1920s and 1930s Football and Baseball Group Photos from Gowanda, Collins, and Collins Center, New York (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My grandfather, Charles A. Babcock, from Collins, New York, was an athlete and played several sports when he was a teen and into his early 20s.  He enjoyed playing football and baseball, as well as softball and bowling.  He was born in 1911, and had two sisters, Louise (Babcock) Heppel and Eunice (Babcock) McEwen Hembury.

The Babcock children were born to Jonathan M. Babcock and Bertha B. (Gould) Babcock.  Jonathan was from Collins, New York, and Bertha was from the heavily German-American South Dayton, New York.  Eunice moved to Pennsylvania upon marrying her first husband, and they had children.  After her first husband died, she married her second husband, remaining in Pennsylvania.  Louise was the middle child in the Babcock Family.  She married George Heppel, and they did not have any children.

I have included some photos in this post that reflect Charles as a member of football and baseball teams; and I have included pictures of Charles and his sisters, Eunice and Louise, as well as a photo of Jonathan and Bertha upon their wedding.

Gowanda High School Football Team, Gowanda, NY, 1926 (With Charles A. Babcock, Front, Second from Left)

Gowanda High School Football Team, Gowanda, NY, 1926 (With Charles A. Babcock, Front, Second from Left)

This is a photo of the Gowanda High School Football Team from 1926.  My grandfather is seated, second from the left in the front row.  He would have been 15 years old in this picture.  To identify everyone in the photo, they are as follows: standing: H. Ross, M. Tillotson, D. Smith, R. Rogers, P. Palcic, G. Crouse, R. Dorey, Gerald Donnelly (Coach); middle: P. Smith (Manager), C. Cunningham, D. Saunders, P. Hammond (Captain), H. Rupp, J. Belec, J. Mentley; bottom: G. Keyes, C. Babcock, K. Bentley, L. Klancer, A. Cheplo, B. Gladu.

Collins Baseball Team, Collins Center, NY, May 29, 1932 (Charles A. Babcock, Seated, Second from Left)

Collins Baseball Team, Collins Center, NY, May 29, 1932 (Charles A. Babcock, Seated, Second from Left)

The 1932 Collins Baseball Team is pictured here, with my grandfather, again, seated in the front row, the second from the left.  The men in the photo, in addition to my grandfather, and in no particular sequence, include Clifton Cunningham, Ashley Richards, Charley Daniels, David Eschler, Harold Schrader, Donald Tarbox, Ginger Stevens, Walter Farnsworth, William Edwards, and Stewart Pingrey.

Collins Center Baseball Team, Collins Center, NY, May 20, 1934 (Charles A. Babcock, Standing, Second from Right)

Collins Center Baseball Team, Collins Center, NY, May 20, 1934 (Charles A. Babcock, Standing, Second from Right)

The Collins Center Baseball Team from 1934 is pictured in this photo, with my grandfather standing, the second from the right.  In no particular order, the other men shown in the picture are Bret Ayaw, Andy Sykies, Rusty Hohl, Lavern Buckley, Donald Tarbox, Jim Galloway, Carl Betteker, Murray Potter, Charles Ayaw, Clifton Cunningham, Burton Staffin, Bud Hewitt, and Bill Ball.

Eunice (Married Names-McEwen, Hembury), Charles A., & Louise Babcock (Married Name-Heppel), Collins, NY, 1913

Eunice (Married Names-McEwen, Hembury), Charles A., & Louise Babcock (Married Name-Heppel), Collins, NY, 1913

Pictured are my grandfather, Charles A. Babcock, with his sisters, Eunice and Louise, in 1913.  Eunice is the eldest child in the photo.  My grandfather would have been about 2 years old in this picture.

Charles A. Babcock, Grain Mill Near the Railroad Depot, Collins, NY, 1914

Charles A. Babcock, Grain Mill Near the Railroad Depot, Collins, NY, 1914

My great-grandfather, Jonathan A. Babcock, worked as a railroad foreman and he was the Town of Collins Constable.  So, it was only natural that my grandfather, Charles A. Babcock, would be pictured at the Collins, New York Railroad Depot.  It was said that he was always a big boy, and he is pictured here in 1914 at 3 years old.

Jonathan and Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Gowanda, NY, Circa 1900

Jonathan and Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Gowanda, NY, Circa 1900

Here are my great grandparents on my dad’s side, Jonathan M. Babcock and Bertha B. (Gould) Babcock.  This, I believe, is their wedding picture, and was taken about 1900.  I got my height from my great grandfather who was 6’4.”

