Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Canandaigua of my youth......

     If it's true of every generation, to age and then to wax nostalgic for the simpler time that they knew, is it more true of mine?  Did the generation before me wish to go back to hand pumping water and using outhouses because they remembered the simplicity of those times?  I'm truly not sure, however, I find myself more and more, wishing that my children could have experienced the city of my youth as I knew it, and I'd go back and live there in a New York minute if I could, and never miss a thing.

     It seemed like there were more hours in a day when I was young.  Maybe this was because we got up earlier, things took time to cook and to prepare and you had things you had to do before you got
Norman painted my life often
ready to go to school, so there may actually have been more hours in a day then.  I grew up in the 60's and 70's in the small city of Canandaigua NY.  It had a population of under 10,000 then, and the city itself really has only grown about 10% in population since.  Oddly though, it seemed like there were more people then, than now, because they were always outside.  Our high school football games drew capacity crowds, and the church of my youth was full, so you went early to get a good seat, and not just on Christmas.  I'll take you through a typical week.....

      On a normal school day you'd arise an hour or two prior to the first bell.  You'd do your morning chores and then any extras that might need to be done.  In my house, if you were a male, you were likely an altar server and you might have to walk back and forth to church, prior to going back there for school to serve the early mass.  In winter you might have had to go out and shovel the walks and driveway prior to school, and when you were done, Dad was sure to "suggest" that you do the same
for an elderly neighbor or two.  Inside lunches and milk were being made, and..... Wait, you didn't make milk as a kid?  In my house, milk, for a lot of years, came in a big box marked Carnation, whose magic crystals would become milk when you added hot water.  This was best done the night before as hot instant milk is surely an acquired taste.  When you were done with breakfast, mostly Buckwheats and Oatmeal, you'd pack up your brown paper bag wrapped textbooks, slip your small feet into plastic bread wrappers and then your boots, and then you'd walk to school (yes, uphill both ways, carrying your brother).  The streets were full of kids just like you.  In school, you'd behave or when you got back from the Principal's office, you'd find it harder to sit on your seat.  There were chores at school too, clapping erasers, emptying trash, washing desks, and anything else that you were asked to do.  After school, you'd check back in at home, and then have a few hours to explore the city or neighborhood parks. 

   I'd arrange to meet back up with my friends downtown and we'd walk the streets exploring.  We had to arrange it ahead of time, there were no cell phones and if you screwed up the plan, well, you missed out on the plan for that day.  More commonly now kids step out their doors and then call to
The original Leroy Brown
 see in which direction to point their feet or their cars.  We'd look in the windows of the stores, Valvano's Newsstand was one of my favorites.  We could browse the newest comic books that we couldn't afford and they always make sure to kick us out before we finished the story.  We bought cheap magic tricks and modeling clay and playing cards to put on the spokes of our bikes.  A lot of times our homework would require a trip to the library to do research, so we'd head over there and look among the stacks for the reference books that we would need and while there we might check out the latest Encyclopedia Brown Book.   Frequently on our trips to the library, we'd detour into Seneca Dairy and buy chocolate milk or ice cream in a cup.  Soon it would be time to head home for dinner, and in my house, you weren't late for dinner without a very good excuse.  You all sat down together and shared your days, and then after dinner was done and dishes were washed and dried by hand, you might settle in to watch some TV, not of your choosing, but what your father wanted to see.  At bedtime, you were reminded to brush your teeth and to say your prayers. 

