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  1. By now you've noticed there's been yet more changes to the site since before the holidays. 

    For the last year, year and a half I tried to make this site a source of news for the community. I wanted to make this a reliable news page, I really did. But the cold hard facts are that as a largely one man operation, it's all but impossible to make that happen. Unless one is willing to simply repost the daily police/ arrest reports... you know, the ones you're having read to you on the 6 o'clock news?

    I know, I know, bad news and arrest reports are what sells. But frankly I've grown sick of reporting it. There's a lot of good stuff going on out there in the community, things that people are interested in and aren't hearing about in more than a 20 second sound bite if they're lucky. However getting that information is difficult unless one is out in the community every day knocking on doors, attending events, etc. and then coming home, typing it all out and posting it online to be read. In my experience, by the time a single story is researched, typed out, and posted, it could be a couple hours worth of work. For ONE original story. That's a lot for one person to do in between a regular job, family obligations and all. 

    So keep that nugget of info with you as I move on to the next problem.

    So once the story is posted, and a link provided on social media to alert people to the fact there is something new, it's very hit or miss whether they bother to read it or not. Many times they will comment on the headline without ever actually clicking the link to read the story. 

    As an example, the story we broke on the return of Briggs Beer in July took a total of four hours to produce, from meeting with the owner to releasing the story. It was shared numerous times on social media and was widely shared. However only a fraction of those people actually ever came to the site to read it. ( I don't have the numbers in front of me at this time, but suffice it to say that the numbers were dismally disappointing. ) 

    For the past year I've managed to remain hopeful that eventually the public would change how they want to receive their news. That eventually they'd want more than a 20 second sound bite or a click bait headline that they can make a snarky comment about and scroll past. I'd hoped eventually the site would become financially able to hire someone to get those in depth news stories and commentary. But it's been five, almost six years since this website was established, even longer for it's predecessor, News From Town which eventually merged here. I've hung in there, kept plugging away while other projects sat on the back burner, but social trends haven't changed and show no signs of doing so anytime soon. 

    It's very frustrating. And at the risk of sounding like a jerk, I've got other things to do folks. Those back burner projects deserve more attention than I've given. 

    So for that reason I've done away with the "Front Page" section. Additionally, the ElmiraTelegram.com Facebook page has been deactivated and stored under a separate account name. There's at least a dozen other Elmira themed Facebook groups and pages on there these days and it only served to create more work updating and monitoring. 

    We're going back to basics around here, returning to a discussion forum where people can have a civil discourse about a wide variety of news and issues without having to deal with the ignorance and rancor that's all too prevalent on social media. Additionally, what I consider to be the gem of this site, always and forever, the Community Voices section, will remain and I always hope that maybe someone new will come along to join the talented writers who have contributed to the site, some for nearly seven years now!

    I hope you'll enjoy the site, especially with the addition of the "Rurlife.com" section, brought here in the hopes of promoting family farming as well as helping those who want to try getting their hands in the dirt for the first time. Or manure, whatever. 

    The strength of any message board/ forum isn't the admin, it's in the the contribution made by you the member. I encourage you to contribute your thoughts and weigh in on ideas posted by others. Otherwise it's just me posting a bunch of weird stuff, and who wants to read that?

    As always, I welcome any input or ideas. 



  2. January is, so far, keeping us in a rather mild pattern of weather.  I hope this doesn’t mean blizzards in February and March.  Those of us who have gardens (or farms) do need some snow cover in winter for a good growing year though.  Snow used to be called the poor man’s manure; it carried nutrients along with it as it covered the fields with white.  I’m not sure anymore just what snow carries; probably some things not so nutritious like radiation and toxins from industry but the ground still can use the moisture and whatever minerals come along for the ride.

    Our Christmas decorations are all put away in the storage tubs --- well, except for the ones here and there that I just didn’t “see” when packing.  It is amazing how I can look straight at something and it doesn’t register at all!  There are now two shoeboxes full of the left-behinds: several glittering stars, one lamb, a llama, 3 golden birds and a handful of silver stars on bendable wire, etc.  I purposely left the glass snowflakes in the picture window though; they are so pretty when the sun shines through them.  I now have a new surge of energy for rearranging things a bit; bringing a fresh look to our rooms.   

    One of our Christmas gifts was lovely collage framed photographs of our family, with our travels in Maine as background.  This gift does mean relocating some things already on the walls (Kerm just refuses to build me more walls… ).  Not only does it remind us of ocean spray and fresh air, but there are the faces of those we love.  So hanging this oddly-shaped frame is probably where I will begin my rearranging.  Then there is the toy room, which is really no longer necessary in quite its present form.  It was initially supposed to be my sewing room.  Then with grandchildren and other small visitors it morphed into a toy room.   The small children are growing up and I’m not sewing all that much.  It may become a library ----a small room full of books and comfort with some good lamps and the necessary toys and craft materials remaining in baskets.  I saw something like this on a Besotted Bookworm post and was enchanted.  We shall see what emerges!

    The beginning of this lovely new year has been full of not-so-lovely news; dreadful fires, rumors of war, a spike in two strains of the flu and really annoying political scrambling.  I try to write these essays in a way that provides some uplift for our spirits (mine included) and reminders that the world is full of wonders as well as woe.  But occasionally --- I just have to shake out issues as though they were dirty rugs, when I feel overcome by their state of being.

