Category Archives: Featured Stories

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

Born in a Grocery Store?

When I was born, my parents lived in the house attached to the family’s Red & White Grocery Store in Syracuse’s Valley section, which is why I suppose, that during my early years I may have thought that I was born in a grocery store.

I lived there with my parents until I was almost 2.

Valley Drive is a long residential street, which was intersected one block from our store and the house where we lived, by the busy Seneca Turnpike corner.

I remember, while I was growing up, staying overnight with my grandparents at that house and being fascinated by the bright neon lights of “Club Candee,” the busy nightclub which was located a block from the family store.

When I was a little older, I earned my allowance by helping Grandpa keep the empty cardboard cartons in an orderly fashion, and by delivering small orders and advertising flyers to the neighbors.

Through the years, I got to know many of the store’s regular customers. My grandmother always insisted that even though I considered many of those customers my friends, I should always address them by Mr., Mrs. or Miss.

One of the exceptions was Fanny Chapman, who was a daily visitor to the store, and also worked there part-time through the years. I guess I thought it was OK to call her by her first name, because it made me giggle every time she walked into the store.

In a column I wrote several years ago, I was remembering those grocery store years:

“One of the stories I heard told over and over by my grandmother all the time I was growing up and much longer was that I learned to walk by picking up two glass milk bottles from the back hall of our house and carrying them into the store.

“My grandmother was also fond of sharing pictures of me when I was about six or seven wearing one of my father’s store aprons which hung down to the floor.

“One of my favorite toys from the store was a long pole with a pair of ‘grabbers’ on the end, which was used to pull items from the store’s high shelves.  Using those grabbers to knock things off the shelves and all over the store was probably how I got revenge for having to parade around in that silly looking apron.”

“Do You Have Prince Albert in a Can?

From Hodgepodge, Dec. 24, 2005:

“For several years during the time my family owned a grocery store in the Valley section of Syracuse, I was able to leave a special gift for Santa Claus each Christmas Eve.

“Every year my father brought home a tin of Prince Albert Tobacco from the store, and my brother, sister and I left the special gift for Santa along with a plate of cookies, under the Christmas tree.”

(I can still picture that special Christmas time can with Santa enjoying a pipe full of his favorite tobacco.)

“Every Christmas morning there was a plate of cookie crumbs, a note from Santa, and Prince Albert was nowhere in sight.”

Do you have Prince Albert in a can?  Well, let him out! My father said he heard that comment many times during his years at the store.

Thinking a lot about the store this week, I have recalled that the store had a “gum ball” machine. I remember it sitting on the counter at the front of the store where customers “checked out.” As you might imagine, the gum balls were small balls of gum with a thin candy coating.

I often went with my father to the store when he visited on Sunday mornings. While he went about his business, I was putting pennies in the gum ball machine.

There were one or two special gum balls in the machine; I don’t know if they were even gum. They were very colorful, which made it easy to distinguish them from the other gum balls.

Looking for a “Winner”

Those gum balls were “special” – they were known as “winners” because if one of them came out of the machine when your penny was inserted that penny would “win” five more pennies – which of course would immediately be put back into the machine.

It wasn’t long before I learned to try to outsmart that gum ball machine. I knew that the “winner” wouldn’t come out if I could still see it in the machine’s glass globe.  So I shook and I jiggled until the coveted “winner” was out of sight, hopefully ready to come out when my penny went into the slot.

I soon discovered that all the shaking and jiggling was an exercise of futility.  All I had to do was to ask my father for more pennies. But I am sure that it would have added a little more excitement to my young life if a “winner” had come out of the gum ball machine.

Those days spent long ago at the family store with my father and grandparents are among the fondest of many memories.

A Couple More Things

No matter how much you push the envelope it will still be stationery.

I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

I read a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

And, here’s one from Henny Youngman:

“A drunk goes up to a parking meter, puts in a dime. The dial goes to 60. The drunk says, “Huh I lost a hundred pounds.”

                                        . . . Roy Hodge

Longtime Fulton athletic official named to Hall of Fame

Don Distin, of Fulton, has been named to the Class of 2014 for the New York State Athletic Administrators Hall of Fame.

He and others were installed into the Hall of Fame March 14 at the Saratoga Hilton in Saratoga Springs. This was part of the New York State Athletic Administrators annual conference and Dave Martens Awards Luncheon.

