Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Harbison Brothers and Buffalo's First Gas Station

There was a great article in Sunday's Buffalo News regarding the Vitascope. This was the first motion picture theater actually designed for this purpose. It was located in the Ellicott Square Building in downtown Buffalo, and the area still exists at the bottom of a spiral staircase.

This reminded me of a photocopy of an article I had laying around from Business First of Buffalo, week of February 24, 1997. It is of Buffalo's first gas station (according to family history), located at 179 Ellicott Street. That number on Ellicott no longer exists and is probably part of a larger parcel owned by the NFTA.

The picture was taken in 1917. The founders of the business were Irish immigrant brothers - (as pictured) Andrew, Adam, and John Harbison (my grandfather). Their names grace the walls of Ellis Island.

Harbison Brothers Inc. was originally founded as a maker and re-builder of wooden barrels in 1893 by Adam and Andrew. John, a younger brother, joined them at a later point in time. Harbison Brothers now reconditions and recycles steel drum barrels and is operated by the descendants of Adam Harbison.

In later years Andrew would be involved with a lawsuit against the City of Buffalo (Harbison vs Buffalo) . It seems he had been operating a cooperage on Cumberland Avenue since 1924, which was then an industrial area. Years later people built homes around him and wanted him out. The farmers in "rural but becoming residential" areas can probably empathize with his position.

One of the attorneys on the case was William J. Ostrowski, father of attorney and writer Jim Ostrowski, founder of Free New York. This case is still cited in various existing non-conforming land use cases throughout the country.

Eventually Adam and John would move their families from Buffalo to Clarence, while Andrew moved his to East Aurora.

No word on what the price of gas was in those days.

(**Update** I wrote a correction/addition on January 8, 2008, as some of the dates don't quite jibe)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Staff Sgt Mark Spence Killed in Plane Crash


Clarence alumnus ('01) Mark Spence was killed in a plane crash in northern Italy last week. From WIVB:
"Staff Sgt Mark Spence was an extraordinary leader and soon to be father for the first time. The 24 year old Clarence native had been treated to a ride on a blackhawk helicopter because of his exemplary work repairing hi-tech sensors used on fighter jets. But the chopper suddenly malfunctioned and crashed Thursday near Mark's airbase in Aviano, Italy."
From the Buffalo News:

"Spence graduated from Clarence High School in 2001, completed a year's study at the University at Buffalo, and then joined the Air Force in 2003.

"I'm tremendously proud of my son and the job he was doing," his father, Mark T. Spence, said today.

His maternal grandfather, Donald Rhoads, who died in January, helped design airplanes and led to Sgt. Spence's enlistment, his father said.

He is survived by his wife, Elena (Ward); his parents, Mark T. Spence and Kim Rhoads-Spence; and two brothers, Robert and Michael."


The obituary from the Buffalo News:

Dec. 11, 1982 — Nov. 8, 2007

From the athletics tracks in the Clarence Central School District to the way he accelerated through the ranks with the U.S. Air Force, Mark A. Spence lived life at a fast pace.

Staff Sgt. Spence died Nov. 8 in Treviso, Italy, of injuries suffered in a military helicopter crash. He was 24.

Born in Buffalo, Sgt. Spence attended school in Clarence, where he went from being the fastest runner in an elementary school track meet to competition with the cross country and football teams at Clarence High School.

He graduated from Clarence High in 2001. After studying briefly at the University at Buffalo, he joined the Air Force in 2003.

Sgt. Spence completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, then attended electronics and avionics technical school at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Miss., earning an associate degree in avionics systems technology. He also was recognized for his leadership abilities.

Sgt. Spence quickly rose through the ranks and was an avionics sensors team leader, heading a crew of eight that maintained weapons guidance and navigational systems for F- 15 and F-16 fighter jets.

A member of the 31st Fighter Wing, Sgt. Spence had been stationed at the Aviano, Italy, Air Base since January 2004. Scheduled to return home in January, he planned to take the New York State Police exam. He was studying for a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Park University, where he maintained a 4.0 grade point average.

Sgt. Spence also enjoyed photography and travel.

Survivors include his wife, the former Elena Ward, who is expecting the couple’s first child next spring; his parents, Mark T. and Kim; two brothers, Robert and Michael; and his grandmothers, Evelyn Rhoads and Alice.

Services, with full military honors, will be held at 9 p.m.today in Amigone Funeral Home, 8440 Main St., Clarence.


