Thursday, January 30, 2014

Favorite Islands by Aunt CB and Uncle Jack Kinsella

The Kinsellas have a family newsletter three times a year. Along with updates of each person, we all write about a special topic. One ‘2846’ the special topic was: ‘What is your Favorite Island?’ Everything from Oahu to St. Maarten to islands in Ontario’s Christie Lake and Otty Lake to islands off of the coast of Maine were chosen. But here we will just highlight Aunt CB and Uncle Jack’s choices, as I think the cousins would know or appreciate these two.

From Aunt CB:

Hopefully everyone has a place in their head that they can escape to when peace is needed, a Quiet Place. When I need to move my mind away from whatever my body must endure, I go to Center Lisle and the Baker farm. This, of course, is tied in with my buddy cousin, Gladys and it is with her that I found my favorite island.
Dudley Creek is more the size of a small river and runs through Center Lisle and on through Lisle to join still another large river. In 1935 the various waterways in the area ran amok and flooded the area, smashing houses, ruining barns, drowning people—to the point where the U.S. Army Engineers stepped in and decided to control them by building a dam in nearby Whitney Point. Thus the scene was set for our discovery. Dudley Creek was drained to the lowest point.

Main Street of Center Lisle--Aunt Lil's Store is in front of Church

Was the year 1936, 1937, 1938? Unimportant—we were ten and seven. There we were, Gladys, Harold and myself, a lovely sunny warm day in midsummer, sitting on the steps of Aunt Lil’s store, by the gas pumps and wondering aloud what to do with our day. We decided to start by viewing how far down the creek had gone since our last perusal the previous day. 
Much to our amazement we could not only see bottom and multitudinous stones but there was an island that appeared directly in the middle, big enough for us to build on and close enough for us to wade to!!
The creek itself ran by the store and in its flood turmoil had darn near demolished the store and its merchandise, but that is another story.
Down we scampered to the island and spent the day picking up stones, building forts and houses. We each had an area, and then we’d visit one another. Really, the day wasn’t long enough and the day was all we had, for the next morning the creek had become fuller, the engineers had released more water and our island was no more. 
However, in my head, it still exists and the pure joy of innocent childhood fun along with it, a memory to help me when future events call for a peaceful place to be.
From Uncle Jack:
My favorite island is in Waterloo where the old Distillery buildings stood. It is fittingly called ‘Distillery Island’. It is bounded on one side by the Seneca-Cayuga Canal (later the Barge Canal) and on the other by the Seneca River. But first, some history is in order.
I don’t know when the first distillery building was built but it was a thriving business by the time the Seneca-Cayuga Canal was built around 1840. It was called the Columbia Distilling Company. From the picture I have of it in the ‘Bird’s Eye View Map of Waterloo’, it consisted of numerous buildings and warehouses. I presume it was a very profitable business but Dad told me that it could have been more profitable in its early days if supervision had been tighter. He said the whiskey ran through a tube from the brewing room on the second floor to the bottling room on the first floor. 

Dad's Walk from his home at 16 Clark Street to Gorham Street Bridge and
Onto Distillery Island

A portion of this tube ran between two walls where it was out of sight from everyone. An enterprising worker figured out a way to get into this area and one night installed a spigot that could be turned on and off. He would then occasionally go there (maybe frequently) and fill up the bottle from his lunch bucket and share it with his fellow workers. I guess the tipoff to the bosses that something was awry was the productivity usually slowed down in the afternoon. Eventually the spigot was discovered and that was the end of the extended ‘Happy Hour’.

The Columbia Distillery was famous for its ‘Seneca Chief’ whiskey, named after the first boat to traverse the entire length of the Erie Canal from Buffalo to New York City.

The Columbia Distilling Company was eventually sold to Walter Duffy, owner of the Duffy Malt Whiskey Company of Rochester, NY. Duffy moved to Waterloo; he had grand ideas and built a large new manufacturing plant that utilized all the latest techniques of whiskey making. Before it was completed, he was paid a visit by the owner of a large distilling conglomerate from Kentucky who suggested that if Duffy would retire without ever opening the distillery he would make him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Duffy took the offer and became a man of leisure ever after.

The result was that decades later, the distillery buildings were decaying but still there and were the most wonderful places to play hide and seek in. On rainy days we would walk over from the Gorham Street Bridge and spend hours cavorting around those old buildings.

The 100 foot smokestack that proudly displayed the words ‘Duffy’s Malt Whiskey’ could be read from 16 Clark Street (where Uncle Jack lived). It was such a challenge as we played there that Billy Currvan and I, noticing that iron rungs ran up the inside of the chimney, decided to climb to the top. We both made it but I will admit, sitting up on the top of the chimney was the scariest I have ever been. Grand view, but it was scary!! One of the neighbors must have seen us there and called the cops who promptly showed up and ordered us down. We were only too glad to oblige.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Evelyn Laufer Taylor By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Today, January 18th, is Evelyn June Laufer Taylor’s 92nd birthday—Congratulations! Evelyn is the wife of Bryant Calkins Taylor who was the son of Floyd Taylor, twin of Lloyd. Bryant also had a January Birthday—on the 26th, he too would have been 92 years old.
 Bryant and Evie Taylor

Evelyn answered my call last month when I asked about Christmas stories, memories or traditions. As she wrote: “Christmas is a favorite theme for me.  In fact, I made up a booklet several years ago of our eventful Christmases past for the kids.”

