Category Archives: Jerry’s Journal

Geraldine Hogan Kasperek, Columnist - Jerry writes “Jerry’s Journal,” a bi-monthly column featuring stories about local people and tales of the “good old days” in Fulton. She attended SUNY Oswego in the Writing Arts Program. She has written and edited newsletters for several different organizations and has had many articles published in various newspapers on community and environmental issues.

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Jerry’s Journal: November 10, 2012

by Jerry Kasperek

Veterans Day is upon us, which prompts me to tell you about a decorated World War II veteran by the name of Alfred “Al” Myhill, who has been designated Fulton’s Veteran of the Year

Al shared with me last summer his large collection of memorabilia from his wartime experience with the 2nd Hospitalization Unit, 53rd Field Hospital. I had put it aside, however, to write about it at this particular time.

Thus, I was pleased to learn that the local Veteran’s of Foreign War, the American Legion and the Veteran’s Agency will bestow on him this well-deserved honor at a ceremony on Veterans Day — tomorrow, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. at city hall.

It was a young Mr. Myhill who went off to war back in the day when I was just a little girl watching the newsreels at the State Theater with my parents and listening with them and my grandparents around the radio in their living room.

Al was only 17 when he enlisted in the Army in February of 1943 and had to wait until his 18th birthday in April to begin serving. He was then “picked” to attend specialized training to become a nurse – “the same thing as a nurse,” he said during a recent phone interview. “The training was for five or six months.”

He eventually shipped over to England, where his platoon “bivouaced” (set up a camp of tents) until D-Day June 6, 1944 arrived, when Allied troops landed in Normandy, France to fight the Germans. His unit followed to treat casualties. “We set up portable hospitals, he said.

Al was in the Battle of the Bulge as well. He said they were “setting up on a high spot” when they were told to “get the hell out of there!”, as the German’s had broken through the lines. It was the bloodiest combat of the war.

Following that horrific battle with casualties in the eighty thousands, and as the Allies slowly inched their way across Europe in victory after victory, his unit was sent to Holland, then Belgium, and onward, right into Germany. His outfit was but 20 miles out of Berlin, he said.

When the war was finally over, Al returned to his hometown of Fulton, married his long-time sweetheart Marion — whose picture he had carried with him all across the battle zones — and settled down to a new era in the US that offered help and funds (the GI Bill) to buy homes or go for higher education — opportunities never before seen in American history. (I think that’s when the “middle-class” was born, and raised high hopes that each new generation would have a better life than the one before.)

Indeed, Al and his wife, along with their daughter Joanne (Hicks), and sons Terry and Paul, were able to partake in “The American Dream.” Al received apprentice training to become a machinist and a good paying job at Dilts and stayed there for 46 years, and he and his wife were able to buy a nice home on Utica Street and enjoyed family life until she passed away a couple of years ago. Today, Al lives part time at home and part time with his daughter in Waterloo.

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

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Jerry’s Journal: October 27, 2012

by Jerry Kasperek

In case you were wondering, like I did in my last column, whatever happened to the busts of Albert Lindsey Lee and his wife and the grandfather clock that used to keep us company when we sat in the lobby of our old Lee Memorial Hospital, well they were donated by the hospital auxiliary to the Friends of History of Fulton and are now on display at the Pratt House. Thanks to Sue Brown for sharing this good information via a phone call.

Sam Vescio is one of the most likeable people you could ever know. If you happen to meet him out and about he’ll give you a hearty handshake and search his quick mind for something special about you to greet you with. He has a remarkable memory and gift of gab.

My friend Marlene he greets with “June 18” as he recalls her birthday. With my husband Ed it’s “EJK-407” — Ed’s initials and former address on Walradt Street.

Some people, I’ve been told, he even greets with the last three digits of their Social Security which he memorized a long time ago. Hello, “Hillary,” he greets me, with a big grin, because he says I remind him of you know who!

Sam is one of 12 children of Angelo and Rozina Vescio. They were Italian immigrants. His father came over first and when he decided he needed a wife “Uncle Joe” became a matchmaker and told Angelo if he’d pay her way over, Rozina would marry him.

“My poor mother,” Sam said. She didn’t know anything but work and pregnancy. His oldest brother Carm was born in 1916, followed by Frankie, Tony, Angie (Talamo), Pete, Phil, Ace, Joe, Sam, Rose (Clark), Eleanor (McGraw), and June (Johnson). Rozina’s last child died with her in childbirth in 1936. She was only forty-two. Today only Angie, Joe, Eleanor, June, and of course Sam, remain.

Sam said his father was a muck farmer but did not own the land they worked. “We were sharecroppers,” working muck out Maple Avenue, toward Hannibal, Bowens Corners, Sharp’s Road, depending wherever land was vacant and available, he said.