    Lately I have run into a troublesome “I’m certainly better than those others” attitude although it is seldom phrased quite so honestly.  Now before I tear anyone’s castle apart, I must admit to harboring an occasional “superior” judgmental thought within the disarray of my mind.  It pops out especially when I hear people choosing to metaphorically press their hands to their ears, opting for comfort over compassion; refusing to be informed out of their biases.  But I do try to squelch it in me as much as I can for I know it isn’t something in which I should be indulging, and possibly(?) some of my opinions may be equally as difficult for others to swallow.  However, in today’s world, this nose-in-the-air condition is something that seems to have spread and blossomed like a bad weed.  I’m sure elitism has always been part of humanity (in fact I wrote a spoof on it, years ago, during one of the school board races) but we shouldn’t be letting snobbery become acceptable.   Our family backgrounds, while important and interesting to us as individuals, should not be something we boast about.  Nor should our degree from Harvard, Cornell or Yale raise goose-bumps on anyone’s arms but our own.   There will be no stars in our crown because our families are members of the DAR, came over on the Mayflower, are well-to-do, literate and have a PhD beside names.

    How we do the work that is provided us, how we treat people around us, how we discern with clarity and compassion the world around us; basically how we love, is what is crucial in becoming a real person ----ala The Velveteen Rabbit* (not to mention the Bible).  It would be such a good beginning to 2020 --- and to our own growth --- if we could look deep inside and uproot thoughts that we are better than the rest of the population out there because of education, wealth or general enlightenment ---- or any other reason our egos can dredge up for looking downward with disdain.   

    And this brings me to another subject related to “better than”.  With all the discord over immigration, I thought I’d check back a little into our history.  To quote one writer, Louis L’Amour** “The United States had been settled to a great degree by the economic failures of Europe, albeit the ones with courage enough to attempt a change.  The wealthy and satisfied do not migrate; they stagnate.  Even those who offered religion as a reason for migration were also those who were impoverished.  Many Puritans and Quakers remained in England, but they were those who had much to lose and little to gain {by emigrating}.  It was the peasants, the lower middle class and a few adventurers or impoverished noblemen who settled America.” It is certainly something to ponder as we consider the knotty question of immigration.   If we look back, we will see clearly that every time there was a large influx of people from another country to our shores, prejudice and fear set in.   The newcomers, every single time, were banned from stores, refused jobs and wholly discriminated against for a generation and certainly you’d never let your daughter marry one!!; the Irish, the Welsh, the Italians, the Poles, the Chinese, etc.  Of course we, as a nation, should have immigration policies --- but ones made in fairness and compassion, not those made in fear and bitterness.  Arrogance and elitism are never pretty qualities no matter how cosmetically enhanced.

    Winter’s chill along with the nightly helping of bad news, is sometimes hard to endure; it seems forever until we hear the spring peepers.   SAD affects so many people that sunlight lamps should probably be sold in every pharmacy.  One of the easier suggestions I’ve heard, to help increase happiness levels, is making a Happiness Jar.  I’ve mentioned this in the past, I think.  Putting one or more slips of paper into a jar each day with something for which we are grateful or a moment that has made us happy changes one’s perspective amazingly.  It is a reminder that while life is not always just how we’d like it to be, being alive is still good --- and wonderful ---- and full of small bits of happiness no matter how dour the day otherwise.   A poster I saw said: “There is always, always something for which to be grateful!”  Reading from the jar at the end of the year would be a fine way to celebrate that small bits of happiness outweigh the down times.

    A moment that made me laugh this week was due to one of the cats.   There is an outside shelf under one window looking into our dining/TV room where the cats sit and seem to enjoy watching TV – probably the lights and moving colors.   I was sitting behind a desk at another window with no shelf (and no TV on).  I looked up to see one of our cats sitting a foot or two away looking in at me with a “what are you doing there?” kind of look.  And after a few moments, he stretched his paw out and tapped the window with a very clear request ---- “Could you please put a shelf under this window too?”  I think that’s not going to happen but I was amused at the very easily-read feline request.  They are also good at facial expressions that clearly say, “Feed us!!” or “We need petting!”  I think all that worry about applying human emotions to creatures is just silly.  Of course animals have emotions – (some more than others; I’m thinking maybe snakes may not feel too deeply!) and many creatures manage to be very expressive.

    There is an old country saying: “Days lengthen and cold strengthens.”  I am quite happy to see more light at the end of each day but I expect that we have plenty of winter ahead of us; it’s the nature of the beast in this region.  As Hal Borland*** says, “Now comes the long haul up the cold slope between now and April.”  There is plenty of time for crackling fires, cocoa, making snow angels and snuggling in with a good book.  But in the midst of that, may there also be time for making things better in our own small ways.  Being a little less arbitrary with our thoughts and a bit more aware of possibilities for new ideas ---- even change ---- is a good way to go forward in this fine mint-new year.

    *The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams --- a novel for children but full of wisdom for adults too.

    **Louis L’Amour.  Quotation found in Westward the Tide.  American novelist and short-story writer.  1908-1988.

    ***Hal Borland --- American writer, naturalist, journalist.  1900-1978.

    For you former D&D players, today is Appreciate a Dragon Day ---- noted from the Burdett Presbyterian newsletter.

  3. It can be frustrating to have to keep banging the proverbial drum of opposition when the right thing to do seems crystal clear. There’s no choice in New York State government now. 

    Another week of the legislative session goes by yet, despite story after story after real life story from our streets and neighborhoods, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the extreme-liberal, downstate leaders of the Legislature take no action to fix what is so obviously a broken (and dangerous) bail reform law.

    There are plenty of reactions to their inaction. Take your pick. I’ll take former New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton, who gets straight to the point, “What the hell were they thinking about in Albany when they crafted this mind-boggling set of limitations on the criminal justice system?”

    What were they thinking, yes, but also, What are they thinking now? The law took effect on Jan. 1. There has been a daily drumbeat of opposition from law enforcement, district attorneys, judges, elected officials, and everyday citizens fearful of the consequences. Consequences, by the way, that continue to mount and already include the deaths of innocent victims by repeat offenders set free under this irresponsible new law.
    It bears repeating: It should be clear to any reasonable person that “No Bail” reform as it stands puts public safety at risk. 

    Unfortunately, there appears no place for reason in this Legislature under one-party, downstate Democrat control in a party where those pushing a Democrat Socialist, radically progressive agenda have dropped anchor and are firmly moored within the highest levels of New York decision making. 