The notice from the Buffalo News:

SPENCE-Mark Alan November 8, 2007, suddenly at age 24; adored husband of Elena (nee Ward) Spence; devoted son of Mark and Kim (nee Rhoads) Spence; dear brother of Robert Spence and Michael Spence; loving grandson of Alice Spence and Evelyn Rhoads; son-in-law of Joanne (Ken) Parris and Daniel J. (Liz) Ward; also survived by several aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous friends. The family will be present on Tuesday from 1-3 PM and 6-9 PM at the (Harris Hill Chapel) AMIGONE FUNERAL HOME, INC., 8440 Main St., where a Service of Rememberance will immediately follow at 9 PM with Military Honors. Friends invited. In lieu of flowers, contributions gratefully accepted for the benefit of Elena M. Spence & Child at M&T Bank, Clarence Branch, 10614 Main St., Clarence, NY 14031. Online register book at www.Amigone.com

Published in the Buffalo News from 11/17/2007 - 11/19/2007. Guest BookFuneral home infoFlowersCharities

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Clarence Class of '72 Banner is Up


The Clarence Class '72 banner is finally flying high in the sky! It is located on Gunnville Road, about 3 poles down from Main.

Rumor has it that the Class '61 also bought one and wanted it over by the Town Park, but I haven't roamed that way in search of it yet. I'm also not sure if any other class put in an order. If there are any more around town I'll put up the pictures when available. That way those scattered around the country, or otherwise out of touch, can see them too.

There may be some of you without a clue as to what I'm talking about...The Town of Clarence will be celebrating it's bicentennial next year and has been actively promoting it. One of the projects involves the placing of banners throughout the town, sponsored by individuals, groups, and businesses. More information is available at the Bicentennial website.

Those of you from the Class '72 email list have already seen the picture that Howard Payne took. I tried too. However this one, taken by Karen Roberts McPherson, managed to accomplish the seemingly unobtainable lately - blue sky!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Goodrich-Landow Log Cabin


Every Sunday morning as we drove back and forth to church down Goodrich Road we passed the log cabin that was part of the Landow house. I found it endlessly fascinating, but never had the opportunity to go in.

Many years later my daughter had to make a log cabin as a school project. My mind immediately flashed to the same log cabin, now nestled securely in front of the Clarence Historical Society on Main Street. So off we went. It was a unique opportunity to give the kids a chance to see the real thing. We lucked out that day, as one of the volunteers restoring the cabin was there. He enthusiastically showed us around the inside, pointing out all the nooks and crannies that were put to utilitarian use.

We were ill-prepared at that time to appreciate all that he had told and shown us. Also, the second floor had yet to be stabilized for public viewing and safety. Luckily the WNY Heritage magazine did an in-depth story on this a few years later, complete with up-dated pictures after the restoration was complete (Summer 2004 - the issue is still available for purchase):
"The Town of Clarence, the oldest in Erie County (1808), has succeeded in restoring, for educational purposes, the best surviving pioneer Yankee log cabin in the county. The exemplary community effort restored an important architectural history document that will continue to grow in importance."
It is named after one of the early settlers in the area who was most likely the builder (Levi Goodrich), and also the last residents (the Gustav Landow family). Clarence is fortunate to have such a treasure, and also the dedicated people who took such pride and care in restoring it for all to learn from and enjoy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Journal Writing and Mr. Ehrenreich


Writing a blog is a lot like writing a journal. I was introduced to the concept of journals in my sophomore year by my English teacher, Michael Ehrenreich.

Generally speaking, the wide-held belief among the class was that by having us scribble away, it freed the teacher to read a book or take care of other business. I don't recall being introduced to subjects for everyone to concentrate on for the day, although I could be wrong. It's been a few years since then.

Sue Wandyez and I sat next to each other and were "literary partners". In other words, we read each other's entries and commented. "Interesting" was about as deep as it got. We learned that from Mr. Ehrenreich too.

Many years later, Deb Moultrup dragged me to some theatrical production, or at least the cast & production crew party afterwards. Mr. Ehrenreich was there. I was finally able to get up the nerve to ask for my journal back, since he had insisted on retaining them. He looked at me like I was stupid or something and said "I threw them out".

Threw them out??? Then why did he want to keep them? Maybe he thought there was a possibility that a mere one of us would become a literary giant, and he could sell donate the journal to a museum for posterity. As far as I can tell, that would have been a waste of storage space. Apparently he later thought so too.