Distin grew up and spent most of his life in Fulton. He was a staff sergeant in the US Army and member of the Signal Corps.

He was sent to Germany, and when the Army found out he could play football, he became captain of the 6th Armored Cavalry in 1952. The team won the European championship. He was also the trainer for the 6th Armored Cavalry boxing team.

Distin received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as permanent certification as director of health and physical education, from Ithaca College. He earned his administrative and supervision certificate from SUNY Oswego.

Distin was hired as a social studies teacher and head football coach at G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton.

He is credited with starting the wrestling team in Fulton in 1959. In 1962, he became director of athletics and taught physical education. Three years later he was promoted to administrator of health, physical education and recreation for the Fulton City School District.

Distin served as president of Section 3 from 1978-80. He also was president of the New York State Council of Administrators of HPER, New York Stae Dental Health Teachers Association, Central New York Cities League and Central Zone President for Council of Administrators of HPER.

Distin was on the original organizing committee of the New York State Athletic Administrators Association in 1981 and attended the first organizational meeting in Binghamton. He was selected and served as the first past president for the New York State Athletic Administrators Association from 1981-83.

In addition to serving on many section, state and national committees, Distin also served as speaker at many of those state and national conference workshops.

He has had numerous honors bestowed upon him by his community, school, Section 3, state and national organizations.  Upon retirement, the new Fulton Athletic Complex was dedicated in his honor.

Distin has also served his church and acted as chairman of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for the Syracuse area for five years.

Distin and his wife, Carolyn, were married for more than 50 years and had four children, sons Sherman and Mark and daughters Susan and Mary Beth.

After his retirement, they retired to Florida. Carolyn passed away in 2006, and Distin has been remarried to Judy, and they live in Avon Park, Florida.

In addition to Distin, those installed were in the hall of fame were:

** Robert Douglas (deceased), a member of the original organizing committee, second state president, first finance chair

** Joseph Farrell (deceased), Binghamton, original organizing committee and host of first official meeting.

** Dr. John Foley (deceased), national publications committee, state Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame,

** Alan Mallanda, Lake Luzerne, original organizing committee, fifth state president, second executive director, 14th national president, NIAA merit and hall of fame

** David Martens, Fairport, (deceased), original organizing committee, first state president, fifth national president NIAAA hall of fame and award of merit

** Mason Morenus, Homer, original organizing committee, conference presenter and organizer, Otis Sennett Award, NIAAA state delegate

** Bernie O’Brien, Section 8 executive director, original organizing committee, first treasurer, NIAAA award of merit, New York State Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

** Roy O’Neill, Mamaroneck (deceased), fourth state president, first executive director, NIAAA award of merit.

** Otis Sennett, Baldwinsville, original organizing committee, organized first conference, New York State Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, NIAAA award of merit, NIAAA Hall of Fame.

News in Brief

The annual Spring Live and Silent Auction at Oswego Community Christian School is today (April 5) at the Elks Lodge in Oswego.

The silent auction is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and the live auction is 2:30 to 4 p.m. There also are some special drawings.

Visit the school’s website at 22.myoccs.org for more information.

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The City of Fulton Department of Parks and Recreation is once again sponsoring Line Dance Instruction featuring popular dance instructor, Phil Eno.

Instruction will begin in the City of Fulton Municipal Building Community Room at 141 S. First St., Fulton, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 8.

Registration will take place at the first class. There are fees for the class.

For more information, call 592-2474.

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A program titled “Breakfast and Brainfood: When You Wish Upon A Star” is scheduled for two days in April at the SUNY Phoenix Center.

Part I will be from 8 to 9:30 a.m. April 10 and Part II will be 8 to 9:30 a.m. April 24. The session is free and being put on by the Greater Oswego-Fulton chamber of Commerce.

During the sessions, participants will learn how to turn their business strategy into reality by evaluating seven key organizational elements, and harnessing their momentum to propel your organization forward.

Kelly Sullivan of CSTI-Core Skills, True Impact will share the principle drivers of organizational change along with practical tips that will help you to plan and execute your strategy.

Rich Burritt, of Burritt Motors, will share his insight and experience using those principles to dramatically improve the customer experience at his organization.