Land owners supplied the equipment and seed and the Vescio clan did the rest. “I know what it’s like to be barefoot and barebacked out in the hot sun,” he said, “working on the muck when I was a kid…and I got an allowance of 15 cents a week, to buy candy, an ice cream cone, or even go to the movies.”

Sam said they split the profit from their harvest with the landowners. They’d ship lettuce to New York City and hope buyers would pay $1.25 cents a crate. Sometimes it didn’t work out and they never got paid at all. It was better later on when buyers came on the field, he said.

When the Korean War broke out in the early 1950s, Sam got drafted into the Army. He was spared going into battle, however, when his group was “split into two” and he was sent to “leadership school” and ended up in Germany. Sam made First Sergeant in only 16 months. But he didn’t care for Army life and when his two years were up he left the service, and came back to Fulton and civilian life.

Sam got a job in the Sealright Machine Shop, where for several years he felt content and productive, that is until his leadership abilities kicked in and he was elected union president. That endeavor did not have a happy ending. There was talk of a strike among other employees, which Sam didn’t endorse. Even so, the strike happened anyway, Sam got the blame and he quit his job.

Sam went into politics in 1966 when he was appointed alderman of the Second Ward to replace Dominick Munger who left to become Fulton’s Postmaster, and he successfully ran twice more.

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

Jerry’s Journal: October 13, 2012

The old American Woolen Mill with the view from the east side of the river.

by Jerry Kasperek

I stand corrected: The picture in my last column was not from the 1950 yearbook but was from the 1948 yearbook.

After having a conversation with Beverly Coles Downs about it, I decided to check it out to see what yearbook I had used. I had a pile of them on my desk the day I wrote the article and must have grabbed the wrong one. Sorry about that! Thanks, Beverly!

And, oh yes, as far as the write up about 1951 team and its “thrilling victory” over Oswego, I have been reminded by a source I will not put a name to that it was Jim “Hunky” McNamara who made the final touchdown to win the game 12-7. How could I have forgotten that!

Who remembers the boys in the picture? For some reason, their names did not make it into print with my article. So, here, from the pages of the 1948 yearbook, are the members of the football team: Vincent Vescio, Nick Naito, Dick Marcino, Louis LeVea, Robert Snow, Dominic Clavelli, Irwin Vincent, Donald Johnson, Dick Anderson, Hugh Burritt, Leon Dumas, Dominic Ipolito, Russell Bowers, Jim Utick, Arthur Cardinali, William Stanton, Dean Mitchell, Wright Sheldon, Dick Nissen, Donald Kanaley, Jack Halstead, Stanley Springer, Nick Ipolito, Andy Branigan, Louis Francesconi, Skip Todd, Francis Knight, Charles Merritt, Dean Lavendar, Joe McNamara, Carl Johnson.

Now let’s rewind back to an article I wrote this summer on Sharp’s Pond, the old swimming hole of my youth.

Who remembers the house as you came down the path to the pond? It was the home of the Palmer children: Thelma, Kathleen, Leon, Richard, and Arlene. Arlene graduated with our class of 1951. She married Ben Harris and last April they celebrated 59 years of marriage.

Who remembers the big building to the right of the pond? It housed city equipment. I’ve been told of an ice house that also was also on the property. I don’t know if the ice came from the pond or from Lake Neahtawanta.

Blocks of ice were carved out of the frozen pond or lake water, were covered with straw in the ice house to keep them cold all summer, and were sold to households and restaurants to put in their iceboxes.

That was when the iceman cometh and delivered ice right to your door. Who remembers those big, scary metal tongs he carried the blocks of ice with?

Who remembers the glory days of the Fulton Woman’s Bowling Association back in the 1960s? Dorothy Churchill still does. Her daughter, Honey Parkhurst, with whom she lives, sent me a page of pictures and write-ups out of “The Woman Bowler” magazine of long ago.

It reported on “Fulton NY Champs,” referring to the champions of our city tournament, including team, single and double and all events winners, among them were Dorothy Churchill, Leta Paige, Shirley Hall, June Baker, and Anita Procopio.

Ruth Darling, president of the FWBA and I, association secretary, were shown handing out the trophies. Also pictured were Gordon Stowell, proprietor of Triangle Dairy, who was awarded the sponsor’s trophy, and Ed Tryniski, manager of the Bowlarama Lanes, who supplied the trophy.

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
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Jerry’s Journal: September 29, 2012

by Jerry Kasperek

Who remember these guys? Their football lineup appeared in “The Fultonian” — Good Old Fulton High School’s yearbook — the 1950 edition. Wow, that was 62 years ago!

