Posted October 13, 2005 by John Van Son
I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures and story about Edgewater Park, and it brought back lots of memories.
My aunt, Sarah Van Son, married William Voetsch, the son of the founder of Edgewater. He and his brother, Fred (Fritz) ran the park after their father retired. Many of the Voetsch family worked at the Park. My Aunt Sarah and Fritz's wife, Clara, worked in the kitchen of the Hof Brau. Hattie Voetsch, who later married Bob Diebold, ran one of the concession stands, and Bill and Fritz tended bar in the Hof Brau. My Uncle Bill was a teetotaler in spite of his many years behind the bar. He was the original Mr. Five by Five. He was 5 feet tall and 60 inches around his waist.
As a very young boy in the early and mid 30s, I remember coming to Grand Island and Edgewater with my grandmother and grandfather, John and Henrietta Van Son. They were living in Buffalo then, but my grandfather emigrated to Grand Island from Holland in 1874 as a 15-year-old boy, and married my grandmother and started a family in 1897 . We used to use the ferry from Tonawanda to the head of the island on the East River. We would stay at Edgewater for the weekend. It was great for me because everything was free. My grandmother died at Sarah and Bill's home on Edgewater Drive in 1939, and my grandfather died on our farm in Attica in 1941.
When WWII started in 1941, Edgewater had to close because of gas rationing. My Uncle Bill, who had been a Justice of the Peace on the island, went to work as a "guard" on the North Grand Island Bridge. He died in 1943.
With the bridges open in 1935, my Uncle John C. Van Son (Jack) founded and owned the Grand Island Transit Company until his death in 1952. He is buried at Whitehaven Cemetery on East River Road.
With the passing of my cousin, Cornelia Van Son Webb (Corry), last month, the members of the Van Son family from the island are fewer, but the memories of Grand Island and Edgewater will always be with me.
John R. Van Son