In the February Corinthian, I wrote a short story, “The Stories That Find You – Camp Sawyer’s The Well”, about a well and its pump that Boy Scout Troop 14 (from a 2018 article called A Civic Club’s Legacy,) from Barnard School used at Camp Sawyer in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In the story, I wondered if the remains of the well and pump were still there. The Boy Scouts abandoned using the site in the 1950s and the Town dedicated the area as Sawyer Park in 1970.
After reading my story, Gil (Gilbert) Holts offered to help find the campsite and possibly the remains of the well. He is the man who gave us the photo of the Boy Scouts and who is in the photo of the group standing at their cabin in 1943.
In early August, Gil and I met at Sawyer Park. Nearly 80 years have passed since he was a Boy Scout and invasive plants, mother nature, and human development have severely changed the natural landscape of this 16-acre park. Needless to say, finding the old campsite proved more difficult than anyone thought. To my surprise after more than an hour, we did find the site and the long-abandoned tile-lined well.
It was such a pleasure to listen to Gil reminisce about the scout camp he spent so much time at many years ago. He talked about swimming in the creek, playing ball where the parking lot is now, and planting the very small pine seedlings that are now nearly 100 feet tall. I was especially excited to find evidence of the campsite and verify the stories I had read about Camp Sawyer.
The well is now covered again and camouflaged, and we will let it stay buried for now knowing that a piece of history from Boy Scout Troop 14 and their Camp Sawyer still survives in the Town of Greece.
Every historian knows that while researching a specific subject, it is not unusual to stumble on a completely unrelated subject that sparks your interest. One day, not that long ago, while looking for an obscure fact for a story I was helping someone with, I stumbled on a 1937 Greece Press article about Camp Sawyer.
I had written about Camp Sawyer some years ago (Sept. 2018 Corinthian) called A Civic Club’s Legacy, how in the early 1930s it became a camp for Boy Scout Troop 14 from Barnard School. In 1958 the Town of Greece acquired the camp with the provision that it would become a public park. And in 1970 it was opened as Sawyer Park.
What sparked my interest in that 1937 article, was a story about a well being dug by the scouts and their leaders, that hopefully would someday provide a dependable supply of water for their camp. The article stated that the project was running into problems because of a layer of red sandstone and that Empire Clay Products would be donating glazed tile to be used to line the well once completed.
After reading the article, I remembered a photo of Camp Sawyer given to the Greece Historical Society by Gilbert Holtz several years ago. The photo, dated 1943, shows the scouts standing in front of a cabin they had built. What I had never noticed before is a pump in front of the boys. A reasonable assumption can now be made that the boys did in fact finish their well.
I never did find that original piece of information I was looking for and now I am left with several questions that may never be answered about Sawyer Park: Are the remains of that tile lined well still there and where exactly would they be? The land stood unused for several years before the Town officially opened it as a park and there have been numerous changes and upgrades since. Maybe someday, some archaeologist or amateur explorer will find the remains of that long-forgotten well and wonder about its original use. In the meantime, I need to get back to that original research task.
Well, it turns out there is an update to this story and it is thanks to Gil Holts who was a member of Boy Scout Troup 14 and camped at Camp Sawyer.
“Your Bathing Suit Must be Right Kind in Greece or You’ll Visit the Judge“
This was a headline in an August 1934 issue of the Greece Press newspaper. Of course, it was about modesty, but you may not have guessed it was directed towards men.
It seems in the early 1930s, men were beginning to follow the new fashion trend of sunning themselves without the benefit of a shirt top. Greece authorities were determined to officially end this custom and return dignity to public bathing by enforcing a bathing ordinance that had been enacted a year earlier.
The ordnance stated,
”No person over the age of 12 shall loiter on the shore, swim or bath in open water exposed to the public within or bounding at any place in the Town of Greece without covering above the waist”
Section 141-C sub-section 2 from Greece Town Law in 1933
Public beaches adjacent to Greece were being patrolled regularly. Enacted primarily to end instances where the public was subjected to shocking scenes of topless men, people were learning that Town government demanded dignity and decency in the gentle art of public bathing.
Greece was not the only local municipality concerned about decency. Earlier in June 1934, the Democrat & Chronicle reported that the City of Rochester Public Safety Commissioner, Walter Cox, stated “the topless bathing suits for men that arein vogue on the West Coast, will not be permitted on Rochester public beaches.”
One wonders how long this ordinance stayed on the books. In 1937, the Greece Press reported that Chief Carter was still stressing the enforcement of the bathing ordinance, but after 1937 no mention is ever seen again.
Apparently, the topless fashion took hold and today the only reference to bathing in the Town Code refers to the restriction of bathing in certain areas.
1933 Greece Town Law
Section 2. No person over twelve years of age shall loiter on the shore, swim or bathe in open water exposed to the public, within or bounding at any place the Town of Greece, with out covering above the waist.
Section 3. No person shall swim or bathe in open water, exposed to the public, within or bounding at any place in the Town of Greece, between the hours of 12 P. M. and 5 A. M.
Section 4. Violation of this· ordinance is hereby declared to be a misdemeanor and shall be punishable by a fine or penalty of $10.00 for the first violation and $20.00 or imprisonment for not exceeding thirty days, or both, for each subsequence violation.
Seventeen-year-old WIiliam J. Thomas immigrated to Greece from Cheddar, Somerset County, England, in 1882. The following year, he purchased 11 acres of farmland on Stone Road, not far west of the intersection of Eddy Road (now Mt. Read. Boulevard).
At that time, the average size of a Greece farm was less than 100 acres, only rarely exceeding 200 or more acres.
