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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Basic Biittner: How I Spent My Summer Vacation (part one)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Remember when you were in elementary school and one of your first assignments each fall was to tell the class how you spent your summer vacation? No, I don't either, but they tell me that's the way it used to be done - and maybe still is. At any rate, I was able to enjoy three fantastic experiences myself this summer, and that seemed like as good a "lead" as any to introduce the sharing of my experiences with you, my faithful readers.

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Can't pass up a 'Photo Op' - We're not related to anyone in this town that we know of, but we couldn't pass up this 'photo op' at Whitney Point, N.Y. From the left, Dan, Doug and June Whitney. Photo by Jon Whitney.
Part one of my memorable summer took place from June 11 - 21, when my brother, sister and I did a kind of repeat of our "once in a lifetime" trip of last summer. It turned out it wasn't a "once in a lifetime" trip, after all - but that's a good thing. Last year, the three of us traveled to eastern Iowa to do some exploring of family roots, and this year, we traveled even farther east to continue our exploration. Our journey began in the state of New York, but before we began, we were able to enjoy a couple of days with my brother's son Jon and his wife and her family at the family's lake home near Binghamton, New York. A very enjoyable and memorable start to our trip.

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Carmelo once played here ... I didn't - Biittner poses outside of Syracuse U's Carrier Dome.
Before I go any further, I should point out that my brother Doug is the real avid genealogist in the family. My sister June and I helped out when we could, but we readily admitted that we were mostly just "along for the ride," as we enjoyed the chance to get together and see the local sites of interest.

Our first stop was in Syracuse, where we checked out the appropriate courthouse and other resources, looking for more information about our great-great-great-grandfather John Whitney, who has become somewhat of a "man of mystery" in our search for our roots. I , of course, was thrilled to be in the town in which such college sports standouts as Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little and Carmelo Anthony first came to national prominence, and I had my photo taken outside the Carrier Dome, where the Syracuse Orange of Coach Jim Boeheim display their basketball talents. Our next overnight was in Buffalo. Like Syracuse, a very blue-collar, "Rust Belt" town, Buffalo is the home of the late NBC newsman Tim Russert, Buffalo Wings, and the former NFL home of some guy named O.J.

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Zuzu's store - This store in Seneca Falls, N.Y. was named after a character in "It's a Wonderful Life," which is said to be based on Seneca Falls.
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It actually was a "working vacation" - Sister June and brother Doug pore over an old newspaper in Syracuse.
We also stopped along the Erie Canal on this trip, and I got to visit a Hall of Fame I had never previously thought of visiting (or, to be honest, even knew existed). My sister has always been a strong Women's Rights activist, and she wanted to stop in Seneca Falls, New York, where the Women's Rights Movement began in the United States back in the 19th Century, spurred by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a few others. Well, it turns out that Seneca Falls has a Women's Hall of Fame, too. Many of you know that I am an avid fan of Halls of Fame,and I have enjoyed visiting many of them over the years. The Women's Hall in Seneca Falls honors prominent women throughout U.S. history, all the way from Sacajawea to the young lady who designed the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Among the others honored with a framed portrait display are Clara Barton, Lucille Ball, Martha Stewart, Jacqueline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Clinton and many others, including politicians, media, athletes and assorted other notable women. The Hall is currently located in a rather non-descript brick building downtown, but plans are underway to relocate it in a former mill, where there will be more room and a more scenic view outside. As a movie fan, I was also thrilled to learn that Seneca Falls is believed by many to be the inspiration for one of my all-time favorite movies, "It's a Wonderful Life." One of the stores in town is called "Zuzu's," the hotel is the Hotel Clarence, and there is a sign that says "Welcome to Pottersville" in one of the store windows. For those of you who are familiar with the film, you'll understand.

We spent a little time in Pelham, Canada, where John and Lanissa Whitney lived for a few years in the 1840s before coming to Iowa (and where some of their children were born), doing some more research. We were still not sure of a lot of things about John Whitney's background after our (Doug's) research, but we did concoct a story that we enjoyed, based (loosely) on the facts we did learn, and Doug will continue to try and work on getting a more accurate history in the months to come.

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A different view of Niagara Falls - Here's a view of the town of Niagara Falls.
We did eat at several diners which had been featured on The Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and all were enjoyable, with special kudos to "Sophie's" in Buffalo. when we mentioned to Sophie that we (Doug) had seen the "Diners" show, she seemed flattered and gave us each a free dessert. All right! As they say, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." (not to imply that the food was greasy - it certainly wasn't).

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We were here ... briefly- Pelham, Ontario, Canada, was my ancestors' home for a few years in the 1840s.
Since we were in the area, we spent a day sightseeing at Niagara Falls, always a breathtaking sight - and, no, I didn't ride over the falls in a barrel. We did, however, take a ride above the town in a kind of Ferris Wheel gondola, and we got some nice photos out of that experience .The town of Niagara Falls seems to have developed into a kind of mini - Atlantic City, with a lot of vendors, gambling, shops, etc.

From Niagara Falls, we continued with another day of sight-seeing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, a place where we spent several hours - and could have spent several more. Six or seven floors of rock and roll history, displays, films, music, and a store which probably has the biggest selection of CDs you could find - not just rock and roll, but also some real rare CDs by old pop artists like the Four Freshman, Four Lads and many others. Like I said, I could have spent a lot more time in that place. As it was, I probably spent less than 30 minutes in the store. I heartily recommend an extended visit to the Rock Hall for anyone with a real interest in the subject.

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On the Cover of the 'Rolling Stone' - Need I say more?
The next morning, we flew out of Cleveland and back to our separate homes in Phoenix, St. Paul and Aurelia.

A great ten days, but only the beginning of my summer experiences.

Next chapter - "North to Alaska."

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner