Our "Corner" Grocery Store was not on a Corner
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. Contact author.
First, how a day often began for one small boy in 1927. Then, how one family introduced him to radios, batteries, slot machiines and their U.S. manufacturers.
A 1927 Altar Boy discovered that the Raleigh family, 'two doors down,' provided varied and appealing insights into life experiences that he would never get at home. I spend most of my discussion here on the Raleigh family and some 1920s devices that remind me of them.
That Altar boy was also shaped by Latin words he recited as an Altar Boy at 6:00 a.m. Mass each morning. These were words he did not appreciate in 1927 but grew to appreciate in later life. Orate, fratres, ut meam ac vestrum sacrificium acceptible fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem. Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque ecclesiae suae sanctae. Brethren, pray that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father almighty. May the Lord receive the sacrifice from your hands to the praise and glory of his Holy Name, for our welfare and that of all His Holy Church. The Latin passage sabove, beginning with the word "Suscipiat", was, except for the Confiteor, the longest passage an Altar Boy had to know by heart. We learned it so well that it intruded on my recitation of the passage in English for many years after Vatican II. The opening phrase can also be translated, "Pray, brothers..." That is relevant to the brotherhood I felt in the family we are about to encounter!
Now, some early 20th Century History begins here! See an RCA Radiola 25, a set of Eveready "A" batteries, and a 5-cent slot machine. All from the 1920s!
The book whose cover is reproduced at the upper left of this page, tells of my time with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, three of whom saw me through the eight grades of Primary Education in a Parochial School in a small town westof Rochester. All New York State primary and secondary school curricula was defined by the New York State Board of Regents. That Board was a governing body to respect in the years 1926-35, during which I obtanied my K-12 education.
A Brockport, New York, small town USA, story continues.
Schools play a defining part in small town USA. The schools in my town of Brockport, New York (3601 inhabitants in 1927), a suburb of Rochester, New York, were, the one Catholic school already noted, a public Grammar School, a public K-8 "Training School" for its teachers attached to Brockport Normal School (now SUNY Brockport), and a Brockport Central High School, serving the Town of Sweden, NY in which the Village of Brockport was located.
One of the families that played a strong part in my 'growing up' was introduced to readers of the book, "My Times with the Sisters and Other Events." The Raleigh family were part of the 'other events,' and on this page I add some highlights that I did not include in the book. At the Raleighs, I listened to the 'radio' around which the Raleighs would gather. With them, I 'observed' as 'Chub' Raleigh, son of Charley, the senior household male and father of 'Chub,' and Chub's partner, Henry Schmidt, serviced slot machines that the two had placed in a string of western New York restaurants and speakeasies.
My own first radio was a 'crystal set' and my bedsprings were its antenna. Household radios were a little more substantial. They began with 'tuned rf' sets, that were powered by batteries in my maternal grandfather's farmhouse, and 'tuned' with great difficulty. Later, stiill battery powered, came RCA's Radiola 25, with a tunable oscillator covering just the AM radio band, but a huge improvement over the tuned rf sets. Still later, Atwater Kents and Temple and RCA radios came in full living room splendor, with enclosed speakers, and tho still vacuum tube sets, eliminated much of the static and tuning problems of earlier sets. And, big change, these were powered by the now growing 110 volt power network that spread rapidly across the U.S. No more batteries. Also, powerful 50,000 watt (clear channel) AM radio stations were added to the 'local' AM stations. "Amos and Andy," "Little Orphan Annie," and "The Shadow Knows" were available around the early evening hour. And many more good programs, mostly 15 minutes, but some for a full half hour.
I will not attempt to reprise this programming altho I cannot forget one advertising duo. Two men, one a tenor and one a baritone, sang, in succession, "I'm the Best Foods tenor," then followed immediately by, " and...I'm the Hellman's baritone."
The Raleigh family shaped my life.
On leaving my house for school, and after passing the Foster's home on my way westward toward Main Street, I came past the home of the Charles Raleigh family.
The Raleigh home stood on the brow of South Avenue's hill that led west and downward toward Main Street. That hill provided many important sledding and biking events. Kid-developed events, of course. I don't want the word "events" to get the reader thinking anything more than glorious abandon in local fun.