References:

Family photos and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1900-1934.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

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“Having a Love for Horses: Remembering Sir Taurus and Elitist” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Sir Taurus, 1989

Sir Taurus, 1989 (from “Standing his Second Season at Dan Gernatt Farms: Sir Taurus,” Dan Gernatt Farms (1989)

As a youth, I acquired my love for horses.  Two of my all-time favorite horses are Sir Taurus and Elitist.  In 1988 and 1989, and possibly other years as well, these horses were owned by Dan Gernatt Farms in Collins, New York.  Since I grew up living close by where the horses were staged, I had opportunities on my walking, running, and biking outings in my neighborhood to see, interact with, and enjoy both horses.  Sir Taurus and Elitist were unique and special, and hold a warm place in my heart.

Horses are such intelligent and sensitive animals.  I believe that they definitely have a sixth sense and are very emotional creatures.  In visiting the horses in my youth, I found that interacting with them was very calming.  If one approached them in a calm, relaxed, and trusting manner, they were also trusting and at ease.  Getting in close proximity to the horses, I spoke softly and warmly to them – particularly Sir Taurus – and they were always calm, easy, and even protective of me.

Elitist typically had more energy and spunk than Sir Taurus, so I was always more cautious around him.  While giving him carrots, I was always careful to watch out for my fingers, lest he mistake them for carrots and chomp away.  Sir Taurus was much more careful than Elitist in eating his carrots, using his intelligence and sensitivity to bite only the carrots and never get near any fingers.

At first when I stopped to visit the horses on my exercising jaunts, I brought them sugar cubes.  Interestingly, neither horse had any interest in them.  That was when I changed to giving them carrots, which they always devoured in a matter of seconds.  They absolutely loved carrots, and giving them carrots was a great way of having them approach me while they were in the outdoor, fenced fields.

About Elitist, I recall that he loved attention.  He was an extremely energetic horse, and almost seemed somewhat hyper.  He always behaved in a manner in which he believed that he was superior to other horses, including Sir Taurus.  When I stopped to visit them, I had to be sure to split my time equally between them, or Elitist would get antsy and upset, snickering his displeasure if Sir Taurus received more of my time than he did.  Sir Taurus was much more patient, gentle, relaxed, and secure in himself than Elitist.

There were times when I brought a heavy-bristled brush with which to brush them.  And, while Elitist was not very interested in being brushed, Sir Taurus could literally stand there all day and allow me to brush his neck.  He absolutely loved his neck being brushed.  I enjoyed that he enjoyed it.  He was a horse with which I connected.  He and I seemed to have an understanding which, on his part, was almost human.  Elitist enjoyed having his ears rubbed and scratched.  Both horses were amazing.

In 1989, I am aware that Sir Taurus held several world records in harness racing in New York State.  Particularly as a two- and three-year-old, he held many world records.  He was the co-holder of the world record with Mack Lobell on a 1/2 mile track with a time of 1:57.2h.  He was the only world record-holding son of Speedy Crown to stand in New York State at that time.  His breeding also included that through Vanessa Hill and Hickory Pride.  His career earnings as of 1989 were nearly $485,000.

That same year, it was announced that the $100,000 Elitist Cup would continue through 1992 to benefit those of his two-year-old offspring would be racing at that time.  He was purchased by Dan Gernatt, Sr. in 1983 due to his excellent race times of under and/or at 1:55, trotting or pacing (Abbey, 1984).  For two years, Elitist ran against the best horses in the field and earned $250,000.  His stud fee in 1989 was $3,000.  His breeding was by Bret Hanover-Melody Almahurst through a Meadow Skipper mare.

In the photo included in this post, Sir Taurus is possibly driven by Dave Vance, though I am unsure about that.  Vance was Sir Taurus’ driver for some time.  Most of the information that I have included herein is from uncopyrighted flyers that were issued by Dan Gernatt Farms regarding the horses in 1989, and which I have referenced below.

To this day, I enjoy being around and interacting with horses.  Sir Taurus and Elitist were two horses that I really loved.  On many occasions throughout my life, I have taken opportunities to go horseback riding, and to see that my son has experienced pony and horseback riding, as well.  While I have never been able to afford owning or maintaining horses, the opportunities that I have had to interact with them and acquire a love for them are those that I cherish.  Horses are truly gifted animals, and should never be underestimated in their sensitivity or intelligence.

References:

Abbey, H.C. (1984).  “Gernatt’s Horses Plug Collins.”  The Buffalo News.  Buffalo, New York: Berkshire Hathaway.