    Make no mistake their agenda favors criminals over crime victims. It is an agenda disdainful of a commonsense tenet of public safety: some criminals belong behind bars. It is an agenda so clearly out of step with the legislative district I represent but that nevertheless forces us to face its consequences.  

    Governor Cuomo let another week go by without demanding change – another week that produced another string of victims. 

    The Democrat majority leader of the Senate and the Democrat Speaker of the Assembly allowed their chambers to gavel out without taking action. Unbelievably, however, the Senate Democrat majority did find time to begin pushing their next criminal justice reform: automatic parole hearings for every inmate who turns 55 while in prison, even those serving a sentence of life without parole for horrific, violent crimes inflicted on society.  

    The advocates of the new “No Bail” reform, for their part, stepped up an already aggressive campaign to push the position legislative leaders are clinging to: No changes needed.

    “No Bail” has become the poster for the pitfalls of one-party control of government where checks and balances are thrown out the window or, to put it another way, criminals walk out the door.

    Remember that when the Legislature enacted bail reform, not a single Republican in the Senate or Assembly voted for it. Last week, many of us began offering constituents an online petition to join our fight for repealing the law. 

    We will keep delivering the message that this is bad public policy. It’s dangerous and it will get worse. Our communities and the law enforcement community as a whole deserve better.  

    We will keep highlighting the danger and keep pushing for a commonsense, safer, more workable solution that achieves necessary reform but that protects public safety as priority number one.

    To sign our petition, visit my Senate website: www.omara.nysenate.gov and click on the “Repeal Bail Reform” icon on the home page.


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    In the absence of time to sit and write something new for this column, it occurred to me that this one I wrote a year or so ago may be fitting for the New Year and the whole “New Year, new me” many tell themselves.

    I make no pretense of being a motivational speaker. However sometimes a synapse fires, a light blinks on and things do appear with a little more clarity. I think it has something to do with getting older, but who knows. Our society is quick to try and put us in neat little categories, little boxes, and keep us contained there. So many people are pressured into going along with it, never trying something or living they life they really want to.

    That societal pressure, those boxes? It’s all bull.

    Author Robert Fulghum wrote about this much more eloquently, pointing out that in our society we are identified by what we do for a living. We’re doctors, welders, garbagemen. But really we could just as easily ( and perhaps more accurately ) be identified by the things we do that define us outside the 9-5. Parent, painter, gardener. Fulghum said it’d be funny to identify by the thing he did the most, breathe. Or as he put it, being a “resperateur”.

    The point being, YOU determine who you are, WHAT you are. No one else.

    Years ago as I began writing more and putting it out for public consumption ( all 10 of you ), I voiced doubts about calling myself a “writer.”

    After all, a writer is someone who goes to the desk and writes for a living, right? They wake up, they write, and it pays the bills. Stephen King, James Patterson… those guys are writers. Someone on a self made WordPress soapbox writing for a few of his friends to read it? Not so much. I was not  worthy of the title, “writer.” ( Imagined in neon lights above my head and sighs of adoration as the word is said. ) Luckily, I’ve a friend who knows how deliver a swift kick right when it’s needed. His response has stuck with me for probably 10 years now: “What are you waiting for, someone to say it for you? Fine, I hereby dub thee a writer, now get to work.”

    Not his exact words, but you get the point.

    And he was right. While sitting around wondering if I was allowed to call myself a writer, I wasn’t doing the very thing a writer would do… WRITE!! It didn’t happen overnight, but with practice and the desire to learn what it takes to write good ( haha! ) I gained confidence enough to put it out there for all to see. It’s the same for some of my other endeavors. When someone asks if I’m a farmer, I demur, I’m hesitant to say I am. Farmers are those people up at 4am working 16 hours a day to barely make it feeding the world. But I raise animals for food. I long hesitated to call myself a musician, yet I’ve played in a band from one end of this state to the other for over a decade. However as time has gone on, my friend’s words continue to eventually drown out those doubts.

    I’m a writer. A musician. A hobby farmer. I’m also a father, husband… a human in progress.

    I guess my point to all this is, if you’re looking for the world to define you, you’re in for a world of disappointment. It takes more than an arbitrary calendar date and a gym membership. It means you have to have the confidence to say, “I am an artist.” or what ever it is you believe in your heart of hearts to be.

    So tell me, or more importantly, yourself: What are you?

  4. Linda Roorda
    Latest Entry

    It usually helps to have a guide, a map, or simple written directions for the journey ahead.  Without those directions, I don’t know how we’d arrive at any given destination… because I, for one, cannot imagine going on a trip without explicit directions! 


    Since I don’t have one of those talking directors on my dashboard, like a Garmin or TomTom, and wouldn’t trust them anyway because I’ve heard about the mistakes they make, I carefully write out my directions - line by line, of each road and turn I need to take.  And then fret and worry until I arrive… have I gone too far, did I miss a turn, are we there yet, it should be right here…! 


    So imagine being lost in a big city.  Stopping to ask a passerby where to find your destination, you hear, “Go to the second light, turn left and go three more blocks, turn right, now go several blocks till you see the church on your left and turn right there.  Go four more blocks, cross a bridge, go two more blocks and then take the next left…”  “Ummm, I’m afraid you’ve lost me.  Can you say that again?”  “Hey, I have a better idea!  I’ll drive you there!  Hop in my car.”  And off you go.  It helps to have someone show you the way, doesn’t it?!  (paraphrasing Chuck Swindoll in a sermon, 11/24/19)


    This poem came from realizing that I need directions for life, someone to guide me… like the directions that come from reading God’s Word.  We used to enjoy listening in the evenings to tapes that Ed made in the morning of pastors on radio that we really like, Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, Charles Stanley, and, for a time, Joyce Meyer.  They have so much to say in their practical application of Scripture, expounding on stories of the many biblical characters we have all come to love… folks who were so much like us in their failings, their good deeds, their sins, and their love for God – simply put, their humanity.  There is so much wisdom we can gain from studying their lives and the implications of all they’ve done… in the good, the bad, and the ugly, and in their confession to God and His gracious cleansing forgiveness.