The Raleigh home was unspectacular, with its narrow front defined by a simple inverted V roof and a strictly utilitarian front door on the right. When you stepped inside that doorway, you were in the front living room. There was no hallway unless you called the stairs leading directly to the second floor a hall of sorts. But then, you never went in that door anyway. Only the occasional door to door salesman or precious metals buyer or organ grinder with monkey would even think of knocking on that front door. The house kind of expanded as you went toward the back. Behind the living room, there was a dining room on the right with a small sewing room off to the left. Then one got to the main room of the house, the kitchen with its wood range at the left rear left. There was a large oval kitchen table, long axis front to back, always covered with tablecloth and holding essentials like salt and pepper, sugar bowl, and at least a leftover coffee cup on the table. Most business, and almost all social events took place at that table. Behind the kitchen was a back kitchen of almost the same size, with every imaginable tool not currently in active use waiting and hoping for at least one last recall.
The back kitchen was home to rifles, shotguns, kerosene lamps, hurricane lamps, assorted tubs, cooking trays, grinders, saws and wrenches of every imaginable shape, hammers, nails, discarded weighing scales, every conceivable mind stimulator that heaven might set before a small boy. Every space was occupied. The impact was metal, almost all of it dark. There were no shiny stainless steel items, though there were a few metal pieces with shiny, crumbling chrome coatings. The gun barrels showed evidence of being treated with fresh coats of oil but the lasting impression of most of the articles was dark metal, a lot of it rusting. Nothing was ever thrown away. To this day, I have little desire to go to museums. How could a museum offer the flood of dreams stimulated by the Raleigh's 1927 back kitchen?
Family access to the house was through the back kitchen. Customer access was through the side door leading into the store. My own access was privileged, it seemed to me, for I could and did use the latter two entrances depending on my purpose. I am sure now, putting some refreshed thoughts together, that there were times when I may have been tolerated, but I always took my entrance to the Raleigh home as a privilege, enhanced by a sense of positive anticipation.
As I have related, directly off the kitchen on the west side of the house was an addition that served as a small convenience store. But the mental vision of today's 7-11 does not serve to give the reader a sight, sound and smell appreciation for Kitty Raleigh's store. That store entrance consisted of a well worn set of stairs and plain door and was completely unremarkable. There was no hint that a store existed behind the door. I am sure that bread was the principal sales item. Bond Bread and Buttercrust Bread were the standards. Toward the end of my life in Brockport, which was pretty well over by 1935, Wonder Bread was added, possibly because Hostess cup cakes from the same baker had developed a following. There were cookies, National Biscuit style, in rectangular front boxes with glass closures. One would open the glass and sometimes with a scoop or dispensed paper cover for the hand, remove a number of fig newtons or raisin tea biscuits for Mrs. Raleigh, who would then weigh them, brown bag them, and tell you what you owed. In packaged goods, Educator crackers were a favorite of mine. A glassed in counter top held green (spearmint) leaves and nigger babies and sweet concoctions shaped like little bananas. 'Nigger babies' were the product name of the twenties for a licorice-based, sugared, candy product in the shape of a baby. There were no black persons in Brockport. The darkest complexions I can recall were on the Gallos, a wonderful Italian family living on the west side of town. "Pete" Gallo was a friend of mine through the middle grades of Parochial School. Though I was never much of a gum chewer, Mrs. Raleigh carried Wrigley and Beech-Nut gum, and bubble gum with a forgettable brand name. The Mars Corporation family included Milky Way, then Snickers and finally for the sugar addict who had economic problems and needed more for the money, Mars introduced the Three Musketeers. Hershey was well represented with an almond bar and a flat bar of chocolate squares. Nestle's products were not then a regular counter feature.
