Gee, it’s good to be back home, again

July 10, 2024

back-homeOh, to be able to step into a time machine and revisit the old days. What is it that’s so alluring about the past? Is it the innocence of youth, when the world hangs heavy on our adult minds? Or something else? Being back home (in my hometown of Rochester, NY) brings up all sorts of memories.

And so do old photos of places from my past.

Downtown Rochester in the late 1950s
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Where did all that traffic come from? I guess downtown was a happening place back in the day. Not so safe, these days. Oh, do you see the peanut shop? That smell of Planters Peanuts…not exactly roasting peanuts but roasting with salt and oil. It’s a very specific aroma and I remember it to his day.

One Chinese restaurant that everyone knew
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Also downtown, this was one of the earliest and longest-lasting Chinese restaurants in the area. Our family NEVER went–my parents’ idea of the only good food was Italian—but I think I remember going there on a date with my now husband. Never with my parents. Famous actors who visited our city on tour were known to stop in. Such as Katherine Hepburn.

Kodak defined our city
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Eastman Kodak was founded in 1892 in Rochester and was the largest employer for many, many years, known for its superb benefits package. We knew so many people who had  what they considered great jobs at Kodak.  In the year 2000 , Kodak employed more than 62,000 locally…but today, only 4,000.  Quite a decline. And with its decline came a bit of an economic decline for the city.

Hickey Freeman clothes for men
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Rochester was a happening place at the turn of the century. Besides the founding of Kodak, Hickey Freeman, a manufacturer of high-end suits, was founded in 1899 and made its iconic clothes right here in our city for many years. Many immigrants without an education did “piece work” at the clothing factories here or at Bond’s Clothing, which also had a local factory.

Can of Worms
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Can of Worms is what locals call the nightmarish intersection of I-490, I-590, NY 590, NY 96 and University Avenue on the east side of Rochester. I remember when it opened in 1964–how could anyone forget the nickname, “Can of Worms”? Traffic crawled during “rush hour” and the area had twice the number of accidents as other similar roadways in the state. It was originally touted as an engineering marvel, but the reality was so different that when asked if there would be opening ceremonies, the regional DOT director said there wouldn’t be: “I’m just going to open it and hide.”

They rebuilt it in the late 1980s to eliminate some of the natural weaving and cross-lane slides that were necessary to navigate this mess. The Can of Worms as it was back in the day was gone, but the moniker stayed.

 

Old Abbotts

A Rochester staple and something we always look forward to. It’s a form of ice cream, rich and creamy.

New Abbotts
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IYKYK….If you know, you know, as they say.

The Jackrabbit
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The wooden roller coaster of my childhood. At Sea Breeze Amusement Park not too far from my childhood home. A scary sight back then, but nothing compared to the thrilling roller coasters today.

Donuts Delite
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This is another true love of mine, sold to new owners but some part of the original still remains. It was a block from my father’s office. We spent our early childhood living in an apartment above the office. But Donuts Delite was always a big hit on Sundays. My grandfather or uncle would bring a box over. Glazed. Oh and Flying Saucers! I try to stay away from it when I visit. Mostly, I’m successful.

Fast food of the 1960s 
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McDonalds before there was McDonalds in my hometown.

Subway before there was Subway
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It was a favored sub sandwich shop.

What’s this?

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My mother loved the Swiss Chalet. Not exactly fine dining, but it was near where her best friend lived and the two of them would eat there often.

Clubbing in the 1970s

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Club 747 didn’t open until after I left and no longer needed a fake ID to get in. The drinking age in New York state was 18, but I had my first fake ID card when I was 16 and could frequent bars easily. Easy to fake, because drivers licenses didn’t have photos in the 1960s.

It was easy to use a pencil to change the date of birth, then run over the paper license a couple times with the car so you didn’t notice it was changed. Oh yes, and I did this for my friends, too.

I left Rochester in 1972, but most of my family remains there and some of M’s as well. Yes, he’s also from Rochester, although we met at Syracuse University in 1969.

So what’s the city like now? It’s become a bit of a foodie’s haven, and a community known for a vibrant arts scene. Oh, it’s still pretty conservative, especially by California standards.

But we enjoyed our visits back home so much that we bought a little “townhome” here. We spend time there every year, maybe a total of several months if you count the times I come alone on creative retreats.

You can take the girl out of the hometown, but you can’t take the hometown out of the girl. Not completely.

4 comments on “Gee, it’s good to be back home, again
  1. Yvonne Sander Pardee says:

    This brought back so many memories! Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

  2. My hometown was much smaller so many fewer places to remember. After my parents died and I cleared the house, I’ve rarely returned. Like Rochester, the biggest employers are much smaller than they used to be or gone entirely. So, mostly the town is just in slow decline.

    I’ve been looking at Rochester and other Great Lakes cities as a better place to live in a time of global warming.

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