The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2000

Home Index Museums Blog Authors Site Map About


Naples in Early 20th Century


Gladys Dunton

It is hard to realize that life at the beginning of this century was so different from what it was a few years later, especially in small towns. Our home and way of life was typical of that day. The house was heated with coal burning stoves until about 1914 or 15 when we had a furnace installed. There was a range in the kitchen and a stove in the living room (called sitting room then) and the bedrooms were heated by a register in the floor of one room and the other with a stovepipe passing from the floor below to the chimney. I dressed and undressed in front of one of the stoves. It wasn't too bad once I climbed in bed as I immediately sank into a feather bed covered with warm flannel sheets. When I was little my mother would take a heated soapstone, flatiron, or brick to warm my bed ahead of time but everyone took one or the other and placed it inside at the foot of their bed. I think the idea was that if one's feet were warm the warmth would penetrate the whole body. It was an ordeal to step out of bed onto the icy floor and run downstairs the next morning. I would put it off as long as I could. The living room stove was taken down in the spring, pipes cleaned in the back yard, then put back up in the fall.

Our kitchen had an iron sink in one corner with a pitcher pump hooked up to a cistern in the cellar fed by rainwater. This water was used for washing dishes and clothes but for drinking and cooking there was a deep driven well off the side porch with a reputation as one of the best in the village. It never went dry, even in a hot dry summer. In fact at such times all the neighbors made use of it, including Edgar Haynes, who ran a grocery store uptown. People came and went from up and down the street and we heard the sound of the pump all day long. The water was cool and sweet and the best I ever drank. Eventually the pipe was pulled up and abandoned though the source must still be there and could be used again unless the present addition covers it.

During a dry spell many people relied on the town pump at the end of Elizabeth Street. That never failed. In fact, a few people always carried water from there as they had no water or an inadequate amount.

Our baths had to be taken in wash tubs in the kitchen using hot water from the stove reservoir. It was hard on adults as a grown up would be rather cramped in a tub. After our furnace was installed water was piped into the house and a bathroom was put in. What a luxury that was!

Of course there was no indoor plumbing and we made do with an outhouse. Ours was placed at the end of a wooden walk at the edge of the garden. I recall my mother taking me out there in the evenings and my being so impressed by the outdoor silence. Sometimes in the quiet we could hear the lonely sound of the Atlanta train in the distance, which we never heard in the daytime. Other sounds in the night might be laughter from a nearby house or someone playing the piano or singing or occasional footsteps of a passerby on the sidewalk. Traffic on the street was almost nil after dark. This was long before TV or even radio became intrusions into today's noisy world.

Since there was no electricity in the village then, kerosene lamps were a necessity. When I was old enough, one of my duties each Saturday was to wash the lamp chimneys in very hot sudsy water, rinse and place on the warm stove to dry. Trimming the wicks and filling the lamps weren't entrusted to me yet. We had many small glass lamps to carry from room to room or to go to bed at night which later became collector's items. In the living room we had a nickel-plated Rochester burner with a mantle, a very fragile piece of netting placed in the center of the lamp. The result was a bright white light. In the parlor we had a beautiful pink-flowered lamp with a china base and a global shade used only on special occasions and with great care.

Gas had been discovered on the Naples flats so some people had gas lights and possibly gas stoves. There was no telephone until 1911. There were two companies, Overland and Bell.

Laundry was done with washboards and tubs. Water was heated in a large reservoir on part of the stove then bailed out into tubs as we had no water heater except the reservoir in the stove. Very dirty clothes and sheets and pillowcases were placed in hot water in the boiler and soaked long enough to loosen the dirt and then drawn out one at a time by an old broomstick and placed into a tub of warm water and scrubbed vigorously with Naptha soap, then into a tub with bluing. In warm weather the washing was done on the back porch instead of the kitchen and regardless of the weather, unless it was rainy, it was hung on rustproof wire clotheslines hung permanently in the side yard where it dried in the sun and wind or froze dry in the very cold weather. By the way, the washing was always done on Monday. My mother and grandmother worried about what the neighbors would think if for any reason it couldn't be done on Monday. The ironing was done as promptly as possible after the clothes dried, with flatirons and sadirons from the many kept hot on the stove, and hung on clothes bars to air.

