Brockport NY commemorates park land. NYCRR, Erie Canal, produce and grain give way to education, SUNY Brockport
Copper Beech tree featured.
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
(The event of commemoration on this page marked a return to a homesite that had provided parenting, sustenance and shelter during the years, 1921-1935. Those years, in sweet memoir form, are chronicled in the book pictured above. Draft chapters of the book are linked along the left margin, under the book title. A beautiful Victorian structure in western New York State, all California redwood construction, cupola on top, slate roof, and cistern in basement, became a victim of the Great Depression and then neglect. But its spacious lot and some trees had survived thanks to a village with heart. Shortly after the talk below was given, the village set the property aside as a permanent park, with the approval of its current neighbors. )
Robert Canham was the prime mover in the event that follows, in graciously hosting Peggy and Frank Dailey, Dr. Michael and wife Maureen Dailey, and, in moving town leaders toward the petitie Park that was later defined. Peggy and Frank Dailey now live in Delmar Gardens in Smyrna GA. From there we add this May 24, 2012 thanks, to the Canham family.
...on the lawn at 52 South Avenue, Brockport N.Y. 14220: a talk given by Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. 08/03/2006
Thank you Bob Canham. Thank you Mrs. Heyen. We appreciate the effort and the inspiration that you have put into this neighborly event. Ingenuity is evident; that word is an extension of, "genuine." This is a real McCoy Day, or in Gaelic, an O'Dalaigh Day.
Thanks to all of you for coming here today. We take the presence of this large gathering at the Copper Beech as a compliment to the Dailey family; six of us are here to return the compliment to the people of Brockport. We realize that this event is actually much, much, more than a Dailey event but we Daileys are certainly proud to be a part of it.
The copper Beech at 52 South Avenue; venerables Frank & Peggy Dailey & tree trunk
The events that brought us here include a little book I wrote, called, "My Times with the Sisters and Other Events." Area folk have been generous in purchasing the book about events of the early part of the 20th Century, and in letting me know how much they enjoyed reading it. The driving force behind the book was a little boy's need to thank the Sisters at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School who suffered me in school, and through them to thank sisters everywhere, not only professed nuns, but the world's entire woman and daughter contingent, for what you mean to mankind. I would like to personally offer my wife Peggy, and our daughter-in-law Maureen, both here today, and all sisters who join us here, my thanks.
From its beginnings, our village of Brockport was marked by a strong merchant class. The canal ("Barge" in my days but reverted to "Erie" now) and the Niagara Falls branch of the New York Central Railroad (NYCRR) have spurred mercantile progress. One hundred years after Brockport's founding, when I was growing up (1921-1935) on this property, that vein of merchant strength was still prominent.
But Brockport was even then feeling the tide of departure loss that continued in the 20th century. The Moore-Schaefer Shoe Company shoe plant had closed. Despite the remarkable equipment supplied by the United Shoe Machinery Company in Boston, there was still handwork in shoes. Italy, with its style leadership, became a major factor in shoe manufacturing.
You know of the Dailey name in canning, and in coal and produce. The A&P had already taken over our family canning operations by the time of my birth, but my Dad, Frank Dailey, still operated a coal and produce business on Park Ave. next to the railroad. His older brother Bill operated similar businesses in Albion and in other local towns. My Dad had three grain elevators here that usually held beans and wheat, and sometimes barley. The Mosher twins, Louis and Robert, along with Buddy Knight and myself, would dare each other to be the first to jump. It was all dark in the bottom of those elevators and I marvel that there was always just enough grain in the bottom to cushion the fall. Many times Dr. Hazen would have to extract beans from my ears. The loading platform, inset on the Fair Street side of the elevator building, was populated with a conveyor system for sorting apples and pears. On the opposite side of the building, next to a second set of rail siding tracks, was a large coal storage tank. It was fitted with a conveyor to lift coal directly out of coal cars on the Dailey siding. 'Pea' coal, 'nut' coal, 'coke,' and 'anthracite' with a blue dye trade-named "Blue Coal," were choices. "The Shadow Knows" radio program handled the Blue Coal advertising. The coal would go up the conveyor, from a coal car on the siding, to the top of the tank and be dropped into one of at least eight pie segments that divided the inside. A delivery wagon or truck could then take coal from one of eight chutes on the side, connected to the pie segment holding the type of coal the customer had ordered. When the coal car was emptied, a switch engine would take it away. The business stabled draft horses between the coal tank and the elevator building. One of the memories of my youth was those stables going up in flames as the horses perished. It was the end of an era.
