Pumpkin Time On Grand Island - 2004
Matthew Madigan of East River Road admires his Dad's giant pumpkin.
Click photo for larger view September 30, 2004 . . .I’m so glad that Leslie and Mike Madigan moved next door. Not only are they good neighbors, but Mike grows giant pumpkins. He has a garden that I can see from my front porch, and it’s fun to watch the pumpkins emerge from the foliage as they grow. He has other veggies as well, but it is the pumpkins that I (and the deer) like to see. The weather has not been good for gardens this year, so Mike’s pumpkins are not as large as last year’s crop. He did have one surprise, though: two beautiful, orange pumpkins, not the usual pale yellow shade.
My own pumpkin crop was a total failure. I started with three plants and three pumpkins. The deer got one, some bugs ate the second, and at the last minute, some critter took a chunk out of the third. At one point this summer, my garden was really flooded, so it’s a wonder that anything grew. I did have onions and a few tomatoes, but the green peppers were a flop as well. The most I can say is that my zinnia patch looks great.
It’s that time of year, and I needed pumpkins to decorate my porch, so into town I went. The Grand Island Garden Center has a great display, with hay bales ($4.50), pumpkins (29 cents a pound), gourds (50 cents and less), Indian corn, and corn stalks. They had beautiful purple asters and winter survivor pansies. On my way to Tops I checked the fruit stand across the street, but it was not open yet. They had hay bales, and maybe pumpkins under the canvas, but I can’t say for sure. Some years there is a home in Sandy Beach that has a yard full of pumpkins for sale, but I haven’t heard anything yet.
My next stop was Tops, because they had an intriguing add: ANY SIZE pumpkin for $3.95! I got there early and picked out the three biggest. They were heavy, so someone had to help me load them. When I got home, I wasn’t sure how to get them out of my car, when the highway crew came along. They saw I was having trouble and offered to help. They unloaded them for me in minutes. Good folks we have working here on Grand Island.
I had one last stop before heading home: the Dollar Tree. If you are planning a Hallowe’en party or need stuff for your kids, this is the place. They have beautiful paper goods, all kinds of masks, even furry ones, decorations, tumblers, balloons, candy, party favors and spooky socks. (I bought two pair for myself.) I didn’t check the other dollar stores, but they probably have similar stuff. It all goes to show you that if you want anything for Hallowe’en and fall, it’s all right here on Grand Island.
"Harry Hodson and Ruth Stahl at the Beach House for a favorite fish fry." This story was first published in 1988 in BUFFALO SPREE. It appears again in memory of my dear brother Harry, who died yesterday. September 11, 2004 . . .My brother Harry was ten years old in 1935 and had just learned to use a hammer and saw. We lived in a “handyman’s special” and Pop was doing extensive remodeling, tearing down walls and replacing concrete footings. During that long, dry summer we did not have TV nor was there much entertainment for kids on the radio. Since scrap lumber was in good supply and the creek was close by, Harry decided to build a boat. It was little more than a box about five feet long and two feet wide. It was slanted in the bow and had one board across for the seat. Like our house, it was made of wood of varying thicknesses. Solid and strong.
When the boat was finished, Harry and I struggled and heaved and got it safely lodged on top of his sturdy wagon. My job was to make sure it didn’t fall off. We pulled it down the street and about a quarter mile down the highway to a point where the road crossed the creek. Getting it off the wagon was easier than getting it on, and we were able to slide the boat down the bank to a spot where the water was deep enough to float a boat. Finally the moment for launching had arrived. Hanging on to a pole meant for propelling the boat, Harry placed one foot in the boat and prepared to lift the other. He was not quick enough, and so was dunked in the creek. Soaking wet, he finally boarded his custom-made vessel, only to have it slowly sink beneath him. It was a bitter disappointment.
Harry refused to leave his boat behind, and there was no way we could drag that heavy hulk, now thoroughly saturated, up the bank and on to the wagon. I ran all the way home to fetch our father. He came at once and helped us get the boat home. For a while it sat undisturbed in the yard, out of respect for all it represented. But eventually Pop had a handy receptacle for mixing cement and Harry went on to build other projects. For the rest of his life he continued to recycle, repair and reinvent, becoming adept at restoring broken items and making something out of nothing. He loved to tinker and helped me with many projects. He was not rich and famous, but he was a very good man. I will miss him.
Morgan’s Apple Tree - 2004
(left) The old well in the front yard is now capped. Lois Morgan checks out the old apple tree. The upper and lower porches ready for fresh paint. Click photos for a larger view. August 26, 2004 . . .If I were a kid again, I’d like nothing better than to hang out in Lois Morgan’s old apple tree. It is a wonderful living tree with a hollowed out trunk just big enough for a small person to fit inside. The tree itself has a major side branch that bears fruit and is very healthy. Lois told me, “That tree was the dame way 60 years ago when I first came here, and it hasn’t died yet. It produces good yellow apples, too.”
We had an interesting walk around the property located on East River Road north of Kirkwood Drive. Lois told me that the house was built in 1825 when the Morgan family, George and Henry, moved here from Canada via Rochester. They originally came from Ireland. The farm reached all the way down to Kirkwood, and some distance in the other direction. A large woods was in the back lot. There was a huge barn, which eventually collapsed in an ice storm. A new building stands there now. Ice was cut from the creek at Kirkwood and stored in the icehouse, which had a pigpen under it! There was a brooder house and a milk house, which is still partly visible.
