FRANCIS HOWARD WHELEHAN Q&A

Whelehan, Patrick family 1800s town historian

By Marietta

This is a transcript from a recording between Franci Howard Whelehan and Marietta of the Greece Historical Society recorded on July 5, 1990, at the Whelehan Allyndaire Farm the Audio will get digitized at some point to be able to be listened to with the text transcript.

Marietta: How are you today, Howard?

Howard: Very well.

Marietta: Good.. have a nice 4th of July?

Howard: Yeah, had a very nice 4th of July, a little warm.

Marietta: Record heat I think.

Howard: Record heat and record thunderstorms and everything else.

Marietta: Do you remember some 4th of July’s from the past?

Howard: A great many of them, of course as you well know when we were little we could use firecrackers but of course, as you well know they went out and a neighbor of mine a Mr. Kintz they were at a 4th of July party…probably you know about that.

Marietta: No.

Howard: It was outside and his wife was sitting at the end of the table and there are people in the crowd who you might say
like to be funny. Well this man had a firecracker, so unbeknown to her, he lit the firecracker and she stooped over and it blew the eye completely out of her head.

Marietta: Oh dear, I can see why they emphasis safety with firecrackers now. That was not a very good way to celebrate the 4th. Well, tell me about your early childhood.

Howard: Well in 1899 my father and mother were married and they moved into this new house on Latta Road.

Marietta: This house we’re in right now?

Howard: Right now. In 1903 my brother Donald was born here and in 1905 I was born here. My father’s parents were farm people they lived on the Island Cottage Road in the town of Greece. My mother’s people were farm people, they lived in the town of Macedon. My father was very much interested in agriculture. This was quite a big farm and he raised a great deal of hay and grain and after they were here for just a few years, he decided that he needed more barn room to hold the hay and grain. So in 1908, he had a new addition put on the big barn. But unfortunately for all of us he never saw any hay or grain put in it, because early in 1909 he died. Well, that was a great shock to our whole family. I often heard my mother say, “when she came home from the funeral that she had two things in life facing her 2 little boys and $5.” Well, we did have the farm. We did have cattle and horses and pigs and all that at the barn and they had to be taken care of so our neighbors were very good at that time…they came and did our chores. Of course, Donald and I were too small at the time we weren’t able to take care of them and my mother knew nothing about farming she was a school teacher all her life and in other words, she couldn’t take care of the big farm. So the people did come but naturally, she knew that we had to have help..had to have a hired man. So she inquired around and was told that there were 2 or 3 men that she might be able to hire..so but they all had the same little trouble they all liked to drink a little too much.
But that didn’t matter, who had to have someone, so she did hire one of those men. Well of course Donald and I were very small and we could help out. For example, we could feed the chickens, gather the eggs, feed the little pigs and little calves, and of course another thing that had to be done, to go out in the pasture in the late afternoon and drive the cows down. So in addition to all that just a day or two after the funeral there was a very wealthy man who lived just down Latta Road- his name was Mr. Yates. He owned several coal companies in the city and also in Buffalo, and he sent his hired man out the next day to see if the two little boys here would like a pony. So of course, we liked the little pony, so we did get him. His name was Romeo and he was getting rather old. He was a circus pony. And what he did or what he didn’t do in the circus was let anyone ride on him. So he was another pet. Well then there was no running water, we had a well at the barn and either Donald or I or the man you’d have to pump a pail of water or a couple of pails of water for the women of the house to use and we could do that and in addition to that, the animals had to have water so we would do our part to pump the water into the big trough for the animals to drink. So we did all that and then of course when we got a little older we would have homework to do but after the homework then it would be time to go to bed, which would be about 9 o’clock.

Marietta: Oh bedtime was early.

Howard: So but different things happened even then and I remember this little thing. I was in bed one night and my mother came upstairs and woke me up and said that the Mrs. so-and-so (I forgot her name) was downstairs and she was the next-door neighbor and they lived in a rather. old house. Her husband worked on the railroad. They got ten cents an hour for 10 hours of work. I believe that’s a dollar a day and they worked for 6 days, which would be $6. Well, back of this old house there was a dilapidated orchard that hadn’t been taken care of in a great many years. There were old dead limbs in the trees and on the ground, weeds growing up through it and everything. So my mother said that this lady was downstairs and she wondered if Donald and I would go over. Her husband (there happened to be a bar right over at the corner on the way home with his $6) he stopped at the bar and got a little too much to drink and the $6 was gone and they had no food or anything for the children. So of course they had a few words and the wife knew there was a big rope in the cellar.

The husband went down the cellar and he got the big rope and when he came up and told his wife he was going out in his orchard and go up in a tree and hang himself…he was going to commit suicide. She wanted to know if Donald & I would go over and walk around in the trees and find him hanging there and if we did find him hanging there to come in and let her know and the three of us would go out; she’d have a big knife and would cut him down out of the tree and drag him in put him in and put him on the kitchen floor all night. She said she’d feel better if he was on the kitchen floor rather than hanging up and swinging around in a tree. Well, I was always very scared in the dark and naturally this v.s sure didn’t help any..so the two of us started Over & I was scared to death. And we did start to look around in the trees . . . the wind was blowing some and it would blow the old dead limbs one against another and I thought it was the guy up there swinging his body was swinging. But we kept on going and finally, we heard a little crackling in the old dead brush on the ground. Well, then I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. So the two of us stopped and this noise would come on again. Neither one of us could move..well we stood there for a couple of minutes and finally what appeared in right front of us was a big black & white cow. There was a big barn just the other side of this old house with a little pasture around it and the cow broke out of that night and happened to wander into the orchard. The next morning the lady came over and told my mother that later that night after the husband sobered up a little and he came in and everything was made up so everything was back to normal again.

Marietta: That was quite a night.