     On Saturdays we'd have our weekly chores to do and then settle in to watch the Saturday morning cartoons.  Many mornings there would be pick-up football games arranged or we'd plan a longer exploration.  I remember taking my bike and riding to Manchester or Cheshire with friends to see the
sites there. Sonnenberg Park was a regular destination for me and we'd climb the trees, play foursquare or play some basketball.  It was common for us to be gone all day, or home just for lunch and then back out again.  We had more time to go downtown so the candy stores like the Goody Shop or uptown, the Corner Store were great places to spend some time.  Some Saturdays, Dad would announce a work day and take us to our Uncle's garden to spend some time there weeding or harvesting.  Sundays would start at church, early again, 7:30 and then if we were lucky we took the car to one of two bakeries, Schreck's or Vecchi's to pick up some donuts.  This was likely the first time in the week that we would ride in the car.  After we got home, Dad would read the paper and we'd wait until he set down the comic section to grab it and read it.  We'd take the wax wrapper from the cereal box and make imprints of the comics on them.  Abbott and Costello movies
were on the TV regularly that morning and if we stayed at home in the afternoon, we'd watch the Yankees play.  We'd eat an early dinner (lunch) and most weeks Dad would pile us in the car to go visit an Aunt or Uncle.  Sundays were for family and Dad took this seriously.   Sunday nights were for finishing homework and I remember taking religion classes with my Mom, since she didn't think I was learning enough at the Catholic school that I attended.  We'd watch "The Wonderful World of Disney" before bed and we'd see classics like "Herbie the Love Bug" or "Old Yeller" (Travis, get the gun). 
     I'll close this walk down memory lane with a brief description of the Canandaigua summers that I knew.  Long days in the park with Boone Baker, and the rec program featured variety shows or costume contests in addition to the shuffleboard tournaments.  We'd walk down to swim, but not in a 
cordoned off area, we had all of Kershaw Park and the pier to swim from.  We'd fish in the outlet, and a few times a summer we'd go to Roseland Amusement Park.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the Kiwanis Club sponsored one of those trips with the Sunshine Special, which would give you free tickets for good grades and a trolley ride to the park too.  The civic groups then were numerous and well attended, and some even had thriving youth organizations.  Now, some are non-existent or struggling for active members.  The summer wasn't complete without a week long visit to stay with an Aunt or Uncle just at their house or at a cabin or lake house.  We'd take camping vacations regularly too.  Maybe I am a little too nostalgic about my youth in Canandaigua, but maybe I'm not.  I was ignorant of world politics, talk of crushing debt and political upheavals, and could just play without worry, all day.  Sadly my kids will never know that world. 


valechia said...

Love this blog, it reminds me of me...as I too grew up in wonderful Canandaigua. Roseland was my favorite place to be in the summer along with Kershaw park. I am also sad that my children nor grand-children will ever know Canandaigua as we did and all the fun we had with out cell phones and video games.

Anonymous said...

I often think of the same destinations and people. Sonnenberg Park and the rec program, exploring Sonnenberg gardens, Roseland Park's skeet ball abd rides,the pier, Seneca Dairy , St Mary's church and school. The carnivals.Yes the summers were fun filled and it was a time when parents need not worry about the kids unless they did not make it home for dinner. (nostalgic and heart warming) Thanks for the many memories!

cdyarger said...

If you have yet to have children, or have very young children, there are a few recommendations I would make: First, DON'T be in a rush to get them a cell phone. They really don't need it! It will happen soon enough, and then they will talk to you through texts! Second, limit the amount of time you let them spend on any type of video game or in front of the TV. If you start right out with limits, it comes as second nature to them. It's much harder to try to cut the time you already give them! Finally, spend time doing things OUTSIDE with them. Garden, go to the zoo, the playground, a waterpark, etc. You will never regret that time! Great blog, from a great dad!!

Anonymous said...

I loved this blog! I also grew up in Canandaigua and have always wished my kids could have experienced what I was lucky to as a kid. Things are so different now, its nice to read others memories, and bring some back of my own. Thanks for sharing.

Bridget M said...

Yes, much of this was my experience, although I was a girl, in single parent household. Among my favorite memories are visiting VanBrookers store, right by my house. I loved to buy my Richie Rich comics, buy 'pop' at 27 cents a can and get goodies from the gum machine. I stopped by the butcher shop to get a bone for my dog, who usually waited for me outside. I LOVED sledding, skiing, making snowmen, igloos, & climbing huge snow piles made by snow plows. In summer the highlights were sleepaway camps for 1-2 weeks, the Tot Lot rec program, & Roseland! I walked to school 4th grade through high school. It was relaxing and good to be outside during the 4 seasons & catch up with friends. Picking up chestnuts in a big paper bag was fun! Riding our bike just about anywhere in town, walking downtown & all over the neighborhoods was an adventure & everyone knew your name. I knew all about all the neighbors in the streets around me, especially when I became a papergirl at age 12! The freedom, simple wholesome TV, no technology devices to entertain us while at a restaurant with friends or family, & respecting our elders, teachers, & adults was just an everyday part of life in The Chosen Place.