Saturday, April 29, 2017

True Value Hardware


True Value to the Village
By Anita Messina
1960. Rudolph Schasel was mayor of a canal village with lingering prosperity developed during the energetic days of the great Erie Canal waterway. Here and there small bruises began, not terribly noticeable because, as Stella Pokrzywa said, the village was so lovely with its beautifully kept houses, groomed yards, and tree-lined streets. She remembers the Warren’s home on Main Street, and the Hoffman’s home. Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman owned the butcher shop next to the hardware store. Stella reminisced about the Gates who also lived on Main Street and Mabel Clark. She also recalls, not far from the tow path, Mary Ann Johnson’s pretty home that was painted aqua. And Stella knows “pretty.” She was a fashion designer in a Manhattan haute couture shop where she was hired as soon as she graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
Every summer, she and her brother Walter, coordinated their summer vacations, leaving their bustling city life to spend quiet time with family at their mom’s home in Seneca Falls. Walter was also a designer – a tool designer. He worked in Chicago.
Main Street stores were beginning to show signs of decline. One such was Carr’s Hardware. Mr. Carr had died, and his son inherited the store. But his son, a Syracuse University graduate, had other opportunities in mind, and they had nothing to do with hardware. The store limped along for a while and then was put on the market. Stella and Walter’s Uncle John watched the fading store and imagined it could be a fine business asset to the village. He persuaded his citified niece and nephew to come and take a look at it.
It didn’t take Walter long to see the potential. Stella agreed. Besides it would be good to be back home near their “Ma,” widowed and single-handedly operating her busy grocery store in Seneca Falls.
In the early years of a new ownership the hardware store did well, basking, as it did, in the lingering prosperity, supported by venerable early families who continued to live in their stately Main Street homes. In 1989 Stella and Walter recruited their nephew, John, to tend the store. John had studied history and accounting at St. Bonaventure University so he was well prepared to manage a store in a historic village.
John said True Value used to be more of a general store. “We even carried toys, but young people moved away.” Then in the late ‘80s people were introduced to a new concept in retailing, the Big Box store. The first one was in Michigan. Shoppers liked the convenience and the lower prices. Big Box stores spread as rapidly as the common cold. “So now we have to compete with Home Depot and Lowe’s.” John is philosophical. “Things change. That’s the way it goes.” He still stocks a solid line of plumbing and electrical supplies, paints, cleaning supplies. Villagers shop there because it’s a quick local visit, it’s convenient, with no parking problems, and they know they can rely on honest service.
Meanwhile, True Value serves an important historical purpose as an anchor for the 1960 Masonic Building. The Masons’ meeting room was on the third floor. The second floor held a theater for stage shows and a dance floor for tripping the light fantastic, as people did back then. The upper floors are dark and dusty now, but lively echoes are still heard.
John said in the early years, his uncle, Walter, let the post office rent space in the front corner of the building. The post office paid $100 a month. A door on the south side of the building -- bricked in but still obviously a door at one tune -- is where the mail was carried in to be sorted for the carriers to deliver. Before the post office, John said, the corner section held Bob Blake’s drugstore.
The hardware store is now a landmark, custodian of Port Byron’s history and protector of the building where gavels once kept order on the first floor and heels clicked to the rhythm of the polka from Bohemia. Oh, the memories that old brick building could tell!







Leona Morningstar Dove


Leona Morningstar Dove
By Anita Messina
I was born April 8, 1915 in Athens, Pennsylvania. Now I live here near my daughter.
My two earliest memories were playing house and baking a real cake in a toy cake pan. Another memory I have is when my sister Marian was taken for a walk in the wicker baby carriage. I was able to hold onto the lower part of the handle and walk with her.
Most of all I remember going with my mother to the Lehigh Valley Station in Sayre, PA in 1917 or 1918 when the troop train came. The soldiers got off the train to go to the canteen and walk around the park in front of the station. One of them picked me up and put me on his knee. I often wondered if he went to active duty and if he survived the fighting in World War I. My brother and I used to sit on a hill overlooking the train tracks, and when a troop train came through, the soldiers threw us Hard-Tack and a deck of cards. We cherished those cards and kept them for a long time.
My Papa was a railroader and loved his job as brakeman. In years to come he became a conductor on the Black Diamond, a crack passenger train of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
I started school at age five. I remember a bench in the hallway of the school with a pail of water and a dipper so we students could get a drink. One day I saw my mother walking by the school so I hollered to her. The teacher brought me up short but didn’t punish me for disturbing the class.

