December 7, 2017
Here we are, betwixt and between two major holidays. For me, the best things about them are first of all, family, second, food and then, number three, the music. The older I get, the more I like the music that carries memories.. Oh, there are a good many new songs out there that are very pretty and they say all the right stuff. But I’m old. And I like older better.
However, many songs have become so deeply associated with the holidays that we often sing them almost by rote; seldom considering what they really mean. We have no idea who wrote them–or why.
Recently I was given a book titled “Then Sings My Soul” by Robert J. Morgan.
It is a large collection of hymns with the stories of the people who wrote them; the reasons the songs were written and now and then the effect a particular song had on the book’s author. Many of the old familiar holiday songs are included..
While trying to choose songs for a church prelude the week before Thanksgiving, I confided to my music partner , “I’m trying to pick out some that will say what we want to say, but aren’t – well,- hackneyed.” She nodded. So many seem just that. Hackneyed and overused and because we have grown accustomed to them, they are sometimes meaningless.
Well, I sat down with my new book and checked out a few of those old songs. I plan on paying more attention to them the next time we sing them.
Who didn’t sing “We Gather Together” for Thanksgiving services or at school programs? “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing. He chastens and hastens His will to make known” As a kid in the Gold School I remember wondering what in the world that meant. The last line :”Sing praises to His name, He forgets not His own” was better, I thought. I didn’t want to be forgotten.
I had no idea that the hymn harks back to the 1500s when Holland was oppressed by Spain and the people were not free to worship as they pleased. After years of struggle and warfare, the Dutch Republic gained freedom. The hymn that we associate with Thanksgiving was actually written by an unknown Dutchman in 1597 to celebrate Holland’s freedom from Spain. Knowing that, the words, “We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant, —– Thy Name be ever praised, O Lord, make us free” take on an entirely new meaning,
“Count Your Blessings” is another one. So familiar and easy to sing that before we have reached the second verse we are wondering what we will order for lunch when we finally get to the restaurant. The hymn was just one of many written by Johnson Oatman Jr. At the age of 19 he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. Although he became an ordained minister he chose to stay in business with his father. However he continued to preach where needed and wrote over 5000 hymns during his lifetime. “Count Your Blessings” was published in 1897. The lilting melody and simple words give its message succinctly: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
And now it is time for Christmas music. From the fun stuff of “up on the house top“ and Rudolph’s shiny nose to nostalgic pop songs to the beloved old carols, it rings in our ears all through December. I have no intention of trying to choose a favorite. No matter what generation we belong to; no matter what genre of music we prefer, Christmas songs are the background to the holiday in one way or another for all of us.
Most of us have heard the story of the beloved carol, “Silent Night”, written by Father Joseph Mohr in a rush because the organ in his church was broken and the planned music for Christmas Eve would not be possible. He took his hurried poem to his organist Franz Gruber who set it to a simple melody that could be played on a guitar with very little preparation. There is more to the story, but suffice it to say, in the words of the author of the book “Were it not for a broken organ, there would never have been a “Silent Night”.
Yes, the old familiar songs can at times seem hackneyed and well, maybe even boring. However, they were written at some time or other, by someone or other, who needed to say something or other that was important to them. And if we pay attention, they can often become important to us, too.
November 30, 2017
I’ve heard it all my life: Time goes by so fast! Where does the time go? Oh, I wish time would just slow down a little!
And, like most kids, when I was young I wondered what on earth those grown-ups were talking about! Time just couldn’t move quickly enough as far as I was concerned. .
If it was winter I longed for spring and if it was spring I wished we could hurry up and get to summer so that school would be done and if it was summer I was anxious for my cousin‘s visits– well, we’ve all been there, right?
Once the leaves had finished changing their colors and had dropped from the trees, we just couldn’t wait for the holidays. Holidays meant vacations from school. They meant company coming for dinner and a wonderful meal. They meant a pretty tree and lots of colored lights and oh! Yeah! Santa Claus and presents. Wonderful presents. And the time just seemed to crawl by.
Well, that was a long time ago. These days I can’t keep up. I meet myself coming and going, as my mother used to say. The days just fly by.
