Got Books? For Warm Weather Reading

by Laurel C. Wemett

Let’s Grow!
Centennial History of Rochester Garden Club
Lynda McCurdy Hotra, author
Melissa Corcoran Hopkins, editor
Mary Corcoran, picture editor and artist
Rochester Garden Club

Gardeners and flower lovers will be inspired by the first 100 years of the Rochester Garden Club (RGC). The publication of this book, a chronicle of the club’s involvement in gardens and landscapes in Rochester and beyond, was part of the RGC’s centenary celebration marking its founding in 1915.   

The club’s first project in 1916 was to establish the Poet’s Garden in Highland Park, a park designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Fittingly, in 2015, RGC marked its centennial by renewing the park’s Pansy Bed. While there were a few honorary male members over the years, the RGC’s initiatives were implemented by women until 2010 when men were permitted to join. From sponsoring garden restoration work at the houses of historic figures like George Eastman and Susan B. Anthony, to plantings at homes built by Flower City Habitat for Humanity families, the club has enhanced many landscapes. Grants, donations, and an annual geranium fundraiser have also allowed RGC to support the preservation of natural environments like Bergen Swamp in Genesee County.   

Like a beautiful flower arrangement, the book is artfully designed. Floral photographs, illustrations, and documents from RGC’s archives brighten each page. Historian and author Lynda McCurdy Hotra takes the reader through a century blooming with floral activities, all carried out by the club and its talented and dedicated members.   


Freedom, A Shared Sacrifice!
New York’s African American
Civil War Soldiers
Marjory Allen Perez
Herons Bend Publishers

When President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 it freed slaves held in states “in rebellion” and allowed former slaves to enlist in the Union Army. Marjory Allen Perez focuses on the African-American soldiers from Western New York who served in black regiments during the Civil War. By December 1863, hundreds of local men had joined the Union Army from 29 counties defined as Western New York. They were recruited first by New England states and later in New York State when black regiments began to form here. Several hundred individuals are identified by the author, the former Wayne County historian, as tied to Western New York by birth or residence at the time of their enlistment or draft.

Perez has written biographies of many soldiers spanning from their recruitment to their discharge. She explores the impact on these men of the draft, training, battles, desertion, discipline, disease, and death. Poignant stories of families the soldiers left behind underscore the “shared sacrifice.”

Photographs, illustrations, a timeline, bibliography, and index make this an exceptionally valuable resource, which contributes to the understanding of the wartime participation of African Americans. It builds on the author’s previous title, Final Stop, FREEDOM! The Underground Railroad Experience in Wayne County, New York about the slaves who came to this region by the Underground Railroad.   


The Women of Corning:
The Untold Story from
Settlement to Present
Geoffrey Kabaservice
Steuben Press 

Corning is a well-known city, partly because of the strong presence of the Corning Glass Works, now named Corning Inc. Beginning with the earliest settlement of this Southern Tier community, this book traces how women have always played an important role in the city’s history and the development of its namesake glass company, although often without recognition.    

Amory (Amo) Houghton, Jr. who spearheaded this new history calls women the “unsung heroes” of Corning. Houghton is a former President, CEO of Corning Glass Works (1961 to 1983) and U.S. Congressman (1987 to 2005). Some of the many fascinating and inspiring women in this book are members of the Houghton family.      

Historian Geoffrey Kabaservice presents a carefully researched and engrossing narrative about exceptional females in the context of such events as the women’s suffrage movement, wars at home and abroad, and natural disasters like the flood of 1972. Some featured women are well-known, like birth-control activist Margaret Sanger. Others, such as Dr. Lucy Maltby of the Corning Glass Works Test Kitchen, are now receiving credit for their innovative leadership. The contributions of women’s groups are also recognized.   

There are five chronologically organized chapters with carefully cited sources that allow the reader to explore topics further.

Proceeds from book sales go to the Fund for Women of the Southern Tier, Inc. 


Votes for Women!
The Woman Suffrage Movement in Ontario County, New York
Wilma T. Townsend
Ontario County Historical Society

When Votes for Women, an exhibition mounted by the Ontario County Historical Society (OCHS) in 2017-2018 ended, loaned items were returned and text panels went into storage. But this book provides a valuable permanent record of this well-attended exhibit, which interpreted the suffrage movement in Ontario County from the early 19th century reform movements to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Using national suffrage events as a framework, local suffrage initiatives were presented in the exhibit by OCHS Curator Wilma Townsend. An estimated 20 Ontario County town and municipal historians, along with volunteer researchers, identified suffrage activities (both for and against) across the county. The book combines the exhibit’s period photographs, illustrations and documents, with a clearly written interpretation of the Ontario County suffrage movement that in 2018 celebrated the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in New York State.   

