though you disagree. I used the example before of the suffragists' movement.”

Remembering Main Street

By Anne Marie Starowitz
pat burr old downtown batavia paintings

I was looking at our collection of Pat Burr’s drawings of old Batavia in the 60s and was amazed at all the stores that dotted Main Street. You really could walk down the street and, beginning at one end, mail a letter, buy a car, smoke a cigar, look for a gold watch, buy plumbing supplies, pick up your dry cleaning, buy paint, order a drink, have your picture taken, see a movie, eat a doughnut, have your shoes repaired or buy a new pair of shoes. 

If it was afternoon, you could have a drink, buy a sewing machine, smell the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread, pick up a prescription, buy a wedding gown, buy new shoes to go with the dress, order a man’s suit for the wedding, buy children’s clothing (you might need another drink after the cost of the wedding gown), have your eyes checked, purchase new furniture, drink a cherry Coke, register for new china, and have a late lunch. 

Continuing west on Main Street, you could make a bank withdrawal for the wedding, buy more jewelry, possibly a wedding band, pick up some fresh produce, purchase a new hat and a real mink coat, pick up another prescription, and buy more jewelry.

Now, see if you can match the names of these establishments and their merchandise with their locations on Main Street going east from Jefferson to Bank Street. 

In the 60s, on the north side of the street, there was Mancuso’s Dealership, Chris’ Gifts, The Smoke Shop, William Maney’s Store, Marchese’s Produce, and six jewelry stores, Krtanik, Martin Berman’s, Valle’s, Francis and Mead, Rudolph’s and Brenner’s. Clothing stores were plentiful: Alexander’s, Town Shop, Helen’s Darlings, A.M. and M. Clothiers, and Smart Shop. Bon Ton and Bell Hat Shops, Humboldt’s Furriers, and Charles Men Shop were also located on that side of the street, along with the beautiful Dipson Theater. 

There were two paint stores, Mosman’s and Sherwin Williams. There were many restaurants and drinking establishments: Mooney’s, Hamilton Hotel, Young’s Restaurant, Mike’s Hotel, Main Grill, Vic’s Grill, The Dagwood Restaurant, and Jackie’s Donuts. A favorite bakery was Grundler’s. A soda shop and candy store was called Kustas’. The furniture store was Bern Furniture, and the dry cleaner store was Jet Cleaners. Lawing Picture Studio, Singer Sewing, Genesee Hardware, Western Auto, and the drug stores of Whelan and Dean Drugs were located on different corners. There were four shoe stores: Ritchlin, Cultrara’s, Endicott and Johnson, and C.E. Knox. The shoe repair was called Boston Shoe Repair. 

How many of you could match the store with its location?

If you were traveling down the opposite side of the street, you would begin with the Court House and pass the County Building, where a beautiful Christmas tree would be on the lawn. Eventually, you would hope to have a deed to your new home filed at the clerk’s office. You couldn’t miss the Hotel Richmond on the corner that was now just an empty shell. Located within the building of the hotel was Rapid Dry Cleaners. Next was the three-story JC Penney Department Store. 

If you needed a uniform, The Uniform Shop was at your disposal. Kinney’s Family Shoe Store was located next to the Camera Shop. Caito’s Liquor Store was followed by Beardsley’s Men’s Store, Sleght’s Book Store, Bank of Batavia, Sugar Bowl, SS Kresge’s, Scott and Bean, Dean’s Drug, M & T Bank, Thomas and Dwyer, C.L. Carr’s Department Store, Marchese Produce, Good Friend Shop, Rudolph’s Jewelers, JJ. Newberry’s and WT Grant. 

Imagining all these stores decorated for the holidays makes you nostalgic for the simpler times and slower pace when the highlight of your week was going to the city on a Friday night to meet friends and shop! 

Thank you, Urban Renewal, for taking our Main Street. But you couldn’t remove our memories. Thank you, Pat Burr, the artist, for preserving Main Street with your beautiful artwork, that we are lucky to have your entire collection. 

Main Street lives on in our hearts. 