    Yet, so often I tend to think I can handle life on my own terms.  In reality I need help from the Lord to guide me on a better path.  Studying Proverbs in our church’s adult Sunday School class a while ago showed a wealth of wisdom to be gleaned and clung to.  I’ve read and studied this book in the past, with my favorite verse being, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)  But, isn’t it true that we often need a refresher course in trusting Him every step of the way?  I sure do!


    From these initial thoughts came this little poem.  May it remind us that we need to look to our Lord to keep guiding our journey… daily, hourly, and every minute of the day…


    Wishing you a Blessed and Happy New Year!


    Keep Guiding Me

    Linda A. Roorda

    Keep guiding me, my Father, my God

    For in this world it’s Your voice I seek

    And in the stillness You gently speak

    Words of wisdom that I might stand firm.


    Lord, show me the way that I should walk

    A better way with Your word as guide

    A path of faith as Your truth I see

    So all my steps bring honor to you.


    May I be wise in using my time

    Between the rising and setting of light

    That all I do will honor and praise

    The One who created this world I enjoy.


    Yet so often I go my own way

    Thinking I know how best to handle

    Keep me from straying as you guide my feet

    As I walk this path… this rocky course.


    When pressures arise may I seek your face

    Give me a heart that longs for You

    A heart that is steadfast in trusting You

    And in your presence find wisdom and truth.


    Keep guiding me, Lord, on this path You prepared

    That I may shine Your light to this world

    A world in need, with no place to turn,

    In search of grace and healing for wounds.


    December 2014


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    It may not be reproduced without permission of author.



  5. I think Christmas is everyone’s favorite time of year, especially a white Christmas!  Right?!  Even shopping has begun in earnest, just the day after Thanksgiving.  But, many of our current holiday traditions either changed dramatically or began only in the 19th century.  Writing in the “Broader View Weekly” local newspaper in December 2012, I explored the origins of many of our American Christmas traditions, and how others celebrated around the world. 


    December 6th is a day my/our Dutch ancestors would have celebrated Saint Nicholas Day, part of traditional European Christmas celebrations for centuries.  The Dutch word “Sinterklaas” for Saint Nicholas is considered the origin of our American “Santa Claus” with Washington Irving and Clement C. Moore helping to make him who he is today.  The earliest writing in America of a figure resembling our modern Santa can be found in Washington Irving’s satire of Dutch culture.  In “History of New York” published in 1809, Irving writes in chapter IX:  "At this early period…hanging up a stocking in the chimney on St. Nicholas eve…is always found in the morning miraculously filled; for the good St. Nicholas has ever been a great giver of gifts, particularly to children." 


    Clement C. Moore immortalized St. Nicholas in “’Twas The Night Before Christmas.”  In this ode to St. Nick, he appears on December 24th, Christmas Eve in America, not the original St. Nicholas Eve of December 5th in Europe.  Moore’s poem, published anonymously in a Troy, New York newspaper on December 23, 1823, promotes a new appearance to the original lean St. Nicholas:  “He had a broad face and a little round belly…He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf…[with a] "sleigh full of Toys" [and] "eight tiny reindeer…[as] Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound."  The two original reindeer names of Donder and Blixem were later changed to Donner and Blitzen.  Once again, the Dutch influence in the former New Netherlands was involved as “donder” means thunder and “bliksem” means lightning. 


    While Irving and Moore both present the jolly gift giver as Saint Nicholas, political cartoonist Thomas Nast is considered the first to refer to “Santa Claus” in his illustration for the January 3, 1863 edition of “Harpers Weekly.”  President Lincoln had requested that Nast depict St. Nicholas visiting the Union troops.  Nast’s illustration shows Santa Claus sitting on his sleigh at a U.S. Army camp, handing out gifts in front of a “Welcome Santa Claus” sign.


    Another treasured tradition of our modern Christmas is Charles Dickens’ short story, “A Christmas Carol,” written as a commentary on the greed of Victorian England.  Available in book stores the week before Christmas 1843, it sold very well, never being out of print since.  Scrooge has the distinction of being one of the most well-known literary characters.  But, what do we care… Bah, humbug!


    Our decorated Christmas tree comes from German traditions with Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert putting up the first decorated tree at Windsor Castle in 1841.  Based on illustrations of this event published in America in 1849, Christmas trees then became fashionable on this side of the “pond.”  Small candles were used to light the tree, with popcorn and cranberry strings typically used for decoration.


    From the religious aspect, Christmas celebrations differed in many ways based on national origin   I found it interesting to learn that Christmas celebrations were outlawed in Boston by the Puritans in the mid to late 17th century with fines for violations, while the Johnstown, Virginia settlers enjoyed their merry celebrations under Capt. John Smith.  After the American Revolution, Americans looked down on English traditions, including Christmas.  Apparently, Congress was even in session on December 25, 1789!  In fact, Christmas did not become a federal holiday until Congress declared it such on June 26, 1870. 


    By the late 19th century, celebrating Christmas was made popular through children’s books and women’s magazines.  Church Sunday School classes began encouraging celebrations, and families were decorating Christmas trees with everyone “knowing” Santa Claus delivered gifts on Christmas Eve, traditions which have been carried on into the 21st century.


    Other popular traditions we all look forward to include decorating our homes and trees, baking scrumptious special treats, singing carols, and either making or shopping for just the right gift for each special person on our list.  But, alas, the years have also taken a simple celebration in honor of Jesus’ birth and made it into a highly marketed holiday, one often filled with ostentatious materialism.  Personally, I prefer to step back to the simpler traditions of my Dutch ancestry and childhood home, one without “all the trappings” and media frenzy.