Wasn’t it just a few days ago when we were watching the Memorial Day parade?. Then suddenly it was the Fourth of July and- then Labor Day – and the first day of school!
And, now, Thanksgiving is over and Santa is hovering over the chimney.
It isn’t as if I have a lot to do. There isn’t a great deal on my agenda for the holidays. Thank goodness! If there was, it would be spring before I got the dishes done.
I read somewhere once that it might have something to do with our metabolism. Our bodies and perceptions slow down as we age and time doesn’t. That makes as much sense as anything, as far as I’m concerned.
In any case, it is the first of December. Snow has been visible in varying degrees for a week or two. The hunters are happy and busy.
I’ve gone into the back of the closet and pulled out the wooden crèches that my husband and I made years ago. And I’m setting them up in the places they have occupied for more than twenty years. The wooden figures depicting the manger and the birth of the Christ Child are special to me for more reasons than one.
When my boys were little the only Nativity Scene we had was lovely, but very impractical to have around kids. The painted figures were hand molded and very fragile. The boys, like most children, wanted to play with them. And although I warned against it, the figures got rearranged many times when I wasn’t looking. In the process over the years the wise men’s robes got nicked, the shepherds lost their crooks and the Babe was dropped more times than I can count. They began to look very much the worse for wear.
It was after my boys were grown that I found a pattern in a craft book for a Nativity made from wood blocks with the figures burned into them. Perfect, I thought. Kids could play with those, rearrange them, drop them or toss them at their brothers and the damage would be minimal. In the process, they would learn the old, old story.
Husband agreed. He cut out the blocks, burned the figures into the wood and I painted them. “Well,” he said, “They do need a stable.” And from scraps that were scattered around his workbench, he built one. I brushed on a quick background.
The result wasn‘t bad at all, if I do say so myself.
Grandchildren came along in a few years and eventually, we made more of the woodblock Nativities for them. “We want them to play with these,” we told their parents, “and not be afraid of doing any damage while they learn the Christmas story.”
So, the first decoration I put in place every year is that original woodblock Nativity my husband and I made — much longer ago in reality than it seems in my heart.
Time flies. It is time to pull out a few more holiday decorations and the memories that go with them.
The first thing I know, it will be –well, Oh, my goodness- a new year is just around the corner.
November 23, 2017
Well, by the time you are reading this the Thanksgiving turkey will be reduced to a skeleton, the pumpkin pie won’t even be a shell and the dishes will be back in the china closet waiting for Christmas.
Even though many folks will be thinking about the list they are preparing for Santa, maybe we can take just a minute or two to make another list. The list the turkey stands for. The list of thankfuls. Mine is quite long, and I’ll bet a drumstick that yours is, too.
I’ll keep it short this time.
I’m very thankful for parents who loved me; who tolerated my stubbornness; who encouraged me, who kept me fed, clothed and were wise enough to pull me up short when I needed it. Which, by the way, was more often than I would prefer to admit.
I am so grateful for my huge extended family who have surrounded me all of my days; who know me so well that I can’t get away with anything , who have stayed friends down through the years and are still willing, most of the time, to admit that they are related to me.
I am thankful for the many opportunities that have been dropped in my path as the years went by. I have realized dreams that at one time I thought were only childish fantasies.
I was blessed for nearly 50 years with a husband who was tolerant, patient and loving. Our children and their families make my life complete. .
I am very thankful for this place where I live. I’m appreciative of its beauty and its simplicity and for the fact that it is rural, friendly and comfortable.
Over the years, my sons have had the rare occasion to visit one or two of the less advantaged countries on this planet. More than once, they have made a point of assuring us that we need to be very grateful for this beautiful nation that we call home; this place where we live.
Thanksgiving 2017 may already be history. But I truly do wake up every morning giving thanks.
There is a gospel song sung by Jeff and Sherry Easter that says it very well:
“There’s a roof up above me, I’ve a good place to sleep.
There’s food on my table and shoes on my feet.
You gave me Your love, Lord, and a fine family.
Thank you, Lord., for your blessings on me.”
