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.

Corner grocer

RoyHodge_WEBby Roy Hodge

When I was growing up on Syracuse’s south side, there were two grocery stores within walking distance of our home. Steve Gilbert’s store was at the end of our block, and one corner away there was a smaller grocery – Mather’s.

The close location to each other of the two stores wasn’t unusual back then. Thinking back, I can count at least five corner groceries between our house and McKinley Elementary School and that didn’t include Mather’s Store which was in the other direction.

Steve’s was the destination whenever we were sent to the store by my mother, and also any time we craved a soda or some ice cream. But there were many times when our appetites were moving us towards what quickly was becoming an oddity of the moment – “penny candy.”

It was a heavily polished glass paneled cabinet which attracted us to Mr. Mather’s little store, and it wasn’t by happenstance that we would be found staring into that cabinet at what seemed to be hundreds of boxes full of “penny candy.”

As we entered his store, Mr. Mather would grab one of the little brown paper bags that he had on his side of the candy counter, just right for our daily candy purchase. Some of the many choices were one penny each while others were “two for a penny.”

The selection process wasn’t an easy one and it usually took several minutes to trade our nickel or dime for the little bag of candy. There might not have actually been a hundred choices in that cabinet, but picking out the best and tastiest ones was nonetheless an important job, and took a lot of serious thinking.

There were “Mary Janes” and “Bit O’ Honey,” chewy goodies wrapped in colorful waxed paper that wasn’t easy to remove from the sticky candy.

There were “jawbreakers,” which we thought could easily live up to their name as we put our hearts and souls, and teeth and – yes, even our jaws – into biting, chewing and crushing that little round ball of candy into bits, pieces and “smithereens.”

There were many different varieties of licorice candies – little twisted ropes, licorice in many different shapes including pipes, cars and animals, and candy-coated licorice squares, rectangles, triangles and circles. There were little wax bottles filled with a sweet, syrupy liquid.

There were little colorful candy buttons attached to paper strips, chocolate nonpareils, ribbon candy, tootsie rolls and Necco wafers packaged in smaller than usual rolls so they could fit in with the other penny candies.

There were also candy necklaces, bubble gum with cartoons printed on the wrappers, cellophane wrapped caramels and root beer barrels.

While writing this I thought of another whole source of childhood candy: the movies. As I remember, along with a box of buttered popcorn, a Saturday afternoon treat at the movie matinee at one of our neighborhood theaters inevitably included a little box full of – Good and Plenty, Hot Tamales, Juju Fruits, Boston Baked Beans, Dots, Red Hots or Mike and Ike.

All that candy – no wonder we were good friends with the family dentist.

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Home cooking

RoyHodge_WEBby Roy Hodge

Much of the time when I was growing up I lived five minutes or less walking time from my grandparents’ home.  Consequently, I spent a lot of time at their house; and I had a lot of meals with them.

Since my grandparents usually ate their big meal of the day at mid-day, and at our house noon time was lunch time and the evening meal was served when my father got home from work – usually around 7 p.m. – sometimes I had two big meals in one day.

I think that I realized that my mother and my grandmother were both “good cooks,” but that they were different kinds of cooks.  Grandma lived on a farm for many years and was accustomed to cooking and eating a hearty meat and potatoes meal at noon time every day.

My mother certainly knew her way around her kitchen, but she was quite relaxed when it came to preparing a meal. There were times when, around 5 o’clock she would realize that we needed ingredients for dinner – maybe meat, and, yes, a loaf of bread, too. So, a trip down to the corner to Steve’s store was in order for one of us, and in less than two hours, like a little bit of magic, a delicious meal was served.

I think convenience dinners and complete meals in one small box were invented especially for my mother. She could do wonders with a pound of hamburger in a very short time. There were differences in the menus that my mother and grandmother served.

At my mother’s house we didn’t have steak as in steak medium rare. Mom didn’t care for steak, and fathers didn’t do a lot of cooking outside on a grill back then. My mother made a dish with chuck steak, well done with lots of sauce and potatoes

My grandparents had steak for dinner at least once a week.  Grandma fried it in a “spider” (it was a frying pan) on top of the stove.