This sessions are free and open to the public. Please register either online at http://oswegofultonchamber.com/cwt/External/WCPages/WCEvents/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=962, by phone at 343-7681 or by email at membership@oswegofultonchamber.com

The Mexico Historical Society will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday April 10 at the Wilcox building, Presbyterian Church, Church Street.

This first meeting of the year will include a brief business meeting followed by a program “The History of Vacuum Cleaners.”

May’s program will be the War of 1812, 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Big Sandy.  On June 12, the scheduled program is Historic Homes of Mexico presented by Historian Bonnie Shumway and Diane Miller.

The public is invited to all programs.

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The Hannibal Ecumenical Bake Sale is set for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 12 at the Hannibal Village Market, IGA.

The money raised from the two bake sales each year are used to support The Hannibal Resource Center Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway and the Hannibal Central School Christmas Bureau Giveaway.

The Ecumenical Key Council of the Churches Of Hannibal is made up of members of each of the village churches. The Council meets at 2:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month at Our Lady of the Rosary Church.

Everyone is welcome.

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The Greater Fulton community is invited to meet city and county elected leaders at 5 p.m. April 12 at the First United Church of Fulton, 33 S. Third St., Fulton.

There will be free pizza and soda. Elected leaders will include Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward, Fifth Ward Councilor Jay Foster, Sixth Ward Councilor Lawrence Macner, and County Legislators Frank Castiglia Jr. and James Karasek.

The purpose of the event is to build better communication and understanding between citizens and their civic leaders, and to encourage neighborhood based cooperation and coordination. The conversations with the elected officials will be from 6 to 7 p.m.

This event is sponsored by the Open Doors Neighborhood Center, a community outreach ministry of the First United Church of Fulton.

For more information about the First United Church and our Open Doors Neighborhood Center, call the Rev. David Nethercott at First United Church at 592-2707 or email him at prairieborn@aol.com.

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There will be a chicken barbecue from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday April 13 at the Granby Center Firehouse.

Both full dinners and chicken halves will be sold.

The next barbecue will be May 25.

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The Oswego Town Historical Society will host its April meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday April 16 at the Oswego Town Hall 2320 County Route 7.

The guest speaker will be Jim Farfaglia, who will present his new book “Of the Earth,” which is about muck farming in Oswego County and includes interviews with muck farmers of the area.

Muck farming was and is an important part of Oswego Town’s economy.  You will find the evening with Farfaglia informing and entertaining as he relates his experiences in gathering the information for his book.

The public is cordially invited.

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The First United Methodist Church in Fulton is presenting “Tenebrae, A Rock & Roll Easter Cantata” at 7:30 p.m. April 18 at the church at 1406 State Route 176 (across from the junior high).

Experience Good Friday in a different way. Join us for “Tenebrae, a Rock and Roll Easter Cantata,” performed by Sent Forth Ministries. Hear and experience the last hours of Jesus life in reflection and song.

All are welcome. A free will offering will be taken.

For further information, visit www.fultonfumc.org or phone the office at 592-7347.

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The Oswego Community Ecumenical Good Friday Cross Walk, again indoors, is being held at noon April 18 in the sanctuary at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 103 W. Cayuga St.

The service of prayer, reflection, silence, and song, will follow the traditional “Stations of the Cross,” the way of Jesus from his condemnation, through his crucifixion and burial on Good Friday.

The sanctuary is handicapped accessible and there is seating at each of the stations.  The service should be done by 1:15.

For more information, contact Roger Martin at Faith United Church, 343-3480, or Richard Klafehn, Grace Lutheran and Church of the Resurrection, 216-4416.

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Port City Faith will introduce a series titled “He Still Moves Stones” during its two Easter Services at 9 and 10:45 a.m. April 30.

The series will address many of the concerns and obstacles people in our community face: depression, anxiety, emotional disorders, relational struggles and many more applicable issues.

“There is a solution to these heartbreaking life struggles, I challenge you to join us for these services and find out what the answer is!” said Pastor Sebastian Foti.

This is the first time the church will present two Sunday services in order to accommodate the growth of the congregation as well as the holiday surplus in attendance.

Port City Faith has an upbeat style of service with contemporary worship and relevant preaching. Its intricate children’s church program is offered to grades pre-kindergarten through six, and nursery is also offered for those less than four years of age.

For additional information, visit www.portcityfaith.com or the church’s Facebook page.

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Oswego County’s Earth Week is April 25 through May 4.