Dan Gernatt Farms (1989).  “Standing his Second Season at Dan Gernatt Farms: Sir Taurus.”  Dan Gernatt Farms.  Collins, New York: Dan Gernatt Farms.

Dan Gernatt Farms (1989).  “The $100,000 Elitist Cup Continues: Elitist.”  Dan Gernatt Farms.  Collins, New York: Dan Gernatt Farms.

“Polar Vortex 2014” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Snowy Landscape Photo (Retrieved from http://wallpaperweb.org/wallpaper/nature/snow-steps-in-winterland_62252.htm, January 7, 2014)

Snowy Landscape Photo (Retrieved from http://wallpaperweb.org/wallpaper/nature/snow-steps-in-winterland_62252.htm, January 7, 2014)

The cold is no joke!  The biggest weather – and news – event occurring during the past couple of days has been the 2014 Polar Vortex that has swept across the United States.  Extremely frigid polar air from the Arctic has dipped down to the Deep South of the US.  This morning, January 7, 2014, in Snellville, Georgia, near Atlanta, where I live, the temperature at 7:00 AM was 3 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s without including the wind chill factor!  Already at around 9:00 PM this evening, the temperature was back down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit after reaching a high of about 25 degrees Fahrenheit this afternoon at about 3:30 PM!  One online news article (Henry, 2014) reported that temperatures around parts of the US are colder than those currently in Antarctica!

It is definitely true that people – especially those folks in the South who are not accustomed to such icy temperatures – may not be entirely aware of the dangers of extreme cold.  Regarding myself, being originally from the Buffalo, New York area, I know about the cold, the dangers of it, and know not to take any unnecessary risks, nor to potentially place myself or others in danger in such frigidly cold weather.   Extreme cold can cause frostbite, hypothermia, and/or death.  It is not something with which to play around or take chances.

I am an individual who remembers the Blizzard of 1977 where I lived in Collins, New York.  I was 6-years-old at the time, and in the first grade.  Even at such a young age, it was exciting for my brother and I to remain at home for two straight weeks due to the school closures related to the Blizzard conditions.  I recall and have photographs that my parents took of my brother and I standing atop snow drifts that were as high as the roof of our garage.  Similar drifts created by snow plows clearing snow from the roads caused rises of snow that were of the same height.  Once the blizzard conditions passed, it was fun to play outside in the snow for awhile, but not long enough to get too cold.

In my mid-teens, there was a time when I believed I could outsmart Mother Nature by going out and riding snowmobile in temperatures that were less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and with wind chills of about -20 degrees Fahrenheit.  I promised that I would not be gone long, and was not riding for more than one hour when I returned home and was unable to feel my left hand.  I had decided to return when my toes and feet began tingling, but did not realize that I had already lost sensation in my hand.  I only realized it upon taking off my glove upon entering the house, remembering that I could not feel anything in my hand.  It was the beginning of frostbite.  Thankfully, it was not serious, and my mom saw to it that my hand was warmed carefully and quickly.  However, it is an experience that I have always remembered, and no longer take risks in the extreme cold with Mother Nature.

What is tricky in the South is that it can be frigidly cold, but there not be a speck of snow on the ground.  For me, coming from Buffalo, that is always a big disappointment.  When there is cold, I have always come to expect snow to accompany it.  However, that is rarely the case in the South.  And, that is something that can fool people into a false sense of security.  Simply because there is no snow on the ground does not necessarily mean that it is not cold – or even frigidly cold, as it has been here for the past couple of days now.  One must get bundled up if going outside, must not remain outside for very long, and must be assured of having a warm place to go – or even emergency measures to use – if one’s vehicle breaks down or if one’s utilities stop working in one’s home, for examples.

Also, what I noticed this afternoon when I went out to run a couple of quick errands was that people on the road are impatient with other drivers.  For goodness sakes, it is COLD outside!  I was out and about for only 20 minutes or so, and within that time, there were already two drivers who honked their horns at other drivers who were stopped at traffic lights, and who did not resume driving quickly enough for them once the traffic light changed from red to green.  People are not used to the cold.  Vehicles are not used to the cold.  And, people need to give each other more understanding and be more patient in extreme weather events such as this.  The buses may be off the roads because schools are closed, however that does not mean that some folks are entitled to race down the empty speedway through the city.  People should be more cautious and careful, and give each other more consideration in situations such as this.  That is definitely the intelligent thing to do.

