Inside Every Fulton Library Book

It’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of our public library. Not only because I’m involved with their Memoir Project, which helps Fultonians preserve recollections of our city, but also because I’m a regular library patron. I find it amazing that, in 2019, I can still visit the library and borrow books for free. Is there anything else in today’s money-obsessed world that offers such value?

Those of us who’ve been carrying stacks of Fulton Library books home for years know that when we open each one we’ll see a familiar image on its inside front cover: the library’s bookplate. You might not even notice it, since it’s been used to identify books that are part of our library’s collection for over 80 years, but, as I recently learned, the bookplate is pretty special.

Those familiar with Fulton history will understand why the bookplate celebrates our city’s strong ties to Native American culture. Among the images found on the plate are a Native American in full ceremonial dress, a tribesman navigating the Oswego River, several animals that were sacred to local tribes and a phrase in Native American dialect.

How did these specific images come to represent our library? I found the answer in an old issue of The Fulton Patriot. In an article about the bookplate, its creator, Henry Pelouze de Forest, described its origins.

Mr. de Forest, Fulton-born, was actually Dr. de Forest, and he’d had a successful career as a surgeon in New York City. But the good doctor never forgot his Fulton roots, and in 1930 he was asked to create the bookplate for his hometown’s thriving library. (According to de Forest, the creation of the plate was actually a combined effort of several Fultonians and its supporters.)

Along with his medical expertise, Dr. de Forest was also a historian and he wanted the tribute to his birthplace’s library to reflect its rich Native American heritage. De Forest was well aware that the area we know as Fulton was once a gathering place for Central New York tribes. He explained some of this history in the Patriot article:

“The Iroquois Nation or ‘People of the Long House,’ as they described themselves, consisted originally of five tribes…the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas and the Senecas….During the Revolution, the Oneidas were the only ones who took the part of the colonists and at the close of the war with England, to reward their Indian allies, [they were] granted…large tracts of land.” Some of that land would one day become the city of Fulton.

Living with those tribes was a Church of England priest, Father Joseph W. Smith, who wrote a book about the natives’ way of life, including traditions and legends passed down from generation to generation. Many of those stories revolved around the Oswego River, which tribes used for transportation and recreation. Dr. de Forest’s bookplate includes two paintings of our city’s mighty river: Indian Point and Pathfinder’s Island, by Fulton artist Darwin Styles, and painter Robert Orr’s portrayal of a Native American’s canoe trip over Fulton’s Oswego Falls.

Robert Orr’s artistry shows up on the bookplate again with his drawings of local tribes’ sacred animal totems: Turtle, Beaver, Heron, Eel, Bear, and Deer, all which once were found in the Fulton area. Orr drew them on a “wampum belt,” which were used by tribes as trade for needed supplies. De Forest included a second belt, known as “the Peace Belt,” showing the white man and the Indian clasping hands.

On the bookplate, the two belts meet at a photograph of an Iroquois in full dress. Dr. de Forest obtained the photo from a Mohawk with ties to Fulton named Os-Ke-Non-Ton, or “Running Deer.” Os-Ke-Non-Ton was a noted Native American singer who’d given concerts in the Fulton area, often on the shores of Lake Neatahwanta. (He was also credited with cutting the piece of birch bark used as background for the bookplate.)

In the Patriot article, de Forest noted the challenge of finding just the right words to complete his bookplate’s message.  He knew he wanted a phrase of original Onondaga language, but, being untrained in translation, he wasn’t sure how to obtain one.

“To find an educated man of today of the Onondaga race familiar with the two languages was by no means an easy task,” de Forest explained. “But finally, at the suggestion of Miss Evelyn Lee Messenger, former Fultonian, who has taken much personal interest in the perfection of the bookplate, I wrote to Dr. Arthur C. Parker [Director of Rochester’s Municipal Museum], a full-blooded Onondaga [who] gave me most cordial cooperation.”

Through Parker’s assistance, de Forest was able to find the ideal statement to forever link our library with its Native American roots: Ongwe oweh oadeh sigwa….deh weso sigwa neh ga-ya-dos-hah dio—The Iroquois Trail Is Long, But No Trail Is So Long As That Made By A Good Book.

All de Forest’s work to create his history-worthy bookplate would have been for naught if he hadn’t been able to find financial support for its production. As the Patriot article stated, it was through “the generous and public spirit of Mr. & Mrs. George Gaylord Chauncey, who donated 250 dollars,” that artists could be paid for their work. Also critical to its success were Jesse Anthony Morrill, who created the printing press template from which the bookplates were mass produced.  William Fraser Dickson, a New York City native who attended school at Fulton’s Falley Seminary, paid for the production of the first 2,000.

According to current Fulton Library staff, about 2,000 bookplates are affixed to new books each year. One by one, those books are borrowed from the library and keep us company for a few weeks in our homes. There, we Fultonians enjoy hours journeying on the long trail of what reading a good book offers us.

The Fulton Public Library’s bookplate, found inside every book in the library’s collection, has a rich history.

The Fulton Public Library’s bookplate, found inside every book in the library’s collection, has a rich history.

Extra! Extra! High School Newspapers!

