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Arundell

 
Of all the steamboats that came into Sodus Point at the turn of the century, the Arundell was the most popular. It even got tied into the recent trolley service. It offered to return people that had taken the trolley from Rochester to Sodus Point and then return them to Charlotte where they could get back on the trolley to return to downtown Rochester.
 
The following photos and flyer are courtesy of Richard Palmer.
 
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Arundell at Sodus Point 1907
 
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Arundell coming in the channel 1907
 
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Arundell backwater turn 1907
 
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Arundell departing 1906
 
The following four pages are from an Arundell flyer:
 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPeERDVlUydlNUQ0U/view?usp=sharing

 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPbmZLQ0xJVktUMUk/view?usp=sharing
 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPcldKYWU5blF0RGc/view?usp=sharing
 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPTzRNUVBiN3FWdTA/view?usp=sharing

Johnson House (Bay Street Hotel)

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Photo of Johnson House circa 1905 courtesy of John Powell from his book “Old Postcards & Photos of Sodus Point”

I would like to thank my wonderful and hard working wife (Edith Farrington) for all of her research that went into this document.

Today we think of it as the Bay Street Hotel but from the 1850s into the mid 1900s it was known as the Johnson House and it was a major hotel of Sodus Point. Over the intervening years, it has had a number of different names. It is also one of the oldest buildings in Sodus Point.

Here is a synopsis of the evolution of the hotel and restaurant:

1844… named “American Hotel” Proprietor Sylvester P. Johnson

1858 – 1901…Renamed “Johnson House” by Sylvester Johnson’s son-in-law George H. Case

1915…Recently improved its is renamed “New Johnson House”

1919…new management Mrs. H.B. Stone of Syracuse

1930…John J. Connors, proprietor

1953…Renamed Radel’s Hotel Gus and Carrie Radel, owners

1982…Renamed “Finn’s Hotel” Ray and Phyllis Finn, owners

1984-2014…Renamed “Bay Street Hotel” Doug McLeod, owner

2015…Jerry and Deannie Newby, owners

The Johnson House was named after its proprietor Sylvester P. Johnson. We know that the structure dates back to at least 1844, because of an ad that was run in 1845:

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The above advertisement was found in “The Western Argus, Lyons, New York; Wed, Oct, 29, 1845”

Sylvester P. Johnson was a savvy businessman. He knew that if he was to have a successful hotel he would first need to get customers to his hotel and then have them stay for a few days. He hit upon the way to do it as seen in this 1845 ad:
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So now thanks to Sylvester Johnston, in 1845, Sodus Point had a regularly scheduled stage coach route which connected to Geneva and also to packet boats on the Erie Canal at Lyons! From “History of Alton” prepared by Nona McDowell, we know that as early as 1839, a two horse stagecoach brought mail from Lyons to Sodus Point.

In 1846, Sylvester P. Johnson goes from businessman to local hero as recounted in “The Pioneer History of Sodus Point (page 17).

The widow of Colonel Fitzhugh, with an invalid daughter, continued to live at Sodus Point in her residence on the North side of Troup Park and Ontario Street east. The house she first occupied was on the same spot and burned to the ground in 1846. While it was burning Mr. S. P. Johnson (owner of the Johnson House) ran upstairs and grasping the two ladies, one under each arm, carried them down and out into safety.

In 1858, it is renamed “Johnson House” by Sylvester Johnson’s son-in-law George H. Case who takes over.
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Under George Case’s ownership, the Johnson House prospered and became well known throughout the area:
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In the early 1870s some additional renovations occur as reported in the Sodus Weekly Enterprise, June 21, 1873:

Sodus Point – The Johnson House is nearly completed, and when finished it will be one of the finest houses in this part of the country.

In 1884, the Johnson House is the scene of an important historic event. In that year, E.H. Harriman receives news that the Pennsylvania Railroad company would buy his small railroad (Sodus Bay and Southern) at a considerable profit for himself. This event launches his career as the preeminent Railroad Czar of the time. This scene is recorded in Arch Merrill’s book “The Ridge”, 1944.

An old time Sodus Pointer, Matthew M. Farrell, a trim, kindly, gray little man in his 80th year, remembers Harriman well. Farrell came to Sodus Point in 1880 as a telegraph operator for the Harriman railroad. Some times he took 30 or 40 telegrams a day for the brisk young railroad man. Farrell remembers one day delivering a telegram to Harriman when the budding king of rails was playing pool in the Johnson House with his lieutenant, Ed Parrott. Harriman ripped open the envelope, read the wire, then he embraced Parrott and began dancing a jig.

