Down Memory Road
PERHAPS for a little while you'd like to forget the atomic bomb, Russia and the Peace Conference, the strikes, the lack of meat and the other vexations of this troubled time.
How about playing a little game called "Do You Remember When. . . ?" All you have to do is relax and skip back in memory to those other days that in retrospect are always "the good old days."
It's the older folks' turn first. Because as the shadowslengthen along life's track, our memories are counted our dearestpossessions. Noone can take them from us.
So let's board a horse car, or maybe a hack, and ramblethrough some of Rochester's Yesterdays, starting way back in theyear of 1881 when . . .
Your eyes were dazzled by the brightest glare you'd ever seenas the first electric lights in Rochester's commercial history floodedthe Powers Art Gallery and the A. S. Mann dry goods store, makingthe gas lights of their neighbors seem as dim as so many lanternson a moor.
Main Street was lined with tall poles topheavy with a mazeof wires and you stopped to chat at the cab stand in front of theold Court House, the clearing house for all rumors and gossip.
The Central depot is in Mill Street, surrounded by the State Street-Four Corners shopping district and by some of the leadinghotels, among them the Waverly, now the Savoy; Congress Hall,which became the Bristol, and the Brackett House.
Say farewell to that old barn-like station for in 1883 after thetracks had been elevated through the city, there's a new and finerone across the river at St. Paul Street. There the drivers of the horse.drawn hotel busses line up like so many soldiers on parade. Theygreet arriving travelers with a chorus in which each sings out thename of his hostelry, in voices ranging from basso profundo tofalsetto: "The New Osburn House; the Whitcomb House, the NewNational, the Brunswick, the Clinton and the new FIREPROOFPowers."
Our horse car is helped up the Main Street hill by an extrahorse driven by a boy, who after he reaches the crest of the grade,rides the animal back down to the "hill boys' " station at the FourCorners.
The turntable for the horse cars is there and the waiting roomat the southwest corner where J. D. Scott sells tickets, the same wisp-like J. D., who in his time was also conductor of "The DummyTrain" that ran to Sea Breeze and skippered excursion steam boatson river, lake and bay and wound up his career running the scowferry between Summerville and Charlotte.
If you're taking in a show, you may miss some of the lastact because the last horse car leaves the Four Corners before midnightand it's a long walk home and hacks are a luxury-on a $10 a weekwage.
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That massive mustachioed six-footer waving a ham-like handto his friends, that's the most flamboyant Rochesterian of the day,Hulbert Harrington Warner, the patent medicine magnate.
H. H. Warner began his business career as the agent for fire-and burglar proof safes. He sold scads of them in oil boom towns.After he claimed to have been cured of a kidney ailment by asimple compound, he began making the preparation himself. Inshort order he had a whole line of remedies; nervine pills, a rheumatic cure, throat medicine, besides his famous Safe Kidney Cure.In memory of the other sales line in which he had won his commercial spurs, every package of Warner nostrums bore the picture of a safe.
Soon he was doing a tremendous business, almost world wide. He pioneered in the mail order field and in lavish and spectacularnational advertising. By 1884 his medical laboratories were calledthe largest in the world and three glass works were making hisbottles. Orders came in such volume that wagons hauled his mailfrom the Postoffice in barrels. He built the eight-story structurein St. Paul Street that is the Case Building today, and an ornate$150,000 mansion at East Avenue and South Goodman Street. He bought one of the Thousand Islands and had a summer home on it. He owned a steam yacht. He built the Warner Observatory for Lewis Swift, the astronomer.
H. H. Warner was the first president of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce. He was boomed for governor of the state. He chartered special trains to state and national political conventions. Once he even beat the Aldridge machine's candidates to a national conclave. After he had sold his patent medicine business to an English syndicate in 1889, he was rated a millionaire-in a time when they were few.
By 1898 he was broke, his fortune sunk in mining speculation.He made an assignment for benefit of creditors and left town. Thecrash was a sensation of the day. "H. H." was the gaudiest figurein a rather purple era when bitters, blood purifiers and other panaceas were in full flower.