I had an almost fatal weakness for National Biscuit Company fig newtons. I often needed to ponder the events of life early in the morning, I would ring the store bell and Mrs. Raleigh would have to set down her morning cup of Postum in her kitchen so that I could buy a pound of fig newtons. This sequence would often end by my climbing to the top of the Beech tree next to my house to eat the pound in one tree sitting. It was also important to me that the Raleigh's store carried a few boxes of choice cigars in addition to all the leading brands of cigarettes. Some cigar boxes (I remember Bold Cigars, 3 for 10-cents, Dutch Masters and La Palinas) came with glass tops so you could see what you were buying. Mrs. Raleigh or husband Charlie would occasionally give me one of those glass cigar box covers when I needed to make or replace a window in my hut.
Father Charlie was a chauffeur, gardener and general aide de camp to the well-to-do Cleveland family who lived at the corner of Adams Street and Kenyon Street. Mother "Kit" Raleigh baked irresistible wonders in her kitchen. And sent over the basics of a good meal to our house when things were going bad there and she knew Sis and I were home alone. Kit Raleigh did not bake delicacies because Kit did not go for finger cookies and the like. She baked delectable items like big black strap molasses cookies of a kind I have never seen since. That is one recipe I would die for today. Kitty never tired of cooking as long as Charlie would "get the wood in." She did have a modern electric toaster and while the cookies or pies or roasts or whatevers were cooking, she would feed me toast with butter and homemade jam. One morning I ate 31 pieces of toast. At about slice twenty-five many had gathered and pronounced it the all time record. But, when a cookie showed up, I could still handle it.
Daughter Rose worked in a flower shop and greenhouse down on West Street, the main road to Holley. When Rose, with the counsel and commitment of help from all the family, decided she could do the whole thing right behind her home at 40 South Avenue, another of the endless stream of Raleigh enterprises was created. Rose was also an attractively plump soprano. One momentous day the Raleighs and as many neighbors as could be wedged into their home, gathered with ears straining to hear an old battery powered tuned RF radio. The station was WHAM, Rochester's pioneer AM radio station. Rose was making her radio debut. Her voice rose in majestic opening notes, accompanied by piano. Then, in mid aria, silence. With no explanation, a few minutes later an entirely different program began. Rose was gone. When she returned to Brockport, Rose reported that ASCAP, the license holder of the song, had stopped the presentation because no one had paid the fees due the song's publisher. Actually, someone employed by WHAM stopped the rendering when the song did not turn up on a permissions list. I never heard Rose sing again. That was one of this family's setbacks but I never heard them commiserate.
Here is the Radiola 25 heterodyne radio receiver, found in many 1920s and early 1930s homes, as an improvement over 'tuned rf' receiver' sets.
A Radiiola 25 heterodyne receiver. Antenna and speaker on top. Powereed by 4 A-batteries. The instruction book is visible as is the box of parts. and a lightning arrestor shipped with the set. About 1925. Heterodynes were a huge step forward in radio receivers, superseding 'tuned rf receivers' and earlier 'crystal sets.' (The red RCA tab is my effort to identify the manufacturer, but actually comes from a much later piece of RCA equipment.)
The 'power' for the Radiola 25 consisted of 4 A-batteries. When it came into my life, the unit above had a set of four A batteries; three were Eveready "A" batteries and the fourth was what we could today call a 'generic' A battery. That fourth had likely replaced an original Eveready which had worn out. The first function of a battery in an electron-tube radio receiver set was to provide energy to heat the cathode emitters in the tubes. The final function was to power the audio amplifier that provided energy to the speaker. There were several power-needing functions in between.
Michael Dailey M.D. holds two of the four "A" batteries needed to power the Radiola 25 heterodyne radio receiver
(Photo by John Dailey).
A close-up of three of the four "A" batteries that came with the Radiola 25 radio receiver is shown next.
(Photo by John Dailey)
The UCC seen in the center bottom of the label on each battery stood for Union Carbide Corporation, the owner of the Eveready tradename and manufacturer of these batteries. The fourth battery in the set that came into my possession would today be known as a 'generic.' Union Carbide Corporation's Carborundum plant was in Niagara Falls, NY, when I first attended Niagara University in that city. The center core of each of these batteries was a cylindrical carbon rod that extended from top to bottom.
(added 08/04/2012) I got to thinking about that 'generic' battery and leaving it out of this story of the Radiola 25, which is fast morphing into a story about batteries in the 1920s. So, before putting them all away again, a surprise. Two brand names on this one. Take a look.