By the early 1900s, The Johnson House is the place to stay in Sodus Point. Many businessmen not only frequent it but also hold meetings there.
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Photo of Johnson House circa 1905 courtesy of John Powell from his book “Old Postcards & Photos of Sodus Point”

In 1915, it is renamed the New Johnson House. In 1919, it is under new management of Mrs. H.B. Stone of Syracuse
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In 1930, John J. Conners becomes the proprietor of the New Johnson House
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In 1953, the Johnson house has new owners: Gus and Carrie Radel. They will soon rename it Radel’s Hotel.
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In 1982 Ray and Phyllis Finn become the new owners and rename it “Finn’s Hotel.
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Above photo and article taken from June 24, 1982 edition of Wayne County Star

In 1984, Doug McLeod becomes the new owner and it is renamed “Bay Street Hotel”. Under Doug, What is now a restaurant gets a reputation for the finest food in the area. People as far away as Rochester routinely drive here to taste its fine cuisine and to enjoy its Martini specialties.

In 2015, Jerry and Deannie Newby become the new owners of Bay Street Hotel. Some renovations are again made but the tradition of fine food and Martini specialties continue…..

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Photo courtesy of Edith Farrington November, 2015
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The above photos taken from August 16, 2015 edition of Times of Wayne County

Area Mills

 

The local Mills were an important part of the 18th , 19th and even 20th century commerce of our surrounding area. They ground corn and wheat to make the flour that made our bread and cut the planks from trees that made our houses. These products were also an important export from Sodus Bay to Canada, Oswego and Rochester.

Information about our Mills come from the book “Great Sodus Bay History, Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Legends” by Walter Henry Green (Sodus, N.Y. 1947) pp301-310.

A gristmill was built on Second Creek for which two dates have been given: 1794 and 1805. It was built by Timothy Axtell (who fought at the Battle of Sodus Point) for Judge Nicholas. After the Shakers bought the tract of land in 1823, it became known as Shaker mill.

In 1832 there was a gristmill in Christian Holler owned and operated by Stephen Hopkins. There was also a furniture factory and a cider mill, owners unknown. Here James Sergeant and later George Sergeant, owned and operated a sawmill. (editor’s note: James Sergeant, by the way, is the religious leader who convinced a group of people that the world was coming to an end and when it didn’t “you could hear the Christians holler” thus giving that area its name to this day.

In 1812 Dr. William Nixon Lummis migrated from Philadelphia and settled in Troupville. He built the finest dwelling in all this region but it was destroyed when the British burned the village the day after the Battle of Sodus Point. In 1812 just before the beginning of the war, he moved to Salmon Creek. The historians all agree that in that year he built the gristmill that half a century later became known as Preston’s mill. True enough, it was built in 1812, but Captain John Maxwell built it and the following year sold it to his son-in-law, Dr. Lummis. The millstones were brought from France, James H. Reeves was the millright and Isaac Davidson the first miller. The night of the Battle of Sodus Point, accidentally, Davidson was locked in the mill, but he managed to break out in time to take part in the battle, which took place at midnight.

Dr. Lummis built a sawmill and a forge on the east side of the pond near the site of the Williamson mills that were destroyed in the freshet. He also erected several dwellings. To quite an extent the hamlet was populated by Negroes, some of whom, at least, were of those given their freedom by Col. Peregrine Fitzhugh. Out of respect for his father-in-law, regard for his wife, or both, Dr. Lummis named the place Maxwell.

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Preston’s Mill was east of the creek about one hundred feet north of the Lake Road directly opposite the north end of Mill Road. This mill as before stated, was built in 1812, stood for more than one hundred years and except the last few years (1947) was in operation almost constantly. During the last years it did not utilize the water power but was run by steam. During the 1870s and early 80s George Preston was the miller. In later years Edward Beeton did the milling.

About 1910 the foundation wall at the northwest corner caved away leaving the water-wheel in full view. In 1920 the century-old mill was torn down and is now a fast fading memory. When John Preston, Sr., was managing the mill it became famous as making the best wheat flour of any mill in this region. The outlet of the creek was kept open and schooners of light draft came from Canada and sailed up the creek to the mill where they exchanged Canada wheat for Preston’s famous flour.

In the late 1870’s the writer went with the farm hands with a load of grist to this old mill. It was taken in by round faced jolly George Preston. After she commenced using Preston’s flour (my) mother had no trouble with her bread. It was always white.

The building that once was Sentell’s sawmill is still there (1945) but every one of the shops and factories have vanished, leaving not a trace to show that long ago this was a busy, prosperous and promising hamlet; the industrial center of the region. In all countries and all ages it seems to become dry-runs-mills go to decay, waterwheels broken and moss-covered.