The greatest activity in the household came in the spring when it was housecleaning time. Then getting meals and other tasks were secondary. Everything was devoted to the task at hand. First of all, up came the carpets, by pulling out the tacks. Then they were dragged out and thrown over the clothesline for eventual beating during the day, usually by my father with my help, if I was permitted. Curtains were taken down and washed and starched, ironed or if they were lace, stretched on a curtain frame in the parlor. Windows and woodwork were washed, floors were mopped and fresh newspapers were placed on the floors under the carpets (in earlier days before newspapers were available, straw was used). These not only made quieter walking possible, but provided insulation. The carpets were tacked down again and all was complete after replacing the furniture. It took about a week unless outside help could be found. By the end of the period everything was sparkling and polished to the "nth" degree. The house smelled so fresh and clean (almost antiseptic).

Our home was what was called a double house. We lived in the larger side to the north and my Grandmother Tyler lived in the side toward Clara Benjamin's boarding house, later the Orange Inn. Our parlor had large, double, folding doors separating it from the sitting room which were always open in the warm weather and closed in cold to preserve the heat in the other rooms. Parlors were often kept closed and were used only for formal occasions such as weddings, funerals, Christmas gatherings, when the minister called and similar events. There was a front entrance to our house with a flight of stairs ahead, a door to our parlor to the right and my grandmother's to the left. In one corner of the hallway sat a marble-topped table with a blue milk glass scalloped dish resting on it. This dish had a purpose. In the Victorian days and in the early days of the century ladies made formal afternoon calls on friends. They came dressed in hats and gloves carrying a parasol in the summertime. When someone made such a call on my grandmother, rarely on my mother being younger, they left their printed calling card in the dish and entered my grandmother's parlor, perhaps for afternoon tea or just for a good gossip. I was not allowed in with the guests as my grandmother was a firm believer in the idea that "children should be seen and not heard." Anyway, I still have a large collection of cards left from those occasions.

My grandmother's parlor had some horsehair chairs which I didn't enjoy at all. They were hard for me to climb on as they were so slippery and they pricked my legs. There were portraits of ancestors on the walls—my Grandfather Tyler, bearded but with gentle, almost smiling eyes and Great Uncle Horatio Corey with black hair, black beard and black eyes staring accusingly at me. Oil paintings also were popular in those days, done mostly by maiden aunts and others in their middle years. I think they were drab scenes often dark green blending into lighter greens or grays with threatening-looking clouds, never a bright color in any picture, which may have reflected their outlook on life. They were similar to those of the Hudson River painters of that period but without the talent the Hudson painters displayed. Perhaps the women of that time desperately needed some self expression because of their very restrictive lifestyle. Have you ever noticed that no one in that period ever smiled in photographs taken of them?

Lacking all the modern conveniences and not living with the comforts that came later we would be called "disadvantaged" today. We, of course, didn't realize we were enduring any hardships and were perfectly happy and enjoyed life. There were occasional happenings of interest, for instance, a peddler selling fabrics, laces, ribbons, threads, needles, etc. now and again came to our door.

Sometimes there would be another selling pots and pans, tea kettles, knives, forks and spoons, or then there was the tinker with his "dam," a lump of lead for mending pans; the scissors grinder; the umbrella mender; the ragman who exchanged old clothes for pots, pans and other household articles; the organ grinder with his monkey or maybe the traveling showman with his bear. The nostalgic sound of the blacksmith's hammer on the anvil could be heard on a quiet summer afternoon, gypsies in their caravans and in Edgar Hayne's store; an Indian woman who lived outside of town going from door to door selling all kinds of baskets she had made. Until recently when I sold them to an antique dealer, I had several including a bushel basket which my grandmother always used as a clothes basket.

