Time Goes by so Fast

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My son, a Life-rank Boy Scout, Snellville, Georgia, June 2018

It has been several months since I last posted here on WordPress. It’s not for a lack of desire to write or post, but because the time goes by so fast and I’m very busy with life. It’s actually a good feeling to be busy because I know I’m using my time wisely and constructively. Being there as a support for my teenage son in all of his activities, and continuing my work as a counselor takes up most of my time. It’s all very rewarding and it’s great to enjoy this time in my life. Because the time goes by so quickly, I know it’s important to enjoy every moment as much as possible.

My son has accomplished some milestones in the past several months since I last posted. When he turned 15, he got his driver’s permit here in Georgia. Right now, he is actually very busy, so he has practiced driving very little. Of course, there is more of that to come. In Boy Scouts, he attended two leadership camps this past summer, including one at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It was a great experience for him. He also earned his Hornaday Badge Award and held his Honor Court for that in September. Now, he’s working on his Eagle project, and finishing up his last remaining Eagle-required merit badges. He really loves Boy Scouts and hopes to stick with it. School is also going well for him, and he is already a sophomore. I’m so proud of him! Indeed, the time goes by so fast!

North Collins, New York Photos from Yesteryear (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Recently, I was looking through photos of my relatives and ancestors, in order to show and explain to my son about some of his ancestral history.  There are many excellent original photographs that I have of people, and groups related to schools and Girl Scouts in North Collins, New York, where my grandmother, Bernice “Bernie” Gale (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague was raised by her parents, Clarence Briggs (of North Collins) and Julia (Gale) Briggs (of Hamburg, New York).  My grandmother was born in 1912 and died in 1987.

I also have many great original photos of people, and sports teams in Collins, Collins Center, and Gowanda, New York that I will provide in separate posts.  For now, please enjoy viewing these photos from yesteryear.  Please note that I have identified as many names of the people in the current photos as possible.

Bernice Briggs of North Collins, NY, Circa 1923

Bernice Briggs of North Collins, NY, Circa 1923

This is a photo of my grandmother when she was 11 years old.

Bernice (Briggs) and Charles A. Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1933

Bernice (Briggs) and Charles A. Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1933

This picture is of my grandparents after they were married.

Charles A., Bernice, & Bruce E. Babcock, Collins, NY, 1948

Charles A., Bernice, & Bruce E. Babcock, Collins, NY, 1948

This picture is of my grandparents with my dad when he was four years old.  My grandfather would have been 37 years old in this picture, and my grandmother, 36.  They waited until they were older before having a child.

View of Main Street, North Collins, NY, Circa 1920-1930

View of Main Street, North Collins, NY, Circa 1906

Here is a picture of Main Street in North Collins from 1906.  Notice the horse and buggy approaching from the far end of the road.

Second Grade Students at North Collins, NY One-Room Schoolhouse, 1920 (L to R-Charles Cocca, Bernice Briggs, Leona Reith, Daniel Mecca, Josephine Tempio, Naomi Heim, Georgia Butler)

Second Grade Students at North Collins, NY One-Room Schoolhouse, 1920 (L to R-Charles Cocca, Bernice Briggs, Leona Reith, Daniel Mecca, Josephine Tempio, Naomi Heim, George Butler)

This is my grandmother’s second grade class in North Collins, New York from 1920.  It was the end of the school year at the time this photo was taken.  They had school in a one-room schoolhouse.

Sunday School Class, N. Collins, NY, 1923 L to R-Mrs Whaley, Emogene Stearns, Lillian Burham, Marie Mackey, Wilma Mackey, Bernice Briggs, Grace Korthale, Marion North, Lorraine Tarbox

Sunday School Class, N. Collins, NY, 1923 L to R-Mrs Whaley, Emogene Stearns, Lillian Burham, Marie Mackey, Wilma Mackey, Bernice Briggs, Grace Korthale, Marion North, Lorraine Tarbox

This is a photo of my grandmother’s Sunday School Class in North Collins, New York from 1923.  She was 11 years old.  Notice that all of the girls are holding rabbits.  I believe they were rabbits from the teacher’s farm, where the photo was taken.  The teacher is identified as Mrs. Lee Whaley.

North Collins, New York First Grade Class with Miss Rockwell, 1918

North Collins, New York First Grade Class with Miss Rockwell, 1918

Here is a photo of my grandmother’s first grade class with Miss Rockwell in North Collins from 1918 or 1919.  My grandmother is seated at the far left row, in the third desk.

