Category Archives: Hodgepodge

Roy Hodge, Columnist – Roy began his career at The Fulton Patriot in February of 1959 as a linotype operator.  During his long career, he performed every newspaper job — from paper delivery to editor and publisher. He has entertained readers with tales of his family’s antics and many interesting Fulton residents in his long-running “Hodgepodge” column. Roy retired from The Fulton Patriot in June of 2010.

Neighbors recyclables

recyclingby Roy Hodge

Walking around my neighborhood, I glance at the stuff in my neighbors’ recycling bins. If I am observant (a polite word for nosey) I can put little pieces of their lives together.

For instance, looking at the empty cartons in the recycling bins, I knew that one of my neighbors received a crock pot for Christmas. At the same house, someone opened a box that contained a new keyboard.

Next door there were five empty pizza boxes. Well, after all, it was a busy week – who had the time for much more than taking a pizza from a box? It was a few days after Christmas so it wasn’t a surprise that one of the bins contained four of those long cardboard tubes that before they were empty had wrapping paper wound around them.

I came to the conclusion that the recycling bin in front of my own house was probably the most boring one on the block.

If someone looked at that discarded stuff, there was no hint that I had eaten a fancy dish prepared in a new crock pot — or even a slice of delicious pizza.

There were lots of empty tin cans that once held pork and beans or noodle soup, or maybe a jar with a little peanut butter in the bottom. There might have been an empty mustard jar or cracker box. There was probably at least one aspirin bottle.

I hope no one got close enough to our trash to notice – or worse yet, close enough to count – all the chocolate candy wrappers that had been discarded. Maybe if someone had counted and thought that eight children lived in our house they wouldn’t have thought that all that chocolate was so strange.

I wouldn’t want them to realize that there are no children in our house, or that the only other occupant beside myself is my wife, who doesn’t eat chocolate.

But it was so good.

*  *  *  *  *

I have always enjoyed winter and its snow. I enjoyed it when my friends and I spent many hours every wintry day on our sleds.

When I think of winters as a kid I’m at the “dump” – our out of traffic sliding place behind the houses at the end of our street.

On days when it was too wintry to go to school, it was never too cold or too snowy to pull on our snow pants, buckle on our boots, grab warm mittens, hats and our sleds and head for the “dump.”

The natural hill between two streets and all the roller coaster-like bumps and jumps created by the loads of ashes dumped there throughout the years was a great place to go sledding.

Lafayette Hill, a couple of blocks from our house, was another popular sledding place.  It was a long, steep hill with a curve at the bottom which helped slow us down. We didn’t seem to mind the long walk back up so we could do the whole thing all over again.

I have noticed that the kids sledding on the hill in the park across the street from where I live seem to have other things on their minds in the high technology world we live in.  While pulling their sleds back up the hill they are checking their cell phones for text messages.

Modern technology as far as we were concerned on those cold, wintry days consisted of our warm socks and snow pants and those long pieces of yarn our mothers had attached to our mittens so we wouldn’t lose them.

Most of us didn’t even know about television — but we were happy with our sleds and a “good hill.”

To read the rest of the column, pick up a copy of The Valley News or subscribe today by calling 598-6397

All things Christmas

Roy Hodge
Roy Hodge

by Roy Hodge

It has turned out that one of my jobs around the house is keeping everything neat during the day.

My duties usually consist of doing a few dishes a couple of times a day and keeping clutter to a minimum, which I usually interpret as being able to walk around the house without every object I pass falling on the floor.

I am finding that my job gets a lot more difficult at this holiday time of the year.

We have had Christmas cookies in the house for a few weeks now. I know my wife has made some, but I am sure others have made their way into our house courtesy of baking friends.

They seem to come into our house in neat plastic bags, on plates or in attractive containers, but after a few days they were piling up and creating a messy situation. My solution to that problem – eat them.

Our home’s neatness during the holiday season time of the year is also challenged by several large cartons which find their way down from the attic. They are the containers which hold the hundreds of Christmas ornaments we have accumulated through the years.