In the spring, Grandma would go to a nearby field and gather dandelion greens. She and my grandfather would savor a large bowl of the cooked greens. My mother, with her nose turned up high, would suggest that Grandma and Grandpa ate weeds for dinner.

My mother cooked with a lot of ground beef, and made things like goulash, Spanish rice and sloppy Joes. She made macaroni and cheese and scalloped potatoes, often combined with ham left over from Sunday’s dinner. Hotdogs were a favorite for Saturday lunch and when my best friend Tucker and I got older we cooked our own, along with a can of pork and beans, which actually had a hunk of pork in them in those days.

Another thing my mother made she called “pigs in a blanket.” The “pig” was a hot dog, the blanket a strip of bacon. The “pig” was split in half without cutting it all the way through, and was filled with strips of cheese and wrapped with bacon and put under the broiler.

My mother planned a big meal for mid-day Sunday – a roast and all the trimmings, and we often ate in the dining room. Sometimes she fixed a “boiled dinner” – ham, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions. I can’t remember having corned beef, even on St. Patrick’s Day. Monday was leftovers day. Hash was popular.

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

Snow in Fulton v. Syracuse

RoyHodge_WEBby Roy Hodge

One day recently when I woke up, the guy on the radio was telling me that the Syracuse area was going to be getting up to 12 inches of snow that day. He was talking about schools being closed or delayed and larger amounts of snow in “lake effect areas.”

Listening to the weather forecast when it includes snow can be very confusing around here. Before you know it you are hearing terms like “lake effect,” north of the thruway,” “snow belt,” “wind-chill factor” and “freezing rain” being thrown around.

I got out of bed and looked out of the window. There was no snow – not even a flake – in the air.  That was about 6:30 a.m. By 7:30 it started to snow and by noon, there was six to seven inches of new snow on the ground – and on the sidewalks, on the deck, in the driveway, and on the steps to the front door. It was all waiting to be shoveled.

Maybe the man on the radio knew what he was talking about after all.

Although I grew up, and now live, in Syracuse, I spent 32 winters living in Fulton and shoveling its snow. When snowfall is the subject, I clearly appreciate the difference between Fulton and Syracuse.

When I was a kid growing up in Syracuse, about a mile from where I live now, “snow was snow.”  I don’t remember worrying about “lake effect” or “snow belts.”

The best thing that could happen back then was getting so much snow overnight that the schools were closed. If there was a lot of snow and schools weren’t closed, we would complain and be very unhappy about having to “go out in all that snow” and trudge off to school.

But on the mornings we heard that “schools are closed” announcement, we quickly put on our boots and snow clothes and spent the whole day outside rolling around in that snow which was “way too much” when we had to walk to school.

When we moved to Fulton a couple of years after we were married, I guess I looked at Fulton’s huge piles of snow and realized that it seemed to snow all the time here and the snow piles were a lot bigger, but I still thought: “Snow is snow.” I don’t remember thinking much differently about snow than we did in Syracuse.

Some of the Fultonians we met liked snow, others didn’t like it so much, but we all lived with it. We planned on it; we got up a little earlier if we thought we might have to do a lot of shoveling and I hope that we learned to do what we had to do to get everything done without complaining too much.

We figured out right away that we weren’t going to get a lot of sympathy from native Fultonians or folks who had lived through a couple of Fulton winters.

I think those of us who weren’t born in Fulton were able to adjust to Fulton’s winter weather quickly; we shoveled more snow and we did it more often; we didn’t always worry about getting the car out of the garage – we walked; and even as adults, we thought snow could be fun.

But I discovered that my newly-adopted attitude towards dealing with more snow wasn’t necessarily passed on to my Syracuse relatives.