We walked down to the river to examine another old tree---a willow that is falling apart but still growing in the water. There is a concrete sea wall down there to stop erosion and, on the other side of it, a tiny little beach. Lois’ son has planted flowers everywhere and the place is like a park. We checked out the old well, now capped, in front of the house, but still with the old pump standing. Flowers grow around it.
The house itself has a beautiful central staircase and four bedrooms upstairs. There were five but one was converted to a bathroom a long time ago. The original owners had eight children to fill those bedrooms. Lois told me there were lots of big closets, unusual for such an old house. There are many doors, too, all with porcelain door knobs. As seen in the photo above, the house is being painted. You can see the upper and lower porches and the new posts recently installed.
When Dick Morgan was living he always had a vegetable stand at the end of his driveway. It was a popular spot and if folks didn’t stop, they always waved. More than one person has told me how much they miss that vegetable stand. Lois Morgan is a good caretaker for this Island landmark and many Islanders use it as a point of reference in giving directions. Maybe you could rent space in her old apple tree!
Update On The Outhouse - 2004 Click photo for larger view August 19, 2004 . . .It was quite a while back that I struck a deal with Andy Dannels: his outhouse for my dollar. It was my responsibility to move it a short distance down East River Road and I wasn’t sure it would stand the strain. Andy has lived in his house for 44 years and the outhouse was there when he bought the place from Fred Hendler. When I saw it, it was sunk into the ground a bit and the door hinge was loose, but it looked pretty good. It was being used for miscellaneous storage. I wanted it for a potting shed. (I had just read “Garden Junk” by Mary Randolph Carter.)
Although the building was a two-seater, it was small, 50” x 55”, 7 feet high in front, sloping to 6 feet at the back. The heavily tarpapered roof was probably the best part of the building. Round holes were cut into each side to let in light and air (especially air!). Two original paper holders are rusty but still in place. Soon after, Bill Wilson and his son Dave drove up in their big dump truck, with my outhouse on board. They backed into the waterfront area and just slid that little treasure right off. Half of the seat fell out but we were going to remove that anyway. They discovered that the bottom framework was rotten, so the building turned out about a foot shorter. It didn’t matter, because I’m short, too.
The Wilsons put in new frame work around the bottom, and sawed off the rotten ends. They repaired and rehung the door. They set the building up on patio blocks at each corner. It’s very sturdy and looks charming. It’s a nice weathered gray, so I’m not going to repaint it. As a final touch, we nailed an arch from the broken toilet seat over the door. (It’s called an architectural element.)
Matt Wallace helped by laying patio blocks on the grass to make a floor. We hung a wreath on the door and parked a vintage wheelbarrow along the side. The wheelbarrow finally fell apart so now an old wagon is parked there. My spouse built a shelf on the inside as a workspace and we put up a few hooks. I was able to squeeze in a small shelf under the roof.
Come fall, the place will really be packed with pots and garden supplies. There is room under the bench for tubs of peat moss and potting soil. I keep garden markers there, my kneeling pads, some tools and minnow buckets. The latest addition is a large American flag on the outside, painted on an old wooden shutter. I love my little “outhouse”’ and am just happy to have a bit of Island history in our yard. Thanks, Andy. (He got his dollar.)
Ah! A Dock On Grand Island! - 2004 Click photo for larger view July 29, 2004 . . . When we moved here some 25 years ago, a big selling point was the dock on the Niagara River. It is a great dock, jutting out 58 feet with two branches to the side, each 32 feet long. It was in good condition, with solid planks and sturdy iron posts. It stayed that way for quite a while, too, until one winter when the ice really bent the corner post. It was successfully replaced. Eventually some of the planking had rotted and had to be torn up and new put down. Soon after, one whole side dock went to pieces and Bill Wilson did an admirable job replacing it. Last year we had to replace a few more boards, and so had the dock painted---a lovely sky blue! You can hardly see it because it matches the water. The point is, if you have a dock, you must maintain it.
I love having the dock. I watch the seagulls and the cormorants, the ducks and the geese, the swallows and sometimes a blue heron. I track the boats chugging by and the progress of the water skiers. And now we have riders of jet skis who manage all kinds of antics. Visitors enjoy sitting by the water to watch the activity.
Now, here’s a sore point. Do we have a boat in the water? Unfortunately, no! We do have a boat, a 26-foot Richardson day cruiser that we restored and docked in Buffalo. It needs restoring again, but we haven’t got around to it. (Now it’s an antique!) We also have a fiberglass boat, a wooden lapstroke model, and even an old tin rowboat that I bought, thinking I could fill it with plants in the garden. (It was $25 at a garage sale, so if you’re interested------.) Never mind. We enjoy our dock even if we don’t have a boat in the water.
Of course, the dock is not the only reason we bought our house. We loved the window panes with old glass, the arched windows, the wooden floors, the old doors, all features of an 1880 house. My spouse was more enamored of the new addition, with its huge family room, roomy garage and new laundry. We’ve added a few things since (his and her sheds, for one thing) and find ourselves happy with our home. What’s really important is the warmth and intimacy of the community. You can’t go to Tops without meeting someone you know. The folks at the hardware store will help you with the tiniest chore, be it one little nut and bolt or just a pane of glass for an old picture frame. Tellers know you at the bank, and so do the waitresses at the Beach House. My pharmacist knows my ailments and the guys at the garage are familiar with my car. I know the folks at the Historical Society and Old Trinity, at the fire house and Town Hall, at the Garden Center and the gas station. Because of the river Grand Island remains a contained community. It may grow in population, but never in area. And that’s a good thing.