Then, of course, there are the greetings we send and receive during the season. A couple of weeks ago we hauled all of the cards, envelopes and stamps out of the drawers and closets, wrote messages of Christmas time endearment inside the cards, put addresses and stuck stamps on the envelopes before licking and sealing them and sending the whole pile on its way.

We no sooner got all of those greetings into the mailbox when we started receiving several cards a day which are scattered all over the house.

And there is wrapping paper — boxes and bags of wrapping paper — some still fresh in its own wrapper, and some wrinkled and crinkled in expected and unexpected places.

A big part of the Christmas season, of course, are the gifts we buy, give and receive at this time of the year.

For the past couple of weeks Christmas gifts, coming in and going out, have been all over the place during different stages of the gift buying and giving process.  All that once beautiful wrapping paper and ribbon was turned into torn and shredded trash.

That brings us to where we are now — a few days after Christmas — with the shredded trash, all those empty cartons in the garage, basement or attic, all the stuff that belongs inside them, the cookie crumbs, the hundreds of needles which have fallen from the Christmas tree, all those greeting cards, the used gift wrapping, and don’t forget — all of that new stuff.

To read the rest of the column, pick up a copy of The Valley News or subscribe today by calling 598-6397

Fulton Post Office

RoyHodge_WEBby Roy Hodge

 Since I haven’t been commuting to Fulton five days a week — and sometimes it was more than that — I can say that I now enjoy the one or two times a month that I do make the trip.However, there is one thing in particular that I do really miss — my daily visits to Fulton’s post office.

An aspect of my life in Fulton that I thoroughly enjoyed was my daily trips to the post office to check The Fulton Patriot’s mailbox and pick up the mail. I think that during that time I got to see and speak to everyone in Fulton — at least the ones who had post office boxes.

A small town post office definitely serves as an important social center. It is convenient for many people to have their daily mail put in a post office box where they can retrieve it early in the day. The morning trip to the post office has become an anticipated social event.

It is not unusual to see a group of several local businessmen gathered on the sidewalks and post office steps engaged in lively conversation.

I was talking the other day to a Fulton resident I hadn’t seen in several years. “I still remember meeting up with you at the post office,” she said.

I had forgotten that she was also one of the morning mail picker-uppers at the post office back then. I remember many almost daily post office-based conversations with Al Squitieri, Wally Auser, Jr., Fred Somers, Ed Frawley and others.

I remember thinking that the very sociable and talkative Ed must have spent a big chunk of every morning in front of the post office.

The local post office is certainly an important part of small-town life. I wonder how long I would have to hang around the post office I go to here in Syracuse before I met up with someone I know.

*  *  *  *  *

Here it is — it is, according to a popular Christmas song that I am hearing often on the radio — “…the most wonderful time of the year, with the kids jingle-belling, and everyone telling you to be of good cheer — it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

And, if Andy Williams says so it must be true.

Being a true lover of this season since childhood, I have shared my feelings in almost every Christmas-time column since I started writing in 1979. That first year, in the weeks before and after Christmas, I wrote about annual Christmas lists, a shopping trip to the ladies department of a downtown Syracuse store, holiday concerts, letters to Santa, and the week after Christmas.

I ended the column about children’s letters to Santa, which was published in The Patriot on Christmas Day, with this: “Santa’s letters reminded me of one I was given to mail several years ago by my son, Jeff. On the outside of the envelope was the following P.S.:  “Dear Santa (or Dad), Please send a copy of this letter to Grandma.”

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Christmas cards

Christmas cardsAn important part of the Christmas holiday season for me has always been the sending and receiving of Christmas cards. It is a tradition that I have been familiar with since I was a young child when I met the mailman at the front door every day during the season on the small chance that there might be at least one envelope in his large pile addressed to me.

In my memory my family received hundreds of greeting cards at Christmas time when I was a child. I can remember them being strung around the doorway between the living and dining rooms of our house and around the big mirror in the living room. For every one received one was sent. It was a welcomed and well-practiced tradition in those days.

