Fazul, Turk & Stretch?

Do people address you formally?... Mister, Miss, Peter, Alexander...or casually...Pete, Al?

Exceptionally creative Proctor kids relied on humorous nicknames that in most cases were very affectionate.

Here are a few popular ones: Ron Daprano, a gangly long limbed basketball star became "Stretch". Another hoop star, Robert Borgovini got "Beanie" which evolved to "Fazul", after the Italian peasant dish, pasta fagiole. (macaroni and beans) Two other hoop guys, Angelo DiRuzza and John Arcuri were known as "Lardy" and "Ace". We don't know the origin of the next two Anthonys: "Ishkie" Collea and "Squeaky" Calenzo.

Here's a funny story: from childhood, Angelo Giacovelli loved grated Romano cheese on his macaroni (pasta) Obviously he was dubbed "Cheesy".

Future American League umpire, Alex Salerno was known only as "Bobie" and Boston Red Sox 2nd baseman Ted Lepcio was called "Chubby" in high school. Catcher Tony "Bull" Fabbio completes the Prox baseball trio.

Two of the most affectionate monikers belonged to Anthony "Muzzy" Garramone and popular Robert "Charms" Giruzzi.

When your name is Ronald Bush, "Twig" is a no brainer! Art Batista inherited "Dooley" from his Pop. Football receiver Thomas "Gluefingers" Gigliotti just kept dropping passes and handsome halfback Al Grimaldi; a sharp dresser, was "Shaggy". Why?

Diminutive Fran Joseph, of Lebanese descent loved to be called "Turk" and Anthony "Bones" Rastani obviously was skinny.

Picture Caption: Fazul, Turk, and Stretch.

There were a couple of admired big guys: Art "Truck" Dishiavo and Ralph "Train" Antone. Future Attorney Frank "Cookie" Giruzzi will have to explain that one along with Bob "Cat" Hanower.

Not to slight the fairer sex, our Gals also had nicknames. We'll close with four of the most popular: Cheerleader Diane "Dixie" Martelli, popular Virginia "Pinky" Inserra, band and orchestra flutist, Eileen "Tweety" McGuire and Delores "Babe" Aceto.

One Saturday evening our Mom asked us what we did that day? "We met Fazul, Turk, Stretch and Gluefingers at Ben & Bernies. Headed to the Huddle to ask Dixie, Pinky, Tweety and Babe to join us for a matinee at the"Ri".(Rialto) What? Who? Where?

Yours truly,
Bob and Dick "Chance" Chancia

GUEST COLUMN: Pair recall greatness of Jim Brown

By Bob and Dick Chancia

The national media has well documented the history and legacy of Jim Brown; but here’s a one-two punch of our own experiences with the Hall of Fame running back.

We were freshmen at Syracuse University in the fall of 1954. As members of SU’s “100 Men & A Girl” football band, we were eyewitnesses to all of the legendary running back’s college games, seeing the All-American trample over all of the opponents he faced on the gridiron during his varsity career.

The climax was at the 1957 Cotton Bowl, where Brown scored three touchdowns. His third extra point attempt was blocked and SU lost to Texas Christian University 28-27.

We marched in that New Year’s Eve Cotton Bowl parade ahead of a fire truck, carrying Brown, suited in a dapper olive green corduroy suit. Later, Dick bought the identical suit at Manny’s on Marshall Street.

We watched Brown play every varsity basketball game at the Syracuse War Memorial as members of SU’s Pep Band. We watched him win two events in a track meet vs Colgate one morning, enough to give SU the win! After changing uniforms, he led Syracuse to a victory over Army in lacrosse that same day!

The highlight of our Brown encounters was as classmates in a 15-member genetics class in Lyman Hall. Now that’s the luck of the Orange! On the first day of class, Professor Gillette remarked, “This is an interesting genetics class; we have an African-American and a set of identical twins!”

When walking down Lyman’s steps after a test, Jim asked, “How did you answer question No. 2?” Bob responded, “The right answer was C.” Jim replied, “Good deal!”

Brown led his ‘57 class as the class marshal, in his Army ROTC uniform at commencement while we played our clarinets in SU’s band. We followed every black and white telecast of his Cleveland Browns games. When working in Detroit, our press-agent friend escorted us to the sidelines to try to get a picture with Brown, but he declined due to his pre-game warmup.

Our last encounter with Jim Brown was at SU’s New York City Lubin House for an alumni presentation by the Hall of Fame back. Dick asked him about that disappointing blocked extra point at the ‘57 Cotton Bowl. Jim replied, “An SU tackle missed his assignment, allowing TCU’s Chico Mendoza to block the kick.”

Ironically, we had lunch at the Varsity the day after Brown passed, recalling the many times we saw him there playing the pinball machines in the 50s. That same evening we learned of his death.

PictureCaption: A photo of Syracuse University football legend Jim Brown, signed for the authors Bob and Dick Chancia.

We watched Jim Brown put SU on the map; now, we can say; “RIP fellow Orangeman. Thanks for Running-In-Perfection and running into us along the way.”

 Utica’s Union Station is still chugging along!

By Bob & Dick Chancia

We spell the name of our home town, Utica, NY: YOUtica ‘cause there’s so much for YOU to still experience and savor from its glory days. One, being our iconic railroad terminal called Union Station that’s still operating. Most of our country’s grand old stations have vanished with the advent of super highways, speedy air travel and the disposable mindset that “new is better”.

Indelible in our minds will always be the mesmerizing model train layout plus treasured memories of tearfully seeing our uncles depart for WW2 from that enchanting place. Red Caps, shoe shine stands, fancy restaurant, news stand and barber shop, all left their remnants for us to revisit today. The stately Botticino Italian marble columns and terrazzo floor have been re-polished and are one awesome sight!

Expecting Utica to become our state’s hub city, with its strategic location near Bagg’s Square by the Mohawk River and Erie Canal, probably was the intention for this marvelous edifice to be built in 1912 to 1914. Terminals in Albany, Rome, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo have all terminated in favor of small utilitarian outposts in the outskirts of those cities.

New York City architects Stem and Fellheimer brought their experience from work on N.Y. City’s Grand Central Station and Detroit’s Michigan Central to the project. The classically-inspired Beaux Arts structure served 12 tracks for NY Central Railroad trains and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.   

Now called the Boehlert Transportation Center at Union Station, it remains special to us as the former U.S. Congressman Sherry, was our best friend from Roosevelt School in the 40s. Our Proctor Boys gang from the 50s meets there monthly at the Trackside Restaurant to relish the memories.

Only a few cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago and YOUtica can boast of these architectural treasures still operating. Our son and nephew Alex took us on a tour of the Houston Astros Minute Maid Park and wouldn’t you know, the Astros built many features of their new ballpark into the old glorious 1911 vintage Houston Union Station.

Picture Caption: Caroline Chancia’s impressive photo captures the 47-foot high vaulted ceiling supported by 34 Botticino Italian marble columns.

Utica’s Union Station has retained its original waiting room benches, heated by steam pipes and vents. The large clock flanked by eagle sculptures and tall arched windows make the exterior as impressive as the inside! Right of the ticket window, don’t miss the 1947 picture of railroad workers, Carmen and Vincent Fondario; brothers of 50s Proctor star athlete Lou Fondario.

If you are craving a blast from the past; take an Adirondack Railroad trip from Union Station or see the USA via Amtrak from there. Utica’s gem is a must see and it’s still chugging along!

There used to be a Ballpark right here!

By Bob and Dick Chancia

In 1946 we outgrew our “Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys” phase. For the next few years it was the Utica Blue Sox all the way.

It began with Sunday afternoon family drives in Dad’s ’41 Buick Special, listening to Nick Stemmler’s play by play of Blue Sox games. His typical baseball voice plus the “Quick- quick my Beverwyck” beer ads were music to our 10 year old ears.

We were hooked, especially after our first visit to the splintery old iconic ballpark in north Utica. It was located where the Red Roof Inn sits right now. Yep, there used to be a Ballpark right there!

Our infatuation with baseball started right there! Dick’s revised lyrics to the Joe Raposo classic song* with Sinatra vocal say it all.

Crack some peanuts with a hot dog and beer…let the new lyrics take you back to a treasured time in Utica history:

We’d leave our muddy sandlot on a warm day in July
Thumb a ride way north on Genesee with our ball mitts by our side
Soon we’d smell the sizzling hot dogs and the foamy Beverwyck beer
Yes, there used to be a ballpark right here
Sawyer, Yogi, Caballero, Lou Possehl would get the win
Lopata, Granny Hamner and at first base, Billy Glynn
No creaky wooden grandstand or young heroes left to cheer
Yes, there used to be a ballpark right here
The Blue Sox would host Albany, maybe Elmira Pioneers
It didn’t seem to matter, Richie Ashburn got the cheers
Now a brand new Red Roof Inn has replaced McConnell Field
And the summer went so quickly those years
Yes, there used to be a ballpark right here!

*To listen to the original Raposo/Sinatra song, Google; There Used To Be A Ballpark.

Red Roof Inn on old ball park site today.

Photo caption: The glory days at the old ballpark in north Utica

1947 Champion Utica Blue Sox team.

Remembering morning radio host Hank Brown

By Bob Chancia and Dick Chancia

Special to Utica Observer-Dispatch


Utica's renowned morning radio host for coffee and toast passed away May 9th in Middlebury, Vt. Hank Brown graduated from a Philadelphia broadcast school in 1957 and headed for WLFH in Little Falls, NY. That was the start of over 55 years as Utica's 'Dean of Broadcasters'.

Later in his career, Hank bought and owned his three hour show. He sold commercials to local advertisers, wrote the copy and did the spots live, embellishing the messages with his gift of entertainment and sincerity. Clients got three minutes for the cost of a sixty second ad. His closing line: 'Tell em Hank sent ya' was classic.

In 2004, Bob and I wrote our Christmas song, 'Digital Christmas'. We didn't know Hank but owning his show, we knew he would air our song.

Hank played the song four times a morning every Christmas season. That started an 18 year friendship with this interesting guy.