Photos by Pat Burr paintings of old Batavia taken in 2010 by Howard Owens at the Genesee County Nursing Home.

pat burr old downtown batavia paintings
pat burr old downtown batavia paintings
pat burr old downtown batavia paintings

History comes alive in annual Batavia Cemetery Ghost Walk

By Howard B. Owens
Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.
Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.
Photo by Howard Owens

The Batavia Cemetery Association sold 160 tickets -- a sellout -- for the 2023 Ghost Walk on Saturday, which is the third or fourth straight sellout for the association's major fundraiser, said President Sharon Burkel. 

"The money goes for the upkeep of the cemetery," Burkel said. "We have some small investments, but we mostly survive on fundraisers and donations."

Beyond raising money, the 10 stops on the walk help tell the story of early Batavia, from Joseph Ellicott to Dean and Mary Richmond, William Morgan, and John Yates.

"It also brings awareness of the cemetery so people realize that it's here," Burkel said. "They can come and walk through and enjoy the architecture and the genealogy and the history.  There's some very impressive people in here."

Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.
Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.
Photo by Howard Owens
batavia cemetery ghost walk
Connie and Charley Boyd as Mary and Dean Richmond in the Richmond Mausoleum.
Photo by Howard Owens.
dean richmond
Patrick Weissend as Joseph Ellicott.
Photo by Howard Owens
Dan Snyder as Albert Brisbane.
Photo by Howard Owens
william morgan ghost
Joshua Pacino as William Morgan.
Photo by Howard Owens

Remembrance of summers past: Fun in parks, lawn fetes, parades

By Anne Marie Starowitz
anne marie lawn fetes
lawn fete

Summer highlights of the 60s included going to the neighborhood park, swimming in the afternoon at the New Pool, and attending the four lawn fetes scheduled throughout the summer. 

The summer recreation program was divided into eight parks. Every neighborhood had a park, and the names of the parks all have a little local history.

Austin Park was named after George Austin, a jeweler who died in 1914 and left some of his money to be used to develop a public park. 

Mrs. George Farrall gifted Farrall Park's land. The land was originally a pasture. 

Kibbe Park is named after Chauncey Kibbe.   In 1934, with the help of federal funds and purchasing land from Chauncey Kibbe, Kibbe Park was born. 

John Kennedy Playground was formerly known as Cary's Woods. It was located on Vine Street. In 1954, the park was built on land sold from the city to the Batavia School District. 

ferrall park

MacArthur Park got its name from Douglas MacArthur. During WWII, the city organized an air raid observation post with headquarters in the baseball dugout at the ballpark. In 1961, the city cleared a small land area and built a picnic shelter with tables and grills behind the stadium.

Pringle Park was named after Judge Benjamin. Pringle also had a playground that was used for the summer recreation program.

In 1927, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Woodward from Le Roy gave the land along Richmond Ave. across from Robert Morris to the Batavia School District. This began the creation of Woodward Field. In honor of Mr. Woodward, his name is on the ticket booth, along with his good friend Andrew McWain, the editor of The Daily News at the time.

In 1915, the city owned a tract of land on Pearl Street that was left to the city in the will of Robert Williams. This was originally his farmland. Today, it is Williams Park.

lawn fete parade

The parks were open from 9 a.m. to noon and then from 1 to 5 p.m. Your days were filled with baseball and volleyball games and arts and crafts, and the summer's culmination was the Park Parade. Main Street closed, and the streets were crowded with spectators and store employees. Your park was judged on your float and your scrapbook. You became proficient in making hundreds of paper crepe flowers and how to add the flowers to chicken wire. The goal of each park was to create a unique float to represent the park. 

Friends were made for life at your neighborhood park. 

anne marie new pool batavia

In 1959, the building contract was awarded to Ed Leising to excavate a choice piece of land in MacArthur Park. It would be the home of the new community pool. When it opened in 1962, another chapter of our childhood was created.     It was a 60-foot by 100-foot pool that could accommodate 600 swimmers. Your afternoons were spent swimming in what I thought was the largest pool I ever saw. You rode your bike to the pool, paid your .25, and were given a key to a locker. When you left, you were given your quarter was returned, which we immediately used on one of the vending machines when we left the pool. 