One day at school when we were practicing for our Thanksgiving play, one of the older girls tossed me up in the air miles high, and I screamed. The teacher was mad because I screamed so I got my coat and ran home. I kept looking back to see if someone or the teacher was coming after me. I made it home and told Mama that the teacher shook me all over the room. I refused to go back to school and no one insisted I go. I don’t know how many days I missed but at the end of that school year I was promoted to second grade.
We had an old ice house nearby our house where cakes of ice were kept in deep sawdust so they wouldn’t melt. One day my brothers Elden and Norman went into the ice house. I went with them. They told me to turn around, and they took off their clothes and buried themselves in the sawdust. When I turned around to see them, a big black snake was coming out of the sawdust. You never saw two boys get out of that ice house so fast, leaving their clothes behind. Mama got them dressed, and, needless to say, they never went back in there again. When Papa got home, he returned their clothes and the snake to the outdoors.
When I was a young girl I had a Larkins Route. I sold baking ingredients and other household needs door-to-door. I would take orders and send them into the company. When the product came in the mail, I delivered them and collected the money. I don’t remember how much money I made, but enough for Mama to buy yard goods and make dresses for my sister Marian and me.
I also earned money with punch cards. Papa would take me down to the boarding house where farm workers lived. They would punch a spot on the card to see how much they would have to pay for a box of candy. I’d send the card and the money to the company, and the company would send the candy.
After my high school graduation in 1934 I moved to California and went to IBM school to learn keypunch operation. I worked for the California State Department in Sacramento for three years. When I found out that Mama was going to have another baby, I quit my job and moved back home to help her with the kids. There were 14 of us kids in all.
I married Percy Dove in 1938. I became a Girl Scout leader and a camp counselor. I was involved in Girl Scouts for more than 50 years.














Ted Eiben


Ted Eiben
Conservationist and Fighter Plane Aviator
By Anita Messina

Ted Eiben recalls the first time he came to Port Byron to visit one of Port Byron’s gifted artists, Lindy Burke. He drove through town and noticed “the most beautiful building, the school.” A slight shake of his head speaks words of incredulous disappointment at its present state with weed trees growing on the roof, loose bricks at its corner and windows boarded over. “The school is a spot you don’t go to anymore,” he said.
Lindy listed the village’s retail vitality as it was then when the school was young and filled with life: two butchers, about 30 busy stores. Slowly Port Byron became a crossroads village for people hurrying nonstop to east, west, north, south places.
He and Lindy were – as people said back then – “an Item” when they were both students at Cornell. Then life’s unexpected detours sent each in different directions. Ted was just a thesis short of a PhD, studying wildlife conservation in 1941when his detour took him to Pine Camp in Watertown as a second lieutenant in a tank battalion. “Draftees got $31 a month, but as a second lieutenant I got $100,” he said.
December 7 changed everyone’s orders. Ted’s battalion was on its way, dodging German U-boats that silently and unseen scoped our east coast, assessing the possibility of attack sites. Ted’s convoy floated through the Panama Canal and crossed the Pacific to New Patagonia where Ted was made tank commander.
Not long after he arrived at New Patagonia, the colonel called Ted into his office and told him orders had just been received from Washington, and Ted was to pack his gear immediately and report for flight training in California. What wisdom was this? Tanks to planes? He boarded a P63 King Cobra for the flight back to the states. He had to laugh: the miserable P63 with its 37-mm cannon in the middle and 4 machine guns mounted here and there was Ted’s first time ever on a plane, and here he was headed to California to learn how to fly combat planes. There must be some mistake. If there was “some mistake” the military didn’t fess up to it and Ted reported for training on the B26 Widow Maker. He learned to fly anything with wings even a 4-engine cargo plane. “Holey moley,” Ted said, “I can walk faster than that plane can fly.” He earned his wings in 1943 and was ordered to Tulsa, Oklahoma to train on A26 attack bombers.
Attack bombers were diametrically opposed to wildlife conservation, where Ted thought he would spend his working days. Instead flying a plane – any plane – was Ted’s post-war choice of the career he most wanted to pursue. Although he has continued to appreciate wildlife and animals in general, instead of returning to the profession Cornell had prepared him for, when World War II ended he continued to fly, ending his sky-high professional years as a glider instructor in the Southern Tier.
Now, his feet planted firmly on the ground, Ted settled down here in Port Byron to spend joyous years with Lindy. He served his new community as a member of the school board before starting a quiet life devoted to memories of happy days with Lindy. His days now are comforted by caregiving step-daughter Suzanne Burke McBath, his three-legged dog Molly, Molly’s veterinarian, Dr. Schnabel and Suzanne’s dog, Yada, “the dog that rules the yard,” Ted said. Near the kitchen table Ted keeps a framed picture of a Spitz named Prince, a greatly loved pet during his younger years. Riding in sultan comfort on Prince’s back is a rescued kestrel, the feisty falcon once called sparrow hawk. When Suzanne learned that Mabel Clark’s dog, a crippled three-legged dog needed a home, she thought of Ted. Mutual devotion was instant. When asked what breed she is Ted said, “Molly is not pure any one thing. She’s a pure combination.”
Seemingly insignificant coincidences weave through a person’s life, sometimes reflecting what once was; sometimes what’s yet to be. In the 1930’s Curtis Aircraft built the F96, a small fighter plane called Sparrowhawk. Funny how history repeats itself in small ways.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Frank Greene