Thank You Lord, for Your Blessings on Me written by the Easter brothers.
November 16, 2017
We were a very good match, even though some folks weren’t too sure at first. After all, my Dad used to say that he thought I was born talking. And the guy I married had a strong reputation for being very quiet. Yeah, well. He could keep up with me when it was necessary.
It didn’t take very long into our relationship for us to realize that we both loved to travel. There was nothing he liked better than to get behind the wheel of a car and I was more than happy to ride shotgun with a map in my hands. Yes, a map. No one had heard of GPS when we were young, and OH! Say, but I’m glad.
It began early when, shortly after we became engaged, I was invited to go to Vermont with him where he was helping his father build a house for his aunt. So, early one morning, I established my place on the right in his yellow and black Willys car. The map was on my lap and we were on our way. After all, we had to be in Burlington by supper time. And we were. Our adventures had only just begun.
The summer after we were married he hauled beans downstate for a neighbor and of course, I went along. We traveled all night; came home the next day, grabbed a nap and then did it all over again. Well! We were young. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
And so it began. Husband got a job driving bulk milk truck and I rode with him every chance I got. Three boys joined us, all within four short years. As soon as they were big enough, they took turns in the cab along side their Dad.
We farmed the boys out to the grandparents a time or two and took off on a couple of jaunts. With a good tape in the cassette player we could travel for miles before conversation became necessary, even for me. With a borrowed camper and more nerve than knowledge, we took the boys with us a few times.
Later, Husband took a job driving a tractor trailer hauling woodchips and lo n’ behold, it was a sleeper cab. I was working nights and on some mornings, I would ride to the wood yard with co-workers, climb up in the sleeper and within minutes, be sound asleep. He would laugh “I hit a bad bump and wondered if it woke you up. I looked back and could see daylight between you and the bunk but you were out like a light.”
The years flew by. The boys grew up. Every chance we got we took a trip; to Wyoming, to Washington, D.C., to Florida, to Maryland to visit our foster son and after our middle son moved south, several times to Virginia and North Carolina. I watched the map, reminded him of the upcoming exits and sang along with whatever tape was playing at the moment.
Then came the day when we knew that retirement wasn’t going to go just as we had planned. My husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and had to go on disability. After a few months, I quit work to spend time with him. Our doctors said that he was still capable of driving so we decided to grab every second we could.
For two winters we drove to Arizona where we rented a small house. As I always had, I kept the map open on my lap and watched for exits. We talked, we admired the changing scenery and we enjoyed each other’s company.
He had been an avid fan of the TV show Route 66 and one wonderful weekend, we headed out over that famous highway across the Arizona desert and almost into Nevada. Another dream come true.
We traveled to Maine to see our son and family and took my parents to Ohio a few times for a visit with Dad’s sister. We did our best to make every minute and mile count.
The time came, of course, when traveling was no longer possible. But neither of us had any regrets. We had done what we could while we could. Over the years we had managed to visit all but five of these United States; missing only Alaska ,Hawaii and the three on the West Coast.
We had realized our dreams before it was too late.
Yes, we were a good match. He drove, I rode shotgun and now and then, I told him where to go. It doesn’t get much better than that.
November 9, 2017
It happens all the time. “You’re kidding,” someone will say with a grin. “There was a store in Raymond?”
Well, yeah! There was. Actually, there were at least two.
The early settlers were nothing if not resourceful. Once they got some land cleared, a cabin built to shelter their families and some crops planted they began to think of other things.
We know that Daniel Raymond had some sort of ‘hotel’ or rooming house not far from where I live now. After all, new settlers were coming through the area quite regularly by that time, not to mention traders and hunters and, well, the occasional thief.
An intersection formed and homes grew up around it. Small farms were cleared and what became known as Raymond’s Corners began to take shape. Parents began to worry about their children’s education and also, they recognized the need for a church.
The first recorded store in Raymond was built on the northeast corner of the crossroad; the corner of what is now Rt. 49 and Cobb Hill Road. It was probably a family residence, as many stores were at that time. The store would eventually house the Raymond Post Office..