Back to the dock. That paint job we had done last year? It has started to peel already. Do I mind? Not really. It looks just like the old furniture in ”Country Living.” Matches the rest of the place.
Old Trinity Garden Tour: A Big Success (Right) Kathy Stisser beneath her Japanese lilac tree. It was a housewarming gift 15 years ago and is loaded with white blooms in the spring. (center) Reg Schopp's West River Road gardens; (right) Dustin Coryn, 13 years old, holds his pet rabbit , "October" and his Red Star hen in the family garden. He has had his pets for three years. Click photos for a larger view. July 22, 2004 . . . It’s a tradition on Grand Island: the Old Trinity Church garden tour held just last Saturday. And, at last, the weather cooperated. It was a warm, sunny day for gardening and garden inspection. It started at Old Trinity Church with maps and refreshments, and went from there. Eight Island gardens were open for inspection and we saw them all. I especially liked the Japanese lilac tree at the Stissers’ and her rhubarb patch. (She gave us enough to stew up a batch).
One garden that we loved was a real country garden created by Dorothy Zimdahl and her family. It had a vegetable garden and a coop with chickens and rabbits. There was a spot for everyone in the family. Another garden was in a beautifully shaded yard. We were greeted there by a nine-year-old calico cat, a friendly, gentle pet. The garden had a great collection of frogs and even a knight in shining armor. Our publisher’s garden (Reg Schopp) was a fascinating one, too. The vegetable garden had tomatoes already turning red, and lots of wandering stone pathways. Several gardens were built around backyard pools in very clever ways, and many gardens had other water features. We also liked the backyard “tents” which had wrought iron permanent supports and canvas tops that could be removed for the winter.
One woman had pots made from hypertufa, a mixture of cement, peat moss, and sand formed into flower pots. I was quite interested because a group of us are going to try it this week. I have been experimenting with varied degrees of success. Taking part in a garden tour does a lot for you. You learn that all things are possible, that true gardeners work every waking moment, that there are many more beautiful plants than just geraniums and petunias. The name of the game is perennials with annuals for accent, and mulch, mulch, mulch, to keep down the weeds. I think the trouble with my garden beds is that they are out of control. Most gardeners seem to keep spaces between the varieties, not have them all run together like mine. I was so inspired I went right home and spent three hours cutting the grass. Tomorrow I’ll tackle the beds. (if it doesn’t rain again).
It was way past lunch time when we finished the last garden. Since we were near Ferry Village, we visited the hot dog stand recently opened by Sharon Nichols, her sister, Barb Zafuto, and Lyn Laman. Good dogs and great potato salad. A super spot for eating outdoors.
Other gardens open this year were those of Jan and Sanford Freedman, Roger Ohnsorg, Terry and Eric Gellart, Peggy and Paul Koppmann, Connie and Mike Petix, and Reg Schopp. Editor's Note: . Proceeds from the garden tour will aid in the continued renovation and maintenance of the Gothic Revival country church, Historic Trinity, located at 2100 Whitehaven Road.
A Day For Charlie DeGlopper - June 11, 1994
Photos from left) DeGlopper and Williams children, Fix Road; PFC DeGlopper and and S/Sgt Kirby McDonald; Charles L. DeGlopper, the Private's father, receiving Congressional Medal of Honor from Major General Leland S. Hobbs in Trinity EUB Church - Lillis and William Bell standing to the left, and Arlie DeGlopper in the rear; Father attends renaming of US Army Transport "Englin Victory" to "Pvt. Charles N. DeGlopper" at Brooklyn Army Base.
Click photos for a larger view. Editor's Note: Ruth Stahl wrote the following story in June 1994 after the 50th anniversary remembrance of PFC Charles N. DeGlopper's death. DeGlopper Memorial Day took place on Saturday, June 11, 1994 at 11 a.m. Of those mentioned, George and Jimmy Williams, Fred Killian, Lillis Bell and Bernie Bailey have passed away.
June 17, 2004 . . ."I remember the day Charlie was born. The family lived across from us on Fix Road," said George Williams. His brother, Jimmy, saw Charlie DeGlopper every day when they were growing up.
"We both went to School #5 at Baseline and Bush," Jimmy said. "Charlie was a lot of fun to be with."
The Williamses are one of the oldest families settling on Grand Island, along with the DeGloppers, the only ones living in the original homesteads.
"The first record of our grandparents was in the census of 1853," said George Williams.
It was a day of remembering for the family and friends of PFC Charles N. DeGlopper (1921-1944) who participated Saturday in ceremonies commemorating his short life. His acts of bravery earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Flowers were place on his grave at Maple Grove Cemetery, a rifle salute was fired and Taps was sounded in the distance.
John D'Amore came all the way from Sarasota, FL to honor Charlie on his day. John and Charlie were comrades in France for a time.
"Charlie and I shared a pup tent and naturally his legs wouldn't fit inside the tent," John said. "I used to cover his legs with a raincoat when the weather turned bad." John gave the eulogy at DeGlopper Park on Saturday.
There, the New York Sate Conspicuous Service Cross was presented to the DeGlopper family. Charlie's sister, Lillis Bell, now living in Warsaw, NY, was on hand with her son, Willard. Lillis corresponded regularly with Charlie.
"Charlie never had a leave of absence, and when finally his extra-sized uniform and shoes were provided, he knew he would be shipping out soon," Lillis said. "He called and asked if there was any chance of getting an early Christmas dinner. We picked him up when he hopped the fence at the Niagara base. We gave him a good dinner at 2 a.m. and had him back at the base just in time."