After many years, sending and receiving end-of-the-year greetings has remained important. Getting the first one of the season, usually soon after Thanksgiving, is an anticipated event. I can remember through the years participating in a contest of sorts — trying to guess who that first card would be from.

Back then I was much more interested in getting mail each day than in the process of preparing and sending our own stack of cards in envelopes. I do remember, however, my mother spending at least one afternoon and evening sitting at the dining room table with a stack of boxed cards as she pored through notes and address books and wrote names on envelopes.

My important job didn’t come until near the end of the process when I licked each stamp and, as neatly as possible, placed it in its proper place at the corner of the envelope.

My thoughts these days turn to the greetings I will send out as we approach Christmas. First I will find the familiar address book that I have been using for several years. The providers of that book were clever enough to leave a space on the edge of each page to check off the years that I have sent and received a card for each person on my list.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Winter weather

Winter weatherby Roy Hodge

It’s inevitable: we’re going to be talking a lot about winter weather and snow. We may as well get started.

We have talked about winter and its weather surprises in past years. Here’s what we said in the Patriot March 17 1992: “Snow Gets National Attention – 47.5 Inches in Four Days.”  Fulton’s winter weather does come with a certain amount of notoriety. That storm was mentioned on The Weather Channel and a CBS national news broadcast.

When I talked to John Florek, Superintendent of the Fulton Waterworks, at the end of March this year, he said that the 2011-2012 snowfall total of 108 inches up to March 26 was less than half of 2010-2011’s total for the same date which was 217.4 inches.

He said the annual average total for the date is 170.4 inches. The record high for the date was 268.5 inches in 2004. That year the city ended up with a season-ending total of 272.3 inches.

The heaviest snowfall during last year’s winter season was 33.5 inches Jan. 29 and 30.

From The Patriot May 5, 2012: “When I called John Florek last week I asked about Fulton’s final snowfall figure for the 2011-2012 winter. John corrected me quickly. ‘As of yesterday, April 26, the total snowfall was 108.2 inches and we received a trace overnight’.”

John reminded me that we had a few days remaining in April, and “It has snowed here on Mother’s Day.” John said that was in 1996 and that year the city received 273.5 inches of snow.

John said that in addition to the 1996 Mother’s Day snowfall it had also snowed in Fulton during May in 1977, and in 2010 the last snow of the season was the one-half inch recorded on May 9.

Hope for the best, but be prepared for whatever the freezing temperatures, the Arctic winds, the snowstorms and the blizzards may send our way.

Here are a few of the times I have thought it necessary to mention snow in this column:

April 17, 1979:  I was ready to write my last story of the 1978-79 snow year. But it wasn’t meant to be. Like my battered snow shovel, the worn out long johns, boots and snow tires, my calculator has had it. It was the 229th inch of Fulton’s winter that did it in.

January 13, 1981: I have my own battle plan for facing up to these winter mornings. I watch the neighbors while they’re getting their cars cleaned off. If a gloved hand or the windshield wipers can take care of the snow there is no problem.  If they need a snow brush, have another cup of coffee. If they go get the broom put on an extra pair of socks. If they attack the car with a snow shovel go back to bed.

February 12, 1985: When we were kids we used to think that Syracuse had more snow than any other place in the world. We were wrong of course; when I grew up I moved to Fulton and found out that Fulton has more snow than any other place in the world.

February 4, 1986:  I noticed while typing this that our little neighbor, Adam Schroeder, is using his plastic garden rake in the snow. The news from Adam could be good or bad. Maybe Adam thinks winter is far enough out of the way to put his rake into action. That’s good. Or maybe Adam is using his rake because his plastic shovel is buried in the four feet of snow next to the back steps. That’s bad.

During the 1985-86 winter season Fulton received 206.5 inches of snow.

