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A Country Teacher’s Diary - 1905
Posted at Isledegrande.com October 27, 2005 - - Scroll down for December 1905 entries

Artwork by Joanne Senn. Be sure to click school map (1887) for a larger view.
This Grand Island map shows the location of one- and two-room school sites that were in existence in 1887. Some were moved, some burned or were torn down. Miss Kaiser, who wrote the diary, was teaching at School No. 9 on Baseline Road, south of Whitehaven Road at the time. That building burned to the ground in 1917 and was replaced with a school house, north of Whitehaven the following year.

Martha Kaiser Schutt is shown with her class in front of No. 3 School, located between Long and Huth Roads on Baseline Road. Shown front left are Theodore N. Van Son, Fanny Trautman, Esther Ziehm, Myron Ziehm, Charles Roe, Emily Aderman and Rosetta Frentz; (2nd row) Clarence Ziehm, Mary Frentz, Nelson ?, Clara Trautman, Ernest Aderman, John Roe, and Lovina Aderman; (3rd Row) Bertha Roe (Bucher), Minnie Aderman, Hanna Frentz, Martha Kaiser Schutt, Elmer Ziehm and Della Long.

October 1905

   Oct. 1 – Uncle George helped Pa load hay. Took it to Buffalo. Got $31. Ma took Schloerbs to ferry. Schiebs bought horse from George Dinsmore today. It is a cool day. I rode home from school with Ma.
   Oct. 2 – It is a beautiful day. I rode to school with Pa. Sent and received letters and postals. Prayer meeting was at our house this evening.
   Oct. 3 – Fourteen pupils were in school today. Ma and Pa went to Buffalo and the girls took advantage of the beautiful day to wash. Grandma fell and hurt herself. Ma bought a new hat in the city. It cost her $2.50. Also, bought two baskets of peaches at 65 cents. The girls have gone off to a husking bee at Charles Kaegebein’s this evening.
   Oct. 4 – It rained very hard today. Pa came to school for us this evening
   Oct. 5 – It was a nice day. Went to the Harvest Home at the Town Hall and had a good supper. We met Mrs. Bert Morgan. It rained on our way home so we took refuge in the church shed until it let up.
   Oct. 6 – It rained all day today. We made tomato preserves and pieced a quilt. Pa went to the ferry to meet Frank. He did not come.
   Oct. 7 – Did not go to church today as it is still raining and has turned quite cold. Hear there were 17 persons present at the evening service. We covered flowers as it froze quite hard about 12 o’clock.
   Oct. 8 – Got along nicely at school today. Grandma is not sitting up at all. Folks dug about 40 bags of potatoes. Mrs. Alvin Buesch died suddenly this afternoon. It is very windy tonight.
   Oct. 9 – It rained all forenoon. There were only 11 pupils in school today. The Erie County Sunday School Convention was held in Tonawanda. It has cleared this evening.
   Oct. 10 – Ma, Pa, and Lydia went in to Buffalo today. Lydia got a new coat for $7 and a hat for $1.98. New rubbers cost 65 cents. It became quite cold and rained this afternoon. Toward evening it turned to snow and a big storm has begun. The snowflakes are large. Kenocke’s moved into Buffalo today.
   Oct. 11 – It is snowing still! Big John was here early and I rode to school with him. Pa brought the girls. There were only 7 pupils in school. I seem to have gotten a bad cold. Mrs. Buesch was buried this afternoon. Pa came for us after school. I covered flowers when I got home.
   Oct. 12 – It has developed into a hard freeze. Looks like genuine winter! Ma and Pa went to the doctor’s in Tonawanda. Dark clouds are in the sky. I walked to school. Stopped on my way home to visit with Mrs. Rothen and Mrs. Schieb. Wrote letters this evening.
   Oct. 13 – Ma and I took up plants from the flower beds and I raked the yard. Received word from Nell Porter in West Virginia. Except for meals and reading postals, spent the day out-of-doors. The weather is quite lovely. Pa was at Persons today. Frank came home this evening.
   Oct. 14 – Grand Day! Attended both church services. Went to Esther’s from church and went with her to Sunday School in the P.M. We walked with the Henry Schutts, Irene Williams, etc. Had a nice visit with Mrs. Fenner. Ma and Pa took Frank to the ferry.
   Oct. 15 – Lovely, mild weather. Enjoyed school today. Ruth, Cleo and I went to Long’s Dry House. We rode down with Fred Ehlers. Mr. Claus took us through. Miss Swale also there. Walked home where a letter was waiting from Mary Schafer. She tells me she is to be married on Oct. 27. Uncle Adam and Allen were here this evening.
   Oct. 16 – Lovely day. Ten pupils were in school. Many are helping with the Fall work which accounts for much of the absenteeism. John Schutt passed the school with his silo machinery. I took the children to the woods at noon together colored leaves. The roads are getting better. Was invited to Schiebs’ for supper. Mrs. William Buesch and her son, Charles, were also there. They came this afternoon to dig their potatoes. Our folks finished digging today. Prayer meeting was held at the Rothens tonight.
   Oct. 17 – Pleasant day. The Rev. Luxford called at the school. Folks are getting apples from the orchard on Baseline. The girls went to a husking bee at Mrs. Joe Long’s this evening. Rothen helped Uncle Adam with his potatoes. Our folks are at the apples. Mr. Schutt got 60 cents a bushel for apples at market.
   Oct. 18 – Pa went into the city with apples and got 65 cents and 75 cents a bushel for them. Ma and the girls picked apples today and Uncle Adam finished digging his potatoes. It was cloudy this morning but cleared up through the day.
   Oct. 19 – Sometime between 1 and 2 a.m. our church burned. The cause of the fire is unknown. Rothen came up and called for Pa. It rained hard throughout the night and all day today. Pa took us to school. Laura Stamler came right over to talk “fire.” There were just 6 pupils at school. Pa took us to and from the church.
   Oct. 20 – I helped with the work all day. Ma went over to the Hulings and Pa was at Spohr’s on church matters. Charles Long and John Schutt came here for supper. Pa went down to the ferry for Frank and Mr. Walsh. The roads are quite muddy.
   Oct. 21 – I did not attend church all day. Helped Ma get dinner. It began to rain as the girls were getting ready for church so no one went. It continued to rain all day. Went to William Dinsmore’s on business.
   Oct. 22 – Erdman and Heiman’s first day of school. It was a very trying day and I kept two boys until almost five o’clock! Had supper at Aunt Mary’s I went from there to the church business meeting at the Town Hall. Pa is president of the Church Building Committee. Also serving are H. W. Long, John Schutt, Henry Ehde, Adam Kaiser, the Rev. Rothen and William Rhode.
   Oct. 23 – Weather cleared up. Had a more pleasant day today. Eighteen pupils were present. This morning it rained so hard as I was walking to school that I got wet though to the skin. Ruth and I had a duck supper tonight at Schiebs. Pa was attending a building committee meeting at H. W. Long’s.
   Oct. 24 – Pa went into the city with hay today. There was a husking bee at Henry Ehde’s tonight. The Hulings came to go over with us. A severe rain storm began so none of us went. George Alt had stopped by here, too. We spelled, sang, etc., and everyone left around 11 p.m.
   Oct. 25 – Anna took us to school as it is still raining very hard. The building committee is in Tonawanda making arrangements for a new church building.
   Oct. 26 – I walked to and from school. It is a pleasanter day than usual. Mrs. Schieb, Mrs. Buesch, and Leonard Geschwender came to school at noon today. Went to the spelling bee at the school this evening with John. I was next to the last to go down on our side. Marie Stoll stood up the longest. There was a good crowd and 10 cents was charged. They served cake and coffee. Henry Hardy and John were the only boys on our side of 16. I got a box of candy this evening.
   Oct. 27 – Helped with the Saturday work and made dressing saques. Pa went to Buffalo with potatoes which he sold at $1 a bag.
   Oct. 28 – Did not attend church all day. It was rainy and cool.
   Oct. 29 – Cool. Got along nicely at school. Margaret was over this evening.
   Oct. 30 – Pa went to the city with butter and eggs. Some of the eggs sold for 38 cents a dozen. The butter went for 32 cents a pound. It has been very rainy and disagreeable all day. It began snowing quite hard during the late afternoon. After school we took the geraniums into the cellar and plants into the house.
   Oct. 31 – Pa went to the city with 25 bags of potatoes at a $1 a bag. I finished two percale aprons this evening. We put the clothes to soak. George Alt came by this evening to get our wagon. Received a letter from Mary Schafer who was married last Saturday and is now living in St. Louis. She also sent a piece of the wedding cake!

November 1905

   Thurs., Nov. 1 – We were able to wash on this “All Saints Day.” Pa acted as clerk for Mrs. May’s auction. He received a $3 fee. The roads were very muddy.
   Fri., Nov. 2 – The day has been quite clear and pleasant even though the roads are still in their muddy condition. Got along nicely at school.
   Sat. Nov. 3 – Worked out of doors most of the day. I dug up dahlias. Ma, Pa, and the girls got apples from below. This afternoon Pa went to the ferry to meet Frank but he did not come.
   Sun., Nov. 4 – Attended services at Long’s church and taught both Rothen’s and my class. Rothen preached in the morning. Luxford had the evening service and preached on “Dancing.” Henry Williams, John Young and his wife were here in the afternoon. I visited the Trautmans this evening for a few minutes. The day has been cool and windy.
   Mon., Nov. 5 – Another pleasant day. Pa went into the city with hay. He brought Fan (?) Pa met Frank this evening at the ferry after he got back with the team.
   Tues., Nov. 6 – “Election Day” – Another day of lovely weather. Fourteen pupils present at school. Pa went up with hay. Frank helped him load and sent up with him. I fell this morning by the lower barn and hurt my knee so I got a ride to school with Frank Huling. I rode home from the corner with Pa who got $17 for the hay. The Republicans were elected. Pa and the girls loaded straw this evening while Ma and I credited people who paid their bills today (Insurance payments were due).
   Wed., Nov. 7 – I rode to school with Pa on top of a load of straw. The weather is still lovely. This evening I rimmed a hat for school.
   Thurs., Nov. 8 – Fred Staffen helped Pa load hay this morning. The family went to Tonawanda for the day. Mrs. Michael Fleischmann stopped by the school to pay her insurance. Louisa and Anna Bartrum stopped for Lydia on their way to the dry house. The roads are getting quite hard.
   Fri., Nov. 9 – Pa went into Buffalo with hay. It is a very cloudy day, almost dark at 4 p.m. It rained a little.
   Sat., Nov. 10 – Helped with the Saturday work and did some painting. Pa went up with hay again today and Frank came back with him this evening. We put down the sitting room carpet. John Schutt was here to pay his insurance this evening. The case of the “butter thieves” was tried in the town hall.
   Sun., Nov. 11 – It is snowing a little today. We did not go to church. Pa took Frank to the ferry this afternoon.
   Mon., Nov. 12 – I rode to school with Lieb Frentz as it is snowing. Frentz bought 50 head of cabbage for $1.50. There were seventeen pupils in school. Anna came for me after school. I finished doilies this evening and practiced for more than an hour.
   Tues., Nov. 13 – I walked to and from school today. Mrs. Schieb treated me to cake and grapes this evening. John took me to business meeting at H. W. Long’s where only Carrie, John Pudvin and Minnie Schutt came. The roads are very bad.
   Wed., Nov. 14 – Today it is beautiful again and I walked both ways. My knee pained me quite a bit on the walk home. I have received an invitation to a party at William Long’s on Thursday evening. It’s a surprise for Miss Schwab.
   Thurs., Nov. 15 – It is cloudy. The Stamlers made apple butter, Because the roads are muddy, Anna drove to school with a letter she had received from Frank. We visited at the store after school. Spent the evening at Schiebs.
   Fri., Nov. 16 – Had visitors at school today and I stopped at Schiebs on the way home. Catholic Dance was held this evening.
   Sat., Nov. 17 – Hemmed a dozen handkerchiefs and made Ruth an apron. It rained today so I stayed indoors and baked a cake.
   Sun., Nov. 18 – Anna and I went to services. There were only a few folks present. The girls went to evening services and found the roads in terrible condition. We have received word of the death of Mrs. Henry Webb in Tonawanda.
   Mon., Nov. 19 – Most of the boards are on the roof of the new priest’s house. It is a cloudy but pleasant day. I visited with the Fred Staffens for supper. Anna came later and we spent the evening. Ma and Pa took the white cow and snow apples to Tonawanda for sale. Received $35 for the cow and 75 cents a bushel for the snow apples. Anna and Mrs. Rothen had visited the dry house.
   Tues., Nov. 20 – The wind is from the east and it has rained hard all day. I got quite wet walking to school this morning. The roads are just awful. I’ve finished three gifts, pin holders. The Joseph Mesmers made apple butter today.
   Wed., Nov. 21 – It is raining so hard that only ten pupils arrived at school. I crocheted during recess. Anna came for me after school. This evening, Ruth and I made a cushion cover with woolen pieces and began a slumber robe. George Alt, Jr. stopped by this evening. Ma is peeling apples to dry.
   Thurs., Nov. 22 – It is very windy and the river is extra high. Pa took us to school and we walked home.
   Fri., Nov. 23 – Walked to and from school. The sky is very dark and cloudy. Finished crocheting a doily this evening.
   Sat., Nov. 24 – Made Ma and myself a skirt (outing flannel) and did some other sewing. Pa was at Persons working on the mill. He went to the ferry to meet Frank but he did not come home. The roads are fierce.
   Sun., Nov. 25 – I attended both services today and played the organ. Anna and Lydia were at the Town Hall this morning. H. W. Long, Mark Huling, George Alt; and Rose Alt all visited with us this afternoon. Pa went to the ferry to get Frank but he had come on an earlier run and got a ride home with the Stamlers. Gert Carr and Hattie Dixon were at Church.
   Mon., Nov. 26 – Frank is 23 today. Pa got the piano tuner from the ferry when he took Frank down. It is raining very had. I have been busy writing my paper on Goldsmith. Anna is making Lydia a grey flannel dress.
   Tues., Nov. 27 – Walked to and from school. I made four pink safety pin holders.
   Wed., Nov. 28 – Last day of school this week. I went by the Stamlers afterwards. Ruth Swept for me today.
   Thurs., Nov. 29 – “Thanksgiving Day.” The weather is perfect. John was here for both dinner and supper. He collected this morning. Pa went up to Schaffer’s this afternoon to look at the windmill. We walked to H. W. Long’s this evening. The girls hid John’s buggy.
   Fri., Nov. 30 – Today was a day for sewing. Walked to the Town Hall this evening to attend the Literary Society meeting. My paper (on Goldsmith) was first. All passed off fine. There was a fair sized audience for the condition of the roads. It is also quite windy. Received a box of candy.