Groups, nonprofits and organizations will get together at times during that week to help clean up areas of their communities.

For more information on the cleanup, go to www.oswewgocounty.com/earthweek.html or call 343-4565.

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Local author Jim Farfaglia, will give a discussion and photo slideshow about muck farming and its impact on the town of Volney and Oswego County at 2 p.m. April 27 at the Volney town hall.

Farfaglia will talk about his recently-published book on muck farming, including interviews and stories of local farmers, their families, neighbors, and workers.

Farfaglia’s book and a book title “Muck Farming in Volney” will be available.

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May Day (May 1st) is celebrated in many places around the world.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County will celebrate May Day by teaching a quilting series, the May Basket Quilted Wallhanging.

This two-part workshop will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, May 1 and May 8. Participants will learn to sew their own May basket quilt blocks to assemble into a quilted wallhanging.

The cost is $16, which includes the instruction and pattern. This quilting program will be held at the Oswego County Cooperative Extension office in Mexico.

Call Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County at 963-7286 ext. 302 to register and also to receive a materials list. Registration deadline is Thursday April 24.

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The monthly meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 56 in Fulton will be at 7 p.m. May 7 at the VFW, 216-218 Cayuga St., Fulton.

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Buccaneer Bulletin launches website

Buccaneer Bulletin, the official newspaper of Oswego High School, has begun a new website.

The website is accessed at www.buccaneerbulletin.com and opened for public access April 1.

“This has been a fun collaboration between the people at iHeart Oswego and the staff at Buc Bulletin,” said Rachel Purtell, webmaster of the new Buccaneer Bulletin website.

“We wanted a site that we could access, make changes to every day and had relevancy to the student body. iHeart helped make that happen for us,” she said.

“They donated their services, expertise and time to create an up-to-date, eye appealing website that offers the flexibility we needed. Students can access a gallery of photos taken by the staff, sports and clubs announcements, lunch menus and current weather conditions.”

“In addition you will be able to view the live feed from our Facebook page.” said Editor-in-Chief Tara Stacy. “We feel the new website will give our peers instant access to our content and will allow us to better adapt to the ever-changing world of journalism.”

The website will feature both current and past issues back to 2005.  The staff wants people who are more comfortable with online reading to be able to check out the newspaper from their computer, phone or tablet.

The online version will also offer additional advertising opportunities for businesses and organizations.

For more information about the Buccaneer Bulletin, call 341-2200 and ask for Room 129 and visit us on www.BuccaneerBulletin.com.

Program put SUNY Oswego students on bikes

Submitted by SUNY Oswego

The new SUNY Oswego Bike Share program provides refurbished bicycles to students up to a semester at a time to encourage fitness and cost savings while helping cut down on car trips.

Cycling and recycling come naturally to Alex Elkins, a senior technology education major and founder of SUNY Oswego Bike Share.

He races mountain bikes on a national level, rides about 10,000 miles year-round and works in a Rochester bicycle shop, where he applies skills he needed to learn to afford racing.

“We’re going to teach basic maintenance to borrowers. To those so inclined, we’ll teach advanced maintenance,” Elkins said. “That’s a big part of sustainability, along with fitness and saving gas — you can save a lot of money fixing your own bike.”

Bike Share’s headquarters are in the basement of Hewitt Union on campus, where students can apply for one of 15 bicycles the club has ready to go.

With other two-wheelers scavenged for parts, Bike Share has received about 25 donations of used bicycles from the Oswego community, Elkins and his contacts in Rochester, University Police and other campus staff, and from roadside discards.

Contact sustainability@oswego.edu to make a donation.

SUNY Oswego Bike Share has received assistance from the college’s Facilities Design and Construction office. Graduate assistant Jason MacLeod recruited Elkins and has helped him launch the program, and campus sustainability coordinators Mike Lotito and Jamie Adams encouraged the program with new tools, repurposed space in Hewitt Union and other startup necessities.

Adams and Lotito pointed out that vehicular traffic accounts for about a third of Oswego’s contribution to greenhouse gases as a lot of people drive around campus, as well as to and from it.

“The bike-sharing program is right up there on our roadmap for strategically reducing the college’s carbon footprint, and at the same time proving health and wellness on campus,” Adams said. SUNY Oswego, through its Climate Action Plan and the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, is pursuing strategies to reduce emissions up to 40 percent by 2020.