The earliest grave markers in the Raymond Cemetery are those of two children, dated in the early 1840s. More than likely, when a burying ground was needed the area that would eventually become the cemetery began more by chance than anything else.
Approximately 40 years after Daniel Raymond and family first arrived here, according to records, among the cluster of homes that made up Raymond’s Corners there was a store and a cheese factory as well as a roller bolt mill. The first store burned and another was built in its place. (Roller bolts, by the way, were manufactured for use in textile mills, according to notes I have found.)
Parents began by teaching their children fundamentals at home, but eventually a schoolhouse was built. Quite likely, the first one was of logs but in time, a handsome frame building was erected complete with a bell tower. Church services led by local men or now and then by an itinerant preacher were held in the school. Once the funds were available, however, a proper church was built next door to the schoolhouse.
During the late 1890s the C & PA tracks were laid from Coudersport to the Newfield Junction and a small depot was erected in Raymond near the place where the tracks crossed what is now Kidney Road. Folks could flag down the train to catch a ride or to load or unload freight.
I laughed out loud when reading a column in an old newspaper one day. There were those who were not exactly pleased, it seemed, that since the “cars” were rumbling through town twice daily, the local residents were seeing more “strange faces.”
It still amazes me that such a bustling community could arise from a total wilderness in less than a century.
Eventually, of course, things changed. The settlement of East Raymond, later to be named Gold would outgrow her mother village. The depot, cheese factory, school, church and store that were once here are only remembered in fading photographs.
The children have been bussed to Ulysses to school now since the 1940s.
Yes, Raymond once had a store, as well as all the other necessary public buildings that make up a town. This place; the place I like to call “my neck of the woods” was settled by strong and caring and intelligent people who understood the need for social and religious interaction in their community. We have outgrown ourselves several times over and many have moved on. I think those first families who cleared the forest and built the earliest farms and stores and churches and schools and gave their children a home to be proud of would be very proud of us; the ones who still call this place home.
November 2, 2017
Well, I’m in the fix that I get caught in every now and then. The idea bucket is dry as dust. Nothing whatever is coming to mind. Nothing new, that is.
However, very soon now, it will be the anniversary of the day my great-grandmother, Betsy Lucinda Rogers Williams was born 147 years ago. Good heavens! Nearly a century and a half! I can almost hear her chuckling over that. As I have said many times, she was the best storyteller I have ever encountered and although she didn’t live to see any of my “stuff”, she is the inspiration behind it all. And, so, bear with me, please, while I tell you about her again.
My best memories of her are when she was about the age I am now. She had been widowed for a decade. Not long after her husband Edsil Williams died she realized that she did not want to live alone in the house they had built in the hollow near an ever-flowing spring. So, shortly before I was born, my Dad realized a long-held dream when he and Mom moved onto his grandparents’ farm and into Gram’s house. Even though our mother wasn’t eager to be that far away from a “hard road”, she soon made it a home and in time the old farmhouse was alive with the noise and chatter of the six of us kids born over the next 14 years.
Of course, I thought Gram was old. She wore dresses midway between her knees and her ankles and club-heeled tie-up shoes. Her hair was pulled up into a small white bun on the back of her head and her glasses had wire rims. She stooped a little when she walked or when she was peeling apples or potatoes at the sink. She was old, after all.
Although she visited other members of the family for weeks at a time; her daughter in Wellsville or her cousin in Kane or her granddaughter in Syracuse or maybe just up the road to our grandmother’s in Gold, she always came home to our house in the hollow. Her bedroom waited for her, somewhat impatiently, I thought, just at the top and to the left of the stairs. The room always had a faint odor of Ben-Gay and whatever liniment she was using at the moment for her rheumatism. The mattress on her metal-framed bed rested on coiled springs and it shook wonderfully when she laughed while telling us a story. My sisters and I took turns sleeping with her because we knew she would lull us to sleep with wonderful yarns.
Her stories were simple tales of growing up before the turn of the 20th century. She was born in a house that was gone before my memory but it had stood in a field not far from our home. Her older sister Mary had “gone West” with her husband and son and the family here would only see Mary one more time. Letters from her were infrequent and treasured.