 

Sawmills

 

Photo courtesy of Dick Ransley

 

Sodus Bay had perhaps a dozen saw mills on the bay. Much of the early wooden buildings of Rochester were built from timber from these mills and transported by schooners.

 

From Great Sodus Bay by Rosa Fox: “This structure no longer standing, may be what was left of the old sawmill on Third Creek and reason for naming this cove Sawmill Cove. “

First Meeting in our Town

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Portrait of Captain Charles Williamson
First Meeting in our Town

Over the years, if you’ve gone to meetings at the Village Hall, you may have witnessed some that were tense as emotions ran high on a given topic. The recent Plan 2014 is one of the latest examples. However, they pale to being downright cordial and welcoming compared to the first meeting recorded to have occurred in our village. It was 1794…….

A more in depth account of this first meeting can be found in the book “Great Sodus Bay History, Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Legends” by Walter Henry Green (Sodus, N.Y. 1947) pp30-41.

A quick review of the history of our area in that year will provide the context for the meeting. The newly created London Association, had purchased, in 1791, the 1,264,000 acres for $270,000, almost twenty cents an acre that among other things encompassed Sodus Bay, Pultneyville and Williamson. One major problem remained: under the laws of the new New York State, aliens could not hold title to property in the new State. The London Association therefore appointed Captain Charles Williamson (a Scot who had held a commission as Captain in the 25th Regiment of Foot in the British Army) to be the land agent for surveying and developing their purchase with the understanding that he would become an American citizen first which he subsequently did.

Captain Charles Williamson took his job seriously and with a great deal of enthusiasm. He was also a man of big dreams. It was in the year 1794 that he undertook to bring to a reality his dream of a great city on the shores of Lake Ontario and Sodus Bay. This is how Troupesville in 1801 (and later Sodus Point) was founded and consisted in 1794 of a single cabin owned by a man named Joseph Colt. Joseph Colt was employed by Captain Williamson as a surveyor and tasked to survey and plot a city west of Sodus Bay and along the Lake Road to Salmon Creek; a distance of two miles from what is now Fitzhugh Street.

But there were storm clouds on the horizon for Captain Williamson in the guise of John Graves Simcoe, the Governor of Canada. Simcoe may have thought that the region south of Lake Ontario belonged to the King of England or more likely thought that he could bluff Williamson, sent a protest by messenger (this message was delivered to Williamson at Bath where he was currently staying by his friend Jeduthan Moffat) ordering him to vacate the country within the Old French Line. Simcoe had also said that if Williamson ever ventured into Canada he would put him in irons and send him to England. And so the stage was set for Williamson to meet the messenger in ten days’ time at Colt’s Cabin.

Williamson’s friends tried talk him out of going to the meeting but the tough former Scot would have none of it and instead rounded up 10 former American Revolutionary soldiers to be his bodyguards and accompany him to the meeting. He directed his bodyguards to meet the boat at the beach and not permit the twelve men who brought the messenger (Lieutenant Sheaffe) from the ship, to land but to row fifty yards out into the lake, and remain there until the conference was ended. Lieutenant Sheaffe initially refused to submit to these demands but when he was informed he would otherwise not meet with Williamson he accepted and directed his men if he did not return in an hour they were to come after him. He then was accompanied by one of Williamson’s guard to the cabin.

When Lieutenant Sheaffe arrived at the cabin he received two surprises. The first was Captain Williamson received him sitting behind a table on which lay a brace of loaded and cocked pistols within easy reach. This was a most inauspicious start for the meeting. The second surprise was considerably more pleasant as the two men realized that they had marched together through a section of England and had been on friendly terms.

Although their personal greetings were now cordial, their official conversation was anything but. Lieutenant Sheaffe presented the papers demanding Captain Williamson to vacate the land and requiring an answer. After reading the message, Captain Williamson said “I am a citizen of the United States and under their authority and protection I posess these lands. I know of no right his Britanic Majesty or Governor Simcoe has to interfere or molest me. The only allegiance I owe to any power is to the United States, and so far as being intimidated by people I have no connection with, I shall proceed with my improvements, and nothing but superior force shall make me abandon the place. “ Williamson then inquired if the protest was intended to apply to Sodus exclusively (It was not but rather to all the Indian lands purchased since the peace of 1783) and what was Governor Simcone’s intensions if the protest was disregarded (Unclear since Sheaffe was just the bearer of the message).