Hank was a proud Irish Catholic lad from Philly. He grew up on the playgrounds and starred in parochial high school sports. He loved to tell the story of his Mother Superior promising no homework if Notre Dame won on Saturday. The 'Fighting Irish' usually did and Notre Dame became Hank's favorite team for life. He grew up with Wilt 'the Stilt' Chamberlain and 'Jellybean' Bryant, father of the late NBA legend, Kobe Bryant.

Hank affectionately used a convincing Irish brogue when he told stories about his Mom and police officer Dad, who walked the beat in downtown Philadelphia. He served in Korea with the US Navy.

A gifted raconteur; Hank told stories on and off the air of encounters with 'The Greatest'; Ali, Mike Tyson, Utica native, Olympic boxing ref, Tony Filipelli, Carmine Basilio, Willy Mays, footballers, Sid Luckman and Chuck Bednarik plus entertainers, Frank Sinatra, boyhood friend, Al Martino, Patti Page and many more. Hank's show was a one-two punch: the popular hits of the 1940's-50's plus daily doses of wisdom.

Hank Brown created and hosted a weekly live WKTV dance show, 'Twist-o-Rama,' which became the top rated show in its time slot from 1964 to 1968. T-o-R was a local version of Utican Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand' which took the country by storm out of Philadelphia.

Hank Brown, left, Toast of morning radio host. At right, an image of Brown in the mid-1960's as the host of 'Twist-o-Rama.' Photo provided by Richard Chancia.

He also announced boxing events on ABC's Wide World of Sports, where he teamed up with sports broadcast legend Howard Cosell. Hank announced the 1966 Olympic Game's boxing from Atlanta and was inducted into the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame plus the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

His most generous effort was the annual Christmas party for needy kids. He rallied local businesses to donate toys, bicycles, food and candy for them and their families.

*We sat in the press box at Cooperstown's Hall of Fame game, compliments of ABC sports. Each year we received the commemorative pin engraved with the names of each inductee.

Hank's life was Global sports and show business gigs plus a deep affection for the people of Greater Utica where he chose to work for 55+ years. Hank raised his family in nearby Little Falls.

Our 'Dean of Broadcasters' retired in 2013. The Browns moved to the Montclair, NJ area to be closer to their son and grandkids. Hank missed the snowy Mohawk Valley that he daily described as 'Colder than a Mother-in-Law's kiss'. Wherever he went, Hank was recognized. 'You're Hank Brown. I enjoyed your show every morning'. Hank Brown's Irish blues would glisten and light up warmer than a Mother-in- Law's smile.

Coffee and toast aren't the same without ya, Morning Man!

Home Sweet Homeroom!

By Bob & Dick Chancia

How sweet it was! Our home away from home at Proctor HS was Homeroom 202 with Miss Marchetta. She was attractive, personable but also no nonsense. We were kept after school a few times for being disruptive.

Our school day began and ended in room 202. The Pledge of Allegiance, intercom announcements with news and reports from Bank Day Bob were a few of the staticky messages. Mr. Thompson would sometimes predict game outcomes and weather.

Our fellow roommates made homeroom memorable. We sat toward the center providing a perfect overview of the room. Baseball slugger Artie Battista and all sports star Ralph Antone sat by the blackboard wall, flanked by the two doors. Ralph was by the back door next to the honor roll, written in cursive on the board.

He was an honor student, so appropriately placed. Ralph was always jabbering with teammate Rock Giruzzi who was right next door in Miss Denn’s homeroom 204. We all had assigned seats, to maintain order.

Adjacent to us was our grade school mate and neighbor Pattie Calderella. Indelible in our memories is the fine gold chain she wore, holding an inch wide gold football pendant that commemorated her Dad’s stellar gridiron feats at Clarkson University. Occasionally, she brought in football game programs from Cornell U. where her brother Jim and sister Julianne attended.

A photo of West Point QB Arnold Galiffa from a Cornell/Army game program comes to mind. Those programs ignited in us a passion to also attend a big university.

Pattie was smart as was Joan Cifonelli, who sat behind us. Both went on to SUNY colleges and enjoyed productive careers in our local school systems.

Santina Bretti was also a 202 gal. With shiny black hair framing her striking face, it’s no wonder we call her our homeroom heart throb today! Tina was always clad in hip styles of the ‘50s. Jeanette Commisso, Phyllis Colacicco, Dan Bottoni and ’53 salutatorian Rosemary Arcuri were also in 202.

That was our Proctor High homeroom away from home. Yours had to be special too. Utica’s infamous former Naval officer and acclaimed pioneer ophthalmologist, Dr. Anthony Palumbo recalls Mr. Fisher’s homeroom, that included scholars Phyllis LoParco, Joe Karam plus head cheerleader Julie Mondi. 4 touchdown halfback George Fanelli was with his cousin Mike in Mr. Roemer’s 214. Marie Garcia, Dick Smith and Bill Fragetta were also there.

Photo caption: Bob, homeroom 202 all-star Ralph Antone and Dick at Ralph’s 2008 Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame luncheon.

Homerooms defined us in a way. They provided a secure and familiar refuge before and after the final bell. Like those good ole Italian “sangweeches” (peppers and eggs) we brought for lunch; we savored what was between the bread but the quality of the slices on each end is what made them great.

Maybe you had Mr. Henry, Zoecklar, Ross, Mrs. Porter, Studor or Makuch, it didn’t matter…speaking of Spanish teacher Makuch; can’t leave out this tidbit. She tried to get us transferred to her homeroom 233. She had a crush on our Dad back in the ‘20s and held a special fondness for us.

We balked at that opportunity but compromised and took 3 years of Spanish. We remained in 202 with Miss Marchetta and she was sweet. There was no place like it.

The Talk of the Town House

By Bob and Dick Chancia

Life is a voyage, whether one stays close to home or moves about. Both involve phases, experiences, changes and milestones. After graduating Proctor High our path led to sojourning. A solid upbringing in Utica prepared us for the challenges at Syracuse University. We savored those rah rah collegiate years.

Advertising, our chosen occupation, led us to opportunities in Rochester, NY. We did enough growing up there to take on a bigger city; Detroit MI. A colleague there led us to the Town House apartments. Ten years later, at 36 years old, we left what would become our favorite stopping off point.

Miami, Los Angeles and New York City, all more heralded than Motown, came later but that Town House in the Motor City became the soft spot in our hearts. Why? Conveniently tucked downtown between the main business area and Detroit’s Tiger Stadium, it was home to many other sojourners.

The diversity of the tenants made the Town House unique. Our neighbors included United Artist press agent Howard Pearl, Akron tire exec Stan Latter, ‘68 World Series hero Mickey Lolich, radio station owner Dick Jones, restauranteur Renie Russell, Franklin Simon sales mgr. Manny Marcus, Tiger trainer Bill Behm and Coach Tony Cuccinello. American Airlines housed their stewardesses there and some Detroit Tiger and Lion’s players called it home.

Pepsi ad exec Bob Johnson, assistant Lion coach Carl Taseff, and Playboy Magazine rep John Thompson roamed the lobby. Tiger stars Norm Cash and Frank Lary were summer residents. Lary had Billy Martin’s old penthouse #5, which we took over. Martin was known for making spaghetti sauce there and we continued that tradition. Lion coach Taseff showed us scouting films of our college hero and then Cleveland Brown’s super star Jim Brown.

Off the lobby was Ma & Pa Volpe’s convenient grocery commissary. Across the parking lot was Detroit’s Lindell AC. Many athletes, mainly Lion Alex Karras plus local and visiting players hung out there.

The building’s lobby and penthouse roof- top became social headquarters for most tenants and we were at an age more prepared to find our social niche. That roof- top became an observation tower during the 1967 summer riots. Our apartment, penthouse #5 became “riot central” providing food and drink for those tracking the progress of fires destroying the perimeter of Detroit.

The champion Detroit Tigers brought the World Series to Tiger Stadium in 1968 and our neighbor, Tiger GM Jim Campbell provided tickets for our friends and families. When major league umpire and ‘40’s Proctor High star Bobey Salerno called games at Tiger Stadium, he’d borrow our ’59 red Chevy convertible in exchange for game tickets. Detroit is a small/big town where one can more easily break down some barriers. The Michiganders were loyal and friendly and the outsiders were stimulating and interesting.

Picture caption: Town House airline stewardesses help Dick and Bob celebrate their 27th birthday.

When the bell rang and it was time to move on; we did. We took on the normal sequence of life’s demands but the Town House in Detroit was our coming of age place. Can you go back? No, but you can come back!

Bob did come back at the ripe age of 83. He discovered Town House 2. (What we call his apt. building in downtown Detroit’s Capitol Park) The building is one of a cluster surrounding Cap. Park. The park, not a roof top is the new meeting place frequented by tenants of many buildings.

You also must have a warm spot in your heart for a place or time that stands out? If you return you may be disappointed. The original Town House still remains but has been totally renovated as the Town Residences. Bob took a risk and chose Capitol Park online. The recent Detroit revival provided favorable vibes. Old acquaintances are now replaced by new friends but many familiar reference points remain.

Bob now keeps Dick informed of the goings on at Town House 2 and “the Brack Pack”. (Our name for the Capitol Park gang) Dick even gets to visit occasionally.

Can you go back? No but you sure can come back!

Who’s Zu-Zu?

By Bob & Dick Chancia

Can you tell by that caricature? Hint: he’s a popular ’53 Prox grad. Zu-Zu was our best friend growing up and inspired us in many ways.

Proverbs 18:24 says; There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Growing up, Joe Karam was our brother!

The 1940’s:

It was spring of ’42. We just moved to 610 Plymouth Place from 522 Mary Street. Pedaling his trike down our new dead-end street was 5 year old Zu-Zu, wearing a fleece-lined leather aviator cap with earflaps, chin strap and goggles.

His family lovingly called him Zu-Zu but he said; “my name’s Joe, what’s yours?” A lifelong connection began. The 40’s were great except when Joe spent some of the summer at his family’s compound in Milford, PA. We muttered to each other as we often did when he left; “we lost him.”