Howard: We didn’t have many baths in those days. Not as many as now because it was a little harder to get a bath. Of course, when we’d be going to church on Sunday or if we had to go to a dentist or doctor naturally we would have to take a bath. So I’ll give you a little story about what we had to do to get ready for a bath. Well, take it in the middle of summer, when there wouldn’t be any heat in the kitchen stove. The first thing you’d have to do is get some papers, and some kindling, and some wood and start the fire. Well then we did have rather a big tub..that was used just for that purpose… I don’t know what you’d call it but it held two pails of water, and that would be pumped out of the cistern and you’d pour the two pails of water in this big container… it would take a good half hour to 40 minutes to heat that water. There were no lights then and no heat or anything like that. We did have a cement floor in the cellar but when the water was hot enough we’d get a dipper and dip that into a pail and light a lantern and take it down cellar, dump it in the tub and eventually take a bath..so that wasn’t very easy to do.

Marietta: No it was quite a process.

Howard: Not many baths were taken. As I said there were no lights or anything but for heating, we did have a kitchen stove as most every farmhouse had. Then in the late winter or late fall, they’d always set up in our parlor a little coal stove… they’d call it a pot-bellied stove and in the later part of the summer we would have a team harnessed and they would be hitched onto a box wagon and there was a coal yard (Yates Coal Yard) on Latta Road down about 2 miles and we would go down there and get 2 tons of chestnut coal and come home and put that in the cellar and that’s what would be used for heating purposes.

Marietta: Now would that coal yard be over towards Lake Avenue..that way.

Howard: That coal yard…there’s a lumberyard there right now.

Marietta: Greece Lumber?

Howard: That’s right there and there was a coal yard well right there on the same spot at that time. You could buy either lumber or coal, which made it very handy and I will talk a little more about that.. we used to ship apples and they would leave a car right there. Well in this parlor where the little stove was it was very nice. My mother would if a lady or people came at night.. she might bring them in there. And they would either visit.. we did have a piano in there.. they might play a game of cards or visit or play on the piano. So it worked out very well. Our meals on a farm were here and I imagine every place were good and I suppose the reasons was that we raised a great deal of that right on the farm. Potatoes and cabbage and of course we had our garden.. lettuce and everything berries so it worked out very well and then, of course, we did have our own meat. We raised our own little pigs and we would have our pork to eat in the winter and we did not have much red meat as
we called it in those days for two reasons. The first was I don’t know if it was the main one or not, we would have to hitch a horse to a buggy and drive to Charlotte which was 2 miles, and then the other drawback was the question of money. There wasn’t too much money in those days to buy such things. I might give you a little history of that. We did have hens as I said and we would get quite a number of eggs a day all that the family would want to use and then by the end of the week there might be 10, 11 or 12 extra dozen and they would be brought to the grocery store.
My mother, there would be a horse hitched up on a buggy and my mother, Donald and I would go down to the grocery store. Well, we knew the grocery men very well and he would always take my mother’s word that there were say 12 dozen of eggs there.

What he would do is write down or figure them up.. they’d come to say $3.25 and so he’d write that down and then my mother would have her list. At that time women didn’t buy anything at a grocery store because they didn’t have the money that they really didn’t need but of course, they did need the coffee, teas, spices, sugar, flour, and things like that. Well, she would read off the coffee I’ss just say 80 cents and he would write that down and then tea so many cents, and finally, he would say Mrs. Whelehan you’re getting near the $3.25 ‘and when she got near the $3.25 that was it there were no more groceries because she had no more money. Well that was that and that was how we lived but we did have a little bad luck there too. At that time men would come from the city with their horses and a little wagon and all papers were reused at that time and iron. On the farm, you’d have plow points and little pieces of iron and my mother would always keep them. Our chicken house was in and old house at the barn and she would keep papers and iron things right besides that… so this particular day this man came and wanted to know if she had any and she said yes she did. So they went over and they would have a little scales. They would weigh the papers and iron. So he weighed them up and paid her and went. And then the next morning, we went over to feed the hens… there wasn’t a hen on the farm. All were gone.

Marietta: Oh, he had stolen them?

Howard: Well that was our groceries and it left us very bad, but we did have nice neighbors, and the first thing we knew each neighbor would come with two hens, and the first thing we knew we had our hen house replenished.

Marietta: Wasn’t that great, oh.

Howard: And the hens were back and we got the eggs and we would begin to be able to eat again and of course we often kind of wondered where the hens went but we felt we sort of knew where the hens went.

Marietta: That’s right.

Howard: The ladies were all very good bakers on account of I just said it was too far and there were no stores near anyway.

Marietta: The closest store would have been in Charlotte?

Howard: In Charlotte.

Marietta: So that would have been quite a trip?

Howard: And so and I know all the ladies but my mother made the cookies, pies, and cakes and the bread. Of course, I don’t know how you make bread but she’d have a big breadboard and when she’d be getting short, she’d mix up flour and water and all at night and we’ll say in the winter and she’d mix that all up and then she had a big container like a pail only much bigger and she would put this dough in there and open the stove door…there’d be a nice hot fire there and she’d cover this pail and by morning it would have come right up to the top. And she would work that down on the big board and cut it down up into loaves and put it in the oven and it would turn out to be very nice bread the next day.

Marietta: Mmm fresh bread.

Howard: Well the canning we had ‘our garden and naturally we had fruit and she would as all neighbor ladies would do a lot of canning and that worked out very well for the winter. They would open the jars and it would taste very good. Now in regard to an ice box.. we didn’t have any such thing and I don’t think that any rural houses around here did have any. We had a nice cool cellar cement floor and we had 2 tubs down there that were used just for that purpose, and before each meal, the butter, milk, and perishable things like that would be kept and the bread was kept in a big tin down cellar and someone would go down and get the milk and things and bring it up and then immediately after the meal someone would bring it right back and we got along very well then. We did in the town there were several ponds and the man who ran the pond, they would be used to cut ice in the winter and as the snow would fall and when the winter time would come and the ice under would be thick enough for him to walk on; he would push all that snow off and would let the cold air get to the little ice by late winter it might be 8-10″ thick and then he would call the neighbor farmers. We had a team and a big long sleigh. It would be cut into big chunks and loaded on our sleighs and then we would bring that to his ice house which would be near the pond and that would be packed away… I believe they put sawdust around the cakes and that would keep them from thawing in the winter and in the summer. I really don’t think that I had any favorite food. I will admit that I always liked sweet things and in the morning on the breakfast table after breakfast, there were always cookies on the table, and at noon there were always after the main meal either pies, pudding something like that, and then after the supper meal, there was always cake. So we always had those things and of course, I appreciated them very much.