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A look back at old newspapers

RoyHodge_WEBby Roy Hodge

Another look at some old, tattered newspaper pages:

From page one of The Fulton Patriot, February 6, 1901:

• A Pair of Hustlers

• Fulton and Oswego Falls

• The Most Enterprising Villages in the United States

• Over Eight Thousand People Who Are Up-To-Date on Everything All the Time

That was the many-tiered headline. The article continues:

“A Brief Outline of Their Advantages – There is no danger of a successful contradiction of the statement that there are no two villages of this size in the Empire State that can show as much enterprise and business opportunities as are shown by the villages of Fulton and Oswego Falls.

“These two thriving villages are situated on the bank of the Oswego River – Fulton on the east side and Oswego Falls on the west – and the population, according to the last U. S. census, is Fulton 5,281, Oswego Falls, 2,925; total, 8,206.  These villages are located twelve miles from Oswego, the county seat, and twenty-five miles from Syracuse, the Central City of the Empire State.”

The article goes on to outline the manufacturing facilities of the city. Thirty-three manufacturing plants, along with their number of employees, are listed.  The largest employee, American Woolen Co., employed 1,097 persons. The smallest company listed is R. F. Hoff, miller, with three employees.

The Hunter Arms Company employed 285 persons; American Tobacco Co., 150; Oswego Falls Pulp and Paper Co., which in later years was known as the Sealright Co., had 86 employees. Victoria Paper Co. employed 80 and Foster Brothers Knife Works had 75 employees.

There were several successful smaller companies also. Daniel Baldwin, employing eight persons, made crates and boxes.  A. Bristol and Sons made carriages and buggies and employed 15.  The Fulton Bag Co. had 30 employees.

Included in the article is a glowing description of the two villages’ labor force – “First class labor can be found in Fulton and Oswego Falls. The two villages have a resident class of mechanical laborers – men who are here to stay, who own their own homes and are interested in the prosperity of the villages…”

Many other aspects of life in the two villages are outlined in the informative article:

“The means of transportation are furnished by three railroads – the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg branch of the New York Central, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, and the New York, Ontario and Western railroads, over which 26 passenger trains arrive every day, and twelve on Sunday. The Oswego Canal connects with the Erie Canal at Syracuse, and Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes at Oswego. In addition, there is street car service between the two villages at all hours during the day and evening.

“Fulton has two large and well-equipped schools under a corps of experienced teachers.  Oswego Falls has two smaller school buildings. A new $30,000 school building is being constructed in Oswego Falls.

“The Fulton Library is free to the public of the two villages.  The Stephens Opera House in Fulton and the new Citizen’s Hall, Oswego Falls, furnish ample room for entertainment visiting the villages.

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

Outdated television

RoyHodge_WEBby Roy Hodge

When my sons, Craig and Adam, were together at our house recently, they were kidding about our television set. I think they may have been referring to it as an “antique.”

We have had that television set for over 20 years; we watch it almost every day, but very seldom for more than an hour at a time – mostly for the news or a special program. In season, I watch football and basketball games.

It has been a very reliable television set. We have never had to take it to a repair shop. It comes on when I push the button, the picture is clear, not fuzzy, the color is good and it fits perfectly in the spot I have for it on top of the dresser.

My sons seem to think that the set itself is big, bulky and heavy, but that the screen should be much larger — as in “wide-screen” television.  Personally, I like the way my TV set is. I sit in a small room, about five feet from the screen, which is plenty big enough for me.

Thinking about our television set has reminded me of the various other TV’s I have watched.  Our family was among the television pioneers in our neighborhood when I was growing up. The Woods family, which included 12 kids — most of them living at home at the same time — was the first family on our street to own a television set. It wasn’t easy finding a spot in front of the TV among the 12 kids who lived there.

We also were able to watch television once a week in a downtown storefront across from the Syracuse post office, where we accompanied my father every Sunday evening while he mailed his orders for the coming week.  I’m not sure what we watched – maybe “What’s My Line?” – but we were engrossed while standing there for at least half an hour.

Tiring of our neighbor’s crowded living room and standing out in the cold, we were able to talk our parents into investing in the family’s first television set.

I remember that first TV set well. It was a console model, which meant that it was comprised of the picture tube on top, the speaker under that — all built in to a cabinet which sat on the floor. Somewhere in there were rows and rows of tubes and transistors.