I should add that our parlor was different, it had a piano and was the center of much merriment and musical entertainment. Friends of my sister would drop in, gather around the piano and sing for hours with my sister accompanying. One of her friends, Mary Wadell, taught in the local high school and was a "warbler," an unusual way of singing. I know I must have stood around with my mouth open when she sang, I was so fascinated. My father's orchestra often practiced there. They played for dances in Naples or surrounding areas. And now and then the Naples band would crowd in the parlor to practice. Needless to say many outsiders were attracted into the house to watch. Some stood outside and just listened. There were always "Etudes," a music magazine, and other music on the piano, a cabinet full of music stood against the wall and musical instruments around the room. I didn't grow up in a grocery store like Gov. Cuomo, but music permeated my childhood and I loved every minute of it.

At that time people bought mostly staples at the grocery stores though eventually fresh-unsliced bread was brought in on the Naples train several times a week in large slatted hinged crates. In the back of the store there were barrels full of pickles and others full of crackers, and barrels with spigots on them full of vinegar and molasses. I was often sent to the store with a small jug for molasses or, when I was old enough to carry it, a larger one for vinegar. Sometimes I carried a small can for kerosene which was also stored in a drum in the back of the store. Del Doughty had added curiosities in the form of a large coffee grinder and a peanut roaster in which he roasted fresh peanuts once a week. He would tell us girls ahead of time so we would have first chance to buy them. His store also had a glass case full of penny candy; we were his best customers. There were "Sweet Caporal," candy cigarettes which we liked to "smoke," chocolate "pennies" topped with white beads, chocolate drops, licorice sticks and small boxes of candy with baseball cards in them. I had a collection including Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and some one named Collins and others I have forgotten, all before the Babe Ruth days.

We had a garden which provided fresh vegetables (even potatoes) and peach, pear, plum (the choice yellow Naples variety called "Naples Beauty") and apricot trees all of which my mother canned the fruit every year and kept downstairs in the fruit cellar. Every year a farmer brought us bushels of apples and potatoes to put into the root cellar. There was always popcorn to pop and eat with the apples on long winter evenings. My mother baked pies, cakes, cookies, friedcakes and bread almost every week. In October, when they were in season, my father would proudly bring home a pint of fresh oysters and we would feast on those for a while. Codfish gravy and boiled cabbage dinners were popular meals as were baked beans and brown bread on Saturday nights. Candy pulls were messy but fun as was hot maple syrup dropped into pans of freshly fallen snow. In the spring bullheads abounded in the streams flowing to the lake and we were the recipients of pails full of those, as many men made early-morning excursions to capture them in great numbers. Bullheads have large heads and are a variety of catfish.

The dusty, muddy or snow-filled roads were a part of the early years of this century in Naples, but so were sidewalks. Everyone used them; young, old or middle-aged. Before my day the walks were made of wood and some of flagstone but later most were of cement. People walked, as transportation within the village was scarce with almost no automobiles and very few horse-drawn vehicles. As a result the walks were kept repaired; the merchants swept their walks every morning and other people kept their walks clean and free of snow in the winter. Anyone who didn't was frowned upon unless they had a good reason in which case a neighbor would shovel the walk. Folks always seemed ready to help one another whenever there was a need in the neighborhood.

We children made good use of the walks much to the annoyance of the passers-by I'm sure, but childlike we thought the walks belonged to us. We roller skated up and down them from the first days of spring until summer was over sometimes venturing onto Monier Street which attracted us because we could speed down the steep walk. The flagstone walks required special skills because they were so smooth and consisted of large stone slabs. We rode our small wagons over the walks, rolled hoops from barrels, played hop-scotch, jumped ropes, walked on our hand-made stilts, played leapfrog and generally took over. We liked to run down the street to the Granby property where we would balance ourselves walking back and forth on the iron pipes which are still there on the corners of the property. Often we ran down to the Town Hall yard and climbed on the old Civil War cannon which stood there or attempted to scale the large stone bearing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address which we struggled to read but found many words beyond us. The old horse chestnut tree in the Granby yard provided us the chance to use our imagination in making slingshots, necklaces and parachutes. We rode on the chair swings in the Huntington or Granby yards or played croquet in the Granby's large side yard. Fred Crane, a veterinarian who lived across from L. Bassett, pushed us in the rope swing so high that we could touch branches with our feet. We were all neighborhood children and the neighbors were all good to us as long as we were "good kids."