Keep a Good Book in Your Pocket
by Anita Messina

Frank Greene doesn’t understand why people can’t sit down and calmly discuss their problems until their differences are worked out. Ongoing conflicts trouble him. They especially troubled him when he was Staff Sergeant Greene, 15th Infantry Division, serving in World War II.
He saw conflicts in the North Africa campaign in Sicily, Italy, Southern France and Austria. He was one of an elite group of 180 men trained for reconnaissance missions behind German lines. He couldn’t resist throwing some barbs when German soldiers were captured: “You guys are lousy shots. You’ve been shooting at me for quite a while now, but you keep missing.” In one skirmish Frank was hit, but a providential bit of body armor saved his hide. He always kept a small copy of the New Testament in his breast pocket, and that day the good word “saved my bacon” he said. Shrapnel ripped through the book and just barely pierced his skin. His grandson has that life-saving book in safe keeping along with Frank’s collection of military pictures and memorabilia.
Mostly he recalls his distant memories matter-of-factly or, in a few cases, with some chuckles. But he grows sober remembering a night when his small outfit lost 43 men. “You get to be good friends in that kind of close operation,” Frank said. “You rely on one another and to lose that many friends all at once in one night…” He doesn’t finish the sentence. His eyes look deep back into that tragic night, and he is silent. By time the war was over Frank was one of seven men from his reconnaissance outfit who lived to see their homeland once again. Every day he pays tribute to 173 friends who never went home.
After the war he was hired into the sheriff’s department in Auburn. “You didn’t get any training back then. You just got a badge and were considered ready to go out and arrest people,” he said. Gradually he worked his way through promotions and became Undersheriff for Robert Sponable. “That man, Frank said, “was a great human being.”
Frank was born on Cooper Street in Conquest. He’s moved about some. He’s lived in Victory, Ira, Auburn and in Cato where he operated a gas station for nine years. Now he lives in Port Byron next door to good friends and helpmates Sheila and Marion (“J”) Laird. Other good friends take him to Legion breakfasts or to other community events. But mostly his days are long and endlessly quiet.
Anyone who talks with Frank will glean considerable sage advice from a wise, experienced man. His most fervent words of advice center around Talking Books sent free from the Library of Congress. Postage paid arriving. Postage paid returning. The audiobooks service even furnishes the listening machine. “It’s a godsend for anyone with vision problems,” Frank said, vision problems like his own macular degeneration and glaucoma. He urges everyone who needs visual aid to subscribe to this service. And every time he sees State Senator Nozzolio, he tells him “Whatever you do, don‘t cut funds for Talking Books!” A stack of audio tapes are on the end table near his reading chair. The tapes keep him entertained through long days. The tapes keep him from remembering.





Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sally Smith


Nonagenarian Dynamo: A Woman to Remember
By Anita Messina
Lithe and energetic Sally Smith kayaked, canoed and played a round of golf every Friday. And doing it all when she was well into her ninth decade.
The links game gave her pause to consider whether she should continue to play. She watched her once strong fairway shots dwindle to a series of short bounces from tee to green. But weighing the pluses and minuses, she knew it was better to stay on course than retire to the sofa, nursing an aging ego. And when you come right down to it, more swings are better exercise than a hole-in-one.
As an SU freshman she planned to major in physical education, but reluctantly Sally gave into her mother’s advice to major in home economics, a more “lady-like profession” than physical education. She sat through one semester learning how “not” to bake a chocolate cake. “That class,” Sally said “was the start of my migraine headaches.” After a series of failed recipes, her mother agreed maybe she should try “phys-ed” courses. Sally lost no time switching her major from baking to basketball and that’s how Port Byron got an inspiring, popular physical education teacher with an amazing sense of humor.
Sally came to her teaching position with a pre-formed liking for Port Byron because when she was small she had happy visits with her grandmother, Jennie Sprague, who lived here. The house is long gone, and Sally doesn’t remember exactly where the house was.
During Sally’s tenure an interesting turn of events happened at Port Byron High School. During the war years Principal Arthur Gates allowed a World War II rations distribution center to be set up in the cafeteria. Some of his staff – Sally was one – managed the rations assignment. Each woman was sitting at a different table. Now it came to pass that a dapper country gentleman, name of Wilbur Smith, Farmer Wilbur Smith, a Cornell graduate, came in to get his fair share of rations. Mr. Gates met him at the door and said, “Now, Wilbur, you pick out the most beautiful girl here and get your ration book taken care of.”
Wilbur sat at my table,” Sally said, “his face red as a beet. Well what could the poor man do but sit right down? I was the first table in line.”
Happily Sally and Wilbur moved from rations to romance. They reared two daughters, Gretchen and Sue and one son, Douglas. Sally spoke often of enjoying activities with her six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren at their summer home on Ramona Lake.
Through her last days on this planet Sally was out and about. “Every day I go someplace or do something,” she said. Golf and water sports continued along with volunteer work. She told people: “I can’t do what I used to, but at the very least I’ll bring a dish-to-pass.”
Sally’s Often Requested Salad
1 box of bow pasta 
Some onions
1/3 cup sugar
Some peppers
½ cup red wine vinegar 
Add bacon pieces
Sprinkle on pecans or walnuts

Sally believed that to live with vigor “a hearty salad and a trim figure keep the motor running.” And all through life it’s better exercise to hit a lot of short bounces rather than only one long fairway shot. That’s the sound advice echoing still from Port Byron’s blue ribbon physical education teacher, the one with the mischievous sense of humor. Sally is forever remembered, forever revered.






Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hellen Davies


Tribute to Hellen Davies
Anita Messina

Some folks give and then they give some more. Such a rare community patron is Hellen Davies, historian, benefactor, researcher, perpetual teacher, a person with unbridled curiosity and amazement for all things past and present.
It’s safe to say that without her energy and the generosity she and her husband Jack showed toward Lock 52 Historical Society, there would be no historical society in this village. Once it was established, Hellen became the principle researcher giving historically authentic, often amusing talks on so many topics. We wondered what fuels her interest in history.
“Well look at that word,” she said. It ends in “story.” To me history is a big, fascinating story.”
Hellen’s curiosity budded and bloomed ninety years ago when, as a child, she lived and read in the Ward family home in a house that still stands next door to the Montezuma Hotel. It was there that she discovered books and their captivating stories. That there was no electricity in her childhood home was not a deterrent for the tiny bookworm. Nights, long after she was presumed asleep, her mother found her sprawled on the hallway floor, reading in the dim light cast by the kerosene lamp.
Not surprisingly the resolute four-year-old determined herself ready to go to school. When her older brother headed to school one fine September day, Hellen insisted she would go too. A sensitive first-grade teacher allowed her to stay thinking she would soon be bored and anxious to head for home. Anyone who imagined that was in for a surprise. Hellen stayed the day and was eager to get to school the next day. She whipped through her primers and her arithmetic facts, always in a great rush to meet new wonderments that lay ahead.
Year after year she read more and more. Her mother encouraged her and stated only one limitation: in the collection of adult books in her home was a copy of “Anthony Adverse.” Hellen was forbidden to read it, an order she was to disregard some years later.
During her teen years Hellen was smitten with a handsome young man named Jack Davies. Although they were not a couple, not even close friends at the time, hardly even acquaintances, she confessed to confidantes that she would one day marry him. To many that seemed a far-fetched notion, but, remember, also highly unlikely was leaping into first grade at age four. Hellen and Jack married, and he whisked her away to Port Byron where they filled 65 years with family love and happy times and stacks of books, shelves full of books, books on every available surface. Her mantra has always been “So many books. So little time.” All the while words tumble around in her brain like energetic popcorn. Some words are serious, some just for fun. Note the word play when she named Jack’s and her three daughters Penny Lee, Patty Lou, Polly Lyn. Patty Lou was the name of Jack’s old girlfriend – pre-Hellen days of course – but no matter. Their daughters’ names would all have PL initials, a double consonant, end in “y” and use eight letters.
When Hellen enrolled in SUNY/Geneseo her first order of business was to read “Anthony Adverse,” a story she hardly remembers “except some nuns were in it.” Certainly nothing offensive, she thought. But a couple of decades had passed. Victorian affronts faded, and if a book mentioned love affairs, a pregnancy, some wild night life, there was no shame in it by time Hellen was of college age.
Hellen earned her undergraduate degree in library science and followed it with graduate work at SUNY/Cortland. She vowed she would never censor a book, approaching each tome as “a teaching experience.” Words, ideas and research, always her preoccupation, now became her occupation when she was hired to be a school librarian in Weedsport.
Many years later when Jack heard that Mayor Frank Thomas hoped the community would form a historical society, Jack suggested Hellen put her research skills to good use and pursue the Mayor’s idea. Forthwith, she became a founding member and generous contributor to Lock 52 Historical Society. The Society honors her for her generosity, her creative programs and her accurate research.
Her community spirit thrives. When the village entertained the idea of building a memorial honoring military personnel, Hellen became a member of the committee, along with Bill Thurston, Bob Ware, Jay Moose, Joe Felice, Mark Emerson and Lucy Ware who serves as treasurer. Bob Ware said the Stabinsky family put up the main monument, and Boy Scout Troop 56 planted all the shrubbery. But he says “Hellen is the mainstay of the memorial committee, and her donations have been considerable.” It’s been a Davies family affair. Hellen contributed the main flag pole, Patty Lou donated many bricks. Penny Lee purchased the eagle that adorns the top of the pole and Polly Lyn bought a pole for a military flag.
In so many ways Port Byron is fortunate to have a woman with Hellen’s dedication to the community. Her gifts are unending and will always be greatly appreciated by the village and the Town of Mentz.
* * * * * * *