We visited Milford one summer after accompanying Dad on a sales trip to Binghamton. Now we know why the Mandour family loved that Delaware River resort town. Joe’s cousins were regular visitors to Plymouth Place: Brooklyn’s Donny and Diane and Joe and Regina from Lehighton, PA. We loved those Dodger and Philly fanatics too.

Every September 26, Joe’s parents threw a huge birthday bash for Zu-Zu. His cousins and street friends savored it. Joe went to BSS (Blessed Sacrament School) and was so smart, he skipped a grade so was a year ahead of us, though 6 months younger. The gang on the corner of Mohawk and James streets (John DeKime, B.J. Johnson, Bobby Isgro and Beanie Borgavini ) would coax young Joe to read textbooks and signs, amazed by his skills. Shortly after, the BSS nuns skipped him ahead; they thought his lack of focus might be better remedied in public school.

Zu-Zu found himself a grade up on us at Roosevelt School. There, he never studied but got by with his brains and wit. At his ’49 graduation, he won no awards and was heavily rebuked by his folks, Gabe and Lila.

From our driveway, the entire neighborhood heard him calling out “Twins!” He was the first to get an erector and chemistry set, ball point pen or jack knife. Joe introduced us to hum-a-zoos, peashooters and Goody Filipino-twirler yo-yos from Trads or Mame Cronin’s.

Zu-Zu set the pace and we followed. Lila took us to movies downtown and taught us to perform skits for her Syrlebana ladies club. We sang, did impersonations and told jokes and stories.

In the fall of ’49, Joe went off to Proctor High and won over the older guys. Seniors Ace Arcuri, Mike Caruso and Joe “Black” Saraceno razzed him by playing the 1949 Johnny Desmond hit “Don’t Cry Joe” on the Campus Inn juke box. There was an element of sadness about Zu-Zu’s outgoing persona.

The 50’s:

We hiked to the Parkway and Proctor Park with baloney sandwiches and canteens of Kool-Aid. We played soccer and stick ball in the street and rode our 2-wheelers everywhere. Joe was a decent athlete and held his own as the catcher on our Plymouth Pirates Kiwanis League team. We followed him as high school team managers. Our Renaissance man had brains, brawn and even did some wild neighborhood babysitting.

We wrote songs together and drove to Syracuse’s 3 Rivers Inn to entice Julius La Rosa’s manager with our doo-wop creation “Carbonated Cutie”. In the car, we wrote” Porto la Bottiglia,” (Get the Bottle) figuring they’d go for an Italian novelty tune. We got the inevitable brush off. At parties, Joe did a hilarious monologue of the 50’s popular radio sit-com “Life with Luigi” with an impeccable Italian dialect.

After graduation in 1953, again with no honors, and another strong rebuke from Papa Gabe, Joe headed to Cornell University. He aced the college boards and won a full tuition Regents scholarship. No Surprise! Joe boarded with Uncle Mike Hanna, an Ithaca radio station owner who prodded the homesick 16 year old Zu-Zu to stick it out. Joe made his ’57 commencement again with no plaudits or honors, although he excelled at campus radio station WVBR.

We were S.U. seniors when Joe joined us at Syracuse to pursue an MBA in economics. He finished the course work but not the required MBA thesis. He had fun at CUSE, auditing our Ad design class and band rehearsals. Our Ad design prof, Mr. Roters, demanded that Joe make the coffee as long as he was coming to class.

When our regular marching band PA announcer caught the flu, band Pres. Bob tossed Joe in the booth with the script. When the crowd at old Archbold Stadium heard his voice boom over the PA, it was curtains for the regular announcer.

While auditing a symphonic band rehearsal in Crouse Hall, director Dr. Harwood Simmons summoned Joe from the auditorium to bang the wood blocks. Zu-Zu became a regular in the percussion section.

His most famous cadenza came on tour at the end of encore selection “Amperito Roca”. We warned Doc Simmons that Joe didn’t know about the abrupt pause at the end. When the huge crescendo soared to the dead silence pause – CRASH- came from Joe’s cymbals. Simmons said; “no sweat, I covered it up with a flip of my baton.”

Joe was our prop man with the marching band, before his PA stint. At the Pitt game, a dragon on a Pitt float was spewing smoke. Joe left the side lines and spontaneously doused the float with the fire extinguisher he had for our half-time show. A small riot ensued which a local Pittsburgh TV crew filmed before the game. Later we heard from Proctor’s famous Mr. Hammes, who saw the TV broadcast on network news and questioned Joe’s motive.

Last SU story: Proctor’s Radio Guild head, Miss McCarthy was visiting SU and happened on the prone Joe, filming us running on SU’s Quad during a snow storm. It was a photography class, stop-the-action assignment. Miss McCarthy was taken aback!

The 60’s through 2000s:

We went our separate ways. Joe did stints with RADC (Rome Air Development Center) before dabbling in Utica politics and urban renewal. He was the force behind the rise of Mayor Assaro and rode the famous Bobby Kennedy campaign train. We chose advertising gigs in Rochester, Detroit, Miami, LA and NYC and met up occasionally with Joe.

Zu-Zu brought Dick’s wedding assembly to tears with over-the-top renditions of Gounod’s Ave Maria, the Lord’s Prayer and Whither Thou Goest. He repeated the performance at Bob’s NYC wedding.

Let’s wrap this up. With his Mom’s influence, Joe was a natural on stage. He could sing with the best, dabbled with the slide trombone and Gibson electric guitar but acting was his forte. The humor he brought to his senior play role in Louis Soloman and Harold Buchman’s “Snafu” was brilliant.

In 1955, Joe emceed a Variety Show for Proctor’s Alumni scholarship fund, played in Lou Angelini’s “Festa” production besides the recent Supper club drama about Utica’s history, at Grimaldi’s restaurant.

He was a stellar performer, promoter, director and supporter of Utica’s Players’ drama group. His Nicely-Nicely Johnson character in “Guys and Dolls” was Jackie Gleason-esque. Zu-Zu’s rendition of “Sit down you’re rockin’ the boat” rivaled Broadway’s original cast performer, Stubby Kaye and stopped the show!

Joe stayed close and loyal to his beloved Utica family, Aunt Marie, Uncle Braheem, cousins Gail and Tony Mandour, Jimmy Hage and countless friends.

If you attended Proctor in the early 50s, you had to love him. Zu-Zu was so much more than nicely-nicely and he would stop any show anytime, anywhere!

Joseph Gabriel Richard Karam will always be Zu-Zu to us!

We were all about The Neighborhood

By Bob and Dick Chancia

Back up to life in the forties and fifties. The neighborhood defined us and we defined the neighborhood. It was a two-way street! Unlike today, we were bussed nowhere, had no soccer Moms chauffeuring us all over in mini vans to another structured activity. The street where we lived was our anchor.

Today, when driving around Utica, we always go down Plymouth Place. That was our block. You had your block too and everyone’s block was the best block. Plymouth Place was a small dead-end street off Mohawk, south of Arthur and north of James Street.

There were 17 houses on the block; seven on the south side and 10 on the north. Our dead-end street was the hub of our lives. In back of the 7 houses on the south side was a wilderness-like gulf that went from Ballou Street, also off Mohawk and curved around to Arthur Street. We affectionately called it “the dump” although no one ever dumped anything there.

It was enchanting, with wild life (deer, pheasants, squirrels etc.), plus wild flowers, weeds of every sort including burdocks, (the forerunner of Velcro) In 1941, Swiss engineer George de Mestral was hunting in rural Switzerland and noticed small burrs, later identified as the burdock plant, stuck to his pant leg...the rest is history. Patented in 1948, the Velcro name came from the French word for velvet (“velours”) and hook (“crochet”).

We hiked to Roosevelt School on Taylor Ave off of Arthur Street via “the dump”. A homeless guy made his dwelling there and we’d walk by him on our way to school without a trace of fear, just intrigue. We built huts in the dump, dug out mini creeks and poured sprinkling cans of water to simulate a stream.

The highlight of the dump was “grass hill”, where we sledded till soaking wet from snow. The older Clemention Street gang built an elaborate hut they called “Happy Dale Sanitarium”. It had multi-level rooms with bunks that really impressed us. We tried to imitate it but ours was a lame attempt. Whatever, it gave us the feeling of our own hide-away and shelter.

After the Saturday cartoons and Westerns at the James theatre, out came our belted holsters, cap guns and cowboy hats. Suddenly we became Roy Rogers, The Durango Kid or Lash LaRue. The dump remains indelible in our hearts.

We rode bikes and scooters all over the block and played serious stick ball games in the street. We used the popular pink Spaldine rubber ball so they must have been serious. If you hit one over Dolly Darmin’s white picket fence ya had a dinger. Soccer, touch football and roller skating were also big on the street.

Getting caught up with all the activity is misleading ‘cause what made the street special was it’s people. The kids, Joe Karam, Joan and Priscilla Capecelatro, Larry Luizzi ( son of orchestra leader Lawrence ), Dorothy Looft, Patty and Mike Didio, Rita, Helen and Butch Lonero, PK and Peter Zogby, Marilyn and Tony Howland, Joe and Marie DeLorenzo to name a few. Our hero George Fanelli didn’t live on Plymouth Place.

Close by neighbors Patty Calderella and Jimmy Ulrich from Mohawk Street, Frank Caviola, Roger and Deanna Bruni from Arthur Street were also part of the block. We knew every household, what they did and what make car they drove. Everyone got along and helped each other. Mr.Ulrich helped our Dad lay a cement block foundation and build the sturdiest garage on the block.

A couple Moms directed us in annual backyard circuses to raise money for an orphanage. The OD did a photo-op of one of our productions. They also featured Plymouth Place in their special “Folks at Home” series, showing off our beautiful tree shaded street.

Plymouth Place 2021.

Hitter Bob and Catcher Dick with picket fence in 1949.

Mr. Owens delivered milk to our milk shoots from his cream and orange Graffenburg Dairy horse drawn wagon. The Hathaway bakery man came right into our kitchen with assorted baked goods. Domsers delivered eggs and crocks of butter and yes, the Fuller Brush man was a regular.

