Tag Archives: Molly Charboneau

Recap and Reflections on Endwell: My Elementary Years #AtoZChallenge

Recap and Reflections on Endwell: My Elementary Years — Including all twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Thanks for joining me on the journey and leaving so many supportive comments along the way!

When the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge ended on April 30, I was happy to be among the survivors who completed the online marathon — for the third time!

After generating twenty-six posts in just one month, I am craving a return to the more leisurely pace of weekly blogging as I continue to explore my ancestors’ lives and the research techniques I used to find them.

In 2008, I made a nostalgic visit to my second childhood home. At right is a silver birch tree that my dad planted. “Endwell: My Elementary Years” was my theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge — adding memoir to my family history blog to leave a digital diary like we genealogists wish our ancestors had left for us. Photo by former classmate Mike McQueen

Yet I thoroughly enjoyed taking a deep dive into my childhood this year and writing about my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y. — particularly as a positive creative outlet during the coronavirus quarantine.

Stay tuned, as I may follow up with a sequel about my early adolescence next year! Meanwhile, please read on for my RECAP and REFLECTIONS on this year’s A to Z Challenge.


Below are links to all A to Z posts about Endwell: My Elementary Years…where my genealogy journey germinated. Please check out any you may have missed. Comments are still open on the later posts — and I love hearing from readers!

2020: Malverne Road and Shady Drive in Endwell, N.Y., the crossroads of my elementary years. Photo: Amy L. Williamson


Excellent participant list. Overall, I found this A to Z to be less hectic than in the past — in part because the participant list identified genealogy and family history bloggers to help me focus my visits/comments. I’m glad the organizers listened to our requests for this!

Quality over quantity. I mainly visited/revisited A to Z bloggers who made thoughtful comments on my blog — and in turn, I gave their posts my attention. I also visited/revisited bloggers I met during past challenges. I learned so much from all the blog posts I read and commented on — and from the comments I received. These connections were particularly meaningful as we collectively sheltered at home during the rollout of the COVID-19 quarantine.

1957: My family’s move to Endwell, N.Y. made the paper during my elementary years. The “three children” in the last sentence are my younger brothers and me. (Village Notes, Altamont Enterprise, 19 July 1957, p. 5). Source: NYS Historic Newspapers

Embracing memoir. My blog focuses on ancestral research — exploring my forebears’ lives and placing them in historical context.

But it’s also important to include ourselves in the mix — to leave behind an online diary like the ones we wish our ancestors had left.

So I followed up the early childhood theme from my last A to Z Challenge with blogs this year about my elementary years. And I was again gratified by the positive feedback and parallel childhood experiences that visiting bloggers shared.

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You  made my third A to Z Challenge so rewarding. And I hope you will stay with me throughout the year as my genealogy journey continues!

Up next: After a brief break, regular blogging resumes at Molly’s Canopy. Please stop back!

 © 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Zap! Adolescence begins #AtoZChallenge

Sepia Saturday 519. Z is for Zap! Adolescence begins. Last 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. I’m grateful to be completing the challenge! Thanks for joining me on the journey.

By the end of my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y., I had grown in ways I might not have on our Altamont, N.Y. farm.

I learned how to negotiate social interactions with the 50-or-so kids on my block — and with my network of Baby Boom friends at school.

My connections to nature deepened with annual trips to Cape Cod, weekend jaunts to our lakeside camp and living near the flood-prone Susquehanna River.

My family all dressed up for Easter (1964). I was fourteen when when this photo was taken — starting into my teens and all decked out in my white hat and gloves. Front from left, my brother Jeff, sister Amy and brother Mark. Back from left, Gramps [my maternal grandfather Tony Laurence], me, my dad Norm Charboneau and Boom [my ever-fashionable maternal grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence]. Stretched behind us is Malverne Rd. in Endwell, N.Y. — the backdrop of my elementary years. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau
Through my teachers, late-night radio, television, library visits and reading I also became aware of the larger world beyond my small suburban town. And thus I transitioned into my teenage years.