Shown above, one "Powermaster" 1 1/2 volt "A" battery, one of the four A batteries used to power the Radiola 25 handed down in our family. The one above bears the Sears logo, and their Homart brand name. The marketer, Sears, featured their company name and their Homart brand name. Union Carbide, a manufacturer, featured their Eveready brand name but smallmarked the tiny UCC, the initials for their company name, at the bottom of the battery label. All of the four batteries pictured move my old Triplett Volt Ohm Meter's needle up near 1.5 volts, but the needle 'falls off' quickly indicating spent batteries. And after only 85-years, imagine!
I might better have used the term 'store brand' than 'generic' for the Powermaster. It probably was also manufactured by Union Carbide. Just let us mull over that Homart brand name for one more sigh of the past. Say it to yourself, softly ,or those nearby, might try to say, goodbye..... "H-o-m-a-r-t".... Home Depot? .......Walmart? Ah, the marketers and their brand names.
While the "A" battery is not around today, its shape-and-voltage relatives, the Cs, the Ds, the AAs, and the AAAs are still available at thousands of check out counters today. And for good reason, because they still power flashlight bulbs and a host of other useful devices, all free of the power grid.
Slot Machines, aka 'slots.'
Henry Schmidt was Rose Raleigh's betrothed. He was a taciturn man of several enterprises that made him a good fit in the Raleigh family whose economy was built around several enterprises..
Chubby Raleigh, Charles Jr. to be more specific, but the nickname Chubby was appropriate, occasionally filled in for Charlie Sr. at chauffeuring, but mostly was in business with Henry as an owner-distributor for slot machines. Chub had a girlfriend who was not a live-in girl friend but came to visit frequently. Well, frequently enough so that I could keep track. Like Henry with Rose, Chub's romance was a longstanding love affair that resulted in marriage after a long courtship. Some weeks, Chubby's ladyfriend would not put in an appearance. I figured out they were having a little spat. Then one day she would come and all was well again. Spats came and went in that kitchen and laughter did too. There was a sewing room off the dining room on the east side. That room could also be accessed from the kitchen and doubled as an office and study and a place to listen to a battery powered 'tuned RF' radio receiver. Later the heterodyne radio receivers came in with far better tuning, more volume and less static and still later big living room furniture pieces with no more batteries. The Raleighs always bought the latest and best in anything of a utility nature. I was fond of their Atwater Kent and the show, Amos and Andy, just around supper time. The dialogue was funny and the fact that it came at meal time was always propitious for me because Charlie, the father, enjoyed listening to Amos and Andy with me, especially when he could see that I 'got' the essentials of any 15-minute episode. And then we had a great dinner.
One of the distractions to a boy wending his way to school might be an early morning decision by Chub and Henry to clean out the garage. This garage had a flat roof with a slight slope to the back wall, a dirt floor, a somewhat sagging wall on its west side, and was wide enough for about three vehicles. It contained at any one time a few slot machines awaiting repair or relocation, some farm implements like a small motorized plow or trencher, a car or pick up truck The whole was quite porous to nature. Cleaning it out meant killing a few rats. This was accomplished by putting down a few slices of bread, getting sundry chairs out in the driveway for shooters or spectators, and loading one or more rifles or shotguns from the back kitchen. And then waiting. Here, a short dissertation on the slot machine business in which Chubby Raleigh and Henry Schmidt engaged. The slot in the picture below came from the estate of Moris Hawkins, President of the Norfolk Southern Railroad. According to my wife Peggy, who inherited the unit when her Uncle Morris and his wife and daughter had passed, Morris bought the machine for his wife, to cut down her slot machine losses at the local Country Club to which they belonged.
(Photo by Frank Dailey Jr.)