Another wonderful memory of summer in the 60s was the church picnics, or as many called the lawn fetes.   St. Joseph's Church began the summer with its fete on the first June weekend. Rides, games, food, baked goods, and a beer tent were there. My favorite part was the mammoth parade that opened the weekend's picnic.  

anne marie lawn fetes

Our Mighty St. Joe's Drum Corps highlighted the parade. Main Street was packed with spectators. Parents and children in strollers lined Main Street. St. Joseph's Drum Corps was founded in 1931 by the Rev. T. Bernard Kelly, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Batavia. St. Joseph's Drum Corps operated as a parade corps until the late 1950s, when it became a field competition corps. During the 1960s, Mighty St. Joe's rose to National and International prominence, consistently ranking among the top ten junior corps in the country.

The end of the lawn fete was marked by the lucky winner of the raffle ticket. You couldn't forget the grand prize, a new Cadillac that would be raffled at midnight Sunday evening. If you didn't want the Cadillac, you could choose $10,000. 

St. Joe's wasn't the only church that had a lawn fete. 

St. Anthony's had one on a smaller scale, but it was just as fun. I loved their baked goods booth. They also had a popular beer tent.   

When our daughters were little, we would walk to the fete. I remember one year carrying our youngest daughter from the fish pond, screaming. She wasn't ready to leave, and when we got home, we discovered that she had a rubber fish in her hand from the fish pond. 

Sacred Heart Lawn fete was very special to me because you could always find my wonderful father-in-law in the church garage counting money. He was always happy to give his granddaughters cash for the games. It was a smaller lawn fete, but every booth had a church member operating it year after year. 

Every church supported the various lawn fetes. St. Mary's also had a Lawn Fete. 

It was the community that benefited from the summer events. My memories span from when I was nine to when the last lawn fete was held in 2017. It ran for 61 years. When you think of our lawn fetes, you remember the long lines for the waffle booth or the smell of Italian sausage,  pepper, onions, or, respectfully, Polish sausage being grilled at Sacred Heart's Lawn Fete. You got used to the sound of the game I've Got It or someone yelling Bingo.

So many of these beautiful memories are gone. I regret that children today will never experience the fun. We all remember walking the tarmac of the various lawn fetes, walking in their park parade with their float, or swimming in the New Pool. My heart is filled with great memories and the sadness of dealing with all the changes we baby boomers must accept. 

As you read this today, I hope you smile and remember our summers in Batavia. Smile and be thankful we lived at a time when lawn fetes, the park program, and the New Pool filled our summer days. 

Photos courtesy of Genesee County History Department.

lawn fete parade

Victorian mourning customs among topics covered at HLOM in September

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of our Guest Speaker Series on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. GCC professor, author, and historian Derek Maxfield will be sharing his presentation "Victorian Deathways" on the many customs surrounding mourning and death in Victorian era culture. "In light of the 200th anniversary of the great and historic Batavia Cemetery, it seems fitting to examine American attitudes towards death. This may seem morbid to some, but how a society observes death - like other milestones – tells us much about their culture and values. The Victorians, in particular, created a number of fascinating ways of observing death – from redesigning cemeteries to the language we use to talk about it. This talk will focus mainly on antebellum Victorian culture, roughly 1835 to the outbreak of the Civil War." Admission is $5 or $3 for museum members. Please contact the museum at 585-343- 4727 or “This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by GO ART!”

Genesee County will soon be graced with two fantastic celestial events and Dan Schneiderman of the Rochester Museum of Science Center is heading our way to tell us everything we need to know! Join Dan for a FREE public talk being held at the Holland Land Office Museum on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. as he discusses the science & history of solar eclipses and how to prepare for this extraordinary astronomical opportunity. Reserve your seat by September 7 by phone or email at 585-343-4727; hollandlandoffice@gmail.comThis is a free event (Donations are always accepted for Holland Land Office Programming.) To learn more about how Genesee County is planning to celebrate these events please visit “Genny the Cow” Genesee County’s eclipse mascot will also be on site for photo ops! 

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of our Trivia Night @ the Museum on Thursday, Sept.14 at 7 p.m. This month's topic is the ship of the pilgrims, The Mayflower. Admission is $5 or $3 for museum members. Please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or if you would like to attend.

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of our Guest Speaker Series on Thursday, September 21 at 7 p.m. We welcome local presenter and researcher Joseph Van Remmen, as he shares his well-researched theory of how the city of Buffalo got its name. There are a number of theories thrown around, but Mr. Van Remmen's is one you might not have heard of until now. Admission is $5/$3 for museum members. “This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by GO ART!”