    With my dad being a first generation Dutch-American, we veered from Dutch tradition in some ways.  We maintained Christmas Day with a morning church service and a big family dinner; but, our gift-giving was held the Saturday before Christmas, not the Dutch traditional day of December 5.  My first and last adoration of Santa Claus came the Christmas I was 5 years old when Santa visited my grandparents in Clifton, New Jersey.  We three little granddaughters shyly sat on his lap to share our wants.  Afterwards, my grandmother took us to an upstairs window to watch Santa and his reindeer leave.  All I saw was a car with red tail lights driving away between the snowbanks.  At that moment, I was crushed and disillusioned, and just knew there was absolutely no Santa Claus because, despite dressing the part, he did not have a sleigh and reindeer!


    After all, everyone’s favorite reindeer is Rudolph with his nose so bright!  Supposedly written by Robert L. May for his daughter when her mother was dying of cancer, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was actually written in 1939 for his employer, Montgomery Ward, as a Christmas book given out free to customers.  Though May’s wife did die around the time he wrote the story, he read it to his 4-year-old daughter as he worked on it simply to ensure it held a child’s interest.  With memories of his own childhood, May decided on a tale with roots in “The Ugly Duckling” and the taunts he had suffered as a child.  Poor Rudolph was ostracized by other reindeer for being different, having an obvious physical abnormality… a glowing red nose.  No one else had one!  Regardless of his defect, Rudolph thrived under his parents’ love, overcame his disability and the taunts to became a responsible young deer!  And then one foggy night, Santa noticed how Rudolph’s nose shone through the dark, and asked him to lead the team of reindeer pulling his sleigh on Christmas Eve!  How excited and honored Rudolph must have felt!  http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/rudolph.asp


    We’ve all been blessed with special Christmas memories over the years.  While visiting my mom at Elderwood, she shared that her mother had always put up and decorated a large Christmas tree in their front parlor.  It was a big change for her to learn that her new husband was not so inclined to such ostentatious displays due to his more austere Dutch upbringing.  With limited decorations and no trees until my mid teens when my dad finally gave in to the pleading of his six kids, I have found it difficult to step out of that mold.  Yet, I have enjoyed putting up a tree with lights and decorations when our three children were young.  And now, since my mother-in-law gave me her ceramic tree the Christmas before she passed away, I am honored to share her generosity in this smaller and simpler display.


    My favorite Christmas memory was when my husband, Ed, farmed with his dad.  With finances tight, I usually sewed clothes for all of us.  But, one year I also made doll beds for each of our children by taking free soda boxes from the local grocery store, gluing the bottoms together, and covering them with wood-grain contact paper.  My step-mother gave our three children a Cabbage-Patch type girl or boy doll she had made, while my grandmother sewed clothes and blankets for each doll.  And our kids could not have been happier! 


    Our local churches do not have a Christmas morning service like Ed and I grew up with, though we have enjoyed the local Christmas Eve candlelight services and singing of favorite carols.  We also began a tradition of reading the Christmas story with our children before they opened gifts on Christmas morning. 


    And another favorite of our family has been the TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Charles M. Schulz.  With the busy holiday shopping extravaganza and commercialization, I think we sometimes lose a little of the wonder of that very first Christmas.


    “Narrator:  It was finally Christmastime, the best time of the year.  The houses were strung with tiny colored lights, their windows shining with a warm yellow glow only Christmas could bring.  The scents of pine needles and hot cocoa mingled together, wafting through the air, and the sweet sounds of Christmas carols could be heard in the distance.  Fluffy white snowflakes tumbled from the sky onto a group of joyful children as they sang and laughed, skating on the frozen pond in town.  Everyone was happy and full of holiday cheer.  That is, everyone except for Charlie Brown…”


    “Charlie (to Linus):  ‘I think there must be something wrong with me.  I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess.  I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy.  I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel…’”


    “Later, after a day of frustrations, Charlie says:  ‘I guess you were right Linus; I shouldn’t have picked this little tree.  Everything I do turns into a disaster.  I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is about.  Isn’t there anyone who understands what Christmas is all about?’”


    “Linus:  ‘Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.’  [Walking to the center of the stage, Linus speaks:]  ‘And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone ‘round about them, and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not!  For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you.  You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.’  And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.’”  [Luke 2:8-14]


    And, for me and my family, that’s what Christmas is all about…  Merry Christmas to all!


  6. I have seven grandchildren; six grandsons and one granddaughter.  The six eldest are now teenagers ranging in age from 17 to 13.  Our youngest grandson turned 5 this past July.

    When the six older grandchildren were little, I started calling them all Roy, including our granddaughter.  I told them I was doing this in case I became forgetful as I got older and couldn't remember their names.  The boys thought it was hilarious that I also called our granddaughter Roy.

    The fun thing was that when all the grandkids were at the house and playing outside I would just yell Roy and they would all come running, laughing like crazy.  I thought of it as something special between us.  When our youngest grandson was born he was known as Little Roy.

    Something else I always did with my grandchildren was to randomly ask them "who loves you".  Their answers were always "you do".  I realized the other day, after a conversation with my youngest grandson that I haven't asked that question of my teenage grandchildren in a long time.

    I will have to remedy that.

    I have never seen myself as a very demonstrative person.  I always knew my parents loved me but I don't ever remember hearing the words.  Saying "I love you" is not always easy for me.  With age comes wisdom and I'm working on that, consciously saying the words especially to those who are important to me.  I don't want them to assume like I did, I want them to hear the words and know they are loved.

    Unfortunately old habits and patterns are difficult to break and my most recent reminder came from Texas.

    Hubby's cousin Patsy moved back home with her husband, Len.  They are two very kind, thoughtful and caring people.