So before I put away ALL of my Christmas decorations until next December (I still have up my Nativity set), here is one last look at Christmases past with some of Evelyn’s memories:


Bryant and I, when we had our children, redesigned our Christmas traditions, taking from both of our childhood ones and tailoring them to our present circumstances.

Since I had always had to go to my paternal grandparents’ on Christmas Eve, we decided to always be at home for the kids to really anticipate Santa’s arrival.  Also, our toy store was open until 6 PM on Christmas Eve, making a long and tiring day with many personal things to finish up after the kids went to bed.
Our traditional Christmas Eve supper was oyster stew for Bryant and me, tomato soup for the kids, cranberry molded Jello (red) salad, lime and pineapple molded Jello (green) salad, quick breads, ice cream with strawberries and Christmas cookies.

On Christmas morning we opened our stocking presents in our robes, got dressed, made our beds, and had breakfast of juice and coffee cake shaped like a wreath. Santa’s unwrapped gifts had already been discovered by the kids before the stockings and exclaimed over. Finally, we started on the regular gifts.  The youngest one started by picking out one and giving it out.  After it was opened and often passed around to see, that person picked the next one.  

As this could take quite a while, we had snacks and time-out to play and savor what we had.  At 4 o’clock both sets of grandparents arrived for dinner and to see the gifts and enjoy the action and excitement of the children.

Each set of grandparents had a Christmas for the family with their own traditions.  For the Laufer’s, we went there the Sunday before Christmas, and The Taylors always celebrated New Year’s weekend when their other son and family came from Ohio.

In this way no family had to give up its family traditions.  It was great to have three Christmases and three special dinners!

Christmas 1953-1960
(Toys discounted up to 50% off)

It took planning to run a toy store in the basement of your home. It affected the whole family.  Since December hours were 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM, six days a week with a 6:00 PM closing Christmas Eve, we laid out a schedule to get things done on time.

We shopped out of catalogs for gifts other than toys in October.  On October 12, Columbus Day and a school holiday, the kids and often neighbor kids frosted the already baked cut out cookies to be frozen and not eaten until Dec. 24th.A couple of times the kids helped make other kinds, but finally it was easier to do those by myself.  I also made and froze Christmas wreath coffee cakes for Christmas breakfast and gifts for friends.

After Thanksgiving, all Christmas cards were written and stamped and gifts wrapped before December.  Bryant also sent out desk calendars to all his insurance clients and we all helped get those addressed and stamped.

The month of December was difficult for the kids as we were too busy to have family time. We wanted to give the store a holiday atmosphere, so Christmas records were played continually (only had about 12 in our repertoire).   However, our record player was upstairs -- part of the TV console, and we piped the music to the downstairs. It took lots of concentration for the kids to watch TV with carols always present and the volume not low enough to be called "background music." 

On one of these Christmas Eves during the store years, Bryant and I were still downstairs finishing up some things for the kids.  All of a sudden we heard a loud thud above us.  We rushed upstairs to find our 14-year-old Collie, Fleet, had had a stroke.  Frantically, we called the veterinarian who said to protect her from hurting herself and see how she is in the morning.  She could not stand; her eyes were crossed.  We stayed up most of the night, caring for her as we would a child; she was our first "child" as we had her before we had any children.  On Christmas day she was still alive, but the vet would not come to put her to sleep until the next day.

It was so painful for all of us to watch her suffer -- panting, not eating, unable to stand all Christmas day and night. It was so difficult to be "Merry." All of us felt this sadness, but the children did not realize what was ahead of us.  The next day the vet gave her the injection as Bryant held her head and I held her paw.  The last movement I saw was the final wag of her tail.

Christmas 1954
In 1954 my mother, Hazel Laufer, died in October, so Dad had come to spend the holidays with us.  It was business as usual because of the toy store.  However, this year it was difficult for me to think of having "Christmas as usual."  Nevertheless, for our three children and Dad, I attempted to eliminate nothing.

On Christmas Eve, the turkey was stuffed, ready to go into the oven early the next morning. Our store closed at six o'clock, and only last minute gift-wrapping had to be done.  Everything seemed to be going as smoothly as could be. Suddenly, I became nauseated and was sick all night long. Christmas morning I managed to get through the stocking and gifts, showing enthusiasm for the sake of the children but feeling so tired and weak.

Bryant put the turkey in the oven at the proper time.  Then he and Dad set the table, peeled potatoes, following the schedule I always make for myself, while I feebly guided them from the sidelines.  However, when it came to making the gravy, the fellows drew a blank, so I sat at the kitchen table, head propped up on my hand and tried to explain how to do it (gravy-making has never been my forte), so this was no easy task. 

If only Mom had been there to hold my head and take over the Christmas dinner.  I missed her then  --  and miss her still!