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First Meeting in our Town

c-williamson-geneva- 600x650 hist-color
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

Railroad Y and Bunk House

 

Railroad Y 622x430

The end of an era: September 1992. This picture shows the demolition of the Pennsylvania Rail Road bunk house that also housed the restaurant Railroad Y.

Bunk House 577x430
 
The bunk house in an earlier time. It was located next to the Franklin House on Sentell Street. First floor: On the left side was the office; middle was the Railroad Y restaurant; right side was a recreation area for the railroad workers. Second floor was the bunk beds for the workers. Photo courtesy of Henry Zerbe.
 
When I interview the “old timers” of Sodus Point and the subject of the Railroad Y comes up, they speak in hushed, almost reverent tones like a loved one who has passed away. Such was the affect that this humble, unassuming establishment had on many people who lived in Sodus Point in the 1940s and 50s.
 
Fred Harrington shared this memory of the Railroad Y:
 
“Inside the Railroad Y was a plaque that had The Creed of the Brakeman’s on it:
 
I’m not allowed to drive the train.
The whistle I can’t blow.
It’s not my place to say how far the train’s supposed to go.
It’s not my place to shoot off steam,
Or even ring the bell.
But let the @#$%& jump the track and see who catches hell!”
 
Doug Stark sums up the little railroad restaurant that could:
 
Another vivid memory was walking up past the malthouse and customs house to the rail yard’s restaurant (This restaurant was called the “Railroad Y”). It was in an unmarked and unpainted two story building that was pretty much the color of coal dust.
 
If you were not local, you would never know that it was there because the trade was mostly walk-in from the train crews, Inside it had green and somewhat white/gray linoleum flooring that had seen better days. The lunch and dinner counter could handle the train crews that worked around the clock. The crews would come in literally covered in dust to grab some of the great wholesome homemade food that was prepared by local ladies who worked as the cooks. It was the best and the prices were dirt cheap. The seasonal apple and berry pies could not be beat anywhere. Some of the ladies who cooked even sold custom embroidered pillow cases for $1 or $2 depending upon how fancy you wanted the design. When you walked in regardless of the hour, it always felt like going home.
 
The following memories of the Railroad Y come from Henry Zerbe who is our resident former 34 year Railroad employee and expert on all things to do with railroads:
 
The Railroad Y was a small restaurant (about the size of a normal sized living room) located on the first floor and in the middle of the railroad bunk house.  There was not a sign on the outside so usually only the railroad workers or local residents knew about it. It consisted of a counter and a few tables. People normally ate at the counter and rarely used the tables. It was open 24 hours a day during the high season and closed during the winter due to very few railroad workers being there. Emma Hill, Ruth Buzzell and Stuart Balch’s mother and 2 sisters were some of the cooks. He remembers Stu Sill and a policeman being regular customers along with the railroad workers. One problem that the railroad workers sometimes ran into was the occasional people from out of town who would stop in to hear stories from the railroad workers. This was a problem because if you were working for the railroad and only worked 4 hours that day, you only had 20 minutes to eat and that left no time for talking. If you were working 6 hours or longer you had 40 minutes and could do it.
 
The Railroad Y has come and gone but like deceased loved ones, its memory lives on.

Native Americans in Sodus Bay

 
Native-Americans-Fishing-450x380
 
The above scene is taken from our first outdoor mural depicting Native Americans spear fishing off of Chimney Bluffs in the 1450s. But how much do we really know about the Native Americans on Sodus Bay?
 
The short answer is not very much. From the oral traditions of Native Americans, we know that Sodus Bay was shared by the Seneca and Cayuga tribes approximately down the center of the Bay. Both tribes used the Bay as their summer homes because of the fishing, abundant game, berries and chestnut trees. Both tribes left our area in the second half of the 1700s because they knew Europeans would be soon arriving. By that time, they knew disease and death would follow as a result.
 
When discussing Native Americans and their influence on our area’s history, it is important to have a proper perspective. Archeologist estimate that humans inhabited our Bay for approximately the last 10,000 years. A full 95% of that time was by the Native Americans and only 5% by Europeans and subsequent Americans.
 
Because there are no written records among the Native Americans about Sodus Bay much of there history on the Bay has been lost. We do have some tantalizing clues from amateur archeology done by Bill Huff, Jr. These clues involve where did the summer camp exist?
 
There are strong indications that the main summer camp for the Native Americans was located in the Sodus Bay Heights area. In the field around where the water tower now stands, hundreds of Indian arrow heads were excavated by Bill Huff, Jr. in the 1950s. Other folks (such as Bud and Jean Seymour as well as Henry Zerbe) have also found them on their property. It makes a lot of sense to locate your summer camp in such a strategic area. You have easy access to the bay, a great view of much of the Bay so you can see any threats coming at you from that direction and occupying the high ground makes for a more defendable location.
 
When Bill Huff, Jr. was young, he found what appeared to be the stone remnants of 2 weir in Maxwell Creek south of where Maxwell Creek B&B now exists and before the waterfalls. The two weirs were about 15 feet a part. A fish weir is an obstruction placed in tidal waters, or wholly or partially across a river, to direct the passage of fish. A weir may be used to trap fish such as salmon as they attempt to swim upstream, or eels as they migrate downstream. Alternatively, fish weirs can be used to channel fish to a particular location, such as to a fish ladder. Weirs were traditionally built from wood or stones. The use of fishing weirs as fish traps dates back prior to the emergence of modern humans, and have since been used by many societies across the world including Native Americans. He also found another weir on 3rd creek.
 
Fish_Trap_BKG
 
After being trapped in a weir, the fish could be speared or just hand thrown onto shore.
 
Assuming the Viking Spearhead found at Charles Point was brought here by the Native Americans, it would indicates that the Native Americans were spear fishing at that location as well.
 
It is a pity that we know so little about these people who constitute so much of our past!

Ling Eaters

 

The following come from Bill Huff, Jr. and Elsie Parsons

 

“Ling Eaters” (also known as Lingers and if from the south part of Sodus Point: Salt House Boys) was an expression meant to be non-complimentary of people living in Sodus Point. It originated in the 1940s from people in Sodus (we called them Apple Knockers because of their Dutch heritage) and eventually folks from Clyde and Lyons also adopted the term for Sodus Pointers. Some old timers still use the term although it is rarely used today.

 

To eat Ling was about as low as one could get. A ling was a fish called Burbot but commonly known as a Dogfish or Ling. It is not a highly priced eating fish. It has a connotation not unlike how we consider Carp today.

 

dogfish ling                                                        Dogfish – Ling  (not particularly good looking is it?)

 

Ling Eaters took this name for themselves in stride mainly because in those days everyone in Sodus Point had a nickname and this was considered just another generic nickname.