A photo of a cousin of Gram’s hung on her bedroom wall. He had made a good deal of money, so they said, when oil was discovered a few counties south west of us. He drowned in a tragic accident while fishing in Wyoming. His father lived with the Williams’ for a while and the cousin thanked them by having the house plumbed with running water and an indoor bathroom.
A pencil sketch of our house when it was still unfinished, hung over her window in a deep decorative frame. That picture would eventually come home with me.
Gram’s younger daughter moved with her family to Wyoming in the 1940s. Gram went home with her for a year when I was ten or so. I was selfishly furious! It didn’t occur to me until much later that there were others who loved her just as deeply as I did.
One day I got off the school bus in Gold and walked up the road to my grandmother’s house, When I went through the back door I spotted Gram’s trunk that she had taken to Wyoming with her. I hit the stairs running and found her standing in the upstairs hall talking with my grandmother. It is a wonder that I didn’t knock her down when I slammed into her. I learned that day that sometimes we cry the hardest when we are the happiest.
Recently my sisters and I were together and we talked about our memories of Gram. They differ, of course, depending on our ages at the time she was with us. But they make us all smile.
One day, shortly before she died, I told her that I had won an award for an essay I had written at school. She took my hand and said, “Will you write about me someday?”
I’m still working on it, Gram.
October 26, 2017
I’ve been steeped in it all my life. Readers of this column have read many times over about my family’s history and the stories which have always fascinated me. Our great-grandmother, a storyteller of the first degree, delighted in sharing not only her memories but the stories which had been handed down to her by her parents and grandparents.
And she wasn’t the only one. If one of us came home from school and mentioned during supper that there had been a new kid in class today, one of the ‘grown-up’s would ask, “Oh? Well, what was their name?” And dollars to donuts, no matter what we replied, they would look at each other and grin. “Well! He (or she) is some of your relation!”
And, the conversation, while we all enjoyed Mom’s pork chops and gravy or chicken n’ biscuits would consist of unraveling the family connections that made it clear why that new kid was “some of our relation”. And, almost always, there was a story or two involved.
Well, I grew up and got into genealogy at least semi-seriously. I soon realized that, since several of my ancestors were among the earliest settlers in this area, I’m related in one way or another to darned near everybody in what I like to call my neck of the woods.
The dates and names recorded in old family Bibles and on random scraps of paper were one thing. They locked in the times and places. Much more interesting, as far as I was concerned, were the stories.
The teenaged boy who was left stranded alone in the wilderness and lived not only to tell the tale but to build one of the earlier houses in Gold and to raise a family there. The woman, left to her own devices when her husband was drafted into the Union Army who, with her young sons, chopped her way through the woods to a new home over a mile away. Henry Rogers, who, so the story goes, escaped his Confederate captors and made his way home, telling anyone who asked as he passed through enemy territory that his name was “Henry Still.” He wasn’t lying, he assured his mother when he finally reached home. After all, he was still Henry. The woman who left her family here and traveled to what was then, truly, the Wild West. There she would experience bitter winters, a deceptive husband and in all probability, was hustled out of Wyoming by him just in time to avoid the Johnson County War.
And the list goes on.
Recently, I visited with a friend who has not had the privilege of knowing her family history. Some questions brought up by another person set her to wondering and she asked me how she might get some answers. My sister has more ability to do that than I do and thanks to the Internet and a bit of basic information, she was able to bring up details that my friend had never dreamed of knowing.
Our friend was laughing and even crying a bit when I talked with her about it the next day.
“I had no idea all that information was available,” she said. She learned her mother’s date of birth as well as the date of her death. And among other things, she learned the names of her grandparents and places of their burial.
“It makes them three-dimensional,” she said to me. Her only regret? That she had never thought to ask more questions when she was growing up.
Oh, yes! Those who had come and gone before her were finally three dimensional; real people who had lead real lives and had handed down bits and pieces of themselves to make her who she is.
I am so grateful to those of my family who always had a story to tell; who always knew something interesting to flesh out a name; those who gave me the gift of a three-dimensional family. I will never again take that gift for granted.