December (Saturday, December 22 missing)

   Sat., Dec. 1 – Went to Tonawanda and from there to Buffalo. Deposited $70 and did some Christmas shopping. Got Ma and Pa a lamp for the day; Lydia a locket; Anna, a thimble; Dorothy, a ring; John, a brush; Anna, a dress; etc., etc., I met Frank in buffalo and we went to supper at the Brunswick restaurant. Stayed all night at uncle George’s and attended the Quarterly Meeting. It is cool and very windy.
   Sun., Dec. 2 – Feel very tired. Got up a 8:30 a.m. and attended services at M. E. Church on Bird Avenue where I had communion. Had dinner at uncle Gorge’s and left for home about 3:30 p.m., arriving about 7 p.m. As it was very windy, I did not attend services at church, here. Eberling was on the Island and preached twice today.
   Mon., Dec. 3 – Snow is quite deep today so that Pa took us back and forth to school. I sewed this evening. The sleigh goes fine. There is a sharp wind.
   Tues., Dec. 4 – Pa took us to school this morning but I walked home. Sent a dresser scarf to Gusta Schutt. Received a letter from Mrs. Kenney in Valpo. I sewed a little. It snowed a little. Charles Long was here for supper.
   Wed., Dec. 5 – Gusta Schutt is to be married this evening. Pa took us to school. Sleighing quite good. There were 19 pupils present today. Pa got a good load of coal on the sleigh. 1,600 pounds for $3.75. I rode part way home with him. Helped Pa unload the coal. Mark Huling here for supper.
   Thurs., Dec. 6 – Very windy today. 15 pupils in school. It has begun to rain and is thawing fast. Pa took us to school this morning in the cutter but came for us in the buggy. I have finished a fancy pincushion.
   Fri., Dec. 7 – It is a very cold day. I walked to school this morning and had super with uncle Adam. I attended a business meeting at the Town Hall. Only Rothen, Mrs. Scheib, Margaret S., Fred Kaegebein and I were present. I stayed all night with Mrs. Scheib as she was alone.
   Sat., Dec. 8 – I got home about noon. Swept out the dining room, made a fancy apron and four handkerchiefs, mended coat, and lined a jewelry box. This evening I helped put up the stove in the sitting room and got in the coal. Received a letter form Gusta and Mrs. Dennie.
   Sun., Dec. 9 – I attended services this morning at the Town Hall and this evening at the Congregational Church. Anna was out to the Stoll’s for dinner and to H. W. Long’s for supper. Louisa Bartrum and Anna were here this afternoon. Frank came home this evening and attended church with us. The Schutts brought me a box of wedding eatables.
   Mon., Dec. 10 – Pa took us to school this morning and made the fire. He took Frank back this afternoon. There were 16 pupils in school in spite of the rain and sleet. Rode to Scheib’s with Pa this evening for rehearsal and a business meeting. The following officers were elected – C. F. Kaegebein, president; Carrie Schutt, secretary; and John Schutt, treasurer. People came to the rehearsal in sleighs. Got home after 11 o’clock. Had a letter from Miss Reid.
   Tues., Dec. 11 – Rode to school with Pa and got there about 8 a.m. Passed many people taking goods to town on sleighs. Pa is repairing Schrack’s mill on the mainland today. There were 17 in school today and it was pleasant. Rode home with Pa. Today is Mrs. Scheib’s birthday.
   Wed., Dec. 12 – Rode to school with Pa who is finishing up the work on the windmill at Schrack’s today. John called for me and took me with him while he collected on Love Road. The roads are covered with sleet and are quite slippery. There is not much snow. We went to rehearsal at Charles Kaegebein’s this evening. It is quite mile out. This is the first ride in John’s cutter I have had this year.
   Thurs., Dec. 13 – Walked to school today. Ma, Pa, Dorothy and Lydia went to Tonawanda. The weather became very foggy this afternoon. Got matting for back room, upstairs, at 25 cents per yd. I cut out a waist for Anna this evening. Dorothy got a new blue dress.
   Fri., Dec. 14 – There were 16 pupils present today. It froze hard last night and the roads are icy but there is not any snow to speak of. Wagons were mostly being used. Children are sliding on the creek. I walked to school. Hess was here for supper. I put down the matting in the south room upstairs.
   Sat., Dec. 15 – Uncle Adam fell from a load of hay and was injured. Cut out and partly made blue skirt for Dorothy. Pa went up with hay for which he received $35.72. I wrote to Frank this evening. Charles Long and Charles Kaegebein got piano for the Town Hall. It belongs to the church.
   Sun., Dec. 16 – Attended both services at the Town Hall. Esther came for dinner and we went down to practice with the children this afternoon. Frank and Mark Huling came up for supper. Frank and I had a good visit. The roads are frozen. Fred Long’s haystack burned this evening.
   Mon. Dec. 17 – Walked to school. Roads are frozen hard. Wrapped presents this evening.
   Tues., Dec. 18 – Walked to and from school. Margaret Stoll went home with me after school and after supper we went to Henry Ehde’s to practice. The building committee also met there. There was a large crowd. Coming home, we walked cross lots and it was icy and rough. Pa, Dorothy and I got home after 12 o’clock.
   Wed., Dec. 19 – Beautiful Day! I walked to school with Alt children. The roads are still quite rough. Mr. and Mrs. Rothen were here this evening. I made candy this evening but planned to retire early.
   Thurs., Dec. 20 – Walked to school and cleaned school today. Received a postal from Mrs. Dennie. Had 18 pupils present. This evening I wrapped more presents. Anna baked a cake. It is snowing.
   Fri., Dec. 21 – Pa went to Buffalo with butter and eggs. He got 35 cents a pound for the butter and 40 cents a dozen for eggs. Julia came back from Buffalo with him. Ma, Lydia, Ruth and I went to school and had a program. Mr. and Mrs. Scheib, Mr. and Mrs. John Mesmer, Mrs. Joe Mesmer, Mrs. B. Geschwender, and Mrs. Rothen were present for this festivity. All had a good time. I received 12 handkerchiefs. Called on uncle Adam and attended teacher’s meeting. I received $64. Had supper with Mrs. Scheib before going to rehearsal at Town Hall.
   Sun., Dec. 23 – It was very cold walking to church this morning. Pa went to the ferry for Frank this afternoon. George Alt was here. We did not go to church this evening as it is quite windy and cold. Understand only a few were there.
   Mon., Dec. 24 – Julia and I went to prepare things at the Hall. Mrs. Spohr and we were the only women there. Frank went back to Buffalo this afternoon. Pa took us to the hall in the evening. We had a good sized audience and all went well. We rode home with the Philip Alt’s. My class gave me a gold pin with my initials engraved on it. John gave me a muff. Carrie, a brush holder. Bertha, a diary, Esther, a cushion, Anna H., writing paper, and I also received a safety pin holder, some books, and $820 from the church.
   Tues., Dec. 25 – Pa and I went to church. John came home with us for dinner. Charles Long, Cyrena Kaiser, Gert and Ray Huling all came to visit this afternoon. Margaret and Albert, Allen Kaiser, Ed Pudvin and Carrie Schutt came this evening. We had music and played games. Had a standing luncheon. We went for a ride on this lovely night. Frank and Mark went to visit the Stoddards.
   Wed., Dec. 26 – Cleaned and aired skirts, washed and ironed collars. Attended a business meeting at church. Rothen is janitor. Building committee met here this evening.
   Thurs., Dec. 27 – Finished piecing my slumber robe. Had my hair washed. The girls went up to the store. I am reading “Lavender and Old Lace.”
   Fri., Dec. 28 – Sewed this morning for Ma. I cleaned the lower part of the china closet. Anna and Julia went along with Pa to George Dinsmore’s to get straw. Big John took all of the girls for a ride in his cutter this evening.
   Sat., Dec. 29 – Finished my plaid waist and did other odd jobs. Went with a sleigh load of our young people to School Number 5 for Christmas exercises. There was a good crowd and the children enjoyed it. Charles Kaegebein and H. W. Long’s teams were hitched to the sleighs. It is a mild evening and thawing. Pa got goal today on the sleigh.
   Sun., Dec. 30 – Attended morning service at the Town Hall. Anna, Julia, and I went to the Hulings after services. We spent a pleasant afternoon. Had a sleigh at noon but it thawed so hard we had to use the wagon by evening. Julia sang. It has begun to rain a little.
   Mon., Dec. 31 – I am reading “Tom Brown’s School Days.” Pa went to pick Frank up this afternoon and reports the roads are very bad. I have been getting boxes ready for the “social.” Frank took the girls and John came for me. The roads are fierce! It is raining. There were 13 girls at the social and $52 was raised from the sale of their boxes. Everyone had a nice time. Ed Pudvin, John and I were on the platform when the whistles blew at 12 o’clock.

The following list of students was published in the October 18, 1972 edition of the Island Dispatch along with the diary entries for October 1905:
No. 9 School
Grand Island, N. Y.
Pupil Roster – Year – 1905-06
Allen Kaiser (16)
John Mesmer (16)
Lydia Kaiser (15)
Anna Bartram (14)
Katherine Stamler (14)
Naomi Shafer (13)
Erdman Alt (13)
Herman Alt (10)
Rose Alt (9)
Elmer (7)
Ruth Kaiser (11)
Agnes Bartram (12)
Mary Mesmer (12)
Ruth Stamler (10)
George H. Stamler (9)
Aloysius Mesmer (9)
Leonard Geschwender (9)
Gertrude Stamler (7)
Francis Mesmer (?)
Maria Mesmer (?)
Johnnie Mesmer
Hellen Trautman
Ethel Trautman
Cleo Schieb
Donald Hess
   Editor's Note: Martha, 25 years old when she wrote this diary, was the oldest child of Henry and Josephine Kaiser. Her siblings and their ages in 1905 were Anna, 24; Frank, 22; Dora, 18; and Lydia, 15; according to the census that year. Martha, who married John Schutt Jr., was paid between $32 and $48 per month in the early 1900s.

Lewis F. Allen
Posted October 20, 2005

Taken from the pages of

"Island in Transition
Three Hundred Years of History
Grand Island - 1669-1935

a thesis by the late Barry C. Burnett - January 3, 1965


Lewis F. Allen            -            The Falconwood Club
(Lewis F. Allen) From a photograph taken in 1857 - Illustration source: "History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County."

Lewis F. Allen is a man well remembered in local history. Born New Year's Day 1800, his ninety years were filled with many and varied interests. In April of 1827, Allen and his bride, Margaret Cleveland, settled in Buffalo, as he had found employment as the secretary and financial manager of the Western Insurance Company. During his lifetime he was instrumental in founding many of the city's civic and social enterprises: the first Board of Health in 1832, the Buffalo City Cemetery now "Forest Lawn" in 1848 and the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society in 1862. Besides this, while carrying on a highly successful Insurance and Real Estate business, he found time to serve in the New York State legislature in 1836 and later in conjunction with his love of farming, he was elected president of the New York State Agricultural Society. It is in this area, agriculture, that Grand Island is chiefly interested in him. Allen loved nothing better than to be known simply as a farmer and was listed as such in the Buffalo City Directory for many years after his retirement in 1869.

The first agricultural society within the present county limits was formed in 1820. Since Erie County had not as yet been carved out of Niagara, the organization was known as the Niagara County Agricultural Society with Dr. Cyrenius Chapin as its president. However, the society met with indifferent success. Fairs were held at odd intervals, but were eventually given up due to lack of interest.

In 1831, the Buffalo Horticultural Society was formed with Lewis F. Allen as president. It was more or less a revival of the old society. That October a two-day fair was held on the old Court House grounds -- how the site of the new Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. The idea caught on and the Fair which Allen started has been held annually ever since. Allen remained as president of the organization until 1847. The following year he was elected President of the New York State Agricultural Society. It was not a surprising choice, Allen wrote a great deal for the agricultural papers and the Grange Judd Publishing Company, the best known nineteenth century publisher of Agricultural pamphlets and books. As early as 1834, Allen became interested in stock breeding. As the years went by, he began to pay special attention to the development of short horn Guernsey cattle keeping about 80 to 100 head at Allenton Farm, his 800-acre Grand Island estate. In 1846, he began the registration of this breed in his American Short Horn Herd Book, a work of great importance to breeders of that day. In all twenty-four volumes were compiled containing the pedigrees of over 125,000 cattle before Mr. Allen was forced to cease publication in 1883 due to his advancing age. During his lifetime, he compiled and edited a number of valuable books not only on the history, care, and selected breeding of the "Shorthorn" but also on farm management and agricultural architecture. His love of farming expressed itself in many ways. Buffalo, once famous for its shade trees, owes a great deal to Allen's interest in arboriculture. Streets such as Delaware, Elmwood and especially Niagara were planted with shade and ornamental trees as a result of his efforts and due to the interest his own zeal aroused in others of the day.

