By Ashley M. Casey
Editor’s note: This is the second installment of stories about Fulton Families. The monthly series will tell the stories of families that have either lived in Fulton for ages or perhaps only a short while — but the common bond will be they love the city and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. If you know of a family we should highlight, please email Debbie Groom, Valley News managing editor, at email@example.com.
When asked what her favorite memory of growing up in Fulton is, Brenda Sullivan’s answer is one common to many city residents: “smelling chocolate when it was going to rain.”
Brenda, who co-owns Crowning Glory Hair Fashions, is the daughter of Daryl and Sharon Hayden. While Daryl is known for his stint as mayor and Fourth Ward councilor, the Hayden family has been a fixture in Fulton life for nearly nine decades.
Whether it’s the Hayden Hill Races of the early 1980s, Russell Hayden’s Santa sleigh, Daryl and Russell’s turns on the Common Council, or the numerous Haydens at the old Nestlé Co., it’s likely that most people in Fulton have met a Hayden or two.
‘The City with a Future’
“You could do anything in Fulton,” said Daryl Hayden. “You could start out at the bottom and work your way up.”
Born in Canton, N.Y., the Hayden patriarch, Bernard lived in Gouverneur, N.Y., before moving to Fulton in 1927 to look for work.
“This was a blooming place. This was probably one of the most booming cities,” Daryl said.
He — along with his four brothers and a brother-in-law — eventually took a job at the Nestlé plant and worked his way up to foreman. He retired after 44 years in 1974.
“Everyone spoke very highly of him,” his daughter, Helen Hayden Dennison, remembered.
Nestlé was such a part of his life that upon his death in 2000, Bernard had a chocolate bar engraved into his tombstone in Fulton’s Mount Adnah Cemetery.
He was not the only Hayden to devote his career to the chocolate factory. In addition to his brothers, two of his children worked alongside their father at Nestlé as well.
The Haydens have seen industry come and go from Fulton. They listed Morrill Press, Hunter Fan, L.C. Smith, Armstrong and other pillars of Fulton’s former industry.
“Back then you could pick and choose where you wanted to work,” Daryl said. “If you didn’t like one place, you could go work at another one. There was so much industry then.”
The family’s closeness spread to their careers as well. Cheryl Hayden Ingersoll worked at Lee Memorial Hospital and her sister, Dolores Hayden Howard, worked at Fay’s Drugs. Helen worked for a Buick dealership. Still more Haydens worked at Black Clawson — now Davis-Standard.
“That was within about five or six blocks. Isn’t that something?” Daryl observed.
Despite the economic downturn, the Haydens have never let go of their can-do attitude.
“My philosophy is if you don’t like something, try to change it. If you don’t think we have enough business, go open one,” Daryl said.
After retiring from Nestlé, Daryl and Sharon opened Hayden Racing Collectibles. When they were not allowed to put a sign for the business on the road, Daryl went to the mayor.
“I said to the mayor, ‘Do I have to run for mayor to change things?’ And he said, ‘Yes, you do.’ So I did,” Daryl said. “There’s no disgrace to fail, but if you complain and don’t try to change things, that’s a disgrace. Put your money where your mouth is.”
Home sweet home
“I think we had the greatest mother and father in the world,” Cheryl recalled. “They were always there. Our mom was a stay-at-home mom.”
Despite his busy career at Nestlé and nine children, Bernard made sure he was there for all of them.
“He’d still find time once in a while to come out and have a little fun in the evenings when we were all outside playing,” Helen said.
Bernard and Margarete Hayden encouraged their sons to participate in sports, and the whole family was active in the community.
“Every kid at the neighborhood was always welcomed at our house. The more the merrier,” Cheryl said.
Growing up in what they called a “rough neighborhood,” the Hayden siblings expressed awe that none of them got into too much trouble.
“They taught us to treat everybody equal — didn’t matter where they were from, or their color, or anything,” Cheryl said.
“Remember people on your way up because you’ll see them on the way down. That was my philosophy in life. You’re no better or worse than anybody else,” Daryl said of the attitude within their family.
The siblings recalled that their parents would share food and canned goods with neighbors in need.
“We’ve all been brought up (to think) that if you can help somebody else, help them. And don’t expect anything in return,” Daryl said.
These days, the Hayden clan makes time to get together three times a year at minimum: Easter, their annual summer picnic and Christmas Eve. Add in births, funerals and weddings, and the family is rarely apart.