Ask questions, my friends, while there are still people around you who can answer them. And be patient with repetition. A three-dimensional history is a fascinating thing to discover- and to treasure.
October 19, 2017
I don’t remember for sure when I first met Elke Peet. She began coming to our church a few years ago with friends. Her smile was infectious and she always welcomed a friendly hello and later, when she knew me better, a hug. I listened to her slightly accented speech and I observed her obvious joy in life. I knew she had a story.
And, so, I asked her. Her eyes welled up when she told me that she immigrated to this country when she was a child. “I don’t ever want to be anywhere else,” she said.
Elke was born in a farming community near Frankfort, Germany. She spent a good deal of time as a child with her grandmother and when her mother and father, an American soldier, decided to move to the United States in order that he could go to college, her grandmother was heartbroken. She convinced the little girl that she really didn’t want to go to America. There was no sunlight or sky there, her grandmother said. It was all boarded up. And so, Elke stayed behind when her parents left.
As she grew older, however, she realized that the story wasn’t true and longed to join her parents. Finally, when Elke was 13, the decision was made. She would go to live with her father and mother in the United States.
She boarded the huge passenger plane entirely alone. She was leaving her home for a strange land and could not speak English but her mother and father were waiting for her there. When the huge passenger jet approached New York Harbor on July 8, 1961 the pilot circled the plane around the brightly illuminated Statue of Liberty before landing. Elke has never forgotten the beauty of that huge statue. She knew she was home. And yes, there was an open sky and sunlight over the United States.
Her parents took her to their home in Buffalo, NY where her father worked as an engineer for Bell Air.
I asked Elke how she learned to speak English. “By listening,”, she answered. When she began 8th grade that fall her teachers helped her as much as they could. They let her parents know that Elke needed assistance and her father told her that from that time, they would speak only English in their home. Today, Elke speaks eloquently with only a very slight accent.
She became a citizen of the United States in 1963.
The family moved for a time to California but eventually returned to Buffalo. Shortly after Elke graduated from high school her father visited an area near Wellsville, NY and fell in love with the countryside. And so, Wellsville became home to Elke’s family which now included a younger brother.
Although she had intended to go to college, Elke told me, she met a young man named John Peet and quickly fell deeply in love. They were married in 1967.
In time the Peets decided to adopt a child. However, Mr. Peet had been diagnosed with cancer and adoption agencies would not consider them as potential parents. Later, however, Mr. Peet was declared cured from the disease. In 1986, the Peets adopted two Korean children, a sister and a brother, aged 5 and 7 years old.
Elke’s children are now grown. Her son Marcus, lives in Texas. Her daughter Nicole and husband Raz live in Philadelphia and they have given Elke her only grandson.
John Peet died in 2001 at the age of 58. “He was my rock!” Elke says.
Elke is retired now after 32 years at K-Mart. She lives in the home near Wellsville, NY where she and her husband raised their family. Two or three times a week she drives to Gold to join friends and to attend church. Her smile is infectious and I look forward to her hug on Sunday mornings.
Elke did not go back to Germany for over thirty years. She has made the trip four times during recent years, to visit an aunt who still lives there.
However, her home is here; in the United States of America; in Stannards, New York and with her friends in Gold, Pennsylvania. And yes, she assured me more than once, with tears in her eyes. “I don’t want to ever be anywhere else.”
October 12, 2017
It is difficult for most folks, I expect, as they zip through the intersection of Routes 49 and 449 to picture that little group of houses as being the bustling community that it once was. I doubt many even consider such a thing.
There isn’t much left these days. No stores. Even the church is gone. However, the people here are the best of the best. And our little town is still the only one named Gold in the entire United States.
There was a time when things were very different. According to a local newspaper, in 1898 Gold had one large store and a small one as well as a feed store. William Clark ran a blacksmith shop and there was a “wood repair and paint shop”. Not to mention, of course, half a dozen gushing springs.
There was a large schoolhouse with sheds to shelter horses when the building doubled as a place to hold local meetings.
A small depot stood on the east side of the road ready to meet the C & PA when it came through each day on its way to and from the Newfield Junction, carrying passengers as well as freight. The water tower stood alongside the track on the west side.