There may have been 2 or 3 doctors in the town and I think there probably there were but we didn’t have any in our section of the town because we were so near Charlotte. There were two very good doctors down there Dr. Fleming and Dr. Sullivan… Our doctor happened to be Dr. Fleming and what would happen if a person in your household became sick very suddenly, someone would have to harness a horse depending on the weather and whether they hitched them onto a buggy or a cutter. They would drive down to Charlotte, up to his office and you’d wait your turn to see him. And if the person was seriously sick soon as he got through he would have to harness his horse and drive way out and hitch the horse to the hitching post and come in and administer to the person and but if the person wasn’t quite as bad and could be taken to the doctors…he or she would be taken to the doctor but even that was run a little bit different than it is now. If you go to a doctor or a dentist now you go by appointment 2 o°clock, 3 o’clock or something but then you would open the door to his reception room… I think you might call it. There might be one person in there, might
be none. But in other words, you had to wait your turn. What they gave for medicine, of course, I never knew but I did always noticed this that before you would leave them they’d have a little paper container with a little top on it and they would put some pills in there and seal it up and always write on the outside “Take one pill every 6 or 8 hours.”…and of course, we would always follow those instructions.

Around here it was known as Patty Hill and the Irish people and I guess they are all superstitious. I know my mother was and I am myself. I’ll give you a little case about my mother. She and Donald & I were going out one Sunday afternoon in our car. So we got ready and went out.. our car was out in the driveway and when we got in & turned the key on but the engine wouldn’t start. So we tried it some and after we tried it 2 or 3 times.., my mother said to leave it right there that maybe if we got out on the road that we’d have an accident and it would be much worse and that she would have the car fixed the next day. It was probably better the way it was. And another thing I could mention but it was always thought to be very unlucky. We’ll say a woman was going out of her house to go to a neighbor and really needed her glasses, but she went out locked the door and got a few feet away from the house, and thought she forgot her glasses, she would never turn come back and unlock the door because that was very bad luck. And of course, we know about an umbrella walking in the house with that. And of course, Friday was always a day you sort of had to watch out for they said.

Marietta: You didn’t start any big projects on Friday.

Howard: No, no big projects on Friday. Well, entertainment there wasn’t any. You might say for me in those days. Very little if any of course I was only 4 yrs. old and there were a few houses but far away and very few little children. My brother was only 22 months older than I was but he was a little on the smart side a lot and didn’t enjoy playing little games. In other words, he went on & I guess he got through Harvard Law when he was 22 years old which was quite young so I there was nothing much for me to do, so of course, there were no radios, no TVs, telephones nothing. So late in the afternoon over there was the other side of the barn there was an old house and in that house an elderly couple. The name was Mc Cabe that was a rather hard name to say so my mother always told us to the man’s name was Tom and the ladies’ name was Kate, to call them Mr. Tom and Mrs. Kate. So I would ask my mother some afternoons if I could go over and ask Mrs. Kate if she would come over and play cards with us…well she would always say yes. So I would go over and Mrs. Kate was a very large woman and she would always say yes. And you know at that time the women would always put a big shawl over their heads. So you’d see Mrs. Kate coming with a big shawl on her head and we’d play cards on the kitchen table. And I think it was about 8′ long and 6′ wide with two big leaves on it and I always had to sit in a high chair because I was so little even then I couldn’t hardly look up over the table. So I often thought in later years that it must have been a very interesting card game for Mrs. Kate and I always played Donald and my mother. Well when my father passed away, of course, my mother didn’t know anything about farming very hard. And her father was getting very old so he sold his farm and came up to help my mother out a little. So practically every night I guess I’d ask grandpa if he’d play cards with me and he always did. But it went on this particular night and I asked him if he would play cards with me and he had a very good reason why he couldn’t. So I asked him the next night and he had another reason that night but that was just as good and I asked him the third night and he still had another reason he didn’t
play with me. So by that time I guess I got a little superstitious or something so, I asked my mother why grandpa didn’t play cards with me. Well, she said this is Lent, and in Lent, you are not supposed to have any pleasure of any kind, and it lasts for forty days and at the end of forty days Grandpa will play cards with you again.

Marietta: Ah.

Howard: So I had nothing to do naturally.

Marietta: What kind of cards did you play?

Howard: I have no idea .. as I said it must have been interesting with those older people.. but anyway it sort of passed my time away a little. Well by that time they were beginning to sell farms around and the farms on either side of our place were sold and houses were built and naturally there’d be people in the houses and children so they would come over. I would have horses and they would be hitched onto wagons and they would get on the wagon and ride around and have a good time doing that. Then in addition to that, we had the big barns I’ve spoken about but I’d gone out of that kind of farming into fruit farming. So we had a nice big loft so I fixed that over and put two basketball baskets and the young boys would come and play basketball. Well then there were two old houses over there that we used as barns and I was through
with them so some of the little kids turned same as them into clubhouses. So there were several little clubhouses around. Well, then another thing right back of our house there was a large low spot. So I thought it would be nice for skating. So I went down to the east end with equipment and drew in a lot of dirt and made a big dam to hold the water. All the water comes down from the hill and it floods it down
there and the water can be very thick. That’s what I did and I put some posts in and had lights put on them and then I had a big tractor and a big snowplow on the front of that and I would push the snow off when it snowed so the water would freeze more. So this particular day I guess had just gone that that afternoon and I had come to the house for something and while I was in the house two little girls climbed up on the tractor and fell off the tractor down on their face and broke their arms and knocked out teeth.

Marietta: Oh dear.

Howard: So of course the ambulance had to be called and that didn’t make me feel very good. But still, I knew that I was insured so
that took a little of the sting out of it, but anyway, the officials came and knew more than I did. A great many would skate down there maybe there’d be a hundred or a hundred in fifty kids down there skating around and they would come from as far as Stone Road. So when the officials came he said well that isn’t private skating at all that’s public and you have to have a paid public, which I inquired and it would have cost about $7oo to insure that little thing down there. So anyway I went out of the skating business.

