Book Look 2008

The authors of many of this year’s selection of Finger Lakes Reads’ titles focus on the individual and collective memories of life in the region during the 20th century. Filled with personal recollections and never-before-published images from family albums, these are not dry historical tomes to be approached with dread or trepidation, but insightful and often poignant new ways to understand the past.

We have also included several books that entice readers to explore the out-of-doors to find pleasure and discovery in nature. All these books are available at area bookstores, independent retailers, online retailers, or through the publisher’s or author’s website, unless otherwise indicated.

Roseland: Playground of the Finger Lakes, 1925-1985
by Lynda McCurdy Hotra and Sherman Farnham
Ontario County Historical Society, 2007
Hardcover: $59.95

Today in Canandaigua, people live on Roseland Lane, shop at Roseland Center, and take the family to Roseland Waterpark, keeping the memory of Roseland Amusement Park alive. A major summertime attraction at the north shore of Canandaigua Lake for 60 years (from 1925 to 1985), the park was frequented and enjoyed by generations of residents from a wide geographical area.

This book distills 60 years of Roseland’s existence into a clearly written narrative, beginning with the conversion of 10 acres of farmland into a lakeside park by Rochester businessman, William Muar. Local history author Lynda Hotra, who sifted through archives and gathered personal anecdotes and recollections of the development of the park, was joined in the writing of the book by Sherman Farnham, a former Ontario County Historical Society trustee, retired banker, historian and writer.

Decades of amusement-park history are brought to life through photographs and postcards. The creative layout and large format make it especially appealing. Its 14-by-11-inch size recalls Life, the pictorial magazine that reigned during the same time period. Roseland is a page-turner even as the reader inevitably approaches the account of the park’s closure, with its rides and buildings auctioned off to the highest bidders.

Professional photographer Tom Cooley was on hand during Roseland’s last days to document the park’s contents before they were dispersed. Views of individual carousel horses lend a rich final chapter to the book.

The funds used to bring this long-awaited publication to fruition were originally raised in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Roseland Amuse­ment Park’s carousel in the community. Sadly, when the park closed 22 years ago, the carousel moved away, but its horses continue to delight their riders at its new Finger Lakes home at the Carousel Center, a mall located on Onondaga Lake in Syracuse.

Nature’s Quiet Conversations
by John A. Weeks, edited by Janet J. Smith
Syracuse University Press, 2006
Paperback: $19.95

This collection of essays was originally published in newspapers and later aired for 24 years as The Nature of Things on WRVO, a regional public radio station. Weeks’ thoughtful comments on nature are combined with his beautiful black-and-white illustrations. Whether depicting a loon or a bobcat, a monarch butterfly or a horned owl, Weeks’ line drawings are crafted with the same precision as his commentary, which is based on his life and work in central New York State.

His profiles of places and descriptions of plants and birds demonstrate the value of seeking out the beauty and variety of nature. “The only essential ingredient is desire to experience,” writes Weeks, a biologist, botanist, environmental educator, author, artist and commentator.

Part of the appeal of the essays is that they capture nature year-round. Titles such as “The Little Creatures of Autumn” and “The Rewards of a Winter Walk” underscore the fact that each season has something special to offer. The index is enormously helpful.

Take a Hike: Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region
Take Your Bike: Family Rides in New York’s Finger Lakes Region

by Rich and Sue Freeman
Footprint Press, 2006
Paperback: $19.95 each.

These titles are the latest guidebooks from outdoor enthusiasts Rich and Sue Freeman. The couple has penned 14 books, which focus on hiking, biking, paddling and other recreational activities in western New York and the Finger Lakes.

The Freemans’ books are characterized by their well-organized presentation of information, a clear writing style, and an easy-to-read map of each suggested trail. Each title offers directions, parking locations, admission information, contact names, telephone numbers and websites. Each trail is GPS-mapped, its distance measured, and its difficulty ranked, along with an estimate of how long it would take to complete. Historical information adds extra value to the individual descriptions.

More than 100 trails are mapped and described in these two Footprint Press guidebooks. The hiking book divides its 68 trails into five groups, based on county boundaries. The biking book organizes 43 rides into three county groups. The authors say that almost all the trails in the bike book can also be used for hiking, jogging, running or snowshoeing; many are also good for cross-country skiing. All trails in the biking guide welcome dogs, as do 59 of the hiking trails.

The Freemans often omit state parks partly because they are well-traveled and usually charge admission. “We like to promote the free adventures people can have,” says Sue.

Doggin’ the Finger Lakes: The 50 Best Places to Hike With Your Dog
by Doug Gelbert
Cruden Bay Books, 2007
Paperback: $12.95

Sniffing out the best places to hike with your dog in the Finger Lakes is the aim of Doug Gelbert, who has authored several titles on hiking with your favorite canine companion. Gelbert covers many of the trails detailed in the Freemans’ books, but also offers other options. There are helpful tips related to outfitting dogs for the hike and practical advice on what a doggie first-aid kit should include.