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It also was the era of the marching clubs and the torchlightparades. Night after autumn night they marched, in their brilliantuniforms through the 80's, the 90's and into the new century-before.the automobile came-the famous Boys in Blue, the 12th WardGrenadiers, the Hancock Volunteers, the Logan Legion of theG. O. P., the Continentals, the Black Thorn Club of the Democracy,to name a few. Do you remember when the tar barrels blazed merrilyat the street corners, the tall shakos bobbed in unison on themarchers' heads amid the torchlights' glare and the bands playedand the crowds along the curb whooped it up for Blame or Bryanor whoever was running that fall?
We find East Main Street cluttered, particularly around theLiberty Pole corner, with farmers' wagons laden with fresh pro-duce. Those wagons arrived at dawn and from them Rochesterbought most of its vegetables and fruit, until the present PublicMarket was established in 1905.
The trees hadn't all been chopped down and a giant elmshaded the brick residence of Nehemiah Osburn at No. 1 EastAvenue at the Main Street corner, with its green lawn and itsdower beds behind a white picket fence, It was there until 1891 or'92. It was Nehemiah who built the first Osburn House on theGranite Building site. Then the "New Osburn," now the Milner,arose in South Avenue (South St. Paul Street then) opposite theAqueduct.
On the McCurdy store site was the Farmers' Hotel with wateringtrough and horse shed. From its broad porch a porter rang a dinnergong at noon. The Taylor Building site was a lumber yard and thatend of Main Street was New Main. And until it was razed in '83,the pillared Asbury Church stood at the southeast corner of Main andClinton. Remember the bells of another church, St. Peter's in GroveStreet, that rang so sweetly on Sunday mornings? Now those samechimes sound from the hilltop campus of the Colgate-RochesterDivinity School.
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Maybe you remember when the statue on the Cogswell fountain mysteriously disappeared from the open space in front of the old Court House-and few mourned its departure?
It was presented to the city by Dr. Henry Cogswell, a retiredSan Francisco dentist who cherished the hope that the sight ofpure water gushing from a downtown fountain might divert saloon-bound feet. Rochester was one of 16 cities that had such fountains, each surmounted by a six-foot figure of a portly, frock coated gentleman holding out a glass. Some thought the statue glorified Cogswellhimself but in reality it represented John B. Gough, the temperancecrusader. Many Rochesterians looked upon the figure with a distasteas icy as the water of the fountain.
One March dawn in 1885 a wagon cluttered up to the CourtHouse plaza, men in working clothes leaped out and began batteringthe statue with crowbars. After they severed John B. Gough from hispedestal, they laid him tenderly in the wagon and drove off, He wasnever seen again publicly in Rochester. The base remained untilwork was begun in 1894 on the new Court House.
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If our ride takes us out any of the main highways to the fringesof the city, we find a barrier across our path and a man standingwith outstretched hand beside a wooden gate. It's a toll gate andhe is the keeper who collects the toll. Most of the turnpikes enteringRochester were built by pxivate companies and were paid for outof tolls. The usual rates were three cents for bicycles and five centsfor buggies and wagons, with an extra nickel for each passenger.Funeral processions were exempt.
Most remunerative was the Lake Avenue Boulevard gate, southof Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, for it was on the way to the popularresort, Ontario Beach. The horseless carriage edged it off the stagein 1905.
Best remembered because it lasted the longest is the toll gate inSt. Paul Boulevard at the present Scholfield Road. Six-foot GeorgeLeake, who lived in the square two-story house beside the barrierand who tended the gate for 13 years, collected his last fee in 1910.Sometimes toll dodgers would take a little used road along theriver through what is now Seneca Park. To thwart them a shantywas put up at Cooper Road.
Other toll gates were in Buffalo Road, near Mount Read, theButton gate at Portland and Clifford; East Avenue and Brunswick;Monroe Avenue near Cobbs Hill, and South Avenue near the presentState Hospital.
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We must abandon our horse car and board an electric trolley for we are rambling through the 90's now. By 1893 the city transport system has been completely electrified and its 849 horses sold to farmers and liveries.