    Patsy's mother, Aunt Marian, was such a loving, kind, thoughtful woman who loved freely and shared that love with everyone.  The first time I visited Aunt Marian and her family as a young bride, I remember feeling so uncomfortable.  They were not the cause of my discomfort, it was something within me.  You see, Aunt Marian and her family hugged each other just leaving and entering a room.  "I love you's" were said like "hello's" and you knew they were genuine.  Aunt Marian was always telling someone "you're so special", "you're wonderful", or "you make me so happy".

    Patsy reminds me of her Mom and has also reminded me that the words are just as important as the actions.  

    The other day Little Roy was riding along with me as I drove to finish my last errand, and as always he talked about everything.  The changing colors of the trees, the shapes and colors of the clouds, what his brothers did, how he cracked his Mom's cell phone and was grounded.

    We were chatting along and I asked him "who loves you".

    "You do" was his immediate reply.  He then started talking about how he won't be going to kindergarten because he doesn't like school and his next question was "Grandma, will you love me when I get big"?

    "Of course I will" I told him, "just like I love your older cousins".

    "Will you love me when I get older" I asked him.

    "Grandma, you're already old" he calmly told me.

    "Yes, I know I'm old but hopefully I'll get older.  If my hair turns white and I get wrinkles (luckily he let that go by), will you love me then" I asked him.

    "Yep" was his short and sweet answer.

    He changed the subject to where we were going next and we talked about that; one question leading to ten more.

    "Will you love me forever, Grandma" he asked out of the blue.

    "Yes I will" I told him.

    "Forever is a long time Grandma" he reminded me.

    "Yes, I know.  That's exactly how long I'll love you".

    Three little words, so very important to say.



    All rights reserved.


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    “Silent night, Holy night”. Christmas festivities in colonial America were in stark contrast to the celebrations and preparations of modern day. Christmas was celebrated by early settlers of Chemung and throughout the newly formed United States of America. New York was the 11th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on July 26th, 1788, the same year the Town of Chemung was established. Although the celebrations would not have been as elaborate as those in the cities or of the wealthy, a modest celebration would have taken place. It has been noted in writings of how generous and extravagant George Washington was on Christmas to his family, guests and servants. The Christmas of 1788 found our Country without a President, it being run instead by the Confederation Congress.[ii] The election held for the First President of the United States of America actually ran from Monday, December 15, 1788, to Saturday, January 10, 1789. No doubt politics would have been a newsworthy item spoken around the dinner table. Whether or not the settlers in Chemung were given the opportunity to vote is not known.

    Decorations would have been very simple by today’s standards. The German settlers most likely would have brought a small tree into their home. If they had the means to do so they might have adorned the tree with candles. New England Puritans preached against frivolity and the pagan heathen traditions of Christmas trees, Christmas carols and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.”[iii] Although there were hymns, Christmas Carols weren’t actually sung until the later part of the 19th century.

    Fruit of any kind was too precious to be wasted on decorations. You would not have seen any apples or other fruit adorning the mantel. The home and church might have been adorned with what was called the "sticking of the Church" with green boughs on Christmas Eve. Garlands of holly, ivy, and mountain laurel were hung from the church roof, the walls, and perhaps the primitive church benches. Lavender, rose petals, and pungent herbs such as rosemary and bay were scattered throughout the churches, providing a pleasant holiday scent. Scented flowers and herbs were chosen partially because they were aromatic and thus were considered an alternative form of incense.[iv]

    Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Moravians celebrated the traditional Christmas season with both religious and secular observances in the Middle Atlantic colonies of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and in the South. However, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in parts of New England by Calvinist Puritans and Protestants. [v]

    By the 18th century, Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Christkind or Kris Kringle might have made an appearance at Christmastime to leave a gift. Similar figures were a jolly elf named Jultomten, who was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats and Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Babouschka and La Befana; depending on the nationality of the family home.[vi]

    Although private celebrations would have been held in the confines of some of the first log cabins and frame homes in the town, it is possible that some of the families came together to celebrate with bible readings and prayers provided by family members. Little is known about the first church erected in the Town of Chemung. It sat on the bank of the Chemung River several miles from what is now “Chemung Proper” on the south side of the river. Travel to the church especially in the cold winter months would have been difficult. A ferry would have been needed to traverse the icy water in December. For those living on the south side of the river, their difficulties would have been to travel the rutted path with their families. At that early a time in the history of the town, there were few horses or oxen and little or no carts or wagons. Most settlers would have traveled by foot. It was here where “The beginning of Christian Organizations in Chemung and Neighboring Valleys” was organized. “The site of the first church of any denomination in Chemung Valley.” It was “organized September 2, 1789 by Roswell Goff, Pastor and William Buck, John Hillman, Peter Roberts, John Roberts, Jesse Locey, John VanCamp and Elizabeth Hillman. (All Baptists)”. (A monument, located ¼ mile from the site of the church can be seen today on the Wilawana Road, located approximately 2 miles east of Wellsburg at what is known today as the Tanner Farm.)

    A small gathering met in worship, according to the early minutes of the Wellsburg Church. From this beginning, the Baptist Church grew, expanding to the building of a Meeting House in 1812 on land purchased by Abner Wells for 50 cents.[vii] The log cabin church and a cemetery were washed away in a flood. There are no remains today and no record of burials in the cemetery.

    Traditions from various nationalities were brought with the early settlers from their homes in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and other New England States and from their homes across the Atlantic. Many of the earliest settlers arrived between the years 1788 and 1791. Depending on when they began homesteading and growing crops, their harvest and winter supplies of food may have been lean for several years. If they had a roof over their head, a warm fireside and enough food to eat, along with the courage and fortitude to better their circumstances, they were wealthy in their own right. “All is Calm, All is Bright”. 

    Merry Christmas to All,
    Mary Ellen Kunst

  8. Fall has finally arrived on Wipjibber Mountain, which means the boys of Troop 000 are back up and running after time off for summer vacation. The scouts are just back from their first camping trip for the 2018-2019 season and I’m told it was one for the history books.