Marietta: You had one venture in the skating.

Howard: Well we did have every winter two big parties. One was held on the top of Patty Hill by a very nice family and the other on Long Pond Road. A few days before the party the lady who would be giving it she would of course invite and the ladies would go and help her get the house ready, wash dishes I suppose, and get chairs ready. And we would all look forward to the night and we would put on our best clothes and each lady was supposed to bring some little food or salad or cake or something like that and so we would go. And in those times people could do different things, they could speak pieces maybe, or there’d be a vocal soloist, a violin and different things like that when they’d all gather that would be carried out, each person would do what he …. and the first thing you knew you could smell the coffee and you could see the ladies bringing the lunch on so we would all have a very fine lunch and then they would go into a big room and there WOuld be the violins, and everything like that and they would play and sing until it got too late and then they would come home…all having a nice time.

Marietta: And that was in a private home.

Howard: Yes, a Leah (Leo) Whelahan’s home, and then over on Long Pond Road there was also a big house Mr. James’ house and it would be the same thing there. Well then another party we always looked forward to was the Farmer’s Picnic and which was held at Manitou which is a long way away when you have to drive there with a horse and buggy…I’d say it’s a good six miles there probably. No one had to be invited we were all…anyone could go. So we would look forward to that and on the day two things had to be thought of – of course, the women would prepare a lunch and but another thing that had to be brought along was a flynet for the horse. Because there would be so many flies around so we would drive way up there, to the picnic. And of course all had a fine time, of course naturally the lake was there and we had bath houses, crocket for ladies, pitching horseshoes was quite a sport then and there would be rides for ponies, merry-go-round, ice anything you want. They’d have it ‘there, so of course, we enjoyed that very much. The Slater family lived just the other side of our house a little and I often heard Senator Slater say in later years, that way they would on the way home discuss all the time about how they would plan for next year’s farmers’ picnic, because none of us had any pleasure between then.

Marietta: So it was a big thing.

Howard: I might mention one more that might not be to close to the Town of Greece but still it was beneficial. I guess probably we all know Frank Gannett. I guess we read his papers some and we in the Town of Greece you could belong to the Farm Bureau. No one would ask – I think it was $5 or $10 a year and when I started in the farming business, I had no father to tell me what to do. I never went to an agricultural college or anything like that – so I always tried to get all the information I could and of course Mr . Gannett was born and brought up on a farm and
was just as poor as the rest of us. But every year late in the summer, the ones who belonged to the Farm Bureau would get an invitation from his office. He’d invite us to a picnic on his farm – that was in Henrietta and it would be very beneficial to us because and I think we all know who Mr. Gannett was. At one time before the Republican Presidential Election, it had boiled down to 3 or 4 men who the candidate would be for the
Republican Party. And Mr. Gannett was one of three or four men but he missed out on that a little. But we would get an invitation for his picnic and what he would do from Cornell and Michigan State and other colleges, he would have those professors come to his farm and they would conduct experiments all year on his farm and then he would invite everybody around – the Greece people and we would go up it would usually be, it was always on a Saturday afternoon and for some reason, it was always a nice day and we would go up and the professors would all be there and they would explain their experiments to us, which would be very beneficial to us. For example, we didn’t know on the side hill
you couldn’t grow any crops on a side hill, but they told us that you could use it for pasture- that if you had a strip and then another strip of plowed ground you could sow something and then another strip of sod and so on. So those experiments were we learned a lot that’s why I’m mentioning it and there might be new machinery to help us out. Well then after that was shown, he had a real old farmhouse and we’d go down for the picnic. And he had a very large yard and that would be filled with tables and I never saw such food- truckloads. Soft drinks, anything you could mention, and then at a certain time over a loud speaker, they’d say that lunch is to be served so they would line up and you could go along. There would be a person there – anything you wanted and you could go back as many times as you’d like. Well then after that they had a little side porch with a little railing around it and after we were through eating then right out from the side porch there were dozens and dozens of benches and we would go and sit on the benches and when we were all placed there M/M Gannett would come and she would sit in a rocking chair on the little side stoop and he would stand up to the rail and tell us about his early days or the farm. Different stories which were very interesting and I do happen to remember this one. Their farm was just a speck east of the city – he named the town but I forget and of course, they worked on the farm and as he grew just a little he decided that he would like a watch but he had no money and his parents didn’t have any money, but he did ask his mother if she would stop in a store when she went up-city to find out how much a watch might
be. So she said she would and she went one day and came home and said that she could get a watch for $2.40 Well of course he didn’t have that kind of money at all but he did know there were seven houses, I think between he and the city and right at the end of the city there was a little store and every morning a newspaper company would leave the papers there so that when someone went in to buy something he could get a paper. So he thought it all over that if I could get that company to leave the seven extra papers every morning- maybe I could deliver them to the seven houses & maybe in the time get enough money to buy my watch. So anyway I don’t know who made the arrangements but the company said that they would leave those papers there. So he would get up mornings in the dark before school, walk up and get the papers and deliver them to the seven houses…and his grand total amounted to about 8 cents a home and he put that away and of course, he knew it would be weeks, months ..he had that all figured up. But anyway time went on and he got the $2.40. So he asked his mother naturally there was a big merry-go-round in that section & of course, we all know about the pier. People would walk out on the long pier and if they were in bathing suits they could dive in the water. And then right at the end of Beach Avenue, there was no Driving Park or no Stutson St. bridge then & right at the end of that road down there at the Lake at Beach Avenue there was a big flat boat with a little railing around it. And I’m pretty sure it was known as the “Windsor” and that ran on a chain. And if people wanted to go across to the other side they would get their ticket and every so often it would go back and forth. And of course, it would carry a horse and buggy and well anyway there is quite a big hotel on the other side. A nice hotel and at that time my mother used to raise quite a lot of potatoes. So the man who ran the hotel he got in touch with her one day to see if he could buy some potatoes, so she did sell a lot to them and Donald & I had to deliver them with a team & wagon and my mother always kept very nice horses and the teams we drove that day was one of them was a very strung horse. So we went down with the small load of potatoes and there were men on the little boat and they let us on and I knew this horse was scared but they kept him under control until they started the engine in the boat and it started to move; then he started to move and he stood up on his hind legs and everybody thought he was going to jump right over the railing into the river… but I often thought we were just two boys, we went across- we got across and unloaded the potatoes, what we must have been thinking of when we’re over there that and had to come back the same way.