Gab sessions were held under the street light or on our front porch glider. We went trick or treating without parental escorts, hoping Belle Capecelatro wouldn’t run out of pop corn balls.

Plymouth Place was innocent, mysterious; a genuine fantasy land without today’s hi-tech distractions. Neighbors freely dropped in to visit and Gramma Lonero was always welcome with her hot homemade tomato pie. Parodi cigar salesman Mike DeLorenzo’s garage filled with promo give-aways was a treat.

The grocery man and his son Philip came by daily in the summer and all the Moms chatted around his truck of fresh produce bought for that night’s supper. His hanging metal scale on chains was the truck’s centerpiece.

Mel Allen blared from open windows bringing the Yankees right to our driveway. Neighborhood birthday parties with more kids than family were the norm. Everyone had cousins that visited often and they too became regulars on the street.

When we were teenagers, bulldozers leveled the dump, replacing it with a playground plus a little league baseball and football field. The block had lost some of its mystique.

So what was your block like? The same kind of bonding and affection existed for you too. Houses were so close that we got familiar with each other without Facebook. Doors were unlocked, and bikes and toys were never stolen. Happy pre suburban people, purposely captive were positively content on their Plymouth Places way before Mr. Rogers talked about the neighborhood.

How do ya get to Carnegie Hall?

By Bob and Dick Chancia

Question: rumor has it that a pedestrian stopped Jascha Heifetz and inquired, “Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Yes”, said Heifetz, “Practice!”

Many legendary classical, jazz and popular musicians performed there: Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Billy Eckstine, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra, to name a few. Rock and roll first came to Carnegie Hall in 1955 with Bill Haley & His Comets followed by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.The Hall has also been the site of many famous lectures including Booker T. Washington and Mark Twain. Obviously those people did a little practicing.

Next question: How did we make it to Carnegie Hall? What? You’re surprised? You didn’t know that we tootled our licorice sticks (clarinets) on stage at Carnegie Hall to a full house! Before we get to the answer to that fair question, let’s do a little history lesson on the Hall.

Carnegie Hall, one of the most prestigious concert venues in the world is on 7th Ave. between 6th and 7th Ave. in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. Architect William Burnet Tuthill designed it and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built it in 1891.

OK, you’re on the edge of your couches. (There’s a word from the 1940’s) You all agree that it’s a big deal to perform at Carnegie Hall? Actually, 3 guys from Proctor High did the gig at the Hall 32 years ago on the same evening. Yep…Wednesday night, May, 24, 1989.

Long answer short: Bob and Dick played their horns in the Syracuse University bands for director Marice Stith. (1954-58) Our pal Joe Karam (Proctor ’53) and Cornell University (’57) spent 1958 doing grad work at S.U.

Joe never played cymbals, a percussion section instrument but Bob, former President of S.U. bands had some clout, so old buddy Joe had connections, hence did some cymbal crashing for Syracuse band director Marice Stith.

Stith went on to Cornell, where he spent 23 years as director of bands. He conducted his final concert with the Cornell University Concert Band at…you guessed it-Carnegie Hall. To commemorate Stith’s entire career, a select group of his “CUSE alumni marching band members were handpicked to join the Cornell combined band for their last number. The Chancia boys made the cut and Bob made a call to Stith. Believe it. Joe Karam was added to crash the cymbals! Capish? You know how that stuff works.

The 3 guys from Utica Proctor joined the club with Sinatra, Toscanini, Bernstein, Glenn Miller, Mark Twain etc. as X- Carnegie Hall artists. You all don’t doubt us but we do have the printed program to prove it. We celebrated with Stith and 30 band people at an after concert reception down 57th street at the Salisbury Hotel.

Final note: CRASH! Karam played the cymbals by ear!

Mother’s Day Bride

By Bob & Dick Chancia

Here’s our wonderful Mom on her wedding day, May 8, 1935. She was 3 months and 20 days shy of her 25th birthday. Florie spotted her dapper Dan, (Allie) at the Utica Trust & Deposit Company, when making a weekly dollar deposit.

Quickly realizing, this is my man, she looked forward to making more deposits there. Allie thought; where did this flower come from? The rest is history!

The picture, taken in one of Bleecker Street’s photo studios, (either Rotundo or the Modern Studio) really says it all. Wouldn’t you agree that whoever snapped the shutter couldn’t miss?

Maybe we’re partial ‘cause she’s our Mom but…is that a beautiful bride or is that a beautiful bride? Florie’s angelic beauty radiated from the depth of her soul. She sure inspired us with a dedication and example that demonstrated selfless care.

She’s carrying a nosegay of lily of the valley, the flower of May. A perfect choice for our special lily of the Mohawk Valley.

Do not neglect your mother’s instruction. It will crown you with grace… (From Proverbs 1: 8 & 9)

Blessed Mother’s Day 2021 to our Mom: Florenza Marie Mangano Chancia!

Summer Jobs…UGH!

By Bob & Dick Chancia

In 1952 we turned sweet 16. In reality, it was sweet and sour 16. A couple of big milestones were ahead. First a trip to the DMV. (Dept. of Motor Vehicles) for driving permits. Then to City Hall for UGH….working papers.

Dad had a ’52 Plymouth. You guessed right…stick shift. One must coordinate the brake, clutch, accelerator and transmission shift simultaneously. Uncle Lou, having more patience than Dad, was the designated driving teacher.

This story is about the sour side of turning 16; time to get a summer job! UGH! Pop knew Louie Chanatry, thus we became “bag boys” at Chanatry’s market on Bleecker St. We packed groceries at the register then carried the heavy brown paper bags to the customer’s cars parked on the street. The bag boys all hoped to land at pretty Vita Rossi’s register. When the registers were quiet we pushed brooms. Mr. Chanatry didn’t allow any down time.

Two of our friends started at the store at the same time. Their Dads were much closer to Louie so they drew a cushier assignment: stocking shelves that payed a few dimes an hour more. That eventually upset us and we quit. The real world had lessons to teach and we were ill prepared to realize that partiality politics were part of life’s circumstances.

Summer jobs were not the exception for high schoolers. The Utica Department of Recreation headed by Duke Roemer placed many students at city playgrounds as directors and at the 2 municipal swimming pools ( Buckley and Addison Miler ) as life guards, checkers, operators etc. City Parks Dept. hired groundskeepers and many local businesses put young people to work.

In East Utica, some Proctor students worked at Caruso Cheese Factory, Gold Medal Packing, Saraceno Construction and Pride of Utica Ice Cream, to name 4. Those with administrative /office skills, trained at banks and the telephone company. Some of the gals, like Pat Calderella waitressed at Pinto’s in Old Forge and had a blast! The New York State Thruway under construction in the early 1950’s, was a new source for summer jobs. The pay was so attractive, many dropped out of school to hit the road full time.

A very popular summer job was bean picking. Teenagers, both guys and gals got a taste of the scorching sun as harvesters. A bus picked up pickers in the early morning at neighborhood stops and transported them to farms on route 5-S. The pay was by the bucket. More speed brought more bucks. Remo Zegarelli was fast and most of the girls had dexterity. That meant more bean$. Butch Polera quit on the intense heat and asked for an early ride home. “Nope, the truck leaves at 5pm.” Butch hoofed it Back to East Utica. Kids walked in those days.

After Chanatry, we learned how to manufacture ice cream novelties ( popsicles, fudgsicles, Eskimo pies and creamsicles ) at Joe and Fred Zogby’s Pride of Utica Ice Cream on South St near Quinn playground. There, believe it or not was a mini mass production assembly line concept. We had to pull, stick, freeze and package the products. Again, speed and dexterity were important.

As summer break college students, we progressed to the Dept. of Recreation. Bob was a playground director at Proctor. He set up and took down equipment; ( swings ) and umpired Kiwanis league baseball games. Umpires were taught baseball rules ( ex: Infield fly rule ) from the dean of Utica umpires, Ed Hinko. Umpiring was Bob’s nemesis. Players and parent’s tempers flared after close calls.

Dick was an assistant operator at Buckley Pool under director Elliot Hunt. ( A Proctor teacher ) He tested chlorine levels frequently with a simple instrument and assisted in opening and closing the building. Dick and an un-named friend pushed a pretty off duty lifeguard, fully clothed, in the pool; an immature display of adolescent showing off. A lifelong lesson was learned. Dick finished that summer working much harder fabricating Formica counter tops with his Dad.

The laminate was glued to 3/4 inch plywood and clamped in a press for 12 hours. He learned how jig/band saws, routers, lathes and sanders contributed to the finished product. Dad was an expert with wood. It wasn’t Dick’s shtick.

Sorry Butcho…the Bean picker’s truck leaves at 5 pm. Take a hike! UGH!

Many teens were fortunate to work in their family businesses. Joe Tantillo, B.J. Johnson, Bob and Joe Isgro delivered groceries for their family markets. Sal and former Mayor Mike Caruso worked with many friends at the Tilden Ave. cheese plant and Joe and Cosmo Saraceno plus a bevy of buddies did hard labor for the family construction company.

Bob was head director at Proctor playground his 3rd year and worked with classmates Charles Ganim, Joan Nole, Peter Vatalaro, Joe Majka and Pidgie Lupia. That summer, Dick at Miller playground with Bob at Proctor and Joe Karam from Murnane built the Proctor, Miller & Murnane circus train for the city-wide end of summer field day. That float won the blue ribbon.

There was a bottom line to summer jobs… when stickball, sandlot baseball, roller skating and hopscotch days were over. We earned money to defray college costs, contributed to family expenses and made some spending money. Much more important than money, we learned responsibility and that no job was too small.

Science nerd and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ( the richest man on the planet - $182.2 billion ) spent a summer as a fry cook at McDonald’s. While responding to the many buzzers that told him when to scramble eggs, flip burgers and pull fries from the vat, he studied the company’s automation improvements. He also taught camp for 10 yr. olds with his girlfriend. Their curriculum went from space colonies to TV and advertising.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” ( Col. 3:23 ) So work hard kids, ‘cause you reap what you sow! That’s God’s reward! Way back then we would have thought, Sow What!