    In an effort to train for next Summer’s backpacking trip in the Allegheny Mountains, the scouts hiked from the Methodist Church to the property of their scoutmaster, Gary Inzo. It was fair weather for the 5 mile hike with an overnight stop in the woods near the old railway station.

    The following morning they arrived at Inzo’s property and set up camp. The older scouts instructed their younger charges in the ways of woodcraft including cooking a meal over an open fire. I’m happy to report no injuries other than an incident in which Lawrence Hubschmidt got smoke in his eyes and recoiled, sending his pan full of half done fried potatoes flying through the air. As his spuds returned to earth, some landing in a fresh mug of coffee, just poured, Lawrence lost his balance and went rolling down the hillside, his scoutmaster following closely behind him. Lawrence was uninjured, thankfully, largely in part to the strength of the adult leaders who restrained said scoutmaster until a fresh cup of joe could be poured for him. The adults later remarked it was a good thing Inzo forgot about the shotgun he’d brought in case of a visit by a nuisance bear that’d been having around his place.

    The scouts enjoyed a rousing game of “Flashlight Tag” in the wooded section of the property until the game took an interesting turn which will not be soon forgotten.

    Bobby Joe Olson, being designated as the person who was”it”, heard what he suspected to be another scout in a nearby thicket. He snuck up on the unsuspecting boy aided only by the moonlight. He was nearly on his quarry when he heard a low, deep snuffling sound.

    “B-B-B… BEAR!!!!” he bellowed, before stumbling over a tree root and falling backwards, losing his flashlight in the process.

    Scoutmaster Inzo, seeing the opportunity to finally be rid of the bear, remembered he'd brought his 12 gauge and, grabbing it, sprinted up the hill towards the sound of Bobby Joe’s yelling. Arriving where the boy was still  thrashing in the dry leaves trying to get to his feet he took aim at the thrashing weeds where  he knew the bear stood, and let fly with two rounds of buckshot.

    At the report of the old Remington, Bobby Joe snapped to his senses. He also snapped countless small trees and limbs as he bolted into the night towards camp.

    Certain the bruin was down,  Inzo went to his tent, fetching a lantern and returned with the rest of the group. All were anxious to see the monster which nearly ate their fellow scout. All that is except said scout who was occupied cleaning up the mess in his shorts.

    Shining the lantern on his trophy, Inzo was immediately crestfallen to find not the bearskin rug he’d long desired, but Ollie, his grandson’s prize Hereford steer which until this weekend was bound for next year’s State Fair.

    The remainder of the weekend was a somber affair as scoutmaster searched for ways to break the news of the steer’s demise to his grandson. But all agreed it was a weekend they’d never forget.


                                   Community Announcements

    The Wipjibber Mountain Audubon Club will host a Pancake Breakfast at the fire department November 10th from 8-11 am. A free will donation is suggested.

    Scout Troop 000 announced they will be postponing their annual Fall Spaghetti Dinner. Instead, there will be an “all you can eat” roast beef dinner held in the dining hall of the Methodist Church on Nov. 17th from 4-7pm. Cost is $10 for those 12 and up, children $5. All proceeds will go towards the troops newly planned Summer trip to New York City.



  9. by Erin Doane 

    The Lake Street Bridge closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic in March 2011. I started working here at CCHS in May 2011, so I never had the chance to go over the bridge that is just across the street from the museum. It was announced recently that work would start next summer to repair the bridge and open it to pedestrians. This is just the newest chapter in the history of this river crossing.

    The first bridge across the Chemung River in Elmira was completed at the foot of Lake Street in 1824. Before that, one needed a ferry to cross the river. The wooden bridge was constructed by the Elmira and Southport Bridge Company. It had three piers, one in the center of each channel and another on the island in the middle of the river. Some years after it was built, the spans began to sag considerably. Once, a drove of cattle crossing the bridge, broke through the first span during high water and timbers and cows went floating down the river. In 1840, the bridge was badly damaged in the “great fire” of that year. A new covered bridge was erected on the spot with J.H. Gallagher supervising construction.


    The covered bridge burned in 1850 when the tannery at its south end caught fire. It was replaced by a wooden truss structure. This new bridge was open at the top except for some crossing timbers. This allowed the snow to fall through onto the roadway during the winter so that sleighs could more easily cross. A considerable part of this bridge was washed away during the St. Patrick’s Day flood of 1865. The bridge’s only stone pier was undermined and most of the southern span dropped out and washed down the river. The bridge was repaired and remained in used until 1869.


    By 1869, there were two bridges over the Chemung, at Lake Street and Main Street. Both were toll bridges. Businessmen on the north side of the river did not like that people had to pay tolls to cross. Customers from the plank road district and other parts of Southport were reluctant to cross the bridge to do businesses. Farmers didn’t want to pay a toll to sell their produce so they went south to Troy, Pennsylvania instead of to Elmira.

    Early in 1869, the city passed a legislative act authorizing it to purchase both bridges for $25,000 (around $460,000 today). They dropped the tolls and used taxpayer funds to maintain the structures. Three years later, another act was passed authorizing the building of new bridges at both locations. The Main Street bridge was replaced first, then the Lake Street bridge was completed in 1874. The new Lake Street bridge was made of iron with three spans of 182 feet each and trusses that were 26 feet high. The piers were made of limestone. It cost $65,000 (about $1.4 million). 


    The Lake Street bridge was replaced again by a new steel bridge in 1905. While the work was being done, a temporary wooden pedestrian bridge was erected next to it so that people could still move across the river.


    In June, 1959, City Manager Angus T. Johnson reported to the Elmira City Council that the Lake Street bridge was in desperate need of repair. The bridge supports were weakened, the metal fixtures were corroded, and rivets were missing from some joints. Salt used on the roads during the winter caused much of the deterioration. The Council closed the bridge to both all traffic and plans were made to replace the structure.