The conference ended in about an hour and then Sheaffe returned to his boat. This was not the end of the affair, however. Fearing for the protection of settlers in the Genesee and Sodus Bay region, he sent a post to Governor Clinton , to the Edmund Randolph who was the Secretary of State and also to General Knox, Secretary of War.
This correspondence caused such a stir that President Washington sent a letter to John Jay, the American minister at London, in which it characterized it as “the most open and daring of the British agents in America”.

You can read the letter from George Washington which was dated August 30th, 1794 by clicking the link below. (Please note you will need to parse down until you come to August 30th, 1794)

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/washington-the-writings-of-george-washington-vol-xii-1790-1794?q=George+Washington#lf1450-12_head_002

As we now know, nothing ever came of this protest from the Governor of Canada but think of this: the next time you are at a contentious meeting in Sodus Point just be thankful that it does not involve loaded guns on the table and require the President of the United States to get involved like the first meeting in our town!

Migrant Workers

 
Migrant worker
 
Migrant workers have been an important part of our area’s agricultural heritage for the last century. Often overlooked and under-appreciated their story is seldom told. The success of many of our local farms would not have been possible without them and that is even more so today then in the past. Bob Pearson grew up in Sodus and captured working and playing with migrant workers in his book Stinky’s Tales Growing Up in a Small Village in the 1940s and 1950s (2004). You will note two difference between the migrant workers of the mid 20th century and today. Seventy years ago, the migrant workers were mostly black and from the south while today the migrants are mostly Mexican. Another difference is in those days, young people from our area worked beside the migrant workers something that is almost unheard of today. Here is Bob Pearson’s story:
 
Migrant workers
 
Sodus, New York was the temporary address during the summer months for many Black Americans referred to as migrant workers. They picked the many fruit crops in our county, starting with sweet cherries in June and concluding with apples in October, prior to their return south to pick citrus fruit in Florida during the winter. On occasion some of the migrant workers set up residence in the community and took permanent jobs. When this happened the children were in the school systems. Our schools were integrated thusly.
During summer months, migrant workers would occasionally play baseball on a rare day off against one another or against other migrant teams in the area when these games occurred they were witnessed by many fans in the area. The talent of some of the fruit pickers was exceptional. These games took place against the backdrop of the post-Jackie Robinson era nationally, and during the Luke Easter era regionally. I can remember only one occasion when the white kids from the local teams played against the teams of young migrant workers. As I remember the game it went about four innings and the score was not very good for the white kids! White boys should have played against those guys more often. Actually they should have played with them more often ! Such were the times in the mid-century.
Easter hit plenty of home runs for Cleveland and twice attained the one hundred RBI mark in the American League. He finally had trouble solving the intricacies of the curve ball. While in the International League with Rochester and Buffalo, he continued his home run feats. Fans loved his presence.
Working in the orchards with the migrants was a job many of us did to make summer earnings. The workers loved Easter and men like him for their abilities. White young men would work in the orchards for the growers they knew and keep punch cards for tallying amounts of cherries that were picked by the migrants. No one I knew could pick cherries like the migrant pickers. This skill was their existence. Whenever my buddies or I went picking anything, we did not make very much based upon pound picked. In and around the business of cherries were many discussions of baseball abilities. There were very few Black baseball pitchers during the ear. There were many hitters like Easter that captured the imaginations of the fans. Baseball was a common language in the orchards.
The Easter followers were black and white. Talent was appreciated during the middle of the twentieth century despite skin color. One of the best discussions involved hypothetical match-ups of someone like Easter or Robinson against pitchers like the Yankee’s Eddie Lopat or Allie Reynolds. When the Dodgers and Yankees played one of their many TV World Series games, people of any color could make their evaluations. Sport became the best road to integration.
There were times during harvest seasons when young boys in the county (including Sodus boys) would load up a car with vegetables and/or fruit depending upon the season, and ride around throwing these products at many targets. This was good for throwing skill development, but not a positive for community relations. Sometimes the targets were mailboxes. Sometimes the targets were signs. Sometimes the targets were barns. Sometimes the targets were rooftops and sides of houses, trailers and temporary residences set up for migrants. Despite the spirit of Luke Easter and Jackie Robinson and despite the presence of Black students in our schools, we strayed over the good sense line at times.
On one occasion, one of the riders in one of the cars on such a mission of mischief was a local Black who was a resident year around in the village. It seemed an irony that we were throwing at the migrant homes on the throwing rides. He pointed out that we also were throwing at white occupied targets. We were an integrated group of hooligans.
The rides diminished almost overnight when a car came back with shotgun pellet holes in the trunk area of the automobile. These were said to have come from a fruit farmer who did not enjoy having fruit thrown at his property. He grew the apples but he sure as hell was not going to hear apples fall on his roof or hit his property. Suddenly new forms of teen-age fun developed. In a review of behavior, this form of juvenile behavior was pretty stupid. Fortunately the activity passed when we discover dating, weekend sports and other acceptable activities.