The feature that made our television set unusual, even back then, was that it had a round screen. With all those parts, television sets didn’t last a long time back then, and TV repair men visited regularly.

When my wife realized that I was writing about our early television sets, she was reminded of the time that her TV set was hit by lightning during the night. All of a sudden she was awakened by the national anthem playing in her living room.

We were never alone watching television in those early days.  Programming started just about the time we arrived home from school and my brother and I both brought several kids home from school with us to watch western movies hosted by Gabby Hayes, Howdy Doody, Kukla, Fran and Ollie and Captain Video.

Before the programs started we watched the test patterns and listened attentively to the National Anthem.

When my grandparents knew that our family had bought a television set their reaction was, “Why would you want television? The radio is good enough for us.” The day we got our TV set, Grandma and Grandpa came over after supper to take a look at the new arrival; their new television set arrived the next day.

As in other homes, gradually through the years the size of our TV screen grew larger while the cabinet was smaller. Then came the Disney channel and color.  Although we had listened to the radio shows and had our favorites, TV was much more exciting.

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Heavy snowfall is old hat for Fulton

RoyHodge_WEBby Roy Hodge

It was “déja vu all over again” for me one day this week when I left Syracuse for an appointment in Fulton. Here, most of the snow we had received had disappeared during the past few days.

Going along with my wife’s estimation, there was “maybe an inch or two of snow on the ground,” but I was closer to calling it “a trace.” It seemed much like the days a few years ago when I was driving to Fulton every week day morning.

As I drove towards Fulton the roads and the yards along the way were pretty much free of snow.

Then, as I got further north an accumulation began to build up, and when I reached Fulton there was snow in the road and large piles on each side.

The city’s plows had done a good job, but there was “a lot of snow.” Drivers were being cautious and although it was around 8 a.m. there were no school buses on the streets, a good sign that school classes for the day had been canceled. But there were people out and about, seemingly carrying on their regular business.

Then I remembered: There never seems to be a big fuss in Fulton about the large amounts of snow that appear wall to wall in the city streets, driveways and sidewalks during the winter months.

After all, it’s just a regular part of Fulton life.

While I was waiting for my car to be serviced I met a pair of enterprising young businessmen. They were taking advantage of the snowfall of the night before and their day off from school to clear some sidewalks. They were finding out that businesses come with a few problems. They were at Tom Alnutt’s service station to replace a belt for their snow blower.

My son, Craig’s trip here last week from his home in Roanoke, Va. was a complete reversal of a usual winter trip when the weather is nice in Virginia with forecasts of wintry weather closer to New York State. There were several inches of snow on the ground Thursday night when he left Roanoke, and his flight from Washington, D.C. to Syracuse had been canceled.

He was able to get a flight out of the Charlotte, N.C. Airport and arrived in Syracuse ahead of schedule Friday. Craig was surprised that contrary to what he could have expected as well as to what he left behind in Roanoke, there were no huge snow piles, and very little evidence of the nearly 40 inches of snow the city had received this winter.

*  *  *  *  *

Living in Fulton and thinking and talking about snow certainly go together. To convince myself of that I looked through some columns from past winters:

December 7, 1982 – Winter snow talk:  Snow probably means a steady fall unless the words occasional or intermittent are used. Heavy snow usually means four to six inches or more in 12 hours. A snow flurry is an intermittent snowfall which may reduce visibility, and a snow squall is a brief, intense snowfall with gusty winds. Blowing or drifting snow means strong winds and poor visibility for a lengthy period of time.

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

CNY weather

CNY weatherby Roy Hodge

Here I am, thinking and wondering what I could write my next column about. I am also thinking, “It is closing in on the middle of January and it’s raining out.” I am also thinking, “It’s not supposed to rain in January; in January, it’s supposed to snow.”

It really was raining out and it was raining quite hard; not like a summer rain storm with all the thunder and lightning, but it was definitely rain – not snow. But it did seem a little strange; after all, it is January, not July.