Crushes and conflicts

A sure sign that adolescence was upon me was an endless stream of boys and crushes that began to populate my diary. I barely wrote anything when I was twelve — and those entries were mostly in pencil and often about family events like visits to my grandparents.

A five-year diary much like mine. A sure sign that adolescence was upon me was an endless stream of boys and crushes that began to populate my diary — only to be replaced by more serious entries toward the end of my first teen year.

But when I turned thirteen in 1963 all that changed. I began writing in pen, I journaled every day in much bolder cursive  — and the main subject was boys.

Who I had a crush on, who my friends liked and the seemingly endless list of places where we could and did run into boys — at school, at skating parties and dances, at ice cream socials, at the lake, at sports events, when they came down to our block and even at church!

Although I also wrote about conflicts with my girlfriends from the neighborhood and from school. We argued, we stopped speaking, then we reconsidered and resumed hanging around together — all part of the mix-and-match of sorting out the dawning teenage years.

A sudden life-changing event

Yet while lighter, flirtatious entries dominated the early months of my teen diary — near the end of the year a sudden, life-changing event marked the true dividing line between my elementary years and adolescence.

That event was the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy.

The Kennedy motorcade in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963. Near the end of 1963, when I was thirteen, a sudden, life-changing event marked the true dividing line between my elementary years and adolescence. That event was the assassination of U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy. Photo: U.S. National Archives

The day it happened, our principal came on the Junior High loud speaker in the afternoon and unexpectedly called us all back to homeroom. What could it be, we wondered?

Once we were seated in our respective classrooms he made the shocking PA announcement that the president had been killed. I started to cry as the reality washed over me — and I headed for my diary soon after I got home.

Nov. 22, 1963 The president is dead!!!! John F. Kennedy was killed today by 2 bullets & died in his wife’s arms! I cried for hours in school! It’s so sad! He was such a great man!

The stuff of life decisions

School was cancelled for the next few days. While my parents and siblings led a normal life upstairs, I took up residence in our basement rec room, glued to non-stop TV news coverage — unusual back then — of the assassination and its aftermath.

Which is how I ended up seeing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV! And where I watched JFK’s funeral procession. And where I started weighing my first life decisions.

Nov. 25, 1963 – I hope to further my knowledge by reading a lot! I want to go into politics if I can! It will require a lot of reading.

Dec. 3, 1963 – I’ve decided to be a writer. I was talking to Dad & he said the ideal profession was writing! I could work for a newspaper! Maybe I could even write about JFK!

Zap! Adolescence begins

All of this happened long before independent investigations by attorney Mark Lane, filmmaker Oliver Stone and others raised doubts about the official version of the Kennedy assassination.

Yet even at thirteen, I sensed that this unprecedented event — which rose above my usual day-to-day concerns about boys and ice cream socials and trips to the lake — demanded a more mature, thoughtful  approach than anything that had happened during my elementary years.

And Zap! That’s how my adolescence began.

Please stop back on May 4 for the wrap-up post: “Recap and Reflections on Endwell: My Elementary Years.” Your comments as always are greatly appreciated! Meanwhile, please visit the posts of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Youthful pastimes: Parties, skating and dust-bowl biking #AtoZChallenge

Y is for Youthful Pastimes: Parties, skating and biking in the dust bowl. Eighth 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!

At our high school reunions in Endwell, N.Y., my former classmates and I are always amazed by how small our childhood houses and bedrooms were.

“How did we live in such small spaces?” someone always asks. The answer: We had basement rec rooms in winter and the great outdoors year-round to engage in our many youthful pastimes during my elementary years.

Baby Boom birthday parties

With about 50  Baby Boom children on our block, there was never a shortage of parties going on — since it was always some kid’s birthday. Each party had its own guest list — and every family had their preferred venue.

Baby Boom birthday party in our unfinished basement. I am standing at left, my brother Mark is in the  striped shirt, and my brother Jeff is in a white shirt and tie. This must have been a party for my brothers’ friends because I am the only older kid. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

At our house, we held parties in the basement — at first unfinished and later an official rec room after I helped my dad install drywall, wallpaper and wainscoting. But other families used their large kitchens to better tend to us partygoers.