Marietta: That’s right that return trip….of dear.

Howard: Well just this side then of course there was Lake Avenue and on the East Side of that there were 3 or 4 buildings- yeah they would call them buildings and one would sell ice cream cones, and the other one soft drinks and the other one candy and so on and as luck would have it on the West Side – and there was competition naturally would be the same buildings almost and they sold the same things ice cream, candy and all. See but they all did but on the West side they had it over the East side a little in this respect because just the other side a block or so up was a bar and of course, they would attract some men and they would often go there. But of course, the Lake was there for swimming purposes there were 2 or 3 bath houses and then in the summer when things would really get going good they would line up the sidewalks facing West..running West and there would be all kinds of shops along. These might be ones where little rabbits came up & if you could shoot them and places where you could buy cars and there might be a little places where real rabbits, little children could see the rabbits and maybe this or something and then there were always a little- I don’t know what you’d call it but there 2 or 3 ponies they’d have them tied and if a person wanted a little child to have a ride a ticket could be bought and the child could ride on the pony and then there was a barn there and of course horseshoe p~tching there were a lot of them and they did have a barn there with a horse in it and a big sign on it that the only horse in the world that his head was where his tail should be. So of course that sounded kind of funny to people and when a big crowd would come the people would sort of start to go there and they had two men just for that purpose they would go in and come out laughing as hard as they could – well then people would think that there was something to it and they would go in again and come out laughing harder than ever– well after 2 or 3 times there would be a man there to sell tickets.

Quite a number of people would buy a ticket and go in..well the horse would be standing in just the opposite direction. His head would be just in the opposite direction. So they would do little things like that and anything that you’d mention— Ferris wheels and anything like that was there and well of course it was known as the Little Coney Island. Well then of course another big attraction was the Manitou Line and that was…we would in the house I live in you could always hear the whistle. Different whistles but it started there and they were very nice cars. There 2 or 3 steps leading up to the car and then in the car was as I recall maybe one big long seat but they didn’t mind nobody checked if you wanted to stand on the step going up. You could so people would get on that… they would ride to Manitou or you could get off where ever you wanted and they would stop and start and pick up people and that went to Manitou which was always also you could have a thing there to do and something that always interested me – or the other end of the line near Manitou and of course I never quite could understand how they had it fix- ed but the little railroad that carried the cart went right over the lake you might say they had big posts driven in the ground and then the tracks laid on that and it carried the little cars very well over so it really was a very wonderful place. People would either walk there or you’d drive your horses there or take the street car there. Well then up West of that about 2 miles west of that was Island Cottage and that was also very nice of course it wasn’t nearly as big as Charlotte but of course, the Lake was there and the bathhouse and 2 nice stores you could buy anything- little food that you wanted to and there was a hotel there the Island Cottage Hotel was a nice ground there with picnic tables in and shade trees and people could drive there and then in addition to that there was a nice baseball field and our town always had a good baseball team and whoever was in charge would play usually on Sunday afternoon and during the game, some men would go around with his hand and collect a few pennies around.

Of course going up from Charlotte to Manitou not only could you see the Lake all along but there were 2 or 3 ponds you would pass by and they were very nice and for some reason would always grow in ponds and men would go there and I don’t understand that but at the time were used in the making of a chair and the men some men down around there would cut in the winter in the marsh and they would cut it like dry corn and bring it up to dry ground and put into shalks like corn and tie it and evidently it would dry and then in the early spring/summer a buyer whoever would be interested in it; they would come and buy it from the men and quite a few of them made very well on that. And then another occupation, you might call it, naturally with the marsh there were little animals furry and quite a number of men did trapping. And they would trap these little animals and skin them and sell that and do very well with that – so that line was a very nice thing for people of the Town of Greece.

Well, we did have two railroads near us. One went through Barnards Crossing that was up Dewey Avenue maybe 2 miles or a little more and the branch from that as I have mentioned before there was a branch from that that went down to our (Yates) coal company on Latta Road and lumber yard…..or to put a car we could use it to ship apples on – but the main line that went through up there was for coal and I think that came from Pennsylvania probably and there were 2 big car ferries that drew this coal to Canada. We evidently sold a lot of coal and I understand that each car ferry would hold 12,14, 16 car loads of coal and I don’t know just how they’d do it but where the big boat would
come it would back up to the railroad line. It was all fixed with tracks in the boat and they could run the cars right on to the ferry and then they would take that over to Canada and that was that line.

Well then back of us right next to my farm there was another railroad. And I don’t kow how far down East that went but I heard maybe 40 miles or so and it did run..as far West as Buffalo I understood. And that was a real farming section and we raised different things there would be potatoes in one, cabbage and then you all know about Duffy-Mott. They bought great amounts of apples, of course, they needed cans and all that was shipped on that line in addition to that, there were two passenger trains every day and at each little station there would be a little side track and a little weigh-in station would be standing there with scales on it. And for example, if a farmer sold his cabbage a car would be placed near him you might say and the farmers would bring their cabbage there and weigh them on the scales and fill up the car, and then it would be taken away. Now I believe that that line is gone now, it has been out now for about 8-10 years but before that was put in I was told when I was a small boy by an elderly man- and he had seen it before that railroad was there, there was a road there a dirt road and there were little specs of log cabins or places to live and he told me then he said I could take you and show you 2 or 3 wells right now so it proved that there were houses along there at that time.

Marietta: So that was the HOJACK LINE – that’s north of your farm?