The author highlights bits of local history, botany and architecture among other “bonuses.” The book gives directions and other trail operational information, but it lacks maps – that might be something to let “Fido” carry in his doggie pack.

Memories of the Heart: An Oral History of the Town of Canandaigua, 1900-1950
by Ray Henry
Ontario County Historical Society, 2006
Paperback: $21.95

Ray Henry, longtime trustee at the Ontario County Historical Society and historian for the Town of Canandaigua, presents recollections of some of the oldest families of Canandaigua. Building on earlier local histories, this new book documents the firsthand accounts of those who lived there through the first half of the 20th century. “Domestically, the Town of Canandaigua was primarily a laid-back, agricultural and summer cottage township, pleasantly sleeping in an era of hard yet sweet times, accentuated with a close family structure and warmth,” observes the author.

About 20 families participated in interviews for this project, which were begun by Ed Varno, director of the Ontario County Historical Society. Varno preceded Ray Henry as Canandaigua town historian. Included among the town’s hamlets are Centerfield, Academy and Cheshire, where Henry has lived since the 1970s. Participants recall work on the farms, living on Canandaigua Lake, local commerce, and early schools. Fully illustrated, the book features many never-before-published photographs. It is indexed by family names, making it a valuable resource for genealogists.

Something Must Be Done: One Black Woman’s Story
by Peggy Wood with Parker Brown
Syracuse University Press, 2007
Hardback: $16.95

This memoir takes the reader through a journey of an African-American woman’s life, from the segregated South of pre-World War I to the North during the civil rights era. It is a first-person account of life from the perspective of a black family, and the reader sees how the family deals with the inequalities then prevalent in society.

Author Parker Brown is an oral historian who lives in Syracuse. Peggy Wood is a product of a middle-class family that valued education highly. She shares many of her family’s experiences at southern schools, including Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and the School of Social Work in Atlanta. Threatening encounters with the Ku Klux Klan, at a black college in Florida where her father taught, are riveting.

Some less dramatic encounters, but equally disturbing, reveal how the separation of the races had an impact on daily life. Wood recalls how a simple pastime like shopping for a dress relegated black women to segregated changing areas in department stores in the 1930s.

“Segregation was part of life, and you had to work around it the best you could,” said Wood. Once married, she and her husband Frank started a new life at a community center in Ohio, which was not without its segregated aspects.

The title of the book refers to the need to solve the problems facing black people, problems which Wood faced throughout her life. During the 1950s and 1960s civil rights struggles, the Woods lived in Syracuse where Frank became a community-center director and Peggy became a social worker, first for the Salvation Army and later for the city health department. The social inequities she encountered demonstrate how the determination of one woman made a difference.

Finger Lakes Memories
by Michael Leavy
Arcadia Publishing, 2007
Paperback: $19.99

Finger Lakes Memories showcases the early 20th-century photographs of Lima native, George Bentley Corby. The Corby family owned a large dairy farm, Meadow Brook, in Lima. While Michael Leavy was writing his first book, Around Lima, part of the Images of America series, he came in contact with Corby’s photographs taken between 1910 and 1920.

The author augments Corby’s views with other period photographs and adds informative comments and captions about each. What is striking about Corby’s photographs is their wide-ranging subject matter, from family gatherings to farm laborers, from school chums at Lima’s Genesee Wesleyan Seminary or Cornell University to forays into the scenic countryside around the Finger Lakes. The reader learns that Corby taught photography at Cornell during his time there and later returned to run the family farm.

The composition, variety, and attention to detail in the early images reveal an exceptionally capable photographer whose goal was to document his world and times. The photos he took of himself reveal a relaxed confidence and engaging manner. An author of eight books, Leavy brings to his writing a strong interest in history, historical preservation, and photography.

Orphan Home: The Memories of Laurence K. & John H. Buchholz
edited by Christine E. Buck and John A. Buchholz
Clear Spring Publishing, 2007
Paperback: $12.00

This short but moving memoir deals with the lives of two brothers who were separated from their family in 1910 due to their mother’s illness and other family difficulties. At ages 6 and 8 and with shipping tags tied to their clothes, the boys, John and Laurence Buchholz, boarded a Lehigh Valley passenger train in Geneva and set out on their long journey to an orphan home in Ohio.

Siblings Christine Buck and John Buchholz, the niece and nephew of John and Laurence Buchholz, recount their uncles’ lives over the six years before they returned home. Based on conversations they had with their uncles in their later years, this story ­brings to life the hardships of their stay.

The book documents the boys’ daily chores on the orphanage farm, their schooling, spare living conditions, occasional adventures, and often harsh discipline at the hands of their caretakers at the Ebenezer Orphan Home. There is also heartbreak when the boys receive news from their family. Orphan Home includes summaries of the boys’ lives after they returned home as well as their adult lives, which show that despite the wrenching predicament of their youth, their human spirit triumphed.

by Laurel C. Wemett
Laurel C. Wemett lives in Canandaigua where she owns a gift shop, Cats in the Kitchen. She is a correspondent for the Messenger Post Newspapers and a frequent contributor to Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.

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