Maybe we'd better climb on a bicycle. About everybody elsehas, It is the golden age of the wheelmen. The old high wheelers ofthe 1880's, "the bone crushers" with the big wheel in front and thetiny one behind, have yielded to the new "safety" bikes and thewheelmen-and women-swarm all the highways and byways.
Let's go to the Driving Park, with 20,000 others, for thewheelmen's festival of '96 to raise funds for cinder sidepaths. ColonelSamuel P. Moultrop leads the grand parade on a white horse. Inline are the mail men on bicycles, the Seneca Club in Indian regalia,musicians on tandems playing their instruments while their partnersin the rear provide the leg power. Reuben Punnett, a pioneercyclist and leader of the famed Bicycle Drill Corps, dressed as a "hayseed," is on a specially built wheel that is 15 feet high. Punnettand his brother, Byron, later became celebrated trick bicyclists andtoured the nation.
There were many wheelmen's clubs: The Lake View, PressCycle, Century, Anchor, Seneca, Newport, Genesee, RAC, FlowerCity and Rochester Bicycle Clubs, each with its distinctive uniform.Considerable of the city's social life revolved about those clubs intheir heyday. Some groups had their own clubhouses.
It is the era of the century (100 mile) runs; of the races atCulver Field and the Driving Park; of the cycling parties on Sundaymornings down Lake Avenue to breakfast at the Ontario BeachHotel; of the bicycle shows and the six day "pluggers" at FitzhughHall; ot Rochester's Nick Kaufmann winning world-wide fame as atrick bicyclist; of the special bicycle cars attached to excursion trainsand of the sidepaths.
The first cinderpaths for biycles were built in 1896-alongCulver Road from East Avenue to Garson; to Scottsville along theold Genesee Valley Canal and to Fairport. By 1901 there were 34of them in Monroe County. Frank J. Amsden, "the father of thesidepaths" and head of the old Sidepath Commission, reported in1899 there were 40,000 bicycles in Monroe County.
Bicycles were licensed for 25 cents apiece and small metaltags were attached to the handlebars. Bicycle police watched for"scorchers" and unlicensed pedalers. The speed limit was 8 milesan hour and the usual fine for exceeding it was $2.
People rode to and from business, as well as for pleasure.Some wore their bicycling togs all day. After the business placesclosed at 6 o'clock, solid lines of home-going bicyclists, two abreast,paraded Main Street and East Avenue for blocks. There wereparking racks in front of office buildings and stores.
Today a familiar figure on the busy, motor-dominated highways is a slight, bronzed, gray-haired man bending low over the handlebars as he pedals steadily along. That's Howard S. Baker, 74, last of the oldtime wheelmen.
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Winding through our tour of memory are always the watersof the old Erie Canal. They flow through the heart of the city, acrossthe staunch old Aqueduct, past the doors of City Hall, under thelift bridges that hold us up while the barges drift lazily by. "OldCalamity," the bridge in West Avenue, (now West Main and Broad)is having one of her fits of temperament and stalls traffic for blocks,
But our exasperation evaporates at the sight of the boys drivingfrom the Hoggie Bridge at the Western Widewaters or fishing inthe other Widewaters on the East Side. The little steam packetWhipple will be chugging along, with "Cap" Marion Kelsey atthe wheel and the Burnemupskies or some other lively social organizations aboard on those canal excursion Sundays of long ago. If theseason is winter, we hear the joyous shouts of the skaters on theAqueduct skating rink.
The brick Weighlock with its pillars, on the east side of theriver, south of the Aqueduct, is a busy place as the boats wait theirturn on the huge scales, The hoggies swear at the patient mules onthe Towpath-but these scenes live only in memory, the Canalbed is the Subway now and we can't turn back the clock.
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The hoarse Kimball factory whistle moans out the hour ofnoon; from City Hall and Court House pours out a band of men, allabout the same age, dressed much alike in wide dark hats and dark coats, each with a button in the lapel. They are the men of theGrand Army and they are a power in the land and mighty on thepublic payrolls.
