Saturday, November 19, 2011

Discards - Part 2

When the elderly brothers across the street passed away (hours apart), their niece took responsibility for clearing their possessions and selling the house...After securing important documents and whatever else she may have wanted to keep, she threw open the doors with an invitation for all to take whatever they wanted for free. A few hours later the furniture was gone, along with assorted tools, food items, and other miscellany.

Most of what was left would be tossed into the big blue refuse bin out front.  However, on the walls were many family pictures....2 handsome young men in their military uniforms...their older sister who had passed years before....their mother....and many other memories that were dear to the recently departed.

The niece was near tears as she looked at the photos. After having closed down a few other houses of relatives in recent years, her basement and attic were full of family memories.  "My kids don't want this stuff...I don't know what to do". Eventually, she packed up the pictures and took them home, hoping that her own children would be as gentle when their time came to sort through the memories.

Down the street, a recent widower had moved into a senior apartment.  The big double was too much, and maybe the memories made him feel even more lonely.  No kids, so a company was called in to hold a sale and otherwise disperse of the accumulation of a long marriage As they were pricing items they came across the wedding album and quickly called to see if the gentleman had overlooked it. room even for what he took with, no room for more.  Sad.

An older gentleman with a young man's heart used to come into work every year, maybe twice if he was downtown.  He always wanted a manila envelope to keep papers in.  After being a jerk about it once, I came to realize that he was also a bit young in mind also...a slight mental disability, I guess...I gathered up my (occasionally missing) compassion, and always had an envelope or two ready for him when I saw him come in.  He always rewarded with with a huge smile :D

The last time I saw him, there was time for more conversation, and he rewarded me even more by sharing memories of Vaudeville, of Allen Street, his uncle the magician, and how he used to help backstage when he was young.  He had the programs from back then, photos...I haven't seen him since, and it's been a few years, after being a regular for over twenty.  I wonder what happened to him...if he's living in a senior apartment somewhere, if he passed on....I also wonder what happened to his memories, his prized possessions, stored so carefully in his envelopes...

More later...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Discards - Part 1

Lately it has been stated via various sources that there are 12,000 vacant houses in the City of Buffalo. While not necessarily saying that the number is wrong, I'm somewhat curious as to how that figure was generated. Tax bills being returned as "undeliverable" may have an incorrect mailing address, as much due to an input error as unforwardable for whatever reason (those mechanical sorters are just soooo efficient *sarcasm*).  There are many homes with unpaid taxes that have people living in them, and many vacant buildings that are paid in full (one way around massive attention from inspectors/housing court for "investors").  Was a hand count done? Does it include apartments buildings/former hotels/rooming houses? Business type buildings?

Whichever method was employed, whatever the number, there are undeniably many vacant houses, and many vacant lots that used to have a home on them. Back in the early 1900's there were houses crammed into every available green space except in the more well-to-do enclaves (and where Olmsted carved out territory).

There were those with a storefront where the proprietor and family lived upstairs.  There were doubles that people built so family members could be close, not to rent to strangers.  Cottages were stuck behind larger homes as a place to live while building the main house, later for family or income. There were houses slapped up by factory/business owners so that employees could live nearby, transportation not being what it is today. Either they were rented or sold to the workers, with payments coming out of paychecks.  No one ever thought that they would still be standing more than 100 years later, but they are. That's not even getting into all hotels thrown up to house people during the Pan-Am Exposition that later turned into apartment/rooming houses, or those built expressly to rent to the masses.

Not everyone raced to the suburbs as a symbol of better financial circumstances, or to escape the "big, bad city" and its ever changing occupants (aka "those people" who could be a different race, ethnic group, religion, and just plain different).  Many times it was like a rolling wave as city planners in their "wisdom" declared vibrant areas "slums" in a bid to clear away the less well off with funds garnered via Urban Renewal to create "shovel ready" sites.  A still well-known mayor cleared out his entire childhood neighborhood, perhaps to erase the roots of his humble beginnings, perhaps to also show he wasn't being prejudiced when the black neighborhood was mowed down to...perhaps a little of both...near downtown don't ya know, and the powers that were wanted people downtown, just not those less fortunate people.

Housing projects were planned as a substitute (whoopee) and those that didn't like it could just leave, and so they did. Usually they just moved a bunch of blocks over to a different area, but in the process, people who were already there then also moved to a new neighborhood, and so it went, with spillover to the suburbs.  The I190 threw areas into disarray and the Expressways Kensington and Scajaquada ripped the heart out of some more. And then there were the riots that cleared out some more.  Many reasons, same results.

That's a lot of places that people called "home" and filled with their hopes, dreams, and later, their memories. Now many are abandoned or neglected, the discards.

More tomorrow....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Charles Orts RIP

Clarence alumnus Charles Orts ('72) passed away October 31, 2011. May he rest in peace.

From Childs Funeral Home:

Charles Orts
Date of Birth: February 24, 1953       Date of Passing: October 31, 2011

Place of Birth:Buffalo, New York
Place of Passing:Erie County Home
Resided in:
  Akron, New York
  Mr. Orts was a truck driver for Serafino Trucking in Depew, N.Y. Retiring after a brief illness.
  Dear father of Jennifer Orts of Clarence, NY, Kimberly (James) Fromwiller of Middleport, NY, Amy (Joseph) Newkirk of North Carolina and Jacob Orts of Akron, N.Y. Grandfather of Kathleen and James Fromwiller and Noah Newkirk, brother of Carl (Maria) Schory of Grand Island, N.Y. and Barbara Mayer of Alaska.
Viewing info:
  Family recieved friends on Friday from 2-4 PM in the Childs Funeral Home, LLC 10 Eckerson Ave. Akron, N.Y. Where services followed at 4 PM. Rev. Gregory Hall, pastor of the Clarence Presbyterian Church, officiated.
  Evans, New York