Joe Oberkrieser of the Niagara Frontier All Airborne chapter was master of ceremonies at DeGlopper Park and Veteran's Park. Members of the 82nd Airborne were in attendance to salute their hero and provide a rifle salute. The parent of one of the members expressed how proud she was that her son was a part of this special commemoration. In the afternoon there were skydivers, flag ceremonies, antique cars and military vehicles at Veteran's Park. Visitors were invited to view the extensive exhibit at Old Trinity Church afterwards. On view was Charlie's Congressional Medal of Honor, old photos and mementos, and a smashing pair of bronzed combat boots. There were three wonderful scrapbooks compiled by Bernie Bailey, Lillis Bell and Charlie DeGlopper, nephew of our hero.
I caught up with Fred Killian and Wilma Greenwood at Old Trinity. Fred remembers Charlie well.
"We went to Kibler High School (Tonawanda) together," Fred said. "When Charlie played football the other team never had a chance. He and Franklin Yensan were the only two students who went through all eight grades at School #5 on the Island."
Wilma Greenwood lived on Fix Road near the DeGloppers.
As a teenager I worked for the DeGloppers," Wilma said. "Charlie was seven years older and a whole lot bigger. When he came to visit us, he had to duck to get in. We used to get our milk at DeGloppers' and I often watched Charlie milk the cows. When they were cutting hay we used to sit with him on the hay wagon."
Wilma's most vivid memory is of the day they brought Charlie's body home from France in July 1948.
"Standing at the house, you could hear the horses coming, pulling the caisson down Baseline and over Fix," she said. "Charlie was laid out at home in the living room. There were guards at each end of the casket all day long. I'll never forget it."
Nor will others who knew Charlie. He lost his life to save his comrades and country, and should be remembered always for his brave deeds.
The Old Alt Homestead Is Still In The Family
Click photos for a larger view. June 10, 2004 . . .You’ve probably passed it dozens of times and maybe not noticed this charming 127–year-old farmhouse and its outbuildings. Located just past the thruway on Whitehaven Road, it is protected from view by giant cattails right now. The house has a large porch on the front and one side, and at one time had shutters all around. Surprisingly, the milk house is in the basement. George H. Alt Sr. built the house long ago when it was part of a farm of hundreds of acres. It was a fully operating farm, with cows, horses, sheep and chickens. George raised Black Angus in addition to milk cows. His great, great granddaughter, Nicole Gerber, lives in the house today. The property is down to 33 acres, and is still farmed by neighbor George DeGlopper.
The house is a friendly one. “It seems to wrap you in its warmth when you are inside,” said Carleen Alt Gerber, Nicole’s mother. Nicole noted that the cellar still had bark-covered uprights and an old coal furnace, no longer in use. Carleen grew up next door and remembers walking over to the farm with her milk pail for fresh milk. “They watched me all the way from the window. It seemed like a very long distance when I was little,” she said. Just behind the house is the old icehouse (with a later front extension to accommodate an automobile.) There is a tool shed, a very large barn, a series of attached sheds that used to house sheep, (Carleen remembered a pet sheep named Woolley) and, best of all, the old schoolhouse. It was moved from the west end of Bedell Road when Sidway School was opened in 1937. Most of the old schoolhouses were torn down or put to other uses, such as this one. The sheds attached to the barn were formerly town storage sheds, moved here when they were sold. Many houses and outbuildings on Grand Island have been moved, sometimes all across the Island. You must remember that there were no electric wires overhead to contend with until the 1920s so moving was not the chore we have today.
In 1892 Miss Mary Laisdell taught at #8 with students from the families of Schutt, Kaiser and McConkey. Children got water from the river, sometimes having to thaw the ice. It was a big day when the library box arrived. It circulated from school to school. Grammar was taught only to the girls; it was felt not necessary for boys! The old building still has the original wainscoting inside and the tall school house windows, although modern garage doors were installed in front. Carleen remembered that two cars would fit inside, the rest were displayed on the lawn outside. One of the Alts also sold farm equipment.
Just down the road was a general store operated by a family member. Around the turn of the century, a Farmer’s Alliance was formed and it was successful. Its purpose was the betterment of the social, educational, financial and political life of the farmer. Alt was active in this group. Across the street is another Alt homestead, now occupied by the Meyers family. Each has a good view of Grand Island’s early homes, allowing one to imagine what it was like so many years ago. Nicole Gerber loves her home and can easily think of the way it was so long ago.
Victorian Tea At River Lea Draws A Crowd Fashion Show models from left are Amanda Arki, Shana Warchowski, Kacey White, Sue Ackendorf, Dustin Gushue and Jeremy Bailes.
Click photo for larger view May 27, 2004 . . .Members of the Grand Island Historical Society held their annual “Victorian Afternoon Tea” at River Lea earlier this month, playing to a “full house.” The menu was absolutely right and consisted of various tea sandwiches and deserts made by the members. There were cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, chopped ham filled bread, chicken salad and shrimp. Also served were scones and apricot preserves with Devonshire coddled cream. Deserts included chocolate tarts, shortbread, teapot coolies and chocolate covered strawberries. Naturally, tea was served throughout and flowered teapots served as centerpieces.
Mary Cooke gave a brief history of River Lea before the fashion show began. The theme of the show was “the little black basic” and Maggie Gushue, costume chairman at River Lea, took us through the ages with this staple of a woman’s wardrobe. She noted that women began wearing black mourning clothes in 1861 when Queen Victoria lost her husband, Albert. In the 1860s even wedding dresses were apt to be black. The first model wore a two-piece dress with a reversible skirt, the better to equalize wear. It was a two-piece satin dress with a high neck. Maggie remarked that fragrant “bosom bags” were tucked into bodices to compensate for less frequent bathing and dry-cleaning.
Justin Gushue was handsome in Dick Morgan’s father’s wedding tuxedo of black worsted wool. Justin’s cousin, Jeremy Bailes, provided some comic relief in his long night shirt and cap. Some of the models were Girl Scouts from Island Presbyterian Church. One model wore a 1930s lace and crepe dress with rows of tucks and a matching vest. That year marked the end of corsets (except for my mother!) and more freedom for women. Another dress was an evening gown with a velvet bodice and a velvet headband. A worsted wool dress in a princess style circa 1960 came from the old Hens and Kelly Department store and Maggie remembered it well, since it once was her dress. “It went everywhere,” she said. Pearl earrings and necklace competed the costume.
Also modeled was a 1980s bridesmaid ‘s gown with leg o’ mutton sleeves and a high neck. The program was especially enjoyable because, at one time or another, everyone in the audience had a t least one “little black dress.”
Demolition on East River
Click photo for a larger view. May 20, 2004 . . .The tiny ad announced a demolition sale one Saturday morning, and naturally I thought it would be all about old window frames and maybe old doorknobs. (Vintage doorknobs sell well on eBay!) First off, it was at 5303 East River, about a half mile north of Stony Point at the north end. It was a large house looking to be in good condition. It was surrounded by iron fences and gates, set well back on the river front. The house seemed to be in good condition, so why were they going to knock it down? I know you have seen it in passing, and probably wondered about the people living there.
I had passed the place many times, and welcomed the opportunity to see it on the inside. The steps were somewhat torn up, and a man was in attendance, requiring all visitors to sign a waiver. (Break a leg but don’t try to sue.) The house turned out to be empty and the only way you could buy something was if you had a screw driver or chisel. There were pretty tiles placed here and there in the kitchen---nice if you could get them out without cracking them. There were kitchen cabinets, tile floors and carpets. None of which caught my fancy. The place seemed to go on forever with terraces and steps, paved areas and pools. There seemed to be lots of living space, paved areas, patios, a swimming pool and a gazebo. There was more than one kitchen. A boathouse was built at water’s edge, and the rumor was that it would be saved. The park-like surroundings and the fence were also to be preserved, but the rest would be demolished.
The only items not attached were four cast aluminum flower pot holders at the front door. I inquired about the price, and the foreman quoted me $20. I remarked that they were only cast aluminum, not cast iron, and his price was too high. We agreed upon $15 for the lot and I took them home to await geraniums when the time came. Maybe you’ll see them just down the road in our less pretentious front yard.
My curiosity took me to town hall to find out more about the place. It seems that the new owners paid a whopping $620,000 for the property, and were tearing it down! They couldn’t find the demolition order, but were sue it had been filed. It seems that Sam Caterina built the place, a small house on a big lot. He moved across the street into a white split level when he sold the property to Williams. Williams was the man who put on all the additions. A friend of mine used to baby-sit for the family and reported that the house was not a “homey” place. With so much concrete, I believe it. Williams eventually sold the house to Jeffrey and Kimberly Waite in 1986. Tedesco bought the property in 1988 for a reported $450,000. Tedesco was a guitar player, now deceased. It is said he played the music for “Bonanza” and other movie and TV works. So who is the new owner? My curiosity led me back to Town Hall, where I discovered the new owner to be LaVullo. No further information.
I went back a week later and found things pretty much the same except that the attractive tiles in the kitchen had been ripped out of the wall and all of the carpets removed and rolled up, ready to be carted off. One man was furiously tearing up ceramic floor tiles. After that, there truly would be little left. So here it is, three weeks later, and the structure still stands. Go down and take a peek before it disappears forever.
Dollars and Dimes
Left photo: Hazel Rowe (left) and Joyce Berk shop at the Dollar store - Right photo: Artificial flowers at the Dollar Tree
Click photo for a larger view. April 1, 2004 . . .We used to call them the “Five and Dime” stores, and there were many: Woolworths, Grants, Kresges to name a few. Today they have escalated to Dollar Stores, and believe it or not, Grand Island has three! Before World War II much of the merchandise in the “five and dime” stores came from Japan. You could buy all kinds of little trinkets for just a few cents. They were coarsely made, but if you were a kid you didn’t care or didn’t notice. I will never forget Woolworth’s because I shopped there on the way to my music lesson at McClelland’s, further up on Main Street in Buffalo. I came in from Big Tree, carrying a little green velvet purse, containing $2.00 for my music lesson, bus fare home, and maybe a quarter in “mad money”. Somehow I lost the purse in Woolworth’s and had to take my music lesson on credit. I didn’t know how I would get home, but checked Woolworth’s one more time. Lo and behold, someone had turned in my purse, intact, and I got all my money back. Those were Depression days, too.
After the war ended small trinkets appeared marked, “Made in Occupied Japan” and these became collector’s items. Then I guess Japan switched to electronics and automobiles and abandoned the trinket trade.