And there are organ grinders and coin collecting monkeys onthe streets; men wear handlebar mustaches and derby hats andladies wear shirt waists and trailing skirts; the barber shops andbars are for men only; there are hanging lamps in the living room,family albums in the parlor, and iron mud scrapers on the back steps;cuspidors at office desks; the young folks are waltzing or tinklingmandolins; they're singing "When You Were Sweet Sixteen" andthe prize wisecrack is "You're not the only pebble on the beach."
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You're lucky to get a seat on the crowded open trolley thatsways like a wave-rocked rowboat, its flat wheel clanking a dissonantaccompaniment to the merry chatter of its passengers all the wayfrom the Four Corners to Ontario Beach.
You clutch your new sailor hat firmly as you lean out the window. You are young and your heart is gay, for there's a big time ahead that Summer Sunday of 30-40 years ago when Ontario Beach was the Coney Island of Western New York.
Although a steam railroad was built from the city to the lakeside in 1853, Charlotte for some 35 years thereafter was a sylvan spot and quiet, save for the River Street front, and its genteel hotels served fish suppers to the carriage trade. Then in the late 1880's it was transformed into a lively amusement park and long excursion trains from all over Western New York rumbled over the loop at the water's edge.
The resort boomed lustily after it was linked with the city byelectric railway in 1889, and until 1922, when it became a city parkand bathing beach, Ontario Beach was a miniature Coney Island.Tucked away in many gray heads are fond memories of happy hoursat old Charlotte.
Let's slough off the years and stroll again on the broad boardwalk with the multitude and take in the sights: The BartholomayPavilion that seats 5,000 and provides music and vaudeville, alongwith food and beer; the vine-clad Cottage Hotel; the ramblingOntario Beach Hotel with its roomy porches, that was built in 1885and lasted until 1926; the' dance hall, the roller coaster with itsgentle incline that supplied such thrills; the Virginia Reel, theRussian Railway, the switch back, the Midway with all its glitter;the daredevils on their high tight wire; the balloon ascensions,fireworks in the evening; the big picnics with their bands and speeches; the smaller ones with their basket lunches-that was the Ontario Beach of old.
Now those things are departed, all save occasional picnics. Theold blast furnace that stood sentinel so long, "by night a pillar offire," is gone. But the 128-year-old stone lighthouse of the pioneersstill stands guard, seemingly as eternal as the river, the lake andthe deep white sands.
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There were lots of other places we might have gone thatbygone summer Sunday. We might have taken the Glen Haventrolley to Irondequoit Bay with its steamboat rides, fishing, sailing,canoeing and its hotel resorts. Or we might have rattled along thelakeshore to the westward on the Manitou trolley line to the popularpicnic beach that bears the name of the Indian god.
"Take me out to the ball game. Take me out with the crowd."That meant Culver Field in University Avenue (the Gleason Workssite) where the Bronchos under Al Buckenberger, "The SilentChief," fought it out with the other entries in the Eastern League.After the seasons of '99 and '01, the championship pennant was flying there. Those were the days when the diamond heroes rode, in their uniforms, in a horse-drawn coach from the Osburn House to the ball park.
If you were of "the upper crust" you might, after 1895, haveplayed a new game called golf on the Country Club course laid outon the old Parsons farm in East Avenue. After 1899 there was apublic course at South (Genesee Valley) Park. Remember whenyou had to chase off the greens and fairways the flock of city sheepthat grazed on the park meadows?
Or if you wished to take your best girl out for a ride, you'd call "Higgins 49-Stylish Horses and Handsome Rigs" or Freckleton's Palace Stables or Lee's and set out, grandly in a buggy, maybe afancy one with rubber tires and yellow wheels-all for $1.50 theafternoon.
That was before "The Devil Wagons" came to change, not onlyyour summer Sundays but your whole way of life. Remember the first automobiles with their high seats and dashboards, the horseless carriages that had to be cranked, that were generally open tothe weather and how the wiseacres would hoot "Get a horse" whenthe thing broke down?
It was around 1898 they first appeared in Rochester, a fewelectrics, steamers, gas buggies. Remember the Pope-Hartford, thePope-Toledo, the Benz, the two cylinder Searchmont and the otherlong extinct makes and the goggled men in dusters and their ladiesswathed in veils?
By 1903 there were quite a few of the horseless carriages in town, scaring the buggy horses. The bicycle cops began chasing motor speeders and "traffic toll" began to mean dead and injured humans rather than a toll gate fee. A police traffic squad was formed in 1905 and the cop, ruling the vehicular flow with a wave of his hand at downtown corners, became as familiar a sight as that of Mayor Edgerton puffing down to City Hall in his one-lung Cadillac.
Along with the autos came the motorcycles, writing finis to theera of the bicycle and bringing motorcycle clubs, races and meets inCrittenden Park and tours for those affluent enough to afford thenew machines.
By 1915 even the diehards had to concede that "the auto washere to stay." More and more "hard" roads were built. Traffic lights flashed from the corners. Remember the tall towers that were in-stalled in 1924 at Main Street intersections and manned by policewho manipulated the "stop-go" signals?
By the end of World War I, the Gasoline Age had engulfed us and the unhurried, serene way of life our fathers knew was one with Nineveh and Tyre.
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Of course you remember the Bijou Dream flaunting its blue,gold and cream front and its dazzling electric lights from the northeast corner of Main and Water Streets? It was Rochester's first movie house and it opened in 1906, although the first motion picture (the Cinematograph) had been shown 10 years before. For a nickel you could revel in the serial thrillers and see the hero rescue the heroine, tied to the railroad tracks, seconds ahead of the onrushing engine. Sometimes the figurds on the screen blurred and bobbed grotesquely and sometimes they faded out altogether. Then you stamped your feet and howled until they came back. Some lucky small boys were hired to produce sound effects, such as simulating the beat of hooves by pounding tumblers on a table.
Then came the other early movie "palaces:" Fairyland, Wonderland, the Knickerbocker and the Hippodrome, all on East Main; Happyland at 78 West Main and the Happy Hour (now the Strand) in the former church that gave St. Paul Street its name. Remember "Ben Hur" and "The Perils of Pauline" and the comic, John Bunny, and the vampire, Theda Bara, and the piano players and the illustrated songs?
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The year 1911 should stand out in your memory. It was thebig convention year. Remember the illuminated bells that hung overMain Street to welcome the Shriners of the nation who came in Julyand blithely took over the town? The bells stayed there for thenational encampment of the GAR in August and President Taftcame to review the aging Boys in Blue, 25,000 strong.
That also was the year that John Frisbie flew the first airplaneever to soar over Rochester. It was a Curtiss biplane, a crate-likecontraption of struts and wires, and Frisbie flew only, from CobbsHill to the New York Central tracks at Main and Goodman andonly 300 feet above the city. Once he nearly crashed. Still that flightheralded the Air Age.
Indicative of changing times was the news story that appeared inThe Democrat and Chronicle on Feb. 15, 1912, headlined "RedLight District No More," and recorded that "the last of the resortsof the red light district in Hill (Industrial) Street has passed outof existence."
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Let's go downtown on a Saturday night in the first decade ofthe century. The streets are crowded and the pounding of hardheels on the sidewalks drowns out what little motor traffic soundsthere may be. The main stem is dotted with the carts of the popcornand peanut venders. Newsboys shine shoes as well as sell papers.
Along the curb at intervals are the lunch wagons that werehauled downtown by horses at dusk and drawn back again aftermidnight. With them are associated the names of Mike Miller andthe Halls and memories of the wagon near the Four Corners thatserved a big and appetizing plate of baked beans.
And the stores, the ones with steps leading down to them fromthe sidewalk level and those with steps leading up; Maurer andHapp's at the Minerva Place corner, with its amazing array ofmerchandise, home-made sauerkraut, steamship tickets, fishing poles,cordage, ship chandlery, parrots, coffee, with its pleasant aroma,seeds and what not; Seel's big grocery on the Taylor Building sitewith its display of fruit so tempting to a small boy; the drug storeswith their slowly revolving ceiling fans.