It's not like I really wanted to see how addled my brain could be back then. Shredding it would have been a preferable option. Here I can just hit "delete" (I know, nothing on the internet is gone forever, but retrieving my drivel isn't worth the effort). However, it was my opinion that it was my journal and I wanted it back..."And so, Becky, how does it feel to want?"

Just like in those journal days, maybe tomorrow I'll have something interesting to write about. I think I finally got the hang of it after all these years.

(photo is from the 1969 Saga, by Guy Brand)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Land Subsidence in the Town of Clarence


It turns out that underlying mines are not the only thing that can cause land subsidence in the Town of Clarence. From an article in the Buffalo News, we learn that the installing of sewer pipes, if not done in a forward-looking manner, can cause soil problems also . The photo is of Gary Wright of Old Goodrich Road, and his drained pond(from the News).

Basically, the land around Clarence and Amherst is largely compacted clay. When a sewer line is put in, the land is dug up, pipe laid, and the area is filled back in. Therein lies the problem. The fill is no where near as compacted as it started out, and water is sucked in to fill the gaps. A simple example of this comes from, of all places, an article on time management called "Cup of Coffee with a Friend", which illustrates that even when you think the container is full (of golf balls, then pebbles, then sand) there is always room for more (coffee).

The real life corollary is that when the trench is filled with dirt and gravel, it has room for water, which comes from nearby clay and groundwater. This dries out the land causing shrinking, which in turn cracks basements, creates sinkholes, and drains ponds.

One would like to think that those in the construction industry would act responsibly on their own, after all, it's their reputations. The truth of the matter is, for the most part, that they do the bare minimum of what is required by existing law. When they don't, they get fined and forced to do it right. The towns don't seem to ask for more either, as that might hold up construction or add to the expense.

Ideally, everyone would want to do the right thing all the time, no matter what the cost. There is a method involving "check dams" that helps to prevent this scenario. The Town of Amherst requires them on water lines, but not sewer (?). Erie County uses them on their own sewer lines in the Southtowns. They are commonly required throughout the country to protect wetlands, or to keep dry areas from becoming even drier.

In reality, it's whatever is the most convenient, until laws are changed to benefit the homeowner and enforce accountability by contractors and the areas effected. Incidentally, the Town of Clarence rejects claims that the problems are related to the sewer construction. The engineer from the Town of Amherst finds it to be an "interesting theory."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mines, Sinkholes, and Other Fun Stuff

I heard that they want to build houses over the old gypsum mines on Roll Road. What a wonderful idea (roll eyes). I can remember, as a child, hearing the booms as they dynamited in the mines. That's what led to this:

I was roaming around the internet, reading some of my usual blogs when I wandered over to DeputyDog (I click on the links a lot). He has some wonderful photos of "7 Amazing Holes" - large mines, "glory holes", and sink holes.

One thing led to another, and I came upon stories of mine pillars collapsing and causing sinkholes, which pull buildings and roads down into the ground due to land subsidence .
"Land subsidence also occurs in areas of underground mining where removal of material causes overlying surface rock to sink or collapse. Although the locations of underground mines are often denoted on topographic and geologic maps, the potential subsidence hazard from a mine requires evaluation by a geologist."

"Similar to land subsidence due to underground mining, subsidence can also result from chemical weathering of soluble rocks (e.g. limestone, dolomite, gypsum). As groundwater flows through limestone, a chemical reaction causes the rock to dissolve, eventually forming cavities within the bedrock. As a cavity near the surface increases in size, the overlying materials can sink or collapse and create a depression on the land surface."
Tar Creek, OK is one town that has been subjected to sinkholes and threats of mine collapse for years. There are also the real toxic threats from the dust to the air and acid mine water that contaminates the water table. While it was zinc and lead mined there, gypsum , used primarily in wallboard, has its concerns also:
"In the early 1980s, landfills in British Columbia were found to be producing toxic gas and leachate from concentrations of gypsum debris that had been buried for as little as two days."
One would think that the Town of Clarence would want to shield itself from future lawsuits. There can be all kinds of studies, but that doesn't mean that the earth won't do it's unpredictable thing and shift. Then again, Amherst is off the hook for it's sinking homes.