A listing of all but four of the the students in this photo includes the following: (Left to Right, Front to Back): First row: Doris Theil; Loretto Ognibene; Bernice Briggs; Naomi Heim; Joseph Diadoto.  Second row: Angeline George; John Alessi; Josephine Tempio; Daniel Mecca; Bertha -; Unknown name; Myrle Long.  Third row: Anthony Pelligrino; Elmer Bellanca; Joseph Musacchio; Carmella Cocca; Unknown name; Leonard Long; Harold Titus; Unknown name; Sam Agio; Charles Cocca; Sam Compisi; Ethel Valone; Dominic DeMaria.  Fourth row: Anthony Veccio; Woodrow Hunter; Jacob George; Peter Compisi; Milly Long; Unknown name; – Compisi.

North Collins, NY School 6th Grade Class, 1923

North Collins, NY School 6th Grade Class, 1923

Here, the 6th grade class of North Collins is pictured from 1923, with my grandmother seated in the middle row, at the far right.  All student in the photo are as follows: (Left to Right, Front to Back): First row: Daniel Mecca; Charles Cocca; Leander Russell; Woodrow Hunter; Jacob George; John Riefel.  Second row: Leona Reith; Elton Whaley; George Butler; Louis Taravella; Charles Pelligrina; Sam Compisi; Joseph Valone; Joseph Diadoto; Loretto Ognibene; Salvator Schillace; Paul Burgio; Bernice Briggs.  Third row: Wilma Mackey; Josephine Macaluso; Marie Ognibene; Nina LiVieeche; Catherine Compiere; Rose Veccio; Lee Percy; Genevieve Geiger; Anna Vara; Mary Thomas; Marion Mendola; Jennie Vara; Conqetta Savage.  The teacher, in the middle, back row is Elmer Stearns.

North Collins, NY High School 8th Grade Class, 1925

North Collins, NY High School 8th Grade Class, 1925

This photo is of the North Collins High School 8th grade class from 1925.  My grandmother is standing, just about in the center of the picture.  She was a top honor student all throughout her education.

Students in this picture are: (Left to Right, Front to Back): First row: Jacob George; Woodrow Hunter; Charles Pelligrina; Salvator Schillace; Jacob Scheflin; Sam Compisi; Elton Blakely; Leander Russell; Frederick Teltz; Harold Rebmann; Albert Smith. Second row: Wesley Herman; Elton Whaley; John Reifel; Nina LiVeeche; Catherine Compiere; Josephine Macaluso; Marguerite Lawton; Leona Reith; Bernice Briggs; Wilma Mackey; Madeline Thiel; Genevieve Geiger; Mary Thomas; Loretto Ognibene; Charles Cocca; George Butler; Daniel Mecca.  Third row: Mae Rehm (Teacher); Myrle Whaley; – Renaldo; Harlan Penharlow; John Ball; Joseph Diadoto; Louis Taravella.

North Collins, NY Girl Scout Troop 1, Circa 1927

North Collins, NY Girl Scout Troop 1, Circa 1927

And, how about this photo of the North Collins Girl Scout Troop 1 from about 1927.  My grandmother is standing in the rear at the right, next to the woman holding the trophy.

Pictured are, from left to right, front to back: First row: Jean Thiel; Doris Thiel; Edith Dickman; Margaret Ball; Dorothy Twichell; Jeanette Roeller; Rosemary Hewitt; Emogene Stearns.  Second row: Helen Ormsby; Delight Tice; Audrey Mitchell; Marguerite Lawton; Lillian Burnham; Marion North; Leona Reith; Pamelia Ormsby; Bernice Briggs; Jessie Walburg.  Third row: Josephine Tempio; Nine LiVieeche; Alice Butler; Elizabeth Thiel; Evelyn Ames; Dorothy Geiger; Genevieve Geiger; Marjorie Tarbox.

Source:

Family photos of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1918-1948.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014).  Snellville, Georgia.

“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.

“Scout Duty to God Banquet and Meeting Phil Niekro” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Being Recognized at the Duty to God Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

My Son Being Recognized at the Duty to God Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

On Saturday, March 8, 2014, my family and I attended the Annual Northeast Georgia Council Boy Scout Duty to God Banquet.  This year, it was held at Prince of Peace Roman Catholic Church in Flowery Branch, Georgia.  My son has earned both of his religious emblems as a Cub Scout, and was recognized for his most recent achievement from last year.

My son with Phil Niekro at Scout Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

My son with Phil Niekro at Scout Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to attend and enjoy the banquet, as well as to meet Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro there!  Ignorant that I am about most of baseball, I realized when Niekro gave his keynote speech to the boys, that he is well deserving of that honor, having achieved 318 career victories.  In his keynote speech, Niekro affectionately remembered his late brother, Joe, who – between them – shared 539 wins since he also played baseball.

My lucky son also won a raffle of one of the baseball cards of Niekro that he also signed.  Niekro also gave out signed photographs, placemats, and other memorabilia to scouts and dinner guests who correctly answered questions that he posed.  What a wonderful treat to share in good company, for my son to be recognized for his religious achievements in scouting, and to meet a famous baseball player, who also happens to be of Polish descent, as are my son and I.

