Life In The Buffalo Snowbelt

– Can You Tie My Skates?

We had many fun times such as ice skating at the Village Park pond which had a rather rustic cabin and large open fireplace with a warm fire that was kept blazing. Even today when I smell and open fire it reminds me of that place and those wonderful times with friends.

 

 

 

– We Simply Went Out And Had Fun Together!

This is a classic example of what we did in the Winter.  The Village Park on the west side of town had a pond that froze and gave us a great place to get together.  Many in this photo were from the North Federal Street ‘gang’ with others joining us from various neighborhoods and outside of the Village.  Many of us walked there and home… no cell phones or texting to interrupt our fun! Communication occurred via speech – mostly face to face….  imagine that! Life was much simpler in those days.

We all skated until we were tired or cold or both! Our dogs would follow us from home and faithfully stay until it was time to go home.

We knew how to dress for the weather and didn’t wear helmets. We did not sign waivers. If someone fell and got hurt we would help each other out and no lawyers got involved. If someone was hurt too badly to walk home someone would run home to their parents or to the nearest house. I’m not sure whether there was even a phone in that little skating cabin.

Growing up in The Buffalo Snowbelt of Western New York State was an education in values which developed character. My mom taught us the “DRESS TO WALK” mentality in the wintertime. You never knew when you were going to be stranded as most of us were a time or two.

When those snow or ice storms hit we would instinctively check on each other – especially the elderly in our neighborhood. “You should stop to see Miss Roche, offer to shovel her sidewalk and find out if she needs bread or milk”. And we did. Miss Roche and her brother were elderly and in NO shape to do either. After shoveling them out I would walk to “Star Market” half a mile down the road to get what she needed and carry it back. She may have paid me 50 cents or a dollar (and I’m not talking about the Rappers) [and I may have kindly refused it!]. She would be grateful for any help at all. These are the values our parents taught us and that we taught the next generation. We all saw community come out in all of us when storms or disasters hit our little village.

Proximity to The Switch – two blocks to the Northwest.

A Child’s Best Friend Duke

Duke was a major part of our family.  He was the friendliest, most faithful of friends and never talked back or argued with anyone.  He followed Al and me on our paper routes regardless of the weather so often he could have subbed for us!  One very cold winter day (weren’t they all cold!?), he waited outside a friend’s house for over two hours for me to come out and take him home.

Duke came to us from a neighbor where the couple was separating.  We could hear him bark when tethered to his chain and offered to have him sleep over one night. Soon after he was ours permanently. He was 2 then and stayed with us until his death at age 12.

He was mostly a Yellow Lab – but his curled tail showed that he was 1/4 Shepherd (who’s your daddy?). He was very gentle and great with kids. He did have a protective side and needed to be locked up prior to the daily visit from the mailman. Let me remind you that the mail was actually brought to the mailbox on our house by a mailman who, imagine this, walked. Duke liked to hide behind a large tree and pounce on the poor man. Mace was used on more than one occasion. When a Jehovahs Witness, Mormon, or other solicitor came to our front door we would put Duke on the front porch and let the visitor decide on whether they wanted to enter the porch.  They quickly went on to a neighboring house. Leave your Watchtower on the front steps.

DukeSeveral ladies in the area would save steak bones for the next time Duke wandered by.  The Village did have a “Leash Law” that required all dogs to be… you guessed it…on a leash, chained up, or inside a fence.  Duke’s wonderful personality and the friendship between my dad and the Dog Catcher gave him a Stay out of the Pound card and saved us a bunch in fines.  In later years, after Al and I were off in the Air Force, the friendly Dog Catcher was no longer, and the local Police served in that role as needed.  Because Duke enjoyed car rides so well, the Policemen knew that they simply needed to open the car door and invite him to ride. That raised far too much revenue for the municipality and caused our family to make some adjustments in Duke’s freedom.

He was a gem – people in Perry still comment on how much they liked him. And for the record – he was never ‘fixed’. He would have considered it being ‘broken’ not ‘fixed’.

Duke’s regular proximity to The Switch – usually within 1/4 mile in any direction.

Memorial Day Parade

MemorialDayParadeEvery Memorial Day the Perry High School Marching Band would don those heavy and hot wool uniforms and march from Olin Avenue – down from the High School football field/track – and move out onto Main Street… up to Gasoline Alley to Center Street and up Lake Street ending at the Vets Club where either Mr Hughes or Mr Bichalaney would play Taps as part of the Ceremony honoring our fallen war heroes.  Being the tall Sousaphone player I was often used to set one of the corners of the band – it was easy for the others to “mark off” on me since I couldn’t be missed!  My mom made the cover for the bell of my instrument in our Yellowjackets colors of Blue and Gold.