Above, an early 5-cent slot machine. The center legend, of winning lineups of the three mechanical wheels, is torn and illegible. According to Jim Weeks who serviced the machine in 2010, this slot machine pre-dates any of his early literature on slots. Chubby Raleigh and Henry Schimidt had a string of slots, 5-cents and 25-cents, in western New York State parlours, from about 1927, waiting for 'repeal' of Prohibition. They generally serviced the machines on weekends in their tumble down garage. A wide-eyed moppet (Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.) then about six-years old observed. Below, a faded snippet from a newspaper's "Antiques" column helps date the slot machine above. Alongside, are slugs from three different manufacturers who identify themselves on the back side of their slug, the frontside of each, declaring, 'redeemable for five cents.'
A few 'slugs' survive in my collection and this slot still works on nickels. I pulled the arm in late Sept. 2010 and got 2 cherries and a bell lined up, good for a mix of five slugs or nickels from the pot. As the antiques columnist observed in the clip above, Chubby and Henry fit the entrepreneur class that owned their slot machines, sharing the nickels in the retainer "POT" with the parlour owner/manager, who would be 'credited' with what he had already 'paid out' when he took in slugs and gave out payback nickels.
I have a hunch that the table. on which the slot machine in the photo stands, was at one time a sewing machine stand.
I continue now with the Raleigh family of Brockport, New York, other Brockport stories, and some later events that had their roots in my growing up years in Brockport, New York. I have also written a memoir, "The Rochester I Knew." It will bear a 2012 publication date. /s/ Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. August 1, 2012.
Not to forget Helen, the youngest Raleigh, and younger sister to Rose. When I got in trouble for overstaying my welcome at the Raleighs, Helen would be my advocate, to my parents or hers. She was a teenager, about eighteen when I first thought about how old people were. When I was younger and "stayed over" because my parents were not home, it was in Helen's bed that I would first go to sleep and then someone would move me to a spare bed when Helen came upstairs for the night. Helen had a feather mattress that did not help my hay fever, but it sure was comfortable. Helen became a hairdresser, and later got married and moved to a nearby town. When Helen was learning hairdressing, I was the "practice" head of hair for her. That early "set" material did not like to give up so I often went around with kind of an ocean wave hairdo, the hair tending to stand up. Nobody ever mentioned it and it did not bother me. Helen was my friend. Helen's baby sitter chores with me were broken up when she might have to assist her mother with meal preparation. For about 30 minutes, Charlie would take me to the "radio room" and we would listen together to Lowell Thomas and Amos and Andy. Lowell Thomas had the widest listening audience of radio news. The Amos and Andy show was the premier situation comedy of radio days. Those radio programs were 15 minutes each. While Mr. Raleigh, the name by which I addressed him, shared these programs with me, he wanted no distractions during this period of his early evening. He wanted to hear every word. Consequently, I could for years after repeat back many phrases from situations in the Amos and Andy show.
The Raleighs were industrious, to make a great understatement. They would try anything that had the potential for a successful small business. In the late fall, there was always the preemptive requirement to get Mr. Cleveland's Packard ready for the annual trip to Florida for the months of Brockport's severe winters. The Clevelands, Milo and Catherine, had two children, Sybil and Merritt. Milo's sister married my Uncle Oz, making her my Aunt Florence. She was a beautiful woman, wonderful to me, and lived to be 100, outliving her husband, my father's brother Oswald, by 60 years. All the Clevelands were good looking. Merritt dated a movie star from Hollywood. Sybil married a well known Rochester man named Beach. Depending on how many of the Cleveland family went in their car for the trip south, would determine how many Raleighs would go along. Kit rarely went, having her store and baking business to tend to. But the rest all made a trip or two. Loaded into their car for the return trip were exotic seashells. These were large shells. The closely pressed ear could detect gentle Gulf sea breeze sounds.
New projects would generally be started in the spring when Charlie senior would have completed his winter sojourn with the Clevelands.
