Jean's Stories of Oneida

After I introduced my stories about Oneida and other parts of Madison County, New York, a lady who had once lived in Oneida contacted me. She also had lived in Stockbridge and Munnsville. Her name is Jean Wheeler Glave. She is younger than I, and told me some stories of her time in Oneida. This would be more in the period of the 1930's and1940's. As it turned out, her great Aunt, Hattie Wheeler, was my 1st cousin once removed. Does that make her my "kin"? ----I'll leave that for you to figure out.

Charles E. Page 2002

 

We were comparing memories, and I asked her if she remembered the railroad turntable, that was used to turn locomotives and box cars around to head in the opposite direction. She says,

" Yes, I remember the roundtable by the tracks, when we went fishing, we took turns rolling one another around on it. I was about 10 years old then; bums were up and down the tracks. With mother's permission, I was allowed to go fishing with certain rules, like, "Don"t talk to anyone on the way, or down the Creek" and "Watch the sun; if it looks like it is on the way down, start for home." You couldn't let a child alone do that, today. That was Oneida Creek. Once, fishing in a backwash from the spring freshet, I was startled by a goose flying fast over my head, suddenly, what a sight, one you don't forget.

"We were involved in a flood of the creek one Spring. Boats were taking people out of the flooded area."

[C.E.P.'s note:That area was known as the "Flats" and was often flooded by Oneida Creek's overflow]

"Mother said if it gets up to the next to the last step in the cellar we leave. So we sat in the doorway, watching it rise step by step. Luckily it did crest at the next to top step. Muskrats and other rats were swimming over the flood; boats up and down. A lot of action everywhere! I had gone with my dad through the flood, to Walnut Street, but the flood was rising so fast, he sent me back. Soon, I was up to my neck in water, but rushed and did make it home. Now they have it dredged out beyond those streets so I donít think I floods anymore.

"In Spring we used to fly our kites with my dad. One Spring we kept adding spool after spool of twine onto the kite string until our kite was seen as far away as Durhamville. A beautiful windy Spring day; so much fun. The kite was pulling very hard before we finally quit for the day.

"We used to make bows out of branches and arrows out of cattails with the tops cut off. They really sailed. Many of the things my father taught us from his own experiences. When we were bored, he always had a new idea.

"Once we got the idea we would dig some horseradish and sell it from door to door, which we did, at 25 cents a bunch. When dad came home he took one look at our horseradish, as we excitedly told him what we had done and showed him our money. He told us that it was wild carrot instead of horseradish and made us return, sadly, to all our customers and return their money.

"My children have said, Mom, write down the things you remember about your childhood because we donít know what it was like when you were growing up. I remember a lot of things about World War II. The special feeling that everyone had for one another with the tragedies of sons and husbands being gone and the stars placed in all the windows where one was gone into the service. The sadness when you saw a gold star in the window. I worked for Western Union in those days as a messenger because the boys they used to hire were gone to war. My sister and I took turns delivering telegrams, all seasons, like the postman. The telegrams must go through no matter what the weather. In summer we rode our bikes and in the winter walked all over Oneida with telegrams. I had to deliver one to a family who had a son slightly wounded- I was 14 1/2 years old. The mother of the boy was Italian and didn't know a word of English; she saw the telegram and I couldn't tell her well enough that he was only slightly wounded; luckily, a neighbor came and told her. That was the last time I had to take a war tragedy telegram. From then on my manager took them personally. Now Western Union I think only has telegrams where people are sending money to someone. A big change from those days!"

[Note by C.E.P.: I told jean I felt we were lucky to have lived and experienced those days, and did she agree?] She replied,

"Yes, we were fortunate to have lived in those days. We lived on Bennett Street in Oneida, just across from the feeder [the old Erie Canal feeder], skied down the slight slope there and played along the paths of the feeder. A girlfriend and I had a secret hiding place, which only we knew, where we left messages for one another, and also of course, we played hide and seek there.

"As a girl I watched softball practice on the Elizabeth Street school grounds; one of the teenaged fellows lighted a cigarette during a break; it started a fire, a windy day and in seconds it was all over the field. i went running for a broom and shovels but it was already too late. The fire company had to be called. I swore I wouldn't tell who had the cigarette [I think I might have been threatened with dire circumstances by the fellows on the team], and of course, I didn't tell.

"Do you remember the Donohue boys? Their father was the high school shop teacher. My brother had his problems with them; they got mad at him. Mother had a strong feeling she should go look for Bill. Luckily she followed it as they had my brother tied to a tree, a fire laid and had just struck the match. Those were long ago days. Innocent days, really, compared to today."

Jean Wheeler Glave 2002

Jean retains all copyrights to the stories appearing on these web pages and they cannot be copied or used without her permission. She also of course can withdraw the stories from these pages at any time she wishes. C.E.P.