Elkins said Bike Share has built accountability into its program: statements of need, waivers, locks to go with each bicycle, encouragement to share the two-wheeler with others and, as experience and growth dictate, perhaps a deposit that includes a fee to help the program safeguard its investment and pay its way.

“I want to see people take responsibility for the bikes,” he said.

Elkins, who will student teach in technology this fall, said he minors in sustainability and comes by his interest in cycling through his parents, who both ride and minimize driving.

“Bike Share is right on point with what I’m interested in,” he said. “My passion is cycling and the outdoors. Why not share that in this way?”

For more information on sustainability initiatives at the college, visit www.oswego.edu/sustainability.

 

FULTON FAMILIES – The good earth: The Vescios’ roots go deep in Fulton

Front page – The Vescios gathered for youngest child June’s baptism in November 1934. This photo appeared with a story about the family in The Post-Standard. Photo courtesy of Sam Vescio
Front page – The Vescios gathered for youngest child June’s baptism in November 1934. This photo appeared with a story about the family in The Post-Standard.
Photo courtesy of Sam Vescio

Editor’s note: This is the seventh 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 dgroom@scotsmanmediagroup.com. 

By Ashley M. Casey

“One of Fulton’s Largest Families: Vescio’s 12 Children Range From 5 Months to 18 Years” reads the 1934 Post-Standard clipping’s headline.

Although the story is 80 years old, it’s not unlike headlines found in The Valley News today. Now, the Vescios’ appearance in the local media has come full circle.

Of the 14 children born to Angelo and Rosina Vescio, only 12 lived to adulthood. Today, four of the original Vescio children are alive in Fulton: Joe, Sam, Ellen and June. Sam Vescio, now 87, and his daughter, Rosemary Vescio Pollard, shared their story of what keeps them in the city that their clan has called home for more than a century. Continue reading

Aldi’s wants to come to Fulton

By Ashley M. Casey

The supermarket chain Aldi Inc. has requested a special use permit from the city of Fulton to begin building a store on the former Nestlé site on the corner of Fay and South Fourth streets.

The Common Council approved a resolution to set a public hearing April 15 for the special use permit.

Mayor Ron Woodward told The Valley News Aldi and the site’s owner, Carbonstead LLC, approached the city about a month ago about the proposed construction. The property falls under the Manufacturing M-1 district and would need to be re-zoned as Commercial C-2.

According to Aldi’s special use permit application, the store will be 17,651 square feet.

Aldi is a German supermarket chain that operates 1,200 stores in the United States and 9,235 stores globally.

The public hearing will be held at the next Common Council meeting — 7 p.m., April 15, in the Common Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 141 S. First St. Continue reading

Oswego County unemployment rate in double digits

By Debra J. Groom

Oswego County’s unemployment rate remains in double digits for February 2014.

Although the rate is down from a year ago, it is still one of the highest in the state.

In February 2013, the jobless rate was 11.7 percent, while in February 2014, it was 10 percent.

The February 2014 rate of 10 percent is up from the January 2014 rate of 9.7 percent.

All unemployment rates in Central New York counties for February 2014 are down from a year ago.

Chris White, speaking for the state Labor Department, said Oswego County has been hit harder than other counties with losses in the manufacturing sector.

“But officials and other companies there are working much harder to get more manufacturing jobs into the county,” he said.

The lowest jobless rate in the state for February is Tompkins County at 4.9 percent. The highest is the Bronx at 12 percent.

The highest rates after the Bronx are Lewis County at 10.9 percent, Jefferson at 10.5 percent, Orleans at 10.2 percent and Hamilton and Oswego at 10 percent.

A report issued by the state Labor Department shows Oswego County lose about 500 jobs in manufacturing, financial activities and natural resources-construction in the 12 months ending in February 2014.

The county gained more than 1,000 jobs in that 12-month period in leisure and hospitality and about 500 jobs in trade, transportaion and utilities.

Some of the expanding or growing businesses mentioned in the labor report are Sunoco, Oswego REcycling, Fulton Cos., K&N Foods, Champlain Valley Specialty, Novelis, Teti Bakery, F.W. Webb Co. and Little Luke’s Day Care.

The unemployment rate in Oswego County was at its lowest point in April through December 2013. It went up to 9.7 percent in January 2014 and now again to 10 percent in February 2014.