The prevailing thought just might be that if they're insurable, and the Town's not liable, go for it. Add to the tax base and services needed, subtract from green space. Just think twice before buying a house there.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

WNY Heritage Magazine with the Race Car Driver

I just bought my first issue of WNY Heritage magazine. It obviously has been out for a while, since this is Volume 10, and I may have even seen it in the past, but I never actually focused on it before. It's a bit pricey, but well worth the money. It is very high quality paper and has a selection of well written, in-depth articles with many historic photographs and illustrations of history in Western New York.

The Summer '07 issue is currently on the stands, for a little while anyway. In it there is an article on midget car racing in the old Buffalo Civic Stadium. This may sound familiar, as it is something I wrote about in the article about Parker alumnus ('47) Bill Rafter. Sure enough, Bill gets a mention near the end of the article (page 51), along with a picture showing him driving in a winning race. Of course, there's a current picture of him in the Parker Reunion pix, sans car. The article is written by Keith Herbst, author of a book on auto racing 1935-1960 in our area, called Daredevils of the Frontier.

Later on, as I was browsing through the Definitely Buffalo Store in Main Place Mall, I came upon an assortment of back issues. Rather than return them to the publisher when the new one comes out, the proprietor keeps them as an edition to the historical books she carries. So I picked up another one. I'll probably end of with one of everything she has!

I have quite the collection of non-fiction books and magazines that I've read part of, and mean to get back to "someday", and that I use for references. The WNY Heritage magazines are worthy additions.

*UPDATE* I have read the entire Summer '07 issue and am working on the other one now. The magazine is definitely very interesting!
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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Older Clarence, Newer Clarence - One Clarence


Most of us were born and raised in Clarence. It can go back even further if our parents, grandparents and so on were also part of the historical fabric. We could have departed the town upon turning 18 and never looked back, or stayed where it is familiar, near family and friends. Or behaved like a yo-yo, leaving and returning, for good or for a visit.

Those who made a conscious decision to move here, rather than it being an accident of birth, tend to see Clarence differently than we do. On the campaign site of Alan Bedenko, he makes this observation:

"Labor Day in Clarence Center is Authentic Americana. It is a Norman Rockwell painting come to life."

I never thought about it that way. I guess when you're busy living it, the picture is too close to be seen with an objective eye. Then again, as the painting by Rockwell shows, sometimes what we see and reality aren't on the same page.

Some of the most enthusiastic boosters of Clarence have no long time history in town. They never knew Clarence when it actually was a rural area. They don't know that the removal of the agricultural exemption for inactive farm land opened the floodgates for subdivisions.

They do know that Clarence is rich in history, and that it should be remembered and celebrated. Working with the Clarence Historical Society they have dusted off parts of ourselves that previously existed only in the archives of what "used to be". Of course, the seniors are richer depositories of life in Clarence than books or documents could ever be.

They have put together various events and associations and groups to draw people together rather than existing in a vacuum. Of course, the Garden Club and Chamber of Commerce and Firemen have been around almost forever, but now there is so much more.

For the anonymous members of "They" - both those with deep Clarence roots and those whose roots are newer - I salute you! Newer Clarence embraces Older Clarence for One Clarence.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Clarence Class '72 - We Remember

As we travel through life, we find that the length of everyone's journey is different.  In memory of those from our class who have already passed through:

Ross Hogan
Sandy Mecum
Terry Miller
Bob Bridge
Sue Burke
Frank Mack
Gary Newell
Bill Cummiskey
Marion Furioso
Monie Runyon
Larry Rouse
Carol Wopperer
Bill Modaffara
Linda Teso
Walter Fliss
Don Gorman
Steve Snell
Jeff Putney
Anne Engasser
Peter Naples
Charles Orts
Curtis Lipke
Randy Capps
Michael Compton
Donna Maul
Francesca Rosa

From the 1972 Saga "in memory" page:

"You are not enclosed within your bodies, nor confined to houses or fields.
That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the wind.
It is not a thing that crawls into the sun for warmth or digs holes into darkness for safety. But a thing free, a spirit that envelops the earth and moves in the ether."
- Kahlil Gibran


Friday, August 17, 2007

Clarence Alumni - Dave Wopperer ('74) - RIP


Announcement from cousin Frank Wopperer:

"My cousin, Friend, Business Partner and Confidant of some 41 years, Dave Wopperer, passed away suddenly last evening of a heart attack.