The drummers are sitting in the front of the Whitcomb House,their chairs tilted back, and the paying guests swarm the porchesof the many boarding houses in East and Clinton Avenues, just offMain.
"Red Wing" and "Waltz Me Around Again Willie," are songhits and "Oh You Kid" and "23 Skidoo for You" lead the slang parade. Bert Lyteil, playing in "The Warrens of Virginia" at the Baker Theater, is the idol of Rochester's "Gibson Girls."
Everybody's singing the praises of big Jawn Ganzel and hisHustlers who have brought three baseball pennants to the BayStreet lot.
A 14-year-old lad named Walter Hagen is caddying at theCountry Club links in 1908. Six years later he brings fame to hishome city by winning the National Open.
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If your fancy turns to food and drink there are such popularpre-Prohibition spots as the Mighty Dollar in the Elwood Buildingwith silver dollars embedded in the floor; Sanderl's at Main andAqueduct, famed for its German cooking; the versatile Lafe Hei-dell's place in South Water Street, rendezvous for theatrical folk;Callahan's, in North Water off Main, specializing in fillet mignonat 30 cents; the Oasis in the Wilder Building; the old Eggleston onEast Main; Barney Feiock's, Main near Stone; Edmund's under theCorinthian, the Little Casino nearby and many more, each with itsown personality and its own variety of bar-room art.
And there was the Odenbach Hofbrauhaus of blessed memory.For 30 years until 1938 it was in South Avenue near Main. Gourmets all over the land spoke of it reverently. There visiting notablesate. There Rochesterians had their wedding and birthday anniversaryparties. There they took their out-of-town guests. There Dossenbach's Orchestra played sweet music. There reigned the prince ofwaiters, dapper little Fritz Schneider, who once had served Austrianroyalty and who parted his hair in the center almost to the neckline.The Hofbrau was as much a part of that older Rochester as theLyceum Theater and its passing was mourned sincerely.
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Remember the Circus Day, Labor Day and the other, old-timeparades, when marchers wore white hats and silk badges andcarried bamboo canes, each with a felt pennant, and the mountedpolice and their sure-footed, sagacious horses kept the crowds inorder? Remember the carryalls, especially the Higgins 20th CenturyCoach, drawn by eight horses and seating 50 people, that were soimposing in the line of march? And the bands and their leaders,particularly stalwart Fred A. Zeitler, marching ahead of his 54thRegiment Band like a drillmaster of Grenadiers? Now the MemorialDay parade is about the only survivor, thanks to the AutomobileAge.
Remember the jitney busses and their short heyday around1914-16? The interurban cars that jolted like juggernauts throughthe streets for a quarter of a century until they were put in the Subway and then abandoned five years later in 1931? The trackless trolley that rumbled over the Driving Park Bridge on the crosstown line in the mid 1920's? And if you can't recall what a streetcar looks like (the last one left the Four Corners at midnight onApr. 1, 1941) there's one in the rear of the Museum in East Avenue.
No motorized apparatus can make your blood dance as did the dash of the old fire horses, three abreast. It was in 1927 that Nigger, Frank and George made their last run from the Central Avenue fire house and then joined their gallant comrades in retirement. But not in oblivion for there's a tablet to their memory on a stone shaft in front of City Hall Annex. Jake, the last of them, died in 1938 on a Scottsville farm, aged 24.
It is a soft summer night and hundreds of gaily decorated andilluminated canoes and other craft dot the river at South Park.
The Park Band, all in white, plays from a barge in midstream;hundreds of voices on shore and on the waters pick up the refrainand the night is vibrant with song and ablaze with light. Fireworksenhance the spectacle. That was the annual Water Carnival, one ofRochester's most colorful customs, abandoned in the early 1920's.
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Those 1920's-what an uproarious, tawdry, brazen decade. It was the fool's paradise of the bull market and paper millionaires;the era of the prohibition mockery, of the Ku Klux Klan, of flappersand whoopee; of the speakeasy, the three raps at the door, the eyeat the slot; of the bootlegger, the hijacker and the gangsters; of thetrucks rolling down from Canada in the night, the rum boatsslipping across the lake in the night; of the dry raiders and theirswinging axes and the "bargain days" in the Federal Court.