From the days of my first memory up until the horses perished, each winter Dad would have hay put in the coal wagon, now on runners, and a team of horses would take Sis and me and neighbor kids on a Sunday birthday sleigh-ride in February between Sis's birthday and mine.
One day, a New York Central 'switcher' engine left two cars of cabbage on the Dailey Produce siding. I was by then curious enough to ask my Dad why they were there and what was to become of them. He responded that he had "gotten out of the market too late." That was my introduction to "futures" and the commodity market. A year or so later, Dad's brother Bill and my cousin Murray built a sauerkraut plant in Albion. Better than rotting cabbage. Those "commodity markets" and "futures" and "going short" are still a bit of a mystery to me.
Brockport had a "cold storage" plant, next to, what was in my time, one of the town's real gems, its Cemetery. I wrote about the Decoration Day parades in my Sisters book. It is one of the best parts of the book. Dad, and farmers too, used the cold storage plant to store fruit, hoping to get a better price for that fruit in the "future." You had to recover not only the picked fruit cost, but the storage cost, so the dollar yield had to increase and it was always a gamble; farming has always been a gamble. Thankfully the cold storage plant had more than "futures," a term little boys barely understood; this plant had a semi pro baseball team, the Brockport Freezers. They played at the fairgrounds. And Mr. Nihiser was the pitcher and Chubby Churchill was shortstop, and the games were glorious. Vendors with unshelled peanuts regularly solicited at the cars parked with their windshields in toward the playing field. I once placed second in a bicycle race on the half mile sulky track adjacent to the ball field during the county fair. The cold storage plant owner was a merchant, Dad and his fellow coal and produce operators were merchants, and in the final analysis, the farmer was a merchant.
This town has sent many of its folk off to other places. Their merchant streak endured. My Dad received $10.00 to mow this lawn. (He was overpaid.) A generation later, I got $2.00 for mowing that same lawn, one dollar for mowing A.V. Fowler's lawn, and about a dollar for shoveling walks, a little more from Mr. Lancashire, at the corner of Centennial and Main Street across from Leas Wallace's home, because the Lancashire home was on a corner (Centennial and Main) and he was a generous man. He had daughters and maybe liked having a boy around.
Let's look around to other homes. Just across the street lived Mrs. Birdsall, a widow when I was young. Her twin sons, Judy and Edgar Birdsall were my Dad's growing-up buddies. I said Dad got 10 dollars for mowing this lawn. According to Edgar Birdsall, whom I met when he lived on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, my Dad, his buddy, subcontracted the mowing of this lawn to Edgar and his brother for $5.00! Recall that Dad got $10.00 from his father. With that lesson as a business primer, Edgar went to California and became a millionaire in diamond drill bits, a part of the oil drilling industry in the Signal Hill oil patch. His brother Judy also prospered there.
Mrs. Birdsall meant a lot to me, not just for her sour cream raisin cookies. She, and her daughter Frances Lane, who lived in the third home east of her mother, with her husband, Herb Lane, and children Shirley and Abby and Harry who are here today, fed me often and Shirley's mother even gave me coffee and let me dunk donuts in it. That was forbidden here by Isabel Dailey, my mom.