The most memorable year marching was when Merle Cowie – father of our dear friend and clarinet player Michelle Cowie – buzzed the band from the rear while we were marching down Main Street and playing.  Mr Cowie was a Cropduster and kept his plane on the family farm property adjacent to the Perry-Warsaw Airport along Route 20A halfway between Perry and Warsaw (brilliant name for the Airport).  He must have been just above the two- and three-story buildings along Main Street – somewhere along the northern stretch of downtown near the old Robeson Cutlery building.  I just remember how we were all suddenly shocked to the point of not being able to play or march!  We were all over the place and he simply scared the crap out of us!

Proximity to The Switch – at the end of the Parade and during the Ceremony – we were underneath it!

Leaf Raking at The Gullos

Gullo LeavesThis Northern Small Town has Four Seasons.   Here we were enjoying a very awesome Fall – many old big trees… and leaves like you won’t believe unless you’ve experienced it!  The Village DPW – “Department of Public Works” -had some major work to do in this small town – that of cleaning up the leaves.  Their dump trucks had plows for the Winter snow and large vacuum cleaner-type contraptions to collect the mass amounts of leaves in the Fall.   Village residents raked their leaves to the curbside and the DPW sucked them up and dumped them at a large compost site.  The uncertainty was the timing of the leaves changing color, the trees shedding their entire “coat”, and the DPW getting things cleaned up BEFORE the snow fell – between the persistent rains.  A chore of big proportions.

The occasion here may or may not have been a paying job for us kids.  The property here was a big mansion-like home on Lake Street – a stone’s throw from what we called “The Five Corners”.  Sam Gullo owned it during my 18 years in Perry.  I recall several years when we assisted our favorite local newspaper (The Perry Herald) photographer – Lyle Richardson, with this photo op.  One year we raked the leaves for the photo and walked away… leaving the leaves in a HUGE pile only to kill the grass.  Sam has since forgiven us.

This photo tells quite a story – the dress code here was quite 70′s.  Stripes and plaid were the norm (don’t mix them).  Several families are represented here – Cicero, Ferris, Scott, Beckary, Taylor, Fong, Watson, Otis… and a few unknown.  We didn’t have or know any differences between our families socio-economically, we were friends and knew how to work and play hard together.  Competition came in our games and activities.   Most families had only one car… no cell phones or computers or satellite or cable… and the list goes on.

We would leave our homes and go “to play” with our friends for hours on end and be subject to correction by other parents (with the fear of more correction from our own parents when we got home) for doing something stupid [How would I know?].  We climbed trees, neighbors’ garages, and whatever else we could scale.  The front porch light for a certain family was the signal to get home – fast – and that usually initiated a scattering of the rest of us.  The sun had set, night had come and a new day would be coming soon.

Many good athletes came out of North Federal St – Sam was quite the Tennis player, Christine and Denise played softball, Glenna, Albert and I ran track, Dave and I played soccer.  We all rode our bicycles – it was both a form of exercise and transportation.  We were all fit and in great health.  Obesity was not a word known to any of us.

Proximity to The Switch – 200 yards to the East.

Bicycle Rodeo 1975

What did we do for entertainment in our Northern Town?  In the Summer we had plenty to do (wearing long black socks on a hot Summer day – for starters).  Here is one example.  Each year the County Sheriff’s and Village Police Departments sponsored a Bicycle Rodeo that included Bicycle safety education and an obstacle/handling course.

Bike Rodeo Pete Joann

There is a great deal of activity going one here.  According to Joanne Hughes, winner of the Girl’s category, was the overall winner – I am SO grateful for a Boy’s category otherwise I would have been defeated, crushed and permanently scarred.

There are lots of kids riding around… my favorite part is the Plymouth in the back left of the photo.  If you look closely you’ll notice an outstretched arm.  Is he waiving or sharing a one-finger salute?  For those of us that knew this character – we’d vote for the salute.

The Patrolman in the center is now a Retired Police Chief – after 35 plus years of service (correct me here, Tami!) and the father of the girl riding on the right [whom I chased during our high school years but never quite caught!].  During my last visit to town he and I had a great visit.  When I asked him to share his “funniest” story after all those years of service his answer surprised me…  not sure if I can share that one and photos are not available – I hope!

Proximity to The Switch -1/2 mile to the Northeast.