It seems like here in Central New York, no matter what the season is you can’t depend on the weather being like it was a year ago, or what is supposed to be this time of year.

Last year on January 12, we weren’t getting much snow – less than 13 inches for the season. The year before, we had received over 80 inches of snow by that date.

But last year, it started snowing the next day – January 13 – and  our total in Syracuse was up to 20 inches for the season. But remember, we got quite a break last year. From first to last snowflake last year, in Syracuse we accumulated about 50 inches of snow for the entire season.

Last year, I checked with John Florek, superintendent of the Fulton Water Works, April 27 to ask about Fulton’s final snowfall figure for the winter of 2011-12. John corrected me quickly. “As of yesterday,’ John said, “the total snowfall was 108.2 inches, and we received a trace overnight.”  John reminded me, “It has snowed here on Mother’s Day.”

It is another year, it is raining in January, but we never know what to expect. As I am sitting here and thinking about rain in January and wondering what I could write a column about, maybe I could write something about the unusual weather.

That sounds very familiar.  Perhaps I have written about that before.

*  *  *  *  *

While writing last week about the binder of 1901 Patriots that ended up in my possession, I used the word convoluted in the following sentence: “It seems that the file came to me through a convoluted route from the Fulton Public Library after the pages were transferred to microfilm.”

Convoluted is a word that occasionally pops into my mind, which I have interpreted as being complicated. Usually, when I have used that word I apparently used it without thinking too much about it.

But this time I guess I thought about it too much – so much that I decided to change that part of the sentence to read; “through a somewhat indirect route,” etc.

I found definitions of convoluted in “The Random House” dictionary and on the internet – difficult to comprehend, involved; having many twists and curves; involved, intricate; example: “a convoluted explanation that left the listeners even more confused than they were before.”

That’s funny – that seems to be exactly what this little adventure has done for me.

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Memorable Christmas gift

RoyHodgeby Roy Hodge

Even by my family’s gift giving standards, I received an unusual but welcomed Christmas gift this year. When we had finished our family gift exchange on Christmas Day, Jeff said he had one more thing in the car. He came back with what looked suspiciously like one of the large binders we had used to store weekly copies of The Fulton Patriot. That’s exactly what it was.

The binder was wrapped around all the pages of the 1901 issues of The Fulton Patriot, which at this point of 100 years plus are individual, well-worn and torn sheets of that year’s papers. It seems that the file came to me through a somewhat involved route from the Fulton Public Library after the pages were transferred to microfilm – as many years of Patriots have been.

Any and all of those issues may be viewed on microfilm at the library.

The tattered pages that I have spread out on our kitchen floor — I figured that would be the easiest place to clean up all the scraps, pieces and fragments that I will end up with — are from Jan. 2, 9 and 16, 1901. Crawling around on my hands and knees, I am discovering bits of 112 year old history from those pages.

A boxed notice on page 1 of the January 2, 1901 issue states that, “The subscription price of The Fulton Patriot for this date is reduced to One Dollar a Year. See article on page 2.” That article explains, “With this number The Fulton Patriot commences its sixty-fifth volume at the commencement, also, of the twentieth century.

“We desire to return thanks to the patrons of this paper in the year past and to assure them that in the year upon which we have entered, we shall aim to make The Patriot one of the best papers in Oswego County.”

The article continued, “We also wish to call the attention of our friends to the fact that with this date the subscription price of The Patriot is reduced from $1.25 to ONE DOLLAR a year, making it one of the best papers for the money that is published…”

Information on page 2 states:  “The Fulton Patriot is issued every Wednesday morning from the office of the undersigned, 117 Oneida Street, entrance through the Post Office Lobby.” Frank M. Cornell was the publisher.

117 Oneida St., on the corner of Oneida and Second streets, is the same address that I worked from for many years as a member of the Patriot staff. Urban Renewal eventually forced a move of our facilities to a former private home and at that time, the location of Foster Funeral Home at 186 S. First St. in a pleasant area near the Fulton Public Library, Fulton’s U.S. Post Office, and the Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

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