An Education Town
SUNY Brockport now makes this town more an education town more than a merchant town. Mrs. Birdsall played a part in that too. She provided room and board for senior teachers at the Brockport Normal School. A Brockport Training School was operated in conjunction with the Normal School, to give hands-on experience to prospective elementary school teachers. It was therefore the third grammar school in town, the others being, the Grammar School, and the Catholic school previously mentioned. The Training School was used as the hands-on instruction for prospective grade school teachers. The latter served under the continuous eye of ladies known as the Critics. The Critics would board with Mrs. Birdsall during the school year. Imagine, 'student teaching' under the continuous eye of a lady known as a CRITIC! Those senior ladies were 'very nice in the evening' to the little boy across the street. Rosalie Harsch was a Normal School student learning to teach and she was also babysitter at my house. I learned from Rosalie more about daytime events at the Brockport Training School than little boys should ever know. Rosalie's Dad was killed at the front in WW I, hence the Harsch, Crisp, Seaman Post of the American Legion in this town. Schoolteacher Rosalie went on to Columbia, then to years of teaching and raising a family, and was in touch with my mom until Rosalie passed.
Let us continue the local orientation. East, just over there, lived Fred and Helen Caswell. Fred owned his own insurance agency and I think finally it was sold to Bud Bruce who played sax. Directly across South Avenue from this lot, lived Elwood and Ida Simmons, and living with them, their grandson Howard, one of my best friends. They were Baptists and read the Bible thru, day by day, every year, and when I was over with them early enough in the morning, they let me read too. We Catholics received our religious instruction in our Nativity School day, but Howard had to go to Bible School on Saturday, all summer. One of the advantages, I figured, for a Catholic. The Hermances lived over there in the home west of the Simmons, and A.V. Fowler's new home came next, and just west of him were the senior Lawler family. Just west of where we gather now, on the property I knew as #52 South Avenue, on this (south) side of the street, was the George Foster family, and preceding them in that house, the Walter Bushman family. Next west were the Raleighs, one of the greatest example-families of entrepreneurship of my lifetime; they are a chapter in the Sisters book. Just to the south was a 5-acre field the Raleighs owned, and farmed, one year corn, another year alfalfa or tomatoes and so on. There was a rock pile near the west end of that lot, and next to it, parked all winter, was Charley Raleigh's Fordson tractor. Pheasant hunting parties began at Charley and Kit Raleigh's back kitche. The hunters proceeded south through pasture and field and brook and hopefully plenty of pheasants. The very next lot south was bordered by three willow trees and at their base was a spring that stayed fresh all year. Good for drinking if you could just lean over a bit, and good for ice skating in the winter. When Charley Raleigh brought the cock pheasant home for Kit Raleigh to cook, he would point to, and I recall him saying to her, " the 'shot' are mostly right here." Kit could bake black strap molasses cookies in her wood range. She sold every one she could bake except those I cajoled from her. Neighbors suspected that I had learned how to affect, "the hungry look."
Stull Lumber was just across the NYCRR tracks from Dad's coal and produce business. At Brockport High School, Gene Stull was the best history teacher I ever had. Maybe the best teacher I ever had. Mr. Rowe's coal yard was over on the west side of Main Street just south of the NYCRR overpass. On the opposite side of Main, just north of overpass was Ed Coapman's Gas station. Downtown, next to the Republic Democrat newspaper's office and press, was Covert's Bakery. Even with no money, the baking aroma was worth the trip. Frank Donahue's coffee shop was next to the Strand Theatre and in that building was Matheos Bros. ice cream parlor. Fowler's furniture was close by, then Mr. Davis' grocery where my mom discovered Birdseye Frozen Foods. Those were an innovation that changed the world. Where the bookstore is now, was Hart's, an early chain market that gave away roller coasters with enough coupons. Very good roller coasters. In the block was Mr. Harrison's men's clothing store. His home was just past the Lane's on the other side of South Avenue just east of where we are gathered. Like Milo Cleveland, for whom Charley Raleigh was chauffeur, particularly for Florida trips in the winter, Mr. Harrison also had a chauffeur. The number of cylinders marked wealth. 12- and 16-cylinder, black cars, of great wheelbase would be shined up in the driveway on Sundays next to the rich homes. Little boys could look under the hood, and marvel, on days the master did not deign to travel.