By the late 19th century, Greece farmers were principally raising root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, etc. Some farms with larger acreage had apple and peach orchards as well
The Thomas farm had a large greenhouse, kept warm by hot water piping, the heat coming from a coal-fired boiler. Here, early spring crops such as radishes were raised.
A large root cellar (an insulated building, partly underground) stored the root vegetables through the winter. Gradually, these vegetables were, taken to market all through the non-growing season.
Several times a week, the horse-drawn wagon (shown in the circa 1912 photo with William at the reins) would be loaded with produce and taken to the public market or several wholesalers in Rochester. The wagon left at 4 am for the market, and the wagon and driver often did not return until early afternoon.
By the late 1930s, tractors were replacing horses for farm work, and by the 1950s, horse-drawn equipment and wagons were completely gone.
Through the years, more farmland was added to Thomas’ original 11 acres, and his three sons continued to operate the farm after their father’s death in 1938.
By the 1960s, however, it was apparent that a moderately large-sized farm could no longer be profitable in Greece. After more than 65 years, farming finally ended on the Thomas property in 1960.
By 1963, the land had been sold to developers.
Similar to the majority of former farms in Greece, only the sturdy 2½-story farmhouse remains, shielded from the road by tall shrubs. These farm houses remain as ghosts of an important era in local history.
Photos of the Thomas farm from Mr. Frank Thomas, the grandson of Willam Thomas.
When some local farmers saw the thermometer dipping colder and colder below freezing for a few days they knew that it would be time to get the ice harvesting equipment ready for use on the ponds and a few temporarily dammed creeks in Greece. Long Pond and Cranberry Pond were ideal places for such a labor-intensive operation. When the ice was four inches thick it would support a horse. Five inches or more would be safe for a team of horses with a two-ton loaded sleigh.
Ice cutting might start at the end of December and continue until late February. If it was a very cold winter two harvests might be possible. Rain would shut down any further harvesting as it became too slushy for man or beast. In some years there was no harvesting as the ice never became thick enough.
The general weight of each cake might be 300 to 400 pounds. The cakes were stored in insulated frame storage buildings, close to a body of water. They could be as small as today’s garden shed or as big as a horse barn. Most in our area were of a fairly modest dimension. During the warmer months local folk usually visited the large ice houses where they could purchase ice cut in 25, 50, and 100-pound blocks. These were the convenient sizes to put in their own ice boxes. The many summer hotels along the lake frequently obtained ice locally or they might have their own ice house.
A copy of an ice harvesting guide
Artificial ice-making machines began to appear in the late 19th century, but at first, this industry was mainly supplied by railroad refrigerator cars. By about 1910 the first electric home refrigeration machines came on the market. They were expensive, plus the cooling machinery was large and often relegated to the basement. The cost and size of the refrigerator dropped by the mid-1920s with the introduction of the G-E monitor top model, available in several sizes and prices. This spelled the quick demise of ice har vesting in Greece and elsewhere. The electrification of Greece was completed by the late 1930s and time payment plans were available to purchase a new “electric ice box”, as they were often called.
Visit our museum and see additional information on ice harvesting and view two walls of Walt Goulding’s paintings of ice harvesting in the early days. Also on display are several ice harvesting saws and ice pole hooks, part of our collection from the Skinner family of Manitou Road. There is a golden oak ice box and in our 1930s exhibit, explore the “Mrs. Happy Housewife’s” G-E monitor top ELECTRIC Refrigerator.
Below is Kathie Firkins our Education Coordinator explains what winters on Long Pond are like from the early 1800s till at least 1910 when refrigeration started to appear in homes.
Photos, data supplied by Alan Mueller, Greece Historian’s Office.
In the early 1900s, going to the general store such as H.C. Phelps General Store and Anderson’s Store (just east of Mitchell Rd. on Ridge Rd.) would mean you could buy not only staple goods, such as flour, sugar, and canned goods but also kerosene, shoes, baskets, and hardware. You might even pick up your mail and give the tag-along-kids a couple of coins for the penny candy counter. Soon general hardware stores began to take over that part of the general store.
The Phelps Store and Ridge Road Food Store now concentrated on groceries, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
The view of children buying a quart of milk pretty well gives you a glimpse of a grocery store in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Most of the items are behind the counter for the clerk to get for the customer. A long pole with a clamp on the end retrieved items from the top shelf or a narrow ladder attached to a track ran the length of the shelves. The clerks were very agile and got plenty of exercise on busy days. The owner might man the cash register. In the larger stores, the cashier might be behind a slightly raised, caged booth and take the cash, make change, and stamp the receipt paid. Many stores had a sign that read, Cash Only – No Credit. But that was often amended if you were known by the grocer and deemed trustworthy.
A credit balance could be carried and paid at the end of the week or month.
As the 1930s progressed, hard times made it difficult for the smaller stores to hang on. Gradually chain stores, such as The Red and White, appeared along with the A & P or the local Hart’s Stores (with their redeemable coupons). One of the favorite premiums was the orange and black Hart’s cart, available in two styles: the one with removable delivery wagon sides or the rounded corners sturdy model preferred by boys. Mom did a lot of shopping at Hart’s to add up enough coupons for one of those.
As the 1930s folded into the 1940s pioneer “almost supermarkets” began to appear, but the local markets such as Reichenberger’s had expanded from just a meat market to a full-fledged grocery. Along with McBride’s and several other stores, they served the Barnard area well for many years. Cooper’s Deli-Grocery and Service Station on Dewey near the city line, operated by the well-known Norman Cooper, preceded our present drive-by and 7-Eleven convenience stores. A similar operation was the Wind Mill Grocery and Gas Station at the northeast corner of Latta and Long Pond Roads.
This is just a small sampling of the many smaller stores that once dotted the Greece area seventy to ninety years ago.
Photos, data supplied by Alan Mueller, Historian’s Office.