Allen's love of farming stemmed from and was lovingly expressed in the pride and care he gave to his "Island" property. In 1833, Allen acting as the agent for the East Boston Lumber Company, had bought 16000 acres on Grand Island for what was to become the "Whitehaven Sawmill." Later he reserved 800 acres for himself and Allenton Farm was developed. Originally covering the entire southern tip of Grand Island, Allen created one of the largest and finest farms in Western New York

At Allenton, peaches, pears, apples and grapes were introduced to Grand Island. Soon the techniques employed in their care and cultivation became of interest throughout West New York. Scientific farming was the watchword at Allenton. In the fifty years that Allen owned the property, many changes occurred. Not only did woodland and virgin soil give way to the plow and vine, but also Allen established Grand Island as a playground for the wealthy and social elite of Western New York. In the late fifties Allen subdivided the property and began construction of Falconwood. Accounts of the day call the structure the Allen Mansion but it emerged as a public resort. On Sunday, June 19, 1859, Allen opened the doors of his newly built resort "Falconwood." Named for the eagles and hawks which nested in the giant surrounding trees, it was to mark the first of many resorts and clubs built in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Allen, in picking a strip of land on the southwestern side of Beaver Island selected one of the most beautiful sites on Grand Island. It was hoped that Falconwood would prove to be a restful retreat for the businessman and his lady. It did.

One of the most handsome structures on the river, its design was of the "villa" order or what would later be known as "Queen Anne" for the lack of a better name. Built entirely of wood, it was a two-story building with steep gabled roofs. Facing the Niagara, its 100 foot length was covered by wide, flossy verandahs. The exterior was painted grayish drab, painted with a darker shade, with the long slant of the roofs a bright red. The front, facing the river, was dominated by a large heavily ornamented central projection almost Moorish in detail. From here, large double doors admitted guests to a broad vestibule and hall in which the great staircase could be seen leading to the second floor. This room, as were all the rooms on the main floor, was paneled in natural wood. The stain glass in the doors and the side windows were executed in shades of amber, brown, red and gold, thus lavishly accenting the natural tones of the wood. To the right of the vestibule was the parlor, 32 feet by 40; to the left the dining room of the same dimensions. Near the end of the central hall were doors leading to the public bathrooms, kitchens, and pantries.

The second floor was arranged so that coming off the stairs one found himself in another large central hall running the full length of the house. Outfitted as a second floor sitting room, its large crescent shaped windows looked out on the riverfront on one side and back to the Falconwood Park and forestlands on the other. Twin halls running parallel to the building's length ended in French doors leading to the second story verandahs. Off these halls the visitor would find his bedroom and bath of which there were twelve in all.

Besides these facilities, the clubhouse boasted one of the grandest bars in Western New York, a bowling alley, an assembly hall and numerous guest cottages separated from the main building. It is thought that the original cost of building and outfitting Falconwood was $13,000.

The resort enjoyed great popularity with the general public prior to and during the Civil War. It was the scene of many outings and family picnics. Each weekend found the establishment packed with crowds brought on such steamers as the "George O. Vail," "Cygnet," "Arrow," "River Queen," and "Fanny White."

An idea of Falconwood's popularity can be seen in an old advertisement taken from the Buffalo Morning Express: "On the following Labor Day weekend, the "River Queen" was scheduled to make three trips a day from her Amherst Street dock to the hotel and back at a cost of forty cents per round trip." This is not a bad record when we realize that Falconwood was still one of the few entertainment centers of importance on the Island and that the nation was busily engaged in a Civil War which was not conducive to such excursions.

These gay and happy crowds ended with the purchase of the resort by W. W. Wood for the "Falconwood House Company" in June 1865. Falconwood now began its greatest era. In the next thirty years it became the exclusive playground of the social elite. Emphasis was on quality and gracious living. It was a rich man's paradise.

Falconwood was imposing even by present day standards. At its heighth, it consisted of forty-five acres in grounds laid out in ornamental trees and flowers. The twelve foot veranda running the full length of the building provided an excellent view of the lawns and wharf which projected 110 feet into the river.

Essentially the house was a resort for the members of the club and their invited guests, offering room and accommodations for extended stays. During the latter part of the century, Falconwood included approximately seventy members, drawn from the leading families in the social life of Buffalo.

Many prominent businessmen made the club their chief resting place during the summer months enjoying the swimming, boating, and fishing which were said to be unexcelled. Each member was allowed two weeks at the club every summer, under the terms of the membership. Many, however, stayed on throughout the warm months. The club's private yacht carried these members to and from their businesses in Buffalo each day. For the most part, the week days were stag affairs. However, Falconwood always welcomed the wives and ladies of its members for the leisurely weekends. Its hospitalities were generously extended on many occasions. Notables from all over the world were entertained there at various times. Men such as John Duke, Lord Coloridge, the noted English barrister and judge, were brought to Falconwood during their stay in Buffalo, as it represented only the very best by Victorian standards. Near the turn of the century, Falconwood became the property of George B. Matthews of the Courier Express. Under his ownership the house continued to serve as a private club and estate to his family and friends until it was destroyed by fire in the twenties.

Fire was an ever-constant threat on the Island creating fear and dread for all who lived here. Once it broke out, little could be done. This situation becomes apparent when we read accounts like the following on the destruction of Falconwood, taken from an undated and unmarked newspaper clipping:
The operator at the Central Telephone Office received a call at one o'clock this morning from the Falconwood Club House stating that the house was on fire and asking if assistance could be rendered by the Buffalo Fire Department. Fire headquarters were communicated with but it was at once seen that any attempt to render assistance would be useless. The party at the clubhouse, receiving the answer, stated that he could send no more messages as the flames were upon him, adding that the whole house would doubtless burn. The cause of the fire was not "positively known" but is supposed to have originated from live coals placed in ashes in a barrel in the woodshed.

Little remains of Falconwood today. However, if you walk along the shore line to the southwestern limit of the Beaver Island State Park, you will discover an old stone retaining wall and just above a small circular plot of ground around which is a low and rusting chain. This is Matthews children's animal cemetery reflecting with grace the love and sentiment of a bygone age. Yes, nothing is left of Falconwood -- yet its name lingers on in the modern housing development which bears its name.

May C. Allen interview Jan. 21, 1963.
Harold Long interview January 30, 1963
Thomas' Buffalo City Directory, Buffalo, New York: Thomas, Howard & Johnson Publishers, 1869

May C. Allen's Scrapbook (Brown & Gold Binding) News clipping.
1947, History of Erie County Fair.
Buffalo Evening Times "Porter-Allen House," March 17, 1909
Grand Island Scrapbook Grosvenor Library, unmarked news clipping, page 14
Centennial, page 42
Buffalo Morning Express, September 3, 1964
First-hand knowledge, Barry C. Burnett

Editor's notes:
•   Author Barry C. Burnett - Grand Island, NY resident - graduate of Buffalo State College - B 1941-D 1995
•   Lewis F. Allen's son, W. Cleveland Allen, built an early American-style farmhouse around 1873. Used today as the Grand Island Historical Society headquarters, "River Lea" is located in Beaver Island State Park. For a feature River Lea, click "Lewis F. Allen/River Lea"

"Playday" on Grand Island Celebrates End Of WWII, V-J Day - August 1945
Posted August 18, 2005

By Teddy Linenfelser

Islanders board Seabreeze for Play Day excursion around Grand Island.
Click photos for larger view.

   Cy Gay, proprietor of the Bedell House in Ferry Village, first announced plans for a major Island picnic, "strictly a family affair," in a June 1945 issue of Ollie Howard's Island Dispatch, the Island's new newspaper, just a little over a year old and published every other week. The event was to be the Island's celebration of the end of World War II.
   Grand Island Play Day took place on Wednesday, August 22, 1945 and offered a ride on the Seabreeze, "loaded to the rails with ice cream, pop and peanuts for the children," with Capt. Frank F. Fix at the helm.
   Said to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, the Harvest Picnic, an old time community picnic flavor was assured. The committee, under the direction of Chairman John Gast, included Elsie E. Stamler, Mrs. Albert Prentice, Evelyn Rhodes, Alice Wolf, Supervisor Reginald P. Long and Ernest Godfrey. The Seabreeze left the Bedell House dock at 12:30 p.m. for its trip around the Island, arriving back at the dock at 4 p.m. The afternoon featured games for the kiddies such as a peanut scramble followed by a set of games with prizes for children of all ages. Jerry Mahnk and Albert Keppler won the egg throwing contest and the pie eating contest winners (14-16 age group) were Tim Sheehan, 1st; and Paul Stack and Kenneth Webb, tied for second place. Other winners included Cinderella Race – 1st Mary and Vernon Hanna and 2nd, Dorothy Lehane and Vincent Wolf; Nail Driving contest, 1st Dorothy Howard and 2nd, Anna Kneer; Men’s shoe race, 1st Vincent Wolf with Edward Ball 2nd and Charles Wiedemer 3rd; Oldest Married Couple, Martha and Peter Vanthoff; Prize Waltz, Bernie and Bill Dekdebrun; Tallest Lady over 50 years, Mrs. Alfred E. Yensan; Shortest man over 50 years, Eugene G. Bucher; Fox Trot, Oliver Howard and Naomi Loder
    A Basket Picnic took place from 6-7 p.m. at which time the Grand Island Volunteer Firemen’s Drum Corps played under the direction of Walter Markle. Supervisor Reg Long threw out the first ball to open the baseball game between the North and South sections of the Island. Co-captains of the North team were Jerry Bocksberger and Jimmy Cummings and co-captains for the South were Johnny Dollhausen and Dick Vampotic. George Whetzle, former semi-pro of Buffalo, served as the empire.
   Dancing in the evening was highlighted by a beauty contest judged by Ed Kruse, Bill Kaegebein, Frank Klocke, Ken Winters, Leon Peck, Ted Klingel, George White, Henry Metzler and John Schimmel.
   A girl by the name of Eileen Shanahan of Staley Road and Express Highway was named “Miss Grand Island of 1945.” In second place was Island native Lois Killian (Kaiser). The Island Dispatch column, "Across the Mahogany with Willie” included the following note: "All that fuss about the length of time of Miss Grand Island’s residence certainly didn’t help to weld relations between the so-called newcomers and the old timers." The newcomers were mostly Grandyle Villagers who moved to the Island just three years previous.
   Included in the Dispatch column, With Dottie on the Partyline, was this note: "‘Tis too bad the rules governing the Miss Grand Island contest weren’t clearer. It would have eliminated the possibility of a non-resident winning the title."
   Play Day also featured children's beauty contests. First and second place winners for girls 3 to 5 were Gale Klocke (Sander) and Judy Hanna (Hathaway), and for the boys 3-5 years, David Kean was 1st and Thomas Sheehan, 2nd.
   The Play Day trip around the Island was the last excursion for Capt. Fix, and also the first time in years his entire family rode on the boat, "which all adds up to an appropriate ending to a colorful career," the September 3, 1945 edition of the Island Dispatch reported. Sadly Capt. Fix died at the helm of the Seabreeze four days later.

Fancher Family - 1948-2005

(left) Donald Fancher, Donna Mae Fancher Carpenter, Hazel Fancher Rowe and Dayton Fancher (July 26, 2005).
Mary Stewart Photo - Click For Larger View

Fancher sign, 1971 - new greenhouse under construction, 1979 - Fancher truck

Early 1960s photo (left) Grandfather James Lunt, Hazel Fancher Rowe, Donald, Dayton and Art Fancher and Donna Mae Fancher Carpenter - Click Photo For Larger View

By Mary Stewart

   Many older Islanders remember Fancher's Greenhouse & Florist that was run by Art and Dorothy Fancher on Love Road west of Baseline Road where they and their family lived for many years. The Fanchers moved to Grand Island in 1948 and the business was formed shortly after that. All of the "kids" continue to reside here except for Donna Mae (Mrs. Tom Carpenter) who now lives in Orlando, Florida. She comes home for a couple weeks each summer to visit her family and friends.
   Even though the Fancher clan is now retired, they still keep active. Don, better known as "Bones," does woodworking projects and has been quite successful at arts and crafts shows all over the eastern New York area. Hazel (Rowe), a member of the River Lea Quilters Guild, is an avid quilter and enjoys playing bingo. Dayton runs a hot dog vending business in Niagara Falls. Art Fancher, the oldest, passed away in 1999.

Island's Original Bridges Are 70 Years Old This Week - 2005
Posted July 14, 2005

By Teddy Linenfelser

(Left) North Grand Island Bridge with the Niagara Falls terminal on the left. (Right) South Grand Island Bridge connecting to the Island at the lower right of the photo. The photos are part of a 1935 Grand Island bridges brochure of facts including the following: passenger cars 25 cents over two bridges; cost of bridges $3,500,000; length of bridges: north bridge 4000 feet; south bridge: 3400 feet.
   The Grand Island bridges opened to traffic 70 years ago, and according to the Grand Island Centennial booklet, printed in 1952, Grand Island's need for a bridge to and from the mainland was apparent as far back as 1819. It was sometime after that that ferry boat service began to operate and serve the people of the Island. The long struggle between then and 1935 when the north and south spans were finally completed, is well documented.
   "Town folk and their friends assembled on July 13, 1935 at the town hall where a long procession of automobiles formed." The Riverside Community Band, seated on two flat-bed trucks and under the direction of the late Bill Pinkow, led the procession toward the south bridge, and over to the Tonawandas and through Niagara Falls, then back to the Island over the north bridge to Edgewater Park on the east river shore.
   Speakers at the park included Town Supervisor John L. Mesmer, Arthur L. Swartz, Charles Freiberg, Reginald F. Long and Franklin St. John Sidway. Sidway paid tribute to William H. Conboy, a former supervisor who was unable to be present, as the man who worked unceasingly for 37 years to secure a bridge.
   A buffet supper was served to more than 2,000 people who attended the picnic in Edgewater Park. Pinkow's band played a concert in the afternoon and a dance band from the same group played for dancing in the evening.
   An official dedication by New York State Governor Herbert Lehman took place two days later, July 15, 1935.
   A second south bridge was completed in October 1962 and by January 1965, a fourth bridge opened next to the original north bridge.
   The late Bill Pinkow, who married the former Marion Alt, served many years as a music instructor in Island schools.
   The following additions to this feature were made on August 14, 2005.
   Evelyn and Carlton Alt, married June 28, 1935, decided to drive across the new south Grand Island Bridge for a visit to a photographer on Niagara Street, Buffalo. Evelyn said it was late in the afternoon and the workmen "moved a lot of equipment to allow us to pass." Elmer Long was best man and Lorna Alt was maid of honor and took the trip across the unfinished bridge. They returned via the ferry that brought them back to the Bedell House landing.
   The following was printed in a Buffalo, NY newspaper in 1935.
Wednesday at midnight the two bridges connecting Grand Island with Tonawanda and Niagara Falls will be opened for Fourth of July traffic and the dream of making the island a more integral part of the Niagara Frontier will have been realized.