In my last blog, I wrote about the interesting history that can be found in old newspapers. Today’s blog continues that theme and focuses on what I learned when I came across a 1937 issue of Fulton High School’s student newspaper. Aptly named “The Buzz,” the school’s four-page publication offers some clues about how things were for teenagers 80 years ago.

For starters, I was impressed with the number of students and faculty involved with the production of their monthly paper. Thirty-six young people created each issue of The Buzz, with leadership roles such as Editor-in-Chief (Emma Cortini), Associate Editors (Ann Mathews and James Reider), various Business and Advertising Editors and the all-important “Beat” Editors, including two for sports, four for the arts, and over a dozen roaming halls to get the news, or should I say, gossip. Two faculty members (Gladys Bonner and Earl Bateman) kept a watchful eye on the ambitious teens.

Also on The Buzz’s staff were a small army of “distributors” who sold the paper. Costing five cents (the equivalent of 85 cents today; still a bargain), the distributors had sales quotas to meet. Praise for 13 of them who outsold their target number earned them a front page acknowledgement.

Here’s more of what was considered newsworthy for Fulton High School students in 1937:

The January issue included a list of New Year’s resolutions, which the reporter noted had “some very odd ones.” Students resolved to “get to school on time, at least three times a week” or “buy only one soda a week (but accept all others given to me)” or “not to flirt with girls or boys, depending on who liked who.”

Speaking of flirting, what high school paper would be complete without a feature on current romances? The Buzz’s was called “Heart Squeezes” and the columnist (who chose to remain anonymous) cleverly turned his or her report into a poem:

“A little cupid strolled the hall,

with bow and arrow aimed,

and suddenly he heard a call,

that soon would make him famed.

He turned and saw without a doubt

the scene we’d like to tell about:

Arthur whispering in gentle tones,

to no one else but Ella Owens;

John Ciciarelli pursuing Lorraine;

Dowling and Halstead at Lover’s Lane;

Hillick and Bogwicz battling over Quinn,

‘til hard to say who we think will win.”

Sports have always been big news for Fulton high schoolers, and 1937 Buzz’s top athletic headline noted “Bonanno and Trepasso Elected Co-Captains of F.H.S. Ringmen.” I assumed the Ringmen were wrestlers, but they were actually the school’s boxing team. An upcoming match between Fulton and Oswego promised to be an exciting evening since both teams were undefeated that year.

There were other sport reports, enough to fill the newspaper’s entire back page. The girls bowling team was on a roll, featuring outstanding athletes Cora Chetney, Flora Cardinali, Nettie Dexter, Irene Emmons, Jean Trask and Laura Howard. Other girls were competing in ping-pong and paddle-tennis.

Boys on the “Basketeers” team boasted their recent game as “the most watched sporting event.” A hard-fought game, again against rival Oswego, was a nail biter at halftime with Fulton trailing by a few points. At the final buzzer, we’d lost by twenty.

School news wasn’t all sports. Another front page story covered the Boys Glee Club’s upcoming show, “Mellow Moon,” featuring the talents of Francis Quirk, John Halstead, Louis Briggs, Vincent Chalone, John Bowers and Donald Dowling. Admission for the Valentine-themed show was 15 cents for students and a quarter for parents.

The news wasn’t all rosy, as this headline proved: “Student Council Issues Warnings.” Someone had been writing on bathroom walls, the reporter noted, leaving them in “deplorable conditions.” Warnings were issued: students should shape up or “more drastic action [would be] taken.” I bet teachers today would be happy if that was the worst problem they had to deal with.

The Buzz received support from the Fulton community. Advertisers included Putnam’s Pharmacy (“Stop in for a great chocolate soda. 10 cents.”), Wilson’s Book Store (“Office supplies, Gifts, Stationery, Kodaks.”) and bowling at Recreation Park (“Special afternoon prices 15 cents per game.”).

My trip down high school memory lane got me wondering how today’s students get their news. Does G. Ray Bodley even publish a paper?  Knowing I wouldn’t find my answer in boxes of old newspapers, I used Google to find “The RaiderNet,” a weekly online publication from Fulton’s high school.

November 1, 2018’s issue of RaiderNet shared some common themes with The Buzz. The RaiderNet’s front page announced the boys’ soccer team making New York State semi-finals. The issue also covered the Lady Raiders basketball team’s preparation for the new season. RaiderNet did offer a few items you wouldn’t have seen in 1937, such as an opinion column debating the qualities of a good teacher and the school’s mountain bikers planning a trip to a Boonville outdoor education center.

I was pleased to learn that RaiderNet is still compiled by students and staff. Its current advisor, Justine Nylen, said that about 15 students contribute to each issue. Those students are usually enrolled in her Journalism class, where, as part of their studies, they write about school events for the paper. For many years, English teacher Len Senecal was the faculty advisor for The Raider. Justine was a student in Len’s Journalism class, became editor of the paper when she was a senior in high school, and then, in her ninth year of teaching, assumed the role of advisor after Len retired.

While I can’t hold the RaiderNet in my hands, I’m glad to know there are still young people interested in covering school events for history’s sake. Someday, the grandchildren of the RaiderNet’s staff will smile as they read the hot topics of Fulton High School in the good old days of 2019.

