The Crooked Lake Review

Fall 2003

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July, August, September 1903, 1953

Glancing Backward

News items from the Naples Record 100 years and 50 years ago


Beth Flory

July 1903

In spite of some heavy downpours, crop prospects statewide were generally favorable. The hop yard of Mark Case was praised for its appearance and potential yield. The Editor noted with approval that the daisies and weeds in Rose Ridge cemetery had finally been "harvested" but not the burdocks which were disfiguring Academy Street.

If winter was the season for illness, summer kept doctors busy treating injuries. The newfangled, noisy automobile was a source of annoyance and danger to people who still drove buggies and wagons. A car frightened the horse driven by Mrs. Delos Briggs who was thrown onto the road and nearly killed. At home, Daniel Smith survived a fall downstairs and Frank Thompson was kicked in the face by a horse. Doctors were able to save David Benham of Hopewell who "drank a quantity of potash by mistake for lemonade."

Willard Hospital advertised for more nurses and attendants. The pay ran from $14 to $25 a month for women and $20 to $33 a month for men, including boardings and washing. The Ontario County Orphan Asylum asked for contributions of vegetables and home-canned fruit.

Social highlight of the month was the wedding of Josephine Griswold and William Capron. She was a respected teacher, the daughter of Captain Griswold, Civil War veteran, and grand daughter of William Marks.

The Naples Camera Club was especially active. Thirty members had an outing to Grimes Glen that combined a picnic with much picture-taking. Kodaks were very popular. Baseball games with local teams, ice cream socials and firemen's carnivals were all popular and well attended.

Announcement was made of the new barber partnership in town that launched the long hair-cutting career of Leon (Skip") Pierce. His shop was across the alley from the Hotel bar. He lived in Woodville and gained lasting renown as an expert fisherman.

July 1953

No doubt about it, the big news of the month was the Boy Scout Jamboree in California which six local Scouts attended: Elmon Pressler, Jr., James Swingle, Alan Richards, Bruce Hawkins, William Standish and Larry Evarts. Their journey west was eventful and exhausting as they rode in an overcrowded train to visit Chicago, El Paso, Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon en route. More than 50,000 Scouts were at the ten-day encampment during which trips were made to Hollywood and San Diego. Going home, stops were made in Cheyenne, Yellowstone and Denver. Llewyn Thomas was one of two men in charge of 45 area Scouts.

Strange noises in the night outside of a house on North Main Street alarmed members of the Howse family. Investigation of rattles and crashes resulted in the discovery of two baby 'possums which had upset and broken a row of milk bottles.

Four Naples residents were arrested and charged with having set fire to the Gardener home on the Bristol Springs Road in January, 1952. The apparent motive was to gain insurance money.

Only one of the nine people involved in a head-on collision in the Town of Italy was seriously injured. The cars were operated by brothers Harold and Frederick Willis. One had just left his father's house and the other was headed there and all of the passengers were family members.

The war dragged on. Combat veteran Robert Dean was awarded a Bronze Star. Lt. (j.g.) Willis A. Matson completed training at the U. S. Naval Submarine School and was assigned to the U. S. S. Sea Fox, Pearl Harbor. Marvin Konz was taking the Army Reserve Officers Training course in artillery science and tactics at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Fear of polio, its cause unknown, was ever present.

August 1903

August has always been a month of travel, recreation and family reunions. Thanks to reliable and reasonably priced train service in 1903, citizens from this small rural village went forth confidently to the west coast or New York City, taking in expositions and visiting relatives. The Erie Railroad advertised connections with steamer lines from Buffalo which offered links to Detroit, Marquette, Duluth, Chicago and all points west and northwest with "speed, comfort and perfect service."

Naples along with the rest of the country was steadily edging into the world called "modern." Real sidewalks were appearing on sections of Main Street. Clara Benjamin's boarding house was the latest to have a telephone installed. While the horse remained very important for work and sport—a horse-traders convention was held in Rushville—automobiles were beginning to make memorable appearances. Interviewed by the Record were T. J. Finucane and his wife who passed through Naples in a "touring Locomobile." Leaving Rochester about 12:30 pm, they continued to Dansville and the Bristol Valley and later reported that they were home before dark.

Many of the roads over which they drove were very poor and even impassable in mud time. A long unsigned letter to the Record begged for a good road to serve South Bristol. (It would be the mid-1920s before the present Woodville to Bristol Springs stretch was built.)

Civil War experiences and friendships were still on the minds of local veterans who faithfully attended annual reunions of the First New York Dragoons, the 126th Regiment and the GAR. Residents at home planned entertainments and outings. Forty Neopolitans attended the Barnum and Bailey circus in Geneva. Relatives arrived and stayed for weeks.