Bedell House Saloon - Grand Island, New York - 2005
Posted June 30, 2005

By Teddy Linenfelser

Click photos for larger view

Loading dock for the ferries at the Bedell House, 1908. Promenade on right led from the ferry landing just south of the Bedell House to the Buffalo Launch Club. Click for larger view

Ice Fishing in front of the Bedell House, 1940s. Click for larger view

Down-river view of the Bedell House and the Orleans. Heavy river ice caused the ferry to crush the Bedell House pier and the building on March 22, 1955. For feature article and pictures of the Orleans incident, click "Orleans". Click photo for larger view

Scene from the 1960s. Click photos for larger view

Republican Supervisor Laverne "Bunny" Luther's re-election party in the fall of 1987. Click for larger view.

This barge was hung up on river ice in front of the Bedell House in Ferry Village during the winter of 1982. Motor Island is shown in the background.

The steamer "Ossian Bedell" - Click for larger view.

Charlotte Guenther Roesch

Bedell House Annex 1800s                            Bedell House Annex 1914

1960s                                                                          Summer of 1987/Jodi Robinson Photo
Click photos for larger view.

Painting by Gladys Martin - 1950s                           The Seabreeze                                                               The Clarence Fix

Prologue of Personal Memories

   My parents, Ted and Marion Klingel, were in the Bedell House annex in May 1945, the night victory was declared in Europe (VE Day) and we have a beer tray liner covered with the signatures of many familiar Island names to prove it. They were also in the Bedell House to celebrate VJ Day (Japan) and reminisced about "half the Island" being there that night.
   My own personal memories of being at the Bedell House start at about the age of 3 or 4 and being outside in Bedell Park at an Island picnic, possibly in 1945 - Grand Island Play Day - a celebration of the war being over. Another childhood memory is of playing the bass drum with the band as a 6th grader for a politician friend of our director, Bill Pinkow. From my perspective, everyone, except for the kids and adults in our band, was in a rowdy mood. At 11 years old, I couldn't even imaging having that much fun!
   My grown up memories are the best. They are of being excited at the prospects of a good time about to be had. I close my eyes and remember riding down Ferry Road with my boyfriend in his 1955 white Ford convertible and then we were there - looking for a place to park - walking in - let the party begin.
   We are riding toward the Bedell House, now married, looking forward to and having a grand time with our now married friends and relatives.
   Drifting through memories of living in Ferry Village, we are walking our baby in a buggy and stop by the old tavern where we meet Johnny Gast Sr. and several other old-timers. It's a hot summer day and that old screen door just keeps swinging open to let its guests in and out and banging shut. Listen! I can still hear it now.
    And I close my eyes and remember the bicycle built for two, our first joint purchase made as 17- and 18-year-olds, but this memory is later and that of our 8-month-old daughter and nearly two-year-old son in baby seats on each end of the bike. After stopping at the stand for hot dogs, we're inside the tavern where son, Jimmy Jr., meets Charlotte's granddaughter, Carol Eastman, and they play with the pool balls while we enjoy the company and a cold one on another Sunday afternoon.
   The expectation of the drive up to this grand old building nearly always matched our good times, be it summertime sing-along times, a Halloween party, a political fund raiser, or even the time we went up there to sit on the porch and talk over the possibility of buying our last boat. How could one not make a favorable decision about buying a boat while sitting on the Bedell House porch in June. We were there that final season of 1987, the year we bought our beloved Teddy Lee houseboat. We made our last run up the river in November and I can still hear "Tony" holler as we left the Bedell House that night, "You cooking your Thanksgiving turkey on that boat?" The Teddy Lee was to be docked at the East River State Dock for the summer of 1988, so much better than our first season in Tonawanda, and we were delighted, upon walking to the end of that pier to inspect the slip, to realize we could sit on the boat and watch for open dock space at the Bedell House. But that wasn't to be. We kept the boat for 17 years but the saloon burned before we ever got the Teddy Lee in the water that season. The Bedell House annex stood over 50 years longer than the Bedell House Hotel and we're thankful for the memories.

Ossian Bedell - 1877-1902

   The Bedell House Annex on East River Road in Ferry Village, Grand Island, New York was probably built and opened at the same time as the famous Bedell House Hotel, first opened to the public on May 1, 1877. Grand Island's most famous hotel and the annex, a huge tavern used when waiting for the ferries, was built by Ossian Bedell. He was born in Vermont in June 1832 and died at age 69. Ossian was educated in the "common" schools of Tonawanda, New York and the seminary at Lima, New York, according to Truman C. White's Our County and Its People - A Descriptive Work On Erie County, New York, Volume II.
   The following is from that same volume:
   "In 1840 he came with his parents to live on Grand Island, and at the age of eleven began driving mule team for his father on the canal and for nearly twenty years, followed the canal with his father and with boats of his own.
   "At twenty-one he owned a farm of his own and began farming, lumbering and boating wood on the Niagara River. In 1874 he was one of the leading men who organized a stock company and built the Buffalo and Grand Island Ferry, which was such a great improvement to the Island."
   Ossian Bedell, recognized leader of the Republican party served as supervisor of Grand Island in 1861-62. Rob Roy MacLeod wrote of Ossian Bedell in his Cinderella Island, ". . .a shrewd businessman, the Island's first postmaster and . . . the "Duke of Grand Island."
   In an 1899 edition of the "Buffalo Express," it was reported that, "The boat service to the Bedell House will be complete this year. The Silver Spray will leave the foot of Ferry Street, Buffalo on weekdays at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. On Sundays and holidays she will leave Ferry Street at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30, 4, 6:15 and 8 p.m. and Hertel Avenue fifteen minutes later. There will be good music at the Bedell House on Saturday nights, the last boat on Saturday nights leaving the Bedell House for Buffalo at 11 o'clock. All holidays will be observed by Duke Ossian (sic) and special preparations have been made for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July." The reference to the Bedell House could have been for the hotel or the annex.
   "Bedell's New Steamer" was the headline in the February 3, 1901 edition of either the Illustrated Buffalo Times or the Illustrated Buffalo Express (clipping cut off). According to the story, "A fine new steel steamer will be built by the Buffalo Dry-Dock Company." The price was to be $25,000 and the steamer, to be built for Ossian Bedell, would be 100 feet long, with a 29-foot beam and 9 feet depth of hold with a passenger capacity of 650. The boat's commission coincided with the opening of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo and service would include frequent runs to the Bedell House. At the time of the article, the Silver Spray was the boat of transportation between Buffalo and "Bedell House Landing." The Allenton, a steam yacht, also spent many years on the river bringing people from the mainland to the Bedell House Hotel. The Allenton was described as the fastest and safest in existence and was piloted by Capt. Sam Staley. Other ferries operating from the Bedell House in the early years were the Canadian, the Americana and, of course, the "Ossian Bedell," that made its first trip on May 20, 1900 (see photo above).

Capt. Frank F. Fix (1920s-1940s) - Grand Island Fix Brothers - Steamers

   Capt. Frank F. Fix, who played a large part in the history of the Bedell House Annex, was born in 1868 and moved to Grand Island at the age of five.
   Frank and his brother, Charles, bought the Bedell House Hotel and annex and all of the property around 1920. The brothers operated the Ft. Erie ferries and excursion boats, running trips around Grand Island in the Edgewater and the Seabreeze. Because of its location as a ferry landing on the Niagara River, the Bedell House Annex was a successful speakeasy during the Prohibition era. Liquor, brought across the river from Canada, was hidden in trucks and cars, loaded on the ferries and taken to the mainland.
   The Fix brothers, who, at one time had steamers leaving Amherst Street, Buffalo, always included a stop at the Bedell House. Frank had made 29 trips around the Island as late as 1945, but did so only because he owned the boats and docks. According to Frank, it was just a 'sideline' with him.
   Among the finest boats the Fix brothers operated were the Silver King which was their first boat and also the Clarence Fix (so named for Frank's son nicknamed "Paddy"), and the tug, Henry Koerber, which with the barge, Lottie Koerber, was involved in the Eagle Park disaster on the West River in 1912.
   The Seabreeze, launched in 1909 in a Niagara Street, Buffalo shipyard, and owned by Charles and Frank Fix, had an original capacity for 600 passengers, later lowered to 300 due to stricter maritime safety codes. The Seabreeze ran for several years between the foot of Ferry Street and the Bedell House and ended its career on regularly scheduled trips around Grand Island. The Fix Brothers sold it in 1947.
   Capt. Frank F. Fix died of a heart attack at the helm of the Seabreeze as it left the Amherst Street pier on a Sunday afternoon (August 26, 1945) for a pleasure cruise around the Island. He is buried in Whitehaven Cemetery. Most of the information on the Fix Brothers was printed in a 1951 Buffalo Evening News story (no author).

John P. Mayer Sr. - Clem Scheuerman

   John P. Mayer Sr. ran the Bedell House annex for a number of years. A photo above, circa 1914, includes his name on the Annex. This was a postcard with reference to the "Bedell House Landing," as it was known for many years before the bridges.

   Clem Scheuerman, who worked for Ossian Bedell for a time, eventually rented the Bedell House annex from the Grand Island Fix Brothers during the depression years, and operated it while living upstairs. He had also operated several similar establishments including one at Baseline and Love roads and another, now the East River Fishing Station near the site of the Bedell House.
   Excitement hit the quiet, little Ferry Village in February 1936. According to a newspaper article, "Mr. and Mrs. Clem Schuerman’s Ferry Annex (the Bedell House) was ransacked Monday morning (February 17, 1936). A large quantity of liquor, beer, cigars and cigarettes valued at between $40 and $60 was taken. Constable Lyle Finch rounded up the major portion of the loot under the Rose Cottage (still standing across from the Village Inn) and nearby hiding places.

Bridges Open - Bedell House Hotel Destroyed By Fire - 1935

Bedell House Hotel Fire - Click photos for larger view
   It was on June 30, 1935 that the famous Bedell House Hotel was destroyed by fire, leaving the annex to be known as "The Bedell House." Fortunately, it had not operated as a hotel in several years. The late Cy Diebold often reminisced about that morning when he was attending Mass at Mary Star of the Sea Church in Ferry Village and the "clang" sounded, notifying area residents of a fire. With no organized fire company, companies from the mainland drove over the new South Grand Island Bridge, not yet open to traffic, to offer assistance with the by then completely out of control fire.
   Cy Gay was the new manager in December 1944 and in 1945 Cy was still listed as manager with Maude Fix, the proprietor. In 1945 Jeannie Balas was running the bar on Sundays, along with Frank Klocke, pinch hitting as the singing waiter. Jeannie operated the Bedell House some time after that. Lou Meyer, took over in 1952. He ran and lost the 1954 election of Little Mayor of Ferry Village to Henry F. Mager (Mager's Grill, now the Village Inn).
   The popularity of the Bedell House Annex and Ferry Village was some what diminished with the opening of the Grand Island bridges in 1935 and the necessity of the ferry boat a thing of the past. However, people were still coming to the area to rent cottages in the late 1930s and 1940s. Ferry service was resumed for awhile in 1943. The 90-foot, steel tug, Clarence Fix, was eventually sold by the Fixes to a Philadelphia concern. It's been said that some of the boats lie in the graveyard off the Bedell House, including the Henry Koerber, the 20th Century, the Stanley, Franklin and Silver Spray. A few of these were salvaged for scrap during World War II.
   During the World War II pleasure ban on power boats the Mercury Power Boat Club sponsored a speed boat regatta at the Bedell House on Sunday, June 4, 1944 when racers included Islanders Paddy Fix, Dick Voight and Ollie Howard. The boat races continued every other Sunday off the Bedell House. Paddy Fix, owner of the Bedell House annex, took back the general operation of the place in October 1944.