You Scream-a, I Scream-a, We All Scream-a for…PIZZA!

By Bob & Dick Chancia

There are many legends about Pizza. We’ll have some fun and tell our story. We bet it compares to yours.

Our Mama didn’t make her own dough. Dad bought it at Rintrona or one of the many East Utica bakeries: DeRisio, DeIorio, Raspante, DeVito etc., obviously he had options. First, Mama put the dough in a bowl and covered it with a towel to rise. She then sprinkled a little flour and brushed it with oil to prevent sticking while kneading it by hand. Maybe she cheated a little with the aid of a rolling pin?

Our pizza wasn’t round. She stretched it to fit a rectangular pan. Next the tomato sauce… Marinara. (no meat) The final touch was a sprinkling of grated Romano cheese before baking. The result was tomato pie that we called “pizza”. Our Pop wanted us to be surgeons. No way…we lacked dexterity. We ate our pizza the correct Italian way; with a knife and fork. Did that set off his delusion?

One legend has it; to honor the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito (now there’s a popular East Utica name) created Pizza Margherita. That pie, garnished with RED tomatoes, WHITE mozzarella, and GREEN basil, represented the colors of Italy’s flag.

Pizza wasn’t popular to the masses in the U.S. until World War II. American GIs brought the idea home. Our first pizzeria experience was at Trinos on Bleecker Street near the Florentine Pastry Shop. As freshmen in high school, spreading our wings, we ran into classmates Jim Paravati and Lou D’Amore enjoying a pie plus clams on the half shell. The Trino pie was round, thin, crispy with melted mozzarella cheese stretching on top. (Oregano of course) It was divided in triangular slices and we were impressed!

We wasted no time telling Mama she was doing it all wrong! She complied, changed to a round pan and added the stretchy stuff.

Our pizza search has never ended. Utica was a great town for pizza. Ventura on Kossuth had a unique little pie; Grimaldi’s was excellent; Nofri was popular and Graziano’s Regal on Bleecker and Jefferson was right up there. O’scugnizzo, the King of Pizza created “Utica Style”. He placed the mozzarella under the sauce. That became known as “Upside Down” pizza.

We wrote a song on that innovation. A sample lyric goes…”First the dough then the cheese, then ya put da sauce on da top”. In the 1958 comedy film, “Houseboat”, bombshell nanny Cinzia (Sophia Loren) showed young Robert (Charles Herbert) how to eat a slice the easy way! (fold it down the middle)

The pizza was adequate during our 4 years at Syracuse University but not on par with Utica. Burgers and subs from the campus “dingle” man (a bell ringing food truck) satisfied the late night hunger pains of young students. We remember the Villa off East Genesee having good pizza and Italian cuisine. The Varsity restaurant is now Varsity Pizza and is very good. It’s tough to get in after games. Rochester was 3rd behind Syracuse during our 3 years there. (1958-61)

Sadly our favorite town, Detroit, (1961-69) got a 4th place. Motown’s Italian cooking was Bolognese style rather than the Neapolitan that we were accustomed to. We did frequent LaLanterna in the sixties and Bob, now living there, spends time in the new hi-tech Lanterna, re-opened by the grandson of the original owner, Eduardo Barbieri. Today its Detroit’s best! Detroit is now famous for “Detroit Style” pizza and Pizza Hut is currently promoting its version of that Motown Pie. Bob now frequents Buddy’s in Detroit for the thicker Sicilian style SQUARES with the mozzarella also under the sauce.

In the 1960’s we ate a lot of pizza at Detroit’s Luigis and had an encounter there with Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, also enjoying an after ballgame pie. Hey…why not? One weekend we found our way to the windy city. We sampled Chicago deep dish style at the world famous Uno’s. (we deep sixed it)

From 1970 on, we were fortunate to live in Manhattan, America’s “Pizza Heaven” where every variety is available within walking distance: brick-oven, wood fired, NY style, thin crust, thick crust, designer, (gourmet) pick your passion... it’s all there! Angelo’s on 57th St. has a coal oven Margherita style that’s over the top. After- work treks to Greenwich Village with buyer Alan Rosenberg and copywriter Dick Dotz confirmed, John’s Pizza takes the PIE!

Dick’s young son Alex appeared in classroom scenes in Woody Allen’s movie “Radio Days.” At the casting interview, Woody asked the boy if he heard of him. Alex’s reply: “I saw your picture on the wall at John’s Pizza”.

Dick at Benny Tudino’s “biggest slice” spot in Sinatra’s town: Hoboken, NJ. Photo by Caroline Chancia

Dick’s daughter Caroline moved to Hoboken, (a great place for pizza) so he now frequents Benny Tudino’s Biggest slice in town. You can enjoy a humongous slice and check out hometown hero Frank Sinatra pics on the walls. Tip for seniors: Dick’s son Rob taught us to grill pizza using NAAN Original Flatbreads. Try it.

Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day or 350 slices per second. The top topping is pepperoni. Surprise! Norway consumes the most pizza per capita – about 11 pies per person per year.

The big chains: Little Caesar, Pizza Hut, Papa John and Domino dominate with national advertising, although 65% of the pizza sold in the USA is from locally owned restaurants. The availability of pizza surrounds us. Super markets provide complete assortments of frozen varieties. (DiGiorno-not delivery, Tombstone, & Celeste, to name 3). If you’re APT to have a pizza APP on your phone…click… your favorite pie comes right to your doorstep.

This winter, Sno-bird Bob had no pizza luck in Sunny Isles Beach, FL. Solution: his sister-in-law Anne did a weekly pizza night in her apt.

We have enjoyed pizza for over 80 years; from Mama’s rectangle without melted cheese to Manhattan’s designer stuff. One last word of advice: Never put pineapple on your pizza! That’s a mortal sin. Father Pizzolio would assign heavy penance. ROUND pizza, cut in TRIANGLES and delivered in a SQUARE box? Don’t try understanding that.” When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie… dats Amore!”

1950’s Décor Had It All Together!

By Bob & Dick Chancia

So many things define a decade. One is décor and the 1950s didn’t lack distinct style. It was so distinct that a current style rage (Mid-Century) is in!

We hiked along Armory Drive to Proctor High in those happy, safe times and recall passing by many 3-section picture windows with a favorite lamp prominently placed in the center section. The post-war building boom made its impact with many capes and 1-floor ranch homes.

Inside the picture windows were the furnishings: beanbag and butterfly chairs, pole lamps, blond furniture and Formica, Formica, everywhere. Our Dad was a fabricator, so we knew all the patterns: charcoal and pink Skylark, Linen, Moonglow and Mother-of-Pearl to name a few.

Besides Formica counter tops, shiny surfaces of chrome dinettes complimented thick vinyl covered chairs. A sweeping 3-piece turquoise sectional spanned our living room. There we watched Uncle Miltie, Ozzie & Harriet and Your Show of Shows. Saturday afternoon was college football with pal Larry Luizzi, on his B&W round screen Zenith TV. Rabbit ears only! No remotes, modems or tangled wires crawling the floors.

Many homeowners replaced dark wood framed moldings and French doors with archways. Our windows were crowned with jig-saw scalloped wood cornices capping plush draperies or curtains. Walls and wallpaper came down and paneling went up; often knotty-pine. Wall-to-wall carpeting covered varnished hardwood floors. ”Modernistic” abstract design fabrics replaced pas-se Victorian prints.

Thin slant-legged side tables held ash trays as most people smoked. Sleek, simple stackable cabinets and chests offered many set-up options to hold china or our stereophonic sound systems. We were proud of our amplifier, Garrard turntable and Fisher speakers.

Enoch Light’s Command Record label produced “Persuasive Percussion.” His technical pioneering brought heightened stereo effects and fidelity into our living rooms. Measures of music could now be separated from speaker to speaker. Every “cool cat” had a stereo system. Perry Como and Doris Day’s hits came to life in our dens.

Paul Mc Cobb was the foremost ‘50s American modern furniture designer. After spotting one of his dining room sets in Leed’s furniture window on Bleecker Street, we talked our folks into buying it. His pieces are rare and valuable today. What McCobb said about his designs apply to the boom years also. “It is a period of its own and should not be confused with any other periods.”

We attempted to imitate the 1950’s decor of our freshman dorm at SU, (Watson Hall) that just opened when we arrived in September 1954. Our room was painted Chinese red and onion-skin. Uncle Lou re-painted our bedroom at home to match.

No doubt your homes had some 1950’s accents. If not, you had to remember the red Formica tables in Uncle Bill Rizzo’s Campus Inn.

Why all the fascination with 1950’s style? Maybe ‘cause things were drastically changing after the war. A life-shift took place. Change brings growth and we were growing up.

Let’s hope the Covid 19 life-shift is as productive. If spring ever arrives in the Mohawk Valley, check out a flea market or garage sale. You may find some old memories like a Melmac dish or an “I like IKE” button and recall the “boom years” when we all liked each other and had it all together!

Aunts Helen, Clara, Mom and Aunt Ev, comfortable on our turquoise sectional. Note boom-a-rang coffee table. Popular paneled wall is the background.

Bob tapping bongos and Dick playing clarinet to Enoch Light’s Persuasive Percussion recording.

Time to Honor the Honor Roll!

By Bob and Dick Chancia

Here’s a fact of life: we don’t applaud scholarship but love to acknowledge and pamper sports/entertainment heroes! When was the last time you saw a Rhodes Scholar or Princeton valedictorian doing a shaving commercial?

Sports and show-biz stars are all over the media: hosting, co-hosting, waving from floats or broadcasting the Rose parade while the academic achievers are… who knows where?

Somehow, just one monumental sports achievement like Joe Namath’s miraculous Super Bowl upset, which he predicted, vaults him into a life-time pop culture career complete with branding. (Broadway Joe)

We were guilty of that in our youth also. There were honor rolls and the National Honor Society and that was good BUT…sports stars always got top billing. We recall homeroom 202 at Proctor with Miss Marchetta. Each month she wrote on the blackboard in Palmer Method; the Honor Roll, to remind us that marks mattered.