Thank you, Scout leaders, for holding such a nice banquet, as well as providing a “cool” speaker for the boys!

References:

Wikipedia (2014).  “Phil Niekro.”  Retrieved on March 8, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Niekro

“Poland and my Polish Heritage” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

My grandparents (now deceased) on my mother’s side were pure-blooded Poles, having left Poland and immigrating to Germany before coming to Ellis Island around 1950.  My Polish-American grandmother was Władysława, or “Lottie,” and my Polish-American grandfather was Janek, or John.  I never knew either of my grandfathers as they both died before I was born.  Grandfather John died following a two year battle with cancer, possibly brought on by working with the many chemicals at the Tannery in Gowanda, New York, where he lived.  Both of my grandparents worked very hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of four children, one being my mother.  Sometimes, my grandmother worked two or three jobs at a time, such as waitressing at a local restaurant and tending plants at a local nursery.

Life was not easy for my Polish-American grandparents who left Europe after World War II.  But, they left because they did not want to take the chance of experiencing another Great War, and they wanted better opportunities for their children.  After all, America was the country that was flowing with “milk and honey,” as they had heard.  For two people who did not have more than an elementary or middle school education, nor knew any English upon setting foot in the United States, they certainly worked hard and did the best they could.  Sponsorship of their family by cousins already in America helped pave the way for a different fate for their family than occurred for the siblings of my grandparents still in Poland.

My grandfather was one of about 10 children in his family.  I remember being told that his mother apparently told him when he was a young man that no woman would want to marry him because he had a glass eye.  In those days in Poland, being poor and having a disability meant having fewer opportunities, as well as potentially being a societal outcast.  When I think of such a statement, now, I think of how ridiculous it sounds, particularly with so many people who have disabilities making the best of their lives.

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

My grandmother was the middle child in a family of three daughters.  Her sisters were Staca (pronounced “Stashia”) and Marianna.  Many years ago, Marianna visited and stayed with my grandmother for three months in the United States on a temporary visa.  And, many years following that, I had the privilege of studying at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and seeing her again!  As a senior at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, I participated in the popular study abroad program to the Jagiellonian University in 1992.

In the midst of studying intensive Polish language at the Jagiellonian – with the intention of being able to properly communicate with my Polish relatives in Poland – I sent a postcard to Marianna.  A few days later, Marianna and her family arrived at my dormitory building, surprisingly unannounced, and took me out for the day.  I then made plans to visit them for a weekend, and got to meet 15 of my Polish relatives in Poland, including Marianna’s family, the Drewin’s, who lived in Kielce.  It was wonderful to see and visit with them all, and to provide monies to them that I brought specifically for them from the family at home.

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Studying in Poland at the Jagiellonian University was a wonderful experience.  If I could have the opportunity to do it all over again (and at the same age as I was at the time), I would.  Studying abroad in Poland was highly recommended to me by my fellow student colleagues who were members of the University at Buffalo Polish Club.  Many of them lauded praises about the program.  Because so many of them said such great things about their experiences, I decided to apply for the opportunity to go.  It was very exciting to be accepted into the program, and to have taken the opportunity to go there.

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Poland, I did much sight-seeing with my English-speaking (mostly composed of Americans) study group at the Jagiellonian University.  We visited the historic Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the amazing Wieliczka Salt Mines, the religious pilgrimage destination of Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa,  and had regular opportunities to see Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica and visit Krakow’s main market square.

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

On my own, I also traveled to and visited Berlin, Germany during one weekend; and with a student colleague, I went to Prague in the former Czechoslovakia, for another weekend.  On yet another weekend, the same student colleague and I visited Vienna.  I found Berlin to be a historic city, one in which a person could still obviously observe the differences between the former West and East Germanies.  And, Prague is just an amazingly beautiful and historic city, with many historic structures still standing, having not been demolished in previous wars.  Vienna was an incredibly beautiful city, also being extremely modernized and commercialized.

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

I have many memories of my time spent studying abroad and travelling in Europe.  I had such a wonderful experience in studying abroad that I returned to Europe two years later.  At that time, I travelled with my mom through the British Isles, including England, Scotland, and Ireland.  Following that, I went solo, traveling through many European countries.

St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Europe in 1994, I used my Brit Rail and Eurail passes to travel by train, everywhere.  I traveled lightly with only a couple of bags, and remained in Europe for about one month.  In all, it was a fabulous experience, and I highly recommend it.  I would definitely do it all over again if I ever had the opportunity.

I am very proud of my family, my ancestors, and my Polish-American heritage.  While there are additional nationalities in my make-up from which I am descended, the Polish part of me is the strongest next to that of being American.  I am thankful that my Polish-American grandparents had the fortitude and courage to come to America, where they succeeded in creating a better life for their family, and their descendants to come.