Howard: Well that’s – I’ll get to that. That road was there first- well as I say it was right long my farm and I was always very much interested when I was back near there. It’s kind of exciting to see a big train coming – it was then of course today their run on electricity, I guess – to see the smoke puffing out of them and then chugging along and another thing that was interesting – I don’t know why – I would read where they were from.. might be apples from the State of Washington …and they would be from all over, but an interesting thing and I never quite knew why of course it would be in summer and I might be back there working the horses and the train would come along… I would usually stop and for some reason the motormen he would be at the window and he would always wave at me, of course, we didn’t know each other…and I would wave back and then there was always the little question about how it got its name and I guess maybe this they decided on this…as I say it went to Buffalo and right near the stop the trains got in every night at about 5 o’clock and there was a little boy who lived in a house right near, he would ask his mother if he could go out and see the train come up, he was very much interested, so she would always say yes. So he would go out and finally, he would see the train come puffing up and it would stop there and the engineer would shut off all his controls and climb down the ladder and the little boy he would always be so excited he’d shout “hol Jack” because we couldn’t say “Hello Jack” and they think this is how the railroad got its name. Well, of course, I guess we have come along to wars and we have always had them and they aren’t very good things. There were several cases around here, I know a boy who went to school with me, he’s a little bit older, he went over there and while over there both eyes were lost, so from that day until the day that he died a few years ago, he sat in a chair, with people having to wait on him. Well then too, there were airplanes then but people traveled by train and so the government would send a notice to some boys to be at the railroad station at a certain time such as 8 o’clock. So this particular night two boys near here were to go, one was a close relative and the other we knew him very well, so we would go up, people would go up and of course, it would be a very sad sight for the parents to see them go and we all knew, everybody knew they might come back and they might not come back. Well in that particular case after the war was over my cousin didn’t come back but the other boy did come back. We did it was in 1971, eight of us went to Hawaii. My brother and all and Bob and all they were helping me good on the farm. My brother was a lawyer in New York he had given out and wouldn’t take any money so I brought eight people to Hawaii and while there we went to Pearl Harbor. Have you ever been there?

Marietta: No I’ve never been there.

Howard: Well, of course, they had a man on a boat that would tell us and he would go along and I think the first thing that we went by was a huge boat. Just the top of it was sticking out of the water with a pole up with a big 9Americanflag on it and in that boat even then were the bodies of over 1200 young men that was sunk that night or day and then after the war was over they sent some men in to see if they could get the bodies out but the irons and all were so twisted in there so sharp and all that those men would have been killed so they left it right there. So then we went on and when we got to about the end, there was like a big mountain and straight across…it’s kind of hard for me to describe it and then there was quite a spot that there was a desert you might call it and that’s where the planes came over to kill the people and that was right there was of course when they did come over well… I used to buy my spray material from Agway and there was a young man who worked for them and he would come here and he sold to me. And then he had to go to war and he was in Pearl Harbor when it came and he came back and told me all about it. He said he was a pretty good musician and there were 15 or 20 boys at this particular time playing instruments and standing around; they were singing and having a good time and all. Then all of a sudden the planes came over this division in the mountain and of course let the bombs down and he was knocked out, he had to be taken to the hospital, but he said there were 20 of them playing in the band or whatever you call it and over half of them were killed. And then right near there of course that day or night I don’t know which it was a great many of the boats were sunk. But there was a huge boatyard right beside and they had the equipment, and they raised those boats almost immediately and got them in working condition and they helped defeat the enemy. Well along the side was a huge hill or almost a mountain and for as far as you could see was nothing but little white tombstones, with the young men lying there.

Marietta: All the boys we lost?

Howard: So it was an awful thing. Of course then back here we weren’t in quite such bad shape but you could hardly buy anything. If you had a car you couldn’t go out except maybe to a hospital or something like that. You couldn’t buy any sugar or there was a great many things you couldn’t buy or couldn’t do. There was an elderly man, he was a carpenter but he had given it up, but he would come and do little things for my mother; fix a window or something at the barn. So he came one day and said that he and his wife were getting old and with our cold winters that they were going to live in Florida. So he went to Florida, they went to Florida and in the meantime, he heard that he had quite a little bit of money in those days – we heard he had $40,000 which is a lot of money then. He had it in stocks, bonds, and banks. Well then, of course, everything went then banks and all failed so he stopped in one day came to the door, and said Mrs. Whelehan would you have any work for me? He said I don’t have l cent, we hardly have enough money to buy food for my wife and myself. He said every single penny is gone. So my mother said yes that she did have – she wanted a stoop put on – so she said he could put the stoop on and of course, he was very pleased to get the money. But that were the conditions but everything seemed to go bad in those days, but I think it was in 1934 that a cold night came along and I think it went down to around 26 or 27 degrees and I know during the night we could hear; of course we all orchards you could hear your trees cracking open. it sounded like there was a man at the barn with a big board hitting the barn just as hard as you could hit it. Well, we went out the next morning and you could put your arm right through any tree; they were all completely slit open.

Marietta: Would this have been in the early spring?

Howard: Well it was in the middle of winter.

Marietta: Oh middle of Winter…I See.

Howard: Of course, it had to be when it was that cold. It never went that cold before. Well, of course, that was our living but the city people, would some of them not all of them couldn’t buy heat, coal or anything, then they couldn’t get any work, and so the government I don’t understand that but they got in on that and they hired these men that wanted to work for 25 cents an hour and for example in our orchard there would be about 25 brought here every day on a big flat wagon and five or six men would go to a tree with a shovel and an ax and they would dig the dirt away and cut the big roots, and while they were doing that there’d be a man he’d have a big heavy rope .. he would be climbing the tree and go up in the top and tie that rope onto a big limb up there and then when the men on the ground would have the tree pretty well dug; they would call and eight or ten men would come and they would get ahold of this rope and work it back and forth; giggle the tree and finally the tree would go out of the hole and tip over and then it would be ll sawed up by hand. Crosscut saws and ax and things like that and of course they would fill the hole in and all then that wood it would be cut into lengths for our stove or fireplaces and the government did allow us to keep a little of that wood. But then big wagons would come and of course, somebody knew who needed heat and that wood would be brought to those people.