Best athlete Ralph Antone ’54 was always on it. He was an exception but that inspired us to want to see our names up there too. Bet your homeroom teacher did likewise.

Today’s culture is obsessed with pop stars, and when they fall like Tiger or O.J., we’re bombarded with more exposure plus personal disappointment. The focus of this column is to recognize a few achievers that were impressive in high school and beyond.

Gene Nassar ’53, was a true scholar, gentleman and professor who dedicated his life encouraging our local students to improve. Gene was a Rhodes Scholar! How about that?

Lois Geraci ’51, reached the pinnacle of Madison Avenue recognition creating award winning national ad campaigns as did her classmate, Guy Cimbalo. His brother Bob ’54, was a U.C. art professor and also a renowned Italian-American folk artist. CEO Pat Locanto ’54, headed up the Big 4 accounting firm Deloitte & Touche’s Management Consulting.

Gerard Moses ’56, is an actor, director and professor emeritus of drama at S.U. Angela Zegarelli Vanderhoof ’53, is the former executive director of The Arc that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Eugene Corasante ’48, established CONMED in 1970, a technological leader of medical supplies. David D. D’Alessandro ’68, is the former chief executive and President of John Hancock Financial Services. Proctor’s football stadium carries his name. Phillip Bean ’82, former Associate Dean of Haverford College, is now the Executive Director of Central N.Y. Conservancy.

Prof. Richard Benedetto ’59, was a stalwart White House correspondent/columnist in Washington, DC for U.S.A. Today. He emphasized that Proctor to so many was and still is our “guiding star…no matter where we are.” PHD Frank Lentricchia ’58, was literature and film studies professor at Duke University. Tom Yacovella ’56, became an acclaimed award-winning American wildlife artist. (Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame 1985)

They are just a few of our Prox accomplishers who excelled with their skills and passions. We will end this column by recognizing our unsung heroes, the class pacesetters of the 1950s.

Valedictorians Salutatorians

’50 Robert Lupi Loretta Taylor
’51 Lois Geraci Anita Scalise
’52 Vita Rossi James Ferro
’53 John Iacovino Rosemary Arcuri
’54 Mary Karros Donald Green
’55 Yvonne Graziano Joan Nole
’56 Angela Rabbia Gerard Moses
’57 Eugenia Roman John Raymonda
’58 Elaine Mancuso Carol Arcuri
’59 Mary Ann Bello Suzanne Tranquille
We’re gonna add one more to the list ‘cause she’s our 1st Cuz: Pamela Ciancia – ’64 Valedictorian.

Shown are 1953 Salutatorian Rosemary Arcuri and Valedictorian John Iacovino

There you have it! Genuine achievers who are our most glittering statistics! Albert Einstein once said: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” So crack those books kids – it’ll pay off!

Where are your treasures?

By Bob and Dick Chancia

On April 12 at 10:08 pm Dick will be 85 and 5 minutes later at 10:13 pm Bob will hit that mid eighty mark; a couple of Octogenarians who like to step back in time. How did they do it? Bob created a time capsule: a tall cabinet with glass doors.

He carefully edited his memorabilia, selecting only keepsakes that put a smile on his face. The showcase was the focal point of his living room. Dick was quick to copy Bob. Why not? Copying Bob’s homework always worked in school! Yep, 250 miles upstate, Dick set up a similar display.

Here’s the philosophy behind these time capsules: when one sees something from years ago, the magic is not in the items but the warm memories that they conjure up. Keep in mind; these collectibles aren’t worth a lot of money…no, no, no. They just retrieve those “good old days”.

Packages of gum that Our Dad sold for 30 years: Beemans, Black Jack, Clove, Dentyne, Chiclets and even tiny paper bags of Sen Sen. Remember them? They bring back the sweet fragrance that permeated Pop’s 1941 Buick Special; the family car that we took so many rides in.

Dick has a tin ash tray he made at Camp Assisium in 1949, complete with Dad’s name (Allie) engraved on it.  Remember the flip-top Zippo lighters? Dad’s is there with his John Hancock (Allie Chancia) on the face of it. He lit many White Owl cigars and that mellow aroma comes right back to mind.

Bob’s Graffenburg Dairy milk bottle reminds us of our next door milkman, Mr. Owens. His horse and delivery wagon were in his driveway every lunch hour. 

Autographed baseballs feature both displays. One signed by Joe DiMaggio and another by the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers. The 1954 gold Proctor HS class ring with deep ruby- like stone out sparkles the bigger 1958 Syracuse U gold ring with…what else but an ORANGE stone. Our first wrist watch; a 1944 Westclock, sans strap completes the jewelry category. There are also 1958 SU freshman beanies in both cases.

The feature items in both displays; model CARS from the 40s and 50s. We owned a fire- truck red 1959 Chevy Impala convertible and a 1967 plum-mist Pontiac Firebird. Replicas of both are among many others from that colorful era like the 1948 futuristic Tucker.

Peek through the glass doors and see bobble-head dolls depicting our sports heroes, Carmello Anthony, Donovan McNabb and Mark McGwire. The nostalgia continues: sentimental kiddie hand drawn pins, a 1955 Duncan yo-yo, our 1st regiment Army A sleeve patch, plus Kewpee and Schultz & Dooley snow globes.

When Bob liquidated his New York City apartment, he brought in a prospective antique buyer to pick and choose. He ignored the silver, furnishings and accessories but zeroed in on the Memorabilia cabinet. Our guess: the nostalgia put a smile on his face also. Do you have glass doors you can look through and feel those “good old days”?

The Oneida County Historical Society has meticulously displayed artifacts of our area’s history. Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute is our regional center exhibiting a substantial collection of internationally recognized works.

The new Proctor gym has a Hall of Fame to acknowledge past sports heroes and highlights. You can see Prox 2nd baseman George Fanelli sliding safely into 3rd base in 1951. Visits to all are well worth your time.

Bob standing next to his trophy cabinet of memories!

At our 65th Proctor reunion, we were taken aback by the heartfelt passion of classmate Marge LaBarbera Calenzo. She shared memorabilia of our 4 school years and carefully displayed her treasures so all could recall those special years. Her vast collection even included her cheerleading sweater. That’s Rah Rah zeal 65 years later!

Let’s allow these earthly trophies to remind us that growing up in Central NY was indeed a blessing! Most importantly, the real hidden and timeless treasures are where we find God’s wisdom and understanding; perceiving and valuing Him as Savior and source of ALL!

Our pal, Dr. Frank Paladino once said after a visit to the Met in NYC: “Don’t collect anything. Its already been collected”. There’s some practical advice to glean from.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. (Matthew 6: 19-21)

Day by Day: The 50’s were FAB!

By Bob and Dick Chancia

We had no devices and weren’t googling online for everything. We had structure, knew what to expect and were satisfied with simplicity. There was something sacred about that.

Our hearts were warmed by routine, unlike this present new ICE age. ( Information – Communication and Entertainment ) Remember cars with fins instead of dashboard screens? Each day consistency prevailed. It was the FABulous 50’s!

On Sundays we did Mass and dealt with the Nuns – ugh! Mother Superior – Sister Pius clacked her hand clicker to keep us in line on those hard pews. After the Sunday school storm came the sunshine for peddling our trikes and scooters.

Perry Winkle, Captain Marvel, Dick Tracy, Lil Abner, Gasoline Alley, Joe Palooka, and the Teenie Weenies in the colorful Sunday funnies were our social media. Then, the aroma of the sauce and meatballs sizzling in oil was a ritual. Many times Dad took the family for a ride around the Mohawk Valley, stopping for a sundae at one of the soda fountains where he peddled Adams chewing gum.

On Monday it was back to school but Monday night meant DOWNTOWN! “The lights are much brighter there. You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares so go downtown”! The busy corner was our meeting place before the malls. The Boston Store, Wicks & Greenman and Morrow’s Nut House had it all.

Tuesdays meant homework and then Dish Night at the Ri. Those black and white silver screen gems with Lana, Clark, Bette Davis or John Wayne plus previews, popcorn and the news reels were a full plate. Look Mom – no I-phone!

Wednesday, we left school early for religious instruction to face the Nuns again. In Cornhill we got a sugar-high at Mame Cronins before confronting the scary ladies. If we got lucky, it was pretty Sister Marie’s class and our sugar habit was really satisfied!

The Wednesday night fights by Pabst Blue Ribbon brought Kid Gavilan, Carmen Basilio, Rex Layne, Chico Vejar or Sugar Ray right to our living room. We met with neighbors Larry Luizzi and Joe Karam for a weekly Fight Club with Wise chips, Pepsi and Utica Club.

Thursday was Prince Spaghetti night in Boston but in Utica it was Gioia and P&R night. Same thrill! Then off to the Parkway band shell concerts. The domed stage was back of the tennis courts and we sat on the ski slope facing the music. We ran into classmates and some even kindled new romances.

During Holy Week, Thursday was special. We visited the eastside churches; a yearly sacred and colorful tradition. The solemn purple draped statues, Stations of the Cross and ornately decorated altars reminded us of the hope of Resurrection Sunday. The blossoms of spring meant new life. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” ( John 11:25 ).

Saturday at Murnane Field 1952: our bevy of pretty Proctor cheerleaders

The main thing about Friday was NO MEAT and school let out. If it wasn’t Baccala at home, it was Jean’s Beans in King Cole Plaza for fish fry. At night, the Proctor gym held our dances complete with a Bobby DelBuono floor show and Coke with chips in the locker room. Many recall chatting with our friendly cop always on guard duty.

Saturday meant football games at Murnane. We showed off our bevy of pretty cheerleaders and band while Lou Fondario scored touchdowns. Watching cartoons, westerns with the Cisco Kid, Hop-a-long or Gene Autry was the afternoon fare at the Ri, Family and James Theaters.

If you were cool  enough to have a Saturday night date, it meant a main feature at the Stanley, Avon or Olympic. Proctor steadies like John ( Otto Graham ) Fanelli cozying up to cute Ruth Cozza were a familiar sight. They capped off the night at Venturas or Trinos for pizza. Sammy Cahn’s lyrics to the 1945 hit popular in the 50’s said it all…”and day by day, my love seems to grow”!