Actually, it was 1947 when I was a freshman that I went to my first football game and I went all by myself. I’m not sure why; I guess I was just curious to see how the game was played. I loved basketball so I though football might be fun to watch, too.

Our footfall field at Recreation Park was about where the Pop Warner kids plays these days. Who remembers those old wooden bleachers there; “the grandstand” as they were called which, for many years stood tall and was a visible landmark from West Broadway.

I thought I might sit in the stands that day. But when I got there, a lot of my fellow students were lined up by a fence. So I stood, too, and depended on the “experts” around me to tell me how the game was going – because, except for touchdowns, I didn’t know a darn thing about football and didn’t want anyone to think I was “dumb.”

So I listened and learned and clapped and yelled when my friends did and cheered with the cheerleaders and booed with the crowd and got disgusted like they did when a flag was thrown and a bad call was made.

How ignorant was I of such things? Well, when someone said our team made “first down,” I thought they meant a touchdown. But when I heard something about a “second down,” I realized there was more to a touchdown than meets the eye.

I soon got the hang of it, though, at least the bare-bones of it. I found out that a team has to go ten yards to get a first down, that there were 11 players on the field for each team, that the guy handling the ball is the quarterback, and that there were four quarters and two halves in a game and at halftime the opposing bands took to the field and marched. (The following year I played clarinet in the high school band and was myself on the field at halftime!)

You can see that my football education came long before TVs Friday Night Lights were on the eleven o’clock news and I have among my possessions yearbooks from 1946 to 1951.

So, let’s go back to the 1947 and see what that Fultonian has to say about that football season: “The crowd is tense! Line up! Signal! Shift! Hike! The ball was snapped back to the carrier and the football season was underway.”

It goes on to say that “Later in the season Fulton High’s eleven romped over Oswego in the big game. The grandstand went wild.”  (After reading it, I decided the long ago author really didn’t know much more about football than I did!)

The 1946 yearbook also reported our football team soundly trounced Oswego. “The Red and Green banners were waving high and triumphantly after the final whistle was blown…The team played one of its best games of the season to defeat Oswego, 18-6.

 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
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Jerry’s Journal: August 18, 2012

by Jerry Kasperek

In my last column I wondered which Mangeot sister taught school and where.

The answer came from Class of ’51 Lunch Bunch member Millie (Davis) Swick who said Miss Helen Mangeot was her second grade teacher at Erie Street School and “was a very nice lady.”

In my July 21 column,  I wondered who the kids were in the picture that accompanied it. The answer came from Mike Riley who said the photo was taken at Fulton’s West Side Municipal Pool 45 to 48 years ago.

“I was the little kid in the front row flexing my muscles!” he said. “My brother Doug who was about five years old was behind me.”

A high diving board can be seen in the background of the picture. “My brother Rick got hurt on it,” Mike said. “And they took it down.”

He comes from a large family of six siblings: Sandy, Sally, John, Mike, Doug and Rick. “We had season passes and we lived at the pool,” he said.

He identified some of the other young people in the photo. Mike Merritt was the boy standing directly in front while the two tall kids in the back were Billy Kystiniak and Butch Southard. The group also included Johnny Sugar, Billy Witsik and Carrie Zarichny. “There was a huge amount of kids that used to hang out there,” Mike said.

The photo was made into a picture postcard, he recalled. The old Wayne’s Drug Store that used to be in downtown Fulton had a bunch of postcards of local interest like that and most likely when Wayne’s closed for good a lot of them got thrown out.

Mike is recently retired, is the father of three grown children, son Christopher and daughters Stephanie and Katy, and is grandpa to a little six-year old granddaughter who he “likes to take to the pool.” (Not our West Side municipal pool, of course, it no longer exists.)

Incidentally, Mike’s parents are John and Elaine Riley. Elaine worked at Montgomery Ward when I did in the 1970s and I sometimes gave her a ride to work. Small world; it was here in our hometown, when, in the Good Old Days, everybody seemed to know everybody else!

Who remembers Sharp’s Pond? I do! It was where I got my best sunburns! My Mom would say, “Jerry, it’s too hot out today. Don’t you go swimming. You’ll get sunburned.” Then off she’d go to work at Sealright and off I’d go the “The Pond.”

My mode of transportation to get there was walking the railroad tracks. The Pond was way out Emery Street and I lived on Porter Street way out on North Sixth Street, so it was not too close, but not too far away, either.

Sometimes I’d  go with friends but often alone. I’d walk over to North Seventh Street, also known as the Whitaker Road, and climb the incline to the railroad trestle and follow the tracks to the Oneida Street trestle (the one as you go up Crosby Hill), cross over it, keep going for a few hundred feet more, and there down below the tracks was Sharp’s Pond in all its glory!

To read the rest of the column, subscribe to The Valley News by calling 315-598-6397