If you are wondering, when I knew the family, Milo Cleveland made his money as a road builder. One road well-known road to us in Brockport was the Million Dollar Highway, a section of NY State Route 31 that joined Brockport, Spencerport, and Rochester. Something went wrong in Spencerport. The road had a little detour, a hook with a sharp right turn followed by a sharp left turn as one proceeded toward Rochester. Possibly some farmer would not sell a lot or two and the road builders did the best they could. One possible suspect in my farm holdout theory owned an unpainted black barn on which was emblazoned in large yellow letters, " Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco" on one line, followed by a line which read "Treat Yourself To The Best." When we went to Rochester for a Sunday movie and dinner, this barn at the slow down curve in Spencerport, conveyed words that stayed with me for life. The Million-Dollar Highway was an east-west alternative to the Ridge Road, also known as the Honeymoon Trail. Marked State Route 104, the trail, by then a paved road, went east to Rochester via Greece and west to Niagara Falls. Route 31 and one of its alphabetical alternate roads, like 31F and so on, also went west to Niagara Falls or Buffalo but Route 31 took a frequently interrupted route along the Niagara escarpment whereas the Ridge Road was relatively level along a lower and gentler recession of Lake Ontario. Some publicist for Niagara Falls painted a pair of red hearts pierced by the usual arrow, on the east side of the right hand telephone poles, visible to west bound travelers.
Charlie helped Rose build her greenhouse to better compete with her former employer. Charlie helped Helen create her little hair salon. Charlie helped Chubby and Henry with their slots and other enterprises. Charlie built an outdoor miniature golf course on a small portion of the five acre field he owned behind his house and welcomed paying customers for that very brief fad. That lot usually had a tomato crop or corn crop, with the A&P canning factory as the customer and processor. Some years, an alfalfa crop would break up the sequence and renew the soil. Charlie had an old Fordson tractor, which when not in use was usually parked next to a rock pile in the middle of the field. Like many farmers, Charlie let it stay there all winter. And, as with many farms when the elders became too old for crop harvesting, the Fordson reached its final resting place and was next to the rock pile when I left town in 1935.
Raleigh's meadow was the starting point for pheasant hunts in the fall. I would be allowed to tag along on special days to watch the hunters use their hunting dogs to point, or set, and flush the birds which would usually fall with one shot. Later there was conversation with Kit, with the hunters using phrases like "quite a bit of shot in this one, Kit." I learned the advantages of double-barreled shotguns, and the differences between 12 gauge and 20 gauge. Mr. Raleigh and his group of hunters never allowed me to shoot. Since my Dad would not let me have a rifle, I did not ever fire a gun with powder cartridges until I was introduced to a Navy Lieutenant named Mumma, his rifle range, and the "thirty ought six" at the U.S. Naval Academy in the summer of 1939. I have never fired a shotgun.
There was no apparent central thrust to the Raleigh enterprises. This loving family was happy to survive, to have a few of the good things of life, and to do wonderful things for their neighbors. The wealth of the Milo Cleveland family provided Charlie Raleigh with occasional employment and some memorable trips to Florida. Most of all, Charlie Raleigh enjoyed a sense of contribution of his skills where these were needed. This was blue collar work with the joys of independence. The Raleighs were a family devoid of envy.
The Dailey family had its share of entrepreneurs too. Grandfather William was the son of a farmer and became a produce dealer. His son John F. invested in an invention that would teach a person how to drive a golf ball. Two of his sons, John F. Jr. and Murray, became New York State Amateur Golf champions. Uncle John also invested in a three-wheeled car. Unsuccessful. He owned a liquor store across from Shea's Buffalo theatre on Main Street in Buffalo New York and next to that store he operated an orange juice dairy where the juice was squeezed in a contraption that passersby could watch in the store window. The juice dairy also offered good sandwiches. When cousin Tommy Dailey and I attended Niagara University some years later, hunger pains made it worth thumbing to Buffalo to get the juice and sandwich combo, courtesy of Uncle John. A gracious provider and a man who understood boys. John F. Dailey later opened another liquor store in Rochester, New York. My Dad and his brother Oz invested in and operated an indoor miniature golf course in downtown Brockport during that craze of the early thirties. Fifty rusting putters in our basement were a reminder to me that fads come fast and go fast. Uncle Bill successfully operated a produce business in Albion and when Uncle Don became Vice President of the Genesee Brewing Co. in Rochester, Uncle Bill obtained one of the first beer distributorships.
Possibly, the main distinction of the Raleighs in enterprise was that they did it without borrowing money. Each of their businesses was built with seed money from the effort that came before it. The Daileys were more accustomed to borrowing and sometimes it got them into trouble.