Family reunions of the Holcombs, Boggs, Presslers, Polmanteers, Welds and Smiths were announced. Ten young Naples women and their chaperone, Mrs. C. G. Roop, enjoyed an afternoon boat trip down the lake and back which included both lunch and dinner. (Throughout the latter "chocolate flavoring was prominent.") "The day ended with a delightful moonlight ride from Woodville to Naples."

"A most terrific rain and windstorm" struck the Naples valley at the end of the month. Trees were uprooted, roofs took flight and buildings were moved from their foundations. Orchards and vineyards were damaged. Plans continued to go forward for the Great Naples Fair, for many the most important local event of the year.

August 1953

The month was marked by accidents and natural disasters. Jack Potter, 19, lost his life in a one-car accident on the Woodville Road. Deputy Sheriff Leonard Richmond was called to a head-on collision on the Naples Atlanta Road that killed a Wayland man and injured seven others.

The Village Board announced a public hearing to discuss a proposed ordinance which would set a speed limit of 25 mph within the village, and establish "No Parking" zones. Cars were to be parked no more than 6 inches from (and parallel to) the curbs.

Ontario County Fair managers in Canandaigua had planned a huge fireworks display on the last night but late that afternoon everything was abruptly flattened by a terrific wind and rain storm. Thirty-eight of forty-one tents collapsed. "Eighty head of cattle were left in the open as the two huge tents 400 feet long were uprooted and moved about 20 feet." The Ferris Wheel, luckily empty, tipped over on a restaurant tent causing at least one serious injury and a number of minor ones. Nearly 1200 other fair goers were lucky to survive intact.

The next day, August 9, Springwater experienced torrential rains—5.6 inches. The inlet of Hemlock Lake above the village overflowed and tore down hill burying Main Street in tons of debris. East Avenue "Was left with gulleys 8 feet deep and 20 feet across. Cellars filled with water and the reservoir turned to mud. Nearby Garlinghouse escaped damage.

September 1903

The Internet has yielded these figures about the U. S. In 1903: the average life expectancy was 47, average wage was 22 cents an hour and annual salary between $200 and $400 a year. Leading causes of death were pneumonia and influenza. Only 6 percent of Americans finished high school. Marijauna and heroin could be bought over the counter in drug stores and there were only about 230 reported murders country-wide.

Naples during the period, to quote the widely used old slogan, was definitely "Active and Attractive.")

The impressive Hemenway Produce House, recently built beside the train station, had the capacity to handle thousands of bushels of grain daily along with potatoes, seeds, beans and even coal. "Strong and ingenious works" were powered by a powerful gasoline engine. You could drive a load of produce in from Academy Street, stop on the weighing scales, and proceed to the receiving hoppers. In season, tons of dried berries would be put up in pound packages. Prospects for employment were excellent.

Meanwhile rehearsals were underway for the latest local theatrical offering, a comic operetta "The Merry Milkmaids, or Dorothy in Love With the Commodore," to be sung by a chorus of 40. A speaking cast of more than 24 well-known citizens was ready to perform.

For many, the dominant event of the month was the Great Naples Fair and this one broke records for attendance and number of exhibits, partly because of excellent weather but also because Naples enjoyed a good reputation. 5500 exhibits ranged from crocheted doilies to champion cattle. Receipts increased 25 percent to nearly $2000. The 18-piece Manchester band entertained, trotting races offered excitement and baseball games were followed with enthusiasm. (Every race and ball game was guaranteed to be honest.) The hit of the fair was a Victor gramophone shown by a Geneva man. A listener attested that "the metallic tones peculiar to most of these instruments is all obliterated and the rich quality of the original voice is brought out."

There is no record of Mrs. Hipsey Graves" three-legged duck. Had he survived to enjoy a brief moment of fame at the Great Naples Fair of 1903?

September 1953

By the end of August, most area residents had heard about the first Genundawa Day to be held on Sept. 5th when the lake and surrounding hillsides would be "ringed with fire." Mrs. Ralph Shrader, President of the East Shore Cottagers Assn. proposed a celebration to give thanks for the pleasures of summer and to mark the close of the season. Dr. Arthur C. Parker linked the ceremony with past Seneca traditions. Clark's Gully on South Hill was the legendary birthplace of the Senecas, and Bare hill, with its legend of the great serpent, had been the site of a Seneca ceremony by the Keepers of the Faith who long ago lighted an annual signal fire. (Today the Middlesex Heritage Group continues the well-loved tradition with a bonfire on Bare Hill, and the lake is still circled by flares on the Saturday evening before Labor Day.) It is doubtful, however, that any current display can equal Will Widmer's in '52 when his guests were instructed to set off about 45 flares simultaneously. And can any current party match Frank Gannett's? Hundreds of Welsh singers from all parts of North America who had come to Rochester for an annual songfest were bussed to Gannett Hill as the publisher's guests to witness this exciting and novel event.

Beth Flory's "Glancing Backward" column in the Naples Record is compiled from
old news items that appeared in the Record. Reprinted with permission of the Naples Record.
Index of articles by Beth Flory
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