Those were the weeks that “wuz”! They were predictable, fancy-free and FABulous. Hey – it was the 50’s and they’ll always belong to US!

Merry Old Mary Street had Soul!

By Bob and Dick Chancia

The popularity of Ancestry.com confirms that many of us want to know who came before us. What parts of the world did they come from? We won’t go back that far. We’ll keep it simple. 

What’s the first dwelling place that you remember? For us it’s 522 Mary Street. Our Grandfather Chancia bought a small house there in the late 1890’s, soon after arriving from Missanello, a town in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata. (West of Puglia). This skilled cobbler operated a shoe repair shop on Devereux Street in downtown Utica, with elite cliental. 

As a young man he was engaged to shine the shoes of “Teddy” Roosevelt, who was visiting the former Butterfield House, on Genesee Street. He also made artistically crafted leather shoes. He hand-stitched a regulation size genuine leather baseball for us. Instead of the familiar white horsehide, it was brown with black stitching.

His entrepreneurial spirit led him to expand the single family dwelling to a three story brick tenement building. It included a master apartment on the ground floor and two apartments on each upper floor. One toilet and sink at the rear of each floor was shared by the occupants of the floor.

He added a six stall cement-block garage in the back yard, to rent for additional income. A wrought iron fenced-in yard on the east side of the building included a cherry tree facing Mary Street. We remember digging in the dirt there with toy tin shovels and dump trucks.

Milkman Eddie Lee and his large family were our neighbors to the west and the Coluccis and their son Humbert lived east. We later attended Proctor High School with these friends. Philomena Ciruzzi lived across the street. Uncle Louie Ciruzzi shared plump, delicious mahogany colored cherries with us. Up the block, Mr. Greco, a police officer, was often on the porch of his neatly kept home. 

Cousin Jerry Sessa was our play leader. He’d parade us around the cobblestone yard with toy drums, handmade wooden rifles and American flags. Our future pal, George Fanelli didn’t live on Mary Street. He was the Yo-Yo champ of Catherine Street. 

A photographer, complete with cowboy/girl garb and a pony stopped by and took our pics atop the pony. We’ll bet many of you have a similar photo in that same saddle? 

Gramma and Grampa raised four daughters and five sons in that first floor flat. We remember some of them living upstairs (the old folks would say…”on-copa”) after they married. Our space included a small parlor, eat-in kitchen to the rear and two bedrooms. How Mom dealt with sharing a bathroom in the hallway with other tenants, still baffles us. We have no recollection of that ever being an inconvenience. All we remember is warm extended family, love and tender care.

The authors' Grandfather, Gaetano Ciancia (Chancia) in his shoe shop on Devereux Street.

The grape-vine laden 500 block didn’t lack for adventure. Occasional marches by the Red Band and refreshing visits by the lemon ice man are unforgettable. Trosset’s (the Utica Catholic Bookstore family) Mom and Pop grocery store, east on Mary and Second ave. was complete with metal scoops to portion quantities of foodstuffs. Packaged goods were rare in the late thirties.

On Third ave., Wonder Bread Bakery filled the air with a sweet aroma of fresh baked bread. Elizabeth Street was the home of Dahl Motors where Uncle Bill purchased his new black Ford every year. Within walking distance was Chancellor Park, and Bleecker Street School, where we attended kindergarten and first grade.

There we met the first love of our young lives; kindergarten teacher, Miss O’Rielly. Mom invited her and first grade teacher, Miss Buckley for a macaroni and meatball dinner. A few classmates were Florio Vitullo, of Florentine pastry fame, and models to be; the Castelli twins.

After the depression Dad purchased our first home; a clapboard craftsman bungalow on Plymouth Place for $3700 but we’ll never forget that humble abode on Mary Street: safe, secure and filled with soul!

Student Team Managers learned to serve

By Bob and Dick Chancia 

Part of our 50’s high school experience included being team managers. Having adequate athletic coordination but lacking our growth spurt hindered competing with the big guys. So we settled for team managers. We earned a coveted “Block P” which allowed us in what we considered then, to be the in crowd.

That was our initial motivation but hidden in that experience was an opportunity to perform necessary behind the scene tasks without any student adoration. The jocks got all the glory while the managers learned to serve. Those lessons proved useful later, as abilities to multi-task developed leadership skills. Selfless service builds character. Admittedly, those weren’t our motives then.

What did team managers do? We readied equipment for use, took attendance, refereed practice games and manned the official scorer’s table during games. First aid kits had to be available and player performance stats were recorded. We called in post game highlights to the local newspaper. That required responsibility, punctuality and accuracy. These chores far exceeded the common perceptions of a water boy.

Players, who we admired, hounded us to get their names in the paper. Coach Phil Hammes, the quintessential taskmaster, assigned Bob, JV basketball manager, a challenging job. After studying the required manual, “Net Scoring” stats were recorded during every game. Bob, perched high in the stands, carefully marked down who shot and from where. Assists, blocks and steals were also tabulated. Placing dots on floor charts demanded total concentration for maximum accuracy.

Coach Hammes collected the charts after each game from one bleary-eyed student manager. Unable to enjoy the game, those efforts were early lessons in dealing with work pressure.

Another chore: packing all road-game equipment. When the JV hoop squad traveled to play Rome School for the deaf, we realized we forgot to pack the duffle bags of practice balls. Anticipating Hammes’s fiery rebuke, we dashed off the bus to ask the nearest person at the gym to lend us some basketballs.

Everyone was deaf! Employing crude sign language got us some balls in the nick of time. We dodged a frightening Hammes bullet!

Pressure, duty, selfless service along with developing a work ethic offered some hard lessons. Besides molding character, we learned managerial skills.

Some diligent student managers from those years were: Louie Luce, Mike Calenzo, Joe Karam. Robert Jones, Joe Beratta, Sam Saccoia, Martin Henry, Jimmy Montana and Tommy Trinco, the “Dean” of all Prox managers!

The 1998 American sports comedy film “Waterboy” starred Adam Sandler. Sandler was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. His geekish performance of low humor and cheap gags were an insult to the student manager genre.

Today, colleges offer Sports Management degree programs involving finance, communication, sports law, history, marketing plus event and facility management.

Our friend Bill Behm, a student manager at Wake Forest was Detroit Tiger trainer from 1966-84. Brian DeStefano, a former Duke Manager, is now associate head coach at Harvard. Mark Evans, equipment manager at Kentucky, was a student manager at both Memphis and Kentucky. Brothers Brian and Kevin Paugas, the patron saints of managers now serve as San Antonio Spurs director of scouting and Michigan State director of operations.

So laugh if you like at these earnest efforts to serve their peers. Remember, in Matthew 20:26, Jesus said “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. Should we desire any less?

Bubble lights and tinsel recall past Christmases

By Bob Chancia 

66 years ago, I left Utica for college. After graduation, a brief career in Rochester, NY was interrupted by a short Army stint at Fort Dix. The 60s were spent in Detroit, then Miami before a 49 year stretch in New York City. 

Christmas in each place was special, including my formative years in Utica. Now a widower, I returned to Detroit in 2020.

Robert Brooks, a life long friend from Roosevelt School e-mailed this message:

“I’m glad you are happy in Detroit and I can see how you would find it particularly interesting. Detroit was a big, prosperous and exciting city when you and Dick, small town boys, lived there. Now the city, having gone through a long and devastating decline, is on its way back and you are there again, now a mature (to say the least) and experienced citizen, to share in its rebirth”.

Praise God rebirths don’t leave memories behind. Departing New York was difficult; what to keep and what to discard? Two boxes stored for 49 years in my roof-top locker made the United Van Lines inventory to Detroit. One was labeled 1940s Christmas ornaments and the other, Bubble lights. Remember them?

Dad, an impulse shopper, had to be the first with the latest rage. When bubble lights appeared, he rushed to Tehans on James St. before they ran out.

Each year without fail, dear friends from Oregon send presents, meticulously chosen and wrapped. One, a small box of Christmas tree icicles (tinsel) also made the cut. Remember them?

Barely able to navigate my iphone, I struggled through the online purchase of a small artificial tree, reminiscent of a 40s Balsa variety. As I unpacked and assembled it, visions of Christmas in every place I’d been emerged.

I unraveled the string of bubble lights, circa 1951 from Utica, recalling how placing the lights was the most tedious job for Dad. The 40s ornaments were fragile glittery glass, with hooks or a looped string. A few were shattered but enough remained in tact to fill my 2&1/2 foot tree.

The shiny-bright tinsel from Oregon completed my throw-back treasure. Their quality wasn’t up to the 40s icicles that my folks patiently placed one by one on real sparse branches. I hurriedly tossed clumps of tinsel on fake branches.

Suddenly, the miniature nativity figures in a small antique tin of odds and ends my wife left came to mind. I couldn’t omit the truth of what Christmas is about; the birth of the Savior who offers all mankind, joy, rebirth and everlasting life. One indelible memory was visiting Uncle Eugene on the 5-Points. His detailed, hand crafted, lighted layout of Bethlehem was mesmerizing!

Now, in apartment 610, at a renewed downtown Detroit landmark building, proudly stands my retro tree. I grew up at 610 Plymouth Place in Utica; God sure has a sense of humor and records all of our meanderings.

My 1950’s throwback-tree, including nativity figures, reflects the warmth of home.

In the midst of COVID 19, disturbing national discord plus the mind boggling digital age with its confusing lingo, I plugged in my retro assemblage. It is beyond glorious! It’s like a ZOOM meeting with glaring colors, sparkling lights and shimmering tinsel transmitting all the data from my life’s Christmas memory file, WOW!

Wherever Christmas finds me, wherever its love light gleams, I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams!*

*”I’ll be Home for Christmas” – Kim Gannon and Walter Kemp 1943.