The generation before me, my father and his brothers and sister, would be worthy of more examination than I can attend to here. College at Georgetown was underwritten for most of the boys. My Dad's suitcase is full of artifacts and testimonials and photos relating to academic and sport and religious achievement at Georgetown Prep. Why he only lasted a year and one half at Georgetown University remains mostly a mystery to me. He talked about dental appointments as a way of skipping classes. But, I believe alcohol had become a factor. While all the Dailey boys had their bouts with alcohol, only my Dad and Uncle Oz failed to shake it before it permanently marred their life. Uncle Oz died in St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester from choking on his own vomit. He had been given a sedative after a binge and then no one checked on him before he was discovered dead. My father lost his marriage before he found Alcoholics Anonymous. These were the two youngest in the large family and the two who were closest together in friendship. Both were of draft age for World War I. Both saw two brothers, a sister, their Dad and Mother die in a period of just three years. Both had the benefit of economic sufficiency that they had not earned. With all that, they were warm and generous men. Dad was "on the cuff" with hundreds of his customers for coal in the late twenties. Coal was a life-sustaining requirement in Brockport's harsh winters. Those were long winters. Parties sustained the social set for some of those nights. The Episcopal Church initiated a fund raising bridge tournament that used up one night a week for the 20 hardest weeks of two winters.
Bridge was the "rage" then. First Auction Bridge. We had books by George Ade that explained how to play the game. Then, the ultimate bridge game, Contract Bridge. The name of Ely Culberson appeared on instruction booklets found in every living room. The third stage, Duplicate Contract Bridge had not yet arrived when Father Veazey decided he could generate a little badly needed income for his Church and give the townspeople something to do all winter. Dad and Uncle Oz entered the 20 week contest as partners. At the end of the tournament Dad and Uncle Oz, both good card players, had won. There developed some murmuring from the other two-person teams. One statistic that came forth was that Dad and Uncle Oz had only played together three times during the 20 evenings of the tournament. Their drinking binges did not match so the one available simply picked up a substitute and played. One week both were unavailable so they forfeited all score for that week, yet still won overall. I believe two prizes were finally awarded, one to Dad and Uncle Oz and one to the highest performing team that had played together and stayed together.
Let me skip forward from early youth to relate an entrepreneurial event that occurred many years later. While working for a graphics company in South Hadley, Massachusetts, I was sent to Rochester to consult with Haloid-Xerox about a potential cooperative engineering project. I took a room at the Treadway Inn located at the corner of East Avenue and Alexander Street. The bell man seemed a bit old for that kind active duty but he was very helpful and I had quite a bit of baggage related to the upcoming discussions. As we were walking down the hall, I ventured a question about a Rochester hotel well known to me from my youth. I asked, "Is the Seneca Hotel still operating?" "No" he answered, "It has been torn down as part of a revival project for downtown Rochester." Then he added, "I worked there for many years." "Oh", I said, "My Dad lived there for a number of years. His name is Frank Dailey."
"Well, do I ever know Frank Dailey. We were in business together at the Seneca for quite awhile." My curiosity was aroused as Rochester's familiarity was being revived. "What business was that?", I asked. "Your Dad had a brother here who owned a liquor store. Frank would buy liquor from his brother by the case and keep it in his room. When I received a call from a hotel guest to get a bottle of liquor, instead of going to the Seneca bar, I would go to your Dad's room and get a bottle. We split the profits." His warmly intended story had begun to move toward touchy ground. I was being updated on the liquor matter. "Yes", the bell man went on, "we made a lot of money." But one night when I went to Frank's room, only one case remained and it was down to seven bottles. As I took the seventh bottle, Frank informed me that we were now out of business. I asked him what had gone wrong. He told me that the remaining bottles seemed just "too good to sell."