“We all enjoyed each other too. In the evening hours, we used to be able to sit around and have a corn roast with a bonfire out in the yard,” Helen said. “We lived in the outskirts of the city. You lived like country people. You could really relax and enjoy company.”
“You’re bound to laugh at one of those episodes,” said Adam “Gus” Howard, son of Dolores Hayden Howard. “It’s very tight knit. You can be yourself.”
Russell Hayden — No. 7 of Bernard and Margarete’s nine children — can’t quite put his finger on what keeps him in Fulton.
“I just loved growing up in a small community. I don’t know how to explain it,” Russell said. “(It) just felt like a good place. I’ve always been content here. You always hear about people who moved out of state, and most of them want to come back.”
The Fulton of Russell’s youth was a “peaceful place,” he said.
“We weren’t the type of kids to raise hell and get into trouble,” Russell said.
Even though the Hayden kids didn’t get into too much trouble, they certainly participated in their share of fun.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Russell hosted Hayden Hill Races. Children would race “soapbox”-style cars on his property. More than 80 families participated, according to his siblings, and the family would provide free picnic food.
“As a kid, I used to race down the hill near us,” Russell said. He built his own cars and even did some racing at Fulton Speedway. “Before long, we had races going. It started getting bigger and bigger.”
With the advent of four-wheelers and video games, Hayden Hill Races eventually decreased in popularity.
“It fizzled out when some kids got hurt. The city had to crack down on us,” Russell said.
But his fun and fascination with cars didn’t stop there. Russell outfitted a four-wheeler with Christmas lights and fake reindeer. For the last few Christmases, he has donned a Santa Claus suit and driven around the city on Christmas Eve.
“The sleigh is a lot of work, but it’s worth every bit of it … when you see the little ones plaster themselves to the window and come out and shake hands with Santa,” Russell said.
Back to the future
“Back then, we knew all of our neighbors,” Russell recalled. “It’s not that way anymore — (there’s) a lot of apartments. … A lot of people buy (rental properties) from outside the area, and they just don’t care about Fulton.
Russell said he thinks Mayor Ronald L. Woodward Sr.’s efforts to increase homeownership and decrease renters could help Fulton rediscover its neighborhood pride.
His family members seem to agree.
“We need more people owning their own homes than renting,” Brenda Sullivan said.
She added that she’d like to see local businesses “start working with each other as much as possible to keep the business here.”
“Every time a business closes, it affects us … People don’t get their hair done as often when businesses close,” she said. She added that being a business owner has made her more conscious of the appearance of Fulton. “I would like to see people start cleaning up their houses.”
Adam Howard, a firefighter and military veteran, decided that since he earned his money in the city of Fulton, he would move his family there, too. He now coaches youth sports and teaches fire safety in the area.
“There’s many places you can lay your head. There’s many places you can call your residence. But there’s only one place you can call home,” Adam said. “I wanted to live in the city because it means something. This is my city. I do what I do because these are my people. I served my country well and I want to come back to where I can give back and do my community service. … Be a significant fish in a small pond.”
Adam seems to share the same determination to remain in the city as his uncle, Daryl.
“As far as loving the city of Fulton … I mean that: I was born here and this is where I’ll die. I have no interest in going any place else,” Daryl said.
The former mayor is confident that the city will bounce back someday.
“I think it’s the lull before the storm. I think it’s going to rebound because Fulton’s not the type of community … to lay down and play dead,” he said. “They’re the type that if they could do something to help the city of Fulton they’re going to and someday it’ll start paying off.”
The Hayden siblings
Helen Dennison, will turn 77 on Nov. 5
Bernard Jr., died in 1992 at age 54
Daryl, 71, owned Hayden Racing Collectibles, mayor 2004-2007, Fourth Ward councilor 2009-2011
Cheryl Ingersoll, 67, worked at Lee Memorial Hospital
Dolores Howard, 64
Russell, 59, Hayden Hill Races coordinator, former Sixth Ward councilor, Santa Claus
Other Hayden relatives interviewed
Adam “Gus” Howard, Dolores’ son, firefighter
Brenda Sullivan, Daryl’s daughter, owner of Crowning Glory Hair Fashions
From left: Helen, Daryl, Dolores, Cheryl, Teresa, Dawson, Debra, Russell, Richard (cousin), Michael (cousin), and Pauline (cousin).
Photo courtesy of Lesa Hayden Scott.