Four quick recollections from the A&P Canning Factory, where they also canned Quaker Maid evaporated milk.
1. The greenhouses across from A.V. Fowler's sour cherry orchard on the dirt road extension east from South Avenue produced the seedling tomato plants for the farmers who had contracted to plant them for the growing season. Just beyond was Brockport's secondary sewage 'treatment plant.' (Mr. Fowler had his retired horse-drawn hearses parked at the rear of the sour cherry orchard. We urchins thought we could see blood on the floor.)
2. Horse drawn wagons went up South Ave. to the canning factory, piled high with tomatoes in crates for making ketchup. The team driver could not see the urchins behind his wagon, with their salt shakers, feasting on the sun ripe tomatoes silently removed from rear crates. Stores simply cannot match that flavor.
3. The cider mill, further east on the dirt road South Avenue extension, where I was always welcome to put my tin can up under the valve handle and ladle out fresh dripping apple juice; this juice would otherwise have ended up being vinegar in the big fermenting tank next door.
4. When the Depression settled in, the A&P factory would sell cases of "bent'n rusties' for 2 cents a can. My family, brought low by depression and booze, procured many cases. To this day, I cannot face canned lima beans.
The town was fortunate to have four doctors, counting senior Dr. Mann partly retired, Dr. Hazen, Dr. Collins and Dr. Ransom. We had two dentists when I was very young, Dr. Morris Mann, and Dr. Woodman, and later Dr. Moore. (I have had a great recent e-mail from Dr. Bott's son. He came to the Ceremony on August 3, 2006.)
There were two drugstores, Dobsons, a Rexall store with soda fountain, and Ed Simmon's, strictly a pharmacy. My mom, a lefty, and Dottie Simmons once held the Brockport ladies' doubles title at Milo Cleveland's clay courts, which were across Allen St. from where the (then) new Brockport Central High School was built.
Entertainment was particularly welcome in the winter time. The country was 'dry' but Brockport was not so dry. It came from rum runners on Lake Ontario. It came from fermented local cherries. It came in legitimate bottles put in service a second or third time for not-so-legitimate gin or whiskey.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church tried to move the subject. Father Veazey sponsored a contract bridge tournament. Ely Culbertson was the rage. Father's fundraiser, and winter confinement breaker, was very popular. One year my Dad, Frank, and his next older brother, Oz (married to Florence Cleveland, Milo's sister) partnered to win the tournament. There was a protest by the runners-up. Their complaint was the Dad and Oz had poor attendance records (the scourge of drink) and usually one of them had to get a partner to fill in. Father Veazey, with some good advice from Carol Veazey, his wife, awarded duplicate prizes.
There was a lot of partying, often right here in our home. Our telephone number was 75. On party nights away, Sis or I would take the receiver off the hook, and ask the Operator when Dad and Mother would be home. About 10 minutes later the Operator would call back with the best estimate available, direct from the scene of the party. When the party was at home, my Mom enjoyed playing her wedding present, a Chickering (made in East Rochester) baby grand piano. I still have a three foot stack of her music. Jazz was popular and classically trained Mom was good at it. Dr. Hazen played the ukulele, (sheet music of that day was scored for piano and ukulele) and later Bud Bruce joined on the saxophone. Sis and I listened through the registers that passed heat from the first floor to the second floor bedrooms. We could see through the registers, too, sometimes surprised at what was going on.
The drinking called for sedatives for hangovers. It also called for moving on to another doctor if the first one would refuse a prescription. My Dad moved up to four five-grain sodium amatols. One day, Ed Simmons, the druggist, got sick, really sick; he was not a drinker. He figured Dad's last prescription on record for four of those sodium amatols was a doctor's prescription, and failed to reckon on the resistance build-up factor my Dad had traversed in using drugs after hangovers. So Ed took four five grain sodium amatols. Ed slept for three days!