We never had trouble entertaining ourselves, in fact the days never seemed long enough to do all we wanted to do. We played simple games brought over by the colonists, some dating from the Middle Ages such as London Bridge, A Tisket A Tasket, Ring Around the Rosy, Hide and Seek and others. In the spring we played marbles and Mumbletypeg, spun tops and flew kites. We went to Yaw's theatre to the matinee Saturday afternoons for 5 cents and saw "Tess of the Storm Country" with Mary Pickford, and "Birth of a Nation." "Perils of Pauline" continued from week to week and there were many westerns. After that we would play Cowboys and Indians though no one ever wanted to be the Indians because they never won a battle.

Certain old men made daily or twice-daily trips past our house to get the mail or just to get together in front of Barber's Cafe or saloon to gossip, to scold about politics or high taxes. Mail would be brought in on the local Lehigh branch each day and by stage from the Atlanta trains, DL&W or Erie. Al Haynes, the father of Edgar and Collins, went by many times a day. I would often run and hide as he always teased me. John Legore, a Civil War Veteran who lived on Lyon Street, walked slowly by leaning on his cane. Cirguy Jacqua, son of the owner of the Jacqua Hotel and later owner himself, made a great impression on me. He was straight, tall and dark with dark hair and a black mustache, wore fancy vests and carried a cane, for show only, I think. I remember Sam Howse who owned a cigar factory in the house where Dorothy Dinzler lived later. He was an Englishman who also sometimes carried a cane, had long white hair and a flowing white mustache, wore a linen suit and a Panama hat in the summer. He had married a local girl for his second wife. Josephine Howse, the oldest child by his second wife, taught English in the local high school for many years.

Probably the most interesting of the strollers were the Pottle men. They all walked with a dignified, graceful strut. There was Will who lived on the corner of North Main and Dumond Lane next to the large Pottle homestead where one can see the 275-year-old oak. His brother Harry, a lawyer from Buffalo, who, with his family, spent part of his summers at the homestead with his sister Mrs. France. He was tall, straight, had a well-clipped mustache, wore glasses with a cord attached, carried a cane, wore a Derby hat and looked formidable. Then there was Emory Pottle, Will's son, blond, who dressed in tweeds and sometimes carried a cane. He became a writer, a poet and married the famous writer Juliet Wilbur Tompkins from whom he was later divorced. He went on to Hollywood where he appeared in a few films under the name of Gilbert Emory. I saw some of his movies which were very good.

The Tellier men, John, the owner and producer of the Naples Record and his sons Howard and Lawrence, when home from law school, had rather a unique way of walking home for lunch on each working day. They appeared outside promptly at 12 o'clock, got in step together and marched three abreast in military precision down Main Street, usually followed by their faithful old dog, Fido. On they went to their home, the 1794 house opposite what is now Bob and Ruth's restaurant. No meal was waiting for them as Mrs. Tellier, the mother, had died long before and Howard had not yet married.

I should tell you about the movie theatre run by Ed Yaw. It stood between the Brown House and the Miller office. Of course they were silent movies but Viola MacMillen, a local girl, accompanied the movies on the piano. She could make the piano talk. When the action was fast and the horses were running, the tempo of music increased faster and faster. In war scenes we heard the roar of the guns, during storms, you could almost hear the wind and thunder and then with love scenes the music became soft, tender and romantic, and during death scenes she could bring tears with the pathos of her music.

To get back to the play of our childhood days, as I've told you, mostly it was outdoors, but on rainy or blustery days we found entertainment inside. There were always our dolls, quiet games like Tiddledywinks, Old Maid, and Flinch and Authors, from which I learned a lot. We dressed up in grown-up's clothes and had tea parties and made up plays. We were never bored. Even in those days there were comics in the Sunday paper to read such as "Happy Hooligan," "Buster Brown," "Sam and Maude his Mule," the "Katzenjammer Kids" and "Jiggs."

The 4th of July was special. There was so much to do. If we happened to be awake early in the morning we would hear the old cannon shot off from Rose Ridge Cemetery to inaugurate the festive day. As on Memorial Day, there was a parade with the Naples Band, soldiers, sometimes children, Campfire girls and Boy and Girl Scouts. Then a speech at the townhall. In the evening my father would set off sky rockets and Roman candles from our front yard to furnish excitement. We played with toy pistols, with caps, and with sparklers and pinwheels to end a full day.