China was a closed country in those days with few manufactured products, until President Nixon visited in an attempt to establish trade. Well, trade has been established! Almost everything we buy is marked “Made in China.” And the prices are so low, you wonder how they can be made and then shipped such a great distance. There are subtle differences in Dollar Stores, but most have many products made in China. I decided to check out those on the Island.
The store that just opened in the old Tops building is called “Dollar Tree,” and is well laid out, freshly painted and carpeted. When I visited on the opening day, a young mother was having the time of her life, with a cart full of toys and other items. There are a lot of inexpensive toys, even pop-up books for kids. You can find everything under the sun and the price is always a dollar, or even less. I always buy bubble envelopes for shipping, white tissue paper, five by seven cards, and usually some useless trinket. Earlier this year I bought colorful glass fruits and vegetables----oranges, apples, peppers---how could they make them for just a dollar? At Easter time I found colorful agate eggs, the kind I used to buy in Mexico for quite a bit more. I think this store will do very well because it is in the same plaza as Tops and will be handy for shoppers.
Eileen Kelderhouse is the store manager and classifies it as more of a variety store with a great selection of everything. Gift wrap and gift bags are popular items along with greeting cards which are two for a dollar. There are brand name items such as Liquid Plumber and Gatorade. You can find toothpaste and shampoo and party balloons. The store is open now but the grand opening will be celebrated on May 8, with local dignitaries and daily specials. Hours are 9 to 9 every day, except Sunday, open 10 to 6 p.m..
The two other dollar stores are in the old Ames Plaza, and although they have much merchandise for a dollar, prices can be more. Dollar General has been here for about three years, and had $50 Karaoke machines at Christmas time. They had a room fan for $12, dinner sets for $10, and Folger’s coffee for $2.50. You could buy Pepsi for a dollar and Pringles for 75 cents.
Family Dollar is a bigger store. Greeting cards in every dollar store seem to be 2 for $1.00. Manager Connie Gosselin reported that there was a staff of five and they sold items in the 50 cents to $20.00 range, with some exceptions. I found a tiny pencil sharpener there when I badly needed one for a special project and it was 79 cents. My favorite item was a three-dimensional bathroom scene in a shadow box for $2.00. I hung a pair in my bathroom. (They still have some left.)
I asked my spouse how he felt about Dollar stores and he thinks items from China should be more heavily taxed to protect American products and jobs. Actually he said we should ban their products but I think that is a little drastic. Where would I shop with just a few dollars in my jeans?
What Goes On At The River Lea Quilt Guild?
Linda Hunter (left) and Sandy Nethero.
Click photo for a larger view. April 1, 2004 . . .“Crazy about quilting” would describe most members of the River Lea Quilter’s Guild. It got it’s name because early meetings were held at River Lea, but membership is now too large for that space. The guild meets every third Tuesday at the High School at 7 P.M.. Every moment is jam-packed with activities and information for quilters. Last Tuesday night the guest speaker was Linda Hunter, known by many quilters who learned to make quilts in her classes.
Linda is now an official quilt appraiser, one of only four in the state and 75 in the country. She came to discuss the art of appraising quilts, emphasizing that the process is not one of judging, but describing and valuing. After the age of a quilt is determined, it is measured and described by color, pattern, fabric content, whether it is machine or hand quilted, and a description of pattern and condition.
Linda emphasized that women have always tended to undervalue their handwork and still do today. Quilts command higher prices in other parts of the country and right now, African-American quilts are hot as they are considered American folk art. Another reason quilts are less expensive in this area is because of the availability of Amish quilts nearby.
The rest of the meeting was committed to discussion and preparation for the upcoming quilt show to be held at the High School on May 1 and 2. Chairman Judy Buzby reported on final preparations. Members will exhibit a variety of quilts and wall-hangings and will carry on demonstrations. Linda Hunter will be there to conduct appraisals (for the standard fee), and a number of vendors will have quilting supplies for sale. The quilts will be judged by a non-member from outside. Visitors will have an opportunity to bid on a number of baskets holding quilt related items.
A standard activity of each meeting is the drawing for blocks-of-the-month. Participants each make a coordinating block and the lot is raffled off so that one lucky member wins enough blocks to make a quilt. Ken Beagle has been very lucky in this department and has been able to make quilts for his grandchildren. Last year I won a batch of red and beige blocks which made a pretty quilt. Worshops are also held on a monthly basis, where new projects are undertaken. Also in the works is a sewing retreat at Stella Niagara and I am looking forward to that.
The final activity at each meeting is “show and tell”, and I must say this is a very productive group. We have members who produce quilts on a regular basis, especially our younger members. Many hand quilt their work, but others opt for machine quilting, available here on the Island by Joan Staub of Log Cabin Quilting. The group makes many quilts for children in hospitals and folks in nursing homes. Proceeds from the quilt show will also be donated to local charities. All ranges of skill are represented by the membership, so new quilters are always welcome.
March 18, 2004 . . .
Now that most of the snow is gone, and the calendar says “mid March,” I decided to take my post-winter tour to assess the season’s damage and look for signs of better times coming. It was chilly out there, but not disappointing. A pair of Canada geese have been honking at Bailey (our old Lab) and me on our daily walk for days now, and they have been joined by another couple, all squawking their heads off. The dog pays no attention.