An important section, “Ontario County’s Suffragists of Distinction,” is arranged by community with biographical details of those who advocated for women. Many were previously unknown. 

For further research, an impressive list of sources on the woman suffrage movement and its impact on residents of the Finger Lakes region is provided by OCHS Educator Dr. Preston Pierce.

The publication is sponsored by a Humanities New York Action Grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.   


“Over There” and Over Here
Yates County in the Great War
Richard S. MacAlpine
Infinity Publishing    

Retired history teacher and local history author Rich MacAlpine’s newest book focuses on Yates County during World War I. “This book should impress readers with the spirit of the Yates County community during those wartime years,” writes MacAlpine. His research was inspired by a Yates County History Center (YCHC) exhibition that recognized the county’s response to America’s involvement in the European war.

Using the war years 1916 to 1919, MacAlpine, editor and writer for YCHC’s publication, Yates Past, provides summaries of European wartime activities “Over There” and their impact “Over Here.” There is special focus on Yates County’s Home Guard, which was the military unit formed to protect residents, the influenza epidemic of 1918, and Yates County’s “Biggest Fourth of July” in 1919. His “Odds and Ends” offers local news, like which movies were playing at the Sampson Theater in Penn Yan, or reports of Booze raids conducted in then dry Yates County.      

  The narrative is accompanied by plenty of related imagery. Group photographs capture some of the more than 600 Yates County men who served in the war, including the 34 who did not return. There are tales of spy scares and accounts of how the war effort was supported on the home front through Liberty Bond drives, the Red Cross, coal shortages, and days without meat or wheat.


Ithaca Our Home
(A Forty Year Musical Odyssey in Tompkins County)
History Center of Tompkins County

Johnny Russo and the East Hill Classic Jazz is a fixture in the Central New York music scene. This pictorial book relates the journey of musician Russo, a gifted trumpeter and trombonist who also plays piano and vocalizes. An 18-song CD of original songs, along with lyrics, is included with the book.

Russo, born in Geneva of immigrant parents, began his musical career in a high school band. In the early 1960s he went to Eastman School of Music on a full scholarship. Later on, he turned from symphonic music to instrumental improvisation, influenced by such classical jazz musicians as Louis Armstrong.   

After returning to the Finger Lakes Region, he formed the East Hill Classic Jazz group in the mid-1980s.

This compact book contains numerous photographs of the group’s performing venues including Carnegie Hall. One poignant image captures Russo, a Vietnam War veteran and an official VFW bugler, playing taps in DeWitt Park. He has been a welcome solo performer in Ithaca’s gathering spots and with the jazz group at Cornell University special events for more than 25 years, as well as at such gatherings as the National Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Galas.

The History Center of Tompkins County, sponsor of this project, recognized Russo in April 2019 with a Celebrating History award for his contribution to the local musical tradition.


W is for Waterfall
An Alphabet of the Finger Lakes
Aileen Easterbrook;
illustrated by Johanna van der Sterre
Seneca Lake Press

The ever-changing hills, lakes, and forests characteristic of the Finger Lakes Region are the backdrop for this picture book. The combination of charming full-color illustrations and cheerful descriptions create an alphabetical tour which will appeal to both children and adults.

The book opens with a map of the 11 long blue lakes from Conesus in the west to Otisco in the east. Then, starting with Apples and ending with Zebra Mussels, readers are introduced to many cultural landmarks, people, wildlife, and scenic vistas. To engage youngsters, at the top of each page is a couplet, or two rhyming lines, as this one for the letter H: “H is for horses and honey at roadside stands; Hockey on the ice and history across the land.”

Adult readers find lengthier factual descriptions at the bottom of each page related to what is illustrated. The book is bound to boost youngsters’ mastery of their ABCs and encourage them to come up with examples of their own. The soft-hued watercolor paintings of the area’s scenery, created by illustrator Johanna van der Sterre, will enliven any reader’s awareness of the natural environment.

This book is ideal to read aloud at home or to bring along on road trips. Author Aileen Easterbrook, a children’s educator, has skillfully built in literacy stepping stones and literacy building techniques.

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