Our Halloweens were really very sedate—we had never heard of "trick or treat." Jim Granby would take Alice, his daughter, and two or three other girls around from house to house and we would run up to each house and hold a jack-o'-lantern up in the window thinking we were frightening the people inside. Later we learned how to make tic-tacs and buzz them against windows, making a terrific noise. Big boys really got into mischief. They often tipped over backhouses or carried them away as they did with people's steps. Their greatest mischievous act was when they would put a buggy on a farmer's big barn. It always mystified me how they accomplished it.

One custom in Naples was the tolling of the church bell when someone died. I believe with children the bell tolled as many times as the age of the individual. This practice was abandoned a few years into the century.

Naples seemed unique in other ways also. The Naples train, a branch of the Lehigh, arrived at about 8:30 each evening and left in the morning about 7:00 after some of the crew had turned the engine around on the turntable across the road from the station. This procedure fascinated us when we had a chance to see it. The engineer on the train was Pat Hoban who had a fine Irish sense of humor. He always knew when there was a bride and groom on the train so as soon as the train was close enough to Naples he would pull the whistle in a series of "toots" all the rest of the way in. Everyone in town knew what it meant and would rush to the station with pots and pans, horns and any other noise maker to greet the embarrassed couple, with a "Horning, or "Chivaree" when they alighted from the car. The one occasion I recall is when John Coons, a man in his seventies who lived in the house across from Carolyn Schults, arrived back from his honeymoon with his third or fourth wife. I remember how flustered the poor wife was.

In the early part of the century, horses provided the only transportation. Some people, like us, had a horse and buggy; others a team of horses and a carriage, some with a fringe on top. Young blades sometimes hired from the local livery stable attractive rubber-tired buggies drawn by spirited, and much curried and combed young horses to take a girl out on a Sunday afternoon. Farmers had their lumber wagons, hay racks and Democrats (single-seated wagons with space in back for carrying produce and supplies).

The first horseless carriage in Naples was built by Fisher Morehouse in the 1890s. The first car I remember was owned by Scott Sutton, a local jeweler who lived in the house south of Moore's. It was called a "Brush" and was really a one-seated carriage with small brass lamps on each side of the dash and no windshield, steered by a lever at the right side of the seat. We would hear a buzzing sound down the street and after a while Scott would appear, returning from his cottage at Granger Point. We could run alongside it for awhile and easily keep abreast. A horse went faster.

Another early car was a touring car owned by George Hemmingway who lived on the corner of Reed and East Ave. It was called a Winton. The Maxfields had one—a Buick, I think. People wore dusters and goggles, the ladies swathed their heads in scarves.

Del Doughty, the grocer, owned an early car, an Overland. He used it for delivering groceries. It was probably a forerunner of the pick-up truck.

The most fascinating car was Manley Fraser's Stanley Steamer. We wouldn't hear it coming until he operated the throttle and away it would go with a soft "swish" sound.

Other cars that stand out in my memory is the air-cooled Franklin owned by Alton Blake, and Marty Dinzler's Stutz Bear Cat, which made him popular with the girls.

Naples had a "lock-up," a jail with two or three cells, located on the first floor of the old firehouse. It was occupied only by drunks, mostly by Horn Leggett, the village drunk or by Alf Griswold. Naples had no crime rate so the only police officer I recall was Bill Conway, the night watchman. Sometimes, years later, there were constables. People didn't bother to lock their doors, even at night.

Fishermen Scott Sutton (who invented the Sutton Spoon), Ed Wetmore, Park Stoddard, who owned a cottage on Coye's (or Maxwell's) Point he called "Kanahoma" from his days in Kansas and Oklahoma, Bert Hinkley, Skip Pierce and later the Telliers were all very active in the fisherman's club.

Another recollection is of young men calling for the younger Maxfield girls in roadsters, touring cars—one was the Sutton car. And boys wearing duck or flannel pants, blazers and straw hats and often carrying tennis rackets to play tennis at Maxfield's cottage at the lake.