First thing I looked at were the chestnut trees, and sure enough, the buds are beginning to swell. For years Dr. Good used to come down in his golf cart and pick a few twigs to show the kids at the Science Museum because, according to him, chestnut buds are big enough to show the development of new leave, better than anything else. I didn’t have to search for the daffodil shoots. They were up and running in spite of the snow. One year I planted tulips and daffodils along the driveway across the street. The tulips are long-gone, eaten by the critters, but the daffodils are very faithful. Last year I bought more daffodil bulbs at our garden center and put them in my vegetable garden. They are coming up, too, right through the saturated sod, and in multiple shoots. They must be some kind of super variety
The deer did a good job on the evergreens, but they needed trimming so I’m not complaining. In the side bed with the bushes are left a few stalks of crysanthemums, and I guess they survived because shoots are coming up. They do very well where they are because they benefit from the feeding I give the bushes fairly regularly. I was surprised to see how well the ivy faired, especially since the bed flanks the driveway and has been heaped with snow all season. Maybe that’s what saved it and also the green grass.
There were no signs of shoots in the rhubarb bed, although that is one of the earliest plants. The bed is pretty wet and I do hope it survived. Last year I advertised on Giecom’s site for rhubarb shoots, and, low and behold, someone on Stony Point was getting rid of rhubarb. We rushed right over and replanted it in my garden. We’ll see how it comes. There are no signs of hosta yet and the elm trees I am nurturing are budless. Two tears ago the Society for the Propagation of Elm Trees gave some shoots to the recreation department for distribution, and I got three. One died but the others survived the first winter in pots. I put them in my vegetable garden last fall, hoping they will do better.
That’s about all I saw in the green department, but it is encouraging. We have piles of branches to be brought to the curb, but not near as many as last year when we had so many windstorms. Maybe that means mother nature hasn’t finished her pruning. I finally got into my little outbuilding, only to find a roll of paper towels shredded. The mice have been busy. They like living in my dollhouse, too. I was storing it there temporarily. I didn’t get down to the old outhouse I call my potting shed, but other than a few mice, there’s not much to go wrong there. Be encouraged; spring is well on its way on Grand Island.
Shown from left are Sharon Nichols, Harvey Long, Marcia Traun (in rear), Shirley Luther and Betty Killian. March 11, 2004 . . .Great treasures turned up at the last meeting of the Grand Island Historical Society, held at the Library on March 4, 2004. This night members were to bring in old items from home, to be identified and valued. Yours truly helped things along. First off Harvey Long had a set of white milk glass salt and pepper shakers, shaped like old refrigerators. They were given as a premium when a family bought a new G.E. refrigerator, the kind with a motor on top. I remember when Pop gave our old one to Grandma, and she was almost asphyxiated when the darn thing started to leak. Harvey also had a unique salt and pepper shaker, hand-painted, that was a one-piece affair.
Betty Killian had a really nice three section hinged mirror with embossed back and beveled glass. We wondered if it could have been a travel mirror. Milk glass was a popular item because Shirley Luther produced a wonderful caster set in white milk glass with three shakers for salt and pepper and maybe sugar. Sharon Nichols showed us a pair of hand painted glass bottles, perhaps from a dresser set. The designs on the frosted bottles were similar but not identical. Sharon also brought in a very cute little bobbing head donkey, still with its tag from Marshall Fields, circa 1910.
Sue Graffinger showed us a wooden darning egg, which some members remembered using. Today we just throw out the socks when a hole develops. Sue also had a nice, old, pressed glass spooner. I still use one on my kitchen counter, since teaspoons are most often used. Marcia Traun brought in a wonderful game of ten pins with three balls and still in its original wooden box with the proper lettering still on the outside. It was marked “Columbia, ten 9-inch pins.”
Maggie Gushue produced a great, old stoneware jug, inscribed on the side, “Herman Bernhardt, Wines and Liquors, 287-301 Washington St., Buffalo, N.Y." Probably when it was emptied, the owner could go back for a refill. That was before the days of disposables. Another interesting item was a painting done on birchbark and framed, quite some time ago, I would say. Our president, Curt Nestark, had a nice collection of old comic books, specializing in war stories. He also collects antique lawn mowers, but it’s a good thing he didn’t try to bring one in!
We also looked at an old iron still bank in the form of a real bank building, a lithographed tin plate given as a premium in 1910 and an old coffee grinder with original stenciling. I remember the late George Williams telling me that his mother used coffee grinders. He said, “When ever one broke down she would give it to me and I would make a birdhouse of it, hanging it in the trees.” Can you picture that?
Much of the meeting was taken up with a discussion of the upcoming afternoon tea to be held at River Lea on May 16. The next meeting will be held at River Lea on April 1 and will feature items from our own collection at River Lea. That should be an interesting meeting as well.
Queensdale Cottage - Davern House, Ferry Village - Old photo (left) and February 24, 2004 photo (right)
New photo by Jodi Hayes Robinson February 26, 2004 . . .It may not seem like a cottage to us, but that’s what it was called by the architect, Herbert C. Chivers of St. Louis, at the turn of the century (1900). The estimated total cost at that time was between $1392 and $1598, less than the price for painting it today. (One time John Smith used 100 gallons of paint on the exterior.)
Some people refer to the century old home on East River in Ferry Village as the Davern House because the Daverns were its occupants for the longest period of time. Actually it was built by a Mr. Fenster and sold to Clem Schuerman. The Daverns bought it in the twenties, operating a tavern just across the street until 1959. (Now the Niagara River Station Fishing Club.) Jack Senn held the property briefly in the seventies, and rumor has it that he intended tearing it down to expand a boatyard. He sold it to John Smith, its present owner, in 1978.