Charlotte Sayles Guenther-Roesch - 1940s-2001

    Charlotte Sayles' involvement with the Bedell House dates back to the late 1930s or early 1940s. In 1945 Charlotte was referred to in the Island Dispatch as "the waitress with the flying feet at the Bedell House" who hoped to live on Grand Island some day. She married Anthony Guenther Sr., also employed there and they became Bedell House managers around 1962. Charlotte continued to work at the tavern while taking care of her sick husband. Maude Fix sold the five acres of valuable riverfront property, which included the tavern, the hot dog stand and other buildings, to the Guenthers in 1970 for about $60,000.
    With the war over, the Bedell House was being redecorated and the back room remodeled for dancing in 1948, and in 1949 the popular and newly added nightly bingo at Bedell House Park was drawing a crowd. Amusement rides known as "Grandyle Beach Rides" were added in Bedell Park and featured "kiddie" rides beginning with the Decoration Day weekend. The Bedell House was also advertising a dance hall that would bring back memories of the old days when the place was in its hey day. That new enterprise featured "Starlight Dancing" with well-known bands. According to an Island Dispatch report in June 1949, "Mike Meyer was doing a good job of dispensing 'giggle fluid' at the Bedell House bar. Some damsel told us that he was the best looking bartender on the Island."
   In September of that year boat races were held off the Bedell House to benefit boat racer Al Bingham who was seriously injured in the 1949 international regatta held at the Buffalo Launch Club.
   Halloween parties at the Bedell House remained popular throughout its history and in 1950 Carl Anderson, Marion Schnitter and Kenny Maurer were in a three-way tie for first place, best costumes.
   Horse-shoe matches became extremely popular at the Bedell House in 1951, especially the mixed doubles matches. It was in January 1951 that Dorothy Merrill (Lovelee) took the honors in a somewhat heated tournament. In March of that year, Charlotte Guenther (Roesch) and Jeannie Flynn won six straight games of horseshoes at the Bedell House.
   The Bedell House was under the new management of Louis P. Meyer in February 1952.
   Niagara River ice threatened the destruction of the Bedell House in 1955 when the "Orleans," moored at the Bedell House pier, was crushed against the building. Click "Orleans/Bedell House Feature" for separate story.
   Boat racing off the Bedell House became a reality again when the new Grand Island Boating Association held a regatta there in July 1959. Possibly the last of the annual inboard and outboard boat races, sponsored by the Island Boating Association, took place Sunday, August 12, 1962 off the Bedell House dock. Winners were Islanders Terry Pinzel in first, Jim Hartman in 2nd and Jerry Livingston in 3rd place in the BU (B Utility) event. Among other local racers were Dennis Yakam driving "The Menace" and Rollie Radder racing his "Red Fish."
   The Sidway School 9th grade graduating class of 1961 held a 20th reunion on August 22, 1981 . The place? The Bedell House, of course!
   Excitement was high in Ferry Village in the August 1983. Burglars who broke into the Bedell House about 6 p.m. Monday, August 22, 1983 were spotted by owner Charlotte Guenther as she made a routine check of the closed tavern. The burglars, upon seeing the arriving Sheriff's deputies, ran into the woods. Deputies pursued the thieves over fences and through heavily wooded property toward Beaver Island State Park during the two-hour chase. Village residents assisting in the capture by chasing the bandits on ATVs and cars, eventually cornered them. "Sheriffs Give Ferry Villagers High Praise" was the local weekly's headline.
   Many political rallies were held at the Bedell House and in its later years it also served the Democrats as their election results headquarters. County Executive Edward Rutkowski was an honored guest at a campaign rally for Supervisor LaVerne "Bunny" Luther (1983) when nearly 300 people came to the Bedell House to show support for Supervisor Luther's re-election bid and hear Don Burns at his ragtime piano.
   A mainstay behind the bar was Charlotte's son, Tony, who worked the crowd for about 10 years. The mother/son team was well-liked and knew just about everyone who came in the place. According to information in an article by Gazette staff writer Melody Cooke, the clientele was most often more off-Islanders than home town folks, proving the fact that from the time of transportation by ferry to the night the placed burned, people continued to cross the Niagara to get to this landmark fun spot, the Bedell House Saloon.
   The following was written by Gert Gay who lived in Ferry Village for many years:
   "Ossian Bedell built the annex (date unknown) for the 'working man.' The locals dubbed it 'the poor man's saloon.' There is no formal history of the building but from talking to old timers it must be one hundred years old or more. The 20-foot bar was built of solid Honduras mahogany and was often the subject of conversation especially with newcomers."

Fire Destroys Bedell House Saloon - 1988

   The Bedell House Saloon burned on March 28, 1988. It had been open that Palm Sunday evening, and the first alarm was sounded in the last remaining minutes of that day. The building, fully involved when Island firefighters arrived, was one of the worst fires fought by the then 50-year-old Grand Island Fire Company. Firemen were called back to the scene time and again Monday and Tuesday and remained on duty in crews all Tuesday night and Wednesday. Rekindling was due to the unusual structure of the century old building, constructed on pilings over the riverfront. This was the only fire involving the Bedell House annex, and estimated damage to the landmark was set at $200,000.
   Before the sad demise of the Bedell House Saloon, summer Sunday afternoons found many a boater out in the river waiting and watching for a spot to tie up at the Bedell House pier. The old hot dog stand is still there, just as it's been for about 125 years. After the landmark burned, Charlotte continued to run the hot dog stand and keep the memories alive until her death in July of 2001. That same "Village Hot Dog Stand" has been opened again by Barb Long Zafuto and her sister, Sharon Nichols, for the summer of 2005.
   After the fire destroyed the tavern, Charlotte's son, Tony, formed the Anchor Club, a private boating club on the property with headquarters in a building nearly as old as the Bedell House itself would have been. Like his mother, he passed away after a battle with cancer on October 30, 2003.
   The Bedell House was a very special and well-loved place throughout its history, a place that saw many bridal showers, a few weddings, political rallies, New Year's Eve parties, harvest picnics, church picnics and 50s dances. Music of every era filled the air, be it the small dance band of guys like Johnny Gast, or the piano players who so enjoyed playing to the Bedell House crowd. Ragtime and rhythm and blues never went out of style and some of the best was played by Vern McGynn (1950s), Charlie Westfield (1960s-70s), Don Burns (1960s-1980s), Steve Radecke (1970s), "Frankie G" Gulino (1970s-80s), Dennis Barster (1975-1990), Keith Manson (1980s), Bill Fenlon (1980s), a lady boat guide named Bea Roetzer and many more. When the piano was 'playin,' the crowd was singing and folks were adding their own accompaniment with the spoons, the devil's fiddle (a tambuorine contraption!) and the old washtub bass.
   The historic marker commemorating the original Bedell House Hotel (1877-1935) also points out the site was formerly the Island's main ferry landing, discontinued when the bridges were put into operation. Part of the ferry landing remained in front of Charlotte Roesch's Bedell House until it was demolished by ice floes in early spring around 1978.
   The Bedell House Saloon was a place that preserved the era of ferry boats, days gone by, and a million happy memories for many of us.

Additional photos and information may be added to this feature story as it is submitted.

Isle Taverns Of The Good Old Days, Grand Island, NY - 2005

Click photos for larger view
Del & Herb's Grand Island Grill, 1954 and (right) Brennan's, as in "Jon Brennan!"

Idle Hour Inn, burned May 2000         Turners Port Of Call, East River at Colony Road

The famous Bedell House annex, burned in 1988 - Village Inn, Ferry Village.

Volz Tavern                                 McNamee's Grill (Richard, Nemo, and Daniel J. McNamee) now known as San-Dee's Pub

Ceil & Chuck's back room looking toward the bar, 1974 and B.A.'s Saloon today

By Teddy Linenfelser - Posted May 19, 2005

In recognition of the month of May - National Tavern Month

   Taverns on Grand Island have been a booming business for as long as anyone can remember and have stayed in business in some cases for over 60 or 70 years, changing hands due to old age or illness for the most part.
   One of the oldest in town is the former Cathy & Jim's on Love and Baseline roads, originally built as Maccabees Hall, midway between Love and Staley roads before the turn of the century. The building, also known at that time as Amity Hall, belonged to members of the Maccabees, the Fraternal & Benevolent Policy Holders in the Maccabees Life Insurance of America, a farmers' alliance of insurance which was started on the Island around 1890.
   Eventually the building was moved closer to Love Road by the New York Central Railway and again, to its present location and opened as a restaurant in May of 1936 by Clement Scheuerman. Clem previously operated another Island tavern, which eventually became Davern's Tavern (now the Niagara River Station Fishing Club) on the East River in Ferry Village. It was Scheuerman who added the porches to the east and south sides of his new place.
   The longtime favorite eating place, has had a total of four owners in its 69-year history including Siegried (Ziggy) Gromm (and his wife, Lucky), Del and Herb Haller and present owner, Ilona Lang. The Haller twins purchased the restaurant and opened it as Del & Herb's Grand Island Grill in 1947. The brothers expanded the dining facilities including the addition of a private banquet room, and were followed in the business first by Del's son, Del Jr., and later by David and Margaret Ann Haller, son and daughter-in-law of Del Haller Sr.
   The first-rate eatery with the horseshoe-shaped bar, owned by Mrs. Lang since 1993, closed in 2003, and was opened as Brennan's Restaurant under the partnership of Lisa Duchscherer and Jon Brennan in August 2004. Food is of excellent quality and the Sunday brunch, a bargain at $9.95, offers a buffet of fresh fruit, pastries, salad and fruit juices accompanying entrees running from eggs benedict to grilled salmon. (Editor's Note: Brennan's closed in June 2005)
   Sand-Dee's Pub at Elmwood and Ferry roads has been a favorite "watering hole" for over 75 years. The present owners, Sandy and Dave Dee, assumed ownership in 1987 and added horseshoe pits and an outdoor patio. Originally owned by a woman named Belle Johnson, the property, including this vacant building, was purchased by Albert "Nemo" McNamee during prohibition in 1928. Nemo, father of the late Richard and Daniel J. McNamee, ran it as a speakeasy and sold "booze" to the local clientele until prohibition was repealed. It was at that time that he added to the building, piece by piece, and established McNamee's Inn, drawing a good crowd of folks from on and off the Island. This was when off-Islanders gladly traveled here by ferry boat.
   Marge Lyden, whose daughter eventually married Nemo's son, Dick, ran the business until his sons returned to the Island after World War II in 1945 and took over the operation. The spot was renamed the East River Grill and operated by Chris Sorensen in 1944 and back in the hands of Dan McNamee in 1945-46. In the spring of 1947 Josephine "Josie" and Charlie Dauscher were at the helm and in 1948 the place looked like new again when new owners Eleanor and John Sugier gave the place a coat of white paint with red trim.
   Charlie Ahr bought the property in 1965 and ran the place until he died. Even the non-bar hoppers couldn't resist stopping in to see the "300 pound go-go dancer," highly advertised by Charlie in the late 1960s.
   Sand-Dee's, where live bands have been featured in the past, has a large following of regulars throughout the year along with a constant influx of visitors both young and old.
   The Village Inn on Ferry Road, not far from the East River and owned and operated by Mike Carr since 1988, is one of, if not the most popular restaurant on the Island. Bar keep Dave Dulak has been a big part of the atmosphere almost from the beginning.
   Johnny Mayer acquired what had been the Ira Johnson home, enlarged the front and opened it as a tavern the night the Bedell House Hotel burned down and just prior to the opening of the Grand Island bridges in 1935. To accommodate its popularity, he built the porch on the east side the following year. Johnny, who ran the place until he died in 1953, was the son of John P. Mayer who formerly ran the Bedell House annex, a locally famous tavern, and a story in itself*.
   Henry and Helen Mager took over, installed central heating and eventually sold it in 1962 to Marge and Ray Lippens. Marge continued to run "Lippens Grill" for about 25 years. The old, round "Bevador" beer cooler still stands in the corner of the Village Inn's bar area where beverages are kept cold just as they were when Ferry Village was in its heyday. And patrons keep coming back to this charmer which really hasn't changed very much through its four owners over the past 70 years.
   Turner's Port of Call overlooking the East River at Colony Road, was purchased by familiar boat racing enthusiast Thomas G. Turner and has been owned by the Turner family since December 1965 when the place was named Turner's Riverview Inn. It is quite probable that the property was originally the site of a tavern/restaurant called Volz's run by John Volz (not to be confused with William Voetsch of Edgewater Park fame) and referred to as a summer resort around the turn of the century.
   Joe Martene operated the present building from 1918-1941. It was "Joe" who added the verandah and a boat house in 1936. Martene's father and grandfather operated an ice house on the same property. Helen and Frank Bailey then ran it as Hunter's Restaurant in 1944. Jean and Stan Kreher took it on in the spring of '45 naming it Kreher's Restaurant followed by the Elsaessers (Nell and Neil Benner Elsaesser) in 1948. Thelma and Bob "Bud" Zurbrick had it from 1954 to 1963 and then, for a short time, it was called Gatke's Riverview Inn until Tommy Turner purchased it, and eventually changed the name to Turner's First Turn Inn.
   Now known as Turner's Port of Call, this summer place with docking facilities, a huge outdoor patio overlooking the river, and famous for its steak sandwiches, is run by the late Tom Turner's son, Don.
   Glen F. Simons owned the property which was the site of the former Idle Hour Inn, last known as D. J. Waterworks and located just north of the south Grand Island Bridge. Originally a farm house, it is believed to have been built by a man named Fremont H. Simons who came to the Island with his parents in 1863. The acreage on Lot 32 was known as The Glen, as shown on a 1909 map of the Island. The Fremont Simons farm was north of Brighton Beach (Map 1893) and in the immediate area of School House #1.
   Johnny Roach was the well-liked operator of the place in the 1930s and 40s when new Grandyle Village residents found it and Ziggy's at Love and Baseline much to their liking during World War II when gas was rationed and a walk to the tavern and back was not unheard of.
   Early in its history as a restaurant/tavern it was referred to as the Idle Hour Inn, named after a steamer built in Buffalo in 1893 and measuring 140x32x10. The Idle Hour plowed the river from Buffalo to Electric Beach (approximately 2328 East River Road) on the east side of the Island. At one time a painting of the steamer (circa 1894 by artist "Rudolph") could be seen inside the restaurant.
   In 1945 Peter and Lillian Carpenter and Lil's father, John B. Heusinger, took it over and it continued to be a very popular eating and drinking establishment. The Carpenters enlarged the place by adding a kitchen and a room on the back, but purchasing the property at that time was nearly impossible, perhaps due to the fact that the site was part of many acres of land owned by the New York Central Railroad who would not subdivide.
   Marty and Jo Schwagler operated this eatery with the long bar from 1950 to 1954, followed by Bowman Otto. It was referred to as Bo's or Bo Otto's Idle Hour Inn for at least a decade. Jim Donlon's Idle Hour Inn was being advertised in the local weekly paper in the summer of 1960.
   The Idle Hour had numerous owners/proprietors and names over the following years, including "Brothers" (Jim and Mike Malaney), River Vista (Ed Lewis, 1978), the Shipwreck & Cargo Company (Chris and Louie DePerro, 1980), River Port Inn (1982), and lastly D. J. Waterworks, so named by John Smith, who opened for business in the mid 1980s. The building was closed for business when it was destroyed by fire in May 2000.
   A grand opening of Ceil and Andy's Restaurant, originally a perfectly round building on East River at Colony Road, took place in the spring of 1948. Ceil and Andy Alt built the spot with the lumber from the dismantled School #5, the second school by that number located at Bush and Baseline roads. Andy built the place with the help of his brother-in-law, Fred Group. Oldtimers will remember Evelyn "Evie" Rankin, Andy Alt's sister, who was the main cook for many years.Ceil's son, Chuck Carter, became partners with his mother after Andy's death, and the "round house" was then known as Ceil and Chuck's.
   When first sold, around 1977, it was known as Von's, followed by Z's Island Inn and as of May 25, 1984, it became B.A.'s Saloon, owned and operated by Billy Aydelotte.
   New kid on the block is the Brick Oven, formerly St. Angelos, and featuring a long bar in its lounge, new decor throughout as well as an outdoor patio. Judging from all reports, this is where adults of all ages are stopping by after a meeting or off-Island entertainment, meeting friends, or just hoping to meet someone new. Brick Oven is located at the south end of the Grand Island Blvd. plaza and serves a good breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room.
   The popularity of taverns has changed over the years. The days of tying one on in the local saloon only to end up in the ditch are behind us. Tough enforcement of laws and changing social attitudes have placed designated drivers behind the wheel in most cases, and cocktailing where driving is involved has been minimized, and for many, has come to a screeching halt.
   With record players somewhat of a rarity in private homes during the 1930-40s, jukeboxes were a great source of entertainment to the patrons of these friendly meeting places, along with indoor and outdoor horseshoe pits, shuffle boards and eventually pinball machines. The biggest drawing card in 1948 was the television and the first taverns to have this miracle of miracles were Roy Trautman's place (Isle Inn) on Baseline and Staley roads and Kreher's - now Turner's. The Isle Inn was destroyed by fire March 19, 1968.
   Entertainment in these same places today includes pool tables, video games, Quick Draw, dart boards, as well as the proverbial jukebox filled with CDs instead of 78 rpm records and, of course, big screen television.
   The patronage of the Island's establishments, which also include T.C.s Lounge (Chris Stedman), the Pepper Mill (Larry Braddell), and Town Cafe (Leonard Alessi), all on Grand Island Boulevard, is certainly not what it had been before the smoking ban and the popularity of certain places has changed. For one thing, the percentage of those who just stop by for a few cocktails or an evening at the bar is much smaller. However, the local "taverns" are still in business and most seem to be keeping pace, especially at this time of year. A good spring and summer weatherwise is always good for business. Cheers!
*Bedell House Hotel and Annex story coming soon!

