Letter O: Fifteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!
When I was growing up, Oneonta in Otsego County, N.Y. was a place my family passed through on weekend road trips. The city marked the halfway point as we drove along Route 7 between our home near Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. and my maternal grandparents’ farmhouse in Altamont, Albany County, N.Y.
Just about the time that my two younger brothers, two younger sisters and I were getting tired of sing alongs and road games, Oneonta would appear before us. This meant a welcome stop for lunch and curly fries at the Pink Pig, maybe some ice cream at Carroll’s and a chance to run around a bit.
When heading northeast, my dad — who was all about short cuts — would make a left turn just before we hit traffic on Main Street and drive uphill, then turn right and pass south of Oneonta State, then another right and back down to Route 7 for our lunch stop. Dad would reverse this maneuver on our trip home.
We did this for years as a family — but we were always preoccupied with getting to our destination. So imagine my surprise when I found an ancestral connection to Oneonta, which until then had been a mere stopover in our lives.
My grandmother’s college years
Mom told us that her mother Elizabeth Christina (Stoutner) Laurence went to college. Sorting through yearbooks and other materials inherited from my maternal grandmother, I discovered that she attended the Oneonta Normal School (now the State University of New York at Oneonta or “Oneonta State”).
The Oneonta Normal School was founded in 1889 as part of a statewide effort to expand public education and train teachers — among them my grandmother, who attended in the early 1920s and taught at a schoolhouse near her Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. home town.
While in college, she lived on Elm Street near the campus, a side street that we drove right by on Dad’s short cut through Oneonta — though we were oblivious to its significance to our family!
My grandmother elopes
A more dramatic connection to Oneonta involves my maternal grandparents’ marriage — which I wrote about in A Valentine’s Day love story: My grandmother elopes.
Elizabeth’s mother did not want her to marry the boy next door from Gloversville — my Italian-American grandfather Antonio. W. Laurence [Di Lorenzo]. But they continued seeing one another in secret until my grandmother turned 18 and could marry without permission.
Until the day he died, my grandfather Tony carried my grandmother’s calling card in his wallet. On it she had handwritten her Elm Street address in Oneonta, which is where I suspect he fetched her when they eloped and married in 1924.
Amazing that my family drove blissfully through Oneonta for all those years and never even knew!
Are there places where your family regularly traveled that might hold a secret family connection? Take a closer look. You may be delightfully surprised by what you find.
Up next: Proud to be a family history blogger. Please stop back.
© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.