Tag Archives: Molly Charboneau

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.

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.

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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Darn: I change fifth grade classes #AtoZChallenge

Sepia Saturday 514. D is for Darn: I change fifth grade classes: Fourth 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!

Starting with fifth grade, we Baby Boomers were disbursed among rental and other classrooms around Endwell while the school district scrambled to build larger facilities.

Methodist Church classroom drama

That’s how I ended up attending the first half of fifth grade in a classroom attached to the local Methodist Church — the scene of a major drama in my young life.

Methodist Church classrooms in 1993. This is where I attended the first half of fifth grade in rented classrooms — and where I got the shocking news that I’d be moved to another class after spring break! Photo: Molly Charboneau

I began fifth grade in Mr. Fenson’s class. He was a conservative , suit-wearing Nixon supporter and just nerdy enough that all one of my female classmates and I had to do was look at him, or each other, to burst into riots of laughter.

I was a veteran of Miss George’s strict fourth grade class (more on her in my letter M post) so being able to laugh until my sides hurt in fifth grade may have been an antidote.

But apparently not a good one, because next thing you know I was called into a one-on-one midyear meeting with our school principal Mr. Pierce — an event so earth shattering I entered it in my diary.

Thursday, Feb. 3, 1961, 11:45 — Today Mr. Pierce told me I am going to have Mr. Hazlett for a teacher when we move to the Junior High School. I will always try to hate him. ALWAYS.

A major change at a new venue

Wow, the humiliation! I didn’t know anyone who had changed their class midyear. So after spring break, I harrumphed into Mr. Hazlett’s fifth grade class in the Junior High building — the next place they housed us — and tried my best to dislike him.

Former Endwell Junior High building in 1993. Mr. Hazlett’s classroom was to the right of the door. I was switched to his class for the second half of fifth grade — and got to like it despite initial resistance. The building later housed  a credit union. Photo: Molly Charboneau

But he was young and handsome, wore his necktie loose with his shirtsleeves rolled up — and his pretty wife Sherry sometimes dropped by the side door near our classroom to visit. So a month later I had changed my tune.

Wednesday, Mar. 15, 1961,  4:00 — I like Mr. Hazlett much better than Mr. Fenson. Mr. Hazlett never yells. Mr. Fenson used to yell a lot.

My parents had a hand

Decades later I was reminiscing with my dad about my midyear fifth-grade class change, and it turns out my parents were behind the whole thing. How did I not know this before?

“You were doing terrible in school,” Dad said. “We wanted to get your little girlfriend’s class changed but her mom was Class Mother, so you had to switch instead.”  Turns out I did well in Mr. Hazlett’s class, so in retrospect the change was a good one.

True, when I told Mr. Hazlett I wanted to be a lawyer or a private detective as my vocation, he said, “Why don’t you try something more realistic, like being a nurse or a teacher?”

But I ended up becoming a genealogist and family historian — plenty of legal and detective work there — so I guess I got the last laugh!

Up next: E is for En-joie Pool and Elks Bake Shop. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of the other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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