Back to my own youth. I was something of an entrepreneur myself. I mowed our lawn for free, A.V. Fowler's lawn for $1.00, and the Engel's lawn up the street past the Caswell's also for a dollar. Mr. Engel ran the town's jewelry store. The Fowler home was new. One of my own carpenter supply opportunities came when Mr. Fowler tore down the original home and built a modern one on the site. For awhile, nails and wood were plentiful. From the Fowler's original home and garage, I recall that only Vinny Fowler's homing pigeons and their roost survived. The landscaping involved new sod and that meant the new grass cut easily. While it was a large lawn, it was an easy dollar. The Engel's lawn was quite another story. While the lot was small, the entire back was wire grass. My Dad's hand mower, even when sharpened, was no match for that grass. That dollar was hard earned. In the winter I shoveled sidewalks, even though the town sent around a horse drawn sidewalk snowplow for the public streets. A lot of the men had to get out earlier and the town plow would not touch driveways and the walk leading to the dwelling door. I usually did about four walks before going to school unless I was the Altar Boy for six a.m. Mass for the particular week. Mr. Lancashire, at the corner of Main Street and Centennial Avenue had a lot of walk because his home was on the corner. But, he paid generously and I never forgot generosity.
I also sold Crowell Publishing Company publications, Colliers, a weekly, Woman's Home Companion a bi-weekly and the American Magazine, a monthly. For each five cent Colliers magazine I received 1 1/2 cents, for each Woman's Home Companion at a dime I received 4 cents, and for each 25 cent American Magazine, I received 6 cents. It did not take a kid long to figure that the 4 cents on a 10 cent sale was the one to push. Besides, Colliers, the bigger seller at 5 cents, was up against the Saturday Evening Post. I usually read some of the Colliers' stories before making my rounds. This was door to door selling, one afternoon each week. I found out later that I was not as sharp a businessman as my Dad. The Birdsall twins grew up across the street on South Avenue when my Dad was growing up. I discovered when I visited Edgar and Judy Birdsall years later when they lived in California, that my Dad got ten dollars from his father for cutting our South Avenue lawn. Dad then farmed the job out to the Birdsall twins for five dollars, pocketing the other five. I tried hard to get Pete Scripture's route delivering the Rochester Times Union every afternoon except Sunday. I walked the route with Pete many times in anticipation of his retirement but he never retired.
We began this chapter with challenges to a boy's progress as he made his way to school. In the very late spring, just before the interruption in education known as summer, at the Brockport Normal School ground on Utica Street, there gathered a collection of large tents and tent poles. By the time I would be making my way home, these tents would be erected in orderly rows, their backs to the railroad tracks. After a day or two of observing these preparations, I became informed that an event known as Chautauqua had arrived in our village. With the possible exception of Decoration Day, this became a crowning event of one span of my young life. Chautauqua lasted several days and in my free time, I fully indulged in its offerings. The week often extended into my summer vacation, so that I could spend all day taking in the lectures in the various tents. And varied these talks were. The Christian religion was emphasized in many tents although the variations from tent to tent of the "message" given in these tents were a little too subtle for a wide-eyed boy. Other tents had a definite business overtone, again with a Christian flavor. Still other tents featured the arts, particularly music. I received an introduction to "seating" on these grounds. I discovered that seating could be rented for occasions, a myriad of oak folding chairs, and that the funeral parlors provided such service. For me, the ultimate pleasure of Chautauqua came as the affair neared its end. Vendors with ice cream in cylindrical cardboard containers did not want to take the depleted containers back to the factory so they began to discount their cones. I learned that if I waited till the very end, the discount would result in free cones. Bartholomay's chocolate cones, now double dippers and free, overrode all my urges to try many other fine flavors.
( July 18, 2010. I have had several discussions with a wonderful lady archivist at SUNY Brockport, successor to the Normal School of my time. They have no record of Chautauqua on campus. So much for record-keeping. Also, I would like to cite Ron Raleigh of the Raleigh branch sired by Charlie Raleigh's brother. Ron helped me a lot in going over this story and was fascinated to learn what I knew of a branch of the family he little knew at all. My last contact with Ron was in 2007 after my move to Georgia, and I was devastated to learn he had cancer of a type that was usually fatal. I have heard no more from him. Requiescat in Pace, Ron!)
This page updated August 1, 2012.
My Times With the Sisters and Other Events, 134 pages, ISBN 0966625110; can be ordered through your local bookstore. Cover Price is $9.50.