Saturday, May 31, 2014

At Home in Rochester: Adam William Yates House

This attractive bungalow on West Second Street was built in 1922 as the family home of Rochester businessman Adam W. Yates and his wife, Ida Belle Springer Yates.  Adam "Addie" Yates was the grandson of William Henry Yates, who came from New York state to settle on the Clinton River in the eastern section of Avon Township in 1863. W. H. Yates established a grist mill on the river and converted it to cider making in 1876, thus forming the business that we know today as Yates Cider Mill.

Grandson Addie Yates grew up working on the machinery of the mill and showed an aptitude for mechanical tasks at a very early age. His first business venture was a modest auto repair service that he ran on the cider mill property. He then took a job as a millwright and repairman with the C. N. Ray Company in Oxford; C. N. Ray was a gravel operation that was the predecessor of American Aggregate at that location.

In 1920, Yates purchased the former Jackson Foundry at the foot of South Hill and opened the Yates Machine Works there; two years later, he built this handsome home for his family located just a couple of blocks west of his business. Yates was also interested in civic affairs and served as a Rochester village councilman and superintendent of the water works.

In later years, after withdrawing from his business because of ill health, Adam Yates moved to a farm in Dryden where he could better enjoy the outdoor life.  He died in 1952 and is buried in Mount Avon Cemetery.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bygone Business Collection Now Available in Print

The third Remembering Rochester print collection is now available! Remembering Rochester: Bygone Business, a collection of the posts about Main Street businesses of the mid-twentieth century, has just been published by the Rochester-Avon Historical Society and goes on sale today at the RAHS booth at the Greater Rochester Heritage Days in the Rochester Municipal Park.

This collection contains 19 stories and a new introduction, covering Case's Hardware, Crissman Pharmacy, the Four-O-Six Bar, and many others.  The cost is $9 and every penny of the proceeds benefit the local history education and historic preservation projects of the Rochester-Avon Historical Society.

If you are in town this Memorial Day weekend, be sure to stop by the park to enjoy the festival events including the Lions Club car shows, the antique fire trucks, the lumberjack show, the craft sale, the Civil War encampment and the exhibits by the local historical agencies.  Your Remembering Rochester author will be manning the Rochester-Avon Historical Society booth on Saturday afternoon if you want to drop by for a chat about all things Rochester.

Copies of Remembering Rochester: Bygone Business and other publications of the Rochester-Avon Historical Society will also be available for sale at Lytle Pharmacy on Main Street and through the RAHS online store.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rochester's Four-Legged War Veteran

Memorial Day will soon be upon us, and presents us with a number of opportunities to reflect upon the sacrifice of our military members who gave their lives in the service of their nation. As we contemplate the stories of those who served in our country's various conflicts, it is interesting to note that not all of our military veterans walked on two legs: some walked on four.

In 1941, while serving with the U. S. Army in California, Charles G. Seed of Rochester acquired an albino German Shepherd named Lucky.  When he received orders to deploy overseas, Seed shipped Lucky home to his family in Rochester.  Two years later, the U. S. Quartermaster Corps made an appeal for dogs to serve in the military, and Rochester Clarion editor Earl Seed enlisted Lucky on October 28, 1943. Lucky served at the U. S. Naval base at Jacksonville, Florida until discharged on August 11, 1945. He then came home to Rochester, where he was the most popular staff member at the Rochester Clarion office.

Lucky spent the rest of his days interacting with the folks on Main Street, or napping on his bed in the Clarion office.  Each morning, he presented himself at Sutton's Market, just a couple of doors down from the newspaper office, where he was rewarded with a bone from the shopkeeper.  Lucky died in June 1953 and was appropriately eulogized on the front page of the Clarion.

Military dogs performed vital tasks during World War II, including sentry, messenger and scout work. The Quartermaster Corps trained over 10,000 dogs before the war ended, and a couple of them were recipients of the Purple Heart and Silver Star.  If you are interested in knowing more about the service of canines like Lucky in the military during World War II, click here to view a government newsreel feature about the dogs.

The photo of Lucky shown here ran on the front page of the Clarion with his obituary in June 1953.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

At Home in Rochester: The Homer Axford Case House

803 N. Main as it appeared around 1920
This bungalow on the corner of Albertson and North Main streets was built in 1912 as the family home of Homer Axford Case and his wife, Mabel Knapp Case. Homer Case was the brother of Rochester hardware merchant C. W. Case, and like his brother began his business career as a clerk in a hardware store. After working for one year in a store in Owosso, Homer Case established his home in Rochester in 1899 and became assistant postmaster of the village. He was then hired as a bookkeeper at the Rochester Savings Bank and advanced through the management of the bank to become head cashier in 1919.

Homer A. Case was involved in many business ventures and efforts to promote growth in Rochester's economy during the first half of the twentieth century, and also served two years as president of the board of commerce.  He died in 1959.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

This Month in Rochester History

Police Chief Sam Howlett at his desk in 1964
Fifty years ago this month, Rochester residents were absorbing the news that police chief Samuel A. Howlett was retiring.  After 29 years on the job in the village of Rochester, Howlett informed the village manager and council that he would retire as of July 1, 1964.

In announcing his retirement, Chief Howlett reminisced that he was hired originally as a "speed cop," and was required to furnish his own vehicle for the job. The village paid him $100 per month and a five-gallon-a-month gasoline allowance.  After a year of chasing speeders, Howlett was promoted to police chief. He had one assistant, who was something of a night watchman for the downtown area.  The chief was expected to work 10 to 12 hours per day, seven days a week, with no vacation time.  If his nighttime "doorknob jiggler" encountered a crime, he called Chief Howlett in from home.

By the time Chief Howlett retired in 1964 to take the position of assistant chief of plant protection at National Twist Drill, the Rochester police department had grown to include seven patrolmen, one detective and four dispatchers.