February 23, 1993: I have been asked a lot of questions about snow the past two weeks. I am running out of answers. “Enough snow for you? Do you ever think it will stop snowing? Is it going to snow tonight? Is it going to snow this afternoon? Where am I going to put all this snow? How much snow have we got? Have we got more snow than Oswego? When are you going to shovel the snow? Why do you live in Fulton during the winter time? What is that big bump in the driveway, and where is the car?”

And the last one for now: February 12, 1996:  Remembering the Blizzard of ’66:  Former Patriot publisher Chet Rondo- manski said it best: “This is the way it’s going to be. Like a fishing excursion; you come back with an 11-inch small mouth bass, and before you can get through dinner it’s 24 inches. The first guy we sat with yesterday said the snow went up to his window, the next guy said that on his side of town the snow went over his garage door, and the third guy said the snow went right up to the roof of his house.”

Last week when I mentioned going to the Elmwood Theatre when I was a kid living on Syracuse’s south side, I also said that there were three other movie theaters that I could walk to from our house.   One of those theaters was the Riviera, which I also walked to for many Saturday matinees.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397


Back in Syracuse

As I have written here before, I have spread my life around between Syracuse and Fulton. I was born and grew up in Syracuse, moved to Fulton where I lived for over 35 years, and now I’m back in Syracuse.

I’m not only back in Syracuse, but I live in a house which is about a mile from where I grew up and next to a park where I played.

As in Fulton business areas, things have changed during the years in the neighborhoods between the two houses.

South Avenue, at the bottom of the hill we live on, was a thriving business area. Now there are a few businesses in the area but a lot of empty spaces.

The Elmwood Theatre was one of our Saturday haunts when I was growing up. I became good friends with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, their sidekicks and horses at the Elmwood Theatre. The Elmwood has been replaced by a funeral service business. I don’t know if there is a message in that or not.

If you wanted to start counting the number of movie theaters in the neighborhoods as well as downtown, you would notice a large difference between the 40s and 50s and now. There were four theaters within walking distance from our house and at least seven downtown – a short bus ride away – when I was growing up.

And now? There are no movies in those neighborhood areas or downtown – but there are the malls and television.

There were two ice cream and soda fountain shops in the area and two or three taverns. One ice cream parlor has been replaced by a bank, the other by a convenience store. The bars are still there. The branch library I went to after school is gone, as is the pharmacy which was across from the Elmwood Theatre.

The Elmwood School building, where I used to go for Cub Scout meetings, is still there but isn’t open for classes (or Cub Scout meetings) anymore, but the Elmwood Presbyterian Church is still active. In fact, the area seems to have a lot of religion.

A building which was once a bank, as well as an entire business block down the street, have now been converted to churches. Some kind of business that I don’t remember, that looks like it has been closed for a long time, seemed to have a drive-in area at the front of the large building.  Maybe that building had been converted to a drive-in church.

What was once a large department store is now a small grocery store and an otherwise empty building. A dry cleaning store is still there but the butcher shop is gone. There are pizza shops and what looks like a recently closed restaurant.

The two ice cream stores I mentioned were a couple of blocks away from each other and they were both very popular. They were both run by Greek proprietors. I have fond memories of working at another ice cream store, which was also owned by a Greek businessman.

 To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Hodgepodge: November 24, 2012

newspaperby Roy Hodge

As I am traveling back and forth in my neighborhood during the course of each day, I am often reminded of my first job in the newspaper business. I was a teenager and I delivered The Syracuse Herald Journal on weekdays and The Herald American on Sundays. My paper route was a couple of short blocks from where I live now.

Every day I went to a barn in back of a house near my route, where the papers were dropped off. I packed them into my paper bag and started delivering them. On Sundays, the papers were much heavier. I needed my wagon to haul them around unless my grandfather showed up to help me – and that was often.

We would load the papers into Grandpa’s car, drive to my route and park the car. Each of us would put a stack of papers under an arm; I would do one side of the street and Grandpa would do the other side.