The RaiderNet, Fulton High School’s newspaper, has a lot in common with the student-run papers from years past.

The RaiderNet, Fulton High School’s newspaper, has a lot in common with the student-run papers from years past.

Before Facebook, We Had the Valley News

Whenever I’m researching local history I read a lot of old newspapers. I’ll scan their pages, looking for articles that relate to my topic, and sometimes I get a little distracted by a news item from days gone by.  This was the case for me recently, when I was reviewing a past issue of The Valley News. Something I found in it made me think that Fulton’s newspaper used to be a lot like Facebook is today.

Why would I compare our hometown paper with an internet site that reaches six billion people worldwide? It has to do with a regular feature The Valley News used to run. They called it “Personals.”

The Personals weren’t like regular newspaper columns that cover events happening at churches, schools or sports arenas. They were short “announcements” spread throughout the paper, sometimes a dozen or more on a single page. Here’s a sample of what I found in the August 25, 1971 issue:

Mr. and Mrs. Gus Dormeyer, the Baldwin Road, and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ives, the Streeter Road, have returned home after having visited the Amish Country of Pennsylvania.

Miss Ann Luke of the County Line Road, was a counselor last week at the Methodist Church camp at Casowasco on Owasco Lake.

Mrs. Joseph Zizzi of South Sixth Street is a patient in Lee Memorial Hospital.

A few pages later, there were more Personals:

Mr. and Mrs. Luther Bryan, West Second Street, were among those who attended the recent Sealright clambake at Silver Lake.

Cherie Morgan of Phoenix visited her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. William Rill of Phoenix, last week.

Mrs. Arthur Hallstead of Cayuga Street was a dinner guest, last Sunday, of Mrs. Catherine Knapp, Oneida Street.

And so on, page after page. I ended up reading every Personal (There were 85 in that one issue!), looking for names I’d recognize, curious if I might remember the events described. It turns out lots of people did the same thing back when Personals was a regular feature in The Valley News. We caught up on who was doing what—you know, kind of like why we log onto Facebook today.

But there was no Facebook all those years ago, so it wasn’t as easy as hopping on your computer to find out about people’s lives. Who came up with the Personals idea and how did The Valley News keep it going twice a week, year after year? I asked that question to some longtime Fultonians, including my friend Paul McKinney, who had this to say about our hometown paper’s unique feature:

“Personals was the brainstorm of Vince Caravan, longtime editor of The Valley News. Vince hired someone to make regular calls to people throughout the city, including my mother, Helen. The office worker would regularly ring up Mom and ask, ‘Do you have anything for Personals?’”

Paul thinks one of the reasons the regular feature in The Valley News was such a big hit was because “people loved seeing their name in the paper. For many years, it was the first thing subscribers would read when they got their latest issue.”

To find out more about Personals, I got on my computer and headed to Facebook, logging onto the page called Fulton New York Memories. There I put out a request for information about The Valley News’ Personals and received over 40 comments. Here are a few:

Rusty Okoniewski responded to my question by telling me about his Great-Aunt Caroline Bateman: “She lived in Volney Center and was a ‘paid’ reporter for The Valley News. Each week she made note of the ‘Personal’ items she learned by simply talking (on the telephone or face-to-face) with her friends and relatives. She was paid a fee (I think 10 cents) for each item.”

That pay-per-item system was confirmed by Alice Doss, who also gathered Personals stories for the paper. “I remember it well!” Alice said. “I was paid 10 cents to type up stories about visits, riding snowmobiles, birthdays, etc. It was fun to do, and I liked reading others’ ‘reports.’”

Those Personals weren’t just read in Fulton. City residents who’d moved away or were temporarily out of town didn’t want to miss an issue. Stuart Wilson mentioned that “My mother had The Valley News sent to me at college so I could keep up with local goings on. My college friends were really amazed at Personals. They’d never seen anything like it.”

In fact, if you weren’t a Valley News reader back then, you’d probably never seen anything quite like Personals…at least until Facebook came along. I have to admit, reading about someone having dinner with someone else seems a bit gossipy to me. But the more I think about it, the more I believe there’s something important beneath all those shared stories, either from 50 years ago in a newspaper or today on the internet.

In some ways, isn’t our curiosity about people really about our concern for one another? Isn’t it a way of making sure our friends are doing okay? Of course, as we’ve seen, comments on Facebook can sometimes be hurtful or too strongly opinionated (something you’d never have seen in the Personals), but if you scroll past all that, you’ll probably read something about a friend you haven’t seen in years. Wasn’t it nice remembering them?

I got nostalgic after reading those Personals, pining for days gone by. It made me wish some people on Facebook wouldn’t be so cruel or quick to judge. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be, as one of my favorite Fulton historians, Grace Lynch, always said, “the way it used to be.” The next time we share something on Facebook, let’s take a lesson from local history, when a small-town newspaper made a big difference by printing good things happening to our family and friends.

The Valley News’ “Personals” feature was once the first thing people read in their hometown newspaper.

The Valley News’ “Personals” feature was once the first thing people read in their hometown newspaper.