Graduation Day, 70 years before COVID-19

By Bob and Dick Chancia

It was an azure sky day and the old Theodore Roosevelt School on Taylor Avenue in Utica’s Cornhill section provided the backdrop. The June Class of 1950 was carefully assembled for our official 8th grade graduation photo. It was beyond our comprehension that 70 years later commencements would be virtual or drive-thru.

Class President Sherwood “Sherry” Boehlert was seated front row center with Vice Pres. Pat Calderella to his right and Treasurer John Wallace at her right. It’s somewhat prophetic that Boehlert was our Pres., as he later served many years in the U.S. Congress.

We joked that one day he’d become President of the United States. His name, Sherwood, sure sounded presidential. Bob Brooks, who went on to UFA, Hamilton College and finally U of Michigan Law School became a Chicago attorney and professor at Northwestern University. Valedictorian Maureen Bouziden edged out Brooks, the salutatorian. 

We’ll never forget that day! We proudly flaunted our royal blue and white silk streamers, emblematic of the graduating class, pinned to our waists.

The class sat on the stage. Principal A. Ray Calhoun, Physical Ed, teacher Pete Hussey, pretty English teacher Ellen Weigel, Industrial Arts instructor Bob Langworthy and Art teacher Abe Blumberg filled the first row. We still have the wooden plank wishing well pump lamp made in Mr. Langworthy’s shop class.

 Miss Weigel had a crush on Mr. Hussey or vice versa and Miss Wood taught us how to sing, hopefully to become the next Enrico Caruso or Ethel Merman. Those Normal School grads prepared us well, for high school, college or whatever vocation would follow. 

After a few speeches, achievement awards were presented as academic success was the most prized honor. We weren’t awarded any but our best friend; the late Rocco Giruzzi nabbed two: best athlete and the art prize.

We performed a clarinet duet, “Moonlight and Roses”, by English organist and composer Edwin Lemare. Miss Wood accompanied us and the vibes from the audience made us feel like Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. Let Jim Reeves’ lyrics resonate: “June light discloses loves golden dreams sparkling, anew”…

There were no robes or flat mortar boards with tassels to shift sides when certificates were presented. We wore gray dress slacks, green corduroy sport coats, white shirts and ties, all from My Boy Shops. The girls were attired in new white dresses and shoes as this was a special occasion. 8th grade was our first graduation, unlike today’s rites held after pre-school, kindergarten, middle school etc. 

The rolled up diplomas, tied with royal blue ribbon, were as coveted as getting a driver’s license. Glancing at that picture makes it seem like it was yesterday. 80% of our class went on to UFA and 20% to Proctor as Conkling Avenue was the divider. 

We kept track of Boehlert through the years. He worked for Wyandotte Chemical in Detroit during our years in Motown. Dick sat with him at Utica College basketball games in the mid 1990’s when our Alex played for the Pioneers.

Theodore Roosevelt School’s 8th grade graduation Class of June 1950 included Class President Sherwood Boehlert, who later represented Central NY in the House of Representatives from 1983-2007.

Proctorites, like Whitesboro educator Pat Calderella and others are still among our friends. Insurance broker Jim Paravati was from the Blue Ribbon Dairy family. Joe Girmondi, of Twin Ponds Golf & Country Club was the first to get a TV in 1949. It was a black and white RCA that we watched in awe at his 13th birthday party.

Roosevelt School was situated on one of the many majestic elm shaded avenues, sloping down from Parkway East into the valley. Being in Cornhill, its students came from diverse neighborhoods. Eileen Doyle, Howie Lefkowitz, Joan Wagner, Sarah Russo, Pricilla Wilsey, Louise Schafer, Millard Harris and Ron DeBernardis, son of radio’s Italian American Hour host, Louis, were some of our classmates. It didn’t get any better than that!

The Roosevelt building, a hollowed out ghost for many years, was finally razed and replaced with neat looking municipal town houses. Good move, Handshake City! It’s refreshing to see resurrection on the site of that old red brick icon with 2 play yards facing Brinkerhoff Ave. Who can forget the Filipino Yo-Yo champ holding contests and Old Glory flying proudly from the flag pole on Taylor Avenue in front of Miss Farley’s first grade window?

Pal George Fanelli reminds us that his alma mater, Brandegee School has been serving Utica in recent years, as municipal apartments.

Time marches on and change jolts our clinging to the status quo. What remains constant are the memories we’ll treasure through the years.

Whether a congressman, pharmacist, educator, lawyer, insurance agent or local taxi Co. owner like Sheldon Gordon, our June class of 1950 has served Utica well. We’ll remember always experiencing quality teaching and our Graduation Day 70 years ago. It wasn’t zoomed online. It was live!

Neighborhood Sweet Shops Had Us Cornered 

By Bob and Dick Chancia

Jaunts to Roosevelt School in the ’40’s included detours to P.P. Moshaty’s confectionery on Arthur Street near Brinckerhoff. That was the haunt for Cornhill grade schoolers to get energized before the first bell and after the last. We’d find 8th grade class pres. and future congressman, Sherry Boehlert picking up a Powerhouse candy bar. Joan Wagner said: “we girls loved Moshaty’s too”. 

Confectionery stores or Sweet Shops go back to 1787 in Kyoto, Japan. The oldest one in England was established in 1827 in Pateley Bridge village. Harrisburg, PA, with a population of 70,000 in 1917, boasted 55 sweet shops. Utica’s grand old neighborhoods had their share of these havens frequented by the school yard set. We savored varieties of penny candy and inexpensive novelties from kites to kazoos.

Dismissed on Wednesday for religious instruction wasn’t popular. Our redeeming grace was checking out Mame Cronin’s on James St. by Blessed Sacrament school. Mame, like Ms. Moshaty was right out of central casting. Both appeared older than their years, typical of the time. Their prudish demeanors mirrored some of our strict school-marmish teachers but Mame had the stuff and in retrospect, we needed her strictness. Each Wednesday, she coaxed the blues right out of our morn… Mame! 

We got squirt guns for the playground and caps to better ape Roy Rogers, Lash LaRue or the Durango Kid. Conkling schoolers had Lupinos and Trads on Mohawk plus Carmen’s Confectionery and Mottos on Kossuth. Son Dick’s motto was: “I made the best phosphates around in any flavor and introduced cherry cokes to the world”. We’d go to Trads on Sunday for the OD and Dad once bought us cardboard visors with big league logos. One was Philadelphia A’s green, the other, the old St. Louis Brown’s brown. We kept them long after the rubber band fasteners snapped. That was way before baseball franchising became a zillion dollar industry.

At the 5 Points, next to The Huddle, (Proctor High’s jitterbug hangout) was Ben & Bernies, famous for “The Dripsy”: soft vanilla ice-cream with strawberries and chocolate syrup in a cup. Pretty majorette, Paula D’Angelo would march a mile for a Dripsy. Kids devoured Dum Dum lollipops, licorice pipes, red wax lips and black mustaches. Butch Polera started his coveted collection of Dixie cup lids with tin-types of movie stars there and pool shark Art Battista and Jerry Sessa were forever tilting the pin ball machines. In 5th grade, future Proctor ’54 salutatorian, Donald Green, flaunted a Dick Tracy ring. Green with envy, we rushed to get ours, only to discover that our fingers also turned green.

Future radio host, “Cuppa Joe” Graziano and the Brandegee kids, had Andys on Catherine St. and Joe Naps (owned by Mr. Napoli) on St. Anthony and Bleecker. Further west on Catherine and Kossuth, Roxie DeLorenzo’s Cozy Corner was just as popular. George Fanelli flexed his muscles stocking shelves there. The upper Cornhill crowd had John Howards, where classmate and future owner of Twin Ponds Country Club, Joe Girmonde bought his comic books. Like today, they were distributed by Wolfe News. Eddie Casper (UFA) indulged his sugar highs at Thomas’s on Hobart and Elm.

Dad’s sales territory for Adam’s Gum products included Ed’s Variety on Clinton St. in NY Mills, run by Ed and Josephine Michalski. Corner stores were safe hang outs long before the malling of America. Candy store camaraderie established lifetime bonds, like the Albany St. guys, who still hold reunions. Paul Lange remarked: “D & Ds on Albany was our second home”.

Grandpa Mangano’s establishment on Albany and Mary evolved from a grocery store in 1915 to a confectionery in the 40’s.These stores offered us opportunities to make buying decisions without parental influence. The luxury of a quarter got us an icy creamsicle, 4 oz. Pee Wee soda, mini box of Wise chips or an ice cream drumstick on a sugar cone. A Duncan Yo-Yo or rhinestone studded Goody Filipino twirler was an extravagance. Nonno Mangano taught young Uncle Andy the value of a good work ethic. At just 17, he ran the soda fountain at a Baggs Square confectionery. 

Neighborhood kids at Carmen’s Confectionery playing “Morra”, an Italian finger game where only a loud voice was required.

Mitch and Maggy Tebsherany’s Market on the corner of Mohawk and Rutger Street.

Both paintings by well known Utica artist Bob Cimbalo.

In the ’50’s, Uncle Bill Rizzo opened the Campus Inn at Hilton and Arthur, his answer to Pop Tate’s Chok’lit Shoppe of Archie and Jughead fame. Betty and Veronica had nothing on our bobbysoxers, Junie DeFiore and Santina Bretti. Fast times at Proctor High boasted a similar jukebox and old-time soda fountain. The Square View Dinette was UFA’s equivalent.

As America’s landscape pivoted from urban neighborhoods to suburbia, most filling stations and handy bread and milk stops like Tebsheranys on Mohawk disappeared. Nice & Easy and Fastrac Convenience Marts peddle everything from gas to lottery tickets. School kids are no longer the target customer. Kites and soaring balsa-wood gliders just don’t fly anymore.

Ma and Pop stores were our meeting places in simpler times. Each had that indescribable aroma of newsprint mingled with the plethora of sweet scents. What joy for two bits: paddle balls, pea shooters, whistles, jump ropes, tops, Jujyfruits, Black Jack gum, Bazooka and Fleers Double Bubble with the funnies… you name it. We were blessed! Sweet shops had us cornered…couldn’t escape ‘em.

How sweet it was!

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