Earl Alderman ran the Alderman Folding Box Factory. He was married to Ruth, a friend of my Aunt Florence, Uncle Oz's wife. The Aldermans lived next to those tennis courts in a bungalow owned by Milo Cleveland. This is to set the stage for the end of this talk and the end of Brockport's great mystery.
The two principals have passed away so I will now 'rat' on the perpetrators of the midnight flag-raising at the yet to be dedicated brand new Brockport Central High School. The three of us had spent all of our high school years in cramped, unventilated rooms on the top floor rear of the then already antiquated Brockport Normal School. We would spend only three months in the new building and then would graduate, we figured, unrecognized by our peers or anyone else for that matter. The two ringleaders decided to hold a night-before flag raising ceremony before the official flag raising ceremony the following morning, to which we students were not invited. The ringleaders got a bed sheet from my Aunt Florence's linen closet. Her inventory control did not detect the loss. The goods were moved to the Oz and Florence Dailey basement, grommets installed to attach this precursor flag to the rope, and lettering the insignia began. The first phrase, on the top, was "Bored of Education." That seemed like a winner. A 'skull and crossbones' was added in the center, and across the bottom, the phrase "The Black Legion," was scribed. I now know that those last two flag elements came from a news story out of Detroit, of a racist, terrorist organization that preyed on black citizens. This preliminary flag raising ceremony began after dark. Earl Alderman spied a white wreathy element and moving figures under the new flagpole. He called the police, and the Chief, Giles Hoyt, responded. Shortlegged me was caught; the other two escaped. Pete Blossom put the flag in the window of his newspaper downtown and wrote alarmingly about membership in the Black Legion, and their lawless, despicable targeting of black society. Giles Hoyt questioned me for about ten minutes and let me go. He quickly decided, prank, and Giles had better things to do. But Pete Blossom's newspaper story caught the Associated Press wires. Two of my political uncles, Uncle Don, Chairman of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, and Uncle Vin, Chairman of the New York State Democratic Party, sent my Dad telegrams, asking "what the hell was Frankie doing!" Humor was the group's sole objective at the time but later I could see that in the attempt to be funny, awful choices had been made. I was the one, in that episode, who had no clue.
(Author's 'morning after' notes.)
One Brockport writer, after reading my 'sisters book,' wrote for his Brockport readers, that our Mom and Dad abandoned my sister and me. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We really enjoyed Robert Canham's tree ceremony 08/03/06 at the Copper Beech, 52 South Avenue, Brockrport, NY, 14420, on 08/03/06.
No one present questioned the 'omission' in my talk. Can the reader find it? Clue. The flag raisers at the new, as yet undedicated, Brockport Central High School, one night in the spring of 1935, were the author, Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. age 14, Thomas E. Dailey (the author's cousin) age 17, and Russell 'Pete" Shepherd, 17, a family friend and varsity BHS basketball player. Police Chief Giles Hoyt 'solved' the mystery quickly.
I was informed by Robert Canham, that just days following the outdoor ceremony, with the hundred plus year copper beech its prominent landmark, the Incorporated Village of Brockport decided to maintain the 52 South Avenue property for public use. I was saddened that my 'growing-up' home on that property had fallen on hard times and had been razed, but very happy for the effort that made the property a park, and for the town father's decision in favor of that neighborly effort.
I have used 'town' to connote the locale of scenes in this talk but the Sisters book begins with, The Incorporated Village of Brockport. The importance of the distinction between a 'town,' and an 'Incorporated Village' in the State of New York, had become clearer to me after I had lived in many places since my youth in Brockport
Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. 08/07/06 Revised and corrected 12/31/2010
For a reprise of 'instructions' held for one small boy on Saturday mornings at a convent in a small New York State village in the summer of 1927, please go to Parochial School: Latin Instruction for Altar Boys to Serve at Catholic Mass