    On June 21, 1961, between 1,200 and 1,500 Elmirans gathered in the rain for the official opening of the new Lake Street bridge. The bridge had been closed for two years but construction had finished two weeks ahead of schedule. The cost of demolition of the old bridge and construction of the new was $473,270 (just under $4 million today). 

    In 1972, flood waters rose all the way to the bridge’s deck but it survived largely unscathed. Eleven years later, in 1983, it was closed for two months while new expansion joints were installed, the structural steel was scraped and repainted, and the roadway was resurfaced with a new membrane liner to help preserved the concrete deck.


    Regular maintenance was not enough to keep the bridge from deteriorating. Winters can be hard here in the northeast and, despite yearly washing, salt used to treat the roads damaged the bridge’s concrete supports and rubber expansion joints. In March 2011, the Lake Street bridge was declared unsafe and closed to vehicles and pedestrians. At the time, it had the lowest traffic count of all the city’s five bridges over the Chemung River. As early as May 2011, there were reports that the bridge would be repaired for pedestrian use only. Next summer, some eight years later, the project may finally get underway.



    Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. To see more of their blog, go to http://chemungcountyhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com

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    The Chemung County Matters blog exists to help promote discussions about local issues. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect my own, but are rather shared here in order to provide information and hopefully stimulate ideas.

    Last night the Chemung County Legislature voted 14-2 in favor of a new sales tax plan, with only Peggy Woodard (District 8) and Rodney Strange (District 15) voting no.

    The old plan has been under intense scrutiny since it was passed in 2013 for taking resources from the towns, villages and City of Elmira, causing many of them to suffer fiscal hardships.

    Numerous candidates for local office have strenuously advocated for a change in the way sales tax monies are allocated between the county and its municipalities, something that is undoubtedly part of the decision of county leaders to change course.

    However, the new plan has many problems as well.

    Prior to the vote, I offered comments to the sitting legislature about new plan as it relates to the towns and villages. I intend to describe my position in a subsequent post within the next day or so.

    John Burin, a former manager of the City of Elmira and current candidate for legislature in the 9th District, offered comments about the new plans as it relates to the city. A copy of his statement is shown below.




    October 9, 2018

    Honorable Legislators:

    On September 24, 2018 I mailed each of you a letter with supporting documentation asking that you table this proposed plan to revise the reallocation of sales tax. I also referenced a process by which the 2019 county budget and budget message could move forward without the revised plan being in place. In my op ed on September 23, 2018, I pointed out in three months, newly elected officials should have the right to vote on this multi-year funding program.

    I fully support a plan to reallocate sales tax revenue however, I believe the plan should be based on more than fund balances and debt. For example, the County apportionment of real property taxes creates an unintentional double taxation for certain services. These inequities, which are common to most of the towns/villages in varying degree, should be taken into consideration with the allocation of sales tax dollars. Additionally, from 2013 to 2018 Chemung County expenses increased $15 million dollars. During this same time period five county budgets were passed with deficits that required $10.5 million dollars of fund balance to close the gap. Future estimates of county revenues and expenses should be projected showing the impact of a sales tax reallocation plan.

    In order for our county to realize desired social/economic growth, we must work together for a common cause. It was in this spirit that the City of Elmira allowed it’s Empire Zone Benefits to be used outside the City. The City’s willingness to share its zone in early 2000 produced economic benefits we still enjoy today and will continue to enjoy into the future.

    According to the Chemung County Industrial Agency report, Project Information, December 31, 2009 the City of Elmira Empire Zone;

    *Leveraged over $700 Million of private investment.

    *Generated new property tax revenue for the County in excess of $900,000 and $1.7 million local and school tax revenue. Each year as property tax exemptions expire, the real property tax revenue increases and therefore current tax revenue is significantly greater.

    *The City’s zone created 4,500 jobs and retained 10,000 jobs.

    *14,500 jobs with an average salary of $20,000 generated $290 Million of payroll.

    *$290 Million of payroll generates millions of sales tax dollars.

    This is a billion dollar infusion of economic benefits. If not for the City of Elmira sharing its Empire Zone, Chemung County finances would be quite different today.

    In June 2016, the New York State Financial Restructuring Board commented on the City of Elmira’s Bond Rating. “Prior to June 2015, the City had a bond rating of A2 with a negative outlook from Moody’s. On June 1st, 2015, Moody’s released a new rating for the City’s General Obligation bonds and lowered the rating by five notices – to Ba1 with a sustained negative outlook. This is non-investment grade (junk bond) rating from Moody’s.”

    The reasons Moody’s cited for this severe reduction in the City’s credit rating are:

    *Significant loss of revenue from the County sales tax sharing agreement;

    *Health insurance overruns;

    *Recurring general fund deficits

    Moody’s will view new development positively however this plan that defers City debt will most likely not improve the City’s poor investment grade of bonds. The mixed use $14,000,000 development project in Elmira was granted a twenty year payment in lieu of tax agreement with the first four years being 100% exempt, after eleven years the project will pay 30% and in year twenty 60%. Property tax revenue from the affordable housing projects are restricted by law and proposed private developments have been given multi-year tax exemptions. It is for these reasons additional sales tax revenue to the City should be a part of tonight’s plan. Even if the revenue is restricted as to use, Moody’s may look favorably at a slight upgrade.

    Sound business practice would suggest that this proposed sales tax allocation is deficient of solid reasoning for the suggested allocations. Over the next three months, a cohesive legislature working together should develop a plan that addresses the needs of the community keeping in mind the future needs of county government as well as the social and economic challenges inherent with high poverty levels, effective tax rates that stagnate real estate values and the ever increasing cost of providing efficient public safety services.

    The plan before you tonight falls short in capturing these community needs. Lets take a step back, analyze the financial impact of what is being proposed and compare those findings to the needs of our community.

    Thank you,

    John J. Burin