Come to the Holland Land Office Museum on Saturday, September 23 from 1 - 4  p.m. as local author Rob Thompson will be signing copies of all of his works. Rob lives in Attica and is most known for his books on the Linden Murders, but he has also just written a new book on the Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War, "Behold & Blush: The Sullivan Expedition", which was waged against the Seneca in the Genesee Valley. He will also have copies of other works including Candles in the Rain and Swinging in the Rain. Copies of each of his books will be available. Prices range from $10-$15. 

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of our Java with Joe E. morning presentation series on Thursday, September 28 at 9 a.m. The museum welcomes the Town of Batavia Historian, Bernida Scoins, as she shares the life and works of Batavia native author John Gardner. Bernida will also have artifacts and items related to Gardner for display. Admission is free with coffee and donuts. Please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or if you would like to attend.

HLOM display marks 200th Anniversary of Batavia Cemetery Association

By Howard B. Owens
hlom batavia cemetery 2023
Ryan Duffy, Holland Land Office Museum director, and Sharon Burkel, president of the Batavia Cemetery Association at the HLOM display marking the association's 200th anniversary.
Photo by Howard Owens

The 200-year history of the Historic Batavia Cemetery is on display at the Holland Land Office Museum in a show curated by HLOM Director Ryan Duffy and Cemetery Association President Sharon Burkel.

The display opened on Wednesday.

"All the people who founded this community are buried in there," Burkel said. "These people came from Connecticut, Massachusetts, in the late 1700s, early 1800s. They came in wagons, probably drawn by oxen and horses. I always ask people, would you do that? Would you leave your home in those areas and come this far, make your way through Indian Territory and everything else to establish a city? A lot of them were very influential nationally, like Dean Richmond. These people held a great deal of power. (The cemetery is) Also important when you look at all the streets in the city. All the names on the streets are all the people that are buried in that cemetery. And the reason that it's on the state national register -- because most of their homes and businesses are gone. And that was one of the main reasons we got designated."

Burkel said the city's first cemetery was on South Lyon Street, by the Tonawanda Creek, but when there were floods, bodies washed away, so they moved it over to what is now known as Harvester Avenue but was originally Cemetery Street. It was owned by the Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church.

In 1823, the Batavia Cemetery Association was formed and that not-for-profit organization took over ownership and still owns it today. 

Duffy said HLOM had some artifacts related to the cemetery, but the association loaned to the museum much of what is on display. 

"It was about creating a new space, but also shining light on another local hidden gem that people tend to forget about sometimes," Duffy said.

Preparing the display was an interesting task at times. He had to research what organizations some metal grave markers represented, and some of the artifacts the museum already had in its inventory hadn't necessarily been connected to the cemetery before. 

"There was a little bit of detective work going into some of this, which always makes it a little more exciting," Duffy said. "Going through things that are here in the museum, we didn't necessarily know they were connected to people in the cemetery because we hadn't really taken a deep look into them. So it uncovered a lot of things that we didn't even know we had."

hlom batavia cemetery 2023
As long as anybody alive could remember, there was a Dead End sign in the cemetery that was actually at the start of a dead-end path.  It disappeared during the pandemic. Sharon Burkel fears it was sold for scrap.  At an art show in Rochester, Burkel spotted a photo of the sign and told the director there where the sign came from and what happened to it. The photographer, Daniel Hogan, showed up unexpectedly at the Holland Land Office Museum one day with a copy of the photo to donate to the association.
Photo by Howard Owens
hlom batavia cemetery 2023
Photo by Howard Owens
hlom batavia cemetery 2023
Photo by Howard Owens
hlom batavia cemetery 2023
Metal grave markers, such as those often placed by veterans groups, some largely forgotten.  The cemetery association now keeps them in storage because scrap scavengers have taken to stealing them. A few were brought out of storage to put on display.
Photo by Howard Owens
hlom batavia cemetery 2023
The Inaugural Garth Swanson Memorial Scholarship was awarded Wednesday night to Dawson Young, a Batavia High School graduate now attending GCC.  Also pictured are Ryan Duffy, director of the Holland Land Office Museum, and Amy Swanson. 
Photo by Howard Owens.

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