Tobagganing

 
If you grew up in Sodus Point in the 1940s and 50s, when the winter came it meant getting the toboggan out of storage. That also meant going up to the hill overlooking the first fairway on the golf course for that first death defying ride as told by Bob Pearson in his book Stinky’s Tales Growing Up in a Small Village in the 1940s and 1950s (2004).
 
 
Snow and Golf – A ride to remember for Charley Moss
 
The toboggan is a marvelous piece of winter apparatus. The six or eight foot long, two foot wide piece of highly varnished, thin maple wood could take several people down a snow-covered hill in a hurry. It had no runners and the board was curved up at the front to facilitate a plowing effect through deeper snow. Unlike a sled or skis, the toboggan can not be aimed very accurately. By coordinating the leans of the many passengers behind the driver, slight course adjustments could be made. The emphasis should be on the word slight.
In Sodus winter lore, there were numerous stories about wild rides on the wooden devices. One of the classic stories still retold at reunions recounts the episode of a lad who flew down a steep hill in the new snow and went through a barbed wire fence unseen in the blowing snow. He was really never the same due to psychological stress. The poor plastic surgery back in the late forties in the previous century also made the memories linger.
A toboggan rides nicely on top of most snows since it has so many square feet of bottom surface. It seems that the flying saucers that came later in my life were single seat, round toboggans. They, too, were rather reckless in nature since they could not be driven accurately. All this discussion about lack of steering ability becomes crucial to a mid-winter ride many in our group of friends will always remember.
One of the best places to ride down hill in winter was at the local golf course located high on successive hills above beautiful Sodus Bay. The golf course was usually unused for the months on November through March by the local golfers. This fact of life for area golfers made the course great for the toboggans of the area. Sleds would not work on the golf course since the snow needs to be plowed or packed for a sled. Skiers did not frequent the golf course since there was a rope tow for skiers a few miles away on the biggest hill in the county.
So there we were one night, with two toboggans and twenty young people. The fresh snow was deep and the clear wintry night was highlighted by stars. Twinkling lights of far off year-round cottages and shacks of ice fishermen out on the bay added to the aura of the crisp, clear night.
Democracy ruled on the hill as all in attendance at the toboggan party got their chance to “drive” the devices. This was a tradition and part of the tradition was a test of the driver’s courage since being up front was a more hazardous. Riding was fun, but seated up front was twice the thrill since you got the snowy blast in the face. You also got any trees, bushes, and random things like fences.
The driver usually could finish the ride even as others flew off on the way down. The reason anyone flew off was that there was not much to hang onto, and if you were grabbing the person in front of you this could cause a convulsion of drop-offs on the way down. The only thing available to grasp was a rope down each side of the toboggan if you chose that grip. The guy or gal up front had the rope handles to grasp so they were the most stable even in their danger spot.
Our buddy Charley’s turn to drive came up, and he was primed for the long ride down through the small trees on the hilly course. We had been there for nearly two hours and everyone was getting to the “hot chocolate” point for the evening. That was when everyone headed inside to warm up and debrief the various rides. Charley Moss (Mossgraber) was our tallest class member and was one of our unique friends. He loved basketball, and could shoot the lights out when his confidence overcame the pressure placed upon him by a sometimes overbearing father. Charley’s father was not there this night to dissuade his offspring, and our basketball star’s turn to drive was to be the event of the evening. His basketball prowess would not be of any assistance at the juncture!
The larger of the two toboggans was loaded up, and a push by others not doing the run got the last ride of the night underway. As a note of interest coming from years of snowy experiences, most accidents seem to occur on the “last ride” down or the “last ski run down.” This ride was to prove the point. Charley was not a verbal person and , in fact, he stuttered some. On this run down, his lack of quick and accurate verbal cues about leaning, coupled with the normally poor steering, made for a hellacious ride.
I was about four people back from Charley near the end of the toboggan, so I saw little
Of our fateful course. Due to blowing snow stirred up by the toboggan and because of the people in front of me, only the rush of the speed on the snow and the wind were evident. Charley must have seen the trees coming up on the section of the course but due to the speed of the run and the occasional slowness of his speech pattern, we connected with one of the young trees poking up through the snowy surface.
Nothing stops seven people on a toboggan faster than an immovable object. If the tree were a couple of years younger perhaps we could have run it over. However this particular tree had made it through to its stout, young life and was not going to give in to a bunch of Sodus kids on a toboggan.
Charley Moss took the initial shot right where his legs were spread at the front of the toboggan as the toboggan split apart on the tree. He hit the tree and then all the riders piled on top of him in rapid succession. He, like all of us, was heavily covered with a parka and ski cap so damage was minimal. The rest of us were banged up here or there, but the hot chocolate and a couple of days rest took care of the damage.
We sat in the snow laughing with Charley after the collision, despite his temporary agony. No matter what happens in any sporting venue, the humors of seeing a performer get his in the groin with a ball, another person or, in this case, a tree seems to bring on the laughter. The girls who were present did not quite understand the humor at Charley’s expense. Guys seem to understand the humor evoked at the expense of some male’s groin injury. Charley understood.
Life seems to be filled with memories of simple and sometimes painful situations. Long after the pain subsides the laughter can continue. A few years before Charley passed away, several of us laughed about “the” toboggan ride. He reaffirmed that he truly understood our laughter that night. God bless you, Charley Moss !

