I arrived, along with my older sister Pat, in Rochester, NY on a hot July evening in 1954. Even though sixty-one years have passed since that day, I remember not only the sights and sounds but also the emotions that flooded my heart and mind that evening.
We had traveled all day on the Lehigh Valley R.R. from Allentown, PA., getting off at Rochester Junction — a place that exists only in the memories of an ever-decreasing population — and being bussed into the city and the Lehigh Valley R.R. Station. My parents were waiting for us with my two younger sisters, Margaret and Bonnie. As we were leaving I overheard one of the employees there mention that we were the last passengers to use that station.
I was curious as to why we had to be bussed into the city when there was a train depot available. Dad explained to me that the old tracks came in over the river and were in a sad state of disrepair, making them unsafe. (The tracks in the picture at right, below, are as I remember them in 1954). After the station closed it was neglected for years and became a habitat for bums and hopeless people. The photos that accompany this post were taken in the summer of 1967 and show how dilapidated the building and grounds were. I am glad to report the station has been renovated and is now home to a restaurant. The tracks have been removed.
For more information on Rochester Junction and a much older photo of the terminal in Rochester click here.
To see what the station looks like today click here.
We left the train station and headed down Court St. to the Dunsmuir Apartment building where we were to live for several years. The Dunsmuir was one of three buildings — a hotel and two apartment buildings — on the corner of Broadway and Court Streets. They shared a common basement which, years later, I would become intimately familiar with.
As we approached Clinton Ave., about a two-block walk, we could see a church ( First Universalist). That building held a special fascination to me because it had unusual entry ways. Less than a week after first passing this church a woman was murdered in one of the entryways.
Next to the church was a building, no longer there, with a huge Coca Cola sign on its roof. It was what is known in the sign industry as a spectacular. And it was. It had the Coca Cola script logo across the center. Surrounding that were a large number of horizontal neon tubes running from top to bottom. The perimeter was outlined in a yellow neon tube. At the beginning of the sign's cycle, the horizontal tubes would come on one by one until all were lighted and then they would flash simultaneously three times before starting the cycle again.
We next came to Chestnut St. From there we could see the Dunsmuir. On the southeast corner was a large apartment building with a number of basement stores on the Court St. side. I remember one displayed all sorts of Nazi artifacts ... uniforms, armaments, belt buckets ... and no one thought it was unusual. There was also a barbershop there in which the owner had posted a poster showing all the Presidents of the United States, the latest being the then current President, Dwight David Eisenhower.
As we walked my parents told us about all the neat things we could do and see in Rochester. There was Sea Breeze, an amusement park; the museum, the George Eastman House; and the beach at Lake Ontario, plus so much more.
Rochester would prove to be all my parents said it would be, and it was home and this nine-year-old boy was anxious and excited to explore it.