Marietta: So it went for a good purpose, but you lost your trees.

Howard: It worked out very well but of course, it made it very hard on us orchard people because everything was gone. Well, in regard to town government, I never got into that very much…I guess I had enough to do without that but the voting was a little different then from now I think. Now when we go to vote we go to a beautiful hall with lights and heat big nice tables and everything. But then our district was over at the corner of Dewey and Latta Road. The booths were a little bit of a wooden hut you might say. They were kept someplace in the town, I don’t know where and just before the election a big wagon or something would go and one would be loaded on and our’s would be brought over here and put off on the corner- naturally off the road and then in a day or two a little stove to hold wood and a little wood would be brought along and then the day of voting well that would be the same. There would be two Republicans and 2 Democrats sitting at a big table and right behind them were 2 kerosene lamps in brackets and you would go and vote. It was on a paper ballot, I guess and you would put that in a box, and then you couldn’t hold 2 or 3 extra people in them but if there were extra people in at 9 o’clock..the same as now I believe they would be asked to leave and the people would count the ballots and so that was how it was done then. And we did have quite a big man in the town, not only in the town but in the whole county. His name was Al Skinner. I guess everybody knew him quite well. And he won every election for a great many years except his last one. He lived down along the lake I believe and he also had a place to keep little boats, and he was very nice to everybody and then at the same time about was Gordon Howe. He was the town supervisor for a great many years and I did happen to know Gordon very well. We went to Charlotte High School together… but he was a year or two behind me. He was a very fine basketball player and a few years ago we happened to meet in the grocery store and got talking about our earlier days. I guess so he had one thing that he was always sorry about in his life, he had. Of course, he was a fine basketball player, I knew that, everyone did, he did too. But that was his ‘trouble, he spent a little bit too much time playing basketball and thinking about basketball and it was largely on that account that he never went to college.

Marietta: Oh-h.

Howard: And of course, he went way up in the world, was a fine speaker and all but he never went on to college. But he did say as we know…well he didn’t say but we know that he was responsible for M.C.C. being built.

Marietta: Mmm…that’s right.

Howard: So he became very much interested in it but I didn’t happen to belong to the same party as those two men but they helped me out and I was in the fruit business then and I did have a big truck, a big flat bottom truck and they would have a parade every year. So somebody would come and ask me if I would take the band on the truck – so of course, I would be in the parade and they would come and decorate the truck and then I would go where they would say to go and the band would get on and they would play and we would go aroung and finally land at the place for a little picnic. So that worked out very well and they would all do nice things for me but at about that time the Democrats had always run the town…but about that time the Democratic Supervisor got in which wasn’t liked very well by the people, so the next year a Republican Supervisor got in and of course, as we all know they’ve been in ever since, the Republican Supervisors. But up until that time, everything was you might say sort of at a standstill in the town, but Eastman Kodak Company was there and they were growing, they were hiring people from not only the city but outside. They were building houses. We began to improve our roads, water lines were put through, sewer lines were put through, electric lines, and then the people…We were never told how many people were living in the town at that early stage. I know a few thousand and today they tell me there could be around 100,000 people living in the town of Greece and they all seem to be living well, especially in the western part of our town…it’s just building right up and they all are driving their cars by here. All seem to be enjoying it. I’ve lived in this house for 85 years ..it seemed like home to me and I hope I can always live in this home. So I might close by saying… “Be it ever so humble there is no place like home in the town of Greece.”

Bicentennial Snapshot # 33: Extreme Weather Part 1

Today we will be talking about some historic weather events.

1816 and the effects of Mount Tambora eruption in Greece New York

In 1815, the largest eruption of a volcano in recorded history occurred; Mount Tambora, in Indonesia erupted spewing so much ash into the atmosphere that global temperatures dropped dramatically in the summer of 1816 causing unusual cold and food shortages. 1816 became known as the year without a summer or “eighteen hundred and froze to death.”

Painting of Mount Tambora erupting
Mount Tambora can be seen via space using satellite imagery, by NASA

The volcanic dust carried around the globe on the jet stream covered the earth like a great cosmic umbrella, dimming the Sun’s effectiveness during the whole cold year. The eastern United States, Europe, and China were hugely affected. It caused widespread crop failures, famine, and 90,000 deaths, many from starvation.

The 1815-1816 winter in the northeastern United States was milder and dryer than usual. However, just when it should have been getting warmer, at the beginning of spring, the weather turned colder and frosts were widespread. Farmers held off planting through April and May. By the first week of June, milder weather had returned and farmers rushed to get their crops sown. On June 6th a storm brought freezing temperatures and snow. Crops planted only a week earlier were lost to frost. Throughout the summer the temperatures swung back and forth; no sooner had farmers planted a crop than a frost would wipe out most of the plantings.

Illustration from Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York by Orasmus Turner 1849
Dead corn photo by G. Houston from Wikimedia Commons

Cold weather and frost returned again in July. With temperatures in the 40s during the day, people began to worry about famine. On August 6th, another round of winter weather arrived. What vegetation had survived the previous episodes were now destroyed. Once again, another warm period followed but it was too little, too late. A killing frost came in late September, two weeks earlier than usual. Then the winter started again. Many families left New England and migrated west, including to the Genesee Valley.

Our area was still pretty much a wilderness in 1816 and accounts of that summer’s impact are sketchy. MacIntosh in his history of Monroe County says that “the cold season produced a partial famine.” Wheat couldn’t be cut until September and the corn crop was a failure. Henry O’Reilly in his Sketches said about wheat: “The “cold summer” of 1816 was not injurious to our crop.”

First Settlement in Rochester 1812, engraving by Alexander Anderson, 1838
Sunset at Braddock Bay Marina by Douglas Worboys

Q: What was our mitigating factor?

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Q: What was our mitigating factor?

A: Lake Ontario of course. Then as now, the Lake impacts our weather.

The modifying effects of the lake on temperatures were particularly conducive to fruit farming and Greece had numerous orchards where farmers grew apples, peaches, and cherries.