We are all very saddened by this tragic and sudden event. Dave was 51 years old. Dave's father, Chuck, brought him to work when he was 10 years old. As long as Chuck let Dave drive the Fork Truck around he was happy to come to Thermal Foams. Back in those days you could do those things. Dave throughout the years kept coming to Thermal Foams and eventually became President. Thermal Foams is what it is today because of Dave Wopperer. Dave will be sorely missed by me, his family and friends, his business partners and his loyal employees."

From the Buffalo News:

David C. Wopperer of Clarence, who as president of Thermal Foams Inc. was instrumental in developing foam crash guards used at auto racing tracks, died unexpectedly Tuesday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst. He was 51.

A retired local race car driver brought the idea of using foam blocks at tracks to Mr. Wopperer in the early 1990s. After experimenting, he came up with 4-by-8-foot blocks of polystyrene foam that dissipate impact by exploding when they are hit.

Marketed as Softwalls, they are used at tracks at Watkins Glen, Lancaster, Oswego, the Poconos and Pike’s Peak, among others.

The company also makes foam products for home insulation, packaging and land stabilization, as well as for use by visual artists around the world.

Born in Buffalo, Mr. Wopperer was a 1974 graduate of Clarence High School, where he played on the football team, and a graduate of Erie Community College.

He had been involved with Thermal Foams while he was still in school. The company was founded by his grandfather, Frank C., in 1959 and then headed by his father, Charles F.

Since Mr. Wopperer became president of the company in 1992, it has tripled in size and has expanded to Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rochester. He also was an officer and a member of the boards of directors of six family-owned businesses.

Devoted to football all his life, he was the coach of the Clarence Bull Dogs, a Little League football team, and was active with the Clarence High School Football Boosters.

His other passion was barbecue. An expert chef at the grill, last year he was nationally certified as a judge of barbecue competitions.

“Sunday was his fun day,” his wife, Amy, said of his barbecuing, “because he could figure out what to cook or smoke or do something to. It was an adventure to him.”

Surviving are his wife of 23 years, the former Amy Pope; a son, Charles D.; a daughter, Emily J.; his mother, Joan; and a sister, Cheryl DeTamble.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, 8500 Main St., Clarence.




WOPPERER-David C. - Suddenly August 14, 2007; beloved husband of Amy P. (nee Pope) Wopperer; dearest father of Emily J. and Charles D. Wopperer; loving son of Joan L. (nee Moss) and the late Charles F. Wopperer; brother of Cheryl (Jim) DeTamble and the late Carol David; brother-in-law of Jim David. David is also survived by many relatives and friends. The family will be present on Thursday from 7-9 PM and on Friday from 2-4 and 7-9 PM at the (Harris Hill Chapel) AMIGONE FUNERAL HOME, INC., 8440 Main Street (near Harris Hill Rd.) where Funeral Services will be held on Saturday at 9:15 AM and a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated from Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church (Harris Hill) at 10 AM. Friends invited. If desired, donations may be made to Clarence Football Boosters, P.O. Box 116, Clarence, NY 14301-0116. Online register book at www.Amigone.com
Published in the Buffalo News from 8/16/2007 - 8/17/2007.
Guest BookFuneral home infoFlowersCharities

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Buffalo Lighthouse

Located in the Erie Basin Marina, the historic Buffalo Lighthouse is one of the areas oldest treasures. It was built in 1833 and has undergone modest renovations through the years to preserve it. It is located on the Coast Guard base and accessible only for special tours/events. The inventory specifics of the lighthouse are available here.

It was at one of these events, the Buffalo Waterfront Festival, that my children and I were able to visit the lighthouse. This was around 1996, when the kids were 4 and 5 years old. We took the Miss Buffalo over from the "mainland".

At that time, the public was able to actually ascend the wide stone stairway all the way to the top. There, an iron ladder went right up into the light compartment. It's the size of a very small room, with cramped space for about 4 adults.

The view was fantastic! The thrill of being up in the lighthouse defies description!

Then came the time to descend the widely-spaced rungs of the ladder. Up was easy. Down was another story. It would have been extremely difficult trying to hold on to the ladder with one kid in front of me. The other kid would have absolutely no part of staying on top for even a minute without me...Thanks to some people below, I was able to lower the kids, one by one, to them. Of course, besides being wonderfully helpful people, their ulterior motive was to get us moving so they could have their turn!

As far as I know, that was the last year people were allowed inside, as it was determined that the interior stone needed stabilizing, with no funds readily available. We're still waiting...

(The photo was taken from across the water, on the open-air patio at The Hatch)