So, be careful out there in the cold.  And, don’t go out into it if you don’t have to.  Bundle yourself up, make sure there are extra blankets in your vehicle – and for many, a shovel and even hot packs.  People who are used to the cold such as skiers and snowmobilers from the North such as myself know these things.  Listen to your body when you are out in the cold.  And, better yet, listen to your brain.  Stay inside where it is warm unless you have to go out.  Don’t take any unnecessary risks, or place yourself or others in potential danger.  Hopefully, you have some food stocked up, or if you don’t, get some when the temperatures have risen during the day.  Stay warm, stay healthy, stay inside as much as possible!

References:

“2014 North American cold wave.”  Wikipedia.  Retrieved on January 7, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_North_American_polar_vortex

Henry, R. (2014).  “Polar air blamed for 21 deaths nationwide.”  MSN News; Associated Press.  Retrieved on January 7, 2014 from http://news.msn.com/us/polar-air-brings-single-digit-cold-to-east-south.

In Remembrance of Flavia C. Gernatt (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

In Remembrance of Flavia C. Gernatt

(April 2, 1921 – November 27, 1995)

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

Flavia C. Gernatt (Undated Photo)

Psalm 23: A Psalm of David: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (The Holy Bible, 1979).

Flavia C. Gernatt was born Flavia Schmitt in Langford, New York – a small farming community near Buffalo – on April 2, 1921.  Before age 20, she was married, and founded with her husband a dairy farm in 1938.  In the 1950s, she was a partner with her husband in owning and managing the largest milking cow herd in Erie County.

Following World War II, Mrs. Gernatt’s family began to provide bank-run gravel to the community from their property.  Beginning with one truck, this endeavor grew into a large multi-company corporation that currently boasts nine sand, gravel, cement, and asphalt enterprises throughout Western New York State and Eastern Pennsylvania.  These companies are now known as the Gernatt Family of Companies, headquartered in Collins, New York.

In the 1960s, Mrs. Gernatt and her family began investing in race horses, while on a golfing vacation in North Carolina.  This investment grew into a business of breeding and racing harness race horses – mostly identified with the name “Collins” to represent the locale where Mrs. Gernatt and her family lived – in Western New York and New York State.

A couple of the most well-known of Mrs. Gernatt’s family horses were Sir Taurus – my personal favorite as a gentle, powerful stallion – as well as Elitist, a spunky and speedy stallion.  For many years, Mrs. Gernatt and her family also sponsored a horse race named for Elitist, one of the family’s champion stallions that earned $250,000 in winnings in just his first two years of racing with them about 25 years ago.

Very well-known about Mrs. Gernatt, her family, and the Gernatt Family of Companies is the financial support provided by them to the Roman Catholic Church, locally in Gowanda, New York, as well as to the Diocese of Buffalo.  In 1992, Mrs. Gernatt and her family donated a newly-constructed rectory for the family’s main local parish of St. Joseph in Gowanda.  The maintenance and upkeep of the St. Joseph campus, including the church and school, is much a reflection of the generosity of Mrs. Gernatt and her family.

Mrs. Gernatt, her family, and the Gernatt Family of Companies are also well-known for their generous financial contributions to and being benefactors of St. Joseph Church, St. Joseph School, and Roman Catholic education in the Diocese of Buffalo.  Her family members as well as dozens of extended family members have been blessed by attending a variety of Roman Catholic schools in the Buffalo and Western New York area throughout approximately the past 90 years.

Mrs. Gernatt’s husband has also been honored and recognized by receiving the highest award from the Bishop in the Diocese of Buffalo for supporting Roman Catholic education.  The powerful financial and social influence of Mrs. Gernatt and her family in Catholicism and Catholic education have been profound.

As active and supportive members of the Republican Party, Mrs. Gernatt and her family have also had a very powerful impact on law, politics, and government at the local, state, and federal levels.  Supporting government leaders in all areas of government – particuarly members of the Republican Party – are those endeavors important to Mrs. Gernatt and her family.

Many charitable organizations have also enjoyed the financial support of Mrs. Gernatt and her family through contributions directly from her family and those from a foundation created in she and her husband’s names.  Providing monies to assist organizations with feeding those who are less fortunate, as well as those that support healthcare – including the American Red Cross – and local endeavors – such as creating a helipad at the local hospital – have also been causes championed by Mrs. Gernatt and her family.

Throughout most of my life, I knew the Gernatt family and extended family; and I came to know Mrs. Gernatt only in the last eight years of her life.  An avid walker in later years, Mrs. Gernatt walked between 1.5 to 4 miles each day, nearly every day of the week.  Thus, she and I had something in common since I typically jogged the same route that she walked.

Flavia C. Gernatt (Approx. 1990s)

After having seen her walk through my neighborhood several times, I asked another community member who she was.  That individual stated to me that she was simply “Feggie.”  I thought it interesting that the person who identified her to me expected me to know who she was, particularly at my age of 16 at the time.

