The Miracle of Limestone Hill

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To anyone born and raised in Lackawanna, the stern threat, “You better behave or I’ll send you to Father Baker’s” remains forever burned into one’s ears. It turns out, IMG_2524_OLV_Dome_300chances are that same phrase remains forever burned in the ears of a child raised by someone born in Lackawanna. Like mine.

I can definitely see my grandmother shouting this phrase at my uncles when they were kids. The effect was no doubt the same on them as it was on me when my mother tried using it. Actually, it probably wasn’t the same. By the time I was old enough to realize the truth behind “Father Baker’s,” it looked just like the school it was. The orphanage of my uncles’ youth had been torn down before I was born.

To me, though, Father Baker’s wasn’t the school, it was the church and the amazing story Continue Reading “The Miracle of Limestone Hill”

Seeds of a New Movement

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The Erie Canal made Buffalo. Joseph Dart made Buffalo memorable.

Through Joseph Ellicott and the establishment of Greater Western New York west of the Genesee River, we’ve seen the importance of the canal from before it was even drawn up. We’ve witnessed how its opening paved the way for the creation of America’s first tourist destination – Niagara Falls. We’ll discover in a few chapters how it allowed our region to become ground zero for Continue Reading “Seeds of a New Movement”

Low Bridge, Everybody Down

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By the time Thomas S. Allen wrote The Erie Canal Song (as the song is most commonly referred to) in 1905,1 the famous canal had already been in operation for 80 years. Allen chose the title Low Bridge, Everybody Down because the canal had just ditched the mules for steam power and he wanted to pay homage to the animal so critical to canal operations.2 That Allen celebrates the mule Sal tells us he’s commemorating a then not-too-distant past. Incidentally, the title wasn’t the only thing about the song that changed over the years, including, ironically, the word “years.” The original lyrics were “fifteen years on the Erie Canal” and  refers to the length of the partnership between Sal and his owner, while the new lyrics are “fifteen miles on the Erie Canal,” referring to how Continue Reading ““Low Bridge, Everybody Down””

Greater Western New York’s Split Personality Explained

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To the uninitiated, Batavia might seem like a mere crossroads on the map, but the hustle and bustle of Route 5 (a.k.a. Main Street) tells a much different story. Any visitor will immediately see a testament to a thriving community. Without the telltale skyscrapers of a modern city, the heart of Genesee County clearly doesn’t come across as a quaint nineteenth century town. No, there’s a hint of modernity in its traffic, its business and even in the complexity of its inner city layout.

Yet within this bastion of modest progress lies a jewel with a much deeper backstory than meets the eye of the casual passerby. But before we get there, perhaps it makes Continue Reading “Greater Western New York’s Split Personality Explained”

The Night They Burned Old Buffalo Down

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John Candy died of a heart attack in his sleep on March 4, 1994 while on location shooting scenes for what was to be his final film Wagons East!. Carolco Pictures released the 107 minute movie later that year. It flopped. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the last John Candy picture released. More than a year later, Canadian Bacon, featuring a cavalcade of Canadian-born actors, hit the screens. It quickly left those same screens, the farce of a Canadian invasion of Western New York too outlandish for cinema goers to believe.

Of course, in real life, America did fall victim to a Canadian invasion from across the Continue Reading “The Night They Burned Old Buffalo Down”