Lock 52 Historical Society of Port Byron
By
Hellen Davies
On June 7, 1978 a group of people met in the cafeteria in the old Port Byron Central School on School Street to wind up the business of the Village of Port Byron and the Town of Mentz Bicentennial Committee. Permission was granted by the village and town boards to disband the Bicentennial Committee and form a local historical society. Both groups agreed to transfer the money in the bicentennial’s account to a historical l society account.
At 7:58 p.m. the Village of Port Byron and the Town of Mentz Bicentennial Committee was disbanded and Lock 52 Historical Society of Port Byron was formed. I believe John Kieffer suggested the name, for he designed the logo.
The first Board of Trustees consisted of Hellen Davies, Carlene Flier, John Kieffer, Frank Thomas, Marie Van Detto, Teresa Van Detto, James Vitale, Marie Wenzel and Ronald Wilson. The first officers were Frank Thomas, president; Marie Van Detto, vice-president; Hellen Davies, secretary; John Kieffer, treasurer and Carlene Flier, trustee.
The meetings were 7:30 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month in the Port Byron Municipal Building. We did not meet in July and August.
In March 1990 Lock 52 Historical Society of Port Byron purchased the Moore House at 73 Pine Street from Merle and Marie Moore. It was thought to be the first frame house built in Port Byron with lumber brought down the Erie Canal, which flowed directly behind the house. But I haven’t seen any written evidence of this.
The original owners of the house were Aholiab and Annis Buck.
The Historical Society grew in number and had many interesting programs, some of which were about Indians of the area, a display of arrowheads, a slide presentation of the Erie Canal, the history of the Port Byron Telephone Company, a history of quilts and quilt patterns, the Warren participation in the Civil War a history of the Warren Mills, a display of dolls in period costumes, Christmas customs, the history of the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Trolley, railroad history and many more.
The Historical Society worked with the Gifted-and-Talented Children’s Program under Anne Krieling at the Port Byron Central School. We also had a few active members under the age of 20 and several young people in regular attendance plus visits of the Fourth Grade and later the Third Grade during holiday season for a special program.
Now all that has changed due to the stress of all the required testing the students have to take.
We have lost many members because they have passed away, moved away, are too ill to go out at night, and in many families both parents work and have work to do at home at night. The young people are involved in so many after-school activities they need their time for homework and rest.
We are trying to build up our participating membership again.
 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Helen Lauckarn

Helen Lauckarn by Anita Messina

 Helen Lauckarn and her husband Paul moved to Port Byron in 1951. Paul found employment at Columbia Rope Company, and they rented the upstairs apartment in one of the two houses located on the plot now used by Savannah bank. From that vantage point the young couple could watch the changing village. Businesses came. Businesses left.

Helen grew up on a crop farm in Cato. Her dad bragged that “Helen could manage a team of horses better than any hired hand.” She wasn’t bad at handling a tobacco crop either. Helen’s father, Talbot Streeter (Everyone called him “Tal.”) grew his tobacco seeds in a sock that he kept damp until the seeds sprouted. When sturdy sprouts grew to strong seedlings Helen planted them in the field. She knows all about cutting tobacco and hanging the leaves in the barn to dry. She spent Christmas vacation stripping and bundling fragrant leaves, which her father then trucked to the train station in Baldwinsville where tobacco buyers made their purchases. But each year “Tal” held back one bundle to make his own top-quality cigars.

When she was 18 Helen forged her way to independence. The bright 1942 graduate of Cato-Meridian High School was hired to work in the accounting department at Pass and Seymour. While she was there she heard about a new-fangled contraption that added, multiplied, subtracted and divided. No pencils needed. No erasers either. That contraption was called a comptometer. Its 90 some-odd keys needed agile fingertips and a quick mathematical mind. It’s safe to say Helen had both. She learned quickly and before she could take the final exam attesting to her proficiency, Allied Chemical in Solvay hired her for their payroll department.

 Ethel Blake’s home at 132 Main Street was up for sale in 1965, and Helen and Paul became the new owners of the beautiful Folk Victorian house. The front gable holds an exquisite example of an intricate jigsaw cut design that many passers-by pause to admire. Paul had 11 happy years there until he passed away, in 1976. He was 60 years old. Helen lives there still. There they raised four daughters—Mellony, Sharon, Nancy and Anne. Anne shows boxes and albums full of photographs that chronicle years filled with history and happy times. While the house rocked with glee, Helen watched continuing changes in the village.

Lucy’s ice cream store thrived on Utica Street where the thrift shop is now. The present hardware store was Carr’s Hardware back then. Beautician Dorothy Walker had her beauty parlor across the street. Out back was Lucien Martens warehouse where 10-year-old Mellony filled her red wagon with celery culls and sold them for five or ten cents, depending on the size of the bunch and how sales were going. Ken Tripp had a TV repair store next door. And a World War II memorial now stands where Mr. Kilmer once sold lumber building supplies and gas. Helen marvels at so many changes that have happened in these fleeting years. Marshall’s grocery store where she once shopped is here no longer. The folks who operated the store remember Helen as a sensible shopper who made her family meals and desserts from scratch. To this day she continues to monitor village activity, not out and about so much, but from the vantage point of her beautiful front window in the house that is still referred to as the Blake house.