Orchard on Payne Farm, Elmgrove Road, 1910, from the Office of the Town Historian
Ice covering the Great Lakes on March 4, 2014 (second highest coverage since record-keeping began in 1970) from NASA

Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes in surface area, but the second deepest and so is the least likely of the five to freeze over completely. The Canadian Ice Service (CIS) has been keeping statistics since the 1970s and has calculated the likelihood of the lakes freezing to the point where 90 percent of their surface is covered in ice. Lake Erie is the most likely to freeze with a chance of 69%; Huron comes next at a 22-per-cent probability, followed by Superior at 17 percent and Michigan at 11 percent. Astoundingly, the CIS estimates that Lake Ontario has a mere 1% chance of having 90% ice coverage.

The Great Lakes as seen from space by NASA, April 2000

1934 Cold Snap Hits the Orchards Businesses

Headline from Hilton Record, February 15, 1934

This brings us to the winter of 1934. Temperatures in February of that year were icy. On February 9 the thermometer dipped to minus 22 or lower; the high temp that day was minus 3. That is still the official record low for the Rochester area.

They did not keep records of ice coverage back then, but anecdotal evidence from both sides of the lake, says that Lake Ontario froze over completely that month.

Blue is the Highs in 1934 the Green Line is the Lows

Called the Big Freeze by local farmers, it destroyed most of the fruit trees. Apple trees split in half. Never again would there be so many orchards in the town of Greece.

1934, of course, was the height of the Great Depression. Men on work relief earned 25 cents an hour chopping the dead fruit trees into firewood. They also got to keep some of the wood for themselves.

Damaged fruit trees in Greece, 1934, from GHS
Firewood cut from former orchards, 1934, from GHS
Lake Ontario after March 13-14, 1993 snowstorm

Surprisingly the winter of 1933-34 was not particularly snowy. We have certainly had some memorable snowstorms in this town by the lake. This photo was taken after the March 13-14,1993 blizzard which dumped more than 24 inches of snow on Greece. It was part of the larger so-called “Storm of the Century” which pummeled states all along the east coast from the Carolinas to New England with not only huge amounts of snow but hurricane-force winds. Let’s take a closer look at the Blizzard of ’66, which occurred in the days before modern snow removal equipment such as snowblowers.

Blizzard of 1966

The green line is the Snowfall in inches. The blue line is the Precip that is not Snow

The Blizzard of 1966 was a historic storm for Greece and all of western New York. Nearly 27 inches of snow fell on the last two days of January.

This was on top of about 18 inches of snow from the week before.

Dewey Stone area Blizzard of ’66, 1966, photo by Bill Sauers
Snow on the roof meets snow on the ground, Blizzard of ’66, 1966, photo by Bill Sauers
“Snowhere” to go! Blizzard of ’66, 1966, photo by Bill Sauers
“Snowhere” = Snow and nowhere put together as a pun meaning with the amount of snow non of the Town’s citizens could get anywhere in the town due to the amount of snow that was dropped on the city.

Winds whipped wickedly making for poor traveling conditions. Not only the schools but businesses and government offices were shut down for a week.

Town officials set up and operated storm headquarters at the Greece Memorial Hall at 2595 Ridge Rd. W. Ham Radio operators, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), Civil Defense Radio operators, as well as town officials, which included Supervisor George Badgerow, Milton Carter the Chief of Police, Civil Defense Administrator Walter Whelehan, as well as a representative from each of the four fire companies in the town.

Fun Fact the Monroe County 9-1-1 center did not begin operating until February of 1986 and Greece did not hook up to the system till years later, and on a side note in snapshot 37 the Holiday Inn Fire could have been prevented with an automated system that dialed 9-1-1 and sent the alert to first responders that topic is for another day, now back to the Blizzard of 1666.

Without the invention of Morse Code and Ham Radio, there would have been more widespread communication problems to get information in and out of the town of Greece to other parts of the region. For those that are interested in learning about what it takes to earn a ham radio license and become a member of your local ARES group check out the ARRL.org and ARRL.org/public-service, also check out the local club in Rochester, The Rochester Hams https://rochesterham.org/

Greece Town Hall on Ridge Road, 1998, from the Office of the Town Historian
Civil Defense Seal
Current Logo Of ARES
Cars buried in snow, Blizzard of ’66, 1966, photo by Bill Sauers

The Greater Greece Post reported that “Snowmobiles were stationed at the Town Hall and Highway Department Garage to transport physicians on emergency calls. Two ambulances also were stationed at the Town Hall. A supply of milk and bread was kept available for delivery.” Some milk trucks and bakeries started selling their products to customers right from their delivery vans stopped at partially cleared street corners.

Toboggans were kept in readiness so that sick or injured persons could be removed over the deep snow. Standby snow-clearing crews were stationed near all firehouses to accompany fire trucks answering alarms.

Snow clogged parking lot at Nick and Erwin Dry Cleaners, Blizzard of ’66, 1966, photo by Bill Sauers
Dewey Avenue near Barnard Fire Station, Blizzard of ’66, 1966, photo by Bill Sauers

“Three drug stores were alerted so that medicine could be obtained and taken where needed. Fifty prescriptions for insulin alone were delivered by town personnel and volunteers.”

Some residents used an alternative mode of transportation.

Horses on Dewey Avenue, Blizzard of ’66, 1966, photo by Bill Sauers
This Cat is sick of the snow and wants to get farther than the edge of the driveway
Photo by Bill Sauers
This Cat is sick of the snow and wants to get farther than the edge of the driveway
Photo by Bill Sauers
Mountains of snow, Blizzard of ’66, 1966, photo by Bill Sauers
This person does not realize he is walking on top of a car
Photo by Bill Sauers

Fun Fact: The plow that is sitting in front of the DPW is from the Truck that plowed Long Pond Road during the blizzard of ’66.

On its 40th anniversary, local meteorologist Scott Hesko still ranked the Blizzard of ‘66 in the top three worst storms of all time.

Thank you for joining us today. Next week we turn our attention to ice and wind events. Especially the 1991 Ice Storm and the Wind Storm of 2017.

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