Pfc. Luther Remembered On 35th Anniversary Of His Death
- May 2005

By Teddy Linenfelser

Photos of Pfc. Luther were taken in Vietnam. Lower right is Bob's Grand Island High School senior picture taken from the GIHS Venture 1966 yearbook.
Be sure to click photos for a larger view.

   Pfc. Robert B. Luther is being remembered this week by all who knew him. May 10th will mark the 35th anniversary of his death on Mother's Day, 1970.
   Bobby, the only son of Shirley and LaVerne "Bunny" Luther, was 21 years old when he was killed at Khe Go Bridge, Vietnam. The second oldest of the Luthers' four children, he was inducted into the Army on June 21, 1969 and had been in Vietnam for six months.
   A graphic report in the Buffalo Evening News gave details of Bobby's unit, First Battalion, 5th Mechanized Infantry Division, that broke out from a 43-day siege at Base Fuller - a mountaintop camp they called "Hell," exhausted and weary and fleeing with the enemy in pursuit. The story claimed, "but the agony of their hell pursued them down the mountain. In the Americans' five-mile dash in 90-degree heat, the North Vietnamese enemy continued firing mortars at them."
   "About 100 yards from the trucks waiting to take them to the rear, a helicopter riddled with bullets from enemy ground fire, crashed among them, killing all six Americans on board and Pfc. Luther on the ground . . ."
   The News story quoted an Infantryman: "Every place you walked, mortars had landed. Every morning you woke up wondering if you'd live until night."
   Mrs. Luther, who worked at the Grand Island High School at the time, took the News clipping about her son's unit to school on Tuesday, May 12, 1970. The article mentioned her son's unit and Shirley wanted to call her co-workers' attention to the dramatic withdrawal.
    Later that morning, she was notified that Bob was killed in action in Vietnam on Sunday, the day of the escape.
   The Defense Department informed the Luthers that their son, Robert B. Luther, died at the Khe Go Bridge when he was struck by a falling aircraft.
   Awards presented posthumously to the Luthers by the Army were the Bronze Star Medal of Meritorious Service, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnamese Service Medal, the Vietnamese Campaign Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge.
   Bunny, who passed away in 1999, and Shirley filled the years since Bobby's death with a strong faith and commitment to their church, total community involvement and, of course, family gatherings with their three daughters, their families, and many friends.
   Memories of Bobby's days as a young boy growing up on Grand Island, his enthusiasm for Little League Baseball and his successes in the new high school's sports program as a member of the wrestling team and championship football and baseball teams have not dimmed. The photograph with this article appears in the Venture '66 yearbook, the year he graduated with the first class at Grand Island High School.
   Bob also graduated from Erie County Technical Institute and worked for the Town of Grand Island in the engineering department. He was also employed by the architectural firm of Pfohl, Roberts & Biggie before entering the service.
   Grand Island is forever proud of Bobby and the three other Island boys, Richard B. Trotter, Joseph Muench, Philip C. Taylor and Joseph L. Huillier, who fought and died over there.
   For those too young to remember, there were no parades for the American soldiers who did come home from Vietnam, and few, if any pats on the back for their heroism. There was nothing.
   An Island native, Shirley married Bunny in 1946. Bunny served the town of Grand Island as Councilman for four years and town supervisor for a total of five terms and Shirley was employed as the Island's school district clerk for 28 years. Their daughters, Nancy Sandford, Carol Dunworth and Gail Click and their families are also Island residents.
   Click "A Comrade's Memory"

Memories Of That Daily Trip Off the Island To High School
Posted April 14, 2005

By Teddy Linenfelser

   Education on Grand Island, NY began in the early 1800s when a church/school was built for the Sawmill Settlement at Whitehaven, now the site of the Holiday Inn. Before the Charlotte Sidway Central School was opened in 1937, one-room schools were built from time to time with as many as 11 being used at one point. After grade school, students took a ferry across the east Niagara River in order to attend high school. Eventually a school bus was driven onto a scow and ferried to the other side of the river.
   Once the bridges opened in 1935, a school bus transported children directly to the city high schools in Buffalo and Tonawanda. This was the norm from 1935 until June 1965 when the last group of high school seniors from Grand Island graduated from various off-Island public high schools which included Riverside and Kenmore East High School. Grand Island Jr. Sr. High School opened in September 1963 to 7th through 10th graders, the 10th grade becoming the first graduating class in 1966.
   My own memories of high school off the Island are of getting on the bus on Love Road, riding to Sidway School and getting on one of two buses going to Riverside High School. Martha Clark and John Wagner were our drivers. I can still clearly hear Martha's gravely but friendly voice. John was very serious and cranky, to say the least. We got to school very early and hung out in the basement cafeteria for at least an hour before classes began.
   Some time between 1958 and 1960, one of our two buses, with a full load of students, headed over the bridge and down Niagara Street during a snowstorm. The bus kept getting stuck, and the boys kept getting out and pushing it out of the snow and the driver just kept driving, only to arrive at RHS to be told that all Buffalo public schools were closed.
   I found it slightly exciting to be in the city and was always glad to get back home on the Island. I did stay after school for variety show rehearsals but I can't remember any other activities. My dad would pick me up in front of the school or I would walk with other Island friends to Niagara Street where we could get the Niagara Transit bus. I graduated from RHS in 1960.
   In response to my request for memories of off-island high school days, several writers mentioned the store across from Riverside High. It was owned and operated by Norene Willard and her husband in the 1950s and 1960s, maybe earlier. The Riverside Review published a letter in 1963 by Mrs. Willard commending the well mannered Grand Island students attending Riverside High School who came into her store on Ontario Street across from the school every morning. She said they were a credit to Grand Island and that she was overwhelmed by the card with $11.40 in it she received with the following note: "Dearest Norene and family: This is just a token of our thanks. You've been very patient and truly wonderful to let us Island kids fill your store to the brim every morning. We all appreciate it very much. We all love you. Signed: The Island Kids."
   Here are my readers' memories:
Kathy (Williams) Davis, Kenmore East High School graduate, Class of '65 writes:
When I was in Kenmore East High School, I was dating someone from the Island who ended up going to Riverside High School. We had long bus rides as we all remember, and we used to change buses at Sidway in the morning and then go on to our respective high schools. During this morning change of buses was the only time we Islanders got to see each other if we went to different high schools. As all high school slackers remember, there were days when you embellished how sick you were in order to have a day at home. I remember many times when I told my mother I was sick, and sometimes I really was, and was planning on a day off at home, only to jump out of bed at the last minute when it sunk in that I'd miss the only opportunity I'd have that day to see the guy I was dating. One time I even hobbled down the driveway on crutches (no small feat because I lived in Beaver Island State Park, and my drive way was about 1/4 mile long) after I had sprained my ankle badly the day before. Of course, after I got to Sidway, and saw my boyfriend for those few minutes, I called my mom and said I had to come home after all, because it was just too bad!! Funny how I remember a lot about junior high (Sidway School), but not that much about high school. Mostly what I remember are long, lonely bus rides and being at a really big high school where I was basically invisible.
Cathy (Haller) Contino and I were best friends in Junior High and we still talk several times a year and have enjoyed seeing each other and old friends at the Sidway reunions.

Pam Ball Fries, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '65 writes:
I am pretty sure that Mr. Harper (Paul) was our bus driver to Riverside. Our route was on River Road, where it turns to Niagara Street, right to Ontario Street (once or twice he took a different route, which I don't think he was supposed to do). We got dropped off in front of the school, where most of the kids went right across the street to the neighborhood store to spend their lunch money on cigarettes and candy for the day - and to smoke.....I wish I could remember the name of the couple that owned the store - we all knew them by name back then, since we were probably their biggest source of business in the morning !!! We thought they were an older couple, but then, we were kids, so everyone was older...... If you were from the Island, you seldom had to stay after school because transportation was an issue - once the bus left, you would be stuck - not many students drove then, let alone to school. Contrary to what some people may think, it was a great experience to be able to go to school off the Island and meet a lot of new people. It was almost the best of both worlds, because we pretty much knew everyone in our age group, even those a year or so younger, because we had gone to school with them for so long, so this was a whole new world to us. Also - we never had to take "pool," since it was a freshman class, and we all arrived there as sophomores......so that was cool......

Peggy McNulty, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '64 writes:
Johnny Stamler drove our bus. He was the greatest. He retired after our class. We took up a collection and bought him a leather wallet from AM&A's. Johnny also had the Staley Rd. run and he would stop at the creek in front of Liesenfelds', if one of us kids spotted the Great Blue Herons. That seemed to be a favorite spot for them. Other drivers I remember are Tommy Benton who also drove but I do not know if he did the off Island trips and Julie Snyder.

Ellen Blakelock Martin, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '65 writes:
We graduated, Pam (Ball), Fran (Kelley), and me from Riverside in 1965. John Stamler was our first driver, then Paul Harper Sr. There were two buses. We used to have to walk to Kaegebein, stand around, catch the bus, then on to Sidway and catch another bus to Riverside. We would go down River Road in Buffalo until Ontario Street. We had to catch our buses pretty early to get there on time. Same thing on the way home. we would usually get home around 4 p.m. If you stayed after or missed the bus, you either walked home, caught a Niagara Transit or had a parent pick you up. NO LATE BUSES. I did not like that school.

Caryl Denler Kershner, Mt. St. Mary's Academy graduate, Class of '65 writes:
I remember how difficult it was to be taken away from your childhood friends and bused to a different location with all new students. I went to Mt. St. Mary's Academy with a small group of Islanders, including Mary Linenfelser, Chris Gavin, Gail Fries, Chris Less, Susan Maffei, Eileen Malaney, Susan Meyer, Mary Schieve and Donna Vanderbles. I hope I've remembered everyone. Of course there were many upper classmen who also rode the bus with us. We usually had a very good time riding back and forth every day, but it did get in the way of getting involved with many after-school activities at school as you would have to arrange other transportation (until you were old enough to drive). Of course all of my friends were bused as well to a variety of schools and lost touch with each other over the years. That's why the Sidway reunions have been so wonderful. A wonderful opportunity for all of us "Islanders" to reconnect after all these years.

Cathy Haller Contino, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '65 writes:
I went to Riverside High School, because that is where Mom went. As it turns out I should have gone to Kenmore East or West since I was the only college bound student in my group from Grand Island, all the others went to East or West! I don't remember much about the bus, except there was only one pickup at the end of the day, so we couldn't stay after school for any activities. The Riverside students called us the "farmers" as the bus unloaded. I always say we were the first bussing program of the 60's! I got a used car for my 16th birthday (May '63 - Elsie Stamlers old 57 Chevy). Don't I wish I had it now! I don't remember if I drove every day, or just the days I had after school activities. Junior year, I started a twirling group, to twirl at football games, so I'm sure I drove in the fall, but I don't recall any driving in the snow storms. I think I usually drove Danny Mulvena and possibly a few others whose names are lost to me. That sophomore year was very difficult - they didn't accept us much and it was very hard to break into their cliques. But it got better the last two years. I met my best friend, Linda Urso, that first year and we have remained good friends all these years.