When I expressed to the community member that I did not know her, she was then identified to me as her son’s mother and her husband’s wife.  I then realized who she was.  Therefore, because she was so often known in the community as her son’s mother and her husband’s wife, I have purposely not identified them here to provide her the honor of focusing on and appreciating her as a person.

Therefore, it was at that time when I was 16 that I came to know Mrs. Gernatt.  Occasionally, I would walk with her throughout our neighborhood, conversing with her about daily living, our families, exercise, the weather, and other general topics.  I especially appreciated her great wisdom, insight, and spirituality in regard to people and life.  I once inquired with Mrs. Gernatt about certain questions I had in relation to my brother, and she put me at ease with her answers, which I appreciated.

An extremely intelligent woman, Mrs. Gernatt and I had an understanding about each other.  Have you ever looked at a person in the eyes and just knew that they understood you?  That is how Mrs. Gernatt and I interacted during our time walking together.

Upon inquiring with Mrs. Gernatt and her husband one Christmas holiday when I was at home from college and my vehicle needed repairs, I asked if she and her husband could give me a ride to and from daily mass at our local church.  Since I was old enough to drive, I had attended daily mass at our church for a more in-depth religious and spiritual experience, and also attended as much as possible during holidays.

Therefore, Mrs. Gernatt and her husband very kindly transported me to and from daily mass several times during that holiday season.  I also got to know them better by eating breakfast with them at church following daily mass on one morning, at which time both Mrs. Gernatt and her husband showed the utmost kindness and courtesy to me by including me in their gathering.  Feeling somewhat uncomfortable and undeserving of being a part of their group, Mrs. Gernatt conveyed confidence and authority in her inclusion of me with her, for which I am also forever grateful.

What struck me most about Mrs. Gernatt was her love for God, and her dedication and faith in our shared Catholic religion.  As a generally quiet woman who kept to herself, Mrs. Gernatt was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, successful businesswoman, devoted fellow Catholic, and honorable friend.   Mrs. Gernatt served as Eucharistic Minister in our church, and she was a member of the Power Elite of business owners and entrepreneurs in New York State.  Being a board member of her family’s highly successful, multi-million dollar corporations, as well as serving as a spiritual guide and moral compass for her family, Mrs. Gernatt always made time to give thanks and praise to God.

As the matriarch of her family, Mrs. Gernatt was also a wonderful role model for everyone, including her family, those whom she knew, members of her parish, and individuals within the community.  As a person gifted with the power to do so much good for others, Mrs. Gernatt was a person who was fully present in many endeavors to strengthen and improve the Roman Catholic Church, Catholic education, and her community.

In the days before her death, I remember the strength, dedication, and perseverance of Mrs. Gernatt in continuing – not only to attend Mass – but to walk, independently, to the altar to receive Eucharist.  I am witness to Mrs. Gernatt’s strength, faith, spirituality, character, dedication, and perseverance at a time in her life that was most difficult.  Her strong will, honorable nature, and moral and ethical direction continue to be an inspiration to me in my life.

In good times and in bad – including while battling the illness that took her life – Mrs. Gernatt continued to have her strong and unyielding faith in God that compelled and guided her to the altar to receive Communion.  As a fellow Catholic, that is profound in itself, and says multitudes about her faith, beliefs, and spirituality.

I am thankful for the opportunity I had to get to know Flavia C. Gernatt, and discover for myself that she was a “real” person – not necessarily one who was on the pedestal on which others placed her.  So often, we may feel so unlike people of enormous wealth, however this was not the case with Mrs. Gernatt.

Though my socioeconomic status was and is far at the other end of the spectrum from Mrs. Gernatt, she always made me feel as ease.  Her confidence and authority caused me to feel comfort.  Her wisdom, insight, and intelligence spoke to my soul.  In Mrs. Gernatt, if even for a short while, I found a kindred spirit.  I am grateful for that, and know she is looking down on me with those same qualities today.

Sources

“Gernatt’s Horses Plug Collins,” (Harlan C. Abbey) 1984, The Buffalo News, Buffalo, New York.

“Gowanda Area Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Gowanda” Newsletter, February 1996, Gowanda, New York.

“Obituary of Flavia Gernatt,” November 29, 1995, The Buffalo News, Buffalo, New York.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (Pictorial Directory), 2003, Gowanda, New York.

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Villa Maria College, Grants Office, Recent Grants, Buffalo, New York.  Gernatt Family Foundation Grant.  From http://www.villa.edu/grants_office.html.  February 3, 2012.