Swimming the Channel

 
During the 1940s and 1950s (and even into the 1980s) there was a “rite of passage” that held sway over the teens (especially boys!) of Sodus Point and the surrounding area. This was swimming the channel between the two piers jutting out of Sodus Bay. It was dangerous, foolhardy and reckless and several people over the years died doing it. But this was the 1940s and 50s and much to our parents chagrin, we did things like that in those days.
 
Bob Pearson grew up in Sodus and captured this beautifully in his book Stinky’s Tales Growing Up in a Small Village in the 1940s and 1950s (2004):
 
Swimming the Channel —– Guts city
“Rite of Passage.” That is the phrase used to describe an activity used to define courage or maturity during one’s youth. Ultimately one of the litmus tests for us waited at Sodus Point each and every summer of our lives. The channel demarcations were the two concrete piers extended out into the lake from Sodus Bay. On one was the lighthouse and on the other were seagulls and graffiti from various visitors to the far side over the years. There was nothing at all outstanding about a gray pier bathed in seagull crap and names from another era. The only purposes it served were to keep the channel from filling up with sand and control wave action in the narrow body of water.
There was one other draw for the body of water. Although it served as a passageway for boats it also served as a metaphorical passage into adulthood for those willing to risk the swim. Many were able to swim the width of the waters and back against the wishes of the Coast Guard and against better judgment. For me the body of water was an enigma. I had witnessed a young man dive in and die there. I knew it was illegal to swim there. There were serious currents running through the passage due to the numerous big boats plying the waters in the era. The waves of Lake Ontario carried down the length of the channel on certain days when the winds were right smack out of the north. It was a stupid thing to try to do , and the benefits were very limited. Who gave a crap if you swam the channel?
That is precisely why a teenager would try to do it.
When I made the decision to try my hand at the challenge, my planning included a row boat, my brother to row and a calm day. There was nothing glamorous about my effort. Dick and I rowed out away from the near side of the channel after rowing up the bay from the dock. I slipped quietly over the side and merely swam next to the rowboat to the other side. I climbed up on the breakwater, took notice of all the seagull crap and the graffiti, and clambered back into the rowboat more mentally exhausted than physically spent. We took the boat back to the rental dock near the ball diamond and went back to Sodus. Dick wasn’t interested in swimming that day. It probably came from the realization that I may not have been much help should he run into difficulty.
Unlike the efforts like those turned in by lifeguards who could swim over and back rather quickly I went slowly and methodically. I also did not “need” to swim back. One width was plenty for me, thank you! Certain lifeguards performed their feat under the collective gaze of large audiences of young ladies and other “beachlings”. I wanted to try it in the presence of a rowboat operator in the event something went awry. Even then I possessed some degree of common sense.
One lifeguard called “Gorilla”, with good reason, could swim over and back doing the butterfly stroke. This was the most exceptional swimming feat I have ever seen in my life. The stroke is very difficult and is limited to fifty or one hundred meters in pools. The lifeguard named John could do endless pull-ups on the beach while on duty. This entertained the young ladies and developed his upper body in an outstanding fashion. It also provided him with the upper body needed to perform the butterfly. The channel swim was his trademark, and the butterfly was his stroke of choice.
Even the Coast Guard guys once saw him and did not interfere with his remarkable passage over and back. They knew they were witnessing an unusual swimming effort. My timid, one-way trip next to a rowboat paled by comparison. I thought about my own mortality as I did my swim; “Gorilla” probably thought about all the nubile young ladies witnessing him.
This was summer life, full of choices, along the channel at Sodus Point.

The Murder of Jim Hall

 
In the 1870s and 1880s it sometimes seemed like our village was something out of the wild, wild west.
 
From History, Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Legends by Walter Henry Green 1947
 
From earliest days, Sodus Point had an appeal for people who enjoy a walk on the wild side. Many early arrivals included renegades, smugglers, gamblers, card sharks, whiskey dealers, trap robbers and a few “all-around criminals.” There was no shortage of colorful characters.
 
In the 1870s’s and early 80’s there was at Sodus Point a colored gentleman named James Hall. Jim was the proprietor of a saloon on a flatboat which was anchored against the shore of Sand Point (editor’s note: the area we think of as downtown nowadays). Being on the water he thought that his saloon was not under the jurisdiction of the United States, so he thought that he should not, and he would not take out a license to sell intoxicants. Occasionally he would be hauled into court and fined two or three hundred dollars, then he would come to court with a market basket on his arm which was half full of greenbacks all in fat rolls with a rubber band around each roll. From one of the fat rolls he would peel off the amount, pay his fine, return to his shack and continue to sell liquid refreshments without a license. Thus he contributed much more to the United States treasury than he would have if he had done business in the regular way.
 
In the village there was a large family of colored folks, descendants of one of Peregrine Fitzhugh’s slaves whom he released and to whom he gave a parcel of land. In this family were several grown-up sons. On days when there were crowds enjoying themselves at Sodus Bay, business was so good at Jim’s shanty that one man could not hand out the goods fast enough for the thirsty crowd, so he employed one of the grown-up sons of that family to assist him at the bar and, Alas! he had perfect confidence in him.
 
This assistant owned an ex-racing horse whose purse-winning days were over, and she was known as Old Flora, but she was still a tough and speedy mare.
 
Early one Monday evening about November 1, 1884, several black boys, members of aforesaid colored family, were in the village of Sodus, going from barroom to barroom from saloon to saloon and to any other place where they would be permitted to perform and playing lively tunes on a banjo and mouth-organ, and a slim wiry Negro from Syracuse was doing some pretty good buck and wing dancing. Between eight and nine o’clock, several people who had heard that they were in the village and putting on a pretty good show, went the rounds of all the business places in the business district looking for them and they could not be found. Later it was proven that for awhile between eight and nine o’clock they were not there.
 
The following evening they were playing in Sodus again and this time they were there during the entire evening.
About 8:30 o’clock Monday evening there was a fire at Sodus Point. It was Jim’s saloon. Being only a shanty there was no excitement until the next morning, then people began to inquire: Where’s Jim? Has anyone seen Jim? When it was found that he had not been seen since the fire, the ashes of the shanty were raked over and they came upon a grisly thing. It was the torso of Jim, the head, legs and arms had burned off. There was no suspicion of murder, or robbery. It was supposed that he had been overcome by heat and smoke.
 
A few days later one of the brothers of the assistant bartender, while talking about the fire, gave such a vivid and realistic account of a killing that it aroused the suspicion that there had been a robbery and murder and that he had been present or else some one who was there had described it to him. An investigation was started and in a few days several Negroes were arrested. There was a trial in which the testimony was confusion worse confounded. It was eventually proven that the Negro minstrels who had been performing in Sodus on Monday and Tuesday evenings were concerned in the murder but there were so many who testified that they had seen them Monday evening between eight and nine o’clock that it was difficult to prove that any of them had been gone long enough to go to Sodus Point and back.
 
In the midst of the trial Raconteur (story telling) migrated to the far west, and at that time the following account of it, seemed to have been firmly established. In fact it was not materially changed during the trial. When at eight o’clock Monday evening the minstrels disappeared it was because all but one of them went to the house of a Negro on Rotterdam Road, north of the railroad and near the woods. The slim wiry Negro from Syracuse was a very fast runner and instead of going with the others, he ran down Maple Avenue at racing speed as far as the Granger schoolhouse. There the assistant bartender was waiting for him with Old Flora hitched to a buggy and they ran the old racehorse all the way to Sodus Point.
 
Luck was with them, for when they entered the shack Jim was alone and with his back toward the door he was bending over a bench washing his hands. When they came in he turned to see who it was, and seeing his assistant went on washing his hands. The wiry Negro had a pitchfork handle under his overcoat and stepping behind Jim he struck him a terrific blow on the back of the head. He dropped to the floor, quivered violently for a moment, and was still. The assistant knew precisely where the basket of bills was kept, so there was not an instant’s delay. As they were about to leave, the Syracuse Negro said: “Why here we don’t want to leave this lamp burning”, and with the fork handle he knocked it off the bar. That was what started the fire. In a very few minutes after they entered the shack, tough Old Flora was racing back to the schoolhouse.
 