Jerry Thomas, Tonawanda High School graduate Class of '53 writes:
I was bussed off the Island from 1949 to 1953 to attend Tonawanda High School. When we stayed later for sports practice after the bus had gone, we "hitchhiked" home. A friend of mine had a motor bike I used occasionally. We got used to it.

Richard "Shorty" Vanthoff, Tonawanda High School graduate, Class of '57 writes:
I don't remember much about the bus because Lyle Dinsmore, Don Webb and I used to go with Lyle in his Plymouth coupe we called "skunk" because it was painted black and white. Also we used to skip school at least two times a week. Once the troopers stopped us and escorted us back to school. The school had a absentee list and they always had our name in a separate space on the bottom because they knew we weren't sick.

Marianne Shear Tranter, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '60 writes:
My memories were not of the positive nature, but here they are. I went to Riverside High, the same as you, from Sept. 1957 to June 1960. I remember that I had to be at the bus stop at 7 a.m. to be driven to Riverside High and we Islanders had to sit in the cafeteria for over an hour before school started. It had something to do with Tonawanda High being on double session. Then after school when all the Riverside kids were walking home and going to the local soda shop on Ontario Street, we were again boarding the bus. My bus ride home took over an hour. I was the last student to be dropped off. Needless to say, whenever I could get a ride to school, by car, I was happy.

JoAnn Radius Vanderheite, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '60 writes:
   It is a hoot to remember the bus ride to Riverside and you probably remember the same things that I do. One that especially strikes me is that it confined most of us without transportation to coming and going instead of being able to stay late for activities and clubs and social events. I always felt a little cut off from the Riverside kids because of that.
   My funniest memories are of Martha Clark, our outspoken bus driver who infamously sideswiped a parked car on the left turn from Ontario Street into Tonawanda Street (right in front of Riverside Men's Shop) and kept going! The funniest was the time she put Ben Titus off the bus on River Road for trying to jump out the back door and told him to walk home! She also made some pretty executive decisions on where to let us off the bus when she had other things to do, like the corner of Fix and Baseline and told us to walk the rest of the way. I hope you remember her for this kind of stuff too, even though it may be unprintable, it still makes me laugh. I guess our mothers weren't litigious like mothers today! I have another memory of John Wagner, who was our bus driver for a while. He always stopped on Bush Road to watch deer at the crack of dawn...... with almost no heat in that bus, it seemed like forever till he got going again.

Harvey and Cathy (Killian) Long, Tonawanda High School graduates, Class of '40 write:
   Both Harvey and I attended Tonawanda High School from 1936 to 1940. We were picked up in front of our houses by the school bus, our driver being Tommy Benton for the full four years. What a great guy he was too. All the young people thought he was great. If we wanted to participate in any other school activities we would have to find our own transportation.
   Both of our older brothers were not picked up by the bus. They would walk from the lower ferry landing to school and that was a long walk. We lived where the Holiday Inn is so my brothers were right there; Harvey's brothers would drive to our place and park their car there and then walk to the ferry and school. What a nice idea to have this story.

Sally (Swalm) Hansen, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '57 writes:
   I remember taking the bus to Riverside High School after graduating from grade 9 at Charlotte Sidway in 1954. As I recall, Penny (Millicent) Ball and I repeated our obnoxious Valedictorian/Salutatorian routine at Riverside in 1957 and the "Grand Island Girls" weren't the most popular. I remember that I didn't make the cheerleading team. It didn't help that it was hard to participate in after-school activities because of the bus schedule back to Grand Island. When I didn't catch the regular Grand Island bus, I had to walk from the end of the Grand Island Bridge, where the "regular" city bus dropped me, to my home on East Park Road. No problem in summer, but I sure didn't enjoy it in the winter.
   I will never forget one day after school when the bus made a sudden unscheduled stop on River Road. I looked out the window, and was horrified to see that we had stopped because of a terrible accident involving a convertible that had driven under the back of a very large tractor-trailer. It took me a long time to relax on that bus ride home.
   Bet I still have my RHS yearbook somewhere! I only tossed my high school ring away a few years ago, and still have a pin.

Wayne Baumler, Bishop Duffy graduate, Class of '61 writes:
I went to Bishop Duffy in Niagara Falls from 1957 to 1961. There was no bus service to get to Duffy but we were able to carpool in the mornings with the Moms who had cars taking turns (not all families had more than one car back then.) After school, we would have to walk from Duffy to the public bus stop at the base of the Island bridge on the Niagara Falls side (about a mile) and catch a public bus which would drop us off at the corner of the Express Highway and Long Road (I-190 had not been built then). Sometimes we’d ride to the Plaza at Express Highway and Baseline. Then we’d call one of our mothers from a public phone, let the phone ring twice and hang up which was the signal to come pick us up. We had to go to Sidway School to get our book of bus passes each month. If the weather was nice, lots of times we’d walk home from the bus stop which was at least a couple miles (down Long Road to Baseline to Huth Road to Wallace Drive to East River Road for me). There were plenty of opportunities to throw rocks, run through the woods and, generally, get in trouble with our Moms. Back in those days, Sidway went through 9th grade but Duffy started in 9th grade so you didn’t “Graduate” from Sidway if you went to a Catholic high school in the area (Duffy, Canisius, St. Joes and Mount Saint Mary’s).

Gary Corbett, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '60 writes:
I graduated with you from Sidway in '57. Graduated from Riverside in 60. I rode the bus everyday until I was thrown off for being a disruptive rider. I am living in Whitney, Texas now, retired last year from General Motors. Married over 40 years to a wonderful lady, Linda. I would enjoy hearing from you. Is that reunion still held every July? We keep talking about attending it.

Don Tranter, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '61 writes:
I was a 1961 graduate of R.H.S as well. There are a lot of things I remember but I was just reminiscing last week with Norm Facklam who was in town for his brother's funeral. We both remembered how when we stayed after to run track we had to get home anyway possible since there weren't any late buses. We used to walk down to the corner of Ontario and Niagara and usually we would hitch a ride with someone who was a regular commuter at the time. We both thought how it was fine then but you would be asking for trouble if you did that in this day and age!

Bernie Glor Pagliaro, Tonawanda High School graduate, Class of '57 writes:
I graduated from Sidway in 1954 and Tonawanda High School in 1957. It seems to me that Mr. Fred Miller was one of our bus drivers (but I don't know if that was just to Charlotte Sidway or also to THS). He used to raise chickens in the building next to where the gift store is on the Express Highway. My Mom cleaned chickens for him at night for many years (our cats sure ate well with all the giblets she brought home). Dave Dusenbury and Jack Hawley worked for him then, too. ( Mr. Fred Miller was the bus driver. The gift store is Kelly's Country Store.)
   If we wanted to stay for sports, theatre, band practice or after school events, there was no bus, so our parents had to come pick us up. Fortunately my Dad worked at Dupont in the Falls and often had to swing through Tonawanda to pick us up. The last year when I was a senior, the school got so crowded, we had double sessions, so I was home by 1 p.m. That was great! The downside of going off the Island for high school was that some of our good/best friends went other places - Penny Ball and Sally Swalm went to Riverside so we didn't stay as close.
   I gave the Salutatorian speech at our graduation, and the only things I remember about that night are getting photos taken at home in the front yard before hand, and the fun party afterwards. I don't even remember where graduation was held or getting my diploma! Talk about the shock of stress --- or whatever!

Bil Loth, Buffalo Tech graduate, Class of '57 writes:
I went to Buffalo Tech. Walked over to the highway and caught, I think, the Niagara Bus Line to Buffalo. Got off at the Hilton Hotel and walked to the school. Graduated in 1957. Now live near London. Memorable element of bus commute to Buffalo was that Bill Vanthoff was a driver and, as you will remember, also our scoutmaster. Bill would always stop a little longer if he saw you running to catch the bus.

Paula Bell Nakayama, Kenmore East High School graduate, Class of 1965 writes:
I can't remember the name of our bus driver! I was one of the last to be picked up as he had already done the East River Road kids, turned left onto Ransom and got me. Not many of us on Ransom at that time. Johnny Young would save me a seat. We'd get to Sidway and he would go into school and I had to grab another bus for Kenmore East. I don't remember that route at all! I do remember the day Kennedy died. I was in English class with Mrs. Calandra and the PA buzzed and then gave us the message that the President had been shot. We filed onto that bus in total silence and rode home that way. That was on a Friday and my family watched the television all weekend. Sorry I can't remember more details but it's hard to remember what I ate yesterday!

Phil Killian, Tonawanda High School graduate, Class of '45 writes:
I attended Tonawanda High School from September of 1941 to June of 1945 when I graduated. The majority of Sidway graduates went to Tonawanda although some attended Riverside, Niagara Falls, Trott Vocational, LaSalle, etc. I used to get picked up on the smaller of the district's school buses and dropped off at the Grand Island Bus Lines station near the South Bridge. The larger bus picked a group of us up there and took us to Tonawanda. Two of the drivers I remember were "Ed" Alt (who was my uncle) and Mrs. Ken (Laura) Winters (the only woman driver back in those days).
    When we used to get off the bus, the kids from Tonawanda would holler "here comes the farmers from Grand Island." It was just good natured fun and we got along well for the most part. The biggest downside was the problem we had if we wanted to participate in after school activities. I can remember hitch-hiking down River Road and over the bridge to home.
   One spring day, someone got the bright idea to wind the windows down, unscrew the handles and throw them out the window. The screwdriver was being passed up and down the aisle to accomplish the deed. When the bus picked us up that afternoon, everyone was surprised that nothing was said by the bus driver. When we got to the bottom of the bridge we didn't stop to let the kids off who lived on Love Road and East Park as was the normal procedure - he just drove right on through and didn't make any stops until we got back to Sidway School. By then we knew something was up. When we pulled into the school driveway, an Erie County Sheriff's car was parked there. We were all told to proceed into the school and assemble in the auditorium. They split us up in groups and questioned us about the caper that had been pulled off. They finally had six or seven boys who confessed. Luckily I wasn't one of those involved as I knew there would be some bad repercussions. The ones involved were barred from using the bus for the rest of the school year. They got a lot of exercise walking and hitch-hiking back and forth. Often in our trips to school in the morning, we would pass several of them walking down Military Road.
   For the most part those years were pleasant memories and we had a lot of fun on the bus.

Bertha T. von Craigh, Tonawanda High School graduate, Class of '57 writes:
I live near Molalla, OR, south of Portland about 30 miles. I lived on Staley Road about ½ mile from West River Road. Went to Charlotte Sidway and graduated there in ’54. Was bussed then to Tonawanda High School from during sophomore and junior year; my senior year I had my ’50 Chevy 2 door coupe…as we were on ‘double’ session at the time, I went to classes in the a.m. and worked at McBride Veterinary in the afternoon. Had to be off the road by sundown, until I turned 18! As for bus drivers…I don’t remember names anymore, but one fellow was president of the Chamber of Commerce at the time as I know I baby sat for his children. (Chamber of Commerce President Fred Miller).
   During my sophomore and junior years I was unable to attend the high school events as I had no transportation for after the buses concluded their runs. I didn’t get to a football game until my senior year.

Frederick (Fred) Schutt, Tonawanda High School graduate Class of '58 writes:
I lived at 1541 Bedell Road and graduated 1958 and 1/2! I went to Tonawanda Kibler High School. I worked on the Schutt farm on Stony Point and Bedell Roads and rode the bus to school and back except for my senior year 1958 and a half year after to make up classes I failed. I don't remember the specific bus drivers, but I do remember some of the Island drivers, Miller, Trautman, Wagner and Benton. My dad, Carl Schutt, drove also. We had a corner Deli store next to the school, where I went for lunch sometimes but almost always stopped when school let out to buy doughnuts or candy.
   My locker was on the third floor at one end, my classes were everywhere but near it, so I had to really move to make my next class if I needed materials from the locker.
   In my senior year, Tonawanda's football rivalry was North Tonawanda and we had a big game and we lost! The North Tonawanda school seniors got the day off for winning and they came in their cars and circled the school. As they drove through the back alley honking horns and shouting, we prepared a little toast to them. We bombed their cars with water balloons and in several cases they were convertibles with their tops down!
   Us Islanders had a special recognition since we rode buses, and most of us were spoken of as "the Islanders." One thing we did have over the locals there was the camaraderie amongst the riders on the bus. We had friends we only saw going to and coming from school and it was a pleasure to have the time while traveling to visit and get to know each other. Some of my most enjoyable friends came from those trips, and I was one of the last passengers to get off the bus because it was near the end of the route. In the morning I was one of the last to get on because we were headed to Sidway School parking lot to exchange buses.
   Oh, another thing! Back then we completed 9th grade at Sidway and then only had three years of busing to Tonawanda. We entered that school as a sophomore. Thanks for the chance to reminisce.

Judy DiTullio Penque, St. Mary's High School writes:
I remember wanting to go to Tonawanda HS or Riverside HS but my Dad insisted that I attend the all girl's St. Mary's High School in Niagara Falls. This later became Madonna and then was merged with the all boys Bishop Duffy High School. I wouldn't have minded going to the co-ed school! I did meet some fun girls and we managed to have fun despite the nuns!

Mary Ann Kruse-Arsenault, Tonawanda High School, Class of 1952 writes:
I'm now living in Tucson, Arizona. Since that was sooooo long ago, do not remember much except that there were only about three buses for the whole Island. Mine covered Staley Road and several others including Love (for Arvilla Webb, the Andersons, Carl Mote from West River, etc.) I remember that some years it came past our house and others I walked to Baseline (John Flemings) to catch the bus. It was always great to get to John's house since his mom was my Godmother and the house was always cozy, warmed by a wood burning stove in the kitchen. It usually smelled great too, since back then parents always made breakfast!! Some years, we were picked up around 6:30 a.m. since school started around 8:30. So, if you were first on the bus, you really got moving early in the morning. School was out about 2:30 p.m. and I think pickup was around 3 p.m. so that we had time for some after school events. I even think that there was a late bus for some of the athletes.
   I was one of the lucky ones since my father worked in Tonawanda, I could usually stay after school for fun & events and still have a ride home. It was a long walk. However, 50 years ago, hitchhiking was much safer. Most of the time someone from the Island saw you walking and stopped to pick you up. And you never worried or gave it a second thought! Boy have things changed.