Believe it or not, a hotel once stood on the south west corner of what is now Routes 49 and 449. Built by a man named Pardon Reynolds and his son Edward in 1886 the hotel changed hands several times through the years. Eventually it became, along with a barn, the property of W. H. Hubbard. In 1913, both the barn and hotel burned within a few weeks of each other. Officials became suspicious and made what were called in the news reports “discreet inquiries”. Eventually the owner was prosecuted and convicted of arson.
The Conable family built a cheese factory near the creek that meandered down from the spring on its way to the mighty Genesee River. Charlie Conable made a good living there for many years. He bought milk from the local farmers and sold his cheese to area stores.
A lovely little church was built across from the school during the summer of 1899. While the church was being built, telephone poles were erected and wires strung through Gold; making it possible for news to be “carried at lightening speed.” It was as amazing to folks then as the Internet and cell phones are to us today.
In 1902 the Gold store burned and a new one was erected. It still stands today, although now it is a private residence.
A new two-story schoolhouse was also built in 1902. Classes were held for many years on both floors. My father and his siblings attended the first eight grades there. Students who went to high school were required to go to a near by town, such as Ulysses or Coudersport. The Gold School was one of the last in the area to be “taken up”, not closing its doors until 1947. I attended first and second grades there. When I related that fact to my boys when they were in grade school, one of them rolled his eyes and asked very carefully, “Mom, did you ever ride in a covered wagon?”
The cheese factory was gone before my time. Although we once supported two general stores; each with their own gas pumps, they have both disappeared.
A new church was built a couple of years ago about a mile out of town and the old one was torn down.
And, for more than forty years now, the train hasn’t come here any more.
So it would seem, I suppose, that there is not much left of us. But I beg to differ with that. We have gotten smaller, it’s true. We have to drive a few miles to grocery shop or to fill our cars’ gas tanks. Our kids have been bussed to school for three generations. However, we are still a good and caring community.
Yes, there is only one town named Gold in the entire country. And I am proud to claim her as home.
October 5, 2017
On the way home from getting few groceries the other day I dropped down from Route 49 onto the Pushersiding and stopped to visit my cousin. I have no idea why I don’t do it more often.
As usual, I didn’t plan to stay long. But as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men — or old cousins.
Dick is a few years older than me; just enough older that when he stayed with us during several summers when we were kids he became more like a big brother than a cousin. We share a lot of memories and when we are together, we both enjoy a trip down memory lane.
While he was with us in our home back then, Dick brought the cows from the pasture for milking, helped with the haying and made himself useful to Dad in any way he could. As far as I was concerned, he was there to entertain me and I kept him busy in his spare time.
He grew up. He graduated from high school and soon went into the Air Force. The timing was such that he wound up in a place called Korea where there was a war going on. I didn’t really understand much about that “conflict”. I just knew that I didn’t like the idea that my cousin was so far away from home- and me.
Years went by. I grew up, too. We both married and had families. These days we are both grandparents several times over and are even great-grandparents. We are both alone.
The conversation doesn’t vary much when we get together. We love to rehash memories.
Both of us grew up with parents; his father and my mother, who were seriously frightened of thunderstorms. “Why is that?” Dick wondered.
Neither of us are sure. The fear seemed to be strong in the entire family.
“Mom used to tell me, “ I said, “that their Aunt Betsey, an unmarried great-aunt who lived with them, was terrified of storms and when one threatened, she would make all the kids sit in a circle in the parlor until the storm was over.” And, we both remembered, the valley called the Pushersiding tends to be a magnet for lightening strikes. There are many tales of them. We both vividly recall the day when several of our grandfather’s milking herd were killed when lightening struck a tree in the pasture near the barn. My mother told of seeing ball lightening roll down the hill back of the one room school when she was a child.
Neither Dick nor I can say we like storms. We endure them, since there is rarely any choice and utter a prayer of thanks when they are over.
Better memories are those of my mother and her sisters getting together to clean Gramp’s house. They would scrub and clean it from top to bottom; reminiscing and laughing the entire day.
