Category Archives: Endwell NY

Grandparents and Aunt Rita #AtoZChallenge

G is for Grandparents and Aunt Rita. Seventh of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

Before my brothers were born, my early childhood family team was my parents, maternal grandparents (Tony and Liz Laurence, who we called Boom and Gramps) and my mom’s younger sister Aunt Rita. We shared a large farmhouse with my grandparents in Altamont, N.Y. — and Aunt Rita lived nearby in Albany.

Maternal grandparents and Aunt Rita

But families grow and change. So along came my brothers, then dad got a transfer to the Binghamton area from his GE job in Schenectady — and before you knew it we were arriving in Endwell and my grandparents and aunt became episodic visitors.

Christmas 1958: A visit from my mom’s parents Boom and Gramps and her sister Aunt Rita. The baby doll notwithstanding, I also got a new bike that year (parked behind me) which gave me freedom of travel around the neighborhood with my many neighborhood friends. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

The holiday schedule

During my elementary years, my parents worked out an equitable holiday schedule. My maternal grandparents came to our house for Christmas — and as shown above, my Aunt Rita joined them before her eventual move to San Diego, California. For Thanksgiving and Easter, we piled into the car for the three-hour drive back to my grandparents’ house at the farm.

In the summer, my brothers and I would travel on our own by train (and later bus) to visit Boom and Gramps. I went by myself at first — boarding the Delaware and Hudson Railroad in Johnson City, N.Y. and debarking at the Altamont train station, where my grandmother met me.

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Landmarked Altamont, N.Y. train station, now used as a library (2011). I traveled on my own to visit my mom’s parents, boarding the Delaware and Hudson Railroad in Johnson City, N.Y. and debarking at the Altamont train station, where my grandmother met me. Photo: Doug Kerr, Altamont, N.Y.

Later my mom sent my younger brother Mark with me — and I spent much of the trip distracting him, especially when the train went through a dark, frightening tunnel en route.

A spirit of independence

When train service ended, my mom put us on the bus. Usually, I went by myself for a week (my grandmother was in charge of me) and my brothers traveled together for a separate visit (overseen by Gramps).

“I would never send you alone today,” my mom told me years later. “But back then, things were safer.” And I’m glad they were — because those lone trips to visit my maternal grandparents fostered a spirit of independence during my elementary years.

Visiting Grandpa Charboneau

My dad’s father, William Ray Charboneau, was another story. Grandpa Charboneau was was older than my mom’s parents — and a widower [my paternal grandmother Mary “Molly” (Owen) Charboneau had died when was 4]. So it was on our  family to drive north of Utica, N.Y. to visit him and my dad’s brothers, who lived nearby.

My dad’s father, Grandpa Charboneau (1958). Grandpa C was a widower and older than my mom’s parents, so it was on our family to drive north of Utica, N.Y. to visit him and my dad’s brothers, who lived nearby. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

Grandpa Charboneau lived in a small house in Holland Patent, N.Y. (such a cool name, I thought) with a stream out back and an elementary school across the street. Around the corner, my dad’s oldest brother Uncle Owen and Aunt Gig ran a grocery/convenience store, which they lived above with Gig’s mother “Ma Mere.”

Grandpa Charboneau’s house as it looks today (2015). Visiting my dad’s father wasn’t as much fun as visiting my mom’s parents at the farm. Much better was stopping by my Uncle Owen’s grocery/convenience store near Grandpa C’s house. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Visiting Grandpa Charboneau’s house wasn’t as much fun as visiting the farm — but my brothers and I made due with fishing for pollywogs in the creek out back or hitting the playground at the school across the street.

Much better was stopping at Uncle Owen’s store and climbing up the stairs to the cozy apartment above — an experience that so impressed my brother Mark that he went on to a career in the supermarket industry, including a brief stint as a small grocery proprietor.

So although we kids had no nearby relatives during my elementary years, my parents did a good job of keeping us connected to extended family — an effort I appreciate as I continue researching my ancestral heritage.

Up next: H is for Howdy Doody and Hooper School. Please stop back.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Flooding Susquehanna River #AtoZChallenge

F is for Flooding Susquehanna River. Sixth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

My childhood home in Endwell, N.Y., was located two blocks from the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in Broome County, N.Y.

The schools I attended were on elevated ground well above the flood plain. But on my street, the river was a constant presence during my elementary years. And in spring, the flooding Susquehanna River was the stuff of childhood nightmares.

“A river way over there.”

My dad bought our family’s first house, a small Cape Cod, in the late 1950s without realizing how close it was to the Susquehanna.

“The real estate agent stood in the back yard, pointed at some trees in the distance and said there was a river ‘way over there,’ ” Dad told me. “Well, the following spring, the river flooded and the water was lapping at the edge of our back yard!”