Wanda (Sugier) Fortini, Tonawanda High School graduate, Class of '55 writes:
I hated to have to take the bus to Tonawanda High School. It wasn't a very long trip in the morning, but you couldn't be involved in any after school activities because the bus left about 15 minutes after school let out.
   It wasn't bad being picked up in the morning. The bus driver would toot the horn as he passed our bar the first time. This warned me I'd better be ready in about four minutes. Lee (MacDonald) Stevens and I would most times get off the bus on the way home right at the Grand Island South Bridge. If we didn't get a ride from some Islander (we most often did), and didn't call my Dad from Ceil and Andy's, it would take us an hour to walk home. If we walked all the way, we would meet the school bus coming to Ferry Village to drop the kids off. Lee and I graduated in 1955.
   I now live in San Diego, California and Lee lives in Idaho (40 miles from the Canadian border). My husband was transferred to California by Taber Instrument (Tonawanda) and we've been here ever since 1968.
Wanda's reference to "our bar" is the tavern her parents owned at Elmwood and Ferry roads, now known as San-Dee's Pub.

Mike O'Dea, Seneca Vocational High School graduate, Class of '65 writes:
The first year (1961 as I had to start in the 9th grade at Seneca) we road the Grand Island Transit to Delavan and Niagara Streets. Then took the NFT up Delavan to the school. Had to hitchhike up East River and Staley to the highway to catch the GIT (Grand Island Transit). The GI school board gave us GIT tickets and NFT passes. After the first year, the school district provided school buses. I caught the regular bus at the house and than changed to our "Buffalo" bus at Sidway. Mrs. Snyder was the driver and it was half the length of a normal bus. Guys that want to Burgard, McKinley, and Hutch Tech were also on the bus. I found it was faster to hitchhike into the city and take the Delavan bus. There was always someone coming down East River Road who was heading up Niagara St (like Cy Diebold). Also, I could hitchhike over to Margie Stambaugh's house and see her in the morning and catch her bus up to Sidway. After a while they wouldn't let me switch buses like that as the bus drivers got worried about who was on what bus. When I graduated in '65 they were not letting anyone go off the Island after that I think because of the new school. Hitchhiking was the means of travel back then on the Island. Everyone picked you up. The last time I did it in the US was in 1969 when I came home from Vietnam. After that it was not too safe.

Penny Ball, Riverside High School graduate, Class of '57 writes:
   We rode the public bus that ran from Niagara Falls to Buffalo for our first 2 years at Riverside, because there were only about 8 GI students attending Riverside. The tuition was slightly higher than Tonawanda, so our parents had to pay the difference. Peggy Webster, Sally Swalm, and I were living in Grandyle Village. We had to walk to the highway to catch the bus, unless we were lucky enough to be able to ride in with Sally's father. But we always had to walk home from the highway. We just dressed warm in the winter and counted that as our daily exercise. I remember catching grasshoppers on the walk home when that was our biology assignment, and reviewing our Latin vocabulary list while we rode the bus in the morning.
   By our senior year, we had to go on the orange school bus because then GI made Riverside an official option; thus they had more students and it was less expensive for them to run the school bus. That did indeed make it awkward to participate in any after-school activities.

Gail Burgstahler Rothenberg, Tonawanda High School graduate, Class of '56 writes:
My bus memories include finding a ride home if I stayed late at THS but we had a very kind neighbor on Sunset Dr. who worked at Remington Rand and would drive me home many days. And I had to walk to Bedell Road every morning. No fun in the winter. And, I met Doug at THS and what a good thing that was. We’ve been married for 47 years.

Kathy Butler Treadwell, Kenmore East High School graduate, Class of '65 writes:
I graduated in 1965. I don't even remember that ceremony at Kenmore East, but I do remember going to Karen Beck's Dad's restaurant across the river and not being able to have a drink because I'd not brought a purse to the ceremony. The drinking age was still 18 and this was the first time after my birthday that I'd been to dinner with my parents at a fancy restaurant without my three siblings. I was rather disappointed, but Dad just called Mr. Beck over and that problem was fixed immediately!

Shirley Kreger Luther, Tonawanda High School graduate, Class of '42 writes:
Grand Island students were bused off the Island for high school. My 8th grade class from Sidway had 15 students (the previous class had 12). Some went to Tonawanda (I did) and others to Riverside. We were lost in the big school but soon made friends. Tom Benton and Ed Alt were the bus drivers and let us know who was in charge. I can still see the bus, backed into the high school parking lot, and Mr. Alt yelling at us to hurry up or we'd miss the bus ride home. If we were involved in sports or clubs after school, we had to find our own way home. My Dad worked at Frontier Oil Co. and would often pick me up. But sometimes I stayed over night at my girlfriends' homes. In the morning we walked to school from their homes. On the weekends, we always walked to basketball/football games, and later, walked to the Tonawanda ice cream parlors for the wonderful sundaes. Parents didn't drive us everywhere.

"Henry Landel's last trip on the shuttle bus in 1953 - Click photo for larger view
Henry Landel originally owned his own bus and before the bridges opened in 1935, he picked up students around the Island and drove them to the lower ferry (near the Holiday Inn property). They rode the ferry to Tonawanda, walked to Tonawanda High School, and were met at the ferry landing after school to be returned to their homes. High school students from the head of the Island would ride the ferry from Ferry Village to Buffalo, walk to Riverside High School or take a Buffalo street car to other schools. The school district eventually acquired a bus to transport the high schoolers to Tonawanda High School on the mainland. Tom Benton Sr. was its first driver. At that time Mr. Landel drove the shuttle bus and would pick up young people around the Island, transporting them to the "highway" to meet Mr. Benton's bus or the commercial bus to Buffalo.

The School District's three bus drivers who also served as custodians when Sidway School opened in February 1937 were (left) Tom Benton Sr., Clarence Schutt, and Henry Landel (right). Heber Ashley (2nd from right) was chairman of transportation. - Click photo for larger view (Elsie Stamler collection)

This February 1937 photo was taken as the buses lined up on the south end of Sidway School - probably on the day it opened for the first time. - Click photo for larger view (Elsie Stamler collection)

Historical Society At River Lea Preserves Isle History

Posted April 7, 2005

Various views of River Lea photographed around 1950. The well shown was at the edge of the property between River Lea and Marble Hall.

Marble Hall which was in the area of River Lea, and shown above (left), was demolished by the State of New York to make room for the Beaver Island Golf Course. On the right is a side view of River Lea as it looks today.
By Teddy Linenfelser
Town Historian

   The Grand Island Historical Society has come a long way since its inception in 1962. It all began when Town Historian Marion E. Klingel wrote and published an editorial in the February 8, 1962 edition of the Island Dispatch promoting the idea of the formation of an historical society on Grand Island. Supervisor George L. Thorne followed up by calling a meeting of interested Island residents and the Society became a reality.
   River Lea, an early American-style farmhouse, was built around 1849 by Lewis F. Allen. When the State of New York proposed to tear down River Lea in Beaver Island State Park to make way for an 18-hole golf course, members of the Society got busy. They held a meeting on March 4, 1965 in River Lea shortly after the Niagara Frontier State Parks Commission agreed to turn it over to the Society and a contract for use of the landmark had been signed.
   Beginning almost immediately, Historical Society members in 1965 such as Marion Young, Eugenia Plewinski, Mary Downs, Sharon and Bruce Nichols, Barry Burnett, Clinton and Lillian Burnett, Karl and Kay Long, Hazel Link, Robert and Dorothy Weisbeck, William Callahan, and Harold Long, spent numerous hours painting, refurbishing the interior, fixing up the gardens overrun with weeds and acquiring donations and precious Island memorabilia as well as furniture and clothing of days gone by.
   In a letter from Society Vice President Harold L. Long dated August 3, 1965 and sent to the Niagara Frontier State Parks Commission, he stated, "The Society promises to maintain and open the front part of the building, a portion frequently visited by Grover Cleveland, in the interest of all citizens of New York State."
   "We are confident that sufficient funds will be available for the above project," Mr. Long added.
   Lewis F. Allen, acting as an agent for the East Boston Company in 1833, bought 16,000 acres on Grand Island for what was to become "Whitehaven Sawmill." He later acquired an 800-acre parcel of land for himself and Allenton Farm was developed. The area originally covered the entire southern tip of Grand Island and was known as one of the largest and finest farms in Western New York. It was Allen who built "Falconwood" as a public resort that opened for the first time in June 1859 on the West River near the southern tip of the Island. He built River Lea as a summer home and later presented it to his son, W. Cleveland Allen, as a wedding gift. The younger Allen served as postmaster of Grand Island when it was first established on October 9, 1877. The typical Victorian farmhouse was most often visited by the leading figures of that time, including Lewis F. Allen's nephew, Grover Cleveland.
   The Allens sold the property in 1887 to a syndicate and it was then rented to the James W. Tillinghast family who eventually purchased it in 1899. Because of the riverfront being almost entirely marshland, Tillinghast had sand dredged from the river, filled in about ten acres, and erected one of the largest boathouses on the Grand Island shores.
   Zora and Edward Hussey bought the property in 1908. The farmhouse was damaged by fire in 1934 at which time Mrs. Hussey removed the porches and remodeled the interior, dividing the house cross-wise into two duplex apartments.
   Shortly after Mrs. Hussey's death in 1957, the State of New York announced plans to enlarge Beaver Island State Park and it was at that time that the state acquired the house and land by eminent domain.
   Today River Lea is a beautifully furnished museum dedicated to Grand Island's rich history and to Grover Cleveland who most certainly paid many visits to Allenton Farm as the nephew of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis F. Allen.
   Among its many treasures are an extensive collection of vintage clothing, Indian arrowheads, photographs, and antique kitchen and farm implements.
   The Historical Society holds annual spring bus tours for all Island 4th graders. The students and their teachers have the opportunity to view historic landmarks across the Island while a Society docent describes what they are seeing. At the same time, they also visit River Lea where they can inspect all of the rooms and listen to the docents explain details of historic artifacts, pictures, clothing and more.
   The Society also hosts a Victorian Tea in the spring, open houses on the third Sunday of April, May, September, October and November and Christmas open houses in December which often feature vintage fashion shows. Society members also offer the Christmas luncheon/program events in December.
   Historical Society program meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month from March through November. Dates, programs and the location of the meetings, held most often at River Lea, are listed in the Calendar of Events at Isledegrande.com.
   Through the years, newer members have enthusiastically joined in the never ending task of working together for the benefit of the Grand Island Historical Society. Membership to the Society is $10 per year and those interested in joining may contact membership chairman Marcia Traun, 773-9235, or attend the next meeting and fill out a membership application.

Yesterday's Winters - March 1955
Ice Causes Ferry, "Orleans," To Crush Bedell House Pier -
Heavily Damages Landmark Tavern
By Teddy Linenfelser

Island resident and photographer Wendell Stratton snapped this on March 23, 1955.

This AP Wirephoto describes the March 23, 1955 photo: "the abandoned ferryboat "Orleans"
is pushed broadside into a Niagara River restaurant today after gale winds forced Lake Erie ice into
the river and the resulting jam sent river waters over the banks."
Click photos for larger view.

Photo courtesy of Roy Russell, Buffalo News Yesterdays feature
Click photos for larger view.

This photo from the Elsie Stamler collection is a seldom seen, down-river view of the Bedell House and the Orleans.
Click photos for larger view.

This 1930s photo, with the International Railroad Bridge in the background, shows the Orleans caught in an ice jam. Thirteen passengers, with the aid of little life boats were rescued. The Orleans was heading down river, toward the Island. Buffalo is on the left and Fort Erie is on the right.

Orleans on the East Niagara on a better day
Be sure to click photos for a larger view.

The Orleans with the Peace Bridge in the background.

   Island residents, many armed with cameras, took off for the Bedell House on March 22, 1955 and just after to see the damage done by the Orleans, moored at that pier and pushed up against the 1870s landmark tavern in Ferry Village.
   Clarence (Patty) Fix owned the Bedell House, the "Orleans," and the Fix Bros. Towing Company at that time.
   The following was published in March 24, 1955 edition of the Island Dispatch:
   "High winds, that tore down light and telephone cables, and ice, broke the old ferry, "The Orleans," from its moorings at the Bedell House in Ferry Village. The huge boat and the ice crashed against the dock and smashed a 50-foot section from the Bedell House’s open dining room, dance floor and veranda. The section with the bar is over land so remained intact. In fact, Lou Meyer’s business thrived as people came to view the damage done. The boat and the ice are packed solid against the building. The extent of damage cannot be determined until the ice is gone, Mr. Meyer said. The dock at Benns’ Restaurant was completely lost and it is reported that water and ice fill the room on the river side. At the Buffalo Launch Club Steward H. Simpson reported that their dock was badly damaged."
(Benns' Restaurant, formerly Davern's Tavern, is now the Niagara River Station Fishing Club.)
   Ferries were used to travel to and from Grand Island until 1935 when the single-span, north and south Grand Island bridges were completed. The ferries continued to be used for several years for pleasure rides on the Niagara River.
   The steamer, Orleans, suffered considerable damage in January 1936 when it collided with the International Railroad Bridge. Its pilot house and chimney were sheared off and its starboard crushed in. A lifeboat also was torn loose from its davits by the collision while another was hurled across the top deck by the impact. Torn free by the crash, the pilot house landed in the river.
   Click Buffalo Evening News Report for further coverage of the incident.

Feature Stories - 2004
Features - Volume 1

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