On that stage Rochester saw a Puritan in Babylon play hisrole and he spoke his lines like a born actor. He was a short man,garbed all in black, with a string tie and a wing collar. His featureswere austere but a twinkle lurked in his deep set eyes. He wasClinton N. Howard, "The Little Giant," indefatigable foe of theliquor traffic and warrior in other camps of reform. A master ofpicturesque phraseology with an acute publicity sense, he thunderedhis Philippics in many states. He lashed public officials, high andlow, with vitriolic pen and tongue. He was sued for slander by aRochester woman whose place of business he branded "a snake hole"and he won out in a trial that had the town agog in 1924. His swordwas seldom sheathed from the time he came to Rochester from hisnative Pennsylvania, a jobber of picture frames, in the mid 1890'suntil he departed for Washington a decade ago to direct reformgroups.
Over at Police Headquarters in those days was pink-cheeked,bald, white mustached Detective Capt. John Patrick McDonald, asleuth of the old school, who purred like a kitten one minute and thenext roared like a hungry lion at a suspect; likeable "Captain Jack"with his keen insight into human nature and his airy tampering withthe King's English.
On the political stage. there were many actors, for it was thestormy time of the Van Zandt-Wilson-Love rebellion in the GOP andof the City Manager government battle. Two stand out as pictur.esque. One was the Jeffersonian, Jacob Gerling, with his eternalcigar, his umbrella, his "bowler" hat and his ceaseless battle against the voting machine. On the Republican side there was Charles E.(Clip) Bostwick, leader of the Tenth, with his rakish hats, his reedyvoice and his perennial insurgency.
Those same 1920's brought to Rochester the greatest buildingboom since "The Young Lion of the West" arose from the swampsa century before. So many buildings went up so fast you could hardlykeep track of the skyline.
Skyscraper office buildings with towers and wings; churches,apartment houses, stores, countless homes, many in suburban tractsthat had been fields; the magnificent new University "beside theGenesee;" the new Divinity School on its hilltop-they all bearwitness to that golden age of expansion. The city built a twelvemillion dollar subway, a four million dollar bridge; schools thatcovered whole city blocks and golf club houses like Norman castles.
New voices swelled the clamor of that boom time, the soundmovies and the radio. Remember those first head pieces and thebattery sets?
And people bought stocks and Florida real estate and newautomobiles, sang "Yes We Have No Bananas" and dreamed ofliving happily ever after in their fool's paradise.
Then the lights went out in Wall Street on a Black Friday inthe fall of 1929 and the golden dream was over.
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Now we march through recent and well remembered days.They were grim ones, "Happy Days Are Here Again" was thevictory song of a political campaign waged amid the cruelestdepression in history. It was the decade of the bank holiday andthe bank failures-and the banks of Rochester stood staunch andfirm-of the return of John Barleycorn to his old stand; of thealphabetical barricade thrown up by the New Deal against theslump, of NRA, CWA, WPA, PWA, CCC and the rest; of therout of the Republicans from their City Hall stronghold and theirfour years of wandering in the wilderness of defeat.
Then the war clouds gathering across the sea and the factoriesroaring again beside the Genesee; the bitter war years that are alltoo fresh in our memories-and now this uneasy peace.
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So our ramble along "Do You Remember Lane" ends rightwhere it began, in this Rochester of 1946. Here endeth the SketchBook, too.
The Rochester of 1946 is not the Rochester of 1906 or even of1936. As the backwoods parson said: "The world do move." Yet Ilike to think that the changes in our city are only on the surface;that its fundamental character has not changed or ever will.
Certainly the affection of her sons and daughters for Rochesterwill endure. They may roam far, yet always their thoughts willturn back to this old mill town, to the Genesee rushing throughits heart to join the great blue lake; to the fragrance of the lilacson a green hillside in the spring; to Mercury, the copper god standing his long vigil on the skyline.
For those of us who are rooted here in this good York Stateearth, to whom the Flower City is just home, where we live andwork, it is-and may it always be- "Rochester, a Good Town toLive In."
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