If my brothers went to or hosted a party, then the kids their age usually attended. This prevented a complete mob scene of too many kids at any event.

Young ladies who lunch. This all-girl party features children around my age, who were mainly female. I am at the far left, partially obscured, as we enjoy some impressive looking ice cream! Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

The same was true for me — which often meant girls-only parties, since most of the children around my age were female.


Rollerskating was big on our street — especially in the summertime. We would clip metal-wheeled skates onto our sneakers and skate in the road or speed skate down the steeper driveways. My legs always felt wobbly after hours of skating on the cement and blacktop.

Metal outdoor roller skates. My legs always felt wobbly after skating on cement and blacktop during my elementary years. Image: Made-In-Chicago Museum

Sometimes, we also skated inside roller rinks — like the one in nearby Johnson City where I learned various stops, starts and manouevers to earn my Girl Scout skating badge.

This gave way to ice skating in winter. At the end of the block, there was a shallow, damp area near the creek that froze over with a couple of inches of ice — and we kids would slide around amid tufts of grass practicing turns and skating backwards.

Ice skates. We kids practiced our ice skating technique on a frozen area at the end of our street and at larger, organized skating parties. Photo: Samantha Marx

Then there were the official ice skating parties at a frozen, flooded field near the Junior High — a great meet-and-greet spot of particular interest as I approached my teens.

Jan. 5, 1962 – Dear Diary, Today I went to the Junior High School skating party. I saw Danny there. I haven’t seen him since October. I hope he goes to the next party.

Biking around the neighborhood

Malverne Rd. and Shady Dr. in Endwell, N.Y. (2020). One favorite biking challenge was to ride uphill on adjoining Shady Drive, then pelt downhill as fast as possible and make a sharp right into Malverne Road at the bottom. . Photo: Amy L. Williamson

Riding our bikes was the main neighborhood pastime during the warmer months.

Our parents let us kids ride throughout our Endwell enclave near the Susquehanna River — which fostered a sense of freedom and built our physical skills.

One favorite biking challenge was to ride uphill on adjoining Shady Drive, then pelt downhill as fast as possible to be the first one to make a sharp right onto Malverne Road at the bottom.

Red vintage bike. I had a blue bike similar to this that I rode around our neighborhood and over to the dust bowl during my elementary years. Photo: Jill Wellington/pixabay

Another was to ride over to the dust bowl — a hollowed out patch left behind after the flooding Susquehanna receded.

The dust bowl was filled with dry, crumbly dirt all summer. We kids loved to go there and ride our bikes in endless circles — stirring up huge clouds of dust that coated our clothes, much to the chagrin of our mothers.

And around fourth or fifth grade, some of us from Miss George’s class liked to meet up and ride down River Road to the old Patterson-Hooper Cemetery to visit the graves of the characters we portrayed in her historic school plays. This was a great early introduction to my later cemetery research as a genealogist!

Visiting the library

Another youthful pastime was going overtown to the George F. Johnson Memorial Library in nearby Endicott — then housed in the former Johnson mansion shown below. What an awe-inspiring experience to go there as a youngster!

Original home of the George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, N.Y. What an awe-inspiring experience to go there during my elementary years — wandering the rooms, poking through the shelves and partaking of the building’s magical aura. Source: George F. Johnson Memorial Library/Flickr

I recall passing through huge double doors to the lobby — which had a librarian desk, adjoining rooms full of books, a hallway with periodicals on wooden poles, and an imposing central staircase with a lustrous wood balustrade rising straight ahead.

My mom was a lifelong library user, so she often took me with her — and I loved wandering the rooms, poking through the shelves and checking out books to read at home.

The building exuded a rich smell of knowledge — the combination of printer’s ink, wood polish and the unique scent of the house itself creating a magical aura.

Whenever I discover similar libraries during my genealogy travels, I fondly remember the GFJ Library — which fostered my love of learning and broadened my sense of the world during my elementary years.

Up next, Z is for Zap: Adolescence begins! (and a victory lap, since I survived my third A to Z Challenge.) Please stop back!

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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