Back then, along with delivering the newspapers, paper boys also got a taste of the business side of the process. I spent every Saturday morning “collecting” from my customers. A week’s worth of papers cost 45 cents – 30 cents for six afternoon papers and 15 cents for the Sunday edition – 45 cents.

Many of my customers gave me 50 cents and told me to keep the change. Others gave me 50 cents and put their hand out, waiting for the nickel while I sifted through my pockets.

There were some extracurricular benefits to having a paper route. Since I was often the only young person who came knocking on my customer’s door, I was the logical one to ask to perform various errands.

I was often asked to shovel a path to the back door or from the driveway to the house. Since I was not (as my grandmother would put it) a very “stout” boy, I suppose my customers didn’t think I would be up to shoveling an entire sidewalk or a long driveway. But what I did do for my customers was usually worth at least a quarter or two. I had a customer who lived on my route but owned a business on South Avenue at the bottom of the hill. Since my customer was always at her store on Saturdays she asked me to collect there instead of at her house.

She always gave me an extra amount besides the expected nickel tip for “going out of your way.” I didn’t really go out of my way since I passed by her business on my way home. I didn’t know about “perks” then but I guess that was one.

Paperboys received a bill each week for newspapers delivered during the previous week. That bill had to be paid on Saturday with funds collected from customers. What was left was the carrier’s pay for the week.

The paper cost 45 cents a week and I had customers who asked if they could put me off until next week because they “were a little short.” I guess I knew what that meant because by Friday I didn’t always have a nickel for a candy bar. Steve, the corner grocer, didn’t give credit for candy bars.

Each newspaper pick-up station (remember the barn behind the house near my route) had a supervisor and paper boys were told to go to them for advice if there was a problem. My supervisor, who I still remember well as a kind man – his name was Mort Gallivan – told me I did okay but I should be sure to tell him if it happened again.

For paper boys, there were some quick revelations of how business worked.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397


Hodgepodge: November 17, 2012

Christmasby Roy Hodge

This is a very busy time of the year. When the year is turning from November to December, I sometimes have a difficult time putting my mind together to write a column. There are just too many things to think about.

I am thinking about snow; it is time to start wondering about what kind of winter it’s going to be. Sometimes, as Thanksgiving is approaching, it seems that there is nothing more important to think about than snow.  Usually, we have already dealt with several inches of that lovely white stuff and we know that is only the beginning.

This year we may not be as concerned about being hammered with early storms as in other years. Last year as we approached Thanksgiving, there wasn’t any snow in the air, on the ground, or in piles at the end of the driveway. We had only received about 11 inches of snow by Jan. 1 and for the entire winter there were only about 50 inches of snow.

In other years, we have had almost that much during a weekend storm.  Because of last year, it might be okay to entertain thoughts of expecting that mild version of winter to continue, but I guess I should at least be thinking about getting the snow shovel out of the basement.

I could write about the upcoming Christmas season. It seems like it used to be that we turned our thoughts towards Christmas trees, Christmas shopping, and Christmas presents sometime shortly after the Thanksgiving turkey was on its way to becoming a pile of bones. Now, we don’t wait to get summer out of the way.

I’m pretty sure that we started getting holiday catalogs in our mailbox in September. I have already received one of my favorite holiday gift catalogs. That’s the one from the folks at Hammacher-Schlemmer. I have a hard time pronouncing their company name, but I really enjoy the catalog.

If you have been looking for an iPhone controlled, ball dropping bomber, look no further. This is a flying vehicle that drops a table tennis ball at the command of a controlling iPhone. So, if you need a ball dropping bomber — and the catalog description doesn’t detail why you might — this is the place to get it. Or, if you’ve been looking for a voice activated R2-D2, a motorized replica of the headstrong little droid from the “Star Wars” films, it’s yours for under $200.

But don’t get discouraged; there are a lot more practical items in the H-S catalog. For instance, the world’s largest (it’s 10 feet long) toe tapping piano for your kids – it allows your “budding virtuosos” to compose their music as they dance, run, or jump on the keys. It’s only $79.95 (extra for batteries).

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397