Social life in Naples revolved largely around the churches: Sunday services, prayer meetings (Wednesday nights), Sunday afternoons—young people in Christian Endeavor (Presbyterian), Epworth League (Methodist), Philaythea Class (Baptist). Once each year we had Rally Day—members of one church marched to the other two churches whose members joined the others and marched to the original church for services. The churches took turns being host from year to year. Sunday School picnics held by our church were at Granby's Grove or Vine Valley to which we traveled by steamboats. Churches, schools or other organizations would put on plays or concerts in the Town Hall, using talented local people. One of them was Hugh Wiley, who being a Scotsman would put on his kilt, carry his Blackthorn cane and present a perfect imitation of Harry Lauder singing in his deep baritone, "A Roaming in The Gloaming." Everyone loved it and never tired of his act.

Then there were minstrel shows at least once a year, usually sponsored by fraternal organizations and held in the Town Hall. End men might be George Reese, Alf Griswold or Rick Howse, one of them clogging, some doing the Buck and Wing. The jokes about the locals always caused much hilarity.

"Uncle Tom's Cabin," before movies appeared, would often be presented by a traveling company. People would attend each time and each time shed tears when Little Eva died. Sad plays seemed popular among the locals. At least once "East Lynne" was put on by a traveling group which was always accompanied by music and was a very sad story. My father was a member of an East Lynne company's orchestra at one time.

Circuses, from one to three rings, came to Naples every summer and were mostly held on the fairgrounds. My father used me as an excuse to go to almost every circus. I doubt if we missed many, especially the larger ones which had a band and many animals. When my father was young he traveled with a circus band for a while and never lost interest in their bands.

Most small towns had evangelists come every summer to hold meetings. They put up a tent where the Middletown Inn is now, near the "Crazy Grounds" which were across from Joseph's Fruit Market. The most popular were the Barkafers who came several summers and stayed months. It consisted of a family: father, mother, daughter (who played the piano), and perhaps a son. Both preached, she with great earnestness, eloquence and success. Many converts came forward and became Christians, some for a few months, some for years or forever.

There were many dances held at the Town Hall each winter put on by the Country Club, the Maccabees or other organizations. The music was usually furnished by my father's orchestra at that time. In later years people danced and roller skated at Cornish's Locust Lodge where Joseph's Market is now. It was destroyed by fire many years ago.

Naples had its town baseball teams through the years and one time in the late teens and early twenties had a crack basketball team, the best in the area. Oscar Warren and Clifford Chapman from Naples were members and others were imported from neighboring towns, including Stewart Mitchell and Jim Underwood from Middlesex, Perry Valona from Wayland and Bob Brown of Prattsburg. Our team were the champions and people came from far and wide to see them play at Yaw's Hall.

Of course there was always the Naples Fair each year from 1859 on until it ended in the forties, I believe. The Naples Band would march from Main Street to the fair grounds to start the event which usually lasted three days. There were horse races and special numbers each year, sometimes George Reese doing stunts with his airplane and later taking people for a ride in his plane for a nominal sum. It was the high-light of the year.

But the best thing that ever happened to our village was when the Redpath Chautauqua came and brought culture to Naples. It opened an all new world to the young people, a world never experienced before. There were cartoonist games, entertainers and hikes for children in the mornings, concerts, soloists, speakers, plays in the afternoon and evenings. It lasted a week and in that time were heard Cimera's Band playing the "William Tell Overture," the "Anvil Chorus" and other glorious band numbers. The Ben Greet Players who put on a different Shakespearean play each year. We saw "As You Like It," "Merchant of Venice," "Taming of the Shrew," and "MacBeth." Gilbert and Sullivan's light operas were presented: the "Mikado," "Pirates of Penzance" and others. A soloist, Elsie Baker with a beautiful contralto voice, came at least three years by request of the town's people. A lecturer, Russel Conwell, gave his famous lecture "Acres of Diamonds." William Jennings Bryan, famous orator, spoke and called Naples the "Switzerland of America," though I scarcely think our hills could be compared to the Alps. At the end of the week we felt a let down, but we could relive the events of the past few days for a long time. The Chautauqua went to Canandaigua or another nearby town for the next week.