Flooding Susquehanna River (circa 1960). It was disconcerting to see the river lapping so close to the backyard swing set where my brothers and I played during drier times! My classmates Diane and Louie had to motorboat out to their houses shown in the distance. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

An unnerving experience

The Susquehanna at flood stage was unnerving — water as far as the eye could see out our kitchen window, where I watched my classmates Diane and Louie on the next block travel home in small motorboats to houses that seemed to float atop the water.

When the river rose, grownups moved cars to higher ground and everyone crossed their fingers that the waters would not reach their homes!

Flood waters at Malverne Rd. and Shady Drive (circa 1960). That’s our yellow and white Pontiac at left. When the river rose there was usually a call for the adults to move their cars to higher ground, so this photo was probably taken as the flood waters ebbed. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

As a child, I was among the hopeful each spring — yet I still slept fitfully in my second floor bedroom and awoke with a start from troubling dreams of the house filling with water from the uncontrollable Susquehanna River.

Kids eye view of the flooding Susquehanna River (circa 1960). My brothers Mark (in red) and Jeff (in front of him, to the right), joined by other boys from the block, look on in awe at the vast floodwater landscape. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

A return to normal

But after the spring freshet subsided, the land was lush and green. The Italian family on the next block grew a huge vegetable garden behind our back yard; the pear tree by their house bloomed and grew heavy with fruit; and every puddle brimmed with tiny toads for us children to catch.

And by summer, swarms of lightening bugs glowed in the night as I sighed with relief that the mighty Susquehanna River had once again spared our home from its swirling waters.

Up next: Grandparents and Aunt Rita. Please stop back.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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En-Joie Pool and Elk’s Bake Shop #AtozChallenge

E is for En-Joie Pool and Elk’s Bake Shop. Fifth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

During my elementary years Endwell, N.Y., was a bedroom community for folks who worked in the big local industries in Endicott (IBM and Endicott Johnson Shoes) and Johnson City (General Electric, where my dad worked).

So most out-of-neighborhood entertainment for us kids required traveling as well — usually to Endicott, which was closest. And one of the prime spots in the summertime was En-Joie Pool in Ideal Park.

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Ideal Park, Endicott, N.Y. with swimming pool. This is how En-Joie Pool looked when Ideal Park was first established. Source: George F. Johnson Memorial Library

Access to the pool in the public park was available for a small fee, and everyone from the neighborhood went there. You changed out of your clothes in the clubhouse, put them into a wire basket and got a long metal tag with a corresponding number that hooked around your bathing suit strap.

Then off you went to zoom down the slide or more gingerly descend the stairs into the water (that was me!) — depending on your temperament. There were also learn-to-swim classes in the morning, which were not for the faint of heart.

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En-Joie Pool, Endicott, N.Y. This is how I remember the pool, with its tall slide and dozens of children lining up to enter the cool water.. Source: George F. Johnson Memorial Library

“In the mornings that was the coldest water in town,” recalled a neighbor’s cousin when a bunch of us met up for a reunion in Endwell last year. A chill he has not forgotten in the decades since!

What stays with me is the raucous noise of dozens of children cavorting in the pool, diving at the deep end (for the more adept swimmers), careening endlessly down the tall slide and generally having a rowdy time — quite a difference from my earlier solitary life on the farm.

Elk’s Bake Shop

Elk’s Bake Shop, Endicott, N.Y. (1993). This Art Deco storefront welcomed generations of pastry lovers — including me during my elementary years. Photo: Molly Charboneau

There were concession stands in the park, but none could compare to the nearby Elk’s Bake Shop on Endicott’s Washington Ave. The bakery was located next to the movie theater, and I can still conjure up the wonderful aroma of baked goods wafting out to lure you in.

Entering Elk’s Bake Shop was like being transported into a wonderland — particularly during my elementary years when I could peer directly into the bakery cases. I ate my first black-and-white cookies there — and my first flaky elephant ears.

Inside Elk’s Bake Shop in Endicott, N.Y. (1993). I ate my first black-and-white cookies and flaky elephant ears here — and learned to love their Czech specialties like kolachky pastries and lekvar-filled cookies. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Elk’s Bake Shop also specialized in confections that appealed to the local Czech population, selling kolachky pastries and lekvar-filled triangle cookies — both of which I grew to love while living in Endwell.

I last stopped at Elk’s Bake Shop for pastries in 1993, when I was in town for a high school reunion — and I am glad I did, because sadly it has since closed for good.

Fortunately, on that visit I also purchased a set of Czech cookie cutters and a recipe for zazvornici, a ginger sugar cookie — which I later baked for family and friends one holiday season — thus keeping Elk’s spirit alive!

Up next: F is for Floods in spring and Fishing in Norwich. Please stop back!

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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