We remember Gramp’s ever present pipe and the sweet aroma of the smoke that curled from it. We remember the ritual that Gramp held to every meal, giving himself an injection of insulin to control his diabetes just before he sat down to eat.
We remember Uncle Reed, with his rolling walk, wide grin and the cigarette tucked in the corner of his mouth with the long ash hanging from it; just ready to drop.
We remember “Tidd apples”; winter spies that grew near the farm and the red Astricans, a favorite for pies and eating out of hand.
We remember the train pounding up the valley toward the Newfield Junction; usually with two engines; steam-powered in our earliest memories and later pulled by yellow-striped diesels. The entire valley trembled as the train struggled up the hill opposite Grandpa’s farm.
And we have questions. We wonder if we remember things just as we should. But there is no one left to ask, these days, so our memories hold.
The afternoon flew by quickly. Dick followed me out on the porch as I left to come home.
“Come again, Nets”, he said using my childhood nickname. And I will. Soon, I hope.
September 28, 2017
Everyone is saying it. Where did summer go? Weren’t we looking for the first dandelions just a week or two ago? And now the yard is filling up with colored leaves? How did that happen?
My Dad and Mom are always uppermost in my mind when the leaves change color and begin to fall. They were married 82 years ago this month.
One late September day Dad borrowed a pair of clean socks from his brother because he had a date with his best girl. He didn’t let on that this date was special. They invited another couple along as witnesses and drove to Whitesville, NY where they rounded up a preacher and got married. They had both turned 21 that summer and they hadn’t told anyone in either of their families what they were up to. It was 1935 – still the in the throes of the Great Depression and no one they knew spent much money on a wedding back then.
That night, they went back to their homes. Dad had to help his father with the farm work the next day and Mom had to get a meal for men who were helping her father with fall harvesting. When Dad’s brother got the news, all he could say was, “Well, my gosh! He got married in my socks!”
They made their home in various rentals for three years. Then, in December of 1938, they moved to Dad’s grandparents’ home on a back road called Spicer Brook. I was born a couple of months later.
The six of us kids, five girls and one boy, grew up with unconditional love, strong discipline, a lot of laughter and music; always, always, there was music. We could harmonize together almost before we could read.
When I was a teenager Dad began digging graves to supplement his income. We learned that what some might regard as a very menial job could be done properly with precision and with absolute respect.
Neither Dad nor Mom were inclined to preach sermons. They simply showed us how we were supposed to behave and expected us to be smart enough to get the message.
One by one we married. I missed their twenty-fifth anniversary party because I had given birth to their first grandson the day before. The family grew fast. Grandkids were welcomed at the farm in the hollow with open arms. Mom would cuddle a baby of any age and say, “I like them best just like this!” Dad would hug them, tease them and tag each one with a goofy nickname. Once the grandsons were old enough, they began helping him in the several cemeteries for which he was responsible. And they learned to do the job the right way; with dignity and respect.
Mom took a job as a nurses aide on the long term care unit of the Cole Memorial Hospital. She soon became recognized and respected for the caring and thorough way she did her job and she received the first Nursing Assistant of the Year award given by the hospital. In her spare time she made wonderful home made butter. After the family was supplied, she had no problem selling the rest to friends at work and it became known as Bet’s Better Butter.
Gradually, they both retired. Nothing made them happier than visits from their ever-growing family. They welcomed great-grandkids, extra kids, in-laws, and as Dad liked to say, a few outlaws.
Now and then, as far back as we can remember, Dad would come in from the barn on a moonlit night, grin at Mom and say, “Looks like a good night for a walk to the spring.” She would just laugh at him and go back to the task at hand.
We celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2005, with a dinner at the Gold Church. Family came; friends came; we ate, we told stories and as always, we sang for them.
Mom left this world for the next one just three months after the party and three and a half years later , Dad joined her.
And so, it is September again. It has been 82 years since that day when Chester Morley and Betsey Young, without telling anyone what they were up to, drove into New York State and got hitched. Some marriages, it is said, are made in Heaven. If there was ever one that truly measured up to that, I believe it was theirs.
Jeanette’s articles go here.