I was somewhat of a tomboy in my early teens which I think bothered my grandmother. When a young man came to Naples one winter to give dancing lessons, she urged me to join the class and said she would pay for the lessons. This surprised all of us as she was such a strict Methodist and had always opposed dancing. I loved the classes and learned how to waltz and fox trot and dressed in a lovely pink dress of my sister's cut down to fit me and put my hair up for the first time for the ball for us at the end of the course. From that time on, I loved dancing.

My mother was very strict and wouldn't allow me to date until I was 16. A boy wanted to take me to the movies when I was in 8th grade but had to settle for walking me home from school and carrying my books. When I was finally allowed to date it was with the handsome son of the Baptist minister who would come and sit on our porch or take me for a walk and almost talk me to death but I liked him anyway.

A later date would take me to the movies and later to the Greeks for a banana split for 25 cents. I felt very flattered as I knew the boy had saved for a while to take me out. George Miller (his name Anglicized) and Steve Dallaportas ran "The Candy Kitchen" in Naples.

In the twenties we were called "flappers" and we tried to be different. Some wore very short skirts, frizzed their hair and tried to act "wild," though not so much in Naples. We sang and played popular sheet music of the day and accompanied ourselves on a ukulele while we sang love songs. Many of us owned "ukes," I kept mine for a long time.

Knitting sweaters was very popular at that time and every girl wore one. A friend of mine knitted one for me of variegated colors. It was the prettiest one I had ever seen. Fringed skirts were in vogue then and since I was going to school in Buffalo at the time I was lucky enough to find one to wear with my sweater. To complete the outfit I wore a chain belt with it and saddle shoes. Chain belts were very "in." The above was typical of what everyone wanted to wear.

We copied each other and wanted to be like every other girl. Another fashion later was spats but I always felt self-conscious in mine and didn't wear them much. Later in the twenties long dresses with low waist lines, called "the new look," were the rage for a while.

I loved going to dances and was of "the Charleston" era. Picnics and trips to Letchworth Park, the High Banks, or Watkins Glen were popular on dates in those long ago days—innocent but fun.

Life became much more serious as I became caught up in my teaching career and my life style seemed to change from the earlier carefree days. So much for the days of my youth.

© 2000, Gladys Dunton

About Gladys Dunton

by Beth Flory
When South Bristol's Wilder Cemetery was rededicated in June of 1998, Gladys Dunton was in the front row of spectators, beaming with pleasure. For at least 25 years she had campaigned for the restoration of this earliest of Town cemeteries where lie the founding father, Gamaliel Wilder, as well as Dunton ancestors. The newly organized South Bristol Historical Society had tackled the formidable work of clearing trees and brush. Gravestones were uncovered, the ceremony planned, and no one was more pleased to be present than Gladys Dunton, who was then nearly 97.
While living very much in the present, she remembers her early life with uncommon clarity. She is descended from William Dunton who came to Naples from Natick, Massachusetts, in 1793. Naples village, where she was born in 1901 to Albert and Carrie Dunton, was a lively community. Like other small towns of that period, Naples was keen about bands and music. Her father led his own band and orchestra for over twenty years and his enthusiasm became her own. Rehearsals were often held at home; the house still stands on Main Street next to the venerable Orange Inn, but its exterior has been greatly altered.
As she grew up, her world widened. She earned a Bachelor's degree from Geneseo State Teachers College. Her teaching career began in a small rural school; she moved on to spend 33 years in a North Hornell school. She traveled both in this country and abroad and enjoyed music and drama in Rochester. For over 40 years she lived in a converted country schoolhouse in Springwater, gardening, hiking and birdwatching. In 1990 her home was sold. She now has an apartment in Canandaigua.
Gladys Dunton's interest in preserving the details of small town life early in this century has not diminished. She looks back on her past with satisfaction, appreciation and humor and her own words reveal a quiet courage as well: "I never married—I found out when I started teaching that they did not hire married teachers. Having elderly parents depending on me and needing to teach, I ended my marriage plans. I had a very pleasant life and a sister whose children were always 'my children'."
CLR Blog | Site Map | Contact CLR