Straining every nerve for speed the wiry Negro ran up the road to the village. The others were waiting for him at the corner of Maple Avenue and Smith Street and at nine o’clock they were again playing and dancing in the saloons and barrooms. Tuesday evening the same Negroes were playing and dancing again in Sodus. This time they did not disappear and they were very, very conspicuous during the entire evening, particularly between eight and nine o’clock. That was what caused the confusion in the testimony.
 
Some witnesses swore positively that they had seen them Monday evening between eight and nine o’clock. Others swore just as positively that they had looked for them in every business place in Sodus at that time, and could not find them. The family of the assistant bartender all had good reputations; there was not a bad one among them. It is more than likely that the Syracuse Negro influenced them to go into it. It undoubtedly was he that did the planning and it was shrewdly conceived. the alibi was an excellent one. Had not the brother of the assistant bartender described the killing so realistically, it might never have been suspected but that Jim had been overcome by the heat and smoke in an accidental fire. However, the reckless manner in which members of the family displayed huge rolls of bills, eventually might have betrayed them. Raconteur then was employed in a Sodus drug store and a day or two after the fire, one of the family came in and bought some fiddle strings. When he paid for them he pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket that made the clerk’s eyes stick out. That was before there was any suspicion that there had been a robbery and murder.

Bayshore Amusement Park

truck
A rare photo of the Bayshore Amusement Park courtesy of Greg Switzer

Bayshore May 27 1954 Lyons NY Republican

————————–The above ad is from the May 27 1954 Lyons NY Republican————————–

Bayshore Amusement Park was located on the south side of Greig Street near what is now Krenzer’s Marine. It was set up in a vacant lot next to what used to be the roller skating rink. It was only in existence for a couple of summers during the 1950s. Several old-time Sodus Point residents have mentioned that is gave our village a “Coney Island” atmosphere during its short life span. Mrs. Helen Doreen was the proprieter.

The park had a number of attractions:

Ferris Wheel
Shooting Gallery – 22 shorts
Merry- go- round and other Kiddie Rides
Chair Swings
Roller Skate Ring
Floor Show
Dancing – Dancehall
Basketball Shooting

Evelyns Five Star Rangers 574x400

The above photo is Evelyn’s Five Star Rangers which was a Rochester band that played several times at the dance hall at the Bayshore Amusement Park. Think of them as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on steroids.

In the 1960s, the roller skating would morph into Krenzer’s roller skating rink. Wish you could relive those days of roller skating? Thanks to Merle Sweet you can:

https://www.facebook.com/marcie.mason.5/videos/10202822749384654/UzpfSTQxODcyOTM4ODE2ODA4Nzo4NDM4MjI1MDg5OTIxMDQ/

 

Roller Skating Memories:

 

Barbara Giglia remembers: I use to sweep the floors when I would skate for free. The cottage (next to it) was one of the old ice houses across the bay where they stored the ice blocks that later was converted to a cottage.

 

Kay Pennycoff-Gwilt remembers: My parents gave us each $1.00 for the evening ( .90 cents to get in the skating rink with .10 cents left for a pop! Such fun times!

 

Marilyn Garner remembers: There was an end door that opened up and the water was right there. A couple of people went out the door and into they bay while skating then they put a piece of wood across the open door.

 

An aerial view of the Roller Skating Rink (center on the water) circa 1967/1968. Photo courtesy of Bob Chase Jr.

Mrs. DoVille’s Ice Cream Cones

 
DoVilles Ice Cream Stand Photo
May DoVille’s Ice Cream Stand at Sodus Point. Today, this is used as Hot’s Point’s ice cream window. Photo courtesy of Kelly Grey (current owner of Hotspoint)
 
Before it was Hotspoint, it was DoVille’s Ice Cream Stand. From the 1920s until the 1950s it was known throughout the county for one thing: May DoVille’s home made waffle ice cream cones. May was a fixture of Sodus Point for over 35 years and people still talk about those wonderful cones she made. Glenn Proseus ( Mrs. DoVille great nephew) tells the story of Sampson (a big St. Bernard)  who loved those cones and given any opportunity would snatch one from any unaware customer . Mrs. DoVille would then replace the cone much to the delight of the customer and Sampson.
 
A 1952 newspaper article tells the story of this “grey haired lady with a friendly smile” and her wonderful concoction:
 
Click the link below to read this article and size it appropriately…….
 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OFecRr7OuPdTRlRXhvNEJUX28