Mrs. Davern still lived in the house at that time, but when she became ill, moved in with relatives, and has since passed away. Smith found the house to be structurally sound but in bad repair. A deteriorated roof had caused much of the plaster to fall, and the dampness had blackened the floors.
“We were lucky that the woodwork had not been painted, but there were layers and layers of paper on the walls”, John Smith remembered. He had to replace the roof, repair the plaster, refinish the floors, replumb the house, and rewire much of it. Old gas pipes for lighting were still in the ceilings. “I replaced most of the lights with antique fixtures, including the one in the living room that had been a gas fixture,” John said.
The kitchen is probably the room that needed the most work. Originally it and the pantry could be locked off from the rest of the house, allowing hired help to get in to prepare meals. (The house was built as a summer home, and is one of perhaps three such substantial ones remaining in that area. There were maid’s quarters upstairs.)When John first saw the kitchen, he found in it a freestanding cupboard, an old sink and a cook stove fueled by oil and/or wood. He installed new appliances and wainscotting and an old tin ceiling. He refinished the maple floors.
“A master carpenter built this house,” John told me. The floors and woodwork are oak, thick and solid. Pocket doors separate the parlor from the dining room and also from the downstairs bedrooms. The bedroom suite is set off from the rest of the house, with a full bath between the two bedrooms. John believes the Daverns usually rented the front bedroom to a boarder. He converted the back bedroom to a family room and found an early oak mantle for the new fireplace there.
The upstairs was at one time a large sleeping room, later converted into three bedrooms. A distinctive feature is the small turret room with its five windows. It is accessible through a very low door, so is used only for storage. There was originally no central heating but sometime in the past radiator heat was put into the house.
Ten-foot ceilings keep the house cool in summer. In the large dining room a beamed ceiling of geometric design is reminiscent of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Large windows throughout add to the light and airy feeling. A wonderful porch with wide overhangs extends almost halfway around the house. “It helps cool the house, too and is a great place to sit in the summer time,” said John. Originally solid wooden shutters hung on the outside and were used to close up the house in winter. The basement is high and dry, built with quarried stone.
There is history here, too. Two trap doors provide access to the outside, allowing persons to slip in or out unnoticed, probably during the rum-running days. One is on the porch, the other in the present laundry room. At one time Mrs. Davern’s family had part ownership in the long-gone Electric Beach.
The carriage house at the rear of the property was torn down shortly before John became owner. He replaced it with a similar building, sell-suited to the period, housing a garage, space adjoining the swimming pool, and an activity room on the second floor. A restored iron railing fronts the small balcony.
We are fortunate that John Smith came along, because he has restored the property with a minimum of alterations and turned it into a local showcase. Perhaps we should rename it, Smith’s Queensdale Cottage.
The following article written by Ruth Stahl first appeared in February 1994.
February 5, 2004 . . .The building actually faces the corner of Bush and South Parkway. Situated on a 51-acre plot, the WBEN transmitter station was completed in 1941. It is an excellent example of Art Deco architecture with its sandstone facade and glass block rotunda.
"The station is larger than it looks on the outside," said WBEN chief engineer Joe Puma. "Since it was to be manned around the clock, a kitchen and bedroom are included in the 3,000-foot first floor."
Because it was wartime, the station was constructed to be bomb proof. Iron girders, concrete and stone were the main building materials. The property was deeded from the Rumsey estate and originally ran all the way to the river.
Puma thought Grand Island had been selected by WBEN for the site for several reasons. The land was inexpensive and rural yet located close to the studio (then in the Statler Hotel). The site was flat and partly wetlands, which are good for signal propagation. There was little development in the area at the time and therefore not much vandalism.
On Jan. 15, 1941, the Buffalo Evening News reported that 52 tons of steel would rise from the base of twin WBEN towers on the Grand Island property, the immense weight resting on a pair of fragile-looking two-foot insulators. The towers were to rise above the new transmitter house nearing completion on Bush Road. They were to be 475 feet high, 100 feet higher than the 32-story Buffalo City Hall.
Assembly began on the ground with the first 40-foot sections. The towers would be stabilized by guy wires and were built to stand a wind velocity of 115 miles per hour.
It was noted that masonry and concrete work were completed and plastering would be finished in two weeks. By Feb. 6, 1941, only painting and decorating had to be done.
Chris Cotter of Grand Island worked for WBEN for 29 years and spent a short time at the new transmitter house.
"But he found it too isolated and boring," said his widow, Gertrude Cotter.
The building and grounds were well-maintained for this very reason.
"Some of the men even built furniture on their shifts," said Joe Puma.
Around 1970, electronic developments allowed the transmitter house to be operated by remote control from the main station (now on Elmwood Avenue). Consequently, the windows were bricked in and the doors welded shut. Now all that is needed is a routine weekly check-up. More recent changes recorded at our Town Hall included paving and fencing and the replacement of the original towers with two only 196 feet high.
The building is pictured in the Grand Island Centennial Booklet and also in a 1946 WBEN commemorative booklet lent by Gertrude Cotter. Featured in it are our local radio greats - Clint Buehlman, Joe Wesp, Jim Wells, Art Steffan, Esther Huff and Sally Work, among others. And since WBEN was an NBC station, we also see Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Art Linkletter, Edgar Bergen, Jack Benny, Judy Canova, plus other national radio stars. WBEN had just applied for a television license, but radio was still the mainstay for news and entertainment.
Take a good look at the transmitter station the next time you head for Ferry Village or Beaver Island Park. Maybe you can identify the architect of this little gem. (An important bit of information that hasn't surfaced yet).